Looking back… way back

When one is young looking back 20 years is such a long time ago. I had an email asking me for some reflections relating to a period of time 20+ years ago. For me ‘a long time back’ so that helps me live out another day of fantasy. I am really still ever so young.

It was interesting though to respond, as for me (and also Gayle) that era was so formative of who we are. It gave me a fresh appreciation of how God can transform a life, the reality of the Spirit, that fire spreads etc. Deeply appreciative, and of course (like everyone else) I see where I am today as a result of the path(s) that I have been led on. Maybe a little (and remember ‘little’ is a small word) more humble that suggests that if I have any (hope ‘any’ is not a small word) integrity it is the path I have been led on, without suggesting it is THE path. Jesus is the way, but the path seems to be uniquely honed for each person (not to be read as all paths lead to God… I am talking about one’s life).

I think there were expressions back in that day that could not really go further because they were not multi-racial nor multi-cultural. There is something of fullness that can only come through with a greater ethnic, generational and gender expression. But beyond that there were expressions that had to come to an end, had to come to an end as the post-Christian and post-Christendom (and pre-Christian) era demands that.

Twenty plus years ago, any view of the ‘afar off’ was to see them as those who needed to join ‘us’ or ‘our children’. The ‘afar off’ though are to be joined by ‘us’ (and for ‘us’ who can’t make the journey, by ‘our children’). (Illustrated as per Peter and Cornelius). The catalytic nature of 20+ years ago opens everything up for where we are now in the West. An increasing exhalation of the breath of God. It will be felt in the vicinity of where it is being experienced.

History teaches and we learn; history holds us back and prevents us seeing what we have never seen. History is a foundation; history prevents development.

The last paragraph can be deleted. It is our response to history that is determinative.

A ‘decrease so that there might be an increase’ has to be embraced willingly. When there is a decrease but not embraced willingly some debris is left in the path and it is more difficult for what should appear that is ‘greater’. Not greater by status but ‘greater distance’ as in beyond.

Twenty plus years ago. Deeply appreciative. Twenty more years – full of anticipation.

From certainty to uncertainty and then…

Longing for certainty?

I have just completed the first round of zoom calls related to ‘Humanising the Divine’… (BTW I now hear an inner voice saying ask them why they have not yet bought this life changing piece of work? Quickly squashed by ‘Life-changing… really?’). OK no more advertising. Second BTW have you seen ‘The Social Dilemma‘? It is huge eye opening exposé of how vulnerable we are and how society after society is being manipulated to be polarised. It also fits with the preface with my confession that I am biased and believe certain things cos it suits me, and I can defend myself with the Bible… until someone comes along who knows a lot more than me!

I have been very moved by hearing the journeys that people have been on and the integrity with which they have responded to God provoked by crises or difficulties. It highlights what I suggest that the major ways in which we change is not simply through a ‘God-encounter’ but through how we respond (to God) when issues come up. A number spoke of the days (past) of certainty.

I have set out two aspects (borrowing from Robert Johnston) for certainty. The means of reconciliation to God is via the cross, and the authority for what we believe is Scripture. That faith cannot be expressed in a box, not in a statement of faith that someone signs. (Penal substitution, inerrancy, millennial rule etc., are all interpretations of Scripture, not teaching of Scripture, but are often written into statements of faith – on none of the above could I sign such a statement.) Those two certainties that I am settled on do not settle too much beyond that point. A Calvinist believing in limited atonement (Jesus only died for the elect) and a Universalist both tick the above two boxes… Not to mention the more challenging issues of ethics, such as a view on marriage or divorce.

If we have an evangelical background we will probably have come through to a place of confidence in a set of beliefs. That is such an advantage. However, there nearly always arise questions that push back against those beliefs. A common one of course is to do with justice and the ‘problem of evil’: if God foreknew… what about all the ethnic cleansing in the OT… etc.

The questions can of course be much more personal, particularly when we face issues that are very close to us relationally.

I have observed that there is a journey from a narrow certainty, to questions that lead to uncertainty (that is why I think the context for this uncertainty are the two ‘certain’ points above – cross and Scripture). It might be nice to think that there is a journey from certainty to uncertainty and back to a mature certainty. Nice thought!

I actually think the critical part of the journey is from certainty to uncertainty… and to a new place (and space) of openness. Not open to any wind that blows, but open in the context of non-defensiveness, humility, and less motivated by an anxiety to nail things down. Actually a healthy place to get to.

I know less now than I knew years ago. But I know more about myself, understand more about others, and although I still try to squeeze God into my perfectly formed box I am aware that there is a mystery in God and s/he is more outside my box than inside. A God I have found (cos s/he found me) so I have to on a daily basis get on my proverbial bike and go in search of the elusive God who is present everywhere.

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