Saturday, August 24, 2019

Father Forgiveness

I presume one exists somewhere, but I can’t imagine a father who punishes his son for every single mistake, misdeed or error that he makes. Even bad fathers forgive their sons, over and over again. That is what fathers do. They try to teach their sons how to avoid making useless mistakes that will wreck their lives, but they don’t punish every mistake.

Jesus explained that God is our father, so like human fathers, he is willing to forgive his children for their misdeeds. Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 500 time (70x7). I am sure that God is willing to do that too. Her does not work on a “one strike and you are out” rule. A theology that has no room for God’s forgiveness (without punishment) is a distortion of the truth.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

God and Blood (10) Conclusion

God is gracious, loving and kind. He does not require the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins. He forgives freely. A clear confirmation is given in Eph 5:2.

Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Paul confirms that Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice to God. But it was not a blood sacrifice, equivalent to what was offered on the bronze altar outside the Tent of Meeting. Those blood sacrifices were to satisfy the spiritual powers of evil. Blood is demanded by the spiritual powers of evil. They love inflicting pain and death on humans, so they demand the shedding of blood whenever they can.

Jesus sacrifice to God was a sweet-smelling aroma. It is the equivalent of the incense offered on the golden altar inside the Tent of Meeting, which symbolised loving obedience. Jesus obeyed his father without complaining, because they loved him. Loving obedience was the sweet-smelling aroma that Jesus offered to his father on our behalf. God does not demand out blood. All he wants is our allegiance.

Our loving obedience is also a sweet-smelling aroma that pleases God (Rom 12:1).

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

God and Blood (9) Hebrews

The letter to the Hebrews speaks about what happened on the cross.

1. Dealt with powers of evil – both their accusations and their ransom demands.

a) Propitiation of the spiritual powers of evil (hilaskomai).

He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb 2:17).
b) He has redeemed us from captivity to the spiritual powers of evil (apolutrosis).
He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Heb 9:15).
2. God forgave our sins and forgot them.

Sins were forgotten by God (mnaomai).
Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more (Heb 10:16-17).
Sins were forgiven by God (put away) (aphesis).
And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary (Heb 10:16-17).

Monday, August 19, 2019

God and Blood (8) Jesus

In Romans 3:24-25, Paul summarises the achievements of Jesus’ death on the cross.

They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented him as a propitiation in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint, God passed over the sins previously committed.
There four main points in this passage.
  • In forbearance, God passed over sins previously committed (passed over, not punished). He did not need bloodshed to be able to forgive.

  • Declaring those who trust in him to be righteous. This is a gift. Being justified by his blood saves us from the accusations of the accuser (Rom 5:9).

  • Redemption that is in Jesus the anointed (setting us free from the bondage of the spiritual powers of evil).

  • God set forth Jesus as a propitiation (not for himself, but for the spiritual powers of evil who demanded death and blood for sin).

God was happy to forgive human’s sin, because he is gracious and kind, and willing to give his people another chance. It was the spiritual powers of evil who demanded blood as a condition for letting the people go free.

God did these things to demonstrate his righteousness. He was generous and forgiving. In contrast, the powers of evil were cruel and unforgiving. They demanded the shedding of human blood.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

God and Blood (7) Tabernacle

The tabernacle was the place where God lived with his people. The purpose of the blood sacrifices was to satisfy the spiritual powers of evil as a confirmation of God’s deal to let them have the death of his son when he came in the future. The blood from the animal sacrifices was a guarantee that God would keep the deal that he had made for the rescue of his people. See Tabernacle.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

God and Blood (6) Passover

At the first Passover, the Israelites were rescued from slavery to Egypt and the spiritual powers of evil and became God’s possession.

  1. They had to be freed from Pharaoh’s power. If they went into the desert to worship God, they would be outside Pharaoh’s domain. They would be shifting their allegiance from him to God. That is why he did not want to let them go, and fought hard to prevent it. In the end, he had to give in to the greater power of God. The children of Israel were delivered from Pharaoh by force.

  2. God also did a deal with the spiritual powers of evil. The people belonged to them too. If God just took the people, he would be stealing what was theirs. This is the reason for the blood. They demanded a ransom of blood. They claimed that the price of a life is blood, and refused to let the people free unless a ransom was paid in blood.

I presume that God offered them the blood of his son as a ransom, with the blood of the lamb as down payment guaranteeing final payment when Jesus would die. The spiritual powers of evil must have accepted the deal and agreed to let the people go. Blood was the ransom price for one man. The blood of a god was the ransom price for all men.

Some of the powers of evil were upset, so they took the lives of the Egyptian children to get the blood that they wanted.

Friday, August 16, 2019

God and Blood (5) Isaac

The spiritual powers of evil tried to trick Abraham into killing his son Isaac. They wanted blood. God did not require it. I have explained this incident at Isaac.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

God and Blood (4) Abraham

Abraham was rescued by God when he changed his allegiance to him. He demonstrated his new allegiance by leaving his family and travelling towards Canaan. Abraham was justified by faith when he obeyed God. No blood was required (Gen 12:1-9).

The incident described in Genesis 15, where Abraham cut animals in half, he was not an offering of blood to God, rather he set them out so that God confirms the covenant by passing through between them. God did not require blood from Abraham. He offered his presence as confirmation of the covenant with Abraham that he had already confirmed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

God and Blood (3) Noah

The standard Christian teaching is that God’s covenant with Noah required the shedding of human blood, but this is misleading. After giving Noah permission to eat the plants and animals that grow on earth, God said that humans should not eat meat with blood in it (Gen 9:4). There were good health reasons for this command, because meat which has not had the blood drained from it will spoil quickly in the heat and go rotten.

Genesis 9:5-6 goes on to speak about the blood of humans. I have given a very literal translation.
The blood of your life

I will require
from the hand of every animal.
I shall require it
from the hand of the human
his brother
I shall require
the life of the human.

The one shedding the blood of a human
His blood shall be shared,
because he made him in the image of God.
These two verses are used to justify the death penalty for murder, but the passage has several problems.

First of all, the word usually translated as “require” is “darash”. Its basic meaning is tread or to frequent, and thus to seek or inquire. Require is not the usual meaning of the world. Most translators assume that inquire or frequent would not make sense, so they use “require” instead. I wonder if the word “inquire” is used because the spiritual powers of evil are inquiring or demanding a right from God.

These verses also stand out because they have a chiliastic format common in Hebrew poetry. Ideas are expressed forward and backwards, using the same words.

These words are not God’s standard. He loves life and does not take lives, unnecessarily. God does not want blood to be shed to pay for a person killed.

  • He established the penalty of community exclusion, not a death penalty. If the excluded person leaves freely, blood will not be shed.

  • God established a process by which the victims family request a ransom from the murderer, instead of excluding. God allowed this, so he did not demand blood.

The last phrase said that he created humans in the image of God implies that God is not speaking.

I believe that these two verses could be the spiritual powers of evil speaking; possibly through Noah perhaps without him realising. They demanded blood for anyone who died. If a person was murdered, they lost a slave. They would demand the payment of the of another slave, even though it made them worse off. This was their warped way of thinking. They love so much they will do anything to get it, even if it harms them. This was not God speaking.

God granted this concession to the spiritual powers of evil, because he had no choice. Humans had placed themselves in their power by disobeying God and submitting to them. Humans had not paid the ransom that the spiritual powers of evil demanded, so he had to concede to their demand, but he did not approve.

Gen 9:5-6 was a concession to the spiritual powers of evil, not a command to humans. It was a statement of the current reality, not a command to implement the death penalty.

The uncertainty about the meaning of these verses means that we should be careful about using them as a basis for a claim that God requires blood from humans who sin. They should not be used as the basis for the death penalty.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

God and Blood (2) Cain and Abel

Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices to God. Abel offered fat to God (not blood). Cain offered some of the grain he had produced. God looked on Abel’s offering with favour. He was satisfied with fat, because he did not need blood. Cain was jealous of his brother, so he killed him. When God challenged Cain, he said,

What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground (Gen 4:10).
This is interesting. Why was the ground crying out for blood? God created the earth and gave it to humans, but humans sinned and surrendered authority over the earth (the ground) to the spiritual powers of evil. So, the voice crying out from the ground was the spiritual powers of evil. They demanded blood in return for Abel’s death.

God did not require blood as a penalty for Cain’s crime. He said,

Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Gen 4:11-12).
God explained that Cain was under a curse. His sin had given the spiritual powers of evil authority to work in his life and bring harm. They had enjoyed the spilling of Abel’s blood. They would enjoy harassing Cain.

God did not require Cain to pay with his blood. He actually put a mark on Cain to protect him. He acted to ensure that Cain’s blood would not be shed. Cain lived a long time and had many children.

Monday, August 12, 2019

God and Blood (1)

Does God desire the shedding of blood for sin? Many Christians believe that he does, but we need to check the scriptures.
According to Psalm 40:6, God does not require sacrifice and burnt offerings.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened—
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require (Hos 6:6).
This is blunt. God does not desire blood sacrifices.
The statement is repeated again in the letter of the letter to the Hebrews.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.

Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law (Heb 10:5-10).

Clearly, God does require the shedding of blood for offerings and sacrifices. Yet blood offerings were mandated by the Old Testament law, so what is going on?

God does not require the shedding of blood. Yet the law does. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that the law specified the shedding of blood for cleansing.

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no freedom (Heb 9:22).
This is interesting. The law requires blood, yet God does not require the shedding of blood. If God does not require blood, then someone else must. Who requires the blood shed for the tabernacle sacrifices? And more importantly, who required Jesus blood to be shed on the cross.

The answer to this question is the spiritual powers of evil who tricked Adam and Eve into surrendering their authority over the earth are obsessed with the shedding of blood. Because they are mean and vindictive, the spiritual powers of evil demand the shedding of blood on every occasion. This is why the tabernacle sacrifices involved shedding of blood. That is why Jesus had to shed his blood on the cross. So the centurion put a spear in Jesus side, and his blood flowed. The powers of evil could make these demands, because they had been given authority on earth by humans. Jesus had to shed blood to deliver us from their power.
The spiritual powers of evil are destroyers.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).
They love bloodshed and death.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Nuclear War

The world has forgotten the terrors of nuclear war. In an article called The Myths and the Silence and the Propaganda that keep Nuclear Weapons in Existence, David Swanson provides a good reminder of the dangers.

When the United States dropped those nuclear bombs on Japan, masses of people were in fact vaporized like water on a hot frying pan. They left so-called shadows on the ground that in some cases are still there today. But some didn’t die at once. Some walked or crawled. Some made it to hospitals where others could hear their exposed bones clacking on the floor like high heels. At the hospitals, maggots crawled into their wounds and their noses and ears. The maggots ate the patients alive from the inside out. The dead sounded metallic when thrown into trashcans and trucks, sometimes with their young children crying and moaning for them nearby.

The black rain fell for days, raining death and horror. Those who drank water died instantly. Those who thirsted dared not drink. Those untouched by illness sometimes developed red spots and died so quickly that you could watch the death seep over them. The living lived in terror. The dead were added to mountains of bones now viewed as lovely grass hills from which the smell has finally departed.

Some of those who were able to walk were unable to cease moaning and holding their arms out in front of them with the skin and flesh hanging off.

I cannot think of any political cause that would justify such terrible suffering.

Read the entire article.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Climate Change (5) Nuclear War

As I said in my first post, I consider that nuclear war is a far greater risk to human life on earth than climate change.

People seem to have forgotten that belligerent military personnel in several nations are constantly poised ready to push the nuclear button. A dozen countries have nuclear weapons. If anyone country launched, others are likely to respond quickly.

The United States has recently deliberately moved nuclear weapons into Europe closer to Russian. The problem with this is that it leaves very little time to decide if a radar signal is a genuine attack, or a false alarm. People will be tempted to launch quickly while they can to be on the safe side.

Modern nuclear weapons are far more powerful than the ones dropped on Hiroshima. A nuclear war in which a couple of nations launched a few dozen weapons would have a terrible effect on the world. I am amazed that people see to mostly have stopped protesting against them.

Total war is prohibited by the Bible. Those engaged in war are prohibited from attacking and damaging the land (Deut 20:19-20). The land belongs to God, so it is not to be harmed (Lev 25:23). An attack on the land is an attack on God. The same protection would apply to women and children. Non-combatants should always be protected.

This prohibition makes nuclear war unacceptable. Nuclear weapons would harm the land and non-combatants. The same principle would rule out many modern weapons. Nuclear weapons and neutron bombs do so much damage that there will rarely be a cause that would justify their use.

The greatest danger is declining empires. When an empire is in decline, the risk of an insecure leader doing something stupid rises enormously. The world was lucky to get through the collapse of the Soviet Unction unscathed. We were fortunate that Mikhail Gorbachev was a good man.

The American empire now sees to be collapsing and its leader seem to be becoming more and more dysfunctional. This is a huge risk for the world. The risk that an insecure American President will lash out to preserve his failing empire is a serious risk. The US has such a large arsenal of weapons that this would be a disaster for the world. It also has a love of war that is dangerous.

I fear that more than if fear climate change.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Climate Change (4) God Missing

A problem with the climate change debate is that God is left out of all discussion. This is foolish, because the scriptures explain that God has a strong influence on the weather.

He provides rain for the earth;
he sends water on the countryside (Job 5:10).
Praise the LORD from the earth,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding (Psalm 148:7-8).
He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills (Psalm 147:8).
The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.

The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder (Deut 28:12,23-24).
God has a powerful influence upon the weather. So, if the climate changes, the first thing we should do is ask what God is doing. If the climate is deteriorating, it might because God has been aggrieved and has withdrawn his blessing. So instead of assuming that climate change is caused by humans, we should seek God and find out what he is saying about the situation.

When droughts and storms arise, it could be because we have opened ourselves up to the spiritual powers of evil. They love to kill and destroy. They sometimes use the weather to wreak destruction on earth. If that is the case, we should seek the deliverance of God.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Climate Change (3) Government Control

My main concern about the climate change movement is that it will lead to a massive increase in state power. Those who are concerned about climate change are not satisfied with changing their own practices and persuading others to change too. They want their government to force everyone to change what they buy and how the live. They want governments to force businesses to change the way that they operate. It is not totally clear what changes will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases the quickest. It is easy to point the finger at someone else and demand that the government force them to change.

I suspect the concern about climate change will result in a huge increase in the power of governments, which will spread into all aspects of life. No good will come from it.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Climate Change (2) Gradual

The most important thing is that climate change is gradual. This means that no matter how climate changes, humans will have time to adapt. That will be painful for some people who have to make the change. However, adapting to change is what humans are good at.

Farmers have always adapted to the climate. I grew up on a farm. In the 1960s, we experienced a decade of frequent droughts. We didn’t give up, but change the way we farmed. We stopped growing wheat crops, as there was insufficient moisture. And we got rid of our beef breeding cows, because during dry years there was insufficient grass to feed them. We adapted to a temporary change in the climate. That is what farmers do.

If sea levels rise, people living by the coast may find that their houses are uninhabitable. They will need to migrate to places where they are safe from coastal erosion. This should not be seen as unusual.

People have always migrated when the place where they were living becomes untenable. Abraham migrated from Ur to Canaan. Joseph and Mary migrated to Egypt when they were unsafe in Nazareth.

In the 19th century, crofting in Scotland became impossible due to the enclosure of land by large scale absentee farmers. My great grandparents migrated across the world to New Zealand to find a safer place to live.

More recently, many Americans migrated from the great lakes area to the south to get jobs when the auto industry declined.

Most of the people living in Europe are descendants of migrants, if they go back far enough. People have always migrated in response to trials of all kinds.

With climate change, some places will improve and other places will get worse. People will need to shift from the latter to the former. The dislocation will be painful, but it is what people do.

During the warm period around the year 1000, agriculture patterns in the UK and Europe changed dramatically. People adapted to the slowly changing climate condition. We will have to do the same, if the climate does change significantly.

  • Humans are skilled adapters.
  • Climate change comes slowly.
These factors will enable us to adapt to climate change. It will be painful, and incomes might drop significantly, but humans will adapt. The end of the world will not come.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Climate Change (1) Climate Forecasting

People are saying that climate change is the greatest threat to human life ever experienced. I don’t believe that is true. The greatest threat to life on earth is nuclear war, but more on that in a later post.

Like economic forecasting, climate forecasting is not a true science. The scientific method works by conducting repeatable experiments to test whether a well-defined hypothesis is true or not.

Climate change occurs over long periods of time and affects the whole world, so it is impossible to set up a repeatable experiment to determine if the hypothesis of anthropomorphic climate change is correct.

Climate scientists have to do what economists do. They set up models, with numerous assumptions and equations that approximate the real world to see what results the model produces. The problem is that models are only solvable if there are sufficient restrictive assumptions in place. But the more assumptions that are used, the less the model actually reflects the real world, and therefore the less unreliable the results.

Politicians claim that there is a scientific consensus about climate change, but science does not work by consensus; that’s what politicians try to do. Scientist work by testing well-defined hypotheses with repeatable experiments.
Economists have the same problem. Their models only work if the impose restrictive assumptions that make the models unrealistic. This is why economists disagree about everything.

The world economy and the climate system are both extremely complex, so it is almost impossible to create realistic computer models that reflect their workings accurately. Just as it is impossible to predict the effects of particular economic policies, it is impossible to accurately predict climate change. You can observe trends, but the direction of a trend usually depends on the length of the observation period. It is very difficult to separate the trend from the noise, especially in complex systems, like the weather. And you never know whether a trend will continue, or reverse.

So, we have to be open-minded about climate change. The climate is definitely changing because that is what climate does. Climate is defined as the small changes in the weather that occur over time. However, we cannot be certain whether the changes we observe over time.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Iran

I am not sure why American Christians are so hostile to Iran, because the record of the United States dealings with Iran is fairly ugly.

  • In 1957, the US helped to organise a coup that overthrew a democratically elected government and appointed a hereditary king (Shah=Caesar) to rule the nation.

  • The US helped organise and train Savak, the ruthless security forces that kept the Shah in power.

  • When the Iranian people overthrew the US-imposed dictator in 1978, the US responded by imposing economic sanctions on the new government, which are still in place today. So much for supporting democracy.

  • The US encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1982-88. (He was a US client back then). They supported him with satellite surveillance and missile guidance. 200,000 people were killed and half a million were injured. The US turned a blind eye when Saddam used chemical weapons against the Iranians defending their country.

  • The US guided-missile cruiser Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, a scheduled passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai on 3 July 1988 with a surface-to-air missile. The aircraft, an Airbus A300, was destroyed and all 290 people on board, including 66 children, were killed. The jet was hit while flying over Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, along the flight's usual route. The US tried to lie about the position and direction of the flight.

  • The US has encouraged its allies to assassinate numerous Iranian scientists.

If the Iranian government did any of these things, the US media would be screaming for action against it.

I don’t like the religion of Islam. I believe that the gospel of Jesus is infinitely superior.

I don’t like the Iranian system of government, but I am not enthusiastic about a system that throws up a choice between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton either.

I do not see Iran as the great evil that many people suggest it is.

  • The people of Iran are kind and helpful people. Anyone who visits the nation will confirm that. The delegation of agriculture statisticians that I met were intelligent open people, keen to learn.

  • The people of Iran are Moslems from way back, so they are entitled to have a government based on Islam, just as many Americans want their government to be influenced by Christian values.

  • Iran is a democracy. It is not totally fair, but most democracies have flaws. Several Iranian governments have been voted out by the electors. This is different from US allies like Saudi Arabia, Oman and UAW, which are ruled by kings with absolute power.

  • The Iranians have chosen a political system that protects the role of the Koran by giving religious leaders a strong influence in their nation’s government. They are entitled to do that. This seems to be what many Christians want in the United States for their religion by appointing people sympathetic to Christian values to the Supreme Court.

  • Iran has not forcibly invaded another country in the last 300 years. During that time the United States has invaded dozens of nations with military force.

  • Iran has come to the support of its allies were facing an attack by hostile external powers, in Iraq, Syria, and South Lebanon. That is something that most nations have done.

  • The religion of Iran is Shia Islam. Most Islamic terrorism is conducted by Sunni Moslems, including Al Qaida and ISIS. Most Christians don’t understand the difference, but these to religious groups are sworn enemies. So claims that Iran is responsible for the things being done by Sunni Moslems is foolish.

  • Just as in 1776, Americans did not want their lives being controlled by the British, Iranians do not want the United States determining the way that they should live.

  • God has not given the United States permission to judge Iran and destroy it with nuclear weapons, although seems to be what some US political leaders want to do.

We must not forget that God loves the world so much that he sent Jesus to die on the cross. God loves the people of Iran, just as much as he loves the people of New Zealand. Like every nation, Iran needs the gospel of Jesus. They will not be won for the gospel by bullying and military power. They need to see God’s people demonstrating his love, by loving their neighbours.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Family Decisions

I do not agree with the common view of among Christians that men should make decisions and women should go along. My advice to couples (which I am still learning) is that husbands and wives should seek consensus on major decisions that will shape their lives. That should not be hard if they both want to do God's will, and they are both listening to his Spirit.

Husbands should listen to their wives, because wives often have insights that a man would miss. Adam did not sin by listening to Eve. His was his failure to check her suggestion with God. But I presume that Adam had already hardened his heart, before Eve spoke or her suggestion would not have appealed to him.

Abigail is a woman that spoke wisdom to a husband that he needed to hear (1 Sam 25). Nabal is a warning to husbands who do not like what their wife is saying. God could be speaking through her.

Small day to day decisions need to be made quickly. They don't need to be complicated by a complex decision-making process. They can be made by the person closest to hand and the greatest interest.