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.

Power: fear or love

A certain gentleman whose tweets can be followed with various gasps of ‘surely this time he is joking’ apparently when asked about power and how it works responded with the word ‘fear’. For him to be effective and get things done the best attribute to have is one that enables a climate of fear to be cultivate among those around him. Fear certainly enables the exercise of a certain type of power.

In some of the medieval religious art the fear of hell fire and torment was certainly a tool employed to keep everyone in line. There are consequences to choices and it is a ‘fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ so some measure of ‘nervousness’ is probably in order. That though is a long way from using fear to control and make sure that everyone complies with our will.

We head off to Brazil in a few weeks time after a pause of some 9 years. Back in those days I was travelling doing prophetic seminars and soon discovered that in the highly exalted prophetic world of that country there was so much abuse. Prophets who would give a word and say if it was not received the person would be ill or even die! It was no surprise that when we broke those literal curses off people there were significant outbreaks of instantaneous healings. That was a not so subtle means of using fear to control.

When Sue was ill with cancer I had a phone message left on my ansaphone. A person with great revelation who discovered that in the book ‘Impacting the City’ there was an error. I was to seek the Lord, re-read the book, discover the error, repent and lo and behold Sue would be healed. If only there was only one error in the book!! I am glad the call was so ridiculous that it was easy to dismiss.

Discerning where there is an effect from choices that we genuinely need to put right, and where we are looking (in vain) for where we have been wrong, and so things are not as they should be, can be a challenge. However, approaching any such question from fear will not get us any where positive. Even if we were to find the right ‘answer’ the underlying approach is so wrong that the answer is unlikely to produce the desired solution.

There are a couple of fairly strong Scriptures that have a ‘warning’ sign attached.

… but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

A couple of pretty strong ‘fear-inducing’ Scriptures those two, and two pretty strong life-giving Scriptures if we come close to lining up to them. Life-giving: forgive. Can be tough and thank God I have never faced tough situations where I have had to dig deep to forgive, so I want to be careful what I write. To forgive is to release, it is not to say what was done was OK, in fact it can mean to do the opposite of that. Forgiveness to be real is to accept what was done was not OK but I am not going to ask for my pound of flesh. Life-giving for that is what we will then experience ourselves. To experience forgiveness at a human level is wonderful but to expand that to the divine level is incredible. That is freedom, and the pathway is to forgive others. Be cautious about judging is a good bench mark. Religion likes to judge, but does not give life. I have been a happy advocate for Identificational repentance because identification is pretty easy. Repent for the crusades of 1000 years ago – easy as I too have wanted to conquer for God (= make life easy for me, prove me right, get God on my side, suppress all who challenge me).

When Jesus spoke the above words it was not to put the fear of God in us, but to outline paths of life. Imagine a world where forgiveness went up by just a few percent, and judging went down just a little. Wow!!

God does not control by fear. Indeed I would suggest that those who have something to fear are the religious… the very ones who try to control by fear. Oh and the power hungry as religion is just one more manifestation of power hunger.

The power that God exercises is power for change coming from love. That threatens us to the core. What if people do not want to change? Well apparently God is not so ignorant of that to be surprised and has not changed his ways. If he has not changed his ways I was simply wondering if it might be a good thing for a bunch of God’s people to get back to his ways?

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Privilege

We are ever so radical, Gayle and I. We have taken part in protests, stood outside courts and made proclamations, blah blah blah. Ever so radical, or not. At this moment of time a man who protested over the Russian regime is currently in hospital in Germany probably having been poisoned. In numerous nations there are those imprisoned for their faith (spiritual and / or political). So how radical are we? At the global level not that radical in that our lives are not really put at risk. It is not to likely that you will read we have been imprisoned or tortured, for we are among the privileged.

We – not all but many of the readers of this blog – are privileged. The majority of us have an education, food on the table, we are not threatened with violence, nor persecuted for our beliefs. This is who we are and our context. It seems that the issue is what we do with our privileges. In Jesus’ society to be Jewish, male and free was to be privileged, and he totally undermined all of those privileges. Those within those categories being called to humility and those outside being elevated. Paul’s pedigree was impeccable and he was highly privileged, but when he met Jesus he came to the conclusion that it was all of no value.

Privilege means we have to do something. My issue with the capitalist idea of ‘trickle down’ is that it has not worked. The divergence has only increased. My issue with the equalisation of all things where the state is the master is that entrepreneurship is squashed, concrete becomes the creative norm and poetry is lost. Gifting, entrepreneurship, privilege is part of our world, but unless something is in place ‘trickle down’ stops trickling very soon. The OT law was not simply ‘religious’ law but also state / societal law and there is plenty in there that encouraged entrepreneurship yet limited the extent of the benefit to the entrepreneurial centre and made sure through legislation that any benefit and growth were available to those beyond.

We have to do something with the privileges we have. I am not sure if I can call myself a feminist (I appreciate there are many definitions to this word, but for the moment assume the positive meaning that egalitarians see in Scripture). I am pro-feminist, but can I really call myself a feminist? By this I mean can I really move beyond a patronising response to one of integrity? I am not inside, nor ever been in the skin of the person who has lived in and through a patriarchal world. I can empathise, I can be supportive and add my voice but can I authentically take an identity that is not mine? I can be pro-‘black lives matter’, but when does is it simply a hollow noise to say so?

We all have a context, and I am not writing with a downer on myself nor anyone else, but simply suggesting that we have to use our privileges with a long term vision and on behalf of those who find themselves in a non-privileged position. I cannot be as radical as those who oppose oppression in lands where freedoms are closed down, but I still have to use the context I am within to push for freedoms, even if I personally already experience those freedoms.

The world of academia is a privileged world. It is dominated by those privileged by class, previous education, world-view of home or society, money etc. Those wishing to change the world in the political realm often come from that background. Does change really come from the realm of the intellect? I love to write about a bunch of societal issues, and the word ‘write’ should be spelt beginning with a ‘p’ – pontificate – and ‘on things he is unqualified to write about’ added in parenthesis. I have sat recently opposite one of the main financial advisers in a local bank to say ‘money is not real, it is digits on a computer, only 3% of what you and your like claim exists can be substantiated’. But truth be out – what do I really know about changing the system. There are those (I presume) who can talk about these things and outline a genuine and just way forward. They are usually those with ‘Dr’ / ‘Professor’ before their name. I hate to admit it but the privileged have power.

Gayle and I have the privilege of being able to travel to places to seek to undo the effects of history. We can outline our (very impressive) vision for Spain and Europe. We can post a newsletter outlining how important we are to the future. The circumstances of others means they cannot do any of the above. Survival is their vision. If we (G & I) ever assume we are important in a way that others are not we have lost the plot, yet we have to live in our context. We have to be faithful to our vision and use any privileges we have for long term purposes of justice.

We have the context of being able to debate the implications of ‘true north’ for the body of Christ. Other contexts are simply trying to survive and they meet together for this reason. They are to be respected… but we in our privileged position need to push for new expressions, new positioning not to show how smart we are, but so that we help create something long term that re-positions the body of Christ globally for genuine societal shift.

We cannot compare our lives to those who are under the thumb of oppression. We can empathise but we cannot patronise with a glib ‘we understand’. We can look for shifts, small or large, believing that all shifts contribute to the future both pre- and post-parousia. For this reason whatever privileges we have we need to accept that they are of no value status wise, but place responsibility on us to live and act humbly from those privileges for the future. Privilege is ours to enable us to help level the field.

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Beyond mind to mind

Gayle found a little phrase that I said a few months back when ‘true north’ was a focus. It was:

This is not a time for mind to mind communication but for mouth to imagination inspiration.

Maybe the ‘mouth’ word needs some tweaking, particularly in the light of the previous arts post, but there remains something key in the quote.

The mind is to be honoured. Great thinkers, even some of whom have had inadequacies socially, have brought about change. We are told to love the Lord God ‘with all our mind’. We are given instructions as to what to think on in Scripture. I am deeply grateful for those who have abilities I do not have who have opened up whole new avenues of thought and insight into both the Scriptures and the world.

I appreciate the deep surprise when I say I am not of a Reformed persuasion (!) and I cannot square the passion some of those from that camp have to share their faith and by ‘all means win some’. I might be wrong but I cannot see how the theology and the passion connect. Those from the opposite viewpoint (e.g. Open Theology) could be viewed as surely being insecure about the future and God’s intervention. Regardless of camp we might think we can square all the corners that need squaring, even if how we do that is a mystery to those of an opposite persuasion. What is sure, regardless of doctrinal belief, is that passion transcends beliefs.

Mind to mind communication is not wrong, but it does appear that God does not put too much weight behind convincing others of how correct my beliefs are. I found that out a long time ago! Some people track with Gayle and I because they can see the journey we are on is consistent, others do not track because… Now if only God could recognise how important it is for all to embrace my beliefs!

Mouth (arts / imagery / sounds etc.) to imagination inspiration. This is what is needed. Once the imagination is inspired we might well need to examine the validity of the inspiration so as we do not simply embrace a fantasy (vain imagination in Scripture), but something has to begin in the imagination to bring about an inspiration that we might not even be able to square with our beliefs. It does not seem to me that there will be too many questions on the final exam paper concerning doctrine, and certainly none about how well we did in convincing others to accept the finer points of what we thought were our important beliefs. The ‘questions’ apparently will be over what we did. I hope I go beyond my beliefs.

I think we find out that true imagination transcends fantasy when we hit adversity, and the challenge of what we see around us. And one aspect that is hard to quantify is how much transformation will we see prior to the parousia. I am no scientific expert (and maybe the word ‘scientific’ was superfluous in that phrase) but the mess we are making of the planet and the pollution to the oceans, the waters, the land, global warming etc. challenges any imagination for a different future. To proclaim ‘I have a dream of the coming back to life of species, of clean water, of climates in balance’ would either take great faith or be simply the empty words of fantasy… unless we can see that what we sow now will carry through to the age to come. We are the ones preparing the material for what only God can put together. Maybe the original creation was ‘ex nihilo’, maybe God worked with some already existing material that was chaotic. The new creation though does not come about ex nihilo, but from material that God himself will, and only he can, work on to produce something beyond our dreams. That material will come from our works and our imagination.

It is not a time to pump out meaningless fantasy, but it is a time to allow our communication to focus on the imagination. Bless the mind and the intellect, but we have to elevate the imagination in this season. Not simply imaginations that will enable us to survive but that can set something in motion for our world.

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Art – what is it worth?

A few years ago I prophesied that ‘when we learn how to value art, the housing market will be re-valued’. I have re-visited that word many times with perplexity. Many artists struggle to make a living; many of the high, high end earners will buy up art as an investment. The ‘art market’ is all over the place. The investment of time, effort and soul that some put in for little return is so wrong; storing art away from public view simply as a means for personal security is also so wrong…

What is the value of art? (And rightly by extension I include ‘the arts’.)

My perplexity I now realise (I got this insight by reading Deb Chapman’s comment on the last post) is that I have been thinking in monetary terms. As we know the vast percentage of money does not exist. 97% in most western economies does not exist, hence it is only confidence and debt that keeps the economy at the levels we find them. I should never have been trying to work out what the word meant money-wise. Driving as we do in our San Lorenzo (died 258AD in Rome) whose gift was to force a revaluation I should never have been trapped into the way of thinking I was in over art.

The value of art

It has to be given its rightful place. It is one of the means to connect heaven to earth. It touches the imagination (and therefore can also be perverted to connect hell and earth) so that speech can be made that releases heaven to earth. God made the trees and saw that they were good… If for a moment I overstate things. God saw what he had made and it impacted him. That is art. We are not talking about a rational function but of an inner transformation through a visual / auditory / kinesthetic experience. How do we value that?

Art challenges how we value everything. This is the challenge San Lorenzo presented to the emperor when he presented him with the blind, sick and poor. ‘These are God’s riches’, he said! The emperor had him killed… but he being dead still speaks. Jesus said that no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem, but he fulfilled that. From his time on the place of death is Rome / Babylon / the empire, the place that says we value things and you will not buy nor sell unless you bow to our value system.

Art is subversive. In art we learn how a new economy that is not based on trade, but on giving and receiving.

Now is the time. Yes the winds are adverse but there is a breath of the Spirit behind the arts right now. So vital as we are coming to another economic crisis. The last one was patched over when the body of Christ (the ‘authority carriers’ for the future) opted for an alignment with the familiar, lacking imagination for a different future. When we can only imagine change through getting to the top we have failed to imagine. Art can help us imagine change through the subversion of service and love. We owe you a huge debt, you artists.

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We still dream

In looking at Pentecost and the background of the tower of Babel narrative there is the implicit message of a boundary being removed. God inserted a boundary at Babel so that there might not be a level of unity whereby ‘whatever they put their mind to they will accomplish’. He did this through the confusion of the languages. At Pentecost where everyone heard them speak in their language there is the gift of languages so that there might be a working, a planning together so that what was in their hearts might indeed be accomplished. Pentecost unlocks the imagination so that possibilities open up.

The imagination is so important. The ‘I have a dream’ speech of Martin Luther King resonates because there is something so strongly of God’s character in it. The dream is of a different future:

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.

As believers this is what we bring to the table. Something not based in the Enlightenment ideal of progress, nor in the Marxist ideology of change through conflict, but based on faith in an ‘optimistic’ life-giving God who demonstrated this in Jesus. What we bring is more than a good idea, or simply an ‘imagine all the people’ that Lennon invited us to. We are to bring a faith that true imagination unlocks the activity of heaven. Paul put it like this:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3: 20).

God can do, but we have to do something too – it begins in the imagination, in the asking. What God does is in proportion not to his power, but in proportion to his power that is working among us. That power is not simply measured by how many miracles we can testify to (though that is important) but how much the power of God is transforming our lives from self-centredness to God- and world-centredness. As that takes place and there are imaginations fuelled by God’s loving, redemptive agenda so God shows up. I am convinced it was that intangible, yet very real presence of God that provoked non-believing, with a lot to lose, people, the Asiarchs, to connect to Paul in Ephesus.

If we can move beyond that of ‘saving souls to get them their ticket to heaven’ and see that God is in the business of rescuing people from life as it has been sold to them, to enabling them to engage with his dream and activities of aligning the world with a visible manifestation around us of heavenly values. This is what Luther King articulated.

There is now an incredible battle on for the soul of the world. Conformity, monochromeness that obliterates difference has incredibly become an agenda that wins votes. We were made for difference and it is fear that is the fodder that turns those votes. When the media is in the control of the elite it should not surprise us that it can quickly be labelled the ‘enemy of the people’. Any activity that challenges the status quo becomes sidelined and illegal.

There is something bigger at stake than Britain leaving the EU… the bigger is the reshaping of Europe regardless of levels of government. For any reshaping to be redemptive I consider that the wonderful body of Christ needs to dream again. The future context (and the one that is already here and has been for well over a decade) is so different to the one in which ‘Toronto’ occurred. But ‘Toronto’ prepared us for this. We have been prepared to go places we have never gone before, to no longer exercise in the playground at the set time, but to live with a soul bared, wind in face, looking the conflicts in the eye and proclaim – we still dream.

A while ago I declared a new media is here. It will come. It cannot be silenced, for God is a communicator. I declare today the dream is on. It cannot be stopped. A shift of time is literally now on the EU agenda. From the shift of time comes the setting of ‘true north’. The setting of direction for journey. People have been moving at an alarming and unprecedented rate these past years. The issue now is the setting of true north for people movements in Scripture indicate a great shift in time. There are political and economic decisions that will have to be made… but first has to come the unlocking of the imagination about a future that has not yet been shaped. For this we make room for the artists, the cartoonists, the graffiti-ists, the writers. They will both articulate and make room for the imagination.

The adverse winds are blowing… but I think the dream is still on.

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If you build it?

‘If you build it they will come’ (Field of Dreams, 1989) is a powerful inspirational strap line. Go do something, set it out and there will be a response; rather than try to get the result consider the context. A truly motivational directive. At some level this is what lay behind the flow of the OT hope where something will happen in Jerusalem and the nations will be drawn to it. In the days when there was no visible centre there (Temple) the hope was for its rebuilding and the nations would then come to that place where the glory of God was and acknowledge the One true God. Such a strong motivational and eschatological hope.

Cyrus was proclaimed the Lord’s anointed and in the (normally) last book of the Writings (2 Chronicles for us) we read that he instructed the people to go (re-)build a temple in Jerusalem:

This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’ (2 Chron. 36: 23).

In Matthew’s Gospel with its focus on the fulfilment of Scripture we find such a clear echo of those words as that Gospel closes with the ‘Great Commission’:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28: 18-20).

The parallels are clear:

  • authority given
  • go
  • promised presence.

Fulfilments are not repeats but often transform the original hope. As inspirational as the ‘go build it’ was and a stretch to faith, the scope of the Jesus’ commission and the how to do it are in another league all together.

Build it somewhere becomes be everywhere; go to a place becomes go from a place; and the clear implication is that the Temple being built will not be with literal stones, nor confined to a specific geography but invisible and universal.

In Field of Dreams the challenge was to build something not knowing what the result will be. Build something and believe there will be a result was a clear challenge to faith. In the Jesus’ commission the challenge to faith is so much greater. Don’t even build something, but have a very clear focus, and something will be invisibly built. He also does not focus on ‘they will come’ but on ‘I will come’.

Everywhere can manifest somewhere: ‘where two or three are gathered together’; but the somewheres must never claim to be everywhere nor create borders that stop people going everywhere. (I hope that sentence makes sense!) Jerusalem is not the goal, the New Jerusalem is the goal, that image of the total transformation of the then known world, the presence of God being the light that fills everywhere. That presence can manifest in specific places at specific times, but when any wonderful expression of God is held on to it can eventually resist the very reason for the manifestation. This is why there is such a need for continued apostolic and prophetic ministry as new terrain is entered into. Any centres that are reproduced, in the big scheme of things, can only be temporary. The Revelation vision is not I saw a Temple, nor I saw many Temples, but I saw no Temple, the city without a Temple.

The Jesus’ commission is of the continual movement into new terrain by those imbibed by his Spirit, God building something where previously there was either rubble or nothing. At the core is a multiplication of ‘disciples’ (learners) and those who are walking in the light of the presence among them.

If we do not keep the big picture in front of us, the steps along the way will become the camp, the model to be reproduced. There is no model. There is only a journey and the step we take on that journey will depend on our context at that time. True north sets the direction; the Spirit calls for followers; followers are promised his presence.

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A diverse meditation

While doing the washing up this morning I had a meditation. I know some of you will be surprised I had a meditation… What!! I even hear some of you saying to yourselves – Martin doing the washing up, it must be a sign of the end of all things! Shame on you…

Once we move beyond (abandon) the book of Revelation as some kind of history written in advance and allow it to be a revelation that opens our eyes / imagination to all things pertinent at all times we can have a few insights that do more than fill us with fear. (When was fear ever the context in which we were to make decisions?)

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting… (Rev. 19:6).

Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters (Rev. 17:2).

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9).

The above are a sample of Scriptures from Revelation. The sound like the roar of rushing water: I have written on this before, the diversity of sound, the languages together, no language above another. That is the sound of heaven. In contrast Babylon sits on (Gk.: epi) many waters. Using power but to only express one aspect.

The multitude made up of, the oft-repeated phrase in Revelation, those from every nation, tribe, people and language.

How far do we have to go for ‘on earth as in heaven’. I was meditating this morning on a city that has a tremendous ethnic diversity, and considering the prominent expression of the body of Christ there. If I contrast my meditation with that of Revelation:

  • I heard the sound like that of many waters
  • I heard the sound and it was one voice that I heard
  • I saw the make up of the people – cultural, ethnic, color and language diversity
  • I saw a monochrome people.

I do not write this though as critical of anywhere. My meditation took me to my own house and context. We must continue to pray ‘on earth as in heaven’ – then make room for the wonderful mess. Waters coming together are always dangerous.

I am focused too on a future trip to Brazil. So much going on there. A key is the voice of Brazil, not the Portuguese translation of a voice from elsewhere.

Heaven on earth. Now that is a dream (for the old) or a vision (for the youth).

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Us, God or what is changed?

‘Prayer is not for God it is for us’ is one explanation that has a lot going for it. Once we get beyond ‘do this for me’ kind of prayers there is a huge truth in the above. If we are serious about situations changing and begin to address them in prayer it is not normally too long before we discover that the same issues are present in us and need addressing – even if the same issues are not present to the same extent. This is the principle I see in Jesus’ teaching that murder is rooted in anger, adultery in lust, or Paul’s words that idolatry is rooted in greed. One of the principles in strategic prayer (and identificational repentance) is the genuine personal identification and personal repentance that comes through in the identification. It is rare for the prayer to be simply I stand here innocent but I stand in the gap, but more of a ‘we and our ancestors have sinned’.

Prayer changes us, for as we interact with God we find that once we are exposed to his presence we are impacted. Prayer then is certainly for our benefit.

I contend it is also for God’s benefit. Not so he can change (though there are many OT references to God changing his mind after human interaction and dialogue) but so as he can act. The key request / command that the will of God be done on earth as in heaven that we find in the pattern prayer surely indicates that at a very real level for the will of God to be done prayer by followers of Christ is essential. Without the request we can only assume there will be whole aspects where the will of God is not, and will not, be done. Something is released when we pray. We see this with Daniel who prayed fervently but there was a delay, the angel indicated that the prayer released him (her?) to move, but en route there was a necessary battle against opposing forces that took time to resolve. We also see how, in Revelation, that the prayers of the saints rise up to heaven and fill a bowl that once full can be released. No prayer and there is no move forward by the angelic in and through territory occupied by forces of darkness; no prayer and there is no bowl being filled that once outpoured can bring about change.

Prayer of course changes us but it has a major part to play in changing the environment where the prayer is focused. We do not need to adopt an extreme position of God’s mind being changed, as if we can move him from being a hard God to a kinder one (OT) but that he is enabled to do what he was unable to do before the prayer was offered up. This to me is in keeping with ‘the earth he has given to humanity’. This is our jurisdiction, and through wrong choices, both past and ongoing, we have given power to the prince of this world – who has been judged at the cross, and we are to press for that judgement to be visible.

I have many times written that we can never draw a straight line between we prayed this and this happened. To make those claims indicates that we are also claiming to have the full picture. There are so many things we do not know. I had the privilege of praying for a lady who had not walked unaided in 19 years, for 16 of those she had been confined to a wheel chair. The MS had by this stage taken her voice, and her eyesight had also been very badly affected. For whatever reason, I leaned over to the person next to me and said, ‘that woman will walk tonight’. Her story was subsequently written up in one of the national newspapers (sorry to say but it was ‘The Daily Mail’!!).

I visited her later to get the back story. She told me that someone suggested she went to the meeting, but she was very reluctant. She had been prayed for so many times over those many years and had had no improvement so was not looking to expose herself again to any prayer. She inwardly agreed to go only if someone came and directly offered to take her. This subsequently happened.

With regard to all the prayers that went before we might assume they were ineffective, howver in this situation the most likely scenario was that the last prayer was the least effective, but somehow tipped things over.

There are so many things we do not understand and I am certainly not saying that every situation will be resolved if we simply throw more prayer at it. That was the situation for Edith, but we cannot quote one example and make it applicable to every situation. Yet I am suggesting that prayer changes situations that would not change without it. Prayer is not simply for us and our benefit.

I know the frustration of the seeming ineffectiveness of prayer; of being (reluctantly) able to recount where what I have prayed has not received an answer, but in it all I am still pushing to move beyond the passivity of ‘God has everything in control, he knows what is best…’ God has entered our world and is walking with us. His activity might not be totally limited by our response, but it is certainly increased with our partnership. Prayers rise to heaven and one day we will see how it all fitted together.

(Disclaimer: I do not possess the prayer book in the image above the title. (Surprised?) Probably would do me some good to get a prayer book… but that is another story!!)

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What can be lost?

I read this article this morning in Christianity Today. Short but pulls a focus back to the bottom line issue, confronting the compromising road that Christendom opens up. Although the article is written in the USA and applied to the US it has an application beyond there. I have sought to make no comments about the US as I do not carry a responsibility for it, others carry that responsibility, but the singular point of the article makes it worth referencing. Just before reading the article Gayle and I were talking about Brazil as we go there in October, and were listening to what I spoke into a conference there in 2016 (by Skype) as to what was coming to the nation. Although the comments are ‘this is now happening’ I am also convinced that there is much more to be flushed out. The challenge politically will be when a ‘moral’ candidate comes forward to pull in the evangelical vote with favours given in return.

We are called to be shaping our location. In the article Horton quotes Phil. 3:21 which I would take to mean that because our citizenship is in heaven we are called to make where we are resemble heaven, thus pushing us to a passion for transformation. I have some hope that Brazil can break the christendom paradigm, that the wilderness becomes the more natural habitat than the palace. Maybe this is why I have long-term hope for the European context. If we (Christians) are less privileged we might just find that true glory is found in the wilderness.

A taste of the article can be seen in this quote (again focused on the US but applicable anywhere):

When we seek special political favors for the church, we communicate to the masses that Christ’s kingdom is just another demographic in the US electorate.

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Burgos and Ferrol

Gayle and I have just returned from a 2,700km (1,600 mile) drive and camp around northern Spain. Both a great break and also time to reflect on the wider land where we are located. This included sleeping in a car park to cliff headlands, a field and also a few random days in camp sites (it is helpful to have a shower – helps when co-habiting a small space!). In those days away we took in two larger cities – Burgos and Ferrol. So rather than expand on what deodorants we used to compensate for the (few) days without a shower I will focus on these two cities.

We always love to walk around a city, to observe, pray and speak to it – sometimes of course it will speak back, usually at night time. Burgos was our first stop so I will start there. A ‘proper’, well-behaved city, with everything in place. (Photo above title: Burgos cathedral.) A place that does not overtly resist what comes in new but will domesticate it before long. The city is calling for a person / persons / corporate body that will not be owned but come with a generous spirit speaking life to everything that is truly life-giving. So willing to relate to all expressions of the body of Christ but investing into both what is young (as in age of people) and fresh. Such a person has to be able to carry humour in the sense of not being focused on what they are building but on the life they are releasing. If this can rise there will be a time to make a key response when they are offered a place at the table of respectability, and at that time without disrespect to simply to continue to focus on the margins. The city is calling for it now!

Ferrol… we visited here primarily because this is the birth place of Franco (Photo: Franco’s birthplace – where we prayed), and we visited here on a Thursday. The next day the Spanish government passed the edict to exhume Franco’s body from the Valley of the Fallen. This is both historic in seeking to resolve some of the outstanding issues from the Civil War (1936-39) and the period of the dictatorship (1939-75) and for us in our journey into the history of Spain. (Co-incidentally Pablo Iglesias (1850-1925) the founder of the Spanish socialist party was also born in Ferrol.)

It is always challenging to see a city when coming with an agenda, but for us this place carried an affluence and a pride that was just beneath the surface. A place that has to discover the gift of mercy and align to where it is going rather than hold in to a history. To live here as a believer would certainly be a challenge. Think, pray and act long term. Invest in what is at hand, staying hidden, but waiting for the openings when there can be a shift for windows of opportunity will come in this city – it cannot put up defenses that are impregnable.

In praying at the house where Franco was born we simply knew we were there to cut off a root. we have experienced on a number of fronts that we have seen a significant proposed shift only for it not to take place so are also now focused on making sure we finish what we get involved in. Although the government has passed the vote, there could still be an appeal to the courts to reverse the decision to exhume the body. As mentioned in a recent post Valley of the Fallen is located alongside El Escorial – a place that very early on we realised was a power situation where dominating power was anchored, which has greatly affected the church in Spain. We have not yet made a specific visit to El Escorial but are pretty sure the day will come.

Burgos y FerrolGayle y yo acabamos de regresar de un viaje de 2.700 km por el norte de España. Un tiempo de descanso y para reflexionar sobre la tierra en la que nos encontramos. Esto incluyó dormir en: un parking publico, los promontorios de los acantilados, un campo y también algunos días aleatorios en los campings (es útil darse una ducha: ¡ayuda al cohabitar en un espacio pequeño!). Esos días fuimos a dos ciudades más grandes: Burgos y Ferrol. Sin embargo, en lugar de expandirnos sobre los desodorantes que usamos para compensar los (pocos) días sin una ducha, me centraré en estas dos ciudades.

Siempre nos gusta caminar por alguna ciudad, observar, orar y hablarle, a veces, por supuesto, nos responderá, por lo general de noche. Burgos fue nuestra primera parada, así que comenzaré por allí. Una ciudad “adecuada”, de buen comportamiento, con todo en su lugar. Un lugar que no se opone abiertamente a lo que viene nuevo, pero lo domesticará antes que después. La ciudad está pidiendo una persona / personas / cuerpo corporativo que no sea propiedad sino que venga con un espíritu generoso que hable vida a todo lo que es verdaderamente vivificante. Tan dispuestos a relacionarse con todas las expresiones del cuerpo de Cristo, pero invirtiendo en lo que es joven (como en la edad de las personas) y nuevo. Tal persona debe ser capaz de llevar el sentido del humor en el sentido de no centrarse en lo que están construyendo, sino en la vida que están liberando. Si esto pudiera aumentar, habrá un momento para hacer una respuesta clave cuando se les ofrezca un lugar en la mesa de respetabilidad, y en ese momento sin falta de respeto simplemente para continuar centrándose en los márgenes. ¡La ciudad lo está llamando ahora!

Ferrol … Lo visitamos principalmente porque este es el lugar de nacimiento de Franco, y visitamos aquí un jueves. Al día siguiente, el gobierno español aprobó el edicto para exhumar el cuerpo de Franco del Valle de los Caídos. Esto es histórico al tratar de resolver algunos de los temas pendientes de la Guerra Civil (1936-39) y el período de la dictadura (1939-75) y para nosotros en nuestro viaje por la historia de España. (Coincidentemente, también nació en Ferrol Pablo Iglesias (1850-1925), el fundador del partido socialista español).

Siempre es un reto ver una ciudad cuando se viene con una agenda, pero para nosotros este lugar tenía opulencia y orgullo justo debajo de la superficie. Un lugar que tiene que descubrir el don de la misericordia y alinearse a donde va en lugar de aferrarse a la historia. Vivir aquí como creyente sin duda sería un desafío. Piensa, ora y actúa a largo plazo. Invierte en lo que tienes a mano, manténte oculto, pero espera las aperturas cuando pueda haber un cambio de ventanas de oportunidad que llegará a esta ciudad: no se puede poner defensas que son inexpugnables.

Al orar en la casa donde nació Franco simplemente supimos que estábamos allí para cortar una raíz. hemos experimentado en varios frentes que hemos visto un cambio significativo propuesto solo para que no tenga lugar, por lo que ahora también estamos enfocados en asegurarnos en terminar en lo que nos involucramos. Aunque el gobierno ha aprobado la votación, todavía podría haber una apelación a los tribunales para revertir la decisión de exhumar el cuerpo. Como mencioné en un post reciente, el Valle de los Caídos está ubicado junto a El Escorial, un lugar que desde el principio nos dimos cuenta de que era una situación de poder donde el poder dominante estaba anclado, lo que ha afectado enormemente a la iglesia en España. Todavía no hemos hecho una visita específica a El Escorial, pero estamos bastante seguros de que llegará el día.

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