Shadow boxing

I read a post this morning and in it was the following sentence:

The other instigates a secular political war against imaginary enemies.

Imaginary enemies! For the likes of me who live with an oppositional viewpoint to everything the danger is that when I come to peace with something I will have to find something else to be in opposition to, and can of course just come up with something totally from my imagination. ‘Binding’ something imaginary of course needs a very tight noose indeed!!

The post was looking at how evangelicals can paint a picture of what is ‘evil’, signs of ‘decadence’ in society, the ‘loss of Judeo-Christian’ values (and of course terms such as ‘pro-life’ becomes tightly defined into the abortion issue while being able to support one of the biggest anti-life industries – that of the various war-machines, including never questioning where their pension fund is invested…) We can easily do this either by stating what the ‘enemy is / enemies are’ or create an environment of general fear so as we lose sight on the real issues threatening our future.

It reminds me of a dream I had recently, the first part of which might be relevant here. I walked with Gayle into a large auditorium where someone is holding forth on the various prophetic insights they had, and as they did this they noted the presence of someone from a different background who held to different perspectives. An acknowledgement was made, and a welcome, with ‘we need to hear later from xxx’. However no space was made for this person and once all the prophetic revelation was given out the person holding forth simply began to shadow-box around the stage and the auditorium. Realising that this was going to be the ‘content’ Gayle and I left.

Shadow-boxing – looks impressive, but there is no opponent. To shadow-box is simply to pretend there is an opponent there, to duck, to weave, to jab, to punch. It is all for the show, for the watching crowd…but it has no reality to it. Hence the post today and that sentence that caught my attention.

What are the true enemies? what is the enemy doing – after all Paul said he was not unaware of such scemes 2 Cor. 2:11? how do we foster what – even if imperfectly – is moving humanity forward? How do we avoid the shadow-boxing? Loads of questions for you and me.

Dream and cry

I read this article this morning:

In it I read of Maoz Inon:

Maoz Inon — who swims every morning to keep from drowning in grief — says he’s experienced this other reality of peace. He and his wife opened a guesthouse in Nazareth in 2005 that serves both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. And he’s seen these two groups “not living next to each other but living among each other based on equality” in what Inon calls a shared society…

Inon says he had something of a vision after this war began. It was the middle of the night, and he awoke in tears.

“And I saw an image of everyone crying,” he recalls. “Just we all cry — you cry, your daughter cry, everyone. And our tears are healing the wounds from Israelis and Palestinians. And our tears wash the blood.”

He says we shouldn’t have more weapons, build higher walls and create better security systems. “That’s the old world, OK? You want to start a new world? We need to cry.”

“And then,” he says, “we’ll see the path for peace.”

The old world and the new. So provocative, for that is the language of the New Testament.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… e will wipe every tear from their eyes.

This vision is what has inspired countless thousands of those we know and many more of those we do not know, those who could echo those immortal words ‘I have a dream’. We can intellectually discuss the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of that fulfilment but any discussion has to be connected to current hope and faith.

Maybe, and I say maybe, we could globally be moving toward a turning point. I wrote, earlier this year, about the season where boundaries will become visible, with all that is written in Scripture on the area it is not a small side-issue. Gaza is a bloody reality that sadly is causing division among many who are no-where near the situation, more division than tears and a call for a peace path. The Roman pax-Romana was by the sword (hence Paul’s ironic critique of the sword in Rom. 12), peace by blood; the Jesus peace was by his own blood. There is all-but no hope currently – such was also the time when Jesus came, at the ‘fullness of time’ – when there was no hope for Jew nor Greek. What about now? I am sure we have entered a level of unprecedented crisis (many crises), and a big global sign is ‘no hope’. While out this morning I was praying realising that we pray for the transformation of the world – and indeed we must persist – it is not in God’s hands, but if we cry s/he will partner with us, partner with Maoz (regardless of faith nor ethnicity).

I have a dream, and maybe we wake up amidst the dream to tears and pain. Both have to co-exist.

It is complex… so here is another perspective

In what I write, if there are aspects I leave out please do not make assumptions as to what might be my take on those areas. My concern is we sit powerless against the level of catastrophe of Gaza / Israel. It is far enough away that it does not touch us directly, and if we add to that and we try and plot this against a prophetic ‘time-line’ that we are further paralysed but are then content in that we have ‘inside knowledge’. The centre of ALL of God’s purposes is Jesus – all the promises find their double ‘yes’ in him. Yes we have to nuance Israel as a people some with reference to Rom. 11 but not to the level of over-riding the centre. And beyond that…

1948 and the giving of the land (by the British) as a homeland to the Jews in order to be a solution to the ‘Jewish problem’ has not exactly resolved that issue! If as many assume that that act was a restoration of the land as a fulfilment of prophecy we should also consider that whenever God is active that the ‘enemy’ is active. The work of the enemy – and Paul says ‘we are not unaware of the schemes of the devil’ – is something we are to consider as we can easily unwittingly play along or fail to see what is happening. So with the above premise of enemy activity…

What if the land and promise is connected (not my view) then the enemy scheme would be to play with that, and dare I suggest that encourage us to lose sight of something bigger than the land, that of ‘kingdom’ or even ‘new creation’. The kingdom of God is righteousness, shalom and joy. The new creation is without tears, and harmony between peoples as they bring in their gifts to that new Jerusalem – the city that has no Temple.

That scheme would not be too difficult to execute. Biblically there would be more than enough texts and complete passages of Scripture to defend our view and lead to a blanket support of one side (Israel) in any confict, as God is with them (a theme that was VERY loud in the two major catastrophes in 586BCE and 70CE),

There has to be – and always has been a third way – that of ‘God is neither for us nor for our enemy’ (and of course ‘love for the enemy’ as advocated by Jesus does somewhat move us beyond what Joshua encountered). Add the wisdom of Solzhenitsin who said the line of good and evil never runs between ‘me’ and someone else, but through us both, and our allegiances have to be tempered.

Maybe also add the summary (as I read it) of Old Testament prophets as they chastised a people they identified with over the two-fold issue of ‘provision’ and ‘protection’ and where their trust was and I do not think there would be at this time a blanket support coming from any of them.

Yes it is deeply complex, how does a nation-state (not the same as a biblical nation) act when attacked? As those privleged (for now) not to be caught up in what is taking place, my plea is that in our powerlessness we ask not for the vindication of this side or that, but that sanity and humanity comes into the situation (at least that might be within our faith level even if calling for the righetousness, shalom and joy of the Spirit is beyond our faith level).

Wars and rumours…

We all know, even if we cannot quote the words of Jesus:

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs (Matt. 24:6-8).

All ‘signs of the end’ and when war breaks out, as it has in Israel, the above Scriptures often are quoted. I am no expert in the conflict(s) that have gone on since the establishment of the state of Israel (1948) but am aware that there is among some of Israel’s neighbours a desire to remove Israel from the map. I see enormous significance in what is happenning there – but do not believe there is anything in Scripture that is ‘prophesying’ this conflict. That frees me to pray for justice, resolution and an end to conflict. The Jesus-path is demanding, but it is always ever so close. The path of love, love your neighbour, love your enemy is always just right there… and in a hot-bed of potential revolt that was soon to overspill Jesus proclaimed ‘repent and believe in me’ for in so doing the kingdom of God could be entered as it was ‘at hand’. Those words, by Jesus, were the words that Josephus (a wealthy Jewish historian) used when he travelled north to Galilee a few decades after the death of Jesus. He travelled there to persuade the hot-heads who had had enough of Rome’s oppression not to rebel but to lay down their arms and to follow the path that he was laying out. His message to ‘repent and beleive in me’ was not a call to come to the front to repeat the ‘sinner’s prayer’ but to ‘change their mind’ and follow another path. The Jesus-path is always there – the ‘third way’ in every situation. The Jesus’ call is transcendental / spiritual, but also deeply political in the sense of being non-nationalistic.

I am not proposing a simplistic solution, but that we start with an understanding that we can sow into the non-polarisation of our world. God is not for ‘us’ nor for ‘our enemies’.

The words of Jesus that I quoted at the beginning as with all Scripture is NOT written to us. Jesus was NOT speaking to us; he was not addressing the 21st Century, but inot the days that lay ahead (culminating in the intense brutal war of 66-70CE) for the ‘you’ to whom he was speaking. It is written FOR us and remains deeply instructive in every situation, but we will not hear what it is saying into our situation is we assume it was written directly to us.

Years ago while travelling in the USA I was approached by an enthusiastic young man (I too was young back then). In his hands he had a set of videos from a ‘prophetic teacher of the end-times’. I had not seen the videos but could see that at the heart of them was a ‘time-line’ approach. This person asked me along these lines: ‘You are from Europe, and the antiChrist is going to rise within Europe and might already be present there, how do you handle that?’. My reply was – you have seen the videos, I have not. I need your help in knowing how to respond. So if we begin with prayer… in the light of the videos should I pray against the evils of antiChrist but maybe feel a little guilty about resisting what has been pre-ordaiined; or should I pray for the success of antiChrist as it would be in line with prophetic understanding – and then feel somewhat guilty in partnering with antiChrist?

The answer – I guess you can work that out. He had the videos and all the information… and all it could lead to was paralysis. No Scripture leads to paralysis but to a ‘what then should we do / how then do we live’ type of response.

I am deeply concerned about the current situation. It is likely to escalate. I am also deeply concerned about the prophetic time-line approach as paralysis will abound, and only contribute to the escalation.

Wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes, floods, pandemics, famines, refugees, climate crisis – yes all signs of the times: the times being of a generation that is hell-bent on destroying what God has given to us. The current conflict though cannot be used to plot a time-line. It can be used to further provoke our listening to the cry of the land for liberation to what we have subjected it to (Rom. 8). Israel was subject to Pharoah and cried out, the land is now in bondage to our ‘lording it over’ and is crying out. Can we join our cry to the cry of the land, even when we do not know how to pray?

If we pull out (Old Testament) Scriptures in a way that the New Testament NEVER does we might well advocate violence, but I suggest that if we pray for resolution and shalom we will be much more in line with the New Testament. And if we do so, political outworkings might be closer to ‘the wolf lying with the lamb’… closer to the biblical hope than to any set of texts used to prove a position.

  1. I know that the situation is deeply complex; issues of war and ‘self-defence’ cannot be resolved simply… but, neither are conflicts solved by any rhetoric that dehumanises the ‘other’. My plea is that for us who feel powerless that we do not submit to texts being quoted that leave us with information about the future while, by any reasonable standard, justice can be ignored.
  2. I am currently working my way through videos and writings on eschatology – ever so important as Scripture is written for us… but we have to avoid the errors of history that have sidelined the body of Christ by feeding us ‘information’ and the ‘inside story’. Following Jesus demands a level of ignorance so that our ‘knowledge of him’ far exceeds any other kind of knowledge – I think the original sin narrative speaks deeply into that.
  3. I am hoping in the not-too-distant future to have a zoom evening with a Christian Arab Palestinian who is an Israeli citizen, to hear from her, be better informed – I am working on a suitable date and will let you know by posting here. dates will be posted here. She has been in touch with Amy Bell (Cádiz) and wrote from Jerusalem:

I’m shocked, scared but mostly super sad. I feel that people from all sides are dying just for nothing. and I was praying to be able to do something even if it is small. I would like to explain the situation here to people who want to know. It’s very complicated, and I truly believe that if you stand with one side and cancel the other, then you do not understand what is going really here. and since I believe that only real change can bring real peace, I would love to share about what’s happening here from my point of view. as a Christian Arab Palestinian woman living as an Israeli citizen.

I hope you can join us…

Noah the wine-maker

I have just returned from a few days away with (amongst other aspects) a great re-connection to Victor Lorenzo. I first met Victor in 1997, he and Silvia were very helpful during the months of journey with Sue when she was ill. He moved to the UK in 2003 (from memory) and has always held to a persepctive that what they experienced in Argentina is not to be repeated in Europe but something is to manifest that he had never seen before. Has to be so as we are well and truly post-Christendom… makes the journey unpredictable and full of adventure.

While away someone pulled a Scripture out that I had never seen before:

Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard (Gen. 9:20)

I don’t know what point was made from this but it hit me in the context of Argentina (past stories) and the present (Europe etc). We all know ‘Noah and the flood’ and how he ‘saved’ people through the safety of the ark. There are times of emergency when the ark is the means of transport… but we have to be people of the soil, of the land, embedded and connected. Stories that Victor told about his time pre-Europe can encourage but also set false hopes and expectations. We are to work the soil, find what is in it and learn how to work with what is there.

And of course enjoy the fruit of it… but not so much that we indulge ourselves and like Noah (and the first two) be found ‘naked’. However, we have to look for the new wine that does not taste as good as the old. The new wine of ‘God is doing this and that’ but it is a completely new vintage.

October 11th: a Zoom

I will have a Zoom discussion on October 11th, 20:00UK time, the first on ‘The Lifeline’, the fourth book in the series Explorations in Theology. I have a small group who have worked their way through books 1 – 3, but if you are keen to join us and can do some pre-work I will gladly add you to the group. Let me know!

We will seek to cover the preface and the first two chapters. The preface is important as it gives a context to this book in the light of the previous ones and then there are two chapters on Scripture and its interpretation (no, not inerrant for after all in Scripture in the pen of an apostle we read that ‘all Cretans are liars’!!!) but Scripture is our source of authority.

If you wan to join us let me know and you will need a copy of the fourth book ‘The Lifeline’ – click below on the image for the publisher and where / how to order it.

The Power of ‘I’

A short post by Gaz: ‘enjoy’… and / or think!

‘I’ Love You’

I meet marrieds and others who say ‘love you’ to friends or partners or in comedy when you can’t say the L word ‘luff luff luff’.

There is an innate power, a deeply personal work and energy in adding the ‘I’.

How comfortable are we with I Love You !

Where might we bring back the weighty ‘I’ to those we more comfortably risk ‘love you’ or manage discomfort by reducing our regard for someone to other phrases.

Oddly though, and perhaps a different strand, it is often not the loss of love which breaks apart a relationship but something less explored, the loss of like.

Not liking is corrosive but we cannot create like, it is the responsibility of the self or other to be likeable. We can love, convey love, but where do you tell those you love that you like them. When was the last time someone articulated they like you. We can love without like, love can remain long after like has flown. Are we left to read between the lines as to how likeable we might be, guessing that love also means like.

I told a new friend recently, ‘I like you, thank you for your friendship’, they stood up and hugged me.

Don’t make idols

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exod 20:4-6.)

An idol is more than an image, but involves making an image and then declaring that somehow this image has become a god or at the minimum is an image of that God. In doing so there is the obvious element of blasphemy involved. How can God be imaged? God will not and cannot be replaced (a jealous God) by any image. But hang on a minute. Idolatry, casting an image and proclaiming that as a god is also a deep insult to humanity.

Idolatry replaces God with a sub-god… Idolatry replaces the true image of God (humanity) with something that is a sub-image, for it is suggesting that we have the power to create an image. We are not the image makers, but are to be the image that manifests God. In indulging in idolatry we are declaring that we are not only replacing God with an image, but we are also replacing humanity, we are involved in the work of dehumanisation, which is the work of the demonic.

Paul gives us another insight

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry) Col. 3:5.

Greed is a (the?) root of idolatry – seeing something, bowing down (submitting) in order to get it. That opens up so much; how much idolatry is embedded within ‘civilised’ society when there is a constant push against the contentment of living within boundaries? A continual push for something more, particularly at the expense of others / the planet? How much hidden (or overt) idolatry have I nurtured?

Time to interact with the images that God made.

A belief in transformation?

I was asked a little while back – so what do you believe about ‘transformation’ of this world? A huge question and one on which I would like to write something much fuller on one day soon-ish. Also an interesting question as one has to try and see if there has been an evolution of a belief or a U-turn or a change of direction. For sure I once knew so much and now????

I will try and enumerate points in brief and hope that I will be clear enough to be understood and show enough about where I am at:

I am pretty conventional on the parousia – a personal return that brings about the reconciliation of all things without a set of events that precede (event commonly spoken of such as ‘antiChrist, tribulation etc.’). However, given that we might totally miss the thrust of the NT on this (same as many expectant Jews could not see the hope of Messiah being fulfilled in Jesus), I am also open to the parousia being somewhat different to what we might expect… with the resurrection of the dead in Christ being central to that future hope: that was always the hope in both testaments. So on the ‘return’ of Christ I do not subscribe to some triumphalistic (commonly called post-millennial) return.

‘Tickets to heaven’ are not what the gospel is centred on for two reasons – going to heaven when one dies is not the goal, nor are we the ones to decide who is ‘in’ or ‘out’. By all means we share our faith, and people need to be able to ‘borrow’ / ‘use’ our faith and benefit from that. Hence conventional understandings of ‘revival’ with a major influx of people to come to us and tick the same belief boxes as us is equally not the thrust of the NT. I see the context in which Paul worked as understanding that the body of Christ (ekklesia, if you like) was a body of people who took responsibility for the future of their setting. Responsibility for the wider setting in which everyone belonged, even those who did not come to personal faith in Jesus. I am deeply thankful for every person who finds personal faith and the living reality of a relationship to the God of heaven yet with much of that emphasis it furthers the separation of the them / us, and the strengthening of any ghetto. ‘Salvation’ is God’s part not a cultural experience, hence the emphasis on responsibility for the wider setting.

That responsibility involves serving at a human level, and at a spiritual level that of clearing the ‘heavens’ of everything that would pollute the context and obscure God. It does not involve the necessity nor the desire for Christians to occupy the x% of the ‘mountains’. Indeed this being the Christendom model that (my simplistic view) changed the whole nature of the gospel is something that I think is basically toxic.

We face huge challenges that are manifesting at the level of climate change (how long do we have?) and the huge displacements of people. Those issues (and other critical ones) are deeply sobering when we talk of ‘I believe in the transformation of the world’.

We will see (will = are seeing!) huge changes in our lifetime. The world will look so different in another 20 years. How different? Certain elements of transformation will be forced on us. OK… so what do I now believe?

We ONLY have a mandate to pray, work, relate and position ourselves that ‘your kingdom come’. Speculation about ‘Jesus coming soon’ we should not confuse with the hope of the New Testament (‘even so come Lord Jesus’). We should anticipate that there is a God in heaven who answers prayer.

I do see a connection between the many prayer journeys of the past few decades and the future. The answer to prayer is not always what one anticipates… the path to the ‘God come’ might not be the expected and ‘here they all come to our meeting’ but could well be (and will increasingly be) and here go those who carry that personal relation to Jesus into the world, embracing it, being changed by it, and as they are changed so is the environment and the people.

For me nothing has changed at the level of ‘here comes God transforming the world’. Well maybe what has changed is whether ‘we’ have an important and recognised position in it all. I pray today as I did more than a quarter a century ago for the transformation of cities, regions and nations. The difference is I am not counting the numbers who will occupy seats on a Sunday inside various buildings. I look to hear the voices from the streets that are calling out what is obvious wisdom for the future; I look for a sharing wider of a vision for the future that points to the future.

Transformation? Yes bring it on. And some amazing outposts of it here, there and everywhere – though perhaps not so likely to be centre-stage and visible where old paradigms (christendom) dominate.

I still look for change, for transformation. I do not see that we have any other mandate than to pray and work toward that vision. Maybe we will need a ‘conservative’ parousia along the way, but if that is not coming (we have misread… correction I have misread the NT) we still are focused on getting as close as we can to ‘the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ’.

All the above is a great stimulus to getting out of bed in the morning!

The Wonder Habit

I don’t often promote other sites here, but this one… oh yes!

Gayle and I met Michele Perry 2012 just as we moved to Cádiz, and have kept in touch with her over the years. A remarkable resilient and creative person. Check out this photo:

(Don’t try this at home!!!)

Michele has a new venture: The Wonder Habit… Check it out to see what she means when she describes it as a framework for cultivating simple everyday practices that deepen creativity, build resilience, and strengthen wholehearted connection to ourselves, one another, and the world around us.