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.