Saturday, March 28, 2020

Gifts of Healing

Paul urges followers of Jesus to zealously seek the gifts of the Spirit. At this time, when we are shut away from many of the things that keep us busy, we should be taking time to seek the presence and anointing of the Holy Spirit.

This is a time when we should be zealously seeking the gift of healing. The safest place to be during a pandemic is within a body of believers who are confident with moving in the gifts of healing and the gift of faith. Word of knowledge and gifts of discernment will be important too.

So, Christians might be wise to use some of their free time to learn more about Jesus’ victory over sickness on the cross, and the gift of healing that the Holy Spirit loves to release (he is not stingy).

I have put everything that I have learnt about the gift of healing in a book called Healing. But the same information is available for free here.

Ventilators or Warships

Ten years ago, the New Zealand government bought frigates costing about $300 million each to defend the nation from mostly imaginary enemies. They are now spending another $300 millions of dollars upgrading them with the latest technology. Military spending is always popular, because it provides toys for the boys and girls of the navy.

Epidemiologists have been saying for years that another serious pandemic was inevitable. If the government had recognised that that threat as a serious enemy, they would have spent a few million dollars on several thousand ventilators, heart monitors and personal protection equipment and stored them in a large warehouse in preparation for the pandemic.

If the government had made this preparation, the risk of the health system being overwhelmed would have been mitigated, and we would probably not have needed to enforce an extremely disruptive and costly shutdown. It would have been far cheaper than another frigate, and probably not so quickly redundant, but far more effective in keeping people safe.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Not God

The best way to understand God’ character is too look at Jesus. Like father, like son. Jesus is the best revelation of God that there has ever been.

Jesus went about healing the sick. He was moved with compassion when a leper asked him for help. He wept when his friend died. Healing was probably the most dominant part of his ministry. In light of this revelation of his Father, we can be sure that God is not the cause of the coronavirus.

The other important aspect of our reality is that we are engaged in a spiritual battle; and war is rough. Humans gave the spiritual powers of evil authority to be active on the earth. As people turn away from Jesus in many parts of the modern world, God is being squeezed out of the world that he created and gave to his children, so the powers of evil are flexing their muscles.

The spiritual powers of evil love to kill and destroy. The coronavirus could be an accidental occurrence, but given the death and pain that it has produced, it is more likely to be the work of evil spiritual powers. They assisted God with the creation of the world, before the fall, so they understand how DNA functions.

I explained in a previous post that coronavirus is probably a Warning Event, in which the spiritual powers of evil are trying out something that they would like to more of to see how effective it would be. It might not be the worst that they can do.

If the coronavirus is the work of the spiritual powers of evil, and they have been able to release it because humans have given them authority on the earth, God cannot just snap his fingers and remove it. Before that can happen, the authority situation on earth must change.

In this situation, the best thing to do is to pray that the gospel would go out in the power of the Spirit, so that the spiritual powers of evil are squeezed out of the strongholds they have gained. That will take longer than we would prefer, but it might be more effective than asking God for quick solutions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Doing Church During a Crisis

The shutdown for coronavirus protection has exposed the inadequacy of the modern way of doing church.

Pastors are talking about virtual church, digital worship and online services, as if they were something revolutionary. The reality is that these methods are far from the “body of Jesus” that Paul described.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body… Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. As it is, there are many parts, but one body (1 Cor 12:12-14, 18, 20).
Paul was not describing a virtual church or digital body.

An online service is a good way for a pastor to speak to all his/her people at the same time, but the body of Jesus is more than a weekly sermon. If the people of the church need to hear from their pastor to know what to do in a new situation, something is seriously wrong. If they have been taught how to hear the Holy Spirit speak, he will tell them what to do. And if people start listening to sermons online, they will soon discover there is far better teaching available online that they can get from their pastor.

Online services enable people to listen to the pastor praying and agree with the prayers, but it is far more important that they pray under the leading of the Holy Spirit themselves.

If people like to worship while listening to Christian music, there is plenty available online. They don’t need their church worship team making their selection for them. They would be better following the leading of the Holy Spirit, who knows what will inspire and encourage them.

The internet can be used to communicate words and music, but it does not channel the Holy Spirit. He lives in the hearts of God’s people, and that is where he works.

The stuff that strengthens the body of Jesus cannot be done in an online church service.

  • The gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot flow.
  • Sharing with people in need cannot take place.
  • Discernment of spirits cannot take place
  • Healing and deliverance cannot occur.
  • The one another stuff is not possible.
  • Discipleship cannot be done.
A digital church service is a very sub-optimal way for the body of Christ to function. Virtual church is not real church.

Paul used the technology that was available in his time to communicate with the churches he had established. He made extensive use of letters to connect with his friends and churches, but he understood the limitations of written communication. He wrote that he longed to be with the Romans so that he could impart a spiritual gift to them.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong (Rom 1:11).
Paul understood the limits of written communication. If he had lived in the internet age, Paul would have used it, but he would not have seen it as a substitute for meeting with people. He understood that the Holy Spirit prefers to move in the midst of a few followers of Jesus who love each other and have gathered to serve Jesus.

The church should be glad that it has had a trial run of a crisis. The current lock-down will end after a few months, but I can think of several circumstances that would cripple the church in a similar way.

  • A prolonged period of persecution by the state in which church buildings are locked and pastors are arrested.
  • A war that prevents people from moving far from their homes.
  • An economic crisis that means people cannot afford to drive their cars to church.
  • Economic sanctions that limit people’s ability to travel.
  • Weekend and evening curfews following a military coup.
  • A fuel shortage that limits the use of motor vehicles.
  • A serious epidemic that prevents all travel and movement
  • Marauding thieving gangs that make all travel far from home dangerous.
The church has experienced these types of events frequently throughout its history, so they are not abnormal.

The coronavirus shutdown has demonstrated that the operating model of the modern church is only viable in good-times. The irony is that most Christians believe that there could be hard times ahead, but they have opted for a good-times church.

I hope that when the current shutdown comes to an end, pastors and church leaders will not just go back to their good-times way of operating. I hope that they will think and pray about discovering a way of being church that would remain viable through both good times and hard times.

One way that God is using the current bad situation for good is giving the church a trial run of hard times (without being life-threatening for most people). I hope that pastors and church leaders will take the opportunity to learn from the experience. If your pastors are not thinking seriously about this issue, then I suggest that you challenge them to do so.

Here is a truth that we cannot afford to ignore. A church that can only meet by people driving to a church building once a week will not be viable in hard times.

I presume that most church leaders are hoping that the crisis will soon be over so that things will go back to normal. If so, they are missing what God is saying to the church in this season. Getting back to normal is not getting back to good times. The bible teaches that tribulation is normal for the church. Jesus said,

In the world you have tribulation (John 16:33).
If Jesus said we will have tribulations, why would be happy with a way of doing church that is only viable in good times?

The current crisis is a fairly-mild, temporary trial, but it is a clear warning that a good-times model of doing church is really rather fragile. We urgently need a way of being church that can cope with good times, hard times and tribulations. We would be foolish to ignore the warning and carry on as normal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Weather (9) Balance

We need a balanced approach to prayer for protection in times of trouble. God has promised to protect the lives of his people. However, he usually does not take us out of the world we live in when the situation is turning sour. Whatever the reason for the troubles that have come to the region where we live, we will usually have to go through the troubles that our neighbours are going through. If they have brought trouble on our region by rejecting God and pursuing evil, we will share some of the consequences.

In this situation, we should ask God to bless us, so that we can bless our neighbours in trouble around us. We should ask God to show us how to prepare. We should not just prepare for ourselves, but prepare to bless others who have not prepared.

We should ask God how we should live. He will show us ways to cope with the troubles that have come to our region. Others will probably copy what we are doing when they see the wisdom of God. And we should never stop sharing the gospel.

God has not promised to lead us away from the valley of the shadow of death. Rather he promises to go through that valley with us and keep us strong (Psalm 23:4). We cannot bless the people in our region by escaping from it during a time of trouble. God usually wants us to stay and prepare to survive and live strongly through the hard season. The enemy can rob us of our wealth and in the worst case, he can kill our bodies, but he cannot destroy the life that we have in Jesus.

This full series can be found at Praying for the Weather..

If you think I have missed something, or got something wrong, please leave a comment.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Scattered Sheep

In my planned reading through the Old Testament this morning, I came to Jeremiah 23. I was struck by the first verse in John Goldingay’s translation.

Hey, shepherds who led astray and scattered my flock.
This season is exposing the reality that the shepherds of God’s flock have allowed them to be scattered. They have taught their sheep that they can live anywhere they like, provided they come together for two hours on a Sunday. In hindsight, this appears to have been a mistake.

Sheep need to be together. Sheep live together. Shepherds do not let their sheep wander where they like, and bring them back together once a week. That would be far too dangerous, because the sheep could get lost, or be taken by wolves, or other predators. The is true of God’s flock. They need to be together.

All the believers were together (Acts 2:44).
Sheep that are scattered are vulnerable when trouble strikes.

Allowing God’s sheep to be scattered was a serious mistake, which is now being exposed. In my book Being Church Where We Live, I explain how followers of Jesus can come together with others to serve him in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is important, now more than ever, because God does not want his sheep to be scattered.

Weather (8) God Protects

God has promised to protect his people from the troubles that come against the people that they live amongst.

You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
and a shade from the heat (Is 25:4).
Sometimes, God protects his people by controlling the direction of the storm and rain during a time of drought. He can control the direction that the weather moves.
He made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm (Job 28:26)
God can determine the path of a storm. He can send rain in one place and allow another place to remain dry.
I also withheld rain from you
when the harvest was still three months away.
I sent rain on one town,
but withheld it from another.
One field had rain;
another had none and dried up (Amos 4:7).
God has promised to protect his people during a time of trouble if they call on his name.

Corporate Socialism

A few weeks after the American electorate rejected Bernie Sanders’ policies of “peoples socialism”, Republicans and the Democrats are now pushing “corporate socialism” hard.

David Stockman warns that the Crony Capitalist Thieves Are Back.

The US airline industry has spent a decade shoving itself into harm’s way by strip-mining their balance sheets to fund share buybacks and goose top executive stock options.

For crying out loud – the reckless irresponsibility of it is mind-boggling. That’s because for decades upon decades this has been a highly cyclical industry – vulnerable to global dislocations caused by recessions, storms, wars, terror and more. Accordingly, airline companies absolutely need deep equity balance sheets and ample standby liquidity, even at the expense of short-term earnings.

Needless to say, the Big Four US airlines – Delta, United, American, and Southwest – were having none of financial rationality, prudence and common sense. As Wolf Richter properly pointed out:

“These stocks are now getting crushed because they may run out of cash in a few months, yet they would be the primary recipients of that $50 billion bailout, well, after they wasted, blew, and incinerated willfully and recklessly together $43.7 billion in cash on share buybacks since 2012 for the sole purpose of enriching the very shareholders that will now be bailed out by the taxpayer.”
We say nothing doing!

If the Big Four Airlines can’t raise enough cash in the high-cost long term debt markets or by issuing highly dilutive preferred stock or equity, there is only one solution – and that is chapter 11. Holy moly, that’s why we have this legal protection procedure.

The airlines will have precious little business for the duration of the great COVID spring break anyway. So let the court-appointed trustees operate with the same skeleton crews that the airlines will be running even if they get the bailout. The level of customer service and employment will be essentially the same in either case.

More importantly, let the gamblers and so-called investors who piled into these stocks get their just deserts. That is, a 100% loss on their gambling stakes because that’s all it ever was when the Big Four’s combined market cap hit $130 billion compared to just $43 billion now.

Of course, the airlines are only the poster boy for this long-overdue moment of truth. The problem is universal because today’s rotten regime of Keynesian central banking has caused the entire financial system and main street economy to become riddled with rank speculation and reckless disregard for financial discipline and prudence.

The problem begins in the Federal Reserve
Left to their own devices on the free market, households save and provide for rainy days, regardless of income level or social status.

Likewise, in a world not poisoned by cheap debt and falsified costs of capital, businesses nurture their balance sheets and provide for cash flow interruptions either by buying insurance or setting aside liquid reserves and equity capital based shock absorbers.

Corporate Debt is worse Problem than Coronavirus

Over the last few decades, governments and central banks have encouraged businesses to build up debt by keeping interest rates artificially low. Excessive corporate debt was a huge problem during the GFC, but businesses did not learn the lesson. They have continued to gorge on debt, and now they are vulnerable.

Jonathan Tepper explains that Covid-19 has exposed serious financial fragility.

The coronavirus won’t kill companies. But it will expose their bloated, overleveraged balance sheets. Corporate debt in companies has never been higher and has now reached a record 47% of GDP.

Rather than encouraging moderation, central bankers and policy makers have been reloading the all you can eat buffet and persuading everyone to come back for third and fourth plates. The European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan have been buying corporate bonds, and central banks have kept funding at zero rates, which has encouraged a massive increase in indebtedness over the past decade.

Central bankers have long promoted high corporate leverage because they see it as a way to stimulate demand. Even now, many economists see no problems on the horizon. In the New York Times, Nicolas Veron, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, was openly mocking anyone advocating prudence, “The prophets of doom who thought that more debt was more risk have generally been wrong for the last 12 years.” Like most central bankers for the past decade, he argued, “More debt has enabled more growth, and even if you have a bit more volatility, it’s still net positive for the economy.”

But while debt has encouraged growth, it has also introduced much greater financial fragility, and so the growth is fundamentally unsound. We are now finding out that less debt, rather than lower rates is better for financial stability.

According to FactSet, 17% of the world’s 45,000 public companies haven’t generated enough cash to cover interest costs for at least the past three years. Debt has been used to finance more debt in a Ponzi fashion. The Bank for International Settlements looked at similar economic measures globally and found that the proportion of zombie companies — companies that earn too little even to make interest payments on their debt, and survive only by issuing new debt — is now higher than 12%, up from 4% in the mid 1990s.

According to the IMF, a downturn only half as bad as 2008 would put $19 trillion of debt—nearly 40% of the corporate borrowing in major countries—at risk of default. The economic consequences would be horrific.

Corporate debt has doubled in the decade since the financial crisis, non-financial companies now owe a record $9.6 trillion in the United States. Globally, companies have issued $13 trillion in bonds.

The average family is encouraged to save money for a rainy day, in case they are fired, or they face hardship. Saving some money is considered prudent. It’s quite different for business. Companies pocket the profits in the good years and ask Uncle Sam to bail them out in the bad years. Heads shareholders win, tails the taxpayer loses.

Industry can’t be blamed for not expecting an act of God or force majeure, but in the past 30 years we have seen two Gulf Wars, 9/11, SARS, MERS, Swine Flu, the Great Financial Crisis, etc. Saving for a rainy day should only be expected in cyclically sensitive industries.

But rather than do that, companies have been engaging in a rather more reckless strategy: borrowing to buyback shares. This may boost their Return on Equity (ROE), but it is not remotely prudent and makes their companies highly vulnerable. Borrowing to prop up their own shares means they have less on hand when hard times come.



Sunday, March 22, 2020

Weather (7) Sharing in Troubles

If we are living in a nation that has rejected God, we will not escape the consequences that come upon it. If drought or storms become more prevalent, that will affect people who are faithful Jesus living within the nation, too. Although he will give guidance about how to deal with the tough situation, and strengthen us to cope with tough times, but he will not always protect us from everything that is happening.

Your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5:45).
I remember a different version from my childhood, but the message is the same.
God sends the rain on the just and the unjust fella.
But more upon the just than the unjust,
because the unjust stole the unjust umbrella.
We share in the consequences that are experienced by our nation. (The church is partly responsible for the state of an evil nation, because it has shared the gospel inadequately). Christians cannot remain separate from the troubles that unfaithfulness bring on their nation.

So, praying for rain during a drought that has come on a nation, because it has deserted God might not be effective. Praying for wisdom to deal with the situation might get a more powerful response.

Pray about when to cut the hay or when to begin the harvest. Of course, a farmer only has limited control over timing, because when hay is ready, it needs to be cut. Crops have to be harvested when they are ripe. Farmers may need to pray about the type of crops that they should be growing given any change in the climate.

God might lead his people to move from one place to another for protection during a season of drought. Ruth and Naomi moved back from Moab to Israel during a famine. Jacob and his family moved to Egypt for security during a time of drought. Joseph took Jesus to Egypt as a child to keep him safe from persecution in Israel.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Weather (6) Dealing with Drought

During a drought, farmers should pray and ask God why it has come. There are a variety of possible answers to this question. Their response to the drought should depend on the answer.

  • The drought is the outcome of the working normal weather patterns. In this situation, it is legitimate to pray that God will send rain.

  • The drought might be the consequence of squeezing God out of the nation and giving freedom to the spiritual powers of evil to work evil upon it. There is no point in praying against the drought, if God has allowed it to happen as a matter of justice. The farmer should ask God how they need to change their farming practices, so that they can cope with the troubles that their nation is going through. Asking that God will stir up Christians to share the gospel might be the most effective prayer in this situation.

  • The drought might be the consequence of long-term climate change due to the working of climate systems. In this situation, it is legitimate to ask God to change the climate. There will need to be enough people with authority in the land praying for prayers to be effective.

  • If the long term-climate change is the consequence of the people of that part of the world deserting God, then there may be no point in praying against it. Farmers might need to ask God how they should adapt their farming practices, so that they can farm effectively, despite the changed climate. In some extreme cases, the farmer might need to move to a different place to live, even if the cost of doing so is significant.

  • We need to be careful about praying for the weather, as humans have conflicting interests. For example, during the summer, city people might be praying for fine weather for their holidays, while Christian farmers might be praying for rain for the dry land. One group of farmers might be praying for rain on their land, while other farmers are praying for fine weather for their hay-making or harvest. Selfish prayers will not be heard.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Weather (5) Nations

The influence of the spiritual powers of evil changes depending on the spiritual state of the nation. If a big percentage of the population of a nation serves Jesus, the spiritual powers of evil will be squeezed out, and their influence will decline. They will find it difficult to cause harm by changing weather systems. If the faith declines and evil is rampant, the spiritual powers of evil have greater freedom to work in the nation. The result will be more weather catastrophes in terms of drought and storm. I have explained how this works in Prophetic Events.

This is also described in Deuteronomy 28. The link is more direct for a covenanted nation, but for ordinary nations where many people follow Jesus, blessings will flow.

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 (Deut 28:12).
The Lord will bless farming.

On the other hand, if Jesus is rejected throughout a nation, the spiritual powers of evil will have greater access, so troubles will flow.

The LORD will strike you... with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. 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; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed (Deut 28:22-24).
When the people of a nation reject God, the blessings on agriculture disappear.

Being Church Where We Live

With government bans on inside meetings of large groups of people, many churches will not be able to hold their meetings over the next few weeks, or months. Some will be conducting their meetings with only a few people present and broadcasting over the internet so people can listen to the sermon at home alone. This seems to be a poor substitute for the fellowship of the Spirit.

Others church leaders are getting their people to meet together in homes with other members who live near them. Perhaps God is using the coronavirus to get people back to where he wants them to be. Perhaps he is getting them to be the church where they live.

If you are thinking about meeting with other followers of Jesus in your home, be encouraged, because Jesus has promised to be there with you. The Holy Spirit loves to work amongst small groups of people seeking to serve him together. If you want to know more about how you can be the church where you live, you should read my book called Being Church Where You Live. It explains how small groups of people can be a mighty witness for Jesus by serving the people who live around them.

More at Being Church Where We Live.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Weather (4) Prayer

Prayer can change the weather.

Elijah prayed for a drought in Israel as a sign that the people had deserted God.

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word: (1 Kings 17:1).
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops (James 5:17-18).
I am not sure whether God stopped the rain in response to Elijah’s prayer, or if his prayer released the spiritual powers of evil to bring a drought, but his prayer definitely changed the weather.

Moses prophesied a storm over Egypt.

Tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now… When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt (Ex 9:18,23).
Samuel prophesied thunder and rain during the harvest.
Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king. Then Samuel called on the LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel (1 Sam 12:17-18).
In these examples, God changed the weather in response to the prayers of his prophets, during a season when the people had rejected God. They were warning judgements.
I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labour of your hands (Haggai 1:11).
The opposite is also possible. Prayer can bring good weather when the season of judgement is complete.
When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance. (1 Kings 8:35-36).

Financial Markets

All over the world, financial markets have tanked. The main US share price indexes have fallen by a third in the last week. The falls have been similar in other markets and other countries. This represents a massive loss of wealth for people who own shares and other financial instruments directly, or indirectly through their superannuation funds and insurance companies.

But there is another consequence, which is even more serious. Over the last few decades, the finance sector has grown massively, far outpacing the rest of the world economy. Banks and other businesses in the finance sector have worked together to create a huge infrastructure of debt that sits on the top of the real economy. Most of these debts have some form of collateral attached to them for the security of the lender. This collateral often consists of shares and other financial instruments.

The big fall in the financial markets significantly reduces the value of the collateral that has been posted for security. This leaves the borrower with two choices. They can either post more collateral as security (if they have it) or pay down some of their loan until it matches their collateral. Both these options can be difficult in uncertain times, but the alternative is to default on the debt, which would have a snowball effect, weakening other financial institutions that are connected to the one that fails.

A significant portion of the debt is denominated in US dollars, often using foreign exchange swaps (partly because US interest rates have been so low). The need to beef up collateral against debt may be one reason why the US dollar has strengthened so much against other currencies. It is not a sign that the US economy is strong, but that the financial system is weak.

The central banks will try to paper over the cracks in the system by creating money and making loans, but this will not resolve the underlying problems that make the modern financial system unstable in the first place.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Weather (3) Evil

If large numbers of evil spirits work together, they can influence the weather. This probably does not happen very often, but when they get their act together, it can be nasty. An example is when Jesus was crossing the lake in a boat. When they were in the middle of the lake, a terrible storm struck. This was not an ordinary storm. Mark describes it as a "great storm of wind" (Mark 4:37). Matthew says a great shaking (seismos) occurred in the sea. (Matt 8:24). The men in the boat were experienced sailors, but they were filled with terror because they realised they could be destroyed.

This was not just another storm. Most storms are caused by a strong wind. This was caused by something stirring the sea. The forces of darkness understood that Jesus was a risk to them. Now he had started his ministry the risk was becoming clear. He was casting out demons, and they were powerless. He was healing the people they had inflicted with sickness. They knew that they had to deal with him, before he really got going. So they stirred up the sea and the wind in an effort to kill Jesus.

When the disciples woke Jesus, he understood what was happening. He rebuked wind in the same way as he rebuked evil spirits that he was casting out. He spoke to the said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still" (Mark 4:39)! Speaking to an "act of nature" is a pointless waste of time, but Jesus knew the storm was demonic. He seemed to be speaking to the wind and the waves, but he was actually speaking to the evil spirits who were at work in both.

The disciples just saw a storm. Jesus realised that in the spiritual realms, a host of evil spirits had stirred up the wind and the sea in an effort to destroy him. There were other boats on the Sea of Galilee that night (Mk 4:36), but the spirits focussed the attack on his boat. Jesus understood his authority, so he rebuked the evil spirits. I presume that when he spoke, a host of powerful angels forced the evil spirits off the lake. That is why the wind and the waves instantly calmed.

Unlike a natural storm, this storm came without warning and ended suddenly. Much is made of the unpredictability of storms on the Galilee, but Jesus disciples knew how to read the weather signs (Luke 12:54) and would not have gone out if a storm was brewing. This storm ended as quickly as it started, because its source was demonic.

The storm that nearly destroyed the ship on which Paul was travelling to Rome was probably an attempt by the powers of evil to destroy him and his ministry. Paul got a revelation from God and declared to the sailor that no one would die. This declaration of faith undermined the power of the evil spirits stirring the storm.

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. In these circumstances, prayer against the works of the powers of evil is essential for the victory of God’s people.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Weather (2) God

God gave humans authority of the earth. This authority translates into authority over land. We have authority to control and shape the land. However, God has not given authority over the atmosphere and the weather. We are not able to control the weather. This means that God does not need our authority to intervene in the weather and change weather patterns.

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 our God gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest (Jer 5:24).
God has a powerful influence on 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.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Faith and Risk

Many prophetic voices are declaring that a spirit of fear is spreading around the world faster than the coronavirus. That is probably true, as fear is one of the enemy’s favourite weapons. However, we must not forget that complacency is another of his favourite weapons.

The best antidote to fear is trust in Jesus and walking his Spirit while living in a body of believers who love each other and are committed to supporting each other. Ps 91 is not a magic spell. Nor is it a guarantee to individual believers. It is a promise to a body of believers who love each other and walk in the spirit together, who make God their dwelling place (Ps 91:9).

The second-best antidote to fear is a clear understanding of the risk. Many people who contract the disease will have very mild symptoms. For most people, the risks of being killed by coronavirus are quite small, and most will get better.

The world we live in is full of risks, such as being knocked down by a car, but most of them are insignificantly small, so we can choose to ignore them. Many people, especially those who are young, have happily engaged in adventure tourism events, driven dangerously in motor vehicles, or done things under the influence of alcohol that exposed them to far greater risk than coronavirus does. We should not panic about risks that are relatively small.

However, for elderly people and others with pre-existing respiratory problems, the risks from coronavirus are much higher. We do not help them by trivialising the risks they face. They might need a group of faithful Christians supporting them in prayer, and some will possibly need a gift of healing to get through.

Although they are well trained, and have protective equipment, the nurses who will care for seriously-ill people hour by hour will feel like they are being exposed to greater risk than usual. They will need faithful prayer support and strong spiritual protection while they are caring for people in need.

As I noted in a previous post, the economic risks from coronavirus are probably much greater than the health risks, and they are already being felt. The slowdown of production in China is affecting production in factories all over the world. The controls on international travel introduced at the weekend will have a much greater effect. The tourism industry will be particularly hard hit, but in the inter-connected world that we live in, the pain will ripple thought the entire economy. I explain some of the reasons in Trade and Specialisation.

When life is uncertain, people stop spending, especially on goods and services that are not essential. This downturn will affect industries and businesses far beyond those that are directly affected. The large number of workers on casual contracts or on short-term freelance contracts will exacerbate the situation.

We had breakfast with friends in the restaurant of a tourist hotel on Saturday morning. The restaurant was quite empty, so I asked the waitress serving us about the impact of coronavirus. She said there had been a big decline in guests at the hotel. She said many of the staff had been put on reduced hours. She was worried about one of her colleagues who had just taken out a mortgage to buy a house. No doubt the situation people employed by this business got worse on Sunday when the government announced big restrictions on international travel.

Trivialising the economic risks is not helpful. Many people will face reduced hours, and some will lose their jobs. Most of the employment in the tourism sector are in low-wage jobs, so they will have much to come and go on. Many businesses will struggle, and some will fail. The restrictions on international travel could be in place for some time, which will increase the economic pain for the business and people affected.

Governments will introduce support packages to help the people and businesses affected, but they will not be able to restore everyone who is affected. Many will miss out, because they do not fit the criteria. Even if they do get help, they will not be fully compensated for their losses.
Unfortunately, because governments all over the world have mismanaged their economies in the last couple of decades, the world economy is not as robust as it should be. I describe these risks in Thoughts on the Economy.

People who are struggling economically will need assistance from the body of Christ. They will need people of faith to strengthen them and people of generosity to sustain them during their time of need. I explained how this could be done in Preparing for Economic Crisis. Unfortunately, the church in the western world is not well prepared for dealing with a season like this, as most of its income is committed to salaries and mortgage payments for buildings.

Praying for the Weather (1)

Weather systems are extremely complicated. Most of the time the weather is the consequence of the normal working of these systems, without any spiritual intervention.

Climate changes over time, as a consequence of even more complicated interactions between the earth, the sun and the atmosphere.

However, God can intervene in the weather for particular purposes. The spiritual powers of evil can also interfere with the weather, but I presume they have to band together to have much impact. That probably does not have very often.

Authority over the Weather
Before we can fully understand praying for the weather, we need to answer the question: who controls the atmosphere.

God gave humans authority over the earth. Unfortunately, humans gave their authority over the earth to the spiritual powers of evil.

The owners of land do not have authority over the atmosphere above the land they own.

The land does influence the atmosphere above it. For example, land can cause the atmosphere to heat or cool. Hills can provide shelter from wind, or cause rain to fall.

The land influences the atmosphere, but the owners of the land do not have authority over the atmosphere above it. This means that the owners of land do not have authority over the weather that transpire above their land. If they have given authority over their land to the spiritual powers of evil, then they do not get authority over the weather above it, either.

The weather in a region is determined by three influences.

  • The natural working of weather systems.
  • God.
  • The spiritual powers of evil.
God does not have to get permission from the humans who control the land in an area before he can influence the weather, because they do not have control over the atmosphere above it. God gave authority over the earth/land to humans, but he did not give up authority to intervene in the weather on earth. God can influence the weather without getting permission from the people who control the earth.

Likewise, the spiritual powers of evil do not have to get permission from the people with authority over the land to influence the weather. Their main challenge is their limited power.

The authority situation with regard to the weather is different from what applies to other things on earth.

The weather has a significant effect on the earth. Rain helps seeds and plants to grow. Drought stops them from growing. If people are praying for changes to the weather that will affect the earth, then the authority of the people controlling the land might become more important.

Season Change

Dark clouds are rolling in from the sea and over the land.
The season of favour and privilege has come to an end.
A season of hostility, hatred, harm and harassment is beginning.

A sword of persecution will come against preachers
who go hard against sin with salvation by law.
When church leaders campaign hard
against abortion, euthanasia, genderism and homosexuality,
the world will react with hostility.
They will be accused of stirring up hatred and hostility
towards those who are hurting and helpless.
They will be labelled as lacking in love and compassion.
If fear, anger and hatred squeeze out of love and compassion,
the world will react with hostility.

When leaders use the sword of the state against sinners
and forget that sin carries its own punishment,
they will find that sword turned back against them.

A sword of persecution will come against preachers
who go hard against sin with salvation by law.
A sharp division will come between political leaders and church leaders.
Hostility will rise up between them and feed into hatred and harm.
Some facilities that have been publicly-funded will be shut down
to silence the voices that are speaking loudly against sin.
Some leaders will be hounded from their places of power
or silenced by dodgy legal and financial means.

Preachers who proclaim an exclusive gospel and eternal consequences for rejecting the gospel
will face terrible hostility.
The pastors who preach at their sheep from the front of their building
will be silenced and shut out.
Those who attempt to replace them will be silenced too.

A sword of persecution will come against
who have allowed themselves to be put on a pedestal,
who have taken the place of Jesus.
When they do not know who to follow,
their sheep will be scattered across the city.

After an explosion of anger and hostile threats,
some Christians will be afraid to come together in crowds.
When pastors fall,
their sheep will be scattered across the city,
afraid to return to big meetings.

When the sheep hide together in their houses
something amazing will happen.
The Holy Spirit will make his home amongst them.
He will heal those who are sick and broken
and many people will choose to follow Jesus.
God will raise up helpers from within their homes
to watch over them
to teach them the way of Jesus
and to bond them into his body.
They will gather to love and support each other in their homes.
Elders with balanced giftings will arise from within their midst
to watch over them.

......

The date for the NZ general election in September has been set. Most New Zealanders seem to be a bit bored by it, but Christians are rally stirred up about it. They see it as an opportunity to push back on the Big Four Social issues. A couple of them will be the subject of a referendum in parallel with the election. The big four social issues are:

    • Abortion
    • Euthanasia
    • Marijuana
    • LGBTQ issues
Focus on these issues is a mistake and a distraction.
  • Changing the law to outlaw behaviours that we do not like is salvation by law. We know that salvation by war does not work, and we do not believe in it, so it does not make sense that they are trying to use political power to bring social change. Advocating salvation by law is wasted effort.

  • The church has an amazing gospel and the Holy Spirit. These together are far more effective for bringing social church. The gospel can transform human lives and society. The gospel and the spirit are our weapons for changing lives.

  • The reason that evil is spreading in the world is that sin has become so widespread. The reason that sin is widespread is that we have not shared the gospel of Jesus effectively. For example, abortion is morally wrong, but we must not put the blame on the young women who feel their only option is to abort their babies. We must not put the blame on the politicians, who are watching which way the wind is blowing and give the nations the law that it wants. Changes to abortion laws are the consequence of the church's failure to share the gospel. We must not blame the world for our failure.

  • If the majority of the NZ population is not Christian, we should not expect them to elect Christian MPs. If the majority of MPS are not Christian, we should not be surprised if they change laws in a way that Christians do not like. Forcing them to apply Christian principles is not the solution. The answer is to change the heart of the population by proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

  • The horse has bolted in New Zealand. Society has already decided where it wants to go, and is going the other way. Most people are glad that the shackles of religious constraints have been thrown off. They do not want to go back to the old world of religious condemnation and shame.

  • The four big social issues are suckering the church into supporting right-wing political parties. They will use these wedge issues to entice voters to gain power, but will give very little back. Political power is a trap and disappointment for the church.
    God does not care about these social issues as much as we do. He is sad when people reject his love, but he is not surprised when they sin. The wedge issues that concern Christians so much are normal in societies that have turned away from God. The solution is proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

In the New Testament, Jesus did not challenge the religious and political powers to bring in laws to eliminate abortion, euthanasia and crucifixion. Instead, he went around proclaiming the good news and demonstrating God's love by healing the sick and casting out demons. Paul explained to the Roman Christians that increasing sexual immorality is the normal consequence in a society that has rejected God's presence (Rom 1:23-27). He did not tell the Romans to agitate for the Roman senate to pass laws that would stop these distasteful practices. Instead of advocating changes to the law, Paul urged the Romans to preach the gospel of Jesus, so that people's lives and their society would be transformed.

Jesus was far more concerned about different sins. He was particularly concerned about the sins of religious people and religious leaders than the sins of the world. When challenging sin, Jesus focussed on:

    • Unrighteous wealth (Luke 6:24-25; 16:13).
    • Religious leaders colluding with political power (Mark 3:6; Luke 23:2: John 19:12).
    • Imposing legal burdens on people to solve problems without doing anything about the underlying causes (Matt 23:2-4).
If the church persists in agitating on the big four social issues, there will be a harsh and hostile reaction. This will happen quicker than expected.

If pastors push hard on these issues in the lead up to the election, there will be a backlash from the media and activists that see them as a threat to their agenda. They have political support, so the fight could get really nasty. The social activists who have pushed these causes are tired of being pushed around and put in their place by the church. They feel like they have escaped that pressure in recent years, and they will do anything to avoid losing the ground that they have gained.

The experience of Isaac Folau is a warning. What the pastors in New Zealand churches are teaching is not much different from what he was teaching. Many are secretly saying, "He is right". The only difference is that he is better known, but if the pastors and leading Christians in New Zealand stand up on the parapet during the election, they will face the same vicious onslaught from the media and other social activists.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Family (4) Alternative

Brooks claims that the solution is the emergence of broader social groups that can provide an alternative to extended families.

In the beginning was the band. For tens of thousands of years, people commonly lived in small bands of, say, 25 people, which linked up with perhaps 20 other bands to form a tribe. People in the band went out foraging for food and brought it back to share. They hunted together, fought wars together, made clothing for one another, looked after one another’s kids. In every realm of life, they relied on their extended family and wider kin.

Except they didn’t define kin the way we do today. We think of kin as those biologically related to us. But throughout most of human history, kinship was something you could create.

In other words, for vast stretches of human history people lived in extended families consisting of not just people they were related to but people they chose to cooperate with.

Americans are hungering to live in extended and forged families, in ways that are new and ancient at the same time. This is a significant opportunity, a chance to thicken and broaden family relationships, a chance to allow more adults and children to live and grow under the loving gaze of a dozen pairs of eyes, and be caught, when they fall, by a dozen pairs of arms. For decades we have been eating at smaller and smaller tables, with fewer and fewer kin. It’s time to find ways to bring back the big tables.

Brooks describes a number of social institutions that are emerging as an alternative to the nuclear family.

Because Christians are supposed to be experts on “loving one another”, we should be leading these efforts. In an article called Tens, Hundreds and Thousands, I explain how God wants to re-create society from the bottom up, starting with extended families at the bottom, and then connecting them together to establish stronger groups.

God wanted the Israelites who left Egypt to be organised this way. With the gospel and the outpouring of the Spirit, this approach became even more effective and powerful. The Tens and Hundreds that Moses described, and expanded in the gospels and Acts are the equivalent of the bands that David Brooks described, but more effective, because they are united by love and empowered by the Holy Spirit. They will provide a safe place for families to shelter.

Trade, Specialisation and Coronavirus

The biggest issue in the current economic crisis is globalisation. Internet communication and container shipping have allowed the business world to massively increase specialisation in production.

In a traditional society, people often lived by subsistence. They did not depend on any other people for survival, because they grew or produced everything that they consumed. If they could not grow or make it themselves, they did not have it. Living on subsistence allowed the people to be self-sufficient, but this was quite limiting, because they spent so much of their lives producing food and shelter, they did not have time to develop and make other products that they may want.

The development of trade changes everything, because it allows people to specialise. Each one does what they are most skilled in doing. By focusing on one task, each person could increase their skills and find ways to do a task more efficiently. The person who specialises can produce more than they need to survive. They can trade their surplus production with others to get all the things they want. Trade improves the situation of almost everyone.

The industrial revolution gave the world new technology, but many of its benefits came from specialisation that made the production of goods and services more efficient. Over the last fifty years, a massive increase in specialisation and trade has occurred. This trade and specialisation makes most people better off, it has linked different parts of the world much closer together.

The production of goods has been split up into its different tasks and shifted to countries that can do them most efficiently. Engineering design for a product might be done by a services company in the United States. The marketing might be organised from France. Manufacturing tasks have been shifted to countries in Asia, where labour is much cheaper. This specialisation often produces greater efficiency, which results in cheaper good.

The components that are used in a product will be manufactured by different companies in different countries. By specialising in one type of component and supplying them to numerous producers for various similar products, they can become more efficient in what they do. The companies that assemble products have specialised in developing efficient production lines.

This division of labour enhances life in cities. Without the benefits of specialisation and trade and specialisation, life in a modern city would be impossible, even for those who live simply. No modern city or country has the capital equipment and the range of skills needed to manufacture the full range of products that people need and want. The only way that it can maintain modern lifestyles is to specialise in a limited range of activities, sell the surplus produced, and use the income to pay for the other goods and services that are needed. These will often be imported from other countries, so some of the surplus production will have to be exported to pay for it.

Risk
The risk of specialisation is that it makes people and business dependent on other people and businesses. That is a good thing.

With the highly globalised specialisation of the modern economy, this dependency extends across the world to many other nations. The supply chains of many large producers extend to businesses in countries all over the world. This specialisation has allowed increased efficiency and reduced costs, but the risk of dependency has also been vastly increased.

The risk has been exposed by the emergence of coronavirus in China and Europe and government actions to slow its spread. The quarantining and closure of businesses in China has disrupted the supply chains of businesses all over the world, contributing to the current economic downturn. Quarantines in other countries will exacerbate this situation.

This risk of depending on producers on producers on other sides of the world was always obvious, but it was probably downplayed for the sake of profits.

Many businesses are now saying that they want to pull back from globalisation and rely only on local suppliers. People are saying that they want to be self-sufficient. Reducing the risks of globalisation may be sensible, but we need to be careful how far we take this.

A significant reduction in specialisation and trade will reduce the efficiency of production, which will contribute to a sharp increase in costs and the prices that consumers have to pay. No business or nation has the capacity to produce everything needed to sustain the modern lifestyle. This makes full specialisation impossible. If a phone manufacturer tried to make all the components needed, the cost of production would be much greater. Most businesses would not be capable of efficiently producing all the components need.

Even the United States does not have sufficient capital and skills to produce the full range of goods and services needed to sustain life in an American city. If America attempted to be self-sufficient, living standards would suffer as the benefits of the division of labour and specialisation disappeared.

Moving all production back to the United States is probably not practical. The much smaller market would not support the level of specialisation that has produced the cheap consumer goods that we now take for granted. If businesses had to produce all components of their products internally, they would be much less efficient. Skilled people will have to engage in a broader range of activities, so they will become less efficient at doing some of them.

The other problem is that the skills needed for making some components of consumer goods no longer exist in the United States. Even if people could be trained up to do them, US employees will not do these for the wage rates for which they are done in Asia and Africa.

Global specialisation is beneficial, but it is also risky, because it is vulnerable to epidemic diseases, wars and political interference. However, full self-sufficiency is not practical either, because it would be too costly. We need a balance between the risks and benefits.

In the short term, government efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus will cause a massive contraction of the globalised activities, causing shortages of components needed for production and some consumer goods. Efforts to short circuit specialisation and globalisation will push up the cost of production.

In the longer term, following the coronavirus experience, that balance might shift toward more self-sufficiency, but some degree of specialisation and dependence on global trade will always be unavoidable.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Family (3) Collapse and Confusion

The collapse of marriage has created social problems.

When you put everything together, we’re likely living through the most rapid change in family structure in human history. The causes are economic, cultural, and institutional all at once. People who grow up in a nuclear family tend to have a more individualistic mind-set than people who grow up in a multigenerational extended clan. People with an individualistic mind-set tend to be less willing to sacrifice self for the sake of the family, and the result is more family disruption. People who grow up in disrupted families have more trouble getting the education they need to have prosperous careers. People who don’t have prosperous careers have trouble building stable families, because of financial challenges and other stressors. The children in those families become more isolated and more traumatized.

Many people growing up in this era have no secure base from which to launch themselves and no well-defined pathway to adulthood. For those who have the human capital to explore, fall down, and have their fall cushioned, that means great freedom and opportunity—and for those who lack those resources, it tends to mean great confusion, drift, and pain.

Brooks explains that there is no way back. Both conservatives and progressives are confused about where to go.

As the social structures that support the family have decayed, the debate about it has taken on a mythical quality.

Social conservatives insist that we can bring the nuclear family back. But the conditions that made for stable nuclear families in the 1950s are never returning. Conservatives have nothing to say to the kid whose dad has split, whose mom has had three other kids with different dads; “go live in a nuclear family” is really not relevant advice. If only a minority of households are traditional nuclear families, that means the majority are something else: single parents, never-married parents, blended families, grandparent-headed families, serial partnerships, and so on. Conservative ideas have not caught up with this reality.

Progressives, meanwhile, still talk like self-expressive individualists of the 1970s: People should have the freedom to pick whatever family form works for them. And, of course, they should. But many of the new family forms do not work well for most people—and while progressive elites say that all family structures are fine, their own behavior suggests that they believe otherwise...

In other words, while social conservatives have a philosophy of family life they can’t operationalize, because it no longer is relevant, progressives have no philosophy of family life at all, because they don’t want to seem judgmental. The sexual revolution has come and gone, and it’s left us with no governing norms of family life, no guiding values, no articulated ideals. On this most central issue, our shared culture often has nothing relevant to say—and so for decades things have been falling apart.

Thoughts about the Economy

Although it has now been declared a pandemic by the WHO, it is hard to know how serious the coronavirus pandemic will become. Whatever the outcome, it is likely that the economic consequences will be more serious than the health effects.

It seems that the best way to prevent the disease from spreading so fast that it overwhelms hospital systems is to quarantine people from infected areas. The speed of the spread can be slowed by creating social distance and reducing human contact by action such as limiting travel and preventing attendance at large sports and entertainment events. Unfortunately, government actions to reduce the spread of the disease have a significant economic cost. Spreading the advance of the disease out over several months means that the changes introduced by the government will have to stay in place for much longer. And the more serious the disease, the longer that it will take for people to revert back to their normal behaviour.

Governments will have to choose between health outcomes and economic outcomes. I presume that will most will put people’s health ahead of the economy.

Even before the coronavirus struck, the world economy seemed to be turning down, although the consequences were not fully clear. Therefore, although the coronavirus was a catalyst for the recession that had already begun, the outcome will be determined by the other factors that were already in play.

  • Europe has been struggling for some time. The uncertainty of Brexit makes it hard to know how this will play out.

  • The US trade war with China has had an effect on the economic performance of both countries by reducing trade and increasing costs. US agriculture has bee seriously impacted.

  • The recovery from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis has been sluggish at. Part of the problem is that the government solutions, which saved badly managed financial institutions from disaster, left a dead-weight hanging over the rest of the economy. Lax monetary policy helped the banks created artificial conditions that enhanced the underlying problems that were never resolved.

  • Share markets have fallen sharply all over the world. Concern about the impact of the coronavirus triggered the fall, but most shares were probably already seriously overpriced with price/earnings ratios well above the long-term average. Loose monetary policy had fed the boom by encouraging share buy-back schemes, which make shareholders wealthy, but do nothing for the real economy. Low-interest rates also encouraged excessive margin buying. Given that share markets had got out of touch with the performance of the real economy, a serious correction was well overdue, before the coronavirus arrived. All that was needed was a trigger.

  • Declining oil prices have contributed to the decline in share prices. However, the oil market was already suffering from excess production prior to the coronavirus emerging, so a fall in price was inevitable. The virus was just the trigger of the inevitable collapse.

    US shale-oil production had contributed to the excess production of oil. This production was usually funded by low-interest debt, so it was not really sustainable. Once oil prices fell a collapse of the fracking sector was unavoidable.

  • Current economic problems are exacerbated by the high levels of debt, due to the low-interest-rate policies of central banks. Household debt has soared again. The greatest risks are student debts and auto loans. Corporate debt has grown rapidly too, and some of this debt is very poor quality. At the same time, government debt has grown all over the world. This high level of debt leaves household and businesses vulnerable to economic troubles.

  • The finance sector in most developed countries has grown enormously in recent decades, but adds very little of value to the real economy. The sector claims that it mediates between lenders and borrowers, but in reality, it does very little of that. A vastly shrunk finance sector could carry out the financial intermediation need to support an economy.

    What the sector has really done is to create a vast range of financial products and derivatives and then sold these on to other financial institutions, effectively betting against each other in a “giant financial casino”. They claim that these activities improve the transmission of information and reduce risk, but the experience during the GFC showed that the opposite was the case. The finance sector has become a massive dead-weight that sits on top of the real economy, weighing it down with additional costs, and massively increasing risk when things unravel. The only people that benefit from these activities is the highly paid staff and shareholders of the companies that dominate the sector.

  • Monetary policy was over-used in the last financial crisis, so there is limited room for it to be used with the next, as low-interest rates cannot be pushed much lower before they go negative. This gives central banks very little room to move. Other monetary measures such as quantitative easing have not proven effective in dealing with serious economic problems.

  • A modern economy has so many inter-dependencies that once it is slowed down, it will take time for it to get back up to speed again. Some businesses will have failed and will not start again. Many employees will have shifted to other work, and will not go back to doing what they were previously. Their skills will not be available for the restart of the economy. When people stop travelling, it might take along time to be confident to travel again. In a less globalised world, some industries might never become competitive again. Businesses that have found new suppliers might never go back to their old one.

The outcome is uncertain, but so many negatives are at play that the consequences are likely to be worse than governments expect.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Family (2) Nuclear Family

The nuclear family had its heyday between 1950 and 1965, but it was relatively rare in terms of history.

During this period, a certain family ideal became engraved in our minds: a married couple with 2.5 kids. When we think of the American family, many of us still revert to this ideal. When we have debates about how to strengthen the family, we are thinking of the two-parent nuclear family, with one or two kids, probably living in some detached family home on some suburban street. We take it as the norm, even though this wasn’t the way most humans lived during the tens of thousands of years before 1950, and it isn’t the way most humans have lived during the 55 years since 1965.

Today, only a minority of American households are traditional two-parent nuclear families and only one-third of American individuals live in this kind of family. That 1950–65 window was not normal. It was a freakish historical moment when all of society conspired, wittingly and not, to obscure the essential fragility of the nuclear family.

Several unique factors made the nuclear possible during this period.
  • Women were obliged to stay at home and look after their children.

  • Post-war labour shortages pushed up wages, making a single income family viable.

    By 1961, the median American man aged 25 to 29 was earning nearly 400 percent more than his father had earned at about the same age...

Disintegration
But these conditions did not last. The constellation of forces that had briefly shored up the nuclear family began to fall away, and the sheltered family of the 1950s was supplanted by the stressed family of every decade since. Some of the strains were economic. Starting in the mid-’70s, young men’s wages declined, putting pressure on working-class families in particular. The major strains were cultural. Society became more individualistic and more self-oriented. People put greater value on privacy and autonomy...

In the 1950s: “Love means self-sacrifice and compromise.” In the 1960s and ’70s, putting self before family was prominent: “Love means self-expression and individuality”...

Since the 1960s, the dominant family culture has been the “self-expressive marriage.”
Marriage is no longer primarily about childbearing and childrearing. Now marriage is primarily about adult fulfillment”...

We’re likely living through the most rapid change in family structure in human history. The causes are economic, cultural, and institutional all at once...

These cultural changes have brought about serious changes in relationships.

Over the past two generations, people have spent less and less time in marriage—they are marrying later, if at all, and divorcing more...

Over the past two generations, families have also gotten a lot smaller. The general American birth rate is half of what it was in 1960. In 2012, most American family households had no children. There are more American homes with pets than with kids. In 1970, about 20 percent of households had five or more people. As of 2012, only 9.6 percent did...

Over the past two generations, the physical space separating nuclear families has widened...

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Family (1)

I recently read an article in the Atlantic Magazine by David Brooks called The Nuclear Family was a Mistake. He has an important message for people who are interested in family life and the structure of society. Brooks begins by describing the disintegration of family life in the Western World.

This is the story of our times—the story of the family, once a dense cluster of many siblings and extended kin, fragmenting into ever smaller and more fragile forms. The initial result of that fragmentation, the nuclear family, didn’t seem so bad. But then, because the nuclear family is so brittle, the fragmentation continued. In many sectors of society, nuclear families fragmented into single-parent families, single-parent families into chaotic families or no families.

If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.

Extended Families

He explains that the nuclear family is a very recent phenomenon.

In 1800, 90 percent of American families were corporate families. Until 1850, roughly three-quarters of Americans older than 65 lived with their kids and grandkids. Nuclear families existed, but they were surrounded by extended or corporate families.

An extended family is one or more families in a supporting web. Your spouse and children come first, but there are also cousins, in-laws, grandparents—a complex web of relationships among, say, seven, 10, or 20 people.

The second great strength of extended families is their socializing force. Multiple adults teach children right from wrong, how to behave toward others, how to be kind. Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, industrialization and cultural change began to threaten traditional ways of life. Many people in Britain and the United States doubled down on the extended family in order to create a moral haven in a heartless world. The prevalence of extended families living together roughly doubled from 1750 to 1900, and this way of life was more common than at any time before or since.

The collapse of the extended family began at the end of the 19th century.

As factories opened in the big U.S. cities, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, young men and women left their extended families to chase the American dream. These young people married as soon as they could… The families they started were nuclear families. The decline of multigenerational cohabiting families exactly mirrors the decline in farm employment.

By the 1920s, the nuclear family with a male breadwinner had replaced the corporate family as the dominant family form. By 1960, 77.5 percent of all children were living with their two parents, who were married, and apart from their extended family.

I presume that the extended family lasted longer in the US, because the industrial revolution came later than in England.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Permanent Record

I have just read Edward Snowden’s book called Permanent Record (McMillian 2019). It is a disturbing account of how the CIA and the NSA collected the data of Americans (and the people of the world) although they knew it was unconstitutional. They then lied to the media, so the public would not know about it.

Public servants with power can be dangerous, because they slip into assuming that they know what is good for people, better than they know themselves. It then become easy to slip into to doing evil assuming that it serves a greater good.

Snowden explains the significance of the collection of metadata.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that the content of our communications is rarely as revealing as its other elements—the unwritten, unspoken information that can expose the broader context and patterns of behaviour.

The NSA calls this “metadata.” The term’s prefix, “meta” which traditionally is translated as “above” or “beyond,” is here used in the sense of “about”: metadata is data about data. It is, more accurately, data that is made by data—a cluster of tags and markers that allow data to be useful. The most direct way of thinking about metadata, however; is as “activity data,” all the records of all the things you do on your devices and all the things your devices do on their own. Take a phone call, for example: its metadata might include the date and time of the call, the call’s duration, the number from which the call was made, the number being called, and their locations. An email’s metadata might include information about what type of computer it was generated on, where, and when, who the computer belonged to, who sent the email, who received it, where and when it was sent and received, and who if anyone- besides the sender and recipient accessed it, and where and when. Metadata can tell your surveillant the address you slept at last night and what time you got up this morning. It reveals every place you visited during your day and how long you spent there. It shows who you were in touch with and who was in touch with you.

With the dizzying volume of digital communications in the world, there is simply no way that every phone call could listened to or email could be read. Even if it were feasible, however, it still wouldn’t be useful, and anyway, metadata makes this unnecessary by winnowing the field. This is why it’s best to regard metadata not as some benign abstraction, but as the very essence of content: it is precisely the first line of information that the parity surveilling you requires.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

We Need Prophets, Not Partisans

Brett McCracken makes a good point in his article called We Need Prophets, Not Partisans.

Many Christians today are being more powerfully catechized by voices on cable news, talk radio, and podcasts than they are by voices from within the church. The average American Christian is likelier to have their views shaped by a political pundit than a preacher...

The gospel’s power is not the power to win elections, legal protections, or economic prosperity. It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). It’s incumbent upon churches and Christian institutions today that they orient around this true gospel—the one given to us by God in Scripture—rather than around the various perverse gospels that tempt us: prosperity, power, politics, self-help.

Churches in America used to be places where people of diverse political opinions integrated and learned how to have civil, charitable political discourse. “But when politics affects whether and where Americans go to church, even our houses of worship become political echo chambers” (quoting Michelle Margolis).

The gravity of this problem cannot be overstated. If the church of Jesus Christ becomes more shaped by the temporal concerns of contemporary politics than by the eternal, kingdom concerns of Scripture, we’ve surrendered our last shred of relevance in a secular age. Why would a spiritually restless 21st-century person care about faith if faith turns out to be just another clanging cymbal in the deafening cacophony of politicized noise? Yet if faith offers something different—a confident, prophetic clarity that takes its cues from an eternal agenda and speaks to politics rather than from politics, or from anything else peripheral—then it might be worth preserving.


Friday, March 06, 2020

Authority and Control

When God made us free, he gave us authority over our own lives, and he will not take that back.

So we can give God permission to speak to us and guide us, and bring events our way, but we cannot give all control over our lives to him. We have to listen to his leading, and choose to obey. And we have to take responsibility for our decisions, and accept the consequences, though he will rescue us from mistakes.

So If we are under attack from demonic powers, he will not deal with them if we remain passive. He expects us to exercise our faith, and take up the authority that he has given us and command them to leave.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Change

Only a fool thinks that you can get something different by carrying on doing more of the same.

Yet the church has been doing the same thing for the last 30 years and expects a different outcome. This does not make sense.

The modern pastor-leader model that we persist in relying on does not exist in the New Testament. Churches were led by a team of elders. Paul was never “the pastor” of a church in the modern sense of the word. The church in Antioch where he got his ministry underway was led by several “prophets and teachers” (pastors) (Acts 13:1).

When Paul was sent out to start new churches, he was part of an apostolic team (Acts 13:2-5). In all the churches founded by Paul and his team, elders were appointed to lead the church. Paul never appointed someone to be “the pastor” (Acts 14:23). When Paul met with key people from Ephesus towards the end of his ministry, he met with the elders and encouraged them to shepherd (disciple) the people in their care (Acts 20:17,28).

Paul did what Jesus had demonstrated. Jesus took twelve people with him everywhere he went. They watched what he did and learned how to do it. The best way to learn to pray for the sick is to stand alongside someone who knows how to do it. The best way to learn how to cast out deacons is to join with an experienced person when they are doing it. The best way to learn how to share the gospel of the kingdom is to be with someone who knows how to do it.

A dozen people will be too many for most people to manage. Paul only took two or three. But if every Christian who has developed a ministry took wone or two people with them when engaging in their ministry, the number of people able to minister in Jesus name would grow rapidly. This would be far more effective than the modern model of one person engaging in ministry while 200 people watch and listen.

The benefit of having teams of elders was that all new followers of Jesus were quickly and effectively discipled. The elders replicated their ministries in the people that they were watching over, so a ready supply of new leaders was available when the church grew quickly. Under this leadership model, the church grew quickly.

The modern church has rejected this model and relies on a professional paid-pastor, who gives teaching at a Sunday meeting. This method distributes knowledge, but falls far short of the discipling provided by the elders in the early church, where people learnt by doling stuff with the elders who were discipling them. The professional pastor model trains people to be passive observers, which massively weakens their effectiveness.

The church has persisted with this model for many years, without achieving the desired effect. There is no reason why more of the same will do anything different. Maybe its time to try the leadership model that worked so well in the time of Paul.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Apostle

Apostle is a relationship role, not a governmental role.

Paul had authority, because he had strong relationships with many people in the churches of Asia Minor (he had discipled many of them), not because he was appointed to a governmental role.

Jesus called twelve disciples and called them apostles.

He appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:14-15).
He did not appoint the twelve to a governmental role. He appointed them to be with him and learn how he did things. Once they had learned how to what he did, he would send them to preach the good news and cast out demons. Like him, they would heal the sick and cast out demons as confirmation of the truth that Jesus is truly Lord and saviour.

What Mathew literally said is the following.

He makes twelve, whom He also names apostles, that they may be with Him, and that He may be apostling them to preach.
We lose the sense of this declaration because English translations use the word "sent" for the verb apostle. The apostles were called apostles because they were sent/apostled to preach. Being sent is what apostles do.

They do not stay behind and rule and control. They are sent out to preach and enforce the of defeat the spiritual powers of evil that Jesus established on the cross. And they form the people they rescue together into new churches, like Paul did.

More at Apostle.

Monday, March 02, 2020

COVID-19 Virus

After reading a report of a Christian prophet suggesting that the COVID-9 Virus is coming to an end, I began to wonder what type of event this pandemic is. Nothing big happens on earth by accident. All serious events are the result of interactions between the spiritual realms and the physical world that we see.

When I worked as a statistician, I discovered that the key to understanding activities and event is to classify them correctly. If a business codes some of its expenses as loans, its profit will look better, buts its accounts will be a distortion of reality. A key to classifying events correctly is understanding the full range of events that can occur. If we only expect one type of event, we will assume that is what they all are. A secular materialistic world view assumes that all events are the result of physical causes. People who believe in meticulous providence assume that every event is totally controlled by God. Both of these views result in a distorted understanding and confusion.

In an article called Prophetic Events, I describe the range of possible prophetic events and set out criteria for distinguishing between them. Understanding this range makes it easier to categorise particular events when they occur. This enables us to be clearer about things that are happening in our world.

I conclude that the COVID-19 virus was not a Shaking Event, in which God shakes the people to shock his people into turning back to him. The reason for this conclusion is that, as far as I can tell, no Christians prophets warned of this pandemic in advance and God does nothing with warning his prophets (Amos 3:7). None of the prophets mentioned the COVID-19 virus in their y2020 prognostications. Since God did not warn of this event, so he is most likely not the cause of it.

Therefore, I conclude that the pandemic is what I have called to as a Warning Event in the article.

When the Christian influence declines and society is close to the tipping point, the powers of evil begin to show off. The devil is not very creative, so he just does on a smaller scale, what he would like to do, if he had much more authority, but does not. These events are warning signs for those who alert. Christians who understand their times will able to discern these signs and get an early warning of what is going to happen, if society continues in the way that it is going.
Jesus described warning events in (Luke 13:1-5). As explained in my article Warning Events have the following characteristics (there are more listed in the article).
1. Warning Events are not sent by God.

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

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

4. These mini-disasters may appear to be random events, but they have spiritual significance.

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

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

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

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

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

10. These events are not redemptive; just destructive of relatively innocent people.
The spiritual powers of evil are not very creative, so when they discover a tactic that works, they are like to keep on doing it.

During a Warning Event, follows of Jesus should gather together, so they can provide spiritual protection for each other.