FACING 2016-2019 … a backward and forward look.
“These things I have spoken to you…. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor be fearful…
Now, I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” (John 14:29)
Picking up the baton from my husband concerning the Pentecostal/Charismatic “prophetic” voice which may “bring considerable confusion” particularly in the light of the EU referendum, (prophetic & the EU referendum) I want to draw specific attention to the time element which radically affects prophetic interpretation. To be as clear as possible at this point, let me say that “prophetic” can itself be understood in many different ways. Roger refers to its counterpolitical voice. It can also be a speaking out, in advance (‘pro’) of things about to happen, as of God speaking directly and definitively to someone, or used more metaphorically of a view of something which will probably take place.
“Interpretation” is an even more complex process, as the communication is received by another person or group who already carry a worldview and expectation (what theologians and philosophers call a hermeneutic) which, in a measure, determines the outcome of understanding the ‘original’ meaning, although some would say this can never actually be fully known! To disclose my own hermeneutic, I best discover interpretation in the relational connection between the participants in the communication, which for me includes a transcendent God defined by the Jesus story and any previous information, data and events. These all come together in what Nicholas Davey in his book Unquiet Understanding calls a “revelatory moment of understanding”.
Some events actually change the trajectory of our understanding as they move us to look from a different perspective. Most of us can testify individually that some events such as marriage, a death of someone close, or an unexpected encounter, irrevocably changed the way we thought about things, and the way we live as a result. The Jesus Event obviously had such a cultural and collective impact. As Matthew describes in his account of the famous sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:38ff), Jesus stood in time and space, shared the history, culture and understanding he was born into, but re- interpreted its meaning for those who would follow. “You have heard it said…. ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ or ‘you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. … But I say to you, do not resist an evil person…. love your enemies….” In this way, the incarnation event adjusts the trajectory of our sight from a fixed point in the history of Israel, to a differently configured future, in which a ‘prophetic’ nation would be perfected in an inconceivably greater fulfilment, which is now both possible and expected, namely that a transcendently loving people would emerge from every tribe and nation.
It has been suggested that even Jesus himself had significant perspective-changing encounters, as, for example, with the Syrophoenician woman (see my chapter “The Gift of Woman” in Discovering Kenarchy). My research into human wellbeing has convinced me that the exercise of free moral choice is what makes us essentially and spiritually human, but that our freedom is significantly curtailed by, among other factors, cultural, sub-cultural contexts (e.g. church affiliation) and familial and individual development. Processing the dissonance between what we believe and how we behave, or how we think or feel and what we value, is the process of awakening and strengthening the moral or spiritual core of our personhood. It is the impact of an event that often reveals the dissonance between what we ‘thought we thought’ and a different perspective that we are beginning to be awake to. So I am not surprised to find it in Jesus’ own development as the second Adam, as the redemptive new human being himself goes through the process of “being born again”, being morally challenged about understandings he thought he believed, and developing his own spiritual response.
Martin Scott draws our attention to the fact that “the world has changed”, particularly since ‘9/11’ (2001). This, and the ‘9/11’ (1989) European event, the fall of the Berlin wall 12 years earlier, seriously impacted our individual and cultural beliefs, feelings and behaviours, but very differently. Nationally, culturally and individually, we are continually being formed and reformed by events, yet often without consciously processed moral or spiritual awareness. Prophetic interpretation therefore considers the significant events which have affected, for good or ill, our perspective, as the Holy Spirit teaches and reminds us. It draws clearer perspective from further back than any immediate event, into a longer term, adaptive trajectory. In this posture we then let the peace of God surpass our best knowledge and reasoning as well as our reactions and anxiety. So in these times we need to take into account former prophetic insight and God events which already “informed us beforehand”, so that now, in the choices we have to make, we may believe hopefully, rather than be fearful.
As we face a significant moral and spiritual decision about how or whether we vote in the EU referendum, let’s recall earlier dates, events and patterns that may throw some light on our present trajectory and adjust, where necessary, any unprocessed short term reactions and unexamined beliefs that may be undermining our hopes, faith and present discipleship.
- The 20th century: a theological and actual historical dividing line. We stand in a new era.
Since early church days, except in small, mainly unreported happenings, there has been a deficit of theological literature and experience of the Holy Spirit until the early 20th century, as theologians Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen and Rowan Williams both agree, although the ‘awakenings’ of the 18th century might be seen as a potential prophetic pattern of what was to follow. Martin Robinson’s research into the effect of these awakenings shows how the initial dramatic spiritual experiences had relatively little impact on church growth but that 50 years later there was significant societal reformation through those moved by the collective history. This could suggest such a pattern for a similar process after the fuller 20th century outpourings. These consisted in three historically and globally reported outpourings: the Pentecostal, Charismatic and Third Wave/Toronto. The collective church has never been so equipped, renewed, matured by the Holy Spirit’s actual impartation ever in her history! This in turn will trigger responses and changes in the world.
- The latter two moves fulfilled previous prophecies in part, but are yet to be completely applied. They contextualise our recent Holy Spirit experience into Europe.
Smith Wigglesworth (1947): It emphasised to look for a people of “Word And Spirit”, significantly after “the waning of the new church movement”, and that “The outpouring of God’s Spirit will flow over from the UK to the mainland of Europe, and from there will begin a missionary move to the ends of the earth.”
Jean Darnell (1967): “This renewal of life in the church would spread outside resulting in a public awakening,” resonating with the pattern of the Methodist awakening; and she too saw the flow of God’s life going into Europe. “Then I said, ‘Lord, what about these streams that go on across the Channel into Europe?’ And He said, ‘That represents people who will rise up in the midst of this people movement, this army of witnesses in Britain, whom I will make My communicators.’ Now I hadn’t used that word very much before in ministry I said, ‘Lord, what do you mean by communicators?’ And he said, ‘They will not only be people endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, with strong faith, but they will also be people talented in the arts. They will be writers, musicians, singers and actors, and also technicians in television, radio and the mass media. I will call and send them and put them in strategic places. I will bless their natural talents with my Spirit, and they will be good: they will excel. They will be leaders in their fields. I will send them into Europe, where they will meet other people in the media, and through them I will release the word of God very fast in Europe. The result will be another wave of a spiritual awakening, with thousands coming to Christ throughout Europe.’”
Malcolm Duncan has pointed out that 2017 will mark a fullness of 70 years since the Wigglesworth prophecy and 50 since Darnell. His expectation also includes “God is to birth a passion for the gospel to spread from the United Kingdom across the continent of Europe.”
- The significance of the 2007/8 events: the world has changed irrevocably, and we discover the need to re-interpret some deep theological foundations.
I, along with others, saw 2007/8 as a year that would change the trajectory of the western world. It was seven years since the impact of the “towers falling” (Isaiah 30:25) in 2001. Martin Scott and Chuck Pierce warned of the danger of being sucked back into old cycles, or old facades coming back into place, if we failed to break into radical newness. The global financial crisis was triggered and everything changed – but did we? Mike Love noted the need for “intercessory theology”, that a change of mindset must accompany such a cultural shift, an event equivalent to the early church encountering their new call to the Gentile world. In such a context there is a type of prophecy, a “reasoning and persuading” type that we see in Isaiah’s approach (Isaiah 1:18) and again with Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:8). The social and cultural contexts were so radically changed that they had to rework their world-views fundamentally. The movement of “Word and Spirit” which succeeds the global outpourings I suggest now implies some more to be work done on how we incarnate “Word”, and the evidence of many undertaking radical new theological training, and key prophetic leaders returning to study, highlights this call and development. Obviously among the most significant in my/our view is the work done on sovereignty (see all over Roger’s blog), and the essential challenge of encountering the God who is the loving, humble, learning Jesus, rather than any other. Leading on from this restoration of a Jesus-centered faith are many implications but I want to flag up what I see as the next crunch issue.
There is much yet to be interpreted about the question and meaning of “the waning new Church movement” to which Roger and I will return. For now I highlight that its origins were in studies around eschatology, and my sight is that these roots are now exposed for us to visit them again, from a clearly Jesus style hermeneutic. Our present, extremely varied, theological expectations of how the coming Kingdom of God impacts today’s world do not work out well in daily practice. So the challenge is how today’s church, matured through the threefold outpourings of the Spirit, today’s body of Christ, the anointed Word in the flesh, enacts the kingdom. It requires us to process the dissonance of what ‘we thought we believed’ with who we are becoming and how we can act in our present day context. At this point I often hear people react with a sense of frustration with ‘academic’ or ‘impractical’ talk; this is all too airy fairy and out of touch with ’ordinary people’. But if what we believe, however we came to believe it, is at odds with us living authentically and effectively for God, we do need to dig down into those beliefs and adjust them before we can ever hope that our practical living will change properly. Martin Scott’s chapter “Kenarchy and an Eschatological Hope” in Discovering Kenarchy is a master class on how faith, worldview belief and hope interact practically, and is a great place to start. Years ago, Dave Tomlinson, a radical prophet, was pilloried for calling charismatics “cabbage headed”. To look for the fulfillment of a movement of people in whom the Word and the Spirit are coherent, it may well be time to take him seriously, add his insight to our trajectory and do some critical thinking, some moral, spiritual processing, and not just to ask someone else to tell us what to believe.
- The present shaking and re-configuration of “nation statehood” was also foreseen, so that “when it happens, (we) may believe.”
My sight in 2008 was that the “structures of the nation state would begin to crack by 2011”, and that 2012-15 will “see nation states try, increasingly frantically, to strengthen their legal machinery, … and shift to more and more stringent sentencing domestically and posturing internationally, a fresh rise of extreme nationalism and ever stronger interventions of global institutions to determine trans-national alliances. And pray for new wisdom and strategic direction for how to engage constructively with these shifts around us.” And now we see it. Refugees are pouring out of disintegrating nation states, in whose failure it may be argued the UK had a hand. Greece’s national statehood was and still is challenged by its conflict with the Troika: the threefold monetary compact of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, but the money to help them was refused and sent rather to Turkey to keep the refugees out of Europe! The legal machinery of some nations re-established borders, fences and camps. Austria kept the extreme right out of the presidency by the slimmest of margins, but nationalism in Britain became pretty vocal.
5. What now to expect? What is the wisdom to engage constructively?
2016-2020 will be a continuing time of extreme shaking, in which our prayers, and our experience of the ‘ironic’ kingdom, will become equally, and marvellously extreme. The appropriate biblical narrative from which to draw now will be the Acts 8 story of the shaking of Jerusalem and the scattering of the then ecclesia, with an equally redemptive effect. The impulse is forward, through the chaotic changes, not backwards or turning the clock back. Today’s scientific insight of the essentiality of chaos for any true creativity reassures our fears; neither is there an idealised past to which we can return or which we must protect.
So within the context of these earlier words and insights, I personally can do nothing other than embrace a future in Europe, though I also accept that many see differently. Whatever the outcome of a referendum that I see happening because of a rumbling, and in my view unhealthy, nationalism, I am sure no-one will be pacified or relieved whatever the result. The shattering of Western imperialism is irrevocable and either as part of a European Union in great need of reformation, or as separated from it as a United Kingdom which will then face considerable internal challenges and disunity, the shuddering will continue. Jesus did not restore the kingdom to Israel, as the first disciples hoped and expected in their shaking, but he re-focused their perspective on the future, implying the forthcoming scattering into Judea, Samaria and ever onwards. The ethnae are being gathered to Europe and, if we believe the gospel, we might believe that we, as “sons of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:38) are being scattered among these peoples. Here we are to grow the good seed among those in need of “tomorrow’s bread” (Luke 11:3). Here were are called to walk and talk, like Jesus did, with the “multitude”, ordinary people like us, who are looking for a transcendent love to change the lot of the poor in spirit, those who are persecuted, hungry and excluded.
Though the social and political implications of the June 23rd event will change the world one way or another and there will be struggling and difficulty either way, the fulfilment of the scattering of renewed and fruitful seed into the field of this changing shape of Europe has been foreseen, prepared and foretold in the transcendent events of the charismatic and 3rd wave encounters with the Holy Spirit. If British Christians, who make up at least one third of all the so-called Bible-believing Christians of the European continent, can now realise and embrace the call forward into the mainland from where we first received this vibrant seed, we surely will find it more coherent to remain part of it politically and relationally, and grow there with others of good heart in this new adventure. I recommend my friend Andy Knox’s merry 5 reasons why we may embrace this. Like Andy, gladly, or even like Jeremiah, I hope to go forwards, into that calling. I am sure we will go anyway.
June 6 2016
Facing 2012 …
A backward and forward look at ‘THE SEVEN DAYS OF THE CROSS’
In my earlier outline, Facing 2009 I suggested that resurrection, or the fourth day of the cross, might be the narrative for 2010. One thing that characterised the response to this was the overwhelming desire to leap forward into the day of resurrection. After all, resurrection is THE great Christian hope and without it we are of all people the most miserable. Resurrection defines us and it vindicates us. The one we follow has not left us comfortless; he has come back to us and proved that he is the overcomer, the conqueror. We are therefore associated with triumph, with deliverance and power. This is what we want to experience and the world to know; so it is no wonder that we all wanted to dive into 2010!
But as we entered this resurrection period we needed to have asked what a contemporary manifestation of resurrection would look like. We are given biblical clues and the patterns of former cycles of historical and spiritual development to help us. We must see how these cycles reach the ‘fullness of times’ with amazing potential for a new generation body-of-Christ that is relevant and empowered for the need of its day and different from what went before.
So today’s body must have begun to be radically changed by the Sabbath, or the third day of the cross, that goes before the resurrection day we have just lived, which I suggested in the link above was the narrative for 2009. The Sabbath was to be a time of stillness, when all former hopes, fears, muddled motives and received wisdom were supposed to drop away into that dark place of silence, as they did for Mary and the women at the first resurrection.
It is the self-serving expectations that we, as today’s disciples, read into the resurrection narrative that must surely drop away now since they have been distorted by so many conflicting, and often bizarre theologies developed through the church age. The working of preservatives into an embalming paste to guard and keep what we had before will also prove pointless. We are to look for something we won’t naturally recognise, to live something we won’t immediately welcome.
The invisibility of the Jesus we thought we knew
For me, the discipleship of 2010 and onwards was, and continues to be, about the invisibility of the Jesus we thought we knew. In the accounts of the resurrection Jesus was occasionally seen by the women, or some of his disciples who aren’t named. However the eleven ‘refused to believe’ this sight. The eyes of the two men on the Emmaus road ‘were being prevented from recognising him’, but when they finally did, the eleven ‘did not believe them either’. When the Lord does suddenly appear to them it is to rebuke them for their unbelief in not believing the others, and Thomas is told, ‘Blessed are they who did not see, yet believed’.
It seems that the context in and the means by which Jesus is to be known has changed significantly and it seems too that he expected them to know this. The disciples were told to look for him in Galilee: ‘He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see him; look, I have told you!’ Disciples of the resurrection were and are called to see him in a new way, in Galilee ‘of the nations’. On this developmental journey we should now be looking for the spiritual effects of our risen Jesus among the nations, for the unusual effects of a newly discipled, changed – though perhaps still a little confused – spiritual body of Christ in all of creation!
Two new challenges
It is, however, our response to the next two key narratives which will massively affect our ability to interpret rightly what we see among the nations, which I suggest are the two challenges facing us in 2011 and 2012. They are revealed in the next steps, or what I have termed ‘days’ 5 and 6 of the journey through the cross.
DAY FIVE: THE DISCIPLESHIP IN GALILEE
Of course it is a little late to describe what to expect last year (!) but I hope the first narrative may resonate and interpret what has been our corporate journey, strengthening us for the bigger challenge of the coming year; it is also an eternally significant challenge and one to be faced now if not considered earlier. It is the challenge to Peter in John 21.
Nothing will be the same again
Like Peter we are discovering that all we have believed to be unchangeable has changed totally. This is both marvellous because, if there is faith for this, it is a potentially new resurrection-style beginning of all we have known. But it is also terrible because, even so, it leaves us wondering what on earth it means for us and how do we work it out?!
The particular challenge I believe we face now is realising that the implications of the present paroxysms in our world really are changing things irrevocably. Not much will ever be the same again. Our first response to such a growing awareness is a kind of paralysis – ‘he appeared to the eleven as they were reclining and reproached them’. Then this is often followed by an overwhelming desire to return to the familiar where we know how things work – ‘I’m going fishing!’. Martin Scott shared a strong dream last year  with a similar warning and it is one we surely must hear.
Struggling towards a total metamorphosis
I honestly believe we, in the UK and among the European peoples particularly, are on the cusp of what could be the most amazing spiritual awakening in our history. If you have read my stuff before, you will know I will not call it revival, as that is something that we have had, tasted and lost already. Like the narrative of the five loaves with 12 baskets left over and the seven loaves with seven baskets left over, I believe to keep looking back and longing for what we have already known leads only to the law of diminishing returns as well as the danger of pharisaism – this was Jesus’ own warning. We should instead look for a resurrection people that rise out of the deathly cocoon of previous understanding and sight. Though good in its time, our past understanding was and is partial.
Now we must struggle forwards for a total theological, ecclesiological, social and political metamorphosis. ‘Something greater is here’ ahead of us if we are willing to eschew the familiar. I understand and sympathise with the many calls to prayer that God help us to return to our roots and history as a ‘Christian’ nation with good moral and family values, but I do believe ‘something greater’ is dawning upon us.
I can sense and feel the same pull towards re-establishing law and order on the streets and equally long for such justice to be meted out to the greedy rich and the rapist global financiers. But I truly know ‘something greater’, though presently much more fragile and demanding of us, is already growing up among us.
Our Peter narrative shows us the intense need for an immediate shift of motivation, from the safety of what he, and now we, knew and understood to the challenge of unconditionally loving the resurrected and radically unsafe Jesus who said ‘someone else will gird you and bring you where you do not wish to go’.
A watershed and a challenge to love
This year the people of God have been and are being asked the same question that Peter faced at that beginning of the rest of his life: ‘do you love me? Many of the expositions of this encounter struggle with analysing what kind of love Jesus is asking for (agapao? phileo?) Could it actually be facing the challenge to love people simply as a brother is what radically tests Peter[*]? It was when Jesus questioned his ability to do that, that he was grieved.
It’s what Cain failed to do for Abel and is perhaps the heart of mankind’s inhumanity to mankind. Decision to love (agape) is utterly necessary as the discipline, but brotherhood (phileo) is the incarnational lifestyle that Jesus goes on to describe to Peter: tend my lambs at whatever cost.
There are definite points in the development of revelation and/or character, when something less fully gives place to something greater. After this, the former thing, though valid in its time, is no longer tolerable (‘When I was a child….. but … I put away childish things.’) I believe Peter was brought to such a watershed and that today’s church faces a similar one. Peter had already been challenged about the worldview his questions about greatness, as in role, position or influence, revealed and was warned that Satan, who seeded and inhabits that worldview, desired to have him. The cock crowed three times to mark that the time was up on such compromise. The challenge to brotherly love was then deliberately arrowed into the space created by the deconstruction of the power-shaped worldview. It was an intensely painful process for Peter but ultimately his salvation.
The third time around
As for Peter, so for us. This particular challenge was issued ‘the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.’
We cannot ignore the historical three-fold Holy Spiritual baptism of the world in the last century as the real-time manifestation of God’s tangible, resurrectional love, which cost him everything. Three times he has come to his contemporary disciples. Three times we, his disciples in today’s globalised world, have experienced and received the gift of his resurrection Spirit, the mark of Jesus’ brotherhood, ‘the first born among many brothers and sisters’.
This amazing love dynamic is irrevocably, though perhaps unconsciously, through and in the people of God -‘sons of the kingdom’- sown into ‘the field’. Seeded into the whole of creation, it challenges every motivation which is lesser.
So the conflict in our societies today is whether law and negotiated power relationships will reassert themselves. Or will they give way to the greater, to the self-denying love dynamic and motivation released as well as incarnated by today’s resurrected body of Christ. Will resurrection become for us ‘the political act’ that N.T. Wright suggests? The brotherly love that does not insist on its own way is given for the ‘polis’, the multitude; it has political and social application but is antithetical to the excercise of power and kingship. It will challenge the ‘world domination systems’ and be resisted, but the tools of the powermongers, law and even death, cannot overcome the life that is freely given. The resurrection of a loving new humanity is the final word.
Tearing down our belief systems and thought patterns
According to the longer view I first suggested in 1994 and I have since developed the outline pattern in 3moves, 5 graces and 7 days. I believe 2011 has been the culmination to a four- year season of God’s interventions. During this time he has determined to expose the hidden power structures behind the way we believe and therefore act in the western world. They are the ‘vain imaginations’ or ‘speculations’ that we are called to destroy by spiritual means (2 Cor 10).
As for Peter, so our contemporary, unconscious belief systems and received thought patterns have had to be unravelled to release the deeper emotional and spiritual responses of our shared humanity. These last years have been, and will continue to be, severely disorientating for many of us. But when various prophets back in the early 90s reported God as saying he wanted his church back, surely he did, because he needed seed for a new harvest of righteousness and of peace to grow up in creation! So he began the process of undoing our unconsciously received, power-based, distorted worldview to release the gift of a people motivated and empowered by the overcoming love dynamic of resurrected personhood!
Cracks in the power structures – reading the signs
At the same time, the hidden organisational power structures will also crack! Having earlier warned of time-up on the western financial system, I further prophesied in Holland in 2008 that as that year had revealed the injustice and unsustainability of the banking system, so by 2011 we would see the structures of the nation state itself beginning to crack.
The banks were instituted – in Holland in sign, in England in fullness – to undergird the nation state and the costs of war. The effect of the church’s role, by which I do mean the real people of God, in the nation state and the impact this has had on theological understanding has been the subject of Roger’s intensely thorough doctoral research, so we are not speaking lightly or ignorantly when suggesting these things. (His thesis will be published in book form in the New Year; please contact us for copies of ‘Church, Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West’). What might have been potentially dismissed by some as slightly ‘flaky, prophetic’ suggestion has been severely tested both by research and the present fulfilment of the word: the earlier threatened bankruptcy of Iceland, but now Greece and the ongoing, subsequent threat to the Eurozone project. We should soon expect the double dip recession I also predicted, as now US and France, and others to follow, lose their AAA credit rating.
I am not thrilled by this economic state of affairs as it affects us all and our families, nor do I at all rejoice in the turmoil on the streets of our cities. I do however believe they are signs of injustice being exposed. Both dependency culture and economic domination alike are effects of a corrupt system, in which we are all implicated, and which God calls Babylon. We surely believe he is committed to ultimately exposing this system as destructive of humanity and the creation, and deserving of judgement. At the same time, we fully rejoice in the fabulous grace of God who walks alongside people even in their wrong choices, as when Israel insisted on being like other nations and having a king. So we recognise that he has also walked and worked within and through the consecutive Western empires to care for people even as he built the process for change.
But the cycles of historical activity in the book of Revelation that climax in the great cry, ‘fallen, fallen is Babylon the great… and she has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit …’ must unfold.
Beginning in the house of God
As time fills up, injustices that could have been overlooked or even redeemed in the past become increasingly demonised and can no longer be tolerated. At the same time there has to be hope, so we rejoice that, today, the people of God seeded in society are increasingly trained, discipled and given prophetic sight as to how things can and must be different for the sake of the poor.
Today is one such fullness of times requiring the exposure and judgement of the hidden structures of our western world. We are living through marvellous days of potential change which nevertheless make a huge demand on ‘the perseverance and the faith of the saints’. These days, being so significantly transitional, can only be resourced by a radically discipled ecclesia: people who have embraced the judgement first because it begins at the house of God. Our own darkened belief systems and default desire for the seats of power and influence, even for the best of motives, have to be dismantled and overtaken by the dynamic self-giving love of God for all of creation and humankind.
DAY SIX: THE CHALLENGE OF THE KINGDOM
So the old mindset revealed by Peter has to be dealt a death blow, which will inevitably be followed by an intense period of learning and unlearning! For the disciples with Peter among them there was a period of 40 days when Jesus appeared to them differently than before and spoke ‘of things concerning the kingdom of God.’ The symbolism of time of course connotes the wilderness period when the earlier people of God who had been so patterned by the values of the Egyptian empire were led out of their captivity into a journey in the wilderness to get the captivity of mind out of them!
Word and Spirit
I often refer to Smith Wigglesworth’s foresight of a time when ‘the Word and the Spirit come together’ and many of us wonder what this will look like! Was it not foreshadowed for the disciples in this period of 40 days? This was a time of encountering the Jesus they knew as teacher, as Word, now the ‘designated Son of God with power by the resurrection… according to the Spirit’. And he spent this time deliberately teaching them to re-configure their own thinking to match their renewed Spiritual awareness. The same pattern can be seen in Acts 19 when Paul arrives in Ephesus and having led the disciples there through the baptism of John, to Jesus, to receiving the Holy Spirit, then stayed ‘reasoning and persuading about the kingdom of God’ and ‘reasoning daily’. It is my suggestion that we are entering into an intense period of a similar re-configuration of our received understanding, concepts and language, to prepare a people who are more accurately aligned, mind, spirit, heart and head, for the move prophesied.
The ground of the challenge to renewed thinking
In both the storylines, in Jerusalem and Ephesus, it is the understanding of ‘the kingdom’ that is the ground for the challenge to renewed thinking and for a newly emerging European reformed or resurrected ecclesia, it will be the same ground. Our own understanding and experience of nationhood, sovereignty, law and government is now under the microscope, and, as even pragmatically ‘the markets’ are demanding change in how these things function, so we must be people who ask very radical questions of Jesus about what he meant by ‘the kingdom’ and even his very use of the language of kingship, rulership and nationhood.
So, as we enter this period of intense re-orientation of all we have known socially and politically, as indeed the first disciples were experiencing in their time, we will have to face the next, even more challenging narrative that will inform our journey into this new year, in the question: “Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
Rather than approach this question as specific to Israel at this point, let’s consider it in the context of today’s experience of nationhood and our own narrative, as I recap it:
- In these times of such extreme change, God is calling us to walk forwards rather than backwards, learning lessons from Hezekiah!
- We are beginning to move from the safety of what we knew and understood to a different walk of faith and love, being led where we did not naturally want to go;
- The judgement of Babylon is actually beginning to empty out the deep-structural power of even democratic nation states;
- Globalised capital, which is the newest empire, is shifting increasingly to the East and further disempowering the western nation states in particular.
In this context, as we see nation states try, increasingly frantically, to strengthen their legal machinery, watch for the inevitable shift to more and more stringent sentences domestically and posturing internationally, a fresh sudden rise of extreme nationalism and ever stronger interventions of global institutions to determine new trans-national alliances. And pray for new wisdom and strategic direction for how to engage constructively with these shifts around us.
The redemptive purpose of now
The functional structure of the nation state and the laws and religious, socio-cultural rituals undergirding it have been going through many paroxysms – from the genocides of the imposed nation states of Africa, the break up of the USSR, through the Balkan wars, even in microcosm to the devolution of powers in the UK.
Now the very nature of the state (what some have called only a ‘theo-political imagination’) is being questioned. What used to be simple is now irrevocably complex; the lands, borders, and ethnae can surely never again be disentangled or revert to some supposed original pattern.
How, then, can we afford not to learn from the mistakes the earlier disciples made? Is not such a question about national restoration in a time of such epic change (God himself is standing among them in the middle of time and creation) immensely short-sighted? Doesn’t his answer turn them immediately into a different trajectory, out into other, different nations, ‘all Judea, Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth’? Are we not, as resurrected humanity, given as the gift of brother and sister to all peoples and lands?
We must therefore ask different questions: what is the redemptive purpose of now? The ‘society of discipline’ organised around a commonly held worldview is everywhere in the west replaced by ‘societies of control’. The media and education are the new priesthood, toiling to persuade everyone of the worldview we all should agree to. This is sometimes called ‘secular’, sometimes defined as ‘tolerant’, but now, or soon increasingly, harking back to how things were. Meanwhile the powers of law, war and money effect the coercion and Big Brother is definitely not only on channel 5!
But the people of God must now be alert to every attempt to darken our sight and silence our calling for a different future. Potentially now full of love, passion, wisdom and sight since the third global outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we are being scattered throughout all the earth, all the peoples, all the structures. The seed of the new way of being, the children of the God of Love, is sown and the values of an alternative society should be beginning to grow up among the thorns and thistles of increasingly demonised and failing organisations and social structures.
Dream different dreams
The challenge this year is not how things can be restored to how they were, even re-invested with our interpretation of Christian values. Instead it’s how to imagine and live out practical new manifestations of genuinely inclusive community within a crumbling social edifice. We have to struggle with fresh ideas of how as individuals we can engage in brotherly collaboration with those ‘different’ from us and how to handle the resource of that interaction rightly. The challenge is to love unconditionally, empower good agendas other than our own within multi-cultural communities and experiment with ways in which such groups can align non-competitively and resource each other. We need to explore again how ‘to live in peace with all people’ and ‘to be content ’ as a vibrant alternative to the clamour for rights and consumption.
The old hegemony is being challenged at every level, from the streets, to the G20 and IMF. I believe this is under the urging of God himself, who came to abolish ‘all rule and all authority and power.’ (1 Cor. 15:24) What the alternative society looks like, one resourced by a love which may kill the initiator, but never the dissident, is down to us and our ability to embrace chaotic creativity, dream different dreams and see unexpected visions.
Sue Mitchell, August/September 2011
[*] Please read the language in this whole section as brother and sister; I have struggled with the male bias of the language, but in that it concerns Peter, it is what it is. To develop its application to refer to us all by using the word ‘human’ rather than brotherly, has of course, other connotations which juxtapose it wrongly as something less than spiritual. I have marked it sometimes (‘mankind’s inhumanity to mankind’) to make the point, but it begins to get horribly clumsy. The Germans have an inclusive word and I regret that we do not.
Facing 2009…. A backward and forward look.
At the beginning of last year (2008) I sought the Lord more determinedly than ever before for clarity of the year ahead and understood only that it was time to hold back words in anticipation of signs, but that it would be a difficult year in many areas. It was why there was some quietness in the prophetic, less from lack of sight, but perhaps more from a slowness of heart to hear things predicted from a less than jubilant perspective? Described as ‘a year of hope’, it was always likely to be a challenging time, for ‘hope that is seen is not hope’, so perplexity or ‘futility’ is the logical context for supernatural hope to be cultivated . The Lakeland sign arrived from God, in my opinion not a new thing, but rather further evidence of the fullness of the three great moves of the Holy Spirit, the result of which should certainly be to expect that healing and miracles are fully released in the earth and available as part of a grassroots movement of the people of God. But a more significant sign of something truly new was the run on the Northern Rock bank, which triggered some memories and sight from the collapse of the Baring Bank back in 1995 and which together highlight the scope and significance of the changes now breaking upon us. It has been a year of death, a year of breaking (hearts and hopes included), severe disruption and the implications of 2008 are not over by a long way! It was also termed ‘the year of the gate’, but not a gate many would have sought nor welcomed. It will however, I believe, have proved to be a door of deliverance, a moment of great potential and one we need to gladly walk through, if we are to be prepared for supernatural change.
Given the significance of 2007 and 2008, I suggest we can read them and the next two years in the light of THE FOUR DAYS OF THE CROSS: a narrative journey for the years 2007-2010.
2007: The day/year of Passing Over: an end and a beginning.
As Jesus faced the cross, he spoke to his disciples about earnestly desiring to eat with them the Passover meal. We know the significance of the Passover, remembering the day when the Lord led his Old Testament people out of severe captivity in Egypt. Their time there was at an end. It was over. That lifestyle, mindset, expectation and behaviour was passing away for ever. Obviously as Christians we see that Jesus fulfils the Passover motif in delivering his people from the captivity of sin and death, but prophetically I believe we can also apply it at a corporate, systemic and epochal level. Reading it in such a way suggests that at times, the Lord would alert us (even earnestly desire to awake us) to there being a specific moment when some prophetic words, some preparatory experiences, some behaviour and some long held world-views will have been filled up and therefore be about to radically pass away, so we should be ready to pass over into a new season, a fresh mindset, a hitherto unexplored experience.
I (among others) suggested that, as we might have expected with the number seven in it, 2007 marked such a fullness of times, a time of completion, or as I develop it here, of passing over. Times, words and creation signs aligned remarkably during this year. The year marked 60 years from the prophecy of Smith Wigglesworth in 1947, 40 years since that of Jean Darnall in 1967 and 20 years since the comments of Clifford Hill on the sign of the hurricane in 1987. So 2007 opened with the huge Hurricane Kyrill which swept through our islands and whipped on right across Europe. Both the prophecies of Wigglesworth and Darnall referred to a move of God, subsequent to an earlier initiative, flowing from these islands out into mainland Europe and this second hurricane took that route. It was also a year of a total lunar eclipse, the trajectory of which also travelled from these islands into Europe and I read this as symbolising the ‘waning of the new church movement’ referred to as a time marker by Smith Wigglesworth. As an earthly body in the heavens whose only light comes from the reflection of the sun’s, I see the moon as a picture of the church which in this sign is darkened. The new church movement of the 70s onward is definitely waning, not because of her own plight, but as a sign of the whole church which rises in strength and falls into the earth in times and seasons according to the Lord’s purpose. These are not signs to be resisted or regretted but read and embraced as they speak of a time or an era fulfilling its given purpose, in order than a new time and new possibilities break open in the earth! Both Darnall and Wigglesworth spoke of separate phases of the Lord’s restoration of the body of Christ to then be followed by its purpose: the release of a movement of his people both here in the UK and on into mainland Europe which would be marked by signs (2007 seems to me to fulfil them) when the phases of preparation would give place (pass over) to something greater! The greater is that the society and not the church is the focus of God’s activity, the repositioned church now being the hidden agent or ‘river bank’ for the river of his activity.
The significance of the Passover motif for us today is to be sure that, by the end of and as a result of this glorious period of preparation, training and restoration by the Holy Spirit, we can stand on the same ground as Jesus our great forerunner and, knowing ‘that we come from God and are going to God’ we fully embrace the calling here and now to pour ourselves out, empty ourselves of our own reputation or glory and become the servant of all, because He is again in direct confrontation with unclean power first in the people of God but also in society at large! We see Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet in John’s account of the Passover meal in direct counterpoint to ‘the dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be the greatest’ in the Lucan account because these are the choices to be made and it is time to pass over from one to the other. This preparation season has all been about becoming truly like Christ in this confrontation and to be ready finally to take up our cross and follow him. We should be able to face the day and whatever it holds, because our identity in Christ is sure, our commitment is fully to him and the values of his kingdom and we are truly ready for the surgery required to the deep systemic dysfunction of our former personal and cultural mindsets!
2008: The day/year of Preparation: an end AND a beginning!
Jesus died on ‘the day of Preparation’. Yes, he was completing the triumph over sin and death, but this was always to prepare for something else to take its place. Called the day of Preparation for the Sabbath, certain tasks, jobs, rituals had to be fulfilled by sundown to get them out of the way because the next day, this time a High Day, was for something else! Jesus had to be dead and off the cross before sundown because this was the Day of Preparation! 2008 was a year of preparation where Stuff had to be shaken (and some wonderful things were caught up in the shaking as well as awful), completed and over in order to make room, to clear the ground for something else to grow into being. It had to be a personal and corporate shaking, individual and systemic, because what needs room to rise is individual and community. The earlier words of this century, notably about the ‘rolling up of the Roman way’, gave us some clues as to the scope of changes we were and are about to face. The era of Imperial Rome and its ongoing re-inventions is draining away and something new must grow up from the ground. Fertile space is being created. For the work of God to fill it again in Europe will require a resurrection, not a renewal. It will be the day of the Kingdom of God or the day of a new empire.
So even as he died and carried natural goodness as well as heinous sin into death, Jesus lived the new. He was preparing the new humanity, choosing the resurrection motivation and drive. So even in the filling up and passing away of an old life and lifestyle, there emerged something new, different and resurrectional! In sum, passing away was a power/law motivation and being birthed was a love initiative and they are chalk and cheese. The difference impacts us at an individual level and at a systemic level. Could Jesus have exercised righteous, legal power and left the cross? Of course, as the innocent son of God, he had the right, the power and innocence in the sight of the law on his side to do exactly that. But he came to deliver AND to prepare a new dynamic of life, of freedom from the ‘domination systems of this world’, which is what will start now to grow up in our lands, in our day, if we can receive the scope of what is passing away. Not just individual judgement, but systemic injustice which is based in and resourced out of power and might, through their use of law. Now what must rise? A grassroots people who truly do love and not count the cost (because there is one), who eschew power and influence methods of engagement though they totally embrace society and creation at every level. Those in whom death and powerlessness is at work, so life and love can be at work in others and who flee from celebrity but not from responsibility. A people we don’t yet recognise though we know them so well.
The warning at the end of a day of preparation comes from the women who arrive with their embalming spices. We grieve loss and try to make it look and smell OK rather than celebrate the cleared ground, the emptiness, the impossible potential for something truly new. It is not a time to grieve but a time to sow!
2009: The unmentioned Sabbath: a time of stillness, developing faith.
After Jesus died and before the encounters in the Resurrection, the only activity mentioned is that of the Pharisees and Pilate making the grave secure against the suggestion of a resurrection plot. Nothing is said about the disciples save that ‘they rested according to the commandment’. Obviously the Sabbath and ‘the first day of the week’ have merged in Christian ritual and understanding, but even though the resurrection marks the availability of the eternal Sabbath of God for us as believers where we can again walk and talk with Him, there are developmental stages in the narrative which, rightly noticed, might help us avoid age-old deceptions. One is an over-realised expectation of the fullness of his resurrection life immediately here and now which takes no account of the corporate and systemic realities around (still in?) us where we don’t ‘yet see all things under Jesus’ feet’ and the other is expecting nothing really to change temporally (except perhaps for everything to go from bad to worse) until Jesus instigates the second resurrection and we get delivered individually once and for all by his return. If the Sabbath quietly passes in the narrative, it nevertheless is a time span where a great deal is happening progressively. Firstly Jesus is in the grave, or in Hades, where he continues his confrontation with the deepest roots of the powers of that and this age. He really goes deep. And here is the genius of a day/year where we may seem to do little but wait. We have to contain our souls in patient faith and urge the Lord to go deep this time round too. The desire of many to see this present shaking in the nations and the financial turmoil shortened is understandable but short-sighted. This shaking has to go deep – right to the foundations – to dislodge the very roots of injustice. Our task is to hold the ground and ourselves in readiness while God does what the time has been prepared for. Religious and national powers will be busy when they should be humbled. There will be huge shifts in national and international alignments this year, many of which will be in secret and only revealed much further on in this journey. And there will be some more weeping and gnashing of teeth, but the people of God must ‘rest according to the commandment’ and in this time sow to and live out of the freshly growing kingdom of love that Jesus prepared in his dying.
As we enter the year 2009, we expect circumstances which would ideally develop the maturity represented by the number 9 in the Scriptures. Nine gifts  and nine fruits , they speak a counter-intuitive message. We tend to grow fast in the ‘speaking’ gifts, three of which are listed as tongues, interpretation of tongues and prophecy and we have grown in ‘knowledge’ during the preparation time of restoration. This is marked by our use and expectation of (words of) knowledge, (words of) wisdom and discernment (of spirits) also mentioned in the list of supernatural gifts. Already said is the expectation of, and now also I believe, the timing for the ‘power gifts’, listed again as three in miracles, healings and faith. Nine then, marks a fullness or a maturity in the provision of God for us in this day and these we will need in the time of turmoil and indeed famine, that is upon us even here in the Western nations. But maturity is measured in more than equipment. It is fully measured in character. Again in the list of nine fruits of the Spirit, we perceive that three are ‘easier’ and early as we receive love, joy and peace in receiving Christ and his presence. Growing means that we learn to exercise patience, kindness and goodness in our relationships, beginning to respond in another spirit, overcoming provocation with patience and evil with good as Christ develops us. In this year and the next, I believe we will come of age in the practice of longsuffering (perseverance/endurance), meekness (humility, not insisting on our rights) and control of the self-life (‘feed me’/’comfort me’). In a time which will be marked by the power gifts, we might expect not to have to endure or be meek, but there’s the rub. Christ’s power is kenotic, self-emptying, and while he poured out his love to any and all, making himself fully available, he nevertheless resisted every payback for himself, every pedestal and every position but friendship. He took nothing for himself but joy in the release and blessing of others. We will also remember in 2009 that nine lepers received freely given healing for themselves and only one sought the fullness of a thankful relationship with Christ which would cost him opprobrium everywhere else. This is a year for such discernment and hiddenness! This is such a year for developing a rest of faith which has nothing to do with circumstances of breakthrough or ease, but which will form the meekness and responsibility able and willing both to release supernatural help for others and to hide from any reflected glory or return. This is a time when God will, so help us to desire it, destroy the very foundations of power and domination systems rooted in the very depths of Hell and leave space and room in our world for supernatural acts of mercy and provision, of love and compassion and of peace and hope. So we have to rest and be at peace while convalescing from the ongoing radical, corporate surgery of our culture! And strive to enter it while the shaking around us continues. A ‘nameless, faceless’ people (whose names and countenance are fully known by the Lord) is being prepared to move quietly in loving impact.
2009 begins a four year period of amazing interventions from God not to but through his people into the needs of the world we are given to. The shakings have only just begun, but this is a year to turn from fear to faith, from immaturity and selfish expectations to mature judgement and supernatural hope and faith. The circumstances are right, the time is fulfilled. Repent, (change mind and thinking) and believe in the Good news!
2010 (and the early days of not recognising what we thought we knew!) will of course follow ….
No, don’t go there yet, strive to rest now.
-  Romans 8:20-24
-  Or the “Saints movement” of which Dr. Bill Hamon has written extensively.
-  Certainly Chuck Pierce commented on the Hebrew symbol for the year number as being a sign of completion and spoke of the danger of being sucked back into old cycles if we failed to break into a new place.
-  You can refer to this prophecy easily if you Google it, as with the others mentioned.
-  So MUCH more to be said, and will be, on this subject, as Rog continues with his amazing, mind-blowing research!
-  Sharon Stone, Martin Scott, Roger Mitchell et al and others….
-  Walter Wink’s exposition of ‘powers’ and ‘dominions’.
-  The analogy is Mary thinking Jesus is the Gardener, or the companions walking with an unrecognised Jesus on the Emmaus Road.
-  1 Corinthians 12: 8-10
-  Galatians 5:22
-  As Chuck Pierce prophesied in the year 2001 ‘a seven year season of war’, I believe we are now moving from that season to one of famine, now equally among the Western nations which will be at least 5 years long. See Rev. 6.