Prophetic Insights

Night Watchman

22 December 2014

"Watchman, what of the night?  Watchman, what of the night?" (Isa 21.11)


On two occasions in recent days I have woken up in pre-dawn's thick darkness to hear a ruru (morepork) and a tui calling at the same time.  Usually our indigenous, night owl "tolls" the hours of darkness as they pass; whilst the tui sings the sun up.  It strikes me as being very noteworthy that the night watchman and the alarm clock were sounding off together.


"In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." (2 Co 13.1)


I wonder if we actually do take seriously the Lord's warnings in His parable concerning "The Ten Virgins"?  In this He teaches us all that the time of the sign of His coming, and "of the end of the world" (Mt 24.3) shall be like "ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom". (25.1)


Our Lord plainly expounds and warns us in this passage that the cry ("Behold, the bridegroom!") is made "at midnight", and that "they all slumbered and slept".


"The watchman said, The morning comes, and also the night: if you will inquire, inquire: return, come." (Isa 21.12)


Like a stuck record I can but go on and on, repeating myself that the Last Days will be "days of fury and glory, darkness and light, horror and blessedness"!  Things in this world are going to become progressively worse and worse; better and better"!


That is why Isaiah's night watchman cries out that dawn is indeed coming, but with it, night.  And that is why he goes on to say, "Come back again and enquire, if enquire you must."  In other words, if you are really and truly interested in the unfolding of God's final Hour's purposes, you  must keep on asking.  This suggests two things: you'll need to stay awake, and there'll be no cutesy-pie, "fast food" prophetic package (guarantee enclosed?) to lazily and conveniently follow.


God is speaking today, concerning these days and The Day.  But only Believers who are humble enough to be led "blind-fold" and step-by-step, moment-by-moment will hear and learn.  The rest will lurch and zig-zag from eschatological fad to the next latest-greatest.  Both the ruru and the tui call out in the dark.  They "intuitively" know what time it is.  They see the light when there is only deep darkness.  They are awake, when everything else is fast asleep.


Such thoughts oblige us to ask certain questions.  Does constantly looking around to check we are 'in-step" with the admirable and impressive, indicate that we are "awake"?  Or does such commonplace behaviour signal to the Bridegroom that we are in fact fast asleep, dormant, dozing, inattentive, napping, unaware, unconscious?  Who or what is our present-day benchmark for "vivacity" and "success"?  It is likely that the Virgins Parable warns us that our various and variable "apostolic" alliances and allegiances, Sunday meeting "head counts", and offering tallies, are vain and inane.  The great issue is not the pursuit of some model or programme for "success" or "popularity" or "productivity".  It is, are we "awake" to the approach of the Bridegroom?  If we are, then (while probably out of step with the religious "mafia" of our own day!) we will however be in step with God our Saviour.


"Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." (Ro 13.11-12)


"Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." (Eph 5.14)


The Last Church is called to be a corporate prophet to God, itself and the nations.  Can we learn anything concerning the Lord's expectations of us, from our indigenous watchman?


(1)   Ruru has two distinctly different calls.  One is like a clock, peacefully chiming; the other (heard less frequently) is more shrill and alarming.  There are those here in Aotearoa-NZ who believe that the chiming speaks of "good news", while the other indicates "bad news"?


This reminds us that we must be faithful to hear and communicate the whole counsel of God, and everything He wants to say to and through us.  We are not appointed to be pickers and choosers; sifting out those portions of His word which suit our organisations, agendas or personalities.


"Man may remain callous," writes the modern-day, Jewish prophet, Abraham Joshua Heschel, "but God cannot keep silent.  Terrible is His voice, because He has a heart...There is a living God who cares."


"Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you...You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen." (Eze 3.10, 2.7)


(2)   Ruru's hearing is so acute that he can hunt in pitch darkness, where there is absolutely no light whatsoever.  Also, with a head-pivot of 270 degrees that hearing is spectacularly enhanced.


I think that prophetical "hearing" is a grace and a gift.  But we have to take personal responsibility for listening to what we have heard.


"You will be ever hearing but never understanding." (Mt 13.14)


The prophet (individual and corporate) must cultivate a distinct taste and appetite for Biblical orthodoxy, while at the same time developing a willingness to be extended beyond reasonable measure.  Spiritual and intellectual rigidity and timidity, quench, warp and kill authentic prophetic perception and responsibility.  The finite cannot possibly have to do with the Infinite without some measure of bewilderment, discomfort and holy fear.  If you don't like heat, get out of the kitchen!


(3)   Ruru's flight is silent, because his wings (whilst covered with feathers) are tipped with a felt-like material.


A bona fide prophet is neither attention-seeker nor "song-and-dance" exponent.  He loathes display and the Church's own celebrity culture; he abhors religious stardom!  Words such as "desert", "solitude", "poverty of spirit" and "obscurity" are sweet and tasty in his mouth and on his lips.  Above all things for him, it is the Message which counts, must be heard, must triumph.  The messenger is but a passing shadow, a phantom.


"He must increase, but I must decrease.  He must grow greater, but I must grow less." (Jn 3.30)


Humility and lowliness of heart are great virtues of God; they are the secret of His power and strength.  What absolute arrogance and stupidity it is to think we can have any kind of service to render Him, if these are absent from our hearts and our daily lives.


"We who are responsible are so ill-qualified to uphold (God's) cause," writes the Swiss, scholar-prophet, Karl Barth.  "How overwhelming is our responsibility in this undertaking; and how absolutely necessary it is for God himself to intervene lest we should be found among those foolish virgins who had no oil."


"For from him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.  Amen." (Ro 11.36)

Shocking Imprint

12 June 2014


I walked into the prayer house recently to discover a shocking impression (pictured) on the largest window.  A Keruru (NZ wood pigeon) had flown into it; mercifully and thankfully it was not killed.
The collision's imprint made me think of the Holy Spirit.  Many modern logos for The Dove (Mt 3.16), very closely resemble the outline left on the window.  In spite of rain repeatedly falling and washing the pane, the image still stubbornly clings to the glass.  It continues to be very confronting.  Is it a "sign"?  It is definitely causing me to "wonder"!
We live in a tree-filled valley.  I know that many generations of Keruru have safely navigated their ways about here; from food-source to food-source, especially the native Purriri tree's berries.  If an "ancient", indigenous bird crashes into a house built "recently"...whose fault is that then?
It seems to me that the Spirit of the Lord has "navigated" His way forever, along the invisible, spiritual pathways laid down in and for this world by God.  They are what the Bible calls His "ways".
"As for God, his way (trodden path) is perfect." (Ps 18.30)
"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths." (Ps 25.4)
"Your path led through the sea. Your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen." (Ps 77.19)
What happens when we build something (perhaps even for God?) in the middle of one of the Holy Spirit's "pathways"?
Obviously, we risk raising up obstructions, obstacles, roadblocks to the movement of God in our world.  Moreover, there is also the shocking possibility that the Holy Spirit will be "injured" by such "collisions"?
"Do not grieve (hurt) the Holy Spirit of God." (Eph 4.30)
"Quench not (extinguish, stifle) the Spirit." (1 Th 5.19)
In this instance, it does seem to me that the "print" upon the window and the open-ended questions which it raises are actually more important than "answers"!
"But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?' " (Ge 3.9)
"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'What is that in your hand?' " (Ex 4.2)
"What do you see, Jeremiah?" (Jer 1.11)
"Son of man, can these bones live?" (Eze 37.3)
We would all like to know (infallibly?) what to "build" and where.  It is excruciatingly important to us to be "right"...but too often for our own sakes, and not for the Lord's?
"But the righteousness that is by faith says...'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart'." (Ro 10.6-8)
When it comes to aligning ourselves with the Holy Spirit there is no "blue-print" we can "google"; absolutely no point whatsoever in following the "flockers"!
For this one, their destiny is to build a massive auditorium to "shelter" thousands.  For that one, their obedience is to shepherd a handful of souls in their garage.  For one, the founding of a global prayer movement is their vocation.  For another, the call is to a solitary obscurity, singing the Psalms.  If any of these were to deviate, for whatever reason (no matter how noble or spiritual) from their particular "work", then in all likelihood they will make of themselves obstructions and not conduits; barriers rather than channels.
"Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me satan!  You are a stumbling block to me (a stone and snare in my path, a hindrance to me); you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.' " (Mt 16.23)
The "terrible" question we each must ask ourselves (perhaps many times a day) is:  "Am I becoming 'myself' created in the image of God' (Ge 1.27); or am I manufacturing a 'self' in another's (a man, ministry or movement's) image?"
"Every competitor runs, but only one wins the with your minds fixed on winning the prize!" (1 Co 9.24)

Three Dreams

31 May 2014

During the first half of this year, I have had three dreams, which I now believe are a prophetic trilogy.
(1)   I dreamt that I was in a meeting, crying out, "Get out of the building, or go down on your faces!"
Upcoming outpourings of the Holy Spirit are going to bring a renewed emphasis on the holiness of God...especially so far as His "other-ness" is concerned.  Usually when Christians consider the Lord's holiness, it is only in terms of His moral perfection.  But when we say that He is, "Holy, holy, holy!" (Rev 4.8), we are also affirming equally that He is completely and totally and absolutely "other" and infinitely different to us.
"To whom then, will you compare God?" (Isa 40.18)
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither your ways my ways." (Isa 55.8)
So God is not predictable, as human beings understand that word.  He is faithful, but,
"How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out." (Ro 11.33)
Neither is He prescribable.  The illustrious, Christian Apologist, C.S. Lewis has said that God is "not safe"!  Any Believer who anticipates that national, Last Days' revival is going to be anything other than a "wild ride", and "off the rails", has failed to do their Biblical, theological and history "homework".
(2)   I dreamt I was in a meeting, conducted by today's "leadership" their 40s.  All were praying in tongues.  As I prayed more and more loudly, the rest became quieter.  Then I prophesied, "A move of the power of God is coming, beyond all of our words and phrases and descriptions and paradigms."  I continued to try to prophesy, but had no further vocabulary up to the task.
There are two words used in the NT to described God's power...(dunamis) "dynamic ability", and (exousia) "sovereign right"!  In future revivals, I anticipate that Christians will be able to maintain their equilibrium, by accepting being repeatedly knocked off balance by the Holy Spirit's sovereign determinations, timings and choices.
"Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power (exousia) to throw you into hell." (Lk 12.5)
God "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." (Eph 1.11)
(3)   I dreamt that I was lying on the floor during a meeting, and water was bubbling up out of the ground.  I started to flick some of this water out over the congregation.  Every person splashed was instantly healed.  As this was happening, some people in the meeting began to yell out at me, "You can't do that!  You can't do that!"
This really is a picture of "upside-down" church.  The preacher is down on the floor (humbled), not up (exalted) on the podium.  The anointing is bubbling up (unexpectedly), not falling down (predictably).  Nevertheless, God is in fact being God, and people are being saved and made whole.  But even in the face of incontrovertible evidence, some are reacting negatively?
Getting ready for revival means humbling (lowering) ourselves, and preparing for God to be completely and utterly and totally Himself, His choices, decisions and actions.
"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promises and not fulfill?  I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it." (Nu 23.19-20)
"God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' " (Ex 3.14)
(This message, "Preparing For The Holiness of God" - April 27 -  can be heard in its totality at

A Coming Crash

20 December 2013

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." (Php 2.9-10)
"The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1 Jn 2.17)
"Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the that what cannot be shaken may remain.  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful." (Heb 12.26-29)
When our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, returns to be earth's rightful and true King of kings and Lord of all lords, every kingdom, empire and political system will lie in shattered and ruined obeisance before Him...including Western Capitalism.
A major reason why many Christians today cling passionately to "Dominion Theology" and belief in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, is because they "want their cake and eat it".  They require that their preferred and self-sanctified political-economic system remain intact right through to "the end".  Now that may be convenient for them...but it is not Biblical.
After being "disembowelled" by an iceberg, and whilst lying doomed in an icy ocean, maritime engineers still maintained that the "Titanic" was unsinkable.  No doubt political, financial and "prophetical" pundits will continue to predict Capitalism's recovery from its last recession, even in the hour before its final disappearance beneath the murky waters of history.
"Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing...they lead my people astray, saying, 'Peace (you're safe and sound),' when there is no peace...When a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall." (Eze 13.3, 10-12)
Every such political-economic "system" has always lain under the weighty judgement of the Lord, because they are always something significantly less than or altogether opposed to the Kingdom of God.  On top of this, all man-made "kingdoms" (especially religious ziggurats) carry within themselves the sin-seeds of their own destruction.  Even as you are reading this essay, Capitalism is fracturing and imploding under the pressure of the immense stupidity of concentrating nations' wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people, "whitewashing" over the chasm-ic (and now unbridgeable) divide between the have's and the have not's, and rampant consumerism and inflation!
(In fact, Capitalism is a system which has never actually worked with integrity.  In the 1800s it thrived, fuelled by conquest, theft of land and assets, and the destruction of Indigenous Peoples.  Then during the 1900s it created an almost constant state of global warfare, and lived off economies based on death and destruction.)
Unlike Communism, Capitalism has not openly nor consistently opposed and persecuted Christianity.  Nevertheless, its "doctrines" have slowly but surely permeated and eroded the fabric of faith, seriously distorting and compromising our "kerygma" or core values and message.  E.g. Conspicuous and vainglorious consumerism has aided and abetted a hyper-prosperity "gospel".  "Free-market" extremism has devalued and weakened the Biblical virtues of social responsibility and the Common Good.
In the 1700s, Cotton Mather (Puritan preacher, 1663-1728, New England), warned that gold and God had drawn Europeans to North America.  He prophesied that "religion brought forth prosperity, and the daughter destroyed the mother.  There is a danger lest the enchantments of the world make them forget their errand into the wilderness."
Capitalism is going to come crashing down.  Like the Philistine's idol "dagon" it is going to fall "on (its) face on the ground before the ark of the Lord...head and hands broken off"! (1 Sa 5.1-5)  It will not rise again.  There will be no miraculous recovery or economic turnaround.
So, what's to be done...bearing in mind that there is no "escape hatch", and the Church will never rule the world, until its rightful Ruler and Saviour returns to govern His People and the nations?
"You are my Son...and I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession.  You will rule them with an iron sceptre and you will dash them to pieces like pottery." (Ps 2.8-9)
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (Mt 25.31-32)
Well, according to the Scriptures, the Lord is not unacquainted with caring for His own People, often under the most adverse and trying circumstances.
We should expect that as the economies of this world's kingdoms falter, recede and collapse completely, the economy of the Kingdom of God (which is steadily approaching) will actually strengthen.  The question will be to what extent, if any, we are in fact "shareholders" and participants.  If we have been faithfully "banking" and investing into God's economy, then we can quite legitimately expect to be "paid out"...even sometimes through the agencies of organisations and persons who appear to have no connection whatsoever with the Lord.
"Whoever sows generously will also reap generously...And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Co 9.6-8)
"My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Php 4.19)
(1)   Providence.
"The Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field." (Isa 32.15)
In a time of great ultimacy and significance and adversity (such as The End) God's People should not be surprised to discover that their budget-ed money goes further, their vegetable gardens produce much more than usual, and that their fruit trees and hens yield prodigiously.  We will still have to be prudent, dig and compost the soil, prune and tend our orchards.  But we will not be expecting amiss or presumptuously if we hope to reap more than we sow.
Prior to years of famine in the days of Joseph, God gave "years of abundance (and) the land produced plentifully...(he) stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure". (Ge 41.46-49)
"In times of disaster (the blameless) will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty." (Ps 37.19)
In our days of 24/7 supermarkets stocking every kind of food (in and out of season) it is all too easy for us to forget,
"Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain - first the stalk, then the head, and the full kernel in the head." (Mk 4.27-28)
And the One who alone produces life and growth, is well able and willing to multiply it and make it abundant beyond the usual, the "normal".
(2)   Prevailing Providence.
"Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen.  They acquired property there and were fruitful and greatly increased in number." (Ge 47.27)
"I have ordered the ravens to feed you there." (1 Ki 17.4)
"I have commanded a widow in that place (Zarephath) to supply you with food." (1 Ki 17.9)
Unlike the human race which so often responds to change as if nothing at all has happened, God has a phenomenal and infinite capacity to "change gear" when needs be, and the power to over-ride so called "laws" of nature and existence.
"Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard (wonderful) for you." (Jer 32.17)
"He brought out his people with joy...he gave them the land of the nations.  They took the fruit of other men's toil." (Ps 105.43-44)
It is not too difficult for the Lord to counter-mand the natural inclinations and reactions of unbelievers, scavenger birds, and poverty-stricken widows.  Such in turn become the agents of His kindness and provision.  In these Last Days it is not going to be God's ability in doubt, but our faith.  Will we be ready, having consciously cultivated the capacity to really expect the unexpected, permitting Him to position us by faith and not by our one-dimensional "sight", and so receive our daily bread from the most unlikely and improbable sources?
(3)   Miraculous Providence.
"God rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them bread from heaven.  Mere men ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat." (Ps 78.24-25)
"He satisfied them with the bread of heaven.  He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert." (Ps 105.40-41)
"All at once an angel touched Elijah and said, 'Get up and eat.'  He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water.  He ate and drank." (1 Ki 19.5-6)
"Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin.  Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." (Mt 17.27)
"I have food to eat that you know nothing about." (Jn 4.32)
My personal belief and expectation in the last of the Last Days, is that God's care of His People will on occasions completely eclipse and rend null and void our ability to understand and explain.  I have lived "by faith", without wage or salary, for 25 out of the past 40 years of Christian ministry.  On occasions we have been unable to rationally explain gifts of money or food which have come our way.  I do not doubt that in some instances we have received help from the Lord via His holy angels.
"Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb 1.14)
"Some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (Heb 13.2)
So, no matter what, the Lord will provide.  But God is also presently crying out to His Church to take prophetic responsibility and foster and build and cultivate more and more ways of living mutually, cooperatively, communally.  (Read Chapter 3 of
"Local churches need to begin to discuss and explore ways of practically living together more collectively and cooperatively.  For example, groups of families tending and living off one large vegetable garden; the pooling of transport, machines and tools.  Creating a church 'storehouse' where gifts of food and clothing (and other life-necessities) can be collected and distributed to each according to their need, as the days darken and persecution intensifies."
We must permit God to sever our superfluous ties and prudently detach us from debt to a system that is doomed to go down...lest through unholy entanglements we are sucked down with it.
"Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great...the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries...Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins...O Babylon, city of power!  In one hour your doom has come." (Rev 18)
I am by no stretch of the imagination advocating complete separation from the world and society.  After all, right through to The End of this Salvation Age, the Church's mission is to be thoroughly present to mankind, to be,
"The salt of the earth...the light of the world...yeast all through the dough." (Mt 5.13-14, Lk 13.21)
It is not about retreating to live on stockpiled baked beans in fortified stockades.  It is all about living for The One and only Saviour, Who will hold out His offer of eternal salvation to everyone until all of this world's clocks stop ticking.  And if He requires us so to live, then He will reveal to us and train us in that necessary way of life...the lifestyle of the Kingdom of God.  And Heaven help us if we are so off-beam, so unprepared that we are startled to discover at the last minute that the Lord has all the while been trying to tenderly shepherd us back to our own Biblical roots?
"All the believers were in one heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had...There was no needy person among them.  For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." (Ac 4.32-35  See also 2.42-47)
At The End, the Church and the world will appear unlike anything ever seen before.  The devil will do his worst, but God our Saviour will eclipse and transcend all of that rotten-ness with His beautiful holiness and His irresistible power. (1 Ch 16.29)
Waves of unparalleled revival are going to sweep all before them (though not so much within the Church) across whole cities and provinces, which have hitherto been laid low in the horror of sin's slavery.
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Isa 9.2)
It will be (and more so) as in the days of the 1940s Hebridean (northern Scotland) Revival in which "75 percent were gloriously saved before meetings" for "the presence of God was in homes, meadows, moorland, even public roads"!  And the Church will be His "house of prayer for all nations", serving the "lost" and newly saved, rather than itself.  Off its high-horse at last and living upon its knees, incarnating and expressing hourly the finest aspirations to pray, as if they were commonplace.
"To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them." (John Calvin, Reformer, 1509-64, Geneva)
"The man who mobilizes the Christian Church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history." (Andrew Murray, pastor-teacher, 1828-1917, South Africa)
"Our prayers lay the track down which God's power can come.  Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails." (Watchman Nee, apostle, 1903-72, China)
And in the midst of all of this - holy and evil, creative and destructive - He who "cares for you" (1 Pe 5.7) will care for you.
"God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'  So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?'"(Heb13.5-6)

The Vital Virtue

8 November 2013

"Learn of me; for I am...lowly of heart." (Mt 11.29)


"If he finds a humble station in life hard to put up with, he will scarcely avoid arrogance when honour comes." (John Calvin, Reformer, 16th C, Geneva)


"Gold of obedience and incense of lowliness bring and adore Him; the Lord is His Name." (Hymn 232, PCNZ)


In a recent essay ("Night Visions" - 17/10/13) I wrote that the "central key" to the Church "safely negotiating" approaching waves of tribulation and revival, will be "humility"! But exactly and Biblically what is it?


Well, not unexpectedly, definitions (both sacred and secular) lie strewn about. For example, the phenomenally influential, 12th C contemplative and churchman, Bernard of Clairvaux, described humility as "esteeming ourselves small inasmuch as we are so". And more recently, the "Universal Dictionary (1988)" speaks of a "lack of pride" and presence of "modesty". Perhaps more interesting and helpful is the idea that the Latin word "humilis" signifies "lowliness", and the closely related "humus" means "ground"?


But as Christians we are not left to scrabble about in the dust, looking for the best or most agreeable of the many descriptions available. Ours is the privilege to look to The One who in and of Himself incarnates and thus defines Truth in all of its broadest and most detailed aspects. For it is Jesus our Lord and Saviour who says,


"Learn of me; for I am...lowly of heart." (Mt 11.29)


Humility, so far as God our Saviour teaches is neither a definition, nor is it a behaviour. It is His heart, His being, His essence.


"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...he humbled himself." (Php 2.5&8)


The story and process of the salvation of the human race by Jesus, is all and entirely about humility. He descended from the Throne of God in Heaven to dwell in the womb of the Virgin. He grew up as a member of the rural peasantry. During the last eighteen months or so of His earthly life, He lived as an outlaw, and then accepted the status of a criminal for its last hours.


But even after the Lord of all had further "humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Php 2.8), He abased himself yet further for our sake.


"For Christ also (having) once suffered for sins...went and preached unto the spirits in prison." (1 Pe 3.18-19)


In other words (and according to the Apostles' Creed) having been buried in the ground, "He descended (yet further down) into hell", for us. God became man in order to go down as low as any man can ever go, in order to raise us up as high as Heaven. (Even today, in our own time, Jesus continues to humble and lower Himself, so that He can "appear" on our Communion Tables, "disguised" as common bread and wine, in order to provide us with the meat and drink of His flesh and for our earthly pilgrimage.)


Our Lord Jesus Christ most dramatically and effectively expressed and revealed His lowliness of heart to His disciples in an event which most Believers are perhaps overly familiar with...when He washed their feet. (Jn 13.1-17) There are immense treasures in the detail of this incident.


(1) Something which should have been done, had been left undone. Ordinarily a slave belonging to the dinner host would have performed the ablutions. Up until the moment when Jesus got up and did what needed to be done, the atmosphere would have been awkward and very tense. But it was just too hard for these "upwardly-mobile" Apostles to take the vital step down. At that moment, only One Person in the room was "downwardly-mobile" and so had the power to do so...God!


(2) Humility or lowliness of heart, is not an idea or a behaviour. It is a spiritual unction and a grace of the Holy Spirit. During this "Last Supper", Jesus alone understood and lived this. If we were to attach as much significance to this manifestation of the Spirit, as we do to prophecy and miracles, the Church would be a radically different and more revolutionary and more influential organism today.


Our spiritual ancestors absolutely understood and practised lowliness of heart. In the wildernesses of Syria and Egypt in the 4th and 5th C's, our contemplative Desert Fathers and Mothers said:


"I saw the devil's snares set all over the earth, and I groaned and said, 'What can pass through them?' I heard a voice saying, 'Humility'."


"A devil tried to run Macarius through with a sickle, but could not. 'Your humility,' it said, 'is why I cannot prevail against you.' "


"A demoniac, frothing terribly at the mouth, struck an old hermit on the jaw, and he turned the other cheek. This humility tortured the demon like flames, and drove him out there and then." (1)


(3) The "towel" which the Lord "girded" Himself with, could be worn in two different ways. If it was tied with a knot, then the wearer was a slave. If worn as a stole (draped like a very long scarf), then this signalled a person of honour and pre-eminence and prestige.


Because Jesus at that time wore this "garment" as a slave, today He wears it as The King. Similarly, if we will not "wear" all that God gifts to us, as His slaves, then we will never be among those who receive His honour and praise.


Having his feet washed was a very traumatic and confronting event for Peter. But he never forgot, and got the message. Many years later, he exhorted God's People to be, not just humble...but "clothed - wrap yourselves - with humility". (1 Pe 5.5)


Why? Because that's the heart and nature and character of The Firstborn, whose Church we are. But also because The Way is the way of salvation. That is to say, if you want to "go up", then first you must "go down". Altitude is gained through this attitude. Our voluntary descent, precedes any ascent.


"He humbled (lowered) himself...Wherefore God also has highly exalted him." (Php 2.8-9)


"Humble (lower) yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (Jas 4.10)


"Humble (lower) yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, and he shall lift you up." (1 Pe 5.6)


This divine and unavoidable dynamic is nowhere more graphically explained than by the Lord Himself during a Sabbath meal in the house of "one of the chief Pharisees"! (Lk 14.1-11)


"When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour...take the lowest place, so that when you host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, go up higher...move up to a better place.' "


Jesus told this parable because "he noticed how the guests" at this meal "picked the places of honour at the table"! And just in case He wasn't getting through to His hearers, He concluded pretty plainly and bluntly,


"For every one who exalts himself will be ranked below others who are honoured or rewarded, and he who keeps a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly will be elevated in rank." (Amplified Bible)


"Everyone who makes himself important will become insignificant, while the man who makes himself insignificant will find himself important." (JB Phillips NT)



(1) "The Desert Fathers". Transl. Benedicta Ward. Penguin, London 2003.

Night Visions

17 October 2013

In recent days I have had two dreams, which I believe contain important warnings, and also some instruction. I intend recounting them plainly and starkly, so that none of their impact is lost in literary ornamentation.


(1) During the night of 12-13th of October, I dreamt that a very large aircraft had landed. Its passengers disembarked and were "praying" for people and "laying hands" on them. I realised that the effect of this "ministry" was like weedkiller; everything appeared just fine for a time, but then the people "prayed" for began dying. In the midst of this great gathering, I cried out, "Run away! Run away! Run away!" But as I my sense of alarm intensified, I began to shout out a warning in Tongues, as the Holy Spirit gave me utterance.


"I will choose their delusions...when I spoke, they did not hear." (Isa 66.4)


"God shall send them strong delusion...who believed not the truth." (2 Th 2.11-12)


"What shall be the sign of your coming, and the end of the world?...Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many." (Mt 24.3&11)


"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except (for the one) whose coming is after the working of satan with all power and signs and lying wonders." (2 Th 2.3&9)


Deceiving spirits have been attacking the Church from the beginning. At The End their onslaught will become concerted. Without giving way to paranoia, we must practise the greatest spiritual vigilance and "hygiene". We must at all costs guard those areas which are most important to us, because that is where we often harbour pride and greed. Then in the season of temptation and pressure, boundaries can be crossed. In our desire for more of what we prize most highly we can be lured into territory which is outside the reach of Biblical revelation. It will not be the Holy Spirit we meet there, but "strange fire"! (Nu 3.4)


An organic and real association with a local church will help us avoid deception, but it is not an iron-clad guarantee. Hooking up with the "in crowd" or joining the "flockers" won't cut it. It might increase the danger. "True" truth is not obtained by a "majority vote". A big crowd of Christians, signifies a big crowd of Christians. Nothing more! God's Truth and Unction come down from Heaven. (Jas 3.17)


"This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." (Mt 16.17)


A branch which cuts itself off from the tree will wither. But those branches attached still must take personal responsibility for their own destiny. You might well belong to the "perfect" church, but you are still responsible for yourself. At The End we must all stand before The Judge...alone!


"The day will arise in a blaze of fire, and that fire will prove the nature of each man's work." (1 Co 3.13)


This "doctrine" of personal culpability is a powerful antidote to deception and delusion!


(2) A few days earlier, I dreamt I was at sea in a long, narrow boat. In the bow sat someone who represented the "spiritual and intuitive". In the stern was a person who embodied the "intellectual and practical". I sat amidships. To my very great consternation I saw many waves bearing down upon us. I feared greatly that their size and frequency would easily and swiftly swamp us. However, the people in the bow and the stern worked together to position the boat to face square-on and directly into the advancing waves. My contribution to keeping the boat upright and afloat, was to lie down as flat as possible; to get down as low as I could on the deck.


(a) As we get nearer and nearer to The End of this Age, there are going to be increasingly frequent waves of tribulation, but also waves of revival, "travelling" around the world. The Church of God will not be immune nor able to avoid the trials of this season.


(b) The local churches which will successfully ride through these storms of trouble and salvation, will have cultivated a "balanced" Christian life and culture and "diet". Their faith-style will be supernatural and intelligent...Holy Spirit and Bible-based. The mystic and the theologian, seer and scholar will both be equally welcome, respected and heeded.


(c) While intelligence and spirituality work together to position the church accurately, the central key to it actually safely negotiating these waves will be humility. ("The esteeming of ourselves small inasmuch as we are so.")


"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (lowly)." (Jas 4.6)


In the deserts of Syria and Egypt in the 4th C, there appeared apostolic men and women who lived to pray. These Desert Fathers and Mothers believed that "the devil's snares (were) set all over the earth", and that only by humility (lowering oneself) could you "pass through them". "The more we bend ourselves to humility, the more we are lifted up to make progress," they taught.


If we can learn to keep low in our "boats", then we will ride out the coming storms of tribulation, and reap the great harvest out of whirlwinds of revival.



("The Desert Fathers". Trans. Benedicta Ward. Penguin - London 2003)

Apostolic Legitimacy

10 October 2013

"It is he, the Lord most High, who gives each his place." (Ps 87.5)


"I have not gone after things too great nor marvels beyond me." (Ps 131.1)


"I never push myself above my station; I am untroubled when I put myself in a low place." (A Desert Father, 4th C, Egypt)


"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ." (2 Co 11.13)


"I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false." (Rev 2.2)


In the 1940s and 50s, being an "Evangelist" (in the mould of Dr. Billy Graham) was considered aspirational. In the 60s and 70s, being a "Teacher" (in the mould of Dr. Derek Prince) became the ministry "of choice". Then during the 80s and 90s, everyone it seemed, asserted that they were a "Prophet". Today, something like a stampede is on, as Christian leaders lay claim (this time around) to the office of "Apostle".


In all of these timely surges of interest in the Ascension Gifts (Ephesians 4.11), God certainly has been doing something significant...shining His spotlight and reminding us how holy and important and indispensable are those servants He gifts to His Church. Sadly, at the same time the flesh, world and devil have also been at work, putting up their own counterfeits.


Human nature that wants to continue to assert its autonomy before God (the flesh) will view Christian ministry more as a career option and path, than a "living sacrifice". (Ro 12.1) It will see the Ascension Gifts not as bond slavery, but a hierarchical stairway to be scaled and attained as swiftly as possible. Selfish ambition and spiritual greed drive such to the "summit", panting after this world's "treasures"...glory, honour and power. What kind of madness is this? Who dares clutch at that which becomes and belongs to Almighty God alone?


"Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever!" (Rev 7.12)


It would seem clear that "all the angels" in Heaven know how to crash effortlessly "down on their faces before the throne". Upon the earth, the Church's "great ones" appear to believe that such behaviour does not suit their exalted station or rank?


Today the "market" is flooded with glossy literature "defining" all things "apostolic"...apostolic apostles, apostolic leadership, apostolic churches, apostolic movements. Many of these authors (or their ghost writers), having appointed themselves as "apostles", have written descriptions of their ministries...self-fulfilling prophecy, wishful-thinking, self-gratifying fantasies?


So far as trying to nail down a Biblical definition goes, I would have to say it's too late, because the "apostolic" horse has bolted...the waters of some kind of objective understanding have been muddied beyond all remedy or repair. Nevertheless, let me Elisha-like toss the following into the Church's "pot".


"Then he went out to the (bad) spring and threw the salt into it...Never again will it cause death." (2 Ki 2.19-22)


Somewhere, very, very close to the beginning, any consideration of matters "apostolic" must take as being of ultimate seriousness,


"You are...members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." (Eph 2.19-22)


First and foremost, authentic and bona fide and Heaven-sent apostles (and prophets too!) are foundation stones...foundational...people of the foundations. Hence Paul's assertion, "It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation." (Ro 15.20)


(1) The apprentice apostle often serves some "time" as an evangelist.(1) Not only does he or she have a passion to see the "lost" saved (as should all Believers!), but they are also very concerned (in ways which might seem obsessive) that new converts have a firm footing; that their lives rest "on the rock", not on "sand". (Mt 7.24-27)


The apostle does not get very much excited about land that has been under cultivation for years. They are always looking for territory and people yet to be "ploughed" by the Gospel...yet to be established and built up upon "the stone that the builders rejected" which is the "living stone...the chosen and precious cornerstone". (1 Pe 2.4-8)


Like the Rock that "will not roll", they are pioneers of faith (Heb 12.2)...explorers, trailblazers, innovators, founders, developers. They don't follow maps, they draw them. They construct without plans, plant the wastelands, drive highways through the wilderness.


(2) The apostle's respect for the whole Bible is profound and absolute. To build anything, anywhere, anytime without it being thoroughly underpinned by the plain testimony of both Testaments is beyond their power to even begin to imagine.


"Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." (Mt 7.24)


"Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, there a church of God exists." (John Calvin, Reformer, 1509-64, Geneva)


"Believe God, that plainly speaketh in His Word. And further than the Word teacheth you, you shall neither believe the one nor the other." (John Knox, Reformer, 1505-72, Scotland)


Yes, the true apostle is the recipient of divine and immediate and supernatural revelation from Heaven.


"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you." (1 Co 11.23)


"I did not receive (the gospel) from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." (Gal 1.12)


But the apostles (and prophets) know with a holy terror, more than any other ministry or Believer, that all of their oracles and unveilings must be brought in a meek spirit to the absolute benchmark and bar of the whole and wholesome counsel of the Bible...from Genesis 1.1 all the way through to The Revelation 22.21. To deviate but a splinter of a fraction from this is to begin the inevitable descent into spiritual pride and elitism, cultish deception, madness, destruction and hell-fire!


(3) The apostles (and prophets) are the guardians of history. Their love for apostles and prophets of the past is effortless, personal, intelligent. Their connection is so intimate as to seem a bit strange and eccentric. They sound as if they were sitting at the foot of John Calvin's pulpit in Geneva as he thundered forth his Reformation principles. They seem to have accompanied Teresa of Avila as she criss-crossed Spain on mule-back, planting prayer house after prayer house.


In fact they have. For they are indeed participants, vitally joined to our spiritual ancestors by "the one Spirit we were all given to drink"! (1 Co 12.13)


This should not be dismissed as a somewhat flaky or cranky concept. In fact it is obvious, commonsense that this generation's Church foundation stones will not rest upon thin air. They will sit fair and square and plumb on the originals (the Apostles of Acts and the Prophets of the Old Testament), via the apostles and prophets of every other generation in between. Today's foundational men and women will not merely be knowledgeable history buffs and enthusiasts. They will be caught up in slow-burning, affectionate and respectful submission to these Elders who, though dead, yet speak to us in terms and tones undimmed...still lively and life-giving. (Heb 11.4)


(4) Closely aligned to this responsibility is the apostle's (and the prophet's) preoccupation with "true truth"...the objective truth as it is known by God Himself.


In the Western Church today there is this extraordinary phenomenon; that if a leader asserts that something is "true" (be it a doctrine or report), then it becomes true and indisputable. Whole congregations are informed that any further discussion is un-necessary; disagreement or dissent is "rebellion". In one fell swoop two very unhealthy things take place.


(a) The Holy Spirit-enlightened consciences of individual Believers are violated and shut down. There is a massive difference between Christian unity and enforced conformity. Responsible leaders will set the "whole story" (especially the inconvenient and uncomfortable aspects) before the People of God, and then they have to trust Him to bring forth what He will from that (messy?) melange. Any other course is just far too dangerous for it inevitably skirts manipulation and control.


(b) Unresolved issues and matters do not dissolve into nothing-ness with the passing of time. They do get buried, but not unto dissolution. They lie in the "basement" of your fellowship, rotting and fermenting, biding their time.


In extremely cold parts of the world, the ground freezes during the winter and buried rocks are slowly but surely forced out and onto the surface. Just so, local church "happenings" which have been swept "under the carpet", or not Biblically, justly, openly processed and resolved. It's not just the "result" that's all important, but the degree of objective truthfulness involved.


Hence the authentic apostle's (and the prophet's) obsessive concern. They are not only foundational people, but also the guardians of the foundations. They will not tolerate "dead bodies" buried in the Church's backyard. As shocking and disgusting as it might be, they will want them exhumed, a complete "autopsy" conducted, and then a public burial in a proper "graveyard".


It won't wash to say, "Oh well, it's all ancient history now, and it's all 'under the Blood'!" For wrongdoing to be "under the Blood" of the Atonement, there must have been voluntary, heartfelt and practical repentance, restitution and reconciliation...on the part of all the parties and everyone who was involved.


I had my first taste of itinerant preaching in the summer of 1979...and for the past 21 years have fulfilled that ministry in local churches all around New Zealand. So, I have seen a little bit here and there of the Lord's "tatterdemalion" People. For the greatest part, I tremble at their beauty. But...I also shudder at the sheer volume and weight of festering and putrefying carcases which one day must burst back into the light of day, to spread their fragrant rotten-ness far and wide. The true apostles and prophets will get digging now, before the eruption.


"For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open."(Lk 8.17)


"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (Jn 8.32)


(5) These absolutely imperative phenomena (and apostolic-prophetic qualifications) spontaneously give rise to an eager interest and respect for Christian Tradition. It is "fashionable" these days among many "modern" (or post-modern?) leaders to mock and rubbish Tradition. Their approach to theology and ministry is the "scorched earth" method; burn everything to the ground and throw the previous generation of Elders overboard. "Now we'll show you," they boast, "how it should be done!" Not for them the humility of the "relay race"; they salivate for the glory of the solo run..."winners" from beginning to end?


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses...let us run with perseverance the race marked for us." (Heb 12.1)


But who are these "witnesses"? Who but those who lived "by faith" before us (Hebrews 11); those who have already run their part of "the race"; our spiritual ancestors! They have run and passed on the "baton". Now they watch eagerly to see how we will run our portion and pass on our (and their) spiritual inheritance to the next generation. The "scorched earth" programme is tantamont to an athlete in a relay team throwing the baton away and saying, "It impedes the fluidity of my running style and slows me down!"


Of course there is religious Tradition which is rotten.


"Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?...You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition." (Mt 15.3-6)


But there is Christian Tradition which is holy and life-giving.


"Stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle...Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the traditions which he received of us." (2 Th 2.15 & 3.6)


Wholesome Tradition is the testimony handed down to us of the "inner witness" of the Holy Spirit received by previous generations of Christians - especially the apostles and prophets. That "witness" is at least as important and valuable and integral to the construction of the Church today, as it was in its own time. God help any so-called "leader" who tramples upon this or discards it as so much "yesterday's news" and garbage. Such may spend a lifetime of ministry re-inventing the wheel.


Holy and wholesome Tradition does not bind us to a defunct past; it lifts us up and into God's future. That leader who knows where they come from, will know where they now are, and where they need to go tomorrow. Bona fide apostles and prophets build on this foundation, and so become foundational themselves.


(6) Apostles love profoundly, unstintingly and faithfully the other living foundations...first and foremost, The Chief, and then the prophets.


"God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." (Eph 2.19-20)


Some of today's pseudo-apostles are eager to brandish 1 Corinthians 12.28 ("In the church God has appointed first of all apostles..") like a great, big beat down the "competition", and knock everyone into line. But elsewhere the Apostle Paul writes,


"I think that God has set forth us the apostles last." (1 Co 4.9)


The 1 Corinthians 12.28 text is not a hierarchy, it's a list. The Church's true foundations are not a pecking order. They are a burial site. Apostles and prophets are not glittering, decorative church steeples. They are united with Christ and are "therefore buried with him through baptism into death". But with Him they have the power to bear the weight of His Body with their bodies because "as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father", they too "live a new life". (Ro 6.1-5)


Neither is the prophet the apostle's assistant, underling or little helper. He's not wheeled out from time to time to dazzle with a little "mail reading" to authenticate the apostle's credentials. The apostle loves the prophet, and the prophet loves the the right hemisphere loves the left hemisphere of the brain; as the left loves the right hand; the left foot loves the right. Without both equally yoked and respectful and deferential, local churches and their movements will "progress" in circles, fall over, or even (in a crisis) drop dead.


Yes, by their very nature apostles can be impatient, go-getting autocrats. And the prophets likewise, may be obsessive, eccentric utopians. But one dominating the other is no answer. The divine plan is for their "marriage" together to The Chief, and the subsequent life of ongoing death and resurrection. In the unbearable heat of these "odd conjoinings", the flesh will be annihilated and the gold rise to the surface of the Refiner's furnace.


The question is not, where are the apostles and prophets? It is, will there be any with sufficient faith in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, to embrace again and again the similitude of His Death?(2)


"I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead." (Php 3.10-11)


This essay is by no means a comprehensive definition of the nature and ministry of the apostle. But it is a foundational study of foundational concerns for foundational men and women. Are parts of it a little over-drawn, over-heated? Of course. But what could possibly be more important than laying fit foundations, upon which will rest and utterly depend the "living stones, (who) are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ"? (1 Pe 2.5)


To those who aspire to the apostolic (or prophetic) office, consider this. If you do plant yourself in the Church's foundations on your own account, then you should hope that His mercy will pluck you out and cast you to one side. For if not, then the weight of what God builds upon you will test you to the uttermost. The true stones will stand; the pseudo will be exposed, for they will crumble under this very great pressure.


"He who falls on this stone (the builders rejected) will be broken to pieces, but on whom it falls will be crushed." (Mt 21.44)


"I will tear down the that its foundations will be laid bare (discovered) will be destroyed in it." (Ez 13.14)


Sadly, I do not think these few lines are going to make any difference whatsoever to those who have already staked an illegitimate claim to apostleship. In each case and to varying degrees, such are blinded by their own reflections in the mirror of their selfish ambition. They have probably put themselves beyond reproof and amendment. Such "super-apostles", according to the Apostle Paul, have minds "somehow led astray...from sincere and pure devotion to Christ". They are, he says, "deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ...Their end will be what their actions deserve". (2 Co 11.5,3,13-15)


So, why bother writing at all?


(i) Because the People of God who question such claims and such persons are praised by the Church's Head.


"You have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not." (Rev 2.2)


(ii) Because the authentic, legitimate and valid apostolic (and prophetic) God-given "gifts" (Eph 4.8) will find that certain, key phrases written here will cause their ears to prick up and their spirits to "bear witness". And so such genuinely foundational men and women will be encouraged to grow up and into the mould of "the Apostle...of our profession, Christ Jesus" (Heb 3.1), who "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant." (Php 2.6-7)


"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave." (Mt 20.26-27)


Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was and still is a foundation stone upon which the Church has leaned incredibly hard for ten centuries. As he lay dying, he crawled off his bed to lay himself out on the great, cold stones of the floor. He asked his few, remaining friends to throw ash all over him.


Now, that's "apostolic"!



(1) As an evangelist, the apprentice-apostle begins to learn to "work" signs, wonders and miracles.


"The Lord...confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." (Mk 16.20)


"The things that mark an apostle - signs, wonders and miracles - were done among you with great perseverance." (2 Co 12.12)


(2) Catherine of Siena (1347-80) was a woman alone in an unbelievably macho, chauvinistic Italy. She was a mystic and an apostolic woman who "spoke truth to power" and exerted "exceptional influence" over the Church, politics and history. She was esteemed as a "brilliant" theologian and teacher, who understood this "secret" of apostolicity. She said, "I turn to the tree of the most holy Cross of Christ crucified; there I lean; there I want to nail myself fast."

Fusion Embodied

27 September 2013



Francesco di Bernadone (1182-1226) was a genius, and he was a myth too. Better known (and universally loved) as Francis of Assisi, he was a genius because he embodied the fusion of Christianity's three "streams" - contemplative, local church and missions.


He ought then to be of the greatest interest to us, as right now God is calling into existence The House of Prayer-Tribulation Church for these Last Days, through the fusion of His three "streams". This imperative and indissoluble "marriage" not only presents tremendous challenges to personal and institutional ego-ism, but it will also be ferociously (on occasions brutally) contested by the flesh, world and devil.


So, this is not an undertaking for the faint-hearted, the "flockers" or spiritual romantics.


"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6.12)


And while there is great instruction to be had from Francis' genius, there is valuable schooling to be drawn out of his myth. It is not that the "Poverello's" (Poor Man) legend is untrue. But it a partial, select and biased presentation of his genius, fashioned by the "temple guards" who will never risk their spiritual status quo for the prophetical "yet to be"! From the earliest days of his mission, the Church's "tailors" hacked into Francis' visionary "cloth". They were (as usual) adamant that this new "fabric" was going to fit their old "frame"!


"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment...pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." (Mt 9.16-17)


And so today, Francis is best known as the joyful, poverty-stricken evangelist; a barefoot, destitute missionary who could say with complete sincerity and integrity, "Preach the Gospel every day. If necessary use words. It is no use walking anywhere to preach, unless we preach as we walk."


The myth is beautiful and inspiring. It is to be preserved lovingly and disseminated vigorously. But what is even more important and more influential (especially for us today) is the full-blown, full-blooded genius...the commingling, fusion and union of God's contemplative, local church and missions "streams", within this little, holy fool.


"If any of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a 'fool' so that he may become wise." (1 Co 3.18)


"We (apostles) are fools for Christ." (1 Co 4.10)


(1) Local Church


A key and a catalyst for the genius of Francis' life's work and calling was an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, who arrested him with the command,


"Do you not see that my house is falling into ruin? Go, therefore, and repair the house out of love for me."


With all the zeal of youth, he took the Lord's directions completely literally, and immediately set about repairing a little, broken-down church just outside the walls of his home town. This ongoing love and care for buildings was the "Poverello's" ways of showing love and care for God and His People. Church buildings were very important places for Francis, being the locus for encountering the Creator and Redeemer in prayer.


"The Lord gave me such faith in churches."


And this devotion spilled over and proved itself in mercy and kindness and encouragement to all of the Chief Shepherd's shepherds...come what may.


"I do not want to consider the sin of them (pastors), for I see in them the Son of God."


Scholars have pointed out that the Church was as much in need of "repair" in Francis' day as it was in Martin Luther's, some 300 years later at the time of the Protestant Reformation. Undoubtedly both men loved the Church and its Head and were equally committed to reform and "recovery". But it would be strange and absurd to try to maintain that one was right and the other wrong, in the quite different approaches each took to their immense tasks.


Martin really responded by "attacking", with a view to correcting what was erroneous. Francis sought to be the "medicine", making up in his own person (and in the movement which rapidly sprang up around him) what was deficient in God's household.


"Instead of stripping away from the Church unjustly acquired goods, he showered it with invisible treasures and, under the gentle hand of this beggar, the mound of gold and wealth began to flower like a bush in springtime."(1)


Francis may have never "planted" a parish congregation, nor been its pastor or leader...but the local church "stream" flowed unequivocally and unabated into, through and out of him. He did not see any need for one "stream" to dominate or triumph over the others. For Francis they were distinct, unique threads, woven together by the Master to form a seamless garment to clothe humanity's nakedness.


(2) Contemplative.


At the outset of Francis' apostolic life, it was impossible to separate the currents of the local church and contemplative "streams" flowing through him.


His encounter with The Crucified and subsequent reconstruction of ruined chapels coincided with his social ostracism (largely by his upwardly mobile, merchant father), and his flight into the wilderness where he lived to pray as a virtual hermit. During this foundational season of his ministry, he was described as "a wild man, a kind of savage, closer to nature than civilisation."(2) But he was really following in the footsteps of his contemplative-prophet "fathers"...Elijah and John the Baptist, Benedict of Nursia and Bruno of Cologne.


"And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel." (Lk 1.80)


As time went by, the "temple guards" were eager and diligent to channel Francis and his movement more and more into the mould of being first-and-foremost itinerant evangelists and preachers. But Francis maintained his own contemplative calling for the rest of his life, asserting, "I am pleased for my brothers to study the Scriptures as long as they do not neglect application to prayer, after the example of Christ, of whom we read that he prayed more than he read."


For those who are dubious about the authenticity of this integral portion of the "Poverello's" being, they need look no further than the "Rule of Hermitages" which he wrote...presumably for practical and not merely theological reasons? In this document he highlights the importance of singing the Psalms at set times of the day and night ("Let them be careful to keep silence and to say their Hours..."), community life, and solitude. The object was to "purify our sentiments and unite them with the one, true supreme God and give new strength and virtue".


I think that it would be wrong to say that Francis lived to preach, retreating to pray from time-to-time to recharge his batteries before thundering back onto the road. I believe he lived to pray and he lived to preach the Gospel...the two "streams" flowed in him with vigour and "zip-less" concord and congruity. Until the end of his life, he was likely to "disappear" into a cave, hanging a ragged bit of cloth at the entrance to indicate that he was under no circumstances to be disturbed. Brilliant!


(3) Missions.


Fully convinced that he (and his followers) were charged "to teach men and women by word and example to prepare themselves for the Last Judgement", Francis (500 years ahead of John Wesley!) saw that "the whole world is my parish"!


"God in his mercy has chosen us not only for our own salvation but also to save many souls. Let us go throughout the world and exhort people."


In 1219, with one companion, he made the extraordinary journey from Italy to the Nile Delta. There a Crusader army and the soldiers of Islam were engaged in a massive, military stand-off. Francis walked barefoot through the "lines" calling out to the Saracen sultan. It is possible both sides thought him "bonkers", thus guaranteeing his safety. Nevertheless, he made it into the sultan's presence where he "preached for several days the word of God to the Saracens"!


I have already written elsewhere (Chapter 8 of "The Tribulation Church") that "today's 11th hour fusion of the Last Church's contemplative, missions and local church 'streams' requires an authentic revolution"! Revolutions, be they political, social or religious, are rarely stress and trouble-free events. In fact, because they usually involve the over-turning of an existing order and way of things, tension and conflict are inevitable. Occasionally that friction and contention can overwhelm and negate the revolution. That's tragic.


But the "Poverello" not only seamlessly fused the three "streams" within himself, he also gives us the "key" to that fusion being maintained through to its fulfillment. This fundamental, essential ingredient is "poverty of spirit".


"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5.3)


It might look glamorous or romantic in a modern movie, but walking barefoot through snow in a beggar's cloak is not even remotely exciting or sentimental. It's nigh on impossible to swallow being told by a group of your own followers, "Go away! You are only a simpleton and an ignoramus...we do not need you!" It takes something intangible at the moment of your death, to get out of bed, lie down on the flagstone floor and ask to be covered with ashes.


When Francis did these things, he wasn't looking for "hits" on his Facebook page. They were the natural outflowings of a heart so completely and utterly abandoned and given to Another, that there was no room left for himself or anything else. And so he looked upon poverty of spirit not as a concept or even a virtue. He viewed it as a force and a power which was personal and divine. And so he could sing,


"O Lady, holy poverty, may the Lord save thee and thy sister humility...(you) confound cupidity (acquisitiveness) and avarice (meanness) and the cares of the world."


The devil, flesh and world "attack" God's rich variety in His creative works by stirring up suspicion, competitiveness and hostility amongst His "threads". But it is the Lord's great goal to weave all of these various "threads" together and fashion something as strong as it is beautiful. And so it is with the present-day Tribulation-House of Prayer Church.


"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed." (Jn 12.24)


For us to become participants (rather than spectators or opponents) in the Lord's last revolution, we will have to "die" by falling in love with and then being faithful to Lady Poverty. But how exactly does that translate into ordinary, everyday life for us in the 21st C? Well, perhaps we might begin by reading the Bible and beseeching its Author to make us "doers of the word, and not hearers only". (Jas 1.22)


"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious...selfish ambition." (Gal 5.19-20)


"It is true that some preach Christ...out of selfish ambition." (Php 1.15-17)


"Do nothing out of selfish ambition." (Php 2.3)


"But if you harbour...selfish ambition in your hearts...(such) does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (Jas 3.14-16)


In the Western Church at this time, I am convinced that the biggest "dragon" that must be put to the sword is personal, denominational and organisational "selfish ambition". So much of what is accepted as being ministry success is just carelessly disguised lust for fame, fortune, "feel-good"...glory, gold, gratification...celebrity, cash, carnality.


Francis did not merely stun this "dragon"...he slaughtered it. His methods were extreme, but his "results" were extreme too...extremely good, influential and long-lasting.(3) He took as being of ultimate seriousness the call to "follow naked the naked Christ", and he reaped his reward. Will we similarly be prepared to risk everything for Everything? Or will history witness us crouched protectively over our pathetic collections of religious trophies, in splendid isolation in our very own gilded cages?


"Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Mt 10.39)



(1) "Martin Luther" by Georges Bernanos, France 1943.

(2) "Francis of Assisi" by Andre Vauchez, Yale Uni Press, New Haven 2012.

(3) All over the world today, young men and women are serving Jesus Christ as pastors, missionaries and contemplatives, looking to Francis of Assisi as their "father" and their "founder".


Back-Handed Sign

16 August 2013

"Praise the Lord, all nations,

extol him, all you peoples;

for his love protecting us is strong,

the Lord's constancy is everlasting.

O praise the Lord."


The words of this ancient Psalm (117) are repeated over and over again, as members of the "choir" ascend, one-by-one, the blood-drenched wooden steps and into the "teeth" of the insatiable guillotine. It is July 17, 1794, during the French Revolution's one-year and one-month "Terror". The popular uprising for "freedom, equality and brotherhood" has turned against itself. Something which promised so much good was now wreaking an evil havoc.


Usually at such executions, the large crowds entered enthusiastically into the fracas; adding their own screaming and yelling and hurling any available missiles. However, on this occasion the spectators were plunged into an ever-deepening silence as their consciences were re-awakened by the moment's appalling barbarity and holiness.


The sixteen people judicially murdered that late afternoon were all single women, considered so dangerous by the French Republic that they had, at all costs, to be wiped off the face of the earth. Their "leader", Madeleine-Claudine, was 42 years-of-age. The oldest of her "followers" was almost 80; the youngest 29. Prior to September of 1792 they had lived together in a House of Prayer in the town of Compiegne, about 100 ks north of Paris.


During the Revolution they had sincerely endeavoured to live as good "citizens", without compromising their commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, His Church, or their call to live to pray. When the State dissolved their community, they divided into four cells and went on living to pray and praying to live, "underground". They wished only to be overlooked and forgotten, so that they might obey God alone and "pray without ceasing". (1 Th 5.17) Even so, they were hunted out and imprisoned for "fanatical puerility...childish beliefs and stupid religious practices"!


At their "show" trial they were accused of being enemies of the State and of hiding weapons for counter-revolutionaries. Madeleine-Claudine responded to this charge by holding forth her crucifix and saying, "Here are the only arms that we have ever had in our house." (1)


Mysteriously, within 10 days of the 16 contemplatives' headless corpses being gracelessly cast into a nearby common grave, the campaign of official mass murder in the public squares of Paris, ended abruptly.


"Death has been swallowed up in victory." (1 Co 15.54)


Any kind or brand of Totalitarianism (2) - whether it be political or religious - is a manifestation of the spirit of antichrist. And in its yet to be concluded, insane campaign to conquer all of this world's "thrones and altars", it reserves ardent hatred and vile treatment for those who live to pray...the prophet-contemplative. (3)


"So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, 'May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them (the prophets killed with the sword by Elijah).' " (1 Ki 19.2)


"Prompted by her mother, the daughter of Herodias said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.' " (Mt 14.8)


During the mostly positive 16th C Reformation of the Church of England, antichrist found a loophole (Henry VIII's unbridled lust for total control of "throne and altar") and contemplatives started dying.


"Your foes have made an uproar in your house of prayer...Their axes have battered the wood of its doors. They have struck together with hatchet and pickaxe." (Ps 74.4-6)


As in the French Revolution, the English Reformation focus-ed its dark and destructive side upon that country's houses of prayer...especially one in London which was justly renowned for being scholarly, prayerful and holy. The king (bloated with food, wine and power) annihilated this community of hermits, but (as in France) the "blatant and unabashed destruction of such holiness shocked the crowds of the city". (Read "Be Not Naive" 20/3/13)


These ugly and shameful episodes carry a tremendous encouragement, and an ominous warning for us today...the Last Days:


(1) The violence of satan against the contemplative "stream" indicates starkly just how completely and utterly imperative it is (in and of itself) for the Church and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth. The serpent dreads the Return of The King, and he is infuriated by the purity of the contemplative's poverty of spirit, and his unimpressive, unworldly and "unproductive" passion to live "solely in God and with and for Him"! He also fears greatly the scope and reach and power of the one who lives to pray. In the realm of the Holy Spirit, time and space no longer limit or determine the efficacy of prayer.


The key to the appearance of The King upon His Throne on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is the appearance of the Tribulation-House of Prayer Church. The key to that Church is the fusion of the local church, missions and contemplative "streams". And the catalyst for this union is the prayer ingredient. It is the only "glue" which will bond the other two.


"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecc 4.12)


The recognition, resurrection and reconstitution of the contemplative "stream" within Protestantism represents ultimate threat to the serpent and will do him great harm. I do not know what is going to become of that church which ignorantly or arrogantly ignores or suppresses the call to become a House of Prayer in these Last Days. But it will not be good! Be neither hasty, injudicious, nor shallow, you servants of God, perchance,


"Disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed - without remedy." (Pr 6.15)


(2) We should never be naive when it comes to the cost and "warfare" which are always involved in recognising, mandating and bankrolling individuals and communities called by God to live to pray.


At one level, it is just so straightforward. As the contemplative and prophet, Thomas Merton (1915-68, USA), has already pointed out, "Nothing that anyone says (about prayer) will be that important. The great thing is prayer. Prayer itself. If you want a life of prayer, the way to get to it is by praying.


"This is the whole doctrine of prayer in the Rule of St. Benedict. (4) It's all summed up in one phrase: 'If a man wants to pray, let him go and pray.' " (5)


However, on the other hand, to just "go and pray" will be tough, for it will be fiercely and bitterly contradicted, contested and the world, the flesh and the serpent. And very often the greatest "violence" will come from those "nearest and dearest"?


"If a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is companion, my close friend, with whom I enjoyed sweet fellowship." (Ps 55.12-14)


"Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honour." (Mt 13.57)


Today, Teresa of Avila, is recognised as an apostle of prayer. In Spain during the 1500s, she was used by God to reform His Church through the renewal and foundation of houses of prayer all over her country. But even as she began her venture, she recorded, "They talked, they laughed at us, and they declared that the idea was absurd...there was hardly anyone among the prayerful, or indeed in the whole place, who was not against us, and did not consider our project absolutely absurd...all these efforts that the devil was making to prevent the foundation were a sign that great service would be rendered to the Lord in the new" house of prayer.


And this indomitable apostolic woman continued her theme by strenuously advising, "It is all-important indeed, that you should begin well (on the royal road of prayer) by making an earnest and most determined resolve not to halt...however hard you may have to labour...whether you reach your goal or die on the road, or have no heart to confront the trials which you meet...whether the world dissolves before you." (6)


"For the rest, my brethren, delight yourselves in the Lord and continue to rejoice that you are in Him. To keep writing to you over and over of the same things is not irksome to me, and it is a precaution for your safety." (Php 3.1)



(1) The women were not ambushed by the ferocity of this persecution. Their House had been warned 100 years earlier in a dream, that one day they would be called to "follow the Lamb" to martyrdom.


(2) "A form of government that permits no rival...demanding entire subservience of the individual to the state." (Oxford Dictionary) In this regard, church leaders need to audit themselves regularly to check that their exercise of authority has not stealthily degenerated into control (manipulation, domination?) which quenches the conscience of the individual members of their Flock?


(3) In the 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War, three Carmelite contemplatives (Jacoba, Marciana and Eusebia) were gunned down in cold blood on the streets of Guadalajara. They belonged to a house of prayer which had elected to go "underground" during the Communist versus Fascist all-out war. The three women were on the move, searching for a safe haven when they were recognised for their close-cropped hair and shot on sight. They were not political or partisan. They just wanted to be left alone to live to pray...especially for their "enemies"!

In the 1940s in Communist China, a community of contemplatives was "caged" and taken from village to village and displayed as "enemies of the people" and the revolution. They died one by one. Ironically, these men were not only committed to living to pray, but also to a kind of communism, infinitely purer than Marxist-Leninism. They had lived holding all their possessions in common, and each being cared for according to their need, and not their productivity or status. In his diary (4/12/1947), Thomas Merton wrote, "The dead Chinese monks, in the naked seriousness of their martyrdom, (have) killed the roots of spiritual self-indulgence in my soul". ("The Sign of Jonas", Hollis & Carter, 1953, London)


(4) Benedict of Nursia (480-547, Italy) is considered the "father" of western monasticism.


(5) "Thomas Merton, Monk". Image Books, 1976, NY. Merton is widely esteemed as one of the 20th C's greatest writers on and of Christian spirituality and mystical theology.


(6) "The Life of St. Teresa of Avila by Herself". Penguin Books, 1957, London.

A Grim Sign

26 July 2013

"We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet." (Ps 74.9)


Of all of Aotearoa-NZ's indigenous wildlife, it is the bird, the Tui, which I absolutely love the most. He flies with jet-fighter-like speed and precision. His glistening black, green, blue and white colouring is brilliant. His singing and "conversation" are orchestral, haunting and other-worldly. He takes up a lot of my time, obtaining my complete attention effortlessly and without any kind of resentment on my part.


The earliest European settlers christened the Tui, the parson or preacher-bird, because of the white feathers at his throat. If you look at portraits of 1st Great Awakening leaders, Wesley and Whitefield in the 18th C, you'll see why...their black coats and white "dog collars"!


I call the Tui the "prophet" bird for two reasons:


(1) His song is glorious, symphonic...and it gives glory to the Creator.


(2) In the darkness, immediately before dawn and after sunset, he calls and calls. And his poignant chant ricochets off valley walls and weaves through thick bush, like a bell's time, it's time! When I wake up in the dark, I lie and listen out for him. I wait eagerly for his wake-up call. Like the bona fide prophet he's:


* Early.

* Singular.

* Faithful.

* Timely.

* "Blind" (2 Co 5.7)


My admiring eulogy might help you then to understand how stunned and then heartbroken I felt when I came upon two of these beloved and beautiful creatures lying together, smashed up and dead in a roadside gutter last Saturday afternoon. I was in one of New Zealand's provincial cities, to preach on three occasions in two different churches. By the time I got into my evening meeting I was charged up with sadness, indignation and a warning...this warning.


Every Christian Community in every nation, has to accept and live in a particular and peculiar kind of tension...which more often than not is very awkward and also uncomfortable. And as inconvenient as it might be, if we fail or refuse to embrace this, we will flop over into unreality and unfaithfulness. We are bound to accept the pressure and "stress" of loving and accepting all that the Lord is doing throughout His entire Body, all around the world. We do not have permission to behave like spiritual chauvinists, religious patriots. But at the same time - even as we esteem and are open to others' inheritances - we must love and honour, just that little bit more, what God is doing in our own backyard. And as New Zealanders, this is something we generally do spectacularly poorly.


During the 90's Revival in this nation, there were three main streams of unction and fire; from Toronto, Pensacola, and the indigenous. I personally tasted and thoroughly enjoyed and was blest by both of the overseas Outpourings. But at all times, I felt a very strong sense of responsibility to nurture, run with, and "promote" our homegrown Revival. This struggle was exhausting. It was like selling ice to Eskimos and hawking wood burners to the Tropics. Over and over again, when push came to shove, a majority of Christians here opted out of the necessary and even difficult tension, They ran off after and with the exotic, the imported...probably intimidated by the sheer weight of numbers, as well as the perceived glitz and glamour and "success"?


So, here is a fresh warning. We must honour and embrace with special and additional fervour those gifts of the Lord which He has sovereignly elected to plant in our own "soil". But there is more. In nature, exotic (imported) plants and wildlife - if allowed free rein - will often present a major threat to the indigenous. And so it is also in the realm of the spiritual and supernatural. Do not ever assume that what builds the Kingdom of God in another part of His Vineyard, will automatically be healthy and fruitful here. In fact, it may constitute a threat.


I believe that two "streams" of spiritual influence are going to flow into Aotearoa-NZ from overseas. And, while not necessarily wrong in themselves, in the long-run they will prove to have been detrimental to the "native" work of God here. And this quenching will focus its attention upon the prophetic; a unique dynamic that God is forming and raising up in our midst...His and our gift to the whole Kingdom, everywhere. We must remain awake and on-guard so far as this is concerned.


In a very real and practical sense we do have a most important choice to make. We can elect and accept being "small" in the eyes of the world, while remaining absolutely faithful to the singular and peculiar call of God. (And thus become great in His sight!) Or we can continue our current trend, and (lusting after "success at any price") find a more exciting "parade" to follow to somebody else's "circus"?


"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name'...Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' " (Mt 7.21-23)


"There is a poverty of uniqueness...(and there) is a temptation put also to each of us: to renounce (this) do just what 'everyone else' does...the average, thoughtless mediocrity that is veiled and protected by the legalities, conventions and flattery of a society (church?) which craves endorsement for every activity...Yet without paying the price of poverty (of spirit) no one will fulfill his mission." ("Poverty of Spirit" by Johannes Metz, Paulist Press, NY 1968)

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