Heroines and heroes

In honour of Christine Noble and Gerald Coates

That is probably not a good title to use for this post for reasons that will become evident. A while back the leader of the Evangelical Alliance of Spain said that we have a problem in our charismatic world system. We have heroes / heroines on the platform and meanwhile we occupy the seats as admirers. They, the superstars, are elevated, we dream of being like them, but the gap is forever there, and the circus goes on, as we seek out the next ‘life-changing’ conference. Marcus said, in contrast to the above circus, we have to touch the reality of lives and be touched in the reality of our lives, then the superstar / admirer relationship gives way to mutual discipleship.

The title is not the right one, for I want to write about the passing away of Christine Noble and Gerald Coates this weekend. It is not the right title for they never elevated themselves as superstars, yet influenced many, and were known and let themselves be known. Human, like us, yet dedicated to pursue the Lord and the kingdom of God.

Years ago I wrote a book For Such a Time as This and dedicated it to Christine Noble (and Gustavo Guitierrez). To Christine as she was such a forerunner in creating paths where others could follow, women for sure, but also an inspiration right across the genders. It has been moving to follow during the past years how the Noble family have journeyed in the situation of a prolonged illness for Christine. They have always modelled something unique as family. John posted:

Saturday 2nd of April and the love of my life finally listened to me and went to be with Jesus at 2.45pm. I had been telling her to go for ages but whenever did she take any notice of me? She always did things in her own time and way and was obviously determined that she would wait until the kids arrived together to say their goodbyes.It has been a long hard struggle but now it’s over for her and we must continue to receive strength from her example and to honour her by making sure that we finish our race in faith and good heart before we go to meet and join her in joyful reunion .So, it has been a time of tears of unbearable pain and now tears of intense relief as her suffering has ended.

As I read those words the obvious generational legacy was so clear.

A few hours later, Sunday morning Gerald passed away. On Jan. 9th, 1977 Sue (Middlemiss) and I moved to Cobham as a young (21 years old) engaged couple where for the following decades our lives were intertwined with what was then called Cobham Christian Fellowship (later Pioneer People). We moved thinking that we would be married in a few months then would be live there a year or maybe two. The year or two passed and we stayed, captivated by the community that was present. The honesty, down to earthness of it, but the desire for ‘on earth as in heaven’ got inside of us. Those characteristics flowed from the lives of Gerald and Anona Coates. In those days Gerald was criticised by so many in the wider evangelical world but always held true to what he was convinced of. Honesty, transparency and integrity.

I have been influenced by many people and, as for all of us, there are those who become more significant at a given time than others, but I think no one has influenced me as much at the core of my being as Gerald. Starting that journey when I was 21 some of what I observed and experienced is present within me still 45 years later.

Religion did not have a hope of being encouraged when around Gerald. He had a way with words and often with a phrase where one might be laughing but at the same time realising that the phrase had exposed something hidden on the inside. That something hidden was often at the same time something deep and a mask being worn to protect.

There are many stories I could recount from those decades when we journeyed together. Suffice to say I am eternally grateful that as a young 21 year old I had the opportunity not simply to sit in a pew, but to rub shoulders with someone who influenced enormously the Christian faith in the UK and beyond. I am a different person as a result.

We run a race. Not always at the same pace, not always in the same geography. That race is corporate and individual. There are those who continue to inspire. This weekend two very significant people have come to the end of their ‘race’. Their legacy lives on, so many can testify to that.

Open Zoom: April 5

Two more on the cross to come – Monday and Tuesday next week, and on Tuesday…

Hi everyone… or at least hi to everyone reading this. Once a month I have been hosting an open zoom evening on the first Tuesday of the month: open cos is open to anyone, and open cos it is not tied to the books I have written, though the theology from those influences where we go on those evenings. [Did I hear someone say – your books, Martin, where can I get them? Go to https://bozpublications.com – hardbacks or eBook. And in the future why not consider joining a Zoom group. OK ADVERT OVER.]

Thus far we have had one evening on ‘Transgender’ and the others have focused on the implications of a ‘political’ Gospel, particularly as put forward by the author Luke. This time round Ro Lavender will hold the space with a focus on reflections and stories, that will help us see how the big picture of a ‘political gospel’ is practically earthed, and the importance of the small story as well as anything we might consider is big.

No need to let me know if you are planning on being there. Simply log on to the Zoom link. 19:30 UK time.

Time: April 5, 2022 19:30 London

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5728039267?pwd=NEozVVM0Z1NJSDFKKzNwdG9KUDc5dz09

Meeting ID: 572 803 9267
Passcode: 5GkMTA

This will probably be the last one that is shaped by the political gospel… watch out for future themes – maybe on the cross? I will pick up on further aspects of the cross in posts from Tuesday onwards.

Now that is a smart revelation

Ever wake up where things become clear, like ‘that really makes sense’? I did this morning. Some really smart revelation… feel quite good about that.

Be yourself, everyone else is taken.

A really insightful quote from Oscar Wilde. One we can all agree with and nod to, probably not so easy to live out. And given that salvation is freedom from all hostile powers (including that central one of (singular) sin) so that we can fly to be truly ‘us’ we should really not only nod but give it a big thumbs up.

Part of the journey toward maturity (I think!) is to discover the baggage we have carried with us. So, my revelation, not quite a new one, but one that crystalised and made sense. A VERY smart revelation was I am really not very smart.

Back in the UK I had a wonderful library of books, maybe around 5000 or so. The latest (then) on the Dead Sea Scrolls, maybe a minimum of 3 commentaries on every NT book, all the main OT ones covered, articles, subscribing to three theological journals. How I have missed them. Then I realised I did not have the ability to read them! So better they have gone. I enjoy running some zoom groups, and I think most people have enjoyed them; there was one group though that I pulled out of. They were far too smart for me. Someone asked if they were trained theologians… no, they simply understood the English language and were able to read. I used to run the group in our lounge and Gayle was sitting on the settee, as the discussion progressed I had to ask Gayle constantly ‘what does that mean?’, either related to a word being used (and I am sure a common word for the majority of people) or a concept that I had no idea what it was. That was perhaps the best group yet for me. It helped me see that the ‘not so smart’ qualification was something I was excelling at.

Gayle is a lot of fun to be with. She is smart and knows how to fly (figuratively). I said to her this morning that in the years we have been together I have so enjoyed it and also like never before discovered how ‘not smart’ (trying to avoid using the ‘stupid’ word) I am. It is only coincidental that my discovery connects with the years we have been married, she certainly has not caused it!

Through those reflections it is possible to come to ‘silver and gold I do not have…’ which is quite good. Of course we have to get to the ‘but what I do have…’; yet the two halves seem to be good to have in place.

Expectations… from within, from others. Perceptions of others. Probably none of them too helpful. Be yourself… not impressive… limitations…

Limitations. Yes that is really important. I remember years ago hearing someone give a critique of Christian TV (it could have been a critique of anything). He explained that so often the money raising was because they are reaching xxx million people; this person then went on to say, ‘not really true’. The transmission might indeed cover that number of people, cover that percentage of the globe, but when we talk ‘reaching’ there is an element where that is shaped by who turns the ‘on’ button on and then engages with it. Potential (and sometimes that is unrealistic potential) is something that can fool us. Realistic limitations (that can be pushed back) are part of discovering what the true potential is. We should not be frightened about discovering limitations. Once we do, then we can begin to exercise who we are within those limitations.

Wisdom. As one gets older one is supposed to get more wisdom. But I am not sure I understand what is true wisdom. The Queen of Sheba was impressed with Solomon, with the ‘half having not even been told’. Impressed with what? That a young humble guy was fast developing a path that would enable the Pharaonic system to embed itself in the nation is an example of great wisdom? Maybe the younger Solomon with his crazy suggestion of ‘cut the baby in two’ was the one who really had captured the heart of wisdom.

I thank God for smart people. We need them.

I am looking for a new level of ‘hiddenness’ , one that is deeper than the past 12 years. Drop down a level, count the number of ears, rather than try to expand the mouth. Be at home with encounters with the demonic. Now that one makes me smile and brings me energy. Theologically I am really not sure about the world of the demonic, too much seems to be made of it from mythical passages, and if truth be out I have no real insight as to whether the Scriptures suggest we should believe in a personal devil or not. Probably, as far as my view goes, theologically I have no Scriptures in my favour; maybe evolution and what I think the trajectory of the biblical story pushes for might be something that at least gives me 1 out of 10 in any exam I was to sit. I smile cos I enjoy a good bruising with that realm!

‘Silver and gold’… ‘No smart answers coming from this source; sorry I simply do not have the ability to engage with that cos I don’t understand it’…

So there you have it, my revelation this morning, and ever so liberating. I thought I would put it down here as it helps me, and maybe there is a reader or two who is meeting the limitations of ‘I am not very…’ But what I do have, the uniqueness of me – rest in that, for your ‘you’ and my ‘me’ will be so small, so like a couple of drops in that big ocean. I kinda think that is where this whole thing started way back in the day of the impressive Roman rule. And I kinda think we are increasingly coming back to it… the multiplicity of the small, and the richness of diversity.

3000… a good move?

So he [Moses] stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him. Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.” (Exodus 32:26-29).

And so begins the Levites as the priestly line in Israel… though I do not think God ever intended there to be a priestly line, for the nation was to be a priesthood for the nations, and now begins the first step of reductionism, with a priestly tribe for Israel. Seems to lead all the way to ‘we have no king but Caesar’!

Passion for God is what the Levites exhibited.

Paul showed passion for God, righteousness and zealousness:

as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless (Phil. 3:6).

That is a pre-Jesus lens, and through that lens only one conclusion, to rid the nation (Israel) of the compromising and blasphemous claims that a crucified man was the Messiah. To claim Jesus as the Messiah was as outrageous a claim as the ones who proclaimed that the golden calf was an image of the ‘god’ who had rescued them from Egypt. Paul truly was standing in a good tradition.

The post-Jesus lens though gave quite a different perspective.

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief (1 Tim. 1:13, emphasis added).

A blasphemer: this was the accusation against Jesus, for claiming that he and God were on the same level, that he represented God. Paul now understood that his zealousness for the law was simply a cover for a misrepresentation of God. And ironically the one who was taught the Law was ignorant! Same as those who crucified Jesus, for they needed forgiveness for they did not know what they were doing! Eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and end up ignorant, full of zeal, able to represent God, but be guilty of blasphemy!

We cannot justify, nor do I believe that God justifies the killing of those 3000. Maybe there was no alternative, for how does one keep a nation clean when we are all ignorant? I don’t know how to square it all up. God worked with them… but I don’t think there was any satisfaction in God that 3000 lost their lives that day. In the light of Jesus, the express image of God, we cannot say, ‘and this pleased God’.

Jesus poured out what we see and what we hear… and,

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41).

This Jesus we crucified because we had to be zealous for God. Yes we have to critique biblical texts, for we have to critique our own hearts of the self-protectionism that is within them.

Authentic

Quite a word that one! Who am I? Where am I going? And how do I get there? And an intrinsic fourth – who will go with me / who will I go with? ‘My Story – our Story – the Big Story’.

Those are the overarching questions / shape of Authentic Lives. As most readers of these posts know Gayle has been involved in courses, developing schools material, helping train facilitators etc., within Authentic Lives. And of course as one who is unbiased… she is quite brilliant at it all.

There are two courses coming up, one in person (Ashburnham Place) and one by Zoom.

https://www.ashburnham.org.uk/events/authentic-lives (Ashburnham: Tuesday 15th March 2022 4pm – Friday 18th March 2022 10am).

https://authenticlives.org/membership/authentic_lives_online_march_2022_uk1-002/ (Zoom beginning Thursday 31st March, 7.30pm).


Gayle and I are committed to Authentic for (as we see it) the next 20 years; Gayle from within and I will ponce around on the edge. I first met Andrew in passing in 2004, a ‘chance’ meeting as it was the one of the very few times (maybe the only time) that I ventured out into the public space in the Autumn of that year while Sue was undergoing cancer treatment. Andrew was living in Hong Kong, and was visiting London: I likewise ventured out to visit London. We then connected in person in January 2020. Two aspects immediately impacted me. The cleanness on money – and for this reason courses are not charged for – and the person-focused nature of the material (maybe this is the reason why I am not involved; I always wanted to pretend it was simply that the material was over my head).

I do believe we are (globally) at a major turning point. This year I have both written about the cumulative series of events that will destabilise our world and the opportunities to go through one of the ‘four’ doors before us – only visible if pointed in a forward direction. AL / AB is one aspect among many that I believe is pointed to the future. The old parameters, if held on to too tightly, will obscure the possibility, for there is a Cornelius / Peter time here. Conversions within the body of Christ. Choppy waters. Those like the wind, unpredictable – for that was the mark Jesus gave to those who were born again. He did not ascribe the ‘wind’ as a sign of the Spirit (though it is in Gen. 1 and Acts 2). We are happy with it applied to the Spirit, but apparently when the unpredictable Spirit blows it will always blow people in a predictable direction… I think not!

Favourite verses

You must be born again / from above (John 3:7).

That is a favourite verse… spoken to one person… but to be fair it also says ‘no-one can see the kingdom of God without being born again’. So perhaps justified as a ‘favourite verse’.

Go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor… (Matt. 19:21).

Not such a favourite verse, spoken to one person, but maybe with some justification it is not universally applied (just wiped my brow with relief right then).

It is amazing how we choose some verses over others, and thankfully maybe just about come down on the side that is OK-ish.

I was totalling up the other day who intimidates me:

Those with more money than me5%
Those who are not of my gender50%
Those younger than me92%
Those smarter than me91%
Total: thank God the battery on my calculator ran outQuite a lot

So a favourite Scripture of mine is:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 5:16,17).

My short list above has a left-sided column that is composed of categories ‘from a human point of view’. Not surprisingly then the right side column is not a pretty sight. ‘See’ is the command. Now there is a challenge. See there is ‘new creation’. This current one is groaning, currently visible in the Ukraine, but groaning when Martin sees with old eyes. One is visible to all via TV; the other I can keep hidden… though the fruit will be visible to anyone who approaches me.

I think maybe this (2 Corinthians 5:16,17 quoted above) is my (current) favourite Scripture. If the born again Scripture is a favourite it seemed that Jesus said the sign that we really are allowing the reality of what we favour to be true for us is that we are unpredictable. If I allow the content of the verse that I claim as favourite to transform me then my categorisations need to go. Got a lot of work to do… or find another favourite Scripture. The latter will be easy, the former… not really sure I know where to start.

Come join – if you want!

I have hosted a monthly ‘open zoom’ evening where we have explored some of the ‘so what’ questions. Tonight (7:30pm UK time) I want to explore a little more on ‘how do we engage with society with a view to contributing toward transformation’ – a succinct title if ever there was one!

(Zoom link will be at the end of this post.)

I have a paper that is in note form here that will be worth casting an eye over first:

In summary: the Gospel is about a ‘heart transplant’ being offered to society; ‘individual’ salvation is periphery in the sense of ‘saved from… saved to go to…’ but is an invite to join the advance party of those who experience a heart transplant and position themselves so that others (individual and corporate) can also receive such a new heart. And then how do we engage – two poles, get the top 3% and maybe even control the change, or the opposite, just the little small things we do… And I acknowledge that our leanings might be because of our personalities… if (I only put the word ‘if’ in there to soften the blow of reality to myself) one is intimidated by anyone different, better educated, know more, have more money, have a lot less money, are female, they’re younger and I have no idea how to relate to them even if they are grandkids, and then breathe a sigh of relief ‘at least I am not intimidated by those who are older’… until I realise why – oh yes I am the older one!! Yes we do have our own peculiar bias and not a few weaknesses that colour our beliefs.

Anyway feel free to join, just use the link below. Any questions at the end of the paper are simply ones by example, I hope we gather a few more in the evening.

Topic: Open Zoom Evening
Time: Mar 1, 2022 19:30 London

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5728039267?pwd=NEozVVM0Z1NJSDFKKzNwdG9KUDc5dz09

Meeting ID: 572 803 9267
Passcode: 5GkMTA

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.

Perspectives