Monday, November 30, 2015

Dragon in the Sky

On Thanksgiving Day, I took a photo of the sunset here.

I was surprised when I looked at the photo to see that there was a dragon in the sky. I am not sure what it means.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Rebel without a Cause (4)

Most young people want a cause they can live for. I can remember when I was young. I did not want to step into my father’s shoes and do the same ordinary work. I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted a cause to live my life for, so I went to university and studied economics and politics, because that seemed to be the best way to make a difference. But I soon found that it was an empty well. Secular philosophy could not produce a cause that would make a difference.

It was only when I discovered Jesus, and his message of the Kingdom of God that I found a cause to live for. I was not attracted by forgiveness of sin or a ticket to heaven. What attracted me was the promise of the Kingdom. The good news of the gospel and the kingdom was a cause to live for, and to die for if necessary. I still would not be content, if I did not have the cause of the kingdom of God and Jesus its king to serve.

When a young person in Pakistan, Syria or Iraq looks for a cause, where do they go? If they have a sense of justice, they will realise that their current political order is corrupt, inefficient and unjust. People connected to the powerful get rich, but everyone else remains poor. Those who work to succeed often have the fruit of their labour stolen by the security forces (think of the Tunisian fruit vendor). Those who are robbed cannot get justice, because justice works for those who pay for it.

Likewise, if a young Moslem is looking for a solution, he would not look to Western democracy and capitalism. He can see what they have achieved in Afghanistan and Iraq, and there is no appeal there: just more corruption and injustice.

Christianity would not have much appeal either. If the young man has heard the gospel, it is probably just a promise of a ticket to heaven, and he already has that through Islam. He looks at the Christian culture in America through the eyes of television and the movies. All he sees is immorality and blatant sexuality. He sees young people without a cause, compromised into complacency by materialism. If he wants to make a difference, he will not find a cause worth serving by watching Sex in the City or The Simpsons.

As a Moslem, he naturally looks to Islamic groups first. He does not look to the Moslem establishment, because it is compromised with political and economic power. Christians should not be surprised that young Moslems seek out the most radical groups. We don’t expect a young Christian looking for a cause to join a traditional church. We naturally expect them to look for the most radical church around. They look for the one that is hard out to make a difference. We should not expect a young Moslem, who wants a cause, to do anything different. They are not going to follow the old teachers who collude with the rich and powerful.

For young Moslems looking for a cause, the most appealing option is Islamic State. He see young people radically living out the requirements of Islam. He sees people trying to establish a new order of government, based on the principles of Islam. He sees a state that is trying to apply the Koran to every aspect of life.

Once he joins this movement, he has a cause that justifies the use of violence. The corrupt powers of the West are trying to destroy them so they need to defend their fledgling state with everything that they have.

We know their cause will fail, but we cannot blame them for joining, because it the best cause on offer.

What the young man from Pakistan, Syria, or Iraq needs is a real cause. The cause that he needs is the Kingdom of God that was brought near by Jesus. That is the only cause worth living for, and worth dying for. But if he has heard the Christian gospel, he probably has not heard about the Kingdom of God. He will have heard a truncated gospel of easy believism and a ticket to heaven.

If we are concerned about the jihads and the growth of Islam, we need to start proclaiming the gospel, not just a gospel of forgiveness or the trinity, but a gospel of the kingdom. And we need to start living the kingdom and demonstrate a justice that is real.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Evil for a Good Cause (3) ISIS

ISIS is labelled as evil, barbaric, primitive and medieval, but that does not help us to understand it. This is important, because you cannot deal with what you do not understand.

They are people who believe their cause is so good that they are justified in doing evil. To understand them, we need to understand the cause that they believe is so good that they are willing to do evil to support it.

Some commentators suggest that they are only interested in death and receiving 40 virgins when they go to heaven. This is an unhelpful caricature.

Their real cause is Islam. Islam is not just another religion, it is a cause. Islam means “submission” or “obedience”. Their goal is that everything in the world must submit to Allah. Every person and thing must come under his control. This cause is seen as so good that they are justified in using evil to achieve it.

War against those who refuse to submit to Allah is justified, if they can be forced to submit and obey. Creating chaos amongst those who refuse to submit to Allah is a good strategy, because it might allow those who submit to Allah to get control and brings things into submission (Islam).

In a way, Christians have a similar goal. We believe that everything will eventually be brought into submission to Jesus. This is what “Jesus is Lord” means. Every knee shall bow to him.

However, there is a big difference. Christians (mostly) believe that people must not be forced to submit to Jesus. Instead, by receiving good news, they should freely choose to submit to him. Jesus wants people to serve him because they love him. He does not want his people using military or police force to make others serve him.

Unfortunately, the church has not always understood this. In the middle ages, the church used military and police power to force people to accept the authority of Jesus (often in reality by forcing them to submit to the authority of the church).

Strangely, many Christians would still like to do that. They want to use military force against those who will not submit to their standards. They want to use political power to force people to honour Jesus and do his will.

I am wary about any group that believes that are justified in using military force to support their cause and make people submit to their Gold. ISIS is dangerous, because this is what it is trying to do.

Many Christians scare me nearly as much, because they want to use military force to accomplish God’s purposes on earth.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Evil for a Good Cause (2) Jesus

Jesus had a different view to evil. He believed that his cause was so good that evil could not be used to achieve it. He experienced terrible injustice and pain when he was beaten and killed on the cross at the hands of evil political and religious leaders, but he accepted it, because he believed that his cause was so good that it justified acceptance of terrible suffering in the face of evil. His cause was so good that evil could not be allowed to corrupt it. The end did not justify the contamination of evil.

Jesus called on the church to follow his example, but it has not always chosen to follow him. During the middle ages, the inquisition tortured heretics to keep the faith pure. The people doing this were not evil. They were good people using evil means to advance a good cause. The crusades are another example. The crusaders committed terrible atrocities when they invaded the Middle East, however their aim was to advance the gospel. They were ordinary people using evil means to accomplish a good goal.

Modern political leaders usually follow the same line. They believe their cause is so good that they are justified in using evil means. They are willing to bomb the crap out of Middle Eastern countries like Libya and Syria, because they are trying to advance the good cause of democracy and human rights. They are good people doing evil things to advance a cause they believe is good.

The Beast of Revelation will emerge in the same way. It will not be an evil person. It will be a good government, that believes that its cause is so good that evil actions are justified.

This attitude is prevalent amongst Christians in the United States when they talk about ISIS. The vehemence with which they speak about the violence and destruction that they would like to unleash against ISIS is scary. Their ferocity makes them sound evil, but they are not. They are good people who believe that their cause is so good (USA) that they are justifying in using evil to protect it.

Unfortunately people who believe that their cause is so good that it justifies actions are far more danger than evil people. Because despite the cleverness of the secular commentators, the spiritual powers of evil have not gone away. When good people use evil, because their cause is good, they open themselves up to these spiritual powers. Once they are given influence, these evil powers can get a stronghold, which allows them to do much greater evil. I fear that this is happening in Europe and the United States.

When the emerging Beast of Revelation had done some serious good, by using evil means, it will come under the domination of the spiritual powers of evil. It will be unable to do good even if it wants to.

The people of ISIS did not set out to do evil. They were good people who believed that their cause was so good, that they were justified in doing evil. Once they had done a little evil to achieve good, the powers of evil got a stronghold, and their evil got worse, but they still believe that their cause is good. They believe their cause is so good, that terrible evil is justified.

I worry about any group who believes their cause is so good that it justifies the use of evil means. I feel safer with Jesus, who believed that his cause was so good that it must not be contaminated with evil.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Evil for a Good Cause (1)

The media describe the violence of ISIS as evil, as if that explained everything, but it actually explains nothing The problem is that in the modern secular culture the word “evil” is meaningless. Secular culture has decided that evil spiritual power do not exist, but without actually getting rid of them. In that context, evil is just something that most people hate. Evil is label for things that repel the sensibilities of modern society.

Christians should have a different concept of evil, because they realise that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against evil spiritual power in the spiritual realm (Eph 6:12).

However, even for Christians, the problem is not just evil people. Really evil people are rare, and usually isolated and relatively harmless.

The most dangerous people in the world are not evil people, but ordinary people who believe their cause is so good that they are justified in doing evil to achieve it. It is not evil people that we should fear, but ordinary people doing evil to achieve what they perceive to be good.

Hitler is an example. He did not set in train a policy to annihilate the Jews, because the loved doing evil. He believed that getting rid of the Jews would be really good for the world, so he was willing to do evil things to accomplish it. He was dangerous, because he believed that if the ends are good enough, evil means are justified. If he had been pure evil, he would never have risen to power. It was because he appeared to be good, and was ruthless in seeking what he saw was good, that people supported him.

A different example is the bombing of Dresden at the end of World War 2. It is generally agreed now that this action achieved no military benefit, except that it punished the German people. Yet thousands of people were killed and maiming the violent firestorm that swept through the city. I suspect that future historians will see it as a barbarous act, but at the time it was accepted a necessary act of war. Winning the war against Nazism was such good goal that evil means were justified. The end justifies the means.

A modern example is the invasion of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives. Millions lost their homes. Normally an event that killed so many people would be described as evil. However, because these deaths were a consequence of actions to support a good cause, they are seen differently. George Bush was a good person, whose cause was so good, that he was justified in doing evil.

I will explain Jesus approach in the next post.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Coercion and the State

The textbook definition of a state is that it an organization can claim a monopoly of legal violence (coercion) within a territory. If it can make this claim, it is a state. A writer at the Mises Daily makes an interesting comment about the implications of this definition.

However, modern State leaders have understood this monopoly is not sufficient by itself to maintain their power. This is why they use ideologies to hide the violent nature of their authority and make the population more accepting of the state’s coercive methods.

In the West, since the nineteenth century, nationalism has largely filled the role of manufacturing consent to government domination, by drawing arbitrarily the contours of a fantasized historical and cultural community. After that came the welfare-state ideology which aims to develop a sophisticated system of fiscal redistribution that cultivates a strong feeling of economic dependence on the political class. And then came the ideology of democracy which allows the state to identify itself with society overall by promoting the illusion that the citizenry maintains control over the state bureaucracy.

Through these means, states in the West have been able to “legitimize” their monopolies over coercion.

For established states, achieving statehood confers a sort of title of nobility on the international stage. That is why many political movements aim to gain international recognition of their state. The status of “state” implies “civilized society”.

And yet, there is nothing honorable about the formation and maintenance of states. States are essentially bellicose and exploitative institutions. None of them can claim to be the fruit of a peaceful or contractual process.

Unfortunately, much of the problem comes from Western citizens themselves who don’t pay attention to their governments, which never hesitate to use a single tragic event in order to increase their power and their “protection” by limiting their citizens’ individual freedoms. By fueling and exploiting fear, governments create a vicious circle which exacerbates the security demands from their populations, which translates into an increase of states” prerogatives. Military spending increases in turn, which satisfies the powerful interest groups that make up the military-industrial complex.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Atrocity in the City of Light

In an article called the Paris: The Past was Prelude, Eric Margolis writes about an interesting event in the history of Paris, that most have forgotten.

Last week’s massacre in Paris was not, as almost every writer mistakenly claimed, the worst atrocity in the City Of Light since World War II. As the renowned Mideast expert Robert Fisk quickly pointed out, an even worse atrocity occurred in Paris 54 years ago, on 17 October, 1961.

Paris chief Maurice Papon, a former Vichy official, who had sent over 1,000 Jews to their deaths during the war, unleashed his brutal riot squads on 30,000 Arab demonstrators calling for the independence of Algeria from French colonial rule. In an orgy of killing, some 200 Algerians were killed. Many were beaten senseless, then thrown from the Pont St. Michel bridge into the Seine River. 11,000 Algerians were arrested and cast into internment camps or a sports stadium. I was in Paris when this mass killing occurred.
History has more than enough barbarity to go round.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Healing and Offence

Many Christians have sought healing for a long time without success. In some churches, these disappointed people have been prayed for over and over again, but nothing has happened. Most have a deep sense of disappointment and have given up all hope of being healed. Some have been hurt by accusations of lack of faith. This enormous backlog of hurt and disappointment with God has never been sorted.

When disappointment is frequent and unresolved, the disappointed people get offended at God. Offence produces unbelief, which shuts out the power of the Spirit. I now believe that offence at God is a major obstacle to the release of healing in the church.
When things go wrong, it is good to ask God why. However, we must never ask our questions in a way that puts God on trial. We can confess our lack of faith, but we must never cast doubt on his love, or his goodness or his power. We must never ask a question that blames God.

Healing: Insights for Christian Elders, p.95.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Spiritual Gifts and Healing

Four spiritual gifts might be needed to get a sick Christian healed: word of knowledge, discernment, faith, healing. The gifts of discernment and word of knowledge will often be more important than the gift of healing. The latter gift is more important for evangelism, but discernment will be more important in a healing team dealing with Christians.

The Holy Spirit can give all these gifts to one person, but he prefers to give them to different people so they will work together. He does this to strengthen the body.

If someone gets a word of knowledge about a sickness, we should not assume that they have the faith to heal the sick person. The Spirit may have given the gift of faith to someone else in the body. For example, when the man at the Beautiful Gate was healed, Peter did the talking, but he said, “Look at us!” (Acts 3:4). John may have had the gift of faith that produced the healing.
Healing: Insights for Christian Elders, p.80.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Submission and Authority

When we submit to other Christians, we give them authority to act on our behalf against evil. God has made me free, so other people can only have authority in my life, if I give it to them. I give another person authority in my life by submitting to them. If I submit to friends in my church, they have authority to resist evil on my behalf. The more I submit to them, the more spiritual authority they will have to resist any evil that is attacking me.

This relationship between spiritual authority and submission is not well understood. We often ask other Christians to pray for us, but without much affect, because they have very little authority in our lives. They do not have authority, because we have not given it to them. We tend to assume that a large number of people praying for us will be more effective against the attacks of the enemy. This is a fallacy. When resisting evil, two or three Christians who have real authority in our lives, because we have submitted to them, will be much more effective.
Healing: Insights for Christian Elders, p.69.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Migration (6) Fear

Many Christians are afraid of refugees from Islamic nations and want to exclude them to keep their nation Christian. This is an Old Testament attitude.

In the Old Testament, the people had to separate themselves from evil influences, because they had no spiritual protection. That is why they had to expel the Canaanites from the Promised Land. God did not want his people to pick up the evil spirits that they carried. That changed with the cross, because the cross and resurrection of Jesus destroyed the powers of evil. This spiritual protection means that evil cannot touch his people.

This change is reflected in the attitude to lepers. In the Old Testament, people kept separate from lepers because if they touched them, the evil spirits which had harmed them might cross over and hurt them too. Jesus took the opposite approach, he touched the lepers and healed them. He knew that any evil spirits attacking the leper, could not touch him. He knew the power of the Holy Spirit that was upon him could restore the leper.

The same applies to the nations of the world. In the Old Testament age, God’s people had to keep separate from the nations, because they might corrupt them by opening them to evil spirits. Following the cross, Christians are to go into the world and make disciples of the nations. The spiritual protection provided by the cross keeps them safe from evil spirits. The power of the Holy Spirits upon them means that they will transform the nations, rather than the nations being transformed by them.

The same applies to Islamic refugees moving into so-called Christian nations. Prior to the cross, we would have had to kept separate. In the New Testament age, we have spiritual protection from any evil spirits they are carrying. More important, the power of the Spirit that is available to the church is so strong, that the refugees should be overwhelmed by his influence.

If the power of the Spirit on the churches in Europe is so weak that it cannot draw a few refugees into the gospel, then it is already dead. The refugees are just exposing its real state.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Migration (5) Support for Refugees

Modern states make the mistake of trying to control who has access to their land, and offering full social welfare payments to those they accept as refugees.

The biblical model is the opposite way round. People are given freedom to travel and live where they choose, but there is not state-funded social support.

Naomi’s husband was free to move to Moab when a drought caused famine in Judah (Ruth 1:1). This has been a normal way of dealing with crisis and disaster throughout human history. When war breaks out, people flee to a safer place. When famine strikes, people move to where food is still available.

The law allowed foreigners to migrate to Israel, provided they honoured God and accepted his law. However, the foreigner would not have any land in Israel, unless they could afford to buy some. They would not get any state-funded social support. They would have to work to live. They might get also get some support through gleaning, but they had to work to get it.

When Ruth and Naomi moved to Israel, Ruth was a foreigner. She was free to move into the land, but she had to find her own financial support. She went out gleaning, so that she could gather enough grain to feed herself and Naomi until she got paid employment, probably as a servant.

The biblical model is freedom of migration, but family responsibility for earning income and producing food.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Migration (4) Nations

God has not given nations authority to shut other people out of the land where they live. God owns the land, and in his eyes we are all aliens.

The land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and tenants (Lev 25:23).
Since we are all foreigners and tenants from God’s perspective, human governments do not have authority to label other people as foreigners. Humans are all God’s tenants, so we cannot decide who will live in a particular part of the world. Governments that try to decide who can live in a region, are taking authority that belongs to God.

God decides where the people of the nations will live.

He has made from one blood every race (ethnos) of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord (Acts 17:26).
The places where different races reside are determined by God. We do not know where he might be leading people in order that they would find Jesus, so we should be careful about interfering with what he is doing.

Jesus challenged his followers to welcome refugees and foreigners.

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when… did we see you a foreigner (xenos) and invite you in?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matt 23:38,40).
Foreigners and refugees are Jesus’ brothers. Those who follow Jesus must welcome them in the same as he would.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Migration (3) Promised Land

When God led the children of Israel into the Promised Land he intended to drive the Canaanites out before them.

He brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today (Deut 4:38).
The Israelites disobeyed and allowed them to stay, but God wanted them out to clear the land of evil spirits that they carried.

However, once the Israelites were in the land, and it was clear of evil, God was quite happy for aliens to return. The only condition was that they agreed to serve the Lord and live by his laws.

But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things (Lev 18:26).
Foreigners were welcome in the land, but they must not do anything that would compromise the spiritual protection of the people. Detestable activities that would open away for evil spirits were prohibited.

Once they had returned to the Land, these foreigners were entitled to equal treatment under the law.

The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you (Ex 12:49).
You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God (Lev 24:22).
The laws must be the same for foreigners and native-born people. Foreigners must not be treated badly.
Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt (Ex 22:21).
Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice (Deut 24:17).
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God (Lev 19:33-34).
The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you (Num 15:15-16).
Foreigners should not be seen as an inconvenience. God loves them as much as native-born people.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt (Deut 10:18-19).

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Migration (2)

A new phase of migration from the east has now arrived. We can see it daily on our television screen, with thousands of refugees walking, packing trains, rushing borders in heroic efforts to reach German, Denmark and Sweden. Many are Syrians, but others have come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parts of the Middle East.

In an article called Some Tips for the Long-Distance Traveller in the London Review of Books, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad describes how this migration has been unleashed by the information revolution. In the past, information about how to get from one country to another was held by the people smugglers. They kept this information to themselves, so that could charge exorbitant prices to those seeking help. Many of their were cheats, taking money from helpless people and giving them nothing return.

For decades, the paths that led out of war, destruction and poverty into the safety of life in Europe was a closely guarded secret, the property of smugglers and mafias who controlled the routes and had a monopoly on the necessary knowledge. They conducted their illicit trade out of dingy cafés in the back streets of Aksaray in Istanbul and – for the lucky few who reached Greece – the district of Omonia in Athens, where those who had got that far were handed on from one network to another, to be lied to and manipulated again. After all, they had no choice but to hand over their cash in exchange for a promise and a hope.
Very people had sufficient money to pay the price demanded by the smugglers. Those who trusted them were usually disappointed.

This situation has now changed. The information about how to migrate from the Middle East to Western Europe is now available to anyone with access to social media.

A Kurdish friend of mine in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq recently posted an image of a hand-drawn diagram on his Facebook page. With little arrows and stick figures and pictures of a train and boat or two, the diagram shows how to get from Turkey to the German border in twenty easy steps. After you’ve made the thousand-mile trip to western Turkey, the journey proper begins with a taxi to Izmir on the coast. An arrow points to the next stage: a boat across the Aegean to ‘a Greek island’, costing between €950 and €1200. Another boat takes you to Athens. A train leads to Thessaloniki. Walking, buses and two more worm-like trains take you across Macedonia to Skopje, and then through Serbia to Belgrade. A stick figure walks across the border into Hungary near the city of Szeged. Then it’s on to Budapest by taxi, and another taxi across the whole of Austria. At the bottom of the page a little blue stick figure is jumping in the air waving a flag. He has arrived in Germany, saying hello to Munich, after a journey of some three thousand miles, taking perhaps three weeks, at a total cost of $2400.
Migration is the topic of almost every conversation in the cafés of Baghdad and Damascus – in towns large and small across Syria and Iraq and beyond – along with the pros and cons of social aid given to migrants in different countries. The best routes are common knowledge, and information on new developments and up-to-date advice spreads quickly on social media, via Viber, WhatsApp and Facebook. These days all you need to reach Europe are a couple of thousand dollars and a smartphone.
Anyone with a few thousand dollars can make the journey to Eastern Europe.
The mobilisation techniques used in the Arab Spring, which brought thousands of demonstrators to a given place, were now being used to organise the new waves of migration. This was no longer an exodus of the wretched and downtrodden – though many still were – but a pilgrimage, predominantly, of the young, educated and middle class. The breaking down of Europe’s borders left two groups of people angry and struggling to find a way to restore the old order: the smugglers, and EU officials.
This explains why the refugees we see on television speak good English and carry smart phones. They come from the middle class with sufficient wealth to invest a few thousand dollars in getting their sons and daughters to Europe.

Migration from the East to the West has been going on for a long time. The information revolution makes it easier. I doubt that the national governments of Europe would be able to stop it, even if they wanted to.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Migration (1)

The history of Europe has been always been shaped by vast peoples marching from east to west.

Earlier this year, I did some reading about the collapse of the Roman Empire. One of the problems it faced was the pressure of peoples migrating west from the steppes of Asia. Some came on horseback, but many walked.. When these people arrived on the edge of the empire, the were initially held out by the border garrisons, but eventually the pressure became to great, and they invaded the Empire. Over a couple of centuries, the Tervingi, Grethuni, Vandals, Alans, Suevi, Goths, Burgundians, Visigoths and Ostrogoths arrived in Western Europe. Some travelled as far as France and Spain. The Vandals crossed into North Africa and conquered Carthage.

When they first arrived, these peoples were vicious warriors, but over time they settled down in their new land and gradually merged with the rest of the population. Most gradually converted to Christianity.

The same pattern of populations arriving from the east was held in check for several generations by artificial border created by the emergence of the national state, but now it is stirring again. It started with the collapse of the Soviet Union, when people from Eastern Europe began migrating to Western Europe. Polish painters and plumbers arrived into the United Kingdom looking for work.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Friday, November 06, 2015

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Rhododendrons and Azaleas

One of the joys of working to work in Christchurch is that you can enjoy other people's Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Some of the colours are amazing.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Iraqi Christian

A Christian American expat living in New Zealand is teaching an Iraqi Christian refugee how to read English. The Iraqi Christian finds it hard to believe that the so much of the damage done to Iraq was done by American Christians. The article is worth reading.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Rhododendrons and Azaleas

Rhododendrons and Azaleas grow really well in Christchurch.

The one below is taller than a house.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Sin and Death (7) Born Again

Jesus was conceived when the Holy Spirit overshadowed his mother Mary. This broke the line of the flesh from Adam. He did not inherit the corruption of the flesh that troubled the rest of the human race.

When a person trusts in Jesus and is born again of the Spirit, the harm to their flesh/brain is restored. The Holy Spirit restores the damage to our flesh (including the brain) that was inherited from the first man, who was attacked by the powers of evil.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24).
When we are born again to become a new creation, the harm done to Adam that we inherited is restored. The Holy Spirit changes what we are. We are born again with a restored brain.
  • Our mind is restored, so that we can think the way God thinks. Unfortunately we will have taken on al lot of bad ideas in the years before we are born again, so the Holy Spirit will need time to teach us and clear out all the junk.
  • Our will is restored, so we are able to seek and do God’s will. This is the most important change. However, we are still free and need to listen to the voice of the Spirit and do Jesus will. Although our will is set free, we will still need to learn how to boy gladly. The big difference from the situation of Adam and Eve is that we have spiritual protection through what Jesus has done.
  • Our spirit is brought to life. We become intensely aware of God’s voice. We can perceive the power of evil at work around us. This is huge, but we have to learn to peceive understand clearly all that we are now perceiving. If we are not careful we can let our perception by deadened by what we learned in the past
  • Our desire for God that was deadened is restored.
  • Our emotions will continue to work as our internal senses, but as we begin to see thing as God sees them and receive the peace of the Spirit, our emotions will begin to respond more like Jesus would respond.
  • Our memory continue to retain most our experiences. A problem is that our memory will be full of bad thinking and lies, and bad decisons and their pleasures from the past. These will keep popping out and leading us astray, even after our mind has been restored. Evil spirits will stir these memories up if they get a chance.
Being born again reverses the damage done that we inherited from Adam and Eve, but that is the first step. While living with corrupted flesh we have picked up a lot of junk that we have to learn to let go.

There is one other important physical change. When a woman has been born again through faith in Jesus, this force of this curse is broken, Paul pointed to this blessing in his letter to Timothy.

Women will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control (1 Tim 2:15).
We should be praying that the Holy Spirit will work this restoration in woman who trust Jesus that he would restore their bodies from the damage that was done, when Adam and Eve sinned.