Economic, religious and political rule

There are many ways in which the temptations of Jesus can be viewed. We can certainly learn from them at a personal level, but the temptations are the temptations that the agent of the kingdom had to face. Although ordered slightly differently in Matthew and Luke the same three are recorded.

  • Turn the stones into bread.
  • Throw yourself down from the Temple.
  • Bow and you have all these kingdoms (and Luke specifically the ready-made Imperial system).

The response to the ‘stones into bread temptation’ was that Jesus was called to a deeper source of sustenance – to every word that came from heaven; the response to the ‘throw yourself down’ was not to put the Lord to the test; and the response to the ‘offer of the kingdoms’ was to worship and serve God’.

I suggest we can look at the first temptation as an economic one, to gain sustenance and resource through an abuse of miraculous power; the second as a religious temptation with God serving the pre-set agenda with protection; and the final one as a political rule temptation with the marrying into the system to exercise a ‘godly’ agenda.

What a trio, and a trio that are intertwined, a three-fold cord that is not easily broken. A trio that one could argue could have served the ‘kingdom’ agenda and enabled the message to be spread quickly and efficiently.

I have heard too many times ‘that is just the way it is in business / economics’. Yes, I guess it often is, but if to that statement is brought the ‘every word’ that comes from God we really do need to see an adjustment. From the exposure of (all varieties of) ‘consumerism’ in Gen. 3: ‘I saw, I desired and I consumed’; to the prohibitions not to maximise profits; to the command to care for the ‘widow, alien and orphan’; to the appointment of Judas to look after the money bag. Every word seems consistent, and Jesus certainly hit that big one on the head.

The religious agenda is where we have a vision and God will back it up. And back it up he often does, with the very clear example of the anointing of the king for Israel so that they might be like the other nations. He backs it up cos he goes where we go (after all he also walked out of Eden with them), and then there comes a time when he does not back it up and we end up perplexed. When he does not we are to open our eyes to where we have served religion and the ever so polished up religious agenda.

Of course, politics and what I have written on the political nature of the Gospel is so key, and I consider that Jesus broke the economic power structures so that he could then clearly observe the economic exploitative system that ‘robs widows of their houses’ was being undone when it sought to swallow also the last coins of a widow, leading him to prophesy the end of an era that had deteriorated into religion and exclusivity (rather than faith and inclusivity) so that the likes of Paul ‘apostle to the nations’ could spend the last days in Rome. From economics through religion (that had swallowed the economic exploitative system) to the ungodly marriage of religion and politics being pulled apart… so that there might be the hope of ‘the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and Messiah’.

In Ukraine all three of these powers are manifest. A re-ordering of the world of economics is at hand, with the big ‘winner’ being the Imperial power of China who has no need to enter the current conflict at a military level, but is winning the war economically. Sanctions are a response, but we as body of Christ, have to pull deeper, drop down lower. Economic sanctions imposed by a Western ideology that has bowed at the feet of ‘the invisible hand of the market’. I am pro-sanctions (but what do I know?) but as always I consider there are keys within the body of Christ, and those keys are closer to home than we might realise.There is a battle religiously, with views of Christendom being at the forefront, and of course that of political rule.

We need great help from heaven. Angels coming. Angels holding back advancing forces; causing confusion, opening prison doors. (Thanks to this understanding through a conversation with Elly Lloyd.) Unashamedly ask the Lord to send angels, for Jesus was attended to by angels in that wilderness battle.

We are in global shifts. We have to lift our eyes as well as express the pain. And as we lift our eyes we will see body of Christ shifts. Not pushed to the margins. Nor seated at the centre. But both hidden and visible within the place that has sought to displace God with economic, religious and political rule.

The big questions of Ukraine and what are we to do are beyond me. The personal questions are present as always.

3000… a good move?

So he [Moses] stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him. Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.” (Exodus 32:26-29).

And so begins the Levites as the priestly line in Israel… though I do not think God ever intended there to be a priestly line, for the nation was to be a priesthood for the nations, and now begins the first step of reductionism, with a priestly tribe for Israel. Seems to lead all the way to ‘we have no king but Caesar’!

Passion for God is what the Levites exhibited.

Paul showed passion for God, righteousness and zealousness:

as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless (Phil. 3:6).

That is a pre-Jesus lens, and through that lens only one conclusion, to rid the nation (Israel) of the compromising and blasphemous claims that a crucified man was the Messiah. To claim Jesus as the Messiah was as outrageous a claim as the ones who proclaimed that the golden calf was an image of the ‘god’ who had rescued them from Egypt. Paul truly was standing in a good tradition.

The post-Jesus lens though gave quite a different perspective.

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief (1 Tim. 1:13, emphasis added).

A blasphemer: this was the accusation against Jesus, for claiming that he and God were on the same level, that he represented God. Paul now understood that his zealousness for the law was simply a cover for a misrepresentation of God. And ironically the one who was taught the Law was ignorant! Same as those who crucified Jesus, for they needed forgiveness for they did not know what they were doing! Eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and end up ignorant, full of zeal, able to represent God, but be guilty of blasphemy!

We cannot justify, nor do I believe that God justifies the killing of those 3000. Maybe there was no alternative, for how does one keep a nation clean when we are all ignorant? I don’t know how to square it all up. God worked with them… but I don’t think there was any satisfaction in God that 3000 lost their lives that day. In the light of Jesus, the express image of God, we cannot say, ‘and this pleased God’.

Jesus poured out what we see and what we hear… and,

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41).

This Jesus we crucified because we had to be zealous for God. Yes we have to critique biblical texts, for we have to critique our own hearts of the self-protectionism that is within them.

Return of the King

But what is the nature of the kingdom?

At times of international crisis people can be quick to jump to Matthew 24 (wars and rumours of wars) to shout ‘end-times’ and for some the one sure and certain thing is Jesus is coming back to reign, from Jerusalem, and a ‘millennial’ rule. One sure thing? I think not!

As I was walking (the dog) I thought, out of the blue, hang on a minute… the OT hopes and Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey, being proclaimed as king.

[An Aside: I do have difficulties with the theology of a millennial rule that is drawn from a book that is unapologetically symbolic. Why take things literal in a book that has dragons, beasts rising out of the sea, stars falling to the earth (a little too hot to handle I think) etc. To try to make it fit a pre-, a post-, or even an a-millennial approach seems a big stretch. Anyway, leaving on one side the apocalyptic genre of Revelation I’d like to probe a little deeper.]

There are some OT themes that sit alongside each other, themes that gave hope for the future but were not fulfilled in the history of Israel. We could pick out a few such as:

  • The Lord God will return to Zion (Isaiah 40-55 (so-called Second Isaiah) focuses on this, and given that Isaiah is quoted and the many implicit references to these texts in the NT should alert us to an understanding of fulfilment. The very name ‘Emmanuel’, being ‘God with us’ indicates a fulfilment in the life and work of Jesus).
  • Ezekiel knew the glory had departed but spoke of God returning to the Temple.
  • The Psalms have a repeated declaration that God will come to judge the world.
  • Haggai, with all the pain of the new temple being but a shadow of the old, still holds out hope of a new glorious temple.
  • Zechariah has the return in cloud and fire to defend people; and the well-known text of the feet of the returning Lord standing on the Mount of Olives.

Such ideas as Jesus coming to reign from Jerusalem at some future date seem to me to be taken from a literalistic line drawn from OT prophetic hopes without any journey through the life and times of Jesus.

Luke 19 seems to radically adjust that ‘straight line’. Here comes the Lord God, the king back to Jerusalem, back to the Temple; the One embodying the Presence of God, the glory of God, the one who does indeed place his feet on the Mount of Olives and return to Zion… as king. As king riding on a donkey (again quoting Zechariah – 9:9),

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey.

In Luke we read that the people shouted out:

Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven! (19:38)

Jesus comes to the city saying that they were not recognising that on this day (the day of entry) shalom was coming (Luke 19:42). Here is the future fulfilment of the Lord returning to Zion, the glory has returned, I don’t think we should look any further. What a fulfilment, but greater than the fulfilment is the God who is returning that is revealed. The cross and the throne are one. And from the history we know that Pilate entered with all the pomp and military power through one gate while the king, God incarnate enters at the opposite gate on a donkey. Contrasts, and who embodies kingship? Fulfilments and a challenge to our view of how God comes, of what is the nature of that kingdom.

Where is God? If we have a ‘God of all power with whom nothing is impossible’ the question hangs in the air and we will have a hard job to find God; if we realise that God is still calling for a people who follow the Lamb wherever he goes, we will have eyes that go higher than troubles and oppression, and we will receive strength to follow.

In the current troubles it is tempting to resort to ‘we are living in the end times’, and to do so in a way that does not remind ourselves that such terminology is used biblically of all time post-Pentecost. Yes we are living in the end-times, living in the same era of time alongside the saints who have gone before us.

In Jesus all things change. The Imperial world is turned upside down; even with regard to OT hopes we are given a new set of lenses to read them through. We see this with the (mis-)quote by Paul of Isaiah 59:20. There we read (with emphasis added):

The Redeemer will come to Zion…

In Paul he feels the liberty to change it to:

The deliverer will come from Zion (Rom. 11:26).

Jesus has come, the king has arrived, the glory has returned, his feet have been on the Mount of Olives… The geography that was the focus becomes the place from which God can embrace the whole.

Maybe, there is a ‘return to Jerusalem’, not because of a set of biblical texts, but what place on earth could truly bear witness the ‘wolf lying with the lamb’. Racial harmony, human embrace, shared resources… shalom. The king who came there on the donkey is not about to come with his true identity, as the king with the chariots. He was in the ‘form of God’… so humbled himself. Past, present and future.

Colonising…

Time for a post that is a little bit ‘out there’ but one I am convinced about.

Colonisation of gift can only take place when two elements come together, a system / pre-set agenda to be served at all costs without question and a servant who is involved who is very willing.

A few days ago I suddenly had this flash of revelation… angels can be colonised. Someone comes from an angelic encounter and then arrives at a situation with that revelation, they then release the revelation that there is an ‘angel who is bringing xxx’. Good news as this just fits what we need is the response. Now there seems to be a couple of possible responses. The one that will maximise the outcome will be that of responding with an entry into a ‘dance’ (OMG… am I going ‘eastern’?) between those involved and the angelic. Such a dance will be that ‘we’ (humans) will need to adjust our steps, learn some new movements, suspend the pre-set agenda as that will be about to change; OR…

Given that angels serve – ministering / serving spirits – the dance is not entered into but what the angel(ic) brings is taken and harnessed to serve the pre-set agenda. We cannot assume that the angelic has come for us, to give us xxx, more likely the angelic has come to give the wider situation where we are connected the gift of the xxx. If we enter into this assuming all of this is for us, we will at least hijack what could happen / perhaps at worse colonise the angelic. Not 100% sure on the last suggested possibility. Do they hang around but seriously limited in terms of their affect? Or do simply lose the connection that was on offer?

I have always sensed what needs to be done is a release of what / who is sent from heaven, rather than ‘now we are grateful for help to achieve our dreams (pre-set agenda)’.

To the tree planters

It is said that Martin Luther replied about the imminent return of Jesus that,

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

Tomorrow is so unknown. Defence budgets in numerous nations have doubled in these past few days. In Europe the average defence budget has been for years around 3%, decades ago they were well into double figures, and in certain times in history have been as high as 70% (and above) of taxation went on ‘defence’. It does not take a mathematician to work out what this means, for once things are doubled, without something that brings about a halt to it, we will have budgets tripled in that direction. We cannot accurately predict if there will be nuclear fall-out, if not by the unleashing of a weapon, with damage to a nuclear plant. Not a bright future.

SOW WHERE WE WANT THE WORLD TO GO.

I have used that phrase in my book(s) when seeking to give some very amateurish advice concerning those who are comfortable with shares / pension funds. Luther’s words at some level get hold of that. We do not know what will happen tomorrow, but I am able to do something today.

Creation cries out, waiting, looking.

Yes I pray what Putin is being sourced from dries up, from the spiritual forces, the imperial fantasy and whatever else is involved. This has to happen. Maybe tomorrow something will happen of that nature. But today, I can sow.

As always I look to the body of Christ. My hope has to be placed there, the ‘significant other’ that God intended to carry on the work that Jesus ‘began to do and to teach’. We have to see the imperial aspirations of Putin (and many other leaders) fall to the ground; I cannot but believe that if only the imperial aspirations of the body of Christ with her insistence of choosing a king, of seeking to extend borders…

The liberating environment of the kingdom of God… liberating to one and all, not simply to those who have come to faith and made it through our discipleship courses. A new world is beckoning. Though there seems to be more than one possibility. The shape and culture of one of them is being sown now, pulling on history, drawing on spiritual wells. The budgets are responding to the expectation of that world. What about the other possibility?

It had to come to this… we stand at a crossroads. There is a huge choice before us. Try and revive what we see as history, draw from that spiritual well, or gladly surrender the Christendom vision. Even if… I would plant a tree, so said Mr Luther.

Authentic

Quite a word that one! Who am I? Where am I going? And how do I get there? And an intrinsic fourth – who will go with me / who will I go with? ‘My Story – our Story – the Big Story’.

Those are the overarching questions / shape of Authentic Lives. As most readers of these posts know Gayle has been involved in courses, developing schools material, helping train facilitators etc., within Authentic Lives. And of course as one who is unbiased… she is quite brilliant at it all.

There are two courses coming up, one in person (Ashburnham Place) and one by Zoom.

https://www.ashburnham.org.uk/events/authentic-lives (Ashburnham: Tuesday 15th March 2022 4pm – Friday 18th March 2022 10am).

https://authenticlives.org/membership/authentic_lives_online_march_2022_uk1-002/ (Zoom beginning Thursday 31st March, 7.30pm).


Gayle and I are committed to Authentic for (as we see it) the next 20 years; Gayle from within and I will ponce around on the edge. I first met Andrew in passing in 2004, a ‘chance’ meeting as it was the one of the very few times (maybe the only time) that I ventured out into the public space in the Autumn of that year while Sue was undergoing cancer treatment. Andrew was living in Hong Kong, and was visiting London: I likewise ventured out to visit London. We then connected in person in January 2020. Two aspects immediately impacted me. The cleanness on money – and for this reason courses are not charged for – and the person-focused nature of the material (maybe this is the reason why I am not involved; I always wanted to pretend it was simply that the material was over my head).

I do believe we are (globally) at a major turning point. This year I have both written about the cumulative series of events that will destabilise our world and the opportunities to go through one of the ‘four’ doors before us – only visible if pointed in a forward direction. AL / AB is one aspect among many that I believe is pointed to the future. The old parameters, if held on to too tightly, will obscure the possibility, for there is a Cornelius / Peter time here. Conversions within the body of Christ. Choppy waters. Those like the wind, unpredictable – for that was the mark Jesus gave to those who were born again. He did not ascribe the ‘wind’ as a sign of the Spirit (though it is in Gen. 1 and Acts 2). We are happy with it applied to the Spirit, but apparently when the unpredictable Spirit blows it will always blow people in a predictable direction… I think not!

Favourite verses

You must be born again / from above (John 3:7).

That is a favourite verse… spoken to one person… but to be fair it also says ‘no-one can see the kingdom of God without being born again’. So perhaps justified as a ‘favourite verse’.

Go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor… (Matt. 19:21).

Not such a favourite verse, spoken to one person, but maybe with some justification it is not universally applied (just wiped my brow with relief right then).

It is amazing how we choose some verses over others, and thankfully maybe just about come down on the side that is OK-ish.

I was totalling up the other day who intimidates me:

Those with more money than me5%
Those who are not of my gender50%
Those younger than me92%
Those smarter than me91%
Total: thank God the battery on my calculator ran outQuite a lot

So a favourite Scripture of mine is:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 5:16,17).

My short list above has a left-sided column that is composed of categories ‘from a human point of view’. Not surprisingly then the right side column is not a pretty sight. ‘See’ is the command. Now there is a challenge. See there is ‘new creation’. This current one is groaning, currently visible in the Ukraine, but groaning when Martin sees with old eyes. One is visible to all via TV; the other I can keep hidden… though the fruit will be visible to anyone who approaches me.

I think maybe this (2 Corinthians 5:16,17 quoted above) is my (current) favourite Scripture. If the born again Scripture is a favourite it seemed that Jesus said the sign that we really are allowing the reality of what we favour to be true for us is that we are unpredictable. If I allow the content of the verse that I claim as favourite to transform me then my categorisations need to go. Got a lot of work to do… or find another favourite Scripture. The latter will be easy, the former… not really sure I know where to start.

Come join – if you want!

I have hosted a monthly ‘open zoom’ evening where we have explored some of the ‘so what’ questions. Tonight (7:30pm UK time) I want to explore a little more on ‘how do we engage with society with a view to contributing toward transformation’ – a succinct title if ever there was one!

(Zoom link will be at the end of this post.)

I have a paper that is in note form here that will be worth casting an eye over first:

In summary: the Gospel is about a ‘heart transplant’ being offered to society; ‘individual’ salvation is periphery in the sense of ‘saved from… saved to go to…’ but is an invite to join the advance party of those who experience a heart transplant and position themselves so that others (individual and corporate) can also receive such a new heart. And then how do we engage – two poles, get the top 3% and maybe even control the change, or the opposite, just the little small things we do… And I acknowledge that our leanings might be because of our personalities… if (I only put the word ‘if’ in there to soften the blow of reality to myself) one is intimidated by anyone different, better educated, know more, have more money, have a lot less money, are female, they’re younger and I have no idea how to relate to them even if they are grandkids, and then breathe a sigh of relief ‘at least I am not intimidated by those who are older’… until I realise why – oh yes I am the older one!! Yes we do have our own peculiar bias and not a few weaknesses that colour our beliefs.

Anyway feel free to join, just use the link below. Any questions at the end of the paper are simply ones by example, I hope we gather a few more in the evening.

Topic: Open Zoom Evening
Time: Mar 1, 2022 19:30 London

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5728039267?pwd=NEozVVM0Z1NJSDFKKzNwdG9KUDc5dz09

Meeting ID: 572 803 9267
Passcode: 5GkMTA

A little discipline

Books on ‘discipline’, ‘how to bring up kids’. Those are the kind of books I would not have clue where to start… or books on almost anything practical. So maybe I should read what the good book says and receive some gentle instruction:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid (Deut. 21:18-21).

Yesterday’s post on gift or title still does not make the calling of ‘city elder’ too appealing! A gift to live up to?

All designed to make sure Israel will be kept in order, everyone will ‘be afraid’. Such a tough old book to understand. I am coming to the end of Deuteronomy, Joshua will be something to look forward to though not sure what to make of all the blood in there, not to mention the lack of archaeological evidence for so much of what is claimed… Anyway I have got through some of this law stuff by also reading Psalms – though one or two tough bits there too!

I like Jesus. He told a story that is a bit of a challenge to the law about ‘discipline’ that I quoted above. He told the parable of the very outrageous father, the ‘prodigal’ father, and I don’t think it is going too far to suggest he probably intended us to understand something about God through the parable, the God who gave the Deuteronomy instruction.

The so-called prodigal son certainly qualifies for a good old stoning. It starts with his ‘I wish you were dead’ attitude and speech to his father, for to ask for one’s inheritance in that culture, something given at death, was to say just that. He went off, rebellious, disrespectful, lived a life of debauchery including being with prostitutes.

WOW… he decides to come home! Any decent father knows exactly what to do, and it has to be done otherwise law and order, society itself would be undermined.

So yet again God is going to break his own law. He runs – shock, this is not in the script. In that very act he is undermining, disrespecting the status quo. It just carries on. Party time. Party time to the extent that it offends the ‘good son’. The explanation is at the end:

But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.

The correct behaviour would have been to let the son come back then inform all that ‘this brother of yours has been put to death’; rather we read ‘he was dead and has come to life’.

Life triumphs over right and wrong. The law just does not cut it, and when applied is a strong statement that something bigger is amiss. Choose life…

A spiritual war in Ukraine

Here are two articles that came in my inbox today. They are not giving the same analysis, but in reading either or both it becomes clear that to us Westerners that there is a major spiritual ‘re-conquest’ element to this.

Moscow has to be restored spiritually for it sits as a ‘third’ alongside Constantinople and Rome historically (Jeff Fountain’s article).

It is a synthesis of Russia’s national and spiritual aspirations. It’s not just Russia, it is “Holy Russia”, part religious project, part extension of Russian foreign policy. Speaking of Vladimir’s mass baptism, Putin explained: “His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.” He wants to do the same again. And to do this he needs Kyev back.

And in the words of Putin himself:

The spiritual choice made by St Vladimir [988AD] still largely determines our affinity today. In the words of Oleg the Prophet about Kyev, “let it be the mother of all Russian cities”.

https://unherd.com/2022/02/putins-spiritual-destiny/

https://us9.campaign-archive.com/?e=f5c999e39e&u=65605d9dbab0a19355284d8df&id=4bc71b39d6

Thank God Christendom is unravelling. It gives us hope for the future.

Perspectives