A carrot for the donkey, please

We all known the proverbial carrot and donkey analogy. The promise is always there but never actually reachable. Beginning of month and beginning of year prophecies can act like that. ‘May is the month of breakthrough’ – yippee I have been needing a breakthrough. ‘July is the double blessing month, money will be found on the money tree, and it will grow in your garden’ – great though I live in an apartment and don’t know if the money tree can grow in a flower pot. OK, although the examples were not real ones (or were they?) you get the gist.

Those kind of prophecies do give me a few problems. Though before I go into that I also believe at a personal level there can be incredible fruit. June 1997 I received one such prophecy. It went roughly along the lines of ‘great favour coming to you and to your household and this will include financial blessing, and it begins in August’. June to August, only two months, only two months to hold on. Not too big a test that one. So along comes August… nothing. Ah, I think, I have been there before, expectation had it nailed (2 months) but which year? So another 12 months to wait… along comes the next August and expectation up… nothing. I think I might have looked again the following year but soon put the word on one side. In February 2005 Sue passed away. In August 2005, I can remember exactly where I was when out of the blue as I was minding my own business I suddenly heard a voice as clear as any audible voice could be, I heard, ‘this was the August I was speaking of’. I had a choice to make – agreement or not. I agreed… ‘if that is what you are saying I receive it’. So there certainly are ‘this is the month when…’ type words.

So how do we respond to the ‘July is the month of unprecedented breakthrough…’ kind of words?

With many of them a healthy dose of cynicism. Words have to be confirmed within, and unless there is a rise of faith (not simply a consolation of hope) we should simply not get too excited. And adding ‘believe the prophets and you will prosper’ is adding the stick to the carrot.

But let’s try to find something a little more positive in the response, and to do that we need to take a step back.

Revelation connects with expectation and then we are off on a journey that will not lead anywhere too productive. ‘You are the Messiah’ led to ‘but no way will you be the crucified Messiah’ which prompted a response from Jesus of ‘I might have called you Peter, you rock-man, but for now I will rename you as Satan… the enemy’. Expectation so messes us up and enables us to miss what could have been, indeed expectation can take genuine revelation and as a result resist the very revelation being fulfilled. Maybe there is the same word for every month and every year cos we miss it each month and each year? And at the start of the month God says – OK how about this month, this year – ready to give it a go (again)?

Now let’s try and work out what kind of things go wrong.

Not understanding what it means to be alive. That might just be an issue. Defining life for Adam was pretty straightforward. What was happening in him. He eats, drinks, walks, talks… a living being. Life for Jesus, and for those who are in the resurrected Jesus though life is not defined that way. Life is what happens to others.

You will be a millionaire… more likely means you will see a million (and more) go out from you to others – and if you get good at it it does not need to go anywhere near your pocket nor wallet. Gayle and I try to learn a bit about this. But that is not practical we can retort with, thus revealing that we think the prophetic can only work in the ‘practical’ realm! In that period of time when things began to unfold (August 2005), I visited a bank I had been with since 1977, so had a good track record there. I had a mortgage with another company at the time and I was planning on changing it to the bank I had been with all those years. They went through all my figures and said – sorry we cannot offer you a mortgage of any amount, you had better stay with the company where you are. Interesting I thought. I went away rejoicing for in that period we (I include Sue) had just enabled two people to purchase property through our help. I am not sure how it happened and the bank certainly did not understand how.

Now let me interject with a word… This month is the month when the Lord wants to teach about new levels of handling finances, indeed he wants to clue us in on alternative economies that are based on faith, not resulting in more money available to you but to others. And the word for October will be pretty much the same as this is a journey that might start at the beginning of a month but certainly will not end at the end of that month.

We have to understand life. Life is not what happens to us, it is the effect of how we respond to heaven so that others get the benefit of it. (I kind of thought that was the gospel?)

Another pitfall is when We have a view of God that is transactional and is about to reward us for our good behaviour.

God is always toward us, working all things together. Does not mean s/he orchestrates all things, but is involved in the nitty-gritty pulling out of it something that would not have been there if there was no God. It does not mean that nothing bad happens to those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes. As the wisdom sayer says ‘sh** happens’. Oh yes it does. I have two friends currently undergoing treatment for cancer. Did God initiate the cancer? No way (and sovereignty answers don’t cut it the way that Scripture cuts it)… my prayer for them is that something will be the other side of the journey that is remarkable, that God will indeed work something out of this. That does not mean that the cancer is ‘sanctified’ but the journey becomes holy.

‘This is the month…’ but it is the journey that is holy. The events might be pretty rough. Maybe the month of breakthrough will be full of the not so good stuff, but maybe our eyes will be open in a new way to see God with us. That would be a true breakthrough. Maybe the thief giving back might not be the restoration of what we assessed was stolen, but some far larger issues, such as an ability to forgive, to empathise, to live simpler.

I am sure that we need to see a new level of the prophetic. I have been impacted, and been privileged to see others impacted, through prophetic words. Words that release faith. I am far from cynical about the prophetic, but we need to get beyond the donkey and the carrot (and stick), the tantalising bless you words, to digging deeper. God has much to say, but far beyond the making a nation great (again!!), or a person the most blessed person. There are transforming words to be given, and those transformations are far more focused on my neighbour than me, on Afghanistan than…

Time to grow up. Time to embrace the journey that is involved in responding to God. Time for the multiplication of millionaires for example, of ones who have moved finances / healing / new opportunities where it was needed. And this does not mean that there won’t be visible, tangible blessing for those who do so, but the effects of the ‘month of breakthrough’ will be so much more visible elsewhere.

Prophecy… we could go on. I was with Gayle in Brazil on the eve of the last election and I gave a word as to who was going to win. The people were on the edge of their seats… and then I released it. ‘The one who gets the majority of the votes’. Apparently did not satisfy the hunger… and now with the way that democracy is decaying I am not sure that we will be able to continue to say the one with the greater number of votes will win. Read the signs. Democracy has been decaying for decades in the west so it should have been no surprise that in a recent election that a huge question was raised over the numbers, indeed the one who had the most votes was proclaimed by some as having not won! Even some prominent prophecy sites have the previous incumbent as the leader to pray for… I might not agree with how the text ‘all leaders are appointed by God’ is taken, but certainly find it interesting that that Scripture is quoted and used until God has not appointed the leader!! A semblance of democracy might remain for a while, leaving behind the democratic process shell, but there comes a day when that too will disappear unless a journey of self-centredness is brought to an end.

The answer my friend is not blowing at the centre of government, but there are answers blowing in the wind, and the trouble is we have used the wind as a metaphor of the Holy Spirit. Jesus used it somewhat differently. The month of breakthrough on offer to the body of Christ is always at hand, but the kind of breakthrough on offer is apparently not that attractive to some!

Anyway September starts real soon. It is the month of breakthrough, breakthrough like I have never had, breaking me out of ‘me-ness’. If I don’t rise in faith I guess God will offer October as the month of breakthrough.

A plan for an open evening

Summer has not yet gone, but time to plan for the fall / autumn and winter is already here–end of August, how come so early this year? I have valued the interactive Zoom calls that have used the books (‘Explorations in Theology’) as their base. I plan to continue with them, and also alongside them to start a once a month ‘open evening’ – probably first Tuesday of the month, starting in October. So this is just a heads up on those.

They will consist of a theme which will include ethical / practical themes as well as simple biblical / theological ones. They will take the same format as the Zooms on the books. Something to read beforehand, a 10 minute summary / expansion / setting the scene then open discussion. They are not intended to bring something to a conclusion and hopefully will be open to a diversity of views being expressed. I will take some of those evenings but I also plan that others will be the main contributors.

The first one will be a simple one–reading Luke/Acts politically; how the politics and context of Luke is the backdrop to the message, from the offer to Jesus of being the Caesar of God’s choice–a kind get the right person in the white House / Number 10 / Moncloa etc… through to Paul in Rome. (Firm date and details I will post here.)

I hope in subsequent months we could look at sexuality, transgender.

Perhaps one that could be incredibly challenging on ‘humanity in the image of God’ is the future of humanity and AI. What about all those who will receive a ‘chip’ to enhance their abilities; the part human / part machine future… Just when I thought I had everything buttoned down!

I have not decided on the themes and they will evolve month by month, and the need for others to contribute will be necessary, the issues we face are complex.

Not all the subjects need be too complex, but I do want them to have a practical application. It will not be necessary to join each month, come to one, come to them all, come to none (booooohooooo!), pick and choose.

Same ‘rules’! Martin / whoever presents the material is not assumed to be ‘right’. Participants joining do not assume they are ‘right’. Listen and not pontificate…

Hope to see some of you in October.

Kabul… Silk Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Get ready for what? Now and there

Once a year I have had an event on the same date in August. (Kind of repetitive?) I’ve had quite a few so maybe I will move to an every-other year marker. Why not? Anyway… I kind of enjoy it as it is always a time for a few reflections, and also realisations. I have enjoyed getting older, and also realising that it is fairly irrelevant that I am a slow learner, some people might just enter the second half of life at an appropriate time, but I am certainly not ready for that yet. Too much to kick, and simply glad that God works with our attitude of ‘give that a good old kick’; seemingly well able to sort it out. The future of the world does not depend on my maturity!

Anyway been some good days. The presence of God – always present – but ‘felt’ presence is always wonderful, and in that presence there often comes sight.

Nothing new in what I am writing but the sense of ‘preparing to inhabit the future landscape‘ is what is on my mind and heart. To inhabit is to live in it comfortably, not challenge-free, but also not reluctantly. (By landscape I am more indicating the ‘spiritual’ reality than the climate issue of landscape… with wild-fires and record temperatures we certainly face a challenge and a verdict of neglectful stewardship.)

Change… the image on this post is of a river. The philosophers raised the question – can one step into the same river twice, or has it changed since the last time? This was responded to with a further question, ‘can one step into the same river once?’ Constant change!

In writing about change there is always a proviso. Much continues as before when change is announced. Saul’s kingdom ended ‘this day’ but he was still king the next day, and the next, and the next year… and the next decade. Nothing changed, but everything changed that day. I am not about to announce that all has changed ‘this’ day, but in this season (marked by COVID) all is / has changed.

I had some very profitable Zoom calls yesterday. One into a city in the UK where there is a battle on for a redefining of identity and direction (those two are related). I have prophesied there concerning innovation in the University, and that the clock that had been stopped is no longer stopped, yet in spite of that there are delays – that was the nature of the call yesterday. As we talked it became evident that the issue was for a healing of the corporate memory. The ‘stones’ are crying out we can’t go with change! (Land being the reservoir of the corporate memory.) Memory is a wonderful gift, and an amazing terrorising captor – in equal proportions. We see this with God instructing people ‘not to forget’ and to ‘remember’, while also telling them (in the context of radical hope for change) ‘do not remember the former things’.

Memory can inspire us to rise again. Or can become the ruts that prevent a new direction. This is certainly one of the great danger with a rehearsal of ‘revival’ history; the memory can dictate what the future expectation is. The only common factor between past and future is ‘God’, ‘who is, and who was and who is to come’. The order of the three time related phrases seem important, and the change of phraseology, thus indicating direction in the last of the three phrases seem important. The connection between past and future is God, not that of a repeated event. God might (reluctantly) allow a repeated event; we might jump up and down… God might sigh.

Memory is tied to the past, we do not arrive at the future from the past alone. If we try to do that we simply continue to live in a ‘rutted’ present. There has to be a journey first into the future so that it can then enter the present. Thankfully there are catalysts that come our way to facilitate that.

Change is constant, but not all change takes place at a constant rate. There are accelerated times of change, such as we are experiencing now. Those changes are going to affect politics and economics. They have to be affected as those are the ‘sign realms’ whenever there is a major shift spiritually.

How do we prepare?

I saw this year as (falsely) bringing things back to normal, and expected that to be the case in the latter half of this year. I still anticipate that with economic pick up, measure of travel restored and some ‘best trading year yet’ reports. I wrote ‘falsely’ not because the reports or the figures are not accurate, but because the report is based on what can be seen, not what is unseen.

I don’t know how hard 2022 will hit, but it will certainly signal that we are not out of this crisis.

How do we prepare?

I have always found that any shift external has to be initiated at a shift internally; and gladly that what we do, for example, with what is in our pocket affects the big purse out there – after all the context of the widow who put the two coins in the treasury Jesus seemed to tie to the demise of the grandioseness of the Temple edifice, certainly Luke, the observant writer on economics, seems to make that connection.

Here then are a few areas where maybe we will need to give attention:

  • Memory and the aspects that have rutted us into an expectation.
  • Money. ‘Losing’ money strategically will be… strategic! In other words it will be a strategy to unlock our personal economics (unlocking does not necessarily mean ‘increase’ but certainly means liberating of us) and if so to release something wider that will unlock a flow related to justice. I strongly suggest, particularly in new areas to keep one’s eyes open for where we deliberately do not profit from what might have been possible, that which was our ‘right’. Entry to the land was marked by this (Jericho, Achan etc.)
  • Politics. Yes I vote, but the party leanings that I have are not an endorsement of their kingdom alignment. God is not ‘party political’ aligned! But politics is simply to do with shape of society (polis: Greek city / city state). Eyes outward. How far? To the neighbour. ‘Who is my neighbour?’ is a question we have to answer. Amidst political extremes we are to be political, a love for our neighbour.
  • Health. Yet there is something bigger than health that gets threatened. It is that of whether we choose life. I have just completed one more calendar year on planet earth, and have worked out that I am probably(!!) more than half way through my life. The higher call is not to live in health but to live, to choose life. To choose life we do not orientate ourselves in trying to avoid death. Avoiding death is never the instruction. The kingdom of God does not orientate itself around the negatives (there are some) but the orientation is around the positives – eat of all the trees was the first instruction. Life is never defined (unless Adam is the model) by what happens inside, but by what happens externally, as ‘felt’ by the neighbour.

I picked out those four elements (memory, money, politics and health) as there are very real corporate threats around those. The external (big world) is related to the choices made in the small world (my life).

We are in a phase where things can be confusing. Where is God?, not in the sense that s/he can’t be seen, but sometimes s/he is being seen where we did not expect to see God, and sometimes not seen where we expected to see God. Maybe the question is not ‘where is God?’, but ‘why is God present there?’ and ‘why in reality is God absent here?’.

We are truly in the (to you, your children)… and to ‘those who are afar off‘. This will result in mixed responses. God is there (great)… oh no it does not fit my box.

The future is messy… and not just for a short period of time.

The small world is the key.

If we are worried about where is Jesus in all this mess out there, there is an internal question to be asked, that question being far more important than the external question.

In this mess, there is a new bumper (Gayle’s current sense) environment. All it is asking for is for those to walk in the mess there with Jesus. Encounters with Jesus are to take place there.

Many years ago I had a word that God was going to give some people two homes. I am not talking of a nice holiday home, or two luxury pads. A home in Scripture is not first (nor last) implying a building, though a building can be home. A home is a place where there has been a reconciliation, it is the return of the prodigal; it is a place where heaven and earth meet. Money might say to some, ‘OK’ it is easy to have two or more houses… but it is not easy to have two ‘homes’. That requires faith and grace. I now see a further element. Two homes. Home in the ‘clean’ place, where no-one swears (as if!) and a home in the ‘dirty’ place. HOME. In both places where there is a reconciliation of heaven and earth.

The bumper time is here. Explosions. But there not here. I probably should not bother with another August event for the next 8 years. That is the season that is here now / the season that is there now. The timing is consistent (now) the place is not (there).