Monday, 31 October 2016

This is That

It helps my faith to think of the power of the Holy Spirit that accompanies the Gospel, 'not' as something else, but as precisely the prophesied future Kingdom of God (and all that will bring) made available in some real way, in the present - through the Name of Jesus, and by His resurrection from the dead. 

This Gospel-business we're in isn't something 'else' - it is 'the' fulfilment of Kingdom-prophecy.

The power of the Holy Spirit which we have been promised is not just a patch on God's real and bigger future program in Bible-Prophecy.

It is God's Kingdom program itself, brought into the present, while we wait for His second coming - precisely as prophesied.

"This is that..." said Peter, referring to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which they were receiving in the upper room, and quoting the Book of Joel.
The Jews linked that event with the still-future coming of the Messiah and His Kingdom. But Peter claimed it was happening in the present - and he didn't say 'this is something else'  - not something temporary - 'this is that'. 

The significance of that is that some of the blessing and power traditionally thought to await the future age, is available in some very real and powerful way in the present - through Jesus Christ.

This Gospel life is precisely what the Law and the Prophets predicted - it's not a parenthesis. 

It's centred around Jesus - while we await His second coming. 

That understanding of the Apostles' doctrine as it links events which they were eyewitnesses of with Old Testament prophecy, improves my concept of just what this power that we have received contains. 

It enlarges my concept of the power that's at the back of His Name. 

It is God's number one Kingdom-business. 

The use of the Name of Jesus - for salvation, deliverance, healing. For the hope of eternal life. 

This message began in Israel, fulfilling prophecy - then went to all nations, also fulfilling prophecy.

The good news of the Kingdom, of power.

Resurrection Power

MATTHEW 27:52,53
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 
53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

In my nearly 37 years as a Christian, I've seldom heard preachers mention the above incident. But think of what the significance of that would have been though, to Jewish minds.

It implied that an event (the resurrection) which they rightly-believed belongs at the moment of the future, eternal, Messianic Kingdom, had spilled over into the present.

See, that was the message of the Apostles. Their message was that the long promised and prophesied future Kingdom of God, had already come among them in some real way, in the Person of Jesus Christ, and through His resurrection from the dead. That was the 'good news'!

The power, salvation, and resurrection-life of the future Kingdom, has been brought among us in the present, in some very real way, and is receivable by us, and is in us, and it can be expressed through us and we can demonstrate its power - all by the Name of Jesus. 

Kingdom and power (dunamis, like dynamite) are inseparable. 

It's the Gospel 'of' the Kingdom.

The Power of God

One Sunday in a church service, when I was a young teenager, our Pastor approached a man in the congregation to lay hands on him or to say something to him - as he did so, the man was thrown by the power of God backwards through a couple of rows of chairs.
In another meeting an evangelist received a 'word of knowledge' that someone had a problem with his knees. A man in the congregation indicated that it was him, so the evangelist began to pray for him.
Suddenly an evil spirit in the man started roaring with a loud voice. It looked like he wanted to choke the evangelist! The whole congregation was on their feet interceding. But the evangelist just calmly repeated, "The blood of Jesus". The man slumped to the floor, all was calm.
Next I noticed the man was on the stage, leaping and dancing. Then he knelt, raised his face and his hands to heaven, with a look of freedom, love and gratitude on his face.
" shall receive dynamite, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me..."
Dynamite. How does that sound! The Greek word is dunamis, translated 'power'. The word 'dynamite' derives from the same word.
The power of the Spirit of God.
The power that created the world.
The power that anointed Jesus to do so many signs and wonders and heal all who were oppressed by the devil.
The power that raised Him from the dead.
They were eyewitnesses of these things.
Many graves of the saints were opened after Jesus' resurrection, and they came out of their graves and walked into the city and were seen by many.
These things might have made them wonder whether the future Kingdom was about to come any moment!
When all the dead shall be raised.
When every eye shall see Him.
The elements shall melt with fervent heat.
There shall be new heavens and a new earth.
But then Jesus was taken up into heaven, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. The heavens have to receive Him until the time appointed by the Father.
Jesus had told them in the meantime:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
They were to carry-on Jesus' works.
Their message was that the power and salvation and life of the future Kingdom, had come among them already in some new and real way, through the Person of Jesus Christ, and through His resurrection from the dead.
It was brought forward into the present, through faith in the Name of Jesus.
God had made Jesus who was crucified, both Lord and Messiah! Already! In heaven.
They were promised dynamite, or power, after the Holy Spirit came upon them.
For what purpose?
"...and ye shall be witnesses unto me..."
To demonstrate that dynamite - the power that raised Jesus from the dead - the power of the coming Kingdom - resurrection power - to use that dynamite, as exhibits in their witness or testimony about Jesus.
That's the power you're packing - after you've received the Holy Spirit.
It's a message of the future power manifested in the present.
Does that raise your expectation, next time you lay hands on the sick?
All that's needed, is for this message to be received with faith.
Only believe.

About Mystery Pain

Sometimes people say they feel a lot of physical pain.

Then someone says to them, "It's all in your head. Get over it!"

Then they feel belittled, misunderstood, frustrated - maybe even angry. Because they feel the pain is real. So this only adds to their pain.

Actually, all pain is in our heads. No matter where in our body the cause of the pain is, it's our brain that makes it possible for us to feel that pain.

Some medications work by dealing with the cause of pain in whatever part of the body - but other painkillers work by affecting the brain's ability to communicate pain, without even dealing with the cause of the pain where it's located. And yet the person stops feeling pain. Even if the pain was in our toe. That's because all pain is "in our head" in a sense.

There's also such a thing as phantom pain. Some people who have had a limb amputated, sometimes feel pain as if they still have the limb. Some days they feel it worse than other days - even though they don't actually have the limb! This sort of pain is often treated with anti-depressants. Not because the person is depressed - but because pain is felt in the brain whether or not there's a physical cause in some other part of the body.

There's a video of a cat which had a paw amputated, and you can see the cat still trying to move kitty-litter using the paw which it no longer has. That tells you that the cat's brain was acting like it still had the paw, to some extent. And the cat didn't need to just "get over it". It's how the brain works!

Maybe human brains are the same. Maybe a person's brain can communicate pain, even when there is no physical cause of pain elsewhere in the body. But it's still felt as pain! That pain someone feels can be as real as phantom pain in an amputee, or as real as that cat trying to move the paw it didn't have.

In such cases when someone's pain is caused mainly by their brain, without a known physical cause elsewhere in the body, the symptoms of pain might be able to be relieved by using painkillers or anti-depressants which work on the brain. But that still doesn't cure the cause: it only masks or prevents the symptoms.

So the question is, if someone's pain is caused mainly by their brain, with no obvious physical cause elsewhere in their body, what is the cure. Is it simply "get over it"?

Well I think the first question would be to ascertain whether the person has a disorder of the brain, or whether the person's brain is actually acting precisely how the brain can be expected to act given that person's circumstances either known or unknown.

If it's a brain disorder, and you know it - then treat it as such. But if the person has had things happen to them, then maybe the brain is acting in a way that's only to be expected, even if that means pain.

In the case of amputation, maybe the brain can't be expected to act in a new way, without time and re-training.

If a person needs to "get over it", they probably have a complex combination of things going on in their lives, which might all be accumulating, which could be physical, emotional, dietary, spiritual, viral, bacterial, relational, any number of things, which might be working together to cause the brain to feel pain - which might prove they have a good and normal brain. So "getting over it" mightn't be as easy as a single decision.

It might require a combination of new responses or behaviours covering multiple issues in their life. Unless we can help them identify and respond to the complex combination of factors which might be affecting them, resulting in their brain communicating pain, then telling them to "just get over it" might just add another issue which might affect them even more.

The body and brain is complex, and so is the mind and spirit of man - and all parts of our body and our lives and our being affects the other.

When a person presents with physical pain, unless the pain is self-inflicted, or the person is lying, not necessarily in this order:

1. Seek to identify any mental, emotional, spiritual and relational issues the person might be facing and seek to diagnose what affect those issues might be combining to have on the person's physical body and brain.

2. Seek to help the person deal with those issues directly, in their own right. This could be complex, and could involve a variety of approaches.

3. In the meantime, optionally medication or other forms of social assistance could be administered or offered, which might alleviate the affects of those issues on the person's body or brain.

4. Seek to diagnose direct physical causes of pain in the body.

5. Identify locations of referred pain, from any primary sources of pain in the body.

6. Treat the cause of the pain at both its source and in referred locations.

7. Meanwhile, optionally also treat the symptoms of pain at whatever locations its felt, and also in the brain.

8. If a cause of pain cannot be found either in the person's body or psyche/pneuma/relationships, then consider the person's brain.

9. If the feeling of pain is a natural response of the brain to known circumstances outside the brain which are not directly treatable (such as a previous amputation; or other causes which have since been cured already) then perhaps the brain needs time and re-training. This doesn't mean the person is ill mentally or physically - it's the brain acting exactly how you'd expect a healthy brain to act given the previous circumstances.

10. Otherwise, having eliminated all those possible causes of pain, consider whether the brain itself has a disorder, caused only by the brain itself. Seek to diagnose the cause in the brain. Seek to treat the cause. Meanwhile optionally administer medication or other forms of assistance which can alleviate the symptoms.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Fear of God in the New Testament

There is still a place for fearing God, in the New Covenant life.

Fearing God is part of the Gospel.

At the Beginning of the Gospel

When Mary realised the Gospel was about to begin in Israel through her, she exclaimed: "...his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation..."

After Zecharias and Elizabath's miraculous experience which heralded the start of the Gospel, "...fear came on all that dwelt round about them..."

During Jesus' Ministry in Israel

As the Gospel-ministry was expressed in Israel, "...they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear..."

"...and there came a fear on all: and they glorified God..."

Jesus said: "I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him".

"...fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell".

In parables He said: "...There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man"; 

and He described a man who "...said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man".

On the cross, one thief said to another, "...Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?"

" the days of his flesh...he [Jesus]...offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared".

In the Early Church

The fear of God carried over on this side of the cross, into the early Church.

Among the Jews

"...fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles".

"...great fear came on all them that heard these things".

"...great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things".

"Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied".

Among the Gentiles

In Caesarea there was "A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway".

"...Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews..."

Peter preached that "God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him"

Paul said, "...Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience".

"Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent".

When Jews and Greeks at Ephesus realised that an evil spirit recognised the authority in Jesus' Name Whom Paul preached "...fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified".

In the Epistles

Paul decried the fact that "There is no fear of God before their eyes" - whether Gentiles or Jews - in Gospel-times, just as much as David had, in Old Testament times.

Paul therefore advised all believers:

"...Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee."

"Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour".

"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God".

He commended the repentant Corinthians: "For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter".

Titus's "inward affection" was "more abundant toward" the Corinthians, "while he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him".

"Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God," wrote Paul.

"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord..."

" singleness of heart, fearing God".

"  ye have always much out your own salvation with fear and trembling".

He advised Timothy: "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear."

The Hebrews were warned: "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it".

"If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries".

"The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God".

"...Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark..." and he was used as an example for believers.

When Moses saw the quaking mount, he said, "I exceedingly fear and quake".

"But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling..."

"...wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire".

Peter said, "...if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear".

"Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king".

Wives might win a husband, if any obey not the word, "when they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear".

"...sanctify the Lord in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience".

Some unrepentant church-attendees were "feeding themselves without fear".

"And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh", remembering that God is "able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy".

In Revelation 

"...great fear fell upon them which saw them [the two witnesses]".

"...thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth".

"Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth..."

"Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest".

"Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great".


"...let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire".

Blessing or Cursing Israel

God blesses those who bless others, from any nation - not only blessing the nation of Israel.

Cursing others, of any nation, brings God's wrath - not only mistreating Israel.

So Israel isn't singled-out for special treatment. Everyone is to be treated right!

Blessing others doesn't involve condoning any wrongdoing.

It involves respecting others' identity, calling and boundaries.

Baby Dedication v Blessing

I've always found baby-dedications boring. Even more than the announcements!

Announcements always seemed to break the flow of the Spirit in a meeting. Baby dedications were even flatter. And I think I know why.

Only a child's parents can dedicate a child to the Lord - no-one else, no minister, no priest, can do that. The child isn't theirs to dedicate! But a minister can bless your child.

Dedicate v bless.

Parents dedicate - a minister can bless.

As a parent you can bring your child to the congregation and ask a minister to bless the child. That's Scriptural. Jesus laid His hands on children and blessed them.

But to think that the services of a minister are required in order to have your child dedicated to the Lord - that you must hand your child to a minister, that he must take the child up in his arms, that he must be the one to hold your child up to the Lord - that's either a carry-over from pre-Reformation times when only ministers and not all believers were regarded as priests; or it could even be a carry-over from Old Covenant Levitical-priesthood times.

Parents dedicate their child to the Lord - directly, without needing the services of another; a minister can bless their child.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Three Facts About Simchat Torah

According to Moses' Law (Torah), the eighth day holiday immediately after the ancient Feast of Tabernacles:
1. Was a one-day event - not a two-day event, like modern Jews outside the land of Israel have made it.
The very fact they need to add a day, tells us that the Torah never intended that it should be observed outside the land of Israel.
2. It required a burnt-offering. That was the purpose of the event. But that isn't necessary anymore, nor is it possible.
3. The day wasn't about celebrating the annual cycle of Torah-reading. Post-Temple era rabbis made it about that, seeing it wasn't possible anymore to carry-out the Torah's express purpose for the day, which was to offer a burnt-offering.
So the tradition which came to be known as Simchat Torah until today, is really a manmade substitute for the ancient Torah requirement.
Of course, celebrating part of the Bible is a good thing to do, any day of the year - but doing so doesn't literally make anyone a Torah-keeper. We may as well face that fact squarely.
The only legitimate way to comply with what the Torah and the Prophets intended we should be doing by now, is to embrace the New Covenant which the Old Covenant spoke about: JESUS Christ.
In Him you are complete, and you are free.
That's called the Gospel, which means 'good news'.

Are the Feasts Still Prophetic

I'm not convinced the Jewish Feasts were prophetic of events still to come in future in Israel, without their having been fulfilled already in some way.

Obviously the second coming, resurrection, final judgment and God dwelling with us in new heavens and earth are still future - yet in a sense all of that has already been inaugurated, or made possible, and we've tasted it in advance already, in some new and very real way spiritually already - through the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

The problem with making it future, is it confuses the timeline of redemption, as follows: Seeing the Passover was a shadow of Christ's death on the cross, if the Feast of Tabernacles (which followed the Passover) foreshadowed a still-future event for national-Israel, then it would mean Christ has to be crucified again - because the Feast of Tabernacles involved blood sacrifice too. But Jesus was sacrificed "once for all".

See what I mean? So not all of the details in all of the ancient Feasts can't foreshadow a sequence of events to happen for national-Israel in future.

I think, in their own way, each of the Feasts depicted the overall Gospel message. Perhaps each feast focused on one aspect of the message more than another feast did. And there is a certain amount of historical sequence intended (for example, the outpouring of the Spirit followed the cross, just like the day of Pentecost followed the Passover). But I don't think every detail in each of the Feasts was meant to have a sequential fulfilment in Israel in future.

Take the sacrifices for example. Jesus won't be sacrificed again in future, and neither will animal sacrifices be required again in future again. So the fact that a sacrifice had to be offered during the Feast of Tabernacles was a detail which can't have a sequential fulfilment in future.

So the emphasis in fulfilment isn't in seeing future events for Israel - other than what shall occur for all nations, through the Gospel scheme of things.

Believers of all nations await the consummation of our salvation, but there is a very real sense in which it has already been inaugurated. That's the Gospel!

So the Feasts were fulfilled, in Christ, in sequential historical order - and the whole scheme awaits its consummation at Christ's second coming. I don't think the Feasts are about things still to happen uniquely for national Israel prior to the second coming or during some uniquely Jewish millennium after Christ comes. There's no theological room for that, in the New Testament.

We can't make the ancient Feasts out to be prophetic of anything which the Apostles didn't already teach in their Gospel. And they taught about one sacrifice. One new man. One body. And then the second coming.

Simchat Torah

Straight after the Feast of Tabernacles, Moses' Law (the Torah) required ancient Jews to have another one-day holiday, on which a burnt-offering had to be sacrificed. 
Modern Jews observe that day by celebrating the Torah - males dance around the synagogue holding a scroll of the Torah. The tradition has come to be called Simchat Torah, even though the term is not in the Torah itself. 

Nothing wrong with celebrating any part of the Bible, on any day of the year! But the Torah didn't say anything about that being the purpose of the day. Therefore doing so doesn't necessarily mean they're Torah-keepers. The purpose of the day was to offer a burnt-sacrifice. 
Modern Jews outside the land of Israel celebrate the day over two days, instead of on a single day like the Torah said, because of the time-differences - just in case there's any portion of the day when they might fail to 'keep' it.
The very fact they needed to add that custom in order to 'keep' the Torah's requirement, ought to be enough to tell you the Torah itself never intended for the day to be observed outside the land of Israel.
When the Temple was destroyed around AD70 and Jews were scattered around the world, it was no longer possible to offer the sacrifices which Moses' Law required on that day - so rabbis had to come up with alternative ways of 'keeping' it.

So the idea of keeping the special day over two days instead of one, and of replacing the required burnt-offering with a celebration of the Torah instead, was developed - and eventually became a new tradition. 

The Jews were trying to hold on to some sort of connection to the Torah, even though literally the connection had been lost. Otherwise what would they be left with? Nothing! Because they hadn't believed in Jesus. 
It's a bit sad, really. I mean, great that they celebrate part of the Bible! But sad that they're missing the real thing. Sad that they're making an impossible and futile attempt to be literally connected to the Torah.
It's like celebrating an old contract, even though the written document is no longer a valid legal instrument.
Like celebrating having something, when in reality they don't have it anymore.
Like dusting off an old marriage certificate and celebrating it - not one's current marriage certificate, but a previous marriage certificate, with a spouse to whom one has already become dead so he or she could be married to another.
It's like propping up a dead body, and celebrating it as if it's still alive. 
And then trying to make that a joyous occasion? Please.
And they know it - that's why so many visit the wailing wall.

There's only one valid way to be truly connected to the Torah today.
It's not by carrying-out manmade ways of 'keeping' it...
Not by being in denial of the reality that it can no longer be kept...
The only way, is to do what the Torah itself intended we should be doing by now - and that is: embrace the New Covenant. 
See, the Torah itself spoke of a new covenant coming. In contract law, there can never be two contracts covering the same thing at the same time. A new contract implies the end of the old contract.
Since the New Covenant has already come, the Old Covenant has finished - now the only way to have a valid 'connection' to the Old Covenant is therefore to embrace that New Covenant - JESUS!
In that sense the Torah included its own sunset clause. But it remains a living document to us today, only when we see it as having pointed to Jesus - only when we see it as having set the historical platform on which the New Covenant would be made. 
Attempting a connection to the Torah via any other traditions is really manmade, a substitute, without an atonement, not obligatory, isn't really Torah-keeping anyway, and it's powerless and spiritually devoid of present-truth and life. 
As I said, celebrating the Bible is always a good thing - on any day of the year! And if someone or even a whole nation wants to celebrate part of the Bible on one or two special days of the year - great! All I'm saying is that doing so doesn't mean a person is literally keeping the Torah. We may as well face that fact squarely!
The only way to comply with what the Torah and the Prophets intended for us today - and the only way to connect to God and to life - is JESUS - and only Jesus.
We are reconciled to God by a new and living way - by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross once-for-all, and His resurrection. 
You are complete in Him - and you are free.
That's called the Good News! 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Swing States & the Electoral College

A US Presidential candidate could win the majority of the popular vote, and yet not win the Presidency.

Is it true a candidate could also win in 39 out of 50 States, and yet not win the Presidency?

A candidate could lose the popular vote, and win in only eleven out of 50 States, and yet win the Presidency?

Because of the Electoral College.

Whatever the minimum number of States is, it's far fewer than half.

Which is why the candidates campaign so hard in certain swing States. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Two Groups of Voters in US Presidential Elections

In US Presidential elections, there are two groups of voters.

The first group is the general public. They vote in November.

The second group is called the Electoral College. It votes in December.

The general public vote for their preferred Presidential candidate, but they don't directly elect the President - the Electoral College does that.

The Presidential candidates were chosen beforehand by delegates at their party conventions. The delegates who got to go to those conventions in the first place were also elected by their parties beforehand. This process is called the Primaries.

Also prior to the general election in November, each party in each State and the District of Columbia chooses individuals who could potentially become part of the group that gets to vote in December, the group called the Electoral College.

Each State is allocated a different number of electors - depending on the population of the State. It's the same number as the number of members of Congress the State is allocated, plus two (the Senators).

The Electoral College will consist of 538 electors drawn nationwide. But it is not yet known before the November election which party in each State will get to contribute their State's quota of electors. That's where the November election comes in.

Whichever candidate wins the majority of the popular vote in any given State in the November election, his (or her) party gets to contribute the electors for that State towards the Electoral College. And of course, in the Electoral College vote in December, the electors vote for their own party's Presidential nominee. Whichever candidate wins an absolute majority in this election - at least 270 - becomes President.

A couple of States have a slightly different and more detailed way of choosing who they send as electors in the Electoral College. There are also procedures in place to choose a President, if no candidate wins an absolute majority in the Electoral College vote.

So the US Presidential election is more than a single-stage process. It involves:
  • the primaries - in which individual party members are chosen to go as delegates to their party convention, where they then choose their party nominee; 
  • then the general election - which informs who the States end-up sending as electors in the Electoral College; 
  • then the Electoral College finally elects a President.

Smaller, Swing States

The goal of US Presidential candidates, in the November election, is not just to win the overall majority of popular votes nationwide - he (or she) also wants to win the majority in each State.

Because in most States it is the candidate who wins a majority in the State, whose party gets to put forward that State's allocated quota of electors into the Electoral College - then it's the Electoral College which votes directly for the President in December. (There are only two States which have a slightly different and more detailed arrangement to this.)

The November election doesn't directly elect the President. The role of the November public-election is really just to determine the mix of voters from the States which will make up the Electoral College - then the Electoral College votes directly for the President in December.

Each State can only put forward into the Electoral College the number of electors allocated to their State. There are 538 nationwide - and to become President a candidate has to win an absolute majority of 270, when they vote in December. Therefore each Presidential candidate wants to win the rights for his party in as many States as possible, to put forward electors pledged to vote for him into the Electoral College.

So, winning in a State can end-up more significant in the end - it can give the candidate more leverage - than winning an overall majority nationwide.

This motivates Presidential candidates to campaign in all of the States, including swing States and smaller States.

A goal of the framers of this system was to prevent any individual, group, State and government itself from getting too much power to the detriment of others. It was designed to safeguard democracy against destroying itself.  

America's Presidential Election System Explained

In the upcoming November election, Americans will have their say in who they would like to see as the next US President - but the November election alone doesn't directly decide who the next President will actually be. There's more to the process than that.

Whichever candidate wins the majority of votes in the November election, usually does end-up becoming the President - but not always. It has happened a few times that the candidate who won the majority of votes in the November election, didn't end-up becoming the President.

Here's what happens. After the November election, there will be another smaller election in December, in which 538 electors (a certain quota from each State) will vote. It is these electors (called the Electoral College) - rather than the general public - who directly determine which of the candidates will end-up presiding over Congress - becoming the President.

The quota of electors from each State is different for each State - it's a number equalling the number of members of Congress the State is allocated, which is proportional to its population, plus two Senators.

How these electors from each State are selected, is up to each State to freely legislate. But in most States, with the exception of a couple of States, it works something like this:

Prior to the November election, each major political party in each State pre-selects individuals as potential electors in the December election. Then whichever party's Presidential nominee wins the majority of votes in each State in the November election, his or her party gets to put forward the full quota of electors for that State in the December election.

Each party's electors are pledged to vote for their party's nominee. Some States require each elector to be faithful to their pledge, by law - others don't.

Only a couple of States have slightly different rules to that, regarding how the November election informs who end-up becoming their State's electors. In one such State it can even happen that electors come from more than one party in the same State.

All of these electors from all the States then vote, in December - and whichever candidate wins an absolute majority of the Electoral College's votes - 270 out of 538 - is appointed as the President.

If an absolute majority is not reached, there are rules which determine the procedure until a President is chosen.

It usually ends-up being the same candidate who won the popular majority nationwide, in the November election (because of the way the States have legislated to allow the results of the November election to impact on their choice of electors in the Electoral College which votes in December, and because the electors are usually pledged to a particular candidate).

Therefore it's usually possible to tell who the next President will be, soon after November's general election, before the Electoral College's vote in December. But not always!

This electoral system ensures that a candidate must appeal to the whole of America in order to win the Presidency, not just to States with higher populations.

It vests the choice, not entirely with the popular majority (which could result in democratic bullying by a stronger, though not necessarily better majority, over a weaker, though not necessarily morally-inferior few), nor exclusively with the influential elites or political establishment (which could result in tyranny) - but balances the choice between all.

It also makes voter-fraud more difficult - since the ultimate result of the Presidential election can't be determined just by a simple majority in any given State, but by a nationwide balance.

Other built-in protections in the American political system:

Two chambers of congress: the Senate and the House of Representatives;

Mid-term elections - giving voters the ability to adjust the balance of power within congress mid-term, potentially limiting the ability of a wayward President-elect from pursuing his own will;

Separation of powers between the legislature, judiciary and executive;

Plus of course: the separate powers of the individual States from the Federal government.

Each of these components of the system were designed by the founders to prevent absolute power from ever ending-up with an individual, or with a group - even if through democracy. Lest democracy ever become the destruction of itself.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Signs, Wonders, Miracles & Healings

Next time you go to lay hands on the sick in Jesus' Name...
The Jews were expecting a visible Messianic Kingdom; the resurrection of the dead; the judgment of the wicked; the vindication of the righteous; new heavens and a new earth; and eternal life - and rightly so. We are expecting it too - the blessed hope.
The disciples were excited because they believed Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, had come into history to bring that Kingdom.
They saw Him healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, feeding multitudes, walking on water, calming the storm, and forgiving sins.
It's like Jesus was the very embodiment of their Messianic, Kingdom-hope!
But then Jesus was crucified and died, and was buried. They were devastated. They had not yet understood that Messiah had to die for their sins and rise again, before entering into His glory.
As you know it was impossible for death to hold Him - on the third day God raised Him from the dead. The disciples' sorrow was turned to joy when they saw Him - and over 500 people with them.
The graves of many saints were opened after His resurrection, and they walked into Jerusalem and were seen by many.
On one occasion He even appeared with them behind locked doors, yet they were still able to touch Him and see His physical hands and feet and side.
Once again everything was looking like what the disciples had been expecting - even more than before!
Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem 'til they were endued with power from on high.
"Will you at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?" they asked.
They still didn't perfectly understand that Gentiles would also be included in God's Kingdom-salvation plan. Remember, Jesus had said that there were things He couldn't tell them yet, because they weren't able to bear it - but the Holy Spirit would tell them, in due course.
But for now Jesus simply addressed their question about timing:
"It's not for you to know the time nor seasons which the Father has placed in His own hands," He said.
"But you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and Judea and unto the uttermost ends of the earth."
Their message in Jerusalem and Judea was the same as Jesus' message - the good news of the Kingdom. And once they understood that it was for Gentiles too, they declared the very same message among the Gentiles - the good news about the Lord Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
Everywhere they went the Lord worked with them, confirming their message (about the Kingdom) with signs following: miracles, healings, casting out demons, raising the dead, speaking with new tongues, visions, prophesying, seeing people forgiven and saved, and filled with the Holy Spirit.
They were doing all of the same Kingdom-works that Jesus did, and greater works - because as for Him, He had returned to the Father where He was now reigning in heaven, waiting until the Day when all things will be made new.
In the meantime, as for the Apostles and the Church, they carried-on doing what Jesus had done. It was like the power of the world to come was already spilling forward into the present, in history, in great measure - first in the Person of the Son of God, and now in their own ongoing ministry as the Lord continued working with them.
The Gospel is the power of the future-Kingdom splashing into the present. It's so natural therefore to see a breakout of miracles, healings, signs and wonders and people getting saved - because the Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom - the message itself is the very power of God unto salvation.
This was the Apostles' take on Old Testament prophecy and how it was seeing its intended fulfilment. It's the good news that the future Day of salvation, vindication, justification, resurrection and eternal life and glory were virtually upon them, having broken into the present, through the Person of Jesus Christ.
If you can imagine trying to hold back Niagara Falls. Or picture race-horses behind the starting-gate, agitating to start running. That's what it's like - the power and blessing of the future is bursting into the present. The future Kingdom, power, salvation and blessing is made accessible and vouchsafed to us already in the present - through Him.
That's how willing God is, and how natural it is, that's the power that's vested in the Name of Jesus, for us to see the power of God working with us manifested now. The Kingdom is not in word but in power!
Just as Jesus had done so in His ministry, and even more so, the joint-ministry of the Church and the risen Jesus, exemplifies in the present the power of the future Kingdom, resurrection, judgment, vindication, justification, salvation and eternal life.
Next time you lay hands on the sick in Jesus' Name; next time you speak to that mountain - picture the power that raised Jesus from the dead...
Picture the power that caused those graves to open and so many saints to come out of their graves after Jesus rose from the dead and go walk into the city and be seen by many...
Picture the Day when the dead in Christ shall rise first...
Then us being caught up into the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air...
The future worldwide resurrection of all the dead...
Our abundant entry into the Kingdom of God...
The power that shall make all things new.
Because even though there's a day appointed for that, still that's the same power that is in you already right now - Christ in you - to heal the sick - to announce the message of forgiveness of sins.
It can be experienced right now, in advance of the coming Day.
That's the good news - of the Kingdom, of the grace of God - the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Rice Production in the Philippines

With so much land in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao, and with so much available labour, could it be feasible for the Philippines to produce nearly all of its rice? As it stands, the Philippines is one of the world's highest importers of rice.

I realise much of the land is mountainous. But the Debabawons of Agusan del Sur were growing rice on mountain-slopes without flooded terraces - and it was delicious - easily the nicest rice I've ever tasted!

Despite being mountains, there was still much flat land in the Philippines which seemed to me to be under-utilised, especially in Mindanao.

Blessed Israel

When I say that any plans God has for modern Israel can only be on the platform of the Gospel rather than on the lesser platform of the old Law, that's not to lower any of God's goodwill towards Israel - not at all. 

The Gospel took nothing away from Israel - in fact, it involves better promises than the Old Covenant. 

The Gospel raised the platform for the Jews - then raised the Gentiles to the same platform!

So God has the best-ever intentions for modern Israelis, just like we know He does for Americans, for Filipinos or for Australians. 

The sky is the limit for modern Israelis - and for all families and nations of the earth! Spiritually there's no distinction between the nationalities.

But the Gospel is the highest, the only and the final means by which anyone, including modern Israelis, can ever inherit the blessing - and it need not involve imitation Torah Feast-keeping.

Israel's Spiritual Future

When Jesus said:
Matthew 24:14
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come"
notice His words, "...and then the end will come".
"...this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed through the whole all nations...and then the end will come".
Is it fair to say it doesn't read like there's room for any gap in future history, when the Gospel must cease being preached to all nations, for some years possibly, prior to the end? but rather that the end immediately follows.
Now compare that with:
Romans 11:25,26
"...blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved..."
It's reasonable to assume that the fulness of the Gentiles shall continue coming in, while ever the Gospel is still being preached to all nations, right?
If so, then the moment "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" can be equated with "the end".
And seeing the end appears to immediately follow the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, that would leave no space in future-history, prior to the end, in which the Gospel must cease being preached to the nations, and God must turn His focus away from the nations, onto Israel instead, when blindness shall be removed from Israel, and literally all Israel shall be saved.
Yes Paul then says, "...and so all Israel shall be saved..." But notice he did not say, And 'then' - but, And 'so'.
Could that mean Paul wasn't talking about sequence, but about method - not, And then...But, And so... Not predicting a future historical sequence, but referencing an already-explained, already-current method.
If so, the sense could be that the current scenario, as Paul had just finished explaining it, is to continue until the end.
What scenario? The scenario:
  • That Israel's promised-salvation hadn't failed 
  • That a remnant of Jews had indeed been saved, first 
  • That the rest were blinded
  • That Gentiles then believed
  • That this didn't mean God closed the door to Jews, but God began using Gentiles to provoke more Jews to faith, to the effect that both Gentiles and Jews were now getting saved simultaneously
  • And that all of this was the precise manner in which Israel's prophesied salvation was indeed seeing its intended fulfilment.

"And so..." (meaning, according to this manner), the promise that "...all Israel shall be saved" was seeing its intended fulfilment.
Then Paul cited a sample-prophecy:
" it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins"
which by the way, are verses which must have already been fulfilled at least in-part by Christ's first coming, not only at His second coming - or else no-one has ever yet been saved!
This outcome had been a bit of a mystery in Old Covenant times, even to the Prophets themselves - but Paul, through the Gospel, explained the precise scenario by which the promised and prophesied salvation was seeing its intended fulfilment.

If this is what Jesus meant; and if this is how Paul understood and applied Old Testament Prophecy in Romans 11, then it would mean this:

That God has only one spiritual program for everyone, including for citizens of the modern State of Israel, right up until the very end, right up until the second coming - and that program is nothing other than the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of grace. The Gospel of the Kingdom.

All men regardless of ethnicity are justified freely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ - without the deeds of the Law.

Then the End Will Come

Jesus said:

And this gospel of the kingdom
will be proclaimed
throughout the whole world
as a testimony to all nations,
and then the end will come
Matthew 24:14

That could mean that the Gospel won't stop being preached to Gentiles until "the end".

If so, then when Paul said "blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in..." he likely meant, until the end.

Meaning, that rather than God's focus turning away from Gentiles to national Israel, and blindness being lifted off Israel immediately prior to the end, the present scenario could instead continue until the very end.

(The present scenario being as Paul described: that a remnant of Jews believed first; that blindness in part happened to the rest of Israel; that Gentiles then heard and believed; that the door wasn't closed to Jews, but God began using Gentiles to provoke more Jews to faith, to the effect that both Gentiles and Jews were becoming believers simultaneously.)

"...and so all Israel will be saved".

Not, and then all Israel - but, and so all Israel will be saved, he said.

And then he immediately quotes a sample Old Testament prophecy - which evidently was fulfilled by Messiah's first coming, not only by His second coming - or else no-one has ever yet been saved!

In which case Paul's meaning possibly could have been not that the nationwide salvation of Israel would then follow in history, but that the preceding explanation he had given was the precise manner in which prophecies concerning Israel's salvation had indeed already seen their intended fulfilment.

Or alternatively, are there gaps between the end? epochs of history to be played-out between when the end begins and when the end ends? or, how many 'ends' are there?

It might be interesting to study every instance when the Bible mentions "the end" - and take note of what's meant to happen, and when, and see whether it must all happen at once or whether epochs of time can transpire in-between for it all to happen.