Three years, two books and one focus

Three years ago today – March 24th – we had arrived in Oliva and this was the first night we slept in our apartment. Boxes everywhere, not knowing what we would really be involved in but having found this place through by means of two dreams. Pursuing our understanding of the two dreams we had driven the geography that was in the dream over four days and were about to go back to Cádiz as we had found nothing that we connected with. Then right at the end when we were literally 7 kms from the end of the geography we felt this strange connection to where we now are. Then came the battle to buy the place… a timely phone call from Michael in Germany, a connection to one of the angels he described and within half an hour out of the blue the agent called saying ‘I don’t know what has happened but you now have your apartment.’

Three years so off to Gandia for a sushi lunch. A big celebration!

In the first couple of months of this year it has become clear that we are to focus on the ReConquista – the driving of the Muslims out of Spain. We believe there has to be repentance for this. Having got hold of a lot of information (thanks Noë in Calpe!) and adding to it with our own research we then were told of the book Blood and Faith by Matthew Carr that was originally published in 2010 but has now come out in paperback.

In April 1609, King Philip III of Spain signed an edict denouncing the Muslim inhabitants of Spain as heretics, traitors, and apostates. Later that year, the entire Muslim population of Spain was given three days to leave Spanish territory, on threat of death. In a brutal and traumatic exodus, entire families and communities were obliged to abandon homes and villages where they had lived for generations, leaving their property in the hands of their Christian neighbors. In Aragon and Catalonia, Muslims were escorted by government commissioners who forced them to pay whenever they drank water from a river or took refuge in the shade. For five years the expulsion continued to grind on, until an estimated 300,000 Muslims had been removed from Spanish territory, nearly 5 percent of the total population. By 1614 Spain had successfully implemented what was then the largest act of ethnic cleansing in European history, and Muslim Spain had effectively ceased to exist. “Blood and Faith” is celebrated journalist Matthew Carr’s riveting chronicle of this virtually unknown episode, set against the vivid historical backdrop of the history of Muslim Spain. Here is a remarkable window onto a little-known period in modern Europe – a rich and complex tale of competing faiths and beliefs, of cultural oppression and resistance against overwhelming odds.

Timely or what!!

Then a few days ago Stephen Hill emailed to say he was sending his commentary on John to us. In Chapter 12 he has a quote from me on a talk I gave ‘The Empire is over’. He quotes where I talk about Judas. The last part he quotes:

The Judas spirit is a spirit of betrayal. ‘But Lord if we do so and so, look how good you could be. Look how far you could go.’ That is the Judas spirit, but I believe God is going to take the Judas spirit out of the Church.’

The Judas spirit is that which knows better than Jesus the ways of the kingdom. It does not submit to the revelation that his kingdom is not of this world, otherwise his followers would have taken up the sword. Rather it takes up the sword on his behalf (and there are many swords from the literal one as per the Crusades and the ReConquista to the dehumanisation of those we objectify).

The two books arrived the same day. Up the stairs our delivery came. She left. We opened them and were deeply impacted reading the prefaces. The two books are related. The purity of the love of Jesus and how John experienced and perceived that; the Judas betrayal spirit of Empire.

Three years and two books! We are planning the year. This is the year for us to dig deep into the land of Spain. We were sent a dream a while back of someone watching as we pondered over invitations and different nations written on pieces of paper on a table. We thought long and hard, then responded with:

We will go talk with the man of Spain and he will tell us where we are to go.

This is what we are to do… indeed he has been calling for some time. We will begin (as far as we are aware) in and around Santiago… then comes Toledo… Granada is an obvious one (1492 and all that)… maybe Gibraltar is a necessary destination… maybe north Africa… but the book has opened our eyes to where we live. The expulsion post 1492 was highly ‘efficient’ in the communidad where we are, that of Valencia. Many (maybe some 300,000) were expelled violently being ripped up from their land.

Three years today. Very grateful and so much to say about these past 3 years. Two books… A lot of pages to read!! And a focus – many things we all should get round to doing, but to quote Paul (and take him out of context) we need to make sure that ‘this one thing we do.’

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Conspiracy and the Camino!

Last year we travelled in our ‘furgo’ to the north of Spain. Not a great hardship – great cuisine, ocean views, wildness and civilisation. The north, Asturias and Galicia in particular are Celtic lands. Gayle was really sure there was something in the land from the Celtic days of Christian faith, though there was no evidence on the landscape of that, so as we travelled we called for the re-awakening of that manifestation of faith.

SantiagoThe ‘camino’ (pilgrimage) to Santiago de Compostela is over 1000 years old and has been increasing in numbers. In some recent years over 1/4 million pilgrims have been on that path. For many it is a path of faith and they find a renewal of their faith. We have locally a friend who went on it last year. He confessed to not having personal faith, but was convinced that there was great value in journeying where others had found what they were looking for. So a mix of people go on the journey. We have even talked about whether we should make the journey to connect with people who are seeking faith… then Gayle said in one of her responses – maybe we should walk away from Santiago, do it in reverse! That quite appealed.

We are always amazed that whenever something new comes up for a focus that a pattern seems to follow:

  • A conviction that this is what should be done.
  • A beginning of research that seems not to be too fruitful.
  • A setting of one’s heart to the journey thinking ‘and so what are we going to do?’
  • A coming together of random dots.
  • Information that was probably always there becoming visible.

Well that is what seems to be happening. But back to the north and the Celts.

There was a Christian movement in the north and it was strongly in evidence in the 4th Century. The main leadership for the movement came from, Priscillian, whose views were at odds with the established bishops. He was opposed to hierarchy, pushed away from the centre, encouraged meetings in homes and in the country. All of this proved too much for the powers and he was arrested, taken to Trier in Germany. The Christian powers in conjunction with the Imperial powers had him tried for heresy and killed.

  • He seems to be the first believer killed by fellow believers through co-opting the civil powers.
  • That part of the story is very reminiscent of an event in Jerusalem!
  • The sibling rising against another is a repeating pattern of history inside Spain – indeed one could argue across Europe.

The startling part of the info we are working with is that far from James being buried in Santiago (as if!!) that there is a strong suggestion that it is in fact Priscillian. The late Henry Chadwick, who was an Anglican and a scholar has strongly argued for that – quite remarkable as Priscillian has been labelled as a heretic by many in the more mainstream background.

There is the strong suggestion that the very camino was invented to crush out the continuing memory of Priscillian. A myth created to solidify both political and religious power and control.

Although a myth God can and does meet people in the midst of it all. That is the nature of God! In line with our perspective of the parallel journeys of Jesus to Jerusalem (‘no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem’) and Paul’s journey to Rome, the first to expose the alignment of religious and political power and to break their power. Once that is done Imperial power can be addressed.

So we will be off to Santiago. Walking away from there – the jury is out on that.

Living here on the east coast. Why? Well dreams took us here, but now we discover that the centre for the expulsions (post 1492 and the fall of the final Islamic city of Granada) was right here in the communidad of Valencia. Nice to be in the right setting… days after discovering the material on Prisicillian / Santiago we discovered that the Guardian newspaper had just reviewed a book on the expulsion of the Muslims, with the focus on this region. The book is on the way in the mail… another release of info once the timing is right.

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This is what we are up to

This post is a kind of an update as to our main focus. I will try to make it short, but not likely to succeed!

The big focus for us now is the pull to pray into the ReConquista. The ReConquista is the description given to the period of history in Spain when the Moors (Muslims) were finally driven out and Spain / Portugal were reconquered for ‘Christianity’. We have heard on the street when listening to guides the shorthand description of: ‘We were Muslims, now we are Christians.’ That is quite a worldview!!

We have done some prayer work into the expulsion of the Jews (the Shephardic Jews both of the OT and of more recent history). We have also been deeply encouraged by those who have done so over years. We are sure that the shift in response from the Spanish government has been as a result. The government will now give back Spanish citizenship to those who are genuinely of Shephardic descent. It is often not too difficult for Christians to repent for what has been done to Jews in terms of abuse. There is both a right connection (‘because of the patriarchs’) and also at times a false connection (confusion over the centrality of Jesus), but the result is repentance and for that we are grateful.

But repentance into Islamic history? That is another aspect all-together.

The ReConquista was the re-conquering of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) for the Christian rulers and the driving of the Moorish (Islamic) kingdom out of the land. It began in the north and over centuries it eventually completed its goal when the final stronghold of Granada fell in 1492. Into that scenario why repent?

Repentance does not mean that we want to turn the clock back and see Islamic rule restored!!! It is crazy to write that but better be clear than leave any doubts! But neither are we looking for some kind of ‘christianized’ rule, the sad effects of the Constantinian paradigm. The alternative to Sharia law is not some form of Christianised law, indeed we consider the root to the Islamic spirit is Christendom.

The original taking of Spain by Islam occurred in 7 short years in the 8th century with a smallish Islamic invasion taking place through Gibraltar. (Gibraltar – a physical reason for the entry there but also this is contested land spiritually.) Generally speaking, though, the Islamic rule was benevolent. Christians and Jews alongside the Muslims were allowed to co-habit and work together. The level of the arts and education was high. A huge question we have is:

The ReConquista (the ReConquering of Spain)… but for what?

We do not for one minute suggest that the Islamic rule was good and the Christianised rule that replaced it was worse. The issue is that what was done in the name of Jesus carries such weight and ‘we’ have to take responsibility for that. The ReConquista had as its vision that of militarily restoring the lost lands to their version of Christianity all the way back to Jerusalem. We consider that vision to be deeply anti-Christian.

We also consider now is the time for the push and it will entail us getting on the road visiting some of the key places. If we do not do this then the land is very vulnerable to terrorist attacks. We consider that where there is a Christian push to see Islamic people as the enemy and dehumanise them that the effect is not to strengthen defences against terrorism but to seriously weaken them. In recent months Dayesh have released videos particularly featuring Cordoba and Granada with the warning that they are coming for their lost lands. The Western end of the Islamic world was once Spain, the Eastern centering in Constantinople.

1492 – quite a year!!!!

This year saw:

  • the fall of Granada,
  • the edict for all Jews to convert or be exiled (and if not persecuted), and
  • Christopher Columbus sailed off to the New World to conquer it for King and Queen, pope and for the power that appointed them to rule: God and his sovereign king, Jesus. That mission to the new world was accompanied by those who proclaimed the sovereignty of Spanish royalty and the one true God. Proclaimed in the Spanish language those who were ‘privileged’ to hear the message were given the opportunity to respond! When they did not respond the conquerors were then free to do whatever they needed to to extend the boundaries of both the Spanish domain and the domain of Christendom.

There are times in history that are ‘full’. Obviously the coming of Christ was at the fullness of times. A threefold cord as we have discovered in 1492 puts that year truly on the radar. The possibility of the effects of praying into that culmination seem amazing.

We have prayed into the issue of Columbus day and have been glad to see the greater level of unrest that has been visible since. We were able 18 months ago (probably under the watchful eyes of security cameras) to place a piece of art, calling for a shift on the issue, right under the largest Spanish flag in Madrid in Columbus Square on the eve of the large military parade that passes through there. We did not understand the link of the three fold cord of 1492 back then.

Then into the mix… last year we travelled through the Celtic lands of Asturias and into Galicia. So wonderful to get to the furthest north point of Spain and then the most westerly point of mainland Spain on that journey. While travelling through the land Gayle was very stirred (her Celtic blood!!) with the Celts and Christianity. ‘They have been here’, she would say. No concrete evidence, such as Celtic crosses or the like, but her conviction persisted. The land is Celtic – and for the historians the concensus is that the Celts came to the lands of Britain up through Spain.

Making some enquiries about the presence of Celtic Christianity has opened up something incredible. Well that can be the next post…

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Provocative or what?

We have recently begun some research on the overthrow of the Islamic (Moorish) rule of Spain, a rule that lasted some 700 years. Yesterday we were put in touch with an extended article in the Guardian on this very thing and last night ordered the book, the reviews of which suggest it will be invaluable to our research. Again and again when the timing is right the information needed just seems to surface. Pursuing a repentant journey on this will be necessary and might cause just a few questions, as there are not a few who see the Crusades and the defence (e.g.) of Malta as truly ‘Christian’. Constantine and subsequent Christendom not being an aberration for a number of them.

The other extreme can be to spiritualise the message of Jesus in a way that makes it non-political. This is something that we cannot see as possible from the NT. The message, indeed the very terms, such as ‘gospel’, ‘son of God’, ‘ekklesia’, ‘kingdom’ and even ‘repentance’ are deeply embedded in a first century political culture. We would need to make the actions and words of Jesus non-culturally applicable and somehow ‘timeless’. We know we are not supposed to take a text out of context, but what is more important is not to take a (the) life out of context.

The entry into Jerusalem was certainly very provocative. Many scholars suggest that there were two entries into Jerusalem on that spring day. From the east came Jesus into the city, cheered on with the cries of ‘Hosanna’. Most of his followers were not the elite and powerful. On the west side of the city entered another, Rome’s representative, Pilate. One proclaimed the kingdom of God, the other the kingdom, power and glory of Rome. The entry of the Roman governors of Judea had become standard practice for Jewish festivals. As Jerusalem swelled with the huge influx of people, so Rome, probably both for practical reasons (increased security) and political reasons (an opportune time to flex muscle) always increased their mighty presence.

So on the west side a visible demonstration of power. Cavalry, foot soldiers, leather armour, shields, banners, golden eagles as standards, the beating of drums. A visible display of power and might. A timely reminder that peace, Roman style, is in the land. Peace enforced through force, and displayed visibly for all to see when necessary through the brutal practice of crucifixion. An open display of power – that was the cross. Another aspect involving a political statement then is Paul’s words in Col. 2:14,15

He took away the weapons of the powers and authorities. He made a public show of them. He won the battle over them by dying on the cross.

A faith statement in the extreme, and an extremely pointed political statement. The cross displayed the ultimate Imperial power, so went the narrative of the Empire. The gospel narrative absolutely negated that Imperial narrative.

From the west came the power of Rome into the city. From the east side Jesus entered on a donkey manifestly fulfilling the entry of a prophesied future king to Jerusalem ‘riding on a donkey’ (Zech. 9:9). This king will not parade weapons of war but rather banish war from the land:

I will take the chariots away from Ephraim. I will remove the war horses from Jerusalem. I will break the bows that are used in battle.
Your king will announce peace to the nations. He will rule from ocean to ocean. His kingdom will reach from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.
I will set your prisoners free from where their enemies are keeping them. I will do it because of the blood that put my covenant with you into effect.
Return to your place of safety, you prisoners who still have hope. Even now I announce that I will give you back much more than you had before. (Zech. 9:10-12).

Rome’s path to peace was through conquest and war (the first rider on the white horse in Revelation). Jesus’ path to peace is through the shedding of his own blood (the rider on the second white horse in Revelation).

Political and deeply provocative. There is a build up over those days. A coin is shown to Jesus when he is asked about paying taxes to Rome. The image on the coin is of Caesar, the divine Caesar, the son of god. His reply is not a ‘there are two realms and never do they mix’. Rather echoing the final words of Mattathias to his sons who had called them to gather the people and avenge the wrong that had been done to Israel, saying

Pay back the Gentiles in full, and obey the commands of the law.

Judas (his son) then subsequently led the Maccabean revolt, cleansing the Temple and refortifying Jerusalem, establishing a new royal dynasty. That indeed was paying back the Gentiles.

Now it is no longer Greece but Rome that is the overlord. Give to Caesar what is his due! Those words could have been taken at the same level as those of Mattathias. An armed rebellion could have been sparked by those words, and I think that was exactly how Judas Iscariot (did he want to live up to that name?) understood them.

Yet it remains that if Jesus kingdom was of this world that his followers would have taken up the sword. His kingdom comes from another source all-together. Deeply political, but the entry to the city was of a different order then, and needs to be so again today.

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Two columns

We have a set of questions on our post-it notes and on the wall we have two columns – the right column and the wrong column, or the truth column and the heresy column, the I am a fanatical disciple column and the I have definitely backslidden column. OK I stop now but I wanted you to understand the situation is hypothetical as I don’t actually have any post-it notes to hand.

My first visit to a certain country back around 1990 I was picked up from the airport by a pastor. ‘Glad you are here do you mind if I ask a question or two?’

‘Sure, fire away.’

‘If you had someone come to faith who had gone through a sex-change, then they came to tell you what would your counsel be.’

Pulling on the principle in Paul that ‘in whatever state you are in when called remain in that state’ as a tentative guide I said, ‘I think we start from where we are and work from there.’

‘Yes that has been our approach. There are those in our midst now though who were on the process, have come to faith and have not progressed to an operation. They are uncomfortable with some of our responses. But that is the world we live in. Another question? So assuming we run with your guide, last week I had X come to see me. Born biologically as a man, having gone through surgery, now as a woman, has fallen in love with a man and would like to pursue the relationship. Any perspectives?’

Guidelines are great but I was glad we were simply talking in a car. That Christian community were grappling with those issues for real. So back to the post-it notes! Imagine having to put on the right / wrong columns the set of issues that community was dealing with.

In the isolation of safety and non-interaction with the very real evidences of a fallen world all around us I can quickly put the post-it notes in the right columns. At least to the level of a basic set of issues. And if I sit and talk with people who are struggling day-to-day with deep personal issues of identity (for a host of reasons, and not always because they are ‘damaged’) I find it increasingly hard to determine where all the post-it notes should be aligned.

There are core aspects I believe we need to be clear about. The centrality of Jesus and that he alone is the lens to see who God is and what true humanity is called to be. Scripture then is vital for it is from there that we have to draw that image of Jesus – it is the word testifying to the Word. An encounter with the Spirit of Jesus (and not really ‘an’ encounter but continual encounterings) remain indispensable. The above though will not, and I don’t think it is meant to, determine that we will know exactly what columns all our post-it notes will be placed in. Over time some will move to the other column, and quite a few will come off the board and back to the table, and I do not think that is the sign of losing the plot. There is something bigger than rights and wrongs. Here are three that I think are higher up the list of desired outcomes:

  • A knowledge of God, that is not legalistic but bathed in grace, where we have the confidence to get some of the plot wrong and he will turn a blind eye to that. (I have put that in a way that I need to think about rather than get in my bus and demonstrate how easily I can drive through the gaps in the sentence!)
  • A humility that is slower to correct than ever before and more ready to listen, realising that resolving things the right way (my way or the highway!) will probably not be the path to the most redemptive solution.
  • An ability to hear (listen) to those who do not carry my deep convictions. In doing so I might just be witnessing more powerfully than quickly proclaiming truth. In honouring them, I might just be humanising them.

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A novel with a worldview

campofsaintsI would love to have the ability to write a novel. However, writing like that would not come easy for me, and I think I would get a whole story out in about 3 pages. It might have a beginning, a middle and an end… but sadly no gripping detail and background! Not destined to be a best-seller. All kinds of books carry a world view. I have long maintained that there were two big blows to a decent understanding of eschatology. First the Scofield Bible. Stick notes in the Bible and effectively I no longer need to read the book, as soon as I come across something I do not understand, skip to the notes. Effectively the notes become the Bible, and ‘but they are only notes’ ceases to carry any weight. Secondly, novels about the end-times.

The book highlighted here was written by a French author in 1972 and first translated to English in 1975. The plot of The Camp of the Saints follows a poor Indian demagogue, and the deformed, apparently psychic child who sits on his shoulders. Together, they lead an ‘armada’ of 800,000 impoverished Indians sailing to France. Dithering European politicians, bureaucrats and religious leaders, including a liberal pope from Latin America, debate whether to let the ships land and accept the Indians or to do the right thing — in the book’s vision — by recognizing the threat the migrants pose and killing them all.

The non-white people of Earth, meanwhile, wait silently for the Indians to reach shore. The landing will be the signal for them to rise up everywhere and overthrow white Western society.

The white Christian world is on the brink of destruction, the novel suggests, because these black and brown people are more fertile and more numerous, while the West has lost that necessary belief in its own cultural and racial superiority. The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Revelation 20:9 — is nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict against the poor black and brown world without and the traitors within. The novel’s last line links past humiliations tightly to its own grim parable about modern migration. ‘The Fall of Constantinople,’ we read, ‘is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.’

Talk about a world view, and when quotes from advisors to a certain government have said:

“It’s been almost a Camp of the Saints-type invasion into Central and then Western and Northern Europe, (October 2015).

“The whole thing in Europe is all about immigration. It’s a global issue today — this kind of global Camp of the Saints.” (January 2016.)

“It’s not a migration. It’s really an invasion. I call it the Camp of the Saints.” (January 2016.)

“When we first started talking about this a year ago, we called it the Camp of the Saints. … I mean, this is Camp of the Saints, isn’t it?” (April 2016)

(See source.)

I appreciate that political responses to crises are not simple. Yet it seems to me that an intercessory one is vital. The huge people movement of today is in the main because of a crushing economic crisis, the effects of which have been brought to the tipping point we are at through the war(s) in Syria and beyond. I am shocked by the response of believers at times to the fear narrative, and the view that the only response is to shut the doors, and to use military force if necessary.

We are seeking in this year to engage in a prayer journey of repentance through Spain. Repentance for what was done and culminated in 1492, a year that saw the final capitulation of Muslim rule (Granada), the edict to expel the Jews, and the sending of Christopher Columbus across the waters in the name(s) of God, king & queen, and pope. Strangely we see a connection between all three events.

Repentance? And repentance for the Christian ReConquista? Yes. Not repentance because Islamic faith should be restored to Spain (!!) nor because Christians were more evil… but repentance because we are called to a higher level. What is / was done in the name of Jesus is indeed taking the name of Jesus in vain. Those who do that claiming his blessing are certainly not releasing a blessing on the land, far from it.

There are values at threat with every huge shift that comes to a culture from elsewhere. Good values many times. However what is more at threat is desire to be at the centre, to maintain the status quo of privilege. The true camp of the saints is one that is on the move, many times without a fixed abode, through the wilderness, a bunch of nobodies desiring a better future for those who are yet to be. That is the calling of the saints. Have we lost that destiny…? And could it be that we should be expecting Jesus to show up among those who exhibit more of that than we have?

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