Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Suffering (7) and Redemption

Another important aspect of Christ's suffering is its redemptive effect. Our suffering as Christians helps sanctify us, because God is leading us towards a Christ-like life through our suffering. Peter makes this clear in 1 Peter 4:1,

Arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.
God is a holy God, and we are to be holy like him. God makes us holy through suffering.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast(1 Pet 5:10).
God is used their troubles to make them pure like refined gold, which has been tested by the refiners fire (1 Pet 1:7).
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Pet 1:6,7).
God allows sufferings to test and refine our faith, so that our lives may bring praise and glory to him. Suffering breaks the bonds that hold men in the futility of sin and all its consequences.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Suffering (6) and Rejoicing

Christ’s suffering gives those who suffer a reason to rejoice. They are sharing in the glory of Jesus, so Peter urges them to rejoice.

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Pet 4:13).
Peter commends the Asian Christians for rejoicing in their troubles (1 Pet 1:6). For him, it is a great privilege to be a Christian. They have been "born anew" (1 Pet 1:7) and have been given a great new life that is "guarded through faith" (1 Pet 1:5)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,(1 Pet 1:3,4).
We have this wonderful privilege, so we can rejoice even in suffering. We are chosen by God, and nothing can take away the joy that this knowledge brings. Even suffering is a cause for rejoicing because it purges and strengthens our character, unites us with Christ, and is a prelude to the glorious recompense of the last day . God's love and power is a guarantee of our hope, so we can rejoice with confidence.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Suffering (5) Path to Glory

An important aspect of Jesus sufferings is that they were the pathway to his glory. Peter continually links the suffering of Jesus with his glory (1 Pet 1:11; 1:21; 4:13; 5:1). The prophets who foretold his suffering, also foretold his glory (1 Pet 1:11). After Jesus suffered by “being put to death in the flesh”, he was raised into heaven, "and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him" (1 Pet 3:18, 22). He received his glory through suffering.

Just like Jesus, we also will receive glory through suffering. Peter says,

If you pre reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1 Pet 4:14).
This amazing promise suggests that most glory seekers are looking in the wrong place. Those who partake in Christ's sufferings are the ones who share in his glory. This glory will be fully revealed in the future, but is partly upon them now.
Suffering and glory cannot be separated. JH Burtness says,
It is a fundamental fact of New Testament faith that resurrection comes only after death, that Easter comes after Good Friday, that renewal comes only through suffering. The church has perhaps not so often been true to itself and to its Lord. But at those times and at those places where it has followed him, it has also shared in his suffering, and in that suffering it has discovered the joy of renewal.
Christians cannot bypass the cross. Only when we are united with Christ in his sufferings, can we share with him in the fullness of his glory.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Suffering (4) is God's Will

The fact that Jesus suffered implies that, suffering is God’s will for those whom he loves (1 Pet 3:17; 4:19). It may be inflicted by a pagan people, and even be the work of the devil, but it is still part of the divine purpose and plan. This is not easy to accept, but the reason has been well expressed by John Ferguson.

In God’s mysterious providence suffering is a fact of life in the world, which is incomplete because it is not given over in full obedience to God as king. The love of God reaches out to heal such suffering. God’s way is not to meet violence and sin with violence and sin, but with suffering and love. God brings in his kingdom, not as a conquering: commander, but as the suffering servant. He turns alienation to atonement by suffering. Sin seeks to conquer love by inflicting suffering; love conquers sin by accenting the suffering (John Ferguson, The Place of Suffering, p.95).
Christians are part of the divine plan for the redemption of the world. As part of that plan, we can expect suffering as part of his will for us.

This suggests that Christians like me who live in comfort in the West are missing something of his redemption plan.

Phc (4)

David Irving has been convicted in Austria for the crime of "holocaust denial". I am not impressed with Irving's approach to history, but I am even more amazed that several European nations have laws against holocaust denial. This is a misguided use of the law. Law can place a restraint on evil, but it cannot make people good and it cannot change the way people think. Laws cannot change people's opinions, so it is foolish to use it for this purpose.

As usual, these governments do not practice what they preach. During the 1920s and 1930s, when million of people were dying in Soviet Russia, European governments turned a blind eye. They also ignored the millions of deaths that occurred in China during the 1950s. The massacre of millions Armenian during the World War 1 is rapidly being forgotten, because it is politically convenient.

European governments are very selective about the holocausts that they remember. They deny their existence when it suits them.

Phc (3)

The British parliament has passed a law against the Glorification of Terror, even though no one is sure what this means.

The greatest irony is that the British government will continue to glorify war. Governments glorify war so they can get young people throw their lives away on causes that they do not care about. Very few people would be willing to die for the miserly wages payed by the army.

The British government is currently telling British troops in Iraq, that they are re-building civilization. This is not a cause that most young people would normally be willing to die for (the politicians never die), so they are being offered glory instead.

Most of the terror in the world has been caused by war and not by terrorists.

The people of Dresden experienced terrible terror, when the bombs dropped by British bomber Command caused large firestorms. Thousands of civilians died a horrible death. Yet the British government will continue to celebrate the exploits of Bomber Command.

Closer to home, when Australian, New Zealand and British forces invaded Turkey without provocation, many Turks must have experienced terror. Yet we continue to glorify the attack.

We should not glorify terrorism, but neither should we glorify war.

Phc (2)

The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has called on the Iraqi parliament to appoint a broad spectrum government that includes all groups in Iraqi society.

The United Kingdom has a first past the post system that gives all power to the winning party. Those who support losing parties are not represented in the government. Why is Jack Straw not urging Tony Blair to include some tories as ministers in his government? I presume because he thinks that his party has the right to govern the United Kingdom.

It is all about holding onto power. Jack Straw
would not share his power with the tories, but he expects Sunni and Shia Moslems to share power with each other.

The events of the last to days suggest that the Sunni and Shia have a similar view of power as Jack Straw. So he is is talking to the wind.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Phc (1) Politi-hypocrisy

As I listen to the statements of politicians and observe their actions, I feel the need for a new word. How about politi-hypocrisy?

There are many hypocrites in the world and will are all hypocrites to a degree. Because politicians love telling other people what to do, they seem to take hypocrisy to a higher level.

I will give some examples over the next few days.

Suffering (3) follows Obedience

An authentic Christian lifestyle should produce suffering. Peter identifies the Christian life with a life of love that does not return evil for evil, but meets wrong with right , abuse with blessing, and unjust power with suffering (1 Pet 2:22, 3:8,9).

Peter expects that any Christian who lives in this spirit will receive suffering, because they are alienated from those who hold power in the world. A lifestyle of unconditional love in a sinful and hard world, can only lead to suffering. Yet this is the life to which we are called. In a hostile world, steadfast loyalty to Christ will lead to trials and trouble.

Life is a battleground where the forces of good and evil meet, so those who take Christ’s side must expect to be attacked by the forces of evil. Our struggle is against the devil, so a life of love, makes us vulnerable to his attack . For Peter, suffering is an inevitable consequence of a godly life.

Suffering (2) is Normal

TThe first implication of Christ’s suffering is that those who follow him will also suffer. This may come as a surprise to those who think that Jesus came to rescue us. They think that his sufferings will relieve our suffering. Many Christians believer that Jesus suffered for us so that we will not have to suffer. This is not the view of Peter. The hard message of his epistle is that since Christ suffered, his followers should also suffer. Jesus was sinless and yet he was hated and mistreated. Those who follow him cannot expect exemption from similar treatment .

To be a Christian is to follow Christ. Anyone who follows in his footsteps and lives the same kind of life, is also bound to suffer.

To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Pet 2:21).
Suffering in not just a vague possibility, but something which Christians should be ready to meet. Therefore, we should not he surprised when suffering comes upon us.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Pet 4:12).
Jesus made this very clear to the disciples. He repeatedly warned that discipleship involves suffering. Everyone who would follow him must take up the cross (Mk 2:34). He promised them that they must drink the same cup of suffering as he drank, and be baptised with the same baptism of fire (Mk 10:35-45). Jesus’ gospel did not promise a soft cosy life, but was a call to a life of hardship, suffering and humiliation, just like his own. So when suffering comes, we should not be surprised.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Suffering (1) in First Peter

Suffering is a major theme in Peter's first Epistle. FL Cross says,

Peter used the word 'suffer', in relation to the sufferings of Christ and those which Christians have to bear, as a sort of Ariadne thread for the whole work (1 Peter: a Paschal Liturgy, p14).
The Greek verb ‘suffer’ occurs twelve times in the epistle, as opposed to sixteen times in the rest of the New Testament epistles. Similarly, the noun “suffering” is used four times in Peter, and only ten times in the other New Testament epistles.

Peter is immensely interested in the nature of suffering. It should be noted though, that he is not here interested in general human suffering. His central concern is with those who suffer for the cause of God. The reason they suffer is their loyalty to God. Peter addresses himself to those who suffer as Christians.

The starting point for Peter is the suffering of Christ. Although Jesus was innocent, he suffered a cruel death on the cross. The prophets of the Old Testament, moved by the Spirit, predicted his sufferings (1 Pet 1:10, 11). Peter, more than any other New Testament writer, links Jesus with the suffering servant of Isaiah (1 Pet 2:22-25).

Suffering is the consequence and the only cure for sin. It had to be faced, if God was to intervene in the world to save men. Suffering had to be borne by the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Pet 3:18). Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might be freed from our sin (1 Pet 2:14).

God loves the lost world, and wanted to redeem it, Jso esus had to suffer humiliation and the agony of cross. He is the Passover lamb, who shed innocent and precious blood (1 Pet 1:19). For Peter the sufferings of Jesus are the basis of an understanding of human suffering.

Peter elaborates a number of implications that the suffering of Christ have for Christians who suffer. I will cover these in several posts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

ToTD (11) Clever People

God wants to speak to the clever people
who lead and shape the nation.
He has a bone to pick with each of you.

You have rejected God,

You say that you don’t need him.
That’s fine for you
but you have led the people astray.
You have told them that trust in God
is only for primitive people.
You say “We are wiser now
and do not need the old ideas”
and they have believed you
and forgotten God

You have said,

Listen to us
We have clever plans and policies
to bring prosperity and plenty to New Zealand.
Do not worry about the future,
because we know what needs to be done
to make life better.
You have taught the people a lie,
because the Lord your God is the one
who gives peace and plenty.

Just when you think that
you have everything under control

and the trouble has passed
an economic shaking will hit.
You will not have predicted it,
so you will be totally surprised.
You will be powerless to prevent it,
and your solutions will make things worse.
Your human plans and clever policies
will be exposed as lies and failures.

But you still will not acknowledge your need
for God’s wisdom and help.

This full series can be found at Two Davids.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

ToTD (10) Cultural War

We are in the middle of a cultural war,
but most people do not realise what is happening.

The Great Unwashed just get on with life
working to “earn a buck”
and trying to have a good time.
They do not think
or care about the great issues of life.
They just follow wherever they are led by the cultural elite
that controls the media and shapes the nation.
The real struggle is between the cultural elite,
the clever people and the church.

At the moment the church is struggling.
It should be challenging the secular elite
and shaping the culture,
but instead its members are being sucked out
by the prevailing hostile culture.
The church is in danger of being swamped
but the world around it.
The clever people are winning the cultural war.

That economic shaking will have limited impact on most people
They will cut back on some luxuries
and grumble,
and go back to their struggle for the good life,
but they will not be changed,
because the church is not prepared
to reach them.
As the Church has been sucked into the world system,
it will be shaken by the economic troubles,
just like the world,
with which it has compromised.

God only needed a few dozen groups of ten people
totally committed to him and to each other
who are ready for the times and who know what to do,
to change the nations,
but even they are not ready.

God’s purpose in the shaking
is to even up the struggle
by cutting the cultural elite back to size.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Good and Evil Terror

The world powers are engaged in an all-out battle against terrorism. Terrorists are hated and feared, because they use terror to achieve their political goals. Suicide bombers attacking railway stations and restaurants to strike terror among ordinary people is evil.

However, when the United States bombed Iraq with "Shock and Awe", many Iraqi civilians were also filled with terror. When Israeli helicopter gunships launch rockets at houses or cars on the West Bank, little children experience terror. When daisy-cutter bombs were dropped on Afghanistan, many civilians experienced terrible terror. These are all "good" terror, because they are advancing democracy.

The little people must not use terror as a weapon, because they are "evil",
but the bigger people can use terror as a weapon, because they are "good".

When it comes to terror, the categories of good and evil are strangely confused.

Surely, everyone using terror is terrorist,
whether they are flying a B1 Bomber or riding a bus.

ToTD (9) At the Dentist

A man is sitting an examination on a topic he knows well.
uddenly the time came to hand in the completed paper,
but he had two questions that he had not answered,
even though he knew the answers.
Someone had written answers for him,
but they were wrong.
He had to hand in the answers as they were,
even though he knew them to be wrong,
because he had run out of time.

He will know what to do when the economy is shaken,
but he will not be able to do it
because he is too late.
He will do the wrong thing
because he got the timing wrong.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

ToTD (8) Ratchet Down

The housing bubble will run out of steam
and eventually burst.
House prices will fall.
However, the end of the housing boom
should not cause serious problems,
because people will still have houses to live in
and they will still like them,
even if they have paid too much for them.
They will still be able to make the payments
even if interest rates rise.
The end of the housing bubble
will only be a problem
if people lose their jobs
and cannot make their payments.
It will then have a ratchet effect
tightening the pressure caused by other problems.

If our dollar weakens,
the Uridashi and the Belgium dentists
will lose interest in New Zealand.
Interest rates will have to remain high
to bring in the money
to fund the mortgages on houses.

As consumption declines,
unemployment will increase.
None of these are very serious in themselves,
but they will ratchet each other down.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Two is Worse than One

Elizabeth Warren, writing in Harvard magazine, shows that the median American family had only one wage earner in the early 1970s, who earned $41,670, in today's money. Out of this, he or she paid the family's regular, more or less fixed, expenses: taxes, mortgage payments, health insurance, car and gas payments, etc. Typically, these costs rose to 55% of monthly income. This left the family $1,630 to spend on food, clothes, entertainment and so forth.

Now, 30 years later, the median family has two wage earners who, between the two of them, working nearly twice as much as before, earn around $73,770. But fixed costs have risen to 75% of income, leaving only $1,509 in "discretionary" spending.

I hope they like the house.

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Israel to Ishmael

Ishmael was Abraham's attempt to fulfil God’s promise using human ways and means. Isaac was the child of promise.

God opened up the way for Jewish people to return to the land of Israel. He promised that when that happened, he would provide their protection. He also promised that he would give them a new heart.

For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ez 36:24,26,27).
There is no doubt the return to the land is a fulfilmet of God's promise, but rather than becoming the people of God, Modern Israel has become a secular socialist state. Instead of depending on God for protection, Israel depends on nuclear weapons and military force. Israel is in danger of becoming an Ishmael.

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ToTD (7) Grapes of Wrath

In the book Grapes of Wrath
people were totally unprepared for the disaster
they faced.

When the world they knew was shattered,
people were totally unprepared for what happens,
they were tossed around like driftwood in a stormy sea,
they were at the mercy of the strongmen they encounter,
they were powerless before events.

Strong capable men were unable to find employment
and struggled to feed their families.

However, depression is merciful,
It does not kill people,
but wakes us to the realities of life.
In the West,
most of what we lose will be luxuries.
Losing them will not cause much pain.

A woman was staggering around and trying to stand up.
Only when they had to put their arms around her to hold her up,
did someone remember that she is a diabetic,
and ask someone to get something sweet for her to drink.

Christians should be getting prepared to support
those who are staggering under the strain
on the verge of collapse.
We will need to embrace them
and help them to stand.
The better we know them,
the easier it will be to support them.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

ToTD (6) Complacency

Two young boys were playing beside a lake.
About four metres out from the edge was a small flat island,
an interesting place to play.
The water surface looked smooth,
so the boy decided to wade out to the island.

Their father warned them to be careful,
but the water looked calm,
so they plunged ahead,
but were soon up to their waists in mud.
They managed to struggle on to the island,
but they were shocked and bedraggled.

God’s people are like children.
When warned of danger,
they ignore the warning
and plunge ahead,
because things look okay on the surface.
Only when they are up to their waists in mess,
will they realise that something is wrong.

Because God’s people are unprepared for shaking,
some will be totally shattered and others will be swept away.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

End-Times Revival

Many Christians are looking for a great End-Times Revival,
but I am not sure if the Holy Spirit is interested.
As they describe it,
this revival is the Last Hurrah,
before the Holy Spirit is defeated by Satan
(or makes a tactical retreat).
The Holy Spirit I know is not a loser.
The Holy Spirit is wanting a revival
that leads to a victory for the Kingdom of God.
Christians should be looking for the same.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Atrocities and War

A film has just been released of a group of British soldiers beating some Iraqi youths. British politicians are saying that the incident will be investigated and the culprits punished.

I get upset when politicians pontificate about soldiers committing atrocities. All wars produce atrocities. This is the nature of war. If you take young men, often not well educated or adapted to life, and train them to kill, then get them shot at by other people, some will be brutalized and commit atrocities like those on the film.

There has never been a war without atrocities. The politicians who order armies to war know what will follow. To grandstand about rotten apples and to pretend surprise is just hypocrisy. The soldiers who so beat up civilians are just doing what they have been trained and ordered to do with excessive zeal.

The politicians who order an army to war know that many innocent civilians will be killed and that some soldiers will go over the top. They should take the plank out their own eyes and take responsibility for all the evil consequences or their wars.
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ToTD (5) Good Land

The LORD has given us a good land,
a land with springs, rivers and lakes,
with streams flowing out of the hills and down through the valleys;
a land of wheat and barley, of grapes and olives, and honey;
a land where bread is not scarce and we lack nothing.

We have eaten and become full.
We have built beautiful houses to dwell in
our herds and your flocks have multiplied
our silver and your gold has multiplied,
and all that we have is multiplied
but our hearts have become proud
and we have forgotten the LORD our God,
who gave us this life.

We say in your heart’s,
“‘Our power and the might of our hands have gained us this wealth.’
We have forgotten that the LORD your God is the one
who gives us the ability to produce wealth (Deut 8-18).

So before now,
to be true to his word,
and fair to other nations,
he should have withdrawn the blessings
that he has poured out upon us.

Judgement is overdue
on this land.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

ToTD (4) God Forgotten

New Zealand has forgotten God
As a nation we once knew God;
not very well,
but we tried to serve him,
we tried to obey him,
we tried to worship him
and he blessed us.

But now New Zealand has abandoned God
most people have rejected his love,
many have forgotten who he is,
some of our leaders oppose him,
and some really hate him.
Given that we have forgotten God,
we should have lost our blessing
we should have lost it long ago.

But God is merciful
and has held back the judgement
He has held back the trouble and sorrow,
He has held back the pain,
and allowed his blessing to remain
although we have forgotten him

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Islam and Christianity (2)

I was going to say that the difference between Islam and Christianity is that Islam uses force to expand into the world, but that might not be fair.

It is true that Islam conquered Africa by force in the seventh century and advanced in Europe in the seventeenth century using military power, but the rapid growth in Islam this century has be largely voluntary. Young Moslem have taken their religion seriously and gone hard out, and millions of other have joined them.

Christianity also used force to expand during the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. Even now, I am not sure if we have it right.

This is how it should happen.
We are to go into the world and tell people about Jesus.
The Holy Spirit confirms our words by healing those who are sick.
Those who hear and see decide that Jesus is so wonderful that they begin to love with him.
They will ask us to teach them how to live in a way that is pleasing to him.
We will say, Love God and love your neighbour.
They will say, “Wow!!”
We will say “Go for it”.

This is not what actually happens.
We go out and tell people. “You are so bad, that God is going to send you to hell.”
They say, “Yuk!"
We say, "Jesus will rescue you”.
Most say, “
Your God does not sound very nice”.
A few say
, "Yes, please".
Scaring people into heaven is not physical force, but it is verbal violence.

Christians must never use the coercive force to advance the Kingdom of God.

If we use force (as in Iraq), Islam will win the struggle.
If we use Jesus way, Christianity will win and the Kingdom will come.

See God and Force.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Islam and Christianity (1)

Unlike Buddhism, which is passive, and Hinduism, which is syncretistic, both Islam and Christianity are imperialist religions. They both want to influence the entire world. Regarding Islam, Dr Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran said,

We must believe in the fact that Islam is not confined to geographical borders, ethnic groups and nations. It's a universal ideology that leads the world to justice. We don't shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world. We must prepare ourselves to rule the world.
This is fairly clear. Islam will eventually rule the world. Regarding Christianity, Jesus said in his commission to his disciples,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matt 28:19,20).
This is also very clear. Jesus is claiming authority over the entire earth. He expects that all the nations will obey his teaching and become his disciples.

A clash between these two religions is inevitable somewhere along the way.

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ToTD (3) Why the Wait?

An interesting question is why this message of economic trouble has come again, after so long. And why was David Pawson's burden not fulfilled. The reason for the delay is that God was giving his people time to get ready. If he had allowed an economic disaster to strike New Zealand at the time, many of his people would have been ruined.

He warned that when judgement came
many Christians would be swept away
if they were not prepared.

If the economy collapsed,
most people would be shaken and fall.
God would need his people standing together,
so they could minister
to those who were shaken.

David shared his burden,
he also told us how to get ready.
People listened, but they did not hear
Crash, Crash, Amen, Amen! they said,
but no one got ready.
So God could do nothing,
he could not fulfil his word.
A word that is not heard,
cannot be fulfilled.

Our complacency is a serious sin,
that has held back God’s ability to shape our nation.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

ToTD (2) Second David

Twenty-three years later, a second David has brought a similar message to New Zealand. David Wilkerson also carried a real burden from God when he spoke to Christian leaders in Auckland. The following is a summary of his message.

David Wilkerson had a strong sense that calamity will affect a big percentage of our population, even up to one million people. The collapse of our real estate boom will hit New Zealand like a whirlwind. If God has to touch every pocket book, he will do it because He loves this country.

The Lord knows what He is doing and everything is in His divine order. Many people are putting together money in the bank to see them through the storm they intuitively see ahead. They are putting their energy into a nest egg, rather than trusting in God, caring for the poor, the widows, etc.

He quoted Ezekiel 16:46-56 that lists the following sins
  • pride
  • fullness of bread
  • abundance of idleness
  • did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy
  • haughty
There is no greater sin than apathy, because apathy is a by-product of covetousness. We have bought into the idea that happiness only happens when we have nice things, a house, a job, etc. Apathy demands judgement before any other sin. He asked God to smite our apathy. (For more detail see A Cry for New Zealand).

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Friday, February 10, 2006

TOTD (1) A Tale of Two Davids

In 1982, David Pawson was invited to speak in New Zealand. His had a reputation as a bible teacher, so people the people of Wellington were surprised when he said that he had a prophetic word. He carried two burdens that God had given him for our nation. One burden was as follows:

God wants New Zealand back.
He wants New Zealand back as
a nation that will be a model to the nations
of a people who are living under the government of GOD.
God intends New Zealand to be one of those nations
where he demonstrates his Kingdom.
God wants New Zealand back.
He is wanting his people to reign with him.
Don’t wait for eternity to begin to reign with him
He is looking for a queen to reign with him now,
because New Zealand has a king an his name is King Jesus.
This country needs a change of government.
New Zealand is a nation that could be brought
under the government of God
and be a light to the nations.
This first burden was not understood; his second burden was simple:
God want’s to bring revival to New Zealand for the first time.
God will bring revival through economic ruin.
He then asked, "Who is willing to pray for economic ruin, to make revival possible"? This burden was not well received in Wellington, but when he was handed a vision that confirmed his burden, David Pawson took the message of “revival through economic ruin” around New Zealand.

This and my next few posts are primarily for New Zealand, but the principles are relevant to any western nation. The full series can be found at Two Davids.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Christians and the Environment

Eighty-six evangelical leaders, including Rick Warren and other well-known "heavies" have signed a statement declaring their support for legislation to fight global warming.

I am delighted that they are concerned about the environment. Christians know that God has appointed us to be stewards of his creation, so we should be leading the wayin caring for the earth, the sea and the sky.

I am delighted that these men care about the environment, but I am amazed at the way they are doing it. There statement includes the following words.

In the United States, the most important immediate step that can be taken at the federal level is to pass and implement national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost-effective, market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program.
Where are these guys coming from. When they see a problem, why do Christians always reach for the state rather than for the Holy Spirit. We don’t believe that laws can change people. The best that the law can do is restrain the worst violence and theft. The law cannot make people good. We believe in salvation by grace and the Spirit, not salvation by law, so why would we think that laws can save the environment?

We know that the whole environment is groaning waiting for salvation. We know that the environment is waiting in eager expectation for the sons of God to get on with it (Rom 8:19,22). There are a couple of billion Christians in the world. If they were to change their behaviour, the impact would be enormous. If Christians got serious about changing the way they spend their money, businesses would have to change way they operate. Consumers decide what businesses produce, so if demand for gas-guzzling cars disappears, car companies will stop producing them. In Europe, car makers have had to get serious about recycling, because consumers demand it. If Christians gave a clear lead, millions of other people would follow their example.

We should think carefully about what we are doing when try to pass laws to change other people's behaviour. We are saying that we know better than them what they should do, and we believe that they will not do it unless a law makes them. We know what is best, and we need a law to make other people do it. This is a very arrogant attitude. Quite different from Jesus way.

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Free Speech

Free speech is not a basic human right or a right granted by the State. Free speech is a gift from God. He gave this gift when he created us in his image. Ability to speak is an attribute of God. Before man existed, God spoke things into being (Gen 1:3). There was also communication within the Trinity (Gen 1:26). Therefore when God created us in his image, he gave us the gift of speech and communication. An when man was created, God immediately spoke to him. This gift of speech is part of what makes humans unique in creation.

Like all God's gifts, speech must be used in obedience to God and for his glory. His standard is clear.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Eph 4:29).
This means we can zealously seek the truth on religious issues, but we should do so with courtesy and without mockery or insults.

Like all gifts, the gift of speech involves both authority/freedom and responsibility. We are accountable to God for the way we speak. Jesus said,

But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment (Matt 12:36).
We have freedom of speech, but it is not anabsolutee freedom, We should never forget that we will have to give account to God for every word we have spoken.

At the time of the Tower of Babel, God became unhappy with the way that man was using the gift of communication to build a new way to heaven. God's response was to limit the gift of speech by confusing the language, so that men could not longer understand each other. Speech was much freer when everyone spoke the same language (Gen 11:1-9). At the Tower of Babel we lost part of our freedom of speech.

God has not given the state authority to monitor and assess our speech. Power to check and punish every word spoken would make the state extremely dangerous. Fortunately, we can leave most idle talk for God to sort. He has limited the state's role in dealing with speech to a very narrow area proscribed in the ninth commandment.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Ex 20:16)
False witness includes perjury, fraud, slander and breach of contract. These are crimes that God has given the state authority to punish. The state must not go beyond the role that God has assigned. God will deal with all other speech problems himself. When the state attempts to control all speech, it is usurping the role of God.

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Moslem World Stirred

The Danish cartoons have stirred up the entire Islamic world. This may be a fulfilment of Daniel 11:11. Daniel prophesied that after the Invasion of Iraq the Middle East would be stirred up. I wondered how this would come about, but now it seems to be happening.

For many Moslems, the cartoons are the last straw, after a century of insults. These started with broken promises of Lawrence of Arabia and the cynical carve-up of Iraq and Syria to protect western oil interests and continued with the CIA-led overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran and Iraq. The cartoons are just a final frustration that have triggered an explosion of anger.

Now the Middle East is really stirred up.

There are two consequences:

  1. Sunni and Shia Moslems are united on this issue.
  2. Iran's position as defender of Islam has been strenthened.
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Danish Cartoons

The infamous cartoons were published by several New Zealand newspapers. Now the government and export companies are worried that this action might affect our trade with Moslem nations. They are bending over backwards to distance themselves from the newspapers actions.

The government announced that New Zealand respects all faiths and cultures. This is a bit odd. In New Zealand the use of the word Jesus as an expletive has become so common, that I no longer notice it. I should be outraged. I wonder what would happen if people started using the name Mohammed as an expletive. The government and exporters would be jumping up and down. I suspect that many members of the government will occasionally use the name of Jesus as an expletive, but no one cares, because it does not affect our trade. The truth is that New Zealand respects every religion but Christianity. That is a little hypocritical.

Not that we want the state protecting Jesus. He can take care of himself.)

In a similar manner the media took umbrage at the "Enough is Enough" march, but was not offended by the Moslems marching up Queen Street, even though some of their slogans and chants were quite aggressive. More hypocracy??

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Blessing Abraham

This is God’s promise to Abraham.

I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:2.3).
If we want to receive God’s blessing, we must bless Abraham’s children. Christians full this promise by blessing the people of Israel. Blessing Israel is good, but a little odd, if it causes us to curse the rest of Abraham’s descendants.

The Palestinians are also Abraham’s children. The Iraqis and Syrians are Abraham’s children too. Should we not be blessing them as well?

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Who is Threatening Who?

The United States ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte said yesterday,

Iran, rather than threatening the world, should listen to the world and take steps to regain its confidence.
I suspect that Iran feels the same about the United States. The United States has been a threat to Iran for a long time. In 1953, the CIA organized the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Iran. The United States encouraged Iraq to invade Iran in 1980. In 1988, an American warship stationed in the Gulf shot down an Iranian airbus killing two hundred and ninety-nine passengers were killed, many of them women and children. Some Americans are talking about an invasion of Iran.

Rather than threatening Iran, the United States should listen to the pain in the hearts of the Iranian people, and take steps to regain their confidence.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tumbledown Building

Several years ago, I heard James Dobson say, that the gap between the thinking and lifestyle of the Church and that of the world is greater, than at any time since the first century. Therefore the hostility of the world towards the church should be greater than it has ever been. The fact that it is not suggests that the Church has compromised with the world. I found this comment very disturbing. That night I had a very vivid dream.

I saw an old tumbledown brick building. It was quite large, nearly a hundred metres long. The walls at the back were still about head high. Those at the front were completely smashed, and only a rubble of bricks remained. There was a lawn between the building and the street. Several hundred people were in the building, others were sitting on the lawn enjoying the sunshine. Some were dancing to the music that wafted out of the building.

Then a large hostile crowd appeared out on the street. At first they were mocking and hurling abuse. The people in the building and on the lawn did not seem to care; it was so pleasant in the sun. Then one person threw a bottle. It fell harmlessly on the lawn, but the hostile crowd gave a great cheer. Those sitting on the lawn retreated into the building. Then others began to throw bottles and various missiles. When some of the people were hurt by these, the hostile crowd gained confidence. They started to attack those in the building using broken bottles as weapons. Soon people in the building were bleeding severely and screaming in agony. It was total chaos.

My wife and I were with a couple we know well. We stood together in a place at one end where the wall was still standing on three sides. With a wall behind and standing together, we were able to resist the attackers and keep safe. People who were on their own were totally exposed and many were badly hurt.

This is a picture of the church. It is tumbled down and the people in it are isolated. If persecution comes, many Christians will be destroyed. Only those who have learnt to stand together will be strong.

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Circuit Breaker

I had been trying to understand why, despite all the promises of revival, nothing seems to be happening. It seems like something is needed to break things open.

People are praying for revival, but nothing is happening. Prophets are prophesying an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But God will not put new wine into old wineskins.

Dark clouds are coming, but no one is ready. The days are urgent; but nothing changes. We should be using the time to prepare.

I began to ask. What is the circuit breaker, that will open the way for the Holy Spirit to really move? God said,

The circuit breaker is

"Christians Connecting"

God can pour out his Spirit, but he cannot make people connect. We must do that ourselves. We have to choose to do it.

Christians must be fully connected. The body must have four limbs all joined to the body:pastors, prophets, evangelists, apostles. Each bone must be joined to two other. Each limb should have five fingers or toes. We cannot get connected together by meeting on a Sunday. It will take a much greater commitment.

God’s strategy is to connect Christians together in new wineskins.

Prophets should be prophesying connection (Ezek 37:4-6). This is not the time for prophesying the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

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Prophets in the Wilderness

Most churches have no prophet to establish vision, holiness and righteousness. They do not have a mature prophet to disciple budding prophets, so God has had no choice but to develop prophets in the wilderness. This is a second best option that produces lots of problems, but is the only way, until the prophetic ministry is fully restored to the church.

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Cultural Decline

A good quote from James Leroy Wilson.

Government cannot prevent cultural decline. Only cultural renewal can stop cultural decline. No civil power can prevent it. Anyway, it is not the role of the Church to preserve our cultural heritage.

It is often said that this was a Christian nation and now it is not. Who is to blame? Darwin? Freud? The Supreme Court? If the Church once had a dominant place in the culture and now it does not, there is no one to blame but the Church itself. Spiritual renewal leading to cultural renewal is the only means of reversing the trend.

The culture is in decline, but it is Christians who allowed that to happen by transferring responsibilities of the Church and the family to the state.

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Saturday, February 04, 2006


An issue that has divided the institutional church is the ordination of homosexual people. Again, we get this wrong, because we ask the wrong question. We should really be asking if it is correct for the church to be ordaining bishops, priests, pastors and ministers. This practice has created a divide between the clergy and the laity that has severely weakened the church. Ordaining ministers cannot be justified from the New Testament, so instead of arguing about whether homosexual and women can be ordained, we should be looking for a leadership model that is true to the scriptures.

The New Testament model is for churches to be led by teams of elders. If a church is really functioning as a body, the elders will emerge from the body. People become elders when others in the church submit to them and follow their example, not when they are appointed to a role. The elders will be the ones looked up to by the other members of the body. Their maturity and love will be evident in their relationships with the rest of the church. Before the church formally sets them aside (this is not necessary) they will have already been accepted as elders by those who relate to them.

Rules about who can be ordained will not guarantee that good people become elders. We have had rules for hundreds of years, but this has not prevented some dreadful people from being ordained. The problem of unsuitable elders should be sorted out within relationships and not according to rules.

The full article on this topic is here

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The State and Homosexuality

Does the state have a role in dealing with homosexuality? To answer that question, we must understand the difference between a sin and a crime. A crime is a sin that must be punished by the state. Not all sins are crimes. For example, coveting is listed as a sin in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:17), but there is no punishment specified for coveting. Although coveting is a sin, it is not a crime. The obvious reason is that proving to a court what a person is thinking is impossible. No one can testify against another person for coveting, because no one can see into their mind.

Theft is specified as both a sin in the Ten Commandments, but in this case the bible also specifies a punishment. This means that theft is both a sin and a crime (Ex 22:1-4). Once a man acts on his coveting and steals from his neighbour, he has committed a crime and the state comes into play. His actions are visible, so witnesses can observe and testify against him. This provides the state with a basis for the state to act against the thief. Murder is also specified as a sin and a crime in the law (Ex 21:12).
The crimes listed in the Old Testament are a small subset of all of sins. An important principle is that, we can identify crimes by determining whether the bible specifies a punishment. If it a sanction is specified, the sin is the crime. If there is no sanction, then the sin is not a crime. The state has no authority to deal with these sins, because God has reserved them for himself. He can see into people’s hearts, so he is best placed to deal with them.

Only a few sins are also specified to be a crime. This gives the state a strictly limited role in dealing with sin. The state is not required to eliminate all sin, as that would be impossible. It is limited to punishing the few sins that really disrupt the functioning of society. Biblical law defines these as a crime by specifying a sanction.

Homosexual activity is a sin that is specified as a crime (Lev 20:13), but so is Adultery (Lev 20:10). There is another bibilical principle that is relevant to both these crimes that is explained in hardness of heart.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Sinners and the Lord Supper

Should a sinner be allowed to join in communion? We get into problems with this issue, because we have a magical understanding of communion. Many Christians believe that we receive Jesus by eating bread and drinking wine. They also tend to belief that only Christians should be allowed to eat the bread and drink the cup. This belief results in a communion service being divided into those who are allowed to participate and those who can only watch.

This awful division comes from a false understanding of how Jesus is present at communion. He is present through the Holy Sprit. When Christians share a meal together, united in their love for Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes in a special way. We cannot shut someone out from the blessing of the Spirit by preventing them from eating and drinking, as he will touch whoever he chooses. For example, if some one does not eat the bread and wine, because they are ill, the Spirit can still be present for them.

If the Holy Spirit can touch whoever he chooses, it makes no sense for us to try and prevent those we think are unrepentant from eating. They Holy Spirit will touch them anyway. We should be careful about shutting people away from the table, as we might grieve the Holy Spirit and rob everyone of his blessing.

If the Holy Spirit is present he will touch everyone present, whether they are eating or not. We cannot control what he does, so we cannot to prevent anyone present from experiencing his presence. Those who are repentant may experience his presence in a different way, but this may be what is needed for conviction of sin.

Any person who comes to a Christian meeting should be allowed to east and drink share with Jesus. None should be excluded, whatever their sin. They are participating in communion simply by being present. Praise God, cowards are allowed to share in communion.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Jesus Home

Should homosexual people be allowed to attend church meetings? The answer to this is fairly obvious. Jesus was quite happy to meet with tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
The church is Jesus' home, so sinners should be welcome in it. Every Christian is a sinner, so if sinners were excluded from the Church, it would be empty of people. A Church that excludes sinners is deluded and will die.

The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts people of sin. He is also the one who restores sinners to wholeness. This means that sinners will benefit from being at a place where he is present. Hopefully he is in attendance at our meetings, so we should want sinners to be there to encounter him.

A church meeting should be a place where sinners feel safe. They should find people who understand their struggle and pain. Most Christians will be struggling to overcome a sin, so no one should be condemned because they are not perfect. Mature Christians will leave the Holy Spirit to the convicting. Christians who need to confront every sin, run the risk of becoming Pharisees, who can see the sins of others, but cannot see the plank in their own eye. A Church that can welcome sinners without condemnation will have a very powerful witness to the love and grace of Jesus.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Let Mercy Triumph

Christians seem to get really agitated about homosexuality, but this seems a little odd. Although homosexual activity is a sin, there is no hierarchy of sins in the scriptures. No sin is worse than any other, and we are all guilty. Look at the list in Revelation 21:8. Cowardice and lying are just as serious as sexual immorality.

When I think of the hundreds of times that I have failed to share the gospel, because I was afraid, I realise that I have a long history of being a coward. I don’t expect to stop being a coward in the near future, so why should I be angry about sexual immorality.

God does not like homosexual activity, but he seems to be more stirred up about adultery than he is about homosexuality.

The LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence (Mal 2:16).
God’s dislike for adultery and divorce is not surprising, because they hurts the innocent spouse, and can do terrible damage to their children. Many Christians are concerned that homosexual unions will undermine marriage. The truth is that adultery has done far more damage to marriage than the civil unions ever will, but we have been strangely silent about that. Christians should be really stirred up about adultery, but divorce is now almost as common in the church as it is in the world and most divorce starts with adultery.

Perhaps the reason that we remain silent about adultery is that none of us feel completely innocent. Jesus made this issue awkward by tightening up the definition.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, "You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt 5:27,28).
Given the content of modern television and film, it is hard to see how any warm-blooded television watcher has not committed adultery, by Jesus definition. This may be the reason we keep silent about adultery, but are stirred up about homosexuality.

Jesus showed mercy to those who were struggling with sin; he did not condemn them. Our attitude should be the same. Understanding that homosexuality is a curse that has inflicted the descendants of an unbelieving generation, should help us to stop blaming and feel compassion. Instead of being stirred up and angry, we should be compassionate and merciful. The fact that most homosexual people see the church as hostile and blaming is a sad indictment on our lack of compassion and mercy.

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