Sunday, December 24, 2023

Jesus Wasn’t Born in a Stable

I found this article called Jesus Wasn't Born in a Stable by Ian Paul interesting, and seems his ideals seem to be very plausible. He says,

It would be unthinkable that Joseph, returning to his place of ancestral origins, would not have been received by family members, even if they were not close relatives.
Many, like Joseph and Mary, have travelled to Bethlehem, and the family guest room is already full, probably with other relatives who arrived earlier. So Joseph and Mary must stay with the family itself, in the main room of the house, and there Mary gives birth. The most natural place to lay the baby is in the hay-filled depressions at the lower end of the house where the animals are fed. The idea that they were in a stable, away from others, alone and outcast, is grammatically and culturally implausible.
Read the entire article to get the gist of what he is saying.

We cannot be certain about where Jesus was born, as there is no definitive documentary or archaeological evidence dating from that time. One thing is clear. The gospels do not mention a “stable”. Luke refers to a “manger” (phatne) which is a feeding trough for animals.

I presume that rich people would have had a separate room to keep their animals, but poorer people would not. Until recent times, it has always been common for people to keep their animals in the room where they lived for the warmth that they provided, and more important to ensure that they did not get stolen. Most would have only a few sheep, or a cow, or donkey, so they would fit in their home.

Luke 13:15 is interesting as Jesus said that it was normal for people to untie an ox or donkey on the Sabbath and take it out to water. He used the same word as in Luke 2:7. The common practice is to translate “phatne” as “stall” in Luke 13:15, but that is incorrect. Jesus was referring to a manger, which is a feeding trough.

Jesus said the animal was tied up. If an animal was in a separate room, it would not need to be tied up, but if it was in the family living room it would need to be tied up, so it did not tread on people who are sleeping on the floor. If it was in a separate room, it would be possible to provide a large water trough that did not need to be filled each day, so it could be left in the room on a cold Sabbath day. However, if the animal was tied up in the family living area, it would need to be taken out each day to get water, and to defecate. Thus, Jesus’ parable suggests that it was common for people to keep animals in their houses.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Not Rome

Christians often blandly use Romans 13:1 as a slogan for political power, assuming it settles the issue, without considering what Paul actually said in his letter.

A well-known theologian recently gave a slightly more sophisticated version of their argument,

Biblical political theology is predicated on the fact that the one God who made the world wants the world to be wisely ordered, and to be wisely ordered through human government. So even people who would be seen as a bad ruler would have a God-given job which must be honoured. Even a cruel, wicked, stupid government has a role that is God-given.
This type of political theology, which is very common, is used to interpret Romans 13 and claim that Paul was authenticating the authority of the Roman emperor. The evil man Nero was probably emperor at the time when Paul was writing, so if he was God's servant, we must submit to every political power. The implication is that God gave the Roman emperor authority so that he could bring order to the earth. Therefore, all Christians should submit to him, even if he often does evil things. The same principle is applied to all rulers. We are required to submit to rulers, even when they do evil, because they are carrying out a God-given rule.

This logic is flawed. Firstly, God never said that he was appointing rulers to ensure that his creation was wisely ordered. He gave responsibility for caring for the world to all humans. And he gave the law for the specific purpose of maintaining order on the earth (1 Tim 1:8-11). The idea that God appointed kings, presidents and other rulers to ensure that the world is wisely ordered is simply not true. In fact, they have been the main cause of disorder (1 Sam 8). Therefore, the claim that they have a God-given role that should be honoured is incorrect.

More important, even a cursory reading of the words that Paul wrote in Romans 13 shows that they are not a description of the Roman Empire. Rome did not do what Paul claimed that good judges would do.

The idea that Rome was interested in order and peace is a myth. The Caesars wanted control. They expanded the area under their area, so they could extract food and other resources and bring them back to Rome.

Roman soldiers were not scattered around the world to protect the people of the nations from trouble. They were there to keep people under control, and they were ruthless in putting down all opposition. Roman soldiers were cruel and heartless in dealing with ordinary people. They would defend countries against invading armies, not for their protection, but to ensure that another empire did not get control of their resources.

Paul was able to travel fairly freely around the Roman empire, but that was not the result of Roman efforts to spread peace. It was an accidental consequence of their attempts to expand the areas they controlled.

If Paul was claiming in Romans 13 that political power could bring peace and order in the world, he was certainly not talking about the Roman emperor.

Paul was not describing the Roman justice system when he wrote in Romans 13:3-5.

Worldly rulers (archon) cause no fear for the good way, but only for those choosing the bad option. So, if you don't want to be afraid of his authority, be doing good and you will be commended. For you who are into the good, it can be God's servant. But if you do bad, be afraid. A ruler does not carry the sword for no purpose; it is a servant of God making right in anger to the one committing evil. Out of necessity, order yourselves under it; not just to avoid its anger, but due to common awareness.
The Romans were not interested in providing justice for the ordinary people. Roman law provided some protections for the noble families who controlled Rome, but even that was quite capricious. A nobleman could be up one day, and down the next. Most ordinary people got no justice at all. Roman justice was used to enslave people and extract wealth for the benefit of the Empire. Beatings for trivial things were frequent and crucifixions were common for people who had done very little wrong. Even a Roman soldier would be lucky to get justice, if their commanding officer took a snitch against them.

Paul was not thinking about Rome when he said that people who do right have nothing to fear. Good people had very good reasons to fear the Roman authorities. Paul was able to appeal to Caesar because he was a Roman citizen. That put him into an elite group. Ordinary people could not make that appeal. And the appeal did not seem to work for Paul, because he died in Rome, despite a representative of Rome recognising that he was innocent. King Agrippa said,

They began talking to one another, saying, "This man is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment." And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar" (Acts 26:31-32).
This was not justice. True justice would have set Paul free once it was understood that he had not committed a crime. But Agrippa and Festus wanted to protect their own reputation, so they were scared to do the just thing and set him free.

Paul's statement about good people having nothing to fear does not fit with Jesus' treatment by Pilate. He agreed that Jesus was innocent, but he had him flogged and crucified anyway, because he was scared the Jewish power brokers would report him to Rome. Jesus was killed by Roman justice, like many others of his countrymen, so it could not be said that good people had nothing to fear from Roman justice. Paul knew what happened to Jesus and many other disciples, so he was clearly not writing about Roman justice in his letter to the Romans.

When Paul spoke about giving money to those we owe, he was not writing about Rome.

Pay back debts to everyone. If you owe a tax, pay the tax; if an excise duty is owed, then pay it. Respect those worthy of respect. Only honour those worthy of honour (Rom 13:7).
Paul was not saying that people should pay taxes to Rome in return for the services that Rome provided them. He did not see Rome as a service provider. Rome was not committed to providing services for ordinary people. Any benefits that fell to ordinary people were a mistake.

The Roman tax system was not set up to raise money to support ordinary people in the way that modern people think about taxes. It was an extraction system designed to seize as much wealth as possible from subservient peoples. Rome-appointed tax farmers would take as much as they could get, leaving their victims with almost nothing to live on. Roman soldiers would wreck the house of anyone thought to be hiding grain or gold. Romans 13:6-7 is not a description of the Roman tax system.

When Paul wrote Romans 13, he was clearly not thinking about the Roman Empire. He must have been thinking about something quite different, so this passage cannot be used to demand submission to all political power.

This is explained further in Understanding Romans 13.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Romans 13

I have just completed some corrections and added some new insights to my study of Romans 13

The full article can be read at Understanding Romans 13 on Substack

The same article is available on Kingdom Watcher at Understanding Romans 13.

For more on related passages that deal with submission, see Submission to Political Power.

I describe God’s alternative to human political power in my book called Government of God.

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Flesh and Spirit

We live in a world that is both physical and spiritual. We tend to be most aware of the physical world because we can see and touch it with our five senses. We think with our brains, so our intellectual life is an aspect of the physical world. However, the spiritual world is equally important.

When God created Adam, he formed him physically, and then breathed on him (spiritised him) so he would be a “living being” (Gen 2:7). As a “living being”, he moved in both the physical and spiritual world. If we think of our ability to live in the physical world as being “in the flesh”, then he was living in the flesh and the spirit.

When Adam and Eve rejected God, they lost their ability to function in the spiritual world. They began to live “in their flesh” only, most aware of the physical world around them. Entities from the spiritual world could influence them, but they were often not aware of it. They were not fully aware of God’s presence around them and within them, sustaining their lives. They were stuck in the physical world. This is what Paul meant by being “in the flesh”.

Flesh refers to our physical bodies, including our brains, which are made of flesh and blood. This is why our intellectual life is “in the flesh”. Adam and Eve were living in a world that is both physical and spiritual, but as people “in the flesh,” they were not fully aware and responsive to the spiritual world, both good and bad.

We inherit our life from our parents, who were “in the flesh”, and going back far enough, they inherited “flesh” but not “Spirit” from Adam and Eve. We are born “in the flesh”, with the ability to function in the physical world, but with minimal ability to function in the spiritual world. That is why we are all dominated by Sin and Death (Rom 6,7) and the other spiritual powers of evil that attack us.

Our problem in life comes from the way that we are born. We inherit from Adam and Eve the status of being “in the flesh” and not attentive to the spiritual world. That is why we need to be born again of the Spirit. Just as God breathed on Adam and he became a living being, when we trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit moves on us to make us true “living beings” who can function in both the physical and spiritual worlds.

When we are born again of the Spirit, we change from being in the flesh only (operating in the spiritual world only) to being “in the flesh and the Spirit”. This ability to function in both the physical and spiritual world enables us to live to our full potential as true living beings. Jesus defeated the spiritual powers of evil on the cross, which equips those who walk in both “the flesh and the Spirit” to escape from their grip.

More at The Flesh.

Thursday, November 02, 2023


The Book of Revelation is not about signs of the second coming of Jesus; rather it describes the season when the fulness of the Jews come to faith in Jesus, the spiritual powers of evil are fully defeated, and the Kingdom of God emerges into victory. Prior to their defeat, the cosmos dominators fight with each other, while struggling to maintain their power in the world. They become so angry with each other that they will eventually destroy each other, allowing Jesus to achieve victory.

A key to understanding the book of Revelation is realising that many of the characters and events described by John do not represent nations and their activities, but are actually descriptions of various spiritual cosmos dominators jostling for control on earth.

The Seven Seals described in Revelation 5:1-8:1 outline Jesus’ plan for an important transitional season. Jesus controls the timing of their opening. During this season, human political powers increase their authority on earth, but human governments make terrible mistakes, which brings horrible disasters. They demand even greater power to put the situation right, but this makes the situation worse.

The other sequences in the book of Revelation describe the plans of the key cosmos dominators for the same season Many of their plans fail because they lack the wisdom of God.

  • The plans of a cosmos dominator called Death are described in the sequence of Seven Trumpets in Revelation 8 and 9.

  • The emergence of Destroyer as a powerful force on earth is described in Revelation 9:1-11.

  • Monster is another powerful cosmos dominator active during this season. His plan for seizing control of the world is described in Revelation 13 and 17.

  • Wrath's plans for coming out on top are described in Revelation 15 and 16.

From A short History of Cosmic Conflict.

Saturday, October 28, 2023


The coming of the law also released another cosmos dominator called Wrath into power. Sin, Death and Destruction had controlled the evil side in the spiritual realms up until the time of Moses, but Accuser and Wrath rose above them by using the law to accuse people of sin and demand their punishment for their failures. Accuser found it useful to work with Wrath because he and his followers would release plagues to accomplish Accuser’s purposes. Wrath is frequently associated with plagues (Num 16:46; Ezek 6:12; 14:19).

Wrath was always one of the more powerful spirits in the hierarchy of evil. Accuser often had Wrath with him when he attacked the earth.

The devil has come down to you having great Wrath (Rev 12:12).
The role of Wrath is confirmed in Psalm 78:49.
He unleashed against them his hot anger,
Wrath, indignation and hostility—
a band of destroying angels.
Wrath is the leader of a band of destroying angels. He is not a manifestation of God's character as is often assumed, but is an evil spiritual being.

Wrath is sometimes referred to as the “wrath of God” because although he rebelled against God at the beginning of human history, he had originally been created by God. His character was different when he was created, so he had probably been given a different name. God knew when he created the angels and gave them freedom that some would go wrong, but he decided to create them anyway. God does not disown his creation. He does not avoid responsibility for what he has done. The spiritual powers of evil are still his, although they have rebelled against him.

Despite their rebellion, God still uses the spiritual powers of evil, despite themselves, to accomplish his purposes. He has sometimes incited this spirit called Wrath to do things that he needs done, particularly when restraining political powers that are doing harm on the earth.

Paul explained to the Romans the relationship between wrath and law.

The law brings about Wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression (Rom 4:15).
Prior to the giving of the law through Moses, transgression was undefined. The law specified the behaviour that God required from the people that he had called. The law also spelt out in detail the curse that was the consequence of transgression. Once the law of the covenant was in place, the spiritual powers of evil demanded the right to enforce the curses of the law against the children of Israel whenever they transgressed it (I presume that they used it against other peoples as well). Accuser and Wrath were often the leaders of this activity. This is why Paul said that the law brings about Wrath. The giving of the law with curses specified for disobedience increased the power of Wrath and the destroying angels working with him.
The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his powerful Wrath is against all who forsake him (Ezra 8:22).
In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains that the political powers are "agents of Wrath" (Rom 13:4). This should change the way that we think about them. God might use them from time to time, but the political-spirits and government-spirits (principalities and powers) that control the political powers are intent on evil. This is why the proverb warns,
A king's Wrath is a messenger of death (Prov 16:14).
Daniel described an evil political leader who will emerge during a time of distress on earth. He will do terrible evil on earth, because he is controlled by Wrath. When he is disturbed,
He will go forth with great Wrath to destroy and annihilate many (Dan 11:44).
Paul warned that Wrath will often avenge people who suffer injustice.
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to Wrath (Rom 12:19).
We should often wait for him to act, rather than seeking revenge ourselves.

From A Short History of Cosmic Spiritual Struggle.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Spiritual and Physical

We should never forget that everything in this world is both spiritual and physical. When the leaders of the nations (and their prophets) vehemently and angrily call for violence against their perceived enemies, it has a spiritual effect at home too. Violent spirits are empowered to wreak harm in their own nation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Cosmic Spiritual Struggle

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they handed their authority over the earth that God had given them to the spiritual powers of evil. Their mistake allowed a massive shift in authority from humans to the powers of evil. God had taken a big risk when he created the earth and gave authority over it to humans. For them to give that authority up so quickly and easily to evil spiritual powers who hated him was a disaster.

Christians assume that the spiritual powers of evil are united in opposing God’s purposes, but that is not true. They are powerful, but they are not united. If Jesus cannot get unity in the church, we should not expect the leaders of the powers of evil would be united, given that they are divisive and rebellious. Various factions of the spiritual powers of evil are struggling with each other for control of the earth. They are angry and devious, so they often fight with each other in vicious struggles for dominance.

Each faction of the forces of evil is led/controlled by a powerful Cosmos Dominator. The powers of evil love power and control, so the strongest of them are continually jockeying with each other for overall power. Each contender has gathered a huge army of loyal spiritual powers and brought them under control. That is why the Bible refers to these spirits as Cosmos Dominators (Eph 6:12). They organise huge spiritual armies to fight against God, but they frequently get distracted into battles against other factions.

Unfortunately, the spiritual powers of evil are nasty and untrustworthy, so they are not dependable. If they see any weakness in their leader, they will betray him to gain a better position for themselves. Evil spirits have no loyalty, so they switch sides if they believe another cosmos dominator is doing better.

The struggles between various Cosmos Dominators are far more important than we realise because people on earth are often caught in their crossfire. Much of what happens on earth is the outcome of their wars with each other, so we need to understand what they are doing in our time. God was not willing to give them glory by fully describing their activities in the scriptures, but there are hints about what they are doing and who has risen to power and gained control during various seasons.

The spiritual powers of evil are organised in powerful hierarchies of evil spirits under the control of Cosmos Dominators, but they are not united. They do not like each other, so throughout history, different spirits have fought with each other for control of the hierarchies of power. During different seasons, different Cosmos Dominators have risen to ascendancy. Often, two of them have operated alongside each other in an uneasy but convenient unity.

Based on my study of the scriptures and examining these hints, I have developed a tentative outline of their history. I focus more on future activities than the struggles that occurred in the past. The full outline is available on Substack in an article called A Short History of Spiritual Cosmic Struggle.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023


In Saturday’s general election, New Zealand voted for a change of human government, with great expectations.

Unfortunately, and more important, the spiritual government of New Zealand remains unchanged. The government-spirits (often called principalities and powers) that controlled the nation last week are still in control this week. So nothing will change.

The spiritual status of the nation is unchanged. We have not moved to a place of blessing.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Jesus Cup (4) Costly Mistake

Unfortunately for them, the spiritual powers of evil had made a huge mistake when they made Jesus drink the cup of their wrath. They assumed that if they destroyed him, they could squeeze God out of his earth forever, as no other human apart from him would be able to take their authority over the earth away from them. However, by killing Jesus, they gave up their hold over humans, because his blood was the ransom that they had demanded for their release. Once that ransom had been paid to them, they had to release humans from their control and could no longer keep humans in captivity. They decided to kill Jesus anyway because once he was dead, they believed they could entangle humans again, even if they had lost the authority over the earth that they had stolen from Adam and Eve.

The spiritual powers of evil thought they were being clever and checkmating God, but they did not reckon with his power. When they killed Jesus and shed his blood, their ransom demand against humans was met. God then raised Jesus from the dead. This was a massive defeat for the spiritual powers of evil because they had given up the right to demand a ransom from all humans in exchange for killing Jesus. However, they failed to get what they wanted because God raised Jesus back to life. Not only had they failed to kill Jesus, but because his blood paid the ransom on behalf of all humans, their hold over all humans who would trust in him was destroyed. Followers of Jesus were able to start pushing the spiritual powers of evil out of their empire and break their power.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Jesus Cup (3) Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper that we share today points back to the cup of suffering in the hands of the spiritual powers of evil that Jesus drank on our behalf.

Is the cup of blessing which we bless not a common life with the blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16)?
The cup we drink is a blessing for us. For Jesus, it was a cup of sin/suffering. It was a cup of wrath prepared by the spiritual powers of evil that Jesus drank on our behalf. This cup is a reminder to us that Jesus took on our sins and, as a consequence, took the wrath of the spiritual powers of evil. Our common life (fellowship) with Jesus makes the cup that he drank into our cup. When he drank the cup, he suffered terribly because the spiritual powers of evil got to attack him, but his suffering released amazing blessings to us by delivering us from their power.

New Covenant
The gospels describe the cup offered at the Lord’s Supper with these words.

When he had taken a cup and given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many to release from sins” (Matt 26:27-28).
Jesus established a new covenant. He took on our sins and shed his blood to pay the ransom that the spiritual powers of evil demanded for setting us free. This released us from their power to control us and opened the way for all the blessings of his covenant, including the fullness of his Holy Spirit.

Paul explained the meaning of the cup offered at the Last Supper in this way.

After supper, he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me... as often as you drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:25-26).
Jesus drank a cup of suffering/pain prepared for him by taking the spiritual powers of evil when he took our sins upon himself. This generous and courageous action allowed the spiritual powers of evil to shed his blood on the cross. Paul explains that Jesus paid the ransom that the spiritual powers of evil demanded in order to set his people free. Jesus’ ransom payment initiated a new covenant, which provides blessings through trust in Jesus.

The cup of blessing also points back to Moses, who initiated God’s covenant with Israel by sprinkling blood on the people. When we drink the cup of blessing during the Lord’s Supper, we are uniting with Jesus and accepting the covenant blessings that come to us because he took our sins on himself and allowed the spiritual powers of evil to kill him.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Jesus Cup (2) Psalm 22

When he was on the cross, Jesus called out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. This was not a theological statement about God because he could not forsake Jesus, as they were always one. Jesus was referring to Psalm 22. In his time, the psalms did not have numbers, so people referred to a Psalm by quoting the first line. So Jesus was really saying, “Psalm 22 is being fulfilled in me right now”. He was using the psalm to describe the spiritual attack that he was experiencing.

The psalm refers to attacks by wild animals, but Jesus was describing the attacks by the spiritual powers of evil against him.

  • Bulls encircled him.
  • Young lions were tearing at his flesh.
  • Dogs surrounded him.
  • A pack of villains encircled him.
  • Wild oxen were attacking.
Jesus used these images to describe the vicious spirits that were attacking him. They were tormenting his mind with accusations, flooding his imagination with fear and dread, torturing his flesh with terrible pain, and sapping his physical strength with emotional torment. Jesus did not just suffer physical pain.

The cup he drank was emotional and spiritual torment at the hands of the spiritual powers of evil. This happened because he loved us and took our sins on himself, which gave the spiritual powers of evil permission to go after him.

Last Supper
At the Last Supper, Jesus did two things. He broke bread and shared it with his disciples. He also shared a cup with the disciples. These actions are often interpreted as pointing forward to his sharing with us in the Lord’s Supper. But it had another, more sombre meaning.

The broken bread represented his physical body, which he was offering to his disciples to suffer on their behalf. By sharing a cup with his disciples, Jesus agreed to be one with them. They would share his life, and he would share their lives. He would share their sins with them. This was the first step in drinking the terrible cup of suffering that he would agree to drink at Gethsemane.

At the Last Supper, Jesus agreed to become the sin of his twelve disciples. He became sin for them. This opened the way for the spiritual powers of evil to attack him. They gained authority to stir up Judas to betray Jesus. He left the meal and made a deal with Jewish leaders for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus’ suffering in the hands of the spiritual powers of evil began.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Jesus’ Cup (1)

Jesus coming to live on earth as a human was a huge risk, as Adam and Eve had surrendered their authority over the earth to the spiritual powers of evil. Becoming a human made him vulnerable to spiritual attack. The only thing that kept him safe was his perfect life. If he had sinned, even just once, they would have been able to get at him, just like they attack every other human on earth.

However, Jesus didn’t sin, so the powers of evil had to leave him alone. They had stirred up Herod to try and murder Jesus when he was an infant, but they did not have authority, to touch him, so the Holy Spirit kept him safe. Everything changed when Jesus agreed to drink the cup that he had come to drink. Jesus agonised over this in Gethsemane Garden, but he submitted to his Father’s will and agreed to drink this terrible cup.

Taking on Sin
The cup that Jesus agreed to drink was not just obeying the Father, as is often suggested. The cup he drank was the wrath of the spiritual powers of evil, which came on him because he agreed to carry all the sins of all the people in the past, present and future who will put their trust in him. Paul explained,

He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us (2 Cor 5:21).
In the garden, Jesus agreed to complete his work by taking on the sins of everyone who would put their trust in him. This committed him to drinking the cup of wrath that the spiritual powers of evil would inflict on him.

Taking on the sins of other people changed everything. Once he had taken our sin on himself and became sin, his spiritual protection was gone, and the spiritual powers of evil had authority to attack him. They hated him and were scared of him, so they attacked him with vengeance. This is why the events leading up to the cross were so terrible.

The New Testament describes the physical side of his experience, but the spiritual side was probably far more vile. Thousands of spirits had fallen from grace, but a few had become really vicious, violent and destructive. I presume that the most ferocious and hideous spirits attacked Jesus when he agreed to take on our sins. He drank the cup of their wrath. When the Jewish leaders accused him and beat him, the spiritual powers of evil were there, stirring them along. When the crowd called for him to be crucified, the spiritual powers of evil were winding them up. When Pilate surrendered him to the soldier to be beaten and crucified, the spiritual powers of evil were encouraging them to be brutal and aggressive.

The Holy Spirit was powerless to protect Jesus because he had become a sinner for us, and the spiritual powers of evil had authority on earth to attack sinners. Thousands of people in Jerusalem and Galilee had been healed and blessed by Jesus. If they had gathered in Jerusalem around Caiaphas’s house and then Pilate’s palace and called for Jesus to be released, Pilate would have been scared and intervened to calm the situation, as was done when Paul was arrested (Acts 22:23-25). Roman governors did not want to be embarrassed by riots. However, the Holy Spirit did not gather Jews supporting Jesus or legions of angels to protect him because he had agreed to drink the cup of human sin.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Hebrews Promises

I have gone through Hebrews and identified every verse that promises something that Jesus has done or will do. I put them in a spreadsheet and sorted them into themes. The following table shows the results.


Phrase Promised

Rescued from Sin


purged our sin


taste death for everyone


bring many sons to glory


pay ransom for sin


eternal redemption


redemption of trespasses


do away with sin





great salvation




delivers from a life of bondage to death


eternal salvation




save to the utmost



merciful high priest


sympathise with our weaknesses


mercy at the throne of grace in time of need


mercy, forget sins


appear in God's presence for us

Made Holy


sanctified from sin


sanctified through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus


suffered outside the camp to sanctify

Clean Conscience


purge conscience, so we can serve the living God


full assurance of clear conscience

Established New Covenant


we are partakers in Christ


better covenant, better promises


better covenant, better promises


mediate new covenant

Future Looking

Law on our hearts


law on hearts


law on our hearts



rest ceased from work


eternal inheritance

Intercession and Help


make intercession


aid those being tempted

King with a Kingdom


destroy the devil by taking the power of death


throne forever, king


waiting for enemies to be made a footstool


all things subject to him


receive a kingdom

The writer to the Hebrews has a strong emphasis on rescuing us from sin. He died outside the camp, shedding his blood to pay the ransom price demanded by the spiritual powers of evil.

Sanctification is mentioned several times, not in the sense of being perfected over time, but in the sense of being cleansed by Jesus' death. A couple of verses speak about our consciences being cleansed. This is important because the accusation of the enemy about our guilt can be an obstacle to following Jesus.

Salvation is a big theme in Hebrews. The problem is that this has become a word with religious meaning, so we have lost sight of what the Greek word "sozo" actually means. It refers to being rescued or delivered from peril/harm. God has delivered us from our slavery to the spiritual powers of evil, which put us in terrible peril. It also means healing from disease.

The main feature of Jesus' character is that he is merciful. He has lived on earth, so he understands how difficult it is to escape from the stronghold that the powers of evil have over us. He gladly sets us free, and continues to intercede with God for us if we fail. He sends the Holy Spirit and his angels to help us in our struggles to serve him. Our ultimate goal is rest with him. In the interim, he puts his laws on our hearts so we can serve him and establish his Kingdom on earth.

The writer to the Hebrews refers to the offerings described in Leviticus throughout the letter. He describes how Jesus defeated the devil, but he never says that a blood offering was needed to appease God or to allow him to interact with his people. The idea that this is their purpose has to be read into the letter from elsewhere.

Friday, September 22, 2023

L&O (11) Not to Appease God

A common belief among Christians is that the tabernacle sacrifices were necessary to allow God to be in relationship with his people. They assume that God is so holy that he cannot interact with sinful people in any way, so sacrifices were essential to appease his anger so he could come near the people he had chosen.

Reading the Old Testament, it is clear that God has never had a problem interacting with sinful people. The initiative was always with God.

  • God spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden after they fell and blessed them with garments.

  • God called Abraham even though he continued to make serious mistakes.

  • He called Jacob and watched over him, even though he was a liar and a cheater.

  • He protected Joseph and spoke through him, even though he was proud.

  • Even when he sent his people into exile from the promised land, it was because he cared about them and wanted to restore them, and in exile, he continued to speak to them and keep them safe.

  • He prepared Moses and sent him to rescue the Israelites from slavery in Egypt before they offered sacrifices to him.

  • God revealed himself to Paul while he was intent on killing followers of Jesus.

All these events took place without any human acknowledgment of sin or blood offerings for transgressions. (He was active in my life while I was still hostile to him.)

We are sometimes taught that God hates sin and can't have anything to do with sinful people, but that is only half true. He does hate sin, but it is because of the harm it allows the spiritual powers of evil to do to people. But it is not true that he cannot have any contact with sinful people. He did it all the time throughout the scriptures. God rescued the children of Israel from Egypt and brought them to the promised land before any offerings had been made. He did not need sacrifices to allow him to intervene, even though the people continued to be obstructive and rebellious the entire way.

The tabernacle offerings were not needed to start or sustain a relationship with God. Rather, they were needed to keep the people safe from the spiritual powers of evil who had dominated them as slaves in Egypt and wanted to get them back under control again. The offerings specified in Leviticus did that effectively.

From Part 3: Leviticus and Offerings.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

L&O (10) God Does Not Need Blood

God does not need blood. Why would he want it? He wants to rescue us so we can live our lives for him, as Jesus lived for him.

If God was unable to rescue us from the spiritual powers of evil because we refuse to be rescued, he could just disappear us (unless he wanted to torture us for our unwillingness to be rescued, but that would make him an ugly God). God created the universe and sustains all existence and life by his power, so if he became frustrated with me, he could remove me at any time, simply by stopping sustaining my life and letting me disappear from existence. If I have become so bad that God does not think that I am worthy of existence, he does not need to kill me. He can simply discontinue my existence. He does not need my blood.

On the other hand, the spiritual powers of evil are vicious haters who love destroying life. They like blood because it means death. That is why they demand blood as the ransom price for setting us free from our bondage to them. They are the ones who demanded blood because they assumed that no one would be willing to give it, especially for others. They were surprised because Jesus willingly died on the cross and shed his blood to meet their demand, so we could be set free to become the people of God. When he had risen again and ascended into the presence of God and offered his life to him.

Paul explains the nature of Jesus' offering to God in Eph 5:2.

Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Jesus offered his life of obedient love to God. This was a sweet-smelling aroma, equivalent to the effect of the incense offered on the golden altar in the tabernacle.

From Part 3:Leviticus and Offerings.

Monday, September 18, 2023

L&O (9) Blood Ransom

The key to understanding why blood cleanses is recognising the human situation. When Adam and Eve sinned and trusted the deceiver, they placed themselves under his authority. Because God had given them authority over everything on earth, this was a huge disaster, because it gave the spiritual powers of evil authority over the earth. This meant that God could not rescue humans from their situation without getting their permission.

The spiritual powers of evil demanded the lives of all humans in their power. This was clever, because if they could wipe humans out, they would have free rein on earth. They demanded the shedding of blood as a ransom payment for setting humans free. As the ones with ownership authority over humans, they had the right to decide what the ransom payment should be. It seems that they accepted the animal blood offered in the Tabernacle as a down payment for the blood of his Son that God would eventually offer them.

The blood offered on the bronze altar was a partial ransom payment to the spiritual powers of evil, so the tabernacle offering set the people free from the immediate consequences of their sins. However, the people could not be completely transformed until the Holy Spirit was poured out, so during Old Testament times, they kept falling back into sin. This is why the Tabernacle offering had to be repeated again and again.

The people urgently needed the full and final ransom that Jesus would pay when he died on the cross. His death and the blood that he shed satisfied the demands of the spiritual powers of evil, so they had to give up their authority over humans and over the earth. His death was a terrible defeat for them.

From Part 3: Leviticus and Offerings.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

L&O (8) Why Blood

When I have spilt blood from a cut on my hand or face, it stains the garment it drips on.  The stain is very hard to get out.   Therefore, I have always been puzzled by the way blood is used to cleanse things in the Old Testament, particularly in Leviticus, which I have studied in detail in an attempt to get an understanding of how cleaning with blood works.

I describe what I have discovered in Part 3 of Leviticus and Offerings.

The full three-part series can be found at Leviticus and Offerings.

Monday, September 11, 2023

L&O (7) No Penal Substitution

Penal substitution is missing from Levitical offerings and from the Day of Cleansing. The animals brought by the people are not punished for their sins. Their blood is used for appeasing the spiritual powers of evil and for cleansing objects that are unclean. Their meat is food for the priests. Their fat is burnt to produce a sweet aroma for Yahweh. The animals are offered as an act of worship, so having to cover the cost of losing a valuable animal is not a punishment, but an act of thanksgiving and worship.

Leviticus required that all animals offered should be without blemish (Lev 22:17-22). This means that an animal cannot be hurt or mutilated in any way before it dies. If it was punished, it would have blemishes and not be an acceptable offering. Leviticus never says that the animal is an object of God’s wrath. It never says that it is being punished. If it was abused or suffered unnecessarily, God would be offended.

The animals do not die as a substitute for the people who offer them. They placed their hand on the animal even when it was being given as a Gift Offering or an Ascent Offering, which was not for sin, so it is not an indicator of substitution. The animals are not killed in the place of the people offering them because the unintentional sins they had committed did not require a death penalty.

The priest confessed the most serious transgression and depravities over the goat for Azazel. These were the worst sins, but the goat was sent into the wilderness. It was not punished. It was not killed, and its blood was not offered to God. The wilderness goat was not a substitute for the people who had sinned. It was a carrier. The people were forgiven their transgressions without paying any penalty.

From Leviticus and Offerings: Part 2.

Saturday, September 09, 2023

L&O (6) No Total Depravity

Leviticus does not assume that the people are totally depraved and cannot do anything to please God. The offerings specified are either acts of worship and thanksgiving or for dealing with unintentional sins or uncleanness picked up while going about life. This suggests that most of the time, the people would serve God and only sin by mistake. As they go through the events of life, they will accidentally pick up uncleanness that has to be dealt with. The first seven chapters of Leviticus deal with offerings for things that are not that serious. There are numerous chapters dealing with uncleanness picked during life events such as childbirth without any active sinning. Given this emphasis, it seems that God did not see his people as depraved and impossible to keep safe.

Serious transgressions and depravities would only be dealt with once a year on the Day of Cleansing. This suggests that they would be relatively rare. Otherwise, a more regular remedy would be needed. Since none was given, it seems that God did not expect transgression to be a serious issue.

The fact that the goat carrying the transgression and depravities was sent to a demonic ruler in the wilderness suggests that God considers him to be their cause. He sends them back to where they come from, because it was the manipulation of the spiritual powers of evil that led people to engage in these perverse behaviours. No sacrifice is made to God for these transgressions. He can have mercy without imposing any penalty because once the goat had gone, the people were forgiven and cleansed.

From Leviticus and Offerings: Part 2.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Leviticus and Offerings (5) Incense Enough

Incense Enough When the High Priest went into the holy of holies on the Day of Cleansing, he offered a cloud of incense to God. That kept him spiritually safe in the presence of God. The incense was all God needed from him to be acceptable. He did not need to appease God with blood or some other sacrifice to be acceptable.

From Leviticus and Offerings: Part 2.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Leviticus and Offerings (4) Day of Cleansing

In Part 1 of my study of Leviticus and Offerings, I focussed on the five different types of offering described in the first seven chapters. If you have not read it yet, you can find it at Part 1.

In Leviticus and Offerings: Part 2, I analyse the description of the Day of Cleansing, which is often mistakenly described as the day of atonement, due to a faulty translation of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

I had been taught that on the Day of Cleansing, blood was offered to God to expiate/propitiate the sins of the people. However, when I studied the text of Leviticus, I found something quite different. The purpose of the offering was to cleanse/decontaminate the tabernacle and particularly the furnishing in the Holy of Holies. It was a spiritual spring-cleaning. That was why it was only done once a year.

Contrary to what is often taught, no blood was offered to God. The main offering to God on the Day of Cleansing was a sweet-smelling, burning incense. More at Leviticus and Offerings: Part 2 .

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Leviticus and Offerings (3)

Something that really surprised me about the offerings described in Leviticus was my discovery that “blood” was not offered to God. Fat was offered to God on the bronze altar in the tabernacle courtyard. It burned well and provided a pleasant smell for God. Meat was roasted alongside it to improve the smell going up. God does not require blood (I had always known this was the case, but I was surprised to find it in Leviticus.)

Most of the blood of the animal offered was poured out on the ground, which does not make sense, if it was required by God. So I had to think about who did require it. The obvious answer is the spiritual powers of evil. Understanding that they have demanded blood changes the role of the offerings. I have explained this in Part 1 of my study of Leviticus and Offerings.

Part 2 is now complete and will be published on Substack at the beginning of next week.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Leviticus and Offerings (2)

I have always assumed that the Leviticus offerings were all about sin. I was surprised to find that three of the five main offerings have nothing to do with sin. They are acts of worship to God. The fourth offering was for “decontamination”. It deals with the effects of sin by cleansing people from them. It has nothing to do with guilt. The only offering that deals with sin is the fifth offering described in Leviticus. And it only deals with a limited range of sins.

Understanding that offerings have very little to do with sin, totally changed my thinking. I had to ponder the reasons why they offered. I came to realise that they were not designed to appease God, even though that is what many Christians teach. They had a different purpose, which I have described in Leciticus and Offerings.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Leviticus and Offerings (1)

I have always tried to read through the Old Testament once a year (and the New Testament more frequently). When I got to Leviticus, I usually skimmed through the first chapters quite quickly because I was not interested in the detail the book gives about how sacrifices/offerings should be done. I assumed that because they had all been fulfilled by Jesus' death on the cross, I did not really need to understand how they functioned.

A few months ago, I arrived at Leviticus once again, but felt prompted to go through it in detail this time. I was amazed at what I found. The detail given is strangely interesting and important for understanding God's purposes. I have written up what I discovered in an article. It is too long for Facebook, so I will post it on Substack, in three parts.

We tend to assume that the law and the tabernacle offerings were God's first attempt to bring deliverance in the world, but Moses and the prophets failed, so God had to have another go, and send Jesus to do the job properly. However, God does not make mistakes, so this is wrong. The Law and the Tabernacle were perfect for the purpose for which they were given. They actually achieved the purpose that God had created them for.

When I approached the tabernacle offerings from this perspective, (rather than seeing them as part of a failed system from the past) they suddenly made more sense. I discovered what God had achieved through them, and recorded them at Leviticus and Offerings.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Spouses and Authority

This is something I only learned a couple of weeks ago. I had simply never thought about it before. I have never seen it mentioned in the many books on healing that I have read. I have always realised that 1 Cor 7:4 is radical teaching in culture. Paul explains that the body of the wife belongs to her husband. That was standard understanding in New Testament times, but Paul shocked the natives by saying that the body of the husband belongs to the wife. I always understood this, but I had never noticed that verse is significant for healing too. Paul wrote,

A wife does not have authority over her own body but her husband does.
In the same way, a husband does not have authority over his own body but his wife does (1 Cor 7:4).
Paul uses the word “exousia”, which is the main New Testament word for authority. When praying for the sick, authority/permission is always central. I only realised recently that this means that husbands and wives have an important role in prayer for healing.
  • A husband has authority over his wife’s body.
  • A wife has authority over her husband’s body.
Sickness affects our body, so anyone with authority over our bodies will be essential for our healing. Jesus gave us authority over sickness, which is good. However, he has also given people freedom, which is authority over our own lives.

When we pray for sick people, the authority to heal comes up against the authority/freedom of the person we are praying for. The authority of the person we are paying for will usually win out. Sometimes the person asking will give us permission (authority) to pray for them, but keep the part of their life where the sickness is rooted locked up. This can make our prayers for healing ineffective.

The same applies if the sickness is caused by a bad spirit. God has given us authority over the spiritual powers of evil, so if we command them to leave, they must submit and go. However, if the person that they are harassing has given them permission/authority to be in their life, they might be able to resist, until the sick person gets tired of being harassed and wants to escape their power. Persistence might be important in these situations.

The authority situation is complicated in a marriage, because if a person is sick, both they and their spouse have authority over the sick body. This has several consequences.

  • A person’s sin can cause their spouse's body to be sick (sickness is only sometimes caused by sin. More often it is an unfair attack by the spiritual powers of evil). If sin is the cause of the sickness, the spouse might need to confess and repent, before the sick person can be healed.

  • If the sickness has been enabled by negative words spoken by the spouse (such as a negative declaration, or a curse), the spouse might need to renounce their words and free the sick person from the power of their words.

  • If other people are praying for a sick person, they might need permission from both the sick person and their spouse, to have complete authority in the situation. Getting agreement/permission from both spouses might be important for a healing breakthrough.

  • A follower of Jesus has authority over their spouse’s body, so they can pray for their spouse’s body to be healed, even if the spouse does not have faith for healing. If an unbeliever can be saved by their spouse’s faith (1 Cor 7:14), they can probably be healed by the faith of their believing spouse.

There are probably other implications that I have not thought of yet.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Government Incapability

Aurelien has posted some interesting essays on Substack warning of modern governments lack of capability to deal with the multiple problems being faced. He warns that we should not expect governments to come up with solutions or implement them effectively.

The kind of crises that we can expect over the next few years will be beyond the ability of our enfeebled governments to tackle, and that in any case their room for manoeuvre to tackle them will be very limited.
In a culture where governments are expected to solve all problems, this is a disturbing suggestion.
For a number of reasons both individually and in combination, the challenges of the future are likely to exceed the capability of our weakened states to manage, and for that matter the capability of our increasingly-juvenile and performative ruling class even to understand. So, building on the argument above, the first thing you would expect to see is western states losing “power” in the sense of losing the genuine ability to affect things, and get things done that they wanted. And indeed this is what we see.

But the greatest weakness at all levels in modern political culture is one that I’ve touched on several times in these essays: the modern preference for performative acts and speech in place of actual practical activity, and the tendency to confuse the one with the other. Of course, this approach only succeeds as long as really critical problems don’t come along.

He looks for alternative sources of hope, but does not find much.
But how would we prevent it, in a world where the State no longer has the capability to do things, but only perform? One way to approach the question is to ask what makes people band together for any purpose, develop common objectives and find and follow leaders.

Many states in Africa, indeed, have highly sophisticated social control mechanisms working alongside poorly-functioning formal western-style mechanisms, and to some extent substituting for them. So what would be the equivalent in the average western state? Well that’s an interesting question with a potentially very depressing answer. There may not be one, or at least not one we would like.

Collective action has to be based on some sense of shared identity and interest, but the only shared identity that Liberalism acknowledges is shared (and often transitory) economic interest. Unfortunately, that puts criminals, or those prepared to be most ruthless, in positions of “power,” as always happens in periods of crisis.

And in any case, what are the alternatives? How else would we organise ourselves in the effective absence of a state, if not by economic interest and the strong dominating the weak? In the West, we seem to be just incapable of spontaneous organisation of the type you find everywhere in Asia.

His outlook is bleak.
The two actors who are likely to become most powerful in a crisis and the effective disappearance of the state are organised crime and, in Europe at least, extreme Islamist groups.
The one hope that Aurelien is missing is the church, and I don’t blame him because it is demonstrating the same incapability to achieve its goals and preference for “performance ministry” as the modern state. But that is not how it should be. Social collapse and chaos should be a great environment for the flourishing of the church, but the modern Sunday meeting professional-pastor approach will struggle to function if that is what emerges.

In this season of political and economic uncertainty, it is more urgent than ever for followers of Jesus to form kingdom communities that can provide support and strength during troubled times and open the way to transform society to release the kingdom of God. We must be prepared for distress and equipped for victory.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Pause Ending

Back in 2009, I shared the following words about New Zealand.

New Zealand has forgotten God.
As a nation we once knew him;
not very well,
but we tried to serve him,
we tried to obey him,
we tried to worship him
and he blessed us.

But now New Zealand has abandoned God
most people have rejected his love,
many have forgotten who he is,
some of our leaders oppose him,
and others really hate him.
Given that we have forgotten God,
we should have lost our blessing
we should have lost it long ago.
But God is merciful
and has held back the judgment
He has held back the trouble and sorrow,
He has held back the pain,
and allowed his blessing to remain
although we had forgotten him.

Now the long pause,
between forgetfulness and consequence
between sowing and reaping
is coming to an end.
Within a year
of a bright light being snuffed out
the economy will start to shake.
Just when people are saying,
The doomsayers were wrong.
We have avoided the hard landing,
a strident shudder will strike.

Ten years later, I gave a more detailed explanation of what these words meant in an article called Economic Turning Point. However, I had no idea who or what the “bright light” that would be “snuffed out” could be, except that I had a vague feeling that it represented a female leader.

Now, the identity of the “bright light” who has suddenly disappeared from political life is obvious to anyone living in New Zealand (and also to many people who don’t) and the exact timing of her disappearance from the political power is clear. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern left Parliament on 15 April 2023.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is a person. He has thoughts, feeling, a will and emotions. He speaks (Luke 8:29) comforts (John 14:16) teaches (John 14:25) reveals (Luke 2:26) and decides (Acts 10:6,7). The Holy Spirit is a moral person (Acts 15:28). He experiences joy (Luke 10:21).

To really experience the fullness of the Spirit, we must develop a relationship with him We must get to know him (John 14:17). The blessing that Paul prayed for the Corinthian church was that they would experince the "fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). Fellowship is a word that is not used much today, so we do not understand what it means. The Message Bible translates fellowship as "intimate friendship". God wants us to have intimate friendship with the Holy Spirit.

The key way to become the intimate friend of the Holy Spirit is by talking to him and listening to what he says. Imagine two friends that never spoke to each other: what a weird friendship. To develop our friendship, we should ask him what he is thinking and what he is feeling. We should tell him about what we are feeling and thank him for what he does.

We should learn to be aware of his presence. In some places or times, he is present more intensely than in others (Luke 5:17). As we develop his friendship, we should experience his life and presence more fully.

We should also learn to recognise his absence. Because he is a person, we must be careful not to grieve him (Eph 4:30). If we do grieve him, we should put things right immediately and restore our friendship.

Every time I go out, I grab my wallet and keys. I go nowhere without them. If I am on may way out and I realise that I have left them at home, I will go home and get them. I should have the same attitude to the Spirit of God. If I have gone out without him, I should feel lonely. I should rush home and wait there till I find out why he has is not with me.

More at Walk in the Spirit.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Performative Government

Aurelien wrote on Substack this week about the challenges facing the world and the incapability of governments to deal with them.

We are facing a series of unprecedented changes and crises at a time when capability to deal with them has never been lower... The problems are of an unprecedented gravity, the individuals who have to deal with them probably represent the weakest political class in modern history, and the surrounding circumstances greatly limit their ability to act, even if they knew what to do...

It is wise to assume that the solutions cannot come from enfeebled governments and adolescent political classes.

It’s perhaps hard to realise just how far government has become performative and virtual in recent decades. It’s not simply that governments have lost capability, it’s also that they don’t care. For modern political parties, the imperative is that of the Party in 1984: to be in power. Actually doing things is dangerous: you might fail, and even if you succeed you could annoy potentially powerful groups.

Talking about doing things, on the other hand, is fine. Blaming others (especially outside forces), condemning your opponent’s or your rival’s plans on ideological or financial grounds, successfully burying a problem or even denying that it exists, are the standard tools of government today...

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Earthly and Spiritual Authority

We are engaged in a tough spiritual battle, so there will be no end to the struggle until Jesus returns. The spiritual powers of evil will continue to be tough to deal with because they have such a stronghold in church and government affairs. They are not going to go away, because are one of the best weapons the spiritual powers of evil have got in the current age.

Prayer is not always be effective against these government-spirits, if church leaders and political leaders are giving them authority to be there. These human leaders usually have more authority in their sphere than the ones praying, so if intercessors confront a spirit, it will ignore them because people with authority have given them permission to be there.

Prayer is a powerful weapon, but success is not always inevitable. The outcome often depends on who has the most authority in a situation. This is true in the physical too. I cannot command a bad person to leave a house, if the owner of the house has a different view and has given them permission to be there (even if that permission was given without an awareness of their bad character).

We cannot change a situation by prayer, if others have more authority in that institution, because they can use their position to overrule us. If they are already being controlled, the spiritual powers of evil can persuade them to use their authority to overrule us.

More at Prayer and Authority.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

Strategic Survival Personality

I grew up on a farm in a rural area, so when I was old enough to go to high school, I was sent to a boarding school in Timaru so that I could get a better education. I hated life at the boarding school and was glad to get out when I reached an age where I could leave school.

Boarding school was an odd place for a young person to live. A small group of popular boys really enjoyed it (it is hard to say what made them popular). Another group of boys really hated it because they were bullied intensely, usually because they were a bit different. I was in the large middle group who got by without being noticed. However, I understood how easy it was for a boy to drop into the bottom group, so the middle group was a precarious place to be.

The bullying was mostly low-level. Verbal insults were frequent. Sometimes when you went to bed and night, you would find that someone had put leaves or branches in your bed. Occasionally, an older boy would thump you on the shoulder while you were waiting in line to enter the dining room. I was good with words, so I probably deserved some of the stuff that happened when I was smart to bigger boys.

I coped with life by taking refuge in the school library and spending all my free time there. I loved reading and found an endless supply of good books to read. The “tough boys” did not go near the library, because they were scared of books, so it was a really safe to be. However, by escaping in this way, I probably cut myself off from other people and became a bit of a recluse.

A few years ago, I heard Nick Duffell talk about Boarding Schools and Strategic Survival Personality. He was explaining how many politicians like Boris Johnston lost their empathy by being sent to Eton at the age of 8 or 9. His talk rang a bell with me. I took the following notes

When a boy goes to boarding school,
his relationships with parents, siblings and friends are broken.
He leaves a place of safety,
a cocoon of peace
and is forced to be independent.
He develops a pseudo-self-sufficiency.
He makes all decisions, and solves all problems himself.

Boarding school is a dangerous place.
You never know when bullies will hit.
They are insecure, so they find a place by striking out at those who are weak.
The way to be safe
is to be untouchable.

Boys learn quickly not to show any vulnerability;
don’t show any weakness
don’t show any vulnerability
don’t show any anger,
because that encourages the bullies.
Don’t let them know that they have got at you.
Shut down your emotions.
Many lose any ability to have empathy,
which makes them bad leaders.

I escaped to the library. I read book after book after book. Bullies never went there, so the library was my safe place.

Friendships at boarding school tend to be shallow, but there is safety in numbers. I had three friends. We walked to class and assemblies together, waited in line for meals together, because it kept us safe (that was unspoken). But we never shared our fears, or our dreams, because that would be too risky, so my friendships did not last beyond school.

Duffell put survivors into three categories.

  • Compliers – they say that boarding school was the best years of their lives. The self-sufficiency and emotional detachment got them to where they are, so they will not criticise the place that gave it to them.

  • Crushed – Some children are badly damaged. They were often emotionally or physically abused.

  • Rebels – They tend to become anti-establishment. I think that I fell into the rebel category. I never accepted the authority of the housemasters and prefects, because I did not respect them. I am not sure how much anti-establishment baggage I still carry.

From Past to Future.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Past to Future (3) Looking Back as Adults

We can review the significant and repeated events from our childhood, along with the emotions associated with them in our memory, in light of who we have become. The diagram explained in my previous post can help us respond to our growing awareness. Every aspect of an event will need to be reassessed.

How do we feel about the event now, looking from an adult perspective, or having become a Christian?

We should ponder whether our thoughts and perceptions of the event were correct. As noted above, the perception of a child will usually be incomplete, or wrong. If an event was traumatic, then a child’s perception of the event was almost certainly incorrect. The other person was almost certainly wrong in their behaviour. The people who should have protected them might also have been at fault. If we review the event from an adult/Christian perspective, our perception of what happened will likely differ.

We might need to ask God how he understood the event. Then, ideally, we should modify our perception of the event to align with how he saw it, even if we did not discern his presence.

We can also review our emotional response in light of who we are now. An emotion is never right or wrong. It was what it was. However, we can think about what our emotional response would be to a similar event now, especially with a different perspective on what was happening. We might realise that we are now a different person and that our emotional response would be different too.

We might need to ask God to remove the emotional response from our memory, because we want to respond differently now. Having a memory of our emotional response is different from having the actual emotion in our memory ready to pop out again when triggered. For example, remembering that I was angry at the time differs from still feeling angry when I think of the event.

In this consideration, we should remember that emotions are not right or wrong. They are just a reflection of how events are affecting us.

We can review the behaviour that the event and our emotional response to it produced. We should understand that a child’s response will always be self-protective, so this means that it is never wrong. It was the right thing to do at the time if it kept the child safe, even if an adult might think the child should have behaved differently. Gabor Mate explains,

Everything within us, no matter how distressing, exists for a purpose; no matter how troublesome and debilitating it may be. The truth is, these disturbers of our peace have always been friends, strange though it may sound. Their origins were protective and beneficent and that remains their current aim, even when they seem to go about it in a misguided way. I call them stupid friends.
If the child believes that an action was necessary to keep themselves safe, (even if that was not strictly true), they have no choice but to act according to their perception of what was happening. Therefore, what they did was not wrong. For example, suppose an adult told the child at the time that their outburst was terrible. The adult is mistaken because every child is entitled to do what they think will keep themselves safe (even if they responded with an emotional overreaction).

We should reflect on how we would behave in response to a similar event now, or how we should respond now that we have more wisdom than we had as a child. Possibly a different response would be wiser. It might involve speaking up about our perspective on the event and challenging the other person's actions.

Of course, it is not always safe to speak up, even when we are mature adults. If the relationships have not changed, remaining silent might still be safer. However, we should understand that choosing to stay silent to keep the peace is quite different, and far better than keeping silent because we believe that we don’t have the right to speak. The former is a proactive response by a person who understands the situation, whereas the latter devalues us as a person.

Even if the understanding/perception of the child was correct, their behaviour might have been inappropriate. However, a child is not responsible for solving every problem that they face. Parents are usually responsible for resolving serious issues between siblings. If they fail to do that, the responsibility should not be dumped on a sensitive child.

We might need to ask God to break the link between the emotion and the behaviour so that the feeling does not always trigger the behaviour. The ideal outcome is that we can act on that particular emotion with various responses depending on the event.

We can review carefully any decisions that we have made. If we have vowed not to do something, that is constraining our behaviour unnecessarily. We should agree with God that we are not bound by the vow that we made when we were in a stressful situation that we did not fully understand. He will set us free from it.

From Past to Future.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Past to Future (2)

Gabor Mate explains something important about the way our memory works.

For efficiency, the brain is designed to form clusters in our neurophysiology and mind—connections among certain memories, emotions, ways of perceiving the world, and behaviours—which stay together as internal units that can be activated when needed.
I created the following diagram to illustrate what Gabor Mate is explaining.
In our memory (shaded circle), we often cluster events, perceptions, feelings and behaviours together.
  • Our perceptions and thoughts about an event influence our behaviour, but they are not always remembered clearly.

  • Our emotions/feelings often dominate the memory (over our rational thoughts). Strong feelings (particularly negative ones like fear, shame or anger) give the event a stronghold in our memory. If there are no strong emotions during the event, it will go into a weaker place in memory and will be quickly forgotten.

  • Our behaviour/actions will often be motivated by the emotions we feel. The more intense the emotion, the stronger will be the response/behaviour. That is good if we need to respond powerfully, but it can also cripple us.

  • In response to intense emotional events, we often make decisions/vows about what we will do in the future, eg “I will never do that again” or “I will never speak honestly to my father again”. We are often not always aware that we have made these decisions, and they do not always go into our memory with the event, but these vows significantly constrain our future behaviour.

Strong emotions will automatically produce the same behaviour during subsequent events, even if the situation is different. A powerful feeling prompts the behaviour that is clustered with it in our memory.

More at Past to Future.

Saturday, July 29, 2023


The Labour government that has ruled New Zealand for the last six years seems to be struggling. Since Jacinda Ardern stepped down as Prime Minister at the beginning of the year, five cabinet ministers have resigned or been sacked from their roles.

In a way, this is not surprising, as apart from a few skilled ministers, Labour was always a fairly weak team, and managing a government department is a very challenging role. Very few politicians are up to it. The chief executives of the key government departments have spent years learning to work the system, and those who get to the top role are very skilled power operators. It is very difficult for a relatively experienced politician to rein them in (I explain this further in Political Power).

When Chris Hipkins became the leader at the beginning of the year, the news media jumped on the band waggon, but now their mood has changed. They are writing articles suggesting that Labour may have already lost the election in September, in order to position themselves as those who determined who becomes the government (as they like to believe).

The most recent resignation was the Minister of Revenue, who resigned because he disagreed with tax policies announced by the Prime Minister. This suggests that in addition to personal failures, the cabinet is also fraught with power struggles over policy issues.

When I look at this situation and try to understand the spiritual realities behind these difficulties, the word that comes to mind is “Confusion”. In 2015, I wrote the following words about the spiritual climate in Wellington when I sensed that a spirit of confusion had been released by those with power in the capital city.

Wellington will be confused
People will buzz in and out of the beehive,
uncertain of what to do,
Filled with fear, perplexity and confusion (Is 22:5).

All treading on each other
to get to the top (out of habit),
but not knowing where the top is,
or what they will do if they get there.
Not knowing their right hand
from their left (Jonah 4:11).

No ideals, except for

Trouble to the left
Trouble to the right
All is confusion
All is confusion
Disaster behind us
Terror ahead of us
all is confusion.

This confusion has been bubbling away for quite a while but is now becoming manifest. The leaders of the National Party are crowing about the problems of the incumbent government, but they have forgotten their own struggles with confusion. Following their loss in the 2017 election, they suffered several leadership coups that produced four leaders and four deputy leaders in two years. Each of these leaders came from quite different political perspectives, so there is obviously a great deal of division and confusion beneath their desperate, election-driven unity.

Most of the people with government experience disappeared from the political scene during the leadership struggles, so if National does win the election, they will have a bunch of untested ministers trying to control the heads of government departments with years of practice at handling power. They will come under the same spirit of confusion and will not have the spiritual wisdom to deal with it.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Past to Future

Perhaps because I am getting older, I have been thinking about my life and the people that have influenced me to be what I have become. I have thought about my childhood and the influences that shaped my life.

My thinking has been partly inspired by reading “The Myth of Normality” by Gabor Mate. It is a fascinating book, and he communicates the insights of Psychology in a way that is relatively easy to understand.

I have written up some of the insights that I gained from reading his book in a substack article called Past to Future. The article also describes what I have learned about myself. I will post some key insights here, but for the full article you should read Past to Future.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Bad Stuff

A lot of bad stuff is happening in the world, but these things are normal in a season when the people of the world have forgotten God. Modern expansions of power are just the world doing what the world does, and the world expands while the church sleeps, but I am not surprised, or disturbed. God sits in heaven and laughs. He scoffs at their plans (Psalm 2:4).

Without God, serious problems always occur, so people look to political power to rescue them. And there are always power seekers willing to step up and try to do it. They often start out with good intentions but get corrupted by power. Some arrive at a place where they believe that they can achieve more good by doing evil. Some bad people also try to manipulate political power to advance their evil goals.

This is happening now, but it has always happened. Read English and European history, and you will see that it has been going on forever. The same thing was happening in Judges 9. It is an analogical to what is happening in our time.

In the last hundred years, we have seen massive increases in political power as faith in God has declined. With every new crisis, leaders demand more power to deal with it, and the people are mostly glad to see it, because without God, they need the government to rescue them. I note that people who grumble about increasing political control expect the government to rescue them when their homes are damaged by flood, landslide, or earthquake, or when a pandemic disrupts their business. I am not surprised, or distressed by these changes. They are the inevitable consequence of people losing faith in God. Without God, people need political powers to rescue them.

Fortunately, the limits of political power are also being completely exposed. Every time a crisis is dealt with, another worse problem that they did not expect pops up in its place. The political powers are just not smart enough to deliver the peace and plenty that they have promised, so all over the world, government leaders are being shaken and are failing.

Biden, Macron and Rutte are examples. And the powerful people who try to manipulate political power, like Schwab and Soros, are getting older and are no longer confident that they can resolve all the problems that frighten them.

Railing against the world for doing what it always does is a waste of energy and will not help. We have an effective solution to the problems of the world. That is the gospel of Jesus and the alternative kingdom that he is establishing with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the church seems unwilling to push this solution seriously.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Systems of the World

The systems of the world are being shaken, and will eventually fail, but I am not confident that we are close to their collapse. They are being shaken, but I think they are tougher than we realise, and will persist for longer than many expect.

The rulers of the world are desperate and will use every resource and power they can get hold of to keep on top. Unfortunately, most people in the world still believe that political power of some kind is the solution to the problems that the world faces. They will gladly give the powers of the world more authority in a desperate attempt to hold back the darkness and keep the peace.

We will see systems failing in ways that look like they are collapsing, but it will not be their final fall. At these times, the systems of the world will appear to be beaten, but they will move and switch, and come back even stronger. For example, the United States could collapse in on itself under the strain of political and cultural division, economic crisis and inability to resolve it, and another serious military defeat. However, these crises will just create the conditions for a more ruthless leader to rise to power, and make the United States militarily stronger, but probably more evil.

What worries is the complete unpreparedness of the church for what lies ahead. Although there are plenty of secular and Christian warnings of troubles ahead, nothing much has changed and the church is even less prepared than it was twenty years ago.

God will not allow the systems of the world to collapse, until his people are ready to take advantage of the power vacuum and put something better in its place. That's why I wrote,

We should be joining together, so we can advance God's Kingdom when the kingdoms of the world collapse and fall. Radical change is needed, so we can shine brightly in the darkness and share in the victory that God has planned.
I fear that if the world systems were to collapse tomorrow, most of the church would not be prepared to stand, so that it would be wiped out along with the powers of the world. That would not be very helpful to God's purposes.

So God will allow the world system to persist for a long time yet. He will allow it to keep going, as long as it takes for his people to get prepared. And that is a bit out of his control, because he will not force his people to make changes that they are unwilling to make.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023


The second part of the curse/consequence of the fall does affect the relationship between men and women.

Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you (Gen 3:16).
God spoke to the woman and warned her that as a consequence of their handing authority on earth over to the spiritual powers of evil, she would be “ruled over” by the man.

The Genesis account does not explain how this would happen, but the Hebrew word translated as “rule” is “mashal”. It is a strong word. It means to “rule” or “have dominion”. God warned that women would be dominated by men. This was a change. Adam had not dominated Eve when they were created in the garden, so this was a consequence of the fall.

The reality is that there are only two ways that men could dominate over women:

  • Superior intelligence.
  • Superior physical strength
There is no evidence in the scriptures that men are more intelligent than women, so it must be superior physical strength that allows fallen men to rule and control fallen women. I have already noted above that there is no evidence in Genesis that men were created physically stronger than men. Rather, it suggests that they were created equal in strength.

This suggests that something happened at the fall to increase Adam’s physical strength over what it had been when he was created. Or perhaps, the change to women that increased their pain in childbirth diminished their overall strength and made them vulnerable to the physical dominance of men.

This physical dominance would be reinforced by their continuing attraction to men, even those who are damaged by sin. Genesis says that women would continue to be attracted to their husbands. This was the natural outworking of their natural ability to communicate and interact, so it seems to be a good thing and not the consequence of the fall, although it might be attenuated by it.

From Gender Difference in the OT

Saturday, July 15, 2023


Genesis explains something important about the nature of men. In creation, before the fall, loyalty to a wife takes priority over loyalty to parents.

That’s why a man abandons his father and his mother and attaches himself to his woman and they become one flesh (Gen 2:24).
We tend to focus most on the “one flesh”, which is possible because they are made from the same stuff. However, the first part of the verse uses a strong word to describe the change that occurs when a man finds a wife. The man abandons his parents. The Hebrew word is “azab”, which means loosen or forsake. Men must honour their parents, but they are expected to leave their parents and form a new strong relationship with their wives.

The husband attaches himself to his chosen woman. The Hebrew word is “dabaq”, which means “to cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick with, follow closely, join to, overtake, catch.” This is a strong word. A man is expected to really cling to his wife and stay close. The common understanding that men are created to go out into the world and do bold things, whereas women stay at home and cling to their men is wrong. In the beginning, God created men to pursue and cling to their women. Obviously, this shapes the personality that God gave to men, but not in the way that is usually claimed.

From Gender Difference in the Old Testament".

Thursday, July 13, 2023


The Reserve Bank of New Zealand announced yesterday that its Monetary Policy Committee agreed to leave the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 5.50%. They believe that they are getting price inflation under control. They note that the CPI, which they use as a measure of inflation, was 6.7 percent over the past year.

Unfortunately, that does not resolve the problems that inflation has created for ordinary people. Focussing on inflation over the latest year creates a false perspective. Since the December 2019 quarter (before COVID), the CPI has increased by 17 percent. Over the same period, wage rates for workers doing the same role with the same skills have risen by only 9.5 percent. That gap is why people feel there is a cost of living crisis.

The wage-rate increase for the accommodation and food services industry in the private sector rose was only 6.6 percent. For people in this industry, the gap between price increases and increases in their wages increases is even more severe, unless they can get longer working hours, or find a better-paid role.

The CPI does not measure the effects of changes in mortgage interest rates, so the gap above is only part of the burden that wage earners are feeling. For most, the increase in the additional interest that they will have to pay is the worst aspect of the inflation pain that they are experiencing. And there is no sign that mortgage interest rates will go back to the low levels to which house buyers have become accustomed.

A bank economist said today that in a couple of years, this inflation will be just a memory, but that is not right. In the unlikely event that the inflation rate returned to zero, prices will not return to the level that they were before the inflation started in 2019. Prices just stop increasing, so the price increases that have already occurred are locked in forever.

Unless, wage and salary earners can get an increase in their wages to compensate for the 17+ percent increase in prices that has occurred, they will be permanently worse off. That is why bank employees are currently frustrated by a 7 percent pay offer from their employers, especially when the banks have been making record profits.