Friday, September 30, 2005

God's Laws (12)

The Ten Commandments are divided into two parts. The first five belong to God and the second five belong to man. Analysis of the first five commandments, as recorded in Exodus 20:3-12, shows that God reserves the right to judge the first five commandments for himself.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.……. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

All except the first have a statement that God will deal with all offences against them. God will punish and he will bless. He will work out the consequence of breaking these five commands in history, or on the day of judgement.

These commandments are relevant to how we live, but we are only accountable to God for our obedience to them. We are not accountable to other men for them, so judges are not required to deal with loving God, false worship, honouring our parents, blasphemy or keeping the Sabbath. (Sabbath breaking ceased being a crime when Jesus gave us our true rest - Heb 4:1-11).

Judges must not attempt to enforce these laws.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Judges and Crime (11)

The Bible makes an important distinction between a crime and a sin. This distinction is important in defining the role of judges, because a crime is a sin that can be punished by the civil authorities.

Only a few sins are also crimes. For example, coveting is listed as a sin in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:17), but there is no punishment specified for coveting. Although coveting is a sin, it is not a crime. The obvious reason for this is that it would be impossible for a judge to prove that a person is coveting. No one can testify that another person is coveting, because we cannot see into another person’s mind. This places a clear limit on the state. It can only punish actions. The civil authorities must not attempt to control our thoughts.

Theft is specified as a sin in the Ten Commandments, but in this case the bible also specifies a punishment. This means that theft is both a sin and a crime (Ex 22:1-4). Once a man acts on his coveting and steals from his neighbour, the state has authority to act against him. His actions are visible, so witnesses can observe and testify against him. This provides the judges with a basis for dealing with theft.

Crimes are a small subset of all of sins. We can identify crimes by determining whether biblical law specifies a punishment. If it a sanction is specified, the sin is the crime. If there is no sanction, the sin is not a crime.

Judges have no authority to deal with sins that are not specified to be a crime, because God has reserved them for himself. He can see into people’s hearts, so he is best placed to deal with them. The state is not required to eliminate all sin, as that would be impossible. It is limited to punishing the few sins that really disrupt the functioning of society. The surprising truth is that the biblical law specifies only a few sins to be a crime.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Not a Rule System (10)

The Old Testament law is not a rule system. Moses called them laws and verdicts (Deut 5:1). God gave ten moral principles. He also gave some straightforward examples of how these principles should be applied in practical situations. These examples are not exhaustive, but they are sufficient to explain how the moral principles should be interpreted and applied to different situations.

The moral principles are not absolutes, because there are always exceptions. For example, killing a person is wrong, but is legitimate when defending yourself from attack. Killing a person deliberately is different from killing a person by accident. The books of the law explain how the basic moral principles apply in these different situations. However, they do not try to cover every possible situation, because that would be impossible.

We do not need elected politicians to write laws and regulations to cover every possible situations. We need good judges to interpret the God’s moral principles, using the method of application described in the books of the law.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rules and Regulations (9)

The problem with a system of rules is that they cannot cover every possible situation. More and more rules have to be added, as new exceptions arise. Eventually there are so many rules, that people can no longer understand them. Some of the rules will contradict each other, adding to the confusion. And no matter how much detail is added to the rules, a new situation always arise that is an exception to the rules.

Elected politicians and parliaments always want to implement rule systems. They attempt to legislate for all of life by passing laws that cover every conceivable situation. Unfortnately, they are not omniscient, so they always get it wrong. Their laws often produce confusion and result in illogical and unjust decisions. New situations always emerge that are not covered by their laws, so new clauses or regulations have to be added. Eventually the rule system becomes so complicated that you need a law degree to understand it.

God's law is simple.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Love the Law (8)

Good judges will know and love God’s law.

I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
Great peace have they who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble (Psalm 119:163-165).
A judge should praise the wisdom of Gods law seven times a day. Love of the law will prevent many mistakes.

Ezra was told to appoint judges “who know the laws of your God” (Ezra 7:25). He was also instructed to teach those who do not know them. Christian theologians will have a role in teaching judges about the meaning of the law.

Modern day judges are trained academically. They learn about legal interpretation and the principle of precedence. These things are really important, but they know very little about God’s law. This is a recipe for injustice.

Unfortunately, very few Christians love the law. Most misinterpret Psalm 119 as a command to love the scriptures. This is a distortion of an important truth. The entire psalm is devoted to the wonder of the law. Our refusal to love the law might be one reason we lack wisdom about government.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

No Bribes (7)

Judges must not accept bribes.

Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you (Deut 16:19,20).

He told them, "Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery" (2 Chron 19:6-7).

Judges must always remember that they are not judging for themselves, but are acting on behalf of God. They should fear him and judge carefully.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Character of Judges (6)

Good judges will have good character. They will be impartial and honest. Moses challenged the judges that he recognised:

Judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it (Deut 1:16,17).
Justice must be totally impartial. Judges should decide on the merits of the case, ignoring the status of those making the claims. Foreigners and refugees should be able to obtain judgement without any bias.
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly (Lev 19:15).
Judges must not favour people who are important. On the other hand, they must not favour the poor either. This is a temptation for judges in the modern world.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Appointing Judges (5)

The judges of Israel appointed in various ways. Moses was called by God when watching the sheep in Midian. Samuel was called to this task when he was a young boy, or when his Mother dedicated him to the Lord’s work.

Exodus 18:24-26 describes how Moses appointed the first judges.

Some judges were appointed by kings. King Jehosohophat was noted for appointing judges (2 Chron 19:4). This is not ideal as kings are a sub-optimal option anyway. A judge that is appointed by a king might have difficulty deciding fairly between the king and citizen.

After the return from exile, Ezra the priest appointed judges to administer justice. This was not a normal situation either, as the system was being restored. I would not like to see the church appointing judges.

The truth is that judges do not need to be appointed. Most judges will emerge as wise men in their local communities. They will be recognized as judges because people start going to them to sort out difficult problems. The title judge will be just recognition for what they are already doing.

Moses did not really choose people to be judges. He just gave recognition to people who were respected by their families and tribes, while acting in his prophetic role.

People will always go to judges that they trust. Judges that made good decisions will get more cases to decide. If people do not like a decision that a judge has made, they will be able to appeal to another judge to hear their case. If a judge is constantly having his decisions overturned by other judges, people will stop going to him. He will become a judge in name only.

Good judges will be lifted up by their wisdom.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Judges Always (4)

We often think that judging ceased at the end of the book of Judges, but that is not true. Judges continued their work right through the Old Testament period. Moses was the first judge and the judges that he appointed continued into Joshua’s time. Samuel marked the transition to a new type of judge, who specialized in judging and did not get involved in military leadership.

The role of the judges did not disappear when the kings became permanent military leaders. David was a very successful military leader, but he did not always show good judgment. In David’s time, six thousand Levites were set aside to be “officials and judges“ (1 Chron 23:3-5). Kenaniah the Izharite and his sons were also assigned duties as judges over Israel during David’s reign (1 Chron 26:29). Judges are also mentioned during the reign of Solomon Israel (2 Chron 1:2). Jehoshaphat appointed judges in the land when he was king (2 Chron 19:4,5).

Even after the exile, God raised up wise judges for Israel (Ezra 7:25).

Kings came and went and prophets were missing for long periods of history, but God ensured that Israel always had judges to interpret his law. There is no evidence that the ministry of the judge has been abolished. Our hope for the future is that God will restore wise judges to administer his law.

I will restore your judges as in days of old, your counsellors as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City (Is 1:26).
When righteous judges are restored, we will experience the city of righteousness and faithfulness.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Faith and Judges (3)

Maybe judges and faith in God are all that we need?

Two types of civil authority are mentioned in the Old Testament: military leaders and judges (Deut 1:15). Military leaders are only needed when there is a threat of war, so theirs is not a permanent role. If the nation is loyal to God, they will not need an army.

Judges are the only permanent civil leaders that are needed.

For the LORD is our judge,
the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
it is he who will save us (Is 33:22).
God revealed his law to us through Moses. The Ten Commandments and the associated case laws set out in the first five books of the Bible provide GodÂ’s standards for justice. Our challenge is to apply God's law to the modern world.

God's law will have to be interpreted. It will have to be applied to our modern situation. A rable of elected politicians will not have the skills to do this task. The best people to do this task will be wise and godly judges.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

No Democracy (2)

The Old Testament polity consisted of military leaders and the judges. Later the military leaders became kings, but there is no sign of democracy.

When the people got their way, disaster followed.

Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way .... of obedience to the LORD's commands..... the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways (Jud 2:17-19).

I am not sure why Christians are so enthusiastic for democracy. People power leads to oppression.

If democracy is such a great idea, why did God not give his chosen people a democracy.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Biblical Leadership (1)

The principles of civil government are primarily set out in the Old Testament.

Only two two civil authority roles can be justified from the Old Testament: the military leader and the judges.

I do not include kings, because the king was a sub-optimal option. A king was really just a permanent military leader.

Israel did not need a permanent military leader, because God had promised to protect them. Moses and Joshua took the military leader role until Israel had conquered the promised land. No successor to Joshua was appointed, because the role became unnecessary once they had conquerred the land. God has promised to protect them and keep them safe from invasion.

Israel only needed a military leader when they lost God’s protection by turning away from him. According to the book of Judges, this happened quite frequently. The people would become complacent and stop trusting in God. He would withdraw their protection and they would be invaded. When the nation repented, God would send them a military leader to rescue them from their invaders.

Israel wanted a king because they had become dissatisfied with just having judges. Judges were fine as long as the nation obeyed and honoured God, and he protected them from attack. However, they lost his protection so frequently, they wanted permanent military protection. So they asked for a king like the nations around them.

We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles (1 Sam 8:19,20).

The king was not a new role, but a permanent form of a temporary one. Israel wanted a king, so they could live in permanent disobedience to God without threat of invasion.

The full series can be found in Government of God and Judges

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Many Rulers, Bitter Labour

The election is over. New Zealand now has eight political parties in Parliament, and none has a majority.

When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers,
but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order (Proverbs 28:2).
We now have many rulers. Maybe we do not deserve peace and order?

The Labour Party gained the most votes again(40%).

They had rebelled against the words of God
and despised the counsel of the Most High.
So he subjected them to bitter labour;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress. (Psalm 107:11-13)

Many Christians had believed (or hoped) for a change of government. They are very disappointed, but maybe good government would be bad for us.

This election should be a wake-up call for Christians. We are now a very small minority group. Only serious prayer and commitment to sharing the gospel of Jesus can turn this situation around. We should cry out to the Lord in our distress.
That is enough on politicians. Tomorrow I will start a series on "Government by Judges".

The Sheep gave Ticks and got Brands

Yesterday was the spring muster. The sheep moved quickly down off the dry and barren winter pastures, as soon as the gates were opened. They hoped to graze on the fresh new grass on the flats, but the musterers had other ideas. They quickly pushed the sheep into the sheep yards. As the sheep pressed together in their pens, the lice and ticks jumped all over the place. The sheep were all branded with their owners mark and they looked quite proud of their brand new marks. The were then turned out onto the high, dry, barren mountains until the time would come for them to be shorn again.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Law and Delusion

Laws are just words. On there own, they do not change anything.

That makes lawmakers dangerous. They think that by writing a law, they can change the world.
Only God can speak and bring things into being (Rom 4:17).

God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let
dry ground appear." And it was so (Gen 1:9).

Lawmakers act like gods. They see a problem, so they write a law believing their law will remove it. They call things into being, but nothing is so.

People who think they are gods are deluded, so letting them make laws is dangerous.

God is our lawmaker. He has given us all the law that we need.
We need judges to administer his law.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Elections Change People

A recent article considered various taxation system to find the one that was the most efficient. However, taxation is not an issue of efficiency. It is a moral issue. What gives one group of people the right to take income off another group of people and spend it as they wish?

  • If I take your car with permission, that is theft.
  • If I take your car with permission and give it to someone that I think needs it more than you, I am still a thief.
  • If ten tough men surround you and force you to give your car to some they think needs it, that is theft and assault.
  • If the president of the gang was democratically elected, it is still theft.
However, a group of parliamentarians can take your money and give to anyone whom they believe need it more than you, and it is considered to be good government.

I don’t get it.

How can an election turn thieves into honourable people?

They will say that people who vote for them have given them permission to tax their income. If that is their justification, they should only be able to tax those who have voted for them, because they are the only ones have given them permission.

If elections are a process for turning thieves into honourable people, they could be dangerous to your health?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Christian (not) Socialist

The difference between a socialist and Christian is simple. A Christian is required to help people in need.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:45).

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need
but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 John 3:17).

A socialist helps people in need by getting the government to take money off other people to give to those in need.

Christian giving is voluntary and motivated by love.
Socialist transfers are compulsory and often motivated by envy.

The other difference is that socialists are doing it;
Christians are not.
The socialists are trying to help the poor,
Christians are building churches and buying suvs and ipods.

A democracy is unlikely to vote against socialism, because too many people are benefiting. However, socialism may collapse under its own inconsistencies. If that were to happen now, it would cause a great deal of suffering and sorrow.

I suspect that God will not allow that to happen, until his people are ready with a solution. So the ball is in our court. If we want to get rid of socialism, we need to get ready to provide a safety net for those who will collapse without socialism.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Good S......

A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by bandits. He was stripped, robbed, beaten and left for dead. (You have heard this story before, but read on).

A socialist happened to go down the same road and saw the man lying in great distress. Stooping to check the injured man, he said, “The government should do something about this!!” Then he hurried off to a political meeting.

Another socialist soon came by. As he passed on the other side of the road, he called out, “The government should do something about this!!”

By the time a government official came past the injured man had died. “The Government can solve this problem!!”, he shouted to anyone who was listening. He then put a toll gate on the road and did not let any travellers pass, until they had handed over a gold coin.

The government official used the money he collected to build a comfortable kiosk for shelter. He sometimes chased the bandits, but not very seriously, because he knew that if they disappeared, he would be out of a job. Some of the money was used to provide health care to those who were injured. That was nice.


Travellers soon became dubious about handing over their gold coins to the government official, so they found a different road to Jericho. It took a little longer, but was much cheaper.

The government official still got enough revenue to pay his salary and keep his kiosk warm, but he did not have enough to care for all the people who go robbed or injured. Being a creative man he introduced a points system for dealing with casulties. He would assess their injuries, and give them a score between 1 and 10. Those with more than five points were received help. The rest were left to their own devices.

The points scheme worked for a while, but as more and more people avoided the road, the government official received less and less tolls. He still collected his salary, but he could not care for the injured people. The only alternative was to raise the number of points required for assistance to 10. The problem was that that the only casulties to get 10 points were dead!

The government provided a solution to the problem, but it became a burial service for those who were dead.

Who was a neighbour to the man who was injured?

A Good Samaritan would have bandaged the injured man. He would have given him a ride out of the area and paid for his health care with his own money. The Good Samaritan was not a good socialist.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Warning Event

Although Hurricane Katrina was not a judgement, it was a warning event. In Luke 12:54-56, Jesus challenged Israel to understand the times in which they were living. He said they could interpret the weather, but could not understand what was happening to their nation. He then referred to two awful events that had just occurred in Galilee and Siloam.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 13:1-5).
Jesus stated clearly that these people did not die because they were worse sinners; but these events were very significant events. They were a warning to the entire Jewish nation. Jesus said that if they did not repent, something worse would happen to their nation. He then went on to the parable of the fig tree, which warned that if God’s nation had one more chance. If the vine did not bear fruit, it it would be dug up and destroyed.

The deaths of the Galileans and the people of Siloam were warnings of what would happen to the nation if it did not accept Jesus. These two events were types of a real judgement that would come later, if they continued to reject what God was doing in their midst. Jesus warning was fulfilled in AD 70, when the walls of Jerusalem were smashed and the blood of many Jews was spilled.

I suspect that Jesus would say that the people of New Orleans and the people in Twin Towers are not worse sinners than the rest of the United States; but the whole nation should take note. If it does not change its path, it may experience similar events on a scale that would wreck the entire nation.

The American people should be reading signs of the times. New Orleans was not a judgment, but it may have been a warning event for the entire nation.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina and Judgement

Christians all over the world are asking whether Hurricane Katrina is God’s judgment on New Orleans. In my view, Hurricane Katrina was not God’s judgment. The reason is that God always sends a warning before sending judgment.

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).
God does not like to send judgement against a nation, unless his prophets have announced it. If prophets have not announced the judgement in advance, the rulers and people will not understand that it was sent by God. They will not realise that the calamity is the consequence of their sins. They will assume that it is just another tragic event. Some rulers may even use the trouble to expand their powers. If judgement is not announced in advance by the prophets, its purpose is diffused or lost.

I have not heard that any prophetic person predicted Hurricane Katrina or the flooding of New Orleans. Claiming after the event that it was a judgement, is not the way God works.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Heart of the Nation

The free-enterprise capitalist system is very effective at producing the things that people want. To be successful, businesses have to produce things that people are willing to buy. Many businesses fail because no one is willing to pay for the things that they are producing. This means that the national economy is a reflection of the national heart.

If you are look at the modern economy, you will see rampant consumerism. This reflects a society seeking satisfaction in an “abundance of material possessions”. You will see an economy where savings are almost zero. This reflects a society where people have chosen to eat, drink and be merry, because they have no faith in the future.

Many people want to change the capitalist system to improve society. This is misguided, as the only way to change the system is to change people’s hearts.

Under the Communist system, people can only purchase the goods and services that the Party decide they should have. To see the nation’s heart, you have to look at the queues, smuggling and the black market, because that is the only way that people can get what they want.

Voting Confusion

Our parliamentary election takes next weekend. My dilemma is that I cannot identify any political party that I can trust with my vote. At this stage my preference is to scrawl these words across the voting form.

Do-gooders becoming Tyrants
I am scared that by voting, I am entering into an implied social contract with the government. If I vote, am I giving the politicians the right to make for the laws for New Zealand. I am uncomfortable with that, because I want to live under God's law. If I participate in the election, am I giving them permission to take a share of my earnings to spend as they wish. I believe that politicians and other people's money are a dangerous combination, so I not wish to encourage them.

No king but Jesus is an ancient revolutionary cry.
A modern translation could be:

No politician but Jesus

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Any More Big Ones

In the 1980s and 1990s, many Christians believed that God would send revival to the Church. However, despite passionate prayer and immense effort nothing happened. Now many believe that God did not speak, and have become discouraged about the future of the church. I believe that the problem is not with God, but with us.

I have decribed twelve big blockages that have prevented the Holy Spirit from moving freely. These will have to change before we will see revival.

This all the big ones that come to mind.

If you think that a big one is missing, add a comment,
or email

You can see the full set of big ones here.

Leviticus Lesson

Lev 21:16-23 is an interesting scripture. Now that temple worship has been set aside, it is not relevant to Christian life. Through the work of the cross, we can all enter the presence of God. However, the principle behind this passage is interesting.

The LORD said to Moses, "Say to Aaron: 'For the generations to come one of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the offerings made to the LORD by fire. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.

Many Christians believe that God uses their sickness and pain to make us holy. This passage blows that idea out of the water. Sickness and disease do not make people holy, they actually desecrate our body, the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit. Those who are sick and diseased can enjoy the blessings of God (holy food), but their sickness is not pleasing to him.

How can this be? The Bible teaches that sickness and disease are not sent by God, but are the works of the sin and the devil. Rather than seeing them as a gift from God, we should resist the works of the devil and learn to apply the cross to all the effects of sin. Yahweh Rapha is the God who heals. We urgently need the healing power of the cross.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Maori Voting

When dealing with the Maori people, New Zealand has a long history of doing something really good, and then blowing it by allowing the good to be whittled away with mischievous behaviour.

Treaty of Waitangi was a marvellous attempt to join to people in one nation without conquest. Unfortunately, this good start allowed a range of dubious legal practices that robbed Maori of their land. These wrongs are only being put right now, a hundred years later.

New Zealand was one of the first nations to enfranchise indigenous people in 1867. Unfortunately, this good start was spoilt by Maori voters being limited to four seats in the Parliament, as most Maori were prevented from voting because their land was communally owned. This was done to prevent them outvoting the smaller European population.
By 1887 Maori should have had 14 seats on the basis of their population, but they were still limited to four seats. This unjust situation lasted until 1996, when the number was increased to five. Although early to get the vote, Maori were under-represented in Parliament for an entire century.

Now Don the Banker wants to abolish the Maori seats. He says that they are no longer needed, as Maori are well represented in Parliament. That might be true, but given that the Maori seats were set up to disenfranchise Maori, the decision about abolishing them should be left with Maori. They can express that choice by transferring from the Maori to the general roll. When the last Maori have transferred across, the separate representation for Maori will disappear. Don does not have to do a thing.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Good Government?

As New Zealand prepares for a parliamentary election in September, I cannot help thinking about the following question.

Would good government be good for New Zealand?

They had rebelled against the words of God
and despised the counsel of the Most High.
So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
(Psalm 107:11-13)

What is God's strategy?
He may have to give our nation bad government
to wake up the church.

Whats the Difference?

All the major political parties believe in salvation by the state.

Roman emperors took the title saviour, but it was just a title. They looked after their loyal elite, but treated the ordinary people as slaves. The modern government does not take the title saviour, but it has taken over the role. It promises to solve every problem that arises. Not surprisingly, it sometimes treats people as slaves.

Jesus claimed the title saviour. He also claimed the role by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. He proved that he was saviour by healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead. His church outlasted all the Roman emperors, proving that he truly is the saviour. Unfortunately his people do not understand the scope and subtance of this salvation.

Up or Down

The state promises to lift us up,
when we are down,
but generally it lets us down,
and not gently.

When crises strike, the politicians fly in to assess the damage. They go on television and promise to do whatever needs to be done. But when all is said and done, it takes more than they they can do.
Many of the homeless will be sheltered by families and friends.

Real support will come from churches and community groups.
Much of the clean-up will be done by ordinary people getting stuck in.
Much of the rebuilding will be done by the construction industry.
Most of the cost will be borne by insurance companies.

Of course, the politicians will be there when a crowd gathers and the television cameras roll.
The state builds itself up,
but it lets the people down.

In New Orleans it did not just let the people down,
it let the water flow down
into the city.
The state could not even protect the people from crime and violence.

The state will restore the levees,
too late,
but most people will restore their own lives with help from family and friends.

When God picks us up,
he does not let us down.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Fathers Fun

Today is Father's Day in New Zealand. Yesterday the shopping malls were jammed with people buying boxers, aftershave, ties, CDs, chocolate and other things that the advertisers say Fathers enjoy. If you believe that you have been misled. Fathers do not have children to get presents.

What fathers want is to see their children growing to their full potential by using the gifts that God has given them. Perhaps, a little of what they become will be inherited or learnt from their father. Hopefully, they will start where he left off and go further down the road.

Each one of my three children is unique and special. I am proud of each of them. Watching them develop and grow gives me more pleasure than anything you can buy at a shopping mall.

Thanks guys!

Man's Law

The principles of civil government are primarily set out in the Old Testament.

Two different government roles are described in the Old Testament. The first is the military commander who calls soldiers together to defend the nation when it is attacked by an enemy. This is probably not a permanent position, but only comes about when the nation is attacked. Moses, Joshua and David took this role.

The second role is that of judges who settle legal disputes based on God’s law. Moses and Samuel took this role.

These two roles require different skills, so they are not always carried out be the same person. Moses did both, but Samuel was just a judge and Barak was just a military commander. The evidence of the book of Judges is that strong military commanders generally make inadequate judges.

The judges apply the law of God, as revealed in the Ten Commandments. There is no evidence in the Old Testament of a group of people being elected to decide what the law should be. They did not need to do this, because God had already provided his perfect law.

This means that there is no basis in the Bible for a parliament that makes laws. A parliament can only make man’s laws. We should be living under God’s laws.

For the LORD is our judge,
the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king; it is
he who will save us (Isaiah 33:22).
If God is our Lawgiver, why are we voting to elect law makers?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Progress and Success

Many Christians in the west seem to have become queasy about success. If success become an idol or our source of meaning, it is dangerous; but success is also something we need to get used to. The Holy Spirit contains all the personality and power of the living God. If we hang around with him, we are bound to experience some success. If we obey God, he will often bless what we do. There is nothing wrong with being successful in godly endeavors; the challenge is remembering that the success is his and not ours. The problem is not with success, but our taking credit for the works of the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s strength was that he had learned to cope with both success and failure. When he was successful, he thanked God. When he failed he still trusted God.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being ontent in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Phil 4:11,12).

His attitude to success and failure gave him the peace that transcends understanding.

Those who are grouchy about progress seldom find a cave and live there on self-sown Indian corn. They generally continue to use the benefits of progress, even if they are unable to enjoy them.

The great irony is that most people living in the third world need a great deal more progress and prosperity to lift them out of poverty and squalor. It is a bit rich for those who are have benefited from progress to stop it before others can experience the benefits. Telling people stuck in poverty and sickness that prosperity and progress are dangerous is unfair.

No American or European is forced to be prosperous. The solution for those who find themselves too prosperous is simple: just give some wealth away. No one is forced to buy things. If you are being sucked into hedonism, you do not have an incurable disease. This is the one disease where no harm comes from giving it away. Those who have a problem with the love of progress should find someone better to serve.

Attaction or Mission

We must be careful about pushing the dichotomy between the “attractional” and the “missional” models too far. After all, they have both always been present. Even at the height of Christendom, there was some missional activity, if just almsgiving to the poor.

Whenever the church is at its best, people will be attracted to it. If Jesus is present in the church then people will be drawn in. On the other hand, there have always been people who will not come to the church. A church that is not looking outward will eventually stagnate. On the other hand, if the church has nothing to share, there is no point in going out.

The balance will depend on our culture. When the gospel has been widely accepted, the attractional model will be more important. When we are in a minority, the missional approach becomes more appropriate, and the balance of our activity should shift that way.

The problem for the modern church is that we have not shifted the balance to reflect our declining influence in our culture. However, the reason for our emphasis on the attractional model is not that we have clung to misguided belief in Christendom, but the dominance of the pastor/leader model . If the pastor/leader overshadows the church, people need to see him. The pastor/leader cannot be everywhere, so those who need to see him, must come the church.

We are living in a culture where the influence of the gospel is declining. This situation requires a strategy that shifts the balance away from attraction towards mission.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Reality Election

The political debates on television have become another Reality TV program. The television organizations are only interested in entertainment, so they have turned the election into “Political Survivors” or "Pop Idol". The politicians shout at each other and the audience stamps and cheers. Maybe people could text in their votes at the end of the program.

It is very exciting, but this is no shape the future of a nation.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Tax Cut Illusion

All the political parties are offering tax cuts.
- Michael the socialist historian is offering tax cuts to families.

- Don the central banker is offering tax cuts to everyone else.

We should not be deceived. We will continue to to pay more tax under both Michael and Don.

Offering a $2,000 tax cut to someone from whom you are taking $15,000 is hardly generous.

The prophet Samuel called a government that takes more than a tenth a tyrant.

This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen (1 Sam 8:10-18).
What would Samuel say about politicians who promise to take only four tenths of everthing. He would not call them generous.