Easter comes

I love Easter time as it is such a good time to reflect. What a wonderfully ‘crazy’ message we have. The glory of God revealed in death… the end of an era, the answering to the confusions (that are present) within Scripture about violence, war and the like; the beginning of a new era and a whole new paradigm. No longer can life be defined by ‘being alive’ but by becoming a ‘life-giver’.

The current shut-downs offer such an opportunity. The sin of Israel of losing sight of the reason for her existence can so easily creep up on us. Easter puts down a marker that the way of life is to lay down one’s life for the sake of others. It is the denial of ‘me / church / *** first’.

I understand the shift of services to online, but Easter means we cannot make personal survival as the personal goal. It is very hard to make a ‘*** first’ and genuinely let let flow out to others. Once we declare ‘first’, words such as ‘second’, ‘third’ become all-but meaningless. Thanks be to heaven that Jesus did not enter Jerusalem with a ‘Jesus first’ approach, other than a ‘Jesus first to the cross on behalf of others’.

In the forced shifts I suggest so many aspects can be re-assessed. A reconnection with body of Christ (and in the light of Easter what an incredible analogy) as royal priesthood. If we are going to see the dehumanising (and therefore the work of demons) nationalistic ethno-centric voice of ‘*** first’, this reset gives us all a major opportunity to partner with the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

Footnote: I use ‘*** first’ simply because we can miss it if we narrow down and name it with replacing the name of a country. Always easy to narrow things down so as we are excluded – life is never (thankfully) that easy.

Small and diverse

Let me start with a quote (as far as I am aware it is one of the few original ones I came up, but I am sure I have been inlfuenced from somewhere else / borrowed it or simply knicked it…)

The future is the multiplicity of the small and the richness of diversity.

The next big thing that God is doing… this year is the year of the breakthrough… or such pronouncements might just take place, but I suggest if it does we will either be disappointed or we will be very much settling for second-(or third-…) best. I do not think we should be looking for the next big thing, and indeed I do not think God wants to give us anything that might be labelled the new big thing.

The early church grew at a rate of 10% per decade. Not exactly too dramatic. Numbers never were the focus. Paul writing to the church in Corinth some 8 or so years after it had started never prayed that their numbers would increase, simply that their faith would, and if that happened they would no longer need his input. It seemed he thought that a church that could meet in one home in the city (want to estimate the numbers?) was enough to change city of some 250,000 people that was anything but a well-behaved city. (To act as a Corinthian was an insult that could be used to chastise someone for their behaviour.)

We want numbers for after all numbers have a voice all of their own. True but what kind of voice?

I have had the privilege these past few days of connecting cyber space wise with people who have a vision to see a billion people impacted in the next 10 years, to change culture through the presence of Jesus… from the bottom up. So encouraging cos like everyone else I am in touch with so few people. Maybe there is something going on that is at a deep bottom up, hidden level that could change the world we live in. So in spite of my annoyance at certain things that seem to shift in the wrong direction I need to make sure I invest more into what can rise than what needs to be restricted – and both are essential consequences of salt being salt.

Maybe though the biggest hindrance to what now needs to arise is that incessant desire for the big and powerful that can bring everything in its path to submission.

The multiplicity of the small – and so much of it will be ever so small. And the richness of diversity for surely there should be some kind of Scripture that suggests that the body is anything but uniform, that the eye cannot say…

I have been privileged to make some of the connections I have, but more importantly I need to have a peek at what little I have to contribute and get on with that. Maybe that is what God is asking of me. Could just be that old question of ‘what do you have in your hand’, ‘what do you have in your house’.

The tax collectors?

By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently (Lk. 15: 1 The Messaage).
Now the tax collectorss and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus (NIV).

A little verse that we all know but Gayle showed this one to me yesterday and we saw it in a different light.

I think this lockdown is proving to be so inconvenient. We are going through a ‘reset’, as is always the case whenever one hears a ‘word’ we normally apply it to everyone else and every other situation, but as per every word it has to come back home. The reset has to be personal. To be reset is to be set again – back to some original purposes and get focused in there – that aspect is biting deep right now; and it can be a re-boot of the hard drive. OR BOTH. I am currently very agitated indeed so reading this verse did nothing to ‘unagitate’ me.

Those of doubtful reputation – thank God (in theory) for that includes me. But wait, the offence of the Gospel is not who the Gospel excludes but who it includes. The sinners, and for this we must not think evangelically for that is not the category that Luke was working with. ‘Sinners’ were the marginalised of society, those deemed not to be making a contribution (although defined religiously and outworked socially). OK I am still OK with that, but…

The tax collectors‘. Quick I must get the white paint (tippex) back out as I can’t be having that. Those who worked for the Imperial oppressors (and htat is not some hyped up assessment), so are wrongly aligned, and in the process line their own pockets through charging what they can.

That group really got under my skin. I mentioned in a previous post about (one of?) the riches people in the world who can squeeze everyone else out of business and has amassed another $5.5bn in wealth already this year, and done so through selling off shares just as the virus began to hit. In a reset this has really got under my skin (Gayle successfully pointed out that his name has come out of my mouth so many times over the past two days that I had to finally admit it had got right under my skin…). But surely rightly so? We are in a reset and there is no reboot there in sight. That really annoyed me. And what annoys me more, because I feel somewhat powerless, is that this happens when we are to be holding space for something new – so on our watch.

That last part leaves me very conflicted, and annoyed. But the verse. The marginalised and the ‘who?’… those who are aligned to the oppressing Imperial structures and if they continue in that vein their pockets will be further lined at many peoples’ expense.

But here in this verse they also are coming to listen to Jesus. Maybe my antagonism has silenced the voice of Jesus for these people. Ah well the reset seems to need to go deeper.

I have a little bit of work to do as a result of that verse. (Maybe a lot of work to do in the light of that little verse (!) as it also ties to some of the original purpose (re-set) of arriving in Spain relating to something God spoke so loudly to me. I remember to this day where I was, what direction I was facing and even what was in my pocket at that moment.) Seems we all have a say as to how much of a re-set will come through this current time. At times like this I would rather just complain, but hopefully there is too much at stake for me to fall back to that.

A re-set coming?

I made the mistake this morning of reading an aspect of what is taking place in the midst of this crisis. Tough when you have to look facts in the eye.

I read how the world’s richest person is some $5.5bn richer today than he was at the beginning of the year. We all know his company as being the supplier of books and all good things, while many of his employees will tell stories of their appalling work conditions. He also made a nice ‘generous’ donation into the current crisis. Money is only money but the Scriptures are so strong on their critique of the accumulation of the ‘m’ word.

The Sabbath re-set was in-built to the way of life. Weekly, 7-yearly and 50th year Sabbaths, although not always implemented were set in place to help facilitate a healthy society. Translating that from an ancient agrarian economy to our Western society would indeed be very challenging and shocking. A 50 year jubilee would probably come out as a 2 year cycle. Scripture is ‘stupidly’ radical.

I was glad to read the article though as it leaves me with the ongoing challenge of how do we contribute to change. We are at such a turning point in history (co-inciding with the ‘fourth turning’ in the cycles of four) and being a follower of Jesus holding to a view that our little lives have to point to a new world (and therefore a new world economy) and that how we live is the leverage point for the big picture. Yes, the ‘in’ but not ‘of’ the world scenario.

There are other articles that can be read that are using the ‘re-set’ word, that the next few weeks will hold the key to what kind of world comes through the other side of the crisis (and maybe we should be using the word ‘crises’ as this is not a health crisis alone, and not simply a financial one but something that is bringing to a sharp focus the crises of the past years – immigration, borders, globalisation vs. nationalism, ecological… and something hidden deep within it all a machoistic / misogynist culture that fights against the humanisation of one and all – hence something deeply demonic).

So many things in the balance – maybe the balanced see-saw is here now? My strong suspicion is post-this-crisis (there is a ‘post-‘?) there will be two worlds emerging. A few who make a 5.5bn increase in profits, and a majority who question where true justice is to be found. I maybe cannot make a difference to the 5.5bn group – though one of the strongest words I heard from the Lord a few weeks after moving to Spain was the challenge of learning how to ensure that world changed (a long story…) – I can though make a decision as to my direction. I just hope I am not too compromised.

Clarifying: resetting the atmosphere

We had a short note today that said ‘now I get the concept of the façades’ word. In the light of that and the time we find ourselves in I thought I would put a few points down here that will make everything ever so clear (as if!!).

It was from a dream that indicated there were many influences that shaped public life as we now have it, and a time came when the inside of institutions were made visible, however in response to the situation believers sang (I do not use the word ‘worship’ in this context) a well known ‘worship’ song with the result that the façades all closed back up.

Here then are my comments.

How we respond at any given time is key. There is a time for all things said the writer of Ecclesiastes. What is right in one context is wrong in another. We see that very clearly when God says he hated the festivals and sacrifices – yet the people could have defended themselves with ‘and who told us to do this?’

In the dream it was singing, and as mentioned above singing can be worship but in the wrong context it is anything but worship. Worship is to live and act in a way that declares our faith that God is ‘worthy’. When the façades come up God is looking for our engagement not our resorting to singing. (Jo Storie put this so well with the need to ‘see’ what God is up to.)

I believe that God ‘rules’ but a) not by power but by love and b) there is a distribution of that rule with the body of Christ as absolutely the key. In the all-but one world government (past) of the Imperial world of Rome John presents his vision of the throne room of heaven (Rev. 4 and 5) in such a way that the readers / hearers had a huge choice to make: is rulership coming from Rome, or from heaven via a Lamb that has been slain who has given authority to those who follow the Lamb? We are in deception if we think the key to the future is a White House, a #10, a Moncloa, a Brussels or wherever. Important as those places are we will one day find that we have been in deception if that has been our belief and passion. Rather how the body of Christ responds is what shapes the future. I hold to that with a) the choice of ekklesia as the governmental word used to describe those people; b) the call to be a royal priesthood (exercising authority for change through laying down our rights); and c) the principle of seeds among the followers of Jesus relating to fruit in society.

Hence what are we to do now at this key time? To resort to the familiar (for example, sing ‘Jesus is Lord’) and not to see that we are in a major ‘leverage’ moment for change through our self-abandonning involvement will mean we miss this opportunity, maybe for a life-time.

The coronavirus crisis is exposing all kinds of issues (side note: corona = crown; there is currently a huge exposée of the royal family in Spain taking place at this time; one opposition party leader saying ‘to question the royalty is more lethal for Spain than than the corona virus’!!!). Personal issues such as ones of fear, self preservation, our values concerning the weak and vulnerable, health care for all or for the privileged; economic issues – goes without saying, but putting it in the biblical context there are ALWAYS major economic shifts when there is a spiritual shift; nationalistic issue with borders becoming racist legitimisers (the ‘Chinese’ virus!!!!). We should be thankful that Scripture has a relevant perspective into all the above and many other issues.

We are at a moment of RESET. Creation has had enough, give it all a REST so that we can get a reset. Creation always cries out and looks to those who are being fashioned into the image of Jesus to give a response. (Creation’s voice also being heard through the feminine – inevitable theologically as we are all from ‘mother’ earth… not gaia, but Genesis the book of origins makes this clear. The last voice on the streets of Madrid before the silence that speaks loudly right now was the voice of the International Day of Women. Wisdom clearly cries out.)

A reset means there is good news… if we are not one of the elite. That is how it was in Jesus’ day. There being neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female. Good news if one was a Gentile, a slave, or female. Bad news (?) if one were Jew, free and male. Not really bad news, but solidly bad news if one wanted to hold on to privilege. But great news if willing to travel the path of repentance and lay down privilege. It cannot be any different today.

Most readers of this blog are from the privileged 5% of the world. There is a reset that can take place. Choices we – the privileged and those who are to be through whom the life (rulership) of Jesus the slain Lamb is to come – can and must make. Not ‘me first’, nor ‘my nation first’… but a prayer, a desire and action that allows the huge reset to take place. If the personal resets cannot take place, and we resort to the familiar…

The elements of privilege: that encompass gender, economics and faith / chosenness are being challenged at this time. It might not be easy to journey through the issues being presented but the path has to be trodden by those who refuse to live as elite. Once that is done there are corresponding choices we will make, but for sure we cannot simply join our voices to the former songs. There are songs at this time but they are the songs of creation.

OK maybe the above is clear?

Sickness in the forest

Delighted to have this post by Joanna Storie. With her husband, Ian, she lives in Latvia. Living on the edge would be an understatement! Working the land, raising Alpacas (along with other animals) and at the final stages of her PhD studies… A contributor at https://dispatcheseurope.com/ and with her own regular blog at: http://thejourneytosomewhere.blogspot.com/. Read on!


I have really valued Martin’s prophecy regarding the facades coming down. I have done plenty of research over the last seven years of my life towards a PhD looking at rural communities and the challenges they face. It has revealed plenty of facades that need to come down. In these chaotic times with the Covid19 virus showing us how vulnerable our capitalistic system is, yes even in China, it is tempting to sing the songs that would help to take us back to normality. “Jesus we need you”, “Jesus be our healer” types etc. I understand why people would want to sing them, so why are they wrong? Or even are they wrong? If it makes the facades go back up, then they are. There has to be a change, but change can be scary.

So, what should we be singing and what should our focus be? How can we see this in context? Jesus focussed songs are great and there are times for them, but right now we need to be seeing the world through Jesus’ eyes. We need to see the work of the Father in our midst and get on board with that. If it means bringing down those facades, we had better make sure we are behind that and keep them down. I think it is helpful to view these changes in context. The facades are only a part of life, there is a whole world out there beyond the facades, even if like a city they dominate the landscape.

I read a lot of material put out by the Stockholm Resilience Centre (an international research centre on resilience and sustainability science) and in a recent article they suggested we should view life like a forest, where change is ongoing, but it is still a forest. They suggest that viewing things as unchangeable is not helpful as it lacks the dynamic capability to react and change. When a forest is sick, the sick trees need to be removed to give the healthy ones a chance. It is still a forest. Even if the whole forest is cut down or burnt, it is still likely to be a forest as it regenerates and grows again from the seed sown in the ashes. Even in a healthy forest, trees will die and create space for new growth, it is still a forest. The forest is in a continual state of change and yet it is still a forest.

The West’s addiction to capitalism is a sickness in our forest. The love of money, the greed it generates, the need to continually feed it and have ever lasting growth without putting anything back. It is killing life on earth. We have to remove the sickness, but in doing so it gives space for something new to grow. We don’t need one model, the perfect model, that’s a plantation and that is neither diverse nor resilient. We need the eyes of Jesus to see what the gardener is doing in our part of the forest and get alongside him and help. We are the arms, the feet of Jesus. Let us have the eyes to see what we need to do and where we need to go. Let’s bring those facades down or leave them down and let the light in to allow growth. Let your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven. What is the gardener doing in your part of the forest? What is he clearing away and what is he planting? Make sure you are not pulling up new growth that he has planted.

If you are interested in the original article that started my musings, it can be found here

(https://www.stockholmresilience.org/5.55ead82716e7faa929d1987.html)

Breaking news…

Stock market crisis over the impending threat.

Hyped by the media or for real? We are told the stock market is reeling due to the crisis that could be a pandemic. It is what we don’t really know that is the issue. How many are fleeing war; how much extortion is there that is behind how many of those created in the image of God who are dying – in the Mediterranean and beyond. We can close borders but the stock market is rocking because we just don’t know how many people are dying and how big a threat it all is.

OK… made all that up. Sadly made it up. The markets are reeling not because of how many are dying but because the coronavirus does not respect wealth, and does not respect how we can ‘make’ money. There are so many more deaths that have occurred these past years to those who have desperately come to seek some measure of freedom, than is likely to come to the globe as a result of this current threat. Yes… money makes the world go round… round and round the old mulberrry bush.

I had a round-robin letter from our Spanish bank about a week ago. ‘No need to panic there will be no significant economic downturn’. I like to read between the lines – you have no need to panic because we are doing all the panicking that is needed. We have no clue where this will go, but please do not panic otherwise we are in trouble.

Having arrived home last night at the sweet hour of midnight, I only had time to send the bank adviser a piece of personal advice this morning – and I am so sure she was just waiting for my incredible wisdom. No worries, we all know money is ‘una mierda’. So I wrote a short little piece on her wall ‘Things are not stable… they will bottom out but the real crisis is not immediate but will increase in the autumn… We’ll drop in to see you in a couple of weeks… Yours ever so lovingly…. Martin’.

It is my bit of fun for the day. Here I am pontificating about the global economic scene, without any real understanding… maybe she was justified in using the ‘f’ word and ask me to leave the premises (with some humour) a while back. She has her job to do, and I told her anyone wanting to grow a business would employ her – she can sell the proverbial ice blocks to those living in Siberia in the deepest, darkest winter.

She has her job to do… and the rest of us have our convictions to live by, and to try to hold on to the legitimate money bag, the bag of contentment. Not always easy, and so hard for so many in the world. But for the rest of us the 5% who pull in three figures a month we do need to try to remain centred.

For any follower of this blog I have been saying for the past few years that come 2020 we will hit another financial crisis. I see 2020 – 22 as two years of great instability. But even that is a western, middle class perspective. And the past decades? They were full of instability to countless non-western, non-middle class people.

We will see at every level the façades opening again. My dream exposed how we – body of Christ – can just shut them all up. How about this time – cos I asked for volunteers last time but had none – ask for a major rebalancing of the economic world. For our fictitious wealth to go down so that we can see a shift. Maybe that will keep the façades open and see a shift. I do consider we missed so much in 08.

So no apologies for the fake breaking news. The crisis is not here because of the coronavirus, it is here and always has been because of mammon / Babylon. Time to see again the New Jerusalem that John saw. There are investments we make that have a great and guaranteed return. They come in the form of a cup of cold water given in his name.

The right question

Had an interesting 24 hours. We have been seeing this year as opening up new things. We have been in Spain 11 years, this being the beginning of our 12th. We think (good word… thoughts are where we stumble forward, walk as blind people (last post), heaven is MUCH clearer!!) that maybe we can see a pathway that opens that will set the next 10 years. And in 10 years time I might be ready to revisit the question Sue asked me when I was 39 . That question was ‘what do you want to do when you are 40?’ My reply, ’40 is nothing, I will still be bumbling along so maybe let me get to 55 and we talk again.’ Well 55 came and went, and as Gayle can testify, he was still bumbling along… so now maybe I can consider in 10 years time. 75 and a level of possible non-bumbling, a small semblance of wisdom and a poquito of maturity? Maybe… if not we just postpone it another 10 – 20 years, kick the can down the road… again. I have noticed the great thing about discovering how immature one is is that there can always be growth. Imagine having arrived at 40 to having already entered the ‘second half of life’ AGGGGHHHHH!!! So I consider I am in a good place as I aim to get sight of the second half of life around 2035.

Anyway the past 24 hours. First we had an evening FaceTime to a certain European nation seeing what might work for later in the year for us to be there. 12 hours later Gayle’s phone rings with an anonymous call showing up on the dial from the same nation. We presume it is from the night before and maybe with a further question or suggestion. But no, totally unrelated. Someone else had tracked us down seeing if we would have any space to input a (very interesting indeed) setting in April that is scheduled to take place in Madrid. Then a few hours after that a WhatsApp to see if a few months later we could make a contribution to another gathering, again scheduled for Madrid.

So the 24 hours… Coming to the threshold at the beginning of the year it opened with two invites to business-related events. The combination of coincidental events mentioned in the last paragraph – both into business related contexts.

It could be coincidental – no point trying to force something together (oh dangerous, almost a second half of life response there!!); it could be full-on God… or as I have found sometimes is the case could be God is moving something around and as that happens all kinds of doors rattle but the door that eventually opens was not one of the ones that was rattling at the beginning. (Or just another example of bumbling along, walking blind?)

In one situation I had a wonderful response that, there probably are theological differences between us but they would like to push ahead. I prefer where there are theological differences as it helps show where I am right, they are wrong and how I can correct them (see I told you I am still going to achieve stardom in this first half of life). Actually, if you keep reading you will realise that last sentence is a joke, so please don’t quote me!

Difference is important. I am certainly not correct on all my perspectives, and certainly cannot be correct at all points as it is pretty self-evident that my life is all too often sub-NT. There is a core to unity – the glory of God covering the earth as the waters cover the seas. That seems to be enough for us to push forward together. But having said even that can show where we differ. How we define glory, what we expect pre-parousia etc., can show up so many differences.

We really need difference to show us we are not right. A few days ago I reflected on ‘are you for us or for our enemies?’. If that was the wrong question and it relates to us and our ‘enemies’, I don’t think God is going to answer us when we ask ‘are you for me, the one correct at every point, or are you for those Calvinists?’ (not to offend, and always a little humour, but as I have found it very hard to spell that word for decades I thought it might be appropriate to enter the word here, to indicate I am now able to spell the word). Wrong question. Well who is more right? Wrong question.

Will I be able to correct those I don’t agree with? Wrong question. Will I be provoked and want to respond when I sit with people who have convictions that are alien to mine? Sure, cos of your immaturity, but wrong question. Will I have to learn a little genuine humility on such a journey? You might just if you learn how to listen and respect others who are probably further on than you are.

OK I think I get it. But surely by 2035 I will be so far ahead that I will then be the reference point for one and all. Silence. Now I am just wondering if the silence indicates I am at last getting the right question lined up. I wonder…

Demotatorship

A new word for me this week… meaning ‘democratic dictatorship’. It came into my inbox this morning inside Jeff Fountain’s latest weekly word. A MUST READ word as it hits head on something we are all having to grapple with:

http://weeklyword.eu/en/viktor-the-champion/

His letter is focused on a response to Viktor Orban of Hungary, but is applicable much wider. Later today I have a Skype to a country where the president has just publicly in a huge Christian gathering acknowledged Jesus is his Saviour and that the nation belongs to God. Something rejoiced over in many different Christian periodicals. And which of us have not been praying for the transformation of nations?

Relevant in country after country. Here in Spain VOX espousing family values, anti-abortion are pulling the traditional Christian card, and I am sure are pulling in votes from evangelicals and Catholics alike… yet just again this week the main leader was on a national TV channel putting out statistics, images and videos that have been proven to be wrong, but used to create animosity toward immigrants. (And do I hear the cry ‘Christian value?’)

What an era we have entered into. Presidents and leaders who will defend ‘Christian’ values, profess faith… yet produce material that stirs up hate not love for the neighbour. Answers to prayer? Or huge deception?

And probably a sign of where we have come to. Democracy, I have suggested many times, is in serious trouble. In the West we have a shell left to us currently – the democratic process, which is the context in which democracy is supposed to operate, but when huge levels of finance, vested interest groups and the like have a much larger say in what takes place than the ballot box we no longer have democracy. When money perverts what is true so that we no longer know the reality of what we are voting for, we have lost democracy. When politicians themselves create a ‘them / us’ and magnify it so that it becomes a ‘look after ourselves / they are enemies to be resisted’ a very perverted form of society can only develop.

Maybe on the issue of abortion we might feel it is such a huge issue that we have to vote for the party touting that ticket… but please do not defend the party, and also find a way of grappling with the huge complexities that lie behind the abortion statistics (which have often been at the lowest when, for example in the USA, a president who is not waving the ‘anti-abortion’ ticket has been in power… legislation not being the simplistic answer that we think).

There is no such thing as a ‘Christian party’ nor a ‘Christian nation’ and to reduce ‘Christian values’ as they are being currently reduced is to remove any real significance to the word ‘Christian’. Politics is messy. Any partnerships we end up in will result in our feet being dirty. Seemingly that was not a problem for Jesus, though it caused Peter to have a crisis of faith.

I am not looking for the ‘Christian’ ticket, the Christian profession of faith at the highest level. I am looking for dirty footed believers who occasionally have crises of faith, but walk again on a redemptive path at personal cost for the sake of the marginalised. (Is there another path we can walk?)

We are in danger of substituting a nationalised-introverted self-protectionised culture for the Jesus of Israel who died to Jewishness and to maleness.

Maybe he is too challenging for us. It will be a sad day if that proves to be the case. We have prayed, people have gathered in stadiums the world over for a new day to come. I just hope we do not eclipse the sun that is rising, and as we walk in darkness proclaim how much light has come. A light to the nations, not those who bring darkness while proclaiming light. If we continue to cover over the lies that are being spoken, we will soon have to come to terms with what we cover that should have been uncovered will cover us… That covering will become what we proclaim. Then democracy will not simply be under immense strain, but the Christian faith will again be co-opted as the voice of oppression.

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