Wealth or Money?

‘Money makes the world go round’… and round… and round… or so it seems. Pensioners were out in force this past weekend in most of the cities of Spain protesting. The government has used money from the pension fund on at least 3 occasions to bail out financial institutions, and other businesses the government wished to favour. A while back a woman working in the political scene in Madrid told us that anyone 55 and under should have no expectation of a pension at retirement, the money will be gone. Never enough money in the pot, until it seems it can be found for something more important than those who need it!

A few years back we heard an African preacher (Langton Gatsi) push hard on the difference between creational wealth and money. Money can be here today and gone tomorrow, creational wealth continues. The stock markets can ‘miraculously’ lose money one day and gain it another. This is why in most Western nations the amount of money that is real is about 3%. 97% does not even exist, and by that is not meant that only 3% is in the form of currency, something deeper is implied. 97% are figures on a spreadsheet. A run on the banks would be disastrous, and not surprising when the system survives through debt. Without debt the western economic system collapses.

‘Can’t buy and can’t sell’. So the beast says. Trading with money.

However, there has to be a pragmatism. Jesus even said as much with

I tell you, make friends for yourselves by your use of dishonest wealth, so that, when it fails, they will welcome you to eternal dwellings (Luke 16:9).

We live in a fallen (dirty?) world, and only at the extreme end does there come the call to ‘come of her’. So assuming we engage, there is an inevitability of our ‘feet’ becoming dirty and needing to be washed. Dirty feet seems to be unavoidable, but what must be avoided is having a dirty heart on these matters.

Here then are a few bullet point thoughts:

  • wealth cannot be defined by money. Wealth consists in who we are, wisdom, insight, humility.
  • the counterbalance to ‘buy and sell’ has to be ‘give and receive’. Gift is not blind charity but rooted in grace and mercy it will manifest generosity without any guarantee of return, but is given to make possible a person moving toward their destiny. Trade is based on the so-called ‘bottom line’; gift to release destiny.
  • If we can learn the ‘give and receive’ and seek to implement this maybe we can also ‘buy and sell’ without the numerical mark?

A few days ago I re-posted the material on Judas where I consider there is a strong element of Mammon running throughout that narrative. Jesus was not conquered at any level by Mammon, and the strategic victory takes place in the wilderness where he refuses the offer of ‘the kingdoms of this world’. Then on a daily basis the presence of Judas was where that battle continued. Never once did Jesus put money before Judas, always people took precedence over money. I suggest that en route to breaking the hegemony of religion the refusal to submit to Mammon was a necessary step. Money is neutral but the system locks money up under the spirit of Mammon, the result is the reward of some (but not their release) and an increasing captivity of a majority.

I consider that Jesus conquered the spirit of Mammon decisively. This gave him authority to break open the religious spirit that is so often twinned with Mammon. The Temple in Jerusalem, now had fallen to the extent of being a den of robbers. This did not mean that people could not meet God there, for God can show up in the most dark of places. Even Judas seems to unknowingly act out that severing of the tie between Mammon and religion by throwing the money back in the Temple! It is not his act that makes the break, that is done at the cross but his act is a powerful sign of what has been done at the cross. The lie of Empire continues (make Rome great and the world will be blessed) while the real flow is ever to the centre. Religion of all kinds, theist, polytheist or non-theist, can be seconded to the Imperial power to promote the well-being and continual existence of the Imperial powers. Indeed I suggest religion becomes more important to the Imperial powers at two phases: at a time when there is a push for even greater level of greatness or when there is the fear of losing control.

All three have something in common. They draw a line of who is in / who is acceptable. The language is different but the effect is the same.

Jesus, nor Paul in the ‘secular’ outworking of the Gospel allowed faith to become the support for the status quo, but considered that faith was there to challenge the world order as is. Surely that approach continues to be the call to those of faith?

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In the Middle (muddle?) of 2016-2020

Sue and Roger Mitchell have been very supportive of our travels in Spain. In a few weeks’ time we will have them with us for a few days. Always there is more in it those days than we initially realise. The interaction deepens our perceptions. Sue has recently written about the ‘mid-point’ of our time through the four years from 2016-2020. Her insights and prophetic vision have always stood the test of time. Not only is the content that is reproduced here worth digging in to and meditating on, but she also sends out such a clear signal in her communication of where we have to travel: a communication that both those standing in a historic Christian position and seeking to face outward, and those who do not share a ‘Jesus-faith’ but are equally focused on transformation can find clarity for hope, faith and love.

Roger writes regularly. Follow him on twitter or at his blog

Here then is her post, first with the introduction by Roger on his blog site:

We all have a context and a background, a worldview, social construct, call it what you will. The important thing is to recognise it but not be bound by it, let alone be dogmatic about it. I rather like theologian Graham Ward’s standpoint theology approach where we recognise where we started and where we are now but keep open to the impact of others and their standpoints. Exercising prophetic sight from the context of this kind of open standpoint is costly but crucial. So I am everlastingly grateful to my partner Sue Mitchell for continuing to pursue such sight. I for one need it, and in its light will be ready to start once again blogging more resources for kenarchy practitioners and love-activists generally. Thanks to those who continue to visit this site and peruse the material whether I’m blogging regularly or not. It’s certainly encouraging to me. So here’s the first installment of Sue’s latest sight. It’s quite long for a blog piece, but needs exposure. In a week or so I’ll move it to her page so that we can continue to draw on it while I continue to blog forward.

IN THE MIDDLE (MUDDLE?) OF 2016-2020: MOONS, MEANINGS, TIMES AND SEASONS

TIMES AND SEASONS AGAIN …

It’s been a long while again since I have written about our times and seasons as there are so many perspectives to take into consideration. Desiring, like so many, to be inclusive and learning, I find it increasingly challenging to express a worldview which, while based, hopefully not dogmatically, in the Jesus narrative is meaningful for all, draws nonetheless on a transcendent, spiritual and moral dynamic that not all will recognise. Nevertheless I offer this in the development of an interpretation of the last three decades which, though somewhat ‘sub-cultural’ in its earlier expression, is now fairly well attested by significant events. My hope then is that it help ‘church-background people’ to re-imagine ourselves as active participants in the social justice challenges of today’s world, and ‘non-religious/non-christian people’ to re-consider the possibility of a powerfully loving, non-controlling, Jesus-defined God, involved in helping us all towards a radically new ‘humanifesto’.

POST-VIRAL PARALYSIS, LOVE-BASED COMMUNITY AND LABOUR PAINS …

On a journey to find a radical form of organisation which could express love-based relational community as an alternative and antidote to a mechanistic social determinism, many of us were engaged in a ‘new church movement’. It was a modern-day attempt at reformation of an ageing institution which nevertheless had transcendent love in its deepest history. From both within and outside that lived experience, much has been written about the human and supernatural dynamics, the development and settling back of that movement. My own interpretation, alongside Roger’s much deeper and academically rigorous research, views that 20th century experience as a concentrated exposure in a single generation of the history, the ‘rise and fall’, of an alternative society, or ‘church’, originally inspired by the exemplary man Jesus. Focusing on his inspiration, teaching and hermeneutic, we offer this fall as sign and significance of similar, earlier falls in the history of family, tribe and society, and of the virus that transfers in the DNA from generation to generation.

The inspiration and desire to love, belong, care and be loved is challenged, infected and often overwhelmed by power and institutionalisation. This often defaults to the seemingly necessary hierarchical, ‘representative’ management of social organising, rather than the relational wellbeing of all people and creation. Nevertheless, alongside the pressure of the virus in this 20th century church experiment, we did experience some truly remarkable transcendent interventions when the love of God impacted and strengthened the originary, creational impetus to love, and significantly challenged some of the post-viral structural paralysis in both church and social bodies. For example in the Pentecostal outpouring in Los Angeles, the love of God radically affirmed black, white, male and female as fully and equally valued. Martin Luther King then carried this revolutionary message to American society.

2016-2020: A PULSE OF ‘DESPERATION’ …

Jesus is well-known for his teaching of the ‘Beatitudes’, calling blessed those who mourn, who are hungry and thirsty, poor and despised. Clearly he is pointing to those not in positions of power and nothing to lose in the present system or social order, because another social order, or era, is about to dawn. His hearers can receive this new ‘kingdom’ with joy because they are not invested in the present, unjust and oppressive one. This hungering and thirsting is for righteousness, this poverty is of value and respect, this mourning is for the loss of the God-given image of humanity and creation where all live in peace and each has her own, rightly shared provision. But those ‘who are full now’, the rich and the satisfied, already have what matters to them so have no sight or longing for anything different, or of greater value. The labour pains of longing or a desperation for justice are a pulse we, particularly in the well-off northern hemisphere, must discipline ourselves to seek, challenging strongly our own self-interest in the present system. The traumas of the ups and downs of the market, whether we will be economically better or worse off after Brexit, and other such media narratives are the immediate concerns of this present age. Yet the increasing numbers of the homeless poor in our cities, the incarcerations of refugees and the unreported genocide (again) in the Congo are clear evidence of an ‘un-rightness’, which those, such as followers of Jesus, who aspire to a new social order, to a new humanity, must address.

MOONS, TIMES AND SEASONS …

I have to admit that foreseeing (as long ago as 1996; written up fully by 2007) that this four-year period would be one of ‘desperation’ (with hindsight better termed ‘disruption’) was not a great help when it did dawn! More recent statements I made such as “the shattering of Western imperialism is irrevocable and … a United Kingdom will … face considerable internal challenges and disunity (and) the shuddering will continue” can themselves cause desperation and not the blessed kind unless we keep the bigger picture in focus. As a seasoned melancholic, that is as great a challenge to me as to anyone. So the vivid and somewhat unusual lunar event in late January this year was a great, and literal, wake-up call.

In September 2015, the ‘early’ beginning (‘head’ of the Jewish new year, or in the West as the ‘academic’ year begins) of the 2016-2020 period, the fourth of an unusual 4 lunar eclipses in one year was a super, red, harvest moon. Termed ‘super’ because it appeared larger than usual at the nearest point to the earth in its ellipse, ‘red’ or ‘blood’ because of the effect of an eclipse, it was called ‘harvest’ for the season. Now at the head of 2018, two years into the period, two super moons occurred in the same calendar month. The second, also a blood moon, was termed a ‘blue’ moon because of its rarity, but also from an ancient linguistic root to betrayal, where 13 moons occur in a 12-month year. It references 13 apostles (Matthias was elected, or Paul emerged) in the framework of the original 12 after Judas’ betrayal. Moons turning to blood is a biblical reminder to take notice of times (chronos) and seasons (kairos) changing. And here was a super, blood, ‘betrayer’ moon!

In short then, my enquiries into what this might signal suggest that two eras or epochs (as in kairos in NT Greek) are contending for our one chronological or earthly present time period (chronos in NT Greek). The fullness of one era is being challenged by another, and they are beginning, unusually, to appear together. The ‘betrayer’ moon speaks firstly of Judas who betrayed Jesus, accepting money to do so in the ‘era’ or culture of the Pharisees’ collaboration with the Roman system, and indeed in the marriage of church with the imperial system since. Secondly and redemptively it references the apostle Paul who chose captivity as a prisoner in order to go to Rome to incarnate love in the very heart of the Imperial era. It appears then, that the love impulse which prioritises care for the poor, the gentle, the outsider and the oppressed, is again growing to a fuller strength than we knew and is shining alongside this ageing world system. It was incarnated by Jesus, released ‘on all peoples’ in the spiritual outpouring of resurrected humanity, imitated by Paul and subsequent generations, and in this time of our lives is growing again like the day. Now that is worth waking up for!

Will we then, ‘at this time’ see the era of wealth and power again restored to the church and/or the good people of the Western world? This ironic question is the excitable disciples’ question to Jesus (in Acts 1) reworked for our ‘time’. The answer is the same now as then. If that is our expectation or our desire, we cannot know or discern rightly the times and eras that are ours to live in. To look back, hoping to restore what was comfortable for us reveals a ‘fixed’ or closed, culturally dominant worldview. But Paul reminds us that if we are alert and sober, not easily distracted in a season of confusion and good desperation, we do know “full well” about times and seasons (1 Thess 5:1). Stealthily and carefully a new day (era) is beginning to dawn, but it comes about through labour pains! The metaphor is of the night, and a darkened mind, being about false “peace and safety”, so don’t sleep, but labour for a new birth, for a new era.

SO, BREATHE …

If then we are encouraged to hope for and believe in a growing social movement towards justice and compassion, it might look something like the Victorian pattern. The socio-political interventions for prison reform, the better working conditions for the poor, the end of child labour, new education provision and so on of the Victorian era was itself a dawning of a new day for many. It too succeeded a ‘reformation’ or awakening of the church to its original calling. But we are moving forward, not harking back to an earlier ‘Christendom’. What are the challenges of today’s social and moral injustices in a globalised and multi-cultural world? How do we now engage effectively, soberly but energetically? In my view the challenge of two moons in one space is huge. The parable of two harvests sown in the same field is apt (Matt.13:24ff) Tearing one up will damage both, but doing nothing is not an option. There is a transcendent element with angels becoming involved, responding to the ‘time’ and to ‘those who will inherit salvation’. So those seeking to share in the inheritance of the new humanity, first embodied by Jesus who persevered to fulfil all the hope and promise of a person committed to pour out life in love and the pursuit of justice, must work likewise with our time and with transcendence. And on one specifically challenging note, we must work this year with a sensitivity to betrayal. This is not to increase suspicion and neuroticism in our relationships, but to check our own choices and behaviour, like the disciples at the Passover. Not, “Is it he or she who will betray me?” but rather, “Is it I, Lord?” who might become a betrayer. If betrayed, to meet it with the forgiveness, love and freedom with which Jesus included Judas. To be true to our values, our covenants, our God, and our spiritual, moral and emotional responsibilities is our challenge.

BREATHING EXERCISES …

Some will know of the five ‘graces’ or pulses I have written of before as an interpretative gloss of our learning experience of the last 30 years. I suggest now again, that just like breathing exercises in childbirth, they are to help us manage these labour pains. We can and must be deliberate and thoughtful to help a reconfigured society, an ironic ‘kingdom’ or a new ‘era’ come to birth as fully and safely as possible, in our times. But they develop with each new phase, so I will write further in the days to come in fresh detail. It’s probably not just moonshine!

Sue Mitchell, March 2018.

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2018 – a Personal Perspective

I am clear that what I write here will be a personal perspective, not a universally applicable ‘horoscope‘ (horrorscope) prophetic template for the year. I hope though that there might be some resonance. Gayle and I completed 9 years in Spain on January 1. Seems like yesterday that we arrived with 2 suitcases, yet since then we have lived in 3 locations (4 apartments), visited all the communidades of Spain (17), probably 35-40 of the 50 provinces, slept 40 nights last year in the back of our furgoneta (affectionately labeled as ‘el furgo de san lorenzo’) as we covered 8000 kilometres seeking to retrace the steps related to the ‘conquest’ of and expulsion of the Muslims in Spain. Each year has been different and last year was the most intensely Spain-focused year.

Provinces of Spain
The 50 Provinces

Some of what I will write below will make it sound as if our lives are filled with supernatural interventions. It is easy to make it sound like that when picking out specific stories from a period of time. Some days, are filled with ‘get out of bed, drink coffee, drink loads more, still try to figure out what we are to do, go to bed none the wiser’. Yet it would also be true that there are supernatural interventions… we still believe in that crazy stuff!

Our lives have been shaped at times by some ‘left-of-field’ dreams that have sidetracked us. Or they have shown us what we thought was the main track had some twists in it that we did not anticipate. We have lived now in this apartment the longest we have lived anywhere – 4 years in March – and it seems the shortest time of anywhere. We are here because of two dreams, one of which Gayle entered an address in google maps as to where we were living. Around this time four years ago we saw this apartment. At Christmas time, 2013, I had a word that we would put an offer on three places, that we would get the third place, and that it would be a grace package, but each one would cost more than the one before. The last part I want to underline, as so often is the case we look to interpret things along well-worn lines or according to our expectation. A ‘grace package’ seems to indicate it would not cost as much as we would normally expect, but in this situation it was going to mean the opposite. Apparently the emptier our pocket the more opportunity to God to fill it. We came to Oliva end of December 2013, met with an estate agent who has become a friend. He asked ‘how much do you want to spend?’ Our reply was as little as possible as we are really headed to Madrid and need to keep the maximum amount of money for there. (Eventually we spent almost 3x the figure we gave him that day.) We offered on one place – they countered and we did not want to go any higher. We offered on a second place, and offered the asking price. They took for ever to reply and then said ‘not at that price!!’ We offered on a third, the owner said ‘don’t talk to me about it!!’ The agent said that he had worked the area for 14 years and had never experienced anything like this. He said – it looks as if you are attracting it. I replied ‘probably, but we will be OK so stick with us’. Out of the blue Michael from Hannover called and said that there were three angels waiting to work with us. The key one (at that time for us) was to help us leave Cádiz. We went to where we were sure that angel would be, and within 30 minutes of praying, the agent called us (after many weeks of no communication) with ‘I don’t know what has happened, but you have the property’.

(I now realise this might be a long blog – hope I do not get bored before the end… and for the record we are on the way to Madrid, by the grace of God with / without a pocket that is empty or not!! The Madrid statement was not by way of information, but to keep me focused.)

Anyway dreams… We were sent a very simple yet clear dream. Gayle and I were standing in our living room with invites on the table in front of us on pieces of paper. We did not know how to respond to them, and there was someone there waiting for our response. Eventually I looked up at him and said that we would go and consult the ‘man of Spain’ who would help us know how to respond and then we would make a response. Last year in our travels (yes it is subjective and a little mystical) but we certainly met the substance of the man of Spain in the land as we travelled. Not all those who have contributed to the substance of the ‘man of Spain’ have been male, nor have all been Christians, but one that certainly shaped us has been San Lorenzo, who died in Rome on August 10th, 258. We named our van after him – his gift, and our prayer as we drove through Spain, was to revalue all things. The emperor demanded the wealth of the church to be given to him, and so on the appointed time he showed up at the emperor’s abode with the marginalised of society, proclaiming that this was where God’s riches were manifest. The revaluation of all things!

San Lorenzo Hiding in the Trees
San Lorenzo Hiding in the Trees

 

At the end of the year we felt as if a season in our journey in Spain had been completed, and knew that 2018 would look different. Within weeks we were having renewed connections with people from 10+ years ago, as well as new connections from some former geographies and also new geographies. Of course we still need wisdom to see what that means but something was moving.

So this year will be different. We will still have a strong focus on Spain, and into the re-working of the constitution. We are not disrespectful to what has gone on before, but believe strongly that the body of Christ has the primary responsibility to create space (yes kick those demons!!) so that there can be a reshaping of society. We take responsibility to hold space for the future, not to occupy the places of power and dictate. Into this we would love to get a base in Madrid – loads to say on this. We have made an offer on an apartment that needed total reformation (by total I mean ‘total’ – it had a toilet but nothing else, no kitchen, no electricity, gas etc…) We entered a sealed bid offer with 27 others. We were completely outbid. Mammon loves to speak with a loud voice. Beyond Madrid we will make a focus into Europe wider. When there are major people movements, and shaking of powers on the earth, we need to realise that an era to re-shape things spiritually is right there. This wonderful continent is ready to yield a shape to something not yet seen.

Here though is what I want to focus on. First a Scripture:

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty deeds (2 Cor. 12: 12).

I was praying into this Scripture and this is what I want to release for this coming year… There is an apostolic movement being released that will not adopt titles, nor establish a headquarters, but will be marked by patience. The true apostolic can wait a generation, a century or more, knowing that what is sown will bear fruit. The short term, insular, visions will be shown for what they are.

National boundaries might be practical (but we should not draw a straight line between ‘nations’ in biblical language with ‘nation-states’ as we have them) and could even be a way of releasing gifts for the nations, but a church that defends a national vision cannot be the context in which an apostolic spirit is nurtured.

The birth of the Pauline apostolic was not in Jerusalem… it was not for Jerusalem… the apostolic vision being born now is likewise away from the centre

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To boldly go

Changes, changes, changes. Who can predict the future? Post Brexit referendum the jury is still out as to what that all means. Gibraltar the clearest ‘remain’ vote (could this be down to vested interest?!!) and yet one of the biggest financial contributions to the leave vote campaign came from there. How will a year-old party shape up in France? Across the pond what is happening?

Dependent on the glasses one wears and therefore how we see the world I guess we could be anxious wanting to go back to some safe boundaries (for safe read yesterday and status quo) or we can see opportunities in the space that is opening up. I lean heavily to the latter. From a theological perspective I do so as my eschatology does not have space for a future antiChrist, but consists of an open future that we are challenged to shape in the light of the gospel of freedom; and from an intercessory perspective I see the open space as a result of prayer. Our task is to open space and let it be filled by those of positive vision for the future whether they have faith, as we define it, or not.

In some correspondence today I suggested there are three aspects of society that are essential to shaping the future at this time. I do not place them in an order of priority but suggest they are:

  • education
  • media
  • arts

All aspects / spheres of society are important but some have been colonised more than others; some have been suppressed more than others; hence I select these three as perhaps containing the greatest potential. In reverse order…

The arts. Years ago I gave a crazy prophetic declaration that when we learn how to value art the housing market will be re-valued (in many areas that means de-valued). When house prices dictate who can live where, we are not living in a free world. There are also come crazy valuations in the art world, but there are many artists (in the broad sense of that word) who are working with little return. Meanwhile there are those who make money from money… Paul was clear that those who are entitled to eat are the ones who are working, which of course begs the question as to how the word ‘work’ is to be defined biblically. I mentioned above that some spheres have been colonised, and some words certainly have. We have colonised ‘work’ along an ’employed’ / ‘unemployed’ line. Once we remove those terms from a creational context we will have very little left to pull us in a new-creational direction.

Artists are gifted to open our eyes, ears, emotions and imagination to where we could be going. There is a lament contribution that can be made that exposes the right grief about what we have done, but I think now we need more than ever a message of hope. Faith is related to what we hope for, it creates the shape for faith to develop.

The media. We have prayed for a new media. I admire the way that the media continues to push to get stories, even when so much of it has been designated as ‘fake’! The media is not unbiased, and this applies to the media that I like as well as the media that I disagree with. Thank God for social media, although so mixed, it gives access to alternative perspectives, sometimes alternative facts, but even when that is the case these are alternative facts coming from the bottom up rather than imposed from the top down.

A free media is vital. In most of our democratic western nations we struggle to really have a free media. The mainstream newspapers of the UK… the TV channels in Spain… ‘freedom’ is not the first word that could be used to describe them. But we are witnessing the same kind of shift as during the Reformation with the printing press and the release of Scriptures in the ordinary language. Controlling the press cannot and never will be absolute, and I applaud those who are committed to its liberation and doing so at personal cost.

Education. I love history, knowing the story of where we have come from is essential. The wisdom and knowledge that has got us here has great value. Animals seem to learn some aspects through instinct, but we as humans learn this through intentionality. We have the knowledge how to build a car, but imagine if you were the last human alive. I would struggle to put together a cart akin to one from ancient society. The knowledge and gifts are held corporately. We can build a cart, a car, a space rocket. Knowledge has great value in being passed on, but creativity birthed from questioning will take us further. Education is not simply teaching people what to think, it is certainly teaching people how to think, but perhaps its greatest goal is to teach people to question.

Neo-liberalism has all-but destroyed most aspects of the economic and business realms, so much so that there seems even in the Christian world very little radical thinking. Unless we have at the core the deliberate non-maximisation of profits, coupled to a strategic plan to be free from the love of money, and at least a measure of embracing the principle of jubilee there does not seem much hope for a change there. (And if this is not arrested I might well have to change my beliefs about an antiChrist – not because of the Bible but our inability to take the Bible seriously enough…)

So in this little musing coming out of this morning’s correspondence I am suggesting that the three areas of education, media and arts might be at the forefront of setting health care free from the monetary colonisation that is there… and from health care there might even be a shift elsewhere.

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Dancers who dance on injustice

We have laughed and laughed but have not missed the prophetic nature of the dance from Dani Mateo (a commentator and comedian in Spain). He rejected Valley of the Fallen as a place of reconciliation (would a graveyard with Jews and Aushwitz guards be appropriate?). He called it a piece of mierda (rhymes with ‘hit’) and then when threatened with court action against him he has made an ‘apology’ calling it el baile de los caidos (the dance of the fallen!!). He also has explained that there are different crosses and that the one at the valley of the fallen is not recognised by many Christians as a true cross (Dani if you read my blog – well done!!!!).

Enjoy!!!!! And I hope that Rog and Sue also enjoy – we had an awesome time there with them giving it a kick 2 years ago…

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Another year – optimistic?

2017 – a year in our calendar… Not another year in the Lord’s calendar and he certainly did not set for himself some new year’s resolutions, such as ‘must do better this year!’ One year to the next is somewhat artificial yet to focus for each year as they come is helpful for us and given that God works with us in our time-frames there is a sense we can look at the coming year to ask what is going to take place. Thank God we are called to live life and shape the future. We are not robots yet is helpful to have sight of what is to come.

The shifts in culture around is not easing up with extremes feeding from the fear narrative that has been nurtured. We are living with a post-truth culture. At the start of each year we can read of ‘the year of great breakthrough’ that is ahead and we have to continue to pull on words that speak of breakthrough, of heaven’s resources being available etc. If we do not pull on those words what are we feeding our spirits? Yet there is more to the coming year than that! I like the balance of the book of Revelation. The four key markers of being in the Spirit in the book revolve around:

  • seeing the Risen Lord
  • entering the throne room of heaven
  • then seeing the beastly whoring world system for what is is
  • and finally seeing the culmination of the redemption of heaven with the Bride

Four major visions – three of them so positive. That is not only a good proportion but a necessary one. Without those three there will be no inner ability to face the world system as it is and to sustain any inner stability. We will either be overcome or we will not see the world for what it is. Overcome by pessimism and cynicism, or live in denial. This world can be a hard place to live within and any optimism needs to be tempered by a realistic belief that we are to co-partner with heaven.

The 3:1 proportion (of the visions) is vital for the reality of the task is also present within those visions. Jesus is risen, Caesar does not shape the future (nor the White House, no.10, Moncloa nor Brussels) and there will be a final culmination… but along the way there will be set backs, persecution and martyrdom. I have no issues with ‘this is the year of breakthrough’ but this is not that that I want to focus on when making some suggestions about this coming year. I want to focus on what I see as being set before us as the body of Christ to grapple with.

I consider that the body of Christ is the means by which the government of heaven enters the earth, not in the sense of ‘taking power’ and implementing God’s rule but by enabling love to be present in the affairs of humanity. Some huge directions were set in 2016 that will be processed in this coming year. The test is not the ‘greatness’ nor the strength of the economy but the care for the marginalised that a society exhibits, how humanised the society the church is within truly becomes. So where there is not that care, or where we see segregation and people categorised in (negative) generic ways and therefore ‘other to us’ we know that the body of Christ has to step up another level. The health of the church in the sense of ‘church growth’ is not the test, but the health of the world is the test with respect to the health of the church. The amount of thorns and thistles in the land of course might be greater in one place than in another. The Western world is now living 500 years on from the Reformation and a Gospel presence so I think it is only right to assume that more is expected of us.

What is already under way will increase:

  • Polarisations not simply of ideologies but of demonising the other.
  • Adopting narratives that scapegoat and silence the voices for integration.
  • Protectionism and another wave of trade deals that protect the western way of life.
  • Hugely fluctuating currency exchange rates and manipulation of currencies.

In response then there are issues that will be acutely faced with this year. We have to sow for the future:

  • It is vital that we do not buy into the self-protectionism that is viewed as necessary. There will be many opportunities to cross fences and boundaries this year. Even former theological fences will be challenged. There will be reports of God moving among those who are ‘other’. We do not need to kiss our brains goodbye but we have to be slow to judge. Even in the imperfect God wants to break the church free. These aspects are preparations for days when the church will have to take a stand for the foreigner in the midst.
  • There are huge shifts and instabilities coming in the economic markets. Their instability will be seen for what it is. Again it is important that we learn ‘those who give to the poor lend to the Lord.’ Not as some talisman Scripture but as a way of life.

The resources that can help us:

April a month of unusual early Spring signs. Unusual bird migrations will be hopeful signs. Hope for the many who are forced into migration and a hopeful provocation for the body of Christ where there will be ‘migrations’ sparked this coming Spring. To counter the forced migrations there will be willing migrations, living as immigrants, that will rise for many. Spring 2017 will be noted by many as ‘that was when a whole new phase was begun for us.’

Laughter and friendship. There is hard work. There is play. Actively pursue the connections and re-connections that bring life and joy.

Optimistic?

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A new media?

In what follows I want to communicate a prophetic conviction of the arrival of a new media. Certainly a new media presence within Europe. The old ‘woman’ of Europe can produce, and will produce a new media presence.

 

A little while back I realised the myth of the independence of the ‘spheres’ within society (education, health, politics, arts etc). The concept I had been working with was of them having their own measure of autonomy. Indeed in a healthy society that is how it should be. However…

A little aside:

  • we live in a fallen world – left to its own devices this will ‘fall’ to a place of increasing evil.
  • fallenness can be redeemed – brought back to purpose.
  • hence we do not operate from a distinct line of good / evil but fallen / redeemed (or better situations in a process toward even greater fallenness / or in a process of redemption).
  • I do not see either the future (pre-parousia) as ‘all evil, rule of antiChrist’, nor as ‘all perfect’.
  • there is ground to be gained and seasons when this happens incredibly. This does not make it permanent as ground has to be held.

And before coming to the ‘a new media?’ issue I consider that one of the deep insights of the book of Revelation (and if wanting to read it in context get a history book that shows the total domination and myth of Rome) is that of the two beasts. I have wrestled with that for a while. What are the two beasts? The primary one is that of preserving the elite at all costs (Imperial power) and the second one is that which keeps the first in place – hence it can be literal Emperor worship (the Imperial cult of the day), politics, media (here is where I am going), or finally if necessary of course military power.

Still with it?

The media – free and independent?

Probably on the whole not free and independent! We have some very challenging situations with the media.

  • The news channel most watched by our charismatic friends across the pond, one that is strong on family values…, the same media empire that ran the infamous ‘page 3’. In other words it was not serving family values but serving an agenda of thought formation.
  • The percentage of the media in the UK owned by a handful of people. 3 companies own 71% of the UK national newspaper market.
  • In Spain we have government controlled channels (and one owned by a certain Berlusconi of Italian fame) and then one independent channel. When a political party rose in Spain with an incredible growth of members – totally newsworthy by any stretch of the imagination – the journalists employed by the established media groups were banned from giving any interviews with those involved.
  • The BBC website these past few days seemed amazingly silent with respect to the material on Mr Cameron and his connection to the benefits he drew from the Panamanian company his father was involved in.

So maybe the beast has another associate – for the beast must have a voice – a servant in the media that is not allowed its own freedom, its own autonomy. BUT…

Prophetic prayer gives way to apostolic declaration – certainly that was my language of a few years back. Correct language at this point is not too important.

WE HAVE ENTERED A TURN AROUND IN THE MEDIA. A NEW MEDIA IS HERE. JOURNALISTS WHO WERE MARGINALISED WILL GAIN A PLATFORM.

Maybe this does not mean everything will disappear and everything new will be here, but ground has been gained, there is a shift.

A dream

(In all I am writing it is not to demonise certain media organisations, or as in the dream, Northern Europe, they are symbols and examples of the structures that we all find ourselves living within.)

Last night I had a dream. I needed to go to the toilet to have a pee. I was not at home but knew it was in Southern Europe. (Dreams are strange!) When I got there I lifted the seat and in the bowl was stacks of paper and some dirty clothes. Pressed in and pushed down and the bowl was all-but full. In the bathroom were two other people (!!) who noted my surprise at what I had discovered. They were from France and Germany. One of them said – ‘Oh I did not know we couldn’t put that stuff in here (meaning both here as in the toilet and here as in Southern Europe) and that it would not just flush away’.

I knew I had to empty the bowl, but being pretty desperate, first peed then got on with pulling out of the toilet all the papers and clothing that was placed there to be flushed away from sight. Not such a pleasant task – but it was only a dream!!

So waking up this morning (a regular occurrence most mornings) I consider that there has been a way that the dominant powers have behaved that might have cleared stuff out of sight for the past years, but this stuff cannot be flushed down the toilets of Southern Europe. There will be a messy process that now ensues but there are papers and clothing that are going to be brought out to light, primarily (in the European context) from Southern Europe.

The mess has arrived. A new media, and new journalists who cannot be bought.

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Last half of the decade

We are entering the second half of this decade and we continue to have a focus on the two dreams that spoke into the decade. (I have written in more detail of those two dreams before but include a summary again.) The first with the see-saw and the years coming down on each side of the see-saw (20 – 10, then 20 – 11 all the way through to 20 – 20 when there was a new alignment and balance). The second where the façades came off the institutions that had shaped the Western world, with the accompanying sobering reality that the familiar brought things back to a so-called normality. The even more sobering part of that dream was the disconnect of the body of Christ with the (God) activity of the exposure. The disconnect was through the body resorting to the familiar (by default so-called God focused activity but by default insulating behaviour). The body being the major spiritual contributor embracing familiarity inevitably became the major factor in returning things to ‘normal’.

Our focus for prayer has been the Western world, the consumer of an inordinate amount of resources, just as Rome was in the ancient world. We have also come to realise that our focus has to tie with our responsibilities. There are many perspectives we might have on other parts of the world but we are increasingly looking to tie our perspectives to where we have a responsibility. This has been an important step for us. We can have perspectives but have little to say as there are others who are responsible for the future of those places.

The work of Christ is a finished work. But the work of Christ does not finish everything, or at least the work of Christ at the cross did not finish everything. Paul spoke of filling up ‘what was lacking’! Not lacking because Jesus was not able to finish it, but because that was not his work to do. He finished the work the Father gave him. He continues to work but in and through his body (Acts 1:1). So we (the body) are here to be the door from heaven to earth, the holy priesthood of intercession (in the fuller sense of ‘standing between’ not simply ‘prayer’). We are responsible for the future, not keepers of the past. There are however specific fields where the Lord wants us to work and take responsibility. When we discover those fileds we take responsibility though we might not ‘succeed’ (not a kingdom word unless success embrace a cruciform shape) but we are to be effective. As salt we are to inhibit certain growths but foster good growth in society.

So our responsibility in this season is Spain. The future of the land is something that we are responsible for. We have now entered our 8th year here and probably have not done very well, but last year was the crossover point of the land not being able to evict us. We might still of course need to be ‘evicted’ by the Lord if we mess up. That crossover point is what gives spiritual leverage, so we know that we are to pull for a future in these next years of this decade.

We have been very blessed to watch the language of some that we pray for nationally. One such person recently said of Spain that where we have arrived is at a point where the old does not have the power to pull things back to what they call normal, but that the new rising at grass roots does not yet have the power to pull things through to the future. His description was so reflective of the see-saw and the shifts. And the language of old/new I do consider so appropriate when applied to Europe – she is like an old woman. In Spain we see mirrored again and again the issue of whether the (often literal) old woman will continue to occupy the centre and rob the future or whether the young woman will find the voice that is now being required. It is not primarily about the young taking centre-stage but of the voice being heard.

The above paragraphs are to give a background to what I now share. The perspectives are shaped by our personal journey and there could well be a measure of projectionism in it. The first half of this decade has been one of finding space and room in a new way. The encounters on the way have been many, but I believe it is so that there can be space to take responsibility for whatever aspect of the public square that is appropriate. So weigh what I write. The next half of the decade begins now.

2016: signs of the direction ahead

Here is the core of what I see in this year. I also see what is happening this year as a pointer to what is to happen in the next five years.

A year of unusual turbulence. Not simply turbulence, but unusual turbulence. There might be a pull to what is normal, but the Lord will mark things by ‘this is not normal’. A year marked by storms (I am struck by the first hurricane in the Atlantic to form in the month of January since 1938 is happening right now as I write). The storms though are not simply weather storms and I saw them ripping through the tops of trees. The tops are where the winds will blow. This is a year when there will be storms that hit the high and mighty. Mountains not to be occupied but to be made low.

It is a time for family legacies to be established. The ‘me generation’ is fast producing a narcissistic generation. But it is not too late. There has to be an unseating of the ‘me’ that has plagued the West. This focus I see as being strongly aimed toward the 50+ bracket. The clash between the strong personality and those who step back from the ‘self-claims’ but clearly carry a focus for the future will be visible for all to see. There has to be some incredible acts of courage that take place – the voluntary unseating from positions of so-called power and influence. So look for resignation – due to the storms and due to voluntary stepping aside, no longer running on the treadmill of performance and notoriety.

Open doors and high fences. Doors open to the other or fences that will accelerate the decline through inbreeding. It is no longer possible to spiritually deal with what needs shifting through the so-called indigenous people of the land. Of course this has applications politically but as I always see the body of Christ being responsibility for society the primary way I am looking at this is concerning the body of Christ.

Patterns for the coming years. This year will afford responses that will both be signals of what needs to be responded in the years that follow, so there will be responses that we do not feel ready for. When we hit the strange challenges we need to be very slow at judging the response by what we know. If we go slowly we will gain insight of what we will need to come to terms with in the years that follow.

Always… every year and very day is a gift. An opportunity to hold things back or to help facilitate an acceleration.

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