Monday, April 19, 2021

Fitch on Church Planting

In a seminar on church planting at Northern Seminary, David Fitch outlined three different models of church, and described their characteristics. This is my summary of the talk.

 

Franchise Model
(denominational)

Update Church
(seeker, relevant)

Mission Model
(Incarnation focus)

Goal

Caring for denomination members

Being relevant to people who are turned off church.

Reaching non-churched people,
seeking injustices and bringing kingdom.

First Step

Get services running as people expect
Sunday church service, children’s ministry.

Same things, but updated to be relevant, easy, convenient.

Inhabit a context. Move, work and live there.  Find people of peace

Context

Irrelevant
Methodist is same everywhere

Survey the context to be relevant.

Exegete context. Find places of pain? What is causing pain?.  Where do people gather?

Getting started

Establish a church buiding with sign outside.

Do a launch with big publicity.

Landing.  Establish two or three leader people.  Get a job.

Get involved in neighbourhood.  Find networks.

Horizon to self sufficiency

Three years

Three years, but getting harder.

Ten to fifteen years

Worship

Traditional

Better music and messages

Incarnational.  Aims to be part of rhythm of life. 
Eating together is important

Leadership

Person from denominational school

Charismatic entrepreneur with celebrity to drive preaching

Polycentric group that know their giftings.  Push decisions down and out.

Preaching

Teaching for doctrinal reinforcement for people who already believe.

Relevant communication. Topic driven.  Equipping people to deal with problems of life.

Proclamation of the gospel into and over the context.  Where is God at work?  Explain how to serve Jesus as Lord there

Evangelism

Not a primary focus

Seeker sensitive, evangelistic event.  Assumes people find God by going to a church on Sunday

Training and locating people to be present in places of hurt, pain, brokenness, suffering and injustice to see what God will do.

Justice

Justice is something that government does.  Church might challenge injustice or train people to participate in government’s justice activities.

Find a project.  Use money for justice projects.  Might even have a justice centre/place where people who need justice and those who want to do it can meet.

Develop a presence amongst the poor, the hurt, the broken, the oppressed, the victimised, the lost.  Live with them in their community and see what God will do.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Interpretation of Moses' Laws

The following principles are important for interpreting and understanding the judicial laws of Moses.

  • The scriptures were breathed by the Holy Spirit. We do not know how they were written down, and we do not know how involved Moses was in the process of recording God’s law, but that does not matter, because the Holy Spirit was at work. He got the stuff that he wanted recorded into the books of Moses. This provides our principle of interpretation. The best way to understand the judicial laws of Moses is to seek what the Holy Spirit is saying.

  • The judicial laws must be interpreted through the lens of Jesus’ life, ministry and teaching Jesus. His life ministry was a full and complete revelation of the character of God. The gospels will help us understand how God’s laws should be interpreted and applied. Even Moses would not have fully understood what he received from God, because he did not know Jesus.

  • The Old and New Testaments were both inspired by the same Holy Spirit, so they will be consistent with each other. Jesus never repudiated the judicial laws, so they must contain a message that is consistent with his gospel. If they seem to be inconsistent with the New Testament, then we have misunderstood them, or the translators have mistranslated them.

  • We must not use the behaviour of the Israelites to interpret the judicial laws. They had been slaves in an empire ruled by a cruel dictator and in their new land they were surrounded by evil and violent nations. Therefore, their behaviour often fell short of God’s standard. We cannot take their behaviour as normative, because it was often immoral, not God’s will.

  • Archaeological information from the surrounding nations is not very useful for interpreting the judicial laws. Some of these nations will have copied God’s law, because they recognised his wisdom, but they are controlled by principalities and power who hate God, so they will have distorted it. For example, the practices of the Babylonians will not provide many insights into the meaning of God’s law.

  • Hebrew is not a precise language like Greek. The words are sparse, and can take many meanings. Hebrew is a very old language, so the meaning of many Hebrew words is uncertain. We should choose the meaning that is consistent with the New Testament.

  • We cannot rely on the interpretations and translation of Jewish scholars, because they have a tendency to justify Israel’s history of violence and war. This causes them to cast a violent shadow over the law. The Israelites frequently rejected the Holy Spirit, so that often misunderstood God’s law. Their interpretations are unreliable, because they often choose the harshest possible meaning of a passage, whereas we need one that is consistent with the gospel. We have a huge advantage in understanding the judicial laws of Moses, because we can read them with the insight of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus.

  • The Jews were scattered among the nations for a couple of millennia, and were controlled by the laws of those nations, so they had no need for the judicial laws. In this situation, it was more important to maintain their cultural distinctiveness, so they tended to focus on the cultural markers, such as sabbath and diet, and ignored the judicial laws, because they did not need them. Not surprisingly, they were gained more expertise on the former than the latter.

  • Christian translators have tended to copy the Jewish translators, because they assume that they have a better knowledge of Hebrew. Unfortunately, their translations are often tinged by the cruelty and violence, because they did not know Jesus.

  • Most Christian translators and interpreters of the Old Testament have focussed on pushing a distinction between law and grace. They have been content to make the Old Testament seem harsh and cruel, because it makes the gospel look better. They do not understand that the law is grace and has a different objective from the gospel.

I will often push the boundary of the meaning of some well-known passages. That is deliberate, because I am translating and interpreting them in a way that is consistent with the gospel. I believe that is the best way to understand what the Holy Spirit is saying. (More in Government of God.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Mum's Garden

When God created the first humans, he put them in a garden. The garden was a place where God could work and create, frolic and play, rest and talk with humans. When they rejected God’s wisdom, they lost their place in the garden, along with all the fun and enjoyment that went with it.

I am always intrigued by TV programs about people in New Zealand and England who have turned huge areas of land around their house into a garden, because they enjoy creating and they find their garden a pleasant place to be.

My mother was very busy, raising six children, feeding farm workers, and active in church and community groups, but she loved her garden. At the back of the house, she had a big vegetable garden which kept the family self-sufficient in vegetables all year round. On the front and the sides of the house, she had flower gardens, including a shrubbery, a herbaceous border, with formal rose gardens and tidy lawns on which we children could play.

Mum planned her garden, so there was colour all year round (it was less than half an acre). She rarely went to a garden shop. Most of the plants were grown from seed or grew from cuttings that she got from other people’s gardens. Others came from the bring and buy table at a local community group she attended, or by swapping with friends.

She never worked in the garden on Sundays. When a friend or one of her many sisters visited on Sunday, they would walk around the garden together in the afternoon enjoying its prettiness. Each plant had a story. When her visitor commented about a plant, Mum would tell the story of how she obtained it and described the person who had given it to her.

Walking in the garden was restful for my mother. Even her more fractious sister became less critical when they walked in the garden together. The garden was also a place fun, where we played when we were growing up. It was the site of all sorts of games.

When I think of the Garden of Eden, I think of Mum’s garden. Gardens are a place of creativity, hard work, beauty, pleasure and enjoyment, peace, stories, people games and community.

The only thing that took my mother’s peace was if one of us children left the gate open and some hens or a cow got in and started wrecking the garden. That was a family disaster.

Monday, April 12, 2021

US Declaration of Independence

I was surprised when I read the US Declaration of Independence for the first time. According to this document, the British king was doing all the following.

  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislatures;
  • He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power;
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation;
  • For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;
  • For protecting them, by a mock trial from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;
  • For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
  • For imposing taxes on us without our consent;
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of trial by jury;
  • For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences;
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people;
  • He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation;
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers.
The great irony is that most of these activities have been done by US Presidents, either at home or abroad. Power does not change.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sin and Gospel

I listened to the gospel call in a message preached by Billy Graham in the late 1950s. His focus was on sin and his promise was that all our sins can be forgiven. That message worked in his time, but it would not be so effective today, because the culture has changed.

The 1950s was a time when society was conservative and a rules-based culture dominated most people in the west. The church was part of the establishment and attempted to impose its moral standards on the people of the world. Most people had failed to comply with the social rules that were accepted. Many had rebelled at times against the accepted moral standards. So most people had a strong sense that they had missed the mark and failed to comply with the standards expected by society. Guilt was the prevailing mood. In this culture, a message about sin and failure to comply with moral standards resonated strongly.

Likewise, in Jesus’ time, the Pharisees had created a guilt culture by imposing impossible interpretations of the Torah as a burden on the people. Most felt that they could not live up to God’s standards, so Jesus had to deal with their shame by offering forgiveness of sins.<

The culture is different now. The rules that shaped society back them have mostly gone by the board. The church is no longer so influential and its standards are no longer seen as compelling. People have been taught to seek their own fulfilment instead of living by standards imposed by others. They do not see themselves as sinners who have failed to live according to the standards of the church, and they do not see God’s standards as relevant.

Modern people see themselves as victims of life. They need someone to rescue them from their struggles. They may have made mistakes that made their situation as worse, but they largely see themselves as victims of circumstances that they did not control. Many people have been battered and beaten by trials that were too great for them. They don’t see themselves as sinners needing forgiveness, so much as victims who someone to rescue. The prevailing mood is sickness and struggle.

In this situation, the gospel call will be more effective if it announces that Jesus has rescued those who will put their trust him from the attacks of the spiritual powers of evil and put them on a path that leads to victory from the world. Many people who are struggling with life want to be rescued.

We might need to stop using the word “saved”. The gospels are full of the word “sozo” which is usually translated as “save”. Unfortunately, we don’t use the word save much these days, apart from a religious context (or saving at a bank). Rescue is a valid translation for sozo, and it a word that has more resonance in the modern world. People who are drowning are rescued, not saved. Lifeguards rescue people who get into trouble at the beach, rather than save them. People who are lost in the bush are rescued, not saved.

We would get a better response if spoke of Jesus ability to rescue people from trouble and oppression. To modern ears, the word “saved” is less meaningful. The gospel promises,

Jesus came to seek and rescue the lost (Luke 19:10).
When dealing with people, Jesus mostly rescued them from their problems first. After they were delivered, he told them to stop sinning, if that was necessary.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Moral Equivalence

Apart from scale, there seems to be no moral difference between the following:

  • a policeman kneeling on the neck of a prisoner for nine minutes.
  • imposing punishing economic sanctions on the people of Venezuela because you don’t like the government they elected.
  • establishing a blockade on Yemen to starve the people because you want them to be ruled by your Saudi friends.
  • waging war against the Pushtun people of Afghanistan for twenty years, because... nobody remembers why.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

East and West

The modern view seems to be that evil spirits are more active in Africa than they are in the West. I have always assumed that they are just as active in the West. It would not make sense for them all to pack up and move to Africa. In fact, they would gain greater benefit from operating in the West, which is the centre of world power. So, I have assumed that they are just as active in the West as in Africa, but we have not understood how they are operating.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Tabernacle and Blood

I seem to be asking questions that no one else is asking.

Although I had always read the OT, God taught me to love the Torah (as commanded in Psalm 119) when I was engaged in developing a political theology. Once I loved the law, I had to work out which parts were fulfilled and no longer mandatory, and which were still relevant. Clearly the tabernacle and related sacrifices are fulfilled by Jesus, so are no longer applicable, but I felt that if I loved the law, I needed to understand the purpose of the bits that are fulfilled.

You cannot really love something that does not make sense. So even if a Toral command is no longer binding, I need to understand its purpose and how it was actually fulfilled. Most Christians have been content to ignore the parts of the Torah that they don’t like or don’t understand (this pick and mix approach works quite well in a pragmatic sense, but it does not work for me).

God seems to be ambivalent about the tabernacle sacrifices. In some passages, he says that he did not require them (see Hebrews 10:1-18). I was struck with the contrast between the Holy of Holies where beautiful incenses were offered on a golden altar and the bronze altar which was all blood, gore and smoke. They didn’t seem to be for the same God.

Although I am truly saved, I have never been able to understand the blood. The songs say it is beautiful, but I grew up on a sheep farm and encountered real blood. My father would sometimes slaughter two or three sheep to provide food for the family and to feed the working dogs on the farm. He would cut the sheep’s throat to drain the blood out of the carcass. Blood is awful stuff. It stains everything that it comes into contact with. If left in the hot sun, it stinks. It would stink even more if it was burnt, so why would God want that.

We sometimes burnt the carcasses of ewes that had died during the lambing season on a metal frame, using a bit of kerosene, until the fat started to melt and keep the fire burning. It was a stinking, rotten smelly smoking job. It was hard to see how God would enjoy it. Only someone with a warped mind would enjoy it. It then occurred to me that being with the most warped minds are the spiritual powers of evil.

Another question I wondered about was why the tabernacle was such a dangerous place for people. Surely God was not capricious. I wondered if it was the spiritual powers of evil that made it dangerous.

God did not need the tabernacle sacrifices to visit the Israelites and rescue them from slavery. He led them through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. He rescued them and provided bread from heaven before the tabernacle was established. So why was it needed? Then it occurred to me that it was for the spiritual powers of evil, everything fell into place (see Tabernacle).

I love the Old Testament, as Jesus did, and try to understand it by looking backwards in the light of the understanding of the spiritual/cosmic warfare revealed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit who was sent to reveal all truth. The Israelites were in a season of intense spiritual struggle between good and evil (without fully realising it) when the evil powers were proportionately stronger, because there were fewer humans on earth. Seeing the tabernacle sacrifices as a weapon given by God to restrain them prior to their defeat of the cross is the only explanation that I know of that makes sense.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Ransom

The cross was gory. The place where Jesus was crucified would have stunk of fear and death and the earth would have been stained with blood. I don’t believe that God needed this gore for his satisfaction. I believe that the spiritual powers of evil demanded it, and God reluctantly agreed in order to free the humans that he still loved despite them rejecting him.

Here is a story. A rich man paid for his son to travel around the world as part of his growing up. While in a foreign country, he developed a gambling addiction and racked up massive debts in a casino.

When the son could not repay the money he owed, his creditor threatened to torture him until he settled the debt. The son was too ashamed to ask his father for help, so he found another wealthy man and sold himself to be his slave for life in return for him paying the money owed to the debtor. The son escaped torture at the price of a life of slavery.

When the father heard what had happened to his son, he wanted to rescue him. He could have hired some retired special-service warriors to invade the foreign country and rescue his son. The problem is that he did not want to engage in “might is right” activity.

The son had freely sold himself to be a slave, and his new owner had paid real money for him, so the rich father agreed to pay the ransom that the owner demanded to set the son free. He was not comfortable with paying a ransom, but had no alternative, if he did not want to engage in “might is right” behaviour. The son was freed, and the father knew that in the circumstances, he had done the right thing.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Patriotism

Patriotism forces us down a path of moral distortion. Patriots have to build up the good things that their nation has done, and play down the bad things it has done. They have to ignore the bad things their nation has done and magnify the bad things done by others.

For example, American Christians will agree that slaughter of Jews in Nazi death camps for the simple reason that they Jews was evil.

However, the firebombing of Dresden which had almost no military significance with 4,500 tons of explosive and incendiary bombs that killed 30,000 civilians and seriously injured many more simply because they were German was good.

Dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the military authorities had offered to surrender and killing 200,000 civilians just because they were Japanese was good.

Providing logistical support to the Saudi Arabian military forces bombing and blockading Yemen must be good.

This moral dissonance is dangerous.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Farming in New Zealand

Farmers in New Zealand need to understand that the world they are farming in has changed. Back in the 1950s and 60s, New Zealand was mostly governed by the National Party. Many of the National Party’s leaders had been farming before the went into politics, so farmers had a strong voice at the table where the decisions that might affect farmers were made. The government put policies in place to protect farmers and sometimes even subsidised their activities.

Government have a monopoly on coercive power. Their business is to control things. Controlling people and businesses is what they do. During the 1950s and 60s, national governments focussed on controlling importers, unions, women and the Maori people. They left farmers relatively free from control.

Unfortunately, farmers took advantage of their protection and often engaged in practices that were not good for the land. Some insecticides contaminated the land. High-intensity farming practices needed large volumes of water for irrigation, and excess fertilisers and animal effluent was allowed back into waterways and rivers.

Farmers who should have been the first to be concerned about the health of the land and rivers were slow to take action to improve the situation. The only began to take serious action when pressure came from urban environmentalists. Some farmers still see that concern as an over-reaction.

In those days, urban people still had strong links with the farming community. City children would often spend time on an uncle’s or grandparent’s farm during their school holidays. They understood that farming was a tough occupation and respected farmers for the way they met their challenges. Now, attitudes have changed. Unban people have very little contact with farmers. Many hardly realise that their milk and meat come from living animals. The growing rural-urban gap means that city people have very little sympathy for the challenges of farming. They see farmers as people who have become rich by inheriting land from their parents.

The parallel change is that political power has shifted from rural to urban areas. Farmers are now only a small percentage of the population. The National Party has lost its position of dominance, but even when it is power, very few of its parliamentarians are farmers. It has become a party of urban business people and property investors.

This change might seem to be unfair, but most politicians understand that there is no electoral advantage in looking after the interests of farmers, even though agriculture might be important for the economy.

A third big change is that urban people now have pets. Most have at least one dog and many have several. They love their pets almost as much as they love their own children. They hate to see them suffering, and will spend considerable amounts of money relieving their pain. These changes have had two big consequences.

  • Urban people will not tolerate inhumane treatment of animals. There will be intense pressure on farmers to stop any practices that cause animals to suffer. The problem is that modern communications allow bad practices to be publicised quickly. If a farmer in Southland has his dairy cows on winter feed standing up to their bellies in mud, it is easy for a passing motorist to take a photo of them. Even though it might only be one unrepresentative farm, the picture could be round the world in a few hours. The response will be angry, and politicians will be expected to take action to relieve the animals’ suffering.

    The modern world has a very low tolerance for mistreatment of animals. Claiming as justification that this has been a particularly wet winter will not cut it. People will say that a system of farming that cannot protect animals from and excessively wet winter is not viable.

  • Even though their own treatment of the environment leaves a lot to be desired, urban people will not tolerate farming activities that harm the waterways, rivers (or atmosphere). Photos of farming activities that allow effluent or fertiliser to leach into water ways will produce intense hostility, even if it is only part of the cause of the pollution in rivers. It is probably Pharisaic, but urban people will not tolerate farming practices that are bad for the environment.

These consequences might seem to be unfair, but the reality is that political power has shifted towards the big cities, so politicians will pander to the political concerns of city-dwellers. That will not change, so farmers will need to get used to it. In fact, the opposition to agriculture is likely to get worse.

Farmers who are concerned about their government imposing regulations that control the way that they farm will have to adapt to it. Crying that it is unfair will not change the situation.

Farmers who are wise will develop an environmental plan so they can demonstrate how they are caring for the environment. Dairy cows might have to be withdrawn from some areas, or moved indoors for the winter, to prevent nitrogen leaching into the soil and waterways. Claims that agriculture is important for the nation will not fend off this challenge. Political power has moved towards the urban population and it will not shift back.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Pastoral Epistles

Many biblical scholars believe that Paul did not write letters to Timothy and Titus that are collectively called the pastoral epistles. The main reason is the reference to bishops and deacons. They assume that these roles only emerged when the church became institutionalised, which was well after the time of Paul’s ministry, so he could not have written these letters. This is only a problem if the letters were referring to bishops as rulers over the church.

The first letter to Timothy actually addresses the issue over overseers (plural). The Greek word is episkopos, which refers to watching over people. This was the role of elders looking after the churches that Paul and his colleagues established. In Acts 20:28, Paul challenged the gathered elders gathered from Ephesus.

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood.

In this passage, Paul links overseers, shepherds and elders in the same role. The Greek word for overseer is episkopos, the same word as used in the Letter to Timothy. This means that the overseer (elder) and deacon (a person responsible for caring for the poor were important roles in the church right from the beginning.

Paul had asked Timothy and Titus to ensure that elders were released in all of the churches, so it is natural that he would give them guidance about the type of person that could do the role. Paul was not worried about Christian doctrine. His focus is on avoiding people with weak character. He wanted to ensure that immature believers did not take charge of a church.

Unrighteous wealth was being given away by new Christians right from the beginning (Acts 4:34-37). Some of the new converts in Asia and Macedonia were rich, so it was really important that the ministry of the deacon was well established. That would be why he outlined the personal requirements to Timothy.

Timothy was just starting his ministry when the letters were written, so they must have been written early on in Paul’s ministry (1 Tim 1:16). Paul would not have described Timothy as vulnerable if written it was written at a later date.

The letter could have been written during Pauls difficult years following his banishment from Ephesus when he was suffering under persecution, as described in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Paul was sending people all over the place, but not making real progress with the gospel, which could be the reason for the despair at the end of the second letter to Timothy.

The last days is the period between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem. That is why he gave advice about living in the last days. It suggests that the letters were written before AD 70.

I am quite happy to believe that Paul wrote the pastoral epistles.

Friday, March 26, 2021

A Leader Comes to Faith in Jesus

What happens when a non-Christian prime minister or president gives their allegiance to Jesus and submits to a prophet that God has raised in a nation.

  • A cacophony of voices will try to speak to the ruler giving conflicting messages. This will give the spiritual powers of evil access to the ruler and the nation. (This is what has happened with Donald Trump, although he was not really submitted to Jesus or to a prophet.)

  • The ruler and the prophet (with others) can stand together against the government-spirits that control the nation and defeat them. They can be forced out of the nation, if the appropriate authority is in place.

  • The prophet can share God’s wisdom with the ruler.

  • The powerful people who have put the ruler in place might be hostile to the ruler once he/she has put his/her trust in Jesus. They might attack him/her and attempt to remove them from their place. The government-spirits will try to regain power, so these attacks will be vicious. The ruler will need strong spiritual protection in place.

  • The prophet will encourage the ruler to push their authority down and spread it around. The point may come where the ruler has to step down from their position.

  • Once the ruler understands that nature of God's kingdom, they might find that force and coercion is anathema to them.

  • The ruler must not use their power to make people serve Jesus. This would be a disaster, because God prefers that people follow Jesus because they love him, not due to fear or control. The ruler should wait for the gospel to advance and change hearts. This should happen quickly once the power of the spiritual powers of evil is broken.

  • The ruler should not try to impose Christian standards on the nation. Salvation by law does not work.

  • A ruler should demonstrate humility and integrity, so they should act on the commitments and promises that they made when seeking election, even if they do not fully align with the scriptures. Betraying the people who elected them will destroy their credibility.

  • The ruler should be kind to people who oppose them. They should not try to pull them down with harsh words and disparaging or snide comments.

  • The leaders should show compassion and kindness toward the poor. They should do what they can to help them through their troubles until the kingdom of God comes to fulness.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Mark of Beast

Many Christians believe that the mark of the Beast is a microchip that a government will inject under their skin as an identification tool. I don’t think the mark of the beast is a microchip or anything like it. With developments in facial recognition and retina scanning, fingerprint scanning, means that an injected chip for personal recognition or screening has no benefit for governments. There are cheaper ways of tracking people. Anyway, the chip could easily be stolen or destroyed. Storing data, such as financial information, on a chip in the body would be vulnerable to theft or deliberate corruption, so it is unlikely to be beneficial for anyone. If we have a cellphone, the government already knows where we are and what we are doing.

The main problem that is overlooked is that the mark of the beast is the number of the beast, it is not a different number for each person. It is more like the brand that would be put on a slave to indicate the identity of their owner.

The servants of God received a seal on their forehead (Rev 7:3). It was a not literal mark, but represents the gift of the Holy Spirit. I presume that the mark of the Beast is not literal either, but represents a way of thinking and doing.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Spiritual State of America

“Beast” is a controlling spirit wishing to become a world dominator. He is currently working in America, alongside the spirits of war and violence, power, and deception, attempting to increase his power. They are all jockeying with each other for supremacy, but each one is supporting the other to seize influence in the hope that they will be the winner who takes all.

All recent presidents have contributed to their rise to ascendance.

George W Bush strengthened the place of his colleague, the spirit of war and violence, by engaging in a fruitless war on terror. Barack Obama continued in his thrall by selecting drone targets and watching them die, but he also struggled with political power. This strengthened the position of “Beast”, who loves power, and steps into any power vacuum that emerges.

All presidents lie, but Donald Trump took it to a new level, which gave greater power to the spirit of deception that controls the nation. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will continue under these spirits, with their propensity for lying and their fascination with military power. However, their mandate is weak, and their chosen task impossible, so they will struggle with political power. Their jockeying for position and their manipulation of political power will strengthen the hand of Beast, who loves using political power to intimate and control people to achieve his goals.

The future of the US hangs in the balance. I have noted before Ten Reasons why it could become the Terrible Beast described in Revelation and foreseen by Daniel. However, the outcome depends on the choices the American people will make, and Christians will have a strong influence on the result.

If Christians rejoice in secular progressive justice using political power, or hide in the church singing hill-songs and crying out for God to do something, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will expand the power of Beast. When he gains pride of place, the other spirits will continue to work for him as supporting stars.

On the other hand, if the remnant following Jesus, goes into the world to share his gospel and build kingdom communities, where followers of Jesus love each other and serve the broken people of the world, the tide could be turned the oat her way. But there does not seem to be much sign of that happening.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Whacking

A father seeing his children fanning a fire that could spread dangerously or playing with a bomb that could explode would yell at them to escape and then grab them to get them out of danger, then put out the fire or defuse the bomb. He might pepper spray the person who was telling the children that playing with fire or bombs is fun, but he would not pepper spray the children standing watching who did not know who he was, who did not know that these were his children, and did not know the fire or bomb was dangerous. He might hurt the children in the process of rescuing them, but he would not shoot them in the feet with his rifle just to alert them to the danger they are in. He might show them a dangerous fire or a bomb exploding in a controlled situation to help them understand the danger.

Whacking people with evil does not have a very good success rate for turning people back to God. The first world war was terrible, but it did not bring a turning back to God. Nor did the great depression or the second world war. A century of war and economic pain did little to stop a decline in faith that continued throughout the 20th century.

God will often use a shaking judgment when his people are going to sleep, but he warns through his prophets first and ensures that he has a remnant prepared to rescue and restore those who wake up. He also uses a preventative judgment when evil is so rampant that terrible things would happen if it was able to go all the way.

However, whacking society is a sub-optimal method for changing people and society. It was the only method possible under the old covenant, but under the new covenant, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is more effective.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Ecclesial Minimum

Apart from the presence of the Holy Spirit, the following are essential for a church.

  • Followers of Jesus who are committed to each other, living close together so they can do the one another stuff.

  • Christians who have been serving Jesus for a while watch over those who are just beginning to follow Jesus and encourage them to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey him.

  • Four or five leaders with gifts that complement each other (one who loves sharing the gospel, one who is prophetic and several who are shepherds). They are committed to loving each other, so they can serve Jesus in unity.

  • These leaders watch over the other people, warning of danger, and encouraging them to follow the leading of the Spirit.

  • Leaders replicate their ministries in those they are watching over.

  • The best leaders are sent out (apostled) to establish a new church. The people they have taught can quickly step up and take over as leaders in their place.

  • Leaders who have been sent out exercise authority/influence by looking back to the churches that sent them.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Black Horse

When the third seal was opened in his vision of Revelation, John saw a rider on a black horse.

When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds[a] of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” (Rev 6:5-7).
A horse represents government force – often military force. Scales represent justice. The black horse is a government that goes out to establish justice in the world using political, economic and military pressure (sometimes called R2P).

The Greek word translated scales is “zugon”. It comes from a root that means “joining”. It can refer to “scales”, but it can also mean “yoke”. When Jesus called us to take his yoke upon him, the gospels use the same word “zugon” (Matt 11:29). 1 Tim 6:1 used the word to describe a yoke of slavery. In Acts 15:10, Paul challenges that Christian leaders not to put a yoke on the neck of new disciples that they cannot bear.

Translating the word “zugon” as “yoke” gives a different insight into the rider on the black horse. He held a yoke in “his hand”. That hand is a symbol of political power. The rider on the black horse uses political power to impose an economic yoke on peoples and nations. This powerful ruler uses trade sanctions, trade regulations and tariffs to control other nations.

These sanctions and economic pressures have a serious effect on prices. Economic sanctions make it difficult for nations to buy food, so food prices rise. The Greek measure, translated here as a quart, was a "choinix". It was the daily ration for a soldier in active service. The coin mentioned is a denarius, which was the equivalent of a day's wages. John says that the shortage of food will be so severe that a daily ration of wheat will cost a day's wages. Barley was a little cheaper as it was considered to be of poorer quality.

The situation will be so severe that ordinary people will need all that they can earn to buy food, but the wealthy will not be affected. Luxury items like oil and wine are not to be damaged. They are not essentials but will be more readily available. The real shortage will be for basic food items.

According to Zechariah, the black horse moves to the North (Zech 6:6). The United States has engaged in intensive efforts to establish democracy in Eastern Europe and the Middle East using economic power.

More at Black Horse.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Socialism

Socialism is not the great evil that many Christians claim, but it is not the solution either, because it relies on the fickle and corrupt power of the state. We have had socialism in my country for more than fifty years, and although many people have been helped, in some areas is now worse than ever.

The gospel includes the solution, including giving away unrighteous wealth and deacons training the poor how to live as described in Caring for the Poor. Caring for the Poor. Unfortunately, the church has never really taken this role seriously. Until it does, socialism is a more compassionate option than raw capitalism, but it is not God’s solution.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Ravi Zacharias

Christians all over the world have been shocked by the exposure of the failings of Ravi Zacharias (going down the same path as many other key Christian leaders). Much has been written about how and why, and I don’t have much to add except for one key point that seems to be totally missing from the discussion.

Whenever Jesus sent his disciples out to do something, he sent them in pairs, not with one in charge of the other, but as equals in authority. When he called them, he formed them into pairs, and that was how they always operated. I call these Power Pairs, because of their increased effectiveness in action.

The other benefit of operating this way is the spiritual safety that comes from pairs watching over each other. They will be close enough to each other to see what is going on and be willing to challenge the other if he is in danger of falling into sexual or financial immortality. If the church wants to turn back the tide of leaders falling from grace, we need all men (especially) to go back to working in pairs.

When one man is top dog, he becomes vulnerable to pride and spiritual attacks. The people working with him are dependent on his approval for the continuation of their ministry, so they are tempted to make excuses and remain silent when they see bad behaviour. Once a man is elevated over others, problems eventually follow.

When two leaders work together as a pair, the risk of sexual immorality is significantly reduced. They might end up in serious disagreement as Paul and Barnabas did, but they only hurt themselves and not the people who have trusted in them. Read the full article at Power Pairs.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Church

People sometimes ask why am I not a member of a church. The basic reason is courtesy.

When I was pastor of a church back in the 1980s, God confronted me about the way that his church is organised. I discovered that the pastor-leader model that I was engaged in does not exist in the New Testament. That was quite disturbing.

After a detailed study of the New Testament, God gave me a vision of how he wanted the church to function. I published a book called Being Church Where We Live describing what God has shown me thropugh my studies. People have critiqued my book on the Church, because it is too hard, but no one has been able to show that it is inconsistent with the New Testament. This creates a dilemma for me in participating in a church (I also resigned from my public service role before publishing my last two books, for a similar reason).

If I join a church, courtesy required me to remain silent and support the pastor’s vision. I have done more theological study than many pastors, so it would be unfair for me to push my views and undermine the pastor’s vision.

I tried this courteous option for nearly twenty years as a member of an apostolic church. I remained quiet and gave my full support to the leaders’ vision. These leaders understood my position, but were happy to make use of my gifts when appropriate. However, when a new pastor was put in with more of a pastor-centric drive, I could see it would become too hard, so to avoid conflict, we decided to move on before he arrived. The people and elders sent me out with their blessing and some prophetic encouragement.

Now at the age of seventy-one, and the situation on earth becoming urgent, I am not prepared to sit and remain silent anymore. I want the freedom to speak what I believe, without the fear of offending a pastor to whom I have submitted.

I am not willing to put my energy into a vision that I believe to be wrong. Other people might be able to put their head down and give their support, but my calling has a visionary aspect. I think a lot about how things should be done, both in my working and in my private life, so it is too hard for me to sit and remain silent.

I realise that not belonging to a church is not ideal, but it is the best option at this time (I also realise that a pastor-leader model provides very little spiritual protection). I understand the risks involved, but I accept them because I want the freedom to serve God without undermining my pastor by explaining that his role is not biblical.

I have never had a fallen out with a pastor, and have several good friends who have continued in that role.

If a pastor wanted to make radical change in the way their church was organised, I would be willing to join and support them, but I have not been invited yet.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Angelic Risk

I have been wondering why God created the angels, given that the Holy Spirit is all-powerful and therefore able to do everything needing to be done. It was quite a risky move because humans were given full freedom and authority over the earth, so they had the potential to rebel and oppose him and seriously harm his world. That would be bad enough, but if some angels rebelled too, then they could do terrible evil if they could get control of rebellious humans.

Creating powerful angels with sufficient freedom to rebel was a hugely risky move because this would massively amplify the evil that would occur if humans rebelled too. That is what has happened, and the spiritual powers of evil have been able to do terrible evil on earth since humans gave them the authority to work on evil. God must have had sufficient good reasons for creating angels to justify taking these risks.

The angels worship God in his presence, but that does not seem sufficient justification for their creation because it leaves God looking a little egotistic, if it was the only reason.

Angels have the ability to move between earth and heaven (Gen 28:12: Job 1:6; Psalm 103:20). Although they are spiritual beings, they can appear in the physical world and change physical things (Acts 5:19; 12:23). The angels also seemed to have a role in the creation of the world (Job 38:7) God would only need the angels working on earth if there were some things that the Holy Spirit could not do, but which angels could do. Reading the scriptures, I note the following things that angels can do that the Holy Spirit is unable to do, because he is pure spirit.

  1. The Holy Spirit can speak to people, but he cannot appear to them because he is spirit. Human eyes can see the effects of his presence, such as people falling down, but we cannot see him directly. So, when God needs his messenger to be seen by humans, perhaps because they need to be shocked into hearing, he will send an angel. Angels can speak and appear, which helped human listeners like Moses, Gideon, Mary, Zechariah and Cornelius (Exodus 3:2; Judges 6:12; Luke 1:11;2:26; Acts 10:3).

  2. God uses angels to fight against the spiritual powers of evil. The Holy Spirit resists them by speaking, and his divine voice is so compelling that probably only the toughest government-spirits and world controllers would be strong enough to resist. They would whine that it was unfair and breach of their freedom if the Holy Spirit came against them with his full physical power, so God mostly uses angels when he needs to force them to stop doing something (Exodus 23:20; Rev 12:7; Dan 10:13).

  3. The Holy Spirit is always present in all creation, sustaining its existence, so he cannot always deal directly with people and things in the physical world. God seems to use angels for that purpose. Angels wrote the Ten Words on the stone tablets (Gal 3:19). An angel closed the lion’s mouth for Daniel (Dan 6:22). A donkey saw an angel (Num 22:24).

  4. For a similar reason, God often sends angels to strengthen people who are already full of the Spirit. Elijah and Jesus are examples (1 Kings 19:7; Mark 1:13; Luke 22:43).

The scriptures don’t give a complete outline of everything that angels can do for God because we don’t need to know. However, the reasons listed above are sufficient to justify the creation of the angels, despite the harm that some would do by rebelling against God and joining with human rebellion to do evil in the world.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Revival?

I heard a preacher on television in New Zealand say that God is going to send revival to the church. There are several problems with this claim.

  • Church leaders in New Zealand have been saying for the last 30 years that God is going to send revival; but it has not happened. That is not because God is incapable of doing it, so it must be because the church is not ready to receive revival.

  • I don’t believe that God is saying that he will send revival. I believe that the is telling the church and its leaders what they need to do and how they need to change, so they can receive what he has for them. He has been saying this for at least the last forty years, but the church has refused to do what he is asking it to do. That is why our situation is so dire.

  • Revival is not the solution that we need. Revival occurs when the church is lukewarm. It was relevant in a culture where many people still went to church out of duty and in response to peer pressure, but did not really know and love Jesus. These people were part of the church, but it was only a small part of their lives. They were “sort of” committed to God, but had little to do with him. These people needed revival, because revival wakes up and invigorates a lukewarm church.

    This is not our situation now. The people who are lukewarm left the church long ago and are not committed to living in the world. They don’t even think about God, let alone acknowledge him. They only people left in the church are seriously committed. They might be lacking in power, but they are not lukewarm, so a revival is not what they need. They need to be set free to function in the calling that God has for them (not just keeping the church system going) and they need the full power of the Holy Spirit to do it.

    The people of the world don’t need revival because there is nothing to revive. They need rescue. Their lives are being wrecked by the spiritual powers of evil, and they need God to see them free to live the life that he has for them.

    In this situation, the gospel needs to be different. When the church is lukewarm and asleep, a message of repentance will be effective. These people are claiming to serve God but have not bothered much, so they need to repent and choose to serve him seriously.

    In the modern world, most people are enslaved by the spiritual powers of evil. Telling them to repent of their sins is pointless because they already know they are trapped in the mess of life. They need to be rescued from their bondage, so a gospel of rescue/deliverance (which is pervasive in the New Testament) will be more effective in meeting people where they are. When someone is stuck in a deep hole, you don’t make them apologise for falling in before you rescue them.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Blessings and Curses

Deuteronomy 28 describes the blessings that would come on the children of Israel if they fulfilled the Old Covenant and the curses that would come upon them if they failed to obey God. This covenant was unique to the descendants of Jacob. However, there is a sense in which these blessings and curses apply to all nations because they describe what God likes to do and what the spiritual powers of evil like to do.

The blessings are not special. Deuteronomy 28:1-13 describes what should be normal in the good world that God created before the spiritual powers of evil messed things up. This is what life would be like if communities of people were able to push the spiritual powers of evil out of their territory.

Deuteronomy 28:14-60 describes what the spiritual powers of evil would like to do in any situation where they gain authority to act. This is the stuff that they like to do whenever they get the opportunity. Here is a list of the things that the spiritual powers of evil will do if they get control of a nation (even if it is not subject to the old covenant).

  • turmoil 
  • bad and lasting sores 
  • epidemics 
  • wasting fevers and inflammation 
  • insects destroying trees and fruit 
  • heatwave and drought
  • blight and mildew 
  • invasion by enemies 
  • hemorrhoids 
  • sores and rashes 
  • blindness 
  • confusion of mind 
  • debt and interest 
  • robbery and fraud 
  • no power in your hand 
  • defeat in battle. 
Any nation that surrenders authority to the spiritual powers of evil can expect some or all of these problems to plague their lives. We are not immune from their activities just because we are not subject to the Old Covenant.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Uncertainty

Alan Roxburgh explains that we do not need to know the future to be prepared for it.

Our unraveling present is the womb wherein the Spirit is gestating the future. We don’t need gurus pointing to some future. We need to release one another into the ordinariness of our neighbourhoods. Leaders form people who ask: What is the Spirit gestating amongst us and in our neighbourhoods so that we can join with God… It is by discovering how to discern the Spirit in our communities that we live into God’s future.
In my book called Being Church Where We Live, I describe how followers of Jesus can join together to be prepared for whatever future life brings to us.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Judging Empires

Many of the Old Testament prophets prophesied against the empires of their day. Prophesying against empires will be part of the role of some mature prophets.

Empires are not subject to the conditions of the Mosaic covenant, so I was curious to see what criteria the Old Testament prophets used when judging empires. I was surprised to find that in most cases, the prophets announcing judgment against an empire did not list a number of failings, as they did when prophesying against Israel and the surrounding nations.

Rather the Old Testament Prophets judged empires for being empires. In their view, the desire of an empire to rule over the entire world was an afront to God because it is his world, and he is the only one who should rule it all.

Brian Zahnd defines an empire as a rich, powerful nation, which believes it has the divine right to rule other nations and has a manifest destiny to shape history according to its agenda. This is perceptive because these are prerogatives that belong to Jesus alone.

By trying to control the world, or a big part of the world, empires are standing against Jesus and insulting him. They also open themselves up to the intervention and control of the spiritual powers of evil, who also want to control the world and see empires as a useful instrument of their power (Rev 18:2).

God is always opposed to empires and is committed to bringing them down; so it is only ever a question of time. He will sometimes allow an empire to persist because it is useful for advancing his purposes (usually destroying or constraining a previous empire), but once his objective is accomplished, the empire will be destroyed. In the eyes of a prophet, the days of an empire are always numbered.

According to the prophets, God condemned emperors and empires for the following characteristics, all related to the nature of an empire.

  • Seeking power and control over the entire world.
    • The Tower of Babel was the first attempt to control the world (Gen 11:5-7).
    • Babylon the Great loves power; it is called the City of Power (Rev 18:10).
  • Plotting evil against God’s purposes and trying to take his place (Nahum 1:9,11).
    • Egypt made plans that did not align with God’s purposes (Is 19:3).
  • Pride and arrogance are the heart of empire.
    • Babylon has the arrogance of the haughty and the pride of the ruthless (Isaiah 13:11).
    • Nebuchadnezzar boasted about what he had done (Dan 4:30).
    • Belshazzar set himself up against God (Daniel 5:22-14)).
    • The king of Babylon believed that he could rise higher than God (Isaiah 14:13-14).
    • Babylon was lounging, confident in its security (Is 47:8).
    • Babylon the Great boasted of its greatness (Rev 18:7).
  • Empires seek alternative sources of power, such as magic and sorcery
    • Babylon relied on magic and sorcery (Is 47:9,12).
    • Egypt relied on mediums and spiritists (Is 19:3).
  • Empires increase their power by creating terror amongst the people of the nations.

    • Babylon aimed to create terror (Is 14:12).
    • Babylon is a scary warclub (Is 51:20).
    • Babylon is a nation of warriors (Jer 51:56).
    • The sword of Babylon is ruthless in destruction (Ezek 32:11-12)
  • Empires corrupt the nations that they control.

    • The powerful rulers corrupt their wisdom for the sake of splendour (Ezek 28:17).
    • Babylon the Great led the nations into adultery (Rev 18:3,9).
  • Empires seek control of wealth.
    • Babylon the Great created huge wealth for itself and the nations it controlled (Rev 18:3,14,17).
  • Because empires oppose God, they often persecute his people.

    • Egypt oppressed the children of Israel (Exodus 3:7-9).
    • Babylon the Great persecuted the prophets and the saints (Rev 17:14; 18,14).

Prophets will use the same criteria to assess modern empires. God still judges empires for pride and arrogance, which leads them to seek control of the entire world. He opposes their ruthless violence and reliance on magic (technology) to maintain their power and control. He hates their manipulation and control of many nations for their own purposes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

National Covenant with God

Many Christians in America and other places believe their nation has a covenant with God. I believe that a nation can make a covenant with God, but it is different from what most Christians assume.

We tend to assume that the New Covenant makes the covenant with God a personal thing, but that seems to be a very Western, individualistic way of looking at the covenant. I believe that God is much more communal.

The leaders of a nation have the authority to make a covenant with God on behalf of the people who have submitted to their authority. However, two conditions would have to be fulfilled for such a covenant to be effective.

  1. The leaders of the nation would have to renounce all previous covenants made with false gods. That was a problem for the American founding fathers, because they had covenanted with greed and military power, etc, and they never renounced those covenants, before apparently making a covenant with God.

  2. A covenant with God is always one-sided. He specifies the terms of the covenant, including what is required for fulfilment and the consequence of keeping or rejecting it (a nation cannot just claim the covenant that God made through Moses with Israel). Most nations throughout history that have tried to make a covenant with God have done it the other way round. They decide what they will do for God, (often not much) and what they expect him to do for them (usually quite a lot). I suspect that it what the American founders did. They demanded God’s blessing on their enterprise without actually committing to obedience to his standards.

Given these conditions, I cannot think of any nation in the world that has a genuine covenant with God.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Eschatology Efforts

Many Christians spend a lot of time studying eschatology or end-time teaching, but I suspect that most of this is a waste of time because it does not help them follow Jesus better or hear his Holy Spirit speaking more clearly.

I have studied eschatology because I am a teacher, but I cannot think of one time during the forty years that I have been serving Jesus in which I made a different decision, or better decision, based on eschatology teachings. On the other hand, I can think of many people who made awful decisions because they thought Jesus was coming soon, or were afraid of things they thought might happen.

Instead of worrying about scriptures that are not clear (they will be clear when their fulfilment comes), followers of Jesus should focus instead on obeying the passages that are clear and putting them into practice in their lives. They should concentrate on learning to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and obeying him.

In every season, Christians should focus on building relationships with a few other Christians and learning to serve and support each other. They should try to encourage and challenge each other, while practicing Jesus’ new commandment. It does not matter what kind of church they are in, if you trust them and they are willing to love you. With this kind of relationship, followers of Jesus will be safe, regardless of what happens in the world (and when Jesus returns).

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Failed Prophets

This article by Julia Duin describes a disturbing problem for the American church. While some are refusing to back down, and others have admitted their mistake, many others are sitting quiet hoping that their words about Trump will be fulfiled, and if not, forgotten. They need to come clean about where they stand.

My concern with the modern American prophets is that none of them are explaining what is happening in America at this time. Most are promising a great revival. That is a possibility, and it might be what God would prefer to happen, but it seems unlikely, because it would need a massive change in attitudes to Jesus (and to politics) and an even more massive change in the way that the church functions.

I would expect true prophets to be warning what would happen, if this revival that Christians have dreamed about for many years (but not experienced) does not come. That might be a more realistic message.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Book on Economics

God’s Economy has three parts.

Part One describes God’s Instructions for Economic Life. Jesus confirmed these instructions and adapted them to work in a society in which tribal connections have broken down. He explained how they apply to the communities of love that he was establishing amongst the people who chose to follow him. He shifted the focus from neighbours to people who are committed to loving one another, but the core principles are the same.

Part Two applies God’s Instructions for Economic Life to modern society. God does not expect the people of the world to live according to these instructions, but he requires those who have chosen to serve Jesus to apply his wisdom in their lives and communities.

These instructions are only practical amongst people who are being the church where they live. They can apply God’s instructions without relying on government enforcement while continuing to live in a world that is dominated by the existing power systems. God’s economy will become a witness and sign to a world that has lost its way.

The first two chapters of Part Three describe the problems with modern money and banking. These flaws inevitably produce economic instability, inequality and often extreme poverty. Followers of Jesus need to understand these problems, but they do not prevent them from living out God’s Instructions for Economic Life within their Kingdom Communities.

The last three chapters of Part 3 explain how better money and financial institutions can be established within their Kingdom Communities in preparation for the time when the kingdoms of the world collapse and fall.

Getting everything that needs to be in a book about God’s Economy is almost impossible. I have concentrated on economic ideas that are new and different, rather than trying to cover everything that might be relevant. I focus on the changes that are necessary for the emergence of the Government of God.

Jeremiah Johnson

His voice grates on a Kiwi ear, but this thirty-minute talk called by Trump and Idolatry by Jeremiah Johnson is worth a listen. He was one of the first to apologise for his prophecy that Donald Trump would win the presidential election.

He explains the difference between Old Covenant and New Covenant prophecy. He lists four important differences.

  • New Testament prophets no longer operate in the same authority as they did in the Old Testament (standing alone between God and humans).

  • New Testament prophets have now been placed in the body of Christ where they are to develop community and accountability.

  • The primary focus of New Testament prophets is not predicting future events, but reveal Jesus to his body (and what God is doing).

  • The words of New Testament prophets are not infallible, so what they prophesy must be tested.

I witness with the word that he shared toward the end of the video.

We have unified under a false movement of prophets and politicians.

If God had given Donald Trump another four years, parts of the charismatic prophetic movement would have that they were invincible.

God has sent a spirit of confusion. It is a judgment on a movement that has placed prophet and politicians in a place that only Jesus should have.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

God's Economy

From the Preface to my book called God's Economy.

I grew up on a farm, so I left school early to work in farming. After a couple of years, I realised that I did not have the strength and stamina that farming needs, so I decided to go to university. While working with sheep and driving the tractor, I had plenty of time to think about the poverty and suffering that were rampant throughout the world. The problems seemed to be economic and political, so I enrolled to study economics and politics.

After four years of study, I realised that I was digging a dry well. The assumptions that economists have to make to ensure their models work are so unrealistic that their theories are irrelevant to the real world. It seemed that during the first three years of economics, they told you all the solutions, but in the fourth year, they explained why they would not work. (I noted that my fellow students who went into politics, often only did the three-year course, so they went out boldly assuming they had effective policies).

While growing up, our family had gone to church every Sunday, but for me, it was just a habit. When I reached university and encountered modern philosophy, I gave up my religious habit. However, just when I became disillusioned with economics, I heard the gospel of Jesus clearly for the first time. I surrendered to him and committed to living by his word and Spirit.

A few months later, I had an exam for a post-graduate course on comparative economics. The lecturer was a staunch Marxist. Full of my new-found faith, I wrote in my paper that Marx has no solution to human problems and that Jesus is the answer. I gave a similar response in a paper on macroeconomics.

Surprisingly, I passed the course with first class honours. However, at the beginning of the following year, one of my professors asked to meet with me. He disclosed that he was an atheist, but acknowledged that my faith seemed to be genuine. He told me that it was not enough to say that Jesus is the answer. I needed to explain how he could be a solution to the problems that concerned me. He concluded with a telling question: “What would the economy and society look like if everyone was a Christian”.

I could not answer his question, but I knew that I had to find the answer to it. I did not know enough about God, or his solutions to economic problems, but I made it my goal to find out.

I went to seminary for three years and studied theology and New Testament Greek. Later I studied Hebrew for two years to get a better understanding of the Old Testament. While employed as an economist, I read every book and article that I could find that is relevant to economics and the gospel.

About ten years ago, I felt that I was ready to answer the question that my atheist teacher had asked, but one more obstacle lay in the way. I still had faith in political power. I believed that God’s people could use political power to establish his Kingdom on earth. I needed to grasp the failures and futility of politics.

Modern economics is mostly politics. The solutions dreamt up by economists can only be implemented by a government with coercive power, so economics becomes a servant of politics.

  • Fiscal policy explains why politicians should take money from some people and use it to benefit others.
  • Monetary policy explains how governments can control the creation of money and who should benefit.
  • Labour economics guides politicians who want to control employment practices and pay.

Modern economics and politics are hard to separate. Economic principles get caught up in political power.

Jesus refused to use political power to advance the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:25-26; John 18:36). Political spirits and government spirits have used political authority to leverage their power on earth. Evil cannot be used to accomplish good.

When I studied this issue seriously, I discovered that God had already given a system of government to Moses that does not rely on force and coercion. I described his system of local judges applying his law and voluntary military leaders protecting their community in a book called Government of God (2017). It explains how Kingdom Communities can function without political power. They can voluntarily provide all the services that human governments promise, but fail to deliver.

Once I understood the problems of political power, my understanding of the nature of economics changed dramatically. The policies of modern economists cannot enter the Kingdom of God because they need to be imposed from the top by human governments with the power to make people do the right thing. I began seeking a politics-free economics.

I discovered the Instructions for Economic Life that God gave to Moses (see chapter 2). I also found that Jesus had validated these instructions in his teaching about economics (see chapter 3). God’s instructions allow a community of people to develop an economy that can function effectively without the need for political power and coercion.

The advance of the gospel by the power of the Spirit should produce a radically different economy. The most significant change is that there will be no human government to enforce economic policies. Economic change will come as more and more people choose to follow Jesus and are prompted by the Holy Spirit to obey his commands.

God’s economy is not modern capitalism. Modern capitalism is a system in which all activities are commercialised. Big businesses collude with political power to gain wealth at the expense of ordinary people. Materialism and consumerism are advanced at the expense of relationships. The strong are rewarded, the weak suffer. God’s economy is radically different from modern capitalism.

This book describes the changes to economic activity that will occur as the Government of God comes to fullness. It seeks to answer the following question: “What would an economy look like if most people chose to follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit was able to establish the Government of God?”. This is the question my economics teacher asked me back in 1975.

As the gospel advances, followers of Jesus will form Kingdom Communities that implement his system of justice, protection and welfare (as described in Government of God). God’s economy will emerge as these communities apply Jesus’ interpretation of the Instructions for Economic Life.

The practical outworking of God’s economic wisdom will vary according to local cultural and living arrangements. People will have to work out the details by following the leading of the Holy Spirit and adapting the principles to their local situation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Free Book

The Kindle version of my book called God's Economy will be available for free on Amazon for the next three days. If you are concerned about the state of your nation's economy, you should read this book.

If you don't have a Kindle download the Kindle app and you can read it on your phone, tablet or laptop.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Revelation

When I read the book of Revelation, I don’t see God whacking the world, I see him letting people who have rejected his gospel way of love and service and chosen instead to trust in political and military power get a complete experience of full-blown political and military power. This massive political power will eventually collapse under its own weight, as warned by the prophets, hurting many people as it falls (because it has amplified the powers of evil), but God will use the remnant he has prepared to rescue and restore the people of the world by the power of the Spirit when their eyes are opened to the futility of political and military power.

More in Times and Seasons.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Prophets and Nations

Many prophets have had their fingers burnt predicting the outcome of the US presidential election. This is not surprising, because predicting the outcome of elections is a mug’s game, like predicting the sex of babies before they are born. You have a fifty percent chance of being right, so even if your prediction is right, you were probably just lucky.

Elections predictions do not help God’s people understand what to do and how to live. They seem to be mostly about boosting the ego of the prophet. That said, God needs prophets who can explain to his people what is going on in their world, so that they will know what they should do and how they should live. They need to know what God is doing, so they can join with it, and what the spiritual powers of evil are doing, so they can resist and not be deceived. In a world that is dominated by political power and facing tumultuous events, a true prophetic voice will need to address these things. That is what Jesus did.

However, this type of prophecy is a tough call that only a few prophets will have the maturity/purity to handle. In addition to being able to hear God speak, they will need to be able to leave the political loyalties that they grew up with behind (Jesus disciples could not do that so they could not understand what he was saying).

These prophets will need to rise above the left/right thinking that dominates discussion in the media. They may need to shake off incorrect end-times thinking that they absorbed as young Christians. They will need to be able to get above the petty issues of the day-to-day world and get the big picture of what Jesus is doing.

In these times when the church is struggling and confusion abounds, we need this prophetic role more than ever, but looking at the current state of the prophetic movement, it seems further away than ever, too. Hopefully out of some serious soul-searching about the current debacle, a purer prophetic voice to the nation(s) will emerge.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Prophet to the Nations

One role of the OT prophets was to monitor the covenant that God made with Israel and challenge the nation’s failure to comply, and warn of the consequences. That role has finished because God has not extended the old covenant to other nations, but established a new covenant through Jesus. The role of covenant guardian perhaps still applies to the nation of Israel which claims to be under the old covenant, but it would be serious critic, rather than a cheerleader for what the Israel government is doing that the American church has become. The nation probably needs modern prophets to challenge its failure to comply with God’s covenant.

The other role of the Old Testament prophets was to speak to the surrounding nations and warn them what was going on spiritually and what would happen if they carried on in the way they were going. See Isaiah 13-21, Jeremiah 46-52, Ezekiel 25-30. There were others including Elijah, Elisha and Jonah. Daniel and Joseph spoke to the emperors of their time.

These prophetic words to nations and rulers were not couched in the context of covenant, because God did not have a special covenant with the surrounding nations. They warned the nations of what would happen if they continued on their existing path. This was a substantial part of the prophet’s ministry and I see nothing in the New Testament that says that this role is discontinued, or that God has stopped speaking to kings and nations. Why would a God who speaks stop speaking? Rather, Rev 10:11 suggests that the role will continue.

What has changed is that God no longer relies on one prophet to speak to many nations. He will use many prophets, but just a few speaking to each nation or ruler, because the role has been split up and spread around since the Holy Spirit has been poured out widely. "One to many" should have been replaced by "many to each one". The modern prophet movement is a long way from being able to exercise this role, but it is still needed.

The United States is on a dangerous path, far more dangerous than most Christians realise, and it is being led down that path by nationalistic/patriotic failed/false prophets. The nation really needs a clear prophetic voice to warn it if of the dangers it faces (and that has nothing to do with the Old Covenant).

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Seven Mountains

The problem with the seven mountains teaching is that it is partly true. The so-called mountains (media, government, education, economy, family, religion, and arts and entertainment) are really important for shaping the direction of society. The problem is that in the past, Christians often dominated the culture of their nation, so they tended to dominate the seven mountains (some more than others). That was wrong because people who were not Christian hated having Christian ideals imposed on them against their will. God does not impose his authority on people. He prefers that people serve him because they love him.

As the gospel advances, the influence of Christianity on the seven mountains should increase, but this influence will come as followers of Jesus serve the people of the world and demonstrate excellence in their spheres of influence. They should rise up because they have the wisdom of God and are fuelled with a spirit of wisdom and humility, and are willing to serve generously. They must not attempt to impose God’s standard on they spheres/mountains they serve in. Rather they will love and serve, and do their work more excellently than anyone else. If they are squeezed out, they will not fight back.

The mountain that will be hardest to change is the mountain of government. All government is a way for one person, or a small group, or a majority of the people to impose their will on the rest of society. That means they have no place in the Kingdom of God, which is based on love and service, not imposed power and authority.

The problem with the seven mountains teaching is that many Christians want to use political power to impose Christian values on the seven mountains. This gives God a bad name, because people hate being forced to do things against their will.

The Kingdom of God is established by love suffering and service. In my book Government of God, I have described an effective model of government that that is not imposed using force and coercion.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The Gospel of Jesus

Bad News
When the spiritual powers of evil tricked humans into rejecting God, they set about making life miserable for them and wrecking the beautiful world that God had created.

Good News
God loved the world so much that he sent his son Jesus to live on earth and die to pay for us the ransom that the spiritual powers of evil demanded. He raised Jesus from the dead to destroy their power and returned him to a place of honour in the spiritual realms. From there, Jesus sent a living Spirit to empower those who follow him and teach them how to live in peace and harmony.

Gospel Challenge
Change sides and give your allegiance to Jesus and work with him and his Spirit to restore the good world that God created.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Islam

The news media in New Zealand are developing a fascination for Islam. Most don't know much about the religion of Islam, apart from what they have seen on television. In the past, they have only seen Islamic terrorists bombing crowds and Islamic State soldiers beheading people. So the graceious response of Moslems to the Mosque shooting in Christchurch has surprised people who knew very little about the religion. Most don't want to sign up to a religion, but they have become curious about what is going on.

One reason for the confusion is that there are different streams to Islam, just as there are different streams in Christianity. Humans love factions. The historic split between Sunni and Shia streams is, like the Catholic-Protestant distinction in Christianity, very important to the people involved, but from the outside looks fairly trivial.

More importantly, there are large numbers of Moslems around the world whose faith is fairly nominal, just like the large numbers of nominal Christians, who take the name of Jesus, but not much more. They call themselves Moslem because their parents and grandparents were Moslem, but their religion has very little effect on their day-to-day lives, apart from a few cultural practices.

All of the world, more radical groups of Moslems want to take their religion more seriously. These are a bit like the Pentecostal movements, who see themselves as challenging their wider religion to become more serious in their faith.

A few really hard-core groups have focused on the violent parts of the Koran and made Islam violent. They have taken up weapons to fight for the advance of Islam. Al Qaeda and Islamic State are the two most prominent of these groups in recent years. These are the groups who have had the most attention on the television, so they are not representative of most Moslems, just as the IRA was not representative of most Catholics in Ireland.

The more cultural form of Islam has two things about that make it appealing for some people.

  1. Cultural Islam is an easy religion because its rules are simple, and relatively easy to follow. There are five pillars: things that a good Moslem should do.

    1. Profession of Faith (shahada) – declaring with conviction that "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God". This really only has to be done once, but most will recite the words more frequently.
    2. Prayer (salat) - pray facing Mecca five times a day: at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and after dark.
    3. Alms (zakat) – giving generously to the poor.
    4. Fasting (sawm) – fasting during the daylight hours of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
    5. Pilgrimage (hajj) - every Muslim whose health and finances permit it should make at least one visit to the holy city of Mecca, in present-day Saudi Arabia.
    The hardest of these is the daily prayers. The rest only have to be done if and when circumstances allow.

    These five pillars contrast with Judaism which has 613 commandments that adherents must obey. And of course, Christianity has thousands of rules that must be obeyed by people who have mistakenly turned their faith into a system of rules. So if you have chosen to live by religious rules, as many people have (I have not), Islam is a good option, because its rules are less demanding than any other religion.

  2. Islam is an extremely fatalistic religion. Moslems submit to the will of Allah and just accept whatever happens as his will. This makes them very stoic and strong when they go through evil events, because they believe it is god's will, and they just resign to it.

    In contrast, most Christians see life as a spiritual battle between good and evil, so life is a challenge to understand what God is doing and be part of it, and to see what the spiritual powers of evil are doing and stand against them in faith. If we make the wrong choice, then we can be harmed by the enemy. So troubles often come from him, rather than God. This makes life challenge.

    Christians who have blind faith that God is in control of everything and just accept it as God's will are behaving more like Moslems. Fatalism more common amongst Christians than it should, given our world view.

    I presume that it was the fatalistic stoicism of the victims and their relatives that appealed to the news media after the Mosque attacks in Christchurch. They saw these terrible events as God's will, so they just had too submitted to him and kept going. Their god is not always rational, so what happens does not always make sense, but just accept it anyway.

    The problem with this fatalistic stoicism is that it makes people passive. This is an enormous obstacle to economic and social development, because people just accept what happens, and don't try to change their situation, because that would be fighting against Allah.

When Christians encounter Islam, they should seek to understand which type of Islam they are dealing with.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Waitangi Day

Today is Waitangi Day in New Zealand, the day when the founding of our nation is celebrated. New Zealand is different from most countries that were colonised by European countries in the nineteenth century, because a treaty was agreed between the British government and the leaders of the indigenous Maori people. This treaty, or covenant, was signed on 6 January 1840.

This was a great start for a nation, but unfortunately the treaty was ignored for the next 100 years, because it was never put into legislation by the new parliament.. The Maori people were ripped off left, right and centre, and towards the end of the nineteenth century, some experts thought they might die out.

In the last forty years, efforts have been made to recognise the treaty and to put right some of the injustices that were done. I cannot say that there has been strong support for this change, as most New Zealanders do not care. The changes were really pushed through by middle-aged, European politicians from different parties, who were not leaders, but who gained sufficient influence to push through the changes they wanted. Geoffrey Palmer got Treaty of Waitangi clauses introduced to some important pieces of legislation. Doug Graham got the Treaty settlement process working effectively, and Michael Cullen, Chris Finlayson and Andrew Little have completed a number of important settlements.

Most Christians do not understand the importance of these changes, but settling some of the injustices was really important for the spiritual status of New Zealand. I explain the spiritual consequences of covenants between nations in and article called the Treaty of Waitangi, that was first published in 1883, All Christians need to understand the importance of honouring covenants, regardless of the circumstances in which they were made.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Reset Opportunity

Would you like to join others who are learning to “be the Church” seven days a week, exploring forming Christian community in 21st century regional Australia.

Focused around a dairy farm in northern Tasmania this opportunity is available. Team members who join will have a desire to participate in the daily rhythms of the farm which seek to integrate faith, work and play in authentic, Christ centred ways.

Paid positions available include:

  • assistant dairy manager (full/part-time)
  • milking assistant (part-time)
  • traineeship/apprenticeship in dairy farming (full-time)

Previous experience is a bonus but not essential, a minimum commitment of six months is required. Could suit single, couple or gap year students. International applications welcome.

The successful applicants will have the desire to involve themselves in building an interdependent faith community that seeks to establish the “Kingdom of God” at a personal, family and district level.

If this opportunity stirs something in you please email: positive.change@bigpond.com to initiate further discussion.