Friday, July 29, 2016

Wrong Lesson

Last Sunday, I noticed a Sunday sermon being broadcast on television. At the beginning of his message, the pastor commented that surveys show that 70% of church members are not involved in service in the church.

Unfortunately, he did not understand the point he was trying to make. If you train people to sit on their seats for an hour on Sunday morning, you should not be surprised if they are inactive during the week. If you train people to worship in a special building with a worship band and worship leader, you can’t expect them to worship at other times.

Jesus worked the other way round. He took the people he was training with him, when he preached the gospel, healed the sick and cast out demons. They learnt by serving with him while he was doing stuff.

Within a short time, the first twelve he had trained could go out on their own and do what Jesus had taught them to do (Luke 9:1-6). Then a short time later, seventy more had learned from working with Jesus and could be sent out on their own in pairs (Luke 10:1).

Taking people out on the job is the best way for them to learn. Sitting on a chair listening to a pastor preaching teaches them that church functions best when they do nothing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Marriage and Violence (6) Role of the State

The marriage and divorces certificates provided by government officials are a side show and have no status in God’s economy.

Human governments do not have authority over marriage. They cannot change something that God has established, so Christians should not allow them to define marriage for them. God has already defined marriage and human governments cannot change God's word. Christian marriage should be based on God's word and not on legislation established by a human government.

When people get married, God is the witness to their marriage, not the state (Mal 2:14). Their commitment to each other and their consummation of that commitment is what makes their marriage. Isaac was married to Rebecca when he accepted her as her wife and “took her into his tent” (Gen 24:69). He did not have a marriage certificate from the state, but he was married in God’s eyes.

In the same way, when a husband commits adultery, or persistently assaults his wife, she is no longer bound to him in God’s eyes. It is irrelevant whether the divorce papers have gone through or not.

If a woman who is deserted by an unbelieving husband meets another man and commits to him, and cohabits with him, she is already married to him in God’s eyes. It does not matter, if the state has recognised the divorce or if they are legally married again.

Getting other believers and elders who know the situation to support the person’s understanding of God’s witness will be important to avoid making rash mistakes. Agreement of two or three will be important.

Once a woman or man has left and begun a marriage with a new partner (in God’s eyes) his preference is that they should not go back to a previous spouse (Jer 3:1).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Marriage and Violence (5) Re-Marriage

The topic of marriage and re-marriage is covered in 1 Corinthians 7. The chapter deals with various themes.

  • A man should have one wife, and a woman should have one husband (1 Cor 7:2).

  • A woman’s body belongs to the husband, so if he assaults his wife, it is probably because he hates himself (1 Cor 7:4).

  • A husband’s body belongs to his wife, so if she tells him to stop doing something physical, he must stop (1 Cor 7:4).

  • Sexual relations should be by mutual consent (1 Cor 7:5).

  • Being single is good, because it gives freedom to go all out for God without being weighed down with family concerns and commitments (1 Cor 7:7,8).

  • Not everyone has the calling to be single. If not, they should seek to marry (1 Cor 7:9).

  • A Christian couple should normally stay together. If they are having marital difficulties, they might need to stay apart for a while to sort the situation out. They should not rush to divorce, but should work hard to be reconciled. If God is at work in their lives, they should be able to put their sins to death and be healed of their failings (1 Cor 7:10-11). Divorce is not a solution for simple disputes and tensions.

  • When a person who has an unbelieving spouse becomes a Christian and their spouse continues to be an unbeliever, the believing spouse should not leave, but remain and love and pray for their spouse (1 Cor 7:12-13).

  • An unbelieving spouse might come to faith though the witness to the love of Jesus of their spouse (1 Cor 7:16).

  • The marriage covenant is so strong that the faith of a believing spouse can sanctify an unbelieving spouse enough to get them into glory. They same applies to unbelieving children (1 Cor 7:14).

  • If the unbelieving spouse refuses to stay with the spouse who has become a believer, they should be allowed to leave. This act of leaving is sometimes called “wilful desertion”. (I presume the leaving spouse would lose the blessing described in the previous point). Leaving a marriage takes various forms. Refusing to allow the believing spouse to be who they are by following Jesus is another form of leaving the marriage (1 Cor 7:15).

  • When the unbelieving spouse leaves, the believing spouse is “not bound” (1 Cor 7:15). Paul explains what this means further on in 1 Cor 7:39. While a husband is alive, his wife is bound to him. Once he has died, she is no longer bound and is free to marry any man she chooses. So when Paul says that a believing spouse is “not bound” if the unbelieving spouse departs, he is saying that they are free to marry again.

  • When a woman separates from her husband due to adultery, she is free to marry again, because he has wilfully deserted her. Even if he claims to be a believer, he is acting as an unbeliever, so can be treated as one.

  • When a man repeatedly assaults or emotionally torments his wife, he has wilfully deserted his marriage promise to protect and care for her, so she is not bound to him, but is free to marry again. Even if he claims to be a believer, he is acting as an unbeliever, so can be treated as one.

  • During times of persecution and tribulation, it might be better for young women not to marry and have children, because there is a risk their husbands will be martyred, and they could be left caring for children, without any means of support (1 Cor 7:25-35,40).

  • Even in troubled times, sexual attraction can be a powerful force. So even if getting married is a risky thing to do, it is better to marry than to stay single and sin against a potential marriage partner (1 Cor 7:36-38).

  • A believer who is widowed is free to marry anyone they choose, provided that they belong to the Lord (1 Cor 7:39).

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Marriage and Violence (4) Adultery and Violence

The seventh commandment forbids adultery, but the commandment against murder comes first. It forbids all kinds of assault and violence. There is more in the law about violence than against adultery. In fact, Moses did not enforce the penalties against adultery due to hardness of heart (Matt 19:8). Moses never gave the same opt- out for murder and assault. So although all sin is serious, assault and violence is more serious than adultery. Therefore, if adultery is grounds for divorce, so is assault and violence.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Marriage and Violence (3) Dowry

In Old Testament times, they dowry provided a way for a women to escape from a dangerous marriage. The role of a dowry was different from the modern understanding. A young man wanting to marry a young woman paid a dowry to her father as proof of his diligence, reliability and ability to support her.

He must pay a dowry for her to be his wife (Ex 22:16).
The father retained the dowry, as a guarantee of his son-in-law’s good behaviour. (In some circumstance, he might loan the dowry back to the son and daughter to pay for a house or business, but he would retain ownership of it in trust for his daughter).

Abraham gave costly gifts to Rebecca’s mother and brother as a dowry for her marriage to Isaac (Gen 24:53). Jacob did not have a dowry to give Rachel’s father when he wanted to marry her. He was a dodgy character, so Laban demanded a big dowry to cover the risk. Jacob had to work without wages for seven years to earn the dowry Laban required.

A girl’s father decides what the dowry should be, depending on the reputation of the prospective suitor. When Shechem wanted to marry Jacob’s daughter Dinah he offered to pay a dowry.

Ask me ever so much dowry and gift, and I will give according to what you say to me; but give me the young woman as a wife (Gen 24:12).
Saul was a jealous and foolish man, so he demanded a dowry of hundred dead Philistines as a dowry, when David wanted to marry his daughter Michal (1 Sam 18:25).

When a woman commits to a man and has his children, she puts herself in a vulnerable position. She loses her capacity to earn and by having children she reduces her attraction to potential husbands. The dowry protects her during this time of vulnerability. If they wife has to leave her husband and return to her father, he did not need to return the dowry, but could use it to provide for her financial support.

God recognised that marriage was risky for women and provided a way for them to escape if they were mistreated by their husbands. They could return to their father and know that financial support would be available. It also puts pressure on husbands to honour and respect their wives.

The concept of the dowry was corrupted by the world. It was twisted around and became a payment that a father had to pay to a man to get her to marry his daughter. This was a terrible devaluation of the value of women. It turned women into chattels that could be bought by the highest bidder. It provided no protection for the women once they were married.

Christians should restore true biblical dowry to marriage. It would encourage better behaviour by men, and provide better protection for women.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Marriage and Violence (2) Cancels a Covenant

God does not want a person to be held in a place by a contract or covenant if they will be treated violently. The Law of Moses allows a man who has fallen into debt to bond himself to work as a servant for a person who would pay off his debts in return.

If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth (Ex 21:26-27).
This command applies to both men and women. A wife has greater freedom than a female bondservant. So if violence sets a servant free, violence must set a wife free too.

Violence nullifies a covenant or contract. When a man is violent towards his wife, his treachery to the marriage covenant annuls it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Violence and Marriage (1)

The common teaching that wives must submit to their husbands, even when they are violent is wrong. Godly submission does not require a woman to be a punching bag.

Malachi has been misused to support this view.

Every Christian knows that God hates divorce, but few bother to read what the scriptures really say. The passage in Malachi is not really about divorce, but is directed at violent men. These men were complaining because their prayers were not answered. God responds by saying,

The Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant (Mal 2:14).
The Lord is a witness to every marriage. He has observed the treacherous way them men have treated their wives, so he gives a stern warning.
So watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously against the wife of your youth (Mal 2:15).
God hates mistreatment of wives, because it leads to divorce.
For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with violence,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Mal 2:16).
God does not like divorce, but primarily he hates the husband who puts on a garment of violence and treats his wife treacherously. Some translations tone this down, but the Hebrew word is a strong one. It refers to “violence or maltreatment”. The man who attacks his wife with violence has broken his covenant with his wife. God is the witness who speaks against him.

The message of Malachi is not that God hates divorce, but that he hates violence in marriage and its treachery to the marriage covenant that often leads to divorce.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mary and Martha

Reading an article about Mary and Martha by Mary Stromer Hanson gave me a completely different perspective on the incident. The picture I was given in Sunday School was that Martha was busy cooking a Sunday Roast Dinner for Jesus, while Mary was sitting at his feet listening to him talk. Martha got flustered because she was doing all the work, and Mary seemed to be doing nothing.

I am sure that many women feel that way, but usually it will because their husband is leaving them to prepare the meal, while he sits and talks about the ball game. But that is not the reason that this incident got into the gospels.

To understand Martha’s situation we must interpret the incident in terms of what went before. The chapter begins with seventy disciples being sent out in pairs to live for a time in the towns and villages that Jesus was planning to visit. This was followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Both are relevant to Martha’s situation.

Mary Hanson makes four observations about Luke’s account of the incident.

  • The words “into the house” are a later addition to the Greek text. Jesus and some disciples came into the village where Martha lived. Luke says that Martha met him, but he did not say they went into the house. There is no mention of preparing a meal.

  • Mary was not there. She never speaks and Jesus never speaks to her. Jesus would not have a conversation about her in her presense without addressing her, so clearly she was not there.

  • The word used to describe what Martha was doing is “diakoneo”. Throughout the New Testament this word is used to describe a minsitry of service to people in need (Acts 6:1-7). The English word deacon is derived from it. It is unfair, and bad translation, to translate it here as “preparing a meal”, just because Martha was a women. Stephen and Philip are described as deacons, not as kitchenhands, so Martha should be given the same respect.

  • The word “also” is missing from most translations of Luke 10:39. Luke says that Martha had a sisster who “also sat at Jesus feet” and heard his words, ie both women “sat at Jesus feet” “Sit at the feet” was a common expression to describe a person who has chosen to be a disciple of master/teacher. Luke is saying that both Martha and Mary were disciples of Jesus. Mary was not sitting on the lounge floor while Martha worked in the kitchen. Luke was explaining that Martha and Mary had committed to being Jesus' disciples, and to putting his words into practice.

The passage should read as follows.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him. She had a sister called Mary, who was also a disciple of the Lord, who had heard his teaching. But Martha was distracted by many works of service. She stood by him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to carry on this ministry of service? Ask her to return and help me!”
But Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed. Mary has chosen a good part, which will not be taken away from her.
Martha was busy doing works of service for the needy people of the village. The preceding verses described the good Samaritan’s care of the man wounded by bandits. Mary and Martha had heard Jesus’ message and committing to serving the poor and weak people living in their village. Now Mary had seemingly gone away and left Martha to carry on the work on her own.

Jesus knew where Mary was, but Martha did not, so she asked Jesus to get Martha to come back and support her.

The key to where Mary had gone is found at the beginning of the chapter. Jesus had sent seventy disciples out in pairs to stay in the towns and villages he would visit. As a devoted disciple of Jesus, Mary must have heeded the call of Jesus and gone out to share the gospel in one of these villages. Martha had stayed at home to continue serving the people of the village.

Martha was frustrated because she had so much to do. Jesus said that only one thing is needed. That is to obey him. Obeying Jesus is all that is required.

Martha should focus on doing Jesus will, rather than trying to meet every need she could see.

Jesus said that was Mary had chosen a “good part” of Jesus will and would not be taken away from her. The Greek word is “agathe”. Many translations have “better”, but “good” is just a valid. Jesus did not say that what Mary was doing was better than what Martha was doing. They were both doing his will.

Mary had chosen a good part of his will, so that would not be taken from her. Going out to new places is part of Jesus will. It must not be sacrificed to continue the work at home.

In any church, there will be a tension between those who are sent out to start something new and those who remain behind to keep things going. Luke 10 explains that both are valid ministries. The first part of the chapter explains that being sent out is good. The parable of the Good Samaritan validates those who stay back and care for those in need. The incident of Mary and Martha illustrates the tension between the two callings.

Jesus affirmed both callings. Those are sent must not think they are better than those who remain. Those who remain will sometimes be under pressure, but they must not condemn those who have been sent out.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Modern Money causes Inequality

Philipp Bagus explains that our monetary system favors those who are already-wealthy at the expense of those who are only beginning the wealth-building process.

Since the costs of money production are close to zero in a fiat money system, where both central banks and other banks may create money, a continuously rising money supply can be expected. Therefore, prices tend to increase steadily. In such a system, it does not make much sense to save in the form of cash, in order to buy assets such as a house later. It is rational to indebt oneself early in order to purchase a house before it is even more expensive and pay the debt back in depreciated currency. Since assets such as property, bonds or stocks may serve as a guarantee or collateral for new loans, and as such as a means to become a first receiver of new money, in our fiat monetary system asset prices tend to rise relative to prices of goods and services, i.e. wages. This is one reason why it takes ever longer to purchase an average house by saving an average income. This is also a reason why it is easier for the rich to stay rich and more difficult for the poor to become rich in our fiat money system than it would be in a commodity money world.
While the super rich, the financial industry and big business profit from their fast and direct access to the newly produced money, the working and middle classes, have to cope with rising housing, energy and food costs. Due to rising living costs and high taxes, it becomes ever more difficult for the working and middle classes to save and invest in financial markets.
In short, our monetary system leads to redistribution and there is a tendency for wealth and income to flow to the rich.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Go and Live There

God set the gospel pattern right from the beginning.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).
Jesus came and lived among the people. He came and lived like them, so that he would fit in.

The disciples carried on down the same path. Jesus sent them out in pairs to live in a village that Jesus was going to visit.

He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Whatever house you enter, stay there (Luke 9:2-4).
The Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go (Luke 10:1).
The New Testament way is for pairs of Christians to go and live among people who need to hear the gospel. This enables them to see the good news.

When Christians think about starting a new church they look for a building to meet in on Sunday. They should be looking for a place to live.

Monday, July 11, 2016


All over the world, Christians go to church on Sunday to listen to their pastor preach for an hour. For many that is how they hear God speaking, but it is a poor substitute for “God filling us with knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col 1:9).

God want his people to learn to hear him speak directly by the Holy Spirit, and we need to hear him to be able to obey him.

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him (1 John 2:27).
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak (John 16:13).
The problem with the Sunday preaching model is that the pastor works hard to learn how to hear God speak, because he needs to. Most people do not need to, so most do not know how to hear God speak. So his will is not done.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Kingdom and Politics

God will establish his kingdom on earthy regardless of who wins the US presidential election, and despite them.

Ironically the election of a really bad president, might spread the coming of the kingdom, because it would shake faith in human government and presidential power.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Elections and Prayer

Christians praying for the outcome of the US presidential election should remember that democracy is not God first choice form of government. God has made us free, so he does not always prevent the outcome of our choices.

Obama was the people’s choice, so there was no reason God would force him to change. God recognises the peoples freedom to choose their rulers. The problem was the choice, not lack of prayer.

Hillary and Donald are also the people’s choice, so God is unlikely to change them, whoever is elected. They might have a Damascus Road experience, but given their love of power and position, that is unlikely (Paul had a zeal for God that gave God authority to work in his life).

The spiritual powers of evil recognise every vote for a president as a prayer, so there are always more prayers for the candidate, than prayers to change him/her.

The people of the United States have submitted to the authority of a democratic system, so they are stuck with the outcome of that. Instead of vainly hoping and pleading that God will change the elected president, prophetic people should be prophesying and preparing for the outcome of an awful choice.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Same Well

The pro-Trump evangelicals and the stop-Trump folk drink from the same well: pres-idolatry. Christians in America should wake up and realise that the Political Power and Military Power are twin idols that the need to renounce. These idols will destroy America if they are given a free reign.

Monday, July 04, 2016


I hate the way that American politicians pretend that they are advocates for democracy around the world.

Bahrain is a great example of their hypocrisy. The country has a Shia majority but is ruled by a Sunni king with absolute powers. His Prime Minister has been in place for 40 years. There are more political prisoners in Bahrain per capita than any country in the world. There is a token parliament, but a Shura council that sits above it that can overall every decision. All its members are appointed by the King.

The American government supports this dictatorship, because the King of Bahrain provides a base of the Fifth Fleet. The people of Bahrain are not allowed democracy, because it does not fit with American interests.

That is hypocrisy on a grand scale from the Land of the Free.

Saturday, July 02, 2016


The Red Horse of Revelation represents war been tribal groups. This spirit is leading to the break of nations all over the world, but particularly in the Middle East.

The Brexit vote is another manifestation of this spirit, placing local interests over globalisation and internationalism. The European Union will be irretrievably damaged. The urge to split away from regional groupings will be enacted in many places.

However, there is one amalgamation of nations that will not allow member states to leave. They are so serious about being united that they were willing to kill half a million people to prevent a split. While other groups are disintegrating, this will go against the trend and grow stronger and more powerful.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Love and Submission (7) ERSCA

The debate about Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission in the Trinity has been interesting because, there has been very little discussion about the nature of authority.

Bruce Ware says,

The position of greater authority is always held by the Father while the position of submission to that authority is always held by the Son and the Spirit.
Because the Father is the eternal Father of the eternal Son..., he eternally possesses and expresses authority.
Wyatt Graham puts it this way.
The Son differs from the Father by submitting, while the Father to the Son by exerting authority.
Ware does not say what he means by “expressing authority”. Graham never says what he means by “exerting authority”.

I presume they live in a culture that believes that men are better at making decisions, so they can demand submission from their wives. I guess they would call this “exerting” their authority.

If there is something innate in the Father that means that the Son has to obey him, then that is not really authority. It would be domination of the Son, which would mean that he is not equal with the Father, but subordinate.

Ware and Graham do not say what they mean by “expressing” or “exerting”, but it suggests that the Father is doing something that makes the Son obey. That is concerning, because a person with authority can issue a command and know that it will be acted on. This can occur for two reasons.

  • The person with authority has power or the ability to compel the person to obey. The soldier obeyed the centurion, because he knew that if he disobeyed, the whole weight of the Roman Empire would come down on him. This is Imposed Authority.
  • The person receiving the command loves and trusts, the person issuing the command and has freely chosen to submit to them. I call this Free Authority. A person gains authority when someone freely submits to them, because they love them. The person submitting actually creates the authority of the person they submit to. That means that they can take the authority away, if they lose their trust, and stop submitting.
I cannot see any place for Imposed Authority in the Trinity. The Father would never impose his will on the Son. He would not threaten him, if he chose not to obey.

If the Son submits to the Father, it will be because he loves him. Therefore, at the point where the Father tells the Son what to do, he has no authority. Rather, the Son creates authority for the Father by freely submitting to his command. There is no need for the Father to “exert authority” or “express authority”, because the Son loves him. Instead, the Father receives authority from the Son, when he freely submits to his will.

The relationship should be rearly be called an Eternal Relations of Submission Creating Authority (ERSCA).