Saturday, March 28, 2020

Gifts of Healing

Paul urges followers of Jesus to zealously seek the gifts of the Spirit. At this time, when we are shut away from many of the things that keep us busy, we should be taking time to seek the presence and anointing of the Holy Spirit.

This is a time when we should be zealously seeking the gift of healing. The safest place to be during a pandemic is within a body of believers who are confident with moving in the gifts of healing and the gift of faith. Word of knowledge and gifts of discernment will be important too.

So, Christians might be wise to use some of their free time to learn more about Jesus’ victory over sickness on the cross, and the gift of healing that the Holy Spirit loves to release (he is not stingy).

I have put everything that I have learnt about the gift of healing in a book called Healing. But the same information is available for free here.

Ventilators or Warships

Ten years ago, the New Zealand government bought frigates costing about $300 million each to defend the nation from mostly imaginary enemies. They are now spending another $300 millions of dollars upgrading them with the latest technology. Military spending is always popular, because it provides toys for the boys and girls of the navy.

Epidemiologists have been saying for years that another serious pandemic was inevitable. If the government had recognised that that threat as a serious enemy, they would have spent a few million dollars on several thousand ventilators, heart monitors and personal protection equipment and stored them in a large warehouse in preparation for the pandemic.

If the government had made this preparation, the risk of the health system being overwhelmed would have been mitigated, and we would probably not have needed to enforce an extremely disruptive and costly shutdown. It would have been far cheaper than another frigate, and probably not so quickly redundant, but far more effective in keeping people safe.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Not God

The best way to understand God’ character is too look at Jesus. Like father, like son. Jesus is the best revelation of God that there has ever been.

Jesus went about healing the sick. He was moved with compassion when a leper asked him for help. He wept when his friend died. Healing was probably the most dominant part of his ministry. In light of this revelation of his Father, we can be sure that God is not the cause of the coronavirus.

The other important aspect of our reality is that we are engaged in a spiritual battle; and war is rough. Humans gave the spiritual powers of evil authority to be active on the earth. As people turn away from Jesus in many parts of the modern world, God is being squeezed out of the world that he created and gave to his children, so the powers of evil are flexing their muscles.

The spiritual powers of evil love to kill and destroy. The coronavirus could be an accidental occurrence, but given the death and pain that it has produced, it is more likely to be the work of evil spiritual powers. They assisted God with the creation of the world, before the fall, so they understand how DNA functions.

I explained in a previous post that coronavirus is probably a Warning Event, in which the spiritual powers of evil are trying out something that they would like to more of to see how effective it would be. It might not be the worst that they can do.

If the coronavirus is the work of the spiritual powers of evil, and they have been able to release it because humans have given them authority on the earth, God cannot just snap his fingers and remove it. Before that can happen, the authority situation on earth must change.

In this situation, the best thing to do is to pray that the gospel would go out in the power of the Spirit, so that the spiritual powers of evil are squeezed out of the strongholds they have gained. That will take longer than we would prefer, but it might be more effective than asking God for quick solutions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Doing Church During a Crisis

The shutdown for coronavirus protection has exposed the inadequacy of the modern way of doing church.

Pastors are talking about virtual church, digital worship and online services, as if they were something revolutionary. The reality is that these methods are far from the “body of Jesus” that Paul described.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body… Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. As it is, there are many parts, but one body (1 Cor 12:12-14, 18, 20).
Paul was not describing a virtual church or digital body.

An online service is a good way for a pastor to speak to all his/her people at the same time, but the body of Jesus is more than a weekly sermon. If the people of the church need to hear from their pastor to know what to do in a new situation, something is seriously wrong. If they have been taught how to hear the Holy Spirit speak, he will tell them what to do. And if people start listening to sermons online, they will soon discover there is far better teaching available online that they can get from their pastor.

Online services enable people to listen to the pastor praying and agree with the prayers, but it is far more important that they pray under the leading of the Holy Spirit themselves.

If people like to worship while listening to Christian music, there is plenty available online. They don’t need their church worship team making their selection for them. They would be better following the leading of the Holy Spirit, who knows what will inspire and encourage them.

The internet can be used to communicate words and music, but it does not channel the Holy Spirit. He lives in the hearts of God’s people, and that is where he works.

The stuff that strengthens the body of Jesus cannot be done in an online church service.

  • The gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot flow.
  • Sharing with people in need cannot take place.
  • Discernment of spirits cannot take place
  • Healing and deliverance cannot occur.
  • The one another stuff is not possible.
  • Discipleship cannot be done.
A digital church service is a very sub-optimal way for the body of Christ to function. Virtual church is not real church.

Paul used the technology that was available in his time to communicate with the churches he had established. He made extensive use of letters to connect with his friends and churches, but he understood the limitations of written communication. He wrote that he longed to be with the Romans so that he could impart a spiritual gift to them.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong (Rom 1:11).
Paul understood the limits of written communication. If he had lived in the internet age, Paul would have used it, but he would not have seen it as a substitute for meeting with people. He understood that the Holy Spirit prefers to move in the midst of a few followers of Jesus who love each other and have gathered to serve Jesus.

The church should be glad that it has had a trial run of a crisis. The current lock-down will end after a few months, but I can think of several circumstances that would cripple the church in a similar way.

  • A prolonged period of persecution by the state in which church buildings are locked and pastors are arrested.
  • A war that prevents people from moving far from their homes.
  • An economic crisis that means people cannot afford to drive their cars to church.
  • Economic sanctions that limit people’s ability to travel.
  • Weekend and evening curfews following a military coup.
  • A fuel shortage that limits the use of motor vehicles.
  • A serious epidemic that prevents all travel and movement
  • Marauding thieving gangs that make all travel far from home dangerous.
The church has experienced these types of events frequently throughout its history, so they are not abnormal.

The coronavirus shutdown has demonstrated that the operating model of the modern church is only viable in good-times. The irony is that most Christians believe that there could be hard times ahead, but they have opted for a good-times church.

I hope that when the current shutdown comes to an end, pastors and church leaders will not just go back to their good-times way of operating. I hope that they will think and pray about discovering a way of being church that would remain viable through both good times and hard times.

One way that God is using the current bad situation for good is giving the church a trial run of hard times (without being life-threatening for most people). I hope that pastors and church leaders will take the opportunity to learn from the experience. If your pastors are not thinking seriously about this issue, then I suggest that you challenge them to do so.

Here is a truth that we cannot afford to ignore. A church that can only meet by people driving to a church building once a week will not be viable in hard times.

I presume that most church leaders are hoping that the crisis will soon be over so that things will go back to normal. If so, they are missing what God is saying to the church in this season. Getting back to normal is not getting back to good times. The bible teaches that tribulation is normal for the church. Jesus said,

In the world you have tribulation (John 16:33).
If Jesus said we will have tribulations, why would be happy with a way of doing church that is only viable in good times?

The current crisis is a fairly-mild, temporary trial, but it is a clear warning that a good-times model of doing church is really rather fragile. We urgently need a way of being church that can cope with good times, hard times and tribulations. We would be foolish to ignore the warning and carry on as normal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Weather (9) Balance

We need a balanced approach to prayer for protection in times of trouble. God has promised to protect the lives of his people. However, he usually does not take us out of the world we live in when the situation is turning sour. Whatever the reason for the troubles that have come to the region where we live, we will usually have to go through the troubles that our neighbours are going through. If they have brought trouble on our region by rejecting God and pursuing evil, we will share some of the consequences.

In this situation, we should ask God to bless us, so that we can bless our neighbours in trouble around us. We should ask God to show us how to prepare. We should not just prepare for ourselves, but prepare to bless others who have not prepared.

We should ask God how we should live. He will show us ways to cope with the troubles that have come to our region. Others will probably copy what we are doing when they see the wisdom of God. And we should never stop sharing the gospel.

God has not promised to lead us away from the valley of the shadow of death. Rather he promises to go through that valley with us and keep us strong (Psalm 23:4). We cannot bless the people in our region by escaping from it during a time of trouble. God usually wants us to stay and prepare to survive and live strongly through the hard season. The enemy can rob us of our wealth and in the worst case, he can kill our bodies, but he cannot destroy the life that we have in Jesus.

This full series can be found at Praying for the Weather..

If you think I have missed something, or got something wrong, please leave a comment.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Scattered Sheep

In my planned reading through the Old Testament this morning, I came to Jeremiah 23. I was struck by the first verse in John Goldingay’s translation.

Hey, shepherds who led astray and scattered my flock.
This season is exposing the reality that the shepherds of God’s flock have allowed them to be scattered. They have taught their sheep that they can live anywhere they like, provided they come together for two hours on a Sunday. In hindsight, this appears to have been a mistake.

Sheep need to be together. Sheep live together. Shepherds do not let their sheep wander where they like, and bring them back together once a week. That would be far too dangerous, because the sheep could get lost, or be taken by wolves, or other predators. The is true of God’s flock. They need to be together.

All the believers were together (Acts 2:44).
Sheep that are scattered are vulnerable when trouble strikes.

Allowing God’s sheep to be scattered was a serious mistake, which is now being exposed. In my book Being Church Where We Live, I explain how followers of Jesus can come together with others to serve him in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is important, now more than ever, because God does not want his sheep to be scattered.

Weather (8) God Protects

God has promised to protect his people from the troubles that come against the people that they live amongst.

You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
and a shade from the heat (Is 25:4).
Sometimes, God protects his people by controlling the direction of the storm and rain during a time of drought. He can control the direction that the weather moves.
He made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm (Job 28:26)
God can determine the path of a storm. He can send rain in one place and allow another place to remain dry.
I also withheld rain from you
when the harvest was still three months away.
I sent rain on one town,
but withheld it from another.
One field had rain;
another had none and dried up (Amos 4:7).
God has promised to protect his people during a time of trouble if they call on his name.

Corporate Socialism

A few weeks after the American electorate rejected Bernie Sanders’ policies of “peoples socialism”, Republicans and the Democrats are now pushing “corporate socialism” hard.

David Stockman warns that the Crony Capitalist Thieves Are Back.

The US airline industry has spent a decade shoving itself into harm’s way by strip-mining their balance sheets to fund share buybacks and goose top executive stock options.

For crying out loud – the reckless irresponsibility of it is mind-boggling. That’s because for decades upon decades this has been a highly cyclical industry – vulnerable to global dislocations caused by recessions, storms, wars, terror and more. Accordingly, airline companies absolutely need deep equity balance sheets and ample standby liquidity, even at the expense of short-term earnings.

Needless to say, the Big Four US airlines – Delta, United, American, and Southwest – were having none of financial rationality, prudence and common sense. As Wolf Richter properly pointed out:

“These stocks are now getting crushed because they may run out of cash in a few months, yet they would be the primary recipients of that $50 billion bailout, well, after they wasted, blew, and incinerated willfully and recklessly together $43.7 billion in cash on share buybacks since 2012 for the sole purpose of enriching the very shareholders that will now be bailed out by the taxpayer.”
We say nothing doing!

If the Big Four Airlines can’t raise enough cash in the high-cost long term debt markets or by issuing highly dilutive preferred stock or equity, there is only one solution – and that is chapter 11. Holy moly, that’s why we have this legal protection procedure.

The airlines will have precious little business for the duration of the great COVID spring break anyway. So let the court-appointed trustees operate with the same skeleton crews that the airlines will be running even if they get the bailout. The level of customer service and employment will be essentially the same in either case.

More importantly, let the gamblers and so-called investors who piled into these stocks get their just deserts. That is, a 100% loss on their gambling stakes because that’s all it ever was when the Big Four’s combined market cap hit $130 billion compared to just $43 billion now.

Of course, the airlines are only the poster boy for this long-overdue moment of truth. The problem is universal because today’s rotten regime of Keynesian central banking has caused the entire financial system and main street economy to become riddled with rank speculation and reckless disregard for financial discipline and prudence.

The problem begins in the Federal Reserve
Left to their own devices on the free market, households save and provide for rainy days, regardless of income level or social status.

Likewise, in a world not poisoned by cheap debt and falsified costs of capital, businesses nurture their balance sheets and provide for cash flow interruptions either by buying insurance or setting aside liquid reserves and equity capital based shock absorbers.

Corporate Debt is worse Problem than Coronavirus

Over the last few decades, governments and central banks have encouraged businesses to build up debt by keeping interest rates artificially low. Excessive corporate debt was a huge problem during the GFC, but businesses did not learn the lesson. They have continued to gorge on debt, and now they are vulnerable.

Jonathan Tepper explains that Covid-19 has exposed serious financial fragility.

The coronavirus won’t kill companies. But it will expose their bloated, overleveraged balance sheets. Corporate debt in companies has never been higher and has now reached a record 47% of GDP.

Rather than encouraging moderation, central bankers and policy makers have been reloading the all you can eat buffet and persuading everyone to come back for third and fourth plates. The European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan have been buying corporate bonds, and central banks have kept funding at zero rates, which has encouraged a massive increase in indebtedness over the past decade.

Central bankers have long promoted high corporate leverage because they see it as a way to stimulate demand. Even now, many economists see no problems on the horizon. In the New York Times, Nicolas Veron, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, was openly mocking anyone advocating prudence, “The prophets of doom who thought that more debt was more risk have generally been wrong for the last 12 years.” Like most central bankers for the past decade, he argued, “More debt has enabled more growth, and even if you have a bit more volatility, it’s still net positive for the economy.”

But while debt has encouraged growth, it has also introduced much greater financial fragility, and so the growth is fundamentally unsound. We are now finding out that less debt, rather than lower rates is better for financial stability.

According to FactSet, 17% of the world’s 45,000 public companies haven’t generated enough cash to cover interest costs for at least the past three years. Debt has been used to finance more debt in a Ponzi fashion. The Bank for International Settlements looked at similar economic measures globally and found that the proportion of zombie companies — companies that earn too little even to make interest payments on their debt, and survive only by issuing new debt — is now higher than 12%, up from 4% in the mid 1990s.

According to the IMF, a downturn only half as bad as 2008 would put $19 trillion of debt—nearly 40% of the corporate borrowing in major countries—at risk of default. The economic consequences would be horrific.

Corporate debt has doubled in the decade since the financial crisis, non-financial companies now owe a record $9.6 trillion in the United States. Globally, companies have issued $13 trillion in bonds.

The average family is encouraged to save money for a rainy day, in case they are fired, or they face hardship. Saving some money is considered prudent. It’s quite different for business. Companies pocket the profits in the good years and ask Uncle Sam to bail them out in the bad years. Heads shareholders win, tails the taxpayer loses.

Industry can’t be blamed for not expecting an act of God or force majeure, but in the past 30 years we have seen two Gulf Wars, 9/11, SARS, MERS, Swine Flu, the Great Financial Crisis, etc. Saving for a rainy day should only be expected in cyclically sensitive industries.

But rather than do that, companies have been engaging in a rather more reckless strategy: borrowing to buyback shares. This may boost their Return on Equity (ROE), but it is not remotely prudent and makes their companies highly vulnerable. Borrowing to prop up their own shares means they have less on hand when hard times come.



Sunday, March 22, 2020

Weather (7) Sharing in Troubles

If we are living in a nation that has rejected God, we will not escape the consequences that come upon it. If drought or storms become more prevalent, that will affect people who are faithful Jesus living within the nation, too. Although he will give guidance about how to deal with the tough situation, and strengthen us to cope with tough times, but he will not always protect us from everything that is happening.

Your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5:45).
I remember a different version from my childhood, but the message is the same.
God sends the rain on the just and the unjust fella.
But more upon the just than the unjust,
because the unjust stole the unjust umbrella.
We share in the consequences that are experienced by our nation. (The church is partly responsible for the state of an evil nation, because it has shared the gospel inadequately). Christians cannot remain separate from the troubles that unfaithfulness bring on their nation.

So, praying for rain during a drought that has come on a nation, because it has deserted God might not be effective. Praying for wisdom to deal with the situation might get a more powerful response.

Pray about when to cut the hay or when to begin the harvest. Of course, a farmer only has limited control over timing, because when hay is ready, it needs to be cut. Crops have to be harvested when they are ripe. Farmers may need to pray about the type of crops that they should be growing given any change in the climate.

God might lead his people to move from one place to another for protection during a season of drought. Ruth and Naomi moved back from Moab to Israel during a famine. Jacob and his family moved to Egypt for security during a time of drought. Joseph took Jesus to Egypt as a child to keep him safe from persecution in Israel.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Weather (6) Dealing with Drought

During a drought, farmers should pray and ask God why it has come. There are a variety of possible answers to this question. Their response to the drought should depend on the answer.

  • The drought is the outcome of the working normal weather patterns. In this situation, it is legitimate to pray that God will send rain.

  • The drought might be the consequence of squeezing God out of the nation and giving freedom to the spiritual powers of evil to work evil upon it. There is no point in praying against the drought, if God has allowed it to happen as a matter of justice. The farmer should ask God how they need to change their farming practices, so that they can cope with the troubles that their nation is going through. Asking that God will stir up Christians to share the gospel might be the most effective prayer in this situation.

  • The drought might be the consequence of long-term climate change due to the working of climate systems. In this situation, it is legitimate to ask God to change the climate. There will need to be enough people with authority in the land praying for prayers to be effective.

  • If the long term-climate change is the consequence of the people of that part of the world deserting God, then there may be no point in praying against it. Farmers might need to ask God how they should adapt their farming practices, so that they can farm effectively, despite the changed climate. In some extreme cases, the farmer might need to move to a different place to live, even if the cost of doing so is significant.

  • We need to be careful about praying for the weather, as humans have conflicting interests. For example, during the summer, city people might be praying for fine weather for their holidays, while Christian farmers might be praying for rain for the dry land. One group of farmers might be praying for rain on their land, while other farmers are praying for fine weather for their hay-making or harvest. Selfish prayers will not be heard.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Weather (5) Nations

The influence of the spiritual powers of evil changes depending on the spiritual state of the nation. If a big percentage of the population of a nation serves Jesus, the spiritual powers of evil will be squeezed out, and their influence will decline. They will find it difficult to cause harm by changing weather systems. If the faith declines and evil is rampant, the spiritual powers of evil have greater freedom to work in the nation. The result will be more weather catastrophes in terms of drought and storm. I have explained how this works in Prophetic Events.

This is also described in Deuteronomy 28. The link is more direct for a covenanted nation, but for ordinary nations where many people follow Jesus, blessings will flow.

The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands (Deut 28:12).
The Lord will bless farming.

On the other hand, if Jesus is rejected throughout a nation, the spiritual powers of evil will have greater access, so troubles will flow.

The LORD will strike you... with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed (Deut 28:22-24).
When the people of a nation reject God, the blessings on agriculture disappear.

Being Church Where We Live

With government bans on inside meetings of large groups of people, many churches will not be able to hold their meetings over the next few weeks, or months. Some will be conducting their meetings with only a few people present and broadcasting over the internet so people can listen to the sermon at home alone. This seems to be a poor substitute for the fellowship of the Spirit.

Others church leaders are getting their people to meet together in homes with other members who live near them. Perhaps God is using the coronavirus to get people back to where he wants them to be. Perhaps he is getting them to be the church where they live.

If you are thinking about meeting with other followers of Jesus in your home, be encouraged, because Jesus has promised to be there with you. The Holy Spirit loves to work amongst small groups of people seeking to serve him together. If you want to know more about how you can be the church where you live, you should read my book called Being Church Where You Live. It explains how small groups of people can be a mighty witness for Jesus by serving the people who live around them.

More at Being Church Where We Live.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Weather (4) Prayer

Prayer can change the weather.

Elijah prayed for a drought in Israel as a sign that the people had deserted God.

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word: (1 Kings 17:1).
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops (James 5:17-18).
I am not sure whether God stopped the rain in response to Elijah’s prayer, or if his prayer released the spiritual powers of evil to bring a drought, but his prayer definitely changed the weather.

Moses prophesied a storm over Egypt.

Tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now… When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt (Ex 9:18,23).
Samuel prophesied thunder and rain during the harvest.
Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king. Then Samuel called on the LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel (1 Sam 12:17-18).
In these examples, God changed the weather in response to the prayers of his prophets, during a season when the people had rejected God. They were warning judgements.
I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labour of your hands (Haggai 1:11).
The opposite is also possible. Prayer can bring good weather when the season of judgement is complete.
When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance. (1 Kings 8:35-36).

Financial Markets

All over the world, financial markets have tanked. The main US share price indexes have fallen by a third in the last week. The falls have been similar in other markets and other countries. This represents a massive loss of wealth for people who own shares and other financial instruments directly, or indirectly through their superannuation funds and insurance companies.

But there is another consequence, which is even more serious. Over the last few decades, the finance sector has grown massively, far outpacing the rest of the world economy. Banks and other businesses in the finance sector have worked together to create a huge infrastructure of debt that sits on the top of the real economy. Most of these debts have some form of collateral attached to them for the security of the lender. This collateral often consists of shares and other financial instruments.

The big fall in the financial markets significantly reduces the value of the collateral that has been posted for security. This leaves the borrower with two choices. They can either post more collateral as security (if they have it) or pay down some of their loan until it matches their collateral. Both these options can be difficult in uncertain times, but the alternative is to default on the debt, which would have a snowball effect, weakening other financial institutions that are connected to the one that fails.

A significant portion of the debt is denominated in US dollars, often using foreign exchange swaps (partly because US interest rates have been so low). The need to beef up collateral against debt may be one reason why the US dollar has strengthened so much against other currencies. It is not a sign that the US economy is strong, but that the financial system is weak.

The central banks will try to paper over the cracks in the system by creating money and making loans, but this will not resolve the underlying problems that make the modern financial system unstable in the first place.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Weather (3) Evil

If large numbers of evil spirits work together, they can influence the weather. This probably does not happen very often, but when they get their act together, it can be nasty. An example is when Jesus was crossing the lake in a boat. When they were in the middle of the lake, a terrible storm struck. This was not an ordinary storm. Mark describes it as a "great storm of wind" (Mark 4:37). Matthew says a great shaking (seismos) occurred in the sea. (Matt 8:24). The men in the boat were experienced sailors, but they were filled with terror because they realised they could be destroyed.

This was not just another storm. Most storms are caused by a strong wind. This was caused by something stirring the sea. The forces of darkness understood that Jesus was a risk to them. Now he had started his ministry the risk was becoming clear. He was casting out demons, and they were powerless. He was healing the people they had inflicted with sickness. They knew that they had to deal with him, before he really got going. So they stirred up the sea and the wind in an effort to kill Jesus.

When the disciples woke Jesus, he understood what was happening. He rebuked wind in the same way as he rebuked evil spirits that he was casting out. He spoke to the said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still" (Mark 4:39)! Speaking to an "act of nature" is a pointless waste of time, but Jesus knew the storm was demonic. He seemed to be speaking to the wind and the waves, but he was actually speaking to the evil spirits who were at work in both.

The disciples just saw a storm. Jesus realised that in the spiritual realms, a host of evil spirits had stirred up the wind and the sea in an effort to destroy him. There were other boats on the Sea of Galilee that night (Mk 4:36), but the spirits focussed the attack on his boat. Jesus understood his authority, so he rebuked the evil spirits. I presume that when he spoke, a host of powerful angels forced the evil spirits off the lake. That is why the wind and the waves instantly calmed.

Unlike a natural storm, this storm came without warning and ended suddenly. Much is made of the unpredictability of storms on the Galilee, but Jesus disciples knew how to read the weather signs (Luke 12:54) and would not have gone out if a storm was brewing. This storm ended as quickly as it started, because its source was demonic.

The storm that nearly destroyed the ship on which Paul was travelling to Rome was probably an attempt by the powers of evil to destroy him and his ministry. Paul got a revelation from God and declared to the sailor that no one would die. This declaration of faith undermined the power of the evil spirits stirring the storm.

When droughts and storms arise, it could be because we have opened ourselves up to the spiritual powers of evil. They love to kill and destroy. They sometimes use the weather to wreak destruction on earth. If that is the case, we should seek the deliverance of God. In these circumstances, prayer against the works of the powers of evil is essential for the victory of God’s people.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Weather (2) God

God gave humans authority of the earth. This authority translates into authority over land. We have authority to control and shape the land. However, God has not given authority over the atmosphere and the weather. We are not able to control the weather. This means that God does not need our authority to intervene in the weather and change weather patterns.

The scriptures explain that God has a strong influence on the weather.

He provides rain for the earth; he sends water on the countryside (Job 5:10).
Praise the LORD from the earth, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding (Psalm 148:7-8).
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills (Psalm 147:8).
The LORD our God gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest (Jer 5:24).
God has a powerful influence on the weather. So, if the climate changes, the first thing we should do is ask what God is doing. If the climate is deteriorating, it might because God has been aggrieved and has withdrawn his blessing. So instead of assuming that climate change is caused by humans, we should seek God and find out what he is saying about the situation.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Faith and Risk

Many prophetic voices are declaring that a spirit of fear is spreading around the world faster than the coronavirus. That is probably true, as fear is one of the enemy’s favourite weapons. However, we must not forget that complacency is another of his favourite weapons.

The best antidote to fear is trust in Jesus and walking his Spirit while living in a body of believers who love each other and are committed to supporting each other. Ps 91 is not a magic spell. Nor is it a guarantee to individual believers. It is a promise to a body of believers who love each other and walk in the spirit together, who make God their dwelling place (Ps 91:9).

The second-best antidote to fear is a clear understanding of the risk. Many people who contract the disease will have very mild symptoms. For most people, the risks of being killed by coronavirus are quite small, and most will get better.

The world we live in is full of risks, such as being knocked down by a car, but most of them are insignificantly small, so we can choose to ignore them. Many people, especially those who are young, have happily engaged in adventure tourism events, driven dangerously in motor vehicles, or done things under the influence of alcohol that exposed them to far greater risk than coronavirus does. We should not panic about risks that are relatively small.

However, for elderly people and others with pre-existing respiratory problems, the risks from coronavirus are much higher. We do not help them by trivialising the risks they face. They might need a group of faithful Christians supporting them in prayer, and some will possibly need a gift of healing to get through.

Although they are well trained, and have protective equipment, the nurses who will care for seriously-ill people hour by hour will feel like they are being exposed to greater risk than usual. They will need faithful prayer support and strong spiritual protection while they are caring for people in need.

As I noted in a previous post, the economic risks from coronavirus are probably much greater than the health risks, and they are already being felt. The slowdown of production in China is affecting production in factories all over the world. The controls on international travel introduced at the weekend will have a much greater effect. The tourism industry will be particularly hard hit, but in the inter-connected world that we live in, the pain will ripple thought the entire economy. I explain some of the reasons in Trade and Specialisation.

When life is uncertain, people stop spending, especially on goods and services that are not essential. This downturn will affect industries and businesses far beyond those that are directly affected. The large number of workers on casual contracts or on short-term freelance contracts will exacerbate the situation.

We had breakfast with friends in the restaurant of a tourist hotel on Saturday morning. The restaurant was quite empty, so I asked the waitress serving us about the impact of coronavirus. She said there had been a big decline in guests at the hotel. She said many of the staff had been put on reduced hours. She was worried about one of her colleagues who had just taken out a mortgage to buy a house. No doubt the situation people employed by this business got worse on Sunday when the government announced big restrictions on international travel.

Trivialising the economic risks is not helpful. Many people will face reduced hours, and some will lose their jobs. Most of the employment in the tourism sector are in low-wage jobs, so they will have much to come and go on. Many businesses will struggle, and some will fail. The restrictions on international travel could be in place for some time, which will increase the economic pain for the business and people affected.

Governments will introduce support packages to help the people and businesses affected, but they will not be able to restore everyone who is affected. Many will miss out, because they do not fit the criteria. Even if they do get help, they will not be fully compensated for their losses.
Unfortunately, because governments all over the world have mismanaged their economies in the last couple of decades, the world economy is not as robust as it should be. I describe these risks in Thoughts on the Economy.

People who are struggling economically will need assistance from the body of Christ. They will need people of faith to strengthen them and people of generosity to sustain them during their time of need. I explained how this could be done in Preparing for Economic Crisis. Unfortunately, the church in the western world is not well prepared for dealing with a season like this, as most of its income is committed to salaries and mortgage payments for buildings.

Praying for the Weather (1)

Weather systems are extremely complicated. Most of the time the weather is the consequence of the normal working of these systems, without any spiritual intervention.

Climate changes over time, as a consequence of even more complicated interactions between the earth, the sun and the atmosphere.

However, God can intervene in the weather for particular purposes. The spiritual powers of evil can also interfere with the weather, but I presume they have to band together to have much impact. That probably does not have very often.

Authority over the Weather
Before we can fully understand praying for the weather, we need to answer the question: who controls the atmosphere.

God gave humans authority over the earth. Unfortunately, humans gave their authority over the earth to the spiritual powers of evil.

The owners of land do not have authority over the atmosphere above the land they own.

The land does influence the atmosphere above it. For example, land can cause the atmosphere to heat or cool. Hills can provide shelter from wind, or cause rain to fall.

The land influences the atmosphere, but the owners of the land do not have authority over the atmosphere above it. This means that the owners of land do not have authority over the weather that transpire above their land. If they have given authority over their land to the spiritual powers of evil, then they do not get authority over the weather above it, either.

The weather in a region is determined by three influences.

  • The natural working of weather systems.
  • God.
  • The spiritual powers of evil.
God does not have to get permission from the humans who control the land in an area before he can influence the weather, because they do not have control over the atmosphere above it. God gave authority over the earth/land to humans, but he did not give up authority to intervene in the weather on earth. God can influence the weather without getting permission from the people who control the earth.

Likewise, the spiritual powers of evil do not have to get permission from the people with authority over the land to influence the weather. Their main challenge is their limited power.

The authority situation with regard to the weather is different from what applies to other things on earth.

The weather has a significant effect on the earth. Rain helps seeds and plants to grow. Drought stops them from growing. If people are praying for changes to the weather that will affect the earth, then the authority of the people controlling the land might become more important.

Season Change

Dark clouds are rolling in from the sea and over the land.
The season of favour and privilege has come to an end.
A season of hostility, hatred, harm and harassment is beginning.

A sword of persecution will come against preachers
who go hard against sin with salvation by law.
When church leaders campaign hard
against abortion, euthanasia, genderism and homosexuality,
the world will react with hostility.
They will be accused of stirring up hatred and hostility
towards those who are hurting and helpless.
They will be labelled as lacking in love and compassion.
If fear, anger and hatred squeeze out of love and compassion,
the world will react with hostility.

When leaders use the sword of the state against sinners
and forget that sin carries its own punishment,
they will find that sword turned back against them.

A sword of persecution will come against preachers
who go hard against sin with salvation by law.
A sharp division will come between political leaders and church leaders.
Hostility will rise up between them and feed into hatred and harm.
Some facilities that have been publicly-funded will be shut down
to silence the voices that are speaking loudly against sin.
Some leaders will be hounded from their places of power
or silenced by dodgy legal and financial means.

Preachers who proclaim an exclusive gospel and eternal consequences for rejecting the gospel
will face terrible hostility.
The pastors who preach at their sheep from the front of their building
will be silenced and shut out.
Those who attempt to replace them will be silenced too.

A sword of persecution will come against
who have allowed themselves to be put on a pedestal,
who have taken the place of Jesus.
When they do not know who to follow,
their sheep will be scattered across the city.

After an explosion of anger and hostile threats,
some Christians will be afraid to come together in crowds.
When pastors fall,
their sheep will be scattered across the city,
afraid to return to big meetings.

When the sheep hide together in their houses
something amazing will happen.
The Holy Spirit will make his home amongst them.
He will heal those who are sick and broken
and many people will choose to follow Jesus.
God will raise up helpers from within their homes
to watch over them
to teach them the way of Jesus
and to bond them into his body.
They will gather to love and support each other in their homes.
Elders with balanced giftings will arise from within their midst
to watch over them.

......

The date for the NZ general election in September has been set. Most New Zealanders seem to be a bit bored by it, but Christians are rally stirred up about it. They see it as an opportunity to push back on the Big Four Social issues. A couple of them will be the subject of a referendum in parallel with the election. The big four social issues are:

    • Abortion
    • Euthanasia
    • Marijuana
    • LGBTQ issues
Focus on these issues is a mistake and a distraction.
  • Changing the law to outlaw behaviours that we do not like is salvation by law. We know that salvation by war does not work, and we do not believe in it, so it does not make sense that they are trying to use political power to bring social change. Advocating salvation by law is wasted effort.

  • The church has an amazing gospel and the Holy Spirit. These together are far more effective for bringing social church. The gospel can transform human lives and society. The gospel and the spirit are our weapons for changing lives.

  • The reason that evil is spreading in the world is that sin has become so widespread. The reason that sin is widespread is that we have not shared the gospel of Jesus effectively. For example, abortion is morally wrong, but we must not put the blame on the young women who feel their only option is to abort their babies. We must not put the blame on the politicians, who are watching which way the wind is blowing and give the nations the law that it wants. Changes to abortion laws are the consequence of the church's failure to share the gospel. We must not blame the world for our failure.

  • If the majority of the NZ population is not Christian, we should not expect them to elect Christian MPs. If the majority of MPS are not Christian, we should not be surprised if they change laws in a way that Christians do not like. Forcing them to apply Christian principles is not the solution. The answer is to change the heart of the population by proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

  • The horse has bolted in New Zealand. Society has already decided where it wants to go, and is going the other way. Most people are glad that the shackles of religious constraints have been thrown off. They do not want to go back to the old world of religious condemnation and shame.

  • The four big social issues are suckering the church into supporting right-wing political parties. They will use these wedge issues to entice voters to gain power, but will give very little back. Political power is a trap and disappointment for the church.
    God does not care about these social 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 to 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. Paul explained to the Roman Christians that increasing sexual immorality is the normal consequence in a society that has rejected God's presence (Rom 1:23-27). He did not tell the Romans to agitate for the Roman senate to pass laws that would stop these distasteful practices. Instead of advocating changes to the law, Paul urged the Romans to preach the gospel of Jesus, so that people's lives and their society would be transformed.

Jesus was far more concerned about different sins. He was particularly concerned about the sins of religious people and religious leaders than the sins of the world. When challenging sin, Jesus 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).
If the church persists in agitating on the big four social issues, there will be a harsh and hostile reaction. This will happen quicker than expected.

If pastors push hard on these issues in the lead up to the election, there will be a backlash from the media and activists that see them as a threat to their agenda. They have political support, so the fight could get really nasty. The social activists who have pushed these causes are tired of being pushed around and put in their place by the church. They feel like they have escaped that pressure in recent years, and they will do anything to avoid losing the ground that they have gained.

The experience of Isaac Folau is a warning. What the pastors in New Zealand churches are teaching is not much different from what he was teaching. Many are secretly saying, "He is right". The only difference is that he is better known, but if the pastors and leading Christians in New Zealand stand up on the parapet during the election, they will face the same vicious onslaught from the media and other social activists.