After I finished recording the previous two conversations with Michele she launched into two dreams she had had a number of years prior that shaped her direction. I said, let me record that second one! Here it is. When God has called us out there is something to see (if we turn around)… OK I will let her tell it.
Here are the three inteveiws with Michael simply as audio…
First audio podcast of interview with Michael Graham
Second audio podcast of interview with Michael Graham
Third audio podcast of interview with Michael Graham
I receive every week the ‘Weekly Word’ from Jeff Fountain (YWAM and The Schumann centre for European Studies). They are always informative and today he tackles head on ‘What is it that makes ‘evangelicals’ so susceptible to conspiracy theories?‘.
He has felt compelled to write as the silence of ignoring it he now considers is to be complicit. Are there decisions taken behind closed doors that if we found out about them would cause deep concern? Without doubt. Yet when we propagate conspiracy theories that cannot be substantiated are we really promoting the hope that entered the world when the proclamation that Jesus’ body is not in the tomb but that he is risen? Or are we feeding distrust (leads to suspicion, hatred and violence) and fear?
I have had many shocking experiences in a Christian context. One that sits up there quite highly was in 2008 prior to the USA presidential elections when I heard from a pulpit a youth pastor proclaim that no-one should vote for Obama because he ‘was a Muslim’. I challenged him afterwards saying that there is no evidence for that claim. He replied, acknowledging what I had said, and then added, ‘I know, but it helps our cause to say so.’
We might not like a candidate or their policies but we also need to realise that the world we live in is messy. Charles Strohmer interviewed a Christian pastor (Joel Hunter), way more conservative than I am, who was one of Obama’s spiritual advisers. It is worth a read, not to endorse Obama, but maybe to slow us down a little in our assessments:
It is as Alexandr Solzhenitsyn said that when we draw the line of good / bad between ourselves and someone else we will inevitably live it out with great error. The line does not run between us but runs through us and through them. Let’s assume the line comes through me and I am 55% ‘good’ (go on be generous to me and it is only a hypothetical example) but the part that is not on the ‘good’ side is pretty significant also. (How do we measure the ‘good’ part? I think the level of love in difficult situations I show, and to what extent I am able to see, as that is a measure of ‘those who are in Christ’.) That good / bad dualism stems from the garden and came to an end in the Garden, so that the future ‘garden’ might be where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow…
Paul seemed to expect that the touch of Jesus would be transformative. He exhorted us not to speak a falsehood. That is challenging. Not to lie is not too difficult, for we can bend the truth and still not tell a lie. But not to speak a falsehood… not to leave someone else with a wrong impression.
Time to stop, otherwise I will be reviewing the generous 55% ‘good’ level.
I was interviewed by Stephen Hill (New Zealand) a week ago and I will embed the YouTube below. Stephen wrote an excellent prophetic commentary on John’s Gospel that I read and benefited from during the beginning of the lockdown. I have the highest respect for Stephen, he is honest and transparent, and his insights come from his clear relationship to God – and also to himself. He knows God, and he knows himself. Here is his site:
Check out his interview with Andy Glover – I watched that this morning, and I valued greatly his down to earth but profound revelations about 2021:
Words have meaning. Probably the true meaning is what is attributed to those words rather than the ‘root word means’ (cringe when your favourite preacher does that). Some words, in certain contexts, probably simply become unhelpful as the hearer cannot make the adjustment needed to enable the word to be the bridge that brings across a healthy concept. Gayle and I do not use the word ‘Christian’ in Spain. One could use it, but by the time all the qualifications are put in, perhaps the listener will have switched off. We tend to use ‘follower of Jesus’, acknowledging that phrase also needs explaining. Indeed one might wish to suggest that the ‘God’ word is too loaded with meaning already to be of use! Where does one stop? (I was very struck by Michele Perry’s phrase that ‘our words create worlds’.)
In one of the Zoom groups someone said I am not sure I like the ‘saved’ set of words. Again not without validity. If saved immediately communicates ‘saved from hell / saved from the wrath of God’ we are going to face a difficulty in using it. We have moved so far from ‘saved for…’ when we use the saved set of words. (I have been so blessed in one Zoom group where there is a view shared from a Catholic perspective, and another coming from an Orthodox viewpoint when looking at such concepts.)
Words, can they be redeemed? Some maybe can’t or in certain contexts might not be able to be redeemed. Then we come to the New Testament. That presents another challenge to us. Here are a few words used that could be (could be??) misunderstood:
- basileia – kingdom (of God) and Empire of Rome.
- eirene – peace. Peace through the cross; peace by the sword (with the temple to peace built on the hill deicated to war in Rome.
- ekklesia – ‘church’ or Roman governmental office.
- king of kings = Caesar or Jesus (as also Saviour, lord, lord of lords).
- son of god – Caesar or Jesus?
The terms are so obviously parallel, and used without an immediate explanation of ‘Jesus is Lord, but not like Caesar and not like…’
And the painful word ‘despot‘ – well not really, the Greek word despotes is used of Jesus and of God is used some 5 times in the New Testament. We might get the word despot from this but it does not get its meaning from the word despot!
I find it interesting that the New Testament easily used words that were in common use all with an Imperial meaning already stamped on them. They were greatly redefined though as they could only be understood through a Jesus’ lens.
Some words we might not be able to use as they have become too corrupted; some we might have to use with explanations; all words we have to use through the Jesus lens of our lives. As Francis of Assisse said
Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.
I really keep up with things… always on the cutting edge of every trend… so just picked up on Pope Francis speech of 2015 (did you notice how cutting edge I am?).
He spoke to a gathering of Italian Catholics in Florence that the Church must be open to change while rejecting a “controlling, hard, and prescriptive” style. Here are a few extracts:
It is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism. We are not living an era of change, but a change of era.
Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, queries, but it’s alive, and able to unsettle, animate. Doctrine has a face that isn’t rigid, a body that moves and develops, it has tender flesh: that of Jesus Christ.
He called in the same speech for the Catholic church to be ‘a free Church that is open to the challenges of the present, never on the defensive for fear of losing something.’
It was the phrase:
We are not living an era of change, but a change of era.
that caught my attention. A clever turn of phrase but something that captured the wider scenario. I recently wrote in a newsletter using the analogies of the current time as being either, we have entered a storm, winter or the beginnings of an ice-age (analogies not original to me). The first two are simply a variation on the ‘era of change’ phrase. The difference simply being of time duration; the third analogy of course would mean a before and after of immense proportions. An after that is not visible to current sight.
Looking wider than changes being encouraged within the Catholic church, or the church that is essentially shaped from the ‘gathering’ the changes are visible within our world. Elections being stolen… or democracy not being respected… are serious accusations, but perhaps we are witnessing the end of an era, for after all elections have been pretty much settled for decades not by democracy but by money and the power that money can exercise. Now with an emphasis on ‘the seven mountains of influence’ we are in danger of adding to the erosion of genuinely hearing the diverse voice from the public square (see the Michele Perry’s critique that I referenced in a previous post: https://dmperry.com/2021/01/19/why-the-7-mountain-mandate-is-toxic-theology/).
This week Jeff Fountain (YWAM and the Schumann centre) interstingly pikced up on the ‘Seven Mountains’ in his weekly word newsletter:
I was actually present the first time Loren spoke on what he called ‘mind moulders’ in August 1975. He talked of these spheres as ‘classrooms’ through which nations could be discipled. Given his pentecostal background, it was an epiphany for him about the implications of the gospel for all areas of life. Those from Reformed backgrounds would have recognised echoes of Calvin’s understanding of society, especially as taught by Abraham Kuyper. Others however embellished the idea, creating the Seven-Mountain teaching that God wanted Christians to infiltrate all these areas to dominate and rule non-Christians with ‘Christian principles’. This was not Loren’s emphasis. I am allergic to this power-based concept which unfortunately has been widely embraced.
The change of era scenario means that we can be looking for quick answers, and the ‘Seven Mountains’ comes into give us a quick pathway. The question we have to ask of all such pathways is whether it is the pathway of ‘those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes’.
The comment of Paul that not only signs and wonders accredited his work but that they were accompanied with ‘great patience’. A long term vision. In writing the four foundational books (by foundational I mean they are pretty much foundational to me – probably not sufficient to erect a tower block on!!) I have suggested, non-critically, that we are pre-Pauline, that we do not really know what he was up to with his ‘got to get an ekklesia in every city-state, province of that blasphemous empire’… In that sense all our best work is probably a prelude to catching up to what he was about, and then a challenge awaits us! I do not think Paul would be doing today what he did then. But he would have the same vision, captivated as he was by the Gospel. So, if that be true, we have to somehow find a way of going from pre-Pauline to post-Pauline (yet being faithful to Paul!). Change of era.
Change of era and a long term vision.
But Jesus will come back soon. Yes… we can spell the word soon but the calendar does not help us.
Paul probably anticipated a very soon coming, maybe in his life-time. We might well think Jesus will come back way soon… maybe, maybe not. We might even go through a crisis that seems to set the whole world back decades / even centuries and have to find a way of moving forward. Maybe. Loads of maybies cos I think we are somewhere between the winter and ice-age scenarios.
Either way change of era; great patience. Uncertainty… if we can hold in we come to place of openness.
In the last post I used the term ‘anthropecene age’ (big word… no expert here with keyboard I assure you!). The suggestion with the use of this term is that since the ice age we have lived with a reasonably consistent climate, but that there has been a huge shift due to our behaviour and that the next era will not be settled in the same way. Add to that the increase in pandemics in the 20th and now the 21st centuries and it seems likely that we have to think of the future as markedly, as opposed to marginally, different to the past. [A while back someone sent me a very helpful paper on the church and the pandemic, suggesting that there were three analogies that might help us think through a response. If it is a storm, it will pass, so just shut down until it is over; if winter then think a little longer term, make sure the supplies are in place etc., but again it will be over, just the time till things are back to normal will be longer. But if it is akin to an ice age we should not be thinking this will be over, and we will not be able to predict too accurately what will come out the other side. I consider this is not a storm, and it is something more sever and longer lasting than a winter….]
It gets me thinking… and, although I understand the hope that everything will get back to normal I am really not convinced that is the case. What if this coincides with a couple of awesome scenarios? What if we really will see something along a ‘third phase’ outpouring of the Spirit. From Pentecost of 2012 I have been declaring that that is what we are entering into. Let me explain… I see a pattern in Peter’s prophecy in Acts 2: this [outpouring] is for you, your children and for those afar off. What does ‘afar off’ mean? Does it simply mean they get pulled into ‘us’… or as per Peter / Cornelius is the discovery that God is already present in and among ‘the afar off’ for ‘us’ to find out?
Then what if…
Come on there has to be a lot of ‘what if’s?’ if we are going to get our heads to no longer determine what is and what is not.
What if Paul was very smart but only had revelation to a point? Sure revelation way beyond the likes of you and me, that I don’t think is to be disputed. After all you have to have serious revelation to go about planting (right word?) an ekklesia where there was already an ekklesia, planting / initiating the true body of people who would make sure that their polis (city / city-state) was transformed. The ekklesia of Jesus was where he pinned his hopes, not the one that was sanctioned by Rome that already existed. So given he had incredible revelation; but what if he saw the first step on the process. What would he consider today? Would he think primarily geographically, because I am sure he was shaped by discipling ‘all nations’ (ta ethne: I know we like to think of ethnic language when we consider this, but it was simply an overarching term for all those that are not seeking to live from a covenant relationship with God… now that opens up whole communities that we need to think about, and arguments about sovereignty being restored to nations when the nation -state of today is NOT the nation of the Bible is likely to cause us to miss this moment… Blah de blah…)
But beyond the blah blah, maybe we need to think again about the first step in our context, and as we enter this so named ‘anthropocene’ age. And maybe we need to be already thinking about steps 2 and 3… steps that Paul perhaps did not have sight of; after all he was keen to get to Spain so that the whole of the Imperial land could be impregnated with the first step. Until the first step is complete maybe there wasn’t revelation for the steps beyond?
I appreciated the comments on the article by Michele on the ‘Seven Mountains’, also the one by Stuart suggesting that there is always the danger in throwing out the baby with the bath water. Given that Michele articulated it so well, and that I am also in agreement with her I thought I would write a kind of parallel post here. [And of course it gives me an opportunity to let you know that Volume 3 is out in the next few days… A Subversive Movement, where I say in the preface that I consider that the language of Seven Mountains is probably not redeemable. I was very struck by Michele’s comment that ‘our words create worlds’.]
My middle name is ‘opinionated’ (along with a few others such as ‘uninformed’, ‘biased’, ‘not so smart’) but I try and dismiss opinions I have about what I cannot influence and over what I do not carry responsibility for. I find – for me, because of the above middle names – that is very helpful. I travelled many years to the USA, until 2009, but when I realised I was not carrying responsibility for the land there I had to leave that to others and then keep my mouth shut. In recent weeks I am seeing afresh that we can look that direction but what we are viewing is a mirror not a window. For that reason I will make a few reflections (no pun intended).
Conspiracy. Hard to prove wrong, particularly as the goalposts continually move. Back (way back) in the day credit cards were highly suspicious… now we are all glad for them. The vaccine, and Bill Gates… (glad I use open source, Linux… I will be so safe.) Many of the current conspiracy theories will just disappear, but conspiracy theories will simply live on. (There were ones in the first century, and I find it very amusing that John in Revelation pulls on a few for his visions, sending them up in the process!!!)
And the early church following Paul’s lead knew they had to get control of Rome, install a god-fearing Caesar. So they worked tirelessly for this, rejoicing at every change of legislation that favoured them. [I am still searching for the text that will back that up, but just give me time… Oh can’t find it… Oh yes does not exist!!!]
No that just was not the focus. I have no doubt that the gospel was political, indeed political before personal (volume 4 to come) but politics that were not and can never be wedded to a political party, can never bow at the feet of nation-statehood, nor simply (and simplistically) look for ‘godly’ legislation that for example becomes single-issued. All the above far from dealing with contrary spirits to the Gospel will simply strengthen them, as all ‘right/wrong’ dividing lines do when they are not subject to the ‘life / death’ divide.
The church in Europe is post-Christendom. Thankfully. Although we have quite a catch up to make with that reality, there are circumstances here now that will help us. I am so positive about Europe, secularised Europe. Thankful for the genuine revival movements of Asia but the time line of Europe is different. (And if I can say it, the USA is the child of Europe so follows the time line here not the time line of (e.g.) Asia.) In the situation that has no hope of restoring Christendom, that is secularised, what an opportunity to re-discover the political Gospel that is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes; the Gospel that will enable us to endure persecution, not the supposed ‘persecution’ of legislation that affects my life-style!! Thank you believers in China for enduring and continuing to endure through your great tribulation. Your suffering produces fruit elsewhere as well as in your land.
There are debates about ‘false prophecy’, about what might still happen. In the mirror I think what I see is that we might have restored to us the political Gospel in such a way that we are not preoccupied (if that word was Spanified it would read ‘worried’) about legislation and whether it marginalises us or not. [I write this as I see in Europe, and in a part of the world that I am still connected to, Brazil, a huge shift of allegiance to the right that shouts pro-life on one issue but is not so pro-life with regard to the next generation at many other levels. Allegiance… no Jesus broke the ‘which Caesar has your allegiance?’ line of things. Left / right… no.]
And as for left / right I watched a Spanish commentator living in the USA shake his head in disbelief. He said in the US Biden can be labelled a ‘communist’, but his policies in Spain would make him a comfortable fit with the PP party (right wing inheritors of Franco’s Falange party!!). It becomes so convenient to put a label on someone quickly.
Not sure we really want a Cyrus… We can be so quick to draw lines from ‘that’ to ‘this’. However not sure if we would really want a Cyrus if the parallels are really to work. 1) the people were not in their own land, but captive; 2) the one raised up was not one of theirs. Now make the parallels, although it is very hard to do so as point 1 above does not fit, but hey ho… Maybe we could go for something like it was discovered that there was major interference in the Brexit vote but God raised up a Cyrus straight out of Brussels to come and he (always a ‘he’ when from Brussels!) made some edicts that declared it all had to be reversed. OK just a little humour… but time to back off from the quick analogies we make, particularly when we pull on one part that is certainly far from analagous. Come on people, come up a little beyond the 666, revived Roman Empire stuff. So little, little, little in the Bible abut anything that comes close… but last time I read it so much about following Jesus where he goes.
OK back to the mirror as we are living at the turn of an era. (Currently I pick up language of moving from holocene (stable climate for millenniums) to an anthropocene (the effects that will long shape the future from our abuse of the planet) era. We, as believers, might use different language, and I like the ‘Christendom’ language, or the third aspect of outpouring (‘to those afar off’) . Regardless of language the mirror helps us see what we need to give attention to. So in summary!!
- A recovery of the political Gospel, what I term the Pauline Gospel. A positive, crazy vision for a transformed world (although his language is much better, replace ‘world’ with ‘creation’). This has nothing to do with post-millennialism (nor pre-, nor a-), but has everything to do with an obsession that the whole of society can be changed to be in some measure a reflection of heaven and heaven’s values. Those values being rooted in how we see others – and so how we talk about them, write about them, tweet etc.
- Taking a true pro-life stance. Life for everyone, which means that we who have life will have to become life-givers, not life protectors.
- A by all means vote for a party, a person but connected with a ‘but I am not too serious about it, and it is not a matter of life and death’ stance.
- A renunciation of all other allegiances other than the one to Jesus. All allegiances colour our perspective (what we see will make us blind in other areas) and our ‘prophecies’ will be skew(er)ed. Skewed and skewered I fear.
- Get up each morning happy that we have another day to influence the future, not through promoting our nation, nor our ‘church’ but the presence of Jesus that will deeply inconvenience me but bless someone else, particularity someone I once labelled as an enemy.
I am in the final stages of editing Volume 4, ‘Lifeline’, which will be a digging somewhat deeper into the Pauline Gospel. Here is a little extract from the Preface. I write about Paul’s confrontation with Peter in the Galatian context. [And of course I do not need to remind anyone that Volumes 1 and 2 can be bought now, volume 3 in the next few weeks. No need to remind you hence placing this in brackets!!]
Beginning of short extract:
Paul’s response was not very diplomatic as he did not allow for any middle ground. Those teachers were proclaiming ‘a different gospel’ and he invited a curse from heaven to come on them:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Gal. 1:6-9).
Paul’s understanding of the Gospel was such that he gave no value to that of fulfilling the Jewish rite of circumcision. The only value he held to was that of ‘new creation’:
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation (Gal. 6:15).
This is the same language (kaine ktisis: new creation) as in 2 Corinthians 5:17 where in that context he writes that for those who are in Christ how they see others has been totally altered. No one can be viewed according to any former value system, for ‘if anyone is in Christ [there is] new creation’. Through Christ’s death on the cross there is a new social order. Perhaps the best summary of the effect of the Gospel, the birth of this new social order is the classic summary text in Galatians 3:28, 29:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
End of extract…
Paul pushes a lot of buttons. Sight, for him, seems to be a measure as to whether we are ‘in Christ’ or not. I have no idea if he would buy into the forensic argument related to justification without corresponding action (or here sight). Sight needs to mark us out. When we talk about ‘our people’ and ‘them’ and the context is political (as I have seen recently on a Christian video) I cannot square such language with Paul’s indication of what it means to be in Christ. (Even Joshua had to find out that God was not into the ‘us’ or ‘our enemy’ language. No help coming from God to us…. and the ever present danger of the Judas’ gift of being wedded to our view of the kingdom…)
It is a sad day when we are able to label people by ideology. Paul was pretty up tight when he saw the effect of division that came about through the interpretation of Scripture regarding faith. He (in his own wonderful ‘objectionable’ way) called it ‘another’ Gospel. What would he say when we make divides over other issues?
Although being a non-reflecting sort of person I always love the seasons such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Just gives a little pause to think and be thankful. Also this year being a year of focused writing that has centred in on the life of Jesus as the one who was fully God and truly human I have had to consider how he grew up, certainly not the baby in the manger who ‘no crying he made’. Brings me to consider the virgin birth.
I accept the virgin birth though so little is made of it in the Scriptures. Paul with all his writings does not mention it, nor Hebrews. Maybe Paul did not know about it, maybe it was always understood as a symbol? If that was the case I could accept that for there does not seem to be any level of appeal to the virgin birth theologically in Scripture. The theology seems in some way tied to a particular approach to sin and perhaps also to sex. (The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew does not put together a ‘pure’ line: neither racially nor sexually.)
What is clear is we are not reading some kind of myth of a god encountering a young woman and through some sexual act an offspring comes forth, a demi-god. The narrative pushes us right away from that, indeed it pushes us in a feminine direction with two ‘wombs’. The womb of a young woman, and at the same time the womb of the Holy Spirit. I am not suggesting that the Holy Spirit is female any more than I suggest that ‘God’ is male. I am simply suggesting that the imagery surrounding the virgin conception is feminine. Mary makes room for the baby; the Holy Spirit likewise makes room for the incarnation. It all happened through the overshadowing, brooding, creative shaping energy of the Spirit. Just as creation came forth by the word spoken into the brooding shape of the Spirit; just as the early disciples in the upper room were overshadowed by the same brooding presence; in that same manner comes forth a male child, born of a woman, born under the law.
Not much in the narrative that features the male presence.
What a wonderful act. Although the original Christmas was unlikely to have occurred at this time of year, here we are just breaking into the days getting longer (northern hemisphere of course) and with one eye on the new year, so I find Christmas… the brooding presence of the Spirit making room for new beginnings. Not an immediate birth, but a normal human process begins. What a combination. A natural process with aches, pains, inconvenience and participation between the divine and the human.
Reflecting back on Gayle’s post of a few days ago. Time to make any adjustments that are needed. Light is here. Clouds will come. Sight is possible to set a direction, even when sight will become less clear. A process will continue.
Twins are born having been carried in one womb. A (non-literal) birth from heaven is carried in two wombs.