Friday, January 17, 2020

Big Four – Social Issues

With an election coming up this year, Christians in New Zealand are fighting against political change that affects four social issues.

  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Marijuana
  • LGBQT issues
This focus is a mistake and a distraction.
  • Salvation by law does not work. Christians do not believe in it, so it does not make sense that they are trying to use political power to bring social change.

  • The church has the gospel and the Holy Spirit. These together are far more effective for bringing social church.

  • The horse has bolted. Society has already decided these issues, and it is going the other way.

  • If the church persists on these issues, there will be a reaction. A sword of persecution will come against leaders of churches who push hard issues. This will happen quicker than expected.

  • These issues are suckering the church into supporting right-wing political parties. They will use these voters to get power, but will give very little back. Political power is a trap for the church.

God does not care about these issues as much as we do. He is sad when people reject his love, but he is not surprised when they sin. The wedge issues that concern Christians so much are normal in societies that have turned away from God. The solution is proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

In the New Testament, Jesus did not challenge the religious and political powers bring in laws to eliminate abortion, euthanasia and crucifixion. Instead, he went around proclaiming the good news and demonstrating God’s love by healing the sick and casting out demons.
When dealing with sin, he focussed on:

  • Unrighteous wealth (Luke 6:24-25; 16:13).
  • Religious leaders colluding with political power (Mark 3:6; Luke 23:2: John 19:12).
  • Imposing legal burdens on people to solve problems without doing anything about the underlying causes (Matt 23:2-4).

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Possible Future?

1. Season of Urgency
The season is urgent. The spiritual climate of a nation can decline much faster than most Christians leaders realise. Unless something dramatic happens, the spiritual decline in the US will accelerate. Revival and restoration are never automatic. They require a change of heart and change of behaviour of the church and its leaders. There are few signs that this will occur. History has plenty of examples of places in the world where a strong church has disappeared, because people and church leaders did not listen to the Spirit and heed his call to change. The expected revival will not come, unless the church agrees to do things God's way.

2. Truth falls to the Ground
Lying has become a respectable strategy for political leaders on all sides of the political spectrum. When the leaders of a nation lie to their people, and the people welcome the lies, then foolishness and folly follows. Stirring up trouble and disagreement gets easy. When truth fails, power triumphs.

3. Love of War
Because faith in military power is so deeply entrenched in America, if antagonisms intensify, there is a risk that people will seek to resolve their disagreements by military power (as they did in 1776 and 1865). The outcome could be ugly.

4. No Empire
God does not need a union of states, or powerful nations to accomplish his purposes. The does not need a Christian empire to enforce his will in the world. He does not need a powerful Christian nation to restrain evil. He gave his law for that purpose, and it is sufficient for the task (1 Tim 1:7).

God is not interested in Christians seizing political power. He is focused on his Kingdom, which comes to reality, as people freely submit their authority to Jesus and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God cannot be established by political power. It must not be confused with a Christian nation.

5. Political Empire
America might divide and fight along religious/cultural/political lines, as the divided nation flies apart. However, faith in political power is so strong in the United States, it is more likely that a powerful political leader will be given the autocratic power to hold together the divided nation. To ensure the unity of the United States, people would welcome a leader with absolute power. He would use military force to unite the nations and put down those who are rebelling and breaking away.

6. Persecution
If the prophets challenge these developments, the church will almost certainly be hated by people with power. To survive and grow, it will need to become politically invisible.

  • No big buildings/facilities
  • No public worship meetings
  • No big-name pastor-leaders.
Highly visible people and activities make the church easy to track down and attack.
The church must be invisible to political and military leaders, and highly visible to people open to the gospel. I describe how this can be done in Being Church Where We Live.

7. Political and Social Collapse
If a political-military dictator gets control of the nation, he will eventually fail and his power will collapse. The outcome will be worse than the disaster that he was trying to prevent.

8. Opportunity for the Kingdom
A collapse of political power will be a season when God can bring his Kingdom to fullness. Those who have stayed loyal to Jesus (many will fall away) will be prepared for this opportunity. They will have turned their invisible churches into Kingdom Communities that can provide all the services that the government has failed to deliver. The Kingdom Communities will expand and multiply rapidly to bring God’s salvation and kingdom to a broken world.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Nation Divided?

Many Christians want to make America great against, but God is not interested in that. He wants his Kingdom to be glorious, and for that to happen, the glory of America will have to shrink and disappear. Unfortunately, God will not have to do much to make that happen. Americans will probably do that for themselves.

If the numbers of people following Jesus continues declining, and the church corrupts itself by compromising with political power, the constraints on the spiritual powers of evil will be released. Evil will increase, disasters will be more frequent and pervasive, and the nation’s troubles will multiply.

  • The United States is disrupted by religious wars.
  • The United States is torn apart by cultural wars.
  • The United States is divided by political wars.
  • The United States is split by legal wars.

Widespread troubles will expose the depth of the division. If people are divided by hate, some will get out their guns.

No presidential candidate put up by either party will be able to unite the country. Instead, they will divide the nation further.

The only thing that can unite the country is the people’s love of war, so presidents will continue to lead their nation into many pointless and destructive wars all over the world in an attempt to it together.

Power fills a vacuum. If the situation gets desperate, a ruthless and powerful leader could emerge. He might take control and unite the nation by force, trampling on those who oppose him and stamping out all opposition. The nation that loved freedom might get a dictator, but they would welcome the order that he brings.

Followers of Jesus who understand the times should joint together in small communities where they can support each other and protect each during the hard times. By standing together, they will remain firm, while others are being shaken. They should be prepared for distress. and equipped for victory.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Rod Dreher Benedict Option

Rod Dreher sums up the situation this way.

We Christians in the West are facing our own thousand-year flood...
The storm clouds have been gathering for decades, but most of us believers have operated under the illusion that they would blow over the breakdown of the natural family, the loss of traditional moral values, and the fragmenting of communities—we were troubled by these developments but believed they were reversible and didn’t reflect anything fundamentally wrong with our approach to faith. Our religious leaders told us that strengthening the levees of law and politics would keep the flood of secularism at bay. The sense one had was: There’s nothing here that can’t be fixed by continuing to do what Christians have been doing for decades—especially voting for Republicans.

Today we can see that we’ve lost on every front and that the swift and relentless currents of secularism have overwhelmed our flimsy barriers. Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government, and the culture has turned powerfully against traditional Christians. We tell ourselves that these developments have been imposed by a liberal elite, because we find the truth intolerable: The American people, either actively or passively, approve (p.9).

The solution begins in communities.
The fate of religion in America is inextricably tied to the fate of the family, and the fate of the family is tied to the fate of the community... For decades conservative Christians have behaved as if the primary threats to the integrity of families and communities could be effectively addressed through politics. That illusion is now destroyed. If there is going to be authentic renewal, it will have to happen in families and local church communities (p.123).


Saturday, January 11, 2020

US Church and Political Power

Political power is dangerous for the church.

  • During the 1960s and 70s, Christians felt declining influence on their society. The Supreme Court was making changes that they did not. The judicial decision emerged out of the 1960s moral revolution.

  • The Republican Party needed the evangelical vote to win power at the federal level, especially the presidency. Conservative Christians were essential for the election of Reagan and the Bushes.

  • The Republican Party used wedge issues (like abortion, gay rights, euthanasia, death penalty) to bring evangelical voters over to their side, although they were not serious about doing anything about them. (Trump has actually done stuff for them, unlike Reagan and the Bushes).

  • Evangelicals sold out their integrity to gain power. They gave the Republican party their loyalty in return for some scraps of political power. The moral/social decline has continued unabated, because the underlying cultural changes have had a much greater influence.

  • The wedge issues were crucial to these Christians, because believed that they bring the wrath of God on the nation, and it will lose God’s blessing. This is not true. Judging by Jesus’ teaching, God cares more about unrighteous wealth and hypocritical religion that puts impossible legal burdens on people more than he does about the wedge issues.

  • Appointing conservative judges pleases conservative politicians but is irrelevant to Christian who believe that salvation by law does not work, because only God can change hearts.

  • Political power became a trap for the church. To maintain their grip on power, the church has had to compromise its moral standards and support a man who is immoral, by the church’s standards.

  • The church’s moral compromise for the sake of political power undermines the gospel, because people’s trust in the integrity of the church is weakened.

  • Like Samson and the Philistines, the political church and the conservative political powers will eventually undermine and destroy each other.


Friday, January 10, 2020

Doctrine of Creation

William Jennings says,

A Christian doctrine of creation should orientate us towards thinking about
  • place
  • habitation
  • where we live and what we make.
Instead of us obsessing over questions of:
  • origins
  • the relationship of theology and science
  • evolutionary theoreticals.
Thinking about these matters has drawn the doctrine of creation into a deep hole, out of which it has not emerged in the last forty years.

The church knows how to think about time, but it does not what to think about place?

I don’t just live in a house and I don’t just go to a church. I live in a place. We need to start thinking about what it means to engage with a place.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Luther and Gospel

Martin Luther got the gospel right (salvation by faith), but he was wrong about the Mosaic law and Jews (this is one reason why Nazism was able to emerge in Germany, where Luther’s influence was strong).

Luther was not fighting against a pagan culture. He was preaching to a culture where everyone believed in God and knew that Jesus was the son of God. People did not need to be rescued from a heathen world. They needed to be rescued from a church that was robbing them of their wealth in the name of Jesus by teaching them that forgiveness could be bought with money. That was the huge distortion of the gospel, so Luther tried to correct it.

Unfortunately, Luther aligned the Roman church that he opposed with the Mosaic law, so he attacked the Jewish law in order to undermine the salvation by works being offered by the corrupt Roman church. This was wrong. The Mosaic law was not salvation by works, as that could never work. If God demanded that, he was giving a system that would fail and need to be replaced by something better. Why would he do that? God does not do Plan B.

The Exodus was not a reward for the good works of the Israelites. God rescued them before he gave them the law. This was receive-do, like the gospel, not do-receive as Luther claimed.

The law was not salvation by works, as that would have been a waste of time. God gave the law for a different purpose. His aim was to equip the people whom he had called and rescued/saved:

  • Spiritual protection from the spiritual powers of evil (via the tabernacle sacrifices and the Levitical laws).

  • A way to live close together in close proximity in their new land in relative peace and harmony.

The law was not a way of attaining salvation. The Mosaic law was given to keep the people who had already been saved safe from evil and harm from each other and the surrounding nations.

In the passages that Luther drew on in Romans and Galatians, Paul was not critiquing salvation by works/law, he was opposing ethnic-based religion, where people got into God’s family by being part of an ethnic group. Circumcision and the food laws were cultural markers that distinguished Jews from the world (which was important for them, but not for salvation). Paul was criticising reliance on ethnicity for being part of the people of God.

Paul challenged the idea that Gentiles followers of Jesus had to become Jews by being circumcised to truly join God’s family. He explained that this was wrong because through Jesus, God had opened up his salvation to the rest of the world.

The law was not a system of salvation by works that had become redundant. It was a gift to the Jews that they were supposed to share with the nations when they saw how good it was (Deut 40). The world needed spiritual protection too. The people of the world also needed laws that would enable them to live in harmony. God’s law must be the best option available.

The Jews were supposed to teach the world how to do these things by living them out in practice. The people of the world would see how effective the law was and want to copy it. Paul criticised the Jews for their failure to complete this task (Rom 2:17-24).

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Empty Creation

For this is what the Lord says—
he who created the heavens,
he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18).
God did not create the universe and leave it uninhabited for millions of years,
as the scientists suggest. He would have created it as a going concern,
in which case it would look like it had already existed, when it was created.

When talking about the age of the universe, scientists are not really talking about time, but the amount of change that has occurred. By assuming that change occurs through the life of the universe, at the same time as it does now, they can express the degree of change that has occurred, in terms of time.

By rolling back the cause and effect of the changes they observe, they can go track to what appears to be a beginning. That massive amount of change that has occurred in our universe, needs a huge amount of time.

To take a simple example, suppose scientists observe a universe that seems to be expanding over time, from left to right on the diagram. They can only observe the position it has got to on the far right. By rolling back cause an effect, they arrive at a conclusion that the universe must have begun at the point on the left, many millions of years ago, marked by the star, representing a big bang.

However, if God is capable of creating a universe, then he is capable of creating a universe as a going concern, it partly expanded and continuing to expand. He may have created it at the point in time marked by the black line in the diagram. If scientists were to examine the universe, just after God had created it, they would observe that it was expanding. By rolling back the expansion pattern, it would seem that it had come into existence at the point marked by the star, although God had only created it at the point marked by the black line.

Another example.

If God created grass for the first time,
he would have had to create soil for it to grow in.
The created soil would have humus in it, which if it were examined, it would seem to have decomposed plant grass, even though grass had not existed before.

If God can create a universe, he is capable of creating decomposed plant material. He would do that to provide soil for grass to grow in and begin its life cycle.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

2020

Many people, secular and Christian, are making their predictions for 2020.

Maybe it is my age, but I don’t expect 2020 to be much different from 2019. For some people, depending on their circumstances, life will be better. For others, struck by tragedy, life will be much worse. For most people, life will carry on the same, unless they making radical changes.

Things usually don’t change that much from year to year. A blanket prediction that 2020 will be better than 2019 is unfair, because for some, life will be worse.

God does not change. The Holy Spirit is attempting to do the stuff that he has always has done. God does not wake up on the morning of 2020 and say, “I will do something different to surprise people”. What changes is how people respond to his activity and allow him to do more on earth.

If things on earth change, it is because people have changed, by moving towards God and his plan, or moving away. God is always omnipotent, but he has given authority on earth to the people that he created. So, if things have changed, his people must have changed by removing blockages and following him more intently.

Rather than trying to work out what the new decade will bring, I take a much longer-term perspective. I am interested in how the times and seasons, and epochal events that mark of God’s plan for history on earth.

The seasons change when God’s purpose for a season is complete. The Exodus occurred when the sins of the Amorites (Gen 15:16) were filled up (they had had sufficient time and mercy to confirm their path) and the Israelites in their Egyptian captivity (Exodus 2:24-25) cried out to God for help (they had changed) and Moses was ready (the right person was in place). The exile in Babylon ended when the 70 years that Jeremiah (Jer 29:10) had warned that they deserved were finished (the consequence of their actions were complete).

The season that we are currently living through is the Times of the Gentiles, because during this season the church is incomplete, as most of the Jews have not come to faith in him. The epochal events that mark the end of this season are a time of distress and the calling of the Jews (what Paul called the fulness of the Jews).

I believe that the world is moving toward a transition to the next seasons now. People who are alert should be looking for the signs that I am right (or wrong). The first signs occurred in about 1978.

Understanding the transition to the next season in God’s plan is much more important than thinking about the significance of the next decade. If I am correct, this is not a time for gloom and doom, but a time for excitement and preparedness, because the next season in God plan is the time of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

When I ask God of a word for the season, I get the same word that I have been getting for 30 years. God’s people should be getting ready, so they can stand firm together and not be swept away, during a time when everything else is being shaken. They should be prepared for distress but equipped for victory.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Another Forgotten Story

Cynthia Chung explains that China’s experience in World War 2 is too often forgotten today.

When WWII started and Japan had taken the side of fascism, China contributed its military forces on the side of the Allies. China had the second highest death toll in WWII after the Soviet Union. However, if you look more closely at the graph depicted above, the number of civilian deaths is much higher than military deaths (by about 12 million). This is because the Japanese fascists committed genocide on the Chinese people. The most notorious being the Nanking massacre which not only had a gruesomely large death toll but became infamous for its horrific torture and mass rape on the Chinese people. During this ethnic cleanse by the Japanese fascists throughout the entire WWII (which overlapped the second Sino-Japanese war), mass graves were dug out and millions of Chinese people would be told to step inside before they were shot to death. The Jewish holocaust is recognised as one of the worst crimes against humanity in recent history. However, not much is given to the memory of the mass genocide that was committed on the Chinese people during the same period.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Forgotten Story

Cynthia Chung explains that China’s involvement in both WWI is too often forgotten today.

When WWI had started, China offered their support militarily to the cause of the Allies. Japan had already become a member of the Allied force and it was recognised that their relationship with China was not on ‘friendly’ terms, especially since the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895.

China’s loss in this war allowed for a series of treatises that divided chunks of China amongst several nations. One particular region that China very much wanted back was Shandong, which was considered sacred land for the Chinese people since it was not only Confucius’ birthplace but also home to the ancient state of Qin, the last kingdom conquered by Qin Shi Huang, who proclaimed himself China’s first emperor in 219 B.C. Japan was at the time in possession of this region.

Japan was asked whether China could be ‘permitted’ to contribute military support for the Allied cause, to which Japan refused since this would give China a more equal footing with its relations to the West. Despite this refusal, China offered to support the Allies as laborers. Starting in 1916, China began shipping thousands of men to Britain, France and Russia who would work to repair tanks, assemble shells, transport supplies and munitions. Since China was officially neutral, commercial businesses were formed to provide the labor.

After a year of supplying labor, the Chinese contribution remained largely unrecognised diplomatically. By the end of the war, Chinese workers would rank as the largest and longest-serving non-European contingent in WWI.

By the end of the war, western powers ultimately awarded the Shandong territory to Japan in the Treaty of Versailles. China was understandably upset and refused to sign the treaty. The Versailles Treaty became a clear sign to the Chinese that they could not trust the European nations to support China’s welfare and that China would have to look elsewhere for support moving forward. [America did eventually intervene on this decision and awarded the territory to China in 1922.]

Another blow would be China’s earning of only two seats at the Paris Peace Conference, relative to Japan’s five seats, the reason why China had fewer seats was because they did not play a military role in the war- a role they were forbidden to play.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Trade with China (3) Slave Labour and War

The Convention of Peking was part of the settlement of the Opium Wars.

The Convention permitted British ships to carry indentured Chinese workers to the Americas. The demand for Chinese workers in plantation economies and for railway construction rose sharply with the limitation and ultimate abolition of the slave trade in the nineteenth century. To many contemporary observers, the ensuing “coolie trade” had many commonalities with the earlier slave trade—including brutal patterns of recruitment, frequent cases of kidnapping, inhuman conditions of transport, and high rates of laborers performing the work. In fact, the two practices were at times hard to differentiate. (101
Many Chinese were brought to America as coolies, but they were little better than slaves.

Chinese labour was used again during World War 1.

Even though China was still, in theory, a neutral country. The British and French governments, to make up for labour shortages in France, as well as to release British dockworkers in French ports military duty, employed over 140,000 Chinese contract workers between 1916 and 1918. During their sojourn in France, these Chinese workers were employed in a wide variety of war-related jobs, both behind the lines (in transportation, armaments and munitions production, machinery maintenance, and aerodrome construction) and at the front (making road repairs, digging trenches, and burying war dead). In evening schools set up by Chinese students in France, the workers were taught to read and write. When they returned to China after the war, they became an important driving force for social and political change. In the French factories, in particular, they had also become committed labor activists and acquired the skills and techniques of political mobilisation. (233)
Despite the contribution to the war effort made by the Chinese workers, the Western leaders who met at Versailles decided to give the eastern portion of Shandong province, which had formerly been controlled by Germany (German Kiaochow) to Japan rather than return it to China. This injustice has not been forgotten.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Trade with China (2) Boxer Rebellion

Chinese opposition to the foreign intrusion in their country continued, just as American settlers got tired of British interference in the colonies. In 1900, the Boxer Rebellion broke out. Peasants who felt betrayed went on rampages against the foreigners who were taking advantage of them. Westerners only know about the Boxer Rebellion from the movie 55 Days in Peking, which gives a rather slanted view of the events.

The first clash was with the Germans, but the crisis quickly escalated and the largest international force that the world has seen was despatched to put down the rebellion. In June 1900, the Boxers laid foreign legations in the Chinese capital, including the embassies of Russia, France, Japan, the United States. By early August, a multinational coalition of nineteen thousand soldiers, including British, French, Japanese, Russian, German, Austrian, Italian, and American troops, was mobilized from Tianjin, which had been occupied in late July. The force reached Beijing on August and prepared immediately to attack the city gates. It entered the city on August 14 and by opening the way for British units to relieve the legation compound, quickly lifted the siege of the legation quarter and the Northern Cathedral.

The Europeans followed up by sending an even larger force to extract revenge. Vessels carrying roughly ninety thousand European, soldiers, among them twenty-two thousand Germans, arrived in Tianjin. Although the Chinese armies had been defeated, the allied army carried out seventy-five “punitive expeditions” around Beijing and Tianjin. These were directed against the general population.

Almost immediately after their arrival in China, members of the eight armies turned to looting. It began with the occupation of Tianjin in late July and stretched well into October 1900 in Beijing. Later, diplomats and missionaries joined the soldiers in looting. The sack of Beijing was similar to what had occurred at the Summer Palace forty years earlier, as “loot fever” took hold among the foreigners The ensuing phase of uncontrolled plunder affected not only Beijing and the new Summer Palace on its western outskirts, but many other cities and towns in the province of Zhili. The German commander Waldersee admitted quite frankly in a November 1900 diary entry the extent of damage and destruction inflicted by looters on Beijing and other wealthy, centuries-old cities.
By the permitted plundering for three days after the occupation, which was followed by private plundering the population of Beijing suffered great, not even quantifiable material damage. Each nationality assigns to another the palm in the art of looting; but the fact remains that they have plundered thoroughly... There is now a rich trade going on with the objects acquired in the plundering. Already traders, namely from America, arrived making fortunes... If one is so naïve at home to believe that all this was done for Christian culture and propaganda, he will be disappointed.
From 1900 to 1902, Beijing and Tianjin were placed under foreign occupation. Barracks were built in Tianjin to house thousands of foreign troops, and a provisional government was set up there by the allied forces. (185)
The Boxer Protocol was forced on the Chinese a year later.
The Chinese government also had to prohibit by law the founding of anti-foreign societies. The nations that had against the uprising gained the right to post permanent garrisons in North China. The most devastating clause, however, concerned the huge indemnity of 450 million tael, excluding interest, which far exceeded the Qing government’s annual budget of 250 million tael. This sum represented the sum submitted by other countries for military expedition costs, damages to property, and lives lost. There was, however, no process by which the validity of the claims and their amounts was assessed requirement to make this large annual payment mortgaged the budgets of Chinese governments tor decades to come, with significant consequences. (185)
The Chinese government was forced to pay all the expenses of the nations that had invaded them and looted their wealth. The collapse of the government a few years later led to the nation being split up and ruled by cruel warlords for a couple of decades.

The people of the United States and Europe have forgotten these events, although they enjoy seeing Chinese artefacts in their museums and antique shows. But the Chinese have not forgotten. So when they rip off Western companies, they are just doing what was done to them by Christian nations a century earlier.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Trade with China (1) Opium Wars

The efforts to negotiate a trade deal between the US and China seems to be failing. Many Americans are angry because they believe that the Chinese are cheating and ripping off their businesses.

Before judging, we should read a bit of history. The early Chinese experience in dealing with the nations of the West was not that great. (The quotes come from Making China Modern by Klaus Muhlhahn).

In the nineteenth century, British merchants were importing exporting opium from India and selling it in China. The Chinese government was concerned about their impact that opium was having on their people, so they closed the border to British merchants. The British were upset by this action, so they sent gunboats.

In June 1840, with the arrival of a British fleet at the mouth of the Guangzhou River, the first Opium War began- The war lasted almost two years and was a complete disaster for the Qing empire. By the summer of 1842, the British fleet celebrated victory as it reached the Yangzi, and prepared to shell the old capital, Nanjing, in central China. The Qing court capitulated shortly thereafter. Negotiations with the British were held onboard a British ship and in a small temple just outside of the city walk of Nanjing. (94)
The Treaty of Nanjing (August 1841), the first of the so-called unequal treaties, opened China to the West and marked the beginning of a growing western dominance in the nation. According to its terms, the Qing had to open Guangzhou and tour other ports for direct trade between foreigners and Chinese. The island of Hong Kong was ceded to Britain in perpetuity and China agreed to pay twenty-one million silver dollars in reparations British merchants who had been driven out of Guangzhou. Twenty-one million silver dollars represented a considerable burden for the already strained Qing treasury. A supplementary treaty signed the following year gave Britain extraterritoriality—that is, full exemption from local laws for all its subjects in China. In 1843, France and the United States, and in 1858, Russia, negotiated treaties similar to England’s Nanjing Treaty, including provisions for extraterritoriality (94).
A second Opium War was fought between 1856 and 1860.
After the first Opium War, the city of Guangzhou became a center of anti-European agitation. The literati of the city’s great academies protested against “barbarians” entering the city. A movement emerged in Guangdong province, promoting the fortification and militarization of villages and small towns for self-defense.., Local society rose up against the European presence, to protect their economic interests and their homeland. (95)
When a British ship was captured, the government did not hesitate to start planning a reprisal.
What happened next was unprecedented. France and Great Britain formed an armada the likes of which the world had not yet seen. The fleet that departed for North China in the summer of 1860 numbered 41 war vessels and 143 transporters, carrying 24,000 Indian, British, and French troops artillery, and engineers; thousands of horses and mules; and thousands of support personnel. (98)
The Chinese lost all the ensuing battles.
The empire had to watch helplessly as even the capital Beijing was occupied in mid-October 1860, driving the Xianfeng emperor out of the city to his summer palace at Chengde. The Qing army lost over five thousand men...

After occupying Beijing, the troops set out for a palace complex on the outskirts of Beijing called Yuanmingyuan (the Garden of Perfect Brightness) built by the Qianlong emperor at the height of the Qing empire. In revenge for the Qing military’s violence against the thirty-nine English and French prisoners it had captured, Lord Elgin ordered the British army to destroy and burn Yuanmingyuan to the ground. It took two full days of burning and demolition to destroy the hundreds of exquisite palaces and buildings in Yuanmingyuan. Ironically, this had been a palace complex, perhaps the only one in the Qing empire, that featured a section of European-style buildings, fountains, and formal gardens. Called “Western Mansions” (Xiyang Lou), it was modelled on Italian baroque architecture, which the Chinese had become acquainted with from drawings and descriptions by Italian and French missionaries At the center of Western Mansions was a Mediterranean-style landscape of fountains, basins, and waterworks surrounded by a palace, pavilions, aviaries, and a maze. This section of the palace reflected Qing China’s curiosity about foreign objects and interest in foreign civilizations. The gardens also had hundreds of Chinese-style palace buildings—art pavilions, pagodas, temples, and libraries—as well as Tibetan and Mongolian-style buildings.

Before burning the rich and lavishly appointed palaces, British and French soldiers and officers carried away as much loot as they could. A French soldier wrote: “I was dumbfounded, stunned, bewildered by what I had seen, suddenly Thousand and One Nights seem perfectly believable to me. I have walked for more than two days over more than 50 million worth of silks, jewels, porcelain, bronzes, sculptures and treasures! I do not think we have anything like it since the sack of Rome by the barbarians.” (99)

Imagine if the Chinese had sailed up the Thames and looted Windsor Castle of all its treasures. Would that ever be forgotten?
The 1858 and 1860 treaties extended the foreign privileges granted in the first Opium War and confirmed or legalized the developments in the treaty-port system. Great Britain, France, Russia, and the United States would die right to establish embassies in Beijing, marking the first opening of and France of eight million taels of silver each, and compensation to British merchants of three million taels of silver. Eleven additional ports were opened to foreign residence and trade, including Niuzhuang, Tamsui (Taiwan), Hankou, Nanjing, and Tianjin. The lease of the Kowloon peninsula was ceded to Great Britain. Foreigners, especially merchants and missionaries, were allowed free movement throughout the interior. Hardest to swallow for Qing authorities were not necessarily the economic rights given to western governments, such as trade and the opening of treaty ports, but the non-economic political privileges that affected the stability of social order. Chief among them was the legalization of opium, which would all but guarantee a deepening of the social and economic problems caused by opium addiction. (101)
The British and French used military power to get the monopoly over drug dealing in China.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Incarnation

A creator god becoming a human, a created species, is an amazing event. What problem made this extreme event necessary.

God had created humans in his image and given them authority over the earth. Because humans have authority, the solution to any problem on earth has to come from a human.

The spiritual powers of evil tricked humans into rejecting God’s authority. By submitting to the deceiver, they handed authority on earth to the spiritual powers of evil. They set about destroying every aspect of God’s good creation.

The creation was becoming a problem.

  • Earth was being wrecked, but God could not do anything about it, because he no longer had authority to intervene on the earth. He needed permission from humans with authority on earth before he could act to rescue his creation.
  • Humans had given the spiritual powers of evil authority on earth, so they were not strong enough to defeat them.
  • The spiritual powers of evil would not willingly surrender their authority back to humans.
To break the impasse, a human person needed to take back authority over the earth. He had to rescue his fellow humans from the clutches of the spiritual powers of evil without being caught himself.

The only solution was for God to become a human. That is the incarnation. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and Jesus was birthed in her as God, yet also as a human.

Jesus was truly human, so he could take back authority on earth. He had the authority on earth to do what had to be done to defeat the spiritual powers of evil and rescue humans and the earth from their power. He never disobeyed God, so the spiritual powers of evil were never able to capture him. What a wonderful rescuer.

I explain this in more detail in Kingdom Authority.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Whose Shoulder?

Isaiah prophesied boldly about Jesus.

For to us, a child is born,
to us, a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.

Of the increase of his
government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign … over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
The government will be on his shoulder.

Who?

The Child
Jesus.

The simple reading of this text is that Jesus will be the government
from that time forward and forever.

So why does Donald Trump think that he should be the government?
or Boris Johnson, or Angela Merkel, or Xi Jinping, or Vladimir Putin, or Jacinda Adern?

Why do we put our faith in democracy?
Why do we think that we can vote in a new government,
At the next election?

Herod understood Isaiah's prophecy.
He knew that his government was a goner,
so he tried to kill Jesus,
but he was still a goner.

Mary understood it too. That is why she said,
Kings would be thrown down from their thrones
and the humble raised up.

The spiritual powers of evil understood the threat.
That is why they came up with clever deception that
this prophecy is "Not for now, but for later",
"Jesus government comes at the end of the age."
You could trust them to thrust their shoulder in.

The government is on Jesus' shoulder.
He will govern with justice and righteousness.
and his government will never stop increasing.
The Zeal of the Lord will do it.

When?

Not in the future.
No!
From that time on and forever.

We had better work out what this means.
Soon!

Political Power

It took me 30 years, of being a politics junky, learning political science, studying political theory, learning theology and working for the government, to realise that political power is not a solution to the problems of the world.

Having understood that truth, my thinking about everything has changed. The resulting insights are described in detail in my book called the Government of God.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Disruption

Donald Trump is a disrupter, not a rescuer.
At best, God is using him to expose the heart of the nation.

The prophets should have been doing this, but they have remained silent, because they love political power and influence.
God is revealing:

  • The Greed and Selfishness of the Finance Sector.
    These merchants of debt become rich by enslaving people and burdening them down with debt.
    then cry out for the government to cancel their debts when the tower of debt they have built and prospered from falls over.
    The GFC should have exposed them in 2008, but that was not enough.

  • The Foolishness and Folly of the Federal Reserve.
    They pretend to know what they are doing, but every solution they come up with causes another problem they don’t understand, but needs a new solution that they are not sure will work.
    They do not have an economic theory to support their decisions, but are working things out as they go.

  • The Greed and Callousness of the large corporations that dominate the US Economy.
    They shifted their activities to China to get the benefit of cheap labour,
    betraying their faithful employees by throwing them on the scrapheap
    then scream for the government to help when the Chinese cheat on them.

  • The Corruption and Dishonesty of the Congress.
    Newly elected representatives and senators go up to DC with enthusiasm to do good, but are sucked in by the pride of power, so they sell out and become rich.
    The government spirits that control the nation continue to set the direction of the nation.
    Hunter Biden benefiting from his father’s position to be become wealthy is so normal in both political parties that no one is even shocked by it.

  • The Impotence and Fragility of Presidential Power.
    God began exposing this through Barack Obama. He came in promising to bring change, but after two terms nothing much had changed. He gave a Nobel-prize-winning speech in Egypt announcing a reset of US policy in the Middle East, but nothing changed.
    Donald Trump came in promising to change foreign policy and drain the swamp, but everything carries on the same.
    While the government-spirits that control the nation have not changed, so presidential power changes nothing.

    /li>
  • The Duplicity and Warmongering of the US military.
    Their commander-in-chief announces the withdrawal of troops from a war
    but the twist his command into an excuse to increase the number of troops and get them to stay longer.
    They lie to cover up their failures by pretending they are successful.
    They hate peace, because they need continuous war to enrich their friends in the defence industries.


  • The Ferocity and Fickleness of the security agencies: FBI, CIA and TSA
    They cheat, lie and kill to advance their own interests while pretending to do what is best for the nation.


  • The Lying and Duplicity of the news media.
    They are willing to lie to support the power of the political leaders, the military forces and the security agencies of the nation, even when they are doing evil.


However, Donald Trump cannot save America.

Only God’s people can do that, by preaching the good news in the power of the Spirit and teaching those who freely choose to follow Jesus how to obey his commands and become part of his better kingdom.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Third Way

Jerry Sittser has just released a book called Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian "Third Way" Changed the World . I have not read the book yet, but I have listened to an interview with Jerry about the book. The following paragraphs are the notes that I took while listening to the interview.

In the Greco Roman world, there were no church buildings. There were only people of God living in community in the world. Saying to people that you were going to church would not make sense to them. They would say, “You can’t go to church, you are the church".

We g to a church. We go to this building which is like a castle surrounded by a cement moat. We are constantly isolated. We live in homes. We go to the patio where we have our small group on. We attend a church that is dead space in any neighbourhood or community.

In the ancient world, that community life was much more public. Christians could not hide like we can hide today. So, the house church/community became a form of witness in the Greco-Roman world. People could see the obvious difference it made to become a Christian and follow Jesus.

The community was their form of witness. Their witness was inviting people into a community, not asking them to go to a church meeting.

Christians lived amongst the Romans (unlike the Jews who had to separate out). They shopped at the same markets and sent their children to the same schools. They looked like everyone else, but they were different. They were different in the way that they lived.

Christians immersed themselves in their culture, but they were able to maintain their difference based on the light of their belief in Jesus incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension.

They were revolutionary, without being seditionary. There were no marches on Rome. No protests. There were no political rallies. They were a quiet grassroots force that over a couple centuries had an enormous impact on their culture.

They permeated the culture like yeast. They believed in the Kingdom. They believed in God’s rule over all of reality, including the Roman world. They saw themselves as a new commonwealth, without armies, without borders without traditional Romans Institutions. This is why Rome saw the church as a menace, although it seemed that they had no reason to fear it.

Christians have accommodated themselves to the world in many ways. One is politics. The church has compromised by wanting political power, but at a cost to the gospel. It is a very costly move. Churches are divided by their political affiliation.

Wealth has shaped American Christianity. We tend to uproot Jesus from the grand story for God’s redemption of the world and replant Jesus into a cultural narrative: capitalism, democracy, socialism, whatever. That tends to shape how we read the gospels. Luke has a lot to say about wealth. We ignore it, to our peril.





Friday, December 20, 2019

Ten Reasons - Response

Most American Christians will be surprised by the suggestion that the United States is becoming the Beast described in the visions received by Daniel and John. While the accepted teaching was that the Beast would emerge in Europe, American Christians could give thanks that they would not be affected. Now the finger is being pointed in a different direction, they will have to think about how they should respond.

The future of the nation is not set. If the gospel goes forth in the power of the spirits and the prophets challenge the nation about the direction it is going, the nation might repent of its false ideas and turn back to the ways of God. It could become a place where the Kingdom of God emerges in fulness. God would prefer that outcome, but it is not guaranteed. It depends on how his people and the nation respond to his call.

There is currently a battle going on for the American soul. Christians assume that they will win the struggle. I suspect that the dark side is stronger than they realise, and will eventually make it to the top. We may be already seeing it manifest in many aspects of US government. People who hear the voice of God should be getting prepared for living through a season when the Beast emerges.

The Beast will persecute the church, so it will need to adopt an organisational structure that is persecution proof. The safest place to be during the season of the Beast power is a strong community of followers of Jesus, who are committed to loving one other by serving and protecting each other. I have described how these would function in Kingdom Communities and Being Church Where We Live.

Fortunately, the best witness to Jesus is also a community of his followers caring for each other in the presence of the watching world. So regardless of the outcome, Kingdom Communities are the best option for Christians in the United States.

The full list can be found at Ten Reasons