Saturday, February 29, 2020

Hidden Church

I went for a walk through the city a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the church has disappeared from sight. Once churches were built on the corner of busy streets with a tall steeple that made them stand out. Now all the lively churches meet in converted warehouses or office blocks. These are usually on back sections, because the land is cheaper and there is plenty of room for car parking.

The result is that most residents of the city never see the church in action. To see the church operating, they would have to go into a building that is off the track, where they would never usually go.

This contrasts with Jesus who conducted his activities in the market places and open places in the villages and towns that he visited. People could see him heal the sick and open the eyes of the blind. It was hard to deny that something was going on.

The people the city meet Christians, but they usually meet them while they are on their own. Christians are always more effective when they are working pairs, but that is something that most citizens of the city never encounter.

Friday, February 28, 2020


Church leaders should be thinking about what they will do if their government decides to prohibit meetings of more than 30 people for the next four months as part of their efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. What will you do? What will happen to your church if it is unable to meet for a few months?

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Prophets and Guidance

I have just updated this section of my teaching on the Prophetic Ministry.

Prophets bring the word of the Lord to the church. Christians can get so caught up in the events of the world that they do not see what God is doing. This is particularly true in tumultuous times, when it can be very hard to see the hand of God at work. Prophets will give direction and vision in these situations, so that God's people know what is happening, and what they should do. For example, the prophet Gad provided guidance to David and showed him how to avoid trouble.

Prophets can give direction to those who are seeking the will of God. Sometimes the prophetic word will be for the church as a whole or for the leadership of the church.

Personal prophecy must be treated with caution. The gift of prophecy is not usually directive, so it is dangerous to make life-changing decisions on the basis of a prophecy uttered by a person who has not been recognised as a prophet. Prophets will sometimes give direction, but generally this should come as a confirmation of something that God has already spoken to the person concerned. God wants to lead his people by his Spirit. He desires that every believer should learn to hear the Spirit's voice. A message from a prophet should normally come as a confirmation of something that the Spirit has already spoken.

Making important decisions on the basis of a word from another person is dangerous. It is wrong to be totally dependent on others for guidance. Many Christians have been led astray because they failed to get their own word from God.

Christian prophets do not tell people what to do, they confirm what God is saying. To go to a Christian prophet for direction and guidance is to violate the New Covenant which gives us direct access and approach to God through Christ by the Spirit (Graham Cooke - Developing Your Prophetic Gifting p.199).
The exception to this principle is when a follower of Jesus is so beaten down or defeated that they cannot hear what God is saying to them. They just cannot conceive that God might have something good planned for them. If a person has disqualified themself, a word from a prophet might be needed to break through the cloud of doubt that blinds them.

When the prophet speaks to people who have written themselves off, the word usually comes as a shock, but it will crack through into their heart and open their mind to what God is saying. As the word of the prophet sinks into the person's soul, they will be able to grab it for themselves.

The ideal is that we hear God's word and get confirmation from a prophet, but sometimes that does not work. In these situations, the prophetic word does not come as confirmation. It comes as an intrusion of the wisdom of God, when he has been unable to speak to the person. Later, they will get confirmation for themselves. This is not the ideal, but God sometimes has to give the revelation through a prophet first, as that is the only way that he can breakthrough.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Weak and Strong

People are different. Some are weak and others are strong. In a free-market economy, some people make it and others don’t. The people that made it cannot say to the people who didn’t, “I made it, so you have too”. People are different.

Monday, February 24, 2020


I recently realised that I have stopped using the word “Christ”. The reason for this is that the word has no meaningful content in the modern world.

When people talk of Jesus Christ, the word is said as if “Christ” was a surname. When people call him “Christ, it is like the school teachers at the high school that I attended calling their students by their surname. “Stand up, Smith”.

Christ is not a surname. It is a transliteration of the Greek word “Christos”, which means anointed. Ascribing this word to Jesus was a way of saying that he was the “anointed one” that God had promised.

The Jews were looking for a promised Messiah. The Hebrew word was “Meshiach”, which means “anointed”. It refers to the anointing of a person who would be the saviour, rescuer of God’s people. The expected Messiah was often referred to as “Melekh Meshiach” which means the Messiah King.

The Greek Testament calls Jesus “Messias” and “Christos”.

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ) (John 1:41).

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming: (John 4:25).

John makes it clear that Jesus was Christ and Messiah.

The reason for calling Jesus Christ is that it is a way of acknowledging him as the messiah/rescuer, but that does not work these days, when the word Christ has become expletive.

I refer to Jesus as Jesus, because most people still know who he is. If I want to express his role as the messiah, I would refer to him as Jesus the rescuer, or Jesus the Messiah, as these words better convey a sense of who he is and what he has done. I wonder if I should be referring to him more as “Jesus, the rescuing king”.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Mosaic Covenant and Prophecy

The Mosaic covenant was an agreement between God and the children of Israel. Breaking this covenant brought trouble on the promised land.

Who is wise enough to understand this? Who has been instructed by the LORD and can explain it? Why has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one can cross?

The LORD said, “It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law. Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts; they have followed the Baals, as their ancestors taught them” (Jer 9:12-14).

When the people rejected the law, they lost that protection and the spiritual powers of evil were able to work their harm and make the land desolate.

God has not made a similar covenant with the nations, so the consequences of disobedience described in Deuteronomy 28 do not apply to them. However, the people of the world are engaged in the same spiritual battle as the children of Israel. The spiritual powers of evil are not very creative, so they used the same methods to attack them as they used against the children of Israel. If the people of nations do not have the spiritual protection provided by the cross, they will vulnerable to evil, just like Israelites when they rejected t law. They can expect the same types of troubles and plagues as the OT prophets announced for Israel.

Jeremiah confirmed this when he warned that the uncircumcised nations—Egypt, Edom, Ammon, Moab—can experience the same destructive events as disobedient Israel, whenever the spiritual powers of evil choose to inflict them (Jer 9:25-26).

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Removing Evil Rulers

The exception to my previous post is that God does sometimes pronounce judgment against kings, rulers and political powers who are doing serious harm. These leaders have demanded that the people of their nation accept their authority and submit to them. The people who submit to them become vulnerable to any spiritual powers that the rulers have given a place. If the rulers are not careful, they can leave the people open to attack by powerful evil spirits that can do terrible harm. In this situation, the people who trust their rulers to protect them from the physical threats that they fear are betrayed, and left exposed to far worse spiritual and physical evil.

When kings and rulers surrender to spiritual evil (often unwittingly), God pronounces judgment against them, because they empower the spiritual powers of evil to do great evil amongst the people that they are responsible for protecting. God will use his prophets to pronounces judgment against them to remove them from their position and protect the people who trusted them.

Babylon the Great is an example. It opens the people it controls up to great evil, so it has to be removed from power. John announced God’s judgment against Babylon the Great in the book of Revelation (Rev 18).

The prophet's declaration and intercession give God authority to deal with evil rulers. When a situation turns sour and God needs to take action, his prophetic voices announce his condemnation of the evil government. This prophetic declaration gives God permission to send a preventive judgment against the evil ruler that the prophet had pronounced judgment against. The prophet's declaration expresses God's judgment/verdict on the evil ruler. God's action against the Evil ruler represents his sentence against him.

In these situations, prophets and judgments go together. Without the prophets, God would not have authority to bring preventive judgments against evil rulers. Unless God sends judgments against evil rulers, the prophets would be just crying in the wind. Prophets and judgment of evil rulers are part of God's strategy for constraining evil in the world.

The modern world thinks of judgment as a grumpy god going around whacking people. However, most people in the world do not get justice. Their life is full of injustice. Various empires and political leaders have promised to get them justice, but the ordinary people never receive it. Fair judgment is good news for most people.

If we want to understand God's judgment we should read the Beatitudes. The poor will be blessed. The rich will be disappointed, because they have already received their comfort. Those who have had plenty and privilege might miss out.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Warning without Judgment

Some Christian prophets like to announce the judgments of God on peoples and nations, but this is a misunderstanding of their role.

The common view that the Old Testament prophets announced God’s judgment on the children of Israel, or the surrounding nations is not quite right. The Hebrew word for “judgment” is mishpat. It means a judicial judgment or verdict. It is never used to describe the message of the Old Testament prophecies.

The Old Testament prophets only rarely used this word to describe the message they were proclaiming. They spoke frequently about the failure of kings and judges to give wise judgment (mishpat) (Isaiah 42:3 and Jer 21:9 are examples), and they spoke of God’s verdict (mishpat) on Israel’s behaviour, but they never referred to the events they were announcing as God’s judgments.

The prophets were actually warning of the consequences of rejecting God and his law. The law provided Israel with protection from the spiritual powers of evil. When they rejected God and stopped applying his law, they lost their spiritual protection. This enabled the spiritual powers of evil to attack them and wreak havoc on their land. God’s verdict on Israel’s behaviour gave the evil powers authority to act and bring harm to the nation.

The Mosaic law provided the Israelites with spiritual protection. Obeying the law kept them separate from people and things carrying evil spirits. The tabernacle sacrifices provided further protection. When the people rejected the law, they lost that protection and the spiritual powers of evil were able to work their harm and make the land desolate. The role of the OT prophets was to announce the consequences of rejecting God and the spiritual protection that his law provided.

God was not the initiator of the troubles released by the rebellion of the children of Israel. They were inflicted by the spiritual powers of evil. They gained the power to do this, because the people had squeezed God out of the land so he could not protect them. The people cut themselves off from the protection that God provided through the law.

The troubles announced by the prophets were initiated by the spiritual powers of evil when they had gained a free hand in the land. The prophets did not understand the operation of these spiritual powers, so they often described the coming troubles as if God was responsible for them. He seemed to be happy taking responsibility for these events, because he created the situation where they could occur.

In the modern world, God loves the people of the world, even when they have rejected him. He does not want to harm them, even if they deserve it. His desire is to rescue them and protect them from the spiritual powers of evil, but many choose not to be rescued by him, partly because they do not realise it is possible. Because he loves them, he does not use his prophets to pronounce curses or judgments against them. He loves the people of the world and wants their friendship.

Because they have rejected God, the people of the world are vulnerable to attack by the spiritual powers of evil. These attacks are the consequence of their rejection of his love and the protection that he could provide. God knows what the spiritual powers of evil are planning to do, so he can use his prophets to warn his people of the harm they are planning.

God does not use his prophets to announce his judgment on the people of the world, because that would nullify the message that he loves them. The message of the prophets should be the message of Jesus.

God loved the world so much that he sent his son so it would not perish (John 3:16).
God may use his prophets to warn the people of what the spiritual powers of evil will be able to do because he has not been able to rescue them. He does this in the hope that they would turn to him for help so he can rescue them from what the spiritual powers of evil plan to do.

God has not made a similar covenant with the nations, so the consequences of disobedience described in Deuteronomy 28 do not apply to them. However, the people of the world are engaged in the same spiritual battle as the children of Israel. The spiritual powers of evil are not very creative, so they used the same methods to attack them as they used against the children of Israel. If the people of nations do not have the spiritual protection provided by the cross, they will vulnerable to evil, just like Israelites when they rejected the law. They can expect the same types of troubles and plagues as the OT prophets announced for Israel.

Christian prophets may sometimes need to warn the people of the world of the consequence of rejecting God’s offer to rescue them. However, they must not say that God is judging them or that he is initiating the events that they are prophesying. The prophets must explain that dark events are the works of the spiritual powers of evil. They should declare that God still loves them and wants to rescue them from the trouble that is coming.

The Old Testament prophets were sometimes blunt because they did not have the fullness of the Spirit that we have. God was not reaching out to the nations in their season, so it did not matter too much, but in the new covenant age, excessive bluntness and condemnation is an obstacle to a gospel of God’s love.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Socialism (8) American Corporatism

Claiming that the economic system that operates in the United States is superior to socialism is misleading. Most American corporatism’s big businesses collude with the government to protect their patch. They cluster in Washington DC, looking for subsidies and bailouts, and press for laws that protect them from real competition. American corporatism is socialism for big business.

Claims that corporate socialism is superior to ordinary socialism will not work. Under corporatism, government money and power flow to the benefit of big corporates and then on to their wealthy owners. The classic example is the government generosity to the big businesses that caused the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. Those who criticise socialism, but remain silent about follows wealth, money and power to the benefit of big business are being dishonest.

Neither corporatism or socialism are ideal economic systems. Both have serious flaws. The ideal economic system is God’s Economy under the Government of God.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Socialism (7) My Experience

On a holiday-weekend last July, I developed severe abdominal pain. I have never had a urinary tract infection, so I wondered if that was the cause. I went to the after-hours health clinic and was examined by a doctor. They did some blood tests, and he prescribed an antibiotic, because the physical examination indicated that could have a bladder infection. Over the next couple of days, the pain went away.

On the following Tuesday, I got a phone call from my own GP (general practitioner doctor) who had received the results of my blood test electronically. He said that the tests indicated something more serious and that he wanted me to have a CT Scan to check it out. Strangely enough, by then, the pain had gone. The same afternoon, I received a phone call from Pacific Radiology with an appointment for a scan later that day.

When the scan was complete, the radiographer suggested that I needed to go back to my GP that night. I phoned his reception and she said that he would see me after his last appointment at 5pm. The radiographer said that he would have the electronic results of my scan would be available for the doctor to see by then.

I called to see my GP on the way home from the radiology service and he explained that my scan showed that I had severe diverticulitis, which is normal for someone my age, but that diverticular on the lower part of the bowel was seriously infected. He said that I needed to be admitted to hospital to receive Intravenous Antibiotics. He told me I should go home and pack a bag and go up to Christchurch Public Hospital and I would be admitted.

I was admitted to hospital at 8pm, was examined by a doctor and received my first antibiotics within about half an hour. This all happened within a half a day of my doctor receiving the results of my blood tests.

I stayed in the hospital for five nights, receiving IV antibiotics three times a day. The hospital staff were great. The meals were basic but good. The nurses were kind and thoughtful. The surgical registrar who visited every morning was very skilled at explaining the nature of my problem and what they were doing to treat it. She said that they would organise a colonoscopy in a few months’ time, when the inflammation in my colon had cleared. After five days my blood test had returned within the normal limit, so I was sent home with oral antibiotics for another week. Six months have passed now and I have no more problems with my bowel.

Two other things happened. The original scan identified two other incidental unrelated problems that needed to be checked out. The first incidental item was a narrowing of the duct coming out of my left kidney. A month later, I received an appointment for a CT Urogram to check this. After injecting a marker, they electronically monitored the impact on my kidney while my bladder was emptying. A week later I saw a urologist. He explained that my case had been discussed at a meeting of specialists. They had reviewed my results and decided that because I was asymptomatic, and an intervention to correct the problem is quite risky, they would take no further action, but continue to monitor how it developed.

The second incidental problem that was identified on the original scan was a cyst on my pancreas. Within about six weeks, I had a received an endoscopic ultrasound scan of my pancreas in which they put a tube down my throat and took a picture and biopsy of the cyst. When I met with a general surgeon a few weeks later, he explained that because the cyst was small and benign, they would prefer not to intervene, but would wait and check it again in six month’s time. His decision had been discussed with other specialists. He explained that it grew larger or became malignant, then it would be relatively easy to remove by surgical intervention.

The outcome was reassuring. Overall, I am really healthy for someone of my age. I am praying for the conditions to be healed.

My main point for recording this here is that I received this medical care from a socialistic health system. The only cost was a payment of $NZ50 for my original consultation at the after-hours medical centre. Everything else was covered by the health system. The urgent medical condition was treated urgently. I received a scan and was put on antibiotics on the day the problem was diagnosed. I received specialised scans and follow-up appointments for the two incidental issues within a couple of months of diagnosis.

All the decisions about my treatment were made by clinicians after discussion with other specialists, not by insurance administrators or blind application of rules. Some of the specialists that looked at my results engaged in ground-breaking research with collaborators in the UK and US.
I realise that the cost of this service was paid for out of my taxes. However, my taxes over the years, and have not been much greater than would have been paid if I lived in the United States.

So, people who say that socialist health care does not work simply do not know what they are talking about. Morality is a different issue.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Socialism (6) Effective Medical System

New Zealand has a socialist health care system. Most health care is funded by the government, ie it is a single-payer system. District Health Boards receive grants from the government and are required to provide health care for the people living in their district. The government specifies the quality and quantity of the service that they must provide.

People are free to have medical insurance if they choose. Medical insurance is mostly taken out by people who are quite well off. The benefit is that they can get elective surgery, for knee and hip replacements quicker. However, most acute surgery is provided by the public system. Treatment of chronic sickness cancer is mostly provided by the public system, even for people with medical insurance. The difference is that people with medical insurance can sometimes get new extremely expensive cancer drugs that are not yet available through the public system.

A government entity called Pharmac purchases all prescription drugs and medicines. The big pharmaceutical companies hate it, but being the single buyer for the entire nations enables it to get better purchase prices by pitting them against each other. This limits brand choice a little, but the lower costs mostly outweigh this disadvantage.

My impression is that the NZ healthcare systems functions much better than the United States insurance-based system, yet it costs much less. New Zealand spends about 10 percent of GDP on health care, whereas the United States spends nearly 20 percent (of a much larger GDP). We don’t have people going bankrupt because their medical insurance has introduced unexpected charges. We do not have people who cannot get treatment, because the insurance has failed. Life expectancy is increasing and infant morbidity is declining, unlike the Unites States where the opposite is happening.

The US health care is not free market. It is an uneasy collusion between big insurance, big pharma, big health care providers and the government. This is corporatism, and it does not serve people well.

People who say that socialist health care does now work do not know what they are talking back. Socialist health care does not always work, if the government undermines it by providing insufficient funds, as has happened with the UK system or if the managers of the system are foolish or corrupt, but that happens in insurance-based systems too.

Many American tourists visiting New Zealand who find themselves needing emergency surgery receive it without hesitation. If they are having health insurance, a claim is made on their insurance. Those without health insurance cover still receive surgery. They are given an account when they leave hospital, which they are supposed to pay. Unfortunately, many don’t. Once they leave the country, they just forget about paying for the service they have received. The legal costs for pursuing them are too great, so their debts eventually have to be written off. I find it ironic that people who believe in free markets, who can afford international travel, are quite happy to rip off a system that they think is inferior.

Saying that socialism never works is a bad argument, because there are plenty of situation and examples where it works well. If Christians wish to argue against socialism, they need to do it on moral grounds on pragmatic grounds. Arguments that one system works better than the other will usually fail.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Socialism (5) Management

If sufficient resources are available, and there is clear demand for the output, the difference between a successful project and a failure is the quality of the managers. This is true whether the project is free-market or socialist. Some socialist projects attract really good managers. That is the situation with the health care system in my city. It was true of the government department of works that built the hydro-electric schemes in the South Island.

Many projects end up with poor management teams. That happens for many socialist projects, but it happens just as often for free-market projects. Identifying good managers is not easy and the owners of a business often get it wrong. Fonterra is a large dairy cooperative owned by New Zealand dairy farmers that processes much of the milk produced in New Zealand. In the last few years, it has been managed really badly and had to write off several large investments, because the CEO was not up to the task, despite being recruited from overseas with free-market experience and paid a huge salary.

Another example is the large Australian construction company, which has messed up the construction of a new hospital in Christchurch.

Good management is not as common as we would hope, and bad management is ubiquitous. That happens regardless of whether the project is free market or socialist.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Socialism (4) Democratic or Autocratic

Another common confusion is that socialism always leads to authoritarian government. Many Christian believe that socialism is the first step toward a Nazi government.

Socialism is a system of economic organisation in which the government plays a very significant role. A socialist economic system can exist in a country with a democratic government. However, it can also exist under an authoritarian government. The Soviet Union is an example of latter. However, there are plenty of governments that operate a socialist economic system under a democratic government without falling into authoritarianism.

New Zealand has a very strong system of democracy. I would say it operates more effectively than the system that Americans are so proud of. Socialist policies have been implemented in New Zealand for many years, without any threat to democracy. Because democracy has delivered what people want, some socialist policies have actually strengthened democracy.

On the other hand, many of the governments in nations where the US has established its brand of capitalism turned out to be autocratic and dangerous. Chile is an example.

Socialism does not inevitably lead to an authoritarian/totalitarian government.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Socialism (3) Success and Failure

I commonly see the following comment on blogs and Facebook, as if it solves everything.

Socialism always fails.
Unfortunately, this statement proves nothing.

Socialism often does fail. That is not surprising. Humans are fallen, fallible beings, living in a world where a spiritual battle is going on. So much of what we do fails.

But there have been enough socialistic successes to prove the comment above is wrong. NASA’s project to put a man on the moon was a successful socialist project. The US efforts to build ships, tanks and trucks during World War 2 was another socialist project that succeeded.
New Zealand has always been a fairly socialist country. I have observed many failures, but there are sufficient successes to prevent me from saying that socialism always fails. The socialistic health system that operates in the city where I live is an example of successful socialistic activity. I will write about it in a future post.

Another example is the socialist hydroelectricity system that was built in New Zealand during the last half of the last century. The Department of Works built a network of power stations on the large rivers in the South Island. This department was run by some clever engineers, who built an efficient system that still provides a significant share of our nation’s electricity needs. They built on international standard rowing course on the side.

The same applies to free-market activities. There have been plenty of free-market failures. The United States banking system failed numerous times throughout its history. It failed hugely during the 2008 GFC, and would have collapsed, were it not for an enormous socialistic rescue by the government.

Some churches, maybe under a Calvinistic influence, think that markets work all things for good. That is not true. Only God can do that.
Socialism fails most frequently due to misallocation of resources. People with political power are frequently tempted to build white elephant projects or vanity projects that fail. Free markets activities also fail due to misallocation of resources. If all the nations entrepreneurs are dull, they often sit on their property and use their capital unwisely, causing their nation to suffer.

Comparing companies does not prove much, because these days all countries operate under a mixture of socialism and free markets. There is far more socialism in the United States than most Christians realise. Americans appear happy enough with a wide range of socialist institutions in the United States, including public schools, defence forces, public parks, social security, public radio, unemployment insurance, public universities, Medicare, public libraries and space exploration.

And Corporatism is stronger in the United States than anywhere in the world, so the United States is not a free-market economy. In terms of numbers, there are a large number of self-employed people and small companies that have to operate on a free-market basis. But in terms of GDP, the US economy is dominated by a relatively few large corporates, which collude with the government to protect their privilege and position. Many of the large corporates get a big chunk of their revenue from the government, especially military equipment manufacturers.

The only argument in favour of free markets over socialism is the moral one. If John works hard for his income, other people do not have the right to take some of it from him and spend it. If Janet has started a business, and operates morally and legally, then other people do not have the right to take her profits for themselves. Nothing is changed, if it is governments that are taking the income or profit. It is still stealing something that belongs to someone else.

We should stick to the moral argument when arguing against socialism.

Of course, the morally superior option does not always give the best financial rewards. Sometimes people who do good suffer. Plenty of people operate a business that would benefit people, but due to the vagaries of the free market, they have failed. However, it is better to do what is right, than to become rich.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Socialism (2) Necessary

A nation that does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and is not based on Kingdom Communities will need some form of socialism to prevent it becoming harsh and cruel. In any free market system, some people will fail and suffer. Unless there is a compassionate Christian community to sustain them, they will drop through the cracks. A government-based safety net will be necessary.

Being Christians is not enough. Here is what is happening in the United States. The drastic increase in inequality of wealth in America is described by Deutsche Bank, in their January 2018 study “U.S. Income and Wealth Inequality”.

The U.S. is comparable to Chile, Israel, Mexico, Portugal, and Turkey, as being at the top of the nations studied, in “inequality in household disposable income.”

A record high 30% of households have no wealth in the United States (p6).

All-time high median net worth in constant dollars was 2007, at $119,000, declined to $67,000 in 2010, and rose to $78,000 by 2016 (p.7).

U.S.: The top 0.1% in the US owns as many assets as the bottom 90% (p.8).

U.S. has higher income-inequality than any other OECD nation (p.10).

Income-inequality is rising faster in U.S. than any other OECD nation (p.11).
The socialist option is always second best, and rarely truly effective, but it is better than this ugly alternative. The best option is always Kingdom Communities based on loving one another and serving Jesus as Lord.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Socialism (1) Choice

Many opinion polls are reporting that young Americans would welcome socialism. This disturbs many Christians, but I am not surprised by this preference.

Young Americans are not rejecting free market-capitalism. They are waking up that the government-supported corporatism that dominates the US economy is not nice, although it is often called free-market capitalism. They are rejecting a system that they don’t like, not a system that they don’t know. The US economic system is so far from textbook free-market capitalism that they learned in their civics classes that they do not know what it would look like if it existed.

Young people look at their existing economic system, and they do not like it. They dislike the way that rich people are getting much richer and they hate the way that the weak are being impoverished and realise something is wrong. They have been taught that the American economic system is free-market capitalism, even though it is not, so they reject it and start looking for something better.

The American system is actually a combination of corporatism and oligarchy, but because they have been told it is free-market capitalism, they naturally oppose the latter. They have also been taught that the only alternative to free-market capitalism is socialism, so it is natural that they prefer socialism, because it cannot be worse than the dreadful system they have now.

Young Americans don’t know what free-market capitalism looks like, because they have not seen it. All they know is they do not like the dreadful system that has emerged in its place in America. They want something better, but they assume that the only option is socialism.

I am not surprised that young Americans feel an inclination towards socialism, because the system that is currently called a free-market system is an ugly misrepresentation of it. It is just an expression of dislike for the existing system. They want something much better, and socialism is the only option that offers that.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Gems from Brian Zahnd

Here are some gems from Brian Zahnd.

The gospel preached by the apostles had no appeal to afterlife issues. The core of their gospel was that the world has a new emperor, a new lord, a new Caesar. Forgiveness of sins is offered in his name. The main message is that you must come under the reign and rule this new kingdom, be baptises, pledge allegiance to him and become part of this new way of arranging society that God has inaugurated through Jesus.


Until we can see the Kingdom of God, politics trumps everything. If we see the gospel as a ticket to heaven, then between here and heaven, we have to figure out some way to run the world. We end up investing a lot of energy, even putting faith in political parties. Jesus is reduced to being an endorsement of their political agendas.

Jesus is Lord. He has his own politics.


No political party can embody the kingdom of God. Only the church can do it.

Stanley Hauerwas says, “The church does not have a social policy. The church is a social policy”.

“We need to change the world”, are dangerous words, because we get tempted to reach for the coercive power of Caesar’s sword.

The task of the church is not to change the world directly, the task of the church is to be that part of the world already changed by Jesus. Then we live that out as a colony, a community of believers in the wider world.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Political Power (4) Public Service

They are called public servants, but the people who staff government departments are usually more devoted to advancing their own careers than doing what is best for the people of the nation.

The big problem is that the public service is the home of many mediocre people. They are often incapable of doing the tasks that they are responsible for. Really skilful people are often shut down or squeezed out because other people are threatened by them. This means that government departments often fail to carry out the wishes of the minster, even if they support them. Things go wrong with the process, and by the time the problems are sorted out, it is too late.

This creates a huge problem. The public service is the most powerful part of the political/government system. They are also the most incompetent. The people who rise to the top are often the people who know how to grease those above him. Those who challenge bad ideas find themselves being side-lined.

The result is that modern democracy is often government by the mediocre.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Poltical Power (3) Prime Minister

Many cabinet ministers would like to become the Prime Minister. They believe that this would give them real power. Unfortunately, the prime minister has far less power than they expect. The Prime Minister does not have a government department to carry out their wishes. They have assigned all of them out to the members of their cabinet. They depend on them to carry out the party’s political promises.

A few cabinet ministers will be really effective and get their plans implemented. A few will be incompetent, and the rest will be mediocre, because they have been given a task they have never done before. The inevitable consequence is that most of the party’s plans do not get implemented.

The main thing the Prime Minister has to do is to identify early the cabinet ministers that are incompetent, and get rid of them before they do too much harm. They have to watch for disasters emerging and shut them down before they get out of control.

The other task that the Prime Minister has to do is to communicate to the public and explain to them what the government is doing. They have to be doing this constantly ready for the next election. Prime Ministers cannot do things themselves. They have to persuade others to do the things they want done. That is not easy.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Political Power (2) Cabinet Ministers

Cabinet ministers cannot do as much as they will have hoped. They have to get the government departments that support their portfolios to do things. That is not easy. The Chief Executives (CE) of Government departments are skilful operators. They have got to where they are by moving up through the ranks of the public service. They rise to the top by managing their careers to be in the right place at the right time. They know how to overcome opposition and manipulate the system to get their way. They know how to deal with people who oppose their plans.

When a new Cabinet Minister arrives, the CE will put all these finely-tuned skills into managing them and setting them on the right path. They will provide the Cabinet Minister with Briefing Notes that explain all the issues, describe the problems, and tells them what needs to be done. The CE knows far more about the situation than the minister, so it is hard for the him/her not to be co-opted to working for the goals and objectives of the government department. The new minister’s plans and dreams will be overwhelmed.

To get a proposal through cabinet, a minster has to get his department to prepare a cabinet paper. This a slow complicated process that the minister cannot do themselves. They have to get the staff of the government department that they are responsible for to prepare the paper on their behalf. Once a draft is prepared, it is circulated around all the other government departments that would be affected by the change. They will make changes and amendments to the paper. By the time that the cabinet paper is through the review process and finalised ready to present to the cabinet, it may have changed significantly from the original idea. All papers have to go to the Treasury, and they can kill an idea by saying there is no money.

The stated aim of the review process is to ensure the development of good policy. However, it can also be used to obstruct the “foolish ideas” of cabinet ministers. Government departments are very skilled in obstructing things that they do not want to do. They can let them lie around for so long that they die.

This explains why some new government fail to fulfil their election promises. To implement their manifestos, they need the support of the public service. If the leaders of the public service are not supportive, the plans of the politicians will go nowhere.

If the CE does not like the ideas of the cabinet, the minister will struggle to get it through. The CE will ensure that the opposition to the idea is organised to prevent the cabinet paper from going the distance.

Cabinet Ministers are new to their portfolios. They will usually know very little about their portfolio before they come to it. In contrast, the CE and senior staff of the department will have a detailed knowledge of the area. The cabinet minister will often be dependent on them for a detailed explanation of the issues.

The other power that the CE has in their arsenal is to give the cabinet lots of complicated detailed papers to read. This can often overwhelm them and shake their confidence in their own views.

Cabinet ministers often find themselves as servants of the public service, pushing their ideas, rather than the other way around.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Political Power (1)

People who pursue political power often find it is an illusion. Here is how it work in my country, the names are different, but the roles are similar in other countries.

Members of Parliament
Members of Parliament have very little power and influence. They have to vote in the way that their party tells them to vote.

If they want to get ahead, they need to compromise, do deals, and support proposals they do not like for the sake of party unity. They go along to get on. By the time they get to a position of power or responsibility, they are usually so compromised that they cannot go back to the way that they were when they started.

Most MPs want to become cabinet minister, because they assume that this will bring them real power. Unfortunately, it does not. They do not get to choose their portfolios. They get the one they given, not the one they might want or the place where they want to have an influence.

Monday, February 03, 2020

General/Personal Prophecies

I have noticed that on the Elijah List and on Facebook, prophetic people are releasing what appears to be general/personal prophecies, which are not directed to any one person, but are made available to a general audience. They might say something like the following: “In the next four months, God is going to be without in a powerful way that will change your life around, etc, etc”. The word is not for a particular person, but has a wide distribution making it available to anyone who claims it.

I have two questions about this practice.

First, is it valid for followers of Jesus to claim any prophetic message that resonates for themselves?

When I have read some of these general/personal prophecies on Facebook, my heart has been really stirred, and I have felt like claiming them for myself. On the other hand, I have also wondered if it was just wishful thinking, and if I was grabbing hold of something because, it was positive, even if God did not intend it for me.

The reality is that the situation of Christians over the next four months will be really variable. A few will face persecution. Some will face disruption, when people they trust let them down. Others will face sadness due to the death of someone that they love. Some may make mistakes that set them back. A few who have been pursuing the light hard might have a serious breakthrough.

The sample prophecy above would only be accurate for one of these groups, although they might not realise it when first reading it. So, I am not sure if it is entirely safe for people to claim general/personal prophecies for themselves.

At the very least, claiming a distributed general/personal prophecy should go through a similar testing process as any prophetic word received directly. It should be submitted to a couple of people the claimer trust to decide if they consider that the world is relevant to the person claiming it. The witness of the Holy Spirit will be important.

On the other hand, there is a massive shortage of personal prophecy in the church. I see it when a visiting prophet comes to town. People are queued up, desperate for a word, and many appear to be disappointed, because it is difficult for one person to give relevant words to so many people in a short time, even if they have a powerful gifting. Likewise, in a church with two or three prophets, if there are 200 members, they will struggle to deliver every one of these members a relevant prophecy when they need it.

So, while there is a shortage of prophecy, maybe the best that the Holy Spirit can do is to get personal prophecies distributed widely, so that as many people as possible can benefit from each one. This works because despite the variety of situations described above, many people are in similar circumstances, so they benefit from the same message. This is probably not optimal, but it is better than people being left stranded without a word when they need it.

I suspect that God would like to see more prophets, and more people comfortable in the gift of prophecy, but until that happens, he is using the distribution of general/personal prophecies to encourage his people. Ideally, every believer should be able to get a prophetic word from some in their circle when they need it.

I have been blessed to have received clear, direct prophetic words at key points in my journey with Jesus. They have kept me going when times were tough. The most important words were from friends operating in the gift of prophecy. A couple were delivered by visiting speakers who did not know me, which is quite encouraging, if the word is correct. I have not had the same benefit from general/personal words that I have read on Facebook, because I have always been uncertain if they really were for me.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Intercession and Authority (6) Holy Spirit

The key to intercession is to be full of the Spirit. However, we must understand that if we are in Jesus, we have the fullness of the Holy Spirit within us. We cannot have half of the Holy Spirit, or a quarter of the Holy Spirit, so we always have his fullness. Thus, if he is limited in his activity, then the problem is with us constraining him from working freely. So, the goal is to be open to his operation, so that he is free to do what he wants to do through us. I am seeking to learn to be sufficiently open to the Holy Spirit so that he can do all that he wants to do through me.

I realise that he prefers to work through small groups of people who are united by love. So, we cannot experience all he wants, if we are stuck in isolation. He prefers to work by giving different people different parts of what the wants to do, ie one has a gift of faith, another has the world of knowledge, another has the gift of healing. So, to experience more of what the wants to do, we must be united with others. Learning to work in small teams in the unity of the Holy Spirit is key.

The gospel is the best means for bringing about social change. Jesus did not tell his disciples to go and intercede with God. He told us to go and heal the sick, cast out demons, and declare the good news of his kingdom. Intercession alone is not enough. So, sharing the gospel, supported by prayer, is the key to changing the world.