I once heard a bank manager say that when he got married in the 1950s, he could buy a new house with three times his annual salary. Now it takes six times the average salary to buy a new house. The difference is that women have gone into the workforce. In the 1950s, most families were single income, whereas now they have two. Two incomes allow a family to service twice as much debt, so the size of mortgages have doubled. This pushed up the price of houses.
Families still live in very similar houses, but they now have bigger mortgages, so they pay for the house in interest four times over instead of just two. No one is better off, except the banks who collect the interest. And the people who bought their houses in the 1950s and 1960s and sold them to two income familes.
Working gives women a lot more freedom, but much of the extra family income goes to the banks.
Friday, December 31, 2010
I once heard a bank manager say that when he got married in the 1950s, he could buy a new house with three times his annual salary. Now it takes six times the average salary to buy a new house. The difference is that women have gone into the workforce. In the 1950s, most families were single income, whereas now they have two. Two incomes allow a family to service twice as much debt, so the size of mortgages have doubled. This pushed up the price of houses.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
The leaders of Israel are blind. They see Iran as their greatest threat. A quick look at the map proves this is not true. There is a 1000 miles of desert between the two countries.
The real threat to Israel is Saudi Arabia. Its border is less than a 100 miles from Jerusalem. The United States has supplied the Saudis with a huge amount of military equipment. Ostensibly, because they are on our side (just like the Shah of Iran was on our side). Very clever.
The corrupt monarchy that controls Saudi Arabia will eventually collapse. No one knows who will gain control when that happens. It could be the Shia. On the other hand, there are a million Yemenis in Saudi Arabia, mostly migrant workers.
One thing is certain. Given the support and training that Israel has given to the state control apparatus in Saudi Arabia, they will not be friends of Israel.
Labels: Saudi Arabia
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The greater terror in the world today is not experienced in America, but in the villages of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who live much of their day under the shadow of Predator Drones, lazily circling in the sky. These people never know when the controllers in Arizona will stop sipping coke and press a button to launch the missile to destroy their village and their lives, because someone with a grudge has dobbed them into American intelligence.
The War on Terror has become a War of Terror.
Labels: War on Terror
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Isaiah 2:2-4 is a great prophecy of peace. It is repeated again in Micah 4:1-5. The prophecy ends with a marvellous vision for the future.
They will beat their swords into plowsharesThe prophecy explains the reason for this great transformation.
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore (Is 2:4).
The law will go out from ZionMost Christians assume this will be fulfilled when Jesus returns to rule the world from a throne in Jerusalem. But this is not want the prophecy declares. The reason for the peace between the nations is that God’s law gets out of Jerusalem.
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (Is 2:3).
God gave his perfect law to Moses more than 3000 years ago. Since then it has generally been ignored by the nations. Most Christians hate God’s law and assume that it is only for Israel. God’s law has been locked up in Jerusalem.
The law is the word of the Lord for nations and government. Peace between the nations will emerge, when God’s law gets out of Jerusalem and is accepted by the peoples of the nations as the only true basis for good government.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Christians try to build a theology of Government on the basis of Romans 13. This just does not work. Paul was not articulating a theology of government. He was providing advice about coping with life under a despotic ruler, not articulating an ideal.
God had already given a theology of government in the Torah. Christians who are serious about developing theology of government should begin there.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Boxing day began in Christchurch with several strong aftershocks to the earthquake. The last one was 4.9 on the Richter scale, which is strong enough to knock things off shelves.
Yesterday thousands of families in Christchurch got Kinect consoles as a Christmas gift. This morning, they plugged Kinect into their Xboxes and started to play. I presume that the mass of infrared rays and sound waves sent out by so many sensors at the same time penetrated the earth and released the earthquake.
Or perhaps it was just the additional weight from all the poorly-chewed turkey.
Christmas Day carries a huge burden. We try to pack so much into it, much more than one day can bear.
Christmas is a highlight of the spiritual and religious year, requiring a more spectacular religious celebration than last year.
Christmas is a day when families get together, but in a globalised world, this is almost impossible. The snow did not help in the northern hemisphere.
Christmas lunch must be the best meal of the year. In days when food was scarce, that was the reality, but in an age of plenty people dine at restaurants all the time, it is an impossible goal.
Christmas is a day for the best possible gifts. When I was a child, we played with our Christmas gifts for the rest of the year. Now children get so many expensive gifts, that diminishing returns set in. No matter how wonderful the seventh present, it brings very little pleasure. The same seven gifts would bring far more enjoyment, if they were spread throughout the year.
With such high expectations on one day, no wonder it is often a let-down.
On Christmas morning, while waiting for the family to turn up for lunch, I turned on the television and watched some of the Nine Lessons and Carols at St Pauls Anglican cathedral in Wellington. The carols were too high class and the clergy and choir dressed like pirates were a bit of a worry, but the scripture lessons were interesting. The three that I watched were:
Isaiah 9:6-7Listening to these texts, I was struck by how much we ignore the clear message of the scriptures.
The church has turned the turned the incarnation into a religions event, or at best, a spiritual event. However there texts have very little spiritual stuff in them. Their clear message is that the incarnation was a political event. Herod seems to be the only person that understood the message.
Friday, December 24, 2010
The New Zealand Treasury recently issues the following picture.
The Treasury is worried that the government will not receive the same level of tax revenue as before. I am more worried about the loss of output. I dug into the numbers to identify the sector where the output has been permanently lost. What I found is interesting. The services sector is doing fine. Agriculture has struggled, but is still doing okay. The construction industry declined rapidly at the end of the housing boom, but will eventually recover when growth population increases the demand for housing. The retail sector has been flat. Nothing striking in any of these!
The big change has taken place in the manufacturing sector. The middle column of the table below, shows the change in sales adjusted for price change in the manufacturing sector between 2007 and 2010. The right-hand column expresses this change as a percentage. The column on the left shows the original size of the industry.
Some of the activity may return when the construction sector recovers, but I presume that most of this activity is gone forever, possibly to China.
This is the Permanent Downward Shift in Output. Putting it more bluntly, the manufacturing sector has been gutted in the last few years.
One reason is lack of demand from trading partners. The other reason is the Reserve Bank's policy of keeping interest rates high to kill the housing boom. The high interest rates caused problems for real businesses. They also attracted speculators, which strengthened the New Zealand exchange rate, which put pressure on exporters. This was a double whammy for manufacturers.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
The government statistical agency has just released economic growth statistics for the September 2010 quarter. The Christmas news is that GDP has declined by 0.2 percent.
Since the bottom of the recession, the economy has been recovering slowly, but now it has stumbled, with only half of what was lost being recovered. Our GDP is still 1.7 percent below what it was at the peak. The construction industry has not recovered and the retail sector is still struggling. The good news is that the NZ dollar has weakened over the last few months as speculators have withdrawn, and prices for dairy and meat products, which are a huge chunk of our exports, are at record highs. Unemployment is below 7 percent, so there is no reason why the 0.2 percent decline is a signal that things will get dramatically worse.
Some commentators are talking about a double dip depression. That is a bit misleading, because there is no indication that we are going into a massive decline. A better description would be a big dip.
Several times in the past year, a Christian has directed me to a video of a church meeting that they were concerned about and suggested that I discern what spirits were present.
The problem with these requests is that they fail to understand the way the gift of discernment works. The Holy Spirit lives within me. If I encounter a person or enter a place controlled by an evil spirit, the Holy Spirit get agitated with in me to warn me that I have encountered an evil spirit. He may even name the spirit to me. The process works through contact or proximity.
This gift does not work when I watch a video. To understand why, we need to understand what is happening when I watch a video of a church meeting. For example, if two people that are controlled by a spirit of deception come to a church and misbehave, the deceiving spirits will go home with them at the end of the night. If the spirits are restless and looking for a new home, they are most likely to enter a vulnerable people attending the meeting. They are not likely to enter the video that is being recorded. If one were to attach itself to a copy, it would be unlikely to be the one that I am watching.
So when I watch the video recording in my living room, the only evils spirits present will be those that I have allowed into my house (hopefully none). The spirits of deception will not be there, because they went home with the people they controlled.
So what will the Holy Spirit discern when I am watching the video? Nothing, unless I have allowed an evil spirit into the room. The spirits that the people on the video carried are not present so the Holy Spirit will not discern their presence.
When I watch a video of a church meeting, I can judge what I see. I can test it against my experience, or against scriptural standards, and decide that I will not like what I see, or I may decide that it looks okay, but that is not the same as discerning the spirits present.
I may receive a word of knowledge. The Holy Spirit might say, “What happened is wrong”. That is a valid form of knowledge, but it is not the gift of discerning spirits.
When we watch a video of meeting to decide what is happening, we should be careful how we describe our judgement. We should not say that we have used the gift of discernment to decide that evil spirits were present at the meeting.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
In a post called Patterns in Personal Prophecy, Gene Redlin describes how he hears and delivers personal prophecies. His bullet points are worth digesting. I like his emphasis on achieving precision in hearing and delivering what God is saying. Precision is an important value for prophetic people, because truth is important and there has been too much prophetic mush masquerading as prophetic truth.
Gene contrasts “rapid fire” prophecy with a quiet, more measured, style that he often uses and concludes that one is not better than the other. I find this interesting, because the modern church tends to assume that spontaneous prophecy is more accurate. There is no biblical basis for this view. The Holy Spirit can do both, and he is free to choose how he will operate in any situation. To shake us out of our comfort zones, he will sometimes be spontaneous, when we want to be deliberate, and he will often be more deliberate, when we want to be spontaneous.
The benefit of a spontaneous word is that the Holy Spirit can drop it into our hearts unexpectedly, before our minds get going and before the flesh starts getting in the way. This is fine for beginners, but it not the basis for developing into a prophetic ministry. The person who wants to be used by God in prophecy must learn to quiet their minds and put their flesh to death. They must learn to distinguish between their own thoughts and the voice of the Spirit. This is difficult and takes time, but essential for developing a prophetic gifting. Relying on the Holy Spirit to beat our minds with spontaneous words is not a long-term solution.
The Holy Spirit loves to surprise us, so he will continue to give us words when we are not expecting it, but we must never fall into the trap of thinking that spontaneous words are superior to those that are received in a more deliberate, careful process. Clinging to the spontaneous will keep us locked in immaturity. Those who want to be used in prophecy will need to work hard at learning to shut out their own mind and flesh and deliberately and carefully seek the words of the Lord.
Sometimes precision is worth waiting for. At a meeting I attended recently, it took nearly a whole day for a few prophets to pray for less than twenty people, but the quality of the words was amazing.
Pearls take time to polish:
Mush tends to gush in a flush.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
There are three reasons for a prophet and apostle (or other leader) working together. The prophet gives vision and direction. The prophet challenges the apostle if they take a wrong turn or go in the wrong direction.
The third reason is more challenging. A key role of the prophet is to protect the people from the apostle. Apostles are dangerous. Most of the people around them have blessed by them or discipled by them, so they tend to look up to the apostle. This means that an apostle is often surrounded by “Yes men”, not because they are devious, but because they love and respect the apostle so much. An apostle needs someone bold enough to challenge them if they are mistaken. That task will usually fall to a prophet. Nathan took this role for David. Barnabas for Paul.
When a prophet colludes with the apostle to attack some of the people, it gets dangerous. When a prophet starts firing the apostle’s bullets, he becomes a pet prophet. This is a risk that all prophets working with an apostle need to guard against.
The prophet gives vision and direction.
The prophet challenges the apostle if they take a wrong turn or go in the wrong direction.
Monday, December 20, 2010
When pastors are sent out to establish a beachhead in the enemies territory, they become apostles. The church needs apostles and pastors.
Pastors are localApostles and pastors both need prophets alongside them. Pastors of local churches need prophets to feed holiness into their church. Apostles need prophets to ensure their new work is built on a solid foundation.
Apostles are mobile.
Some prophets will be local, working with a pastor.A common view is that prophets are people who float from place to place as itinerant ministers, who give words to individuals and organisations, but do not have a leadership role. However, there does not seem to be a role for independent mobile prophets in the biblical model. According to early church history, groups of travelling prophets lost the plot and eventually became a burden on the church.
Other prophets will be mobile, working with an apostle.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Most Christians are waiting for Jesus to return and establish the Kingdom of God. This is a false hope, as Jesus has “finished” his work on earth (John 19:30). He has already done everything that he had to do to establish the Kingdom. He will return at the end of the age to receive a Kingdom that has been established and operating for many years (1 Cor 15:23-25).
Responsibility for establishing the Kingdom of God has been assigned to the Holy Spirit working through the church. He has been unable to complete this task, not because he is incapable (as most Christians believe), but because a key part of his team is missing. During the Times of the Gentiles, the children of Israel are shut out of the gospel. This means that the church is not at full strength. Worse still, it gives the devil authority to continue working on earth.
The next big event in history is not the second coming of Jesus. The next big thing is the fullness of Israel. During a time of distress on earth, the Holy Spirit will move on the hearts of the children of Israel (Zech 12:10), causing them to come to faith in Jesus in a great flood (Rom 11:26). This will remove the last obstacle to the kingdom. Satan will be stripped of his authority, and the Holy Spirit will expand the kingdom of God rapidly, until the glory of God covers the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14).
Now if their fall is riches for the world,All this happens while Jesus is sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Father.
and their failure riches for the Gentiles,
how much more their fullness (Rom 11:12).
One reason I went to Jerusalem was to look for signs that the fullness of Israel is getting close. There are a few hopeful signs of life, but not many. Most of the Jewish people seem to be pushing hard into orthodox Judaism, or fed up with religion altogether.
What they see of the gospel is not that appealing, as many of the Jewish messianic churches are just dull clones of western institutional churches.
I realise that the outpouring of the Spirit will come on Israel during a time of distress, but the Holy Spirit will need groups of Christians to work with him in teaching millions of new Christians how to live in Jesus. These Christians will have learned to support each other through distress and trouble without financial support from the outside. They will have a prophetic edge to their preaching.
Many Christians have moved to Israel to pray and celebrate Jewishness, but few seem to be ready for sharing the gospel during a season of distress. I met one young man who has established several house churches, which are growing rapidly, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately, most Christians in Israel tend to be sycophantic rather than prophetic. As my host in Jerusalem explained, Christians living in Israel tend to be envious of the Jews, and want to be more like them, whereas God’s purpose is that the blessing of living in the Spirit would be so great that the Jewish people become envious of us.
We are getting close to the times when God is going to pour his Spirit out on the people of Israel. The Holy Spirit will do the tough stuff, but he will need Christians to help him. Christians in Israel should be forming spiritual commando armies to help him at this critical juncture in history. The going will be tough, but the result will be blessing for the entire world. I hope that some of the Christians with a passion for Israel will hear the voice of the Spirit and take up this call.
Friday, December 17, 2010
When we returned from Israel, a friend asked me this question.
Did you get the bug?The answer is “No”, but I do understand the question. Over the last thirty years, I have seen a number of Christians develop a real passion for Israel (sometimes to the point of obsession) that other Christians cannot understand. I have never felt that passion. I am very interested in Israel, for the reasons that I will explain in tomorrow’s post, but I have never felt any urge to visit the country, so I was intrigued that an opportunity arose. It was interesting to see the country with my own eyes, I am still committed to praying that God’s purpose will be accomplished for the Jewish people, but I am still a dispassionate observer. The bug passed me by.
I do not have the bug, but I do have a theory. Jacob had twelve sons, who became the twelve tribes of Israel. After the reign of Solomon, the kingdom split in half. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin became a southern kingdom ruled from Jerusalem called Judah. The other twelve tribes became a northern Kingdom based on Samaria. Ahab was the ruler of the northern Kingdom. I Kings 17 gives the history of Hoshea, the last King of Israel in Samaria. Like his predecessors, he did evil and lost the protection of God. The King of Assyria invaded the northern kingdom and deported the people to Assyria.
The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Kuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns (2 Kings 17:24). The southern Kingdom called Judah persisted for several more generations. When they continued to disobey god, they were eventually conquered and deported to Babylon. The difference was that after a few hundred years in exile, the people of Judah returned to their land under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra. In contrast, the people of the northern Kingdom (the other ten tribes) never returned. When people eventually migrated out of Assyria to many parts of the world, those who were descendants of Jacob would have gone with them, and because the genealogies are lost, most of these people do not know that they are descendants of Jacob, belonging to one of the ten tribes of Israel. These Israelites will be spread throughout the world.
My theory is that those Christians who develop a passion for Israel, and feel compelled to serve and pray for Israel are actually descendants of the Israelites exiled to Assyria, who do not know it. The reason they are so obsessed about Israel is that they are part of Israel, and God is trying to reveal it to them.
My ancestors came from Scotland. After my visit to Israel, I am fairly certain that they did not get there by way of long vacation in Assyria, because I did not get the bug.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
God really looked after us while we were in Israel.
We arrived in Jerusalem at about 10pm. The nesher taxi dropped us in a dark street up the hill from the hostel where we were going to stay. When we walked down the hill, we found that the gate was locked and we could not rouse anyone. When I phoned my contact, his phone was switched off and my calls went straight to voicemail.
We were standing in the dark street wondering what to do, when a young man approached asking us if we needed help. It turned out that he was a volunteer at the hostel. He had gone out for a walk, but because it was colder than he expected, he had returned early to get a jacket. He had a key and was able to let us in and help us find out beds. I told him that he was our rescuing angel. About half an hour after we got to bed, we got a txt from a blog reader, whom I did not know, saying that they had been praying for us. I was encouraged, as their prayers had already been answered when I received the text. Perfect timing.
We had flown to Israel via Seoul in South Korea. We were intrigued to read that North Korea had shelled a South Korean island, about the time we flew out of Seoul. We had not realised it at the time, but we needed God’s protection then too.
A couple of days later, when we were walking back to our hostel late at night with a group of people, my wife tripped on a step. I saw her fall head first down the steps, but could not catch her. I was amazed when she got up unhurt. That night we got another text from our friends saying that they were praying for us. The next day she did not even have a bruise, so I presume that an angel must have protected her from hitting the ground.
We travelled through Megiddo on the day when the fires took hold near Mount Carmel, but we did not see anything. So God kept us safe a third time, when we were close to danger.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Much of the land in Israel is of little use for agriculture and not of much of value. I cannot understand why people are fighting for it.
Agriculture is not nearly as important for Israel as it was thirty years ago. The country has made quite a rapid switch to dependence on industry and commerce. Associated with this has been a massive urbanisation. Social and business life is now centred in the main cities.
A Jewish Christian told me that he has access to a lot of agricultural land, but he cannot find young people who are willing to work it. That is not surprising as the future for most young people with talent lies in the city.
This means that there is very little economic reason for establishing settlements on the West Bank. As we travelled down from Jerusalem to Jericho, we went past a wide road turning off to the right and travelling up a hill, the site of a new settlement. I cannot understand why anyone would want to live there. Nothing grows there. The view is lousy. The commute to Jerusalem would be long and slow.
The only logic for these settlements is “control” of the land and security. Unfortunately, military force and control of the land cannot provide security for those who have forgotten to trust and obey their God.
The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth (Deut 18:25).The Lord is the only source of true peace and security.
Here is something interesting. When Israel entered into the land God, told them to destroy the high places.
Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods (Deut 12:2).The high places were sites for idolatry and symbolic of rebellion, like the Tower of Babel.
During the times of the prophets, kings were judged by how they dealt with the High Places. A common refrain in the second book of Kings is,
The high places, however, were not removed (1Kings 12:3 14:5).This was the mark of a bad king.
They angered him with their high places; The prophets warned that the high places would be destroyed.
they aroused his jealousy with their idols (Ps 78:58).
I am about to bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places (Ezekiel 6:3)Israel is now intent on taking control of the high places again. They are not building idols there, but they are trying to find security independent of God, which is very similar. They may find that these high places are eventually destroyed, as Ezekiel prophesied.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
For many people, visiting Israel is a pilgrimage in which they get close to God. That was not the case for me. There are several reasons for this. I am a Holy Spirit person. The Holy Spirit lives in me, so I can talk to him wherever I am, whether I am in the shopping mall or in Jerusalem. I do not need to go to a special place to get close to him. Many years ago when I resigned from being a church minister, one of the main reasons was that I hated the religious system that dominates so much of the church. The problem in Israel is that every place of spiritual significance has a church or mosque plonked on it. Some places have a couple of churches from different denominations in contest with each other. Jerusalem must be the most religious place in all the world. The mosques cry out on the hour prayer and the churches challenge back with their loudly ringing bells and the orthodox Jews block their ears to voice of the "goyim". The religious tourists are everywhere. Great queues pressing in to touch a holy stone. Other groups videoing themselves worshipping on the Sea of Galilee or walking the Via Dolorosa carrying a cross.
I had some great spiritual experiences in Israel. The highlight was being led to be in the right place at the right time to meet and help someone that I did not expect to meet. But that kind of thing can happen anywhere, if I keep walking in the Spirit.
I also enjoyed getting a better understanding over the lay out of the land. I now have a better idea of the distance Mary walked when going from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The last, long climb up into Bethlehem would have be really tough for a woman coming into labour.
I enjoyed staying beside the Sea of Galilee and getting a perspective on the distances between Nazareth, Bethsaida, Capernaum and other places that Jesus visited. It was interesting seeing the hills where he withdrew to pray. I can now understand better why he crossed the lake in a boat.
Visiting Israel was a good learning experience, but it was not a pilgrimage. Walking in the spirit is an everyday, everywhere pilgrimage that nothing else can match.
I am a Holy Spirit person. The Holy Spirit lives in me, so I can talk to him wherever I am, whether I am in the shopping mall or in Jerusalem. I do not need to go to a special place to get close to him.
Many years ago when I resigned from being a church minister, one of the main reasons was that I hated the religious system that dominates so much of the church. The problem in Israel is that every place of spiritual significance has a church or mosque plonked on it. Some places have a couple of churches from different denominations in contest with each other. Jerusalem must be the most religious place in all the world. The mosques cry out on the hour prayer and the churches challenge back with their loudly ringing bells and the orthodox Jews block their ears to voice of the "goyim".
The religious tourists are everywhere. Great queues pressing in to touch a holy stone. Other groups videoing themselves worshipping on the Sea of Galilee or walking the Via Dolorosa carrying a cross.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I now live in a city, but about thirty years ago lived in the country, quite close to where the following three photos were taken, so I know a land flowing with milk and honey when I see it.
I did not expect to see milk and honey, but I was really disappointed with the land of Israel. I did not expect lush green grass, but I was amazed at how barren and rugged the land has become. Much of it is close to being desert. Even on the coastal plain, I was surprised at how much of the land is covered by scrubby trees and plants.
I had read that the Jewish people had made the desert bloom. It is true that they have in places through irrigation and hydroponics, but that is limited by the availability of water.
The contrast with God’s word is amazing.
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills;a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing (Deut 8:7-9).
The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end (Deut 11:10-12).A better description of the current state of the land is in Deut 28.
However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands… all these curses will come on you and overtake you: The LORD will strike you with scorching heat and drought….The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed (vv 15,22-24).The land is crying out to be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into freedom and glory when the children of God are revealed by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:21).
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Early last week, we returned from a two week visit to Israel, where I attended a three day meeting in Jerusalem. Given that we had to travel half way round the world, about twenty-four hours in the air, we took an extra week to look around the rest of the country. My head is now in the same time zone as my body and my mind is clear, so I will start posting again tomorrow.
Labels: On Deck
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
The problem for the American economy is that business households have shut up shop and stopped spending. After a couple of decades of borrow and spend, they had far too much debt and need to get their balance sheets in order. This creates a problem for business that produce consumer goods.
In a free economy, this falling demand would not be a problem. When households stop spending, interest rates usually fall. If households are saving more, banks can offer lower interest rates and still get the funding they need. If households stop borrowing, banks have to lower interest rates to attract borrowers. Increasing supply and falling demand both push interest rates down.
When interest rates fall, numerous investments projects, which previously could not make a reasonable return, suddenly become viable. The result is increasing demand for investment goods. Some businesses will respond to that demand by shifting resources from the production of consumer goods to the production of investment goods. This adjustment may take a couple of quarters, but by shifting the mix of production away from consumption to investment, the slack in the economy is quickly taken up.
More important, the resulting build up of capital goods tends to make the economy even more productive in the future. Then when household start consuming again, the extra capital makes the economy more productive, so the demand for extra goods is easily met. There is no need to have a demand driven recession.
Unfortunately, America is not a free economy and interest rates are fixed by the Fed. Although households and businesses are saving more, the Fed has left interest rates unchanged, so the signal that declining interest rates should give to businesses has not gone through. Worse still, the Fed held interest too low during much of the decade. This sent the wrong signal to businesses, and may investment projects were undertaken that would not have been viable, if interest rates had been at an appropriate level. The housing boom was part of that.
Artificially low interest rates caused households to borrow too much and business to produce too many investment goods. Debt eventually catches up, and people and businesses realise that they need to reduce debt. Households stop buying consumer good to get out of debt. This is the cause of the current recession.
In a free market, business would switch to producing investment goods. The problem is that there is already a glut of capital goods, due to past overproduction in response to artificially low interest rates. Demand for investment is also goods declining, which exacerbates the recession.
The Fed has decided that Quantitative Easing is the solution. They are trying to solve the problems caused by too much debt, by encouraging households and businesses to take on more debt. They are trying to solve a problem of too much debt, by creating more debt. It may improve the economy in the short term, but it will store up problem for the future.
When a heroin addict goings into withdrawal, things get messy. One solution is to put them on methadone. It gets rid of the DTs, but it does not solve the underlying problem.
Quantative Easing is a methadone solution. It may provide temporary relief, but it will make the future worse.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Gene asked about advice for a prophetic person delivering bad news to a person who has asked for a prophetic word. Here are my thoughts. Micah seemed to use humour or hyperbole to give bad news to Ahab. Despite the funny way that Micah presented his word, Ahab got the message (1 Kings 22:15-23). Nathan told a parable to get David’s attention for a hard word. He told it in a way that sucked David into sympathy for the victim. This made it very difficult for David to reject the bad news (2 Sam 12:1-7). Jeremiah uses symbolic actions to bring bad news, and to give hope. This made people curious, which opened their hearts to the word (Jer 13:1-12).
Keep your heart right. I can remember a time when I took pleasure in giving hard words to groups of people whom I though deserved it. That attitude was detestable and I am now embarrassed by it. Something is seriously wrong with Christians who take pleasure in giving bad news.
If we find it harder to give bad news than good news, we should ponder the reason. Maybe we think that if bad news does not eventuate, we will look mean, whereas if we give good news and it does not happen, the person will not mind. Unfortunately giving good news that is not inspired by God can do serious harm to the person receiving it. We should check carefully that we are right, whether we have good news or bad news.
I believe that if God gives us a word for someone, he can also tell us how to give it. If he asks us to give bad news, we should ask him how he wants it presented.
Asking God how to give a hard word is really important. Obeying him is the best way.
Whether bring good news or bad news, we should present it in a humble way. It does not hurt to say, “This is not nice, but it is what I got from the Lord. You are welcome to test it”.
Love is most important of all. If someone knows that we love them, they will find it easier to accept bad news from us, but there are no guarantees, so love is always willing to suffer for the truth.
Micah seemed to use humour or hyperbole to give bad news to Ahab. Despite the funny way that Micah presented his word, Ahab got the message (1 Kings 22:15-23).
Nathan told a parable to get David’s attention for a hard word. He told it in a way that sucked David into sympathy for the victim. This made it very difficult for David to reject the bad news (2 Sam 12:1-7).
Jeremiah uses symbolic actions to bring bad news, and to give hope. This made people curious, which opened their hearts to the word (Jer 13:1-12).
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Douglas Carswell recently introduced a Banking Reform Bill into the UK Parliament. His bill establishes the distinction between lending intermediary services account and custodial deposit account. His speech introducing the bill is worth a listen, because he hits the nail on the head. He explains that the problem with banking is that when I put my money in the bank, I think that I still own it, but banking law says that the bank owns it. That legal twist means the money has two owners, which leads to problems with runs on banks.
I was excited when I read his bill because his diagnosis of the problem and his proposal solution is very similar to the one that I outline in Bank Deposits and Loans. The only difference is that I refer to a safe-keeping service whereas he refers to custodial deposits, but they are exactly the same.
I hope that Douglas’s Bill succeeds, but I presume the financial powers will fight against it. They will not let such an essential change take place
The only thing that this bill lacks is my second proposal for sound banking, which matching of loans. His prescription for the lending intermediary service should specify that banks can only lend out money for the same term as that for which it is deposted. This would prevent Banks from borrowing short and lending long, which is the other problem with modern banking.
More at Money System
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The root problem with one-man leadership is that those who get to the top often feel insecure, so they surround themselves with sycophants and “Yes Men”. Anyone who might challenge their authority is kept at a distance.
The other side of this problem is the platform or pedestal prophet. The senior pastor who does not have his own pet prophet brings one in from outside and puts him on a pedestal. From that platform, the prophet is allowed to give encouragement to the people and challenge those that need sorting out, but the senior pastor always stands behind the prophet, safe from his words.
The pedestal prophet has authority because the senior pastor testifies to his credibility. In return for this authentication, the platform prophet must submit to the authority of the pastor/manager and honour him. The prophet is kept on the pedestal where his ministry can be controlled. The platform prophet must go along with this charade, or be kept in silence.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I have just posted an article at Kingdom Watcher called Secular Capitalism. I explain how free market capitalism has been incredibly successful at solving the production problem and creating a prosperous society. Its serious weakness is that it leads to the accumulation of wealth by a few. Without the tempering effect of Christian faith and practice, it produces a distorted society that will eventually be torn apart.
Labels: Secular Capitalism
Saturday, November 13, 2010
All prophets experience rejection, if their words are not always accepted and obeyed. If this happens frequently, the prophet can become frustrated, and frustration can lead to bitterness. Words spoken out of frustration and bitterness will be contaminated by these things and will not come out pure. This is one of the most serious problems faced by prophets. They must learn to deal with rejection without going into frustration and bitterness.
More at Prophetic Pitfalls
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Jubilee laws of the Old Testament are really important. In Torah times, the main form was capital was land. When Israel entered the land, it was divided evenly between families. This means that capital was fairly evenly distributed. This is an important principle. God prefers capital to be evenly distributed, so everyone has a similar chance to succeed or fail.
The Jubilee laws allowed people to work hard and expand their capital. They rewarded productivity. The Jubilee laws also allowed people to make mistakes and recognised that some would fail. People were accountable for their decisions.
The huge benefit of the Jubilee system was that after every second generation, the distribution of capital was restored back to a rough equality again. This meant that the new generation got a fresh start, without being encumbered by their parents or grandparents mistakes. Jubilee provides for a second chance for the new generation.
The jubilee laws clearly led to a change in the distribution of capital. However, the Torah does not create any authority with power to enforce these laws. Nor does it specify penalties for people who ignore the Jubilee requirements. OT history suggests that they were mostly ignored. Certainly, by Jesus time, land was accumulated in the hands of a few.
The Jubilee was a voluntary requirement. It is not a justification for compulsory state redistribution.
The challenge for Christians is to find a way to make a voluntary jubilee principle work in our modern world where capital is most plant and equipment, rather than land. I have shown in Secular Capitalism that free market capitalism solves the production problem, but it leads to concentration of wealth, because it rewards the successful, and punishes those who fail. It needs to be complemented by a process that pushes capital out and down to those who do not have any. State redistribution does not work, because it kills incentives, creates corruption, rewards failure and consumes capital.
Christian Generosity is a better solution. The consequence of the gospel should be enhanced giving and sharing. Christians should be finding ways to voluntarily redistribute some of their capital, so that capital is more evenly distributed, and people whose parents lost their capital get an opportunity to be more productive. Unfortunately we have not been very imaginative in this area.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
From time to time Christians get concerned about the enormous salaries paid to the CEOs of some big businesses. We should be careful about making accusations of sin in these situations.
If the board of directors freely offer a CEO a mega salary (without blackmail, lying or coercion) it has not sinned, if the CEO represents value to their company. They are in the best position to decide what the company needs.
If the CEO accepts the offer, he has not sinned.
If the CEO is a Christian, he is accountable to God for what he does with it. Having control of such a large amount of money gives him enormous responsibility. Much is expected from those to whom much is given. The elders he submits to have a right to challenge him about what he does with his income. They should also pray for him that he has the wisdom to do the right thing.
The church does not have the right to declare particular salary levels immoral. When the church tried to set a just price for bread, it got it into all sorts of problem, often causing shortages of food. Efforts by the church to set a just wage are equally misguided.
The problem of mega salaries arises from the proliferation of huge businesses in America. Very few people have the capability, the experience and the energy needed to manage one of these businesses and many who take on the task fail. This means that when a mega business is search for a new CEO it is fishing in a very small pool. Since the demand outstrips demand, the price tends to go up. This is why CEO salaries are so high.
The root of the problem lies not with the salaries, but with the American business model. Limited liability laws and other federal laws that protect big corporates have encouraged the emergence of this mega business model, but this model is wrong. Controlling a large amount of resources with a hierarchy of power is the way of the world. The Christian model is many smaller businesses linked through networks of relationships.
If the laws that protect big business power were removed, the size of American business would shrink. Forming large conglomerates would be unnecessary and too risky. This would lead to a greater number of smaller businesses doing the same things more effectively. These smaller businesses would be much easier to manage, so the demand for superman-CEOS would disappear. Mega salaries would disappear with them.
Labels: CEO salaries
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
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.
Getting confirmation from a prophet before we act can be really encouraging, but we need to be very careful. A personal prophecy can be misleading if we have let our own plans and desires control our thinking. Ezekiel gives a surprising warning about this.
When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the Lord will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry (Ezek 14:4).If a person has let something that they want to do become an idol of their heart, God may prophesy to them what they want to hear. If the person acts on the prophecy, it will lead to disaster. God does this to reveal the idol and recapture the person’s heart. This means that we must be careful with personal prophecy. If a prophecy confirms what we want to do, it may just be a sign that we have made our own plans into an "idol in our hearts".
More at Role of a Prophet
Monday, November 08, 2010
The place of watchmen is on the wall, looking out into the direction that he is pointing. The can be lonely, discouraging work. Jesus is pleading with his watchmen to stay on the walls where he needs them to be.
Many watchmen are down in the city chatting with friends, because they got lonely. Others are on the conference circuit, where the money us better. Some are busy trolling the internet, but that is not the same as listening to the Lord. Others grew tired and have gone to sleep. Others have given up, because they are weary of their warnings being rejected.
Jesus urgently needs his watchmen to get back up on the watchtower where he has appointed them.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
When I was a professional pastor, I was frustrated by people that expected me to be an expert every task that has done be done in the church. I soon realise that the body functions best, when every limb and joint is operating I its role. A leg is better at walking than a head. The mouth is better at talking then a foot.
The same principle applies in the Godhead. Jesus is not the best person to do everything that has be done. He was great at creation, when all things were made through him (John 1:3). He was great at earning salvation for humans, because he had bad been born in a human body, yet had not succumbed to the wiles of sin. However, he was not so good at many other tasks. That was why it was better that he went away, because then the Holy Spirit could come. The Holy Spirit would be able to do many things that Jesus could do.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12).
It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you (John 16:7).Jesus wanted the Holy Spirit to come, because there were many things that he could do better than Jesus could.
Most Christians believe that Jesus would be better at establishing the Kingdom than the Holy Spirit is. They believe that the Kingdom will not come fully, until Jesus returns. That is why they want him to return soon.
The truth is that Jesus is not capable of establishing the Kingdom of God. He is severely limited by taking on a human body, so he can only be in one place at a time. He could get the angels to destroy all existing human governments, but that would be dangerous, if nothing was ready to go in its place. Jesus would have to create a hierarchy of Christian rulers to establish order, by threatening to destroy any person who refused to obey Jesus commands. This would not be a particularly nice kingdom, because Jesus would simply be replacing one control system with another.
The Holy Spirit is better at building the Kingdom, and can build a better Kingdom than Jesus.
The Holy Spirit can convict the people of the world of guilt and sin. He can speak the truth to those who are convicted of sin, so they can believe (John 16:8,13). He has the power to give those who believe a new heart. Once people are born again, the Holy Spirit can lead them into the truth.
The Spirit of truth… will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears… the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you (John 16:13,15).This means that a Christian can know God’s will by listening to the Holy Spirit. This makes a very different kingdom possible. No huge hierarchy is needed, because the Kingdom can come, by God’s will being done as every believer listens to the voice of the Spirit. This is much better than Jesus using the powers of the world to impose his will through hierarchical power.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Most economic problems are moral problems, not technical ones.
Money is a good example. Many economists treat money as a technical problem that needs a technical solution. For example, the big issue being debated at the moment is how effective the new round of Quantitative Easing will be in getting the American economy going. This debate about efficacy misses the point.
Monetary policy is always a moral issue, as it allows theft to creep into the money system. Quantitative Easing Problems is immoral, whether it works or not. In Biblical times, people cheated by using false scales. Later kings cheated, by debasing the metal in coins. When printed banknotes became the norm, governments really got into printing money. Now it can be done with digits on computers transactions on the central bank’s balance sheet.
The bible is clear about the morality of using false measures for weighing silver or gold, which were the early forms of money. Cheats would use heavy weights when they were buying and light weights when they were selling.
Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly (Deut 25:13-17).Quantitative Easing is just a different technique for achieving the same purpose, so it is morally wrong. God detests quantitative easing, so it will not bring blessing to the land.
Labels: Quantitative Easing
Thursday, November 04, 2010
At that time the young king of Babylon sent and envoy to King Hesitant letters and an agreement. Hesitant received the envoys gladly and showed them what was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine olive oil—his entire armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that King Hesitant did not show them.
Then the prophet went to King Hesitant and asked, “What did those people say, and where did they come from?”
“From a distant land,” Hesitant replied. “They came to me from the Great Babylon.”
The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”
“They saw everything in my palace,” Hesitant said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
Then the prophet said to Hesitant, “Hear this word: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon the Great. Nothing will be left. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of the North.”
“The word you have spoken is good,” King Hesitant replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime,” and being a good politician that is what he loves.
A watchman was standing on a watchtower. He saw trouble coming and told the shepherds to get the sheep into the safety of the fold. The shepherd asked the watchman to get the sheep into the fold. However, when the watchman tried to round up the sheep, they just scattered. They did not know the voice of the watchman. Only when the shepherds heeded the watchman’s warning and called the sheep did the sheep come into the fold.Watchmen stand on the walls of the city of God so that they can see what God is doing and call the people to respond. Watchmen look out into the darkness and the distance to see what evil is coming and what God is doing. Good relationships between pastors and the watchman are essential. The watchman should communicate what they see to the pastors. The pastors can then prepare the sheep for what is going to happen. The sheep know their shepherds and they will respond to them. If they do not know the voice of the watchmen, they will not respond to them.
More at Watchmen
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
God establishes a prophet to the nation in his position by giving him the wisdom that the ruler needs. The King of Israel knew that Elisha was a prophet, because his words were correct. The King of Babylon trusted Daniel, because he correctly interpreted a dream that none or the Babylonian wise men understood.
This is a very important principle. Many people, including prophets, are willing to critice their government. Prophets to the nation are different. They start their career by assisting their government in tricky situations. Ahab trusted Miciah’s words, because he provided correct advice in the past (1 Kings 22:7,8). Rulers will be glad to have prophets in their court, even if they hate God, because they need their advice.
Prophets will give warning to the rulers of nation when they are taking the wrong direction or taking authority that God has not given them. The Old Testament prophets spent much of their time warning kings who had rejected God's way and were following the way of the world. Strong prophets are the best protection against the power of the state.
Good rulers will welcome correction. The prophet Nathan challenged David when he committed adultery and murder, but remained his friend. Nathan had established his credibility with David much earlier, when the King was planning the temple (1 Sam 7). Every ruler needs a prophet like Nathan who can hear the voice of God and challenge his sin. Rulers are usually surrounded by people trying to "grease up" to them. In this environment a prophetic friend is the best protection against the occupation hazard of hubris. All rulers need a friend to speak God’s word to them.
The prophet to the nation will pray for their government. Samuel prayed all night when his friend King Saul fell from grace (1 Sam 15:11). Every political leader needs a friend of God who will intercede for him in this way.
More at Prophet to the Nation
Labels: Prophet to Nations
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
The story of Abimelech contrasts three different methods of bringing political change (Judges 9). The first two methods bring bad results. Abimelech was elected by a democratic process, but he did great harm to the people of Shechem. This incident is a timely reminder that democracy gives power to the wrong people. The skills needed to get ahead in politics are pragmatism, arrogance and a light hand on the truth. These are very different from the skills needed by a good judge. Rebelling against an evil leader will usually fail, because violence produces violence. A person capable of rebellion is also capable of being a dictator.
Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his brothers into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him…. Then Gaal son of Ebed said, "Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should be subject to him? If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelech, 'Call out your whole army!' (Jud 9:26,28,29).Gaal led a rebellion, but the and those who followed him were destroyed (Jud 9:38-41).
Abimelech was elected by a democratic process, but he did great harm to the people of Shechem. This incident is a timely reminder that democracy gives power to the wrong people. The skills needed to get ahead in politics are pragmatism, arrogance and a light hand on the truth. These are very different from the skills needed by a good judge.
Rebelling against an evil leader will usually fail, because violence produces violence. A person capable of rebellion is also capable of being a dictator.
If then you have acted honorably and in good faith … may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too! But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!" (Judges 9:19,20).God honoured this prophetic word.
After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech (Jud 9:22,23).Abimelech was removed by prophecy.
Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done…. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham… came on them (Jud 9:56,57).
Prophetic proclamation is the best way to get rid of an evil government. Unfortunately, belief that God can bring governments down is rare. The missing element is a strong prophetic voice to release God’s power to bring political change.
Monday, November 01, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
If you feel a bit dumb, when it comes to starting a new church, do not worry because the Holy Spirit is a bit dumb too. A dumb person cannot speak. The Holy Spirit can only speak using the voice of another person or by putting thoughts into a person’s mind. However, he is really smart at starting churches.
If you are dumb enough to stop talking and listen to the Holy Spirit, you are just the person to start a new church. Getting out of the established church is the hard bit, starting a new one is much easier. Just get together with a few other Christians that you trust and listen to what Holy Spirit is saying. Act dumb (listen) until you hear what he is saying, then do it.
Continues at House Church for Dummies.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Power and authority are totally different the kingdom is totally different from of the world.
Authority in the world is imposed from the top down using coercion, and force when necessary. Money flows from the bottom to the top through compulsory taxation. Programmes for salvation begin at the top and attempt to penetrate down to the bottom. By the time they reach people in need, they have often been distorted, corrupted or ripped off.
Authority is never imposed from above in the Kingdom of God. The only way that authority can be obtained is through submission. If the people do not submit to people they trust, those people have not authority. Authority never goes up very far, because it can only go as far relationships of love and trust extend.
Salvation into the Kingdom of God is transmitted sideways from person to person and house to house, as it is carried by the Holy Spirit. Money goes sideways from person to person through giving and sharing within one another relationships.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Poverty is a central issue for Christians. To be credible in the modern world, we must provide proposals for the cure of poverty. In this article, I will outline several biblical methods for dealing with poverty.
The scriptures do not give responsibility for caring for the poor to rich people of society. Rich people are cautioned against trusting in their wealth. They are warned that their wealth may quickly disappear. They are also warned that they may die before they have a chance to enjoy t heir wealth. However, the Bible is realistic and does not expect the rich to do good to the poor.
Furthermore, Jesus is not in the business of forcing rich people to be generous. The modern approach to poverty is to tax the rich and give their money to the poor. The implicit argument goes like this. Rich people are not as good as the rest of us, so they cannot be trusted to be generous of their own accord. They should be forced to be generous. We should tax the rich more, so the money can be used for the poor.
The problem with this approach is that Jesus never forced people be good. He never forced the rich to be generous. The Bible gives responsibility for the poor to Christians, not the rich. Christians who want to tax the rich to bless the poor are “passing the buck”.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The common good is term that is frequently used by many Christians to justify political policies from Romans 13:4.
Unfortunately, the common good is such a wide gate that you could drive a hundred Mack trucks through sided by side and their paint would not even be scratched.
Labels: Common Good
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
A radio news segment last week covering the American election played some attack ads. I presume they chose some of the worst, but I was stunned by the vehemence.
In New Zealand, where I live, we do not have attack ads. The networks would not run them, because if they did there would be howls of protest. Politicians would not dare to use them, because it would cost them votes.
Something is seriously wrong, when the people who aspire to be leaders of the nations will stoop to this level. The advertising industry is not stupid. I presume they use attack ads, because they know they work. Something must be wrong with the American heart that this type of politicking is effective in country where most people claim to be Christian.
I hope the Iranians do not get to hear about it. That would be really embarrassing.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
An army takes a city street by street and neighbourhood by neighbourhood. In the same way, establishing a beachhead in a strategic locality and then expanding outward is a very effective way to take a city.
The spiritual pressure in a city is not evenly distributed, so the battle will be tougher closer to the spiritual stronghold that dominates it. The best place to start will be where the spiritual opposition is weak, such as the edge of a suburb or the spiritual boundary between two evil principalities. Christians are often heroic and rush to the toughest part of the city, whereas a wise general attacks where the enemy is vulnerable.
Jesus did not start in the key cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, or Tiberias where Herod lived. He built a stronghold in the fishing town of Capernaum in Galilee, where the spiritual pressure was not as intense, before pushing out to other towns (Matt 9:1). He only went to Jerusalem at the end of his ministry, when he had strong support.
Groups of Christian scan establish beachheads where God’s authority has full sway by coming together in a particular locality in a city or nation. If they do not submit to the political powers that control their city or nation, they will not be vulnerable to the spiritual forces these powers are releasing. The influence of God’s authority will expand out as people around the beachhead are drawn to Jesus.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Even in a city, the intensity of spiritual forces of evil will vary.
When Christians go to a new city to establish a new church, they tend to go to the centre of the city. This is a mistake, as the centre is the place where the spiritual opposition will be strongest. They will often find homes in suburbs all over the city. This isolation leaves them spiritually vulnerable and easy for the enemy to pick off one at a time.
Christians should identify the areas of the city where the enemy is weakest. This will often be a place where some people have chosen not to recognise the authority of the political powers and are not vulnerable to the spiritual forces released by them. It might be a place where a Person of Peace is living. Jesus told the apostles to look for the Person of Peace when they went to a new town (Luke 10:5-7) as they will be living in a place where spiritual interference is minimal.
Christian apostles going to a new city should establish a spiritual beachhead. Three or six should submit to each other to provide a wall of spiritual protection around them. (The command to resist the devil is plural (James 4:7). They should direct their caring, sharing and healing activity towards the people living around them and draw them into the place of peace they have established.
We do not need to study evil to know where to establish a beachhead. We just need to be in the right place together with other Christians who can support us in the spiritual struggle. If we listen to the Holy Spirit, he can show the place to go. Jacob did not need to understand the spiritual world, he just had to be in the right place (Gen 28:16-17). And if we have ended up in the wrong place, we should shake the dust from out feet and go where the Holy Spirit leads.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Urbanisation has led to a concentration of the spiritual forces of evil in the cities of the world. The principalities and powers tend to form a structure that matches the political authority structures in the city or nation. If political authority is concentrated in the hands of a few people who have forgotten God, the spiritual principalities and powers will have a great deal of spiritual authority.
Concentration of political power increases the authority spiritual principalities and powers. In New Zealand, a super city has just been established in Auckland, the largest city. The number of local authorities has been reduced from ten to a single large one. This concentrates political power in the hands of the few people. If they are not careful, they could give a great deal of authority to the powers of darkness. The new mayor is a Christian. I hope that he understands the spiritual influence that he has.
Democracy is dangerous. If the rulers of a city have seized power by force, many people in the city will oppose their authority, even if they have to acquiesce to his commands. This limits his authority, so the spiritual forces the ruler brought in will have limited authority too. Under democracy, most people acknowledge the authority of the people elected to power, even if they did not vote for them. This gives the elected leader enormous authority. If they forget God, they can give the forces of evil serious authority in their city.
The greatest concentration of political power takes place in nation state. The rulers of nations have great authority, especially if the nation is large. This allows even greater concentration of the spiritual forces of evil. If the elected leader of a large nation ignores God, the principalities and powers at work in the nation gain immense authority to work their dastardly plans.
Confederations of nations are even more dangerous, because they result in huge concentrations of political authority. When hundreds of millions of people all submit to a single leader, that leader has enormous authority. If the leader rejects God, they can release terrible spiritual harm in their nation. This is why a united nation like the United States has potential to do great evil.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Place is important in spiritual warfare.
Jacob discovered this when he camped a night at Bethel and saw angels ascending and descending from heaven. The reason the vision was so clear, was not that the Holy Spirit was there more than in other places. The Holy Spirit can go anywhere that he is invited. The difference was that there was no intervention from negative spiritual forces. Jacob had stumbled on a place where they were not active, so he was able to see and hear more clearly.
When the people live in rural settings, the activities of the spiritual forces of wickedness tend to be spread evenly across the countryside wherever there are people. They will not will be gathered in particular places.
Spiritual forces may have a stronger presence in the villages. This is why Jesus told his disciples to look at the Person of Influence when they went to a new village (Matt 10:11). If the Person of Influence has authority over the people of the village, but he has rejected God, he will have determined by his behaviour and attitudes which evil spirits authority to be active in the village. Apostles can gain a quick sense of the spiritual atmosphere in the village from the attitude of the head person. If he does not welcome them, then they are better to leave and seek a village where hostile spirits have not been released (Matt 10:14).
As the number of Christians in a city or nation declines, they will have to ensure that God has the authority to accomplish his purposes. Faith is the key.
Faith amplifies authority. Christians can make up for our small numbers by hearing and declaring God’s word in faith. When we pray in faith according to God’s will, we give the Holy Spirit and the holy angels authority to act on earth. Prayer in faith and declaration of God’s purposes gives him freedom to restrain the opposition in the spiritual realms.
Lack of faith shifts authority to the forces of evil. Unfortunately, many Christians are giving him a hand too. Whenever Christians proclaim doom and gloom, without the leading of the Holy Spirit, they unwittingly give the devil authority to bring it to pass. Speaking doom and gloom, when God has not spoken, shifts authority to the powers of evil.
The rulers and powers in a city or nation will often have much greater authority than the Christian minority, because so much authority has been given to them. But they do not have faith. They only believe in themselves, so their authority is not amplified by faith, either for good or evil. That gives people of faith a huge advantage.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I posted this a few weeks ago. I am posting it again, because I have added some more at the end.
Life on earth is enveloped in spiritual warfare. On one side are the Holy Spirit and the holy angels. They concentrate on doing good and advancing the purposes of God. Arrayed against them are the spiritual rulers and the dark forces of evil. They strive to obstruct Gods purposes and attempt to work as much evil as possible.
God’s authority prevails in the spiritual dimension. His authority was not affected by the fall, so this battle changes nothing in the heavenly places. In the spiritual dimension both sides must abide by God’s rules.
The outcome of the spiritual struggle is manifested on earth. When the light side wins the struggle, peace and plenty prevail on earth. When the dark side is on top, trouble and tribulation will be prevalent.
The outcome of the spiritual struggle is not determined by numbers. If it were, the light side would win, because good angels out number evil angels two to one. The outcome is not determined by force. If it were, the Holy Spirit would win hands down. The outcome of the spiritual struggle on earth is not determined by numbers or force, but by authority.
God has given authority on earth to humans. The outcome of the spiritual battle depends on which side is given the greatest authority by people on earth.
Authority on earth in spiritual realm is determined on earth by numbers of believers, faith and words declaring God’s purposes.
If enough people are following Jesus, praying in faith, and declaring God’s purposes, the Holy Spirit and the holy angels will have the authority they need to hold the dark side in check. It does not have to be the majority. In fact, the greater their faith, the smaller the number of faithful people can be. On the other hand, if too many people on earth are giving authority to the dark side, it will win the spiritual battle and the Holy Spirit and the holy angels will be constrained.
Understanding the nature of spiritual warfare settles two questions.
1. Why did God allow it?
When tragedy strikes, people always ask why God allowed it. The truth is that evil is initiated by the forces of evil active in our world. They are able to work because humans have given them permission to act. So the answer to the Why Question is always that we allowed it ourselves.
2. Isn’t God in control?
God has given authority on earth to humans, so he is in control where he is given authority to be in control. Christians have summited to God, so we have given him authority in our lives, so he is in control to work things for good.
Where humans have given authority to someone else, God is not in control. This means that the destiny of a city or nation is determined by the people with authority in that city or nation. Some people will have more authority than others. Political leaders usually have the greatest authority in a city or nation. If they are not fully submitted to God, they will be handing authority over to the spiritual principalities and powers that control the city or nation. Christians who live there will experience some of the consequences of their leader’s spiritual negligence (as did the people of Israel when David sinned). The only difference is that God can work the evil for good for his people, whereas other people will experience the consequences as evil. Fortunately, that makes a huge difference.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Some people wonder why Jesus had to die. Why does God just not forgive those who repent?
Justice is not just something between us and God. He cannot just forgive us without taking all the other into account the others involved. There are a whole lot of interested parties. Christians of course. The injured people, some who have chosen not to forgive, and many more who still want justice. The angels. Even the spiritual forces of evil. The name Satan means accuser, which is a legal term. Even though he has fallen, he still has some legal rights and seems to have some demands on justice.
God has to provide justice to all these interested parties, while treating everyone fairly. He cannot change the rules midstream, so I presume that he is also partly bound by the commitments to justice that he has made previously. (I am not sure that we know what commitments he made to the angels at the beginning).
I am not sure how all this works, but I believe that we have to take a much broader view to fully understand God’s justice. He has to be fair to every human and every living being. Just forgiving those who repent, may not accomplish this goal. For example, if God just forgives me for my sin, Satan could demand the same. Those who have not repented could also demand to be just forgiven. Jesus had to die to satisfy the broader demands of justice, as God established it in the beginning.
Friday, October 15, 2010
On the 15th of April, 2010, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution on Combating the Defamation of Religions (A/HRC/RES/13/16). The resolution was sponsored by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Some Christians are concerned about the impact of this resolution on our ability to spread the gospel.
Islam and Christianity are both imperialistic, in the sense that they both want to take over the world. Islam is at a disadvantage in his struggle, as it does not have the Holy Spirit and its gospel is mediocre (five key rules is easier than many religious systems, but not much better). Therefore it is not surprising that it attempts to use state power or military force to advance its cause.
Unfortunately, the church has often forgotten its advantages and gotten into the use of political power and force to strengthen its position. The so-called Christians nations have frequently used the United Nations to justify its interventions in Moslem countries (invading Iraq, sanctions against Iran), so I am not surprised that Islam is attempting to use the United Nations to support its side.
The truth is that the United Nations cannot stop the spread of the gospel, because it would be opposing the Holy Spirit, and he is impossible to overcome. Some Christians might suffer and some might lose their lives, but that is normal. The Roman Empire tried to put the lid on the gospel, but it failed and was eventually destroyed by it. I doubt that the United Nations can do any better.
The best approach for a group of Christians that are prohibited from sharing the gospel is to follow the example of Peter and John. When the Jewish authorities banned them from preaching, they got together and prayed that they would be filled with boldness, and that God would “stretch out his hand to heal and to perform miraculous signs and wonders in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:30). If sick people are being healed for the gospel, the United Nations would not be able to stand against it.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
An ambassador was travelling to a neighbouring kingdom with a gift and a message of greeting for the king. However, he was not what he appeared to be. He had really been sent to spy out the land by another king, a cunning evil man, who was planning to invade the kingdom that was ruled by a good king. (The good king is Jesus and the evil king is the devil.)
When the ambassador came to what had been the border, he was surprised to find that it was no longer there. He travelled many miles further down the road before he came to the border post. Those who were guarding the border had retreated far back into the kingdom.
As the ambassador travelled through the kingdom on the road to the king’s palace, he was amazed by what he saw. The crops had been neglected and were choked by weeds. No one had bothered to harvest the grain which was ripe and it had fallen to the ground and been eaten by the birds. In the villages, the people were sick and starving. In the streets men were fighting and killing each other. Everyone was a law unto himself.
In parts of the kingdom, wicked rulers had seized control. They dominated the people who lived in their "turf", making their life a misery.
As he rode into the city the ambassador passed a statue of the good king. Children were using it for target practice. Its face was almost smashed to pieces. The decrees of the king had been published on a notice board, but they were covered with so much graffiti that they were unreadable.....
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010
General McChrystal talked of taking a "Government in a Box" into the towns in Afghanistan where US forces took control. Speaking of the surge against Marja, he said,
We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in.This sounds like modern church planting.
The New Testament model is to plant people, not to bring in a Church in a Box.
The modern emphasis on planting church is misguided. When a new church is planted, the usual procedure is to start a weekly meeting with good teaching and inspiring worship. This does not do much for those who receive the good news. A weekly sermon trains them to be passive. Participation in communal worship trains them to be escapist. Focusing efforts into a Sunday meeting gives the impression that a lot is going on, when nothing really happens. Planting a Church in a Box makes about as much sense as plans to bring a Government in a Box to the towns of Afghanistan.
When people are apostled into a new area to build relationships with the people, they can focus on do the stuff that Jesus did. New Christians will be able to join in doing this stuff with them. If a team of people with balanced giftings are planted, a lot of different stuff will happen. Every new believer will find something they can get into. Action becomes the normal Christian life.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Acts 3 describes an overwhelming incident. I do not have the courage to follow Peter and John’s example and command a paraplegic sitting in a public place to stand up and walk.
For Peter and John, it was not such a big deal. They had been doing this stuff with Jesus for a couple of years.
I have said many times that healing evangelism must be restored, if the church is to make an impact on the modern world. However, what Peter and John did cannot be learned from a book, or from listing to sermons. It is just too hard to get started. This ministry can only be learned by going out with someone who is already doing it, When it almost seem normal, the new evangelist will have the faith to have a go on their own.
We need some of the people who are now confident in the healing ministry to get into pairs and go out into the shopping malls and sports stadium and start doing what John and Peter did in Acts 3. Once they are confident, they could start taking other to multiply their ministry. This is what Jesus did. He started initially healed the sick himself. He then trained the twelve and the seventy to do the same. After Pentecost, they taught others to heal the sick and proclaim the gospel to the crowd that gathered. Passing on this faith was a true apostolic succession that was broken more than a thousand years ago.
We urgently to get the healing ministry out of the church, where it provides entertainment and solace for Christians, into the malls and stadiums where it belongs.
Monday, October 11, 2010
The New Testament givers very little detail about the afterlife, so we should take a humble approach to the topic. We must not assume we know more than Jesus wanted us to know (probably because human minds are not capable of grasping it).
When describing the afterlife, Jesus used images (fire, lake, rubbish dump). He also used textual descriptions (eternal punishment, eternal destruction). An image can take a number of meanings, so we should be careful about interpreting these as detailed descriptions of the afterlife.
The images are all physical. Fire is physical fuel being oxidised. Smoke is floating ash particles. The after life takes place (at least in part) in a spiritual world. Images of physical things cannot be a perfect description of a spiritual world. For example, a spiritual body will not burn. Therefore the physical images that Jesus used to describe the negative afterlife must be interpreted analogically and not strictly empirically.
The same applies to the image of a rubbish dump, which the modern church has transliterated as hell. We must work out what a rubbish dump means in a spiritual world.
I presume the purpose of the images was to invoke emotions and elicit a change in behaviour, not to be a. Fire is a powerful image that can elicit strong emotions, such as comfort or fear, depending on the situation. However, fire as an image can take a variety of meanings:
We need more information to determine which meaning Jesus had in mind when talking about the afterlife.
We should use the textual descriptions provided by Jesus to explain the images, and not vice versa. Likewise, we should be very careful about going beyond what the textual descriptions say, on the basis of an image. Textual descriptions of negative afterlife are quite rare, so our knowledge of it will be quite limited.
More at Afterlife.