Two columns

Which side of the right / wrong truth / heresy will we place the issues of life on? Is knowing the right and wrong outcomes the most important?

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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

I 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 […]

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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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A divide

No easy solutions to the issues we all face. But ‘we’ have been here before. What about life under Rome in the first century? ‘We’ (believers) in every generation have to learn how to negotiate discipleship of Jesus in the context of anti-Christ spirits. In this short post I simplistically suggest that it might come […]

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fall_of_churchNo easy solutions to the issues we all face. But ‘we’ have been here before. What about life under Rome in the first century? ‘We’ (believers) in every generation have to learn how to negotiate discipleship of Jesus in the context of anti-Christ spirits. In this short post I simplistically suggest that it might come down to how we view one central element of our faith, and how we approach this will probably manifest in a divided response among us who claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth. (I appreciate what follows is either simply simplistic, or it is at core simply simple. I was told years ago that truth though profound is also simple’).

Power – what kind of power does God call us to share? Did he intend that the church have power at the centre to shape from the top-down? Or to be the salt in the land and the light to the land? Legislation is important… any legislation that dehumanises by intention is anti-God. The resurrection being an enormous God-speech of ‘yes’ to humanity. Maybe there is good and necessary legislation that will unintentionally dehiumanise – the effects of what could be good but applied in a fallen world. But anything that intentionally or overwhelmingly dehumanises has to be viewed from a ‘there is something wrong with this at the core’.

I believe in the transformative power of the Gospel and not just at the personal level, but for the land(s) beyond the personal. I think that is the Pauline gospel and there is a shift from 12 core disciples to 12% of the Roman empire who were willing to be be marginalised and give their lives for Jesus that took place across the first 3 centuries. From an obscure sect in Israel to spreading right across the Imperial lands. That is transformation. For a kingdom that is not of this world that is quite an impact on the world!

It is this tension – a kingdom that is not of this world, and if it was then all the normal means of exercising power would be validated (including the sword, which is simply the final outworking of top-down authority); yet it is a kingdom that challenges all the power-structures of this world to a higher calling, the higher calling of love, compassion and care.

Two views of power, hence two views of the cross (a call to our death in the context of the world, or a symbol by which we may conquer), and ultimately two views of the one true God. How does he ‘rule’? I think (simplistically) it comes down to that. If, as I have been suggesting for some 2 decades, that Islam is a mirror religion of Christendom, maybe shifting our view of the rule of God could be very vital as we learn how to live as disciples of Jesus in our challenging context.

[The image of course is to the book by Roger Mitchell. Available also as a kindle book. The Fall of the Church is far more profound than I had anticipated. I thought pre-Constantine ‘good’, post- as ‘bad’. Alongside other books, such as Thomas Jay Oord’s Uncontrolling Love, these writings are great resources to help us re-think the rule of God and therefore how we are to live.]

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Life as an immigrant?

Living in Spain as an immigrant who has been welcomed in is a huge privilege. Seeking to be a contributing immigrant is of course the challenge. Contributing through paying taxes is the easiest one (though why are the taxes so high?); contributing to the future welfare of the land and people is the deeper challenge […]

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Living in Spain as an immigrant who has been welcomed in is a huge privilege. Seeking to be a contributing immigrant is of course the challenge. Contributing through paying taxes is the easiest one (though why are the taxes so high?); contributing to the future welfare of the land and people is the deeper challenge – though this is our declared purpose.

I had a conversation way back pre-the vote on the referendum concerning the UK and the EU. A Brit in conversation with me insisted there was only one way to vote, and furthermore he explained to me

It’s all about the country first (the UK), and it’s obvious we are different. There are two different words, mate, they’re immigrants and we are ex-pats.

No we too are immigrants. Or biblically ‘foreigners in the land / aliens’.

Thank God that as immigrants we have the Bible defending us, asking that we be given space in the land.

Dependent on how far back we go of course many of us are descended from immigrants. Many in the West and indeed Jews – did not Abraham come from Ur of the Chaldees, even before they came out of Egypt under Moses?

Yesterday in Barcelona there was a huge and wonderful street protest. Organisers suggested 500,000 and the official sources 160,000 (so probably around 200,000 which roughly translates into 1/10 of the population of the city) gathered and marched under the umbrella of welcoming refugees, giving a sign to Spain and to the world. In 2015 Spain agreed to accept 16,000 refugees – to date 1000 have been allowed in. Barcelona has been pushing for the quota and more to be allowed in saying ‘we are ready to receive them’. For certain countries in Europe there is no need to build a wall – stretches of water like the Mediterranean are the wall built without cost!

Here are two videos from yesterday. The first gives more of the facts and figures, the second some small footage.

The issues that we face today are complex. There are no easy solutions, but compassion and welcome has to be at the forefront, seeking to do everything possible to welcome the stranger. Thank you Barcelona, thank you Ada Colau.

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Casualties & fear

I enjoy when I can get out and run, or at least the first two minutes or so! However, while out I often meditate and pray – other times I am as blank as I am at other times of the day. Whatever! Anyway while out a couple of days ago as I was thinking […]

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I enjoy when I can get out and run, or at least the first two minutes or so! However, while out I often meditate and pray – other times I am as blank as I am at other times of the day. Whatever! Anyway while out a couple of days ago as I was thinking about the whole issue of preparing and researching for the prayer into the ReConquista (the military conquest to drive the Muslims out of Spain, culminating in 1492 and the fall of Granada), I remember the phrase concerning ‘needless casualities of war’. What follows is not a comment on the book of that title as it contains so much good material, but I was thinking about the issues surrounding kick-back and also – perhaps the greater element – of fear. The ‘fear narrative’ is so predominant and is feeding a surge of less-than-democratic processes that seem to be increasingly part of Western political world.

Fear or faith?

Fear is very real. I love the Psalmist when in subsequent verses (Ps. 56: 3,4) he makes two very important statements:

  • I trust in God and am not afraid (brave and courageous, the kind of leader we all want and need to follow!)
  • When I am afraid I trust in God – this I can identify with, or at least the first few words. Getting to the second part is not so easy.

The Psalmist reverses the order I put the two – probably indicating that his (probably a ‘he’) is further on than I am. However, apparently what we do with fear, and this will depend on the reason for the fear, is so important.

I have heard over and over again about the fear people have and therefore they want to withdraw to ‘safe’ boundaries. On the big stage I have heard that Europe (as in the EU) is an evil institution, Brussels being a platform for the antiChrist, with the following step being that of withdrawal. If I were to assume the former then what would be the appropriate response as a believer? Withdraw or be present? (I use the example purely as an example with no comment on the rights / wrongs of the Brexit.)

My point is about withdrawal and separation that is the response of fear. Or if we have strength we attack, maybe cloaked in doing the right thing but it is more often about self-protectionism.

What though is the faith response? It must be to take the presence of Jesus into the (perceived) darkness. I think someone once prayed along the lines of ‘I pray you do not take them out of the world…’

If I set my boundaries by fear I will not be involved in very much. If I set my boundaries by faith I might not be involved in very much as my faith is not so wonderful. In other words my outer life might look very similar, whether I set the boundary by faith or by fear. However, my inner life will be different. Also how ‘safe’ I am will be different. Fear is not a protection, but faith is called ‘a shield’.

If we have the life of Jesus we have a vital question to answer. He became through the resurrection ‘a life-giving Spirit’, hence we have to answer where are we to bring life. We might not have an infinite level of life but life in Jesus is present in order that we might become life givers. We have to discover what we have. We can say ‘silver and gold I do not have’ if we can also say ‘but what I have I give to you’.

We are focusing on the ReConquista with the belief that through repentance there can be a healing on the land that will help shape the future and open possible doors for the Spirit of God to work in the Muslim world. In the past we have certainly experienced some strange manifestations and maybe we will experience some kick-back. Jesus never promised we would never have kick-back. Avoiding kick-back is not the issue, doing what one needs to do with faith is what is important.

So we have a personal agenda in making sure fear does not shape any boundary, and the need to discover what we have faith for. If we are arrogant (a cover for false courage) we will receive more than kick-back and that we need to avoid. But beyond the personal agenda I am very concerned…

The fear narrative is reaching new levels. It is the necessary forerunner for levels of authoritarianism. That concerns me, so my appeal is we have to dig deeper. We as believers in the resurrection surely must find faith and be those who speak of faith. If we simply repeat a ‘Christianised’ (for that read a Christendom-inspired) version of fear we will live to regret it enormously, and in particular will fail to be what we need to be in this season of enormous opportunity. Retreating will give us respite – and great gatherings – but only for a season. And a respite with great gatherings is not exactly what the resurrection opened up for us.

Well a bit of ramble… and at whatever level there is value in this post here are the bullet points:

  • Set our boundaries by faith not fear.
  • Stop feeding off the fear narrative. Life is too short!
  • Discover what life we have to give so that we can say ‘what I have I give to you’.
  • Find the location of vacuum or darkness where we can become a place of entry for light.
  • Move forward with humility – it is the major cloak of invisibility.

So to those who like me that are often confronted with the small level of faith that we have be provoked. Even if our faith is as a mustard seed there are a few mountains to shift.

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An open future

I have for long leaned toward what is termed ‘Open Theology’. Of course there are always Scriptures that can be quoted with a loud voice that will denounce any opposing theology. This post is not to defend Open Theology as a theology but to suggest that we are at least to live as if we can shape the future.

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Uncontrolling LoveI have for long leaned toward what is termed ‘Open Theology’, and perhaps Thomas Jay Oord’s book ‘Uncontrolling Love’ is one of the best presentations of it, presenting some fresh perspectives even beyond those of Pinnock et al. Of course there are always Scriptures that can be quoted with a loud voice that will denounce any opposing theology. This post is not to defend Open Theology as a theology but to suggest that we are at least to live as if we can shape the future.

Narratives (beliefs) shape the world we live in. I have no doubt that the Western world is going through a major shift, and the one who can predict what it will look like in 15 years time either has some incredible insights or are rather naïve. I have many times written about the predominant spin of the fear narrative as something we must reject. We see this so strong at this point in time: create a fear scenario which then allows / legitimises an authoritarian response which leads to the ‘state of exception’. The political realm is awash with this, in some places so visible, but in other places just under the surface. And sadly the extremes are pulling what was once more moderate increasingly in that direction.

At a time of crisis (the 30s) the oft-repeated phrase of ‘We have nothing to fear except fear itself’ was spoken in the inaugural speech of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I am suggesting (as I write as a believer) that maybe now we need to say:

We have nothing to fear except a church that has bought into the fear narrative.

There are those who draw on the research of, for example, The Fourth Turning, which suggests a cycle of 80-100 years, the final stage being that of crisis which opens the door to war and then a rebirth. This writing is apparently fuelling the ideas being fed into the current administration in the USA. War – inevitable in this stage? Dayesh (ISIS) holds to the eschatology of a Middle Eastern Armageddon so the drawing of the major powers into that arena is not something to be avoided as eventually once that takes place this will precipitate the return of Jesus… and not on the side of the ‘Christians’. Others of the Christian faith also hold to such an eschatology, so the idea of working for peace is to be avoided also. Interestingly ‘Woe to those who say peace, peace’ would have been a reference to the Pax Romana, the false peace that was offered to all who complied and was implemented and sustained by war. No different to the current peace and safety being offered in the West.

There are myths that abound, and narratives that sustain the myths. We have been instructed to be armed! I was once told in no uncertain terms that ‘Pacificism will not cut it these days!’ (BTW pacificism is not the correct term for a non-violent position.)

We have to live from a different narrative. Here is where at least the outcome of an Open position should help us. We do not have to adopt that view theologically. Even if we are of the most hard line ‘all things have been predestined’ we are still to live from faith in God and live out our lives trusting God and living as though we can affect the future.

I believe we are responsible for the politics, but we are never to put our faith in the political system or those elected. We are responsible for the world we live in – the buck stops here!

So back to where I started. The fear narrative is linked to a fatalistic one. It is pessimistic in the extreme but with a twist – there is a human / political saviour who will steer us through this. Believe the narrative, let increasing authority and therefore power flow to the top and we will get through this. Such a narrative is sadly antiChristian.

The crisis in the West is secondarily a political crisis. It is primarily a crisis of faith. This season will polarise things increasingly with respect to what it means to follow Jesus. Either the cross will be emblazoned on the sword or we will recognise it as the symbol of a life laid down. ‘As often as you do this do this in remembrance of me.’ Amidst all the narratives we cannot afford to forget him.

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How much apology?

I posted yesterday the apology toward the native (north) American nations which prompted a great comment / question from Nigel regarding national repentance and forgiveness. He wrote: At what point is the issue considered dealt with? With personal issues, apology + forgiveness = closure With nations though, does each successive generation need to re-repent? I’m […]

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I posted yesterday the apology toward the native (north) American nations which prompted a great comment / question from Nigel regarding national repentance and forgiveness. He wrote:

At what point is the issue considered dealt with?

With personal issues,
apology + forgiveness = closure

With nations though, does each successive generation need to re-repent? I’m thinking maybe of Germany and the Jewish people here. My cautious first answer would be no as generational guilt is not a good thing.

Also, within a repentant generation, what proportion need to be truly repentant of the issues? Leadership repentance on behalf of the nation is valuable but if the nation itself doesn’t see the issue…..

I am glad Nigel asked my perspective – I can give that but the definitive answer? I don’t think so. Let me start by acknowledging that the approach to apology / identificational repentance (from now on IR) is diverse among theologians. Indeed the weight of opinion is probably against it as being something valid in the sense of shifting anything spiritually. At best it might be seen as accomplishing something psychologically, rather than actually dealing with anything substantial. A Western individualistic mindset does not lend itself to validating IR. ‘I was not there…, I did not steal the land…’ Biblically quoting verses that suggest God will not hold the children to account for the sins of the fathers also are thrown in, along with the ‘where in the NT do we find this?’ Under that weight the answer is easy – OK do it if you wish but there is no need to answer the questions as there is nothing objective taking place simply something subjective. However, I beg to disagree!!

There are numerous Scriptures along the lines of ‘If you confess your sins and the sins of your antecedents…’ and living examples of, e.g., Daniel or Ezra, making confession of the historic sins of the nation. That seems based on an understanding that each generation is connected to those who have gone before, and that both sin and righteousness are trans-generational, being sown into the land. I find no convincing way to understand the baptism of Jesus in any different light. He confesses sin – otherwise there is no submitting to John’s baptism, and he confessed the sin of the people as if it were his own, thus fulfilling what had been lacking – all righteousness. He does this at the key point – the geographical point of entry to the land, at a key time, when there is the hope of the end of exile (NT Wright et al., linking exile and forgiveness of sins). His repentance there is the carrying of sin, which he carries to the cross. He is crucified for Israel as the ultimate suffering servant, and thus for the sins of the world. So I do not see the cross as bearing the anger of God, but wrath (if you like) in the sense of the consequences of sin. The cross is the point of reconciliation because it is the ultimate point of God’s identification with humanity.

Jesus work is then finished. The work the Father gave him to do. His work is not finished though. The body of Christ carries on the work of Jesus. ‘All that Jesus began to do and to teach…’ ‘I complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ…’ kind of Scriptures are what I appeal to there, as well as the close identification of Jesus and the body – ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ This shapes my eschatology that the end cannot come until the body has completed her task of providing the materials for the age to come (silver, gold, precious stones of 1 Corinthians and Revelation).

So my convictions are rooted in what is here today is the result of what was sown yesterday. Where that is sin – betrayals, illegal moving of boundaries, bloodshed, tower of Babel pride etc. – it will be dealt with through repentance. If that is accepted, the inevitable questions arise such as ‘how much repentance?’, ‘who is involved?’ and the like.

So my perspectives follow!

1. Body of Christ has the primary responsibility for the health of the world. Change is not from no. 10 etc, but a movement has to be present in the church. That essentially means a different flow of life. These are the huge challenges when living in the world, but not being of it. Those working in the economic world, for example, have a huge task of working out how to truly be Christian. Negatively I suspect that when the believers predominantly live from the same spirit that their contribution to bondage is even greater than that of non-believers.

2. We own not our own sins alone but the sins of the community, or whatever part of it we can identify with. Jesus had the calling and capacity to identify with the sins of the world… in the big scheme of things the body of Christ maybe can and should do the same corporately.

3. Confession is connected to conviction. I have a conviction that the Crusades, the Inquisition, Christendom, conversion of the heathen by any level of force and that whole gamut to be anti-Christian. I appreciate there are others who hold to the view that those who fought to protect ‘the faith’ view it differently. On that we are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. All I can do is follow my convictions… so on Spain and the Reconquista, Gayle and I have to take responsibility for what took place. What was done in the name of Jesus implicates us. The repentance has to begin with us, not in some superior way that we would not have done that. The same sins are in us, and as I have repeatedly written in many posts, the sin of dehumanisation is ultimately a denial at some level of the Incarnation – and that spirit John says is the spirit of antiChrist.

4. God looks for someone to stand in the gap. He can work with a ‘someone’. The ‘someones’ are often not the right people. They are from the ‘not many mighty, not many noble’ kind of people. It seems that is all God needs to get something moving. If it is done from conviction, and that has to go beyond the level of simply doing research then ticking the boxes as each thing is dealt with, then there seems to be a real shift. That shift seems to (often / always?) release a greater level of awareness and others get on board to make apology / repent. Often ending with governmental representatives making apology and reparations put in place.

5. I do not think this has to be repeated generation upon generation. Sin can be dealt with – or maybe better in the context I am writing about, the effects of sin can be dealt with. Hence I do believe without dealing with the root issues of the Reconquista that no wall or foreign policy can keep Spain free from future terrorist attacks. As I wrote a couple of posts ago, my expectation would be this year or next. If we take responsibility, with the full expectation, that many have already done much more before us, we can see a shift here in Spain, and in such manifestations as Dayesh. I have the firm conviction that the roots of a militant Islam lie within Christendom.

6. I do see IR as coming to a place where it does not need to be repeated. Same as at a personal level. My sin is dealt with, but it is at times not unhelpful to soberly revisit the effect of my sin. I consider this to be the situation in Germany. Her sin is forgiven, but a sober revisiting of the Holocaust is necessary to live differently in the light of the forgiveness.

7. The percentage who repent? An unrepentant church would for me be the largest presenting problem. And that raises the tough issue of when is a brother / sister no longer a brother or sister. Jesus makes it plain that when we show hatred we are of our father, the devil, who is murderer from the beginning. I cannot answer easily for those who have a conviction (from Scripture) about the death penalty, or what I would consider excessive military response. I have to live with my convictions, but my concern is that such ‘biblical’ convictions are causing us enormous issues. My priority is not to judge but to respond to God and therefore live with a measure of personal integrity. As Jesus said to Peter concerning a fellow disciple, ‘what has that got to do with you?’

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Momentous days

A few years back I contributed to a book regarding the shape of the future with respect to this decade. From memory I was the only European writer. The focus was the west but with a core perspective on the USA. That is a huge challenge to write with respect to a land that you […]

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A few years back I contributed to a book regarding the shape of the future with respect to this decade. From memory I was the only European writer. The focus was the west but with a core perspective on the USA. That is a huge challenge to write with respect to a land that you are not married to, and certainly in recent years I have tried to be restrained. I think we have limited rights to speak into anything that we do not have responsibility for (and I also think it is important to know what we are responsible for). So here I proceed with care and if truth be out if these days are momentous in the USA it is because of the huge shifts in the western world.

In that book as I focused toward 2020 I suggested we would have martial law implemented in certain cities and that the US$ would not be the currency for exchange. So we wait but such issues are not so far away as they seemed some 7 years ago.

These are momentous days with major changes all around us (e.g. the banning of people from 7 nations for national security’s sake when the number of terrorist attacks from those nations on US soil has been precisely 0 / nada / none).

Beliefs are important. I do not believe that Matt. 28 (all authority) nor Rev. 4 (exposing Caesar and all other Imperial thrones as but a parody of the throne of heaven) allows me to look to No. 10, Moncloa Brussells, the White House as being the key to change. I actually consider that a deception.

Of course legalisation is important, and the Hebrew Scriptures are evidence of that with so much of the (imperfect) laws of God being civil and legislative laws for society. But, if connecting with the throne room of heaven is the key and Jesus rose with all authority then we have to go much deeper.

Abortion, the treating of the unborn as non-persons, is a huge blight on society. Yet as Derek Flood sensitively wrote this week be is pro-life but not pro-law. A touchy issue and one we will probably always find disagreement over but we are up against something much greater and deeper than simply a law. Economic issues (when in scripture is the economic state not the heart of the issue?) are always a factor. But for me there is a deeper issue that is firmly our responsibility. What we sow is what is reaped in society. If we can dehumanise lives, and can even more seriously do so by assuming we are the goodies, and those of other nations and creeds are the baddies then we are feeding from, and feeding the spirit that dehumanises the unborn. Yes I am troubled that we don’t connect the dots. And deeply troubled when the line of good and evil runs between us and ‘them’. This is what feeds what is both a myth and anti-Christian, the myth of redemptive violence. That we can do to others what they cannot do as we are the good ones. Indeed Jesus said that we were to do to others what we desire them to do to us, and the others extended to include enemy love.

I am deeply concerned about our world. Terrorist attacks are so likely, indeed in Spain if not this year then next, unless…

Unless we ban them and build a wall? No. Unless we take responsibilty for what we have created. Christendom is the source of violence, at least my conviction. So it is not about a ban or a wall. There will be attacks unless we take responsibility. One by embracing those who are blanketed as the problems, and by traveling to such places as Granada to repent of what was done in history. 1492, a momentous time when Muslims were conquered by the cross (which cross?), Jews were expelled and Columbus sailed for God and Queen, again with the conquest justifying all kinds of violence.

Legislation? Indeed wise legislation needs to be put in place. But Gayle and I have a lot of focused work ahead. Gladly, for we take responsibility.

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Alternatives?

Alternative facts! We now apparently can look at two photos that show how many people were present but we can claim that the photo showing less people actually shows there were more people present. How? We are simply reporting it as an alternative fact. In the old days this was called ‘lying’ or at least […]

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Alternative facts! We now apparently can look at two photos that show how many people were present but we can claim that the photo showing less people actually shows there were more people present. How? We are simply reporting it as an alternative fact. In the old days this was called ‘lying’ or at least misrepresenting the truth. Yes, we have arrived at the era of post-truth. Maybe it is an inevitable move on from post-modernity… but I suspect we have gone a little further than a subtle shift.

In the simple days we could be very critical of dictators in a non-democratic situation who lied / presented alternative facts, and although we would be hard pressed to connect the two words ‘honest’ and ‘politics’ we were at least able to rest a little easy in the checks and balances that made our leaders accountable at some meaningful level. Yes we have had misrepresentation such as ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and whole courses of action that we (or not really ‘us’ but many good people across Iraq, Syria and beyond) are still still suffering from. Post-those events at least such misrepresentations remain as marks on the landscape. They are not photoshoped out under the guise of ‘alternative facts’. What we are now beginning to witness is something far greater reaching and much more sinister.

For some years we have been praying for a new media and I have posted on that in the past. We need a media that is free and critical. But maybe there is a twist… I write as a follower of Christ and as one who gives credence to the responsibility that believers have for the world we live in. Indeed I have oft-suggested that the test for how well we are doing is the health of the world. If we see control rising and the silencing of the press, and the refusal to accept what can be evidently seen, could it be that something went wrong upstream? (By upstream I mean within what the body of Christ has released into the world?)

Have we simply wanted alternative facts? It is not always easy to know when we take a stand ‘the Bible says so, so I believe it’ and when we are simply endorsing some alternative facts. In the current climate perhaps one of the great challenges is not simply to believe what is true, but to discover afresh the belief that truth is more than a set of facts and is personified in Jesus… and should be in his followers.

There is a biblical thread that suggests the good guys can do less than good things because they are good. There is enough evidence of that thread in Scripture. Slavery, offering up daughters to be raped, genocide, imperial control etc. However, the Jesus ‘thread’ annuls that. We are in trouble when we uncritically let the good guys use control.

There are worrying (in the extreme – think 1920s and 30s) trends among the leaders that are gaining traction in the West. To accept this trend uncritically will only speed the train wreck. Against this backdrop surely therefore there has to be a stronger responsibility than ever before on the body of Christ to step away from ‘control at all costs’ and to re-examine what a Jesus-like God looks like and how that totally re-defines governance. If we can do that we will also gladly be able to think again about what a Jesus-like Christian might look like.

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Another year – optimistic?

2017 – a year in our calendar… Not another year in the Lord’s calendar and he certainly did not set for himself some new year’s resolutions, such as ‘must do better this year!’ One year to the next is somewhat artificial yet to focus for each year as they come is helpful for us and […]

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2017 – a year in our calendar… Not another year in the Lord’s calendar and he certainly did not set for himself some new year’s resolutions, such as ‘must do better this year!’ One year to the next is somewhat artificial yet to focus for each year as they come is helpful for us and given that God works with us in our time-frames there is a sense we can look at the coming year to ask what is going to take place. Thank God we are called to live life and shape the future. We are not robots yet is helpful to have sight of what is to come.

The shifts in culture around is not easing up with extremes feeding from the fear narrative that has been nurtured. We are living with a post-truth culture. At the start of each year we can read of ‘the year of great breakthrough’ that is ahead and we have to continue to pull on words that speak of breakthrough, of heaven’s resources being available etc. If we do not pull on those words what are we feeding our spirits? Yet there is more to the coming year than that! I like the balance of the book of Revelation. The four key markers of being in the Spirit in the book revolve around:

  • seeing the Risen Lord
  • entering the throne room of heaven
  • then seeing the beastly whoring world system for what is is
  • and finally seeing the culmination of the redemption of heaven with the Bride

Four major visions – three of them so positive. That is not only a good proportion but a necessary one. Without those three there will be no inner ability to face the world system as it is and to sustain any inner stability. We will either be overcome or we will not see the world for what it is. Overcome by pessimism and cynicism, or live in denial. This world can be a hard place to live within and any optimism needs to be tempered by a realistic belief that we are to co-partner with heaven.

The 3:1 proportion (of the visions) is vital for the reality of the task is also present within those visions. Jesus is risen, Caesar does not shape the future (nor the White House, no.10, Moncloa nor Brussels) and there will be a final culmination… but along the way there will be set backs, persecution and martyrdom. I have no issues with ‘this is the year of breakthrough’ but this is not that that I want to focus on when making some suggestions about this coming year. I want to focus on what I see as being set before us as the body of Christ to grapple with.

I consider that the body of Christ is the means by which the government of heaven enters the earth, not in the sense of ‘taking power’ and implementing God’s rule but by enabling love to be present in the affairs of humanity. Some huge directions were set in 2016 that will be processed in this coming year. The test is not the ‘greatness’ nor the strength of the economy but the care for the marginalised that a society exhibits, how humanised the society the church is within truly becomes. So where there is not that care, or where we see segregation and people categorised in (negative) generic ways and therefore ‘other to us’ we know that the body of Christ has to step up another level. The health of the church in the sense of ‘church growth’ is not the test, but the health of the world is the test with respect to the health of the church. The amount of thorns and thistles in the land of course might be greater in one place than in another. The Western world is now living 500 years on from the Reformation and a Gospel presence so I think it is only right to assume that more is expected of us.

What is already under way will increase:

  • Polarisations not simply of ideologies but of demonising the other.
  • Adopting narratives that scapegoat and silence the voices for integration.
  • Protectionism and another wave of trade deals that protect the western way of life.
  • Hugely fluctuating currency exchange rates and manipulation of currencies.

In response then there are issues that will be acutely faced with this year. We have to sow for the future:

  • It is vital that we do not buy into the self-protectionism that is viewed as necessary. There will be many opportunities to cross fences and boundaries this year. Even former theological fences will be challenged. There will be reports of God moving among those who are ‘other’. We do not need to kiss our brains goodbye but we have to be slow to judge. Even in the imperfect God wants to break the church free. These aspects are preparations for days when the church will have to take a stand for the foreigner in the midst.
  • There are huge shifts and instabilities coming in the economic markets. Their instability will be seen for what it is. Again it is important that we learn ‘those who give to the poor lend to the Lord.’ Not as some talisman Scripture but as a way of life.

The resources that can help us:

April a month of unusual early Spring signs. Unusual bird migrations will be hopeful signs. Hope for the many who are forced into migration and a hopeful provocation for the body of Christ where there will be ‘migrations’ sparked this coming Spring. To counter the forced migrations there will be willing migrations, living as immigrants, that will rise for many. Spring 2017 will be noted by many as ‘that was when a whole new phase was begun for us.’

Laughter and friendship. There is hard work. There is play. Actively pursue the connections and re-connections that bring life and joy.

Optimistic?

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Post truth

The 2016 word of the year award has been given to ‘post truth’ apparently. A definition of post truth being: Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief: ‘in this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and […]

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truth-300x200The 2016 word of the year award has been given to ‘post truth’ apparently. A definition of post truth being:

Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief:
‘in this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire’.

The philosopher AC Grayling in http://www.bbc.com/news/education-38557838 warns of the “corruption of intellectual integrity” and damage to “the whole fabric of democracy” that results from post truth. The connectability through social media and the power of ‘fake news’ is opening up a new world, one which many warn is not too dissimilar to that of the 1930s. In the article on the BBC Grayling does just this saying ‘the international landscape is more like the volatile, intolerant era before World War Two.’ If the thesis of Strauss-Howe (The Fourth Turning) holds then there is a more-or-less 100 year cycle which would also point to the dangers of the coming era.

Michael Shermer, author of The Believing Brain says that any challenge to one’s beliefs activates the same area of the brain that is involved in giving us our personal identity and raising an emotional response to threat. To consider an alternative belief is to be pushed to considering an alternative version of oneself. The power then of post-truth and of fake news plays into this. We all to readily accept what is said – and those in power are exploiting this – to believe something that resonates with our identity rather than question it. If it resonates then the ‘truth’ of it is secondary.

We are not yet fully to the end of the 100 year cycle, we are not quite at 1930, but the stage is set. The end of 50 years of peace in Western Europe seems unthinkable. Yet to suggest some 10 years ago that a post truth era would become established and politicians could run campaigns so blatantly based on that would have been equally unthinkable.

The power of the Gospel is that it challenges our identity. It challenges all belief systems, for it is foolishness to the Greek. It is contrary to what motivates our world system. It is a call to lose one’s life not find it. It is a call to believe in a God who will not bail us out but who will be crucified. We have an opportunity to sow now for the future, so that the 30s of the 21st century might not repeat the 30s of the 20th century. A handful of modest suggestions for the followers of Christ might be along these lines:

  • We do not swear allegiance to any power other than God. Surely by doing so we are taking on a measure of blindness. I appreciate that this could be viewed differently depending on one’s national background, however by being a member of the body of Christ I am by definition trans-national before any other national identity, and as Rowan Williams recently wrote about baptism that it does not set us apart from humanity but immerses us even deeper within it.
  • That whatever our political preferences we do not believe that the truth lies on the right or the left. That we are able to honour those who are politically of a different persuasion to us with genuine honour. If we do not then we are inviting powers to shape us that will exploit us.
  • That we are slow to believe everything critical, and refuse to tar all people of a certain category with the same brush.
  • That we listen to the opposite of what simply confirms us in our beliefs. If our identity is being renewed then there is likely to be something in the voice of others that God will use to help shape us. The Spirit works incarnationally.
  • We carry a generosity of spirit, and a passionate belief that God is at work on the big canvas and that we do not elevate our few pixels to being the whole image.

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