Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fear of Islam (3) - Iran

The bowman on the Whitehorse is the key to understanding modern Iran. Jeremiah described the nation of Elam as being armed with a bow (Jer 49:34-39). It was situated in the western part of modern Iran. The Persian army which came from the same area is also described as being armed with bows (Jer 50:14,29,42).

The resurgence of Islam took off in a big way in Iran, when a cruel secular ruler, the Shah of Iran was overthrown by militant, fundamentalist Moslems loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1978. The Islamic revolution revival radically changed the nation and Iran is now a major power in the Middle East.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran is also described in Daniel 8. This chapter records a vision that Daniel received while the people of Judah were in exile in Babylon.

I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great (Dan 8:3,4).
After the vision the angel Gabriel appeared to explain its meaning to him.
The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia (Dan 8:20).
The people of Media and Persia now make up the nation of Iran. Daniel saw a future ruler of Iran, who would rise to power. He warned that no nation would be able to stand against this power and win. No nation would be able to rescue others from its power.

Daniel was told that his vision was not for his time. It seems to being fulfilled in our time. Over the last two decades, the Islamic revival has spread right across the world and Iran has been at the spearhead of this growth in fervour. The other more secular Moslem nations are frightened by what has happened.

Daniel warned that the Iran would become a problem for the United States.
Three more kings will appear in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece (Daniel 11:2).
Persia is now called Iran. The heir of the kingdom of Greece in the modern world is the United States. Daniel was warning that Iran would stir up the Middle East against the United States.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fear of Islam (2) - Bowmen

Islam claims to be based on the Bible and Mohammed was a false prophet who claimed to be a successor to Jesus, so a bowman on a white horse was a perfect description of the Islamic religion. It has certainly been conquering in recent times, as the modern Islamic revival has touched the entire Moslem world. It is very powerful at a grass roots level, and even secular rulers are coming under its influence. Islam is one of the most powerful movements in the world today.

The Old Testament describes a number of nations as bowmen. Ishmael was known for being an archer (Gen 21:20). He is the father of the Arab nations, where Islam is strong. There were bowmen in Arabia (Is 21:13-16) and Islam is a powerful in most Arab nations.

Zechariah saw the white horse advancing to the west (6:6). This describes suggests Islamic power will challenge the west. Since I wrote the words above, the rapid advance of Islam has continued. The secular magazine, The Economist recognised Islam as one of three major cultural movements shaping the modern world (6 Aug 1994).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fear of Islam (1) - Gods Plan

A dread of Islam is spreading ominously across the United States. A number of Christian writers and bloggers are feeding this fear.

Islam is a false religion. The spiritual forces of wickedness have used Islam to wreak serious evils on earth. However, all Moslems are not evil and Islam is not the only source of evil in the world. Evil works in many and various ways.

Gods Plan
Christians who fear Islam should understand that God has allowed the resurgence of Islam to take place for a reason. The Islamic revival is actually a pivotal event in history.

seven seals described in Revelation 6 are the birth pangs of a time of distress that marks the transition to a new season in which the Kingdom of God is released into reality on earth. The opening of the first of the seven seals releases the rider on the white horse.

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest (Rev 6:1,2).
Some commentators see this as a picture of Jesus Christ and the victories of the gospel. The problem with this view is that this horseman is armed with a bow, and the Messiah is never use a bow. Bowmen are usually the enemies of God (Ps 46:9).

The rider on the white horse represents a false messiah or a false religion. He looks like Jesus and could be mistaken for him, because he rides on a white horse. But the fact that he has a bow shows that he is really an enemy of God. John is describing a false religion making a powerful advance and going forth "conquering and to conquer".

Monday, September 27, 2010

Doom and Gloom

Who is giving the devil authority to act on earth? The people of the world of course. Unfortunately, many Christians are giving him a hand too.

Whenever Christians proclaim doom and gloom, without the leading of the Holy Spirit, they give the devil authority to bring it to pass.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Power Shift (5) - United States

The events of 9/11 were a sign that the spiritual power balance is shifting in the United States. For most of the nation’s history, there was a large Christian population praying in faith to allow the Holy Spirit and the angels to prevail against the forces of evil, despite the shonky things done by the founding fathers and their political successors. The result was blessing, prosperity and peace for everyone in the land.

That faith is now declining rapidly, so the principalities and powers now have enough authority to attack the heart of America (New York, Oklahoma, New Orleans). Given this shift in spiritual authority, the department of homeland security, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, war on terror and sanctions against Iran are pointless. As long as Americans are giving more and more authority to the spiritual forces of wickedness, evil will increase and security will decline in America.

The only sound defence is prayer and faith in God’s purposes giving authority to the Holy Spirit and the holy angels to do restrain the opposition in the spiritual realms.

Lack of faith gives the forces of evil authority to act on earth? Unfortunately, many Christians are giving him a hand too. Whenever Christians proclaim doom and gloom, without the leading of the Holy Spirit, they unwittingly give the devil authority to bring it to pass.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Power Shift (4) - Signs of the Shift

When the balance of power in a nation shifts back towards the powers of darkness, signs of the change will be obvious to people with eyes to see. Jesus rebuked the people of Jerusalem because they could read weather signs, but they could not discern the times in which they were living. They knew that when the south wind blew, the weather would be hot, but they did not understand what was happening in their own city (Luke 12:55-56).

This strange comment roused their curiosity, so some of those present asked Jesus about two recent events. In the first, some Galileans had been killed by Pilate and their blood mingled with Roman sacrifice. In the second, eighteen people had been killed when the Tower of Siloam had fallen on them. He explained that these events were an indicator of their spiritual status.

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 13:2-5).
Jesus was clear that the sins of the people killed in these tragedies were no worse than those of other Galileans, or other people living in Jerusalem, but he warned that unless they all repented, everyone would perish.

When the people who followed Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, began to reject him, the authority to the forces of evil was increased. As the city of Jerusalem hardened its heart against the one whom God had sent as their messiah, the authority of the Holy Spirit and the angels was reduced, so they were unable to prevent the devil from flexing his muscles. He is no respecter of persons, so he does not limit his attacks to sinful people, but uses his new authority to have a go at anyone in the way.

The forces of evil showed off their extra authority by inspiring the Romans to kill some Galileans and mix their blood with their sacrifices. They also caused a stone from to Tower of Siloam to fall on eighteen men and kill them. The men killed were no worse than anyone else in Israel. They just happened to be in the way when the forces of evil got busy and began pushing their new powers.

The message for Israel was clear. If they continued to reject Jesus, they would be handing greater authority to the powers of evil, so worse destruction was inevitable. If they pursued their opposition right to the end, the Holy Spirit and the angels would be seriously restrained and the nation would be totally exposed to evil.

The tipping point came when Israel fell into unbelief and called for their messiah to be crucified. This spiritual desolation shifted the spiritual balance of power in favour of the forces of evil and they were able to come in like a flood. In AD 70, the Roman army besieged Jerusalem, smashed down its walls and slaughtered those who survived.

The spiritual forces of wickedness are not very creative. The small scale evils that that occur when their spiritual authority begins to increase are often a sign of what they intend to do, if they can gain even greater authority. Being abnormal and unusual, these events are noticed by everyone.

Minor occurrences of evil are often a warning of worst disasters to follow, because they reveal the mind of the devil. This was the case in Israel. The events that Jesus was questioned about were a foretaste of what would happen when the real destruction of Jerusalem came.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Power Shift (3) - Economy

The financial crisis was not that bad in New Zealand (People are still walking their dogs).

The reason the economy did not get as bad as people expected is that God held back the economic tide. He had planned to shake the nation into revival and blessing, but his people were not prepared. Most were so entwined with the world that any serious shaking would have swept them away, so God held the crisis back.

This turning back of evil has lulled us into a false sense of security, but our complacency is based on a misunderstanding.

We did not come through the financial crisis unscathed,
because we are strong.
God withheld the shaking back
because we are weak.
That may not happen again. In recent years, a power shift has taken place in New Zealand, as we have given greater authority to the forces of evil. We have unwittingly handed control of our culture, our society and our economy to the forces of evil. Our nation has gone so far down the wrong road that they now have a much freer hand.
By casting off restraint,
we have left evil unrestrained
and constrained the Holy Spirit
in his authority to protect us.
The forces of evil are now flexing their muscles. They watched the world financial crisis and are thinking, “We can do better than that”. They are planning a strike against New Zealand that will devastate our economy and plunge us into a crisis that cannot be constrained by the hand of God.

The timing is uncertain, because the enemy is not as powerful as we think. He is struggling to get his capability together, but he will eventually succeed. The devil’s depression will be deeper and darker than anything that this generation has seen.

God has been voted out of New Zealand and no longer has the same authority to work evil for good. His ability to hold back evil is severely constrained, so he will not be able to shape the next economic crisis for his purposes.

Preparation is urgent. There is no time for mucking around, trying to get things perfect. Getting prepared is more important than getting things right.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Power Shift (2) - New Zealand

For the past 140 years, there have been enough Christians in New Zealand praying and declaring God’s purposes to give the light side sufficient authority to come out on top. The result has been a time of enormous blessing, despite some fairly terrible stuff that was done at times by political leaders.

Now, over the last two decades, the balance has shifted. More and more people have rejected Jesus, or just forgotten him. It is not that people are hostile, but more that they have lost interest, because being a Christian no longer seems like a very attractive option. As people have been filled with fear (the opposite of faith) and spoken out negative words about other people, themselves and the future, the balance of power in the spiritual world has begun to move back toward the dark side. Evil has to begun to flex its muscles in this nation.

As the number of people serving Jesus has declined, their faith has weakened and many have begun to declare negative things, rather than the purposes of God. This has withdrawn authority from the Holy Spirit and the angels and constrained their ability to act on the earth.

This struggle is currently evenly poised. The forces of evil have sufficient authority to release an earth quake in Christchurch, but they did not have sufficient authority to take human lives. No one was killed by the quake because the holy angels still had sufficient authority to protect lives, even if they could not protect property.

The earthquake is a warning. There has been a huge power shift in the spiritual realms, authorised from by the people of New Zealand. Unless the number of Christians increases, or their faith increases dramatically so God’s purposes are declared with boldness, the Holy Spirit and the angels will not have sufficient authority to turns back the time of evil that is emerging in our land.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Power Shift (1) - Spiritual Struggle

Life on earth is enveloped in spiritual warfare. On one side are the Holy Spirit and the holy angels. They concentrate on doing good and advancing the purposes of God. Arrayed against them are the spiritual rulers and the dark forces of evil. They strive to obstruct Gods purposes and attempt to work as much evil as possible.

God’s authority prevails in the spiritual dimension. His authority was not affected by the fall, so this battle changes nothing in the heavenly places. In the spiritual dimension both sides must abide by God’s rules.

The outcome of the spiritual struggle is manifested on earth. When the light side wins the struggle, peace and plenty prevail on earth. When the dark side is on top, trouble and tribulation will be prevalent.

The outcome of the spiritual struggle is not determined by numbers. If it were, the light side would win, because good angels out number evil angels two to one. The outcome is not determined by force. If it were, the Holy Spirit would win hands down. The outcome of the spiritual struggle on earth is not determined by numbers or force, but by authority.

God has given authority on earth to humans. The outcome of the spiritual battle depends on which side is given the greatest authority by people on earth.
Authority on earth in spiritual realm is determined on earth by numbers of believers, faith and words declaring God’s purposes.

If enough people are following Jesus, praying in faith, and declaring God’s purposes, the Holy Spirit and the holy angels will have the authority they need to hold the dark side in check. It does not have to be the majority. In fact, the greater their faith, the smaller the number of faithful people can be. On the other hand, if too many people on earth are giving authority to the dark side, it will win the spiritual battle and the Holy Spirit and the holy angels will be constrained.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Supermarkets tend to be badly damaged during earthquakes, as they have high shelves stacked with things that can fall down and break. After the earthquake in Christchurch, not many supermarket owners were on television, saying what they were going to do. Politicians seem to be much better at that.

The surprising thing is that many supermarkets were open again on the day following the quake. Almost all supermarkets were open on the second day following the quake. Despite the severity of the earthquake and a landslip that blocked the main route into the city, their was no shortage of food in the city. I presume that this is partly because many supermarkets are owner-operated franchises.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Economists are notorious for making forecasts that very quickly prove to be wrong. They are renowned for being vague and unreliable.

In Christchurch, we have found a group of experts whose predictions are even worse. Seismologists.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shaking Christchurch (8) - Softening Up

The world is moving towards a time of distress. This season is a short one, because it is a time of transition that opens the way for the emergence of the Kingdom of God. This season will culminate with human governments accruing enormous powers. It will climax with political power being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people, while being dramatically expanded in scope.

Whereas previous empires gained power by force, the people of the world will welcome these human messiahs, because they promise to deliver them from trouble and tribulation.

The time of distress will be cut short when human governments collapse under the weight of their failed programs and broken promises. Their rise to power will be grand, but their collapse will be spectacular. It will be so spectacular that faith in human government and political power will be destroyed forever.

When human governments fail, people who trusted in political power will be so disappointed and disillusioned that they will be desperate for a better saviour who can be trusted to keep his promises. They will rush to put their faith in Jesus, allowing the kingdom of God to emerge on earth.

In the meantime, the principalities and powers have used the earthquake to soften Christchurch up for the Times of Distress. They have achieved to important objectives:

  1. Fear that now has a strong hold in Christchurch that will not be defeated easily. Thousands of spirits of fear have been able to make their home in Christichurch.

  2. As the people of New Zealand have watched the political leaders declaring peace and calm on television and seen them rescuing those in trouble and promising to restore broken dreams, faith in political power has been boosted.

Fear of the future and faith in the state is a dangerous mix. When fear and dread are pervasive and faith and trust inhuman government is widespread, the accumulation and concentration of political power is easy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Shaking Christchurch (7) - Complacency

In the longer term, this earthquake might produce complacency amongst God’s people. We have just come through a serious financial crisis in quite good shape. Most Christians heaved a sigh of relief and thought:

If this is the worst depression
since the 1930s,
its not too bad
I can cope.
Things are tight,
but I am alright.
In a couple of years, the impact of the earthquake will be mostly gone. The streets will be restored and houses repaired. Condemned houses will be gone and the owners in new homes. The worst affected will still feel the pain, but most people will have returned to life as usual. The economy might even have had a bit of boost from the inflow of insurance settlements.

Many Christians will heave a sigh of relief and think,
I have come through the worst earthquake
since the one that struck Napier in 1931.
It was scary,
but we survived.
We can cope with anything
that life throws at us.
Having survived the worst economic depression and earthquake in eighty years, Christians could easily fall into a risky complacency about the future.

This is not the time to be complacent. God is trying to get his people prepared in advance. He is trying to build a spiritual army of hard-core Christians, who can work together with the Holy Spirit to release his kingdom on earth. It would be sad if our experience during the earthquake lulled us into believing that things will be fine, if we carry on as we are.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Shaking Christchurch (6) - Reading Signs

Jesus rebuked the people of Jerusalem because they could read weather signs, but they could not discern the times in which they were living. They knew that when the south wind blew, the weather would be hot, but they did not understand what was happening in their own city (Luke 12:55-56).

This strange comment roused their curiosity, so some of those present asked Jesus about two recent events. In the first, some Galileans had been killed by Pilate and their blood mingled with Roman sacrifice. In the second, eighteen people had been killed when the Tower of Siloam had fallen on them. He explained that these events were an indicator of their spiritual status.

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 13:2-5).
Jesus was clear that the sins of the people killed in these tragedies were no worse than those of other Galileans, or other people living in Jerusalem, but he warned that unless they all repented, everyone would perish.

The city of Jerusalem was hardening its heart against Jesus, whom God had sent as their messiah. As they rejected him, their protection from evil began to slip away and the devil began to flex his muscles. He is no respecter of persons, so he does not limit his attacks to sinful people. He used any freedom he gains to have a go at anyone in the way. The men killed by the Romans and those struck by the stone were no worse than anyone else in Israel. They just happened to be in the way when evil got busy.

The message for Israel was clear. If they continued down their current path, evil would gain greater freedom in their county and worse destruction would follow. If they pursued their opposition to Jesus right to the end, they would completely lose God’s protection and be totally exposed to evil. This is what happened. The Jews crucified Jesus and persecuted his followers. These actions totally eliminated God’s protection. In AD 70, the Roman army besieged Jerusalem, smashed down its walls and slaughtered those who survived. The blood of many people was used in Roman sacrifices.

When people forget about God, he sometimes warns them through his prophets. On other occasions, minor occurrences of evil are a warning of more serious perils that will follow, if people do not get back under the protection of God. Being abnormal and unusual, these events are noticed by everyone. Because they reveal the mind of the devil, these small scale evils are a type of what he will do if he is given a free hand to wreak worse evil.

Christchurch is no worse than any other city. If the earthquake is a sign of anything, it is a reminder that we too are at risk of losing the protection of God.
New Zealand is in the process of forgetting God. It is not that people are hostile, but more that they have lost interest, because being a Christian no longer seems like a very attractive option.

Unfortunately, this gradual forgetting has a serious consequence. This world is engulfed in a spiritual war. When people ignore God, they lose his protection and become vulnerable to evil attack. We have casually allowed evil to make a home in our society and the cracks in our foundations are now being exposed.

As more and more people choose to ignore God, his ability to protect us is being diminished. As the number of people of faith declines, the evil has greater freedom to work. There must still be sufficient residual faith in Christchurch to restrain the worst of evil, as no one was killed by the quake. However, if the decline in faith continues, the last restraints on evil will gradually fall away.

Faith declines when the Church does not do its job. If this city has lost God's protection then his Church is responsible. The earthquake should be a wake up call for all followers of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shaking Christchurch (5) - Remnant

God sometimes uses traumatic events to shake people loose, so he can draw them back to him, but he does not do this just for fun. He will only send judgement, if he has a remnant faithful to him, who are equipped to serve those who are shaken and get them back on to the right way. If the remnant is not prepared to demonstrate the love of God during the crisis, it is wasted and evil benefits. A crisis can open people’s hearts, but if no one is there to pour oil on their wounds, the scars will harden their hearts to the gospel.

An earthquake cannot preach the gospel. Only people can testify to Jesus to what Jesus has done. An earthquake cannot convict people of their need for a saviour. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

This was true in Paul’s day. The Philippians jailor became a Christian after the earthquake that opened the gates of his jail.

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:29-30).
This was not a spontaneous response to the earthquake. What made the difference was seeing the faith and joy of two men who had been “stripped and beaten” “severely flogged” with “their feet fastened in stocks”.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25).
The jailor became a Christian, because he had seen two wounded and bound men praising and worshipping God in the middle of the night. The jailor was a hard, tough man. His heart was blown open, because he saw the Holy Spirit working in the lives of Paul and Silas during their time of crisis.

If his earthquake had struck on any other night of the year, the jailor would not have become a Christian. He would have cursed and beaten the prisoners and carried on with life. The living faith of Paul and Silas made the difference.

Carrying this forward to the earthquake in Christchurch, most people just felt an earthquake, and it did not preach the gospel. They have seen Church leaders calling on the government to rebuild their collapsed church buildings, but only a few have seen the faith and love of the Christian remnant.

My view is that God has had to put his plans for shaking New Zealand on hold. He has had no choice, because his remnant is not prepared. Without a ready remnant, any judgment would be wasted and become pointless evil. God is not in the business of supporting evil, so an earthquake was not on God’s plan for Christchurch.

I believe the Lord is saying,
Do not be distracted by the earthquake.

Do not be impressed by the earthquake.
Compared to the power of my Holy Spirit,
the power of the earthquake is nothing.

Do not let the earthquake set your agenda.
My plans and my purpose for Christchurch have not changed.
My people be shaped by my word and my Spirit>
Commit yourself to obeying my will
and fulfilling my purposes
and you will see a great harvest.
Christians who assume that the earthquake will make their commission easy will be disappointed. Jesus sent his disciples out in power pairs to heal the sick and proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Paul and Barnabas were beaten and bound in prison, because they heeded this call, but that is what will bring in the harvest.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shaking Christchurch (4) - Salvation

Another common theme is that God is shaking the people of Christchurch, so they will turn back to him. I am not sure how this is meant to work. People have responded to the earthquake in various ways. Some are working hard to clean up the mess. Most are helping their family and friends. A few have complained and moaned. Many are expecting the government to help. I doubt that many are saying, “I need to sort out my relationship with God” or “I want to know more about God”. Modern people just do not think that way. Despite the crisis, most people are not even thinking about God. If someone came without a shovel to share the gospel, they would be seen as a nuisance.

There is not a lot of evidence of the Holy Spirit working more powerfully in Christchurch at the moment. There is a reason for this. The Holy Spirit can only function where he has been given
authority to act and he has been slowly squeezed out of Christchurch over the past few years, as less and less people trust in God and few Christians are actively praying. I imagine that only a small proportion of the people in Christchurch have a Christian friend actively praying for them, so it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit has been free to act.

The spirit that has been really active in the city is the spirit of fear. Many voices are making us afraid, so thousands of spirits of fear have been able to make their home in our midst. The earthquake has given these principalities and powers a power base in Christchurch and they will not leave until they are forced out of the city.

A few people may have come to faith in God during the earthquake, but another god has done far better. The earthquake built up faith in government. People in the modern world tend to assume that the government will come to their assistance and rescue them from every catastrophe. Their experience during the recent crisis has strengthened that trust.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shaking Christchurch (3) - Destruction

The earthquake wrought terrible destruction. Many roads and buildings were smashed and are broken, but it is not just human constructions that have been destroyed, the land itself was slashed and gouged. God loves the earth he created, so he does not like to see it being destroyed. On the other hand, there is another who enjoys destroying.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).
Jesus was warning about the evil one, who loves to take, kill and destroy.

In John’s Revelation, the devil was called Destroyer.
They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon (Rev 9:11).
Abaddon and Apollyon both mean “Destroyer”. Christians should never forget that the devil’s middle name is Destroyer.

As I travelled to work along broken roads and past smashed houses, it did not look like God’s handiwork to me. What I saw looked much more like the deeds of the spiritual forces of evil. Actually, it looks like restrained forces of evil. They were lashing out violently, but were cramped up an unable to strike out with full force ( I will explain the reason in a future post).

Christians should be very careful about attributing the works of the devil to God. Blaming him for things he has not done is an insult to his character. Misrepresenting God to the world harms the gospel.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shaking Christchurch (2)

Funny Way to Speak
A common theme is the earthquake is a sign that God is going to shake his church throughout the world. However, if God is telling his church that he plans to shake it up, then sending an earthquake to a southern city seems an odd way to do it. When I meet friends who have had their homes demolished by the quake, I could not look them in the eye and say,

God destroyed your home as a sign for the church.

God sent this earthquake to wake up his church throughout the world.
That seems too glib to me. It does not sound like my God.

The Holy Spirit is also skilled at speaking. God sent him to lead his people into the truth. Millions of Christians are listening for the voice of the Spirit. Thousands of pastors and prophets listen for his voice each week to bring a message to his people. If the Holy Spirit wants to speak to the church, he is capable of speaking directly. He does not need to speak through an earthquake in a distant city named after a college at Oxford University.

I wonder if some of those who see the earthquake is a sign to the church believe that they have heard from God and are frustrated that their words are not being heard. Frustration is risky because it can sometimes lead to hardness of spirit.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shaking Christchurch (1)

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Christchurch was struck by a severe earthquake. No one was killed, but the damage to buildings is serious. The Christian websites have already been busy and many are linking the earthquake and the name of the city to get a spiritual message about “shaking Christ’s church”.

Prophesying After the Event
Prophecy is not just prediction. Genuine prophets do warn of future events, but that is a small part of their role. Their more important task is to explain the reason for these events and describe the response that God wants. The prophet’s advance explanation of the events of history helped people to understand what God is doing. The prophets also explained what he wanted them to do, or stop doing.

The biblical prophets warned of future events and the fulfilment of their prophecies gave credibility to the rest of their message. The accuracy of their forecasts demonstrated that they had heard from God and confirmed the truth of their explanations. The fulfilment of their prophecies authenticated the ministries of true prophets. They were taken seriously when they explained historical events, because they had “called” them in advance.

Prophesying after the event is easy, but it does not have much credibility. Anyone can say what a traumatic event means and many will have opinions. I am more inclined to listen to someone who has prophesied an event than to those commentating after the fact.

I am not aware of any Christian prophesying an earthquake for Christchurch. Therefore, I am cautious about accepting the event as a message from God.

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).
The prophets did not warn of this event, so we should be careful about saying that it was an act of God.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Earthquake Damage in Christchurch

Christchurch is a city with a population of just under 400,000. We have just had an earthquake that was slightly stronger than the one that did so much harm in Haiti. The amazing thing is that no one was killed and only a few people were seriously injured. Our Prime Minister has called this a miracle. He probably does not have the same definition the word, as I do, but perhaps he was right.

Central Business District
The first European settlers came to Christichurch in 1850, so there are no building more than 150 years old. The worst damage is in the central business district. Modern high rise buildings seem to be okay, apart from cracks on the stairs and ceiling panels falling out. Modern engineering standards seem to have done their job.

The older part of the CBD was probably built around the beginning of last century. These building have brick walls and are two or three stories high. Many of the walls and frontal facades have collapsed into the streets, but most of the structures are still standing, so few of the floors actually collapsed.

This photo is an example. The top floor was a Thai restaurant and the ground floor was a jeweller shop. I presume most of these old buildings will have to be destroyed and rebuilt. The new building across the street seems to be okay.

At the moment the central business district is closed off to everyone except business owners, because there is fear that some of the buildings may collapse, if there is a serious after shock.

Several shopping centres in older suburbs are also two-story brick buildings. Their walls have collapsed in several places.

Many older churches built from brick have been severely damaged, but the more historic buildings that had earthquake strengthening are okay.

The damage to houses is severe in several suburbs. Most people in Christichurch live in detached houses. Some of the wealthier people live in two-story houses, but the vast majority live in single level houses. A few of the older two-story houses have been converted into several flats that are rented.

Houses in New Zealand are built with timber framing and clad with weather boards or bricks. When the cladding is brick, it is only used as a veneer, as the roof structures are supported by the timber framing. The result is that very few houses actually collapsed during the earthquake.

Older houses tended to be built on timber or concrete foundation posts. New houses are built on reinforced concrete slabs, often referred to as floating foundations.

The worst damage came from older style being shaken off their foundations. Others were damaged when brick chimneys fell through the roof of the house, collapsing into the rooms.

This was not really in an ideal place for building a city. Some of the city is on an old flood plain and parts of it are very swampy. Not surprisingly, liquefaction has been a serious problem. This occurs when the shaking of the earthquake presses sandy soils closer together, squeezing water out. Water is pushed towards the surface and squirts out in a little fountain, bringing silt with it. This photo is in an example from a park, near where I live. It looks like a mini volcano. Others were much bigger.
Where modern houses have been damaged this is mainly due to liquefaction. This photo shows what is probably one of the worst hit streets. These houses are less than ten years old. The silt has been carted out from around them. Some had half a metre of silt that came out of the ground lying on their lawns. The houses foundations have collapsed and the wall are cracked, so they will probably have to be demolished.

The earthquake has really damaged the streets. These photos show damage to the streets about 300 metres from where I live. The cracks are much worse in other places.
The asphalt is cracked and water and silt has come up from below. I presume that the foundations of the surrounding houses will be severely damaged, despite being almost new.

The pervading emotion is fear. Fear and terror are everywhere.
My soul finds rest in God alone;
My salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
(Psalm 62:2)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Earthquake in Christchurch

We had a severe earthquake in Christichurch at 4.37am this Saturday morning. 7.1 on the Richter scale. A very nasty shake lasting about a minute, with a lot of after shocks. There was no damage to our house or things, but neighbours had vases and plates broken.

The damage in Christchurch does not seem too bad. The facades of some of the older brick buildings in the central city have collapsed. Radio reports suggest that there were no serious injuries, except for one man who was hurt by a collapsing chimney.

We still have electricity, but some parts of the city have lost power. Our most serious problem is no running water, but we have plenty stored round the house, so will be okay for a couple of days.

My daughter who is a nurse took this photo on her way to start her shift at the main Christchurch hospital a couple of hours after the quake. This spot became quite famous as all the media commentators tended to stand here when filing their reports.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Mediocrity for Anyone?

Jesus ministry was wonderful. Thousands of people were healed and many people chose to follow him. Jesus said that it was better for him to go away, so that the Holy Spirit could come in his place.

Jesus promised his disciples that they would do greater things than he did, when the Spirit came. This promise seemed to be fulfilled in the book of Acts, but this move of the Spirit did not last long. For most of the last 2000 years, the church has generally experienced mediocrity.

Jesus promise was not true, so why are we satisfied with mediocrity.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Teaching Ourselves

The great risk with house groups and house churches is that they become just a microcosm of the Sunday teaching service. A small group of people just meeting for worship and teaching has lost the plot.

Their first aim should be learning to move with the Spirit and experience his gifts. A small group is a safe place to learn about praying for the sick and receiving words of knowledge.

There second aim should be to reach into their world with the gospel. The gifts of the Spirit are gifts for the world, not for the enjoyment of Christians. They were not given so that we can minister to each other and enjoy the fun. Christians are to love each other, but we must not keep the gifts of the Spirit for our own benefit.

God gave the gifts of the Spirit to equip us to preach the gospel and serve the people of the world. If we keep the gifts to ourselves, the Holy Spirit will eventually get bored and leave us to go out into our world. If we do not go with him, we will find ourselves spiritually full, but bored.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

More on Teaching

In a recent post, I wrote that most efforts of Christian teachers are a waste of time. This lead to the following questions from a couple of readers.

What about Jesus. He spent a lot of time teaching in the synagogues and the lakes and mountains.

What about Peter and Paul. They spent time teaching in the temple and the synagogues.
Peter and Paul both spent time in the temple, but that was mostly on evangelistic efforts. They were trying to reach the Jewish people with the gospel. The temple was the best place to go reach Jews with the gospel, because that was where they gathered.

Much of Jesus teaching to the masses was the same. He was taking the good news to his people. That work was not really successful, because the people who attended his teaching meetings deserted him when the got tough. Many shouted “crucify him” when he was before Pilate.

The ministry of Peter and Paul that had long term fruit was their house to house discipling new believers. Jesus most effective ministry was the time that he spent with the twelve and the seventy. I presume that many of the seventy were among the one hundred and twenty people that were in the upper room praying at Pentecost.

The modern church has got the balance between teaching meetings and active relational discipleship wrong. We have focused on the former and neglected the latter.

Teaching meetings have some benefits, but they are much more limited than we think. Lack of teaching is not a widespread problem. With the internet and tapes, teaching is very easy to get.

Most Christians are not practicing all they know, so lack of teaching is not holding them back. The real problem is inability to practice what they have been taught.

The critical lack in the modern church is active relational discipleship. Going out and practicing their ministry with someone who is already proficient is the best way to learn. That is what Jesus and Peter and Paul did really effectively.