Demotatorship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opposing the inevitable?

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.

Judaeo-Christian ‘values’

I subscribe to Jeff Fountain’s ‘weekly word’, director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies, affiliated with the University of the Nations. Originally from New Zealand, he lives in the Netherlands and writes passionately about Europe. The views expressed are of course his, but they flag up the challenge of these days. Here are a few excerpts from the letter:

However, nationalist anti-Europeanists have now changed their tactics to ‘Europeanise’ their anti-Europe strategies. When the much-heralded Brexit-domino effect did not materialise, in which other nations would have followed the British to the exit, the anti-Europeanists went quiet on leaving the EU and the Euro and are now calling for a “Europe of the Nations”.

This ‘Europeanised’ anti-European strategy was apparent last weekend when Matteo Salvini, the Italian Interior Minister, leader of the far-right Lega, declared in Milan that the ‘European elite’ had betrayed the founding fathers. On stage with Holland’s Geert Wilders and France’s Marina le Pen, he then called for a ‘Europe of the Nations’, meaning a Europe of sovereign nations, as if he and his allies were restoring the founding fathers’ vision!! This was anything but what the founding fathers – Schuman, Adenauer, de Gasperi and Monnet – had in mind. Such a vision is a recipe in the long-run for ongoing conflicts as it means a return to the prewar status quo of competing nation-states.

The effect could be paralysing. Just when Europe needs to step up to more global leadership, its capacity to defend EU citizens from external threats would be put at risk. Europeans already have enough external worries with Donald Trump deconstructing the international order, Vladimir Putin trying to undermine European political systems through a large-scale misinformation campaign and the Chinese muscling in on the telecommunications market with potential spy-network capacities.

There is certainly a case to be made that the founding fathers’ vision of ‘a community of peoples deeply rooted in Christian values’ has not been faithfully followed, as I wrote in Deeply Rooted. That was a project which prioritised seeking the common good of the whole, not each nation seeking its own self-interest. It was to be a process that was gradual, transparent and democratic.

What is beguiling for many Christians is that politicians like Salvini, Orban and Wilders talk of restoring judeo-christian foundations, but they mean old political and cultural identities. They do not mean the values of inclusion, forgiveness and reconciliation, of caring for the stranger, the poor and the vulnerable, of dignity and rights for each person.


Nice one Michael

Michael Heseltine, the 86 year old ex-Deputy Prime minister, as a pro-European (project) writes a passionate article in the Guardian. He bemoans that:

£350m a week for the NHS has become a £39bn severance cost to leave the EU, every penny of it to be borrowed by the current political generation, but to be repaid by the young people coming after them.

And pulling on one of the central desires for the EU to continue he writes:

Now, I look back over the years: 70 years of peace in Europe, 50 years of partnership between the UK and the rest of the EU. The fascists have gone from Spain and Portugal, the colonels from Greece. Now we have 28 democracies working together on a basis of shared sovereignty, achieving far in excess of what any one of us could individually. Never forget that it was the memories of Europe’s war that laid the foundations of the European Union today.

Enough of Michael for now, as I need to recover a little never having quoted someone from those political persuasions for some time! I have been, and remain, hopeful that somehow in the Brexit mess there can be some sort of reformation of the EU. Maybe this is hypocritical of me as I (in theory) see a Jubilee principle of tear it all back down otherwise we simply give a mandate to the Babylonian tower building that promises to make us great (again). So in my hope that there might even yet be a reversal of the Brexit (personal hope) I realise that my bigger hope for Europe might only come through what could well be a much larger collapse.

There are tensions we live with. Once we know what we believe we are responsible for we look for signs that indicate the direction we are moving in is right. We look to make sure certain things do not happen on ‘our watch’. I look at certain things in Spain where there are huge potential backward steps and at times am mentally preparing an apology speech. That is very genuine – and one of the reasons I am typing in the night hours this post – and yet I realise that God is not finished when I want to resign!

I am of the opinion that we should be able to hold certain things back, and in that sense am very happy to accept failure, for after all failure is not all it is cracked up to be, and certainly comes nowhere close to being at the same level as the sin of prideful success. Yet if we ‘fail’ it is certainly helpful to acknowledge that and to re-align oneself to whatever God is doing. He does not abandon passions like I can!

Indeed it could be argued that failure was one of the best gifts God dished out!

Map of Concentration camps in Spain

In Spain we have rejoiced in the government passing the rule that they will exhume Franco from the Valley of the Fallen. Another sign of dealing with the past, and recently a book has just been published documenting the 296 concentration camps in Spain, active post-Civil war, for those who were not pro-Franco. We watched last night a 99 year old man with such a sweet spirit who had been within one of those camps from age 19. Great signs of uncovering and bringing things to the light. We also watched one of the main party leaders who has a good chance of taking the reigns post-April 28 say that if that takes place and they win that they will ensure that Franco’s remains are not removed. If that happens my hands will be up in apology. We will have failed. But God will still be active, and some failure is only to show us we have to go deeper.

So much is taking place in Europe. Heseltine writes that the Fascists have gone from Spain. ‘Ojala!’ But Michael there is such a rapid rising of that in Spain and elsewhere and Steve Bannon who is active in Europe comments on the rise of Vox noting that not only have they become visible but have shifted the other parties that claim the ‘centre-right’. They have had to change their language and position, in other words they have shifted to the right appealing to the popular vote. They have adopted language (and policies?) that echo language and policies that former Fascists would resonate with.

Vox, I am sure is pulling in the Christian vote and support, the language of ‘family values’ and ‘anti-abortion’ seems to be enough at times to ensure that. But the policies of automatic expulsion of all those who are illegal immigrants, with anyone entering the country never being eligible for papers; the right of citizens to bear arms; certain parties being made illegal! What kind of country develops from soil that is tilled in that way?

The Brexit. We should have been 3 days away from the big leave, but as the debates continue who knows where it will end. There are crises all around and even if the ‘B’ word is sorted out it will not herald the end of crisis. Surely that is one of the primary reasons for the church to be present – salt hindering evil growth and promoting good growth. And if it all ends badly it is not the end. We will be able to find a God of hope amidst the dust of death.

Keeping alert on the watch is important. There is no ‘ideal’ we are aiming for, but there are directions we are pushing for. It is great to know – and a very important hermeneutic – that the law never claimed to get it right. The laws were helpful pointers in the direction to go. The law could be summed up in ‘love’, but the full set of laws could not spell ‘love’. Only the deep incarnational commitment of God can ever spell ‘love’. Love for God and for neighbour was Jesus summary. The incarnation closes the gap between God and neighbour, for God moved into the neighbourhood. Further the NT refuses to credit to us a love for God when we do not love our neighbour, and when neighbourly connections are redefined along the Jew – Samaritan divide we are truly challenged. So if I am to love God with all heart, soul, mind and strength there really must be a very big horizontal pull on me. And that horizontal pull also calls for a watchfulness.

An open heaven

Just give me an open heaven then everything will be resolved, no more battles, onward and upwards. Or not… Here is Mark’s account of Jesus baptism, the open heaven and what follows:

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:9-13).

The Spirit comes from the Father to the Son with the voice of divine approval. The result is life in the sweet place ever after? No, for we read that the days following were

  • in the wilderness
  • tempted by Satan
  • with the wild animals
  • angels attending to him

The first result was the wilderness. The dry place, the place where in Jewish mythology we might describe as the headquarters of evil. This is why I have never understood the (in my opinion) senseless prophecies that sow fear and disengagement: ‘Such and such a place is an evil place avoid at all costs’. The result is Christians avoid it and ever so surprisingly it gets even darker. It has nothing to do with the fulfilment of prophecy. By all means let us exercise wisdom, but let us ask the question as to what we have faith and grace for rather than listen to the voice of fear. To set one’s boundaries by fear does not place us in a safe environment, but when the boundaries are set by faith – even if they are the same boundaries as we would have set by fear – we are provided with protection.

If we wish an open heaven then either we need to look for it with the willingness and openness to moving from our comfort zone, or when we find ourselves in the wilderness we should understand it is not likely to be a sign we have missed it but we are right on target. Exodus 16:10 is both a challenge and an encouragement:

While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.

Look toward the desert, there the glory was appearing. In the desert. How will the presence of God ever come without someone carrying that presence, seeing the desert differently (‘if anyone is in Christ…’)? There is no redemptive purpose in prophesying the evils of (e.g.) Europe. If there are prophetic words about the future they need to be shaped from a passion for ‘your kingdom to come, your will to be done on earth as in heaven’. The fruit of the doom and gloom kind of prophecy is evident – disengagement, back to the safe zone and, from there, continue to pray for an open heaven. About time for many of us to make a 180° turn.

The wilderness is where we get the context for the focus for the temptations and confrontation with the ‘prince’ of the wilderness. Just as Israel had succumbed to temptations over 40 years so Jesus lived the narrative out over 40 days. The impact of one person in days shifted the events of years by a corporate people. What is here today might be the result of yesterday, but today’s location can undo those effects and set up something new. We are not the people of today but the people of tomorrow, compelling us to prepare today for tomorrow as we pull the present from the captivity of the past.

An open heaven is not to lead us to a nice, successful life that can be written up in a book and read by the ever-so-eager people gagging for one more read. It is to set us up for confrontations, and some of that is not for our sake but to shift what is here now. (And I think ‘set us up’ might just be a good phrase to use.)

Mark, although he writes succinctly at many points when Matthew and Luke spin the stories out, has got a great eye to add details that are easily missed. Here is one such detail – ‘with the wild animals‘. Nature was being impacted from this open heaven and re-positioning into the wilderness. The sign of an eschatological time shift was visible: the wolf will lie with the lamb (future hope) was taking place in that present moment. The result of an open heaven is not witnessed to by my experience but by the shift external to me.

And of course we love the angels coming and ministering, but it is added last. The context of their ministry was at the end of the list that included the repositioning, being met by the ‘actor’ named Satan, and the visible shift in the external world. Angels really want to show up, but they like the liminal places, the edges, not the centres. They also respond to wherever there is true hospitality, and learning to give hospitality in the wilderness ensures that the hospitality given is genuine.

Bring on the open heaven… and what follows on from it.

A healthy spine?

When in the UK in December I was carrying this sense that there was an increase of apostolic authority to bring a new level of alignment. This was in particular related to England, and coming to Leicester (midlands) it seemed very appropriate for that geography but applicable wider. I was aware that King Richard’s body had been found there but do not think I knew that the confirmation that it was his skeleton was in part because he had a crooked spine.

Prior to coming across I had a dream just after setting the various dates and places. In it I was present in a Christian gathering and there were some great things taking place. People touched by God, healings etc. There was a very clear voice and the people present were focused and in harmony. A person then explained to me that these great things were taking place because of the unity of purpose. I had already observed two things: 1) that the clarity of voice was coming from one person and there was a great agreement with that voice, and 2) that when I looked out the people were of similar ethnic and class background. There was a uniformity to them.

These two elements disturbed me so I took time to respond to what I was being told saying that the voice of God is as the sound of many waters. It does not come through one language or one culture. If God can speak through a donkey he can certainly speak through a white middle class male. But the fullness of his voice has to come through the diversity, and such diversity will mean that we might not even be able to hear clearly!

Miracles do not attest a person’s authenticity. Paul does say the signs of an apostle were with him and he included miracles as part of the evidence. But by themselves they are not enough. After all Jesus made it clear that there would be those claiming to have done miracles in his name but that they were unknown to him.

The spine and the dream?

A healthy spine is not simply straight but also flexible. It is aligned but allows for movement; it facilitates multi-directional communication.

An apostolic gift must have patience as its context (2 Cor. 12:12) as it seeks to be aligned with the Gospel. Paul exhibited this as he described himself as one called to be an apostle and eschewed the title ‘apostle’. (A title would have given him authority over, the calling a mission to be accountable to.) He was not disobedient to the calling and made himself accountable to heaven for his work. He was aligned personally – he had his ‘true north’ set. If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority then it has to start with right alignment. If those with apostolic gift are not rightly aligned how can they help align the body of Christ. I am not professing to know what this might be but surely at the centre is the commitment to the spiritual and social transformation of the world (let your kingdom come). If there is that alignment in the apostolic then there can be a legitimate voice coming to the body of Christ to align in this way.

True North

A focus on other aspects will be a deviation from true north. All other directions have to flow from that. A straight spine! But a flexible spine that allows and facilitates movement in such a diversity of directions. This is where the multi- and diverse-language voices have to be heard. It is not the voice of the donkey, nor of the white middle class male, but of the multitude who are finding their direction in the light of the true north setting.

If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority that manifest in the UK / England great patience will be needed. A settling for the one voice speaks for all will not be sufficient, and even if miracles manifest there will be a falling short. The diversity might even be somewhat confusing, but the greater fullness can only come that way.

The Brexit

The above thoughts too I believe are totally relevant to a new Europe. The new Europe has to be made up of all of us who are now arriving. We all – those of us who have been established for some time in this context – and those who are more recent on the scene, all have to see ourselves as arriving to shape something new. The Brexit is to do with the reshaping of Europe. The UK (England?) has a huge contribution to make into this context. The gift has to be that of diversity. If a nation can only go where the body of Christ goes then I consider the apostolic increase is needed right now. If not then we are in for a very traumatic future. If it does there is also great trauma ahead, but a pathway through.

A new Europe?

At this time there seems to be so much fear of the ‘other’, expressing itself in xenophobia and centring in on a response to issue of immigration. There are real issues involved, and certainly there might be many good reasons for having voted ‘Brexit’ and a vote to leave cannot be blamed for what is rising negatively in Europe. Maybe though it has inadvertently made a contribution to what we are witnessing in many places of separation from and exclusion of the ‘other’.

The rise in the extreme right is not limited to the European context. Leaders have used rhetoric that has not helped and I think that there are three aspects that has resulted:

  • what has been present there already has been revealed. It is not as if the negative aspects I mentioned above have suddenly appeared from nowhere. They were there prior to Brexit and prior to the rhetoric of leaders.
  • what was there has been fed. This is a serious situation. Leadership rhetoric has permissioned what was there, and once permissioned there has been a growth.
  • it has hidden another narrative. This is an encouraging aspect and one that I had not considered prior to these days of discussion and prayer. There is another narrative, one of recognising that there is a shift to the identity of our world, that the future is going to look different, that those seeking to Europe for safety will be among those shaping the future. This narrative seeks to look at the situation with faith rather than self protection.

This narrative that is hidden has to be the shaping narrative for the church. It is the resistance to fear and an openness to the future. Prior to these days I had not seen that this narrative is present, rising from the grass roots. This is what gives hope for the future. Stories such as those from Germany of many finding faith when they have relocated should encourage the church enormously. Surely in the move from their homelands God is at work to reveal himself.

Another aspect of our praying was to see a shift from an over-Western orientation. This would impact on a shift from a male-dominated / masculine-bias to a more female / feminine approach to issues and relationships. A further shift in the economic base.

One of the aspects that we can see visibly, certainly in Spain, is that there are changes already taking place where there is a greater femininity in politics that promotes a third way beyond conflict and opposition to that of dialogue.

One of the participants read from a book reflecting on native north Americans’ experience of the Europeans who came with their different cultural values. That colonial encroachment and domination is always a provocation, but it prompted a new language. Rather than ‘then the Europeans came…’ to the concept of in the current scenario that the new Europeans ‘arrived’. There has to be a new Europe and that is more than the reshaping of an institution (EU) but is with all those who are committed to the geography, that means all of us, all of us who are arriving now – even if we have been present before. Again the concept of the body of Christ modelling this is the challenge before us.

The final aspect that I will reflect on here is that – and this is a push theologically – that we should be expecting people to rise up who are committed to doing an ‘apostolic’ job in and through society. It seems

  • our responsibility to hold the shape so that they can emerge;
  • that it is immaterial whether they are believers or not;
  • that when they get in place we need to pray for their protection. It is easy for us believers to be alert to spiritual attack (mainly in the form of betrayal in these settings) but someone who does not believe in spiritual realities is not going to be alert to this.

The photo above the article is of the parliament building in Strasbourg. The building is modelled on Bruegel’s painting of the tower of Babel.

The Tower of Babel

The similarity can be read as a clear sign that the EU is simply Babel… and it is in as much as there is Babel within all institutions, or as seems to be symbolism, the EU is a project that will never be finished, and if the attempt is simply to raise it up from the earth it is doomed for failure. A place therefore to contribute I consider.

Where to Europe?

The final four days we spent in the UK was with 20 other people from England, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Germany, France and Sweden to consider how to pray into the future of Europe with the ‘Brexit’ somewhat as a background. A very good and trusted prophetic friend had emailed most of those in the above group with a vision that she had very soon after there was an announcement that there would be a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. The summary of that vision was that the UK would be removed and in that time light and colour would drain out of the European continent, but at a later stage there would be a re-connection and a corresponding shift in the continent. An obvious, and possible, interpretation to the former part was that the referendum would be a vote ‘out’. And given that this vision preceded any referendum we have given it a lot of weight. The context though that our friend said was that this next season was more about the future of Europe than of the future of the UK.

Our days were less focused on the Brexit than on where to Europe. However, it was interesting that although the dates were set months ago the context of the debate and total lack of clarity was the context for our gathering.

(Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor)

We met in Ashburnham Place, a most remarkable centre, given the geography of an event that shaped England with the Norman Invasion of 1066. An event that only left the city of London free – and the origins to this day of its status that allows it to be one of the ‘treasure islands’ that can defy taxation laws. Ashburnham Place as a land is also most interesting in that it was originally part of land that was apportioned by William’s conquest but had been given away freely. The sense of the land being free was tangible and gave a real leverage point.

With reference to the loss of light and colour for some time we have considered that this loss is embodied in the rise of xeno- and other phobias, the demonisation of ‘immigrants’, the rise of fascism and the like in almost all European nations. This suggests that there has to be a shift in the UK if there is to any level of re-plugging to bring about a change in Europe. Prior to meeting I would have been very negative about any such change being possible, but having been in England for these past two weeks. But I am convinced that there is a real (and maybe still hidden) shift taking place as I sensed the biggest spiritual change in England in the 10 years we have been in Spain.

Whether the Brexit is abandoned or not is not the key issue. The EU has evolved and has many flaws for sure, though with the vision of being together to avoid the horrors of war, my strong preference would be to see it reformed from the inside. The primary aspect of the future is not reversing the Brexit but for something to rise that is inclusive of the ‘alien, widow and orphan’ so that a new Europe can arise.

Rather than prolonging this post I will post again tomorrow…

A pre-Christmas post!!

This post will not have much to do with Christmas, just flagging up that I have made it well through December and hardly posted at all, but this will be in cyber space before Rudolph and his partners are in the air.

I am sure I could have posted these past days, but we have been ever so busy. Twelve days in the UK. Probably the longest stint there in these past 10 years, taking in Chester, Leicester, North London, Leatherhead (family) and Ashburnham Place. It was a really great time and I probably won’t be able to do it justice in this post.

The diversity of the body of Christ is always a joy to touch, and there is, I am sure, more to come of the diversity. In Chester I had some personal time with Andy and Sue Glover who have faithfully held in at many levels for the health of the city. I was also there (unplanned) for the last prayer breakfast before one of the key families relocated to France. An expansion of boundaries for sure.

In Leicester I was privileged to address in the morning and early afternoon church leaders, followed by an evening in a prophetically orientated Anglican church. And down in Ashburnham Gayle and I met with 20 others over 3 days to pray into the future European shape, partly in response to the ‘Brexit’.

The above is a brief ‘what’ and ‘where’. It would not be possible to recount blow by blow each place so I will rather summarise a few points below.

In the various times of coming to the UK over the past 10 years I was convinced this time that there is something ‘brewing’ in England. There is an increasing apostolic call and mantle. This will manifest in a diversities of ways. Encouragingly I was given very positive statistics of growth in London, mainly among Afro-Caribbean and Anglican churches. There is a new wave of activity there. There will also need to be a turning to society where there is an apostolic release also coming (more below). When in Chester Andy asked Sue (as I was coming silently down the stair case so that we could leave): ‘I wonder if he is ready?’ I jokingly said that was such a penetrating question! But I quickly sensed the Holy Spirit was saying that England is ready. (We will also feel unready, things not done that we should have done, and of course that is the case, but there is a real readiness in the nation.)

Before coming over I had a dream in which I went to a place where there were many good things happening including miracles. I was told of the clarity of voice and direction. However, when I looked out I saw that the people were all pretty much the same colour of skin and of ethnic background. I had to then say that God can speak through a donkey, or a white faced person, and that what was said was the word of God, but that the richness of his voice is as the sound of many waters and that until there was a reflection of the diversity of ethnicity there will never be the fullness of God’s voice. His fullness comes when the diversity means we cannot easily hear but are deeply impacted. (In Leicester I also prophesied that there was coming now an increased move of the Spirit among the Asian community.)

The second aspect was that of being called to ‘straighten the spine’ of England. I did not realise that in Leicester the discovery of King Richard’s body was confirmed by the fact that the skeleton’s spine was twisted. The spine must become straight but flexible. A strong but flexible spine will mean that the body can extend further than ever.

I will post another time to reflect a little more on our time in Ashburnham, but will simply note one element here that has been something strongly on my heart for some time. It is that God is not simply looking for forerunners for the church, but that there will be those who will open up space for true forerunners to rise up in all the areas of society. Gayle and I have come home with the increased provocation to pray for their protection. They are vulnerable. If we (believers) have some understanding of spiritual opposition we might be able to withstand some of the attacks, but for those who do not know Jesus we now sense we have a greater responsibility to stand for them. There is an apostolic (foundation laying) mantle coming for society. In the chaos of Brexit and the European scene this might not look likely, but of this I am convinced. Those with a wisdom who see a third way through the extremes, deeply practical but with vision. They are coming… and as many of them will not profess faith we can be the ones who raise a shield around them.

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Where, how and what

A historic election took place last night in the Southern comunidad of mainland Spain in Andalucia. Historic as there was the breaking of a 36 year hold by a particular party, but more historic in the level of vote a new ultra-right party received. At one level a resurgence of Francoism, using the language of, for example, ReConquista, but positioned within the rise of the popularist and nationalistic ultra-right across Europe. Two further provocative aspects for us… the entry in the South, and the birth of the new party leader in Bilbao (the north). Some 4 years ago we went the first time to Bilbao to make a declaration that from there new thinking will come forth into Spain. We left though to pray for the richness of diversity within unity.

I had an email recently from someone who in passing asked a question about the EU, stating that I was ‘for the EU’. Maybe I am… maybe I am not. It is far from perfect, and not being a fan of bureaucracy and red tape it is not too difficult to see why anyone could find one or two reasons to resist the ‘beast’ (small ‘b’ as this applies to all power bases that control). With the EU there seems to be two choices – get out for the above reasons or try to stay in and see change. Pulling back, strengthening national sovereignty and seeing the breakup of the EU is more likely, in my opinion, to further strengthen what we saw last night in Spain. And it is the future that could spring from last night that is the concern. Living in mainland Europe it is probably not surprising that I am ever hopeful if we can hang in together that there will be change, particularly as the EU, in measure, acts as a lever to weaken the sovereignty expressed in nationhood.

I am not a political animal as I have so little understanding of how it works and what really ‘left’ or ‘right’ means, but I have many concerns about what is rising. When we pull back, when we have language that seeks to exclude all others of a different opinion, parties that seek to shut the freedom of the press then there is great concern for the future. The election in Andalucia last night certainly was an earthquake and a strong sign that the past can come back around.

We live at a point in history when the unthinkable could bite. Whatever the future of the EU, whatever finally (!!) outworks with respect to the Brexit, we will continue to pull for friendship across the borders, co-operation, a weakening of sovereignty so that borders are not shut inhumanely. One has to be optimistic when we know that we have access to prayer. Prayer to go deeper – yes we will have to go deeper – and pull up roots, and to connect with imagination for the future.

An earthquake last night? Maybe. A wake up call? Certainly. A provocation? Indeed.

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