Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mcknight and Wright

Earlier in the year, I read The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight and When God Becomes King by NT Wright. I like the way that Wright and McKnight bring together the message of the cross and the Kingdom. McKnight tells the story against the background of the altar call gospel, whereas Wright frames it within the gaps in the creeds. Although, they come from different directions, they end up in a similar place with a renewed emphasis on the importance of the Kingdom of God. Wonderful stuff.

They both emphasise that Jesus is the fulfilment of Israel’s story, but I get a bit nervous about the use the word “story”. Did something really happen in Israel. Did Abraham and Moses really exist, or are they just a post-modern metanarrative that the gospel writers used to frame their gospel. I am sufficiently pre-postmodern that I need the history of Israel to be real and mean something in terms of Gods plans and purposes.

I realise that it is churlish to say that a book has failed to answer important questions. An author cannot every question, and they are entitled to choose which questions they think are important and worthy of answer. Nevertheless, I am going to say that I think that three important things are missing from these two books. I will deal with these in the next three posts.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dangerous Deception

Many prophetic people are concerned about President Obama’s morality, specifically his support for abortion and homosexual marriage (they do not seem to be so worried about his penchant for murder using unmanned drones, although this is related). While these are serious sins, they are surface sins and not the root cause of depravity, that prophets should be really worried about.

Many prophets are advocating a vote for morality by supporting Mitt Romney, as a lesser evil. There is a serious problem with this advice. Mitt Romney is an active Mormon. People who join the Mormon church are deceived. They are seeking the truth about Jesus, but they are blinded to it by a spirit of deception.

This is dangerous for the nation, because when people vote for a king/president, they are not just submitting to him, they are also submitting to the principalities and powers that control him. If Mitt Romney is elected to the presidency, the principalities and powers of deception will obtain a huge stronghold in the United States. This is dangerous for three reasons.

  1. Deception is hard to deal with. An immoral person knows what they are doing is wrong, so they can repent. A person who is being deceived does not know that what they are doing is wrong, so they cannot repent, until they are set free from deception.

  2. Once deception gains control of a nation, all kinds of evil can emerge. Deception allows evil to diversify and expand. At a political level, deception is really dangerous, because it opens the way for despotic government. 2 Thes 2:1-12 will not be fulfilled in this season, but it illustrates the principle, that deception opens the door to totalitarian government.

  3. God sends a spirit of deception on a nation, when it is ready for judgment, when it has gotten so bad, that it is beyond repentance. 1 Kings 22 is a good example. Ahab had done his worst. God sent a spirit of deception, to allow him to be lead to his destruction. Unfortunately for him, Miciah was the only who understand why this had happened. The court prophets urged him to action, inspired by a spirit of deception.

I hope that America does not vote for Romney, because if he wins and America comes under a spirit of deception, then it has gone much further toward judgement than I thought. (Note when America comes under judgment, it will not become weak. Rather when the Holy Spirit is squeezed out, it will become stronger and nastier. It will continue to be a great power, but will be force for evil rather than good.)

Some will respond by saying that Obama is deceived too. That is true, but it not his controlling spirit. For Romney, deception is the spirit that controls all others. His multiple policy changes, seemingly without any reference to the truth, are a sign of man controlled by deception.

I hope that the prophets urging support for Romney, because he is a lesser evil, are not the modern equivalents of the court prophets, who disagreed with Miciah. They were not evil people. They were brought to the palace for their spiritual gifts. They just go caught up in what was going on around them and were sucked deception. That could be happening again.

Red Horse in Ethiopia

To understand what is happening in the world, we must recognise that Red Horse of Revelation has been released. This horse represents military struggles between ethnic groups that will tear apart nations that were established during the age of nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Another country where the Red Horse is working is Ethiopia. Most western people think of Ethiopia as an ancient Christian culture. This is only partially true. The reality is that Ethiopia is the remnant of a colonial empire. Less than half of the population are Christian. The Amhara and Tigrayan mountain tribes who have controlled the country are only 30% of the population. The largest population group is the Oromo people who live in the lowland areas close to the sea. The Somalis of Ogaden and the Sidama are other significant tribal groups.

Since 1995, Ethiopia has been ruled by a ruthless dictator called Meles Zenawi. He killed off all potential opposition and suppressed all tribal groups. With his death, the various tribal groups will be released. If another strongman does not emerge, this tribal tension will lead to a war that tears the area a part. The Christian part of Ethiopia will be left in the mountainous regions cut off from the sea.

The United States has used Ethiopia as its local henchmen in the Horn of Africa. It has poured weapons into the country to support this role. When things fall apart, these weapons will increase the intensity of the struggle (big sword).

Note: the Red Horse is not a sign of the second coming of Jesus. Its role in God’s plan for history is described in Times and Seasons.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Healing the Earth

I am probably getting ahead of myself here, but this stuff will be really important in the future.

The New Testament gospel is good news for the whole of creation. Up till the time of Jesus, it was subject to frustration.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it (Rom 8:20).
The one who subjected it was the devil. He gained authority on earth when humans fell into sin, and gave him authority one earth. The damage that he did left the created world needing to be set free.
The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21).
The creation needs to set free from bondage to decay. How will this happen? The answer is given in the same passage.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed (Rom 8:19).
According to Romans, the restoration of the creation gets under way when the children of God are revealed on earth by coming to faith in Jesus. Up until the time of Jesus, it was in bondage to decay.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Rom 8:22).
The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus was meant to end the groaning of creation. The gospel of Jesus is good news for humans. It was meant to be good news for creation, too.

The gift of healing is the key. If the Holy Spirit can heal human bodies, he can heal any creature on earth. If the Holy Spirit can heal any creature, he can heal everything in the physical creation.

We need to understand the damage done to the created world by the fall. God created a good world. He did not create a world where floods, earthquakes and droughts kill people. These things came into the world after the fall. When mankind sinned, Satan was freed to do his harm in God’s creation. He released harmful viruses, dangerous animals and destructive forces on earth. He turned peaceful animals into dangerous carnivores. He changed good plants into poisonous weeds. Animals, insects and plants changed into dangerous forms that had not existed when the world was good as God crated it. Bacteria and viruses the cause sickness and disease emerged and began to spread. All these things that marred God’s good earth were the work of the devil.

Jesus death and resurrection destroyed the power of sin and evil. The gospel and the Spirit are now his vehicle for rolling back the effects of sin and restoring creation to its full glory. As Paul noted, creation is now waiting in eager expectation for this to happen.

The earth will be restored in two ways.
  1. As the gospel spreads and the Kingdom advances, the forces of evil will be slowly and gradually squeeze out of the earth. Their ability work harm in creation will dissipate and disappear. This will bring huge relief to the earth.

  2. When the powers of evil are forced out of the earth, they will not clean up their mess before they leave. God’s people will have to actively restore the earth by tidying up behind them.

Some of the restoration of the earth will take place through normal “caring for the earth”, as people grow gardens, and farmers nurture the land they are using. However, some of the harm done on earth will need more active healing. Christians who have worked with the Spirit to heal the sick will turn their attention to the sickness of the created world. The gift of healing will be needed to heal the harm done to the earth by sin and evil. Here are some examples.

  • Land that is unproductive due to the curse of sin may need to be healed.

  • Land that is sick due to misuse of chemicals or excessive cropping may need to be healed.

  • Poisonous plants may need to be healed so they become edible.

  • Prolific weeds that swamp other useful plants may need to be healed to so they lose their tendency to dominate and destroy other plants.

  • Some highly nutritious and productive plants may need to be healed to become palatable.

  • Some volcanoes that are harming human life will need to be cast into the sea. Jesus explained how this could be done.

    Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you (Matt 17:20).

  • Land that is subject to serious earthquakes will need to be healed.

  • Destructive weather patterns will need to be healed. Hurricanes and tornadoes will need to be calmed.

Dealing with these problems will require immense faith. God’s people will develop the faith that is need for this task by working with the Holy Spirit to heal the sick. This means that the gift of healing is much more important than many realise.

The time when these wonderful things will happened is described in Times and Seasons.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bogeyman Politics

The political world always seems to have a bogeyman that everyone picks on. Political leaders love to beat their chests and point the figure at the evil dictator.

Once it was Idi Amin. Then Muammar Gaddafi filled the bill. When Tony Blair brought him in from the cold, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia stepped up to take his place. Once he had been deposed, Saddam Hussein became the leader that the world hates, although he had been an ally of the United States. Once he was gone, the politicians of the world needed a new bogeyman to ostracise. They tried President Ahmadinejad of Iran, but once they realised that his power is limited and that he will step down after the next election, they realised he could not fulfil the role, so Muammar Gaddafi was bought back in for another innings, but he did not last for long. Now President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is the evilest man in the world.

None of these guys were very nice, and the world is better off without them all, but I am struck by the hypocrisy of it all. Hillary Clinton rants to the United Nations about the evil President Assad attacking his own citizens, but when the King of Bahrain attacks his citizens, she is strangely silent, because he provides America with a military base.

A dozen other American “allies” are no better, and many are worse than Bashar al-Assad. The Saudi Arabian kings and princes have never been elected. They are suppressing their own citizens and funding violent activity all over the world, but they are okay, because the West needs their oil. Many of the dictators of central Asia are worse, but the West does not want them slipping into the Chinese orbit.

William Haig, the British Foreign Secretary berates Bashar al-Assad of Syria in a voice that is a bizarre mixture of whining and pompous, but he ignores the fact that many of the problems in the Middle East arise the way that the British and the French chopped up the region after the first world war.

Presidents and Prime Ministers line up to point the finger at the evil dictator that the world has chosen to hate during the current season. This is just like Jesus’ parable of the pharisee and the tax collector.

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18:9-14)
The Pharisee trivialised his own sin, by pointing up at the sin of someone who appeared to be worse. This is a common method for dealing with sin. Point the finger at someone who is worse than you, and your own sins suddenly seem less serious. Find someone bad enough and you will feel almost good.

This Pharisee method is popular with politicians, too.

Their problem is that deep down, most political leaders know that they are guilt of misusing power that does not truly belong to them. They make decision that they do not have a mandate to make. They have used their power for personal benefit. Without the cross of Jesus, they have no alternative but to use the Pharisee method. They make themselves feel better, by shifting the attention to someone who is much worse. That is why they always need a political bogeyman to point their fingers at. It does not matter who this person is, as long as there is a general consensus that they are really evil. This is why they politicians always agree on who is the bogeyman, even though they could not agree on many other things.

The more evil the bogeyman can be painted, the more justified the politicians feel.

As an aside, politicians have been able to take on the role of exposing evil, because prophets to the nations have been missing in church, or silent. Confusing prophetic and political roles dangerous. Prophets, judges and military leaders have different roles that must be kept separate. See Prophetic Ministry.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A different take...

... on the US presidential election.

If your remove the rack from Obama Barack’s, you get Ba Ma Ba, which is a conversation between a sheep and it lamb.

The Romney is a breed of sheep. They produce a lot of coarse wool suitable for carpets, but are dumber than most sheep breeds. Farmers here have had to cross the Romney with other breeds to increase their productivity and intelligence.

So the competition between the donkey and the elephant has changed into a contest between to sheep.

It does not matter which one wins the election, because during his term of office, events will occur that cause Americans to follow him like sheep to a place were they do not want to go.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Direct Attack

People living in a war zone learn how to live carefully. They always go out in a group, so they can defend themselves from any attack. Everyone is armed and trained to know what to do if they come under attack. Someone will always be on watch for a threat danger. When the warning is sounded, they all take up a different position designed to protect the entire group.

We are engaged in a spiritual war. Yet many Christians living in the West function as if they were living during peacetime. They go through life casually almost oblivious to the dangers from spiritual attack. They assume that because evil is manifesting blatantly, it is not operating. If they travel into a different culture, they become very aware of spiritual warfare because it is out in the open, but when they get home, they go into peacetime mode. This is dangerous, because it leaves them vulnerable to enemy attacks.

Blatant attack works well in more traditional cultures, because people a easily intimidated. In modern cultures, the enemy has to be more subtle. Attacks generally come in two ways. One form of attack is the deceptive thoughts that are intended to lead us into disobedience to God or to grieve the Holy Spirit. Jesus temptation is a good example of this kind of attack. He resisted by standing on God’s word. This method is not so effective among Christians who know right from wrong.

The other common form of attack is sickness. The forces of evil frequently use sickness to cripple mature Christians to prevent them from obey God and fulfilling their calling. This method of attack works well in the West, because the Christian often does not even realise that they are under attack. They just assume that they picked up an infection or a virus.

This gives the enemy a huge advantage, as it allows him to attack, without the person under attack realising what is happening. It is almost impossible to defend against an attack, if you do not realise that you are under attack.

The fourth chapter of my book called Healing explains how to deal with direct attack of sickness. My impression is that this danger is not well understood by Christians.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

God of the Gaps

In the nineteenth century, some Christians took what was called a “God of the Gaps” approach to science. They accepted that science could explain many things, so they limited God to things that science could not explain.

This did not work, for two reasons.

The first problem was that as science grew and explained more and more of what happened on earth, the gaps left for God to explain got smaller and smaller. Soon there no room left for God, and he was squeezed out of his universe.

The second problem is that if God is to be God, he must be the explanation of everything. A god who is limited to gaps is not really god.

Although this approach has mostly been discarded, many Christians have a God of the gaps approach to sickness and healing. They see most sickness as being caused by bacterial or viral infections or by genetic defects. These can be healed or controlled by antibiotics and other medicines.

When medicines fail or an incurable sickness strikes, they call on God for healing.. This is a God of the gaps approach. God is used for the things that modern medicine cannot heal.

Jesus took a different approach. He saw all sickness as having a spiritual cause. On a sabbath day when he was teaching in a synagogue, he encountered a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years. She had been bent over for so long that she could not straighten up. If we could do an MRI scan, she would be diagnosed osteoporosis of the spine. Exercise and physiotherapy would be prescribed. But Jesus saw a spiritual cause. He said, “Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years” (Luke 13:16). He was not saying that she did not have osteoporosis. He was explaining that there was a deeper cause, which need to be dealt with for her to be healed.

Then he put his hands on her,and immediately she straightened up and praised God (Luke 13:13).
If we assume that we only need prayer for dealing with the gaps that modern medicine cannot handle, we have not fully understood the gospel.

More at Healing

Friday, October 19, 2012

War Propaganda

The shooting of Malala Yousufzai by the Talaban was a terrible evil, so it is not surprising that their has been a huge wave of sympathy and outrage.

What is not nearly as distressing is the way that her life has been turned into war propaganda.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of girls have been wounded and killed in Afghanistan and the Pakistan borderlands since the American led invasion of Afghanistan by NATO forces. The girls who are killed and injured by American drones never get their faces onto our television screens. The girls who were were raped and killed by the warlords of the Northern Alliance, who are now NATO allies in Afghanistan government never their pictures into our newspapers. Girls who are injured during night raids do not get flown to the UK for treatment. Borjan, 12; Sardar Wali, 10; and Khan Bibi, 8, who are all from one family, who were hit by an American missile last Sunday, while collecting dung for fuel, did not get their photos in the New Times .They did not fit the needs of the propaganda machine that the modern media have become, and modern war needs.

The United States invaded Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaida. Once Bin Laden was killed and Al Qaida had been scattered all over the world, a new justification for the war was needed. The next objective was regime change, but once Hamid Karzai and his crony warlords from the Northern Alliance are entrenched in power that objective is no longer realistic, despite many of them being murderers and drug dealers. Hillary Clinton has transformed the war into a mission to liberate the women of Afghanistan and get girls into education. A pretty young women who wants to be educated is the perfect poster girl for that cause.

So its fine to feel sympathy for Malala Yousufzai, but understand that your sympathy is selective, because it is being manipulated.

There is no doubt that the women of Afghanistan are terribly oppressed. A deep change in attitudes and behaviours is essential for the future of the people of Afghanistan. Getting girls, and boys well educated is one of the most important needs. What has been lost in the propaganda is the fact that that war is not a good method for changing attitudes and behaviours. During a war, ruthless men rise to the top, while the women and girls suffer, terribly. War is a man’s game. Losing a battle will not make Afghanistan men treat their wives and daughters better.

The nations of the West once had a powerful method for changing attitudes and behaviours. The proclamation of the gospel in the power of the Spirit can change human hearts and set free people that are oppressed by their culture. The people of the West now seem to have more faith in war than in the gospel for changing hearts and transform cultures.

There is a deep irony here. Islam has a lousy gospel, so it has always had to use military force and warfare to spread its influence. Christianity has a marvellous gospel that is backed by the Holy Spirit, so it spreads best by love and sacrifice. It does not need to use military force to spread. That difference seems to being forgotten.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Healing and the Gospel

I have always been fascinated by the healing miracles in the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The way the Holy Spirit worked with the apostles was really exciting. However, I was always puzzled by James 5. I could not see how it fitted with the rest of the teaching about healing in the New Testament. James’ message seemed so tame and dull in comparison to Acts and the Gospels. A couple of years ago the penny dropped. I discovered that there are two streams of teaching about healing in the Bible, and suddenly everything fell into place. If we split the teaching of the scriptures into these two streams, God’s strategy for healing makes more sense.

  • Healing and Evangelism
    The gift of healing is primarily for unbelievers as a demonstration of the love of God. The Gospels and Acts describe how the gift of healing works in evangelism. Jesus brought good news to apostate Israel, so his ministry often demonstrated this type of healing.

  • Healing and Believers
    The second healing theme explains how God’s people can walk in health. Healing is part of salvation, so it should be a normal part of every believer’s life. James is a key passage in this second stream.

The healing of unbelievers and believers has a different basis. One is based on mercy and the other on covenant.
  • Healing of the unbeliever is based on the mercy of God.
  • Healing of the believer is based on the covenant.
Unbelievers are in the kingdom of darkness, so it is normal for them to be sick. They can only be healed, if God breaks in with power and mercy that they do not deserve. They need the gospel to get out of the kingdom of darkness.

God will sometimes extend mercy to an unbeliever to prove his existence and mercy and love. He does not do this just for the benefit of the person healed, but for all those who see the miracle. He releases his power to shake people up and make them ready to receive the gospel.

On the other hand, Christians get sick, when something is wrong. They have not received everything that they are entitled too. Christians are living in Christ, so they should be experiencing all the benefits of the cross. They are entitled to the healing earned when strips of flesh were ripped off Jesus’ back. This makes it odd for Christians to be sick.

The solution is not physical power, but removing the obstacle that is preventing the Christian from receiving what Jesus has earned for them. If they cannot sort that out on their own, they will need help from someone else with greater faith or wisdom. This is why the scriptures tell sick Christians to go to their elders (James 5). A variety of things can make a Christian sick: lack of faith, sin, demons, ignorance of the gospel or spiritual strongholds. Their elders should seek God for the reason. When they understand the cause, they can deal with it and allow the sick person to receive the health that Jesus has bought for them.

The cause of sickness is different for unbelievers and believers, so the solution must be different. Their healing is appropriated in different ways. Healing: Insights for Christian Elders teases out the significance of this difference. Every Christian needs to understand the difference.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Church Problem

The insights in my book on Healing are primarily for Christians elders. The text of the book contains another warning to ordinary readers.

I am aware that many Christians have prayed against sickness for a long time without gaining victory. Reading this book may not provide much comfort to you. Some of you may even be left feeling condemned. The reason is that I am not writing for sick people, but for church leaders and elders. Most of the blockages to healing are problems with the church, so solving them will require changes in the way that elders fulfil their calling. In order to get Christian elders thinking, I have discussed some tough issues in a very direct way that could seem insensitive to those struggling with sickness. I apologise if this offends some, but I want a breakthrough that will prevent others from suffering.

Most of the problems lie with the church, so individuals battling with sickness will be powerless to do much about them, except challenge their elders to some serious thinking. The major issue is the general lack of faith throughout the church and no individual can deal with that on their own. Unless you are surrounded by a church or group of friends that is willing to grapple with some tough issues, the keys outlined here may not be of much help to you.
The church has left sick Christians feeling that they are responsible for their problem. Many have been accused of lack of faith. It is time that responsibility for this problem is pushed back to those who God gave responsibility for it. My reading of James 5 is that sick Christians are entitled to go to their elders and expect help.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Jonah was a prophet out of sync with God’s purposes. God saw Nineveh as a people with potential, whereas Jonah had written them off. When Nineveh repented, God was glad, but Jonah was disappointed.

Like Jonah, many of the prophetic people in America are out of sync with God’s thinking. They are fussing about the outcome of the election and passing judgment on presidents and candidates. “Obama is bad. George Bush is good. Eisenhower was better. Carter was worse. Romney is OK”.

God looks at the election and sees the American Christians saying, “We want king!”

Over the last few years, there has been a shift in the balance of power in the principalities and powers that control the United States. A different principality has gained ascendancy. This shift has set the United States on a dangerous direction. It does not matter which presidential candidate, wins the next election, as he will be controlled by these principalities and powers.

The big question that the prophets should be asking is why this spiritual shift has occurred, and where it will lead. The United States needs a Daniel, who understands what is happening in the spiritual dimensions, and how that is shaped by the choices of the people.

“We want a President” is an old cry, but a foolish one. American Christians should be saying “We need prophets that can sound a trumpet clear call”.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Political Change

Elections change governments, but only in a superficial way. One demagogue is usually replaced with another. Wars change governments, but they create the conditions for worse rulers to emerge. Jesus pointed to a better way.

If you have faith and do not doubt, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done (Matt 21:21).
This is literally true, but in the scriptures, mountains symbolise powerful governments and empires. Jesus was promising that prophetic voices can speak to political rulers and declare that they must be gone. The key is faith. Prophetic declarations spoken in faith, can remove bad governments. And whereas, elections replace one demagogue with another, and wars strengthen military dictators, prophetic declarations make room for the better mountain.
The mountain of the Lord’s house will be established above the mountains and raised up above the hills and the peoples will flow into it (Is 2:2).
The mountain of the Lord’s house is the Kingdom of God. So the prophetic declarations that bring down evil governments also open up the way for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God will come through prophet declarations, not through elections and wars.
The problem is that this type of prophetic voice does not exist in the modern world. For more on the role of the prophet in the modern world, see Prophetic Ministry.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Red Horse Rising

The news media have taken a long time to catch with the struggle in Syria. For a long time, they described it as another pro-democracy movement in the Spirit of the Arab spring. Only in the last few months have they admitted that a civil war is underway.

The situation in Syria is exacerbated by being the fault line for several larger struggles.

  • Prior to the first world war, Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire, which was based in Turkey Some political leaders would like re-assert Turkish influence in Syria.

  • The dregs of the Cold War still stewing in the Middle East. Russia has a naval base at Tartus in the western Syria that gives it access to the Mediterranean Sea. The US would love to see the Russians squeezed out of the Mediterranean.

  • Syria is on the fragile fault line between the Shia and Sunni forms of Islam. The Assad government is Alawite, which is a sect of Shia Islam, while the majority of the population is Sunni.

  • The Shia revival is centred on Iran. Syria is has been allied with Iran. The war in Iran has strengthened the position of Shia Islam in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and more recently Qatar are the leading Sunni nations, although they have much smaller populations. They see Syria as an opportunity to engage in a proxy battle against Iran.

  • Between the wars, Syria was a French Mandate. The French have many economic interests in the area, and are always looking for to expand their influence by dabbling in the Middle East.

  • Nations with major weapons industries are flooding the area with cheap weapons to sustain their economies through the economic turn down.

The existence of these vested interests make it almost impossible for the United Nations or any other group to mediate a solution. Every proposal for peace has an interested party from the other side that opposes it. Moreover, most of these external interests are fuelling the dispute by providing financial support and supplying weapons to the participants in the civil war.

Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire. It only became a nation at the end of the First World War. The Middle East was split by the Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain in 1916 along artificial national borders that gave no recognition to the different people that populated the region. The European powers ignored local interests, because their main object was to ensure access and control of oil supply, but their short-sightedness is coming back to haunt the world.

Syria is a nation made up of different tribal groups. The majority of the population are Sunni Moslems, but most have been shut out of political power. A number of minority ethnic and religious groups are spread round the country. The Alawite people originally lived in the west of Syria, but many have moved to the big cities of Damascus and Aleppo. A significance group of Kurdish people lie in the North East of Syria. The tensions between these groups have been suppressed by the Assad government. The civil is creating a new set of hatreds that will make these tensions worse.

To understand Syria, we must recognise that Red Horse of Revelation has been released. This horse represents military struggles between ethnic groups that will tear apart nations that were established during the age of nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Assad family dictatorship has kept a lid on the ethnic tensions in Syria, but when the regime eventually falls, these cooped up ethnic forces will destroy the unity of the nation. The “big sword” indicates the ferocity of these struggles. The bitter struggle in Syria is an example of this big sword.

The capital of Syria is Damascus. It has had a continued existing going back to the time of the Old Testament. Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Damascus, but he did not explain how it would happen.
A prophecy against Damascus: See, Damascus will no longer be a city, but will become a heap of ruins (Is 17:1).
If the struggle for Syria continues on and grows in bitterness, Damascus could end up as a heap of ruins.

Note: the Red Horse is not a sign of the second coming of Jesus. Its role in God’s plan for history is described in Times an Seasons.

Prophet or President?

The American people are agitated about the outcome of the election race between Obama and Romney. However a dozen reliable prophets with the ability to prophesy to the nation would achieve more for the US than either of these two men can do. The role of the prophet to a nation is described in Prophetic Ministry.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Prophetic Ministry: Sound the Trumpet Clearly

My latest book called Prophetic Ministry has been released on Amazon today.

I believe that one of the most urgent needs for the modern church is for the restoration of the prophetic ministry. Lack of vision and direction limits the growth of the church. Many Christians just go from fad to fad, with nothing followed through to completion. Many churches have to obtain a vision by copying other successful churches. The Bible warns that without a vision the people will perish (Prov 29:18). A dearth of prophets has caused a lack of vision in the church.

The church needs prophets to give a clear call to battle. It is currently losing the battle because it does not have a focused strategy. A great babble of voices all claim to have the truth and Christians are tossed around by every new wave that comes along. A clear prophetic voice is needed to prepare the church for victory.

In recent years, the gift of prophecy has been rediscovered, but there is still a desperate shortage of prophets. The church has millions of pastors, but almost no mature prophets. The church will not come to true maturity until prophets are being raised up among God’s people.

If you want to understand the role of Prophets in the modern church, you should grab a copy of this book. More information here.

Christian Marriage (15) Church and World

The institution of marriage legislated by modern governments is very different from Christian marriage. These differences affect:

  • Who can get married. Many governments are moving towards allowing same sex marriage. Anyone can get married provided they are over the required certain age. Christian marriage is for couples who have reached a level of maturity.

  • The nature of the relationship. Marriage legislation does not care about how couples behave. It does not care how the couple treats each other, provided they do not engage in violence. Christian marriage requires mutual love and submission.

  • Who can get divorced. Most government allow no fault divorce and serial marriage. The splitting of income after divorce is proscribed. In Christian marriage, love should cover most differences, so divorce is limited to adultery and wilful desertion. Where divorce is the only course, wealth is not split equally, but the women gets back the Bride Gift and its increase, which means that she will often be better off than the man.

The differences between legal marriage and Christian marriage are already significant, and will become much starker in the future. This does not matter. It is just one more difference between the church and the world. If legislated marriage moves further way from Christian marriage, we should not fight it, because we cannot expect the people of the world to live by Christian standards.

The decision to enter a Christian marriage should always be a free choice. We should not force Christian marriage on those who are not Christians. Some may see God’s blessing on Christian marriage and freely choose to live that way because they want the benefits. That is fine if their choice is free, but unwilling people should not be forced into Christian marriage, if they want a different type of relationship. God does not want us to force biblical marriage onto an unwilling world.

We cannot demand that non-Christians commit to the unconditional love that God requires of Christian couples. It is impossible to live that way without the forgiveness of the cross and the blessing of the Holy Spirit anyway, so we should not try to expect it of those who do not know him.

Likewise, the biblical conditions for divorce only apply to Christians. People who have chosen to ignore the Holy Spirit can do what they like. We should not expect them to live up to God’s standards. Where sin abounds, divorce will be inevitable, for a huge variety of reasons. Moses principle of allowing divorce for hardness of heart will always apply in the world.

I am disappointed that same-sex marriage might become legal in this nation, but fighting against it is not the most important challenge facing Christians at this time. It is far more important that we are demonstrating the love of Jesus, walking in the power of the Spirit, and presenting the good news in a way that the world can understand and receive it.

This full series can be found at Christian Marriage.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Christians Marriage (14) Pastoral Reality

The pastoral reality that we have to deal with is a world that is all messed up and many in the church are messed up too. So if divorced Christians are acknowledging their failures and wanting to make a new beginning, we should encourage them. If they are willing to commit to marriage, Christians elders and pastors should be willing to marry them. Churches should be willing to support them.

On the other hand, if they want to continue living a selfish lifestyle, we might need to challenge them. We should not encourage those who a stuck in selfishness to enter a new marriage, because they will probably just get more of the same.

This is not a drift in the biblical principles. It is a Christian response to the situation that has emerged in a sinful world. Our calling has always been to work with the cross and the Spirit to clean up the mess that evil has made in the world. Christians should be skilled in sorting this stuff.

Pauls describes the ideal in 1 Cor 7:10-11. If Christian separate from their spouse, they should ideally remain single, or be reconciled. However, this ideal includes a church that provides the same level of emotional, spiritual and monetary support, as it would provide to a widow of a martyr. The separated person should still have a fulfilled life supported by their Christian community. In our world, life often does not work out like that. The modern church is not capable of providing the level of support needed after the separation, or before it for that matter. People left on their own often get drawn to others of the opposite sex. We were created to relate to others, so it is natural for a person living in isolation to get entangled with another.

Once it has happened, Christians have to deal with the situation as it is. When a separated Christian comes and asks their pastor, if they can marry again, they are not usually asking a theoretical question. They already know who they want to marry. They have already committed adultery with them in their hearts by choosing to unite with another, so they are technical divorced in God’s eyes and free to marry. So the pastor/elder does not need to feel guilty about marrying them.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Christian Marriage (13) Hypocrisy

The church appears hypocritical when it is vehemently hostile towards homosexuals and intolerant of homosexual marriage, but accepts the widespread adultery and divorce among Christians.

Adultery is a more serious sin than divorce. When Christians separate or divorce, they are deciding to stop loving each other. That is not good, but it is a sin of omission rather than commission. Adultery is serious, because people committing it are uniting themselves with another person, when God has made them one with their spouse. Adultery divides something that God has created.

On the other hand, the Bible does not have a hierarchy of sins. Sin is sin. Divorce is no better or worse than other sins. The cross can deal with divorce, just as effectively as any other sin. There is no sin too tough for the cross.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Christian Marriage (12) Failure

Given the current state of the church in the western world, it is not surprising that divorce and remarriage are almost as common in the church as it is in the world. When the church is ambivalent about the God’s standards and lacking the fullness of the Spirit, we cannot expect Christians to be walking in his ways. When the spirit of the world is rampant in the church, divorce naturally follows.

This is not just an issue for those whose marriages have failed. The “hardness of heart” of the church is a greater problem for church leaders. The modern church provides inadequate discipleship, so it produces weak Christians, so it is not surprising that they fall into sin and want divorce. The modern church, does not understand spiritual protection (partly because it has bought into the “covering” lie) so the spiritual forces of evil are often free to tear couples apart. The increase in Christian divorce represents the failure of the church, not the failure of the people being divorced. If the church does not have the spiritual power to protect couples from attack, it does not have the right to prevent them from divorcing.

Widespread divorce amongst Christians is a serious problem for the church. It undermines our gospel witness, as it implies that the gospel and the Spirit are not very effective. Instead of accepting divorce as normal, Christians leaders should be seeking to understand why evil has gained such a strong hold on the church.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Christian Marriage (11)

As covenant marriage takes place before the church, the people of the church must be involved in the administration of divorce. A Christian seeking a divorce would apply to the elders of their Church. These elders would have the gift of discernment and would know the person’s characters, so they would be in a good position to decide if divorce is justified. Their goal would be to restore the marriage, so they would only approve a divorce as a last resort. If they agreed to a divorce, they would also advise the elders in the church where the couple was married.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Christian Marriage (10) Temporary Separation

The marriage covenant should allow for temporary separation. The second ground for divorce is not available if both spouses are Christians. Paul does not condone divorce where both spouses are Christians.

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband (1 Cor 7:10-11).
A Christian married to a Christian does not have access to divorce, unless their spouse commits adultery. If they have to separate, they must seek to be reconciled or remain single.

Paul allows a Christian wife to have a spell apart from her husband, if things have turned sour. However, the separated wife must try to reconcile with her Christian husband. She must remain unmarried until they are reconciled. If the Christian husband committed adultery while they are apart, she would be free to remarry. Temporary separation provides an escape for a Christian wife who is being abused by their Christian husbands.

Paul does not seem to offer temporary separation as an option to husbands. In his letter, he is quite specific about what applies to men and what applies to women, so we cannot use an argument from silence. He offers women the option of temporary separation, because they are more vulnerable. Christian men do not get this option, because they often have economic and physical power. This continues the protections for woman provided in the Old Testament.

If the separated Christians cannot be reconciled, they should remain single. If they are walking in the Spirit, they are expected to resolve the issues that would drive them apart.

Divorce represents a failure of love. Christians are required to love each other, as Jesus loved us. That sort of love should be able to overcome most obstacles. The reasons commonly given for Christians divorcing are relatively lame:
  • We have different interests;
  • We are going in different directions;
  • We have become different people to what we were when we married.
These are all things that agape love should be able to overcome. There will be failures of love among Christians, but this should not be taken lightly, as it represents our failure to live out the love of Jesus.

The implication of the letter to the Corinthians is that divorce is allowable for non-Christians, because the Holy Spirit has been shut out of their lives, but it is not an option for Christians. Nevertheless, a few Christians will need a divorce, when hardness of hearts prevents the Holy Spirit from changing their hearts.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Christian Marriage (9) Grounds

In the scriptures, there are two grounds for divorce.

  1. A person has grounds for divorce if their marriage partner commits adultery or engages in other immoral sexual activity. Jesus said,

    I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery (Matt 5:32).
    Although this is a warning against divorce, the implication is that divorce is allowable in cases of adultery. The Greek word for marital unfaithfulness is “pornea”, which covers a broad range of sexual sins, and not just adultery. All forms of sexual immorality are grounds for divorce, because they break the marriage union.

  2. The second ground for divorce is wilful desertion by a non-Christian spouse. Paul addressed the problem that arises when one of a married couple becomes a Christian.

    If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him (1 Cor 7:12,13).
    Being married to an unbeliever is not grounds for divorce, because the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the faith of the believing spouse (1 Cor 7:14). However, Paul goes on to say,
    But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace (1 Cor 7:15).
    Paul uses the same word “bound” in Romans 7:2-3 to explain that a widow is free to marry again. He explains to the Corinthians that a deserted spouse is “not bound”, so they are free to marry another person.

    When a person becomes a Christian and their spouse refuses to continue living with them, the Christian is able to seek a divorce. On the other hand, if the non-Christian is willing to stay, then the Christian cannot divorce. The expression “be willing stay” is quite strong. The Greek words mean “be glad to make a home with.” This is not mere toleration. It means making a home together. If the unbelieving husband is willing to stay, but keeps on abusing his wife, she would be entitled to leave.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Christian Marriage (8) Divorce

A Christian marriage covenant should also specify the conditions for divorce. These should not be decided by the civil government, but should come God’s word He created marriage and he makes two people one, so he is the only one who can say when a marriage union has been dissolved.

The biblical teaching on divorce is quite straightforward. The starting point is that God hates divorce (Mal 2:16). Marriage is the foundation of godly society, so any attack on marriage is an attack on the foundation of society

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate (Mk 10:8-9).
This is why God hates divorce. It is treason against the basic institution of society.
This does not mean that divorce is totally forbidden. Jesus explained that God understands human weakness, so he allows divorce in certain circumstances. Moses allowed divorce for hardness of heart.
Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning (Matt 19:8).
This was sensible. Moses was leading people who did not have benefits of the cross or gift of the spirit, so they could not live up to God’s standards. They needed a way out of marriage when sin made a mess of their lives. When people’s hearts are hard, divorce is sometimes necessary, even though it was not part of God’s original plan. However, it should always be the last resort.

Jesus ministry on earth ushered in a new age. His death on the cross dealt with the problem of sin. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit opened up the way for a new standard of holiness. The fruit of the Spirit would soften hard hearts, reducing the need for divorce. That is why Jesus reminded his people of God’s original intent. There should be no divorce, except in cases of adultery (Mark 10:11).
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery (Matt 19:9).
God has made two people one. Adultery destroys the oneness that marriage establishes, so it destroys the marriage. God does not like things he has joined being broken apart, so divorce among Christians should be rare. However divorce will sometimes necessary, even with the Holy Spirit at work.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Christian Marriage (7) Bride Gift

A Christian marriage covenant could re-establish a biblical form of the bride gift. In most Asian cultures, a dowry is a payment that a father has to pay to get a man to take one his daughters as wife. This is a perversion of the biblical bride gift, because it devalues women and causes parents in these cultures to prefer sons, because daughters cost them in money.

The biblical model is different. The purpose of a dowry to provide security for the woman who leaves the protection and support of her family to marry into another family. In the scriptures, a man must provide a gift to the father of his prospective bride (Ex 22:16,17). His ability to give a gift proves that he is capable of providing for his wife. For example, Jacob worked seven years to establish that he was worthy to get Rachel as his wife (Gen 29:18). Abraham’s servant gave costly gifts to Rebekah’s brother and mother, before they agreed that she could marry Isaac (Gen 24:52-53).

The father of the bride decides the value of the gift required for the daughter.
Let me find favour in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I'll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the girl as my wife (Gen 34:11,12).

Saul required David to kill one hundred Philistines, before he allowed his daughter Michal to become his wife. This demonstrated his ability as a soldier (1 Sam 18: 23-27).

The bride gift is a good test for potential husbands. A man who can give a good gift has proved that he can save money and build up his capital. The gift assures the bride’s parents that he will provide for their daughter and that she will not become dependent on them.

In modern culture, casual attitudes to sex have allowed males to drink the milk without buying the cow, and females have been left holding the baby. A requirement for a bride gift would be a strong counter to these attitudes.

The father does not keep the bride gift for himself, but holds it in trust on behalf of his daughter. He might lend it to the couple to enable them to buy a home or start a business. This ensures that a bride bring some capital to her marriage, even if she and her father are poor. If the bride is widowed or her husband deserts her, the bride price belongs to her. This provides her with continuing economic security while she is caring for their children.

Rachel and Leah were frustrated by their father Laban, because he did not use the bride gift that Jacob had given him for their benefit. They considered that he had stolen their dowry (Gen 31:14-15).
Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us (Gen 31:15).