Thursday, April 22, 2021

Remembering

God is the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). He wants to create a family heritage. The blessing on as man like Abraham is worked out in the following generations. Each generation should have greater anointing and wisdom that those that follow. The million people that marched from Egypt to Canaan were called the Children of Israel. They were Jacob’s family line. That was Jacob’s heritage.

Abortion is terrible. A baby with its whole life ahead of it dies. However, it is worse than that. The family heritage of the dead baby is lost to the world. The blessing that would have come through the baby’s descendants are lost forever.

War has the same effect.

My uncle was killed in Italy during the second world war. My grandmother was promised that he would not be forgotten, because he gave his life for his country, but that is a distortion of the truth. (He is largely forgotten already, and when my generation dies, he will be totally forgotten). He did not just give his life. His family line was cut off.

My father who did not have to go to war has died of old age. He left behind six children and thirteen grandchildren. Now his great grandchildren are arriving. His family includes many followers of Jesus. His descendants are having an influence in the world.

I wonder what my Uncles family heritage would have been, if he had not been robbed. He was a kind, gentle, honest man. He might have twenty to thirty descendants by now. Many would be serving the Lord. Some would be pastors. Others would have had an impact on their culture. The world has lost this blessing because his family was cut off, before it began.

For the generals, he was just another casualty, a number to be added to the lists. From God’s perspective, a family line that he began before the foundation of the world was lost.

The politicians promised that those who had their lives taken would not be forgotten. But that was a lie. Most of the people who knew them are already dead. When the current generation dies, their personality and character is forgotten. Memory is more than a name on a stone on side of the road at the top of a hill or a set of medals in a drawer.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Fitch on Church Planting

In a seminar on church planting at Northern Seminary, David Fitch outlined three different models of church, and described their characteristics. This is my summary of the talk.

 

Franchise Model
(denominational)

Update Church
(seeker, relevant)

Mission Model
(Incarnation focus)

Goal

Caring for denomination members

Being relevant to people who are turned off church.

Reaching non-churched people,
seeking injustices and bringing kingdom.

First Step

Get services running as people expect
Sunday church service, children’s ministry.

Same things, but updated to be relevant, easy, convenient.

Inhabit a context. Move, work and live there.  Find people of peace

Context

Irrelevant
Methodist is same everywhere

Survey the context to be relevant.

Exegete context. Find places of pain? What is causing pain?.  Where do people gather?

Getting started

Establish a church buiding with sign outside.

Do a launch with big publicity.

Landing.  Establish two or three leader people.  Get a job.

Get involved in neighbourhood.  Find networks.

Horizon to self sufficiency

Three years

Three years, but getting harder.

Ten to fifteen years

Worship

Traditional

Better music and messages

Incarnational.  Aims to be part of rhythm of life. 
Eating together is important

Leadership

Person from denominational school

Charismatic entrepreneur with celebrity to drive preaching

Polycentric group that know their giftings.  Push decisions down and out.

Preaching

Teaching for doctrinal reinforcement for people who already believe.

Relevant communication. Topic driven.  Equipping people to deal with problems of life.

Proclamation of the gospel into and over the context.  Where is God at work?  Explain how to serve Jesus as Lord there

Evangelism

Not a primary focus

Seeker sensitive, evangelistic event.  Assumes people find God by going to a church on Sunday

Training and locating people to be present in places of hurt, pain, brokenness, suffering and injustice to see what God will do.

Justice

Justice is something that government does.  Church might challenge injustice or train people to participate in government’s justice activities.

Find a project.  Use money for justice projects.  Might even have a justice centre/place where people who need justice and those who want to do it can meet.

Develop a presence amongst the poor, the hurt, the broken, the oppressed, the victimised, the lost.  Live with them in their community and see what God will do.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Interpretation of Moses' Laws

The following principles are important for interpreting and understanding the judicial laws of Moses.

  • The scriptures were breathed by the Holy Spirit. We do not know how they were written down, and we do not know how involved Moses was in the process of recording God’s law, but that does not matter, because the Holy Spirit was at work. He got the stuff that he wanted recorded into the books of Moses. This provides our principle of interpretation. The best way to understand the judicial laws of Moses is to seek what the Holy Spirit is saying.

  • The judicial laws must be interpreted through the lens of Jesus’ life, ministry and teaching Jesus. His life ministry was a full and complete revelation of the character of God. The gospels will help us understand how God’s laws should be interpreted and applied. Even Moses would not have fully understood what he received from God, because he did not know Jesus.

  • The Old and New Testaments were both inspired by the same Holy Spirit, so they will be consistent with each other. Jesus never repudiated the judicial laws, so they must contain a message that is consistent with his gospel. If they seem to be inconsistent with the New Testament, then we have misunderstood them, or the translators have mistranslated them.

  • We must not use the behaviour of the Israelites to interpret the judicial laws. They had been slaves in an empire ruled by a cruel dictator and in their new land they were surrounded by evil and violent nations. Therefore, their behaviour often fell short of God’s standard. We cannot take their behaviour as normative, because it was often immoral, not God’s will.

  • Archaeological information from the surrounding nations is not very useful for interpreting the judicial laws. Some of these nations will have copied God’s law, because they recognised his wisdom, but they are controlled by principalities and power who hate God, so they will have distorted it. For example, the practices of the Babylonians will not provide many insights into the meaning of God’s law.

  • Hebrew is not a precise language like Greek. The words are sparse, and can take many meanings. Hebrew is a very old language, so the meaning of many Hebrew words is uncertain. We should choose the meaning that is consistent with the New Testament.

  • We cannot rely on the interpretations and translation of Jewish scholars, because they have a tendency to justify Israel’s history of violence and war. This causes them to cast a violent shadow over the law. The Israelites frequently rejected the Holy Spirit, so that often misunderstood God’s law. Their interpretations are unreliable, because they often choose the harshest possible meaning of a passage, whereas we need one that is consistent with the gospel. We have a huge advantage in understanding the judicial laws of Moses, because we can read them with the insight of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus.

  • The Jews were scattered among the nations for a couple of millennia, and were controlled by the laws of those nations, so they had no need for the judicial laws. In this situation, it was more important to maintain their cultural distinctiveness, so they tended to focus on the cultural markers, such as sabbath and diet, and ignored the judicial laws, because they did not need them. Not surprisingly, they were gained more expertise on the former than the latter.

  • Christian translators have tended to copy the Jewish translators, because they assume that they have a better knowledge of Hebrew. Unfortunately, their translations are often tinged by the cruelty and violence, because they did not know Jesus.

  • Most Christian translators and interpreters of the Old Testament have focussed on pushing a distinction between law and grace. They have been content to make the Old Testament seem harsh and cruel, because it makes the gospel look better. They do not understand that the law is grace and has a different objective from the gospel.

I will often push the boundary of the meaning of some well-known passages. That is deliberate, because I am translating and interpreting them in a way that is consistent with the gospel. I believe that is the best way to understand what the Holy Spirit is saying. (More in Government of God.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Mum's Garden

When God created the first humans, he put them in a garden. The garden was a place where God could work and create, frolic and play, rest and talk with humans. When they rejected God’s wisdom, they lost their place in the garden, along with all the fun and enjoyment that went with it.

I am always intrigued by TV programs about people in New Zealand and England who have turned huge areas of land around their house into a garden, because they enjoy creating and they find their garden a pleasant place to be.

My mother was very busy, raising six children, feeding farm workers, and active in church and community groups, but she loved her garden. At the back of the house, she had a big vegetable garden which kept the family self-sufficient in vegetables all year round. On the front and the sides of the house, she had flower gardens, including a shrubbery, a herbaceous border, with formal rose gardens and tidy lawns on which we children could play.

Mum planned her garden, so there was colour all year round (it was less than half an acre). She rarely went to a garden shop. Most of the plants were grown from seed or grew from cuttings that she got from other people’s gardens. Others came from the bring and buy table at a local community group she attended, or by swapping with friends.

She never worked in the garden on Sundays. When a friend or one of her many sisters visited on Sunday, they would walk around the garden together in the afternoon enjoying its prettiness. Each plant had a story. When her visitor commented about a plant, Mum would tell the story of how she obtained it and described the person who had given it to her.

Walking in the garden was restful for my mother. Even her more fractious sister became less critical when they walked in the garden together. The garden was also a place fun, where we played when we were growing up. It was the site of all sorts of games.

When I think of the Garden of Eden, I think of Mum’s garden. Gardens are a place of creativity, hard work, beauty, pleasure and enjoyment, peace, stories, people games and community.

The only thing that took my mother’s peace was if one of us children left the gate open and some hens or a cow got in and started wrecking the garden. That was a family disaster.

Monday, April 12, 2021

US Declaration of Independence

I was surprised when I read the US Declaration of Independence for the first time. According to this document, the British king was doing all the following.

  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislatures;
  • He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power;
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation;
  • For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;
  • For protecting them, by a mock trial from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;
  • For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
  • For imposing taxes on us without our consent;
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of trial by jury;
  • For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences;
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people;
  • He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation;
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers.
The great irony is that most of these activities have been done by US Presidents, either at home or abroad. Power does not change.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sin and Gospel

I listened to the gospel call in a message preached by Billy Graham in the late 1950s. His focus was on sin and his promise was that all our sins can be forgiven. That message worked in his time, but it would not be so effective today, because the culture has changed.

The 1950s was a time when society was conservative and a rules-based culture dominated most people in the west. The church was part of the establishment and attempted to impose its moral standards on the people of the world. Most people had failed to comply with the social rules that were accepted. Many had rebelled at times against the accepted moral standards. So most people had a strong sense that they had missed the mark and failed to comply with the standards expected by society. Guilt was the prevailing mood. In this culture, a message about sin and failure to comply with moral standards resonated strongly.

Likewise, in Jesus’ time, the Pharisees had created a guilt culture by imposing impossible interpretations of the Torah as a burden on the people. Most felt that they could not live up to God’s standards, so Jesus had to deal with their shame by offering forgiveness of sins.<

The culture is different now. The rules that shaped society back them have mostly gone by the board. The church is no longer so influential and its standards are no longer seen as compelling. People have been taught to seek their own fulfilment instead of living by standards imposed by others. They do not see themselves as sinners who have failed to live according to the standards of the church, and they do not see God’s standards as relevant.

Modern people see themselves as victims of life. They need someone to rescue them from their struggles. They may have made mistakes that made their situation as worse, but they largely see themselves as victims of circumstances that they did not control. Many people have been battered and beaten by trials that were too great for them. They don’t see themselves as sinners needing forgiveness, so much as victims who someone to rescue. The prevailing mood is sickness and struggle.

In this situation, the gospel call will be more effective if it announces that Jesus has rescued those who will put their trust him from the attacks of the spiritual powers of evil and put them on a path that leads to victory from the world. Many people who are struggling with life want to be rescued.

We might need to stop using the word “saved”. The gospels are full of the word “sozo” which is usually translated as “save”. Unfortunately, we don’t use the word save much these days, apart from a religious context (or saving at a bank). Rescue is a valid translation for sozo, and it a word that has more resonance in the modern world. People who are drowning are rescued, not saved. Lifeguards rescue people who get into trouble at the beach, rather than save them. People who are lost in the bush are rescued, not saved.

We would get a better response if spoke of Jesus ability to rescue people from trouble and oppression. To modern ears, the word “saved” is less meaningful. The gospel promises,

Jesus came to seek and rescue the lost (Luke 19:10).
When dealing with people, Jesus mostly rescued them from their problems first. After they were delivered, he told them to stop sinning, if that was necessary.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Moral Equivalence

Apart from scale, there seems to be no moral difference between the following:

  • a policeman kneeling on the neck of a prisoner for nine minutes.
  • imposing punishing economic sanctions on the people of Venezuela because you don’t like the government they elected.
  • establishing a blockade on Yemen to starve the people because you want them to be ruled by your Saudi friends.
  • waging war against the Pushtun people of Afghanistan for twenty years, because... nobody remembers why.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

East and West

The modern view seems to be that evil spirits are more active in Africa than they are in the West. I have always assumed that they are just as active in the West. It would not make sense for them all to pack up and move to Africa. In fact, they would gain greater benefit from operating in the West, which is the centre of world power. So, I have assumed that they are just as active in the West as in Africa, but we have not understood how they are operating.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Tabernacle and Blood

I seem to be asking questions that no one else is asking.

Although I had always read the OT, God taught me to love the Torah (as commanded in Psalm 119) when I was engaged in developing a political theology. Once I loved the law, I had to work out which parts were fulfilled and no longer mandatory, and which were still relevant. Clearly the tabernacle and related sacrifices are fulfilled by Jesus, so are no longer applicable, but I felt that if I loved the law, I needed to understand the purpose of the bits that are fulfilled.

You cannot really love something that does not make sense. So even if a Toral command is no longer binding, I need to understand its purpose and how it was actually fulfilled. Most Christians have been content to ignore the parts of the Torah that they don’t like or don’t understand (this pick and mix approach works quite well in a pragmatic sense, but it does not work for me).

God seems to be ambivalent about the tabernacle sacrifices. In some passages, he says that he did not require them (see Hebrews 10:1-18). I was struck with the contrast between the Holy of Holies where beautiful incenses were offered on a golden altar and the bronze altar which was all blood, gore and smoke. They didn’t seem to be for the same God.

Although I am truly saved, I have never been able to understand the blood. The songs say it is beautiful, but I grew up on a sheep farm and encountered real blood. My father would sometimes slaughter two or three sheep to provide food for the family and to feed the working dogs on the farm. He would cut the sheep’s throat to drain the blood out of the carcass. Blood is awful stuff. It stains everything that it comes into contact with. If left in the hot sun, it stinks. It would stink even more if it was burnt, so why would God want that.

We sometimes burnt the carcasses of ewes that had died during the lambing season on a metal frame, using a bit of kerosene, until the fat started to melt and keep the fire burning. It was a stinking, rotten smelly smoking job. It was hard to see how God would enjoy it. Only someone with a warped mind would enjoy it. It then occurred to me that being with the most warped minds are the spiritual powers of evil.

Another question I wondered about was why the tabernacle was such a dangerous place for people. Surely God was not capricious. I wondered if it was the spiritual powers of evil that made it dangerous.

God did not need the tabernacle sacrifices to visit the Israelites and rescue them from slavery. He led them through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. He rescued them and provided bread from heaven before the tabernacle was established. So why was it needed? Then it occurred to me that it was for the spiritual powers of evil, everything fell into place (see Tabernacle).

I love the Old Testament, as Jesus did, and try to understand it by looking backwards in the light of the understanding of the spiritual/cosmic warfare revealed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit who was sent to reveal all truth. The Israelites were in a season of intense spiritual struggle between good and evil (without fully realising it) when the evil powers were proportionately stronger, because there were fewer humans on earth. Seeing the tabernacle sacrifices as a weapon given by God to restrain them prior to their defeat of the cross is the only explanation that I know of that makes sense.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Ransom

The cross was gory. The place where Jesus was crucified would have stunk of fear and death and the earth would have been stained with blood. I don’t believe that God needed this gore for his satisfaction. I believe that the spiritual powers of evil demanded it, and God reluctantly agreed in order to free the humans that he still loved despite them rejecting him.

Here is a story. A rich man paid for his son to travel around the world as part of his growing up. While in a foreign country, he developed a gambling addiction and racked up massive debts in a casino.

When the son could not repay the money he owed, his creditor threatened to torture him until he settled the debt. The son was too ashamed to ask his father for help, so he found another wealthy man and sold himself to be his slave for life in return for him paying the money owed to the debtor. The son escaped torture at the price of a life of slavery.

When the father heard what had happened to his son, he wanted to rescue him. He could have hired some retired special-service warriors to invade the foreign country and rescue his son. The problem is that he did not want to engage in “might is right” activity.

The son had freely sold himself to be a slave, and his new owner had paid real money for him, so the rich father agreed to pay the ransom that the owner demanded to set the son free. He was not comfortable with paying a ransom, but had no alternative, if he did not want to engage in “might is right” behaviour. The son was freed, and the father knew that in the circumstances, he had done the right thing.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Patriotism

Patriotism forces us down a path of moral distortion. Patriots have to build up the good things that their nation has done, and play down the bad things it has done. They have to ignore the bad things their nation has done and magnify the bad things done by others.

For example, American Christians will agree that slaughter of Jews in Nazi death camps for the simple reason that they Jews was evil.

However, the firebombing of Dresden which had almost no military significance with 4,500 tons of explosive and incendiary bombs that killed 30,000 civilians and seriously injured many more simply because they were German was good.

Dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the military authorities had offered to surrender and killing 200,000 civilians just because they were Japanese was good.

Providing logistical support to the Saudi Arabian military forces bombing and blockading Yemen must be good.

This moral dissonance is dangerous.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Farming in New Zealand

Farmers in New Zealand need to understand that the world they are farming in has changed. Back in the 1950s and 60s, New Zealand was mostly governed by the National Party. Many of the National Party’s leaders had been farming before the went into politics, so farmers had a strong voice at the table where the decisions that might affect farmers were made. The government put policies in place to protect farmers and sometimes even subsidised their activities.

Government have a monopoly on coercive power. Their business is to control things. Controlling people and businesses is what they do. During the 1950s and 60s, national governments focussed on controlling importers, unions, women and the Maori people. They left farmers relatively free from control.

Unfortunately, farmers took advantage of their protection and often engaged in practices that were not good for the land. Some insecticides contaminated the land. High-intensity farming practices needed large volumes of water for irrigation, and excess fertilisers and animal effluent was allowed back into waterways and rivers.

Farmers who should have been the first to be concerned about the health of the land and rivers were slow to take action to improve the situation. The only began to take serious action when pressure came from urban environmentalists. Some farmers still see that concern as an over-reaction.

In those days, urban people still had strong links with the farming community. City children would often spend time on an uncle’s or grandparent’s farm during their school holidays. They understood that farming was a tough occupation and respected farmers for the way they met their challenges. Now, attitudes have changed. Unban people have very little contact with farmers. Many hardly realise that their milk and meat come from living animals. The growing rural-urban gap means that city people have very little sympathy for the challenges of farming. They see farmers as people who have become rich by inheriting land from their parents.

The parallel change is that political power has shifted from rural to urban areas. Farmers are now only a small percentage of the population. The National Party has lost its position of dominance, but even when it is power, very few of its parliamentarians are farmers. It has become a party of urban business people and property investors.

This change might seem to be unfair, but most politicians understand that there is no electoral advantage in looking after the interests of farmers, even though agriculture might be important for the economy.

A third big change is that urban people now have pets. Most have at least one dog and many have several. They love their pets almost as much as they love their own children. They hate to see them suffering, and will spend considerable amounts of money relieving their pain. These changes have had two big consequences.

  • Urban people will not tolerate inhumane treatment of animals. There will be intense pressure on farmers to stop any practices that cause animals to suffer. The problem is that modern communications allow bad practices to be publicised quickly. If a farmer in Southland has his dairy cows on winter feed standing up to their bellies in mud, it is easy for a passing motorist to take a photo of them. Even though it might only be one unrepresentative farm, the picture could be round the world in a few hours. The response will be angry, and politicians will be expected to take action to relieve the animals’ suffering.

    The modern world has a very low tolerance for mistreatment of animals. Claiming as justification that this has been a particularly wet winter will not cut it. People will say that a system of farming that cannot protect animals from and excessively wet winter is not viable.

  • Even though their own treatment of the environment leaves a lot to be desired, urban people will not tolerate farming activities that harm the waterways, rivers (or atmosphere). Photos of farming activities that allow effluent or fertiliser to leach into water ways will produce intense hostility, even if it is only part of the cause of the pollution in rivers. It is probably Pharisaic, but urban people will not tolerate farming practices that are bad for the environment.

These consequences might seem to be unfair, but the reality is that political power has shifted towards the big cities, so politicians will pander to the political concerns of city-dwellers. That will not change, so farmers will need to get used to it. In fact, the opposition to agriculture is likely to get worse.

Farmers who are concerned about their government imposing regulations that control the way that they farm will have to adapt to it. Crying that it is unfair will not change the situation.

Farmers who are wise will develop an environmental plan so they can demonstrate how they are caring for the environment. Dairy cows might have to be withdrawn from some areas, or moved indoors for the winter, to prevent nitrogen leaching into the soil and waterways. Claims that agriculture is important for the nation will not fend off this challenge. Political power has moved towards the urban population and it will not shift back.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Pastoral Epistles

Many biblical scholars believe that Paul did not write letters to Timothy and Titus that are collectively called the pastoral epistles. The main reason is the reference to bishops and deacons. They assume that these roles only emerged when the church became institutionalised, which was well after the time of Paul’s ministry, so he could not have written these letters. This is only a problem if the letters were referring to bishops as rulers over the church.

The first letter to Timothy actually addresses the issue over overseers (plural). The Greek word is episkopos, which refers to watching over people. This was the role of elders looking after the churches that Paul and his colleagues established. In Acts 20:28, Paul challenged the gathered elders gathered from Ephesus.

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood.

In this passage, Paul links overseers, shepherds and elders in the same role. The Greek word for overseer is episkopos, the same word as used in the Letter to Timothy. This means that the overseer (elder) and deacon (a person responsible for caring for the poor were important roles in the church right from the beginning.

Paul had asked Timothy and Titus to ensure that elders were released in all of the churches, so it is natural that he would give them guidance about the type of person that could do the role. Paul was not worried about Christian doctrine. His focus is on avoiding people with weak character. He wanted to ensure that immature believers did not take charge of a church.

Unrighteous wealth was being given away by new Christians right from the beginning (Acts 4:34-37). Some of the new converts in Asia and Macedonia were rich, so it was really important that the ministry of the deacon was well established. That would be why he outlined the personal requirements to Timothy.

Timothy was just starting his ministry when the letters were written, so they must have been written early on in Paul’s ministry (1 Tim 1:16). Paul would not have described Timothy as vulnerable if written it was written at a later date.

The letter could have been written during Pauls difficult years following his banishment from Ephesus when he was suffering under persecution, as described in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Paul was sending people all over the place, but not making real progress with the gospel, which could be the reason for the despair at the end of the second letter to Timothy.

The last days is the period between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem. That is why he gave advice about living in the last days. It suggests that the letters were written before AD 70.

I am quite happy to believe that Paul wrote the pastoral epistles.

Friday, March 26, 2021

A Leader Comes to Faith in Jesus

What happens when a non-Christian prime minister or president gives their allegiance to Jesus and submits to a prophet that God has raised in a nation.

  • A cacophony of voices will try to speak to the ruler giving conflicting messages. This will give the spiritual powers of evil access to the ruler and the nation. (This is what has happened with Donald Trump, although he was not really submitted to Jesus or to a prophet.)

  • The ruler and the prophet (with others) can stand together against the government-spirits that control the nation and defeat them. They can be forced out of the nation, if the appropriate authority is in place.

  • The prophet can share God’s wisdom with the ruler.

  • The powerful people who have put the ruler in place might be hostile to the ruler once he/she has put his/her trust in Jesus. They might attack him/her and attempt to remove them from their place. The government-spirits will try to regain power, so these attacks will be vicious. The ruler will need strong spiritual protection in place.

  • The prophet will encourage the ruler to push their authority down and spread it around. The point may come where the ruler has to step down from their position.

  • Once the ruler understands that nature of God's kingdom, they might find that force and coercion is anathema to them.

  • The ruler must not use their power to make people serve Jesus. This would be a disaster, because God prefers that people follow Jesus because they love him, not due to fear or control. The ruler should wait for the gospel to advance and change hearts. This should happen quickly once the power of the spiritual powers of evil is broken.

  • The ruler should not try to impose Christian standards on the nation. Salvation by law does not work.

  • A ruler should demonstrate humility and integrity, so they should act on the commitments and promises that they made when seeking election, even if they do not fully align with the scriptures. Betraying the people who elected them will destroy their credibility.

  • The ruler should be kind to people who oppose them. They should not try to pull them down with harsh words and disparaging or snide comments.

  • The leaders should show compassion and kindness toward the poor. They should do what they can to help them through their troubles until the kingdom of God comes to fulness.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Mark of Beast

Many Christians believe that the mark of the Beast is a microchip that a government will inject under their skin as an identification tool. I don’t think the mark of the beast is a microchip or anything like it. With developments in facial recognition and retina scanning, fingerprint scanning, means that an injected chip for personal recognition or screening has no benefit for governments. There are cheaper ways of tracking people. Anyway, the chip could easily be stolen or destroyed. Storing data, such as financial information, on a chip in the body would be vulnerable to theft or deliberate corruption, so it is unlikely to be beneficial for anyone. If we have a cellphone, the government already knows where we are and what we are doing.

The main problem that is overlooked is that the mark of the beast is the number of the beast, it is not a different number for each person. It is more like the brand that would be put on a slave to indicate the identity of their owner.

The servants of God received a seal on their forehead (Rev 7:3). It was a not literal mark, but represents the gift of the Holy Spirit. I presume that the mark of the Beast is not literal either, but represents a way of thinking and doing.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Spiritual State of America

“Beast” is a controlling spirit wishing to become a world dominator. He is currently working in America, alongside the spirits of war and violence, power, and deception, attempting to increase his power. They are all jockeying with each other for supremacy, but each one is supporting the other to seize influence in the hope that they will be the winner who takes all.

All recent presidents have contributed to their rise to ascendance.

George W Bush strengthened the place of his colleague, the spirit of war and violence, by engaging in a fruitless war on terror. Barack Obama continued in his thrall by selecting drone targets and watching them die, but he also struggled with political power. This strengthened the position of “Beast”, who loves power, and steps into any power vacuum that emerges.

All presidents lie, but Donald Trump took it to a new level, which gave greater power to the spirit of deception that controls the nation. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will continue under these spirits, with their propensity for lying and their fascination with military power. However, their mandate is weak, and their chosen task impossible, so they will struggle with political power. Their jockeying for position and their manipulation of political power will strengthen the hand of Beast, who loves using political power to intimate and control people to achieve his goals.

The future of the US hangs in the balance. I have noted before Ten Reasons why it could become the Terrible Beast described in Revelation and foreseen by Daniel. However, the outcome depends on the choices the American people will make, and Christians will have a strong influence on the result.

If Christians rejoice in secular progressive justice using political power, or hide in the church singing hill-songs and crying out for God to do something, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will expand the power of Beast. When he gains pride of place, the other spirits will continue to work for him as supporting stars.

On the other hand, if the remnant following Jesus, goes into the world to share his gospel and build kingdom communities, where followers of Jesus love each other and serve the broken people of the world, the tide could be turned the oat her way. But there does not seem to be much sign of that happening.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Whacking

A father seeing his children fanning a fire that could spread dangerously or playing with a bomb that could explode would yell at them to escape and then grab them to get them out of danger, then put out the fire or defuse the bomb. He might pepper spray the person who was telling the children that playing with fire or bombs is fun, but he would not pepper spray the children standing watching who did not know who he was, who did not know that these were his children, and did not know the fire or bomb was dangerous. He might hurt the children in the process of rescuing them, but he would not shoot them in the feet with his rifle just to alert them to the danger they are in. He might show them a dangerous fire or a bomb exploding in a controlled situation to help them understand the danger.

Whacking people with evil does not have a very good success rate for turning people back to God. The first world war was terrible, but it did not bring a turning back to God. Nor did the great depression or the second world war. A century of war and economic pain did little to stop a decline in faith that continued throughout the 20th century.

God will often use a shaking judgment when his people are going to sleep, but he warns through his prophets first and ensures that he has a remnant prepared to rescue and restore those who wake up. He also uses a preventative judgment when evil is so rampant that terrible things would happen if it was able to go all the way.

However, whacking society is a sub-optimal method for changing people and society. It was the only method possible under the old covenant, but under the new covenant, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is more effective.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Ecclesial Minimum

Apart from the presence of the Holy Spirit, the following are essential for a church.

  • Followers of Jesus who are committed to each other, living close together so they can do the one another stuff.

  • Christians who have been serving Jesus for a while watch over those who are just beginning to follow Jesus and encourage them to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey him.

  • Four or five leaders with gifts that complement each other (one who loves sharing the gospel, one who is prophetic and several who are shepherds). They are committed to loving each other, so they can serve Jesus in unity.

  • These leaders watch over the other people, warning of danger, and encouraging them to follow the leading of the Spirit.

  • Leaders replicate their ministries in those they are watching over.

  • The best leaders are sent out (apostled) to establish a new church. The people they have taught can quickly step up and take over as leaders in their place.

  • Leaders who have been sent out exercise authority/influence by looking back to the churches that sent them.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Black Horse

When the third seal was opened in his vision of Revelation, John saw a rider on a black horse.

When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds[a] of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” (Rev 6:5-7).
A horse represents government force – often military force. Scales represent justice. The black horse is a government that goes out to establish justice in the world using political, economic and military pressure (sometimes called R2P).

The Greek word translated scales is “zugon”. It comes from a root that means “joining”. It can refer to “scales”, but it can also mean “yoke”. When Jesus called us to take his yoke upon him, the gospels use the same word “zugon” (Matt 11:29). 1 Tim 6:1 used the word to describe a yoke of slavery. In Acts 15:10, Paul challenges that Christian leaders not to put a yoke on the neck of new disciples that they cannot bear.

Translating the word “zugon” as “yoke” gives a different insight into the rider on the black horse. He held a yoke in “his hand”. That hand is a symbol of political power. The rider on the black horse uses political power to impose an economic yoke on peoples and nations. This powerful ruler uses trade sanctions, trade regulations and tariffs to control other nations.

These sanctions and economic pressures have a serious effect on prices. Economic sanctions make it difficult for nations to buy food, so food prices rise. The Greek measure, translated here as a quart, was a "choinix". It was the daily ration for a soldier in active service. The coin mentioned is a denarius, which was the equivalent of a day's wages. John says that the shortage of food will be so severe that a daily ration of wheat will cost a day's wages. Barley was a little cheaper as it was considered to be of poorer quality.

The situation will be so severe that ordinary people will need all that they can earn to buy food, but the wealthy will not be affected. Luxury items like oil and wine are not to be damaged. They are not essentials but will be more readily available. The real shortage will be for basic food items.

According to Zechariah, the black horse moves to the North (Zech 6:6). The United States has engaged in intensive efforts to establish democracy in Eastern Europe and the Middle East using economic power.

More at Black Horse.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Socialism

Socialism is not the great evil that many Christians claim, but it is not the solution either, because it relies on the fickle and corrupt power of the state. We have had socialism in my country for more than fifty years, and although many people have been helped, in some areas is now worse than ever.

The gospel includes the solution, including giving away unrighteous wealth and deacons training the poor how to live as described in Caring for the Poor. Caring for the Poor. Unfortunately, the church has never really taken this role seriously. Until it does, socialism is a more compassionate option than raw capitalism, but it is not God’s solution.