‘Faith is the substance of what we are hoping for’ (Priscilla’s words in Heb. 11) presents one of the relationships between faith and hope. Hope is like the mould that faith can then fill. Ultimate hope is of re-creation, the renewal of all things – that outcome is secure. What I term ‘interim’ hope is that bright outlook on the future, that expectation that something will change. That kind of hope, if it is to contribute to the future, cannot be simply (naive) optimism but has to be based on some solid foundations. If that hope is genuine faith becomes the bridge across which heaven’s values travel to our realm. From the initial hope then as faith increases so there is a shift. (Faith increasing was Paul’s prayer for the Corinthian church. They practically lacked at so many levels in their call to fill their region with heavens’ presence, but Paul narrowed down the lack to ‘faith’.)
There remains faith and hope, Paul says – and love. I have written a few times that losing hope is understandable. The issues that need changing are enormous, but we need to look to where God is at work and put our hope there. As the body of Christ recovers her destiny to be the agent of change for the world hope can develop. This does not mean that God only works through the church, but that the church’s responsibility is to change the environment so that the good (and God-given) gifts of human servanthood and enterprise can be expressed.
My hope is for a recovery of that call in the body of Christ, to understand again the political (small ‘p’ please, not NOT NOT party politics, right, left, but certainly shaking all things about political passion) nature of the Gospel. My hope is for the partnership of the body of Christ both with heaven and with the world. Yes we have a long way to go and this signals a big shift from where we have been, but that is my hope.
Hope and faith grows… And not all things are resolved as we want. Maybe we did not really have faith, maybe we did not see the whole picture. Maybe we are not as smart as we thought. Maybe we just simply failed.
Faith and hope. And love. Those three remain, but the greatest of these is love. When all else fails, when our passions do not produce what we thought, when we have prayed and stood and just plain got knocked over… there is love.
There are losses. There are times when the good of the past disappears, but if there was love in there it is stored up in heaven. It cannot be lost:
He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you… in all of this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you mayhave had to suffer grief and in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6).
Stored in heaven, kept safe where rust nor moth can destroy. Stored there so that it can be revealed here in the eschaton. Everything good is stored… Setbacks are for real, our hopes might have been misplaced, our faith might not have been genuine… but the greatest of these is love. When all else fails we can love, and love opens the clearest channel to heaven to deposit all the good things that will be manifest on that great day.
Time for hope, time to believe, and if for whatever reason we do not see what we hoped for… provided in and through it all love remains, somehow everything that we hoped for but never saw, had hold of but lost… will come through the fire intact.
BTW: Priscilla is as likely as it being Paul who wrote Hebrews and as she is the best known female person with ‘P’ what more evidence do I need?
I have been writing a little about ‘hope’, both as the secure ultimate hope that there is another age that will swallow up this age, there will be a culmination to this age, there will be resolution to the issues we wrestle with here… and of holding on to hope within this age, while not looking for a utopia, to see visible signs that point to heaven’s greater realities.
It is very challenging to hold on to ‘temporal’ hope when there are so many issues unresolved. Stay within the four walls and of course it is easier… but read about those seeking safety not being allowed entry to a European port.
Open Arms… brave, courageous, risk-takers, lovers of people… working tirelessly to save people from danger with the wonderful statement on their home page:
All those lives we save in the Mediterranean aren’t numbers, they are people with a story and a voice.
So a comment on the big picture (as I with limited vision see it). We have moved from the hope raised by global relationships – end of the Cold War, Berlin Wall collapse, China becoming open to the market and capitalism, EU expansion etc… And of course all the downside of that with globalisation and global companies becoming more powerful than many states – witnessed to by who decides how much and where taxes are paid. The result has been one of the extremes of wealth and poverty, exploitation etc. However, there is a shift taking place with a pull back from the globalisation (as if this is possible!) to nationalism. ‘Make **** great again’ (insert whatever country you wish); close borders, claim sovereignty, new threat of cold war etc.
My big picture analysis could well be so suspect that a whole fleet of buses might just drive through it, but the other day as I was disturbed by this I saw it as being a breath in and a breath out. Not necessarily in this order, but a breath in for nationalism, breath out for globalisation. The breathing keeps the beast alive.
The conflict of interests is huge at this time… which way to pull, but it is in this season that we have to be ahead of the game. The current pull back will lead to re-alignments to push again for a global hegemony, probably we will see this becoming very visible in 15-20 years time.
And for ‘me in my small corner’ it has to be an embrace of an alien status, a refusal to let love for the land ever become nationalism, a use of any gifts to open doors of opportunities for others (come on we can push beyond Proverbs!).
This is such a creative time, and I suspect that the body of Christ has to move more toward the global in this season, and in a non-colonial way. Not global in that we are here to help you with all we know, but global in what can we learn so that we can partner with you? And this includes coming to serve the world – it is a time to learn. Certainly any pull back in this season will simply feed the beast – best not do that!
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:15-17).
Hope, ultimate (new heavens and new earth, resurrected humanity) and immediate. What can possibly go wrong with the world now that increasingly we have those shaping things who are ever so competent – and of course in the main claiming to be defending Christian values? OK, hold back that seemingly endless list!
I do despair at times when we look ahead. The lack of care for the planet has already terminated the life of many species and is on track to threaten human life as it has been expressed. I despair when I look at the rise of hate crimes. I despair at the widespread nature of poverty… Hope? There is space for an understandable lack of hope.
Peter’s verses speak into the realm of ultimate hope. We anticipate an intervention of heaven. We do not have some vague hope that things will just get better, nor do we subscribe to the Enlightenment myth of progress. We have hope not because we can simply get there from where we are, but we know that the future will be changed by the arrival of the already secured ultimate future.
Ultimate hope. Yet there is also some immediate hope that we can carry. Change comes when there is flux, when there is crisis. This is where we are in one situation after another. Nationalism and the almost-always-present follower of racism that does not look to promote stewardship but ownership can either be seen as a sign of our impoverished future that is hastening toward us (for the greater level of diversity the greater potential for heaven’s presence), or a sign that we are headed for a reset. That is my hope.
I am not sure if we will get an overwhelming vote from believers for a reset, and given that I see believers as having such a key to unlock perhaps I should not have too much hope. But…
I think there are enough who are lovers of Jesus at a level whereby they do not confuse Western culture as being synonymous with the kingdom of God and are willing to be inconvenienced. Those are the ones who, though embedded, live as aliens. I think there are enough who are willing to walk hand in hand with those who have not made the jump to receive Christ, but who have a God vision. They probably have no theology for that – and why should they have a theology if they do not believe in God, or only have a vague belief in a ‘god’. It might be a bit cheeky of me to give them a theology, but I will try. They see (all) others as having value, for theologically all are in the image of God. True lovers of Jesus might just have to join hands tightly to such people and slacken their grip to those who read the same Bible but cannot see the other. If a mark of being born again is of seeing, maybe we need to re-visit the context of Jesus’ discourse on the new birth?
I have hope that there is a growing disillusion with the status quo right across the board. That the rampant consumerism (the original sin) cannot be idolised but a new set of values have to be embraced. That growing movement gives me hope.
I pray there will be a great smattering of crazy Jesus believers in the mix of it all whose faith can help accelerate change. Those who are able to hold on to that ultimate hope for the future joined to the resisters. Those who are both not afraid to mix with those who do not carry faith in Jesus and who have not lost their faith in Jesus, ever hoping that everyone would also experience the freedom they have found.
What a privilege to be a believer. And a responsibility. So let’s find the hands to be joined to.
‘Never believe your own publicity’. Wise advice, and imagine a world where someone with limited vocabulary did not have to claim via Twitter and all forms of social media that no-one knows more than them? Thanks then to Leif Garrett who is credited with the phrase… but it raises a question. One’s own publicity?
From time to time I get a request, send a photo and a blurb about yourself. The photo part is not so difficult but the blurb? What to write…
I normally send two blurbs, one that ‘works’ (or is a piece of self-publicity) and one that is honest. I appreciate the need to publicise so as people know what they (think they) are coming to. I was once advertised in a certain country as being the ‘President of Sowing seeds for revival and of Company of Prophetic People’. President? Presiding over what? Of course one can spin almost anything, but when Scripture does not simply tell us not to lie but to ‘not speak a falsehood’ the spin becomes very dangerous indeed. I can spin something and not lie. But not leaving a wrong impression (a falsehood)? Very hard to do that and hype things up.
Just thinking about the quote, maybe the time is now to stop all self-publicity. So here is an attempt when I am next asked to present at the ‘heaven will DEFINITELY come down and all lives will be transformed within a two kilometer radius’ conference.
Martin Scott has had it pretty easy in life so has not learnt so much. He often thinks he knows better and so can be somewhat stubborn. Maybe it is reasonable attribute not to be overly-impressed by the opinions of others, maybe he is just a reticent learner. Many times quick to try and give an answer, can be guilty of pontificating beyond his understanding. (Photo can accompany the above publicity when the invite comes.)
Today he wrote, with reference to Stanley Hauerwas’ book Resident Aliens under the title of Christianity Shouldn’t Be Infused With Politics—It Is a Politic. Ever since the late 90s when I was involved in prayer teams to cities I have been strongly convinced that the Gospel is political – the language of ‘church’, ‘repent’ and all other such language is deeply political, and the exposure of the spirit of empire that comes to a sharp focus in Revelation, so of course in reading the article I am already biased toward it. Here though are a few quotes:
Christianity is a whole new way to be human that requires a complete reordering of the way we organize our lives both personally and communally—or politically. Christianity is a politic.
That’s where we are. I mean, nobody who begins with “Greater love has no one than the one who lays down their life for a friend,” could ever end up with the American brand of radical individualism. Nobody who begins with “Consider the lilies…” could ever end up with present day consumer capitalism. Nobody who has taken seriously the story of the Good Samaritan could end up with nationalism.
He writes as an American so of course critiques Christianity in that context, but the application is certainly not limited to the USA. Here is the link:
I wrote yesterday about how Johnson’s article presented two questions; one concerning authority and the other concerning reconciliation to God. The former relates to Scripture, the second to the atoning death (and resurrection) of Jesus.
In the old days, particularly when the authority of Scripture was being challenged, doctrines such as infallibility and inerrancy developed. Those terms took a belief beyond inspiration. Of course even with those terms there were added terms such as ‘as originally given’. The original manuscripts of course we no longer have, so in all very hard to prove. What also were we to make of statements such as ‘the mustard seed being the smallest of all seeds’ – not scientifically accurate.
I understand the desire to make the Scriptures incredibly strong and therefore totally trustworthy, but to strengthen them in that way I am not sure is warranted.
I like to talk of the authority of Scripture and how we are to live (faith and behaviour) as followers of Jesus in faithfulness to the narrative of Scripture. So terms such as authority, truth etc. fit comfortably for me. However I also have to accept that even the term ‘Scriptures’ are somewhat problematic. Which canon? And please do not exclude the book of Revelation (or even call it a ‘disputed book’ as Luther did), the surest exposure of the politics of empire that exists!
There are elements of faith with any approach to Scripture – I am very happy to accept what I read (66 books) as the canon. That means I have to exercise some measure of faith in the process the church was involved in that eventually formalised a canon (or different canons). The work was not unlike that of the formation of the Jewish canon. They used the law, the prophets and the writings, and eventually made sure some books were excluded, seemingly to make sure that ‘Christian’ writings were not used. The canon were, more or less, the books in use (found useful, cf. 2 Tim. 3:16) that were formalised. In the same way the Christian canon developed, hence the different canons.
By what authority – for me the 66 books of our old and new testaments are that authority. I cannot prove they are the right ones nor necessarily the only ones, but by faith in the work of God within the historic Christian community that I identify with those are the ones.
Inspired – for sure. Inerrant – not ready to tick that box. Contradictions within the books – maybe I would rather use the word ‘conflicts of views’. I don’t think we are to iron them all out so as they disappear, but rather with a Jesus-lens we let them argue it out, and we seriously have to raise the volume of the texts that carry a Jesus-revelation. Ultimately Jesus is the revelation of God that Scripture bears witness to. We cannot place Scripture above Jesus, nor can we create a Jesus of our own making that Scripture does not bear witness to.
In the next post I will amplify a little on the adjustment of the volume of the text so as some are louder than others. We have to ask ourselves ‘how do read that text?’, ‘what does it say to me / us?’, and also ask ‘how are we being read by that text’. We might not always get it right, but the Scriptures point to Jesus, not simply with a historic meaning, but primarily in the sense of calling us to identify with and follow the only embodiment of the Godhead in human flesh.
Whenever I think there are people who are not consistent I quickly make sure I do not check myself in the mirror. I, of course, would never be inconsistent.
Anyone reading between the lines of the posts I write will probably pick up that I voted ‘remain’ as far as the UK and the EU is concerned. Not because the EU is perfect, nor that it is a chosen vehicle to bring in the kingdom of heaven. There are many reasons, I am sure, to vote ‘leave’. To add into the remain / leave vote our Christian convictions about the future unfolding of prophecy just complicates it all.
An observation I have carried for a number of years is how difficult it must be if one holds to certain view of the future. Some of the Christian negative response to such issues as the European Union is to do with a view on prophecy relating to the end times. A revived Roman empire (of sorts) with space for the rise of a prospective world leader (antiChrist) is a view.
Now comes the complication! If I assume for a moment that was a valid view the question then becomes very challenging indeed. Do I oppose that happening… and set myself against what has been prophesied? Does not seem a good way to go… but if I go along with it all as that would align with prophecy… then I could find myself supporting an antiChrist shape? Of course with the EU vote I could take the view that the UK was not to be part of that revived shape (or at least north of Hadrian’s wall… oops, another politically divisive possibility) and so then I would have a win / win situation. The win / win would be that the UK (or at least Scotland) does not submit to the rising shape of antChrist, and I leave the rest of Europe to be the fulfilment of prophecy. Sorry – a win / lose scenario.
Just glad I have a simple approach.
I do not see the future laid out in Scripture… other than Jesus is coming and we live in the light of that and seek to align ourselves, and everything we can influence, to heaven’s values. So I have no need to wrestle with such thoughts as an antiChrist and a revived Roman Empire. Phew!
Powers are present, they are fallen, but can be influenced. The inevitable does not have to manifest provided we are involved.
Self fulfilling prophecies are easy to spot. ‘Don’t be involved it is evil.’ I respond obediently and do not get involved, then watch as it gets worse. Seems a connection – we remove the salt and there is no limitation placed on what was there.
Prayer content seems simple. Let your kingdom come.
I like the simple approach. I don’t need to wrestle with the conflict of seeking to oppose what I believe God has ordained.
The façades are opening. It is not simply that we will be able to see the bizarre nature of the Western economic system that only operates if there is debt (debt will always result somewhere in slavery and at some measure an inevitable eating tomorrow’s bread today) or the paucity of public political debate but we will be able to see some very deep roots… unless we close our eyes to what is being revealed. The familiar can close the façades down, although I wonder if we (believers) will even be able to do that this time round. And beyond the familiar there are factors that hamper our sight. Those will be found in our commitment to a shallow Gospel that does not challenge nationalism, patriotism, patriarchy and the deep inequalities in society. If we do not heed at this time that the Gospel is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female we will find our eyes will not even see what is before us and we will simply look for ‘normal’ to be restored.
What is being exposed in the days that lie ahead (and I am sure much more can be added to this) are:
greed and consumerism misogyny protectionism that demonises the ‘other’
The inevitable result will not just be trade wars, but war. It will not simply be a major shift to extreme right wing policies (as we see rise in Europe) but the establishing of a neo-nazi totalitarianism that will eventually be seen not be favourable to faith, including that of the Christian faith.
Yesterday I read an article in the Guardian (Spain Turkey far right Vox culture war) that makes for both insightful and frightening reading. In the name of values how an anti-feminist position is central to what is taking place. The goal in Europe the article says is:
Not a new Europe, not even an old Europe, but a Europe modelled on an imaginary, mythical past. A monolithic Europe dedicated to halting and reversing progress.
‘Might is right’ has to give way to humility being the path. I remember many years ago taking a prayer week where the working together of the body of Christ was a challenge. Everyone had their own agenda and each expression was more ‘right’ than the other. As I prayed that morning I sensed strongly that a pathway of humility was the only way forward. One of the leaders who was participating in the week was away on business in London that day. He came back saying that he had been praying about the lack of unity, and as he came over a hill and could see the city in front of him the Lord said to him ‘humility is the path forward’.
As a male it is very hard for me to recognise misogyny. Is it in me? I would be foolish to claim that it was not… that is the problem so often. We assume we are free but fall painfully and blindly short.
I am more convinced than ever that there is a fresh discovery of the Gospel. Yes there will be understandings of the cross that Tom Wright describes as ‘pagan’ that will have to be jettisoned, or at least radically revised. There will be perspectives concerning the work of the Spirit that will expose the gap between being ‘born again’ and yet harbouring and fostering old fallen creation values. At the heart of all this will be an incredible new vision of humanity. This will never take place without feminisation. Whether the church leads in this or not is unimportant. The lead might well come from the world. It might well come from the political world. In Spain the dormant seeds of Paul’s Gospel are in the land (and in Turkey, referencing the Guardian article, the fruit of the seeds have been cut off – the seven churches of Revelation… but the seed remains). Maybe they are beginning to germinate at this time. Maybe this is why there is such a push for this one-cultural Europe. Maybe the enemy is moving because the Spirit of God is hovering. Certainly we need to push for this again. We have our battles in Spain. Our focus is on the political scene, ever grateful for the women who have humbly taken their place.
If there is any value in this post I dedicate it to the memory and testimony of Rachel Held Evans (photo at top… check out her writings). Too young (37 years old) to die. But the seed will continue. (Health Updates). One newspaper described her as a ‘hero to Christian misfits’. Come on you misfits!
The general election for Spain took place on Sunday and now we wait to see how a government will be formed. There is no one-party overall majority and this both opens up the possibility for some great coalition possibilities and not so good ones!
There are any number of articles on line about the election. This one from the NY Times seeks to put it in the context of bucking the trends in Europe.
Some years back, from left of field, we had the strong impression that the Lord was asking us to take responsibility for the political shape of Spain. Left of field as I can just about spell the ‘p’ word. However, when that kind of responsibility meets incompetence it gets one thinking. What is ‘politics’ and what does it mean to take responsibility.
I like the term political shape. There are political parties and I appreciate there are people who are members of a specific party. However, normally we are those who ‘I like this party on this issue but not on that one’. It is always further complicated by our faith perspective. We can be very critical of sharia law but happy with ‘Christianised’ law. Issues such as a stance on abortion, or on same-sex marriage often sways the Christian vote. If only it was as easy as that!
Political shape I understand to be where healthy choices and opportunities become a greater possibility. Everything in Scripture is centred on people. Created in the image of God surely focuses us toward humanity. God’s desired address is in the midst of humanity so societal shape is very important to him. The health of all aspects of society is when a shape is held that enables people to move toward their destiny – that destiny ultimately being helping others to the release of who they were born to be. It is not ultimately ‘the economy, stupid’ that should pull our vote but ‘the people, stupid’ that should help us determine where the ballot paper is marked.
Overall shape – our responsibility
And this is where I see the role of the body of Christ. People live within a context, a geo-societal context that has been shaped by history which gives ground to the demonic powers. OK… now I think I am getting somewhere. We might not know very much about politics and some of that is best left to those who know much better, but there is so much material in Scripture about the powers. If there needs to be a healthy people-centred political shape then there needs to be an overall ‘powers restrained’ shape in which that healthy politics can develop and be expressed. That I understand as being our responsibility (and beyond politics, to economics, health, education etc.). I do not see this as trying to get to the top of the mountain to influence but in going to the deepest places to cleanse. Our desire is not to see Christians occupying the positions, indeed some of the greatest joys we have is when one could take speeches by those who are atheists, remove their name, give the speech to a believer and ask them to underline the Jesus-themes in it.
We took this current election very seriously. Spain has had a challenging past, with many issues undealt with. Cataloña is not a recent issue, and it will not and cannot be resolved by a referendum nor the refusal for a referendum. As in many nations a handful of the powerful (one politician says 20 families in Spain) shape what goes on. There is economic control that shapes the lives of those who are not seen but are simply fodder for the status quo. There is considerable corruption. The (former) major party has something just under 8000 major scandals against it, and one person tweeted that post Sunday they have more MP’s in prison now than they will have in the parliament.
Thank God we are seeing a shift. A shift has to take place because if the history is cleansed the demonic does not have the right of presence they had before and what was hidden or undealt with comes to the light. Social transformation is the barometer of spiritual change.
I am not of a so-called right wing persuasion and like all others uneducated in a field am opinionated and biased. There are those who are better educated than I in politics and more ardent in their commitment to Jesus who would vote much further to the right than I do, so my comments that follow are not about ‘the right’ but about the rise of something that is very disturbing – often called the ultra-right. In Europe it is so disturbing, and it can also pull in the Christian support. Normally there is within it a call to protect our values (and borders), our Christian heritage, family values etc., but there is no sight nor place for the ‘other’. The anger expressed is not a righteous anger but a cover for hate and a legitimising of demonising whole groups of people. Spain’s background of course was through and post the Civil War of the 30s in Fascism. And the sins committed were not simply on one side – at the door of the republicans is placed the slaughter of all-but 7000 Catholic clergy, so we cannot simply demonise one side.
Some months back we salted the entire surround of one of the party headquarters in Madrid. In the election campaign it was a little more than amusing that the façade that they placed up on their prominent building came down causing the road to be closed for safety reasons! In this election their representation has been halved from what it was. They will probably never recover as a party in Spain. For this we are grateful as their history of lies, deception and scandal reaches unbelievable proportions. At the same time there has been the rise here of a party, VOX, that espouses a nationalism, anti-immigration and an anti-feminist stance of the extreme kind. They wish to make certain media illegal and also certain political parties illegal. They have pulled on in their rhetoric on the ReConquista and the spirit of Columbus. The party is not our enemy but what they are pulling on we have been praying into. It is personally very galling that the last ultra-right representative in the Spanish parliament lost their seat in 1982 but once this new parliament is formed there will be 24 such representatives. Five of the 37 seats available in Madrid will be taken by them.
This party made a significant breakthrough in the recent regional elections in the south of Spain and we have stood in the main gate into Madrid from the south a few weeks ago to declare ‘not here’. And now? I take it personally.
The shifts in this election are very significant, perhaps the shape of politics in Spain will never be the same again and although the extreme right have not made the level of inroads it wished I remain very disturbed.
A few weeks ago we came across a photo of a republican poster from the Civil War. It will soon be on our wall here.
The poster reads:
Fascism wants to conquer Madrid. Madrid will be the tomb of Fascism.
Fascism is to be given no space in Europe. The soil in Spain is supposed to be cleansed so it can have no power here, and Madrid is to be its tomb. So five representatives? An insult.
Over the past days we have been four times in a part of the city where we would not normally go. We have been pulled there circumstantially, and again tomorrow we will be there. When we left last night to meet a couple over there Gayle said there has to be a reason. Well we have just found out that is where the fascist tanks rolled in with a great slaughter into Madrid. Why are we being pulled there circumstantially, because there is a tomb in Madrid for fascism. Interestingly this was the area where we already resisted the plans to rebury Franco. Battles won are great, advances that should not take place are more than annoying, we are all in this for the long haul, but this is our watch, and when our watch is over the political shape will be one of the markers as to what happened on our watch.
Gayle has great insight to these Spanish elections and here is a short resumé that she put out yesterday.
Far right got seats but not what they hoped for. We have to face them now which is a bummer but like the boar (reference to a dream) it is boundaried now and can’t pull off the past.
The PP (the main historical right political party) after years of corruption and mafia like behaviour is completely broken. They flirted with VOX and the people said ‘no’.
Podemos did enough just to stand in a place of influence not power. We (Martin and I) still are praying for that coalition.
A HUGE sign for me was the crowds outside PSOE (who won most seats) shouting for this coalition of Peter (PSOE) and Paul (Podemos) and using Podemos slogan of ‘It can be done’.
Pablo Iglesias prophesied there would be unexpected signs… well for another party to shout out the Podemos slogan ‘si se puede’ – this has to be a massive sign.
June 10th stays in the diary as the moving out of Franco’s bones. A space and date we are guarding.
In the previous posts I have given a few windows into our attempts to cover issues from history through going on site, praying, acting and declaring. It is great to be able to connect some dots along the way, and very satisfying to see the path from 2008 (piracy, betrayal and murder) through to the day we moved to Madrid. Of course there is no way anyone can claim that one’s actions at any point were key. Maybe it all would happen anyway, or any ‘results’ were down to some other event. Faith is faith. We all have to do what we believe is right. There is no voice coming from heaven saying that God has never found anyone so obedient and smart in all of history! The great aspect also concerning faith is that it is not based on getting it right. Sometimes we have just got to do something that resonates with our spirits and the situation.
It would be great if we could show that when we faced up to the very real possible betrayal and loss of money that it had an effect into the original issues (piracy…). We certainly hope so!!
Ultimately we want to see substance, but signs are an important element on the way. Symbolism / signs in Scripture are important and seem to be two-fold in significance:
they point to the substance, and so are a real boost to sight. We are to lift our eyes when a sign appears so that we can see what they are pointing to. That is a real help, but beyond their obvious purpose they
draw to themselves the substance they are pointing to. This is so key. When the sign takes place they accelerate the shift, and act beyond a time marker. Something actually moves.
Signs can be external to ourselves, but so often the sign will manifest much closer to home. There is a reason for this. When it is close to home we have leverage, and leverage means we can move something way beyond our weight. This is something we see so often in Scripture with the prophets. They become signs and symbols, living through in their bodies and circumstances what is in the land. This was not to make them victims but to give them an authority to shift something in the land.
Of course there needs to be a caveat in all this. We can be in danger of making everything a sign… NO NO and again I say NO! Yet there are times when we have an inner conviction that what we are experiencing is a sign. Or we focus in prayer on something in the bigger picture, and then at a personal level we begin to experience the same but at a smaller scale.
Something small and personal can shift something big and societal.
40 days in the wilderness… and 40 years… 400 years… all is ready to see a shift.
There are two errors to avoid:
Taking on a victim spirit – this is happening because of the filth in the land and I am experiencing this because the church is so passive and lukewarm.
Proclaiming how victorious I am in Christ, getting personal freedom and missing what else could come through.
Both of the above are focused on ‘me’. Poor me or victorious me. The promises of God are corporate promises so that life can flow through us, not simply to us.
We have consistently had to battle through at a personal level whenever we have pushed into corporate issues. There seems to be three possible outcomes in those times.
1) a personal breakthrough but nothing changes on the wider front. 2) a breakthrough on the wider front but the personal circumstances do not. 3) a breakthrough on both fronts – that is the one we pull for!!!
Of course the third option is the one we all like to have 100% of the time. There are so many factors that mean we do not quite live in an ‘ideal’ world (as if!) but at least let’s kick in that direction.
The challenge of recounting stories is that the impression can be given that the story teller lives above all of the rest of us, with ‘I did this’ and the heavens opened and… Scripture is full of stories but not all the stories are full of ‘success’. Indeed success is not the measure, but faithfulness, and if we are faithful somehow there is an effectiveness. Success is my story; effectiveness is there is change somewhere else and I often don’t know how I contributed to it. A success syndrome means we have no need of a final assessment day; effectiveness means that on that day we will hear a voice something along the lines of ‘well done’.
So now in danger of success story-telling but seeking to outline the principle of ‘close to home’. I have recounted before of rupturing a disc in my back. Those things happen and there are so many testimonies of healing. However, it was not too long before we realised there was a major parallel between my physical experience and the land. This focused our prayers two ways – personal and land.
The final shift came when I had my back tattooed with a compass over the problem disc and the words ‘true north’ on the spine. Symbolism for sure. The problem disc was clearly where Madrid is positioned on the land and where ‘true north’ needs to bring about an alignment. (For those who want to think about the practice – I once read about someone who spat in mud and slapped it on a blind person’s eyes… just a little out there?)
We do not come with great success stories and any breakthrough is always challenged. The latest book from the Fascist wing of Spain is roughly translated ‘Vertebrate Spain’. Now there is a challenge!! That is life. A great move forward today, a kick back tomorrow… but the faithfulness of the saints is being stored up in heaven, the materials that God is building the New Jerusalem with. (Apparently ‘with’ is not how to end a sentence, but ‘with’ is a God word so no apologies there!)