Thursday, December 31, 2015

Spiritual Powers

The population of the world is greater than it has ever been, more than 7 billion people. The number of evil spirits at work in the world has not increased, since their rebellion at the beginning of human and a large number were locked up at the time of the flood. Because their number is fixed, they should now be weaker than they have ever been, as they have to spread themselves more thinly across the world.

However, they have amplified their limited authority by aligning themselves with political power. Because political power is more controlling and more widespread than it has ever been, this strategy has more than compensated them for their limited numbers. Consequently, they are probably more powerful than they have ever been. By supporting political power, we have strengthened the powers of evil, when they should be weak.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Whose Government?

The government shall be on Jesus’ shoulder.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders….
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end (Is 9:6,7).
So what do Obama, Vladimir, François, David, Malcolm and John think they are doing? They obviously do not understand who Jesus is.

Mary understood what the prophecy meant.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble (Luke 1:52).
We do not understand who Jesus is, because we still want to raise power men on thrones to rule over us.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Practical Gifts

When we give a gift, we give something that the person does not have that we hope they will like.

The gifts given by the wise men were not this type of gift. The wise men were providing Mary and Joseph with material support.

The gold, frankincense and myrrh were portable. They were easy to hide under a garment when travelling in dangerous places. The wise men have been carrying them so they could buy what they needed on their travels.

The gold, frankincense and myrrh were divisible. They could be sold one bit at time to meet their needs as they arose. They were saleable anywhere. The wise men were travelling through strange countries, so they carried wealth that could be sold wherever they went.

God knew that Mary and Joseph would need to flee, so he prompted the wise men to provide them with the necessary support. He then told Joseph in a dream, to flee to Egypt. Being a foreigner there, he would find it difficult to obtain paid employment. The same would be true when he returned to Nazareth, where he would be a stranger with no contacts.

Mary and Joseph were able to sell of the gold frankincense and myrrh one piece at time to support themselves during this unsettled time.

Thousands of sermons have been preached about the meaning of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the most important thing is that God provides for his people. He provided material support for Mary and Joseph and their baby, before they even knew they would need it.

Friday, December 25, 2015

God became Human

God created the heavens and the earth, so he had authority over them.

He created humans and gave them authority over the earth. Once he had given up that authority, he could not take it back, even if humans mucked things up.

And they did. They surrendered to the tempter’s advice, so authority over the earth passed over to the spiritual powers evil.

No human could take that authority back, because sin had made them captive to the powers of evil.

God could not take the authority back for them, because he had given authority on earth to humans.

The only solution to this dilemma was for God to become a man, because only a man was entitled to authority on earth.

Jesus could have taken authority for himself and ruled the earth, but that was not enough for a loving God. He wanted to redeem all humans from the power of sin and evil. So Jesus died on the cross to set all humans free from the curse of sin.

But none of that could have happened, if God has not becomes a man in Jesus, because only a human has authority to do anything on earth. So Jesus had to be born as a baby, and grow to be a man, because only someone who has lived as we live could be truly human and therefore have authority on earth.

This is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, not because a baby was born. Babies are born all the time. But because God became a human.

That has only happened once in human history. And had it not happened, the authority over the earth that God gave to humans would have been lost forever.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Beaten by a Stable

The spiritual powers of evil knew that a deliverer was coming to Israel. They probably knew the time was getting close, but they did not know where or how he would come. So they concentrated their power on Herod’s palace and Jerusalem. They have always had an unhealthy fascination with political power, so they always followed the power.

The angels were led by the Holy Spirit, so they all went to Bethlehem. They didn’t go there to sing songs. They went there to protect the baby Jesus from spiritual attack. This was probably the most dangerous time in history. If the powers of evil had managed to destroy Jesus when he was a baby, God’s plan to recover authority on earth would have been foiled.

The conception by the Holy Spirit was less risky, because the Holy Spirit could come when no evil spiritual powers were around. God just had to find a young woman and a man who were not under spiritual attack, because they would have given the show away. That was probably hard, but Mary and Joseph were so insignificant that they powers of evil took no notice of them.

In contrast, a baby could not be born in secret. People would know that a baby had been born, even if they did not know it was special. However, the powers of evil did not turn up, because they just could not conceive that a messiah or king would be born in a stable. They were hanging around the palace, so their attack never came, and there was no battle

The angels were so glad that they did not have to fight that they could not help bursting into song and praising God’s wisdom.

Glory to God!
What amazing wisdom and humility.
There was peace on earth at that place at that time.

A short time later, the powers of evil stirred up Herod and he killed hundreds of boy babies living in the vicinity of Bethlehem. Sadly, peace was gone, but that is what happens when the powers of evil are given a free hand.

However, Jesus and his parents had gone too, so peace and safety remained with them.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Prophetic Minsitry - No Heroes

We must avoid the common error of making the ministry of the “prophet” too big. This happens when we model the prophetic ministry on the Old Testament. The problem is that these men were called to the role of Prophet to the Nation (described in the next chapter). To fulfil this calling they stood apart from the priests and kings. Only a few heroes had the necessary anointing of the Spirit.

The New Testament has not changed the role of the prophet, but it has changed the place where they function. A prophet is still a spokesperson for God, but the context in which they function has changed. Instead of standing apart, prophets should be an integral part of their church.

Since the coming of the Spirit, a person does not need to be an Elijah or Jeremiah to be a prophet or a spokesperson for God. In the same way a Christian does not need to be a Billy Graham to be an evangelist. A prophet is just an elder who fulfils the prophetic role in the leadership of the church.

In the Old Testament, the prophetic ministry was limited to a few heroes. With the coming of the Spirit, this calling will be much more widespread. Prophets should be everywhere. The intensity of their gifting may not always be as strong as Elijah or Jeremiah, but their prophetic ministry is just as valid. Every church should have a prophet.

Prophetic Minsitry, p.18.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Prophetic Ministry

The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. A building with a faulty foundation will eventually collapse. The apostle and the prophet complement each other. So every church must be “built on the foundation of apostles and prophets”. The apostle will use their pastoral experience to draw a group of believers together and build then into a unit. The prophet will impart vision and zeal into the new church, by encouraging the apostle and watching over the church to see that it is built according to God’s plan.

Three important benefits come when a prophet and apostle work together.

  • The prophet gives vision and direction.
  • The prophet challenges the apostle if they take a wrong turn or go in the wrong direction.
  • The prophet protects the people from the apostle.
Apostles can be dangerous. Most of the people around them have been blessed by them or discipled by them, so they tend to look up to the apostle. This means that an apostle is often surrounded by “Yes men”, not because they are devious, but because they love and respect the apostle. An apostle needs someone bold enough to challenge them if they are mistaken. That task will usually fall to a prophet. Nathan took this role for David. Barnabas did it for Paul.

When a prophet colludes with the apostle to attack some of their people, life in the church gets dangerous. A prophet that starts firing the apostle’s bullets becomes a pet prophet. This is a risk that all prophets should guard against.

Prophetic Ministry, p. 15.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Woman on the Beast

One of the mysteries in the book of Revelation is the woman riding on the beast.

I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls (Rev 17:3-5).
John was surprised by the vision.
Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished (Rev 17:7).
John knew all about beasts. His world had been dominated by many great empires, and was currently controlled by the most powerful beast of all: the Roman Empire. What was strange about the vision was the woman sitting on the beast. Sitting symbolizes control, so this terrible beast with seven heads and ten horns was being controlled by a woman.

This beast is described earlier in the book of Revelation. It is a terrible empire that crushes and controls the world. The key to understanding this vision is identifying the woman.

The woman is called Babylon the Great, but that does not help much, as this was not the real city of Babylon. The original Babylon was not a harlot, but was true to its character. This city is a harlot, because it is like Babylon, and not true to what it should be. The name Babylon symbolizes immorality, witchcraft, adultery, power and control.

John was told the identity of the woman at the end of the vision.

The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth. (Rev 17:18).
The woman is the “great city” that controls the kings of the earth. This city had been described in the vision of the two prophets earlier in Rev 11:8.
Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified.
This city is called Egypt and Sodom and Babylon to indicate that it is opposed to the purposes of God, but it is actually the city where Jesus was crucified. Everyone knows where Jesus was crucified. The great city is Jerusalem. This means that the woman controlling the beast is the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel.

This identity of the woman is confirmed in Rev 12:1,5.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head… She gave birth to a son, a male child,
The woman with a crown of stars is Israel. She gave birth to Jesus, who is the child who will rule the nations. This woman controlling the beast was covered with glittering jewels, so she is Israel.

This is why John was astonished by the woman on the Beast. He had seen this vision of the woman being attacked by the dragon and being scattered amongst the nations (Rev 12:14-16). So he is amazed when he sees this same woman sitting on a terrible beast and controlling it. It was hard to believe that Israel could control an empire built in the image of the Roman Empire.

The vision of the woman on the Beast describes a season when the nation of Israel will control the most powerful empire the world has known. Many other nations will be controlled by her too.

This vision might be being fulfilled in our own time. The United States is the most powerful empire the world has ever known, with the strongest economy and military bases all over the world. Many nations are under its power, and no other nation can challenge its role as superpower.

The surprising thing is that the dominant political force in the United States is the Israel lobby. A presidential candidate who rejected the demands of AIPAC will have difficulty being elected. Getting elected to congress is difficult without the support of lobby groups like AIPAC. Many members of congress are willing to place the security of the United States at risk in order to protect Israel.

When Bibi Netanyahu visited the United States, the congress gave him a standing ovation, something it rarely does for a sitting US President. This strange power situation is perfectly described by a woman (Israel) sitting on a beast (United States).

Sometimes the fulfillment of a vision like this one of the woman on the beast is confirmed by a physical sign. If Hilary Clinton is elected president of the United States, this potential empire will be controlled by a woman. This would not be the actual fulfilment, but would be a sign that the vision of the woman on the beast is about to be fulfilled.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Big Authority Shifts that Change History

The authority of God will endure forever.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made (Psalm 145:13).
The Kingdom will not end, even when Christ returns. At that point Jesus will hand his Kingdom over to his father so that God might be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). He will rule forever and ever. His authority will never end.

God started his action on earth by placing people in a garden, with instructions to push out and fill the entire earth. Having completed the fulfilment of his Kingdom on earth, he will want to push out and fill the entire universe. Once the spiritual and physical realms are integrated, he will fill the universe with wonderful worlds and kingdoms. Those who have been faithful with little on earth, will work with him to fill the universe with his glory.

Kingdom Authority, p.174

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kingdom Authority

The boundary of a kingdom is not fixed by geography, but is determined by the authority of the king.
Authority defines the boundaries of a kingdom.
A kingdom extends wherever the authority of the king is accepted and obeyed. When a king gains authority over more people, his kingdom expands. When a king loses authority over his more distant subjects, his kingdom shrinks.

A nobleman who lives within a kingdom may refuse to accept the authority of the king. If the king cannot control the nobleman, the people controlled by him are not part of the kingdom. Outlaws do not accept the authority of the king. Although they live within the geographic boundaries of the kingdom, they are not part of it. They do not acknowledge the laws of the king, so they do not receive his protection.

Geography is only relevant, if it constrains the expansion of authority. Extending human authority over mountains and across seas is difficult, so most human kingdoms are limited to a particular region. The kingdom of Israel was a geographic kingdom. The king’s authority waxed and waned as its geographic boundaries expanded and contracted.

The scope of the Kingdom of God is not limited by geographic barriers. The boundary of the Kingdom of God is defined by attitudes to his authority. It extends wherever God’s authority is accepted and his decisions are obeyed. The Holy Spirit can carry the authority of God throughout the world, so his Kingdom can extend into all the earth.

Kingdom Authority, p.9

Monday, December 14, 2015

Kingdom Authority

Kingdom Authority is a prequel to my book Times and Seasons.

Authority is the heart of a kingdom. Many men have claimed to be king, but if their authority was not recognised, they were fooling themselves. A king without authority is not really a king.

When a king expands his kingdom, his authority grows. If a kingdom shrinks, the king loses authority. Shifts in authority change the shape of a kingdom and the status of the king.

Authority Shifts change Kingdoms

Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God. A new kingdom brings a big shift in authority.

In the beginning, all authority in heaven and on earth belonged to God. To understand life on earth, we need to know how authority was transferred to someone else. To be part of the Kingdom of God, we need to know how he plans to get authority back. The gospel of the coming of the Kingdom implies a big authority shift on earth. (Kingdom Authority, p.13)

Kingdom Authority describes the nature of authority and explain how it operates on earth.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Government by Social Media

Scott Adams suggests that democracy and elections have been replaced with government by social media.

Today, social media decides what is “right” and politicians follow their lead.

The so-called “government” still has budgets and politicians and processes. But at this point in history they just do what social media tells them. They have to. Doing otherwise means failure and job loss.

Emotion is a legitimate part of decision-making, even at the national level. Social media has fixed the one-vote problem by allowing emotion to be a multiplier.

One of the reasons the so-called “outsider” politicians are doing well this year is that voters know it doesn’t matter that much who has the job. Social media will tell the President what to do and he or she will do it.

I think that he is onto something here. I have noticed that pressure groups wanting to change government policy have far more success if they can get a good social media campaign going than by working through more traditional lobby groups. Especially, if they can get a few people who would benefit from the change to weep when describing their problems.

A recent example here was an anti-cancer drug that the government funding agency refused to buy. It said that the cost of $200,000 per person was not justified by the uncertain benefits. A television program interviewed one person who had improved dramatically after getting the drug in a trial. They did not interview any from the trial who had no benefit (presumably the majority). They interviewed several weeping people who were desperate for the drug.

The drug purchasing agency was unmoved, but then social media got going. Now politicians from both sides of the house have come out and said that they would like to fund the drug.

I notice that most of the social legislation that has been passed by the parliament was backed by entertainment media and social media working together. Changes to social policy that would not have stood a chance twenty years ago have been passed, because the backing of entertainment social media meant that politicians could not resist the change.

Therefore, I would modify Scott's equation slightly.

(Entertainment media + social media) = (emotion x people) > one vote per person

Friday, December 11, 2015

Times and Seasons - Beautiful Kingdom

The Holy Spirit will bring in a beautiful Kingdom. He will work in the hearts of all people to convict them of sin and to testify to Jesus. He will draw all people to Jesus, causing them to be born again. The Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth and teach them how to live. As he produces the fruits of love, peace, patience, kindness and joy, people will begin to care for each other and provide everyone with what they need. Peace on earth will come and our groaning creation will be restored.

The Kingdom created by the Holy Spirit will be a voluntary kingdom. There is no need for force and coercion when the Holy Spirit is free to work (Zech 4:6).

Times and Seasons, p.97.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Times and Seasons - Truncated Church

John saw two witnesses, two olive trees and two lampstands (Rev 11:3-4). The lampstands and the witnesses represent the church. It is Jesus witness in the world. The olive trees represent the Holy Spirit. The odd thing in this vision is that there are only two lampstands. Earlier John had seen seven lamp-stands Rev 1:20). Seven represents perfection or completion. The perfected, completed church is represented by seven lampstands. A church with only two lampstands is a truncated church that cannot provide a complete witness to Jesus.

The church is truncated because the Jewish people are missing. A church without the chosen people is incomplete. With part of the team missing, the church is ineffective. This truncated church is active for 1260 day, which is the Times of the Gentiles. John is explaining that the church will not reach its full potential during the first half of its history, because the Jews are missing. That has been the story for the last two thousand years.

The two olive trees represent a constrained Holy Spirit. A perfectly free Holy Spirit would be represented by seven olive trees. During the season represented by the 1260 days, the Holy Spirit will be constrained by lack of faith in the church, and be unable to operate to his full potential. When this season ends, the Holy Spirit will be able to speak and act effectively on earth.

Times and Seasons, p.38.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Times and Seasons - Not What They Seem

John explained that things are not what they seem from the human perspective. The church of Sardis appeared to be strong, but in the spiritual realms, it is very weak (Rev 3:1).

Military empires may appear invincible to human eyes, but they have already been defeated in the spiritual realms.

A church that is being severely persecuted and is being decimated by political powers looks very different in the spiritual dimensions. To Christians involved in the struggle, the suffering feels intolerable and the gospel seems to be going backwards. In the spiritual realms, these Christians are a mighty army following Jesus to build his Kingdom.

The persecuted church may appear to be weak and helpless, but in the spiritual world, it is preparing to receive the Kingdom (Rev 2:26). When the church is struggling under persecution and the suffering seems intolerable, those who see into the spiritual dimensions will realise that they are close to victory over the forces of the world (Rev 19:14). John’s vision of the spiritual realms casts events on earth in a fresh light that gives Christians new hope.

Times and Seasons, p.18.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Names and Events

Naming something changes the way we perceive it. A good name can make something bad seem better.

I have often wondered, why the 1914-18 war was called a “world war”. It was not really a world war. Because England had colonies throughout the world, and the peole of the colonies got drawn in, it seem like a world war, but all the action was in Europe. It only spilled over into Asia and Europe, because the Ottoman empire was bullied into joining, but even in those places the fighting was between European powers.

The 1914-18 war was a war between European Empires. It was a war between Christian empires. Maybe calling it a world war, distracts from the fact that it was a Christian and European event.

Maybe it would be more honest to call it the European War, or a Christian European War. Of course it was not the first European War. Europe had be enveloped in war before.

The Napoleonic wars drew in all the Christian powers of Europe: France, Spain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy, or their predecessor’s. The war extended from 1789 to 1815. About a million French soldiers became casualties (wounded, invalided or killed), a higher proportion than in the First World War. The European total may have reached 5,000,000 military deaths, including disease.

But this was not the first European War either. The Thirty Years was another European war in which all the great powers of Europe participated. France, Germany, Spain England, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Poland engaged in one of the longest, most destructive conflicts in European history.

Initially a war between Protestant and Catholic states, it gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers of Europe. It became less about religion and more a continuation of the France–Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence.

So we could label the wars of Europe this way.

  • First European War (1618 to 1648)
  • Second European War (1789 to 1815)
  • Third European War (1914-18)
  • Fourth European War (1939-1945)
These were the most destructive wars in human history. Christian history does not look so good when presented this way.

Friday, December 04, 2015

On the Edge of the Inside

Richard Rohr explains that prophets live on the Edge of the Inside.

The edge of things is a liminal space -- a very sacred place where guardian angels are especially available and needed. The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, "a thin place" and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position. You are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways. When you are at the center of something, you usually confuse the essentials with the non-essentials, and get tied down by trivia, loyalty tests and job security. Not much truth can happen there.

To live on the edge of the inside is different than being an insider, a "company man" or a dues paying member. Yes, you have learned the rules and you understand and honor the system as far as it goes, but you do not need to protect it, defend it or promote it. It has served its initial and helpful function. You have learned the rules well enough to know how to "break the rules" without really breaking them at all.
There is a place and time for being outside, or you never really understand or appreciate the inside.
All of these situations are describing the unique and rare position of a Biblical prophet: He or she is always on the edge of the inside. Not an outsider throwing rocks, not a comfortable insider who defends the status quo, but one who lives precariously with two perspectives held tightly together -- the faithful insider and the critical outsider at the same time. Not ensconced safely inside, but not so far outside as to lose compassion or understanding. Like a carpenter's level, the prophet has to balance the small bubble in the glass between here and there, between yes and no, between loyalty and critique. The prophet must hold these perspectives in a loving and necessary creative tension. It is a unique kind of seeing and living, which will largely leave the prophet with "nowhere to lay his head" while easily meriting the "hatred of all" -- who have invariably taken sides in opposing groups (Luke 21:16-17). The prophet speaks for God, and almost no one else, it seems.

People inside of belonging systems are very threatened by those who are not within that group. They are threatened by anyone who has found their citizenship in places they cannot control.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

More Colour

My shrubs are still small, but their colours are bright.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Later Beauty

Some of the later flowering Rhododendrons have been lovely this year.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dragon in the Sky

On Thanksgiving Day, I took a photo of the sunset here.

I was surprised when I looked at the photo to see that there was a dragon in the sky. I am not sure what it means.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Rebel without a Cause (4)

Most young people want a cause they can live for. I can remember when I was young. I did not want to step into my father’s shoes and do the same ordinary work. I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted a cause to live my life for, so I went to university and studied economics and politics, because that seemed to be the best way to make a difference. But I soon found that it was an empty well. Secular philosophy could not produce a cause that would make a difference.

It was only when I discovered Jesus, and his message of the Kingdom of God that I found a cause to live for. I was not attracted by forgiveness of sin or a ticket to heaven. What attracted me was the promise of the Kingdom. The good news of the gospel and the kingdom was a cause to live for, and to die for if necessary. I still would not be content, if I did not have the cause of the kingdom of God and Jesus its king to serve.

When a young person in Pakistan, Syria or Iraq looks for a cause, where do they go? If they have a sense of justice, they will realise that their current political order is corrupt, inefficient and unjust. People connected to the powerful get rich, but everyone else remains poor. Those who work to succeed often have the fruit of their labour stolen by the security forces (think of the Tunisian fruit vendor). Those who are robbed cannot get justice, because justice works for those who pay for it.

Likewise, if a young Moslem is looking for a solution, he would not look to Western democracy and capitalism. He can see what they have achieved in Afghanistan and Iraq, and there is no appeal there: just more corruption and injustice.

Christianity would not have much appeal either. If the young man has heard the gospel, it is probably just a promise of a ticket to heaven, and he already has that through Islam. He looks at the Christian culture in America through the eyes of television and the movies. All he sees is immorality and blatant sexuality. He sees young people without a cause, compromised into complacency by materialism. If he wants to make a difference, he will not find a cause worth serving by watching Sex in the City or The Simpsons.

As a Moslem, he naturally looks to Islamic groups first. He does not look to the Moslem establishment, because it is compromised with political and economic power. Christians should not be surprised that young Moslems seek out the most radical groups. We don’t expect a young Christian looking for a cause to join a traditional church. We naturally expect them to look for the most radical church around. They look for the one that is hard out to make a difference. We should not expect a young Moslem, who wants a cause, to do anything different. They are not going to follow the old teachers who collude with the rich and powerful.

For young Moslems looking for a cause, the most appealing option is Islamic State. He see young people radically living out the requirements of Islam. He sees people trying to establish a new order of government, based on the principles of Islam. He sees a state that is trying to apply the Koran to every aspect of life.

Once he joins this movement, he has a cause that justifies the use of violence. The corrupt powers of the West are trying to destroy them so they need to defend their fledgling state with everything that they have.

We know their cause will fail, but we cannot blame them for joining, because it the best cause on offer.

What the young man from Pakistan, Syria, or Iraq needs is a real cause. The cause that he needs is the Kingdom of God that was brought near by Jesus. That is the only cause worth living for, and worth dying for. But if he has heard the Christian gospel, he probably has not heard about the Kingdom of God. He will have heard a truncated gospel of easy believism and a ticket to heaven.

If we are concerned about the jihads and the growth of Islam, we need to start proclaiming the gospel, not just a gospel of forgiveness or the trinity, but a gospel of the kingdom. And we need to start living the kingdom and demonstrate a justice that is real.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Evil for a Good Cause (3) ISIS

ISIS is labelled as evil, barbaric, primitive and medieval, but that does not help us to understand it. This is important, because you cannot deal with what you do not understand.

They are people who believe their cause is so good that they are justified in doing evil. To understand them, we need to understand the cause that they believe is so good that they are willing to do evil to support it.

Some commentators suggest that they are only interested in death and receiving 40 virgins when they go to heaven. This is an unhelpful caricature.

Their real cause is Islam. Islam is not just another religion, it is a cause. Islam means “submission” or “obedience”. Their goal is that everything in the world must submit to Allah. Every person and thing must come under his control. This cause is seen as so good that they are justified in using evil to achieve it.

War against those who refuse to submit to Allah is justified, if they can be forced to submit and obey. Creating chaos amongst those who refuse to submit to Allah is a good strategy, because it might allow those who submit to Allah to get control and brings things into submission (Islam).

In a way, Christians have a similar goal. We believe that everything will eventually be brought into submission to Jesus. This is what “Jesus is Lord” means. Every knee shall bow to him.

However, there is a big difference. Christians (mostly) believe that people must not be forced to submit to Jesus. Instead, by receiving good news, they should freely choose to submit to him. Jesus wants people to serve him because they love him. He does not want his people using military or police force to make others serve him.

Unfortunately, the church has not always understood this. In the middle ages, the church used military and police power to force people to accept the authority of Jesus (often in reality by forcing them to submit to the authority of the church).

Strangely, many Christians would still like to do that. They want to use military force against those who will not submit to their standards. They want to use political power to force people to honour Jesus and do his will.

I am wary about any group that believes that are justified in using military force to support their cause and make people submit to their Gold. ISIS is dangerous, because this is what it is trying to do.

Many Christians scare me nearly as much, because they want to use military force to accomplish God’s purposes on earth.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Evil for a Good Cause (2) Jesus

Jesus had a different view to evil. He believed that his cause was so good that evil could not be used to achieve it. He experienced terrible injustice and pain when he was beaten and killed on the cross at the hands of evil political and religious leaders, but he accepted it, because he believed that his cause was so good that it justified acceptance of terrible suffering in the face of evil. His cause was so good that evil could not be allowed to corrupt it. The end did not justify the contamination of evil.

Jesus called on the church to follow his example, but it has not always chosen to follow him. During the middle ages, the inquisition tortured heretics to keep the faith pure. The people doing this were not evil. They were good people using evil means to advance a good cause. The crusades are another example. The crusaders committed terrible atrocities when they invaded the Middle East, however their aim was to advance the gospel. They were ordinary people using evil means to accomplish a good goal.

Modern political leaders usually follow the same line. They believe their cause is so good that they are justified in using evil means. They are willing to bomb the crap out of Middle Eastern countries like Libya and Syria, because they are trying to advance the good cause of democracy and human rights. They are good people doing evil things to advance a cause they believe is good.

The Beast of Revelation will emerge in the same way. It will not be an evil person. It will be a good government, that believes that its cause is so good that evil actions are justified.

This attitude is prevalent amongst Christians in the United States when they talk about ISIS. The vehemence with which they speak about the violence and destruction that they would like to unleash against ISIS is scary. Their ferocity makes them sound evil, but they are not. They are good people who believe that their cause is so good (USA) that they are justifying in using evil to protect it.

Unfortunately people who believe that their cause is so good that it justifies actions are far more danger than evil people. Because despite the cleverness of the secular commentators, the spiritual powers of evil have not gone away. When good people use evil, because their cause is good, they open themselves up to these spiritual powers. Once they are given influence, these evil powers can get a stronghold, which allows them to do much greater evil. I fear that this is happening in Europe and the United States.

When the emerging Beast of Revelation had done some serious good, by using evil means, it will come under the domination of the spiritual powers of evil. It will be unable to do good even if it wants to.

The people of ISIS did not set out to do evil. They were good people who believed that their cause was so good, that they were justified in doing evil. Once they had done a little evil to achieve good, the powers of evil got a stronghold, and their evil got worse, but they still believe that their cause is good. They believe their cause is so good, that terrible evil is justified.

I worry about any group who believes their cause is so good that it justifies the use of evil means. I feel safer with Jesus, who believed that his cause was so good that it must not be contaminated with evil.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Evil for a Good Cause (1)

The media describe the violence of ISIS as evil, as if that explained everything, but it actually explains nothing The problem is that in the modern secular culture the word “evil” is meaningless. Secular culture has decided that evil spiritual power do not exist, but without actually getting rid of them. In that context, evil is just something that most people hate. Evil is label for things that repel the sensibilities of modern society.

Christians should have a different concept of evil, because they realise that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against evil spiritual power in the spiritual realm (Eph 6:12).

However, even for Christians, the problem is not just evil people. Really evil people are rare, and usually isolated and relatively harmless.

The most dangerous people in the world are not evil people, but ordinary people who believe their cause is so good that they are justified in doing evil to achieve it. It is not evil people that we should fear, but ordinary people doing evil to achieve what they perceive to be good.

Hitler is an example. He did not set in train a policy to annihilate the Jews, because the loved doing evil. He believed that getting rid of the Jews would be really good for the world, so he was willing to do evil things to accomplish it. He was dangerous, because he believed that if the ends are good enough, evil means are justified. If he had been pure evil, he would never have risen to power. It was because he appeared to be good, and was ruthless in seeking what he saw was good, that people supported him.

A different example is the bombing of Dresden at the end of World War 2. It is generally agreed now that this action achieved no military benefit, except that it punished the German people. Yet thousands of people were killed and maiming the violent firestorm that swept through the city. I suspect that future historians will see it as a barbarous act, but at the time it was accepted a necessary act of war. Winning the war against Nazism was such good goal that evil means were justified. The end justifies the means.

A modern example is the invasion of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives. Millions lost their homes. Normally an event that killed so many people would be described as evil. However, because these deaths were a consequence of actions to support a good cause, they are seen differently. George Bush was a good person, whose cause was so good, that he was justified in doing evil.

I will explain Jesus approach in the next post.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Coercion and the State

The textbook definition of a state is that it an organization can claim a monopoly of legal violence (coercion) within a territory. If it can make this claim, it is a state. A writer at the Mises Daily makes an interesting comment about the implications of this definition.

However, modern State leaders have understood this monopoly is not sufficient by itself to maintain their power. This is why they use ideologies to hide the violent nature of their authority and make the population more accepting of the state’s coercive methods.

In the West, since the nineteenth century, nationalism has largely filled the role of manufacturing consent to government domination, by drawing arbitrarily the contours of a fantasized historical and cultural community. After that came the welfare-state ideology which aims to develop a sophisticated system of fiscal redistribution that cultivates a strong feeling of economic dependence on the political class. And then came the ideology of democracy which allows the state to identify itself with society overall by promoting the illusion that the citizenry maintains control over the state bureaucracy.

Through these means, states in the West have been able to “legitimize” their monopolies over coercion.

For established states, achieving statehood confers a sort of title of nobility on the international stage. That is why many political movements aim to gain international recognition of their state. The status of “state” implies “civilized society”.

And yet, there is nothing honorable about the formation and maintenance of states. States are essentially bellicose and exploitative institutions. None of them can claim to be the fruit of a peaceful or contractual process.

Unfortunately, much of the problem comes from Western citizens themselves who don’t pay attention to their governments, which never hesitate to use a single tragic event in order to increase their power and their “protection” by limiting their citizens’ individual freedoms. By fueling and exploiting fear, governments create a vicious circle which exacerbates the security demands from their populations, which translates into an increase of states” prerogatives. Military spending increases in turn, which satisfies the powerful interest groups that make up the military-industrial complex.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Atrocity in the City of Light

In an article called the Paris: The Past was Prelude, Eric Margolis writes about an interesting event in the history of Paris, that most have forgotten.

Last week’s massacre in Paris was not, as almost every writer mistakenly claimed, the worst atrocity in the City Of Light since World War II. As the renowned Mideast expert Robert Fisk quickly pointed out, an even worse atrocity occurred in Paris 54 years ago, on 17 October, 1961.

Paris chief Maurice Papon, a former Vichy official, who had sent over 1,000 Jews to their deaths during the war, unleashed his brutal riot squads on 30,000 Arab demonstrators calling for the independence of Algeria from French colonial rule. In an orgy of killing, some 200 Algerians were killed. Many were beaten senseless, then thrown from the Pont St. Michel bridge into the Seine River. 11,000 Algerians were arrested and cast into internment camps or a sports stadium. I was in Paris when this mass killing occurred.
History has more than enough barbarity to go round.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Healing and Offence

Many Christians have sought healing for a long time without success. In some churches, these disappointed people have been prayed for over and over again, but nothing has happened. Most have a deep sense of disappointment and have given up all hope of being healed. Some have been hurt by accusations of lack of faith. This enormous backlog of hurt and disappointment with God has never been sorted.

When disappointment is frequent and unresolved, the disappointed people get offended at God. Offence produces unbelief, which shuts out the power of the Spirit. I now believe that offence at God is a major obstacle to the release of healing in the church.
When things go wrong, it is good to ask God why. However, we must never ask our questions in a way that puts God on trial. We can confess our lack of faith, but we must never cast doubt on his love, or his goodness or his power. We must never ask a question that blames God.

Healing: Insights for Christian Elders, p.95.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Spiritual Gifts and Healing

Four spiritual gifts might be needed to get a sick Christian healed: word of knowledge, discernment, faith, healing. The gifts of discernment and word of knowledge will often be more important than the gift of healing. The latter gift is more important for evangelism, but discernment will be more important in a healing team dealing with Christians.

The Holy Spirit can give all these gifts to one person, but he prefers to give them to different people so they will work together. He does this to strengthen the body.

If someone gets a word of knowledge about a sickness, we should not assume that they have the faith to heal the sick person. The Spirit may have given the gift of faith to someone else in the body. For example, when the man at the Beautiful Gate was healed, Peter did the talking, but he said, “Look at us!” (Acts 3:4). John may have had the gift of faith that produced the healing.
Healing: Insights for Christian Elders, p.80.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Submission and Authority

When we submit to other Christians, we give them authority to act on our behalf against evil. God has made me free, so other people can only have authority in my life, if I give it to them. I give another person authority in my life by submitting to them. If I submit to friends in my church, they have authority to resist evil on my behalf. The more I submit to them, the more spiritual authority they will have to resist any evil that is attacking me.

This relationship between spiritual authority and submission is not well understood. We often ask other Christians to pray for us, but without much affect, because they have very little authority in our lives. They do not have authority, because we have not given it to them. We tend to assume that a large number of people praying for us will be more effective against the attacks of the enemy. This is a fallacy. When resisting evil, two or three Christians who have real authority in our lives, because we have submitted to them, will be much more effective.
Healing: Insights for Christian Elders, p.69.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Migration (6) Fear

Many Christians are afraid of refugees from Islamic nations and want to exclude them to keep their nation Christian. This is an Old Testament attitude.

In the Old Testament, the people had to separate themselves from evil influences, because they had no spiritual protection. That is why they had to expel the Canaanites from the Promised Land. God did not want his people to pick up the evil spirits that they carried. That changed with the cross, because the cross and resurrection of Jesus destroyed the powers of evil. This spiritual protection means that evil cannot touch his people.

This change is reflected in the attitude to lepers. In the Old Testament, people kept separate from lepers because if they touched them, the evil spirits which had harmed them might cross over and hurt them too. Jesus took the opposite approach, he touched the lepers and healed them. He knew that any evil spirits attacking the leper, could not touch him. He knew the power of the Holy Spirit that was upon him could restore the leper.

The same applies to the nations of the world. In the Old Testament age, God’s people had to keep separate from the nations, because they might corrupt them by opening them to evil spirits. Following the cross, Christians are to go into the world and make disciples of the nations. The spiritual protection provided by the cross keeps them safe from evil spirits. The power of the Holy Spirits upon them means that they will transform the nations, rather than the nations being transformed by them.

The same applies to Islamic refugees moving into so-called Christian nations. Prior to the cross, we would have had to kept separate. In the New Testament age, we have spiritual protection from any evil spirits they are carrying. More important, the power of the Spirit that is available to the church is so strong, that the refugees should be overwhelmed by his influence.

If the power of the Spirit on the churches in Europe is so weak that it cannot draw a few refugees into the gospel, then it is already dead. The refugees are just exposing its real state.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Migration (5) Support for Refugees

Modern states make the mistake of trying to control who has access to their land, and offering full social welfare payments to those they accept as refugees.

The biblical model is the opposite way round. People are given freedom to travel and live where they choose, but there is not state-funded social support.

Naomi’s husband was free to move to Moab when a drought caused famine in Judah (Ruth 1:1). This has been a normal way of dealing with crisis and disaster throughout human history. When war breaks out, people flee to a safer place. When famine strikes, people move to where food is still available.

The law allowed foreigners to migrate to Israel, provided they honoured God and accepted his law. However, the foreigner would not have any land in Israel, unless they could afford to buy some. They would not get any state-funded social support. They would have to work to live. They might get also get some support through gleaning, but they had to work to get it.

When Ruth and Naomi moved to Israel, Ruth was a foreigner. She was free to move into the land, but she had to find her own financial support. She went out gleaning, so that she could gather enough grain to feed herself and Naomi until she got paid employment, probably as a servant.

The biblical model is freedom of migration, but family responsibility for earning income and producing food.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Migration (4) Nations

God has not given nations authority to shut other people out of the land where they live. God owns the land, and in his eyes we are all aliens.

The land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and tenants (Lev 25:23).
Since we are all foreigners and tenants from God’s perspective, human governments do not have authority to label other people as foreigners. Humans are all God’s tenants, so we cannot decide who will live in a particular part of the world. Governments that try to decide who can live in a region, are taking authority that belongs to God.

God decides where the people of the nations will live.

He has made from one blood every race (ethnos) of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord (Acts 17:26).
The places where different races reside are determined by God. We do not know where he might be leading people in order that they would find Jesus, so we should be careful about interfering with what he is doing.

Jesus challenged his followers to welcome refugees and foreigners.

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when… did we see you a foreigner (xenos) and invite you in?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matt 23:38,40).
Foreigners and refugees are Jesus’ brothers. Those who follow Jesus must welcome them in the same as he would.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Migration (3) Promised Land

When God led the children of Israel into the Promised Land he intended to drive the Canaanites out before them.

He brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today (Deut 4:38).
The Israelites disobeyed and allowed them to stay, but God wanted them out to clear the land of evil spirits that they carried.

However, once the Israelites were in the land, and it was clear of evil, God was quite happy for aliens to return. The only condition was that they agreed to serve the Lord and live by his laws.

But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things (Lev 18:26).
Foreigners were welcome in the land, but they must not do anything that would compromise the spiritual protection of the people. Detestable activities that would open away for evil spirits were prohibited.

Once they had returned to the Land, these foreigners were entitled to equal treatment under the law.

The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you (Ex 12:49).
You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God (Lev 24:22).
The laws must be the same for foreigners and native-born people. Foreigners must not be treated badly.
Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt (Ex 22:21).
Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice (Deut 24:17).
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God (Lev 19:33-34).
The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you (Num 15:15-16).
Foreigners should not be seen as an inconvenience. God loves them as much as native-born people.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt (Deut 10:18-19).

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Migration (2)

A new phase of migration from the east has now arrived. We can see it daily on our television screen, with thousands of refugees walking, packing trains, rushing borders in heroic efforts to reach German, Denmark and Sweden. Many are Syrians, but others have come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parts of the Middle East.

In an article called Some Tips for the Long-Distance Traveller in the London Review of Books, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad describes how this migration has been unleashed by the information revolution. In the past, information about how to get from one country to another was held by the people smugglers. They kept this information to themselves, so that could charge exorbitant prices to those seeking help. Many of their were cheats, taking money from helpless people and giving them nothing return.

For decades, the paths that led out of war, destruction and poverty into the safety of life in Europe was a closely guarded secret, the property of smugglers and mafias who controlled the routes and had a monopoly on the necessary knowledge. They conducted their illicit trade out of dingy cafés in the back streets of Aksaray in Istanbul and – for the lucky few who reached Greece – the district of Omonia in Athens, where those who had got that far were handed on from one network to another, to be lied to and manipulated again. After all, they had no choice but to hand over their cash in exchange for a promise and a hope.
Very people had sufficient money to pay the price demanded by the smugglers. Those who trusted them were usually disappointed.

This situation has now changed. The information about how to migrate from the Middle East to Western Europe is now available to anyone with access to social media.

A Kurdish friend of mine in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq recently posted an image of a hand-drawn diagram on his Facebook page. With little arrows and stick figures and pictures of a train and boat or two, the diagram shows how to get from Turkey to the German border in twenty easy steps. After you’ve made the thousand-mile trip to western Turkey, the journey proper begins with a taxi to Izmir on the coast. An arrow points to the next stage: a boat across the Aegean to ‘a Greek island’, costing between €950 and €1200. Another boat takes you to Athens. A train leads to Thessaloniki. Walking, buses and two more worm-like trains take you across Macedonia to Skopje, and then through Serbia to Belgrade. A stick figure walks across the border into Hungary near the city of Szeged. Then it’s on to Budapest by taxi, and another taxi across the whole of Austria. At the bottom of the page a little blue stick figure is jumping in the air waving a flag. He has arrived in Germany, saying hello to Munich, after a journey of some three thousand miles, taking perhaps three weeks, at a total cost of $2400.
Migration is the topic of almost every conversation in the cafés of Baghdad and Damascus – in towns large and small across Syria and Iraq and beyond – along with the pros and cons of social aid given to migrants in different countries. The best routes are common knowledge, and information on new developments and up-to-date advice spreads quickly on social media, via Viber, WhatsApp and Facebook. These days all you need to reach Europe are a couple of thousand dollars and a smartphone.
Anyone with a few thousand dollars can make the journey to Eastern Europe.
The mobilisation techniques used in the Arab Spring, which brought thousands of demonstrators to a given place, were now being used to organise the new waves of migration. This was no longer an exodus of the wretched and downtrodden – though many still were – but a pilgrimage, predominantly, of the young, educated and middle class. The breaking down of Europe’s borders left two groups of people angry and struggling to find a way to restore the old order: the smugglers, and EU officials.
This explains why the refugees we see on television speak good English and carry smart phones. They come from the middle class with sufficient wealth to invest a few thousand dollars in getting their sons and daughters to Europe.

Migration from the East to the West has been going on for a long time. The information revolution makes it easier. I doubt that the national governments of Europe would be able to stop it, even if they wanted to.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Migration (1)

The history of Europe has been always been shaped by vast peoples marching from east to west.

Earlier this year, I did some reading about the collapse of the Roman Empire. One of the problems it faced was the pressure of peoples migrating west from the steppes of Asia. Some came on horseback, but many walked.. When these people arrived on the edge of the empire, the were initially held out by the border garrisons, but eventually the pressure became to great, and they invaded the Empire. Over a couple of centuries, the Tervingi, Grethuni, Vandals, Alans, Suevi, Goths, Burgundians, Visigoths and Ostrogoths arrived in Western Europe. Some travelled as far as France and Spain. The Vandals crossed into North Africa and conquered Carthage.

When they first arrived, these peoples were vicious warriors, but over time they settled down in their new land and gradually merged with the rest of the population. Most gradually converted to Christianity.

The same pattern of populations arriving from the east was held in check for several generations by artificial border created by the emergence of the national state, but now it is stirring again. It started with the collapse of the Soviet Union, when people from Eastern Europe began migrating to Western Europe. Polish painters and plumbers arrived into the United Kingdom looking for work.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Friday, November 06, 2015

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Rhododendrons and Azaleas

One of the joys of working to work in Christchurch is that you can enjoy other people's Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Some of the colours are amazing.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Iraqi Christian

A Christian American expat living in New Zealand is teaching an Iraqi Christian refugee how to read English. The Iraqi Christian finds it hard to believe that the so much of the damage done to Iraq was done by American Christians. The article is worth reading.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Rhododendrons and Azaleas

Rhododendrons and Azaleas grow really well in Christchurch.

The one below is taller than a house.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Sin and Death (7) Born Again

Jesus was conceived when the Holy Spirit overshadowed his mother Mary. This broke the line of the flesh from Adam. He did not inherit the corruption of the flesh that troubled the rest of the human race.

When a person trusts in Jesus and is born again of the Spirit, the harm to their flesh/brain is restored. The Holy Spirit restores the damage to our flesh (including the brain) that was inherited from the first man, who was attacked by the powers of evil.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24).
When we are born again to become a new creation, the harm done to Adam that we inherited is restored. The Holy Spirit changes what we are. We are born again with a restored brain.
  • Our mind is restored, so that we can think the way God thinks. Unfortunately we will have taken on al lot of bad ideas in the years before we are born again, so the Holy Spirit will need time to teach us and clear out all the junk.
  • Our will is restored, so we are able to seek and do God’s will. This is the most important change. However, we are still free and need to listen to the voice of the Spirit and do Jesus will. Although our will is set free, we will still need to learn how to boy gladly. The big difference from the situation of Adam and Eve is that we have spiritual protection through what Jesus has done.
  • Our spirit is brought to life. We become intensely aware of God’s voice. We can perceive the power of evil at work around us. This is huge, but we have to learn to peceive understand clearly all that we are now perceiving. If we are not careful we can let our perception by deadened by what we learned in the past
  • Our desire for God that was deadened is restored.
  • Our emotions will continue to work as our internal senses, but as we begin to see thing as God sees them and receive the peace of the Spirit, our emotions will begin to respond more like Jesus would respond.
  • Our memory continue to retain most our experiences. A problem is that our memory will be full of bad thinking and lies, and bad decisons and their pleasures from the past. These will keep popping out and leading us astray, even after our mind has been restored. Evil spirits will stir these memories up if they get a chance.
Being born again reverses the damage done that we inherited from Adam and Eve, but that is the first step. While living with corrupted flesh we have picked up a lot of junk that we have to learn to let go.

There is one other important physical change. When a woman has been born again through faith in Jesus, this force of this curse is broken, Paul pointed to this blessing in his letter to Timothy.

Women will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control (1 Tim 2:15).
We should be praying that the Holy Spirit will work this restoration in woman who trust Jesus that he would restore their bodies from the damage that was done, when Adam and Eve sinned.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sin and Death (6)

Paul said in Romans that Death reigned from the time to Adam to the time of Moses.

Death reigned from Adam to Moses (Rom 5:14).
Who was this Death that reigned on earth. Death was a name of god of the people of Canaan. He was opposed to a better-known god called Baal, who represented life. This suggests that Death was the name of prominent spiritual principality and power. This controlling spiritual power ruled the spiritual powers of wickedness from the time of Adam to the time of Moses.

God had given authority over the earth to Adam and Eve. When they sinned, they surrendered to the powers of evil, so they gained authority over the earth that God had given to humans. However, the spirit who deceived them was not strong enough to gain control, so an evil spirit called Death rose to dominate the spiritual forces of evil. He focussed on destroying the people and earth that God had created.

For if by the one man’s offense Death reigned through the one (Rom 5:17).
Sin reigned in Death (Rom 5:21).
The powers of evil are not united, so they are always fighting amongst themselves for dominance and control. The giving of the law brought a shift in control over the powers of evil, as once God had given his standards in a written form, along with curses for disobedience, Satan, the accuser, ascended to dominance. He was able to go into the presence of God and accuse humans of sinning, and demand the right to implement the curses required by the law. This skill enabled him to regain control over the powers of evil.

When Jesus died on the cross and ascended into heaven, the accuser lost his place and was thrown out of heaven and cast down on the earth (Rev 12:10). Satan now has to work by deception, persuading humans that he is not defeated and persuading or tricking people into sinning.

This clarifies the Hebrew expression translated as “you shall certainly die” in Genesis 2:17. The Hebrew doubles the word death/die for emphasis. It uses the “infinitive absolute with an imperfect” and the presence of the infinitive absolute intensifies the meaning of the imperfect verb. This is quite common in the Hebrew Bible.

A literal translation would be

To Death, you will die.
Once we realise that Death is a powerful, controlling, spiritual power, we can understand that God was warning that if they sinned, they would destroy their lives, by placing themselves under the control of Death, a nasty evil spiritual power. That is what happened.

By rejecting the wisdom of God, they surrendered to the authority the spiritual powers of evil and these spiritual forces were controlled by an evil spirit called Death. He would reign until the time of Moses, when Satan rose to dominance again. When Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, they were still free, but they were battered and beaten by the powers of evil controlled by their leader called Death.

Paul said something similar in his letter to the Corinthians. He was explaining that brother, who was deliberately sinning and rejecting correction, should be excluded from the fellowship.

Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 5:5).
When the man was excluded from the fellowship, he lost the spiritual protection that came through the oversight of the elders and the other Christians standing with him against attacks of evil. Because he would lose his spiritual protection and continued to sin, he would be in a situation where he was extremely vulnerable to Satan and his spiritual powers. This is exactly the same as what happened when Adam and Eve were excluded from the safety of the garden, except that the controlling spiritual power was Satan , rather than Death.

Therefore, “to death you will die” means being excluded from spiritual protection and being made vulnerable to Death and his spiritual powers. It is the same as being handed over to Satan (1 Cor 5:5).

The letter to the Hebrews contains a similar message.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil (Heb 2:12).
Jesus came to earth and went to the cross to destroy the physical power of the devil. He also destroyed the power of the spirit called Death.
In John’s first letter, he explains that Cain was controlled by the evil one.
Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother (1 John 3:12).
Adam had surrender to the powers of evil, so his son Cain was also controlled by the “evil one”, aka Death. That is why he put his brother to death.
However Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8).
John then explained that we know we have been saved from the power of Death, because we love each other.
We know that we have passed from Death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in Death (1 John 3:14).
Literally, we have changed our residence to the place of life in Jesus, from the place controlled by Death.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sin and Death (5)

What Death?
Humans did not die physically on the day they rebelled against God, so what happened?

Humans died in four ways.

  1. Separation from God was spiritual death. God did not need to change humans, but because humans were created to live in relationship with him, once he withdrew from them, they could only half function. Without God, they were no longer fully human, so in a sense they had died. The phrase “you shall surely die” can mean physical death (eg Genesis 5:5), but it can refer to estrangement from a life-giving relationship (eg Prov 12:28).
  2. Once they were shut of the garden, they lost access to the tree of life. Because they lost the opportunity for the resurrection of their bodies, they were stuck in permanent mortality. They would did physically, when they had been created for restriction to life.
  3. The spiritual powers of evil attacked Adam and Eve and disrupted their ability to perceive the spiritual. This allowed the powers of evil to hide from them, while they were attacking them. They could attack without being noticed. This change in perception also made it difficult for them to hear God speak.
  4. Adam and Evil placed themselves up to an evil spirit called Death. I will explain this in the next post.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sin and Death (4) Results

Being expelled from the presence of God and sent into a world controlled by the powers of evil without and spiritual protection was a disaster for the first humans. The powers of evil hated God and wanted to destroy his earth.

Humans had been given authority on earth, but they had surrendered it to the powers of evil. If the powers of evil could keep humans hostile to God, they could retain their stolen authority forever. They were not able to destroy humans, because this would destroy the basis of their authority on earth. If there were no humans, God would be free to take back his earth again, because it would release him from his covenant that gave authority on earth to humans without recourse.

To cement their authority on earth, the powers of evil set about doing their best to modify brains (flesh) of the people created in God’s image, so that they would never escape their clutches and turn back to him. They achieved this by making subtle changes to human flesh, and particularly the brain, which is made of flesh.

They could not change them too much, or modify them to be sub-human, because they would cease to be human, and they would lose their authority on earth that came through God’s covenant with humans. (I suspect that many of the fossils found by palaeontologists are actually sub-human species created by the powers of evil going to far.)

The corrupted flesh that has been inherited by all human descendants affects us in a variety of ways.

  • Mind – the human mind still operates in the same way, but is vulnerable to deception and can sometimes miss the truth (2 Cor 11:3; 2 Tim 3:8).
  • Emotions – emotions still operate in the same way, but good feelings now have a distorted form: rage, dread, melacholy, horror.
  • Will – the human will has been distorted, so that it is difficult to please God and hard to make decisions that align with his will.
    Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom 5:8).
  • Desires – these have been biased away from God and towards evil.
    The flesh lusts against the Spirit (Gal 5:17).
    corrupted by its deceitful desires (Eph 4:22).
  • Memory- still operates in the same way, but the spiritual powers of evil make sure that it is filled with bad/evil experiences that corrupt our mind and imagination.
  • Spirit – this is the faculty that seems to have sustained the most damage. Humans still have the ability to perceive spiritual things, but it has been significantly weakened. They are not aware of the presence of the powers of evil, even when they are attacking. They also find it really difficult to hear God.
Every human inherits the flesh that manifests these problems.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sin and Death (3) Flesh

They spiritual powers of evil quite likely achieved this evil purpose by altering human DNA. There is no doubt that human DNA has changed over time, but these changes are usually attributed to natural causes. I presume that some of the changes were made after humans were expelled from the garden and thousands and thousands of evil spirits were available to join together in attacking them.

The changes they made to the brains of the first couple would be passed on to all their descendants causing a change in human character and personality. This was too good an opportunity for the powers of evil to go by, as once the numbers of humans on earth increased, they would be spread much thinner, and less effective.

In the New Testament, the “old man” that causes us to sin is described as “the flesh” (Rom 6:19).

That which is born of the flesh is flesh (John 3:6).
The ones according to the flesh are inclined to the things of the flesh;
The inclination of the flesh is death,
The inclination of the flesh is hostile to God
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God
if you live according to the flesh you will die (Rom 8:5-8,13).
While we were in the flesh, the passions of sin… were at work in our members to bear fruit to death (Rom 7:5).
I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Rom 718).
If we think of “the flesh” as the human body or brain, which we inherited from Adam, and which was damaged when he was attacked by the powers of evil, it would explain why the person who has not been saved by Jesus, struggles to do what is right.

Paul did not understand DNA or the working of the human brain, but he recognized that something in our body (flesh) that we have inherited from Adam has twisted our behaviour towards evil. Like the rest of the people of his time, he assumed that the driver of human behaviour was the heart, but we now know that the mind and the will are located in the brain. Therefore, thinking of the “the flesh” as a corrupted brain might be the best way to understand what Paul was attempting to explain to the Romans.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sin and Death (2) and the World

Several things happened to humans as a result of being excluded from the presence of God.

  1. They lost access to eternal life. They were not changed, because they were already mortal. Even if they had not sinned, they could not live forever in their current form of existence. They would need to experience a resurrection of their bodies, just as we will, to enter eternal life. (Jesus lived a perfect life and was not affected by sin, but he still needed to be resurrected before he could ascend into the presence of the Father in the heavenly realms.) This resurrection life was represented by the tree of life in the garden. When they were shut out of the garden, they lost access to opportunity for the resurrection of the body, so they lost eternal life. They were not physically changed, but they got stuck in their mortality.
  2. There perception changed.
    The eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised they were naked (Gen 3:7).
    This was not a physical change. Before they sinned, they saw everything in terms of God’s perspective. Once they had sinned, they saw everything in terms of their own categories and values. What they saw was the same, but their perception of it was different. From God’s perspective, their nakedness reflected his image, so it was beautiful, so they did not see it. From their perspective, their nakedness was inadequate compared to God’s beauty, (though it was in his image) so they were ashamed.
  3. Away from the presence of God, Adam and Eve had no spiritual protection. God had given authority over the earth to humans, but by submitting to the tempter, they had surrendered authority over the earth to the spiritual powers of evil. This was a dreadful situation to be in. They had been sent out of the peaceful garden into a world that was controlled by the powers of evil. By sinning, they had given these evil powers permission to attack their lives, and separated from God, there was nothing they could do to resist their evil devices.
  4. The evil powers went hard out to work to destroy God’s earth. This is why tilling the earth became hard physical work. The powers of evil had filled it with nasty weeds and harmed some of the ground. When God told Adam that the ground was cursed, he was prophesying what the evil powers would do. He did not have to do anything to make it happen, because the powers of evil did it anyway.
  5. We are not told how and when this happened, but the spiritual powers of evil would have attacked Adam and Eve hard. They would have used their power to attack them physically and change them. We know now that injuries to the brain can change a person’s personality and character, as well as their ability to decide and choose. I presume that the powers of evil attacked Adam’s brain and changed him, so that he had a greater capacity to do evil and found it hard to do good.
  6. The powers of evil seem to have changed the shape of Eve’s pelvis and its supporting muscles, so that childbirth became more difficult. This fulfilled the curse spoken in the garden.
    I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth,
    in pain you will bring forth children (Gen 3:16).
We have not idea how what a terrible place the world had becomes. These hundreds of thousands of evil spirits are still at work in the world, but they have to spread themselves across 6 billion people. Even with the benefit of the cross, some Christians can find it hard to deal with a couple of attacking spirits. Imagine if the entire host of fallen spirits all attacking one couple and their children, with no spiritual protections. Fortunately, they were divided, and some of them were more intent on messing up the world, but the onslaught faced by Adam and Eve would have been overwhelming.