Book Sale

Friday 31 March 2023

What Always Happens


Image: Unsplash

The Bible does not just teach us what happens, it teaches us what always happens. This is a good way to put what many people see in the Bible, it’s perpetual ability to be applied in any society, in any day, even though it is tied very closely in its origins to a specific region and specific times. The Bible might be written by Israelites and Jews in the Middle East, but it has powerful application across vast cultures and continents.

I would say that this is also true of good fiction. Good fiction points to what always happens, by telling us what happened in a specific story and then showing how realistic characters respond to various trials, triumphs and events that we can all relate to in some way or another.

The Lord of the Rings is perhaps one of the best examples of this ability for stories to speak beyond their original context and time to the trials and struggles we are facing in our own day. Stories like this tell us what heroes and villains can and in some ways should look like, why honour is so important, and why it is necessary to oppose lies and what happens when you don’t. They tell us about the importance of courage, perseverance and hope and how to face struggles and never lose these things.

A good example of this is this application from LOTR by an Anglican Church minister, in a short piece entitled The Saruman-Bishops of the Church of England[i]:

“Saruman believed that the power of Sauron was too strong... and therefore it was necessary to submit to him, work with him, make the best of him.

Saruman had a large stock of Shire pipeweed ready at Isengard, because he was so sure that Gandalf would walk well with him...

...even as Saruman was effectively walking to Mordor, accepting the rule of the lidless eye of Sauron.

Saruman was confident that he would persuade Gandalf to "see reason" and accept the wisdom of making peace with Sauron.

In this way, so many of the Church of England Bishops have concluded that the world's view of sexuality is too strong... and victory for chastity, celibacy and Christ is impossible.

So, they have reasoned that we must simply work with the world, submit to the world's view of sexuality and make the best of sex outside of Holy Matrimony.

They are so sure that historic, global Christians will "see reason" and walk with them under their new lord, the spirit of the age.

In fact, as Saruman appointed Grima Wormtongue into a position of influence for Theoden, so these Saruman-Bishops have been appointing those who represent the Sauron philosophy for a long time.

Especially over the past decade, we have become aware of deans, bishops, canons and diocesan advisor appointments who are openly/covertly following the sexuality of the world.

The Saruman-Bishops have bought in plenty of "pipe weed" and produced videos, study days and "pastoral letters", confident that the Gandalf-faithful will "walk well" with them under the rule of Sauron.”

I encourage you to read his whole piece, because it is not very long and it is encouraging. It reminds us that we are part of a battle between good and evil, and that victory can arise from the most unlikely places in the most unlikely circumstances. And it ends not on a note of despair, but note of hope, and just as importantly, a not of resolve.

We must resolve not to give up in the face of the onslaught of the Saruman’s. We must resolve not to let the advance of evil in the Church or in society come across to us as an inevitability. We must resolve not to despair, not to give up hope, not to give up the Church, but recognize that in both story, legend and real life, good men have faced what appear to be overwhelming odds and yet have still achieved victory because they did not give up.

Sometimes all it takes is one shepherd boy to say, “He can’t talk about the Lord like that.” Sometimes all it takes is a few fishermen to realize that they don’t need degrees, money and expertise to become powerful followers of the Lord. Sometimes all it takes is a guy like Barnabas to recognize that someone who was once an enemy has seen the light of Jesus and can help advance the cause of faith, hope and love. Sometimes all it takes is 12-1 good men and their friends and family standing up for the truth in the face of a corrupt religious establishment and culture.

Whether in Scripture or in history we see so many men, and at times even women, who have inspired people to stand up to evil and say: “No more!” Sometimes they are not the ones who achieve the great things, but they inspire the next generation to be truly great.

Don’t give up, don’t give in, don’t despair in the face of evil. The Saruman’s of this world appear powerful and influential, but the Lord is on the side of his people, and he will be victorious. The Bible and history show us what always happens, God’s people advance get prosperous, influential and then corrupt, and then they pander to the world and elite causes, and this brings hard times and then God raises up his men to call his people back to faithfulness. Don’t despair that you are in that time where there needs to be a calling back. Praise God that you get to be a part of his work, and note, as Tolkien notes, we don’t choose our times, we choose how we respond to them.

Be like Joshua:

“14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:14-15).

Choose to serve the Lord.



[i] Rev Paul Blackham, “The Saruman-Bishops of the Church of England” 

Thursday 30 March 2023

Refiner's Fire


Image: Unsplash

One of the things I find interesting in the Bible is how consistent it is in its imagery and how promises and their fulfillments are threaded through the Bible. It is a remarkable work of art that spreads a consistent message across two covenants, 66 books, and several thousand years. A divine effort. A good example comes from Isaiah 1, I read this the other day, and here is what it says:

Isaiah 1:21-31

21 How the faithful city
    has become a whore,
    she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
    but now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
    your best wine mixed with water.
23 Your princes are rebels
    and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
    and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
    and the widow's cause does not come to them.

24 Therefore the Lord declares,
    the Lord of hosts,
    the Mighty One of Israel:
“Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
    and avenge myself on my foes.
25 I will turn my hand against you
    and will smelt away your dross as with lye
    and remove all your alloy.
26 And I will restore your judges as at the first,
    and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,
    the faithful city.”

27 Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
    and those in her who repent, by righteousness.
28 But rebels and sinners shall be broken together,
    and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.
29 For they shall be ashamed of the oaks
    that you desired;
and you shall blush for the gardens
    that you have chosen.
30 For you shall be like an oak
    whose leaf withers,
    and like a garden without water.
31 And the strong shall become tinder,
    and his work a spark,
and both of them shall burn together,
    with none to quench them.”

God here is angry at his people and because of this he is going punish them, but he is also going to refine them. He is going to restore them and make them the righteous city again. Note especially what verses 25-26 says, “25 I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. 26 And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”

I already reflected on verse 26 about the restoration of the judges a week or so ago in a previous piece. This time I want you to note the imagery in verses 25 and 26 about the smelting and cleaning. God is telling us that he is going to refine Zion, like a blacksmith refines gold or fine metals in a fire, or like a cleaner who washes something. He is going to remove their dross and make them new again. He is going to restore their shine, their glow, their righteousness in other words. This is a wonderful promise, a grand promise, and something that Peter picks up on in his first letter.

We read 1 Peter 1:3-7,

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Just as God promised to make his formerly holy city again holy and righteous and good, so too does Peter take this teaching and it apply it to believers in the New Testament. Just as God said he was going to do, so he is actually going to do, and so do we actually experience. The Old Covenant set the stage for the work of God to call to himself a holy people, but it was ultimately a covenant that was not capable of fully achieving this goal. It was, however, perfectly capable of preserving for us a faithful remnant through which the Messiah, our Lord Jesus, came. Just because it appears that Israel had failed, this is not the case, the intention was always to achieve the refining of God’s people and God shows us the end result of this process in Revelation 21:

“9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.” (Revelation 21:9-14, 18).

What is this city, this holy Jerusalem? Well, we know it is the bride, because John is told that he will be shown the bride, and then he comes and he sees this beautiful city that is built on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rev. 21:14, Eph. 2:20), and more than that, this city also shines like a bright jewel, like a diamond. God’s bride is not an actual city, this city represents the beauty of his bride. Note what verse 18 says, the wall of the city “was pure gold, like clear glass.” Why is this gold so pure as to be see-through, so cleansed as to shine so bright? Because this city is the people of God, the bride who has been prepared for her groom, the Lord, and kept pure and made more pure beyond that. So pure it is like clear glass. A city, a people, that has also been washed and thoroughly cleansed. As John tells us, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” (Rev. 1:5).

This is the fulfilment of the promise to the city of God, Zion, in Isaiah 1. The faithful city is no longer apostate, it is no longer like a whore, she has been restored to her status as faithful, pure and chaste, and what is more we know that the Lord has done this, and that the Lord will do this for us. We are this pure city.

This is our hope. The sin that entangles us and oppresses us and tempts us and harms us will eventually be washed out completely. It’s stain will be removed completely. Eventually we shall be this pure city, this dwelling place of the Lord, cleansed not just spiritually, but actually from our sins by our Lord Jesus. I look forward to this, do you? It is a wonderful hope. And it is remarkable to see how the Lord teaches this consistently in his word and shows us the remarkable beauty towards which he is restoring us. Praise God.


Wednesday 29 March 2023

Don't Move A Fence Before...

Image: Unsplash

"Don't move a fence before you know why the fence was put up."

Australia is getting ready to move a giant fence, but it's clear over the last few years this nation is led by people who don't care or understand the reasoning behind the constitution, they just look for ways to navigate around it or turn it towards modern agendas. 

How can such a society, with such a low state of wisdom among their leadership, claim the wisdom to be able to move a fence when they don't understand why it's there?

We should be trying to get back to constitutionally based government, not arrogantly seeking to change things that modern people have little understanding of why they are there. 

The framers set up our nation and our constitution to work a certain way, and it is based on ancient Anglo-Saxon wisdom. Forged over centuries of experience across continents. 

That's my thoughts about the proposed 'Voice To Parliament' for indigenous peoples. There's no wisdom in it, no need for it, it's all driven by emotion, to suit a certain modern amd fashionable mood, and will tamper with a boundary that was set up for a reason. With unknown side effects. 

We are not led by the kind of wise leaders that have a remarkable vision for society. We are led by emotionally driven people who respond to public mood, which is inturn driven by media manipulation and messaging. This is not wise.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Jesus Revolution – A Spoiler Free Review


I watched the new movie Jesus Revolution last night, starring Kelsey Grammer, and to begin with I want to harken back to something I preached on in my sermon on Sunday. In the book of Revelation Jesus rebukes the faithful and strong Ephesian Church, who had defended their doctrine, with this incredible statement, “4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4). Other translations say, “you have abandoned your first love.”

What is this first love that they have abandoned? That initial love and exuberance for Christ that flows out of a believer and infects others around them. That love for knowing Jesus, sharing Jesus, learning about Jesus, studying his word and letting this overflow into every aspect of your life. The excitement about worship, the joy at seeing others getting to know Christ. That first love is a powerful time in the life of every believer, and it is sad when people let it die down and especially if they let this go too long.

If you are in this bracket, if the joy of your salvation is not what you remember it being, then go see Jesus Revolution. This movie is tailor made to reignite that passion in your heart for who Jesus is, what Jesus can do, and who Jesus can save. And it does it all in a way that can be summed up as beautiful.  

Without going into too much of the plot or story, the movie tells the true story of how revival came to small church in California that was dying. The movie follows the intersecting stories of the Christian hippie Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie, from Chosen), pastor Church Smith (Kelsey Grammer), and youth pastor Chuck Laurie (Joel Courtney).

As a pastor here are the things in this movie that really struck me.

When the pastor is reminded of his need to be a light to the world, not just a manager of people, this really resonated with me. It is easy in ministry to forget what everything is about, and the movie conveys this very well from the perspective of the pastor. You never want to forget this first love, and seeing it rekindled in a man fans the flame of passion in your own heart.  

The reality of drugs, both the highs and lows, is presented very accurately. Drugs have an allure for a reason, as one person I know puts it, sin is tempting, because sin is often fun, or at least feels good…for a time. It then turns towards serious destruction and the movie conveys this in a way that is realistic and not corny at all. Though this does mean that you might not want to take children who are too young.

The presentation of the characters is realistic, inspirational, challenging, and most importantly, interesting. It helps a lot that the acting from everyone in the movie was top shelf. Especially Kelsey Grammer, who is a veteran in the craft. But each character arc is authentic, realistic and engaging. You wanted to see them succeed, you feel for them when they fail, you resonate with them when you see the struggles of their lives, and you laugh when they do something to make you laugh. The movie really does make good use of natural humour.

The story was also very well told. The movie is based on a book by the same name, I have not read the book, so I can’t speak to it. But the movie focuses on story not agenda. Don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt the movie makers want you to know about Jesus, to be inspired by Jesus, to want to seek to know Jesus more. But the movie focuses on its characters and allows their stories being told in an authentic and genuine way to do all the heavy lifting for inspiring you to look for Jesus. It uses the subtle art of story-telling to achieve this rather than the blunt tool of preaching. If you are a pastor you want to be revitalized like Chuck Smith. If you are a believer, you want to be able to engage with the broken like Lonnie Frisbee. You want to see Greg Laurie’s character overcome his challenges. A good way to describe this movie is refreshing. It is powerful, entertaining, interesting, and humourous all at the same time, in the way that so many movies at the theatres are not any more. It is also unique because it tells the story of unique characters.

It’s not just one of the best Christian movies I have seen in a while, it is one of the best movies I have seen in a while. I reminds me of the inspiring tale in Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce, and of the highs and lows of many redemption stories I have seen over the years of various kinds.

Some people might quibble with the doctrine of some of the main characters, or with how the gospel is presented more subtly rather than in a straight up sermon style. But this movie is not a sermon, it is a story, a well told story, and I would like to see more movies like this. I encourage you to go and see it, you will be inspired and encouraged, because you will be reminded about how God saves flawed people through flawed people. One of the best lines in the movie that really stuck with me, which I will paraphrase is this: “Don’t be so arrogant as to think your mistakes can get in the way of God working.” Such is the grace of our God, is it not?

Jesus Revolution is a reminder of what the cinemas can be at their best. Not just Christian movies, but movies in general. They can be heart-warming and inspiring tales of our fellow human beings, flaws and all, overcoming their circumstances. And for Christians this movie especially reminds us of the transcendent cause we are called to: the witness of Jesus Christ, our first love. Don’t you want this first love to be kindled and inspired again?

The movie is out in cinemas on April 20th 2023.   



Monday 27 March 2023



Image: Unsplash

Gifted to serve part 4: Prophecy

You can watch the video of this sermon here.


Last week we looked at one of the trickiest and arguably most divisive topics in the Bible, the gift of tongues. Our focus was very simple, we saw from the Bible that this is a gift that reverses the divisions between peoples. Not the division of ethnic boundaries or nationality those are good, and are God ordained. But the division of languages that creates barriers between peoples and was not God’s original intention for mankind. The Old Testament looked forward to a day when those dividing tongues would be bridged and nations would be brought together to worship and praise the Lord. And we saw this begin to be fulfilled at Pentecost and we saw that the gift of tongues served the precise role that we should have expected of God giving a supernatural gift to cross language barriers. And if you are seeking to cross language barriers I encourage you to seek this gift. See what God does.

Today we are going to look at another famous gift which also brings a lot of contention in the church, that is prophecy. I think this is a wonderful gift, and it is the most prominent gift in the whole Bible. From Moses to the Apostle John, from Genesis to Revelation, there are many wonderful prophets whom God has used to empower, warn, rebuke and encourage his people. And I think it is still a vital gift for today. Indeed, with the great apostasy we see in the church today we should expect to see prophetic men and women speak out against the great evils in the church.

Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” Which tells us that this is a good gift, a godly gift, and an important gift for being used by God to bless your brothers and sisters in Christ. But I think it is important to understand that there is also a danger for you if you don’t respect this gift and if you treat it in an unbiblical way. I have seen this happen quite a bit, I think all of us have. So, prophecy is a good gift you should pursue, but you also need to be very careful with this gift.

So, let’s examine what the Bible says about prophecy and why it is so important to pursue this gift in the right way.

An Important Gift - Before we go any further, let’s examine why we need to consider this gift. This is simple, it is listed as one of the gifts the Spirit gives to the people of God, and it is an important gift, 1 Corinthians 14:4-10 –

“4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,…to another prophecy,…”

As we know Paul says to eagerly desire this gift, but other passages speak of its importance as well.

Paul lists it later in the same chapter as one of the most important gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 –

“27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

Paul seems to be implying here that prophecy is one of the higher gifts. Second to Apostleship. When you consider that in the New Testament Apostles appear to be multi-gifted this makes sense.

He then makes this absolutely clear in 1 Corinthians 14:3-5 –

“3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

Here Paul again notes how important this gift is “the one who prophesies builds up the church.” Paul’s entire philosophy of Spiritual gifts is Jesus glorifying and focused towards building up others. So, it makes sense he would emphasize gifts that achieved this.  

Ephesians 4:11-13 –

“11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…”

Paul notes a similar list here as the one in 1 Corinthians 12, and places the prophets second again in the list. He also emphasizes here how important they are around “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”

Even Peter acknowledges the importance of the one who speaks the oracles of God. 1 Peter 4:10-11,

“10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Peter’s passages could just as equally be talking about teaching as prophecy, but obviously he held both gifts in high regard.

Again and again the Bible emphasizes the importance of this gift, and notice the focus in many of these passages: It is a higher gift, it is for building up and encouragement, it is for equipping the Church to make it mature, it is one of many gifts for making sure that God is glorified in Jesus Christ.

But what exactly is this gift?

What Is Prophecy? Some people have odd views of prophecy. Some people think prophets are simply word for your day vending machines, with a constant stream of revelations from God. Some think they are able to just sense the word like it is the force and that it is ok to make mistakes when prophesying. I was listening to a weird debate about the trinity and one of the debaters made an interesting point that prophets have the authority to change the law. I am not sure where they got this idea from, but it is not the case. Prophets tend to do the exact opposite: their role is to call God’s people back to God’s revelation and obedience. They do this in two ways, that can overlap: foretelling and forthtelling.

Foretelling is the more exciting version of this gift, and one that we are very familiar with. We read in Deuteronomy 18:18-22 –

“18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”

God gave a simple test to identify a true foretelling prophet: does what they say come to pass? Can they accurately predict the future? If what they say does not come to pass, ignore them. They are obviously not working for the Lord, they are obviously not a prophet.

But, there is more to it than this, because Deuteronomy also says this, Deuteronomy 13:1-5 –

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”

God also warned the Israelites that if a prophet rose up who actually predicted the future, but told them to follow other gods, this was also a false prophet. They should stone this prophet because he was a false prophet.

How were these false prophets able to predict what would come to pass? Because God allowed them to do so to test the Israelites, to test how well they knew the word of God.

But since these false prophets clearly broke the first and second commandment, the people should recognize they were false.

So, a true foretelling prophet is someone who correctly predicts a coming event that they warn people about, but they also stay consistent to the words of Scripture. 

Foretelling is so famous in the Bible. There are many great examples, going all the way back to Genesis 3 where it says, Genesis 3:15 - “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This prophecy comes directly from God, but was written by Moses, the Prophet of God, and it accurately predicts the coming of the Messiah. The plan was there from the beginning. This sets our model for what a prophet is.

Noah is the next prophet of God, who proved his true prophet gifting, by building a boat, and proclaiming what would happen. His prophecy predicted the future and pointed towards righteousness.

This is a powerful gift.

The foreteller is not sensing the word of God in a force sense, note what Moses wrote, “And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deut. 18:18).

We see this in Jeremiah 1:9-12 –

“9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” 11 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

The prophet does not get to be creative with God’s word. They do not get to change it, interpret it, modify it, or deviate from it. As it is given to them, so must they say it, “12 Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’”

Even a prophet who ended up turning to the dark-side notes this, Numbers 23:5,

“5 And the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.”… 11 And Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but bless them.” 12 And he answered and said, “Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

Balaam was eventually judged not for his prophecies, but because he encouraged Moabite women to seduce the Israelites (Num. 31:16). He prophesied correctly, but he contradicted God’s law and therefore was false.

Forthtelling – is every bit as important as foretelling, yet it is different. Rather than giving a revelation of the future and predicting events that will happen, forthtelling is being inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak to current circumstances from God’s truth. God still gives the prophet these words. Indeed, even with Old Testament prophets it is not always clear which version of prophecy they are fulfilling: foretelling, a new revelation, or forthtelling, re-emphasizing God’s revelation.

There is no doubt that Jeremiah received direct revelation from God. God spoke to him new Revelations, about the temple and Nebuchadnezzar and many things. But at other times he appears to be taking the Scriptures and applying them to the Israelites sin. For example, Jeremiah 11:1-8,

“1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3 You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4 that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, 5 that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, Lord.” 6 And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7 For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. 8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”

God was still inspiring Jeremiah here, as he says, “And the Lord said to me…” But it seems almost as if God is using Scripture to do this. If you read Deuteronomy 28 it says many of the same things. It is almost as if the Holy Spirit were inspiring Jeremiah as he meditated on the word of God to speak forth to Israel about her terrible sins.

But it is still prophecy as it is still the spirit of the Lord inspiring the prophet of God to speak. But he is speaking forth the words of God as they apply in his day.

The law itself even at times predicts the mistakes Israel would make directly, Deuteronomy 17:14-17 –

“14 When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.”

It is almost as if this were directed against Solomon, long before he was born.

In fact, when you look at Israel and Judah’s issues, they happen exactly as Deuteronomy predicted they would happen, so specifically some scholars argue that Deuteronomy must have been written after the fact. Deuteronomy 28 reads like a history of the nation of Israel. But it is prophetic.

In other words you can see how many Holy Spirit inspired men, the prophets, would look at the law of God, then look at what was happening in Israel, and then call out Israel to turn back in faithfulness to God. They were forthtelling, speaking the word of God in a Holy Spirit inspired way.

God was directing them to apply his word and call people back to his word.

Indeed, this may be why Peter says when you speak, speak as though speaking the oracles of God. Because the prophets did this.  

Calling Back to God – In fact this calling back to God was the primary role of the prophet. They were God’s instrument to challenge his people when they were in error. We see this in many ways in the Bible.

John the Baptist was an example of this, we see in Matthew how John was called by God to prepare people for the coming of the Lord of lords, we read in 3:7-12 –

“7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

John was considered by Jesus to be the greatest among all men, indeed, the greatest among all prophets. When John says, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” you could say this summarizes the messages and roles of the prophets right there.

The prophets were usually men, but sometimes women, who were used by God to call his people, and other peoples, back to repentance, back to faithfulness. You see this message consistently in their writings. Again and again.

Here comes the rub, because people do not like being told what to do. Rebellious people even less so. So how do people respond to the prophets who call them back to faithfulness? More often than not, poorly.

Persecuted – The prophets who called people back to repentance, were often treated very poorly. John the Baptist was beheaded by one of the Herods. Jeremiah was beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed and castigated by his own people. Moses, the great leader of his people, was constantly being dogged by complaints, rebellions, challenges and more. The prophets of God were often not treated well.

Jesus tells us, Matthew 5:11-12 – “11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

There is great blessing in being a prophet. But for many prophets they won’t experience most of this blessing until the next life.

Are you sure you want this?

Stephen the deacon tells us in Acts 7:51-53,

“51 You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

All of the prophets were persecuted, many of them to death. They were brutally and harshly treated. Why?

Because they were asked to call the hard of hearing back to God. To be a prophet is a great calling, it is an honour, it is a rare, powerful, and remarkable gift. It is also one of the hardest callings you could ever be called to.

Desire it because Paul says to desire it. But know what you are desiring. As Jesus says about Paul to Ananias (the good one), Acts 9:15-16 - “15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

There is an incredible honour in being sent to represent Jesus to “Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel…” But many Gentiles, kings and children of Israel don’t want to hear from you. So, you are going to be rejected or suffer, and often severely.

Even respected prophets like Moses and Samuel had hard times, and they were not persecuted to death.

You might say, I just want to be the kind of prophet Paul talks about that edifies the church, 1 Corinthians 14:3 - “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” A forthteller. But building up and encouragement includes correction and challenge, and many a person’s ministry has come under attack from simply seeking to “build-up and encourage” in the church context.

-        That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it, it is. It is always of value and importance to speak the truth. But most people stay quiet instead, because they know the cost.

-        Know what it is you are asking for. Know that speaking the truth publicly in any capacity is going to cost you. It is going to etch away at you.

-        It wore away at Jeremiah, “7 O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me” (Jer. 20:7).

-        The true prophet in the Church, who calls out sin in large measure and points to how to return to the Lord, is often treated like a whistle-blower in a corrupt company. They are maligned. 

Take it from someone who has challenged the church at times from different levels, even at the national level, speaking out is hard, it can cause a reaction that stays with you, I still have the wounds from it, but when you are compelled to speak what you know to be the truth you need to do it.

I don’t consider myself to be a prophet. I am a history guy. But often the prophet’s role overlaps with the teachers role and I do consider myself a teacher.

But be warned if you desire this gift, and it is a good gift, recognize the cost and know what you are asking for. Examine and observe those who have it. Ask yourself are you willing to pay this cost?

Some Questions – Before we finish let me address a couple of things.

Can women be prophets? Absolutely. One would have to deny scripture to deny this. Here just two examples from the Old Testament: Exodus 15:20 - “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.” Judges 4:4 – “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.”

Even in the New Testament there is Anna the Prophetess who sees Jesus when he is still a baby. But this comes with some important qualifications. In some contexts, prophetess just means the wife of the prophet, for example in Isaiah, Isaiah 8:3, “And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. “Then the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz;…” Many of the prophetesses in the Old Testament appear to be of this kind.

However, Philip’s daughters definitely prophesied (Acts 19:8-9). And Acts 2 says this,  Acts 2:17-18,

“17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

Why don’t we see this gift so much today? I think we do see it more than we realize, 1 Corinthians 14:3-5 –

“3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

There is obviously a lot of nonsense out there, and false prophets who predict all sorts of stuff, but notice how few of them, if any, saw the last couple of years of craziness coming?

But, if you understand that God will sometimes inspire someone to inspire, encourage, or rebuke someone with the word, then this likely happens more than we realize, we just are not fully aware of what is happening.

Strict punishments for false prophets (Deut. 13) – remember that false prophets were determined by false prophecies. And in the Old Testament they were to be put to death, in the New Testament they should be ignored. Prophecy is not something you learn, it is something that God inspires. It is not like teaching, though it can overlap with teaching. It is a different gift.

Application – So how do we apply all of this?

-        If you desire this gift weigh up the potential, even likely, When cost.

-        Test prophecies – “19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:19-21).

-        When you speak, speak as though speaking the oracles of God.

-        Ignore prophets who predict things and then direct you away from the true God of Scripture.

-        Allow the church elders to weigh prophecies.

Conclusion – We need God to speak today, we need his word heard more clearly, we need his scriptures preached. There is enough of God’s written word being ignored that we need to be called back to. If you want to hear God speak, read his word and soak yourself in it. He will speak to you, his Holy Spirit will make it come alive to you. If you see this gift of prophecy, just know what you are asking for. Let’s pray.


Sunday 26 March 2023

Moneyism Is Worse Than Communism

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The Anti-Christ's system in Revelation 17-18 reads more like a free trade system, than a communist dictatorship. 

The system creates great wealth and trade for the kings and nations of the earth. That cannot be anything like socialism or communism. Neither of which are capable of that. 

Collectivism* is evil, Marxist communism is one of the greatest evils the world has ever faced. But more people have been enslaved or conquered by traders looking for new markets to exploit than have succumbed to Communism. 

This is a hard message for the conservative to accept. But the free trade system is capable of worse evil than communism, because it is far easier to buy people off to incentivize them to evil, than it is to enslave them with force. You saw this in 2020-22 where the populations of many nations were bought off to stay home and stay safe. Most people accepted this willingly. Because the money flowed, the parcels kept coming, and the pleasures abounded. 

Money is a root of all evil. Jesus, Peter and Paul warned us against moneyism more than collectivism. Yes collectivism is its own kind of evil. But the final peak evil empire will be a trade empire that makes wealth for everyone across the seas. John tells us:

Revelation 18:1-18

"1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!

    She has become a dwelling place for demons,

a haunt for every unclean spirit,

    a haunt for every unclean bird,

    a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.

3 For all nations have drunk

    the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,

and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,

    and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people,

    lest you take part in her sins,

lest you share in her plagues;

5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven,

    and God has remembered her iniquities.

6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,

    and repay her double for her deeds;

    mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.

7 As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,

    so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,

since in her heart she says,

    ‘I sit as a queen,

I am no widow,

    and mourning I shall never see.’

8 For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,

    death and mourning and famine,

and she will be burned up with fire;

    for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”

9 And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

“Alas! Alas! You great city,

    you mighty city, Babylon!

For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.

14 “The fruit for which your soul longed

    has gone from you,

and all your delicacies and your splendors

    are lost to you,

    never to be found again!”

15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,

16 “Alas, alas, for the great city

    that was clothed in fine linen,

        in purple and scarlet,

    adorned with gold,

        with jewels, and with pearls!

17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”

And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,

“What city was like the great city?”

Moneyism is evil. Seeing people as only economic markers leads to many of society's ills today. It's a slower poison than communism, but a more fatal one, because it's victims accept it, even defend it, with glee and it entrenches itself in the society as a good and spreads far and wide. Communism never achieved that to the same degree, it fizzled out. 

Another word for money remember is capital, so another word for moneyism is...

Think about it. Think of the great harm that CEO's with budgets as large as national budgets can do to populations. Some of you who were once opposed to even considering this idea, must now be more open to it after seeing in the last few years how corporations really rule the world. And how they can use their vast wealth to control populations the size of which Stalin could only dream of. 

Moneyism is worse than communism, both observably and biblically. Beware Mammon. 

*So is radical individualism, we are created not for collectivism or individualism, but to live in families. 

Saturday 25 March 2023

The Judges Have Been Restored


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What is the ideal political system from the Biblical perspective? Most people when asked this question think either monarchy or democracy. Younger people tend to say monarchy, older people who grew up in the height of liberal democracy and enjoyed the peak of its benefits tend to say democracy. But neither are the preferred biblical model, rather a theocratic structure where God is King, and he is represented to his people by judges is the preferred model.

We see this model in action in the book of Exodus where Moses sets up the Judges (Ex. 18), and in the book of Judges where we see it in both its good and bad forms, as well as the book of Ruth and well up into the time of Samuel in the book of 1 Samuel. We read there about how this was God’s intention for his people:

“1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:1-9).

God's intention was for Israel to have judges, but Israel wanted to have kings like the nations around them. This is similar today to churches that want to be led by CEO’s and vision casting leaders, instead of pastors, teachers and evangelists, et al. The people of God in rejecting Samuel were actually rejecting God from being their king. Their structure was God as King and men as his representative judges. This was preferred by God for Israel over monarchy.

When you see what happens to Israel, particularly the northern kingdom Samaria, after they establish the reign of kings, you can see why. Most of these men had an authority and power to do evil that was beyond what the previous judges could do. Their increased power led them to be a greater danger to the spiritual state of Israel and also to the people of Israel. That is why God made this prophecy to Israel through Isaiah, “And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isa. 1:26).

Is this going to be fulfilled in heaven, or in the millennial thousand year reign? Maybe, this may be looking to a complete fulfilment in the future state. But in a real and genuine way this prophecy has already been fulfilled. Paul tells us,  

“6 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” (1 Cor. 6:1-8).

Paul shows us that the rule of judges has been restored in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church which enables godly men to be able to exercise wisdom on behalf of God’s people. The judges, the system God always intended for his people, have already been restored.

Our history books tell us that the early church became so good at this role of judging disputes between people that even the pagans began to come before them to have their disputes resolved, rather than go to the civil courts. This increased the Church's stature in the world of Rome, and had a profound impact on the justice system. In the medieval era it was not uncommon for people to appeal to the Church’s judges instead of the civil magistrates, because they knew they were more likely to get a fair and just hearing in the Church.

The church has only one king, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is our ultimate judge. But he has also empowered his people through his Spirit to be able to make judgement calls, settle disputes, and enact justice in various ways. I think there is a greater fulfilment of this in the next life, in the new heaven and new earth, because we will judge the angels. But it is incredible to think that God has already fulfilled this promise. How much of the Church is even aware of this? Paul observed that many his day were not aware, has this been forgotten again? Or maybe the Church is just so degraded today that we need a revival before this can be remembered?