Q & A

Last night I had a dream, maybe not a full on God-dream but one that I woke from energised. It centred around how we tend to approach life with the answers, how we are sure because of our faith, and then we try and make life fit our answers. My little task in the dream was to come to a group who were so sure about everything and tell them that their answers were irrelevant as they did not have the right questions (indeed they did not seem to have any questions; they had left that part of life behind them). As I looked around the whole group I could see they were very content, but evidently in a bubble, they had little contact (and probably little relevance) to what lay beyond themselves.

Pre-fall I guess the path was one of discovery, experimentation and surprise – sounds a great way to live? The instruction was to ‘eat of all the trees’. Try this fruit, what about that one… What a great way to learn and given that redemption brings about a restoration this should become an element in our lives. The freedom of discovery.

Post-fall it seems that questions are key. Before God says anything by way of revelation there are questions that come that penetrate right to the heart:

  • “Where are you?”
  • “Who told you that you were naked?”
  • “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
  • “What is this that you have done?”

Questions continue throughout Scripture. Particularly before revelation comes:

  • ‘What is in your hand?’
  • ‘What do you see?’
  • ‘Who do you say I am?’

If we are not comfortable with questions there will be very little revelation. We have to be comfortable with not knowing… and if we are not comfortable with that we will always have a tendency to resort to eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (hint: not a good idea and one that does not have a good ending! When I first wrote this last sentence I mis-spelt good as ‘goof’, not a bad spelling?).

Putting the two elements of pre-fall and post-fall together we need to consider that discovery (with experimentation and surprise) and questions need to be the tracks either side of the path that we walk down. God is the all-knowing one, we…? Well we are maybe not the all-ignorant ones, but far from being the all-knowing ones!

Questions without answers are not comfortable… but we have to be come comfortable with that feeling. We have to hold this, and learn to live with a big old ‘I don’t know’ as part of of who we are.

A few reflections on the ‘r’ word

I hope you enjoyed the dialogue with Michele. I always appreciate talking with her as she lives with an integrity that has meant she has not always been able to walk in a straight line pursuing a successful career path in things ecclesiastical, but has turned aside and then followed the path of the Spirit… after all Jesus said that was a hallmark of those who are ‘born again’… theologians have changed the words of Jesus to apply it to the Spirit being like the wind! Such an interpretation can still allow us to live carefully… not I think an option Jesus seemed to want to offer.

I grew up with talk of Duncan Campbell and the Lewis revival of the early 50s; I came to faith through connection to Pentecostals so the stories of Smith Wigglesworth, Stephen and George Jeffries, the healing revivalists of the 50s became great ‘food’, then the extensive works and stories of Charles Finney (and what a middle name – Grandison!!), plus some amazing encounters connected to John Wesley. I wrote a book some 20 years ago ‘Sowing seeds for Revival’ (later republished as Gaining Ground). Someone asked me a couple of days ago would I change anything in that book (and Impacting the City) and I replied with a ‘basically no… even if I might express some things a little differently’.

I might not use the ‘r’ word so regularly, but am still looking for the ‘t’ word – transformation. Indeed for me ekklesia is bound up with transformation of the world, and it was one of the reasons why we moved to Spain, seeking to track where first Century unanswered apostolic prayers were seeded in the land / in the land of Empire.

[An aside: we all have to make some sense of our own journey. I, being optimistic, do not see wrong turns, simply distinct points on the way. I appreciate there are some who look back and view where they have been negatively. I do not. Does not make me right, but makes it a whole lot easier to live freely!]

When I began to travel outside the UK into the USA I soon discovered that the ‘r’ word was being used in a different way to how I had understood it. There it seemed more to be an activity within the congregation – ‘we are having revival’, whereas my background had reserved it for thousands coming to faith and donkeys no longer responding to miners’ commands as they no longer used expletives to command them to move (Wales, 1904)! The difference made me reflect some, then I began to think about the setting for those ‘revivals’ this side of the pond – 1859, 1904, 1951 etc. They were into a community already somewhat religious. Many, many chapels were built in Wales post 1859, those chapels were fairly full when we come to 1904. Filled with sons and daughters of those converted in 1859. With so much of the climate, there and in Lewis, being of a Calvinist nature therefore only God can convert, they were waiting for a move of God (‘I now feel guilty’). That move came, and although I have no doubt we can call it a move, such classic sermons as ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’ also fitted a culture. The wider community was touched deeply, but that wider community was already strongly god-fearing (and we might wish to emphasise ‘fearing’!).

I have travelled numerous African countries and also in South America. The impact of the gospel has been incredible. Some cities in Brazil might be as high as 40% born again! But…

OK these are reflections.

Europe is post-Christian. Or maybe better put post-Christendom. I give a big ‘oh yes, now that is a description that will help us get out of bed each day with a spring in our step and a shout in our mouth’. Has God used Christendom? The answer is of course ‘yes’ but the question is irrelevant. God, after all, anointed a monarchy in Israel, a move that was birthed in ‘rejecting God’. God anoints what rejects the direction s/he is moving in!

Post-Christian, not having a voice that is listened to above others; pushed to the margins etc… That is where our faith was born, so surely it gives us hope. So many people have been praying for a revival of first Century Christianity, and then want to hold on to a context different to where it flourished. Seems to me like trying to grow grapes in the Arctic Circle. Plant all you want… but the context just is not the right one to produce wine!

I deeply suspect that north America, followed by South America and Africa will follow where the train is headed. Into the world of post-Christendom. At this stage seems we (in Europe) are well aware the train has left the track, while those in the other carriages can still happily swing from the proverbial chandeliers. I also like to swing in that way but perhaps for a slightly different reason.

I am not simply optimistic when I look ahead. I am up beat about now! I consider that we are right in an incredible outpouring; some put it this way that the last century saw three outpourings – Azusa Street and Pentecostalism; charismatic renewal, and ‘Toronto’ and the many parallel movements. Three outpourings, granting us a fullness.

I consider that Pentecost (Acts 2) gives a paradigm of three stages: for you; your children (generational); those afar off. We are at the afar off stage and how we respond depends on what stage we are at. Afar off means movement. Movement out. This is not a season of ‘bring them in’ but ‘abandon safety (safety is overrated anyway!) and make the journey to where the Spirit is moving’. If we don’t make the journey, and that journey will involve listening for there is a conversion to take place in ‘us’ that is greater than the conversion to take place in ‘the others’. If we don’t make the journey how can there be an embrace of Jesus?

I have come to believe that we really have to squeeze Scriptures to make it all about ‘in / out’ but if we let them speak to us we will hear very loudly ‘the earth is the Lord’s’, in other words ekklesia is not about getting people in but about a people being planted in the world so that there will indeed be transformation. (Moving from the first parable, the only one fully explained, with the seed being the word of God and falling on the soil of response… to the next parable where the seed is no longer the word of God, but the incarnated word, hence integrity being ever so important, with less mouth and more vulnerability and transparency, and the soil being the ‘world’. The first one fully explained so that we get it… and in getting it embrace the second and subsequent parables.)

Words do not primarily carry meaning at an intrinsic level – the old idea of etymology (the root word means) will not get us too far – but words are carriers of meaning, that meaning depending on what the communicator intended and the meaning the hearer injects into them. ‘The ‘r’ word, revival. I might or might not still use it, but my expectation is so far beyond what I had in mind when I began to travel with ‘sowing seeds for revival’ teams. The ‘t’, transformation word, is perhaps closer to where I am at.

But maybe it is the ‘r’ word I like. Responsibility. Taking responsibility for this world. Being sourced from heaven, being shaped by heaven’s values. I am happy to review almost anything, but the cross was the roadblock to destruction, so it opened the path to transformation. Maybe with the climate crisis we are running out of time. Maybe… but what is more certain is I am here in my generation, regardless of how many are yet to come. And finally to encourage me I meditate on the widow who put two small coins in the Temple treasury, that act prompting Jesus to speak to those who were so impressed with its magnificence to say – all will be changed! Being impressed or intimidated, I simply want as many as possible to throw a couple of coins in the right direction and then we might indeed see something in ‘this generation’.

Kabul… Silk Road

Every so often in history there are major turning moments. In living memory the coming down of the Berlin Wall certainly has to be up there. Now the tragic scenarios in Afghanistan are there for us to view, though what do I know about such troubles? Yes we pray, but even still it is hard not to feel a sham in the light of what many are going through on the ground; they living in the very real fear of what might yet unfold.

There are geographies that are key to unlock much greater areas and I am sure Afghanistan is one of those. On the silk road, a theme that has been highlighted for a number of people, both in terms of the shift West to East and a restoration of trade that is not based on exploitation and greed (the sin of Sodom?). Kabul as a major crossroads, now in the centre of news.

Afghanistan has been described as the ‘graveyard of Empires’ having lived through successive attempts to be controlled. In recent centuries Britain has had a dubious history there; there are strong pointers that the initial arming and financing of the Taliban came from USA sources. I have no idea what should be done / should have been done politically, and it is certainly much easier to find what is wrong rather than propose something truly redemptive (co-words are compromising and ‘fallen’).

I am deeply troubled by the pain in that area of our globe, and do not write lightly. Yet it is a global sign that an era is ending. The end of an era does not normally come in a moment but there are often major ‘earth tremors’ marking the time. And so much of what was just continues (Jesus refusal to become the emperor of Rome, signalled the end of Rome but the history books tell us the empire continued for centuries).

I consider that the next years will increasingly signal the shift that is taking place, a shift from West to East, and a shift in where the control of financial exchange takes place. I am sure much will continue but 2022 will see a series of shock waves, even a number into what we might consider is very secure.

In history so much shift of power is from one power to the next, with the new power ‘eating’ the previous one. We have to see something different, something deeper that opens our world to dimensions of the kingdom of God. A simple shift of centres is not enough. Shifts in the global scene are a signal that there are shifts in the ‘spiritual’ scene that can be engaged with. I think we have to lose glib talk of the ‘sovereignty of God’ as if s/he is in control in some sort of ‘ruling over’ kind of way. Seems that the control was always to be in the hands of humanity, and that control was never to be over other people, but to lovingly shape the future, dig the channels where healing water can flow.

The future is going to be messy… but God will be found in strange places.

And for Afghanistan. It is one of a number of places where the memory is held strongly. The bloodshed embeds the memory deeper than before. Just as with the human person and the memory embedded within the body, so the land acts as the corporate memory, people no longer knowing why they act the way they do, simply responding to an unconscious but very real memory. A healing of the memory is so needed in that area. If there are those who have connections within the land, come into agreement with them about the healing of history.

And we have to pray in this messy era that there are those who become channels for the ‘love stream’ of heaven, and praying without simply pulling on history to suggest they will have to be immediate followers of Jesus. The messy days are here; but where we go Jesus will go before us.

Shame… follow up

When I posted the interview with Michele I forgot to put a link to her writings at ‘Reflections from the unpaved road’.

(https://dmperry.com/2021/07/14/closets/).

Her regular blog will connect not just for those interested in the ‘shame’ area, but beyond. Michele, Gayle and I count as a friend, and particularly because of her honesty, transparency and hard-worked out wisdom. Check out her posts.

Speculation all the way

OK so this post will have a little speculation thrown in (unlike all my other posts?), and it might well be pure speculation, but what better kind than ‘pure’ can there be?

Let’s start with we are in trouble… the planet and our future. At a personal level we have lived where we are 8 summers, and even in that time it is noticeable that the temperatures are rising. Ask those who have lived here 70 years and they will say it was never like this in the old days. At current levels of increase some parts of Spain will not be habitable in the next 30 or so years. The sea level is rising, it is more acidic than ever… We read of heat waves in different parts of the world. I am not a scientist, so of course am aware that there are scientists who would argue against me… however, a few years back I met a creditable climate scientist and asked him if there were genuinely creditable scientists (i.e. not simply ones who had PhD’s in science but whose specialist was climate issues) who deny climate change. He said there was one above all others, who was a believer, and who through a theophany claimed he was commissioned to rebutt the science that believes in climate change. So my proviso is… I am no expert, but as the title is ‘speculation all the way’.

To round this part off here is a quote from an article I read a few days ago:

One of the hardest parts of writing about the history of the climate crisis was stumbling across warnings from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, musing about how things might get bad sometime after the year 2000 if no one did anything about fossil fuels. They still had hope back then. Reading that hope today hurts.
We are now living our ancestors’ nightmares, and it didn’t have to be this way. If we are looking to apportion blame, it is those who deliberately peddled doubt that should be first in line.

Jumping from climate issues to another area where I lack expertise (and when I look at the experts and how they disagree with one another in most fields it makes one wonder if there truly are experts!!). So here we jump to the world of theology and ‘end of world’ scenarios, or better put ‘parousia scenarios’ (return of Christ, in popular language).

Cards on table… no I don’t believe that a future antiChrist is prophesied… It is possible to put some Scriptures that are not addressing the same thing and end up with a future antiChrist. I think though it takes the same kind of hermeneutic that is used to have Nostradamus accurately predicting the future! (Think I am wrong… just read Hal Lindsay’s books as they progress over the decades… same hermeneutic at play but the predictions progress, fitting with real time not biblical text!!!!!!) There might, of course, be a future antiChrist, for in a biblical sense there always has been a one-world government – that which opposes the kingdom of God (i.e. the pejorative use of ‘world’ in for example John’s Gospel). If one were to arise they would certainly fulfil what we read in Scripture – but if so that does NOT make a case at all for the Bible told us there would be one. (We can compare this to the Scriptures quoted concerning Judas Iscariot – no prediction in sight but he fulfilled a whole set of texts…) The only time the world has been under a one-world government is the world of the New Testament, and in line with the tower of Babel / Babylon it was not the finished, complete, absolute example. Babel / Babylon shows us that will not exist.

I see the years of 66-70, with the year of the four emperors right in the midst of the Jewish Wars as the sign of the Son of Man coming with the clouds. Why? Because that seems to me be in line with Daniel’s reference to ‘one coming as a son of man to the Ancient of Days’ – the coming is by the Son of Man to God, not a parousia to the earth; understanding it this way it also reconciles all the times Jesus promised that those alive while he was on earth would see that event. Jesus was not mistaken!! But proved to be very accurate indeed. The sign was visible, the end of an era and the sign that new creation, and only new creation counted from the death of Jesus onwards.

In other words, I see almost nothing in the Bible beyond the horizon of the fall of Jerusalem (AD70). Revelation, book of, I date later and find it to be the most devastating and relevant critique of Imperial power.

Anyway enough of my lack of expertise… back to speculation.

We could be a generation, or two away from the end of either the human race, or the way the human race has developed, the end of a phase of human existence. If so I am so optimistic that:

either,

  • we could see a generation reached with the presence of God in ways beyond our imagination (and it will have to go beyond our imagination – what we can see);

or,

  • we could see a generation reached who turn this whole thing around and there is a major reversal to the direction of humanity that has been governed by ‘we will be like God’ (and who have consequently have ‘moved every boundary marker’ to achieve and demonstrate this).

The end of the human race but the presence (parousia? for that is the core meaning of the word) of God / Jesus saturating that people. A final generation. Or a generation that marks the finality to the pursuit of godlessness, and opening the way for generations beyond them to embrace the transcendent presence of heaven – a new heavens and a new earth?

So beyond the speculation comes the optimism. If either of the two possibilities of a ‘final’ generation, in the sense of there can be no more, or a final one in the sense of ‘enough of this madness’, I am looking for something that goes beyond our imagination. Beyond what we can see, for God is able to do above and beyond what we ask or imagine… according to the power at work among us… perhaps we could translate that as in proportion to the power that is at work among us, in proportion… but way beyond.

I actually think we are at the beginning of a stage where the Spirit is touching those who are afar off, touching them where they are. If we do not connect we will never know. It does not make the church redundant, but certainly shoots a warning across the bow of those who claim that they are doing church as the Bible teaches. They might be trying to do church as they think Paul was doing it (I doubt that – unless they are as crazy as he was with his ekklesia language)… and even if we were truly doing it as he was doing it, we would not be doing it as he would be doing it today!!

The Spirit’s presence… and there has to be, as always, a recognition that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Jesus. That was an issue for the Jewish world. Laying on one side the challenging doctrine of the Trinity, the Jews accepted that the divine Spirit was indeed present (in theory) among them; the Christian gospel was that ‘from on high’ Jesus had poured out the Spirit… the Spirit was none other than the Spirit of Jesus. There lies our challenge. Converting people to come join us? No, first being converted to join them, so that what is happening in their midst they can discover is nothing less than the Spirit of Jesus, the firstborn of all creation.

Climate change, global crisis, the earth crying out… the scene is set. I speculate, but optimism rises.

Moira Scott (1949-2021)

Their voice still speaks


Moira, Ivan’s wife and mother to 4 (adult) children passed away in the early hours of yesterday. She was my sister-in-law, and an example of the generosity of the love of God to and for many. Ivan and Moira modelled a care and an acceptance of one and all. We remain in the land of the dying with the provocation that our voice might continue to speak after we depart this world. Moira leaves more than a memory in people’s minds. Her values and priorities continue to influence… her voice continues to speak.

Jonathan, one of her sons, posted on FaceBook, what I now re-post here with his permission.


Mum passed away peacefully last night, just 7 weeks after this picture was taken, where we celebrated the 30 years of extra life modern medicine bought us. She had a mercifully short battle with lymphoma, an ironic long-term consequence of the transplant medication that had kept her alive all these years.

She leaves behind our dad, the 4 of us, her 6 amazing grandchildren and her 6 siblings. She also leaves behind the countless thousands of people she has touched over the years, some in large ways, some in small ways, and most in ways we’ll never know. she provided food and shelter to folks as they got back on their feet again, encouraged people in their darkest hours with a prayer, an encouraging word, or just a hug, and was always available with a cup of tea and a song, which seemed to make anything better. Her home, wherever she made it, was always a place of peace, warmth and welcome.

Her life’s work was not about material gain; it was about strengthening her family and faith and doing what she could to bring wholeness and fulfilment to people, families and communities.

In her final days, she spoke with me about how her life had been an exciting journey of self-discovery, and how she had grown to understand that life is not black and white, nor governed by rigid rules or institutions as we’d once been led believe; instead, she saw it as a kaleidoscope of colors, where apparent conflicts and contradictions hang together, somehow in harmony. She also accepted this might be her time and was not afraid of death, even though it felt too soon.

We were lucky to have us. We will miss her. I will miss her. But what an example she set.

Twenty Three

I made a small comment in the first post of interviews with Matheus about the significance of 23 years old / 23 years ago, so here is a short follow up.

Many years ago – I know it was many years ago because I was 46 years old, I got up in the night as I had something burning on my heart. The first part was not burning and did not take much time to offload. It was a simple prayer… ‘if you feel OK about this I would like to live another 46 years. I have not lived long enough yet to make enough mistakes to learn too much so maybe another 46 years will help on that account.’

Well I might have another 46 years, another 46 months, another 4 hours… whatever. So not too important a prayer that part.

The second took longer. Lord help us see 23 year olds rise up who have the maturity that a 46 year might have, without fear, full of insight and with humility, blah, blah blah.

Coincidental ages of course, but I think the point remains. It was, and remains, a very significant moment in my spiritual journey.

I have been amazed at the ‘coincidental’ connections since. Phoning someone years ago, and as part of the background sharing the above experience. At the end of sharing it (and it was the only time we ever conversed by phone) he said to me ‘you know what day it is?’. I had no idea what the question meant… until he said I had phoned him on his 23rd birthday.

23 years ago I left what I was involved in, entered a borrowed vehicle with a team and drove up the motorway to Leeds. Maybe my life was already being changed before I left, but that first journey and the many that followed certainly saw so many internal changes. There was a before and an after at a personal level 23 years ago.

Gayle, likewise is reconnecting with events of 23 years ago. Her world is being turned upside down, as she enters a major phase of what she has been born for.

We are embracing these days, yet travelling as slow as we can, as we are committed to the next 23 years (or 46, or….).

23 and 46 (and 92) were arbitrary numbers… but I suspect that there is something that, for many of us, is rising that somehow taps into an era from the late 90s, that is resurfacing in a new way. Seed that is in the ground does not come up the same as it went in the ground, but it does come up.

Perspectives