Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cause of the Christchurch Earthquake (5) - Act of Nature

A view taking hold among many Christians is that earthquakes are just an act of nature. “The earth is doing what the earth does. Twisting and shaking from time to time”. This view makes me uneasy, for the following reasons.

  1. The act of nature view is very close to the secular world view that is sweeping the western world. Everything that happens on earth is just cause and effect. God is not involved; nor is evil. If pushed to the extreme, this view leads to atheism.

  2. The Living God is squeezed out of his creation and turned into the remote God of Deists. They said that God is like a watchmaker, who created a watch, wound it up and left it running on its own accord. The Deists believed that believed God created the world and left it to function according to cause and effect. God cannot do miracles or intervene to change the situation in the world. He just smiles, and loves us from a distance.

  3. This Act of Nature approach does not reflect the biblical world view. The God of the scriptures is not distant and remote, but is actively involved in the world to answer prayers and accomplish his purposes.

  4. This view implies that earthquakes and other natural events are outside God’s scope of control. This would be true of the various Greek gods, but it is not true of the omnipotent God of the scriptures.

  5. The idea that earthquake is just an act of nature introduces a huge element of luck and chance to life. If someone is harmed by an earthquake, it is just bad luck. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  6. Jesus rebuked the storm.

    He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still” (Mark 4:39)!

    Speaking to an “act of nature” is a pointless waste of time. The storm obeyed Jesus, because there was a presence in the storm that was demonic.

  7. At first glance, the act of nature view seems to absolve God of responsibility for unnecessary suffering, but it still begs the question. It does not explain why God created the world to function this way. There are two possibilities. This first is that he no longer has the power to intervene. That does not seem to be right, given that he created the world. The second possibility is that he has not chosen not to intervene. That leaves him morally responsible.

  8. If God is strong enough to intervene, why did he not intervene to prevent the earthquake from happening? Why did he refuse to protect Christians? Why did God allow the founders of Christchurch build their city on a serious fault line? Why didn’t he lead them to Timaru? Taking nature out of God’s scope does not solve the problem.

  9. In practice, many Christians lurch between different views. After the first earthquake when no one was killed and few were injured, Christians said it was a miracle and gave the credit to God. After the second earthquake, when nearly two hundred were killed, Christians are saying it was just an act of nature. We cannot have it both ways.

An act of nature has not a moral or spiritual event. It is just something that happens.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cause of the Christchurch Earthquake (4) - Shaking Church

Some Christians have attributed the earthquake to God by suggesting that he is shaking the church. They draw attention to the name of the city and suggest that God is shaking Christ’s church. There are a couple of problems with this view.

  1. Hammering the entire city to speak to the church seems a bit unfair. I would challenge those who hold this view to tell the mother of three living in Aranui whose house has just been trashed that God did this to speak to his church.

    God destroyed your home as a sign for the church.
    God sent this earthquake to wake up his church throughout the world.
    That seems too glib and does not sound like my God.

  2. This view makes the people of the world suffer for the sake of the church. The gospel says it will be the other way round. Christians are supposed to suffer for the benefit of the world.

  3. God does shake the church from time to time.

    God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness (Heb 12:10).
    When his church falls asleep, God shakes it awake. However, he has a very effective way to shake the church without hurting the people of the world. Throughout the New Testament, God sent persecution when he needed to shake and refine the church.
    Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith (1 Pet 1:6,7).
    On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).
    Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out… The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:19-21).
    God uses persecution to strengthen and refine his church, not earthquakes. This allows him to purify the church without punishing those outside the church.

  4. The Holy Spirit is also skilled at speaking. God sent him to lead his people into the truth. Millions of Christians are listening for the voice of the Spirit. Thousands of pastors and prophets listen for his voice each week to bring a message to his people. If the Holy Spirit wants to speak to the church, he is capable of speaking directly. He does not need to speak through an earthquake in a distant city named after a college at Oxford University.

Risk of Complacency
This earthquake could produce a dangerous complacency amongst God’s people. In a few years, the impact of the earthquake will be mostly gone. The worst affected will still feel the pain, but most people will have returned to life as usual. Many Christians will heave a sigh of relief and think,
I have come through the worst earthquake to strike this country.
It was scary,
but we survived.
We can cope with anything
that life throws at us.
Having survived a serious earthquake, Christians could easily slip into a risky complacency about the future. This is not the time to be complacent. God is trying to get his people prepared in advance. He is trying to build a spiritual army of hard-core Christians, who can work together with the Holy Spirit to release his kingdom on earth. It would be sad if our experience during the earthquake lulled us into believing that things will be fine, if we carry on as we are.

This complacency is already emerging in the northwest of Christchurch.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cause of the Christchurch Earthquake (3) - Shaking the City

A related view to my previous post suggests that God is shaking the people of Christchurch to open hearts to the gospel. This view is wrong.

  1. The destruction of the earthquake does not look like God’s handiwork. He is a creator. The earthquake is a destroyer. Ascribing such destruction to God is bizarre.

  2. Traumatic events are an ineffective method for bringing people to faith. Disasters often push people further away from God. After the first earthquake, church attendance in Christchurch increased for a while but quickly returned to normal. The same happened in America after 9/11.

  3. The Holy Spirit can convict people of sin far more effectively than an earthquake.

    I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin (John 16:7,8).
    The best way to change human lives is to reach into human hearts. The Holy Spirit is an expert on working in human hearts.

  4. God sometimes uses events to shake the world, but this is only effective if his people are ready to move with the Holy Spirit and minister to those who are shaken. If the church is not ready, shaking a city does far more harm than good. The Church in Christchurch was not prepared to minister in a disaster. Some good stuff has been done by many churches, but Christians have been thin on the ground in the places where people are hurting. If God was going to shake Christchurch for the gospel, the timing was wrong for the church.

  5. God cannot transform society by whacking it over and over with a big stick. Belting it harder and harder will not produce repentance. Repentance is a work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit needs Christians to carry him in their hearts into the world.

  6. When the harvest is ripe, God needs harvesters. Earthquakes cannot do what the harvesters are not ready to do (John 9:37).

  7. The earthquake has released awful fear and terror among the people of Christchurch. Many will be emotionally crippled for years. This leaves them vulnerable to evil, and hardens their heart to the gospel. The earthquake might have produced as many new alcoholics as there are new Christians.

  8. Spirit of fear and terror have been able to make their home in our Christchurch. The earthquake has given these principalities and powers a stronghold and they will not leave until they are forced out of the city.

  9. The Holy Spirit only intervenes where he is invited. The forces of evil have no such scruples. They push in uninvited whenever people are made vulnerable by shock and fear. This means that the forces of evil are often better placed than the Holy Spirit to take advantage of traumatic events.

  10. The earthquake has increased confidence in political power. The people of New Zealand have watched their political leaders declaring peace and calm on television and seen them rescuing those in trouble and promising to restore broken dreams. Faith in political power has been boosted. Fear of the future and faith in the state is a dangerous mix. When fear and dread are pervasive, and faith and trust in human government is widespread, the accumulation and concentration of political power is easy. These trends increase resistance to the Kingdom of God.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cause of the Christchurch Earthquake (2) - Judgment from God

Many Christians are suggesting that the earthquakes were a genuine act of God. This takes different forms but the most common view is that God has judged Christchurch and is punishing its wickedness.

There are three problems with this view.

  1. God’s judgments are always redemptive, so when he judges a nation or city, he warns in advance through a prophet. The prophet describes the sins that are upsetting God and explains their consequences. They prophet tells the people what they must do to avert the judgment, so they can change their behaviour. When Jonah prophesied to Nineveh, the people repented.

    When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened (Jonah 3:10).
    No prophets warned Christchurch that earthquakes were coming. This event does not meet the criteria for a judgment of God.

  2. Christchurch has plenty of sin, but it does not seem to be any worse than many other cities and it is better than many others, so there is no reason why God should single it out.

  3. If God caused the earthquake, it hard to explain why Christians died. They would be collateral damage, which seems an odd way for God to work.

Cause of the Earthquake (1) - Sign of the Second Coming

In September 1010, Christchurch was struck by an earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. Although many buildings collapsed, no one was killed and very few were injured. A second serious earthquake struck Christchurch in February 2011, causing serious damage to buildings and took nearly two hundred lives.

Christians have made various suggestions about the cause of the earthquake. I will discuss these in light of the categories defined my previous series of posts.

1. Sign of the Second Coming
One notion that we have to get out of the way first is the common idea that earthquakes are a sign that the second coming is near. This view, which is widespread among Christians, is based on Jesus big prophecy.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains (Matt 24:7,8).
There are several reasons why the usual interpretation of this passage is wrong.
  1. Jesus said there will be no signs for the second coming. Life will be going on as normal. No one knows in advance when Jesus will return.

  2. Jesus Big Prophecy was a warning about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The disciples heard Jesus say that the stones in the temple would be cast down and had asked when this would happen. Jesus responded with a warning of events that would occur before the fall of Jerusalem. Earthquakes were one of these signs. The city of Pompeii was severely damaged by an earthquake in AD 63. Others took place in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Laodicea, Colossae, Rome and Judea. Jesus prophecy has already been fulfilled, so it is not a reference to the second coming.

  3. Earthquakes have occurred throughout history, so anyone assuming they are a sign of the second coming will be continually confused because the second coming is always coming.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Types of Prophetic Event (7) - Whacking Society is Suboptimal

The cross changed everything. In the Old Testament age, judgment was often a necessary last resort. In the New Testament age, shaking judgment is a sub-optimal method for changing people and society.

  1. Judgment events are mostly indiscriminate. Just as radiation therapy kills the good cells and the cancer cells, the good, the bad and the ugly are harmed equally.

  2. Judgment was mostly ineffective in bringing change. Judges, 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles record the history of Israel and Judah. These nations were judged again and again, but they deliberately continued down their path to oblivion without hesitating. Judgement did not turn them around. God had not poured yet out the Holy Spirit, so this was inevitable.

  3. Shakings restrained the worst evil. Evil kings and leaders were removed before they could do too much harm. This was the best that Judgment Events can do. The Holy Spirit can do far better.

  4. The outpouring of Holy Spirit and the gospel of Jesus provide God with a far better ways for transforming peoples and nations. This reduces the need for judgment and shaking. They are less frequent in the New Testament age.

Gospel and Spirit
Some Christians still believe that God changes the world by whacking it with judgments. They delight in disasters, because they believe he will use them to turn society around. These people do not understand how God works. They have more faith in earthquakes, hurricanes, and economic collapse than they have in the Holy Spirit. This is sad, because God cannot transform society by whacking it with a big stick, because that mostly turns people sour.

Since Jesus death, resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit and the gospel are God’s preferred vehicles for transforming society. Repentance comes from hearing the gospel of grace. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit drawing a person to the Father.

God needs people to share the gospel and carry the Holy Spirit into the world. He can only get to the hearts of unbelievers, if we are carrying him into their midst. God can only transform society through a living body that carries the Holy Spirit where he wants to work. Until he gets a body that is up to the task, God will not waste his effort shaking society.

God must transform his church before he can transform society. Then if he shakes a nation, his revitalised church can be salt and light to shape it in a new direction. If the church is not carrying the Holy Spirit into the world, shaking achieves nothing. Society will just carry on down the gurgler, because it knows nothing better.

God prefers to work through the Holy Spirit and the gospel. Prophetic warning of judgment should be rare. Exhortation to proclaim the gospel in the power of the Spirit and should receive far more airtime, because that reflects the Father’s heart.

This full series is at Prophetic Events.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Types of Prophetic Event (6) - Confusion

Christians get confused about these four different types of judgment event.

  1. Prophetic people often declare that Warning Events and Evil Events are caused by God. However, when a society that once had a strong Christian influence gets close to the tipping point, God has only limited authority to act on earth. Because most authority on earth has been handed over to the principalities and powers, the best he can do is restrain the worst of the evil. He is still more powerful, but because he is honest and just, he abides by decisions that he made about authority on earth, even when things go haywire.

  2. Believing that God has caused events that are the work of the devil is seriously distorted thinking, that causes terrible confusion among Christians. If we do not know what God is doing, it will be hard to hear what he is saying. Christians who think that rampant evil and destruction are God’s perfect will find it hard to obey him, as it is hard to love and serve someone who dishes out wanton violence.

  3. God gets a bad name that he does not deserve. The world blames him for warning signs and evil events that are the work of the forces of evil. They prefer to think that he is in control, even though refuse to acknowledge his authority, because this makes them feel better. The truth is that humans have authority on earth. They have allowed the authority to shift, so most evil events on earth are the result of that authority being handed to the forces of evil. Humans are responsible, not God.

  4. God always works to bring good out of evil. We must not be confused by this. The fact that God continues working in the midst of evil does not hat mean that he has caused it.

  5. When evil is rampant, God may not have sufficient authority to prevent evil events, but he is still omniscient and knows what the devil is about to do. He usually warns Christians in advance, so they can prepare. Some get confused in this situation and believe that God is sending the evil. They say will say, “God is going to do such and such”. This makes God seem a quite nasty, when he is actually trying to be helpful. In these situations, Christians should say, “God has shown me that the forces of evil are going to do such and such. Use the time to get ready”.

  6. People who believe that God is always in control will be totally disorientated during seasons when he is not. It is hard to confront evil, if you believe that God has allowed it.

  7. Many Christians ignore these distinctions and assume that every traumatic event is a sign of the so-called end times. They like things to get worse and worse, because it means that escape is getting closer. Many assume that nothing can be done, so they sit on their bums and enjoy the playing out of pain. These Christian do not like Judgment Events and Warning Events, because these might shake people back to God, which would hold back the tide of disaster, which would delay their rescue. This distorted thinking makes them powerless.

  8. When David disobeyed God by taking a census of his fighting men, God gave him three choices (2 Sam 24:13-14). David chose to fall into the hands of God rather than the hands of men, and the forces of evil.

    Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; bud do not let me fall into the hands of men (1 Chron 20:13).
    This suggests that Israel was somewhere between the opening of the door to evil and the tipping point where evil gets greater control, so God was able to give David a choice between a Judgment Event and a Warning Event. David understood God’s mercy, so he chose a judgment from God over a strike from the enemy.

  9. Abraham declared that God would treat the nations of the world with justice.

    Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right (Gen 18:25)?
    His faith in God’s justice led him to expect that God would be generous. Many Christians assume that a just God will be destructive. This difference is revealing. Maybe Abraham understood God’s grace and justice better than modern people.

Types of Prophetic Event (5) - Gospel Changes Everything

Jesus ministry changed the way that judgment works. Since the cross, God has far more effective tools for dealing with recalcitrant nations. In the age of the gospel, judgments to destroy evil nations will be very rare, as God prefers to work with the gospel and the Spirit.

The Roman Empire is an example of God’s new way of working. The empire was eventually destroyed by invading nations, but only after a long history. Rome was almost transformed from within by the Holy Spirit and the gospel. Had the church avoided a few mistakes, the transformation would have been a success and the fall of Rome would have been unnecessary.

In the gospel age, there will be times when the Holy Spirit is unable to work in a nation, possibly because Christians refuse to out to preach the gospel. They Holy Spirit can only go where his people carry him. If he is unable to work, a nation may get out of hand and become so evil that God has to take action to bring it down. If the church is on it’s game, this should be rare.

The one exception is where the Book of Revelation prophesies the destruction of a powerful nation called Babylon the Great.

Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit (Rev 18:2).
This nation will not be destroyed just because it is evil. It will be destroyed because it has gained a huge influence over the nations of the world.
For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her (Rev 18:3).
This evil nation has gained such strong influence that it is leading the entire world into evil. It must be removed from the pages of history to prevent the corruption from spreading. This level of evil will be rare in the age of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel has changed the role of prophecy. The situations where prophets are called to announce the destruction of evil nations will be quite rare. In most cases, the gospel and the Spirit will deal with the evil nation more effectively. Christian prophets should be quite cautious about announcing the destruction of evil nations.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Types of Prophetic Event (4) - Protective Judgments

God sometimes assesses a nation and decides that it has become so evil that it is beyond saving. In this situation, he then has no choice but to allow its destruction to minimise evil. I refer to these as protective judgments, rather than destructive judgments, because their primary purpose is to protect the world from evil. God does not engage in mindless destruction. He always destroys empires when that it is the best way to constrain evil.

The cross totally changed the situation on earth. Most Christians have no idea of the extent to which God’s ability to work on earth was constrained prior to the cross.
  1. Until Jesus died and rose from the dead, God could not pour out his Spirit on all people. The Holy Spirit could only work in the hearts of a few special people: prophets and godly kings. He did not have the power to change hearts or convict people of sin. He could not cause people to be born again.

  2. Raising up prophets was extremely difficult, because most were corrupted before they were old enough for God to use them. Samson is an example. God wanted to use him as prophet and his parents kept him holy, but he was overtaken by a spirit of violence and foolishness that severely limited his ministry. Hannah’s prayer and dedication of Samuel was a huge turning point, because she provided God with a man who was holy enough to be an effective prophet (1 Sam 1:11). Moses’ sister and mother faithfulness were critical to his emergence as prophetic leader. These were rare exceptions.

  3. There was no ability to cast out demons. If demons gain control of a society, there were no tools for dealing with the situation. As there control increased, greater depravity would emerge. Stirring up another nation to destroy an evil culture was often the only way to prevent the depravity from spreading. The demons would not be destroyed, but they lost the cohesion they gained by working together in one place.

  4. God chose a special nation to help him change the world, but they lost their way and continued to be part of the problem.

In the Old Testament environment, prompting one nation to destroy another was often the only way to restrain evil. This did not destroy the evil spirits, but the disruption of war breaks down their uneasy unity and causes them to fight against each. Concentrating in one place allows them to leverage their evil. When evil spirits are dispersed and isolated, they do much less harm.

Sodom is an example. It was taking depravity to new level, so God needed to stamp out the evil before the rest of the land was contaminated. In this case, he was able to use volcanic activity, because Abraham’s authority in the city gave him permission to take action.
The longer a ruler is in power, the greater their ability to do evil, so allowing a new one to emerge was often the best way to deal with evil rulers. For example, Cyrus of Persia emerged to take control of Babylon when it was getting out of hand. King Herod’s died when he became a threat to the merging church (Acts12:21-23). Protective Judgments limit evil by eliminating evil rulers.

Jeremiah reminded the nations that God was entitled to destroy them, if they caused too much tumult and trouble.
The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth,
for the LORD will bring charges against the nations;
he will bring judgment on all mankind (Jer 25:31).
God has created and blessed everyone on earth, so all nations and political leaders are accountable to him, even if they have not directly made a covenant with him. The standard is higher for those who have made a covenant with God, but every nation is accountable.

Destructive Judgments have the following characteristics.
  • Although these judgments can be very destructive, their primary purpose is to protect the world from evil. If the powerful nation were not destroyed, it would inflict terrible evil on the world.

  • God sometimes sends a prophet to warn a nation that is on the brink of being destroyed. This ensures that everyone understand that God is at work. Daniel warned the King of Babylon that the ‘writing was on the wall” for his regime (Dan 5). Everyone knew that God was behind its destructions.

  • The Old Testament prophets announced several protective judgments. These prophecies give God the authority that he needs to bring judgment against the nations that have gone wrong.

  • In some situations, evil is so entrenched that there is no hope of change. In these situations, no warning may be given.

  • An evil nation that is about to be destroyed will sometimes repent and get a second chance. God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn that it would be destroyed (Jonah 1:1). When he finally obeyed God and sounded a warning, the people of Nineveh believed God and forced their king to change (Jonah 3:5-10).

  • God is just. He always judges nations justly (Gen 18:25)

  • My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm (Is 51:5).
    This prophecy was confirmed by Jesus. He made a public commitment to justice for nations and cities (Matt 11:20-24). He will treat every individual with justice, but full justice may only be received at the last judgment).

  • God takes no pleasure in destroying an evil nation that has become a threat to life. He was pleased when the people of Nineveh opened their hearts to him.S

    hould I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals” (Dan 4:11)?

  • God prefers less drastic methods for dealing with evil nations. When the people at Shinar concentrated evil to oppose God, he confused their language two disperse the influence of evil (Gen 11:8).

  • God will often rescue righteous people from a city or nation that is about to be destroyed. Lot and his family were rescued from Sodom, before it was destroyed (Gen 19:12-17).

Often Partial
Isaiah (13-21) Jeremiah (46-52) and Ezekiel (28-32) prophesied the destruction of various nations that would go over to evil at various stages during Old Testament history. However, when I analysed these prophecies further, I found that prophecies of the destruction of an entire nation are rarer than is usually assumed. In many of the prophecies, the destruction is partial.
  1. The prophet sometimes warns that the king or his armies will destroyed, but the rest of the people survive. For example, Ezekiel warns of the destruction of Tyre (Ez 27:21), but Isaiah promise that the people will return to their trading activities (Is 23:17,18).

  2. Other prophecies warn that the key cities will be destroyed, but the rest of the nation will survive. Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of the cities of Hazor and Kedar in Arabia (Jer 49:28-33). Isaiah promised a few survivors (Is 21:16) and life in Arabia continued.

  3. A prophet would often warn of destruction at one point in history, but promises restoration at another time. This is the normal rising and falling of nations. Jeremiah warned that Elam would be destroyed (Jer 49:36-31), but promised that it would be restored much later in history.

    Yet I will restore the fortunes of Elam
    in days to come,” declares the LORD (Jer 49:39).
    Elam is in modern Iran, so this promise has been partially fulfilled already.

  4. Some nations will be destroyed, but will turn back to God in the future. Isaiah warned of the destruction of Cush (Is 18:6), which is now Ethiopia. He also promised that in the future, the people will come to faith in God (Is 18:1).

  5. Some prophecies of destruction have not yet been fulfilled. Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Damascus but this city still exists, so the prophecy is waiting to be fulfilled (Is 17:1). If this happens at the end of the Times of the Gentiles, it may not be a total destruction. Any nations that get through this season can be transformed by the Holy Spirit, so it would not need to be destroyed.

Sometimes several prophets must be read to get a full picture. One prophet will warn of destruction, but a different prophet gives a promise that the nation will be restored. They are not in conflict. It is just that some prophets did not get the full picture. The following are examples.
  • Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Egypt (Jer 49:15,16), but Isaiah reveals that Egypt would eventually come to faith in God (Is 19:25).

  • Ezekiel warned that Ammon would be destroyed (Ez 25:7), but Jeremiah promises that it will be restored in a later time (Jer 49:6).

  • Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Moab (Is 15:1; 16:13; Jer 48:42), but Jeremiah promised that Moab will be restored in the future.

  • Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come,” declares the LORD. Here ends the judgment on Moab (Jer 48:47). Jeremiah seems to be saying this is the final word on Moab.
  • Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Philistine, but Ezekiel promises that they will eventually know the Lord (Ez 25:17)

Total destruction seems to be prophesied for only two nations.
  • Most of the Old Testament prophets warned of destruction of Babylon (Is 13:19, Jer 50:39). Jeremiah suggests that it had gone too far to be saved.

    We would have healed Babylon,
    but she cannot be healed;
    let us leave her and each go to our own land,
    for her judgment reaches to the skies,
    it rises as high as the heavens (Jer 51:9).
    Even this destruction was partial. The city of Babylon was totally destroyed, but life has gone in the surrounding area (Iraq).

  • Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Edom (Jer 49:15,18; Ez 25:13). Edom and Moab were the descendants of Lot and are often linked together in prophesies. I am not certain why Jeremiah prophesied the restoration of Moab (Jer 48:47) but not Edom. Jeremiah suggests that justice required the total destruction of Edom (Jer 49:12).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Types of Prophetic Event (3) - Evil Events

Once a society has moved past the tipping point, evil principalities and powers have freedom to do their stuff.

God is no longer on the throne, so he is powerless to intervene. He has given authority on earth to humans, so if they have passed it on to the forces of evil, rather than to him, he can do nothing about the situation in the short term.

The activities of the forces of evil have the following characteristics.
  1. Evil events are often directed against Christians (or Jews), because the devil hates them.

  2. Evil events are nasty and hugely destructive, because the devil loves to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

  3. Evil events are not redemptive. They are just evil for the sake of being evil.

  4. God always works some things for good, even if evil is unrestrained. He will always produce good things, event in the midst of the most troubled times.

Between 1933 and 1944, 14 million civilians were killed in Eastern Europe by forces controlled by Stalin and Hitler. A few decades earlier, Germany and Russia had been under strong Christian influence. This shows what can happen when Christian societies slip past the tipping point.

Predominance of evil has been the normal situation in many cultures for most of history. People living in the western world with its strong Christian influence often forget this.

When the people in a society reject God’s protection, the enemy is free to do his stuff, and it is not nice. This is what we are seeing now in many parts of the Western world. Storms and earthquakes, wars and economic crashes are not God’s judgments. They are signs that evil has been given a free hand in our society.

The Holy Spirit does not glorify evil, so Evil Events do not get much attention in scriptures.

For advice on living through tumultous times see Social Collapse and Economic Crisis.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Types of Prophetic Event (2) - Warning Events

When the Christian influence declines and society is close to the tipping point, the powers of evil begin to show off. The devil is not very creative, so he just does on a smaller scale, what he would like to do, if he had much more authority, but does not. These events are warning signs for those who alert. Christians who understand their times will able to discern these signs and get an early warning of what is going to happen, if society continues in the way that it is going.

When Jesus was asked about a couple of nasty events that had occurred, he rebuked the people for being able to read the weather signs, but not understanding what was happening in their time.
He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time (Luke 12:54-56)?
They asked about some Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices another group who have been killed when a tower fell on them. His response is interesting.
Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem (Luke 13:2-4)?
These events were not the judgment of God falling on people who had fallen into sin and rejected him. They were sign of the general state of Jewish society. Jerusalem was getting close to a tipping point. God’s influence in Israel had increased significantly when the people started following Jesus, but now their initial fervour was slipping away. If the people turned against him, the forces of evil would cement their authority in the land.

Jesus warning was blunt.
I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish (Luke 13:5).
These two events were the powers of evil flexing their muscles. Jesus warned that if the nation continued on its current path towards the tipping point and without turning away, evil would gain greater freedom in their county and worse destruction would follow . If they pursued their opposition to Jesus right to the end, they would completely lose God’s protection and be totally exposed to evil. That is exactly what took place.

The people of Jerusalem rejected Jesus and he was crucified. These actions totally eliminated God’s protection. Forty years later, the Roman armies besieged Jerusalem and smashed down its walls. Many people who had taken refuge in the temple had their blood spilt on the floor. The final destruction copied the warning events but on a far greater scale. The two events described by Jesus were a “type” of what would happen, if the nation continued on its current direction.

People with discernment soon realised the people of Jerusalem would not receive their saviour and would harden their hearts against God’s plan of redemption. Jesus confirmed their understanding when he prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and warned his followers how to escape the devastation by fleeing to the hills (Luke 21:20-24). Christians who had discerned these events and heeded Jesus warning, were able to escape to safety before the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem.

Warning Events have the following characteristics.
  1. Warning events are not sent by God.

  2. Minor occurrences of evil are often a sign that society is getting close to the tipping point.

  3. Being abnormal and unusual, these events are noticed by everyone.

  4. The forces of evil begin to show off and try out the evil they intend to do, if they get greater control of society.

  5. They are a warning of more serious perils that will follow, if people do not get back under the protection of God.

  6. Warning events reveal the mind of the devil, as they are often a type of what he will do if he is given a free hand to wreak worse evil.

  7. Warning events are indiscriminate. They can hurt sinners and the righteous, because the devil does not care who he hurts.

  8. The event says nothing about the character of the people who are harmed and everything about the nature of the society they live in.

  9. These events are not redemptive; just destructive of relatively innocent people.

  10. God can usually restrain the forces of evil to limit the scope of the tragedy.

  11. God always works good in the midst of evil, so the Holy Spirit uses the shaking to stir up his church.

  12. Christians who understand the times can sharpen their gospel preaching.

  13. Seeing the powers of evil overstepping the mark should stir up the church to push back against them by preaching the gospel boldly.

  14. Christians who can interpret the warning to get a sense of what is going to happen in the future will be able to prepare in advance for the next crisis.

  15. Warning Events are usually ignored by the world.

  16. Warning Events are often ignored by Christians, because they just assume that the disaster is a judgment against bad people. This self-righteousness produces complacency that causes them to miss the opportunity to prepare.

  17. Warning Events are a sign of significant authority shift in society. If society continues on this current path, evil will become the new normal and Evil Events will become more frequent. Christians should use the time between to prepare.

Spiritual climates change slowly, so a number of years might pass between the warning and the fulfilment. The Church should use the time between to rise up and cut off the fulfilment by preaching the gospel in power. If the number of Christians increases significantly, God’s authority will be expanded, and the principalities and powers can be squeezed out again.

Christians should heed the warning and get together to protection themselves and their families. We will be more secure, if we live close to others who are committed to supporting each other. Those who stand alone can be picked off one by one.

The Bible teaches teaching is that we should deal with evil by resisting it.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you (James 4:7,8).
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith (1 Pet 5:8-9).
These commands are plural. Protection from evil is achieved by Christians coming together to support each other. The same applies to the spiritual armour in Ephesians 6. The armour is not for individual protection. The spiritual armour only works among a group of Christians are bound to each other by love.

Christians must make sure that they understand what is happening their times and take appropriate action.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Types of Prophetic Event (1) - Shaking Judgments

Four different types of disaster can take place on earth, depending on the situation that prevails and the level of God’s influence.

1. Shaking Judgments
God will sometimes send a tumultuous event on earth as a judgment to shake up people who are forgetting about him. These judgments may be political, economic or natural events. Shaking Judgments usually take place when God’s people are in a majority and God still has wide freedom to act on earth. People will be beginning to open the door to evil.

These Shaking Judgments have several important characteristics.
  1. God’s judgment of his people is always redemptive. His sole purpose is to draw them back to him.

  2. God does not actually send the shaking. He just withdraws his protection allows people to experience the consequences of their behaviour for a short time.

  3. The event occurs when God temporarily lifts his protection in a particular time and place, rather than because he decides to something evil.

  4. People who are slipping into rebellion against God may be shaken from their complacency. Those who are getting casual in their relationship with God can be jolted back to faith.

  5. The Shaking Judgment is a short sharp shock that lets people briefly experience the consequences of continuing down the dangerous path they have chosen.

  6. The Shaking Judgment gives people a glimpse through the door to evil that they are thinking about opening.

  7. God warns of the shaking in advance by his prophets (Amos 3:7). This confirms that the event is allowed by God and not just a random event.

  8. The prophets specify the sins that are upsetting God and tell the people what they must do to get back on track with him (eg Jer 38:17-18).

  9. The fulfilment of the prophecy confirms the prophet’s message and the need for people to change their behaviour.

  10. People who listen to the prophets can prepare in advance. Often the prophets will tell them what to do to survive through the judgment. Heeding the warning enables them to survive through the disaster. (God’s protection is not magical, as Christians assume, but comes from knowing what to do and doing it).

  11. Christian who refuse to prepare and change will sometimes fail the test. The Letters to the seven churches warned that was God was going to shake the churches in Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis and Laodicea and that some would not survive the shaking (Rev 2,3). Warnings of shaking should not be taken lightly.

  12. People who are protected and prepared can reach out in mercy to those who are feeling lost and shaken.

  13. Shaking Judgements often affect the ungodly most, not because they are picked out, but because they are not prepared.

  14. Shaking Judgements are primarily directed against God’s people, The Old Testament prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah mostly warned of events that would shake Israel. Jesus spoke judgment against Israel in his big prophecy (Matt 23:33-24:34), but his primary purpose was to warn his people how to escape the destructive judgment by fleeing to the hills at the right time.

  15. In the New Testament, Shaking Events were primarily directed against the Church. The Jerusalem church was persecuted, because their leaders had refused to take the gospel out into the world (Acts 8:1).

  16. God disciplines his children, as a father disciplines his sons.

    Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world (1 Cor 11:32).
    God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. (Heb 12:10)

  17. Shaking Judgments are always redemptive. God’s sole purpose is to draw people back to him.

  18. Shaking judgments are often covenant judgements. The troubles are often the consequence of failure to keep a covenant between God and his people.

God sometimes uses traumatic events to shake people loose, so he can draw them back to him, but he does not do this just for fun. He will only send shaking judgement, if he has a remnant faithful to him, who are equipped to serve those who are shaken and get them back on to the right way. If the remnant is not prepared to demonstrate the love of God during the crisis, it is wasted and evil benefits. A crisis can open people’s hearts, but if no one is there to pour oil on their wounds, the scars will harden their hearts to the gospel.

An earthquake cannot preach the gospel. This was true in Paul’s day. The Philippians jailor became a Christian after the earthquake that opened the gates of his jail.
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:29-30).
This was not a spontaneous response to the earthquake. What made the difference was seeing the faith and joy of two men who had been “stripped and beaten” “severely flogged” with “their feet fastened in stocks”.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25).
The jailor became a Christian, because he had seen two wounded and bound men praising and worshipping God in the middle of the night. The jailor was a hard, tough man. His heart was blown open, because he saw the Holy Spirit working in the lives of Paul and Silas during their time of crisis.

If his earthquake had struck on any other night of the year, the jailor would not have become a Christian. He would have cursed and beaten the prisoners and carried on with life. The living faith of Paul and Silas made the difference.

A Shaking Judgment is mostly wasted without a prepared remnant.

America is still quite a long way from the tipping point, so people with discernment should expect to see Shaking Judgments, as the Father attempts to shake those who are slipping away in hope of drawing them back. Prophets should be active in providing advance notice and helping God’s people to prepare. Christians should make the most of the time to proclaim the gospel and turn their nation around, before the tipping point is reached.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Discerning Seasons (5) - God Squeezed Out

When the tipping point is passed and the number of Christians shrinks dramatically, God’s authority gets squeezed out. The forces of evil begin to get a free hand on earth. They get to determine what happens on earth and God has very little influence. This is the third stage.

We reap what we sow. When a society turns away from God, it eventually loses his blessing and protection. There might be is an interim period, where peace and prosperity continues, based on a backlog of faith from the faith of previous generations. Unfortunately, that legacy of blessing eventually runs dry and the society begins to experience what its lack of faith deserves.

To western eyes used to living under inherited blessings from generations of faith, this situation will seem like something terrible, but this level of chaos and catastrophe is normal in many parts of the world. A community that rejects the one who protects it should not be surprised if it loses its protection.
Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear….
No one calls for justice;
no one pleads a case with integrity.
They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies;
they conceive trouble and give birth to evil (Is 59:1,2,4).
God’s power has not changed, but his authority to act has been truncated.

The full series is at Discerning Seasons.

Discerning Seasons (4) - Amplifying Authority

Christians with authority in business or politics can amplify the authority of God even further. People like Joseph, Jeremiah or Isaiah are really important. Their position in the political system increased their influence. When they pray for God’s will to be done, his authority on earth is dramatically boosted. A small minority with authority in business or government, who understand God’s will and pray for the release of his Spirit in their sphere of influence can have a huge impact on earth. They give far more authority to God than is taken by the majority who simply ignore him.

Abraham is a great example. He pleaded for Sodom to be saved and God agreed to save it if ten righteous men lived in the city, although he already knew there were not ten good men in there (Gen 18:32). This number is often taken out of context and applied to other cities with no understanding of the extent of Abraham’s authority in Sodom.

Sodom and the surrounding nations had been controlled by the King of Elam (which is in modern Iran) for thirteen years. When they rebelled, the King of Elam and some allies came against them and defeated them. Many people, including Lot, were taken captive and their property stolen. Abraham took his fighting men and defeated the King of Elam and his allies. He recovered the captives and their property (Gen 141-17).

The King of Sodom offered Abraham all his property, as anyone would in those days, if they met someone tougher than them.

The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself” (Gen 14:21).
The King was offering to pay tribute to Abraham as a more powerful leader, but Abraham told him to keep his people and his property. By submitting to Abraham, the King of Sodom gave Abraham immense authority in Sodom (that he mostly chose not to use). Abraham’s relationship with God and the pagan king’s surrender gave God authority to act in Sodom. It also gave Abraham the authority to plead for Sodom to be saved

Abraham’s faith and authority pushed the tipping point way over to the left.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Discerning Seasons (3) - Tipping Point

The second step of decline is the tipping point where the authority of the principalities and powers on earth exceeds the authority of God. When the proportion of Christian on earth reaches this tipping point, the powers of evil have much greater influence on earth. More and more events will be the consequence of their activities.

The half way point is not the tipping point. The reason is that Christians often have much greater influence than people who just ignore God without deliberately choosing to follow evil.
If Christians understand what is happening, listen to the voice of the Father, know his will, and pray wisely, the influence of the Holy Spirit is amplified. When God’s people pray according to his will, the Holy Spirit is freed to act. Therefore, even if half of the population have rejected God, those who still follow him can give authority to the Holy Spirit in the areas of life where they have authority.
Uneven Authority
Christians are not evenly spread across society, so the tipping point is not the same across an entire society, but will be different in each community, neighbourhood and sphere of authority. God will have more influence in some communities and neighbourhood than in others. The tipping point will be reached in some places sooner than in others.

New Zealand is very close to the tipping point. Some parts of our society may already have passed it.

America is not as far down the track to the tipping point as New Zealand. At least twenty percent of the American population are still serious Christians, whereas the number here is more like five. The politicians and people are still giving God considerable authority to act in America.

During good times, people assume they will last forever. As society moves towards the tipping point, people are able to reject God without seeing any serious consequences. God still has authority to act on earth and is able to restrain the worst evil that human behaviour is unleashing. This creates and illusion of security, because society is becoming ungodly, but the good times roll on. The illusion is broken when the tipping point is reached and evil gets a free hand. People are surprised when life on earth suddenly going sour.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Discerning Seasons (2) - Authority and Influence

When a large number of Christians (white line) live in a community or country, God has considerable authority in that place. He is able to determine most of what happens there. If there are very few people hostile or ambivalent to God (the black line), the evil powers are squeezed into a corner with very little influence. This brings great blessings on earth.

This blessing is lost in three phases.

Door Opened
When the number of Christians in the population declines, God’s authority on earth shrinks. His character and person remains unchanged, but his authority on earth is diminished. As the number of people rejecting God increases, a door is opened to the evil principalities and powers. Whereas previously they could only undertake minor skirmishes, the opening of this door of authority allows them to undertake major operations on earth. More of what happens is the result of their influence.

The church and society flow in tandem with to each other. If society is going downhill, it is because the church is not doing its job. It has stopped being salt and light in the world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Discerning Seasons (1) - Authority on Earth

Most Christians believe that God is in control of the world. He decides what happens on earth. If something bad happens, God must have allowed it. When a disaster occurs, he gets the blame.

This view is not true. Not only does it create confusion, it portrays God as cruel and nasty.

Many other Christians believe that we are in what they call the “end times”. Things on earth will get worse and worse, without any rhyme or reason. Their only hope to escape before things slip too far down the gurgler. Not only is this view wrong (the end times are not mentioned in the scriptures), but it creates confusion about what God is doing and how we should respond.

When God created the earth and mankind, he took a huge risk, because he decided to give authority over earth to humans.

The highest heavens belong to the LORD,
but the earth he has given to mankind (Psalm 115:16).
He gave this authority without recourse, so he cannot snatch it back, if it is used unwisely. This has a serious consequence. Since humans have authority here, we decide what happens on earth. Whenever something bad happens, some person, or group of people has allowed it to happen.

This principle is essential for understanding prayer. Prayer is not persuading God to do what he does not want to do. Prayer is finding out what the Father wants to do and giving the Holy Spirit permission to do it. I have written about this in Prayer and Authority.

Understanding human authority is also important for understanding events on earth. In this series of posts, I will set out a framework for understanding how this works.

The full series is at Discerning Seasons.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Earthquake Essentials

From our experience without services following the Christchurch earthquake, the follow are things you should try to have.

  1. Store lots of Water. We had a number of two litre bottles filled with water stored in our garage (old juice bottles are fine). Even if it is a bit stale, boiling will make it right.

  2. A portable gas cooker (LPG or Butane) is really important for boiling water and cooking food.

  3. A gas barbecue is really useful.

  4. Keep several torches and spare batteries. Really important if disaster comes at night. Spread them around the house. We had both ours in our bedroom, but the bedroom door was jammed shut by the earthquake. That could have been a problem, if the earthquake had been at night.

  5. A portable radio is essential, as it is the best way to keep in touch with what is happening elsewhere. Make sure you have plenty of fresh batteries

  6. Solar lights are really handy. In the summer, we had bought several solar-powered garden lights to light up our drive way. They cost less than a dollar each. We put them outside during the day, and brought them in at night. Each one put out as much light as a candle, but is much safer. I also bought a couple with three LEDs, which are strong enough to ready by.

  7. Keep plenty of food. Dried and canned food keeps for a long time and is great to have on hand.

  8. A chemical toilet is essential. Some really cheap options are available from China. We have a Porta Potti. They are a great design. Having a solution to the number one problem under your control makes life bearable and reduces the risk of disease enormously.

  9. Get to know your neighbours. When disaster strikes they will be more help to you than relatives and Christian friends who live a mile away.

  10. A cell phone is essential. Make sure you have an independent way of charging it, because they soon run flat in an emergency. If you have a prepay account, make sure you have plenty of money on it, or keep charge card in reserve, because you burn through your money quickly in a crisis.

  11. The internet is wonderful for communication. Make sure that you have a way of accessing the internet that does not depend on electricity or telephone lines, because they may not be there when trouble strikes.

  12. A small portable generator can be really useful. They are made really cheap in China now. We have been lent one, but I think I will buy one when this is over. You can do so many more things when you have access to electricity. Some solar panels to charge batteries might be a cheaper option.

  13. An old telephone is essential. The cordless versions we have come to love do not work when the electricity goes off, even if the telephone lines are still working.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Middle East Stirred (5) - Next Big Event

Daniel described the significant event that follows the Stirring of the Middle East.

For the king of the North will muster another army, larger than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped (Dan 11:13).
The United States will invade another Middle Eastern country (see Invaded Again). This happens several years later, which suggests that the United States will not invade Libya.

The next invasion is organised after some violent people in Israel take foolhardy and unsuccessful actions that cause outrage throughout the world (Dan 11:14). The invading army will be established in Israel (beautiful land) to restore order and peace (see Rebellion in Israel).
These events do not end the struggle between the king of the North and the king of the South. Daniel 11 describes further battles between the King of the North and the King of the South (vv. 13, 25, 29, 40). The United States will invade the Middle East several times. Some of these invasions will pass through Israel causing that nation to be "trampled by the gentiles" (Luke 21:24).

These events are not signs of the second coming. They are just birth pangs marking the beginning of the Time of Distress.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Middle East Stirred (4) - Outcome

Daniel notes two outcomes from these demonstrations.

First, many people will be called killed.

but tens of thousands will fall (Dan 11:12).
President Ben Ali in Tunisia and President Murabak walked away in the face of the pressure. Many other political leaders will not give up that easily, but will fight furiously to hold onto their power and privilege. Gadhafi has taken this option in Libya. Thousands of people will die in Libya before the current struggle ends.

Second, demonstrations will not produce prosperity. Many people will die in these struggles. In some situations, tribal-based disputes will emerge.
tens of thousands will fall and he will not prosper (Dan 11:12).
A very literal translation says that “he will not get fat”. Getting fat means prosperity. A major motivation for the demonstrators had been unemployment and rising food prices. Shortages of food are increasing all over the world. A change in government will not produce more food or create new jobs. Democratic government does not automatically produce prosperity. Many of the protesters will be disappointed by the outcome. Many situations will end with the military in control.

The word for “fat” can also be translated as “prevail” or “succeed”. Daniel suggests that the King of the South will not succeed. The peoples of the Middle East will be stirred up, but they "will not prevail". Despite the current troubles, the United States will continue dominate the Middle East and North Africa.

Finally, Iran will be strengthened. Iraq is Iran’s most serious enemy The destruction of Iraq and the installation of a more sympathetic Shiite government has remove an obstacle to its expansion. The Prince of Persia (Iran) will be stirred up allowing Iran to re-emerge as the most important player in the Middle East (see Resurgence of Iran).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Middle East Stirred (3) - Massive Demonstrations

Daniel explains that the insurgency against the United States in Iraq would be followed by an even greater stirring up of the Middle East. Daniel 11:12 is quite difficult to interpret. A more literal translation follows:

The King of the South will stir up a great multitude and a great multitude will be given into his hand. As this multitude is raised up, their heart will heart will be lifted high, but tens of thousands will fall and he will not prosper.
The Hebrew word translated "multitude" means "roar, crowd or tumult". It speaks of a tumultuous and noisy crowd. Words are doubled in Hebrew for emphasis. The word multitude is used twice to emphasise the size of the crowds. Daniel saw an immense crowd or tumult.

The phrase “given into his hand” could refer to a defeat in battle, but more likely means “placed under his command”. This massive noisy crowd will be controlled by the King of the South (we must remember that the King of the South is a spiritual force and not a human ruler). An alternative translation suggests that he will “cause a great multitude to stand”.

The reference to their “heart being lifted high” could refer to pride or arrogance. In this context, it means to courage. When these huge crowds gather together, people who have been passive for decades will be stirred to a new courage. Bold resistance against security forces will boost their pride.

The first few months of 2011 were marked a gigantic stirring right across the Middle East and North Africa. It began in Tunisia, where the government was forced to resign. From there, the stirring spread to Egypt where huge crowds of young people protested in Cairo for two weeks, forcing President Murabak to resign from the position he had held for thirty years. Since then huge demonstrations have taken place in the cities of Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, Libya and Bahrain. A tumultuous crowd has been “caused to stand” and protest against their rulers.

Bahrain is interesting because the majority of the population is Shiite, but is ruled by a Sunni King. This small country in the Persian Gulf is now the home of the American sixth fleet, but it was once a province of Iran. The Iranians would like their province back. If a democratic government was elected, a Shiite majority government might be more sympathetic to Iran than American economic and political interests. The United States might be tempted to back a minority monarchy in order retain control of a key military base.

In Libya, hundreds of demonstrators were shot in the struggle. The Gadhafi forces initially lost control of much of the county, but are now fighting back. The political struggle has morphed into a civil war.

In some of the countries where the people have demonstrated, the rulers are American puppets, propped up because they maintain the stability needed for global business to prosper. Some of the kings belong to dynasties put in place by the British at the end of the First World War. These demonstrations are a reaction against the King of the North (currently manifesting through the United States).

The people of the Middle East have been made bitter by their treatment by the Western powers. In the months ahead, the entire Middle East could be stirred up. Saudi Arabia is particularly vulnerable, as its rulers are old conservative Sunnis, while the population is young and radical. A large, oppressed Shiite lives and works among the Saudi oilfields, but have received any of economic benefits.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Middle East Stirred (2) - Iraq War

When George Bush the King of the North invaded Iraq with his little helpers in 2003 (described in Dan 11:10), they were not just attacking a third rate Middle Eastern nation, but was taking on the enormous spiritual forces of the King of the South (he is a spiritual entity). The King of the South did not just roll over, but struck back hard. The people of the United States were surprised by the ferocity of these spiritual forces and lack the spiritual strength to resist (see United States invades Iraq).

Daniel describes the consequences of the United States invasion of Iraq.

The king of the South will be enraged and go forth and fight with the king of the North (Dan 11:11).
The invasion of Iraq caused the King of the South to stir up resistance against the United States forces. This part of the prophecy was fulfilled by the insurgency that erupted in Iraq after the Ba’athist government collapsed. Conquering Iraq was relatively easy, but maintaining control proved to be extremely difficult. The concentration of American forces in Iraq made them vulnerable to terrorist attack, leading to large-scale losses. A variety of Islamic groups emerged to fight against the United States in Iraq in fulfilment of this prophecy.

The Shiite Iraqis were stirred up first. In April 2004, a militia controlled by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took control of the holy Shiite city of Najaf and fortified themselves in the centre of the city near the Iman Ali Shrine. This led to the widespread insurgency in southern Iraq.

Sunni Moslems were stirred up when the United States forces Al Fallujah and killed several unarmed demonstrators. A year later, Sunni forces were able to re-claim the city, before being ousted by a siege and two re-invasions by US forces. These events stirred up opposition throughout the Sunni regions of Iraq and the insurgency.

Iraq was well and truly stirred up by the invasion. It is still being destroyed by violence, despite democratic elections.

Middle East Stirred (1)

Recent events in the Middle East have been amazing. The spread of “people power” from country to country was totally unexpected. No commentators expected that powerful political leaders would resign in the face of mass demonstrations.

I searched the prophetic lists to see if any of the prophets had prophesied these dramatic events, but they seemed to be totally silent. A few have linked events in Egypt with Isaiah 19, but none seemed to understood what is happening.

When I did a Google search, I was surprised to be reminded that five years ago, I had written an article called “Middle East Stirred". In the first version of the article, I wrote.

The presence of the United States in Iraq might also stir up the rest of the Middle East, leading to a collapse of the current order. The monarchs controlling Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States being overthrown. The entire Middle East might become unstable and unsettled. Saudi Arabia is particularly vulnerable, as the King is old and the people are radical....
Unfortunately, I did not fully understand what I had written. I assumed that Daniel’s warning of the Middle Eastern being stirred was mostly fulfilled by the insurgency in Iraq. This was misguided. It is now clear that Daniel’s warning has a much broader fulfilment. I am currently rewriting the article to make it clearer and will post it over the next few days.

Rigid Foundations

Modern houses in Christchurch are built on concrete slab called a “floating foundation”. This slab acts a floor and supports the walls and roof. The timber framing on most houses has coped with the earthquake well. The big problem is that the concrete slabs of many larger houses have broken in two and drifted apart, sometimes leaving two or three inch gap. This is almost impossible to repair.

Most of the experts are saying that the problem is with the land on which the houses are built. I am wondering if there is a problem is the basic design.

The design of high-rise building has changed significantly in recent years. Older buildings with rigid structures do not cope well with earthquakes. The new approach is building structures that are flexible. A building that can move and flex when an earthquake hits does not collapse. This approach has worked really well with high-rise buildings.

Despite this knowledge, we are persisting in building our houses on rigid foundations. The timber framing flexes when an earthquake hits and does not fall. Even brick walls seem to flex a bit. Unfortunately, the rigid foundation does not flex, so it breaks in half under the stress of an earthquake. The larger the house, the greater problem seems to be.

The best solution may be to design concrete foundations that are less rigid. Maybe the concrete foundation for our houses should be built in smaller sections, with flexible joints between the sections that would not break under the stress of the earthquake.

I wonder if any of the experts are thinking about this solution.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


At 4 pm, we turned on the tap and we had running water.

Then about fifteen minutes later, the electricity came on. And with electricity access to the internet.

The light looks good after 15 days without electricity.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Bedside Lamps

We now have bedside lamps. They have to be put out into the sun to charge during the day.

Great stuff made in China.

Hot Shower

We can now have a hot shower. It takes a few minutes to heat the water on our gas stove (butane). The warm water is poured into a plastic container that can be hung on a hook. The holes drilled in the container lid act as a shower head. Lovely!

Robert Godley

Robert Godley led the first group of English settlers who arrived in Christchurch in 1850. During the earthquake his statue in the centre of the city toppled to the ground. It looks as if he is having his nose rubbed in the dirt.

In a way that is what has happened. In 1848, when revolution was spreading across the cities of Europe, he had a vision for a establishing a base in the antipodes from which the influence of the Kingdom of God could spread out into the rest of the world. (More here) He fulfilled his calling and planted the city of Christchurch. Sadly, his vision for Christchurch has been forgotten, even among Christians.

The mayor is keen to lift Robert Godley’s statue back onto its plinth. I am keener for the Christians in Christchurch to lift up their eyes from their narrow and limited church visions and re-capture the vision for the Kingdom of God.

Let Christchurch become a place that is ready to receive the Kingdom, and work with the Holy Spirit to spread the influence of the Kingdom throughout the earth.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Solar Lights

Solar lights are really handy. We bought a few solar-powered garden lights to brighten up our driveway back in January. They cost less than a dollar each. We now put them outside during the day, and bring the top piece in at night. Each one gives out as much light as a candle, but is much safer. Very handy when you have not electricity.

The first photo shows them charging in the garden. The other shows the top of the light upside down on our kitchen bench.

Voluntary Assistance

The earthquake has brought a huge flow of generosity and caring. The numbers of voluntary groups providing assistance have been astounding.

Yesterday morning as we drove home after filling our large container of water, we saw a group of people cooking breakfast on a street corner. We stopped to see them and they gave us sausages and eggs to eat. They were a church group, who had come in from outside of the city to bless those in need. The girl that I spoke with had flown down from Hamilton in the North Island with five others to assist for a week.

Soon after we got home, another group of volunteers called round to distribute boxes of groceries that have donated. We got muesli, noodles, bottled water, chocolate biscuits, fresh fruit, cans of fruit, baby wipes (really handy when water is short), sanitizers and gloves.

The day before, a lady called in with some jam and biscuits she had prepared.

Last weekend, hot meals were brought into the local park by helicopter and delivered round the streets while still warm. They had all been cooked by volunteers. They were handing out bottled water as well.

The next day the army was handing out meals from that had been prepared by volunteers to people who turned up at the water tanks. They handed out shortbread as well.

Several thousand students have carted silt out of thousands of homes and back yards. This is backbreaking dirty work, but it was all done for free.

If you leave bottles by your mailbox, people driving around with tanks on trailers will fill them with water.

Some people have brought in crates of bread and left it on a street corner for people to help themselves. Others have gone door to door deliver bread and water.

People’s response is interesting too. Some people are still complaining about the lack of help. Others grab everything that is going, even if they do not need it. However, most are just really grateful and are blessed that people care about their plight.

I am also surprised at the number of people who refuse help. Some have slogged away on their carting silt, because they are unwilling to pick up a phone and ask for the students to help.

I have been really impressed with the level of generosity and willingness to get on and do something.


Electricity has been restored to 95% of houses in Christchurch, but we are in the 5% still without electricity after twelve days (and no running water or sewerage). I feel honoured to be in this select group, because I presume they decided that the people living in our neighbourhood are tough enough to cope for a few more days.

The street next to ours has had electricity restored, so it is getting close. The lines company says that 99 percent of households will have their electricity restored by Monday evening. A couple more days is neither here nor there.

The construction companies have now started restoring streets. The photos show the arterial route that our street comes off. The first is the the street just after the earthquake. It is starting to look much better. Our street still has some huge judder bars. They are also beginning to remove some of the humps and holes. The last photo shows the effect.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Future of Christchurch (2) - Networks

In my previous post, I talked about a center-less city. This aligns with the kingdom of God model for business structures.

Corporate structures will change dramatically in the Kingdom Economy. Large conglomerates will be less viable, because the risks of investing in them will be too high without limited liability laws. Growth for the sake of growth will not be a viable business model. Most big corporations will be replaced by a several smaller businesses cooperating to achieve the same purpose.

The benefit of the big corporate model is the ability to control huge resources and complex processes. This is the devil’s method. He works through manipulation and control.

Cooperation will be more important than control in the Kingdom of God. Jesus spreads authority around and relies on the Holy Spirit to coordinate numerous people to achieve a common purpose.

As big businesses wither away, control and ownership will be replaced with cooperation and contracts. For example, a business that operates large, complicated, resource-intensive processes will not be able to bring every aspect of these processes under its control, as the risks would be too large. Instead of owning and controlling every aspect of the production process, they will manage them through contracts with many suppliers and service providers. Their role will change from controlling everything to coordinating the overall process and managing relationships with a network of supporting businesses.

The modern economy is dominated by highly-visible big businesses. In the Kingdom Economy, businesses will be so small and numerous as to be almost invisible.. The authoritarian managers with the big egos that control many big corporations will be redundant. They will be replaced by managers who can manage cooperation with many other businesses. Smaller businesses will be the norm in the Kingdom economy.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Future of Christchurch

The politicians, town planners and guardians of heritage buildings are on the radio and television discussing the future of Christchurch. Their views can be summed up in the following statement. “We must decide what kind of Christchurch we want.” What they are really saying is that they want to decide what kind of Christchurch we want.

What they do not realise is that the shape of a city is not decided by the politicians and planners, but by the people and businesses of a city. As they make millions of decisions, the future city will be formed.

People will decide, if they want to live in Christchurch, or move away. I am staying, because this is where I am called, but many will move away. Homeowners will decide what to do with their homes.

The owners of destroyed buildings will decide what to do with them in (conjunction with their insurance companies).

Businesses will decide if they want to stay in Christchurch. Many will decide to leave the Central Business District (CBD). Lock-downs during a crisis make it a risky place to do business. In the past businesses needed to be concentrated in the centre to ease communications. With modern transport and communications, there is very little to be gained from being based in the CBD I suspect that most manufactures and many office-based businesses will decide to re-establish in locations where they are not surrounded by risky buildings and risks of costly shutdowns. Some will go to the suburbs temporarily, but decide they like it there.

Christchurch people decided long ago that they prefer shopping in suburban malls, so they are unlikely to go back to the central city for shopping now. Many retailers will leave the CBD and take their businesses to where the people want to be.

Christchurch may become a centre-less city. More and more business activity may be pushed back out to the edges and suburbs, but be joined together by communications networks. This may be a better model for a modern city.

The hierarchical-control model has everything clustered at the centre. A more Christian model is decentralised but joined together in networks. If the Holy Spirit is at the centre, that is enough..

There is one important ingredient that the politicians and planners have left out of their discussions. God has a purpose for Christchurch. Men like Robert Godley who were involved in the planning of and founding of the city came here in response to a God’s calling to advance the Kingdom of God. They believed that they were establishing something specific for him. That vision still stands and will in the end carry more weight than the speculations of the politicians and planners.

Business Makes a Difference

I am intrigued by the difference between the style of government and business. Everything that central government and city council officials do is accompanied by a media release or news conference, whereas businesses seem to just get on and do it. I suppose it is because business owners and managers are motivated by getting a task done, whereas politicians are motivated by public approval.

I do not know what it was like in the central city, but here in the suburbs most of the things that really made a difference were done provided by businesses:

  • supermarkets selling water, torches, bread and milk;
  • service stations providing petrol and LPG,
  • road construction companies providing trucks and excavators to remove silt from the streets;
  • telecommunication companies keeping the phones going;
  • power companies restoring electricity supplies.
  • trucking buineness keeping the supply chains linked.
  • milk companies supplying bulk tanks and tankers of water.
  • airlines carrying people in and out of Christchurch
  • Kenny’s supplying and cleaning portaloos.
Business often gets a bad name in New Zealand, but I really appreciate the ability of these businesses to get things done

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Temporary Kitchen

Here is our temporary kitchen in the garage with generator, microwave, toaster and electric kettle. This is easier than camping in a tent.

Earthquake Support

A helicopter flew in hot meals into a local park on Saturday and Sunday night. Volunteers took them round the streets on wheel barrows. This was organised by volunteers.

The portaloos arrived from the town of Ashburton 60kms away.

This is wonderful support.