Santiago via a field

Having discovered the story surrounding Priscillian we planned to travel to Santiago de Compostela via a field (as one would). The reason being that Priscillian engaged with people where they were and was willing to oversee the eucharist outside. So before getting to Santiago we pulled off the road and with bread and wine prayed, unravelling some of the string.

As we began to pray we had a number of swifts turn up, flying all around – this we have found not to be uncommon, and even back in the day we had one fly in and out of our apartment in Cádiz. There is so much more resonance between creation and heaven than we often realise.

On to Santiago… without doubt many people meet God on the camino with time to reflect and re-centre. As well there are many diverse ways in which people connect. I would benefit from the camino I am sure, but this kind of focus is not something that would come easy to me. Maybe when I eventually grow up and enter the second half of life I might be able to connect more with this kind of spirituality!? The history though of the camino is a covering over of the Prisicillian history with the myth of St. James – whose body is supposedly in the cathedral having been taken across the Mediterranean, avoiding pirates en route and in a stone boat!! (Remind me when I make up a story to stay a little closer to something a little more believable!) For all those who have found God on the camino nothing I write here is to take anything away from that. Even if it is a myth and a covering over of something deeper, and in that sense a deliberate deception, as I believe, it highlights that God is to be found in all kinds of places. That God is found does not say too much about the place where he is found – it simply says a lot about God’s mercy.

Inside the cathedral we did not find great darkness. Of course there are religious aspects that do not seem too healthy but God is to be found. The statue (actually 2 statues) of St. James is present and we took our turn to walk past, not to pay homage, but to indicate that something was passing!

Glad we made the journey there. It is Gayle and my second time there in the city. So we bless all pilgrims who truly connect with God through whatever spirituality works for them. For us… the field, the open space will continue to draw… and the city!

Outside the cathedral there was a sign regarding work being done on the cathedral, and saying that this was a new time for the cathedral.


Below is the map of our journey:

1 Oliva
2 Madrid: picked up Sam at the airport / connected with Noë and Loli in El Espinar
3 Lugo: string, Marcos Zapata, hospitality
4 Santiago
5 Santo Toribio de Liebana
6 Santander: John Mark and Marcela and hospitality
7 Madrid: a day in the city
8 La Muela de Cortes de Pallas: the last king of the Moriscos


Lugo: 11 hours away

For those who follow this blog you will know that we are focused for this year on how we can contribute to the undoing of the negative aspects of the ReConquista: the taking back of the Iberian peninsula for the ‘Christian’ faith and the ending of almost 800 years of Muslim rule. We neither come at this believing that we would not have done what our ‘Christian’ foreparents did had we been alive then, nor that all the fault lies on one side. We do approach it from today, carrying the perspectives of today, so hold that what was done in the name of Christ was not reflective of the Gospel he left for us to proclaim. We approach it as followers of Christ hence believe we carry a responsibility to stand in the gap with repentance for what has gone on before. There are many prayers and exhortations in Scripture concerning the confession of one’s sins and the sins of those who have gone before. There is no suggestion that the NT overturns this and the strongest NT example is the baptism of Jesus, a baptism for the forgiveness of sins which he underwent. Only when it was clear that Jesus was being baptised representatively to fulfil all righteousness did John agree to baptise him. Anyway – our convictions, and what motivates us for the year. There is no need to convince others! I (sadly) came to realise some years back that the Lord does not focus on convincing others that what I believe is correct and I also discovered that he seems more interested in how I live according to my convictions than how clever I am!

We have always been amazed that information surfaces when one needs it. God is not the purveyor of information as and when we want it. I consider this is the case as any real information has to be responded to. We become accountable for what we know. The Pharisees understood that Jesus was clearly of the opinion they were blind (Jn. 9) and were a tad upset about this. His reply to them was that for their sake they would be better off just accepting they were blind, for if they had sight their guilt (responsibility) would remain. Hence I always consider that information follows revelation and is an indicator of a time-line. God gives information when the body of Christ can respond and see a shift as they partner with heaven.

Last year we began to call for anything deep in the land (in the north) that was related to a Celtic understanding of the Gospel, then began to be convinced that 2017 was the year to journey and pray into the undoing of the negative effects of the Christian / Muslim conflict over the land. In the wider picture we would see that this still gives Islam a foothold on the land spiritually and that such non-cruciform response to Islam is what gives it strength… in other words that Christendom (church state alliance, ‘Christian nation’ theology etc.) is what feeds Islam today. In that sense Islam, with its space for Jesus even in the Quran, could even be seen as a cult as much as another religion. Oops, I just saw a can of worms there, so moving on quickly.

Information comes forth

Into that mix our connections turned up with a gentleman called Priscillian, a Celt who became bishop of Avila, but who operated also in the open fields with the eucharist and held to the equality of women and men. He did not seem to have a direct connection to the British Celtic church, but there is some link to Martin of Tours (though I consider him really Martin of Poitiers) who had a link to Patrick, of Irish fame. And then the big one… it seems the whole camino de Santiago was created to squash the Priscillian history, and that someone as academic as Henry Chadwick held to the belief that far from James being the body in Santiago it was actually Priscillian!! The Celtic in the land being suppressed by an overlay of church and Empire (the two that came together to have Priscillian killed).

So for us there was an added element that came in. Not only the ReConquista but the calling forth the Celtic Christian roots and also seeking to stand in the gap for what we understand to be the first Christian to be killed by the initiative of other believers who pulled on Imperial power to have it effected. This of course being in parallel to the crucifixion of Jesus, pursued by fellow Jews who pulled gladly on Imperial power to see him killed.

So off we went just over a week ago. All across Spain to the north west, initially an 11 hour drive. We went with Samuel Rhein (France) and Noe and Loli from nearby Calpe. Amazing travelling companions and we were highly privileged to be with them. Our first day was in Lugo. We were hosted there by Marcos whose church and work is doing an amazing work in that city and across the Galicia comunidad. Some weeks back Gayle had said to me that we have to start in Lugo as that was where the end of a ball of string was and we needed to begin to unravel things from there. Amazingly when we entered the old city through a gate in the intact Roman wall the first shop in front was a string shop with all kinds of string, sizes and shapes! We bought a ball of 7 metres of string that will come with us and we will unravel this piece by piece until we get to Gibraltar (September).

Here are:

The happy travellers:

The happy string shop (outside):

and also happy inside:

The happy ball (about to be unravelled) that will accompany us:

A lot of happiness… and getting on the road, a feeling of what one was born for, or rather what two were born for, does help and pump the happiness gauge up a bit!!


There will be more written!!!

Maybe not the best way to do this but any non-responses to emails, lack of posts is due to being on the road. We have covered a considerable distance thus far… many highlights maybe yesterday the best with prayer in the mountainous region called los picos de Europa (the peaks of Europe) where the agreement, religious and political, was made to begin the expulsions. From there a 700 year process began.

Tonight we will be in Madrid before heading east to the northern province of Valencia. Once home a fuller report!!


Another upgrade

I won’t go on and labour too much the incredible upgrades(?) to my beliefs that have taken place. For those who have followed this blog I have probably rambled on about them in so many different posts that I will be in serious danger of repetition. I will list them below then follow on with a perspective about the kingdom of God from there. As I understand it and cast a backward glance I think my upgrades include:

  • The nature of the cross and how there are two crosses, the cross of Constaninianism being a false one. The co-opting of the cross being to disempower the belief that in laying down one’s life is the means by which resurrection is released, and that through the co-opting of the cross there can be an empowering of the demonic. Christendom being the fufilmment of that, and the danger in the charismatic world being of coming to break demonic bondage by a power structure that is itself demonised. Acknowledging that a) we are not talking in absolutist terms, and b) that for all of us we sit on a spectrum between those two crosses.
  • That this opens up the challenge of a wideness in the mercy of God, where people who ‘see’ humanity are in measure responding to heaven, and those who dehumanise, even if professing faith, are failing in that way to respond to heaven. Again acknowledging the spectrum involved. (This and the former point I sought to cover in yesterday’s post.
  • We are called to be witnesses not to evangelise. I do not mean by that we do not ‘evangelise’ but if it does not flow out being witnesses I question its validity. We bear witness that our allegiance is to another king, indeed to one whose rule is such that he subverts the very meaning of the term king and rule.
  • The church’s key role is to be a royal priesthood, that God calls us to ensure there is an environment where the world can move into her destiny. To do so we have to deal with self-preservation, a king mentality, the sovereignty mind-set and be life-giving through life-laying-down
  • This opens an expectation that fulfilments are not going to be fulfilments in and by the church but in the world. I have blogged before on the visionary experience of the square in Madrid and the fulfilment of the vision in detail in and through a protest movement.
  • So the coming of the kingdom is…

There seems to be two views in conflict. Any and all improvements, manifestations of goodness being declared as kingdom – so the social change / justice people sit here. Or that the kingdom is related to the church, so good as it is when there is social change this cannot be described as kingdom.

The issue with the former is that the kingdom (New Jerusalem vision) has to come down from heaven and from the throne of God. It does not rise up from the earth. What rises up is Babylon. The issue I have with the latter is the tendency to own the term ‘church’ by one particular centrist model and to exclude the activity of God to what is beyond the circle drawn.

If our responsibility is to ensure that the world has an opportunity to be aligned closer to heaven then I am really happy to sit in the first camp. Every evidence that those without a home are given a home, those who are sick are cared for, those in prison visited is indeed a manifestation of heaven. It is considered as being done to Jesus himself. The Spirit’s activity is not restricted to those born of the Spirit for she is the Spirit of creation. God’s activity is both within creation and within redemption, and actively involved in redemption so that there can be an increased manifestation in creation. If demons being cast out and the sick being healed could be termed evidences of the kingdom’s presence I think we can by extension suggest that any removal of bondage, oppression, dehumanisation is likewise an evidence of the kingdom arriving.

I do though wish to marry those above evidences with the arrival of heaven, not simply a better Babylon rising up. Here though is the tension – the New Jerusalem arrives then in fullness and perhaps the provisional arriving of that New Jerusalem now will manifest as a better Babylon rising up. I muse!!

In short I am not satisfied with the claim that holds the kingdom tightly within a church framework. To do so runs the risk of losing the royal priesthood theme which has become a strong paradigm for me. If there is an error involved I would also like to be on this side of the error. Seems to me to be the era we are in. We have to be contextual, and as contextuality relates to both time and place, my beliefs are that the place (the West) and the time (post-Christendom) pushes us firmly toward the royal priesthood end of the spectrum.


Upgrades or changes

There have been a couple of areas where my beliefs have either changed or been upgraded over the past years. Moving to Spain has been an enriching experience, though leaving behind certain connections and contexts in the UK has also been challenging. Getting embedded in a land and its history inevitably opens up fresh perspectives, and coming into a land that a) holds some keys to the release of the Pauline Gospel, b) has submerged aspects of that Gospel of freedom under myth and religion and c) held on to the alignment of religious and secular power – epitomised geographically in Escorial, ironically the place where many evangelical and charismatic gatherings take place! – has provoked fresh thoughts. (Now that sentence was way too long, what it could have said was: living in Spain has provoked fresh thoughts.)

Two crosses ~ two Gospels ~ two Gods?

I have certainly come to believe there are two crosses. The implication is that at best we have a variation on the Gospel as a result… two ‘Gods’ might be pushing it too far.

Two crosses – the Constantinian one that can be placed on the sword and shield, or placed above Franco’s tomb or placed on war memorials as per the Knights Templar’s cross does not, for me, stand for the cross, nor is it a variation of the true cross. A means by which the powers could take life being transformed into a means by which we can take life in the name of the life-GIVER is not a variation on a theme but a perversion of the true cross. A few posts back I posted a video of Dani Mateo dancing at la valle de los caidos, where two years ago we went to pray. His dance has not been appreciated by one and all, but he has been clear that this is not a dance of disrespect about religion saying that there are Christians who do not accept the cross there and its symbolism as the true cross. Count us in Dani!!

We are about to travel to take the first step of repentance with respect to the expulsion of the Muslims. This is not about ‘reconquering Spain’ for God. Spain belongs to Jesus, through creation and redemption. For those of us in Christ we are told to see that there is a new creation. If anything this will be a step of repentance with respect to a false conquering. That is not to lay blame at the feet of those who went before. I find that Scripture lays responsibility at the feet of every current generation, for how they respond in their generation and how they respond to what has been inherited in the land from previous generations.

There are major implications on which cross we believe in. Success, legislation and if need be imposition seems to follow the one. The other takes us on a path of servanthood and seeking the release of others. Of course the reality is that we probably all as followers of Christ adhere to a mixture of both crosses. However, what we focus on will shape how we seek to outwork the Gospel…

Two Gospels? That is a tough one to answer. I tick the ‘born-again’ box but struggle with / object to the approach that objectifies people as potential gospel fodder, that manipulates friendships for that purpose. I have to come close to thinking that approach (whatever the ensuing words) is another Gospel. I vacillate on which side of that I come down on – a variation or a different Gospel.

Two Gods…? First I need to accept that I do not have a true picture of the One true God. And any deviance from a true Jesus-image where my God becomes a non-Jesus looking God I have to accept as false. This is why I do not accept ‘allah’ as presented by Islam as ‘God’. The true God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who as exact image reveals him. Nuancing this though means I do not have to believe that all Muslims using the name ‘allah’ are not connecting to the true God, nor do I rule out the possibility that those who inject ‘Christian elements’ into their proclamation of God are in touch with the true God. Hatred, violence, and a ‘dehumanisation’ of others justified in the name of God / the Christian faith not only does not reflect well on God but does not reflect God at all.

The aspect of dehumanisation is definitely been an upgrade for me. I wrestled with how an atheist could have values that shaped them. ‘Good’ atheists can have values and they might manifest in terms of creation-care or carrying a conviction about justice. I decided that if anyone can see someone else, walk in their shoes, desire their well-being that they have a strong basis for values. Believing in God calls me to carry values for those around and beyond me. The OT laws are a strong evidence of this. The Jewish faith was not a ‘tick the box I have done my Sabbath duty’ kind of faith. It was to be deeply impacting on their society and beyond.

I am not an atheist (hope no surprise there!!) as I have had too many experiences and view the world with too much mystery as to be one, but have deep respect to those who are by honest conviction. If they also ‘see’ humanity they might be denying faith in God but they are in part seeing as God sees. There is a unique claim attached to humanity… the image of God. If a person, with or without faith, can truly see others, there is only step further they can go. They can see Jesus the one and only truly human. This value, of seeing others, has become a hugely shaping factor in how we believe God judges what is done. Even when it is done not in the name of Jesus I would believe this makes a contribution to the age to come.


Updated beliefs… maybe

Beliefs are difficult to define at times. Do we mean ‘core doctrines’ or ‘a way of looking at the world’. Theology kind of covers both I guess, and the more honest person has to acknowledge that one’s beliefs are also shaped by experience, personality and our ‘insides’ in the sense of what is really going on inside us at a conscious and sub-conscious level. It was an interesting reflection to go over the ten posts of what I still believe, and also to realise that in these past years there have either been (inevitable?) developments or changes along the way.

Definitions are not always helpful. The term ‘evangelical’ is often qualified by an adjective such as ‘post-‘, ‘progressive-‘ or ‘historic-‘. This illustrates the situation. We can claim to be an evangelical if you mean ‘….’ or deny being one if you mean something else by the term. In 1995 Robert Johnston delivered a very helpful paper to the American Theological Society where he addressed the issue of ‘Orthodoxy and Heresy: a Problem for Modern Evangelicalism’. In that paper he described a shift from a previous approach of ‘bounded-set’ thinking to ‘center-set’ thinking. With the former approach life was easy. Draw a square – all who subscribe to the beliefs inside the square were orthodox, all outside were heretics. ‘Center-set’ described a couple of key questions that were at the centre:

  • By what means is a person reconciled to God?
  • By what authority to you believe and teach what you believe and teach?

Answer to the first question is ‘Jesus and the cross’, and the second one ‘the Scriptures’. Having answered those two questions in that way does not determine how far one travels in a given direction. The answers could result in ‘only those who are truly born again of the Spirit and are baptised’ are reconciled through to universalism. It could lead to ‘seven day creation in 4004BC’ to ‘evolution’. Hence the paper – how do we determine what is ‘heresy’.

The Bible itself does not always help us. I am so glad that we are not called to blind obedience to a book but to follow a Person. And when we look to the book we have to wrestle with issues of interpretation. It seems the Bible forces us to do this. Jehu is commended for fulfilling the will of God and wiping out Ahab’s evil house at Jezreel (2 Kings 10 ‘You have done well…’ – v.30), yet in Hosea 1:4 Israel is to be punished for the blood shed by Jehu at Jezreel. Did he fulfil the will of God (2 Kings and the prophetic words through Elijah) or were his actions to be judged as per Hosea? Not easy when they are both in the same sacred volume, but I am glad the difficulty is there, it at least helps when wrestling with the genocides of the Old Testament. It has been interesting to read the dialogues between Greg Boyd and Derek Flood. Both take a christocentric approach to Scripture, both refusing to accept that (the OT) God is a God who endorses genocide, but they take different approaches to solving the issue due to how they interpret Scripture. Challenging… and I love the problematic situation that is presented to the inerrantist when faced with someone from Crete in a court of law!

‘Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?’ (I leave out the oath bit there as I like to take some key parts of Scripture very seriously!)

‘I do,’ replies the person from Crete.

‘Objection’, shouts the lawyer who is a fundamentalist Bible believing in a very strong inerrantist kind of way.

‘This person is from Crete, and all those from Crete lie. I have that on the authority of Scripture.’ (I won’t give the reference but check out Titus!!)

‘Ah yes but this is only authoritative and inerrant as originally given. Put them under a lie-detector and then we can call a church council and announce that the Scripture in Titus is not as originally given…’

OK, I stop but I was having a little fun there. My point is we have a book we have to wrestle with and it requires that I be less dogmatic than I would like to be on certain situations.

I am certainly 100% evangelical if Robert Johnston’s two questions are sent my way. So when I push some directions in the next few posts I am not ready to be put out of the fold just yet. I will try and centre in on areas that seem to have become more central to me as far as both understanding the journey thus far and in setting a direction to come.

Oh and for the record I don’t think all Cretans lie!


Positions of power

Following on a little from the previous set of posts I have a few tentative comments to make about holding a position of power as a believer. The Anabaptist background, when pushed to an extreme, repudiated all positions of secular power, and certainly the critique that comes from those quarters about the corruption that is inherent within many positions of power carries weight. The opposite viewpoint is the classic expression of Christendom. We need believers who can rule justly, and this is often expanded to mean along ‘biblical lines’. I, of course being a moderate, would wish to avoid all extremes!

History tends to show that the ‘good’ people once in power become corrupt. Gayle and I have followed closely the journey of a protest party that is the second largest political party in Spain by membership. We have asked if such a party can ever healthily become the governing party, or is the purpose of their being in existence to be a protest, an opposition? Being in power is not as easy as one thinks, there are powers that rule beyond the rulers (‘the great city that rules over the kings of the earth’). Of course in the light of the previous posts this would be a whole aspect that I believe we as believers are called to shift. There are powers that rule, and once we receive a mandate the outworking is almost always top-down and rather than decentralise power it seems to pull resources back to the centre.

However, governance is not wrong. A head teacher, the management in a hospital, and many more examples are needed. So I do not believe the extreme end of the Anabaptist type approach is feasible, while at the same time seeing the Christendom approach to be the very source for many of the global issues today. Here then are some tentative thoughts:

  • By nature most positions are fallen. We do not need to idealise them, nor demonise them. Any engagement has to be with the purpose of redemption. That redemption could lead to the very position disappearing, or being radically transformed, but either way the flow will be of resources and benefits to the marginalised.
  • To engage redemptively means there will be compromises. This is particularly true of any form of legislation. There is not a perfect legislation. Read OT laws!! They are not perfect but culturally moved Israel as a people in a better direction.
  • Probably women are better equipped to occupy any seat of power. We see this in Spain with the two mayoresses, one in Madrid and one in Barcelona. The shift away from the centre and top-down is remarkable. We also see in Spain a former expression of power held by women that was anything but de-centralisation. So it is not women per se, but a feminisation of power, a way of handling it that is probably needed.
  • There are wonderful examples of people sitting in a place of power but the direction set, by design or default, is of emptying the seat of its power. The current pope or archbishop of Canterbury seem to be there in that way. I have a good pastor friend who is so set on empowering those in the congregation he openly said to me that ‘of course this will not serve the growth of the church’. Well perhaps not by traditional ways of counting.
  • Alongside compromise there is probably also a rhythm that has to be adopted of taking initiative and then release. Of tentatively pulling on the power and generously releasing it.
  • If God releases to us and we have not grabbed it, a position that has power invested in it,
    we should not shy away from it, but receive it cautiously and work within it so that the maximum benefits can flow to the margins.
  • If such a position is not opened up, we also can learn how to help shape those seats to carry more potential for redemption through how we live and pray.

In contrast to Caesar’s (Domitian) throne with him seated at the centre and 24 advisors around him, John records in Revelation 4 that he saw:

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And the one worthy to open the future was none other than the Lamb slain. A pattern in Revelation is of hearing something (I heard… ‘The Lion’) is clarified by what is seen (I saw… ‘A Lamb’). The challenge to our involvement is that of following Jesus. The western world is in crisis. Probably in part brought on by prayer. The opportunities are enormous. I do not see the pathway as down either of the two extremes I started with, but the messy and sacrificial path that the Lamb pioneered.


Scotty still believes this stuff #10

I have really got to stop at this post. I cannot possibly continue to suggest that I have continued on a straight line since 20 years ago… though I can see how I have got to where I have arrived from the trajectory of 20+ years ago. But stop I must!

I am the product of my journey, and life in the New Church scene from the 70s has gladly spoilt me. I have a huge respect for those who work and live within the historic mainline denominations. Present week by week gladly offering a service whereby people can connect with God and re-centre themselves. This though has not been what was sowed into me. ‘You can’t go to church’ was a strapline; we can ‘meet as church’ but either we are church or not, meeting together won’t make us church.

Sociologists suggest there are two distinct forms that can bring definition to a healthy group of people. They can be defined as a community or as a movement. A community has a togetherness with an understanding that they are there for one another; a movement is more driven with a passion to see the wider community transformed. The two are not mutually exclusive but the definitions work for me.

Under the community rubric I will be a better version of me through the encouragement and provocation of the others, and of course biblically there are more than enough ‘one anothers’ to give this significant weight. The movement approach is where people are bounded together with a common vision (be that civil rights movement, feminism, or something like Dayesh) and are convinced that the wider community that does not buy in to their world view has to change. This could be outworked along a love trajectory or a violent one. They are not mutually exclusive, but I guess we probably gravitate more to one than the other. My history was much more in the former camp, seeing the church as an alternative society and at times an alternative to society. Get that rightly restored and the world would be convinced. I have shifted from that some.

I consider that the expression of the body of Christ is:

  • Provisional
  • Contextual
  • Diverse

I no longer look for the perfect form of church. I am too much in the camp of ‘movement’ to look for that. The church then I see in whatever form as provisional. Today it might manifest in one way, but tomorrow in another way. There is no need to criticise it (unless of course it is clearly destroying people). The church is contextual – how it appears in one setting might not be the same in another setting. If the Incarnation was shaped by the society where Jesus was born and lived, so surely the body of Christ. And I also suggest that there is a health when the church is diverse. Not one size fits all, and one expression can seldom be what is needed at every stage of faith.

I am some 20 years older than I was 20 years ago (!!) but things have moved on enormously over the past 20 years. I am a strong believer that the prayer movement(s) have shifted so much and opened up ground that was not there 20 years ago. Ground in society and also ground in our thinking so that the old boxes cannot restrict in the same way as before.

I studied theology in the 70s. Today’s theologians are so much further on than the ones I read. Back in the day the evangelical theologians had come through a rough period with the dominance in academia of first liberal then the great diversity such as the modern and existential theologians. Yes we still have the Jesus seminar with its bias toward the Gnostic gospels, but those who take the authority of Scripture seriously do not have to be so defensive now. Defensiveness does not sit well with creativity. I am thankful for those who defended tradition but we have moved on. The battles over the ‘inerrancy’ of Scripture is not (in my opinion) central to our faith – as well as being indefensible, but that is another tangent! Just as theology has shifted to a level of creativity and re-shaping so I believe we have moved as a body. New possibilities are here. We do not have to be defensive, nor fearful. We need to know the ground we stand on, and in that the uniqueness of Jesus, the centrality of the cross and the authority of Scripture remain at the centre. But from the place of security we can stretch out, and indeed from the place of security we have to be stretched out. Far from compromising the new landscape means we face at an ever deeper level what it means to follow Jesus.

I have moved away from some of where I was centred back in the day. I am now convinced that there is a consistent push from heaven to be in the world. However inadequate the terminology of ‘gates’ might be they are pulling and calling. To facilitate this what we term ‘church’ is changing. It is no longer possible to place the adjective ‘local’ before it to legitimise it, and by default de-legitimise all other forms. Neither do we need to defend where we find ourselves situated. Provisionality is the name of the game.

I have changed for sure. Our ‘church’ is hugely more divergent than it was 20 years ago. It is not primarily expressed locally, certainly not in the sense of the immediate area where we live. Our community too has shifted. Not simply believers. And then the challenging part… sometimes a closer identification to those who are not believers than to those that we have some core aspects in common (a belief in Jesus). These things we still have to process further. We have come to see that how people respond to fellow-humans is very key. This is not to decentre ‘God’ and place humanity at the centre but it is in realisation that God centres humanity and centred himself in Jesus the true human.

I have more tensions today than 20 years ago. I think though I am more at peace. And I think, more or less, that Scotty still believes all this stuff! It certainly will take us in a few days on a wild journey to the north of Spain, digging into eras some 1500+ years ago. I believe all that stuff… And we travel with Spanish believers and someone from France. We have just been indulged with contact both locally and with visitors in our home who are believers (‘our church?’). We will have further visitors next week who have been vital to us in our journey. Maybe we need that level of indulgence, but if true to what we believe we have to also guard space to be pulled where our beliefs take us. My beliefs of 20 years with the journey of the past decades gets me to where I am today.


Scotty still believes this stuff #9

I am not sure I understand the implications of the last post, and if there was anything of value in there any lack of understanding is because I am to wrestle with the implications of the Gospel message. Once we push it beyond the ‘salvation of souls’ we have to be engaged in working out contextually how we are to live in the light of our commitment to Christ.

This is something of a follow on from the last post, and in part in reply to Joanna’s comment / question concerning ‘the gates’. It is also probably a little cheeky to have it under a ‘still believes’ title. These beliefs, if I had them at any level some 20 years ago, would have been expressed so differently back then. I am in process, and my ignorance is probably visible for all to read!

I find that new thinking often comes when something fresh is experienced. I think this is the primary way that God teaches us. We observe, are challenged, then re-evaluate. This is the hermeneutic of the NT. Gentiles were coming to faith so how should they, as Jewish believers, respond (Acts 15). They listen to what is happening, then come to a conclusion, and importantly the ‘they’ are those immersed in the God-story of the Scriptures. They are ‘under’ the story line, but not simply ‘under’ the text. The text is evaluated and highlighted by the activity of the Spirit.

I will make the remainder of this post narratival. In 2009 I had an interesting dialogue. Standing with hand in pocket there were a few coins in there.

‘Whose money is that?’
‘Yours Lord.’
‘What are you to do with it?’
‘Steward it.’

It is always easy to give the correct answer when there is nothing at stake. However, I have discovered that the Lord is not asking us for his benefit…

‘Whose money then is in the bank account of a Middle Eastern oil sheik?’
‘Yours Lord.’
‘If s/he is not stewarding it, how are you going to steward it?’

I am probably as clueless as to the ‘how’ now as I was then, but those kind of experiences have provoked me enormously. (I put the above as a conversation between the Lord and I, and that is certainly how I experienced it. I can also accept that it was a Holy Spirit provoked conversation inside my own head with myself.) The provocation is still with me.

I do not think the answer is that I, or someone equally as godly as I(!!), needs to get to the top and displace the said oil sheik, so as we now have the big bucks and can steward it. The likelihood is that we would not steward it well, even if it meant we had money to give into ‘missions’. Indeed I find it interesting that what was in my pocket was small change and it was that that provoked the conversation. There is something of a connection between how I handle the small change and what happens in the big outside world.

My last time of addressing a prophetic company across the pond was quite a few years ago. I had 15 minutes so chose to touch on two issues. Marriage legislation and abortion. Right or wrong I suggested that the White House, nor #10, nor Rome changes legislation. When we walk up the aisle saying ’till death us do part’ and walk down again saying ‘we’re not getting on so now we will separate’ we are setting a culture of marriage. (I am actually on the ‘liberal’ side of marriage, divorce and remarriage, so there is no criticism of any particular situation, but a general comment when the percentage of breakdowns deny the bigger picture of covenant faithfulness, then we are in trouble.) I secondly said that we cannot criticise society for dehumanising life in the womb when we as believers can dehumanise all kinds of people different to us with our language, and even justification of war. My inadequate point was that if Jesus has ‘all authority’ and sends us what we do will make a difference. Again this is tying in with the royal priesthood theme – how we live is supposed to affect something wider than us.

So back to the gates. To bind and to loose was a rabbinnic term to forbid and to allow. It is not primarily to do with a volume of speech that we address demons with, but how we live.

I consider that a) how we handle the small change in our pocket has an effect on how money is handled in society. The rampant neo-liberalism that has been supported by many believers is probably a judgement not simply on the world but on the body. How Gayle and I live will have a shaping influence on what we connect with. And b) that intercession – first how we stand, then what we are able to pull through in repentance and prayer is vital.

These are the concepts I am trying to work with which in turn pushes me away from looking for believers to occupy the top positions. Top positions speak of ‘success’ whereas I am convinced that we are called to effectiveness. Life is not defined by what we exhibit, but by what results beyond us. Jesus ‘became a life-giving Spirit’ and thus redefined life as that which took place beyond him.

We do not have control so cannot cause the world to be different. We only have to look at God as the ‘uncontrolling One’ to see that is not the way. Neither can we do what is perfect, and I am glad that is so. We are involved at a compromised level. If not I suggest there is very little possibility of a believer being an MP, and certainly less so of being a president. In those settings it is virtually impossible to do the right thing, but it is possible to help facilitate what results in a redemptive element being released.

OK looking above I see so many paragraphs and need to wind down.

  • I am passionate about the call on the body of Christ as the catalyst for change. The catalyst is essential and without it there is no change. The visible agent of change though might well not be the church but (imperfect) groups of people in the world.
  • By faith, I consider that change takes place as we lay down our lives, not as we demonstrate our great success.
  • Gratefully some will be called into the gates and will occupy what can be seen as place of influence. If those people occupy a place of influence it is vital they do so redemptively.
  • If they do not occupy the places of so-called influence how they handle the small change in their pocket will be vital. Indeed if they occupy the places of influence it is perhaps even more vital they handle the small change in a stewarding fashion

A revolution is here. It is a revolution of values. It has to start with how life is valued (pro-life) and has to challenge all forms of de-humanisation. God is not a human, so we cannot bring God down to being ‘one of us’, yet it is not possible to get to God through de-humanisation, for the Incarnation is the wonderful offence that arrests the world and unlocks redemptive possibilities. The gates might not prove a helpful analogy… but an embedded people who are committed to add their small contribution (cups of cold water) so that the multiplicity of small things bring about change, both in the here and now, and ultimately in the here and then.


Scotty still believes this stuff #8

I am maybe pushing it a little too far to say ‘still believes’ when I come to this post as in all honesty my thinking and concepts have shifted a lot these past 2 decades. The challenges of believing we are to steward the age to come’s entry to this age, or at least to stock up the material that will be used to build the age to come (though we have to be clear that we do not build it), when as Ann reflects on the last post, once we move beyond spiritualising (hellenising) salvation we are setting out a huge stall. We (humanity) seem set on destroying our environment, both the environment literally in a physical sense, and in a societal / economic sense where giftings are to be released. Maybe there are discoveries to be made down the line that can reverse the destructive path, or will be bailed out by the return of Jesus… though it seems that can only happen when we have provided the material for the New Jerusalem. I still believe… but this post will probably have less connection with the past than the former ones.

Prayer, or when we don’t have a clue what to do, at least a good old genuine repent and a bit of a kick, hoping that it might just scrape in under the ‘all kinds of prayer’ umbrella, to clear ground still remains for me the foundation. Without that there can be no permanent change. Understanding redemptive giftings act as a further key in releasing the future, then there has to be a filling of what has been cleared. Not in any complete sense I have suggested that there are ‘spheres / gates of society’ that shape society. I have described them as:

  • Arts and entertainment
  • Business, trade and commerce
  • Education and youth
  • Family and community
  • Government, politics and law
  • Health and well-being
  • Media and communication

Of course getting a neat 7-fold description is very important otherwise how could it possibly be considered? In seriousness though the above is just a rough sketch and is not at all definitive. There are others who work with something similar, and any of the above could be subdivided further. The two aspects that are important in the above sketch is THERE IS NO CHURCH / RELIGIOUS GATE / SPHERE, and certainly no religious mountain, and secondly I am avoiding the use of the term mountain as I suggest we are not setting our aim to get to the top of anything.

So having started with a sketch and then followed up with such unbelievable clarity than even amazed me, I had better continue.

Back in the day of 20 years ago I would probably have headed down a ‘mountain top’ perspective, but the reading and re-reading of Revelation, the influence of the Anabaptist connections I have had, the studies of Roger Mitchell (kenarchy) have all been a wonderful persuasion not to go that way.

What comes below I realise will need unpacking… I am writing what my fingers are typing, but not in some automatic typing fashion!!! Please read slowly – and remember it is a Perspective, but I hope it is a contribution to the important debates of today.

I have serious concerns (remember this blog is ‘Perspectives’ and in writing I am not criticising those who are doing far better at responding to God than I am) over all talk of ‘Christian nation’. That kind of approach has given us apartheid and slavery and if pursued will give us an idolatrous construct that far from mediating the presence of God will hide his face from society. I also believe that both historically with the formation of Islam under Mohammed, the expansion of Islam through the Ottoman empire and the modern day militant manifestations draw their strength from that christendom stance.

I grew up through the restoration movement that God was restoring the five-fold ministry, the church and then the world would be converted. I was very happy with the ‘in those days the highest mountain will be [the church]’. Maybe I am still on the same track, and I think somehow I am, but it is taking a turn that I could not see back then. I am happy to suggest God is restoring, and fundamentally restoring the Pauline gospel (from 2001 this has been the track that took us to Spain some 7 years later). That gospel is focused not on souls being saved, but a vision of the sight of a ‘new heaven and new earth’. In the same flow of the OT where Israel was to be a light to the nations, a royal priesthood (if you like a willing scapegoat), so came Jesus to rescue Israel from her bondage, rooted in her desire to be as the nations rather than the hope for the nations, and then having released Israel (potentially and actually for all those who received the Spirit of freedom) from religious stronghold (the unique elemental spirits associated with Israel), so that there could be a message of hope to the nations that the elemental spirits that held the nations in bondage could be broken. That bondage was and is one of deception, the strongest form of which is nationalism.

We are called to be pro-life. However much we wait for the NT to come into view to help correct and develop our early readings from the OT, I am struck by the first response accorded to God with respect to murder. It was not ‘an eye for an eye’ but to protect the murderer. God is pro-life. I hope it goes without saying that I find it very difficult to understand how a believer could be pro-choice to the level of dehumanising the unborn, but pro-life cannot stop at the issue of abortion. Pro-life has implications for the environment, war, the stock market, the banking system and the commitment to nationalism first. The pattern remains… the anonymous servant is probably how we can describe the Holy Spirit, who comes not to demonstrate her power through us but to empower us.

I probably need to wind down this post, but where this takes me is that I now believe passionately that we cannot stick the word ‘Christian’ on to something that is fallen and under bondage. Neither are we looking for a ‘Christian’ alternative. We live in Babylon, but cannot live there by Babylon’s values. The responsibility to babylon is our call. The gates of society are calling, and it was from the gates that the environment was shaped. What entered the city – be it Jerusalem, Babylon or Madrid – was determined in the gates. I do not see the way of influence being through legislation or top-down, but through anonymous servanthood. We change what is outside of us when we change inside. A new banking trade system does not come when there is a Christianised IMF (!!) but when there is a growing movement who understand that the bottom line is never what has been termed the bottom line. The bottom line is Judas and those like him.

I will try and follow on in the coming days…


Scotty still believes this stuff #7

City-types; the redemptive gift of cities / regions / nations. Mr. Lowton who provoked this little series with his comment that I have used as the title for these posts asked while we were together in Madrid – so what city type is Madrid? My response was that this had not been a focus for us at this time and I really wasn’t sure. I found that very interesting and on reflection realised that as with many ‘tools’ there is a time when a tool should be used and will prove vital at that time. Our perspective of Spain, and maybe more so of Madrid, is that the season we are in is of digging, uncovering, exposing and the city gifting aspect will come down the line.

The diagram is how I understand that city gifting types work, based on the 7 letters in Revelation. As the gifting is discovered there will be typical strongholds that we can see in the letters, and that the people of God are there to enable the city to discover its gift and live that out. You can read in detail about this in the book Impacting the City (if you can find a copy in print) or follow the link to e-book resource where in shorter form there is an e-book on this.

The way I see it working is:

  • a central redemptive gift (e.g. Gateway)
  • elements of the gifting from the wider land where the city is located (e.g. Establishing)
  • elements from one or other of the adjacent gift (e.g. Developing)
  • elements from the same corner (e.g. Deliverance)

Gifts can be perverted: more common in the case of Establishing and Finishing
Gifts can be suppressed: more common in the case of Deliverance and Gateway.

This post is too short to expand further and the series is to do with my core beliefs and not some attempt to bring teaching. Rather than expand I want to work a little backwards. The church’s task is to unlock the redemptive gift, so Laodicea needs a ‘Laodicean church’ not a ‘Thyatiran church’. At a basic level we cannot run around the world and find what has ‘succeeded’ elsewhere and try and import it where we live. Apart from the dubious measurement of ‘success’ we end up with severe misfits. One size does not fit all. Working backwards it is vital that the true redemptive gift of the place pulls the church into a shape. The biblical shape for the church is a world-shaped people. In other words we do not start with a world having to fit into the church, but vice versa. This is the pattern of the incarnation. Heaven sent, but earth shaped. Jesus was a first century authentic to the culture Jew.

Ultimately, and increasingly so, it will be very difficult to develop a church and then hope it will reach society. I consider that the prayers for God to move is making that increasingly difficult, particularly in Europe. Unlike many who see Europe as lagging behind I see Europe, if anything, ahead. More secular and further along the post-Christendom line. Therefore with more hope. Not more hope in the near future of big churches but of God’s people wonderfully hidden, immersed in the world but carrying the presence of Jesus. This is why I consider we have to work from the future rather than try too hard to get something from today into a new shape. If we learn to live in an uncomfortable context, probably out of sync I believe we will be better placed to play our part in unlocking the redemptive gifting.

Europe with all her challenges! We have been praying for a long time that there will be 10s of thousands of believers dislocated who will be relocated in a haphazard way across Europe to seed a new day. That there will be no new ‘big thing’ but the multiplicity of the small, totally embedded in the world. Our hope has been that much of that will be seeded from the UK… but maybe the fulfilment will be in the hiddenness of the influx of refugees. Just a thought.

For those of us who have the luxury of living beyond the survival level we have to live from that place responsibly for the sake of others. Every situation that we find ourselves in of any level of privilege is for the sake of others. If dislocated from, for example, an expression of local church, my thoughts are avoid peer pressure, but discover why that is case. Reacting against something is not normally a good guide for direction but being pulled by what has not yet been expressed remains a powerful direction puller.

I am convinced that there can and should be a multiplicity of expressions of the corporate body of Christ. If one of those consists of regular gatherings in a public building so be it. The real challenge for any gathered or scattered expression is of a true world-connection (and not some constructed connection) and of connecting in a way to release the redemptive gift of the locality.

I still see redemptive giftings as an important aspect of this journey even if our context at this time in Spain is a step behind that with the digging out the past. I am less focused now than I was some 17 years ago on starting at the end of ‘an appropriate church for the city’ and more on seeking to help believers see their city through a redemptive grid set of eyes and align themselves toward unlocking that. The church, in all its forms (and non-forms!), is here for the world. The church is a chosen people, because ‘the whole earth is the Lord’s’. Church is central but in a not highly visible way. It is time for the cities and nations to stand in their redemptive gift. Cities and nations that will birth a new economy, a new politics, new ways of trading. Redemptive giftings.

We are a long way from discovering much about Madrid or Spain, but maybe protest, unseating authoritarianism, refusing to live from the constraints of the status quo could be part of what is called for. We think that is part of it. If so I really had better not comply but be something of a trouble maker.


Scotty still believes this stuff #6

Levels of prayer, not levels in the sense of grading, but in the sense of distinct from. Paul exhorted that we should ‘with all kinds of prayer’, suggesting to me that the most simple of prayers are not to be spurned or mocked, and that there are ‘all kinds’, different kinds of prayer. I do not profess to be a great pray-er nor come with awesome insights but I do come alive when there seems to be the need to push in for prayer that touches on history.

Prayer is strange. What difference does prayer make? Does God need us to pray? Does he need x-number of people to pray for something to happen? Does he say – if enough of you request something then I will grant the request, leaving us not sure if he really wanted to answer in the first place or that he only responds to petitions above a certain level? Or is prayer for us rather than for God?

Some prayer I am sure does something for us. Jesus was asleep in the boat (I like Mark’s little addition, of being asleep on a pillow), the storm is raging, the disciples are afraid and wake him. He does not exhibit any fear; he does not call them to prayer; he simply rebukes the wind and the waves and asks why were they afraid! If we were the ones being called on to deal with the storm we would pray like crazy, drag up some Scriptures etc. The prayer would mainly be for us – to deal with our fear. That does not make the prayer illegitimate, but we probably can suggest that a whole lot of prayer is for us as we are not consciously living from the place of true rest, trust and security.

But not all prayer is for us. Abraham and the dialogue over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah can be rehearsed. Paul again and again calls the readers to pray or let’s them know of his own prayers for them:

  • join in helping us by your prayers (2 Cor. 1:11)
  • I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ… may give you (Ephes. 1:17)
  • Pray in the Spirit at all times… persevere in supplications… (Ephes. 6:18)
  • we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled (Col. 1:9)
  • deveote yourselves to prayer (Col.4:2)
  • pray without ceasing (1 Thess.5:17)
  • I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions be made for everyone (1 Tim. 2:1)

Not all prayer is for us. Paul continually urges for prayer for others and is continually praying for others. A belief in an all-powerful God cannot nullify that there are actions of God that are dependent on prayer. I cannot get away from there are situations that change, there is an intervention of God as a result of prayer. I still believe that, and given that ‘today is here as a result of yesterday’, this is what brings me to life concerning the thought of prayer.

Land needs to be healed. The corporate memory is held in land. When memory is embedded in a person or in a land there is a response from memory that takes place, until that cycle is broken. Discovering the memory that is triggering the response, then bringing about a resolution to it is key. Anyone involved in counselling will recognise that and there are a variety of ways in which prayer ministry is exercised to open up a different future response. I consider land to be no different. Memories do not control the response, but the deeper the memory, the more it has been re-enforced the greater the effect, indeed it can be so strong that it manifests as a stronghold and controls.

Cycles of history; repetitive patterns. Those are the things we look for. I still believe that we can act as priests, as representatives of heaven and of a new future. To do that it seems there are two aspects that are called on. Bring the past to a conclusion through healing and release the future through declaration. In many cases any involvement will only be partial but will still move things on a step.

Repentance, touching the trauma is key for any resolution of the past. It seems that the closer a person is in some relational sense to what took place the more effective the repentance is, but the key is to be able to embrace the land. If a person embraces land there is an interaction that takes place, and often the person will experience the crap of the land before the land experiences the benefits of their life and walk.

In November 2014 I had a herniated disc in my back. The centre of the intense pain was manifested in my right ankle, and I was often unable to walk more than a few metres without taking a break. We did not take too long to realise it was in some way tied to the land. One morning as I woke (I call them waking visions) I saw a man lying on his back across Spain. I traced the image I saw on to a map. The results were (and continue to be) revealing. Two aspects struck me immediately. The centre of the man’s back was over Madrid (where the herniated disc was), the right ankle was exactly over where we were living (where all my pain was). Further the spine of the man ran from the head in Bilbao directly to Gibraltar, the place that Franco called the ‘dagger in the spine of Spain’. Fuelled now to pray we saw shifts, improvements and a few relapses. The last relapse I had was immediately at the moment when Madrid made their verbal response to Cataluña’s referendum / opinion poll on independence. With no pre-throught as I heard the response immediately my back seized… and very soon the realisation came that the time had dome for there to be a shift. My back had mirrored Spain, now Spain was to mirror my back. I like that as in our hands we now had leverage for the land.

When Gayle and I first entered Spain we did so bare-footed from the aircraft, through the terminal and to the car. A few days ago we poured salt at a political party headquarters that has had all-but 7000 major scandals in 40 years of history. We called for corruption to come out, and one of the last politicians that would represent that older school resigned within hours. I believe this stuff. In a few days we will be 11 hours away from here distance-wise to seek to a) bring a correction to what is remembered, b) revive a true memory and c) seek to reverse something that relates to the first murder of a believer by other believers in collusion with state power. If we can do some of that at any level we are looking for that to open up the way to pray through the expulsion of Muslims in Spain, all the way back to their entry at Gibraltar in 711.

These posts are not about convincing anyone of the truth of my beliefs. I am not accountable for anyone else’s beliefs but to live consistently with my own. I still believe we have to take responsibility for what has gone on in history, to see ourselves as the channels through which healing takes place and a future is opened up. Some of the activity might prove to be as much for us as the situation, but there remains an element where the prayer is necessary, and however it is worked out, God is limited as to what he can do without our co-operation. Those beliefs are still intact, and a shout, a kick, a jump like a big frog, a bag of salt, a bottle of wine, even the blow of a shofar can all be pulled in to add to any words that are spoken.