Nice one Michael

Michael Heseltine, the 86 year old ex-Deputy Prime minister, as a pro-European (project) writes a passionate article in the Guardian. He bemoans that:

£350m a week for the NHS has become a £39bn severance cost to leave the EU, every penny of it to be borrowed by the current political generation, but to be repaid by the young people coming after them.

And pulling on one of the central desires for the EU to continue he writes:

Now, I look back over the years: 70 years of peace in Europe, 50 years of partnership between the UK and the rest of the EU. The fascists have gone from Spain and Portugal, the colonels from Greece. Now we have 28 democracies working together on a basis of shared sovereignty, achieving far in excess of what any one of us could individually. Never forget that it was the memories of Europe’s war that laid the foundations of the European Union today.

Enough of Michael for now, as I need to recover a little never having quoted someone from those political persuasions for some time! I have been, and remain, hopeful that somehow in the Brexit mess there can be some sort of reformation of the EU. Maybe this is hypocritical of me as I (in theory) see a Jubilee principle of tear it all back down otherwise we simply give a mandate to the Babylonian tower building that promises to make us great (again). So in my hope that there might even yet be a reversal of the Brexit (personal hope) I realise that my bigger hope for Europe might only come through what could well be a much larger collapse.

There are tensions we live with. Once we know what we believe we are responsible for we look for signs that indicate the direction we are moving in is right. We look to make sure certain things do not happen on ‘our watch’. I look at certain things in Spain where there are huge potential backward steps and at times am mentally preparing an apology speech. That is very genuine – and one of the reasons I am typing in the night hours this post – and yet I realise that God is not finished when I want to resign!

I am of the opinion that we should be able to hold certain things back, and in that sense am very happy to accept failure, for after all failure is not all it is cracked up to be, and certainly comes nowhere close to being at the same level as the sin of prideful success. Yet if we ‘fail’ it is certainly helpful to acknowledge that and to re-align oneself to whatever God is doing. He does not abandon passions like I can!

Indeed it could be argued that failure was one of the best gifts God dished out!

Map of Concentration camps in Spain

In Spain we have rejoiced in the government passing the rule that they will exhume Franco from the Valley of the Fallen. Another sign of dealing with the past, and recently a book has just been published documenting the 296 concentration camps in Spain, active post-Civil war, for those who were not pro-Franco. We watched last night a 99 year old man with such a sweet spirit who had been within one of those camps from age 19. Great signs of uncovering and bringing things to the light. We also watched one of the main party leaders who has a good chance of taking the reigns post-April 28 say that if that takes place and they win that they will ensure that Franco’s remains are not removed. If that happens my hands will be up in apology. We will have failed. But God will still be active, and some failure is only to show us we have to go deeper.

So much is taking place in Europe. Heseltine writes that the Fascists have gone from Spain. ‘Ojala!’ But Michael there is such a rapid rising of that in Spain and elsewhere and Steve Bannon who is active in Europe comments on the rise of Vox noting that not only have they become visible but have shifted the other parties that claim the ‘centre-right’. They have had to change their language and position, in other words they have shifted to the right appealing to the popular vote. They have adopted language (and policies?) that echo language and policies that former Fascists would resonate with.

Vox, I am sure is pulling in the Christian vote and support, the language of ‘family values’ and ‘anti-abortion’ seems to be enough at times to ensure that. But the policies of automatic expulsion of all those who are illegal immigrants, with anyone entering the country never being eligible for papers; the right of citizens to bear arms; certain parties being made illegal! What kind of country develops from soil that is tilled in that way?

The Brexit. We should have been 3 days away from the big leave, but as the debates continue who knows where it will end. There are crises all around and even if the ‘B’ word is sorted out it will not herald the end of crisis. Surely that is one of the primary reasons for the church to be present – salt hindering evil growth and promoting good growth. And if it all ends badly it is not the end. We will be able to find a God of hope amidst the dust of death.

Keeping alert on the watch is important. There is no ‘ideal’ we are aiming for, but there are directions we are pushing for. It is great to know – and a very important hermeneutic – that the law never claimed to get it right. The laws were helpful pointers in the direction to go. The law could be summed up in ‘love’, but the full set of laws could not spell ‘love’. Only the deep incarnational commitment of God can ever spell ‘love’. Love for God and for neighbour was Jesus summary. The incarnation closes the gap between God and neighbour, for God moved into the neighbourhood. Further the NT refuses to credit to us a love for God when we do not love our neighbour, and when neighbourly connections are redefined along the Jew – Samaritan divide we are truly challenged. So if I am to love God with all heart, soul, mind and strength there really must be a very big horizontal pull on me. And that horizontal pull also calls for a watchfulness.

Who will I vote for?

April 28th fresh elections in Spain for the national government. I do not have to make a choice as to who I vote for as I am not a Spanish citizen, but when it comes to elections choosing where to place one’s ‘x’ is a challenge. If the circus of the Brexit gridlock is anything to go by we are again, in some measure, seeing the façade being raised and the weakness of democracy as we have it being exposed. As I have on numerous occasions written what functions in part is simply the democratic system, a system that falls well short of democracy. Democracy is often in name only as it is so difficult to put in place. For example, Gayle is a member of a political party in Spain who seek to work democratically. If a post comes up to be filled résumées of the various possible candidates are sent to the members. I applaud the process, but who can read through dozens of such résumées, sift through them and make a fully intelligent response? The alternative is a decision made from the centre and down.

I have had some Skypes of late where the response has been so positive about what has taken place politically in their nation, but the elected candidate’s policies, for me, would be substantially in such a different direction to how I would understand an outworking of the Gospel in society. In Spain we have the rise of a party that has pulled in some level of Christian support, probably because of their stance on abortion. The same party has publicly said the greatest achievement for women is motherhood. I am not decrying parenthood nor motherhood but that is in direct conflict with the values of Jesus.

(For a link to an excellent article on the state of politics in Spain, the reason why an anti-Catalan stance pulls in votes, the situation with the new party (VOX) that I mention above, the situation in the current post-Franco era, etc., the Observer / Guardian carried an excellent article yesterday:

Franco’s shadow: reburial battle sees Spain confront its darkest days

A great revelation is about to follow: there is no perfect party! The answers are not held in the ‘right’ nor in the ‘left’. We might lean one way or the other, and of course we are ultimately looking to see a change of heart so that society is marked by healthy relationships. Yet there is something more that we have to push for. If the church carries responsibility for the society where it is placed it becomes our responsibility to hold a shape in which certain values can grow and others are restricted. Societal change is the barometer to measure the extent to which spiritual change has taken place. If the church lives with making a name for itself we should not be surprised if society cannot step beyond that level.

Prayer… intercession in the fuller sense of not simply prayer but in becoming that intersection between heaven and earth. Planted for the society and shaped by heaven’s values of love, justice and freedom. If the church is just a waiting room to keep people clean for the exit we will be guilty of denying the incarnation, the very means by which God’s glory came to earth. If the glory of God does not enter our society we might still have great gatherings… but to what purpose?

We cannot vote on April 28th. And for those who can vote who to vote for is indeed problematic. (Indeed a calculated non-vote can also be a vote if it is a considered choice.) We can however stand, and in reading the Guardian article I hope you understand our measure of distress. We alone cannot change things, people always have choice… but on our watch? We would be happier with seeing something change here for the sake of Europe than having to dig out an apology for what has grown up and is threatening the space of freedom, dignity and love.

However we are taught when there are shakings that it is a marker of time that something can enter our world that cannot be shaken. I despair some days when I watch the Brexit proceedings, the rise of Fascism in Spain and Europe, the shutting of borders and the rise of nationalism to unhealthy levels. But I must daily rise above despair and participate in the maintaining of a shape that will change the articles that are written in our newspapers.

Dream resource

Dreams are a very common occurrence in the narratives of Scripture and play a key part in releasing understanding and revelation. They have proved to be so for Gayle and I on different key occasions, helping us navigate our way through situations and giving clear guidance to what we should be looking for. There are books that can give us some understanding about the world of dreams and how to interpret them, and it is always great to learn from those who have familiarised themselves with the Scriptural and practical side of dreams. I have known Rachel Harris for 20+ years and she has had a passion that we might learn how to harness the power of dreams so that we might be better equipped in our walk with the Lord. She now has a site already up and running, and as it develops will be a great resource to go to on a regular basis. Click on the image and it will take you to the site:

Rachel is both visionary and practical – a great combination! She writes:

Through my site, I will show you how you can start to understand the power of your own dreams and introduce you to ways of starting your journey with dreaming.
In my blog articles, I’ll show you a behind the scenes view of how I use dream interpretation to help people understand the messages and visions they receive…

Catalans in Madrid

Supreme Court, Madrid

Yesterday Gayle and I were out and about. First a visit to the Supreme Court, though the security is high and we were unable to get right to the building. It has been this way ever since the beginning of the trial of 12 Catalans for their role in the ‘illegal’ referendum concerning independence. We have been there before on two separate occasions and were there to pray into two aspects – the trial and also the delay on the removal of Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen. A June date has been set for the latter but there still is an appeal lodged in the Supreme Court. The judiciary has been a focus for us as it is vital a judiciary is not bought nor controlled by a political wing, and here in Spain there is long way to go on that issue.

Of course I have an opinion on Catalan independence but being neither Spanish nor living in the Catalan comunidad it has to remain as an opinion without weight. Our huge respect is for those who are seeking to be a bridge and call for open dialogue. The experience of those who are bridges is they are then trodden on from both sides, that being what a bridge offers. To help us pray Michael Schiffmann sent us some direction that we had to release three groups of people so that what needs to take place will flow in a healthy direction. (This is a joy to us. For those following these posts will realise that our theology is that the church has the responsibility to ensure that the shape in which things can be expressed in society is a healthy space where hostile powers have limited access. This does not mean only good things will happen – free will see to that! – but it does ensure a healthy space.)

The three groups at this time we see, and this will have a wider application than just Spain are: women, students and pensioners. This is a day for women… and again I have to be careful what I write for obvious reasons. I am slowly becoming aware that ignorant pontificating is not wise! Let me simply say women when embodying the feminine aspects of God; students, whether in formal education or not, but who are seeking to learn about their world and how to pull for the future; and pensioners, who in Spain have lived through and seen so much; those three groups are vital – and I think in that order. Those three we called for and for the Supreme Court to hear the threefold testimony of wisdom calling out from the street.

From the Supreme Court we dropped in a cafe and found ourselves sitting among a group of right wing extremists. Not our normal habitat, but both in need of a toilet and a refreshment having been out for a while already this was the place where we happened to drop in! Dressed in semi-militaristic style clothing the atmosphere was interesting to say the least. Then we went and stood in and by the Catalan demonstration. Incredibly moving as the songs were sung and banners that appealed for justice for the non-violent prisoners facing up to 25 years for rebellion and insurrection in organising the referendum.

Crowd in both direction beyond what the eye could see
The Poster is asking for the political prisoners to be released

The demonstration itself, brave as it was with many from Cataluña in the capital, might not move things forward. It might even push people further away. We certainly saw some blatant antagonism to the march, including a very well dressed older woman walking the other way to the marchers and giving them the finger while sneering at them. The march itself had people of all ages and estimates of numbers vary, but I would suggest in excess of 50,000 and perhaps as many as 80,000. It might not make a difference but we were both so happy to stand in it and get a feel for it. The card in the image that follows was given to us by an older woman (pensioner?) and the spirit of it embodied in the last words ‘a hug’ is what is needed from and to all ‘sides’.

The text written in Castellano and not Catalan says:

Hello friends. We invite you to know Cataluña and Catalans with your own eyes. I am sure that many prejudices will drop away and you will discover that the majority is not what you have believed. You will be well received. An embrace.

Quirky Theology

OK if someone else had said that about my theology I would really take exception to it as it is ever so hard for me to think when I have been in any way quirky… and to imagine that I have ever got something wrong? But as I have put the title up there myself I must find a way of being happy with it and justifying that quirky does not mean wrong! OK one meaningless paragraph is probably enough per post so moving on quickly…

There are some quirks of practice in Scripture that really stretches theological understanding. Such as Jacob and his streaky wood seemingly determining the outcome of the DNA of the animals born. Just strange, yet that action provoked me to do something (a little more sensible) and it opened up some new relationships almost immediately. So my suggestion for today is that:

  • often in strategic prayer there will be a manifestation of what we are praying for in our personal circumstances.
  • The benefit of which is it gives us a leverage point to shift things both personally and strategically.
  • We can get a breakthrough personally but miss the bigger issue – and vice-versa.
  • Or by the grace of God get both issues to shift.
  • (The downside is it can be a real pain in the proverbials.)

I could give many examples of this but will restrict myself to one. Before that a couple of biblical backdrops. Jesus entering the wilderness for 40 days is essentially a re-visiting of the 40 years of the people in the desert. His meditations are from the Scriptures related to that period of time. This illustrates the immense leverage effect: 40 days to undo 40 years. Ezekiel is both instructed to build a model and then to lie down a day for each year of corporate sin:

Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the people of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side.I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel.

After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the people of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year (Ezek. 4:4-7).

It is not unusual for prophetic intercession to involve symbolism. In Scripture symbolism accomplishes two things:

  • It points to the reality, and (more importantly)
  • it draws the reality (or the solution to the problem) to itself.

OK the example. Toward the end of 2013 I ruptured a disc in my back, resulting in a significant loss of mobility and pain, the most focused and extreme of which was in my right ankle. We tackled the issue in prayer and before long began to sense that the physical issue was in part a reflection of what needed re-alignment in Spain. We also then began to pray for a re-alignment of the spine of Spain. This went on in this way for the next 2 months, without too much of a shift in my lower back issue. Then in the following month I woke with a waking vision (these seem very important and are easy to miss) of a man lying on his back across Spain. I printed off a map from google maps and drew the man on the map where I saw him lying. I was shocked – his right ankle was exactly over where we were living, the problem disc was exactly over Madrid. There were many other key aspects such as where his head was (the place where new thinking was to come from), where his right and left arms were placed. We have acted on the vision and travelled to those places.

The vision gave insight beyond straightening the spine of the nation. The source of pain was from the centre, the pain might be found in the extremities but the change had to take place in the centre. This has further fuelled our move to Madrid and prayers for the judiciary and politics (in particular).

We then could notice the parallels between my physical experience and the shape of the land. For example, the moment (and I mean moment) that the Madrid central government announced that the referendum in Cataluña was illegal my back went out once again – I was not moving but simply sitting upright in a chair at the time. Freaky… quirky theology!

This battle continued until… I hesitate to write this as ‘solutions’ often become laws rather than ‘we heard God and did this in response’. This is one of our challenges with Scripture. Do we walk 7 times round an area because we heard God or because we know the Jericho story? Anyway hesitation over. We understood there was now a time for a change. My back no longer to mirror Spain, but Spain my back. That is the leverage point in these symbolic (signorific) scenarios. How do you change the alignment in something larger? God will give a leverage point close to home.

I also did one more thing. I had a compass tattooed on my back over the disc that was the problem (Madrid) and an arrow on my spine saying ‘true north’. (To lose one’s way in Spanish is ‘perdir el norte’ – to lose north.) Does that make a difference? Well if Jacob can use wood artistically I am up for a little quirk here and there.

My encouragement then is not to try to see everything as a sign, but to be open to that possibility. If it is a sign seek to go for both issues – the personal and the corporate that you are connected to. And if you get neither breakthrough all alignment to heaven has value, not simply when we get the outcome we are looking for. And in those kind of alignments the leverage effect shifts more than we realise.

Come in

I am not sure that any of us fully grasp and understand the work of angels. If God by the Spirit is present everywhere why do we ‘need’ angels? Yet Scripture is full of references to angels, their interaction with people and they are presented like us as fellow servants of God. They carry out important missions for God and for us. From personal experience there is always a difference that is tangibly felt when angels are explicitly present. Their arrival often brings about a rapid shift in the atmosphere. When we had our offer on a third possible apartment in Oliva the owner had told us not even to talk with him. The estate agent said that in 14 years of working the area he had never experienced the negative reaction we were receiving on this and on a previous property. He suggested we were attracting it! I replied with that could well be possible, but stick with us and it will come through. Nothing changed until the day we sensed we were to connect with the angel of Cádiz, whom we understood was called Gadir (one of the ancient names for the city). We did so and as we left the location within the hour the phone rang and the estate agent’s opening words were “I don’t know what’s happened but the owner has just contacted me to say ‘tell them they can have the apartment'”. Maybe it would have happened anyway… that is so often the way with God. He leaves us to decide whether it was a maybe or we make the connection and learn something from the experience. An important part of connecting with the angelic seems to be location. We went to a specific place in the city to connect on that occasion and we also returned there just a few weeks ago again to renew the connection over another task.

Location, and often location that is liminal, is key. Jacob encountered angels when leaving and when entering land. Boundaries are always important. Another aspect that is very key is that of hospitality.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).

This seems to be a reflection of Abraham who welcomed strangers into his home to discover later that the visitors were in fact angels. The opening of our home might lead to the visitors being angels, or there is an opening for angels as a result of hospitality. (I appreciate that it might not be possible to open one’s home for a variety of reasons, but generosity of heart to the ‘stranger’ is always possible.)

We do not have to understand why God uses angels when our theology suggests God could just do what needs doing, but if this is God’s chosen way we would be wise to just tag along for the ride. (Maybe also this might just highlight that our theology is somewhat off at this point?) The outworking of angelic manifestions might not be directly experienced by us but was brought about through us for angels do not just come for us to give us a nice feeling or a testimony, but work for those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1: 14). In Acts Peter has a confusing open vision but Cornelius gets the angelic visitation and explanation. Interestingly this happens through a home that has been opened for hospitality.

There are times, I suggest, when angels manifest themselves to people in human form. I have testimonies from people who have come to a place for the first time to be told ‘great to see you again‘ and to be shown the gift they left behind the previous time they were there. Fellow servants. Hospitality and generosity of heart unlocks the work of angels.

So many principles… what if a country opens its doors to strangers? What if a country were to close its doors?

Time for generosity I think.

So which is it?

Oliva – Madrid – Cadiz – Malaga – Oliva and Wednesday back to Madrid. 2000kms in the last few days. Our time in Malaga was very enriching, connecting with a small group of artists from across Spain. It was stimulating and great to be with people who were not pushing themselves forward. If egos were present they were pretty hidden! It was also a great privilege to meet in Spain with David and Karen Underwood. I first met them 42 years ago. We have connected from time to time over the years since and to see how they have invested into Spain and into this arts group was great. (David is far right in the photo and Karen next to Gayle. Vicente and Amor, the other couple in the photo, live in Barcelona and were two among a number we connected with.)

While at the gathering a Scripture was quoted that if ‘you are not with me you are against me’. I said that there was a Scripture that said that and also one that said the opposite, both from Jesus. I had never looked at them before at any depth but was provoked to find them now that we have a few hours at home. Here are the two:

“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9: 49,50).

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Luke 11:23).

It is great when we find contradictory statements in Scripture (another example from the book full of wisdom: answer a fool according to his folly… do not answer a fool according to his folly…). Contradictory statements challenge us about being so sure as to what is the right approach. What interested me in both these Scriptures was not simply the context but that both were related to demons being cast out. The first being of a, I suppose, Jewish exorcist using the name of Jesus to cast out demons. We assume successfully unlike the scenario in Ephesus with the sons of Sceva. The second passage is against the backdrop of Jesus casting out a demon and some responding that he did so by being aligned to Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons (11:15).

Both passages are about bringing deliverance and freedom to someone. The first passage concerns a person who was ‘not one of us’ but Jesus declares that such a person is ‘for you’. Jesus clearly came to destroy the work of demons and to set people free from their rule. Those who opposed that liberating work aligned themselves against him and it was those people that Jesus said were against him.

There seems then to be a principle here. Those who are working for and desiring a future where people find freedom from oppression, from powers that dehumanise, regardless of what faith boxes they tick are ‘for’ us. We should not try to ‘stop’ them nor see them as ‘not one of us’. Those who oppose liberation? They are not with Jesus. And what if they tick the right faith boxes?

One of the wonderful aspects of the days in Malaga with the arts group was that it was Jesus-based but not all those there had faith. They were open about that. There was clarity but no coercion. We were rightly provoked by all we saw and heard and have come home enriched because in and through it all Jesus was so present.

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