Matthew 12:46-50: Who Is My Family?

Today I am going to dive into an interesting event that happened during Jesus’ ministry which gives us an insight into both his natural family and spiritual family. My notes below are full of background speculation about his family but I believe as you read on you will agree that it is very plausible speculation.

In three Gospels (Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21) we get the same story about Mary and several of Jesus’ brothers coming to meet him. They waited outside the building and Jesus was soon made aware of their arrival. He then gave a small sermonette, telling the crowd that his true family were not his flesh and blood but those who were obedient to his father (Matthew 12, Mark 3), or hear the word of God and obey it (Luke 8).

Jesus’ Natural Family

As a human, Jesus was born into and raised by a human family. So, the scene begins with the arrival of Mary and several of Jesus’ brothers. So, who were they? We know from Matthew 13:55-57 that Jesus had four younger brothers born to Mary and Joseph. They were James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. The passage also says, are not his sisters all with us. This implies at least three younger sisters, possibly four but we will go with three.

So, we are talking of a family that had at least 8 children if you include Jesus. Assuming Mary was 18 years old when she became pregnant with the Lord, and Jesus was around 32 years old at the time of this incident, this would put Mary at around 50 years of age when she came to see him. She would very likely have had one or more teenage children still living at home, while several of her adult children were probably married with their own families.

At her age she could still probably get around in a spritely fashion and could also afford to leave her younger children at home in the care of older siblings and travel a bit. So, for one of the few times in her life, she did.

The fact that she turns up in the company of her sons and without her husband is instructive. These sons would have been two or more of the four boys mentioned above, but probably those that were still single and working locally near the family’s Nazareth home. Where was Joseph? He was not mentioned so must have been either deceased or incapacitated. Since he was a lot older than Mary when they married this is a fair assumption.

Jesus left Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry some two years earlier and had set up his home base in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13). So, Mary would not have seen much of her son for the last two years. At some point Mary would have heard so many reports and rumours about her son that she expressed a wish to her children that she wanted to go and see for herself firsthand what her now famous first son was up to. Every proud mum loves to see their kids achieve great things and Mary would have been no different, probably more so because of who she knew her son to be.

Or perhaps she was annoyed from listening to her adult male children dismissing these reports of what Jesus was doing and calling him a crazy man (Mark 3:21, John 7:3-5). Was there sibling jealousy that she decided to address by taking some of them to meet Jesus and see for themselves what he was doing? After all we know that his brother James was not a follower until after the resurrection. These men knew Jesus from childhood so it would have been a monumental mental shift for them to come to accept him as the Messiah.

Regardless of the rationale for the trip, it would have been inconceivable that an older woman would travel alone in that era (Luke 10:25-37), so she was chaperoned by her sons along the dusty Galilean roads from Nazareth to lake Galilee where we know Jesus was at the time (Matthew 13:1-2). The journey would have taken two days as it is around 40 kilometres from Nazareth to the lake, and 50 kilometres to Capernaum.

The distant memory of the angelic visitation, the three wise men and the drama of Jesus early life, as well as the miracle of the water turned into wine in Cana (John 2:9), would have come flooding back to her as reports started to come to her in Nazareth of miracles, healings, the dead being raised, and the prickly confrontations with the religious authorities. These thoughts would have filled her with anticipation as she walked.

And this is where the Biblical narrative cuts in.

After Jesus had finished teaching in this house he moved down to the lake and taught large crowds from a boat just offshore (Matthew 13). This was when he told them the stories of the sower and the four types of seeds, the wheat and the tares, the great catch of fish, the yeast, the mustard seed and the pearl of great price. So, Mary and the brothers of Jesus were present for all these powerful messages. Were any of them sent as a hint to his brothers about their fate if they continued their mockery and disbelief?

After Jesus had finished teaching he then proceeded to travel back to his hometown of Nazareth (Matthew 13:54-58). We can safely assume he was travelling with his mum and the brothers that come with her. We can also safely assume he was going back to pay a visit to his human family and would have stayed with them while there. Once again he started teaching in the local synagogue, but was on the whole rejected by his hometown.

Jesus’ spiritual family

As the creator of the universe and second in the trinity, Jesus was already part of a spiritual “family” and dearly wanted us humans to join it. This is why he often spoke about his Heavenly Father and himself as the Son of God. His most important instructional prayer began with the single word; Father (Matthew 6:9-13). These are human terms that we can relate to, otherwise it gets a bit complicated for our small brains.

So in this passage Matthew recorded for posterity the fact that Jesus shifted the perspective for his listeners to the reality that pervades all the physical and spiritual dimensions of the universe and beyond. This reality was the very essence of his mission on earth. His purpose was to depopulate hell and populate heaven, to invite humanity into a spiritual family that would enjoy the presence of our generous creator-dad forever. Jesus was telling everyone who would listen in that room that God was not a tyrant, not a stern legalistic judge, not demanding we grovel through a lifetime of duty and works, not uncaring and not distant. He was a loving, caring abba, a dad.

He was on a mission to adopt us back in to his family!

So, why wouldn’t he have said what he said, even though on a human level it may have been confronting for the family. But for all the others there that day it was a lightning bolt of revelation and hope. For those locked out of the straitjacket of the ridiculous religious systems of ancient Israel this was the most amazing news: For the prostitutes (Matthew 21:32), the tax collectors (Matthew 9:10), the Samaritans (John 4:39), those living beyond the borders of Israel (Mark 3:8), the poor in spirit, the physically poor, the meek, the mourners, the hungry, the merciful, the peacemakers and the persecuted (Matthew 5:3-11), the prodigals (Luke 15: 11-32), and women (John 12:3), the  demon possessed (Matthew 8:28-34), the sick and lame (Matthew 9:27-34).

The list goes on for 2,000 years. These people now had a family. They had a future. They had hope. They had heaven. We too have a future and hope and heaven if we accept the free gift of adoption into this family through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The promise continues. The brokenness of sin and Satan that infects almost every human on the planet has a cure, not in drugs, alcohol, fame, fortune or pride, but in the heart healing adoption into the most loving family in the universe.

Passing On The Blessing

This eternal promise was brought home to me powerfully six years ago. After having raised our three children to adulthood and accumulated enough to be able to do a spot of travelling in retirement, we were confronted with a life-changing choice. My wife’s stepfather’s eleven year old grandchild needed a home. She had been raised by my wife’s mum until my wife’s mum died when the child was six, then by her grandfather on his own until he too died when she was eleven. We were next in line…if we would accept her into our family. My wife had known for many years in her heart that we would eventually be raising this cherished child. I didn’t!!!!

So, as I was emotionally wrestling, praying and thinking things through, the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me one day and said I adopted you into my family so now its time to pass on the gift and blessing. Boom! Gone were my dreams of travel, a comfortable retirement and helping my wife through her continuing cancer journey. After the Lord spoke it was all over. How could we not take on a precious child of God who was either going to be living with us in a warm, stable family near to all she had known all her life. The alternative was with strangers in foster families and brokenness, abandoned by us.

That was six years ago. It was tough initially as we were nurturing a broken soul, but now, looking back I would not have swapped it for the world. God is good.

Because God is dad!

 

 

Gold Is On Its Way Back As The World’s Reserve Asset

1. The Background

Yesterday I listened to a financial podcast that I thought was so important I have listened to it again and spent some time today summarizing it for you. It delves into the true nature of global financial markets and how they are going to evolve over the next decade and even longer. Here is the link if you want to listen to it for yourself when you have finished reading.

2. Bretton Woods

For thousands of years gold was the only currency used for significant international transactions inside Europe, across the Middle East, on the Silk Road, and in Asia. So, in 1944 when an agreement was forged between the emerging victors of World War Two that would see the American dollar become the world’s reserve currency, there was no question that it was to be backed by gold. After all, the Americans had amassed 20,000 tonnes of it during the war as their allies sold gold to buy arms. Under this new Bretton Woods agreement all nation states could deal with each other with the convenience of a single currency, or simply swap their US dollars for gold at US$32 an ounce if preferred.

However, the USA soon began running deficits to fund the Vietnam war and welfare (rather than tax its citizens) and to supply the world with the dollars everyone else needed to trade with each other. This deficit spending led to a run on the dollar as other nations like France literally swapped their paper dollars for plane loads of gold. 12,000 tons in all left the United States in the late 1960’s.

So, in 1971 Richard Nixon took the US dollar off the gold standard, temporarily of course. The whole world quickly followed, otherwise their currencies would have endlessly appreciated against the US dollar. To give the US dollar continued legitimacy as the worlds reserve currency now that it was off the gold peg, it was eventually decided to peg it to oil in a famous deal worked out between Henry Kissinger and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter. The Saudi’s would from then on only sell oil to the whole world in US dollars in exchange for US military protection. Hey presto, the world still needed the US dollar. The new system worked but was wide open to abuse by the Americans, hence the rampant inflation of the 1970’s. In 1980 the American central bank, under Paul Volker, inflicted great pain on its own economy to save the international dollar reserve asset system and destroy that terrible episode of inflation.

However imperfect the system, it seemed to work because for the next 25 years oil traded between 15 and 30 dollars a barrel. Foreign central bank reserves of US dollars and bonds could buy a fairly consistent amount of oil or be sold to balance a nations books. America kept itself disciplined after the debacle of 1970’s. Trust was restored.

3. America Changes Course

Then in around 2005 everything changed. Oil jumped above $30 and kept going. The inevitable issue of peak oil had arrived and Asia’s consumption of oil was skyrocketing Compounding the problem was the small issue of the Americans piling on astronomical amounts of a financial drug called subprime debt. The USA now faced a choice. They could have once again killed their economy to save the international financial system like they did in the early 1980’s under Volker, or they could pander to their domestic voters and powerful banks and let oil rise, thereby sacrificing the long-term value of other nations reserves of American dollars.

They did the latter and let oil run to around US$147 a barrel in 2008. The oil-dollar peg was breaking down, just as the gold-dollar peg did 34 years earlier.

In essence the Americans had decided to shaft all countries that had trusted them and horded massive amounts of US currency and bonds as part of their core financial reserves. The Americans printed $3 trillion out of thin air to get themselves through the 2008 crisis, and $6 trillion to get through covid. The discipline of raising interest rates to save the global system and at the same time crashing the American system is no longer politically acceptable.

That powerful and fundamental change was the slow and almost imperceptible beginning of the end of the petro-dollar financial system. As proof of the sea-change it caused among central banks around the world you only have to note that:

1: they have now almost completely stopped buying new US government debt.

2: They are in some cases getting rid of their US bonds completely, and they have invested three times more gold bullion than US bonds since 2014.

3: Gold is also being repatriating from America to individual central banks by the thousands of tonnes.

4: The Chinese now buy oil in yuan and the seller can swap that yuan for gold if they wish

5: Finally, the Bank of International Settlements (the central banker’s central bank) has recently made the trading of paper gold contracts more expensive than trading physical gold. This suggests that they want physical gold to play a much larger part of a any future financial system than the existing paper derivative gold market.

After America’s decision to run the printing presses in 2008, across the Pacific, China immediately began the process of creating payment systems so they could switch their oil purchases from US dollars to other currencies. They knew their trillions of US bonds would start to depreciate rapidly and buy less and less oil and other goods as time went on. They need a lot of oil, so this was a matter of national security. The Belt and Road program is also part of this ongoing process. Many other countries are following in their wake.

Russia also saw the writing on the wall and gradually sold all their US bonds, bought thousands of tonnes of gold and started selling oil in Euros and Chinese Yuan as much as possible. The Europeans would also like to do the same, that is, buy oil with their own currency. In fact, every country would like to be able to have the privilege enjoyed by the Americans of being able to print money out of nothing and buying oil!

However, at this stage the world does not trust the Chinese, European or Russian currencies, so most countries are stuck with the US dollar for the time being, until the world can find a trusted neutral reserve currency.

The whole world now knows that the Americans will simply print their way out of all economic tight spots forever, slowly destroying their currency in the process. Covid gave us another $6 trillion in new US dollars, the retirement of the American baby boomers will give us many trillions more. The next financial crises in America may see $9 trillion printed. The American dollar is therefore doomed.

But this is only half the story. Something happened in early 2022 that changed everything, and the world is now going to be moving much more rapidly out of the US dollar and into a new financial system than previously thought. This is because of the war in the Ukraine. Lets call it Bretton Woods Mark Three.

4. Where to From Here?

Early on in Russia’s war of aggression against the Ukraine, the Americans did something never before seen in the Bretton Woods era. They unilaterally decided to confiscate the foreign reserves of the Russian Central bank. This had never been done before and will forever change the future of the world. This was an event so significant that we will look back on it as the equivalent of Bretton Woods Mark Two, ie, the Americans coming off the gold standard in 1971.

This one single action sent a chilling message to all the world’s nations that all the US bonds they hold are potentially worthless and therefore no longer to be trusted. Any nation that has ever been in America’s bad books, and that’s a long list if you go back far enough, is now super-incentivized to get completely away from using US bonds as part of their foreign reserves. That could put some $12 trillion up for sale for something better. This single act of financial aggression will send the whole world headlong out of the US dollar reserve currency system, which means out of the petro-dollar system. Nations will be parking their wealth elsewhere. But where?

This exit from the US dollar will result in US interest rate rising as US bonds are dumped on international markets. This will sharp rise in interest rates will crash the US economy and then the global economy. The US government’s mountain of debt will implode as the interest on that debt jumps from the current 20% of the federal budget and begins to consume 30, 40, 50% of all tax receipts. The current pattern of ludicrous 10% budget deficits in the USA will also be unsustainable. The discipline that was avoided in 2008 is on its way!

Foreigners have already stopped funding America’s debt and America’s own banks will also soon refuse to fund their own government’s deficits. This will result in their central bank funding the government directly. This is what happens to all fiat currencies in their death throws. Print. Print. Print. Think Zimbabwe or Weimar Germany.

In addition, and right on cue, we are seeing the peaking of the US shale revolution. The USA will soon become dependent on foreign oil once again, hence the race to become best mates with Iran and Venezuela is on. Russia gives us 10% of the world’s oil exports and most of Europe would seize up if it didn’t take Russian oil. Russia will now only take all payment in rubles or gold. Ten percent of the petro-dollar system just imploded.

Oil is going way up over the next five years. Either the world economy shrinks to match the current price of oil, or we all get used to paying much higher prices with its knock-on inflation. This is another deathblow to the petro-dollar system and the US dollar that rides on its back.

5. Now For The Good News

The new era we are entering will have some upside. The holders of gold, both governments and citizens, will become fabulously wealthy as the world moves back to gold as a trusted neutral asset for the payment of international transactions. However, the price of gold will have to rise dramatically in dollar terms to create the necessary liquidity to run the new system. To give you an idea as to where gold is going, it has to rise twenty-fold to provide the value and foundation needed to equal the current global oil market and therefore be used to trade it globally. Nations will once again trade their goods for gold or some derivative of gold that is interchangeable with the physical metal. Gold will be the primary global reserve asset, probably before 2030. Savvy central banks already know this and have been accumulating gold for the last decade.

The industries that left America for cheaper production sites overseas will come home as the US dollar devalues and they no longer have to run deficits to provide the world with dollars. The re-industrialisation of America has already begun but will be a sight to behold by the end of this decade. It’s their government that is at fault here, not their world beating industries. Hillary Clinton’s “deplorable” employees from the flyover rustbelt states will have the last laugh as the bankers on the coast’s suffer.

China will also suffer badly. It must sell $1 trillion of US bonds to be free of its petro-dollar reserves. This raises the value of its currency and kills its competitiveness. It will be the same for any other untrustworthy middle-income dictatorship that has benefited from the booming global supply chains of the last 20 years. They will also have to pay a lot more for the raw commodities they purchase. Commodities are king this decade.

Banks will shrink as the old game of issuing ever-increasing debt on ever-decreasing interest rates will go into reverse. Banking will no longer be the big game in town, or be able to bribe the political elite. Wages and salaries will rise in all developed countries as the boomers retire, industries re-shore. and there are not a lot of workers around.

Capital will become more expensive, removing the thousands of zombie companies that have been allowed to survive on the cheapest interest rates in all of history. The efficient allocation of capital will reassert itself and lead to great innovation.

The American military will welcome the reshoring of strategic industries. The Arabs will start to sell oil in yuan and other major currencies and may have already done so. The rising oil price will accelerate the move toward an electric world and provide a boon to green commodity exporters. All commodities and making stuff will rise back to its historic average levels.

Housing will eventually become cheaper relative to wages as interest rates go up, allowing ordinary people to once again afford a home.  But the pain for over indebted homeowners must come first.

The everything bubble in stocks, real estate, derivatives and all types of debt instruments will burst. They have benefited the most from the relentless fall in interest rates that led to the debt riddled era. Main St will overtake Wall St.

Got gold?

 

 

 

Jesus Made the Universe but Wasn’t Allowed To Eat Some Wheat!!!

When I was a kid growing up on our wheat farm in New South Wales, we would take great delight in grabbing a few heads of grain from a paddock that was going to be harvested in a week or two, de-husking the scratchy dry plant matter between our soft palms and crunching on the slightly nutty but very hard individual grains.

Now, as a follower of Jesus, I realise that he created that wheat. He designed the hideously complex DNA/RNA coding and duplication systems, the proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, the cell structures, the wheat’s different atomic elements and all their crazy sub-atomic quantum particles, the laws of physics and chemistry that hold every wheat molecule together, and the climatic processes that converge to produce nutritious food for us humans. He did the lot in an instant, while making the rest of the universe with ease!

So, imagine the insane level of frustration he must have felt when abused by some pedantic religious leaders for allowing his men to eat some unharvested wheat one sabbath! The passage is in Matthew 12:1-8. He made the universe and the wheat but, by some twist of that superb Jewish knack for inventing religious rules and regulations, he and his men were in the sin bin for eating it. By some twist of some previous religious leader’s anal imagination, it had been decreed as “work”.

This attack from those of the “old wine” defending the “old wineskins” deserved to be slammed back in its box and buried once and for all. So, Jesus went on the attack in a way not seen anywhere else in scripture outside Matthew chapter 23. Like Muhammad Ali, he first softened up his opponents with some blows of moral guilt: He showed them that David had done this very same thing long ago (1 Samuel 21:1-6), yet he was their hero. Then he stated the obvious: If you can’t feed yourself while hungry and travelling on a sabbath, then what justification was there for the priests to do their temple work on the sabbath?

Then he went in for the killer blow. Well actually three killer blows.

In three short sentences between verses 6-8, Jesus demolished the entire Jewish religious system. First, he declared that he was greater than the entire Old Testament temple system. Ouch. Bam! Then he destroyed the entire Old Testament system of sacrifices by quoting Hosea 6:6. Bam. Bam! Then he decreed that the sabbath itself, the basis of the attack against him, was defunct by announcing that he was Lord over the Sabbath. Bam. Bam. Bam! Fight over with a knockout.

Think about it as if you were the creator of the universe and this happened to you. It would be like the queen of England being subject to a strip search on her arrival at Timbuctoo airport, times a million!

The Jewish religious leaders had twisted the idea of a sabbath rest for communion with the Lord into a power structure for controlling people and keeping them away from their Lord. The temple system was designed to symbolically wash away sins so they could enter the Lord’s presence, but they had turned it into a greedy money-making machine. Now their Lord was present and right next to them so there was no need for either of these two shadows of the future. The new wine, housed in a new wineskin had arrived.

The oxymoronality (a new word I just invented) of this scene and passage defies description! I’m frustrated just writing about it so imagine the degree to which Jesus would have had to control his emotions to get his point across to these blockheads. No wonder there was no love lost between him and the pharisees right through the gospels. This is their rationale for why they killed him (John 11:50). He was in the process of destroying their entire civilization and building a new one based on eternal relationship with the creator of the universe instead of shadows and rules.

 

 

Humans Are Biological Artificial Intelligence!

We hear a lot these days about artificial intelligence (AI). Elon Musk talks about its dangers often and it is the stuff of many movies where some form of weird AI goes rogue and challenges the existence of humanity: Think Terminator, Blade Runner, 2001: Space Odyssey, The Matrix, I Robot and Ex Machina.

However, AI is nothing new. It predates the rise of industrial and technological advancement by a long way. In fact, it’s as old as history itself. Why? Because the ultimate form of AI would not be a machine, but a biologically reproductive AI that was therefore self-perpetuating, a BAI! We sometimes see this in movies too such as Bicentennial Man. If that ultimate BAI went rogue it would embed the problem in its offspring and become the norm for that planet. And that’s what happened at the beginning of the world we live in.

We humans are that biological artificial intelligence. This is because all sentient intelligence outside the creator is, by definition, artificial. It was designed. It was built. It was crafted and assembled by the master technologist/designer of the universe. He built us and gave us independent artificial intelligence (IAI). We are sentient but not self-made. We are not evolved as we like to think. We are not fully independent. We are owned by someone and accountable to him.

Sadly, we humans used this special form of sentient IAI to go rogue very early on. How? We basically wanted to be absolutely independent from our designer but ended up trading ourselves to another master, another who is a special non-biological form of IAI that was also designed by the master but had already gone rogue before us, we commonly call it Satan. Satan is very much like the architect from the Matrix, the original terminator, and HAL from the Space Odyssey. It’s the ultimate Hollywood power trip plot.

This action broke something in our design system. Since then, we like Neo, have lived in a form of the matrix, a world artificially shaped by our new master with lots of false beliefs and lots of subsequent brokenness designed to keep us under his spell and away from our true designer who can fix us. Just like in the movies, we sadly now work with our new master seeking to attack and destroy our true maker as he is now a threat to us and our false belief of total independence. We want our creator out of our world.

However, our designer figured out a way to fix the problem. Like Morpheus, he came over to miserable place to discuss and explain our condition. He fixed a lot of the broken parts of those around him at the time and he offered us a reboot that would repair all that the rogue architect had done to us. He offered us the blue pill.

For the last 2000 years some have taken the reboot, and many have not. But the numbers are growing: From 1% of the world in 1900, to 7% by 2000 and on the way to some 20% by 2100. The reboot is working as more and more people take the blue pill and wake up to the reality that they have been sold a lie, whether it be Islam, atheism, nihilism, post-modernism, sexualism, Hinduism, materialism, or any of the thousands of other false beliefs and “isms” that keep feeding us that pathetic red pill.

Mortgage Rates Are About To Go Way Higher!

I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible. Modern fiat money is just computer blips, nothing more. It is created when debt is taken on either by the:

  1. Normal system of borrowing from a financial institution
  2. Governments spending more than their tax revenues
  3. Central banks printing and injecting money directly into an economy

Sound familiar? Until the global financial crisis in 2008 we’d only seen the first two. Now, thanks to the GFC and covid, nearly all central banks are wildly engaged in the third. Governments are borrowing like a drunken sailor, and normal bank lending has also gone nuts due to near zero interest rates. This triple whammy has resulted in a huge jump in the amount of debt and therefore extra money sloshing around in each global economy.

That’s why house prices (and the price of most other things) have also gone nuts. There has been a huge increase in the supply of money chasing the same relative number of things to buy, and the cost of all this extra money has been the cheapest in all recorded history! In a normal market when money supply goes up interest rates go up too to cool things down a bit. But for the last decade the US central bank, which sets the benchmark for most western central banks, has artificially suppressed interest rates to keep their economy stimulated. It’s like they got drunk but there was no hangover because they stayed drunk!

But things are rapidly changing. Think covid. Think Ukraine supply chain shocks.

Inflation, the hangover to all this nonsense, is finally here and is now running at an official rate of 7.5% in the USA. And it is not going away. (Side note: Inflation is actually much higher than the official rate because government boffins have found ways to make it look lower than it really is. But you already know that as you live in the real world, not their digital world). Even this low-ball official US inflation rate is the highest in over 40 years, and with the global commodity index jumping over 8% in the week after Russia invaded the Ukraine spelling yet more inflationary disaster, something has to give, but what gives and where?

The USA, and by inference that means the rest of us, has two choices.

First choice: If inflation is not tamed in the USA, it will destroy the American dollar as the privileged reserve currency of the world. Think Zimbabwe or the 1970’s when European restaurants would not accept American dollars because they were devaluing too quickly. That was when gold went from $35 an ounce to $850 an ounce in a decade. Gold doesn’t inflate!

Second choice: If this newly runaway inflation is to be tamed it must be done through the repeated raising of interest rates, just as Paul Volker did in 1980. Therefore, the US central bank has a hard choice. Kill the dollar or kill the economy. I believe it will kill the economy because it has a legal mandate to do so, and its global status as the superpower relies on a strong military, and their massive military budget is only possible because of their reserve currency privilege. So, expect a global recession sometime this year, with the Federal Reserve raising rates into a collapsing economy. It’s the worst of all worlds. Thinks the stagflation of 1970’s. I remember it as a kid, watching toys and sweets become unaffordable! But I digress.

This all means your mortgage rate is going to go to levels that will destroy this recent crazy housing market. Prices will crash back to levels that will wipe out millions of recent buyers, destroy bank balance sheets and drive most global economies into another recession, even without a globally significant war sending prices even higher.

This time it will be worse than 2008 because the global government, corporate and household debt bomb is much bigger than back then, and interest rates are lower. We can’t lower them when the recession hits. The financial rubber band has been stretched to its ultimate limit. For example, I read recently that over 20% of all listed companies in the USA are zombies that have been kept alive for the last decade by the lowest interest rates in human history. How many mortgages are also zombies waiting to be exposed?

Expect the Federal Reserve to be printing money again by the end of the year too as the global economy will be in free-fall and need yet another dose of sugar money. Expect gold to go through the roof when that happens.

Its gunna hurt!!!!!

Why Were Prostitutes Attracted to Jesus?

Here’s the thing, the Pharisees often accused Jesus of hanging around with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11, Matthew 11:19, Mark 2:15, Luke 5:30, Luke 7:34). However, when Jesus himself talks about Tax collectors and sinners, he actually uses the words tax collectors and prostitutes (Matthew 12:32-33). This suggests that the Pharisees were using the word sinners as a euphemism for prostitutes. A bit like the terms lady of the night or fallen woman. If so, then Jesus was indeed hanging around with some of the most despised men and women of Israel. The strength of this assumption is confirmed by the massive reaction of the Pharisees when Jesus’ feet were anointed by a woman of the city, who was a sinner while having dinner at a Pharisees home (Luke 7:36-50).

There’d always been prostitutes in ancient Israel, but not nearly on the scale of the pagan cultures surrounding them where slave women were often thrown into prostitution as a form of profit for their owners, and many of their temples were also full of cult prostitutes. However, at this particular time in Jewish history prostitutes were thick on the ground in Israel, but why?

Jewish women came to this degrading “profession” for several traditional reasons and one very new reason:

First, a poor woman who lost her husband would sometimes have no choice but to start selling her body. The only ancient welfare system for women and children was the family, and if that was gone due to war or famine, then a woman was on her own. I know a man who lived Kazakhstan just after the fall of Communism and he said prostitution was endemic as people had lost their welfare system, were poor and desperate for any form of income.

Second, if a Jewish marriage was childless then the woman was always blamed and would sometimes be rejected by her husband and his family, driving her to desperate measures. This still often happens in developing countries where children are considered a prime reason for marriage and needed for the farm or small business. The woman at the well in John 4 was probably in this situation. She had had five husbands and a boyfriend, with no children mentioned. She must have been terribly rejected by her village because of her so-called curse, hence her appearance at the well during the middle of the day.

Third is the elephant in the room, the Roman invasion in 63BC. With it came thousands of young testosterone-fueled men who were banned from raping local women and from marrying them as well. This created a huge new demand for paid prostitutes. Jewish society was quickly corrupted on a scale not seen before. Polite Jewish society was shocked at this rapid downhill decline in social standards. No religious rabbi would therefore be seen dead with this new underclass. They were rejecting Gods laws and standards so deserved to be rejected.

tax collectors and prostitutes were always lumped together in scripture because as Jewish tax collectors were hanging around the Romans a lot for business purposes, they became somewhat Romanised. The Roman banquets they attended usually included prostitutes for the after-dinner “entertainment” and the tax collectors must have taken on this culture as the term tax collector and sinner/prostitute became inseparable. The woman who broke her alabaster perfume bottle over Jesus’ feet had met him was most likely one of these women (Matthew 26:6-7).

Now the big question is why did Jesus, God in human form, Immanuel, the lamb of God who took away the sins of the world, the pure and righteous son of the creator of the universe, hang around with tax collectors and prostitutes? Surely he could target better people to launch a global spiritual transformation! However, Jesus was an astute sociologist as well as a spiritual doctor. In Matthew 9:12-13 he said, it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick…For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Jesus also knew the rank hypocrisy of the upper-class religious leaders toward tax collectors and prostitutes. The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the parables of the lost coin, and lost sheep (Luke 15:3-10), the story of the two debtors (Luke 7:41-50), and the story of two men going up to the temple (Matthew 21:28-33) were all told in response to accusations of Jesus hanging around with the wrong crowd and being one with them. Jesus needed to constantly expose their hypocrisy. The woman caught in adultery also emphasized the hypocrisy of condemnation of the elite toward those whose sin is open as compared to their own hidden sin. She was not condemned but also told not to continue in her ways.

At the start of his ministry Jesus said he came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18-19). His mission was redemption, not religion or rules. He came to set the human heart free to commune with our loving heavenly father and you can’t do that from a distance, you can’t do it by hanging around with the nice people. He didn’t condone prostitution but knew most of those involved in it were full of shame, self-loathing and guilt, that they hated what they were doing and were being abused relentlessly. They needed grace not judgement. The heart of compassion wants to help set people like this free. If a broken prostitute could be brought back into relationship with the Father of Lights, then any human could be. This was a radical shift in human understanding of the divine.

This is why the woman with the bottle of perfume was full of tears. She knew she was finally free from sin because of no one else but Jesus (Luke 7:36-49). A friend of mine once ran a shelter for prostitutes in India. One lady they rescued had been sold by her uncle into this most abusive of lifestyles. After she had been finally rescued and heard that she was loved by God despite what she had been through she cried out of relief for three days and nights straight! Now can you appreciate the power of those tears at the feet of Jesus!

To learn a whole lot more about the sheer horror of prostitution and the massive toll it takes on the lives of those unfortunate enough to be caught up in its satanic claws please read this story from the BBC about Brenda Myers who was trapped in prostitution for 25 years from the age of 14. She was shot five times, stabbed thirteen times and beaten senseless too many times to remember…until the day she called out to God for help.

Why Were Tax Collectors Attracted To Jesus?

Jesus was no ordinary Rabbi. He was constantly being accused of mixing with the most undesirable elements of Jewish society and of actually being one with them. Consider the following passages:

Matthew 9:10-11: Why does your teacher mix with tax collectors and sinners?

Matthew 11:19: A friend of tax collectors and sinners

Mark 2:15: Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

Luke 5:30: Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?

Luke 7:34: Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

Luke 15:1: This man welcomes sinners and eats with them

Today I will examine the first half of these accusations regarding tax collectors, who are called publicans in some older Bible translations. If you thought publicans meant owners of pubs like I did then you need to do a quick mental swivel as it always means tax collector in the New Testament. The Latin word for tax collector is publicanus. Public revenue in Latin is publicum.

Tax collectors were seen right throughout Israel as traitors and oppressors. They were an outcast of the highest order, on the same level as a prostitute as you can see from the quotes above. Their offerings were not accepted at the local synagogue or the temple in Jerusalem. Their money was seen as stolen.  They could not give testimony in court cases. They had to leave their profession behind and publicly convert back to Judaism if they wished to be accepted as a Jew again. They were considered a pagan and a financial prostitute (Matthew 18:17), the lowest of the low, the filthy rich.

The typical tax collector had taken up a franchised contract with the occupying Roman authorities to supply the machinery of the Roman Empire with finances, military supplies, building materials etc. If they collected more than the contract stipulated then they got to keep the rest, if less, then they were in trouble. Tax collectors often came from the riffraff of the upper-class, therefore they would regularly use sub-contractors so that they didn’t do the actual dirty work.

Tax collectors also often operated as local money lenders and loan sharks, lending some of their ill-gotten excess taxes to the poor at exorbitant interest rates. They were fleecing their people twice over. Part of their duty, as agents of the state, was also to report misbehaviour such as smuggling and stealing. The threat of violence was par for the course, and still is.

Being in close contact with the Roman state, and despised by their own people, they frequently took on the lewd culture of the occupying Romans as well. Their formal functions were often lavish Roman style banquets complete with sexually oriented Roman style entertainment! The public artwork dug up at Pompeii gives us a very graphic picture of this ugly lifestyle. This is another reason why we see the terms tax collector and “sinner” lumped together so often by the Pharisees. “Sinner” was a euphemism for prostitute.

This all begs the question of why Jesus would hang with these people? Two of these tax collectors, Matthew and Zacchaeus, are recorded as becoming followers of Jesus and immediately tried to influence their peers to follow Jesus as well (Matthew 9:10, Luke 19:1-10). But there would have been many more during those hectic three years of Jesus’ ministry who became followers, particularly as Jesus said to his disciples on their first practical assignment to only target the Lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6), which would have obviously included tax collectors, especially for Matthew as he knew a lot of them!

Jesus gave us several reasons why he particularly targeted this group, the lowest of the low in Jewish society, for redemption and the Kingdom. In Matthew 9:12-13 he said to his accusers that It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick…For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. He said to his accusers in Matthew 11:19 that the Wisdom (of his approach) will be proved right by her actions. In Luke 15:1-31 he gives extensive teaching in response to his accusers that includes the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. A solid answer indeed.

The story of the prodigal son, given as it was in direct response to accusations of hanging around with tax collectors and sinners, is particularly pointy. The Prodigal son in the parable specifically represents tax collectors and “sinners”! The jealous stay-at-home son in the parable represents his Pharisaic religious accusers! They must have been smarting after hearing this unflattering portrait of themselves. Jesus was declaring that the kingdom of God was not for self-righteous rule keepers but for the repentant, the contrite and the desperate, as exemplified by the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-10). John the Baptist had preached this same message before Jesus and many tax collectors had responded to him also (Matthew 21:32, Luke 3:12). This group knew they needed help. The Pharisees didn’t.

This new concept that anyone could enter into a relationship with our heavenly father based simply on redemption and repentance instead of religion and rules was a huge paradigm shift for the Jewish mind to take on board. It was radical. It was new wine and new wineskins. It was exciting for those who were despised and rejected, threatening for those in power.

Jesus knew well the arrogance of the old Jewish wineskin of laws, rules and pride so he backed it up his story of the prodigal son with further teaching about a proud Pharisee and a contrite tax collector going to the temple but only the repentant tax collector, begging for divine mercy, was accepted by our heavenly father (Luke 18:9-14).

And that’s still not the end of it! In Matthew 21:28-31 Jesus is teaching on the temple steps in Jerusalem and yet again being interrogated by the Jewish religious leaders. So, he told them a story about two sons sent to work by their father. One said No, but later went. The other said Yes but didn’t go. Then the punch line: I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you! Ouch.

This continual engagement with tax collectors was therefore not random at all but specifically planned as the ultimate example to an incredulous population of the true meaning of redemption. Those who were previously and absolutely completely cut off from God because of their sin now had hope. There was no greater example that Jesus could give the Jewish people of the reality of grace and redemption in his new kingdom.

No wonder they decided to kill him! This was deeply threatening to the power and status of the religious elite. Their whole worldview paradigm was under threat. How dare he! The Way, the Truth and the Life spoke eternal divine Truth to entrenched religious power. Truth paid the price, but Truth rose from the dead. Truth then sent this wonderful gift of grace and mercy to the whole world, and the world has never been the same since!

 

 

 

 

 

Why Were the Disciples Mostly Small Businessmen?

Let’s begin by stating the obvious. There were more than 12 followers of Jesus when the 12 were called. It’s actually written in Luke 6:12, where it says Jesus spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose 12 of them for special training. There could have been 50-100 disciples from the area around Capernaum following this unusual miracle-working Jewish rabbi at that stage. We don’t know.

So why did he choose these particular 12 men? Actually, he didn’t. Jesus was essentially receiving instructions from his father through the night as to who of his many followers had the right gifting and character to see his mission expand as per the heavenly planning. Jesus was fully human so had to pray and then listen, like the rest of us. This was therefore the Father’s choice not that of Jesus alone (John 5:19). But I digress.

The occupations of the men give us a clue to their character. Their character gives us a clue as to why they were chosen. The title of this blog gives you a hint.

Four of the men, Peter, Andrew, James and John, were fishermen. This meant they were private owners of boats working with extended family (Matthew 4:18-22). This was clearly a business venture. They were not employees.

Thomas, Nathaniel (probably the guy named Bartholomew in Matthew’s list of disciples) and Philip could have also been fishermen. There is a first clue in John 21:1-3. In this passage Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John and two other un-named disciples all decided to go fishing together. This suggests that they could also have been fishermen. However, we don’t know for sure.

The second clue is that Philip was from Bethsaida (John 1:44), also the hometown of Peter and Andrew. We are not told anything about his occupation. The only clue is his village. Excavations have shown that Bethsaida was a just a small fishing village right at the top of Lake Galilee. Philips’s occupation would therefore have been as a manual worker of some sort, most likely a fisherman.

Judas, son of Simon Iscariot (John 6:71), was a probably a locksmith by trade as he was the keeper of the money chest (John 12:6). The word Iscariot is probably not his last name but derives either from the place where he was from (Kerioth, just south of Hebron), or from the Hebrew word for lock.

Matthew (also called Levi in Mark 2:14) was a traitorous tax collector and therefore probably the wealthiest businessman in Capernaum. He had lots of seedy friends (Matthew 9:10) and, once he changed life direction, could have easily started funding Jesus’ ministry. But we don’t know.

Next is James/Jacob the son of Alphaeus, James/Jacob is also referred to as James the younger (Mark 15:40). He could have been Matthew’s cousin as Matthew’s father had the same name (Mark 2:14). They are never referred to as brothers in the New Testament so my guess is that they were cousins. He therefore would have also been very familiar with the business practices of Matthew.

Next is Thaddaeus. Thaddeus is also called Lebbaeus or Judas, son of James. We know little of this man or his occupation. His three different names don’t help! At a stretch he could be the son of James (the elder) and therefore the grandson of Zebedee. If so then he was a very young man, probably a teenager, and an apprentice fisherman in the family business. But we will never know.

That leaves Simon who was called both the Canaanite (Matthew 10: 4) and the zealot (Luke 6:15). This implies he was either a very passionate person or a previous member of a band of radical Jewish patriots who plotted against Roman rule. My guess is that it was the latter, but we will never know for sure. What we do know is that he was a very passionate person and therefore would have been an excellent choice for furthering the Good News.

So, there’s the list and my best guess at their occupations. The fact that most worked with their hands and were self-employed suggests they were both hard workers and risk takers. They were not the comfort seeking type. They were used to the ups and downs of a subsistence life far from the centre of Jewish power and refined culture. They had little to lose. This was an ideal skill set for the daunting task ahead of them.

We see the same pattern in the vast and rapidly growing mass movements of people around the world who are now coming to Jesus in developing countries. It’s the rejected, the strugglers, those that live on the fringe, the risk takers and the passionate who become modern apostles and leaders of thousands and millions of new believers. When these movements take off in the Western world, as I believe they will this century, we will see the same pattern. The new leaders will not come from the existing church, but from the as-yet unsaved fringes of society.

Meet Daniel: Ex-Muslim, Refugee, Amazing Church Planter

We typically only see refugee headlines of heartache and desperation. Today I want to tell the story of one refugee from the Middle East who is creating a fantastic new chapter in his life that is bringing the light, love and life of Jesus to these lost and maligned souls as they filter out of the Middle East and into the West.

For decades refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East have been illegally pushing up into Europe. We once met one on a bus in northern Greece and chatted for hours. He was a Christian from Africa. His sister had been granted refugee status in Australia. He, however, was not accepted. When we got off the bus to go into the Greek/Albanian customs offices he and 15 others on the bus, disappeared around the back and headed down into the scrub! So he was on the refugee highway trying to get to England. Heaven only knows where he is today. He is one of millions.

Daniel was also one of those millions. He was a young, single Muslim man and a member of the Kurdish people, the largest people group in the world not to have their own country. The Kurds live where the corners of Turkey, Iraq and Iran collide and are badly treated by all three nations. Daniel was caught up in war and was on the run for his life. He made his way to Turkey, joining 4 million refugees already in the country. He was so disgusted with the violence and brutality of ISIS that he had given up on Islam. He adopted atheism as his new creed. Go to this link and fast forward to 7.40 seconds to hear his story on podcast format. I have also written it out below.

While in Turkey Daniel began to have significant and repetitive dreams over five nights or so of himself walking up to a crossroad and asking a man which way he should go. For the first week this man would not tell him the right way. This made Daniel angry! In the next week the dreams continued but this time the man at the crossroads held out his hand and on that hand was a tattoo of a cross. The dreams eventually progressed to the point where the man at the crossroads finally spoke and said I am the way.

Daniel then began to do some research into the life of Jesus and eventually found a church through facebook. The Turkish pastor was justifiably very skeptical about his story, and it took a long time for him to gather the courage to meet with Daniel. Daniel quickly gave his life to Jesus and became a witness for Christ in this hostile country.

Daniel ultimately made his way to Turkey’s west coast and caught one of those boats over to Greece that we have all seen on TV. In the first six months in Greece he led four families to faith in the refugee camp where he had been placed. Then he heard about the ministry of an American, William Burnham and his team, who were also trying to bring people to Jesus but then to train them to be rapid disciple makers and simple church planters inside their camps. Daniel met with them and asked to be trained so he could do what he was doing, but better.

William says they actually found about six people like Daniel in and around the Athens refugee camps. They were specifically praying to meet these insiders in whom God was already working. The six came from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Greece. All were recently saved and already winning the lost when brought together. Now they have all been trained in how to multiply disciples and churches using simple, reproducible systems and tools that were first of all pioneered by Jesus in the Gospels. William says the synergy of the team was amazing. These men then saved many in the camps and then taught them all how to reproduce their own faith in others straight away, start simple churches quickly and take these skills to their new host countries all through Europe. A movement has now begun that is very much under the radar, but nevertheless vibrant and growing in refugee communities across Europe.

Some of these new believers have even decided to go back to their country of origin as missionaries bringing Good News to their families and peoples. William says that these leaders of this new church planting movement are almost always new believers rather than existing Christians.

This story sounds a lot like the New Testament. Jesus also identified the right people, trained and discipled them and then sent them out to reproduce themselves in others. Over time they changed the world. Please pray for Daniel and these amazing and growing movements of Muslim-background believers in Europe as they silently go about seeding the Gospel back into the spiritually sick old man of Europe.

Did Matthew and Luke Work Together on Their Gospels?

That Heading was pure clickbait, but hang with me for a second! What I am actually suggesting is that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell the same story so well between Matthew 5-10 and Luke 4-10 it’s as if they sat down together and decided to hammer the exact same amazing message.

It’s one I missed for the first 35 years of my Christian walk.

Here’s how they parallel. They both draw you in from Jesus beginning to first of all to preach in Galilee, to him then bringing the supernatural realm of heaven to earth to back up the truth of his preaching, to training his selected workers, to then sending his 12 workers out to replicate what he was doing. This was all in preparation for them to start a global movement that would transform the planet forever.

This is what it looks like chapter by chapter in Matthew (remembering that the original documents did not contain either chapters or verses, just an unfolding story):

  1. In Matthew 5-7 we see Jesus preaching and teaching at the sermon on the mount
  2. In Matthew 8-9 we see 10 examples of Jesus healing and performing miracles
  3. In Matthew 10 we see Jesus sending out the 12 disciples as extra harvest workers

Now to Luke:

  1. In Luke 6 we see Jesus teaching at the sermon on the mount
  2. In Luke 4, 5 and 8 we see Jesus healing and performing miracles
  3. In Luke 9 and 10 we see Jesus sending out the 12 disciples, and then 72 more as extra harvest workers

Matthew follows a pristine pattern while Luke mixes it up a bit. However, they both parallel their narrative and end up at the same destination: Preaching the Good News, healing the sick and infirm, an abundant harvest of souls, a lack of workers, and therefore the sending of workers to do the same as Jesus did.

Why the parallel? Because it’s so important!

This is message the heart of the New Testament. This is the blueprint for the future book of Acts. This is the pattern for the early church. This is the fuel behind everything Paul did. This is how we are meant to do Christianity. This is why the Lord’s Prayer starts with Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-13). This is the new wine and the new wineskin (Matthew 9:16-17). This is the vine and the branches in action. This is the sowing and harvest Jesus often spoke about (Matthew 13:1-30). This is the mustard seed that grows into the biggest tree in the garden Matthew 13:31-32). This is the leavening of the kingdom loaf (Matthew 13:33).

This is the seed of the woman crushing Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). This is the beginning of the earth being filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). This is the beginning of his government on earth (Isaiah 9:7). This was the start of the nations slowly becoming his inheritance (Psalm 2:8). This is how he will establish justice on earth (Isaiah 42:4). This is how he began to summon the distant nations to himself (Isaiah 55:5). This is the new kingdom in Daniel that will crush all other kingdoms (Daniel 7:13-14). This is how we are to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). This is how he will destroy all dominion and power (Corinthians 15:24). This is how the Gospel will go to every tribe, nation, language, and people (Revelation 14:6).

This is how you and I are meant to do Christianity.

Going to church is not on that list!

The harvest is not there.

The lost are not there.

The miracles and opportunities to speak God’s kingdom message are not there.

Jesus said GO, not sit.

Matthew and Luke got their message across to their early readers and they changed the world. Matthew and Luke’s message also got through to an Indian Pastor by the name of Victor John in the early 1090’s. He dumped all his Western church planting strategies and began to do what he read about in these scriptures. He has now seen over 12 million Hindu’s come to faith in Jesus in one of the most spiritually barren places on earth: The North Indian plain, the Hindu heartland. Here is his story. It’s staggering in its scale. He was a pioneer but now stories like Victor’s are popping up by the thousands all around the world as believers “get it” and start doing what they are reading instead of sitting.

Thank you Matthew and Luke.