Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Intercession and Authority (2) Letting the Holy Spirit Speak

Every citizen has a right to ask for an appointment with their king, president or prime minister. They have the right to speak to them. Therefore, I can give the Holy Spirit authority to speak to my king, president or prime minister on my behalf, ie prophets and intercessors can give the Holy Spirit permission to their president or prime minister on their behalf. They can tell the Holy Spirit what they want him to say. He will speak it, if the words are from God. So, the Holy Spirit can speak to kings, presidents or prime ministers, even if the does not have authority to change their behaviour.

I am free to speak to any person I meet. Therefore, I can give the Holy Spirit authority to speak to any person that I mee on my behalf. We should ask the Father what he wants to say to the people we encounter and give the Holy Spirit to speak those words to the person.

Of course, a king, a president, a prime minister and the person I meet on the street are free to ignore the voice of the Spirit, and they often do.

Authority comes through submission. We have authority over people who have submitted to us, as and elder, or by asking for prayer or seeking our wisdom and advice.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Intercession and Authority (1)

Authority works both ways. We need to understand the authority that we have in Jesus, but we must also understand the limits of authority, because people and organisations that have taken it, or been given authority on earth by people submitting to them.

Authority is more important than numbers for effective prayer. Here is another important principle.

We can only give God permission to act on earth
in situations where we have authority
Every Christian has different levels of authority in various spheres of activity. This affects their authority in prayer.

Christian parents have authority in their family, so they can give God permission to work in their family. Employers have authority over in their business, so they can give God authority to work there. Managers have authority over their staff, so they can give God authority to work in their lives. A king has authority in his a kingdom, so he can give God permission to work in his kingdom. Elders have authority over people in their care, so they can give God authority to act in their lives.

When people ask us to pray for them, they are giving us authority in their lives. This gives us authority to speak to God on their behalf. Hannah had submitted to Eli, so he had authority to agree with her prayers. If she had not submitted to him, his agreement may not have meant anything.

Two or three people with earthly authority over a situation will be more effective than hundreds who have no authority. This is a reason why Christians should take up positions of authority that are offered to them. Being given authority in the world gives a Christian wider and broader authority in prayer.

Much of the prayer for cities and nations is wasted, because the people who are praying do not have much authority over the political systems they are praying for. If the rulers of a city are not Christians, they are by default, continuously giving the forces of evil authority to act in their city or nation. Christians can bind these political-spirits and government-spirits and command them to leave the city, but they do not need to depart, if they have been invited to be there by leaders of the city, because the leaders have more authority in the city than the people praying.

Christians should be careful about submitting to political authorities, because when we submit to them, we are vulnerable to the political-spirits that control them. If we are standing to together in unity with other Christians, that may not be a problem, but if we are isolated from spiritual support, we might come under attack. (From Prayer and Authority).

Intercession is only effective in situations where we have authority on earth. Being seated at the right hand of God, in Jesus, does not give us the ability to make people do things that they do not want to do. If it did, Christians would already control the world. Our prayers will not be effective for people whom we do not have authority over, because they have more authority in their lives than we do. Intercessors cannot change the behaviour of a king, president or prime minister unless that king, president or prime minister has submitted to them.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Nation-State

Lew Rockwell describes the recent origin of the nation-state.

It is useful to back up just a bit to remember that the nation-state as we know is a modern invention, and not an essential feature of society. In many ways, it is, as Bastiat said, nothing but an artifice that permits some to live at others’ expense. He was of course speaking of the modern state, particularly that of nineteenth-century France, and all that he wrote applies in our time as well.

But states were not always structured as we know them today. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the late Middle Ages, societies in Europe were governed not by bureaucrats, elected councils, regulations, or any kind of permanent structural apparatus of coercion and compulsion, but by competing cells of authority that were woven together not by ideology, but by separate function. The merchant class managed its affairs, the church had its purview and courts, the international traders developed their code, feudal lords were masters of their domain, free cities managed themselves, the family was largely autonomous, and the state, such as it was, consisted of extended families and lines of rulers who dared not transgress their traditional authority.

Every institution was supremely jealous of its power and authority. The emergence of liberty from feudalism occurred not because any institution brought it about but because they all stayed within their realms, cooperating where necessary but also competing for the loyalty of the public. All the institutions we associate with civilization—universities, stock markets, charities, global trade, scientific establishments, vocational schools, courts of law—were born or recaptured from the ruins of the ancient world in these supposed dark ages without nation-states.

Voltaire once wrote of how kings would conduct their wars, raising their own money and employing their own soldiers, always acquiring or losing territory and usually up to no good. But for the most part, though they dominate the history books, their activities had little or no impact on the people. It was during this time, historian Ralph Raico reminds us, that the process of accumulating capital began and the division of labor began to expand — two features that are essential to rising population and prosperity.

The nation-state as we know it — defined by a fixed governing class that enjoys the legal monopoly on the right to use aggressive force against person and property and holds a status that is higher in authority than any other institution — was a development of the breakup of Christendom and the wars of the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century. As competitive sources of authority weakened, the state as an entity separate from its ruler came to be strengthened and consolidated, sometimes in opposition to competing authority centers and sometimes in cooperation with them.



Thursday, January 23, 2020

Statism the Church

Scot McKnight has a good post on Statism the Church. He has uncovered a serious problem. I believe that he has hit the nail on the head, when he said,

The church, John Locke once said, is more likely to be influenced by the government than the government by the church. This could be called “Locke’s trap.”
America’s dominant narrative today is statism, the theory that the state ought to rule and the state can solve our problems.
The political narrative of today makes for a mesmerizing story: there are problems, we are strung along for two years or more with potential winning or losing, and then the Vote Day comes and the story’s next chapter starts. We may even give the story’s centrality a break for a year or so and then we start up all over again. But make no mistake, the American story is increasingly statism. We are in Locke’s trap. More significantly, statism entails an inherent belief, either explicit or implicit, in the state. It is a belief that solutions to our biggest problems are found in the state and the Christian’s responsibility from the Left or the Right is to get involved and acquire political power. Statism as I am using it here is the idol of making a human the world’s true ruler. Statism exalts humans and human plans and voting. Statism centers its faith in the future on who rules in D.C.. Statism makes government a god. Statism is a secular eschatology and soteriology. No one, of course, says this or even admits it but our lives betray our words.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Joseph/Daniel Calling (3) Authority Issues

The aspiration for a Daniel/Joseph type ministry is based on the assumption that Christians can contribute to the advance of the Kingdom of God by influencing political leaders and emperors. That is a misunderstanding. The Kingdom of God will come to fulness when human emperors, kingdoms and political powers collapse and shrink away. The Kingdom of God is established on the edge of society, so it will be ready to expand when the kingdoms of the world shake and fall. Political coercion cannot be used to establish a kingdom based on love and service.

God needs prophets to challenge and confront kings and political leaders. These prophets will sometimes rise up within the bureaucracy that serves the political system, as Daniel did. However, they will need to be marked by absolute allegiance to God and his word. Their role is not to comfort the king and help him to use his power better. Better policies will not produce the kingdom. Gods Kingdom cannot be built by coercive power. Their role is to expose the failures and follies of political power.

A key issue is authority. When a Christian has a relationship with a political leader, the leader holds all the authority. To be accepted, the Christians has to submit to them and to their authority. The political leader does not have to submit to the Christian or recognise their authority. They can pick and choose from the wisdom offered by the Christian, so they remain in control. Unfortunately submitting to the political leaders, leaves the Christian vulnerable to spiritual forces that control and manipulate them. Seeking access to political power can have a high spiritual cost.

Kings, Presidents or Prime Ministers are aware that their popularity is fragile, so they prefer to be surrounded by people who will boost their ego’s. Therefore, to get close to them, Christians will have to engage in flattery, but unfortunately, this reduces their ability to influence them. Too much flattery by Christians can make a King, President or Prime Minster Dangerous.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Joseph/Daniel (2) Daniel

Daniel’s situation was not much better than Joseph's. Nebuchadnezzar recognised Daniel’s wisdom and put him in charge of the province of Babylon after he interpreted his dream. However, Nebuchadnezzar did not change and become gentle, humble and kind. Instead, he built a statue of himself and made the people worship it. Daniel’s friends refused to worship the statue, because they preferred to honour God, but they had to obey Nebuchadnezzar in everything else. They had to use their God-given wisdom to implement Nebuchadnezzar’s plans and purposes. If they had refused to carry out his instructions, they would have been thrown out their roles.

When Nebuchadnezzar became too big for his boots and God spoke to him in a dream, Daniel was able to hell him what the dream meant, without a description of the dream. When he humbled himself, he recognised that God is right and just, but there is no evidence that he switched to doing what is right and good. Nebuchadnezzar continued to be a ruthless and powerful dictator.

When Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar held a banquet, Daniel was able to read the writing on the wall and warn him what would happen. However, Belshazzar did not repent and turn back to God.

When Darius the Mede invaded Babylon, Daniel’s wisdom was recognised and he was re-appointed to a position of authority. After he came out of the lion’s den, Darius acknowledged the greatness of Daniel’s god, and decreed that all the people of his kingdom must acknowledge Daniel’s god (Dan 6:26) but that did not mean they should stop worshipping their other God. They just added another god to their pantheon of gods. And they didn’t stop giving their allegiance to the emperor who controlled their kingdom.

Daniel prospered during the reigns of Darius the Mede and his successor Cyrus the Persian. Nevertheless, he continued to be a slave. God had given Daniel wisdom, but he had to use it to advance the plans of pagan emperors.

When Cyrus became king over the empire, he ordered that a temple be built in Jerusalem. Daniel may have had a role in this, but we must be careful about overstating the significance of the decision. The decree to rebuild the temple was significant for Israel, but that was what Emperors did in those days. They wanted to keep all the local gods in their empire happy, and one of the best ways to do that was to build a temple for each one. Cyrus was not choosing to follow Yahweh, he was just doing what emperors did to keep themselves on the right side of the gods they might have offended during their conquests.

So Daniel would have had a tough life working for a series of pagan emperors. He had to use the wisdom that God had given to support their plans and goals. If Daniel refused to do that, he would have lost his position.

Daniels most valuable contribution was the apocalyptic visions, prayers and prophecies recorded in Daniel 7-12. He prophesied the ministry of Jesus (Dan 9). He also described how the Kingdom God would come to fulness and how the governments of the world would collapse and disappear and be replaced by the government of God

The Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favour of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom... But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (Dan 7:22, 27-27).
This is a wonderful promise. Maybe Daniel received his visions, because he was tormented by having a role where he had to use God’s gift of wisdom to prop up pagan emperors. This struggle probably caused him to press into God and ask why these rulers were so strong, when God was the creator of the universe. The pressure of serving at the heart of the empire forced Daniel into intense prayer that produced important insights into the workings of the empire. The tension of his role gave him the tenacity to receive a clear vision and promise from God.

Daniel’s prophecies were an amazing achievement for a person who was forced to serve a pagan king, but he is not a role model for Christians to follow.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Joseph/Daniel Calling (1) Joseph

Many Christians want to be Josephs or Daniels gaining access to political leaders to gain influence over them. They believe that by getting the ear of politicians, they will be able to influence political power in the direction that God wants it to go. The problem with this desire to influence political power is the nature of the relationship.

Joseph
Joseph was a slave, and he continued to be a slave of Pharaoh, even though the was his second command. Pharaoh took advantage of Joseph’s dream interpretation skills, but he used them for his own benefit. He could have told the people to save grain during the good years, so they would be safe during the famine years, but Pharaoh did not pass on the knowledge that he learned from Joseph’s interpretation on to his people. Instead, he bought up grain himself during the good years, when it was cheap. And then he sold it during the famine years when grain was scarce and expensive. By buying at the bottom, and selling at the top of the market, Pharaoh made enormous profits at the expense of his people.

Worse still, when the people ran out of money, Pharaoh took their land in exchange for grain. During the famine years, land was nearly worthless, whereas grain was valuable. Pharaoh gained ownership of all the land in Egypt. The people fell from being independent farmers to become tenant farmers reliant on Pharaoh. You could say that Pharaoh ripped his people off when he had a responsibility to care for them.

God used Joseph to provide food for his family during the famine. He used this situation to get Jacob and his family to Egypt. But Joseph was not able to change Pharaoh’s behaviour. He continued to be a wicked, and self-centred dictator, who enslaved his people. If Joseph had refused to implement Pharaoh’s wishes, he would have been turfed out of power, just like his predecessors who could not interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.

Therefore, Joseph is not really a good role-model for Christians wanting to influence political leaders. Rather he is an example of the danger of working with political power. Political influence always comes with a cost, and it usually overwhelms.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Big Four – Social Issues

With an election coming up this year, Christians in New Zealand are fighting against political change that affects four social issues.

  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Marijuana
  • LGBQT issues
This focus is a mistake and a distraction.
  • Salvation by law does not work. Christians do not believe in it, so it does not make sense that they are trying to use political power to bring social change.

  • The church has the gospel and the Holy Spirit. These together are far more effective for bringing social church.

  • The horse has bolted. Society has already decided these issues, and it is going the other way.

  • If the church persists on these issues, there will be a reaction. A sword of persecution will come against leaders of churches who push hard issues. This will happen quicker than expected.

  • These issues are suckering the church into supporting right-wing political parties. They will use these voters to get power, but will give very little back. Political power is a trap for the church.

God does not care about these 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 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.
When dealing with sin, he 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).

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Possible Future?

1. Season of Urgency
The season is urgent. The spiritual climate of a nation can decline much faster than most Christians leaders realise. Unless something dramatic happens, the spiritual decline in the US will accelerate. Revival and restoration are never automatic. They require a change of heart and change of behaviour of the church and its leaders. There are few signs that this will occur. History has plenty of examples of places in the world where a strong church has disappeared, because people and church leaders did not listen to the Spirit and heed his call to change. The expected revival will not come, unless the church agrees to do things God's way.

2. Truth falls to the Ground
Lying has become a respectable strategy for political leaders on all sides of the political spectrum. When the leaders of a nation lie to their people, and the people welcome the lies, then foolishness and folly follows. Stirring up trouble and disagreement gets easy. When truth fails, power triumphs.

3. Love of War
Because faith in military power is so deeply entrenched in America, if antagonisms intensify, there is a risk that people will seek to resolve their disagreements by military power (as they did in 1776 and 1865). The outcome could be ugly.

4. No Empire
God does not need a union of states, or powerful nations to accomplish his purposes. The does not need a Christian empire to enforce his will in the world. He does not need a powerful Christian nation to restrain evil. He gave his law for that purpose, and it is sufficient for the task (1 Tim 1:7).

God is not interested in Christians seizing political power. He is focused on his Kingdom, which comes to reality, as people freely submit their authority to Jesus and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God cannot be established by political power. It must not be confused with a Christian nation.

5. Political Empire
America might divide and fight along religious/cultural/political lines, as the divided nation flies apart. However, faith in political power is so strong in the United States, it is more likely that a powerful political leader will be given the autocratic power to hold together the divided nation. To ensure the unity of the United States, people would welcome a leader with absolute power. He would use military force to unite the nations and put down those who are rebelling and breaking away.

6. Persecution
If the prophets challenge these developments, the church will almost certainly be hated by people with power. To survive and grow, it will need to become politically invisible.

  • No big buildings/facilities
  • No public worship meetings
  • No big-name pastor-leaders.
Highly visible people and activities make the church easy to track down and attack.
The church must be invisible to political and military leaders, and highly visible to people open to the gospel. I describe how this can be done in Being Church Where We Live.

7. Political and Social Collapse
If a political-military dictator gets control of the nation, he will eventually fail and his power will collapse. The outcome will be worse than the disaster that he was trying to prevent.

8. Opportunity for the Kingdom
A collapse of political power will be a season when God can bring his Kingdom to fullness. Those who have stayed loyal to Jesus (many will fall away) will be prepared for this opportunity. They will have turned their invisible churches into Kingdom Communities that can provide all the services that the government has failed to deliver. The Kingdom Communities will expand and multiply rapidly to bring God’s salvation and kingdom to a broken world.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Nation Divided?

Many Christians want to make America great against, but God is not interested in that. He wants his Kingdom to be glorious, and for that to happen, the glory of America will have to shrink and disappear. Unfortunately, God will not have to do much to make that happen. Americans will probably do that for themselves.

If the numbers of people following Jesus continues declining, and the church corrupts itself by compromising with political power, the constraints on the spiritual powers of evil will be released. Evil will increase, disasters will be more frequent and pervasive, and the nation’s troubles will multiply.

  • The United States is disrupted by religious wars.
  • The United States is torn apart by cultural wars.
  • The United States is divided by political wars.
  • The United States is split by legal wars.

Widespread troubles will expose the depth of the division. If people are divided by hate, some will get out their guns.

No presidential candidate put up by either party will be able to unite the country. Instead, they will divide the nation further.

The only thing that can unite the country is the people’s love of war, so presidents will continue to lead their nation into many pointless and destructive wars all over the world in an attempt to it together.

Power fills a vacuum. If the situation gets desperate, a ruthless and powerful leader could emerge. He might take control and unite the nation by force, trampling on those who oppose him and stamping out all opposition. The nation that loved freedom might get a dictator, but they would welcome the order that he brings.

Followers of Jesus who understand the times should joint together in small communities where they can support each other and protect each during the hard times. By standing together, they will remain firm, while others are being shaken. They should be prepared for distress. and equipped for victory.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Rod Dreher Benedict Option

Rod Dreher sums up the situation this way.

We Christians in the West are facing our own thousand-year flood...
The storm clouds have been gathering for decades, but most of us believers have operated under the illusion that they would blow over the breakdown of the natural family, the loss of traditional moral values, and the fragmenting of communities—we were troubled by these developments but believed they were reversible and didn’t reflect anything fundamentally wrong with our approach to faith. Our religious leaders told us that strengthening the levees of law and politics would keep the flood of secularism at bay. The sense one had was: There’s nothing here that can’t be fixed by continuing to do what Christians have been doing for decades—especially voting for Republicans.

Today we can see that we’ve lost on every front and that the swift and relentless currents of secularism have overwhelmed our flimsy barriers. Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government, and the culture has turned powerfully against traditional Christians. We tell ourselves that these developments have been imposed by a liberal elite, because we find the truth intolerable: The American people, either actively or passively, approve (p.9).

The solution begins in communities.
The fate of religion in America is inextricably tied to the fate of the family, and the fate of the family is tied to the fate of the community... For decades conservative Christians have behaved as if the primary threats to the integrity of families and communities could be effectively addressed through politics. That illusion is now destroyed. If there is going to be authentic renewal, it will have to happen in families and local church communities (p.123).


Saturday, January 11, 2020

US Church and Political Power

Political power is dangerous for the church.

  • During the 1960s and 70s, Christians felt declining influence on their society. The Supreme Court was making changes that they did not. The judicial decision emerged out of the 1960s moral revolution.

  • The Republican Party needed the evangelical vote to win power at the federal level, especially the presidency. Conservative Christians were essential for the election of Reagan and the Bushes.

  • The Republican Party used wedge issues (like abortion, gay rights, euthanasia, death penalty) to bring evangelical voters over to their side, although they were not serious about doing anything about them. (Trump has actually done stuff for them, unlike Reagan and the Bushes).

  • Evangelicals sold out their integrity to gain power. They gave the Republican party their loyalty in return for some scraps of political power. The moral/social decline has continued unabated, because the underlying cultural changes have had a much greater influence.

  • The wedge issues were crucial to these Christians, because believed that they bring the wrath of God on the nation, and it will lose God’s blessing. This is not true. Judging by Jesus’ teaching, God cares more about unrighteous wealth and hypocritical religion that puts impossible legal burdens on people more than he does about the wedge issues.

  • Appointing conservative judges pleases conservative politicians but is irrelevant to Christian who believe that salvation by law does not work, because only God can change hearts.

  • Political power became a trap for the church. To maintain their grip on power, the church has had to compromise its moral standards and support a man who is immoral, by the church’s standards.

  • The church’s moral compromise for the sake of political power undermines the gospel, because people’s trust in the integrity of the church is weakened.

  • Like Samson and the Philistines, the political church and the conservative political powers will eventually undermine and destroy each other.


Friday, January 10, 2020

Doctrine of Creation

William Jennings says,

A Christian doctrine of creation should orientate us towards thinking about
  • place
  • habitation
  • where we live and what we make.
Instead of us obsessing over questions of:
  • origins
  • the relationship of theology and science
  • evolutionary theoreticals.
Thinking about these matters has drawn the doctrine of creation into a deep hole, out of which it has not emerged in the last forty years.

The church knows how to think about time, but it does not what to think about place?

I don’t just live in a house and I don’t just go to a church. I live in a place. We need to start thinking about what it means to engage with a place.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Luther and Gospel

Martin Luther got the gospel right (salvation by faith), but he was wrong about the Mosaic law and Jews (this is one reason why Nazism was able to emerge in Germany, where Luther’s influence was strong).

Luther was not fighting against a pagan culture. He was preaching to a culture where everyone believed in God and knew that Jesus was the son of God. People did not need to be rescued from a heathen world. They needed to be rescued from a church that was robbing them of their wealth in the name of Jesus by teaching them that forgiveness could be bought with money. That was the huge distortion of the gospel, so Luther tried to correct it.

Unfortunately, Luther aligned the Roman church that he opposed with the Mosaic law, so he attacked the Jewish law in order to undermine the salvation by works being offered by the corrupt Roman church. This was wrong. The Mosaic law was not salvation by works, as that could never work. If God demanded that, he was giving a system that would fail and need to be replaced by something better. Why would he do that? God does not do Plan B.

The Exodus was not a reward for the good works of the Israelites. God rescued them before he gave them the law. This was receive-do, like the gospel, not do-receive as Luther claimed.

The law was not salvation by works, as that would have been a waste of time. God gave the law for a different purpose. His aim was to equip the people whom he had called and rescued/saved:

  • Spiritual protection from the spiritual powers of evil (via the tabernacle sacrifices and the Levitical laws).

  • A way to live close together in close proximity in their new land in relative peace and harmony.

The law was not a way of attaining salvation. The Mosaic law was given to keep the people who had already been saved safe from evil and harm from each other and the surrounding nations.

In the passages that Luther drew on in Romans and Galatians, Paul was not critiquing salvation by works/law, he was opposing ethnic-based religion, where people got into God’s family by being part of an ethnic group. Circumcision and the food laws were cultural markers that distinguished Jews from the world (which was important for them, but not for salvation). Paul was criticising reliance on ethnicity for being part of the people of God.

Paul challenged the idea that Gentiles followers of Jesus had to become Jews by being circumcised to truly join God’s family. He explained that this was wrong because through Jesus, God had opened up his salvation to the rest of the world.

The law was not a system of salvation by works that had become redundant. It was a gift to the Jews that they were supposed to share with the nations when they saw how good it was (Deut 40). The world needed spiritual protection too. The people of the world also needed laws that would enable them to live in harmony. God’s law must be the best option available.

The Jews were supposed to teach the world how to do these things by living them out in practice. The people of the world would see how effective the law was and want to copy it. Paul criticised the Jews for their failure to complete this task (Rom 2:17-24).

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Empty Creation

For this is what the Lord says—
he who created the heavens,
he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18).
God did not create the universe and leave it uninhabited for millions of years,
as the scientists suggest. He would have created it as a going concern,
in which case it would look like it had already existed, when it was created.

When talking about the age of the universe, scientists are not really talking about time, but the amount of change that has occurred. By assuming that change occurs through the life of the universe, at the same time as it does now, they can express the degree of change that has occurred, in terms of time.

By rolling back the cause and effect of the changes they observe, they can go track to what appears to be a beginning. That massive amount of change that has occurred in our universe, needs a huge amount of time.

To take a simple example, suppose scientists observe a universe that seems to be expanding over time, from left to right on the diagram. They can only observe the position it has got to on the far right. By rolling back cause an effect, they arrive at a conclusion that the universe must have begun at the point on the left, many millions of years ago, marked by the star, representing a big bang.

However, if God is capable of creating a universe, then he is capable of creating a universe as a going concern, it partly expanded and continuing to expand. He may have created it at the point in time marked by the black line in the diagram. If scientists were to examine the universe, just after God had created it, they would observe that it was expanding. By rolling back the expansion pattern, it would seem that it had come into existence at the point marked by the star, although God had only created it at the point marked by the black line.

Another example.

If God created grass for the first time,
he would have had to create soil for it to grow in.
The created soil would have humus in it, which if it were examined, it would seem to have decomposed plant grass, even though grass had not existed before.

If God can create a universe, he is capable of creating decomposed plant material. He would do that to provide soil for grass to grow in and begin its life cycle.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

2020

Many people, secular and Christian, are making their predictions for 2020.

Maybe it is my age, but I don’t expect 2020 to be much different from 2019. For some people, depending on their circumstances, life will be better. For others, struck by tragedy, life will be much worse. For most people, life will carry on the same, unless they making radical changes.

Things usually don’t change that much from year to year. A blanket prediction that 2020 will be better than 2019 is unfair, because for some, life will be worse.

God does not change. The Holy Spirit is attempting to do the stuff that he has always has done. God does not wake up on the morning of 2020 and say, “I will do something different to surprise people”. What changes is how people respond to his activity and allow him to do more on earth.

If things on earth change, it is because people have changed, by moving towards God and his plan, or moving away. God is always omnipotent, but he has given authority on earth to the people that he created. So, if things have changed, his people must have changed by removing blockages and following him more intently.

Rather than trying to work out what the new decade will bring, I take a much longer-term perspective. I am interested in how the times and seasons, and epochal events that mark of God’s plan for history on earth.

The seasons change when God’s purpose for a season is complete. The Exodus occurred when the sins of the Amorites (Gen 15:16) were filled up (they had had sufficient time and mercy to confirm their path) and the Israelites in their Egyptian captivity (Exodus 2:24-25) cried out to God for help (they had changed) and Moses was ready (the right person was in place). The exile in Babylon ended when the 70 years that Jeremiah (Jer 29:10) had warned that they deserved were finished (the consequence of their actions were complete).

The season that we are currently living through is the Times of the Gentiles, because during this season the church is incomplete, as most of the Jews have not come to faith in him. The epochal events that mark the end of this season are a time of distress and the calling of the Jews (what Paul called the fulness of the Jews).

I believe that the world is moving toward a transition to the next seasons now. People who are alert should be looking for the signs that I am right (or wrong). The first signs occurred in about 1978.

Understanding the transition to the next season in God’s plan is much more important than thinking about the significance of the next decade. If I am correct, this is not a time for gloom and doom, but a time for excitement and preparedness, because the next season in God plan is the time of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

When I ask God of a word for the season, I get the same word that I have been getting for 30 years. God’s people should be getting ready, so they can stand firm together and not be swept away, during a time when everything else is being shaken. They should be prepared for distress but equipped for victory.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Another Forgotten Story

Cynthia Chung explains that China’s experience in World War 2 is too often forgotten today.

When WWII started and Japan had taken the side of fascism, China contributed its military forces on the side of the Allies. China had the second highest death toll in WWII after the Soviet Union. However, if you look more closely at the graph depicted above, the number of civilian deaths is much higher than military deaths (by about 12 million). This is because the Japanese fascists committed genocide on the Chinese people. The most notorious being the Nanking massacre which not only had a gruesomely large death toll but became infamous for its horrific torture and mass rape on the Chinese people. During this ethnic cleanse by the Japanese fascists throughout the entire WWII (which overlapped the second Sino-Japanese war), mass graves were dug out and millions of Chinese people would be told to step inside before they were shot to death. The Jewish holocaust is recognised as one of the worst crimes against humanity in recent history. However, not much is given to the memory of the mass genocide that was committed on the Chinese people during the same period.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Forgotten Story

Cynthia Chung explains that China’s involvement in both WWI is too often forgotten today.

When WWI had started, China offered their support militarily to the cause of the Allies. Japan had already become a member of the Allied force and it was recognised that their relationship with China was not on ‘friendly’ terms, especially since the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895.

China’s loss in this war allowed for a series of treatises that divided chunks of China amongst several nations. One particular region that China very much wanted back was Shandong, which was considered sacred land for the Chinese people since it was not only Confucius’ birthplace but also home to the ancient state of Qin, the last kingdom conquered by Qin Shi Huang, who proclaimed himself China’s first emperor in 219 B.C. Japan was at the time in possession of this region.

Japan was asked whether China could be ‘permitted’ to contribute military support for the Allied cause, to which Japan refused since this would give China a more equal footing with its relations to the West. Despite this refusal, China offered to support the Allies as laborers. Starting in 1916, China began shipping thousands of men to Britain, France and Russia who would work to repair tanks, assemble shells, transport supplies and munitions. Since China was officially neutral, commercial businesses were formed to provide the labor.

After a year of supplying labor, the Chinese contribution remained largely unrecognised diplomatically. By the end of the war, Chinese workers would rank as the largest and longest-serving non-European contingent in WWI.

By the end of the war, western powers ultimately awarded the Shandong territory to Japan in the Treaty of Versailles. China was understandably upset and refused to sign the treaty. The Versailles Treaty became a clear sign to the Chinese that they could not trust the European nations to support China’s welfare and that China would have to look elsewhere for support moving forward. [America did eventually intervene on this decision and awarded the territory to China in 1922.]

Another blow would be China’s earning of only two seats at the Paris Peace Conference, relative to Japan’s five seats, the reason why China had fewer seats was because they did not play a military role in the war- a role they were forbidden to play.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Trade with China (3) Slave Labour and War

The Convention of Peking was part of the settlement of the Opium Wars.

The Convention permitted British ships to carry indentured Chinese workers to the Americas. The demand for Chinese workers in plantation economies and for railway construction rose sharply with the limitation and ultimate abolition of the slave trade in the nineteenth century. To many contemporary observers, the ensuing “coolie trade” had many commonalities with the earlier slave trade—including brutal patterns of recruitment, frequent cases of kidnapping, inhuman conditions of transport, and high rates of laborers performing the work. In fact, the two practices were at times hard to differentiate. (101
Many Chinese were brought to America as coolies, but they were little better than slaves.

Chinese labour was used again during World War 1.

Even though China was still, in theory, a neutral country. The British and French governments, to make up for labour shortages in France, as well as to release British dockworkers in French ports military duty, employed over 140,000 Chinese contract workers between 1916 and 1918. During their sojourn in France, these Chinese workers were employed in a wide variety of war-related jobs, both behind the lines (in transportation, armaments and munitions production, machinery maintenance, and aerodrome construction) and at the front (making road repairs, digging trenches, and burying war dead). In evening schools set up by Chinese students in France, the workers were taught to read and write. When they returned to China after the war, they became an important driving force for social and political change. In the French factories, in particular, they had also become committed labor activists and acquired the skills and techniques of political mobilisation. (233)
Despite the contribution to the war effort made by the Chinese workers, the Western leaders who met at Versailles decided to give the eastern portion of Shandong province, which had formerly been controlled by Germany (German Kiaochow) to Japan rather than return it to China. This injustice has not been forgotten.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Trade with China (2) Boxer Rebellion

Chinese opposition to the foreign intrusion in their country continued, just as American settlers got tired of British interference in the colonies. In 1900, the Boxer Rebellion broke out. Peasants who felt betrayed went on rampages against the foreigners who were taking advantage of them. Westerners only know about the Boxer Rebellion from the movie 55 Days in Peking, which gives a rather slanted view of the events.

The first clash was with the Germans, but the crisis quickly escalated and the largest international force that the world has seen was despatched to put down the rebellion. In June 1900, the Boxers laid foreign legations in the Chinese capital, including the embassies of Russia, France, Japan, the United States. By early August, a multinational coalition of nineteen thousand soldiers, including British, French, Japanese, Russian, German, Austrian, Italian, and American troops, was mobilized from Tianjin, which had been occupied in late July. The force reached Beijing on August and prepared immediately to attack the city gates. It entered the city on August 14 and by opening the way for British units to relieve the legation compound, quickly lifted the siege of the legation quarter and the Northern Cathedral.

The Europeans followed up by sending an even larger force to extract revenge. Vessels carrying roughly ninety thousand European, soldiers, among them twenty-two thousand Germans, arrived in Tianjin. Although the Chinese armies had been defeated, the allied army carried out seventy-five “punitive expeditions” around Beijing and Tianjin. These were directed against the general population.

Almost immediately after their arrival in China, members of the eight armies turned to looting. It began with the occupation of Tianjin in late July and stretched well into October 1900 in Beijing. Later, diplomats and missionaries joined the soldiers in looting. The sack of Beijing was similar to what had occurred at the Summer Palace forty years earlier, as “loot fever” took hold among the foreigners The ensuing phase of uncontrolled plunder affected not only Beijing and the new Summer Palace on its western outskirts, but many other cities and towns in the province of Zhili. The German commander Waldersee admitted quite frankly in a November 1900 diary entry the extent of damage and destruction inflicted by looters on Beijing and other wealthy, centuries-old cities.
By the permitted plundering for three days after the occupation, which was followed by private plundering the population of Beijing suffered great, not even quantifiable material damage. Each nationality assigns to another the palm in the art of looting; but the fact remains that they have plundered thoroughly... There is now a rich trade going on with the objects acquired in the plundering. Already traders, namely from America, arrived making fortunes... If one is so naïve at home to believe that all this was done for Christian culture and propaganda, he will be disappointed.
From 1900 to 1902, Beijing and Tianjin were placed under foreign occupation. Barracks were built in Tianjin to house thousands of foreign troops, and a provisional government was set up there by the allied forces. (185)
The Boxer Protocol was forced on the Chinese a year later.
The Chinese government also had to prohibit by law the founding of anti-foreign societies. The nations that had against the uprising gained the right to post permanent garrisons in North China. The most devastating clause, however, concerned the huge indemnity of 450 million tael, excluding interest, which far exceeded the Qing government’s annual budget of 250 million tael. This sum represented the sum submitted by other countries for military expedition costs, damages to property, and lives lost. There was, however, no process by which the validity of the claims and their amounts was assessed requirement to make this large annual payment mortgaged the budgets of Chinese governments tor decades to come, with significant consequences. (185)
The Chinese government was forced to pay all the expenses of the nations that had invaded them and looted their wealth. The collapse of the government a few years later led to the nation being split up and ruled by cruel warlords for a couple of decades.

The people of the United States and Europe have forgotten these events, although they enjoy seeing Chinese artefacts in their museums and antique shows. But the Chinese have not forgotten. So when they rip off Western companies, they are just doing what was done to them by Christian nations a century earlier.