That is a LOUD voice!

It is always very interesting to be reading through the Bible. I focus much more on the Old Testament earlier on in the year when I do this, and in some of those readings there are so many challenges. Patriarchy is not only taken for granted but it seems to be endorsed as a good order. Genocide in the name of God… all there. Challenging to one’s view of inspiration and of what we mean by the canon of Scripture. I would happily see some parts within the collection of 66 books be sidelined and to be excised! One book I would not be happy to see sidelined though would be the book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). Strange as that one does not make it into a number of the church canons, and even Luther who believed it should be included in the NT list of books also suggested it be segregated with other controversial books in a “disputed” section, of ‘antilegomena’.

I did not grow up reading novels, and until recently did not enjoy many films (neither of those categories being ‘real life’! As if I know what real life is….) However, employing genre so removed from real life, and written in a way that gives the likes of me few clues as to how to read it, I have loved the book of Revelation. (And definitely a much better read when the likes of Scofield, Darby, Lindsay, Left Behind are all kept way beyond arm’s length.)

Imagery using such terms as beasts was not a new term for ancient readers. Babylon was not a new idea for Jewish believers. And Revelation really goes to town with such imagery and historical allusions. The (sea) beast of Revelation 13 was ‘given a mouth’ to speak, speaking for 42 months. 42 months is not a short time, and feels like forever. It is certainly much longer than some 15,000 days, it represents the time of conflict, being one of those ‘rectangular’ numbers in Revelation where it is the result of one number multiplied by one bigger than the first (here 6×7). Those numbers represent the times of conflict, so they are not referring to a specific length of time. Hence the voice can be louder at times than at others.

I have been very exercised in these days about the mouth that Mammon has, the voice that in Revelation will declare ‘you cannot buy and sell’. We have heard that voice, we know many friends who have been spoken to by that intimidating voice, intimidating as there seems no way past it. The voice seems to speak and control a highway, that highway at times literally being the trade routes. I am also provoked as yesterday I had a Skype call with someone who engages with those who deal with money and can make huge differences to peoples’ lives with the stroke of a pen. This person has a vision for societal transformation, and in engaging with companies his pitch is for their involvement in communities, with a twofold outcome: they will pour something back in for the betterment of others, and yet it will not mean they ‘lose’ out financially. The central focus though is the community issue. Over and over again they get excited by the vision, they are on board… until they work out that their bottom line just might be affected. Already making more than they need, they must make yet more, so again and again the vision my friend has is turned down. Sounds like a discouraging voice… but it is more than that, it is the voice of Mammon.

The 42 month period, the time when there is a loud voice speaking.

Money is a strange thing… I am not even sure what it is. The instability in the stock market yet again shows this – huge gains and losses. Maybe it is simply a measure of confidence that some exhibit. That ‘some’ being a minority of the population. If money was simply a mark of the confidence that some exhibit and that was all it was that might be OK, but it goes beyond that. It controls the destiny of people, and at a daily level who can buy and sell. We watched last night a program on the homelessness in Spain since 2008. A good number of whom were university graduates, and employed in 2008, meanwhile in the same country 40billion of public money can be unaccounted for in one year (2017). Money, a real entity? A measure of confidence? Or something standing behind it all?

Juan Mata, Spanish footballer, has his feet on the ground. Earning as these ‘stars’ do a huge sum of money he is provoking his fellow soccer players to donate 1% of their income into a foundation that can help channel that money positively. 1% of huge salaries is a large sum of money and I applaud him for this. That 1% is way more than a 10% of other money. Those actions are to be applauded. But…

The system remains.

What if Revelation was holding out the tantalising hope that we are here to see the system change? What if the Gospel is the announcement that mountains will be made low and valleys raised up? What if the body of Christ is truly ‘elect in him’ to the pulling down of strongholds and releasing a new way of being?

42 months. Patience marking the new apostolic. Applauding where 1% is placed in a foundation. But with a long term vision. A beast without a voice is intimidating, but a beast with a voice, that is at a different level all together.

In 2009 as clear as an audible voice I heard a challenge from heaven, that if those with significant financial resources were not stewarding their finances how was I going to do that? I am still on the journey toward that – I have certainly not made it through 42 months, not even sure I have made 24 hours into that journey, but I cam off the Skype yesterday with a small piece of the puzzle in my hand. I said to Gayle, we start relationaly. We connect. Not to the rich and famous, but to the ones and twos who dream of societal change, some of whom are not afraid of money nor success but neither of those commodities are the bottom line for them. The journey ahead is, of course, a corporate one. There needs to be eyes, hands and feet. The eyes cannot say… the feet cannot say… The beast is not confronted by a yet stronger beast. 42 months… and as always there has to be a human ‘lamb’, a people who find each other where no one takes the spot light, no one becomes the new controller of the resources, as if replacing the bad with the ‘good person’ would ever be the way to bring about change. An old centre is not to be replaced by a new, but good one, but as is evidenced in the breaking of bread and in Pentecost, a huge dispersal marks the shift.

Patience. Long term. Should not be surprising that is needed. This journey did not begin a few years ago with 1994 being such a turning point for many. It did not begin with a new perspective on Paul and his gospel… It certainly had major starting point in Jerusalem when the hegemony of religion (and ‘good’ religion at that) was broken. Those 42 months seem to stretch back a long way. What a diversity of voices have spoken in those ‘months’ and at times the voice of the beast has seemed the loudest. However, I don’t think that s/he with the loudest voice wins!

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You’ve got to laugh!!

Mammon with a voice!! A loud voice at that. Gayle and I had to make some choices this past week, the exact nature of which is inappropriate to put here, but having heard the voice of Mammon shouting loudly, ‘Not enough!!’, we then had a choice to make which if we followed it would involve making us less capable of confronting Mammon on its terms. Choices though, when possible, need to follow convictions. So we went ahead and made the choice.

Having acted on it as we drove back home, we reflected on Jesus and his radicality.

1) Take the money and knowingly give it to a thief to look after.
2) Send out the disciples instructing them to take nothing. You won’t eat unless they feed you. And to compound things, because there are wolves out there I will send you as their food (lambs).

You just got to laugh!! Not a strategy to win the popular vote. Maybe we could write him off – after all what does a 30 year old know about such issues? The idealist will grow out of it.

In that context though… heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead. Proclaim the kingdom of God has come near.

You just have to laugh. The whole situation is crazy. Yet maybe we got to laugh at ourselves when we realise how little of the Jesus message we have understood.

Although I will post this a day after the post on Mammon’s loud voice, I wrote them at the same time. If a part of the puzzle is relational, another part has to be laughter. A good healthy dose of laughing at ourselves, of the madness of taking ourselves too seriously, as if we could change the world! A healthy dose of laughter at the teachings of Jesus, so that we are a little more vulnerable to them gaining an entrance to our hearts.

‘He who sits in the heavens laughs.’

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All Locked Up

Yesterday was to be the day when finally the Catalan situation in Spain would return to normal. October 1: independence referendum (deemed constitutionally illegal). Thousands of companies have moved headquarters, the Catalan parliament dissolved, with direct rule from Madrid imposed. A number (still) imprisoned, the former (next?) president in exile in Brussels. Legal elections on December 21 returned some shifts, but basically nothing changed. Yesterday (Jan 30th) was the final piece in the resolving (did I write revolving?) process. The president for the government would be installed and off we would travel as one happy family into the future.

The spanner in the works was that the only candidate was Carles Puigdemont. The former president who has been in Brussels for the past months. So here we are a lock up situation. The speaker for the new parliament, Roger Torrent (pro-indepedence and has handled himself with dignity throughout), announced that any inauguration will wait saying that Puigdemont is the legitimate candidate. Tuesday morning just hours before the due time he said:

We don’t accept anyone telling us that the Catalans have voted incorrectly because we didn’t do what they wanted.

Neither the [Spanish government] nor the constitutional court decides who will be president; that’s for the democratically elected members of parliament to decide.

In response to the situation Mariano Rajoy said that any attempt to invest Puigdemont would constitute a clear violation of the constitutional court’s ruling. The warning given is certainly not veiled. In a media interview yesterday he said:

The speaker and those who support him need to be very aware of the consequences they could face.

Our personal response (Gayle and I) is to pray not simply for an unlocking, but a deep healing. When we travelled in mid-Autumn we came to one situation that both physically was a city divided and divided at a social level, and as we stood on a bridge between the two sides we asked for angels to come and sew up the divide, sensing that somehow in the immediate this was a task beyond where people can go at this point of time. That though will shift.

The genuine bridge-builders have to accept that the third way is the way that opens the proponents of such a way to be trampled on from both sides – such is the nature of a bridge. In the short term there will be political gainers when divisive wounds are opened up. Two years ago I had a dream before the national elections of candidates in their lanes from right to left running the race. The leader of a party that did not fare too well was the one in the dream I knew I had to put all my effort in to catch and prevent him grasping a pillar (establishment) the result of which would mean he would not only have made his mark but strongly re-established the status quo. At the time the outcome for his party was not so impressive… but now they are flourishing in the current conflict.

The answer is not to patch a wound up, hoping it will go away… but the process of healing is a dangerous one.

At the beginning of this year the 2 Cor. 12:12 proclamation of Paul that the signs of an apostle were done among them with great patience has impacted us. Patience is not inactivity, it is not passivity. Patience can only flourish on hope. Hope is that vision of the future, it is the cradle in which faith grows (faith is the substance of what we hope for). In many languages ‘to wait’ and ‘to hope’ are the same. True waiting is hope. It is waiting and acting because of a sure knowledge. The apostolic must be marked by patience. The seeds of the gospel of a new order for God’s world means we have to stay focused and can wait for a generation, a century or more.

Walk the land, hear the ancient prayers
echoes still resonating
disturbing the air.

Travel more silently, let the sound become clear
not a sound of despair
nor a sound of ‘listen to me’
but a sound… a sound that was heard long ago
the sound that marked an arrival in the Garden of God.

That sound still travels
still flies on the wings of the ancient prayers
holding back the chaos
even the chaos of Babylon’s order
the deception of Mammon’s reasonable voice.

Those prayers hold back
preserve space
call for a people
weak and trembling yet not shaken
nor proud as they make no claim to greatness.

Such are those who hear the ancient prayers
who cautiously take their place not knowing
if they qualify nor if they can make a difference to a world order that accelerates by day
and continues by night toward
the goal of rewarding the powerful and punishing the weak while hiding
its ravenous appetite to devour one and all until all
that was deemed good,
the image of the invisible is obliterated.

Yet the ancient prayers are calling again
the echo is clearer now, for there is a silent moment when those who pause
who wait with hope and hope as they wait will know that
there is space to be invisible yet through their invisibility will be revealed
the image
the image that points to the future and
slowly but surely pulls that future ever closer.

Those who wait will mount up
with wings
they will be renewed as they live in the now
yet not for today.

Those ancient prayers
– listen and ponder –
do they come from ancient times past
or from tomorrow?

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More computing power needed

According to one of the speeches at the annual Davos gathering (this one leads to some wonderful conspiracy theories…) this is what is needed. The practical reason for this is the issue of climate shift and the urgent need to absorb carbon. And in the same speech was a push to accelerate the move toward Artificial Intelligence. Conspiracy theories on one side we have an annual gathering of those who somehow have the future in view and have resources that most do not have – after all the top 1% have been calculated now to have 82% of the wealth.

So many tantalising threads on the above. Conspiracy, secret handshakes and tings more sinister? Or is the critique of Mammon and Imperialism from that ‘cartoon’ book still more insightful? I go with the latter regardless of what handshakes are involved! Wealth – defined in monetary terms or in terms of wealth? Defined by what is not real, or ‘creationally’? And can we look for a better future (AI, greater computer power) without repentance for what got us here? And what about a future shaped by a NT-informed eschatology? What kind of speech would be given to a Davos gathering, or indeed any gathering? I think it is ore likely to be to a gathering different to Davos when I look at who and in what context Paul spoke.

future

Climate change – seems to me, a non-scientist, that the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that this is ever so real and we are putting the future in real jeopardy. No good hiding away behind ‘it will all burn up’. We were told from the beginning that this was our task, our responsibility. We are doing things now for then. Pollution is not part of then! Ecological concern for a believer has to be shaped by an eschatology, not simply by fear. Yet wholesome concern is part of that – we look at things as they are. It is also shaped by taking responsibility. If AI is part of the solution (created in our image – I hope not!!) repentance has to be the foundation.

Yet again though the rich and powerful come together to shape the future. Unlikely with a desire to empty the seats of power of their power or to lift up the marginalised. The Gospel is so radical into these contexts, and the challenge before us is to work through the implications of the radical Gospel, that is political (a vision for the re-ordering of the polis). This certainly has been something that has gripped us in the past years, with the conviction that the shape of the world is the responsibility of the church. Thank God for the ‘born again’ Gospel – but born again for what?

More computing needed? A deeper understanding of the Gospel that deeply impregnated Paul at the gates of Damascus, was nurtured in the desert, and deposited in Rome (Babylon) – that is what is needed. Prophets (and the Prophet) died in Jerusalem. Now they have to live it out in Babylon giving life there.

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2018 – a Personal Perspective

I am clear that what I write here will be a personal perspective, not a universally applicable ‘horoscope‘ (horrorscope) prophetic template for the year. I hope though that there might be some resonance. Gayle and I completed 9 years in Spain on January 1. Seems like yesterday that we arrived with 2 suitcases, yet since then we have lived in 3 locations (4 apartments), visited all the communidades of Spain (17), probably 35-40 of the 50 provinces, slept 40 nights last year in the back of our furgoneta (affectionately labeled as ‘el furgo de san lorenzo’) as we covered 8000 kilometres seeking to retrace the steps related to the ‘conquest’ of and expulsion of the Muslims in Spain. Each year has been different and last year was the most intensely Spain-focused year.

Provinces of Spain
The 50 Provinces

Some of what I will write below will make it sound as if our lives are filled with supernatural interventions. It is easy to make it sound like that when picking out specific stories from a period of time. Some days, are filled with ‘get out of bed, drink coffee, drink loads more, still try to figure out what we are to do, go to bed none the wiser’. Yet it would also be true that there are supernatural interventions… we still believe in that crazy stuff!

Our lives have been shaped at times by some ‘left-of-field’ dreams that have sidetracked us. Or they have shown us what we thought was the main track had some twists in it that we did not anticipate. We have lived now in this apartment the longest we have lived anywhere – 4 years in March – and it seems the shortest time of anywhere. We are here because of two dreams, one of which Gayle entered an address in google maps as to where we were living. Around this time four years ago we saw this apartment. At Christmas time, 2013, I had a word that we would put an offer on three places, that we would get the third place, and that it would be a grace package, but each one would cost more than the one before. The last part I want to underline, as so often is the case we look to interpret things along well-worn lines or according to our expectation. A ‘grace package’ seems to indicate it would not cost as much as we would normally expect, but in this situation it was going to mean the opposite. Apparently the emptier our pocket the more opportunity to God to fill it. We came to Oliva end of December 2013, met with an estate agent who has become a friend. He asked ‘how much do you want to spend?’ Our reply was as little as possible as we are really headed to Madrid and need to keep the maximum amount of money for there. (Eventually we spent almost 3x the figure we gave him that day.) We offered on one place – they countered and we did not want to go any higher. We offered on a second place, and offered the asking price. They took for ever to reply and then said ‘not at that price!!’ We offered on a third, the owner said ‘don’t talk to me about it!!’ The agent said that he had worked the area for 14 years and had never experienced anything like this. He said – it looks as if you are attracting it. I replied ‘probably, but we will be OK so stick with us’. Out of the blue Michael from Hannover called and said that there were three angels waiting to work with us. The key one (at that time for us) was to help us leave Cádiz. We went to where we were sure that angel would be, and within 30 minutes of praying, the agent called us (after many weeks of no communication) with ‘I don’t know what has happened, but you have the property’.

(I now realise this might be a long blog – hope I do not get bored before the end… and for the record we are on the way to Madrid, by the grace of God with / without a pocket that is empty or not!! The Madrid statement was not by way of information, but to keep me focused.)

Anyway dreams… We were sent a very simple yet clear dream. Gayle and I were standing in our living room with invites on the table in front of us on pieces of paper. We did not know how to respond to them, and there was someone there waiting for our response. Eventually I looked up at him and said that we would go and consult the ‘man of Spain’ who would help us know how to respond and then we would make a response. Last year in our travels (yes it is subjective and a little mystical) but we certainly met the substance of the man of Spain in the land as we travelled. Not all those who have contributed to the substance of the ‘man of Spain’ have been male, nor have all been Christians, but one that certainly shaped us has been San Lorenzo, who died in Rome on August 10th, 258. We named our van after him – his gift, and our prayer as we drove through Spain, was to revalue all things. The emperor demanded the wealth of the church to be given to him, and so on the appointed time he showed up at the emperor’s abode with the marginalised of society, proclaiming that this was where God’s riches were manifest. The revaluation of all things!

San Lorenzo Hiding in the Trees
San Lorenzo Hiding in the Trees

 

At the end of the year we felt as if a season in our journey in Spain had been completed, and knew that 2018 would look different. Within weeks we were having renewed connections with people from 10+ years ago, as well as new connections from some former geographies and also new geographies. Of course we still need wisdom to see what that means but something was moving.

So this year will be different. We will still have a strong focus on Spain, and into the re-working of the constitution. We are not disrespectful to what has gone on before, but believe strongly that the body of Christ has the primary responsibility to create space (yes kick those demons!!) so that there can be a reshaping of society. We take responsibility to hold space for the future, not to occupy the places of power and dictate. Into this we would love to get a base in Madrid – loads to say on this. We have made an offer on an apartment that needed total reformation (by total I mean ‘total’ – it had a toilet but nothing else, no kitchen, no electricity, gas etc…) We entered a sealed bid offer with 27 others. We were completely outbid. Mammon loves to speak with a loud voice. Beyond Madrid we will make a focus into Europe wider. When there are major people movements, and shaking of powers on the earth, we need to realise that an era to re-shape things spiritually is right there. This wonderful continent is ready to yield a shape to something not yet seen.

Here though is what I want to focus on. First a Scripture:

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty deeds (2 Cor. 12: 12).

I was praying into this Scripture and this is what I want to release for this coming year… There is an apostolic movement being released that will not adopt titles, nor establish a headquarters, but will be marked by patience. The true apostolic can wait a generation, a century or more, knowing that what is sown will bear fruit. The short term, insular, visions will be shown for what they are.

National boundaries might be practical (but we should not draw a straight line between ‘nations’ in biblical language with ‘nation-states’ as we have them) and could even be a way of releasing gifts for the nations, but a church that defends a national vision cannot be the context in which an apostolic spirit is nurtured.

The birth of the Pauline apostolic was not in Jerusalem… it was not for Jerusalem… the apostolic vision being born now is likewise away from the centre

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A little more in Genesis

Another Pentecost theme of course comes with the Tower of Babel (Gen 11). The confusion of the languages was in order that ‘what they propose to do will not be possible for them’… if Pentecost is in some way a reversal of the confusion of languages, then there is an intended release through Pentecost for true imagination and collaboration. Yet Pentecost does not reverse Babel. They do not all speak the same language, but something richer and more diverse takes place – they hear them speak in their own language. There is an honouring of the diversity and cultural differences, but each can experience heaven in their own setting.

In Babel there is the humourous element. The people say ‘let us build a tower with its top in the heavens’. God’s response (who is in heaven) is to ‘come down’. Apparently the tower was not that impressive! Perhaps it was such a pimple on God’s landscape that he could not see it from the heavens? Babel / Babylon will always rise up with ‘wonderful’ aims and promises. But it rises up, and is always unfinished (‘they left off building the city’). With chapter 11 we finish a kind of ‘OT of the OT’. It is to the story of Israel what the OT is to the story of Christ and those in him. We have then the backdrop to Israel’s (sadly failed) royal priestly journey for the nations (Gen. 10). We end the series of falls: the series of alienations through failing to live within boundaries. Hence salvation has to have a core theme of reconciliation, finding the boundaries, releasing others to live within their boundary.

Every aspect of life is deeply impacted with the ‘falls’:

  • God and human relationship, with the primary element not knowing who God is. ‘I heard you… I was afraid and I hid’.
  • The intra-human relationship, beginning at the gender level as shown by the Adam / Eve fall out. Patriarchy is a result of the fall: hence I see Jesus as necessarily male and Jewish (the two primary ‘sinners’).
  • The intra-human with family breakdown, murder; the building of towers, nations etc.
  • The human and resultant thorns and thistles of creation. The whole environment is polluted as a result of sin.
  • There is human and demonic warfare. Whatever and whoever the devil and demons are they are not somehow the equal and opposite of God. They might though be the equal and opposite of humanity. (Hence dehumanisation is demonisation in the extreme.) They are there for us to overcome: hence again the necessity of Jesus’ humanity.
  • The pride of nations rising up in conflict. Diversity gets turned to conflict rather than mutual edification.
  • And whatever the strange chapter 6 deals with of ‘the sons of God’ and the ‘daughters of humans’ it indicates somehow the wrong alignment of the angelic and the human.

Every aspect of human life is affected. And every aspect of the above is lived out in right alignment in Jesus, the only true human.

I am agnostic if there was ‘a’ historic fall, as I am also agnostic about a literal Adam and Eve. But a fall, or series of falls there certainly was and this seems to culminate with the corporate desire to ‘make a name for ourselves’ (Gen. 11: 4). What a contrast to the work of God who promises to make Abraham’s name ‘great’.

Gen. 1-11 sets the scene.

  • A creation that God is committed to (hence no burning up in the end – but the new heavens and new earth, with the Greek indicating ‘renewed’ rather than having no relationship to what has gone before).
  • A creation that is good, and with everything within it to release potential for perfection. Perfection is not the beginning, but the end. The beginning is potential.
  • A series of falls are described – seemingly to indicate what needs and will be redeemed.
  • A creation that humanity was to steward. The image in the garden is strong temple type language. Let your kingdom come on earth (or at least the garden) as it is in heaven.
  • Creation is to be the place where heaven is revealed. Humanity is deeply honoured by heaven. Materiality is where spirit is made visible; humanity is where divinity is to be revealed.

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Starting Again

Another year so I have started again in Genesis. Always good to come back to Scriptures afresh (although anticipating what is yet to be read to also realise that parts of Scripture never seem that fresh… Leviticus and freshness?).

So just a few reflections. Genesis 1:1-3 and then the clear way in which Pentecost echoes it: wind and speech. The wind can only come from heaven, speech in phase 1 is from God, but in phase 2 from those touched by the Spirit. ‘God spoke’ becomes ‘and they all began to speak…’

God named what he created: ‘God called the dome Sky’ etc.

But in chapter 2 he brings to the human all the animals – ‘to see what s/he would call them; and whatever the human called each living creature that was its name.’

That is quite something indicating the partnering of heaven with earth from the get-go.

Genesis 3 and the expulsion from Eden. Leaving with a perception of being abandonned, but in reality God goes with them. The echoes with the 2 disciples leaving Jerusalem to go to Emmaus again seem clear. (I take it the two were also husband and wife: Mary and Cleopas.) Jesus goes with them in their journey of disappointment. Their eyes are opened, hearts burning to replace the burning swords of exclusion.

Genesis 4 and the response to the first recorded murder. Not an eye for an eye but protection.

Then today reading on the flood. Difficult to be a literalist. I only noticed this time round that the waters covered all the high mountains under the whole heaven to depth of fifteen cubits. Now that would be a FLOOD.

The literature is rich and far too rich to be reduced to literalness.

So the opening days I have enjoyed my readings. Maybe even Leviticus and the later genealogies will be fresh and exciting this year too!!

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