Sickness in the forest

Delighted to have this post by Joanna Storie. With her husband, Ian, she lives in Latvia. Living on the edge would be an understatement! Working the land, raising Alpacas (along with other animals) and at the final stages of her PhD studies… A contributor at https://dispatcheseurope.com/ and with her own regular blog at: http://thejourneytosomewhere.blogspot.com/. Read on!


I have really valued Martin’s prophecy regarding the facades coming down. I have done plenty of research over the last seven years of my life towards a PhD looking at rural communities and the challenges they face. It has revealed plenty of facades that need to come down. In these chaotic times with the Covid19 virus showing us how vulnerable our capitalistic system is, yes even in China, it is tempting to sing the songs that would help to take us back to normality. “Jesus we need you”, “Jesus be our healer” types etc. I understand why people would want to sing them, so why are they wrong? Or even are they wrong? If it makes the facades go back up, then they are. There has to be a change, but change can be scary.

So, what should we be singing and what should our focus be? How can we see this in context? Jesus focussed songs are great and there are times for them, but right now we need to be seeing the world through Jesus’ eyes. We need to see the work of the Father in our midst and get on board with that. If it means bringing down those facades, we had better make sure we are behind that and keep them down. I think it is helpful to view these changes in context. The facades are only a part of life, there is a whole world out there beyond the facades, even if like a city they dominate the landscape.

I read a lot of material put out by the Stockholm Resilience Centre (an international research centre on resilience and sustainability science) and in a recent article they suggested we should view life like a forest, where change is ongoing, but it is still a forest. They suggest that viewing things as unchangeable is not helpful as it lacks the dynamic capability to react and change. When a forest is sick, the sick trees need to be removed to give the healthy ones a chance. It is still a forest. Even if the whole forest is cut down or burnt, it is still likely to be a forest as it regenerates and grows again from the seed sown in the ashes. Even in a healthy forest, trees will die and create space for new growth, it is still a forest. The forest is in a continual state of change and yet it is still a forest.

The West’s addiction to capitalism is a sickness in our forest. The love of money, the greed it generates, the need to continually feed it and have ever lasting growth without putting anything back. It is killing life on earth. We have to remove the sickness, but in doing so it gives space for something new to grow. We don’t need one model, the perfect model, that’s a plantation and that is neither diverse nor resilient. We need the eyes of Jesus to see what the gardener is doing in our part of the forest and get alongside him and help. We are the arms, the feet of Jesus. Let us have the eyes to see what we need to do and where we need to go. Let’s bring those facades down or leave them down and let the light in to allow growth. Let your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven. What is the gardener doing in your part of the forest? What is he clearing away and what is he planting? Make sure you are not pulling up new growth that he has planted.

If you are interested in the original article that started my musings, it can be found here

(https://www.stockholmresilience.org/5.55ead82716e7faa929d1987.html)

Sacred space – where?

The ‘Holy Place’, the ‘Holy Land’. Well known phrases but ones that should not go unchallenged. There is an interesting early church servant called Stephen. Acts 6 says of him:

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 

His wisdom did not go down to well with Jews of Cyrene, Alexandria, and those from the provinces of Cilicia and Asia (Acts 6:9) who arranged for false accusations to be made. I consider that one of the marks of jealousy (root: fear of losing one’s place) is to spread rumours and allow half-truths to remain unchallenged. The end result was that he was brought before the Sanhedrin.

His speech is most interesting. Faced with the accusation that he was claiming that Jesus would destroy the Temple and change the customs of Moses, he embarks on a history lesson. A story well recited by all present, but leading somewhere. Let me pull a few things out, before we get to the point being driven home that he was addressing a

stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

Throughout the speech there are geographical references, and they are references to where God was at work. We have

  • God appeared to Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia (7:2)
  • Later, though with the promise of the land, Abraham did not have even enough ground to put his foot on (7:5).
  • God was with Joseph in Egypt (7:9), paving the way for the people to live in Egypt.
  • Bodies were brought back to be buried (7:16), but to Shechem now located in the despised territory of the Samaritans!
  • Along comes Moses educated in all the wisdom of Egypt (7:22).
  • It was in Midian in the desert near Mount Sinai (7:30) that the burning bush took place. A place described by God as holy, yet an unknown place that could not be revisited as a shrine. A mobile location.
  • Moses led them out and “in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert” (7:36) miraculous wonders were performed.

Startling references to where God was at work – outside Israel, outside the so-called holy land. Very reminiscent of Jesus’ reflections in his home town (Lk. 4) of where (outside Israel) and to whom (non-Jews) God was active! This backdrop sets Stephen up to push the point home. He goes for the Temple.

The Most High does not live in houses made by human hands (7:48).

By contrast the Tabernacle cut across ancient and modern views of sacred space. Shrines and temples are almost invariably built around a theophany, a space considered sacred, the Tabernacle though was mobile. The sacredness had to do with the “pattern he [Moses] had seen” (7.44) and the teaching value that resulted, not with its location.

The end result was two-fold: first the vision Stephen had of the Son of Man at the right of God, surely a clear reference to the Son of Man who came to the Ancient of Days on the clouds of heaven (Dan. 7; hence I do not read that as a reference to the ‘second coming’ of Jesus, and certainly not when Jesus spoke of the sign of the reality being visible to that generation.). The Son of Man (Jesus) was given the authority and the kingdom. Holy space is where there is an opening for Jesus, not a building designated as a sanctuary. The sanctuaries of God are to be planted throughout the earth.

The second ramification of Stephen’s speech was that Stephen was dragged out of the city and stoned.

The ongoing ramification? Cloaks were laid at the approving feet of Paul. But later the mantle of Stephen would rest on him. The persecutor of the ‘Stephens’ became the one who no longer built his security around his ethnic nor geographical identity, and became as radical as Stephen was. And for us? Defend sacred space or become vehicles that open up sacred space.

The Peter response

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that it is possible to fall into the ‘Peter trap’ once we have revelation. So maybe just a quick expansion on this. From Matthew 16 we get this inter-change:

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day and be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!

Reasonably powerful!! We have some:

  • startling revelation
  • followed by Jesus explaining the path ahead
  • provoking Peter to ‘correct’ Jesus’ prediction
  • resulting in an (almost) name change for Peter!

The revelation was accurate, and Jesus proclaimed that it was not based on some human element but that it had come from heaven. Top marks Peter! Revelation comes from the future.

Jesus who is living, not to preserve his life, but to follow the path that is laid out explains where this will lead, but Peter takes exception to this explanation. I consider that on the basis of his revelation he knows he needs to correct Jesus. I don’t this was because of arrogance but because the revelation has brought to Peter an expectation. Jesus is the Messiah (revelation from the future) meets his understanding, his expectation that is shaped by his journey to date. Peter is seeking to keep Jesus on track! Expectation meets revelation and is informed by the journey thus far.

The general expectation was that the Messiah would deliver a people from oppression. The expectation was not of the death of the Messiah but of the overcoming of all opposition by the Messiah. (This is why I do not consider that Judas understood the betrayal as betrayal, but as having the two-fold benefit of personal financial reward and enabling the mission of Jesus to be truly successful.)

I am of the opinion that there is almost certainly a lot of prophetic revelation that proclaims a wonderful future and of the triumph of the Gospel, but that it is inevitably met by an expectation that will not be fulfilled. The path is always ‘first to suffer then glory’ as there are three words tied together in Scripture: suffer – time – glory.

If our expectation is the cross as symbol by which we conquer we will be shocked and disappointed by the path ahead.

We can easily fall, and normally do fall, into the Peter trap. That is the one where we verbalise it all, and it seems we (like Peter) look pretty stupid as the future unfolds. But at least in verbalising it we can be corrected. If we push it further and allow our own personal weakness to come strongly into the mix we might go beyond the Peter syndrome to the Judas one. Best avoided!

A post from Oct 2018

I looked back tonight to find a post from 2018 where I reflect on a coming crisis. Here is the post that can be clicked on.

Here are a few excerpts from that post:

I have been very exercised about some of the significant global crises that are on the horizon. For the past 3 weeks I have been seeing a very serious economic upheaval. Then a few days ago the global climate report was published with the ‘we have twelve years to address this’.

The façades are opening. It is not simply that we will be able to see the bizarre nature of the Western economic system that only operates if there is debt (debt will always result somewhere in slavery and at some measure an inevitable eating tomorrow’s bread today) or the paucity of public political debate but we will be able to see some very deep roots… unless we close our eyes to what is being revealed. The familiar can close the façades down, although I wonder if we (believers) will even be able to do that this time round. And beyond the familiar there are factors that hamper our sight. Those will be found in our commitment to a shallow Gospel that does not challenge nationalism, patriotism, patriarchy and the deep inequalities in society. If we do not heed at this time that the Gospel is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female we will find our eyes will not even see what is before us and we will simply look for ‘normal’ to be restored.

What is being exposed in the days that lie ahead (and I am sure much more can be added to this) are:

  • greed and consumerism
  • misogyny
  • protectionism that demonises the ‘other’

I suggest we have the next two years, when either a level playing field will be established or we will leave the next generation a Herculean task to bring things forward to something that resembles a God shape for society.

Demonic power accessing the cross

So the answer was ‘yes’!

Of that I am convinced, just not quite sure how to get there. However, I think that if we use a symbol such as a flag there might be power in what it is calling us to, but if we use the (false) cross there is another added dimension.

The demonic realm love to invade human space as that is the connecting point of heaven and earth. Humanity, made in the image of God is very key to the demonic strategy. Once that space is invaded a process of dehumanising can take place, so that as that increases in scope the connection between heaven and earth decreases. This is why I see sin primarily not as ‘law-breaking’ and subsequent guilt but as falling from the glory of being human.

The demonic then want to invade and pervert every access point between heaven and earth, and it is the cross that in time makes that access point eternal. It is no surprise then that the cross is a focal point for such an invasion, not the cross that becomes the pathway to life, but the cross that oppresses all enemies, the cross as symbol through which we conquer by power.

In all situations to change the meaning of something is key in nullifying the original meaning. This happens all the time organisationally. When a new challenging message comes, the institution seeks first to understand the new language, then the nature of institutional power is that the language gets converted to mean something different to what was the initial intended meaning.

I consider something similar happens with the change of meaning in the cross. (Maybe we could also consider the shift in Israel from a call to the nations as servant, to being superior to the nations demonising them in the process, but in reality just opening themselves up to the demonic!) By changing the meaning probably what takes places is an emptying of the symbol of the cross of its transforming power. It is not then that by pulling on the symbol of the cross that God is pulled in to serve evil, but by perverting the symbol of the cross, there is space for the advance of evil at a frightening level. In the same way that the power of sin (singular) dehumanises, so the perversion of the cross de-crosses the true cross.

Redemption re-humanises. But to do so there has to be a repentance. Maybe we too can re-cross the cross, but through the path of repentance. Confessing the wrong allegiance to power might be a start.

I often follow the Catholic (and early church) practice of crossing myself, but normally only when passing our local church of San Lorenzo. It is a reminder that Jesus asked that I carry the cross. I am happy to do so outside the building dedicated to the one who on August 10, 258 was burnt at the stake in Rome by command of the emperor. He seemed to be committed to the implications of picking up the cross and following Jesus.

There are two crosses. The false one is here to pervert and thus seriously remove the reality of the true cross being the bridge between heaven and earth. Reduce but can never obliterate. If we can recover the true cross, be marked by it, the ugliness of oppressive power will be revealed, the tie between religion and politics will be broken, so that the followers of Jesus can help hold space where a politics (simply meaning the shaping of society) of love can grow. There is a new world we are called to see as a result of the cross of Jesus, and as embrace the cross a new world that is to become ever increasingly visible.

The cross – accessing power

Religion and political power. Now there is a combination that is lethal. Jesus as a prophet went to Jerusalem to die, stating that no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem. Jerusalem should have been a (fallen) symbol of a location for the nations, but we read that the religious verdict from the centre was that it was better he died or the supra-national power of Rome would come and take away their religious privileges.

Religious privilege! How we love that, hence the party that espouses family values, can pull our vote even if on other issues such as a generous immigration policy they are vehemently opposed to. We are in dangerous times, not dangerous primarily because of terrorism, nor the coronavirus, but over the compromise of our faith. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote at one point:

Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.

Policies that were in line with God!

I do consider that we are at a very dangerous time of history. I am deeply grateful for the prophetic prayer that has opened space, but we can SOOOO easily fall into the Peter trap. We flow from revelation to rebuking Jesus for the path ahead that he saw. There will be no delivery into the hands of our enemies (the cross) but they will be delivered into our hands (the false cross).

Just as Jesus went to Jerusalem to end the journey of the prophets to that place of death, so Paul ends in Rome. No record of his death there, as it is not about his death, but about our death. Jesus goes to Jerusalem to break the alignment of politics and religion, so leaving Paul pronouncing the Gospel in Rome turning everything on its head.

Many are now beginning to use the cross – even in the former stronghold of atheism, Putin is pulling on religion and the cross. So to the question…

Is there a (demonic) power released when the (false) cross is pulled on.

And to the answer: YES.

End of post!

Questions about the cross

This post is not an acknowledgement that we will never fully fathom the cross, that I take for granted. I am musing concerning questions that have troubled me for a while. Questions such as ‘are there two crosses?’ and ‘by pulling on the cross is power released?’

I am sure there are two crosses. If we go back to the Roman culture the cross was an ugly reality. A public statement visible throughout the Imperial world. Reserved for rebels against the system it was a frightening reminder that peace had been established through violent force and would be maintained in the same way. Prior to his own crucifixion Jesus instructed his followers to pick up their cross and follow him. Pick up the instrument of torture and death to make the job of the enemy even easier! We use the phrase ‘this is my cross to bear’ but it no way comes close to doing justice to bearing our cross. The cross was not the symbol of victory over the enemy, but the pathway to a brutal death inflicted by the enemy.

Fast forward and we record the words of revelation given to Constantine – in this sign (of the cross) you will conquer. Of course by faith the cross is the sign by which we conquer, by faith we see that all powers were stripped and left naked and powerless through the cross of Jesus, but to attach the sign of the cross to military conquest? I can only conclude that to do so is to use the symbol in a way that is a perversion. There are indeed two crosses.

A while back our good friend Dani Mateo did a dance on the very place where we prayed for the removal of Franco’s body. At the ‘valle de los caidos’ he did a ‘baile de los caidos’ (‘b’ and ‘v’ have virtually the same sound in Spanish, so he did a crazy ‘dance of the valley of the fallen’). So many were incensed as it was deemed sacrilegious to do so in such a place, a place marked by the cross. A priest wrote an open letter in reply to the reaction and the ensuing court case that what was done was right as there are two crosses and the one over Franco’s tomb honouring the victor of the Civil War could not be seen as the cross of Jesus. He encouraged Dani to continue! (A little note here… we have never met Dani, he is no more a friend than the 5 million followers I have on FaceBook (as if!) but we laugh whenever he is on TV.)

So two crosses – that question I am happy with the conclusion that there are indeed two crosses, and have to acknowledge every time I have used my ‘faith’ to be above anyone else I am not aligning myself to the true cross, even when I claim truth is on my side.

The second question is a tougher one. When I use the (false) cross am I pulling on power that I do not access otherwise? That question I will post on tomorrow as it is a huge question.

Breaking news…

Stock market crisis over the impending threat.

Hyped by the media or for real? We are told the stock market is reeling due to the crisis that could be a pandemic. It is what we don’t really know that is the issue. How many are fleeing war; how much extortion is there that is behind how many of those created in the image of God who are dying – in the Mediterranean and beyond. We can close borders but the stock market is rocking because we just don’t know how many people are dying and how big a threat it all is.

OK… made all that up. Sadly made it up. The markets are reeling not because of how many are dying but because the coronavirus does not respect wealth, and does not respect how we can ‘make’ money. There are so many more deaths that have occurred these past years to those who have desperately come to seek some measure of freedom, than is likely to come to the globe as a result of this current threat. Yes… money makes the world go round… round and round the old mulberrry bush.

I had a round-robin letter from our Spanish bank about a week ago. ‘No need to panic there will be no significant economic downturn’. I like to read between the lines – you have no need to panic because we are doing all the panicking that is needed. We have no clue where this will go, but please do not panic otherwise we are in trouble.

Having arrived home last night at the sweet hour of midnight, I only had time to send the bank adviser a piece of personal advice this morning – and I am so sure she was just waiting for my incredible wisdom. No worries, we all know money is ‘una mierda’. So I wrote a short little piece on her wall ‘Things are not stable… they will bottom out but the real crisis is not immediate but will increase in the autumn… We’ll drop in to see you in a couple of weeks… Yours ever so lovingly…. Martin’.

It is my bit of fun for the day. Here I am pontificating about the global economic scene, without any real understanding… maybe she was justified in using the ‘f’ word and ask me to leave the premises (with some humour) a while back. She has her job to do, and I told her anyone wanting to grow a business would employ her – she can sell the proverbial ice blocks to those living in Siberia in the deepest, darkest winter.

She has her job to do… and the rest of us have our convictions to live by, and to try to hold on to the legitimate money bag, the bag of contentment. Not always easy, and so hard for so many in the world. But for the rest of us the 5% who pull in three figures a month we do need to try to remain centred.

For any follower of this blog I have been saying for the past few years that come 2020 we will hit another financial crisis. I see 2020 – 22 as two years of great instability. But even that is a western, middle class perspective. And the past decades? They were full of instability to countless non-western, non-middle class people.

We will see at every level the façades opening again. My dream exposed how we – body of Christ – can just shut them all up. How about this time – cos I asked for volunteers last time but had none – ask for a major rebalancing of the economic world. For our fictitious wealth to go down so that we can see a shift. Maybe that will keep the façades open and see a shift. I do consider we missed so much in 08.

So no apologies for the fake breaking news. The crisis is not here because of the coronavirus, it is here and always has been because of mammon / Babylon. Time to see again the New Jerusalem that John saw. There are investments we make that have a great and guaranteed return. They come in the form of a cup of cold water given in his name.

The right question

Had an interesting 24 hours. We have been seeing this year as opening up new things. We have been in Spain 11 years, this being the beginning of our 12th. We think (good word… thoughts are where we stumble forward, walk as blind people (last post), heaven is MUCH clearer!!) that maybe we can see a pathway that opens that will set the next 10 years. And in 10 years time I might be ready to revisit the question Sue asked me when I was 39 . That question was ‘what do you want to do when you are 40?’ My reply, ’40 is nothing, I will still be bumbling along so maybe let me get to 55 and we talk again.’ Well 55 came and went, and as Gayle can testify, he was still bumbling along… so now maybe I can consider in 10 years time. 75 and a level of possible non-bumbling, a small semblance of wisdom and a poquito of maturity? Maybe… if not we just postpone it another 10 – 20 years, kick the can down the road… again. I have noticed the great thing about discovering how immature one is is that there can always be growth. Imagine having arrived at 40 to having already entered the ‘second half of life’ AGGGGHHHHH!!! So I consider I am in a good place as I aim to get sight of the second half of life around 2035.

Anyway the past 24 hours. First we had an evening FaceTime to a certain European nation seeing what might work for later in the year for us to be there. 12 hours later Gayle’s phone rings with an anonymous call showing up on the dial from the same nation. We presume it is from the night before and maybe with a further question or suggestion. But no, totally unrelated. Someone else had tracked us down seeing if we would have any space to input a (very interesting indeed) setting in April that is scheduled to take place in Madrid. Then a few hours after that a WhatsApp to see if a few months later we could make a contribution to another gathering, again scheduled for Madrid.

So the 24 hours… Coming to the threshold at the beginning of the year it opened with two invites to business-related events. The combination of coincidental events mentioned in the last paragraph – both into business related contexts.

It could be coincidental – no point trying to force something together (oh dangerous, almost a second half of life response there!!); it could be full-on God… or as I have found sometimes is the case could be God is moving something around and as that happens all kinds of doors rattle but the door that eventually opens was not one of the ones that was rattling at the beginning. (Or just another example of bumbling along, walking blind?)

In one situation I had a wonderful response that, there probably are theological differences between us but they would like to push ahead. I prefer where there are theological differences as it helps show where I am right, they are wrong and how I can correct them (see I told you I am still going to achieve stardom in this first half of life). Actually, if you keep reading you will realise that last sentence is a joke, so please don’t quote me!

Difference is important. I am certainly not correct on all my perspectives, and certainly cannot be correct at all points as it is pretty self-evident that my life is all too often sub-NT. There is a core to unity – the glory of God covering the earth as the waters cover the seas. That seems to be enough for us to push forward together. But having said even that can show where we differ. How we define glory, what we expect pre-parousia etc., can show up so many differences.

We really need difference to show us we are not right. A few days ago I reflected on ‘are you for us or for our enemies?’. If that was the wrong question and it relates to us and our ‘enemies’, I don’t think God is going to answer us when we ask ‘are you for me, the one correct at every point, or are you for those Calvinists?’ (not to offend, and always a little humour, but as I have found it very hard to spell that word for decades I thought it might be appropriate to enter the word here, to indicate I am now able to spell the word). Wrong question. Well who is more right? Wrong question.

Will I be able to correct those I don’t agree with? Wrong question. Will I be provoked and want to respond when I sit with people who have convictions that are alien to mine? Sure, cos of your immaturity, but wrong question. Will I have to learn a little genuine humility on such a journey? You might just if you learn how to listen and respect others who are probably further on than you are.

OK I think I get it. But surely by 2035 I will be so far ahead that I will then be the reference point for one and all. Silence. Now I am just wondering if the silence indicates I am at last getting the right question lined up. I wonder…

Perspectives