A little discipline

Books on ‘discipline’, ‘how to bring up kids’. Those are the kind of books I would not have clue where to start… or books on almost anything practical. So maybe I should read what the good book says and receive some gentle instruction:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid (Deut. 21:18-21).

Yesterday’s post on gift or title still does not make the calling of ‘city elder’ too appealing! A gift to live up to?

All designed to make sure Israel will be kept in order, everyone will ‘be afraid’. Such a tough old book to understand. I am coming to the end of Deuteronomy, Joshua will be something to look forward to though not sure what to make of all the blood in there, not to mention the lack of archaeological evidence for so much of what is claimed… Anyway I have got through some of this law stuff by also reading Psalms – though one or two tough bits there too!

I like Jesus. He told a story that is a bit of a challenge to the law about ‘discipline’ that I quoted above. He told the parable of the very outrageous father, the ‘prodigal’ father, and I don’t think it is going too far to suggest he probably intended us to understand something about God through the parable, the God who gave the Deuteronomy instruction.

The so-called prodigal son certainly qualifies for a good old stoning. It starts with his ‘I wish you were dead’ attitude and speech to his father, for to ask for one’s inheritance in that culture, something given at death, was to say just that. He went off, rebellious, disrespectful, lived a life of debauchery including being with prostitutes.

WOW… he decides to come home! Any decent father knows exactly what to do, and it has to be done otherwise law and order, society itself would be undermined.

So yet again God is going to break his own law. He runs – shock, this is not in the script. In that very act he is undermining, disrespecting the status quo. It just carries on. Party time. Party time to the extent that it offends the ‘good son’. The explanation is at the end:

But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.

The correct behaviour would have been to let the son come back then inform all that ‘this brother of yours has been put to death’; rather we read ‘he was dead and has come to life’.

Life triumphs over right and wrong. The law just does not cut it, and when applied is a strong statement that something bigger is amiss. Choose life…

A spiritual war in Ukraine

Here are two articles that came in my inbox today. They are not giving the same analysis, but in reading either or both it becomes clear that to us Westerners that there is a major spiritual ‘re-conquest’ element to this.

Moscow has to be restored spiritually for it sits as a ‘third’ alongside Constantinople and Rome historically (Jeff Fountain’s article).

It is a synthesis of Russia’s national and spiritual aspirations. It’s not just Russia, it is “Holy Russia”, part religious project, part extension of Russian foreign policy. Speaking of Vladimir’s mass baptism, Putin explained: “His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.” He wants to do the same again. And to do this he needs Kyev back.

And in the words of Putin himself:

The spiritual choice made by St Vladimir [988AD] still largely determines our affinity today. In the words of Oleg the Prophet about Kyev, “let it be the mother of all Russian cities”.



Thank God Christendom is unravelling. It gives us hope for the future.

Gift not title

The Ascended Christ gave out some titles so that everyone might know who is above them, order might be preserved… That might not be the first time I have misquoted the Holy Book.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves…” (Lk. 22:25-27).

No misquote this time, and strong words: I am one among you. The incarnation truly lived out. That has to be the foundation, modelled in the breaking of bread / the Lord’s Table, where everyone is equal, it not being the ‘table of the xxx movement’, and where we are careful not to fall into the trap of giving the person arrayed in rich apparel (or higher status) the better seat… (Those references only make sense when we consider the politically subversive nature of what the Last / Lord’s Supper (deipnon: banquet) stood for. Subversive to the Jewish world of the day, where Jesus instructed who to invite to a meal, and deeply subversive in the Graeco-Roman world where the banquet was part of the activity that held the Imperial system of everyone in there place intact.)

Even in the parable that maybe gives some indication of ‘order’ in the age to come Jesus indicated that he would do the serving! Serving is not something for this age and then we lay it down and get our position!

Jesus gave gifts, not titles. Not even ‘Apostle Paul’. But we have Paul (by the grace gift of heaven) an apostle. A title sets me in position and will commission me to do things ‘to’, and if I am a goodish sort of person release me to do things ‘for’ you. But a grace gift, releases me to be ‘with’ you, and holds me in check to be accountable to God for the gift given. Paul as an apostle had a commission to fulfil, one marked by signs and wonders with great patience, in other words he truly had to sow the subversive seeds of the Gospel in the direction of the eschatological future, that was opened when Jesus rose – that new creation direction.

If we are to see real breakthroughs in our hierarchical world, if we are to model the end of all divisions, then we really need to drop the titles. I think that would be a good move.

Jesus was one among us, but he was not simply one among us. We do not read, OK here we all are, time for the annual meeting, who do we want to appoint now as the Messiah, maybe we pass it round… how about you Peter? After all you are pretty rockish. Or, how about you Judas, you do seem to carry a clarity about this kingdom issue?

One among – the foundation. And standing in the gift that God has given, that is not given to allow for position ‘over’ but alongside to bring that gift for the sake of the release of others. Leadership / gifting is to be recognised and to do so is not a vote for hierarchy; it has to be first self-recognised. It is not contributing to hierarchy, not when there has been time spent in the wilderness and temptations have been refused (and there is a direct tie in this Scripture to that of the offer of the oikoumene to Jesus… become the one over the kings of the Gentiles – talk about order and delegated authority perfected!!).

From that foundation there is no shouting nor declaration of how great one is, but the embracing of a leadership that does not advance itself in status but increasingly disappears, increasingly empties itself, carries the ‘better I go away’ attitude, recognises that the function is ‘until’.

Leadership is not to control order, but to release exploration and then in the wake of the explosion to try and keep up!

God votes: the word ‘with’ tops them all

Relationships… (please remember that I like to think, but thinking is in my head, that I really both know what I write about and incarnate it…)

Incarnate. God with us, you shall call his name Immanuel: so begins Matthews Gospel; ‘I will be with you to the end of the age’: so ends Matthews Gospel, the Gospel that is self-consciously written as the fulfilment of all that has gone before. All of the before was to lead to ‘God being with us’ and it was never to end but simply to increase.

The incarnation was not something done TO us. I have tried to stay clear of that in my relationships. Maybe there is a time when we need to do something TO someone as there is no alternative, but sadly most often the TO aspect is a strong me (powerful) / they (object of my power).

The incarnation did have some element of FOR us. The cross certainly did, and the cross is part of the journey from the incarnation. Jesus, being in the form of God; Jesus because he was rich became poor for us. Yes there is a FOR us element there, and I am thankful for that.

But really the incarnation is a WITH scenario. ‘I am one among you’ so undercuts the Imperial model – that system that claims it is FOR us but really is only doing something TO us in order that we can be there FOR the Imperial system.

WITH is a challenge. I am pondering why I have many who offer friendship but I am not truly friends to anyone. I think there is something here that I am missing. WITH. I guess a WITH scenario opens up all kinds of possibilities. Maybe I should explore that… or if not I could continue to write about it.

God votes: I would like them to learn to compromise

‘No, no and never will I compromise,’ I retort.

I have my ideals; I am sticking to what I know to be right.

Sure Mr. ‘Righteous’ (also known as Mr. ‘Aloof’, and probably a few other titles such as Mr. ‘Arrogant’…), but there is something bigger, better and more wonderful, the land of compromise.

I consider God is quite the compromiser. I think that cos I err on the side of immanence, God with us; not on the side of transcendence, with God sooooo different, a divide, God up there, beyond me. Of course it is an err(or) on my part but give me a break, I am not sure that there has not been a few errs as well in you dear reader!

God compromises – evidence s/he seems to come close to me. If that is not compromise… Jesus ate with ‘sinners’. God does not ride on some high-horse, but chooses the donkey and comes through the east gate while Pilate comes in with all the pomp, ceremony and power through the western gate.

What a compromiser we find in this God, and yet we need to grasp that those compromises are redemptive and therefore eschatological. That is the challenge I need to rise to, to engage with people and situations in such a way that I make a small contribution to those people and situations helping them / opening the door for them to move in a direction that is more in line with the glory of God, and whatever contribution I make or presence I bring is in the direction I want the world to go.

And it should not be too hard for me to compromise. There is no ‘transcendence / immanence’ debate around me! There is no ‘I am so beyond you…’ Even Jesus said he was ‘one among us’.

I guess that God would love us learn how to look at situations, be in / with those contexts, come out with feet dirty and as a result are not able to pat ourselves on the back but the situation was just a little different afterwards.

Mistakes and compromise… going beyond, way beyond law… mistakes – an aspect that defines humanity; compromise – a calling for those who have met the God who compromised to redeem them so that without judgement they engage, and in that engagement something redemptive and eschatological takes place.

God votes: let’s give them a few laws

Don’t… ‘You shall…’ A few laws. I am reading at the moment in the ‘cheeky’ book of Deuteronomy. Cheeky cos it keeps talking about the ‘Place that shall be chosen’. Really? Moses are you sure… or you Babylonian based editors, how did you get that slid in there so that we read it as if Moses had this always in mind, and if he had it in mind then so did God?

Laws to set boundaries and then we can be smacked really hard for straying outside of them, or were they always written in pencil (I know there is something in there about ‘written in tablets of stone’ but just for now let me suggest ‘pencil’) and are pretty helpful as some notes to refer to, but then one day will become unnecessary.

Laws given to Israel, Israel who represents all of us, imperfect, but supposed to set an example to all of us. Laws that are OKish but pencil writing. After all before we come to all those laws that instruct us to make sure that any murderer does not escape and go free… before we read about that… we read that God did not punish the first (the FIRST, hence quite an example here) murderer but looked to protect him – Cain. Now that really does not seem an action that pays much attention to the pencilled in writing. Carry it through and the next time that Cain and Abel come on the scene is when the two ‘sons of the father’ appear in the New Testament. One goes free, the other does not. Barabbas goes free!! [Note to self: and so do you Martin, so don’t complain.]

Laws quickly help us determine what is right and wrong. They then have to work hard when it comes to ‘mistakes’, hence the many exceptions in the OT laws, ‘you are to do this, but if this has happened then do…’

And laws are not too smart about really helping us to choose a path that leads to life.

Yes, let’s give them a few laws, but it sure would be good if they could choose the life path instead of trying to get everything right and fit within those boundaries.

God votes: let’s create mistake-making creatures

A little note about these posts to anyone who drops by. I have often thought should I stop, after all blogging since the late 90s is quite a long time. Two aspects keep me going… I get an email / connection that says keep on going, and I also realise that most of it is for me. I call them ‘perspectives’ but they could well be entitled ‘personal pontifications and half baked thoughts’. They are essentially for me, they are my thoughts out in the public arena. I seldom ever re-read what I wrote, sometimes I have found someone saying to me, ‘your post this week on…’ and I have no idea what is in there. I am thankful for those who comment one way or another, and give me space.

A final comment on these posts is that a reader should not assume I am somehow ‘incarnating’ what I write about. They are thoughts, and some of the thinking is along the lines of ‘maybe when you grow up (mature) you might like to consider this, Martin’. Today’s post is like that.

One of God’s wonderful gifts to humanity is the ability to make mistakes. Yes we are in the image of God, but God is not in our image. What a creative idea – let’s make them like us, but let’s add to them this ability, which will need to become a reality for them, of making mistakes.

Getting it right is not all it’s cracked up to be. Nor is it the goal of Scripture. Even the eschaton (the end) is not the telos (end point, arrival point, like the train destination). End of ‘sin’, but maybe even not the end of ‘mistakes’.

When I was 46… Martin loves to repeat stories to endless boredom… I prayed ‘if you don’t mind I would like to live to 92, as I know I need to make a whole lot of more mistakes to learn something to be of a contribution to others’. Some people probably only need a few years and mature by the time they are mid-20s and then have a resource to give away. Others are slower learners. [Note to self re prayer: you might need to add a few more years to the request, 20 have already gone and not too much has been learnt.]

I really don’t cope well with making mistakes. I overcome that ‘not coping well’ with an unhealthy dose of denial. Hey, no comments please, it has got me thus far and I decided the other day that my closest friend is me, and Gayle overtakes that position every now and then. I think though I probably need to get on my bike and learn to make mistakes, learn a little from them and get on with life.

(If I embraced) the idea of making mistakes as a gift from heaven it would really lighten the load and open the door for an exploration. I could try stuff and then move on.

Talk like a… child?

When I was young – not too long ago…, but I am talking about when I was really young – I had great difficulty in speaking. There was even some thought that I might be dumb (now I know that you probably think I don’t talk / write too clearly now, but I beseech you to keep your thoughts to yourselves). I think, now that I am an adult, it is related to some area of my brain that does not distiguish sounds too well. I was listening to a Spanish recording some while back and the person said ‘todas las veces’ (everytime) and for whatever reason I heard ‘todas las setas’ (all the mushrooms). So I stopped the recording, replayed, same phrase – all the mushrooms. Repeated it three times, then asked Gayle why are they saying ‘all the mushrooms’ it makes no sense. And yes she agreed, ‘that would make no sense!!!’ It is not too different in English. I was going to make some pancakes and was going to buy some bacon when Gayle asked ‘do we have any syrup’. I said ‘any suet?, why do we need that’. She repeated it three times, I got it on the third time. Childish talk…

Childish talk… My speech was probably almost indecipherable till I was 7+, due to (I think now) a defect in the sound discrimination area.

Childish talk…

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child (1 Cor. 13:11).

I think the heart of the Gospel is not ‘personal salvation’ (glad that is in there!!!) but a new world is here (better a new ‘creation’ is here). Each time we move forward with some sight on that, in my words ‘the transformation of this world’ we respond with childish talk. I think a lot of what is spoken and written about transformation of the world is child talk. Let’s be patient. The process to mature speech is slow.

It’s not unlike when people first get hold of prophecy. ‘I see a tremendous gift on you to bring down powers and transform the whole future of the world, I pronounce that the anointing that was on all the prophets of old has come upon you now, and because of that this is the greatest breakthrough time ever.’ Childish talk… Maybe it could have been ‘you do not carry too much, but throw the two coins you have into that abusive, oppressive temple treasure over there.’

Childish talk does give way to adult speech.

Prophetic algorithms

On my way home today God spoke to me I had this thought… I think there are prophetic algorithms. I was meditating on a zoom I have tomorrow and what I need to say to them, when I began to compare ‘what we hear’ to what we read on social media. Although I am innocent of being engaged on social media (I do post this to facebook but then that is as far as it goes, so apologies all who comment there), I note that if I look something up online I then note that adverts in some way related to my recent search pop up here there and everywhere. Social media and her algorithms. I am interested in / I believe that the politics of the right / left are harmful in the extreme, and lo and behold all the posts, tweets and articles for me to read confirm my perspective. The whole world agrees with me, cos I was always right. Frightening and takes away any real conversation.

I was walking today where I had the ‘cacophony of noise’ attack a few weeks back, and saw that our ears are bombarded by sounds, slogans, sound bites, even some stuff that might be coming from heaven but the result was that we could hear everything and therefore hear nothing. Competing sounds, and then we probably just about manage to pick out a phrase, an angle and that is enough for us. We conclude we have heard accurately.

I consider that much of the prophetic in the West has fallen into that trap. Like a prophetic algorithm. This is now what I am hearing… look everyone is saying the same thing… I listen / read and repeat… others repeat. Conclusion: this is the word of the Lord! I don’t think so.

Ah well just a thought. My head is still probably too high, I might have just picked up a slogan.

But if the thought is kinda OK it is time to disconnect from simply hearing the voices that we agree with, and agree with us.

Tell or not?

I think Paul is caught between knowing if he finally made a mistake in talking about his ‘third heaven’ experience. (All that follows is the result of some personal reflections and wrestling – maybe writing out loud.)

It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat (2 Cor. 12: 1-4).

He suggests that the immaturity of the Corinthians forced him to become a ‘fool’ by sharing (in a not very well disguised way) that he had visited the third heaven. As I read the text I don’t think he is fully reconciled as to the wisdom of what he has shared. ‘If I must become a fool’, and maybe he thought after the manuscript had left that he was simply that.

Scripture has many crazy encounters, trances, visits, visitations and so on. Gnosticism (that sort of elusive term) had many crazy claims and it seemed so many are rooted in their inability to be at home with here, that which God had created.

Why do crazy experiences happen? For the sake of someone else. Not for the sake of a story. A visit to the third heaven is in order to be different for someone else, to have a resource that somehow one did not have before. Time to dial down the spectacular, the ‘I had this experience’ or even ‘I know someone who…’ No, no dialling down of expectation or the experience… just the mouth! A few maybe need to know, but the epistle to the Corinthians? Maybe, only maybe if they are really immature, but then I am not sure Paul made the right call.