Façades… no singing please!!

I had an email today asking me if the dream I had in 2010 has a relevance to the current time and asking if I would post it publicly. I was sure I had… but if so it must have been some time ago as doing a quick search I could not find it. Given that I think it is highly relevant I thought I would just go ahead and post (maybe again!). I have certainly repeated it often enough that many of you will have heard / read of it. If not here it is and I consider again it to be very timely.

The dream occurred as one of two in 2010. The other was of the balanced see-saw that would come about as the year 2020 arrived. The balanced see-saw does not indicate a reversal but something akin to a level playing field. When integrity and honesty will have the impact it should as the ‘field’ will not be stacked against us. It means getting a right result for the godly input… not the end of conflict but where things can be changed. Game on!!

So to the second of the two dreams.

I was in a town square and stood on one side of it. The opposite side consisted of a series of buildings, side by side. I understood that each building represented the institutions that had shaped the ‘public square’. They represented institutions such as politics, judiciary, business and trade, the church, etc. While I was looking at them – and my gaze never switched elsewhere – something occurred to all of them at the same time. The fronts (the façades) of each building opened up as if on hinges that swung them forward and then up. At this stage anyone who wished could look right inside them. The inner working (what Walter Wink might call the interiority of the powers?) were visible.

My immediate concern was that the buildings would be very unstable and they or at least the façades would fall forward and the people on that side of the square would be in real danger. I decided my responsibility was to shout the warning, to get away from the buildings and come to safety.

Within a few seconds, while I am preparing to shout the warning, I realise that – although defying physical laws – the buildings were not about to topple. They remained open but many people did not even seem to notice what was being exposed. As I then pondered what is happening and what kind of warning is needed, I heard someone to my left begin a Christian song. I do not recall what the song was but it was well-known and there were enough people in the public square that knew it and they one by one began to join in. In a short while the song was audible in the public square and when it reached a certain volume in the same way that the façades had opened so they now closed back down again. As I ponder what I have seen I heard an audible voice from behind me say:

It is the familiar that restores the status quo,
that brings things back to where they were.

Now I knew what the warning was. At a time when there was exposure and the possibility of a whole new level of integrity and honesty it would be the return to the familiar that would short-circuit the exposure, the cleansing (and in my language of now) the reset.

I cleared my throat, took a deep breath. Then opened my mouth and got the following words out: ‘It is the familiar’. As soon as I go those four words out a person from my right came and stood immediately in front of me, about 5 centimetres from my face, eye-balling me to intimidate me. I knew I had to get the warning out, moved to my left and the scene repeated. This happened three times in total, the fourth time I again moved left, filled my lungs ready, I got the words out ‘It is the familiar…’ and as I got to the end of that fourth word the person (spirit) did not confront me but stepped in front to finish the words with ‘that brings things back to normal.’

Close, but a total conversion of what the original was. The warning was gone, the exposure of reverting to the familiar as the enemy in this time was nullified, the problem was no longer the exposure (re-set) but the interruption to normal life.

I have told that dream in many places, and have often had the reaction that ‘but worship is good’, effectively rebuking me! I can defend it as ‘it was a dream’, but I also want to defend it more strongly than that.

One of the most comforting places for Christians to head to (particularly those in the charismatic tradition) is to go to the worship area. I do not deny that it can re-focus us on Jesus and away from ourselves, but it can also re-engage memory in the sense of recapturing a ‘feel-good’ sense. (Memory is one of the biggest hindrances to faith!) It was in that context (OT-wise) that God said he hates the activity the people were up to, activity that was prescribed for them in God’s law. In the same way the fast that God hated (Is. 58) was the fast from food and devotion to prayer to God (!) when at that time God was requiring a fast that was expressed in social justice. [An aside… contextually, the ‘all our righteousness is as filthy rags’ is not a comment that devalues genuine doing of good, but it is referring to ‘all our religious [and we can expand this to be, ‘activity that has been prescribed’] righteousness is as filthy rags’.]

I am glad in the dream it was the singing of a Christian song that was the issue. It hits hard at the issue of familiarity, the resorting to ‘not sure what to do let’s sing’. There is a time for all things, and therefore a time not for some things. The dream spoke strongly that this is a time to engage and not short circuit the process. [And maybe if there are songs to be sung they are the protest songs…, such as the resisteré song that we all join in with at 8.00pm each evening here. And there are plenty of those resistance Scriptures to pull on!]

I am also glad it was a Christian presence that cocked it all up. I strongly believe that the biggest influence on society is supposed to be those who follow Jesus, not through legislation (top-down) but through so shifting the spiritual atmosphere that there is an inhibiting of certain expressions and a fostering of all that is good. [That deserves a whole blog or ten!]

Of course there will be a strong pull to ‘let’s get back to normal’ form those who benefit from normal. So we will see a rise of unemployment and those on the margins will suffer in this Covid-19 season, but at the same time the big monsters that live off the lives of people will prosper beyond belief. They do not want any changes, let all things continue as ‘normal’.

I am glad to read at least of those talking of a ‘new normal’ provided it is not a refreshed view of what we have currently. A new normal has to align more with the kingdom of God (a New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven) than with a Babylon (that rises up from the earth, seeking to make a name for ourselves).

The next two years are critical. Anything that just brings comfort through familiarity has to be put aside. We do not want things closed back down again.

Much more can be said… but at least I now have the dream up, though maybe not for the first time!

Zoom – a new world opens

I have just come off a Zoom call to Singapore… (have you noticed how ‘zoom’ is now a word in our language to sit alongside others like ‘google’?). It was very enriching and I was paid one of the highest compliments, that being that I was apparently ‘so futuristic’. If only!! But it is something to live up to for sure. Coming off the zoom I thought again about Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians. I will quote first in a new translation (ESV, a new but ‘old’ translation, with a tendency to overdo the (overdone) masculine pronouns when not necessary, nor accurate in today’s context, and ‘old’ because of the tendency to lean on comfortable concepts):

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 16-19 ESV, emphasis added).

‘He (sic) is a new creation’.

The NIV reads:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 16-19 NIV, emphasis added).

‘The new creation has come’.

Or to really impress the SBL Greek text:

ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις. τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά.

So that if anyone is in Christ, (a) new creation. The old (things) have passed away, behold the new (things) have come.

The passage is about sight and how we view people, starting with Christ himself. If we see him from a worldly point of view (for Paul the Jewish world view and ‘messiahship’, for us maybe the ‘king of our empire’) we can only go wrong from there. We can never see the world and certainly not others rightly. Hence seeing Jesus rightly means we can never see anyone (and anyone cannot be reduced to ‘believers’) through the fallen-human lens that categorises them. If however, we are seeing Jesus differently, and that is an evolving experience, then everything has changed. Crazily Paul suggests for such people the world as we think of it as existing has passed away. At the cross, God is not reconciled to the world, but vice versa. There was an alignment of the world back to God, to his way of doing things. This is so far out there that it is not surprising that translations make the verse personal, implying the extent of the conversion is that of becoming a new ‘creature’. If the whole world was being reconciled I am reconciled; if the whole world was being made new then I am made new. My personal experience is within the global.

What do we see at this time? In the days of a total antiChrist one-world government system Paul had crazy sight. Maybe we have thought of the great new things that God was doing when we fell to the floor, and the glory was being manifest… but the biblical assessment on that would be ‘ouch that is such small sight’. The Covid-19 virus might just help be a provocation to us to come to an awareness of what we see.

The universal work of God must have a global outworking. These next two years are enormous years for the alignments God is bringing about. There has to be reconciliations because that was the reconciling work of God on the cross that birthed (then) a whole new world. This morning in the zoom call there were some great resonances (though I am sure that they would not endorse all my perspectives… I hope they don’t as I am convinced that God doesn’t endorse all of them!); they reflected back to me in their words something so strong. ‘There are kingdom friendly people who are not believers; and there are Christians who are not kingdom friendly.’

It is time to see, and to see anew. If anyone is in Christ, not simply ‘in Christ’ through ticking the box, but in Christ experientially.

Oh yes… the gospel offends not because of who it excludes, but because of who it includes.

Covid-19 and impact on faith

Our good friend Noe from Calpe sent us a link to this article. It is from Marcos Zapata who both leads a church (in Lugo) and the Evangelical Alliance of Spain. He hosted us, Noe & Loli, and Samuel Rhein a few years back when we began to look at praying into the expulsion of the Muslims. A humble person well respected, including inside a number of government situations, due to the serious impact they are making not just spiritually but socially.

It is a really good read. I wish, for example, I had come up with the following:

The leadership by those who seem alien to suffering will never produce disciples but only admirers. My time of suffering and fighting against the illness has reminded me once again that the Father already sent a Savior—and it is not me.

And Jesus spent time in prayer in order to choose some ‘Admirers’!!!

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/spain-covid-19-coronavirus-survivor-pastor-advice-churches.html

A Catholic Theologian responds to the virus

Tomás Halík is a Jesuit priest, philosopher and theologian based in Prague. He has written a reflective response to the virus here:

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/04/03/christianity-time-sickness

It is a lengthy article but worth the read. I would have liked to put it up in full here but here are a few extracts:

[The church] has a diagnostic role to play (identifying the “signs of the times”), a preventive role (creating an “immune system” in a society in which the malignant viruses of fear, hatred, populism and nationalism are rife) and a convalescent role (overcoming the traumas of the past through forgiveness.

… and then soon things would all return to the way they were. But as time passes, the reality has become clearer: They will not. And it would not turn out well if we tried to make it so. After this global experience, the world will not be the same as it was before, and it probably should not be.

I am not just referring to the coronavirus pandemic, but to the state of our civilization, as revealed in this global phenomenon. In biblical terms, this all-pervasive sickness is a sign of the times.

I cannot help but wonder whether the time of empty and closed churches is not some kind of cautionary vision of what might happen in the fairly near future. This is what it could look like in a few years in a large part of our world. We have had plenty of warning from developments in many countries, where more and more churches, monasteries and priestly seminaries have been emptying and closing. Why have we been ascribing this development for so long to outside influences (the “secularist tsunami”), instead of realizing that another chapter in the history of Christianity is coming to a close, and it is time to prepare for a new one?

Maybe we should accept the present abstinence from religious services and the operation of the church as kairos, as an opportunity to stop and engage in thorough reflection before God and with God.

It looks as if many of our churches will be empty at Easter this year. We will read the Gospel passages about the empty tomb somewhere else. If the emptiness of the churches is reminiscent of the empty tomb, let us not ignore the voice from above: “He is not here. He has risen. He has gone ahead of you to Galilee.”

Speaking of bad moods

Well not really about to write about moodiness and certainly never going to get me to confess to any level of moodiness, but going much higher than that! It is so easy to read of ‘the wrath of God’ and picture a moody out of sorts older person who has just had enough. Grumpy and ready to lash out. Then add to that the picture of the cross and Jesus taking the anger that was coming our way.

We continue to have language such as ‘act of God’ for events that take place that we can’t really find someone to blame. Strong language, but also found to some extent within the pages of Scripture (Old Testament). At least on that there is something of a shift from Old to New. In the Old there is a more primitive view of God (did I write that? Yes and would defend that perspective!) with everything coming from God. We can see a shift within the pages of the Old Testament itself. In Kings God entices David to count the people and then well and truly slaps him down for doing it, whereas in Chronicles ‘Satan’ does the enticing. Amazing how theology can change over a few hundred years! (It could be argued that Satan is invented in the sense of discovered as the revelation of spiritual reality developed. The serpent in the garden = Satan is fundamentally a biblical reading back in to the situation.)

Jesus made comments about the theology of an ‘act of God’ when he referenced the tower that fell causing death.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13: 1-5).

Basically it was one of those things (an accident, or through human error in construction) but it was not judgement. And beyond that he calls for a repentance – probably in this setting calling Jews to follow a way of peace and the ways of God otherwise the future will be one of perishing at the hands of the Romans. (Probably to be read that way rather than ‘eternal perishing’ in this context.)

The current coronavirus is one of those things. Dis-ease is in the world and Scripture clearly puts that at our feet. The falls of creation flow from the fall of humanity.

I am just reading a book that has numerous wonderful insights in it. Two days ago I read a comment on John the Baptist, quoting John’s Gospel that the Baptist ‘was not the Light’. The greatest born of woman, one coming in the spirit and power of Elijah was not the Light. He stood within the Old Covenant era, having opened the door to the new. But where he stood meant he could point toward the Light, but not be the Light. Only Jesus is the Light, that enlightens everyone. Gladly we cannot read the Old Testament unless we read it through the New. God’s revelation is not essentially propositional truth (such ‘truth’ will approximate or point toward the Truth). God’s revelation is incarnational, and John nor any writer was the Light.

So back to the bad mood situation.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness (Rom. 1: 18).

Wrath is clearly referenced – but not wrath against people. Wrath against sin, wickedness. My reading today took me to Isaiah 53, I read again these familiar words:

We considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities (Is. 53:4,5).

We had one viewpoint… probably because ‘we’ saw God primarily as a punisher, but – and there is a wonderful ‘but’ something was taking place that is hard to theologise without distorting who God is, it was ‘for’ us.

‘Sin in the hands of an angry God’ would make a good title for a sermon. God is heaven-bent on destroying all that is destructive, and we need to understand this. Otherwise we can live in fear, from legalism, or conversely be over-familiar with someone we don’t even know.

Yes there are some real hard Scriptures and themes. Maybe we don’t get it right, but we certainly cannot transfer our understanding of (fallen) human emotions on to God.

The lockdown preceding…

‘Saturday’ is a little imposed on the biblical narrative, as is Sunday (resurrection) morning with the day beginning and ending differently than in our Western setups, yet I hope the language is understood. There is considerable debate as to what happened between death and resurrection – did he visit ‘hell’ to preach and to whom? What we do know is that burial was an important part of the Gospel proclamation.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3,4).

The inbetween time waiting for God to act marks this time. On the third day raised:

who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 1:4).

The resurrection inaugurated a whole new beginning, both setting the whole of creation back on track, and on a new track to the future. Nothing can be compared to that. The birth of a whole new world… and yet that new world still awaits the future, but along the way there are birth pangs that point to her arrival, and there is always a call for the people who have received the firstfruits of that era to both be signposts to that future and guides along the way.

It would be shallow to compare the lockdown that many are experiencing globally to the ‘inbetween day’ of Easter, so I will not go there. I simply want to suggest that the ultimate pattern of Easter is the source of our hope.

  • There is a before and an after. The after is not a return to what was before. Continuity is there – the same Jesus who went into the grave, is the Jesus who came out. But by the resurrection he becomes a ‘life-giving Spirit’.
  • Resurrection is an act of God, not an act of human will. To restore back something back to where it was might be possible through human will, but to lift it to a new level of life is beyond our ability. In Hong Kong there is some graffiti that reads: “There can be no return to normal because normal was the problem in the first place.” (‘Normal’ and whether it is a problem depends so much on where one stands in the pecking order of benefits!)
  • Henry Kissinger (former US secretary of state under Richard Nixon) has said that rulers must prepare now to transition to a post-coronavirus world order. We might not be rulers (as if!!) but as believers we are to herald a new day, indeed Paul suggests that our sight has to be of a ‘whole new creation’ and therefore our whole sight is different.

We will ride the storm of the coronavirus. There will be inevitable flare ups in the autumn / Fall season, but generally the globe will survive and the virus can be spoken of as a past event, but… this shutdown is not limited to a Saturday nor to the early/mid months of 2020. And let me change the language of ‘shutdown’ for a mo – this time of preparation, of ‘re-set’. We have just over 2 years of ‘re-set’. For I consider a far greater crisis will be here in 2022, not a virus but a combination of events / circumstances that together will present our world with a crisis of significant proportions.

There are three words interlocked in Scripture:

  • Glory
  • Suffering and the middle word
  • Time

The path (time) to glory is pain! How we respond en route is the challenge. The resurrection is the demonstration that Jesus was indeed faithful to the path and vision.

We are embarking on a pathway, one we have not walked on before, or not at this level of intensity and focus. The next two years for some will be ‘returned to normal’ and with a big ‘thank God’… for others it will be ‘cannot settle back to what has been called normal’, waiting and listening.

The reset is both a ‘reboot’ for the systems that have become totally locked up, a reset that at times our computers and devices need when the operating system cannot handle what has been loaded on to them… and a reset, being set again in the position where the Lord has for us, set with values from heaven.

I hear the sound of the silence contained in that phrase ‘and was buried’.

Easter comes

I love Easter time as it is such a good time to reflect. What a wonderfully ‘crazy’ message we have. The glory of God revealed in death… the end of an era, the answering to the confusions (that are present) within Scripture about violence, war and the like; the beginning of a new era and a whole new paradigm. No longer can life be defined by ‘being alive’ but by becoming a ‘life-giver’.

The current shut-downs offer such an opportunity. The sin of Israel of losing sight of the reason for her existence can so easily creep up on us. Easter puts down a marker that the way of life is to lay down one’s life for the sake of others. It is the denial of ‘me / church / *** first’.

I understand the shift of services to online, but Easter means we cannot make personal survival as the personal goal. It is very hard to make a ‘*** first’ and genuinely let let flow out to others. Once we declare ‘first’, words such as ‘second’, ‘third’ become all-but meaningless. Thanks be to heaven that Jesus did not enter Jerusalem with a ‘Jesus first’ approach, other than a ‘Jesus first to the cross on behalf of others’.

In the forced shifts I suggest so many aspects can be re-assessed. A reconnection with body of Christ (and in the light of Easter what an incredible analogy) as royal priesthood. If we are going to see the dehumanising (and therefore the work of demons) nationalistic ethno-centric voice of ‘*** first’, this reset gives us all a major opportunity to partner with the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

Footnote: I use ‘*** first’ simply because we can miss it if we narrow down and name it with replacing the name of a country. Always easy to narrow things down so as we are excluded – life is never (thankfully) that easy.

Optimistic disruption

At the beginning of the year we either intensely or with some measure of focus pray regarding the coming year. This year we had paper on the floor, separate and together. Certain aspects gave us a personal context, particularly the beginning of our 12th year in Spain and a shift to Madrid as our main base. One aspect became very clear very quickly. This would be a very different year and one that would not be easy to plan. It would be a year of disruption.

Little did we know! A year of disruption – somewhat of an understatement! We have just finished 3 weeks of total isolation, other than 5 visits to the supermarket (and only 1 person per trip allowed, and to the nearest supermarket or a possible fine; and the glorious freedom of taking the rubbish to the communal bin – an all-of 40 metre round trip). And the lockdown is not going to end in the next few weeks, so straight away we will have been away from our Madrid apartment for at least a quarter of the year, and it could well prove to be much more than that. When we finally look back on 2020 I am sure it will be seen as the year of disruption.

What comes out of this year is so unknown, and for those who have to take huge decisions daily in response to the immediate knowing that such responses can set things in motion for years to come, grace and wisdom to them. [An aside here in Spain the press either covers favourably or with hostile reaction the response and how it differs from 2008. Then the bail outs were for the banks, the big institutions. This time round it is people-first. It has even been described (hostilely) as a damaging ideology of protecting the most vulnerable! Needless to say we are delighted.] Economy or people first… as I have often commented Jesus nailed that one very early on and it was part of the cross narrative. If it is not part of the narrative there is no resurrection, and at this time we need a resurrection not a resuscitation, nor a restoration.

Years ago I read an excellent book on Pentecost and it described it as an ‘irruption’ of God. This disruption – and in no way do I want to minimise it – can become a holy irruption. I think the path to the irruption is the important part. ‘Stay in Jerusalem until…’ was an essential part of the instructions to the 120. They were holed up, locked in, but found a purpose in the lockdown. Pentecost was a once off, but there are times in history that mark a season where there is a very significant echo from the sound of a previous era. And Pentecost – like creation for the language of Acts 2 echoes that of Genesis 1 – was a sound, a sound from heaven, that was responded to that then caused a subsequent attraction to that sound.

Personal and also corporate journeys are important… until. Personal – for many of us the ‘other side’ cannot be business as usual. It will be different. Corporate – hope those who tune in to the streaming of their favourite church service are enjoying it… but if we are parking things on the internet until ‘normal service is restored’ I don’t think we will find this disruption becoming an irruption of heaven. What can change surely needs to be one of the questions now being explored. How much can it change… There are opportunities for those who think outside the box during and post this disruption. At the economic realm if one believes in the invisible hand of the market one of the big shifts (and I should probably spell that without an ‘f’ in the word) is already the world of internet pornography. Difficult to oppose that development if one bows at the feet of the market… so surely we can do much better than that.

There is a corporate journey(s) at the global level. The way things are going in some places (and have been going for some time) is the increasing shutting down of the voice of the opposition, or the voice from perspectives that hold to account. The language of ‘fake media’ has paved the way for dictatorships that mark the end of an era; and in the case of Hungary already the possibility of imprisonment is aimed at the press. The shutting of borders and the ‘xxx first’ calls far from shutting down globalism is playing right into it. Where is the aid coming from for Europe? Where are the masks being flown in from for the USA? So maybe I should talk of three paths, a continual globalisation, a nationalistic ‘me-first’, and maybe one that is a fresh expression of serving humanity. Time will tell but if for now I write of two paths that are going to open up I am reminded of a certain Jewish figure who spoke of two paths in the context of political, economic and global turmoil. Two paths globally. I suspect two paths for the body of Christ, and again the same issues. Shaped institutionally, economically and survival-first. Or shaped by the release of those who have encountered the Spirit whose womb is where the new world springs from. [An aside, another aspect of the feminine of God is the Incarnation. It is no crude picture of the divine having intercourse with the young girl, Mary, but that both the womb of the young woman and the womb of the divine is where the new life begins – much seed thought there. This is also why I do not look to Mary to be the figure of the feminine of God but to the Spirit. Also with the three paths above on the global scene, two of them are driven from a patriarchial base – for sure we have seen misogyny as one of the core principalities being confronted in this extended season. Males cannot provide the ‘benign’ context… humanity is required for that to take place.]

For this disruption to become an irruption for the church, we have to shift from the concept that ‘the church is the body of Christ’ to ‘the body of Christ is the church’. That paradigm shift is almost as big as shifting from creating Jesus in the image of the God we want, to seeing God in the image of Jesus and discovering the God who can truly set us free. What if we applied the (paraphrased) words of Jesus – you will only know who this God is you talk about if you know me… what if we applied that also along these lines – you will only know what the church is when the body of Christ is manifest. A holy irruption is possible, but we have to move beyond parking things until!

So the beginning of the year indicated the difficulty in predicting and planning what would come, but here we are in the ‘waiting until’ phase. The forced disruption can be the doorway to the holy irruption.

The tallest mountain?

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. (Isaiah 2).

Back in the day this was one of the proof texts that God would raise up the church in all her perfection and the peoples would stream in, hence restore the church to the biblical pattern and hey ho off we all go. And look – there it is ‘in the last days’. A nice one to tuck in to the armoury to show that restoration was the pattern – and how important we are!

Now with teaching on ‘x mountains of influence’ it becomes a Scripture to show the exaltation of the church mountain. (Mountains of influence being a ‘restorationism on steroids’, with a vision for the reconstructionism of the whole of society, sadly with an inevitable nationalism embedded within it.)

To push the Scripture to the millennium could at least make sense, but that whole system likewise is embedded in a nationalism (Jewish) that the opening pages, and all the ensuing pages, of the New Testament seem to put a very strong road block to journeying in that direction.

A few verses – and only a few – later we read that

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

It is interesting that for those who take the ‘in the last days the church…’ approach these verses don’t really feature… and when the reconstruction-type teaching is strongly propagated from the nation that has the most weapons of mass destruction, it kinda leaves a gap for me that I think would need one of the most creative bridges to cross!

No I don’t think there is going to be a ‘tallest mountain’, particularly when Jesus came to bring the mountains down.

Small and diverse

Let me start with a quote (as far as I am aware it is one of the few original ones I came up, but I am sure I have been inlfuenced from somewhere else / borrowed it or simply knicked it…)

The future is the multiplicity of the small and the richness of diversity.

The next big thing that God is doing… this year is the year of the breakthrough… or such pronouncements might just take place, but I suggest if it does we will either be disappointed or we will be very much settling for second-(or third-…) best. I do not think we should be looking for the next big thing, and indeed I do not think God wants to give us anything that might be labelled the new big thing.

The early church grew at a rate of 10% per decade. Not exactly too dramatic. Numbers never were the focus. Paul writing to the church in Corinth some 8 or so years after it had started never prayed that their numbers would increase, simply that their faith would, and if that happened they would no longer need his input. It seemed he thought that a church that could meet in one home in the city (want to estimate the numbers?) was enough to change city of some 250,000 people that was anything but a well-behaved city. (To act as a Corinthian was an insult that could be used to chastise someone for their behaviour.)

We want numbers for after all numbers have a voice all of their own. True but what kind of voice?

I have had the privilege these past few days of connecting cyber space wise with people who have a vision to see a billion people impacted in the next 10 years, to change culture through the presence of Jesus… from the bottom up. So encouraging cos like everyone else I am in touch with so few people. Maybe there is something going on that is at a deep bottom up, hidden level that could change the world we live in. So in spite of my annoyance at certain things that seem to shift in the wrong direction I need to make sure I invest more into what can rise than what needs to be restricted – and both are essential consequences of salt being salt.

Maybe though the biggest hindrance to what now needs to arise is that incessant desire for the big and powerful that can bring everything in its path to submission.

The multiplicity of the small – and so much of it will be ever so small. And the richness of diversity for surely there should be some kind of Scripture that suggests that the body is anything but uniform, that the eye cannot say…

I have been privileged to make some of the connections I have, but more importantly I need to have a peek at what little I have to contribute and get on with that. Maybe that is what God is asking of me. Could just be that old question of ‘what do you have in your hand’, ‘what do you have in your house’.

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