Monday, August 31, 2020

Galatians and Righteousness (1) Different Focus

In the letters to Ephesians and Colossians, there is hardly any mention of righteousness. The focus is on Jesus’ victory over the powers of evil by his death, resurrection and ascension, and the grace and deliverance we received through being united with him. This focus is not surprising, because I suspect it is Paul’s core message.

Paul begins his letter to the Galatians with a similar message.

Jesus the Messiah, our Lord, gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Gal 1:3-4).
Prior to his coming the world was enslaved under the powers of the world (Gal 4:3). God sent Jesus to rescue and redeem us.

Righteousness is a major theme in Paul’s letters to the Galatians and to Romans (mostly in chapters 2-4). The reason for the different focus it that these letters were written to churches that were being led astray by Jewish Christians who wanted to impose some of the cultural requirements of the law on Gentile believers.

The Jewish Christians who came to Galatia seemed to be obsessed with righteousness. For some reason, they wanted to be declared righteous before God. This does not seem to have been a natural concern for Paul. Rather, he had to deal with the issue of righteousness, because believers were confused about it. In Romans 5 and 6, Paul explains that we are delivered from sin to become servants of righteousness (Rom 6:16-19). That deliverance is important for Paul.

Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians in response to teachers from Jerusalem, who were telling Gentile Christians that they needed to submit to some of the requirements of the Jewish law, such as circumcision. The followers of Jesus in Ephesus and Colossae were not being badgered by Jewish Christians to demonstrate their righteousness, so the letters Paul wrote to them focussed on the victory and deliverance provided by Jesus.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Professional Politicians

A practice has emerged in New Zealand, where a young person gets a degree in politics and communications and then goes to Parliament and works as an advisor in the office of a Cabinet minister. After they have been there are few years, they given an opportunity to stand for Parliament in a safe seat or a given a good place on the party list.

When they enter Parliament, these people will often feel entitled, because they believe their university study has given them expertise that other don’t have, and their experience in a minister’s office makes them think they know their way around the system.

The problem is that these people get power when they are young and lack real-life experience, and the wisdom and compassion it produces. They have spent most of their lives with people like themselves and don’t really know how the other half lives.

We have already seen some of them fail, which is not surprising, given the path that they have taken.

At least we do not have CIA operatives standing for election as is happening in the United States. That would be scary.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


A common teaching is that nationalism is wrong, because it combines political allegiance with faith, but patriotism is fine.

A Christian leader defined patriotism as "a benign pride in a place", as if this made it cool. However, we need to dig a bit deeper. If patriotism is pride, what is the basis for the pride?

  • A Christian could base their patriotic pride on a belief that the scenery in their country is more beautiful than in other. However, as the scenery of a country is mixed, and is God’s creation, not ours, this does not seem to be sufficient basis for patriotism. The beauty of the creation should lead to worship of God, not a nation.

  • Patriotism could be pride in the people of the nation, but that does not seem to work as a justification, because the people of nation will be a mixture; some will be good and some bad. Claiming that the people of my nation are better than those of any other nation is a bit arrogant. The most I could claim is that my nation has a higher percentage of good people than others, but I cannot take any credit for that.

  • Patriotism could be pride in the businesses of my nation. However, every nation has a massive number of businesses. Some will be good and some will be weak. I might argue that my nation has a higher percentage of good businesses than other nations. Individual businesses can be proud of their achievements, but I am not sure that I can be proud of them, because I am not responsible for what they have achieved.

  • Patriotism often turns out to be pride in the achievements of my nation. This is a bit odd. I can be proud of what I have achieved, but not what other people living in my nation have achieved, if I not have contributed to their efforts or helped them.

  • Patriotism could be pride in my country’s sports teams. However, that is only true if they actually represent me. The reality is that most sports team are not truly representative (or they would need one player who is useless at sport like me). They actually only represent elite players. They do not represent the entire nation.

  • Patriotism is often pride that my nation has a better system of government than other nations. The problem with this is that it is hard to prove that the system of government adopted by my nation is better than of others. Anyway, a system of government that produces a contest between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, cannot be the best in the world.

    Believing that their nation has the best system of government in the world is fine for people who do not follow Jesus, but it is a problem for those who do. The Kingdom of God is the best system of government in the world, so giving pride of place to another government is disloyalty to Jesus. The best that could be claimed is that a government is close to the Kingdom of God, but I cannot see any government anywhere in the world that has achieved that.

  • Patriotism could be based on the idea that my nation’s laws are better than the laws of other nations. However, the best laws possible are God’s laws, so Christians can only celebrate their nation’s laws if they align with God’s laws, but that is not a basis for pride. Laws that align with God’s laws are a basis for glorifying God, not glorifying that nation that has adopted them.

  • The basis for patriotism often translates into pride in what the government of my nation has achieved. These achievements are usually successes in fight wars. The most common basis for patriotism is pride in their nation’s military victories, or if it does not have recent victories, pride in the nations armed forces. Pride in military power regardless of whether it has been used for good or evil is foolish. This kind of patriotism is dangerous because it leads to military adventurism.

Jesus spoke incessantly about the Kingdom of God. He called his followers to give their allegiance to his kingdom and its king. He said that we cannot serve to masters.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matt 6:24).
Loving a nation and the Kingdom of God at the same time is almost impossible.
Paul was a well-born Jew,
of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews (Phil 3:5).
He had plenty of basis for patriotism, but considered his nationality to be worthless.
Everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of the Messiah… I consider them garbage (Phil 3:6,8).
Paul was passionate about the Kingdom of God, so he had no room left for patriotism.

Patriotism is often the thin end of the wedge that leads to nationalism. Extreme nationalism has produced terrible evils, so God’s people need to be careful about going too far down the patriotism path.

Monday, August 24, 2020


When he split from Lot and allowed him to choose the best grazing land, God told Abraham that he would give the entire land of Canaan to his descents permanently (Gen 13:14-15). He told him to walk around it to claim it.

Get up and walk around the land, through its length and width, for I will give it to you (Gen 13:17).
By walking over the land, Abraham was claiming it for God, although he did not yet have authority over it.

A further step towards establishing God’s authority in the land occurred when Abraham met with Melchizedek, a priest of God who lived in Jerusalem. We are not told how this happened, but he must have established a relationship with God and begun offering sacrifices to him.

Five kings of southern Canaan were subordinate to Kedorlaomer of Elam. They would have had to pay tribute to him to retain their positions of power. While Abraham was living near Hebron, these five kings rebelled against Kedorlaomer, probably by refusing to pay the tribute that they owed (Gen 14:4). Kedorlaomer came down with three other loyal kings to put them back in their place, by defeating them in battle (Gen 14:10). The defeated kings fled and hid.

Lot had been living in Sodom, so Kedorlaomer captured him and all his property and took it back to their home further north. When Abraham heard what had happened to Lot, he gave chase with 318 men who were part of his household. When they caught up with the captives near Damascus, Abraham divided his forces and caught them off guard with a night attack. He rescued Lot, all the stolen property, and the women who had been captured from the defeated kingdoms.

When Abraham returned with Lot and the stolen property, several interesting things happened.

  • The King of Sodom offered Abraham all the captured property, provided he returned the captured people. Abraham refused because he did not want the King of Sodom saying he had made him rich.

  • The King of Salem (Melchizedek), the priest of the most high God, blessed Abraham in the name of the God of Heaven and Earth. He acknowledged that God had delivered the attackers into Abrahams's hand. Abraham paid a tithe of all the property to Melchizedek.

  • Abraham ensured that Aner, Eshkol and Mamre, who had joined him in the fight, were compensated with their share.

I do not fully understand the significance of these happenings, but they had a spiritual impact, that seems to have begun an authority shift in Abraham’s favour.
  • Melchizedek was king of Salem, so he had authority over the important Canaanite city of Jerusalem. When he blessed Abraham, some of his authority passed to Abraham. Abraham acknowledged the spiritual transfer, by giving a tithe to Melchizedek.

  • By returning the King of Sodom’s stolen property and people, Abraham placed him in the situation of owing a debt to Abraham. This debt gave Abraham spiritual authority over Sodom. This is why Abraham later had authority to intercede for Sodom when God planned to destroy it.

  • Aner, Eshkol and Mamre accepted property that Abraham had earned by defeating the raiding Kings. This indebted them to Abraham, which gave him some spiritual authority over them.

These transactions were the early steps in shifting authority over Canaan back to God. The process would be fully completed under Moses and Joshua.

I explain how this happened in Kingdom Authority.

New Testament Prophecy (4) Message

In a nation with a Christian heritage, like New Zealand, the message of a new covenant prophet will be something like the following.

God has poured out huge blessings on the people of this country. For most of our history, a significant share of the population has acknowledged him and given thanks for his grace towards us. But things have changed.

Now most people don’t acknowledge God. They say something like this. “I am not even sure that God exists. What I have got, I got by my own hard work and effort, so I am not going to give thanks to a god that I don’t know exist for it. I deserve what I have got.

The consequence that these people do not understand is that when they lose track of God, they also lose sight of the evil spiritual powers that are fighting against him. When the people of a nation reject God, they unwittingly give the spiritual powers of evil much greater freedom to do their nasty stuff on earth.

In recent years, we have seen them doing what they love to do.

  • Stirring up people to hate and kill each other
  • Disrupting the weather with storms and droughts.
  • Spreading disease and sickness to destroy people’s lives.
  • Stirring up greed and corruption to damage the financial and economic system.
  • Putting people into poverty to rob them of peace and happiness.
We can expect more the same, and worse, as long as we give the spiritual powers of evil freedom to work in our land.

Only God can rescue us from their power. He loves us, but he can only rescue us if we turn to him and seek his deliverance.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Leviticus and Deuteronomy

The laws in Leviticus have a different purpose to those in Deuteronomy.

Those in Leviticus are for providing spiritual protection when a single person engages in a sin that would release powerful evil spirits into the nation. This was particularly true for sexual immorality and witchcraft. The culprit has to be dealt with severely to protect their neighbours from the evil. (Note: houses were burnt, not people).

The curses in Deut 28 relate to the nation and as a whole. If the entire nation turns away from God the curses are the consequence. They are what happens when the nation allows bulk access to the spiritual powers of evil.

More at Spiritual Protection before Jesus.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Health Crisis

The Canterbury District Health Board is responsible for providing health care for the people of Canterbury, New Zealand. Many of their activities are focussed on Christchurch Hospital.

In the last few weeks, seven members of the Executive Team have resigned for their positions, including the CEO, CFO, the Executive Director of Planning and Funding, the Chief Medical Officer and the Executive Director of Nursing. They have been cagey about their reasons for leaving, but the word on the street is that they are tired of the pressure to make extreme budget cuts that is being put on them by the government-appointed chairman of the board. There is a budget hole, but the executive team have been saying that it is impossible to make deep cuts in expenditure without cutting services. The Board does not seem to have been listening to what they have been saying.

The loss of two-thirds of its executive team would be a serious problem for any large business organisation. Many large businesses get rid of their CEO, but they keep the people in the key roles under the CEO to ensure continuity of business. We are in the middle of a health crisis. Allowing half the executive team of our major health provider is a serious failing by the Board. I would love to know the answers to the following questions.

  • Why has the Minister of Health been silent about what is happening, given that the financial pressure comes from the government? After the latest resignations, he said he still has confidence in the DHB’s board. How can he have confidence in a board that has lost most of its executive team?

  • Why have most of the elected members of the board mostly remained silent. The executive staff who have resigned cannot speak, because they are still in their roles. However, the elected members must know what is going. Why are they not speaking to the people they represent and obtaining their views? Are they scared the government will remove them from the board and appoint a commissioner?

  • The chairperson of the board says that appointing a new executive team will bring in a “fresh” and “outside view”. That is a joke. The executive team of every large organisation needs to be replenished regularly to ensure that it remains fresh. However, this is better done gradually. If a large number of executive staff are all appointed at the same time, they will spend the first year learning their roles and getting to understand their new organisation. This will be hard, if the rest of the executive team are new and feeling their way too. They will struggle to make radical changes while they are becoming familiar with their organisation and their role in it.

  • Why is the Chairperson of the Board not speaking to the public he is supposed to be serving, or the news media? Why has he only spoken to a coffee club run by an ex-mayor? The people of Canterbury deserve to hear from.

  • No doubt there are savings that can be made in the health system. That is true of any large organisation, but it is unlikely that the Board or the executive team will find them because they are too far away from the day-to-day organisation to know where they are. The efficiencies will have to be identified by the middle managers who understand what is going on.

    • Service managers will have to stop being yes men or women and remember that they are responsible for spending money that is taxed from people on the minimum wage, and not on big salaries like them. They are the ones who should be able to find the inefficiencies and advocating for better solutions, not protecting the status quo.
    • Clinical directors will have to ensure that all their clinicians are fully active during and working effectively during the time that they are being paid, and not skiving off to make money running their private businesses.

  • The new clinical services building for Christchurch Hospital is two years late being finished, so why is everyone responsible for this fiasco still walking around smiling. These delays have created huge problems for delivering health care in Canterbury. The contractors building the new building don’t seem to have suffered any penalties, despite serious mistakes being made. The Ministry of Health project managers who were overseeing the project do not seem to be accountable. The Director-General of Health who has overall responsibility seems to be ignoring the problem.

  • Why do the news media keep saying that the hospital services are moving into a “shiny new” building? Based on previous experience, they will enter a building with hundreds of defects that the contractors will be reluctant to fix. These problems will make life difficult for the people working in the new building. And because the building took so long to be built, like the maternity services building, it will be too small and out of date by the time it goes into use.

  • Why does a retired court judge assume that he knows more about delivering health services than a CEO who has been in the role for many years and his respected all around the world?

  • I am concerned that the members of the executive team seem to be feeling bullied the Chairman of the DHB. Bullying seems to be a huge problem in the health sector. A report released last year said that 60 percent of staff at another DHB had experienced bullying. How can this bullying be stamped out, if bullying is taking place at the top level of the organisation?

  • Why has the Prime Minister been so slow to deal with the problems at the DHB? Hospital clinicians have written to her twice expressing their concerns about what is happening, but she seems to be ignoring them. If their arguments are incorrect, why has the Health Department not been able to refute them? I presume the Prime Minister assumes that Labour already holds most of the Christchurch seats, so the city can be ignored.

  • Why does the government not fund health care adequately? With an aging population and emerging health technologies the cost of health care is going to rise dramatically, yet successive governments choose to control healthcare but have continued to underfund it.

  • Why does the government still use Census of Population data to distribute health funding when health needs are not distributed evenly across the population. The Health Department has masses of data about the incidence of sickness and the need for surgery. They know about everyone who is sick or infirm. They should be using this data to allocate health funding where it actually needed. An allocation based on population numbers seems to be a lazy option, even if adjustments are made for age, etc.

  • One reason for the budget deficit is an increase in capital charge as a result of the completion of the new clinical services building. This does not make sense. A business that creates extra capital can expand the range of services it makes or products it produces to earn extra income. This enables it to pay a return on the capital used. In contrast, when a public hospital that provides its services free gets a new building, it cannot deliver more services to earn more income. Instead, it has to continue to deliver the services that it was previously delivering in the old building. It is unlikely to get extra income to cover the cost of the capital charge. Why is an artificial accounting practice putting the delivery of health care at risk?

  • A new clinical services building may allow some efficiencies, but it will be unlikely that they can be captured quickly. Rather the new building will probably provide a better-quality experience for patients, but because they do not pay for the service that they receive, the better service does not result in increased revenue.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Resurgence of Interest in Politics (2) Public Service

A second way for Christians to have an influence in the government sphere is to get employment in the Public Service. The staff of government departs have a big impact on policy development. Based on my thirty year’s experience working in a government department, I have the following observations.

  • To gain influence in a policy agency, a Christian will need to be smart, because some very clever people work in government departments. They have often been studying issues for many years, and have a good understanding of the various approaches to a problem. To get their ideas heard, a Christian will need to be able to match the other clever people. In my experience, many Christians get side-lined in government agencies, because their contribution is mediocre.

  • To have influence in a policy agency, a Christian will need a good degree in economics, social policy, or other relevant discipline. Even if they have the wisdom of God, they will need to be able to communicate in the categories and concepts that are used in the policy development process.

  • To get sufficient promotions to have influence, a Christian will need to really work hard for the benefit of their organisation. I have noticed that many Christians are too busy on their other commitments, often very good ones, to get promoted to a position of influence. It often appears that they are using their role to gain sufficient income to support the other activities that they are committed to. That is fine, if that is their objective, but it places a limit on the influence that they will have on the government.

  • Innovative ideas do not always translate into influence. The leaders of Public Service are often opposed to change. They are often more concerned about their career, and what they need to do to get ahead, than they are about good policy. They will sometimes reject an idea that they have not come up with and oppose it because someone they see as a threat has supported it first. To get their ideas heard, Christians will need to understand how the system works and use it for their benefit. They cannot just assume that good ideas will rise to the top.

  • Christians will often be up against shrewd operators who have learned how to work the system to get ahead. Being diligent and honest may not be sufficient to get a person ahead of them. However, if they stoop to political games to get ahead in the organisation, Christians will undermine their credibility and integrity. This is a catch 22 situation, which has no easy solutions.

  • Bringing change from within the political system is far more difficult than most Christians realise, and getting harder. To gain influence in the public service, a Christian will have to submit to those with authority in the department that they choose to work in. If those people are not followers of Jesus, the Christian will be placing themselves under the influence of the government-spirits that control their managers. The Christian will have to use their wisdom to support their leader’s vision, even if they do not support it. This can be frustrating.

  • When a Christian begins working in a government department, they have to sign up to the public service code of conduct. They have to agree to carry out the functions of the organisation without being affected by their personal beliefs and they agree to respect the authority of the government of the day. They are expected to ensure that their actions are not affected by their personal interests or relationships and they must avoid any activities, work or non-work, that may harm the reputation of their organisation or of the State Services.

  • A Christian employed by the government will not always be free to speak what they think. Some things can only be spoken from the outside.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Resurgence of Interest in Politics (1)

Every generation, it seems that some Christians get stirred up about the political sphere and put their energy into bringing political change to the nation. A burst of activity occurred in the 1990s when MMP was introduced in New Zealand, but unfortunately, two parties split the Christian vote and both failed to get over the 5 percent threshold needed to get into Parliament, so their efforts failed to have an impact and gradually fizzled out.

Another surge of political interest is happening now, but there are some dangers in this activity that Christians need to be aware of.

  • Achieving influence in the political sphere takes time, energy, and persistence. Many Christians look for quick results, but building up political support takes consistent effort over time.

    Jeanette Fitzsimons, who became the leader of the Greens Party in New Zealand is an interesting example. In her late twenties, she was overseas, working in Geneva when she heard about the establishment of a Values Party, so she returned home in 1974 and joined the party. She unsuccessfully contested every election for the next twenty years, but was finally elected to Parliament representing the Green Party in 1996. She served as an MP representing a minority party for the next 15 years. I am not sure if she was happy with what she achieved, but it took a lifetime of effort.

    Unfortunately, very few Christians are willing to put a lifetime of effort to achieve limited political success, especially if the going is tough. Most try for a while and then give up, so not surprisingly, the Christian influence in the political sphere is declining.

  • Many Christians take Daniel and Joseph as their example, but they have an unrealistic understanding of what these men achieved. Their influence was limited because they had to submit to the will of the emperor of the empire that they served. Joseph implemented policies that took the Egyptian people from independent landowners to being serfs controlled by the emperor. No Christian would want to do that.

    Many Christians want to be Josephs and Daniels gaining access to political leaders to gain influence over them. They believe that by getting the ear of politicians, they will be able to influence political power in the direction that God wants it to go. The problem with this desire to influence political power is the nature of the relationship (see Joseph/Daniel Calling).

  • Christians wanting to engage in politics often appeal to the example of William Wilberforce, a UK Christian who led the fight against the slave trade. Under his leadership, the slave trade was eventually abolished in England.

    The is an irony is that Christians have to go back to Victorian England to find an example to justify their political activity. The reason is that Christian political efforts have had very limited results for their efforts over the years. It is hard to think of any political innovations in New Zealand history that were led by Christians in politics. Most of the big transformations were driven by secular leaders.

    Wilberforce is not an appropriate example, because he operated at a time when the tide was flowing with him. Enlightenment education produced a high view of humans, so the thought of enslaving humans became an anathema. Wilberforce was able to gather the support of secular leaders because they were travelling in the same direction.

    In our time, Christian political leaders will be working against the flow of ideas that prevail in this season. They will not be able to get the support of secular leaders for their causes. This means that they will be unlikely to achieve the success that Wilberforce attained.

    While they are a minority, Christian politics will have to put their efforts into opposing changes they do not like. That is fine, if that is what they want to do, but they should go into politics understanding the tough battle they will face.

  • Politics is an incredibly tough game. It will be a fiery furnace for most Christians, as the news media will be extremely hostile to them. Back in 2002, half a dozen Christians entered parliament with the United Future Party. Most were mature Christian leaders (two had been senior leaders in YWAM), but they were monstered by the news media, and they mostly faded quietly away.

    Politics is not for the faint-hearted. Christians who choose to get involved in politics should understand the ruthless game they are playing and be prepared with strong emotional support and spiritual protection.

  • Christian who get involved in politics are usually obsessed with the big four social issues, and particularly abortion. The problem is that this limits their ability to have an influence on other issues, because they are perceived as negative people, without a vision for how society could be transformed for the benefit of everyone. The big four social issues are not high on the radar of political leaders. These issues divide people, so politicians prefer to avoid them. Parliament tends to deal with them once every generation, but in between, no one will touch them. In New Zealand, we have just been through a cycle of dealing with these issues, so it is unlikely that politicians will touch them for at least the next twenty years.

    People who go into parliament to being change on these issues will find that the horse has bolted and that their concerns are not relevant to most political leaders. They are focussed on issues that they see as being more important, such as economic development, poverty, health care and the environment. People who are only interested in the big four social issues will not be of much help to them.

Saturday, August 15, 2020


My post on fasting created quite a bit of discussion, so I have updated it with some further thoughts. My big issue is understanding how fasting works and what is its purpose. It is most frequently used by Christians in intercession, but when used for this purpose, it can easily become a tool for manipulating God into doing things. God has to do what I demand because I have fasted. That easily slips into witchcraft.

When I engage in intercession, I try to find God’s will first, then I can pray with authority, without needing to persuade him to change his mind. If I am just releasing his power by giving authority to do what he wants to do anyway, then fasting does not seem to have a role (apart from hearing his voice).

Mark 9:29 is often quoted as justification for fasting when dealing with evil spirits.

This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.
The problem with this verse is that the word “and fasting” is missing from some early manuscripts. Likewise, Matt 17:21, which has the same message, is missing from early manuscripts. So, I can’t help wondering if some copyists who were fasting fans added these words in later. I think it is dangerous to build a doctrine on a couple of verses whose authenticity is uncertain with a message that is not repeated elsewhere.

Anyway, these words are hard to understand, because Jesus stresses elsewhere that the key to dealing with evil spirits is authority. I can see how prayer would increase my sense of authority, but not fasting. Evil spirits do not care whether I am fasting or not. Why would they? They are removed by authority in Jesus. I do not understand why an evil spirit would be impressed by my fasting. The only benefit when praying against a demon would be if fasting made me spiritually sharper.

Faith is a gift of the Spirit. Faith comes from hearing the word of God. I do not believe that the scriptures teach that fasting produces faith. Fasting is likely to increase my confidence, but not my faith.

I don’t think the spiritual powers of evil are impressed by my fasting. It does not change their behaviour in any way, so I do not see a role for fasting to make them submit to God’s will.

Most teaching about fasting comes from the Old Testament. During that season, there was a much greater emphasis on external matters, such as circumcision, sabbath, food laws and fasting. The message of the New Testament is that these are irrelevant for those who have been rescued by faith in Jesus. Everything changes with the Holy Spirit coming in fullness. He is the one who convicts us of sin and builds our faith, not fasting.

Even in the Old Testament, the prophets say that God prefers mercy, justice and obedience to fasting (Is 58). God prefers obedience to fasting. The same is true now. Churches often call for fasts during a time of crisis, but this seems to make it seem like God is the problem, and we need him to change. Fasting can be an excuse for not making the real changes that God is calling the church to make. God wants the church to change the way it operates. That is the best way to deal with the crisis it is facing. Fasting will achieve nothing if we are unwilling to do what God is calling us to do.

Most of Jesus teaching comments about fasting accused the Jewish people of hypocritical fasting. One example is Matthew 6:16, but “when/if you fast” is a conditional, not an imperative. I agree with Jesus point that fasting can easily become a showy thing. When fasting is done as a spiritual exercise, it can easily slip into a religious activity which produces pride. This is dangerous for young Christians. We are to live by faith, not by works. Fasting easily becomes works if it is not initiated by the Holy Spirit.

Many people quote Jesus saying that people would fast once the bridegroom had gone away (Mark 2:19-20). They assume that means Jesus ascending into heaven, but that does not sound right to me, because he sent us the Holy Spirit. I suspect that Jesus was telling his disciples to fast during the period between his ascension and the pouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. During that time, they were really separated from their bridegroom, because Jesus had gone, but the Holy Spirit has not yet come.

Jesus was taken away from the Jewish people who did not trust him, so they are the ones who should have been fasting. I don’t feel like the bridegroom has been taken away from me. He is present with me every day through the power of the Holy Spirit, so I do not feel that I need to fast to serve him. Maybe, if I had lost the presence of the Holy Spirit, I would fast until he returned.

I was surprised at how little mention there is of fasting in the book of Acts. Cornelius fasted, but he was an unbeliever seeking the truth when he did.

The two main references in Acts describe leaders of the church fasting when they were deciding about who to appoint as apostles (Acts 13:1-3) and who to appoint as elders (Acts 14:23). This suggests that fasting was not an individual spiritual exercise, but a joint leadership action, expressing commitment to each other at times when they needed to seek direction for their church. This quite different from what is usually taught. Fasting is usually taught as a personal spiritual exercise, or the pastor calls on the entire church to pray for some cause that he believes is important. The two examples in Acts are different, because the fasting was done by the elders. They were supporting each other and seeking guidance for the direction of the body of Jesus. The focus was on praying for leaders.

Paul only mentions fasting a few times in his letters. Apart from going hungry during storms and other trials when he could not eat, he only mentions fasting in connection with abstaining from sex (probably a message relevant for our time). Paul writes far more about being filled with the Spirit, so that should be our greatest priority.

Controlling what I eat could be useful for putting my flesh to death. Paul explains that we put to death the sins of the flesh by doing the opposite. A person who was a liar should practice speaking the truth. A person who was a thief should put the habit to death by working and giving generously. The pattern is to replace something bad/negative by doing something positive/active. Fasting does not really fit with this teaching, as it is avoiding doing something.

I think that the most important thing that I take from the comments made on my post so far is that fasting should only be done in response to leading of the Holy Spirit. It should be not done to achieve results, or because a leader says I should, or because I think it is what I should do. If we are not wise, it can easily slip into being another religious activity that God hates.

Friday, August 14, 2020

New Covenant Prophecy (3) Describing Consequences

Instead of announcing judgments, Christians prophets should be explaining what is happening in the spiritual realms and warning of the consequences amongst the nations of the earth. They should not take delight in this task, but should be sad about the avoidable pain and suffering that will eventuate if hearts don’t change.

Prophets who are called to speak to their city or nations should be discerning the seasons and warning about the decisions that people and their leaders are making.

  • They should explain what is happening in the nation.

  • They should describe the choices that the people have.

  • They should be describing what will occur if the city or nation continues on its current path.

  • They should be describing the change of season if that is occurring.

  • They should be describing what the spiritual powers of evil are planning to do.

  • They should be telling the leaders what they need to do to bring a change of direction.

  • They should be speaking to the people of God and telling them what they can do to help their city or nation turn back to the right path.

  • They should be teaching the people of God how they can survive as a remnant if their city or nation continues down the wrong path.

At times, their message will not be positive and encouraging. Sometimes it will be scary, but they should always be providing hope by explaining what God wants his people to do to restore the situation.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

New Covenant Prophecy (2) Three-Agent Universe

The new covenant changes the nature of prophecy, but it is not a change from “judgment prophecy” to “reconciliation prophecy”. God always wanted reconciliation. The transition comes from a change in perspective on events in the world.

The main role of prophets under both the old covenant and the new covenant is to explain what is happening in the spiritual realms and how it is affecting events on earth. Prophecy under the old covenant was different because the Old Testament, prophets did not fully understand the working of the spiritual realms. They saw God and humans as the main actors on earth. They lived in a two-agent universe. Job got a glimpse into the work of Satan, and Daniel, towards the end of OT age got a glimpse of the Prince of Persia, but Old Testament prophets did not fully comprehend the role of the spiritual powers of evil in events on earth.

Accordingly, when warning of bad things coming, prophets said that God was sending judgement against rebellious people. They portrayed God as the agent of the things that were going to happen. This is how they saw the world, but their vision was incomplete.

Most of the judgments announced by the OT prophets were not initiated by God, but were the work of the spiritual powers of evil attacking people who had lost their spiritual protection. The warnings of the Old Testament prophets were not God’s intention. They describe what would occur when cities and nations reject God and lose his protection.

God did not initiate these consequences directly, but he created a world in which it would be possible for the spiritual powers of evil to gain a foothold. He does not shirk from that responsibility. That is why the scriptures often describe these events as God’s judgment.

Since the coming of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have a fuller understanding of the relationship between the spiritual and physical realms. We understand that we live in a three-agent universe. The three actors on earth are God, humans and the spiritual powers of evil.

When modern prophets warn about bad stuff that is coming, they should not usually be declaring God’s judgment. Instead, they should describe what the spiritual powers of evil are planning to do because the people have lost God’s protection.

When the people of the world turn away from God, they give greater authority to the spiritual powers of evil, often without being unaware of it. The inevitable outcome for a society that forgets God is more frequent evil events as the powers of evil exercise their increased freedom to act.

Prophets to the nations should still be warning the nations about what will happen if they continue on their current path. They should not be saying that God will destroy them. They should be saying that they have opened themselves to the spiritual powers of evil and the consequences will not be good. Rather than announcing judgments, the events that they are warning about can be more accurately described as “consequences of forgetfulness” or "a negative feedback loop".

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

New Covenant Prophecy (1) Transition

Some teachers in the prophetic stream of the church are advocating a transition from old covenant (judgment-based) to new covenant (reconciliation-based) prophecy (See my previous series called New Covenant Prophecy).

They claim that old covenant prophets focussed on exposing sin and announcing judgment, which is not appropriate in the new covenant age. Instead, prophets should focus on reconciliation and restoration. The goal is not to point out what is wrong with the earth, but to fix what is wrong on the earth through the answer of the Lord Jesus Christ and the treasures of wisdom that are hidden for such a time as this.

These teachers say that new covenant prophecy should impart encouragement strengthening, encouragement, and consolation (1 Cor 14:3). We have a message of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:17-19) so our ministry must be a ministry of reconciliation that releases grace that transforms the earth. They say that prophets are no longer called to announce the judgments of God.

I have some sympathy with this view, because there are some terribly judgmental people active in the prophetic movement. They seem to delight in declaring God’s wrath and announcing terrible judgments on the world. The nastier the events being announced, the happier they seem to be. Unfortunately, their anger and harshness is hard to reconcile with the message and character of Jesus.

This type of prophecy needs to die, but it is incorrect to call this Old Covenant prophecy. Prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel did not enjoy bringing some of the messages that God asked them to deliver. They wept as they told the people what was going to happen, and they always gave hope for the future. Their heart was more like Jesus than many “modern wrath prophets”.

Wrath prophecy is incorrect, but it is not because only positive words are allowed under the new covenant. The reason why these harsh and wrathful prophecies are inappropriate is that they give a confusing view of what is happening in the world.


Kris Vallotton gives 15 signs of true humility:

  • You are teachable.
  • You are influenceable.
  • You can be corrected without defending yourself.
  • You rejoice when others are celebrated.
  • No job is too small for you.
  • You don't have to be right.
  • You naturally seek the advice of others.
  • You actually do pray.
  • You freely admit your flaws, mistakes, and failures.
  • You live to help others succeed.
  • You aren’t entitled.
  • You are patient.
  • You don’t promote yourself.
  • You let other people have a better story than yours.
  • You honor other people when they are talking.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020


When I was young, I liked these words from A Life For A Life by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik.

But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
I liked being around people who loved me and accepted me as I was, because I did not need to prove myself to them. Being quite a blunt person, I liked the idea of being able to say whatever I thought while relying on the people listening to assess my words, and ignore what was worthless. Understanding that people would sift my words and discard the chaff, but keep the good grain, gave me freedom to speak what was on my heart.

These days, I am a bit more ambivalent about that quote. It took me a long time to understand it, but I realise now that although I found the quote freeing, I was also using it as justification for a cop-out. I used to think that I could say what I liked, provided it was almost true, and if my words hurt someone, it was their problem. Unfortunately, it is not true. Our words are not just a mixture of grain and chaff.

In New Zealand, we have a nasty weed called Barley Grass. The seed head of this grass has long thin spikes called awns that resemble grains of barley. When the ripe awn breaks off a plant, it exposes a sharp barb, which clings easily to the coat of an animal, allowing the seed to spread. The barley grass awn migrates through the coat as the animal moves with hundreds of small spicules on the barb ensuring that the awn will only go one way. The barbs make the awn hard to remove.

If a barley grass awn gets into a sheep’s eye, it can go blind. When I was farming, my dog had a rough coat. A Barley Grass awn got into his paw and slowly moved up into his foot causing a nasty infection at the joint. This little seed prevented him from running.

I gradually discovered that my words are not just a mix of grain and chaff. They also contain seeds that have nasty barbs that cling to those who hear them and slowly pierce their soul. Because I am fairly thick-skinned, I did not realise how much harm words could do. During a debate on any issue, I was skilled at giving as good as I got to people who spoke against me, so no one could get at me.

I was brought up to believe that sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you. I gradually learned that words can be very hurtful and harmful. Hard words often strike half-healed scars, amplifying their pain, and setting back the healing process.

Contrary to the quote above, accountability for the harm done by words rests with the speaker, not the hearer. Just because something is true, it does not have to be spoken. Some truths are better left unspoken. And the truth needs to be spoken gently.

Paul urges people to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). If the truth is not spoken in love it ceases to be the truth.

I now realise that once words are spoken, they cannot be taken back. If my words hurt someone, renouncing the word does not heal the wound. This was an important, but difficult lesson, for someone who loves the truth.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Death and Dying (3) Euthanasia

Christians assume that euthanasia is wrong because it is playing God. They believe that people who have a debilitating and devastating illness or incapacitating injuries should wait and die only when God turns off the switch. However, this is a bit confused, because most people do not die when God turns off the switch. They die when they are overwhelmed by an incurable sickness (which has often been inflicted by the spiritual powers of evil).

If a person is being defeated in a serious battle with the spiritual powers of evil, then ending their life might be sensible. Like Saul, this action could prevent the enemy from tormenting them further. Certainly, it would be better to win the battle, by getting the person with terminal illness healed, but if that is not realistic, then ender their suffering might be the only option.

In some ways, when a doctor assists someone with a terminal illness to end their life, they are doing what Saul wanted his amour-bearer to do. The bible says that Saul’s armour-bearer refused to kill him when he was mortally wounded in battle, even though this was part of his role (1 Sam 31:1-6). It explains that the armour-bearer refused because he was terrified. There is no suggestion that this man was correct in his action. Rather he is portrayed as inadequate because he failed to his duty. He confirmed that ending Saul’s life was the right action, by falling on his own sword.

In the modern world, medicine dominates life and death, so there very little scope for God to get involved in turning off the switch, as medical activity determines when people die. Most people have more faith in doctors than they have in God, so there is very little scope for him to get involved in their lives, or their death.

Modern medicine has a huge influence over when and how people die.

  • Deciding that some elderly people are “not for resuscitation.”

  • Giving terminally ill people sufficient morphine to relieve their pain, knowing that it will cause their body to shut down.

  • Undertaking surgery on victims of serious accidents to keep them alive for a life of severe disability or chronic pain.

  • Keeping alive people who would rather be dead.

  • Extending the lives of people with incurable illness by using antibiotics to treat pneumonia and other infections that would otherwise kill them, meaning that they have to die of more serious conditions, which make dying more unpleasant.

There is not much room for God to work in these normal medical activities, and most modern people do not give him permission to get involved in the process.

Modern medicine often extends a person’s life beyond the time when it would normally end, and also shortens lives to prevent unnecessary suffering. This seems to be what people want. So any discussion about euthanasia should really be about the boundaries and benefits rather than whether they should happen at all. The character and integrity of the people clinicians making life and death decisions will be more important than laws and regulations.

I am not interested in euthanasia for myself. I am trusting that God will keep me well until I am finished all that he has me on earth to do. I trust that when my work is incomplete, he will turn off my switch, so that I can go to be with him.

However, I can understand how people who do not know Jesus are unwilling to wait for God to turn off the switch when they become incapacitated. I don’t expect these people who do not know God to live by his standards, and I do not think it is my job to impose his standards on them using political power.

When people who were suffering came to Jesus, he healed them. I don't believe that Christians have the right to tell a man who is suffering from severe illness or physical disability that he must keep on suffering while waiting for a God whom he doesn't believe in to end his life, if they do not have the power to heal him. A belief that God can end lives, but cannot heal sickness and suffering is odd.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Death and Dying (2) Suicide

Christians have always been hostile to euthanasia and suicide, but I not certain that these issues are as clear as we assume. There is no specific command against suicide in the scriptures.

  • Saul – he fell on his sword after being defeated in war (1 Sam 31:1-6). That was normal practice in OT times, because a king who was captured would be tortured without mercy (Judges 1:5-7). When Zedekiah was captured by the Babylonians, they killed sons before his eyes and then put out his eyes, so it was the last thing that he saw (2 Kings 25:7).

  • The scriptures condemn Saul for rejecting the words of a prophet and for trying to contact the dead, but there is no condemnation of him for taking his own life.

  • Saul’s armour-bearer refused to kill Saul when he was critically wounded in battle, but that was part of his role (1 Sam 28:3-5).

  • Abimelech – This rebellious leader was mortally wounded when he was struck by a millstone that had been thrown by a woman. He ordered his armour-bearer to dispatch him to avoid the suggestion he had been slain by the woman who had thrown the stone (Judge 9:52-54). Abimelech is a warning of the dangers of violent revolution, but the scriptures mock his suicide rather than condemn it.

  • Samson took his own life when he destroyed the Philistines by pulling down the pillars that held up the building where they were celebrating (Judges 16:28). He is recorded as a hero in Hebrews 11. There were many aspects of his life that were wrong, but his suicide is portrayed a victory over the enemies of Israel.

  • King Zimri burned down his house around himself after military defeat (1 Kgs 16:18). His life is an illustration of the adage that those who live by the sword will often die by the sword.

  • The prophet Ahithophel hanged himself after betraying David (2 Sam 17:23). He had picked the wrong side in the struggle between David and Absalom. He had advised Absalom what to do, and when his advice failed, he was overcome by shame.

  • Judas killed himself after he realised that he had betrayed his Saviour and was overcome by shame (Matt 27:3-5). He is condemned for his thieving (John 12:6) and for his betrayal of Jesus, but his suicide is not condemned. Rather it was a natural response for a man who realised he helped kill the son of God. His shame would have been overwhelming.

There is nothing in any of these stories to suggest that these men who committed suicide were evil.

I believe that suicide makes God sad, because it cuts off a life before it was complete. However, I do not believe he angry with the victims. I think he is sad that he could not rescue the person from the shame and despair that caused them to take such a terrible action.

I don't judge them.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Death and Dying (1)

Christians tend to assume that people die when God decides that their life is done. They assume that we die when he turns off the switch, but I think that it is more complicated than that.

  • It seemed to be true for my mother-in-law who did not wake one Sunday morning when she was in her eighties. She looked so peaceful that, it seemed like God had just turned off the switch.

  • I knew a lady who was confined to bed for a couple of years in her nineties with dementia and a body that had stopped functioning. Although, she was a faithful, Christian, it seemed like God had forgotten to turn off the switch.

  • My aged mother died within half an hour of her youngest sone arriving from another city. She had been unconscious for a couple of days, but it seemed like she waited for him to arrive before giving up her hold on life.

  • My Dad died in the middle of the night, on the first night in several that no one sat with him through the night. I think that because he had been a farmer, he felt that dying was something you should do in private on your own.

Dying is more complicated than God turning off a switch. Several factors come into play in the death of a human.
  • For some people, death is like God turning off a switch when their life is done.

  • Some people die after a serious attack or accident that causes them fatal injuries.

  • Others people are killed during a war.

  • The vast majority of people die when they are overcome with an incurable illness.

The timing of a human’s death is an interaction between three influences.
  • God has promised us seventy to eight years (Ps 90:10). He promises that when his Kingdom comes to fulness, the lives of his people will not be cut short (Is 65:20).

  • The spiritual powers of evil love to kill and destroy (John 10:10). I presume that they are the cause of the deaths of many people who are struck by incurable disease or fatal accident or attack.

  • People seem to have some control over when they die. Some who fight against dying seem to have long painful deaths. Others who surrender to the inevitable, go quickly and quietly.

So the common understanding that people die when God turns off the switch is only part of the story. Death is often the consequence of a serious spiritual struggle against the spiritual powers of evil. This means that many people die too soon. They are defeated before getting to the point where God can turn off the switch. They do not get the chance to complete God’s purposes for them on earth.

Christians tend to say that a person who died young was taken by God because he wanted them with him. This is our is a way of putting a positive spin on our disappointment when the spiritual powers of evil win a battle.

Christians need a much clearer understanding of spiritual protection. It is not something that we can do alone. Spiritual protection comes through submission to people that we love and trust.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Women and Ministry

I wrote my first book called the Bride of Christ: a Vision for the Church back in 1983. It was the result of my study of the functioning of the church in the New Testament. The book was well received, but not always acted on. (I have since rewritten and republished it as Being Church Where We Live.

Chapter 8 of Bride of Christ dealt with the Role of Women in the Church. I explained that the New Testament teaches that women can undertake all the roles listed in Eph 4:11-13. I wrote that women can be apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers. There is no New Testament role that they are excluded from.

I must have been ahead of my time, because I note that books about women and ministry are now coming out all over the place. Sadly, they are needed more than ever.

In New Zealand, Lyn Packer has just released a good one called Daughters of Eve.

David Ellis is working on a book about women in the church.

In the UK, Lucy Peppiatt has published a good one called Rediscovering Scripture's Vision for Women.

There are plenty more good ones written by women. I hope the church will heed this call and restore women to the rightful role (as I suggested back in 1983).

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Kingdom Authority

For the next two days, the Kindle version of my book called Kingdom Authority is available for free on

If you want to understand God’s big strategy to bring his kingdom to reality on earth, you should read this book.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

God is With Us

I find some strange things on prophetic bulletin boards. Here is a quote from a word given by Ben and Brenda Peters.

Make no mistake, America deserves severe discipline for her sins... But I totally believe, like Israel, America has a special covenant with God that is protecting her from those who wish to curse her and destroy her. God raised up America for a purpose which she has yet to completely fulfill.

Finally, I again acknowledge that America's sins deserve God's judgment... I believe that God's mercy will triumph over His judgment, and He will give us grace to get through our trials.

I find this statement odd. America deserves severe discipline and judgment for its sins, but God will give the nation grace, because it has a privileged status. I presume that if it was China, or Russia that deserved judgment, they would get what they deserve.

Jesus said something different. He said that God has a higher standard for his nation, than he does for other nations. When he was rejected by the people who heard him announcing the Kingdom of God, he gave a stern warning.

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” (Matt 13:20-24).
More is expected from those who have been given more. God’s people do not get special treatment. Rather, God expects more of them, so their disobedience has a serious consequence; worse than for other nations, who have not been blessed in the same way.

The truth is that God has a purpose for every nation on earth. When a nation stops obeying God and fulfilling his purposes, it loses its spiritual protection. So being called to a purpose does not protect a nation from the consequence of its behaviour.

Micah spoke clearly about this situation.
Her leaders issue rulings for a bribe,
her priests teach for payment,
and her prophets practice divination for silver.
Yet they lean on the LORD, saying,
“Isn’t the Lord among us?
No disaster will overtake us” (Mic 3:11).