Yes I finally have a FaceBook page... Initally I was blocked due to 'suspicious activity' (who me?. Surely not. I have also noticed that if someone is going to be pulled aside at an airport it is likely to be me. I might buy into all those 'conspiracy theories' if this continues.) But conspriacy theories aside, connect with me there too: facebook.com/perspectivesfromspain.

PS: Infant Jesus?

We have just completed our final day in Prague… A whole load to process and try to put down on paper some time soon. Gayle and I with Annie Bullen had a little PS to the prayer with a trip to the ‘Church of Our Lady Victorious’ where a statue of the infant Jesus is stored behind bullet proof glass. It began life somewhere in Spain and was brought over to Prague by Spanish nobility, and has been venerated here in this church and subsequently in many places throughout the world. Thankfully a lot of prayer has gone into this before, and necessary prayer. Those who had been taken on the issue of the ‘Lady of Guadaloupe’ (a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe”>https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe around 10 years ago came to Prague as they discerned that the actual power behind the Guadaloupe situation was the ‘infant Jesus of Prague’. No small issue then!!

Our ‘commission’ was a simple one. Go in and cut off the Spanish roots. If that can be cut then we would expect there to be a draining of power. As we approached the statue we were so aware that so much of the power had already gone… So quietly we positioned ourselves in the middle aisle, and began to pray while there was some measure of buzz around. There was no loud praying, for sure… A priest / monk with a small tour group walked past and said ‘Shhh!’ Then spoke first in Italian (I am pretty sure) then English – where are you from? I replied ‘De España’. He then said: ‘Podaís habar en Español, pero no en Frances ni otras idiomas!’ (You can speak in Spanish, but in to in French or any other language!!!) Unreal… first a confirmation that the authority relating to the statue was Spanish and we took it that we had authority to go for the Spanish roots.

Not a bad PS!

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Wednesday, May 23

A date in the calendar in Prague. The second ‘defenestration’ of Prague took place on this day (and date) 400 years ago. We were there today beneath the window where it took place on the same day and date, just separated by some 400 years. A small event when protestants took into their own hands dealing with ‘justice’ and throwing the three Catholic lords out of the window. Unbelievably all three survived, put down to the luck of falling on manure that broke the fall (the protestant version) or saved by the virgin Mary (Catholic version). This event is what sparked something much bigger, the outbreak of the devastating and continent-shaping thirty years war. This has been our focus for today.

A focus on the past is so important to deal with, and getting the focus ‘right’ between past and future is perhaps more important and also extremely challenging. In Prague there is a real sense that the city and nation should be setting the right time for Europe. We began today, and will on each successive morning, by meeting at the metronome on the hill overlooking the city. Marking a rhythm this large metronome replaced where the statue of Stalin was previously, and only placed there temporarily until they knew what to put there. If ever something spoke and cried out for something to fill it… and that is the issue, what will fill this space, where time is being marked?

That is the question for Europe. Leave it empty and there can only be a reversion to what has been before, so there is the necessity to call for the future reality to press in and fill the gap. This is a pressing issue for us in these days, as Prague is a clock for Europe, and it is some hours behind.

In Prague there is a gift / a pride / a knowing who they are of valuing truth. Both from a Christian point of view with the heritage of Jan Hus and others who held on to truth, and at a national level they too see themselves as founded on truth. But yesterday’s truth only gets us so far. Our last place to pray this morning was in a strategically placed jewellery shop whose owner is a believer. It was as we stood in the shop I saw that:

  • Truth can anchor us in to what we have inherited, but
  • only the imagination can open up the future.

Truth is important. It stimulates us but does not by itself lead to the future. It can anchor us but to move beyond, it is the imagination that has to be engaged. Truth says ‘do not let go of this’, but the imagination has to see a new community, a new way of living, a new value system. Once the fresh future is seen truth that we once held has to adapt, for we only ever see and believe in part. Fresh revelation is always waiting to break forth, and having held on to truth that both anchored us and got as far as we are now, we then find that that element of truth was (only) ‘truth as we understood it’. Fresh understanding has to update our truth. We can never update the Truth (a Person) but we can certainly update our understanding of truth.

Artists, the artistic community, the arts are vital for this to happen. They help the imagination grasp other possibilities, even other realities. If that can happen then not only what we once held on to so strongly gets adjusted, but there is the potential in the community to shift values that have been attached to things, to products and the like. There can be a revaluation. So a two-fold shout. Come on San Lorenzo! Come on you artists!

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He is everywhere

Someone once said to me ‘Omnipresence is not all it is cracked up to be. Imagine Sunday morning worldwide… you have a choice, but God has to be present week after week… That’s the downside of omnipresence.’

Probably not the joke that is about to win the Edinburgh Festival best joke award, and pretty irrelevant to this post anyway, so moving on quickly. God’s presence and the evidence of it is a strange phenomenon, and by that I mean the places where he shows up. Not looking to offend anyone, but assuming most of the readers of this blog are not full out and out Catholics who regularly pray for the pope, we have this strange aspect where (I guess) most of us do not have a firm theological conviction that he is indeed the spiritual descendent of Peter and that unique representative of Christ on the earth. Yet most of us see him as so representing God, and appointed by him. I think we have a way of handling that without too much difficulty. God is present with him, present in the system, yet the system is not ordained by and therefore ‘of God’.

Maybe though we do not do the same thing with ourselves. Someone is healed, thus God is with us and approving of us, what we do and how we do it. God’s presence and his activity does not endorse who he is active with or the context in which his activity manifests. A very clear example of this is with the appointment of the king. The context and choice made by Israel is a rejection of God, yet God shows up to anoint the king. It does not go well, but rather than command Israel to abandon the cray (Pharaonic) idea he promptly sends Samuel out to find another king.

I write this post while in Prague. Been great today to walk in the city and see such a beautiful city, but also to think of its history. Walk past churches that perhaps have at times not represented God too well, which normally happens whenever we become complicit with power, but maybe at times they have been the means of grace and people finding a future and hope.

We are ever so grateful for everyone who seeks to serve God in whatever capacity and in whatever context. God is a real compromiser, entering into situations that we are ready to be critical of (‘wouldn’t touch that with a barge pole’ kind of response!). That is grace.

I don’t think God is looking for the perfect, the NT based community in order to work. He is more likely going to call people into situations that are not perfect, to wrestle with what is compromised within those situations, but in that to imperfectly align with God so that God’s presence might manifest.

Walking around Prague today we asked each other, what would one do if one were living here to facilitate people finding faith. (An interesting thought given that the Czech Republic seems to come bottom of the statistical pile in Europe for a lack of interest in faith among younger people.) I am sure there are models of church that could come in here and see some quite impressive growth. The temptation would be to assume if that were to happen that indicates God’s approval. Maybe and maybe not. (The real issue of change of course is not to simply look within four walls, but in the context of the wider city and location.)

We do not have easy answers, but remain convinced that the way ahead is through a multiplicity of small actions, within imperfect situations, by imperfect people. None of us have the approval of God in the sense of what we are involved in being a total reflection of heaven’s activities. That should not condemn us, but encourage us to give it our best shot, and to be very uncritical of others who are doing it so differently and in a different context to us.

Glad God is omnipresence, not in the theological sense but in the grace sense of him showing up in all situations. I think omnipresence is everything it is cracked up to be – and a whole load more.

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Ephesus – remarkable Asiarchs

The riot is in full swing and Paul is being blamed for the downturn in business. There is a untied protest of ‘No’ to Paul’s influence from the artisans whose profits are being threatened:

A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business. He rounded up his workers and others similarly employed and said, “Men, you well know that we have a good thing going here—and you’ve seen how Paul has barged in and discredited what we’re doing by telling people that there’s no such thing as a god made with hands. A lot of people are going along with him, not only here in Ephesus but all through Asia province. Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess Artemis will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter—the whole world worships our Artemis!”

Paul, being who he is, takes it on himself to sort it out and says he will go in to the midst of the riot and calm things down. Whether this was a faith, or simply a personality, response we don’t know but his optimism was not shared by his merry band, who strongly insisted he did not risk his life. We read that their response is to strongly oppose him:

the disciples would not let him.

Thus far understandable, then comes the amazing part which Luke precedes his description with the word ‘even’ indicating that what we are about to read is a surprise:

even some officials of the province of Asia, who were friendly to him [Paul], sent him a message urging him not to venture into the theater.

I moved away from quoting the Message which translates the term ‘Asiarchs’ as religious leaders. They did have responsibilities connected to religion, but their involvement in that was because they were in positions of influence over the city (polis, hence political) and region. I note that Luke does not include them as ‘disciples’ but as friends of Paul. These are non-believers whose city is in turmoil because of Paul’s message. Further, his message is undermining of their position, so they do not have vested interest in Paul’s survival, the one who has come to town and upset the well-ordered apple cart. They have potentially a lot to lose if Paul continues with his Gospel / political (‘polis’ re-orientating) message.

These Asiarchs have not got hold of the ‘through Jesus you need to get saved’ part of Paul’s message, or if they have they have not accepted that part, but somehow they have seen or heard enough to realise that Paul’s message contained the hope for the future. However good the city was now, they somehow had grasped that the implications of Paul’s Gospel would so impact society that it would bring about positive outcomes, even if maintaining their own position was put in jeopardy.

This indicates some incredible challenges for us as 21st century believers:

  • The gospel that Paul proclaimed had serious implications for the ordering of society.
  • He articulated that part sufficiently to make an impact on political / social leaders.
  • His message was centred on Jesus, though not all grasped the need for ‘personal salvation’.
  • He was friends with those in society. They were not simply there as fodder for an evangelistic course.
  • I extrapolate (and this is consistent with the call of Israel / the call of the church as royal priesthood for the world) that the church was present in the city to facilitate those finding space who needed it. It was not about the church being the highest mountain, nor about there being mountains of influence, but the church taking the servant role to ensure a re-orientation toward the low parts being raised up… and the mountains brought down.

Ironically a turning point in a city is when there are those who don’t get the message but get the message!! Now we have to work out what the message would be that they need to get. This is why it seems there is such a push toward re-grasping and re-framing the Gospel message, that has been imprisoned within piety and / or law court language (i.e. privatised faith that draws simple in/out lines).

A final footnote… The town clerk stands up and his final words to Demetrius and his rioting friends are:

If there is anything further you want to know, it must be settled in the regular assembly.

Or in the words of the Message (with my emphasis in bold):

If anything else is bothering you, bring it to the regularly scheduled town meeting and let it be settled there.

Or to pull out the Greek text:

Bring it TO THE EKKLESIA.

The regular word used for the city council, the ekklesia of the city. To suggest that NT language is not political (city related) is to miss so much of what is going on.

I suggest Ephesus is a strong paradigm to understand the implications and application of the Gospel. Ecomonics, riots, friends who are not believers but have grasped the political element. Disciples who see the world as God’s world, and the ekklesia in Jesus there for the sake of the future re-orientation of the polis.

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Ephesus – powers and money

Spiritual powers – what are they? are they territorial? how to address / not address them? And the answers come back across a great spectrum. They are personal, highly organised and hierarchical… to they don’t exist or they are simply the inner nature of exterior structures. I try and hold some kind of composite view concerning the powers and because I see a strong connection of what has / is repeated in history as shaping the spiritual nature of a geography, whether the terminology could be better or not, I subscribe to the reality of the powers expressing themselves territorially. Experience also seems to suggest this, with specific expression of issues being present in one geography that are not present in another. The above might be theoretical, but the issues we face are practical. Theory gets us so far, and our theories might be wrong, and at one level I am less concerned about the theory, and much more concerned about what we do practically to get a shift.

For example there are theories about ‘ley-lines’. When we first moved to Spain we lived in a somewhat challenging apartment. We moved in on Jan. 1, 2009. Jan 2nd, at 8.00am a knock came to the door. It was the agent through whom we had rented the apartment. ‘I cannot leave you here. I have not slept well and I will find you another place.’ We though were convinced that it was the right place, so re-assured him that we were happy. It was not too long before we recognised a straight line of some 8 obvious troublesome symbols or places that crossed right through our apartment. I am happy to call that a ‘ley-line’. The language is not so important, getting a shift is important. Within 6 months the first (to our knowledge) in Spain of a monument honouring Francoist assassins was removed. It was on that line and about 800 metres from our apartment. It was quickly followed by the removal of Francoist symbols from the next monument (500 metres from the apartment). We had some sleepless nights, but for sure it was the right place.

What did we do to get a shift? I am sure that research, prayer and all of that made a difference. Maybe, and always there is a ‘of course’, it would have happened anyway. And a big help was another statue right on the same line, a statue of an upside-down church building, which the sculptor had named as ‘the device to root out evil’. As far as we understand it the sculptor was neither making a positive nor negative statement about faith, but chose the church as the symbol in society as a powerful in your face image of how society has to be upturned to shift history from repeating itself and toward releasing a new future. For us it was incredibly symbolic. Let God embed the church in the ground for the world, let a worldly way of structuring things be turned on its head and then let’s see how much shifts in society.

Anyway back to Ephesus. There are territorial parallels there. Artemis worshipped across Asia Minor (Acts 19:27); the word of the Lord being heard by all in the same territory (Acts 19:10). I suggest that in some way Artemis had been bound across that region thus releasing to the same region the message of the Gospel. (By ‘bind’ I consider that the biblical understanding is along the lines of restriction, not of elimination.) The resistance had been broken and a release came as a result. So what did Paul and his merry band of ‘about 12’ plus others do? One of the genius elements of Scripture is its silence. It is not a book of instruction on what to do, otherwise we would likely do what it says and completely miss what it was saying. Instruction has to come from heaven in accord with Scripture rather than simply from words on a page. In short we don’t know what Paul did! Maybe he found the highest point in Ephesus and addressed the power directly. Maybe he taught for days on how such an approach only leads to casualties and this was entering into forbidden / unwise territory. Point is – we have to work out what we do and when…

Something though shifted. Maybe we have made claims of something shifting when nothing really has changed, but in the case in Ephesus something had shifted. Miracles, hearing, burning of occult literature – all those suggest something had shifted. But for me the biggest evidence was the turmoil over economics. I consider the biggest shift is when there is a shift to the economy. IT IS THE ECONOMY, STUPID, might be a political shorthand phrase to indicate how and why people vote, but it is also a phrase indicating that there has been a shift spiritually.

A ‘prospering’ economy is not a sign of the advance of the kingdom, but an economy where there is a flow of resources to where it needs to go is a sign of righteousness. Ranging from the 8th century prophets who used such phrases as ‘cows of Bashan’ to critique the inequalities that had developed in Israel over the previous 200 years, to the awesome critique in Revelation of the one-directional flow of wealth to the elite, seems to be the constant beat of Scripture.

Acts 19 and Ephesus is a strong paradigm for anywhere, and yet almost totally absent of a ’10 steps to success’ program to be followed. I simply suggest that we seek to follow what the Lord shows us (or our discernment of it) without too much concern that we get it right. That we will find something close to home that is the ‘leverage point’ to shift something much bigger. Interestingly as we seek to move the politics of Spain (and again do not think ‘political party’ when the word politics is used) and gain an entrance to Madrid, it will be important where we locate and the size of the place… As we seek this entry a word we have been given is ‘I see you both and you are climbing up a sewage pipe into Madrid, against the flow of the sewage… sorry messy but has to be done.’ Guess what happens soon after? The sewage pipe in our block of apartments has gone, and we are out of our apartment as we have no water, no toilets, no showers… Coincidence? Maybe, but this so often happens where a sign of what needs to change occurs close to home. That is the leverage point needed. Temporarily not in ‘our’ home (and what does ‘our’ mean?), and the sewage, and smell of it has to be shifted out of the apartment / society. God bless the upside down sculptures.

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Ephesus – disciples

Finding twelve… will that be enough?

In Ephesus Paul encounters these great, but not yet-complete, believers. They had grasped the story line up to John the Baptist’s proclamation and had submitted to his baptism, but had not realised that what John spoke of as the future was now the past. So Paul’s task was to update them, their response shows they were already on a very serious trajectory, and God responded from heaven with the Holy Spirit. These were either Jews (most likely) or a least Jewish converts, for John’s baptism was a baptism for a new entry to the land, to restore and prepare the people. It was divisive in the sense that so much of Judaism was divisive, as witnessed in the prophetic and sectarian streams within the faith. Not all those born of Abraham (race) qualified to be considered as his descendants (faith).

From that initial meeting he takes them to the synagogue for three months. What is he doing? I am convinced it is due to his understanding of Israel’s call. They are called to be aligned uniquely to God for the nations. Since the Exile and the response of the synagogue based rhythm (that was developed in Babylon) there was an inevitable greater measure of Jews looking inward as survival became more the focus. Paul (then Saul) had himself moved from being focused on the purity of Israel, through his Damascus road encounter to seeing that race did not count before God, that the only identity marker was to be in Christ, and therefore part of the new creation reality of being there for the world. I am sure that the message that he debated in the synagogue was exactly that, and at two levels: the call of Israel and the pathway to the future for Israel as being through Jesus, the one true Israelite (and the only true human). At both levels he did not have success. He persevered for three months then called it a day, taking with him those who were committed to his teaching. He sets up in Tyrannus hall and is publicly teaching there for 2 years.

The proclamation of the Gospel was not a simple, Admit you have sinned, Believe he died for you, Confess your sin… Not that that is invalid, but to reduce the narrative of Scripture, nor the narrative of the world, to that does not do justice to Paul’s gospel. The salvation of the world, the preparation for the new heavens and new earth was a proclamation for the public space, it was certainly a political proclamation. Deeply societal, deeply human and confirmed with dramatic heavenly interventions.

Discipleship is a challenge, deeply stretching not just to the mind, but to lifestyle. Witnessing is not completed once we have told someone they have sinned and here is the escape route; but is something that is continual, which words can explain but can never become the substitute for. I sometimes wonder if we have even started on the pathway. Thank God for the word ‘radical’ but to stick it on as a label probably isn’t the best thing to do.

Paul is not setting up a new political party (as if!) but seeking to train people to see the world through a narrative of the world being God’s world, that all humans are of one family, that Jesus death somehow was the means by which all, whether Jew or Gentile, could be reconciled to God and be incorporated into Messiah. I don’t think he was looking for the perfect activist group who were spotless, but that somehow together with all their issues they would be a visible sign of a different way to live, pointers to, and of, hope for society.

This was very akin to what Jesus, in the Jewish culture, had given as his response to John when he wanted to know if ‘he was the one’. Tell John that there is something happening at two levels, was his response – the inbreaking of God with miracles… and the poor have good news being proclaimed. The endless flow of resources in one direction is coming to an end. Those on the thrones are being dethroned, a new society is being born. Despite the obvious signs that ‘God was with this man’ Jesus said the way ahead was narrow and few would find it. And as sure as his word was that was the fulfilment, with a few finding salvation. The same thing is happening in Ephesus, but now in the Graeco-Roman world, a message of hope for society that was for the total re-ordering of the world with incredible inbreakings of the miraculous.

Those twelve that Paul initially met committed themselves right into that trajectory. God is found in all sub-versions of the good news (including my version) but I am also sure that he is continually lighting up the pathway to provoke us to embrace the (shorthand) Pauline gospel that those initial twelve committed themselves to. (And I am sure there is a strong symbolism here in this event in Ephesus starting with ‘about twelve’. The pattern that Jesus began in Israel had a strong bearing on what is beginning here. The two are deeply connected. Jesus with twelve to restore Israel for the world, and here a mere twelve removed from the Jewish culture and for the world.)

Amidst a secularised society that is open to all kinds of spirituality, one of the greatest challenges is how to be deeply embedded in society with the ‘Jesus’ part of the message intact. The Pauline Gospel is deeply political, but it is not based on a clever political manifesto, it is based on God’s activity in Christ. Holding this all ogether is not easy, but Paul somehow managed that, for Jewish excorcists used the name of Jesus, knowing that this was the name by which Paul was acting.

Following Christ is not a hobby; it is not fulfilled when we copy the synagogue pattern and show up week by week; it is not fulfilled when we gain some successful converts; it is not fulfilled when we get older and can retire. It is a life-long lifestyle trajectory of looking forward with the ‘Maranatha’ cry, realising that for most of us that will be fulfilled beyond our departure, but also knowing that we have an incredible opportunity to contribute to that event.

What unfolds in Ephesus surely was founded on the issue of discipleship. Paul’s single focus on the implication of the death and resurrection of Christ for the world, and a group of those who grasped what he had seen during his days of blindness and subsequent time in the desert, post Damascus. Costly but ever so valuable.

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Ephesus – a big shift

I am very grateful for my evangelical roots, coming to faith when I was 16 and experiencing the reality of a ‘personal’ relationship with God. Likewise the impact of the charismatic expression of Christianity, healings, miracles, speaking in tongues and all that goes along with that… absolutely life-changing. Backgrounds are important and I know many of my peers have sought to re-position themselves with regard to those two definitions, as labels cannot ultimately define and certainly should not restrict us. My own trajectory has taken me, not so much to move on from them (post-) but to realise that they sit within a bigger landscape. That landscape being that of stewardship of this creation both to point toward the new creation and to draw that new creation ever closer. The body of Christ, is here to bear witness to that new creation and to create space that humanity can fill as less-than-perfect, yet real stewards of, that new creation.

Ephesus was one of the largest cities of Roman Asia Minor, probably pushing toward 200,000 inhabitants. It was wealthy and as per many cities was religious. Temples abounded but the pride of place went to the Temple of Artemis, it being one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The claim was that Artemis’ image had fallen from the sky and therefore the city had a unique relationship as steward of her presence. (This could be simple myth, or perhaps a meteorite had fallen in that vicinity.) Paul’s time in Ephesus was remarkable and I think incredibly instructive. There are a set of elements that are presented in the biblical texts there that are quite incredible. It is quite hard to know were to start and how to list them, but I will try and follow how Luke records them:

  • He found some believers there whose understanding was limited, but they soon became disciples of Jesus in a much fuller way. They seem to become the core of who Paul worked with, taking them with him when he left the synagogue as his focus.
  • Artemis was worshipped throughout Aisa Minor and Paul set up his base in the hall of Tyrannus. Of course what he taught and spoke of we all interpret through our own lenses. An early version of Alpha courses? A fully fledged Sunday meeting with band in place? I don’t think so!! The result though was manifold, one aspect Luke notes is that what he was proclaiming was heard throughout Asia Minor. Throughout her former domain!
  • This can only indicate that the rule of Artemis was seriously challenged, witnessed to by the insistent cry of the populace reacting to Paul’s message: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’.
  • Not only was her rule challenged but it was seriously weakened and curtailed. Not only was the message heard but also miracles likewise took place throughout what we might call was formerly her territory. Handkerchiefs were carried to those sick, healings and deliverances occurred. Such was the clear impact that even Jewish exorcists employed the phrase ‘by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims’.
  • Occult books were burned, Ephesus being a centre for witchcraft and magic.
  • The economics of the city were challenged and threatened.
  • The hierarchy of government was deeply touched.

There is something there for all of us. Spiritual warfare – bind and loose those powers, go challenge those demons! Public proclamation; miracles, healing and deliverances. Ephesus certainly sets the bar high for us charismatics… But there is much more. for me too much takes place for Paul’s activity to be simply an ancient version of much of our activities today, none of which I am knocking, simply suggesting that God is raising the bar enormously for us. (I think he raised the bar way high when we consider the cross and the resurrection…)

My plan then is to take some of the above themes and try and develop them over a number of posts.

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Provision of Transport

A couple of days ago Gayle posted a dream that opens up some new sight for us. We have to make sure we know the way and seek out who God wants to connect us to who know the ‘how’. We aspire that those connections will be personal relationships but over these past years have also discovered that connections are made in the Spirit, that it is possible to connect with people, even if one never meets them in person, but influences them and impart to them what they need.

Gayle is a prolific dreamer and we have been shaped in our thinking by a number of the dreams she has had, not least of which is our current location. For many years I did not seem to dream, and certainly did not seem to have any ‘God’ dreams. Something shifted mid 90s, and although I do not dream to the same extent as Gayle, there have been a number of dreams that have opened up new sight for me. A recurrent ‘location’ for my dreams is that I am in a specific location, or with people associated with that place. If that is the context for the dream it invariably is either 1) going to have new revelation for me, or 2) those in the dream will simply not get what I am sharing.

Around five years ago I had a dream that was in that location. The background was that we moved to Spain in 2009 and until the beginning of 2014 we did not have a car. There was also a period of many months in the UK when I did not have a car. It was in the year after Sue passed away. I kinda felt that it was the Lord prompting me in that direction, however it was probably more to do with a therapy of slowing down, feet on ground, connecting with the land.

In this dream I went to a gathering that was on the prophetic. I was asked by one of those carrying responsibility for the gathering what was I going to share. I began with

‘God has given me a new mode of transport.’

‘Brilliant’, came the reply, ‘we need these testimonies of how God has supplied new cars.’

I tried to explain repeatedly that I was not talking about a literal vehicle, that in fact we did not even have a car, and I was talking about a whole new way of journeying through life with God, and the ‘car-lessness’ was simply a symbol of that. No matter how many times I tried to explain it, he did not get it. He then went on to enthusiastically introduce me explaining the wonderful news of God’s provision of a new car for us and how great an encouragement that will be. I spoke, sought to explain that this was not about the provision of a car, but of a whole new way of journeying. At the end the same guy came back to again underline God’s provision of a car!! (Maybe the dream was to show me that I probably need a few lessons in communication!)

Assuming that the dream was not about my communication skills… There is a level of the prophetic that unlocks provision, and the testimonies of ‘God provided this’ are vital. God is the God who shows up with manna, and a whole lot more. There is though a level of the prophetic that does not negate the personal and practical provision, but does not always go down to that level, nor accept fulfilments at that level. We can have new transport, and have no car. We can start with a car, lose it, but have gained new transport.

I suggest two immediate aspects from the dream:

  • the prophetic has to be pulled up a whole level from that of evident personal or even corporate provision, and the resulting testimonies of ‘success’
  • the prophetic has to go deeper into the realities of incarnated living.

We can receive new (literal) transport but little changes in how we travel. Our comfort level might go up, but we are doing the same old same old. The transport has changed but nothing has changed. Or we can embrace a new way of walking – if without a car – slower and more reflective, letting the connection to the land speak to us. We can gain new sight from the landscape which will need fresh gifts of interpretation. The mid 90s marked something of a great shift for many, and I can certainly see a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ from that time, but the mid 90s are some 20 years ago. A lot of provision was given. A lot of answered prayers with ‘new cars’ showing up and testimonies being shared, but I suspect that the Lord wanted to take us deeper with / without a new car.

In the time, particularly in the UK, of not owning a car, my movement was slower. I had time to pray. I could not rush from one setting to the next. If I had an appointment to meet someone I really had to think how long would it take me to get there. I could not do one more thing, arrive in a hurry a few minutes late. I am not sure how good I was at reflecting but I think I began to see that we had to look at the landscape all around and ask for interpretation. For those who have dug deeply, since the mid 90s, into that aspect I suspect they have less testimonies of God’s provision of the brand new car, are not going to be flavour of the month to fill the next conference, have been dis- / re-located so that they are seeing more of the landscape rather than just the arbitrary pausing points.

The landscape has shifted. It is not primarily about the provision, but the release of resources for the job in hand, for the workers in the field. And again to pull on the theme I have pursued for a while, that of ‘royal priesthood’, those workers are not the full-time Christian workers, but the workers, and the field is the world. Prophetic words can have personal fulfilment, but I think there is even something deeper than personal fulfilment, it is fulfilment that brings about change beyond our personal sphere. Fulfilments where we have journeyed with the word about the ‘new car’, and in the journey have discovered new transportation and as a result provision for others that would not have been released otherwise.

It seems far easier to embrace the wonderful stories of God’s evident practical provision, and long may those stories abound, but we also need to embrace, and help others embrace the journey that might not give us that story to tell, but enable others to have a story to tell. Israel was promised a land, and they fought over the land and its boundaries… At one level they contested for fulfilment, and in the process missed the bigger picture. Paul blew into that promise saying God promised Abraham the world, thus making the land all-but superfluous. There seems to have been a lot of fights over boundaries… time to let go and to tenaciously hold on to fulfilments way beyond what we thought would be the fulfilment.

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Maybe we can do something

Had a cool dream:

So, I met some people who knew how to do stuff but didn’t know the way.
I said, ‘I know the way but I don’t know how to do stuff!’
They said,’That’s why we need you.’
I said, ‘That’s why I need you.’
So I found the way, the quickest way, to a door.
And we went through the door.
Immediately, I clapped twice and said, ‘I’m so excited. I’m so excited!’
The guy said, ‘You keep doing that!’
And I said, ‘I know. I can’t help it. It’s automatic…’ And,’Look over there! The lion is on that screen on the wall.’
There was a lion on a TV screen on the wall.
(This seemed also to be apart of this repetition: clap, clap, I’m so excited, I’m so excited and there’s a lion over there….)
Then I said, ‘Maybe we can so something here..?’ And I was aware that I’d also said this before but had changed the phrase from ‘Maybe I can do something here?/Maybe God can do something here?’ to this time saying ‘Maybe WE can do something here?’
So we started to carefully look at all the people in the room.
And at this point I realise that it looks a bit like the stock exchange….maybe.

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Have you seen my feet?

Not sure how your feet look today, but mine? Really bad and not sure what I am going to do with them. Filthy, so filthy, and hope that there is some way I can get them cleaned up – otherwise it will be so embarrassing.

Actually my feet have been dirty for a while. Dirty because I am so privileged. And that is the heart of the issue. How to keep some semblance of cleanness on those feet when privileged.

Gayle and I are actively pursuing an apartment in Madrid, and although there are many complications with the purchase such as the possibility that we could end in court concerning the issues on the whole block, we are actively making drawings of what we can fit in there. (Did I write ‘we’? I should have put Gayle, she is the expert on that, seeking to work out what can go in to an apartment of 18 foot x 14 foot (5.5m x 4.3m).) Property – such a great investment. Put your money in bricks and mortar, prices go up, particularly in a city – so goes the advice.

Now that is where the dirty feet come in. Madrid, like most major cities, has so many properties that have been bought up simply so as they can be rented out with the result that rental prices are going up, many locals no longer being able to afford to live in the area. This is no exception in the area where we have for years prayer walked and homed in on.

We can lay out all the reasons why we want to live there, the prayers, the prophetic words, we can lay out our finances etc., and we can do so with a clean conscience. We have stood in front of Madrid when Mammon spoke loudly to us and said ‘you cannot enter here’, and we spoke back saying that we are not coming to make money or to exploit. We have simply asked for a place to enter, somewhere small, somewhere from where we can make space for others to find their place in the city. Yet, assuming we get this property, just by moving in we will contribute to the rise in prices.

Hopefully then we have a clean heart but in the very act of pursuing this apartment our feet are already dirty. That of course was the issue that Peter had to face up to. He did not need to be washed throughout, just his feet. Maybe as a reminder to us the barrio where we are looking to move is ‘Lavapies’ – feet washing!

How do we respond? With humility has mark the start of any entry, and we probably have to do something in the early days that is not simply counter-cultural but counter-spirit. Money makes the world go round (often in the wrong direction), so to turn the rotation, something always has to be done. Jesus, with choice of treasurer, did that in a big way. Sabbath and Jubilee ensured there was a jolt to the ever present ‘invisible hand of the market’, and the entry to the land was marked by gaining nothing materially at the first point of entry (Jericho). I have sought to do that in certain places. I had books published in Korean, Swedish, German, Portuguese and in the USA. In each situation I decided to take no royalties. A small response as sometimes one can only make a small response.

Once we get this apartment it will be eminently rentable, but we will have to, in the first season make choices that do not benefit us financially, otherwise even if our hearts remain clean we would be making no real contribution to the rotation of the city. Hopefully as we walk the city our feet will not get too dirty, in fact the very act of walking will help them be a little cleaner than they would be otherwise, but for sure they will never be spotless. And seemingly that is the way it is meant to be.

The percentage share of global wealth

Comparatively, our wealth, puts us in the top perentage of those considered wealthy in the world. We have food, we have a roof, we even have a car, both of us have cell phones. Wealth.

How then do we live with privilege? That is the issue.

Years ago the discussion about ’emerging church’ and the like could be seen as a luxury that many in the world could not afford to engage in. Live in a favela, or to be living under constant scrutiny for one’s faith in certain countries, and then suggest that what they should do is hold a conference on the nature of emerging church would be an insult. That was the privilege (luxury) of living in the west with our resources and heritage.

University education, the world of academia… In Spain so many of those who are pushing for political change are university graduates, some having been professors. A privileged world seeking to bring a difference to those who have been silenced. Does one have to go into academia to make a difference? (For me part of the attraction of Liberation Theology was the privileged interpretation of Scripture by the poor. The suggestion was that they could understand Scripture in a way that no academic theologian could, being one of the outworkings of the ‘preferential option for the poor’.) I write from time to time about money, but I do not understand economics. I probably do not have the ability to grasp the issues surrounding economics, so some of what I write those with greater understanding could probably drive the proverbial bus through. So is real change only effected by those who can study and intellectualise at that level?

In theory I do not like the world of privilege, hence I am not a royalist, and I find it easier to spell the word ‘socialist’ than ‘conservative’, yet I am privileged and if I had one regret in life it would be that I have not always rocked the boat when I should have. Ah well – learn from past errors.

With all my questions over the privileged worlds of home ownership, academia and the like, I remain convinced that amidst that luxury there is space to use that for the sake of others. Discussions on ’emerging church’, ‘the nature of Imperial power’, or ‘how church and theology have been subsumed by sovereignty’ are not simply luxury discussions. I think they are also essential so that something is sown into the wider world. If we can have those discussions and seek to influence one another there will be substance stored up also for those who, in the future, move beyond living in survival mode (where the society is hostile to the Christian faith) or move beyond the heady days of revival growth.

We have to live in at least two worlds. The small world where we find ourselves, and in our situation that small world is a highly privileged world. And the bigger world of the world the corporate ‘we’ have created. We cannot simply live in one of those worlds. In our world we have to use any privileges we have to undermine those very privileges and to contribute to the shift in the rotation of the big world. Probably we will only make a small contribution. Maybe that is all we are meant to make, and to ensure that the small contribution has eternal value, we probably have to look quite often at our feet.

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