Things I Look for in a Prophet

Deception is certainly on the rise — not only in the secular world, but in the Church. Truly, we need the discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10) more than ever. I am personally asking the Lord to increase this essential gift in me.

While ultimately it is by the Holy Spirit that we discern prophecy and those who claim to be prophets, there are practical steps we can take in our discernment process. Living by the direction of the Spirit does not mean we never use common sense. The Lord is the Giver of sense in the first place!

So, from a practical standpoint, I got to thinking about what I personally look for in prophets who are publicly releasing their words, dreams, and visions. Here’s my list:

1.) Is their focus primarily on Jesus, or is it only on giving spectacular words about future events?

Seeing into the future is part of the prophetic function for some prophets, but not for all. The main purpose of all prophecy is to point to Jesus. Revelation 19:10 tells us, “… The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” That might include a call to repentance or prayer; strengthening, comfort, and encouragement (see 1 Corinthians 14:3); or seeing into the future. But the underlying focus is always Jesus.

2.) If they have a website with a statement of faith, does it line up with the core beliefs of Christianity?

This is one of the first things I check, if their “word” seems to be OK. Then I look through their list of articles to see if there is anything odd showing up.

One man, whose teaching on prophecy initially seemed to be very good, had written an article encouraging people to pursue being possessed by angels. Say what? Is being possessed by the Holy Spirit not enough? I didn’t look into his teachings any further.

3.) Are their prophetic words or visions in agreement with God’s Word?

If not, no further discernment is needed: just throw the revelation out. We all make some theological mistakes while we’re maturing, but if there is gross or continuous error, I wouldn’t bother paying attention to that prophet anymore.

4.) Do they urge people to seek the Lord, or to put confidence in man?

Psalm 146:3 tells us, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.”

Every time we have a presidential election, there are prophets who are so enamored with a particular candidate that you would think by their prophecies that their man is the savior of the nation. God doesn’t give saviorhood to anyone but Jesus. He can use an elected official hugely, but He still wants our trust solidly and completely placed in Him. Anything else is idolatry.

Pay attention to the emphasis of the words being released. Even if the prophet is correct about the candidate winning, if he or she is encouraging you to put your hope in a human being, the message is off-kilter. Don’t swallow that hook.

5.) Do they accept the discerning of their words by others?

God has set up safety factors for the Church. The discerning of prophetic words is not left up to the prophets who give them. (See 1 Corinthians 14:29 and 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21.)

6.) Do they have connections with (accountability to) honorable men and women of faith? Or are they out there on their own?

7.) Do they love and honor people who differ with them, or do they get angry, lash out, or accuse those who disagree with them?

This is pride, and a really red flag that all is not well in prophet-land.

8.) Do they lead the sheep, or do they drive them? Do they treat God’s people kindly, or threaten and browbeat them?

“You have to believe what I’m telling you. It’s the word of the Lord! If it doesn’t witness to you, you are just not listening to God!” Seriously?

9.) Are they accurate? Are they consistent over time?

Genuine prophets can make mistakes, but what if their prophecies were measured in percentage points? Would they get a passing grade, or an F?

10.) Are they humble? Is it about their reputation and recognition, or is it about God receiving glory?

11.) Do they admit their mistakes and ask the Church’s forgiveness? Or do they make excuses and blame others for their words not coming true?

The prophet who can humble himself to repent and take responsibility for his errors can be trusted in the long run. God can work with a flawed, yet humble, prophet. Sadly, admitting publicly to error is rare in the prophetic arena.

12.) Do they demand allegiance to their revelation, or do they leave the results to Jesus?

Years ago, a young prophetic person told those of us who were under his leadership that we must pray diligently for his “word” to come to pass. He said if it didn’t happen, it would be our fault. Ahem.

13.) Does my spirit feel uneasy while I’m listening to the prophet?

Uneasiness is an important tool by which the Holy Spirit helps us discern. It can mean something is off. Take a little time to weigh your lack of peace, in case it is simply your flesh resisting. But most likely your sense is correct.

Even if you can’t put your finger on it, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust the Holy Spirit to help you discern this. There have been times I have sensed the spirit of fear attached to the words of certain prophets. At other times, the sense was indefinable, and yet I knew something was wrong.

Some time back, I watched a video of a popular prophet. It just didn’t set well. Several months later, he was exposed for borrowing the predictions of a psychic and mouthing them as his own prophetic revelation. Ick. My sense of uneasiness bore out to be valid.

14.) Do their prophetic words come across as a curse? Do they only prophesy catastrophes?

God does speak stern warnings to His people at times, but He always has a redemptive purpose in warning us. He does not enjoy the prospect of calamity. A prophet who seems to relish prophesying destruction is not of a right spirit.

15.) What kind of fruit are they bearing?

Are their personal lives an absolute mess? Are they living in sin? Are the people they minister to ending up wounded?

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree brings forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits you shall know them.”  — Matthew 7:15-20

Asking questions such as these can help us grow in accurate discerning of what is truly from God and what is only of the flesh (or worse). If we use them as guidelines, the Holy Spirit will step in and fine-tune our discerning of spirits, so that we are not fooled by those whom God is not truly sending.

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Guidelines for Good Prophecy (Part 3)

Under the New Covenant in Christ, we don’t stone prophets who prophesy inaccurately (although sometimes I see harsh comments from people who would like to!). Instead, God has given us safeguard measures to be used within the Church to protect us from false or inaccurate prophecy.

He has now made the ability to prophesy available to all believers. “For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (1 Corinthians 14:31). A key phrase in that verse is, “that all may learn.” In making prophecy available to every believer, the Lord has also allowed for us to learn how to do it right over a period of time. Learning to hear God accurately is a process. So is learning to prophesy accurately.

Many of the modern-day prophets who are now known for getting their words right did not start out hitting the bullseye every time. They made mistakes. But they submitted themselves to mentors who patiently taught them, picked them up and dusted them off when they fell on their noses, and then sent them back out to try again. Thank God for shepherds like that!

Each of us who wish to prophesy must be willing to submit to a mentoring process as well. Not being open to learning from others indicates pride. Most of us start out prideful to some extent, but if we are ever to be a blessing to the body of Christ, we’re going to have to be teachable and let God refine us. God shaves away our pride through correction, making embarrassing mistakes, and bearing the brunt of criticism or ridicule, as well as other forms of painful refinement. God needs broken, crucified people to speak for Him. If we’re not broken, we end up speaking only for our own egos — and, spiritually speaking, that smells really bad.

Besides mentors, God guards the body of believers, as well as the person who prophesies, from inaccurate or even utterly false prophecy through allowing corporate discernment of whatever prophetic words are given. Discerning can be done by prophetic mentors and pastors, but others in the church may also fill the discerning role. Let’s look at a couple of verses which talk about this:

Let the prophets speak, two or three, and [then] let the others judge [discern; weigh].1 Corinthians 14:29

Do not despise prophesying. Prove [judge; discern; weigh] all things; hold fast that which is good.1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21

If we’re going to prophesy, we should already have done some weighing of what we’re about to say before we speak. But once it is said, it is out of our hands. Others in the church now have the responsibility to discern what we’ve spoken. We don’t exclusively judge our own words, because we are not a law unto ourselves. We are members of a body, and the other members assist us with their discernment — for the entire congregation’s protection as well as ours. This is really risky to our pride, but if the family of God is functioning properly, there will be grace given, and we will benefit in the long run.

What if the church family isn’t functioning well? Truthfully, this is the case a lot of the time. Too many prophetic people have ended up in the boneyard because of it. But God will use even the horrible experiences to shape us and bring us into a greater depth of accuracy in the prophetic, if we will lean into Him and let Him heal our hurts, rather than becoming angry and bitter.

If you can, find a group of Christians, whether a church congregation or a home fellowship group, where you feel safe in making mistakes as you learn. This may be a group which is in addition to your church family. If you don’t know of one, ask the Lord to lead you to one. He is very good at setting up circumstances so that we come in contact with the people we need in our lives.

And don’t give up on using the gifts which God has planted in you because of some bad experiences. God hasn’t given up on you. Besides, we’ve all had some pretty bad experiences. It goes with the territory of taking a risk and stepping out into the spiritual gifts.

Next time, I will give you some criteria I use in discerning all those prophecies we see out there on the Internet.

Previous — Part 2

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Guidelines for Good Prophecy (Part 2)

Scale -- Pixabay Public DomainIn our last post, we began talking about the practical advice for prophesying and discerning of prophecy which God has provided for us in Jeremiah 23:9-36. Let’s continue on from where we left off:

Verse 22: But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.

Prophecy sometimes is given by the Lord to turn people back into the way of life and godliness. Prophecy will never condone, minimize, or ignore  sin. It will never tell people they are all right when they aren’t.

Verse 25: I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in My name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed.”

Again, don’t say you heard from God if you didn’t, or if you aren’t sure. Inwardly, if you give it a little time, you will know whether you have a true word from the Lord. Deep down inside, your spirit knows the truth — because the Holy Spirit is there to guide it. The problem is, our mind and emotions sometimes initially get in the way. Pay attention to that sense deep within.

Also keep in mind that our dreams need to be discerned just as much as any other type of revelation. Some of them are from God, and some aren’t.

Verses 26, 27: How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Yes, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who think to cause My people to forget My name by their dreams, which they tell every man to his neighbor ….

Yes, there are false prophets who do these things, usually for fame and gain. Just be sure you don’t go that route yourself.

Verse 28: The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream. And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff, [compared] to the wheat?

“What is the chaff, compared to the wheat?” There is a lot of chaff blowing around from so-called prophets these days. And when what they said would happen doesn’t, they just keep cranking out more of the same.

Chaff is of no value. It ends up being a mess in people’s mouths that they just want to spit out with disgust. Don’t do that to people! It cheapens prophecy to the point of causing people to turn away from all prophetic revelation, because they’ve been burned too many times by the fake stuff.

If you are sure you’ve got a true word, give it. That is being faithful to the Lord. But if you don’t have a sure word, don’t try to come up with something.

The quantity of your prophetic words doesn’t cut it in the long run. Quality does.

Verse 29: Is My word not like a fire? says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces?

A genuine word from the Lord carries impact — conviction, breakthrough, cleansing, a re-firing of someone’s spirit for the Lord.

Verse 30: Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who steal My words every one from his neighbor.

There are a lot of people out there prophesying who haven’t gotten what they are speaking from the throne room. They are only regurgitating what they heard some other prophet speaking. Some don’t even realize that they are doing this, because they have been filling themselves up constantly with reading and listening to prophetic blogs, e-mails, and videos.

If you want to really hear from God, go listen to Him directly. First-hand revelation beats repackaging someone else’s revelation every time. (Besides, claiming you have a word from the Lord which actually originated with another prophetic person is spiritual plagiarism. Ewww!)

Verses 31, 32: … I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who use their tongues, and say, “He says.” … I am against those who prophesy false dreams, … and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies, and by their lightness: yet I did not send them, nor did I command them. Therefore, they shall not profit this people at all, says the LORD.

Verse 36: … For you have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God.

Tell what God said, the way He said it. Don’t embellish it, and don’t modify it to make it more palatable to your listeners. Exaggerating or adding to what God said is actually lying. So is withholding part of what He said. It is perverting His words. This is very serious in God’s eyes. Four times in Scripture, He warns not to add to or take away from His Word (Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18, 19). While we are not prophesying on the same level of infallibility that the Bible carries, we can learn from the principle.

Next time, we’ll talk about how discerning of prophecy is supposed to work among New Testament believers.

Previous — Part 1
Next — Part 3

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

 

Guidelines for Good Prophecy

In Old Testament times, the word of the Lord was heard by only a few, who then duly proclaimed it to the general congregation. But since the setting in place of the New Covenant through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on our behalf, and since the sending of the Holy Spirit to the Church, we can all hear Him speak to us. You don’t have to be a prophet to prophesy. In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul tells us,

  • Follow after charitable love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (v. 1).
  • “For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (v. 31).
  • “Wherefore, brethren, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues” (v. 39).

Furthermore, Jesus commented, “He who is of God hears God’s words” (John 8:47). You can hear God, and you can prophesy.

The prophet Joel said, “It shall come to pass afterward, [Peter quotes ‘afterward’ as ‘in the last days,’ in Acts 2:17] that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit” (Joel 2:28, 29).

The Bible is full of guidelines for how prophecy is supposed to happen. In this post and the next, I’m going to focus  on an anchor passage: Jeremiah 23:9-36. Although it was written in Old Testament times, it is loaded with basic, common sense advice which still applies to New Testament prophesying and discerning of prophecy. We can learn a lot from it about how to discern prophetic words and those who speak them. We can also apply a lot of this passage to ourselves, so that we do better at prophesying accurately. Let’s break it down, by focusing on some of the key points:

Verses 9-15: In these verses, God expresses through Jeremiah His heartbrokenness over the sins of many of those who called themselves prophets. Some were actually out-and-out prophets of false gods, while others were involved in deep sin, such as adultery, lying, and other unspecified forms of wickedness. In addition, he said “They strengthen also the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness” (v. 14). In other words, they condoned continuing in sin, and exalted and supported those who were evil. That sounds pretty relevant to what goes on today, doesn’t it?

Verse 16: Do not pay heed to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.

Don’t speak “prophecies” which come from your own desire to flatter or please the people you are speaking to. Don’t speak what you would like to see happen, but have not actually heard God say will happen.

Speaking from one’s own heart may come from a misplaced desire to encourage. Encouragement is a major component of prophecy. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:3, “But he who prophesies speaks to men for edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” But it is important to be sure we are really hearing from the Lord, not just trying to make people feel good. “Feel good” words which do not ever materialize ultimately end up disappointing people and can cause  them to doubt the gift of prophecy altogether.

If you are not sure if it’s from God, weigh it in your spirit for a bit, and if you still aren’t sure, keep it to yourself.

Verse 17: They say to those who despise Me, “The LORD has said, ‘You shall have peace.'” And they say to everyone who walks after the imagination of his own heart, “No evil shall come upon you.”

Again, such “words” can come from a heart of people-pleasing, fear of man, and desiring of approval, whether for personal gain or not. To tell those who are in sin that they are just fine and that no consequences will come is lying. It lacks love, because it shows an utter disregard for where they will spend eternity if they do not repent.

Verse 18: For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, and has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word, and heard it?

I would answer those questions, “The one who spends plenty of time in the Lord’s Presence in intimate listening prayer, and who immerses himself in the Scriptures.” There is no shortcut to standing in God’s counsel, having His understanding, and hearing accurately from Him. It comes through spending much time with Him, both in prayer itself and in prayerful reading of His Word.

Verse 21: I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.

Don’t be too hasty to release what you think you have from God. Premature telling of your revelation is often fraught with lots of adding on to / exaggerating / fleshly interpretation of what it means. Sit on what you have for a while. See if it stays with you. See if God expands your understanding. Those who are too eager to “run” to tell everyone what they are hearing often have a heart motivation of wanting to be recognized and admired. Crucify that temptation by hanging onto your word and letting God verify it and hone it within you.

To be continued …

Next — Part 2

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

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A Dream About Worship in the Church

I love how God speaks in dreams — especially symbolic dreams. They are parables which would not be understandable without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. The following is a very encouraging dream about how the Lord wants to restore worship in the church back to what it is meant to be:

The Dream:

I saw a man, about forty years old, who was the owner of a music store. There were guitars positioned here and there throughout his shop. The front side of the building had no wall, so that it was completely open to the sidewalk.

Behind the store, on the other side of the back wall, was the municipal waterworks building. I saw open water there, like a river, contained in a canal-like structure.

There was a small opening in the wall between the music store and the waterworks, at floor level. It was about 6 inches wide and 4 inches high. The owner of the shop temporarily removed a metal device from the hole, which in some way opened and closed access between the two buildings. He set it aside in a box.

The scene shifted, to where a pleasant-looking woman, about the same age as the man, was in the music store. She was the manager of the waterworks. Even though their workplaces were right next door, it seemed that they did not normally have contact with one another. The man conversed with her about how they had been sweethearts in their youth. He had fond memories of that time.

He asked her, hesitantly, if she had been in any relationships since they had parted company years before. She did not have time to answer him before he continued talking, but I got the impression that there had been no one else in her life. He longingly asked, “Will you marry me?” It was obvious that they both still cared very much for each other.

The scene abruptly shifted to what was happening back at the waterworks. There had been a sudden surge of flooding. The employees did not seem to know what had caused it; they just knew that it had happened. I saw a car nearly submerged in the water there. And I knew that the man in the music shop, being preoccupied with his renewed love relationship, would have forgotten to put the metal device in the hole between his shop and the waterworks, so that his shop might get flooded as a result.

In the dream, I had the feeling that what I was watching was somewhat like a soap opera, in the sense that the story was unfolding gradually, over time. Even the last scene of the flooding in the waterworks department did not have an ending — as though I would need to tune in for the next episode to find out what happened.

Interpretation:

The man in the music shop represents worship leaders, and possibly pastors, to the extent that their preferences rule how worship goes in the local church.

The front of the music shop was completely open, indicating that this is talking about public worship, not personal, private worship.

The woman who was the head of the waterworks department represents the Holy Spirit. Water represents the activity of the Spirit. (See John 7:37-39, where Jesus talks about “rivers of living water” supplied by the Holy Spirit.) Normally, the Holy Spirit would not be portrayed as a woman, but it is important to the rest of the parable, because it is a love story.

The dream is about God’s desire for our worship leaders to reunite with the Holy Spirit in their leading of worship. The man had once had a love relationship with the woman. They had enjoyed one another and done things together. But separation had taken place and had continued for a long time (as revealed by the age of the two lovers). That is what has happened over time for many worship leaders (and for the congregations they serve, as a result). What was once a free-flowing, joyous, give-and-take dance between the Lord and His people has declined, in many churches, into routine man-orchestrated events, which follow a set pattern allowing for little deviation. There is no room for the Holy Spirit to move, because there is no longer the intimate relationship with Him which was once enjoyed. And this has gone on for a long time.

The woman having had no other relationship in all those years indicates to me that the Holy Spirit has been waiting in the wings, longing for this one marriage which was always meant to be — true communion between God and His people, carried out in part through the expression of worship.

It is noteworthy that before any of the other scenes happened, the music shop owner had removed the device in the wall which governed access between his store and the waterworks. Only after that did the relationship come back together and the surging of the waters take place. It is up to worship leaders (and their pastors) to be willing to allow access to the waters of the Spirit in their worship services. They have to take this step before the rest can happen.

Even the 6″ X 4″ dimensions of the hole have significance: six is the number of man, and four represents rule. (Genesis 1:14-18 tells us that the sun and moon were created on the fourth day to rule the day and night.) So, it was the man’s responsibility to make access to his shop available.

The dream is open-ended. We don’t know whether water will seep into the music shop from the waterworks, or whether flooding might even happen there — but there is a good chance it will, because the man is preoccupied with his restored love, and has forgotten in that moment to put the device which could shut off access back in the hole. (Let’s hope he keeps forgetting, and leaves it open. What if the whole wall between the waterworks of the Spirit and the shop came down entirely?)

Summary application:

God would like to bring in the flood of Holy Spirit’s Presence upon His Church once again. This is wonderful! The Spirit’s activity and worship really belong together. There is a true love relationship between them, but they have been separated in the Church for a long time. They need to come back together. But whether they will or not is conditional on willingness.

If you are a worship leader or pastor, will you give access to the Holy Spirit in your church once again? Will you allow Him the space and time to do what He desires to do? Will you yield yourself and your congregation to experience the love relationship with the Holy Spirit which was always meant to be? You can determine how the story will end.

 

Intercession: Path to Freedom from Anger

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article by Francis Frangipane called, What Are You Becoming? I have been pondering the thoughts he presented in it ever since. He commented at length on the anger which is consuming not only the world, but the Church as well. He pointed out that even anger over injustice, if not handled correctly, can lead us into bondage. One thought in particular I cannot get away from:

We must turn indignation into intercession.”

What happens as we bring anger — even justifiable, “righteous” anger — before the Lord in intercession?

Intercession sometimes starts out raw, where we share with the Lord our own opinions and emotions on a given subject. Ideally, we should wait upon the Lord until we can pray by the leading of His Spirit. However, we are not always ideal people, are we. All of us have moments when we charge into prayer from the perspective of our own rampaging souls.

However, as we continue to pour out our thoughts and emotions before the Lord, the Holy Spirit gradually and subtly shifts our prayers — and us. He softens us, quiets us, and changes how we perceive whatever we are praying into. And He takes our intercession in hand and adjusts it into right paths. This is especially true if we intermingle praying in our prayer language with praying from our understanding.

Jesus understood the power of intercession in breaking bondage off the ones who are praying. This is one reason He exhorted His disciples, Bless those who curse you, … and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). When we decide, in obedience, to pray for those who hurt us and make us angry, although we may not start out well, the Holy Spirit will be faithful to take over and “lead us in [prayer] paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

When I was young in the Lord, we were repeatedly taught at our church thatBe transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) was specifically talking about reading the Bible. So much was this interpretation instilled in us, that, until very recent years, I actually thought the verse mentioned Bible reading — even though I had read it dozens of times. But it doesn’t. Although absorbing the living Word of God is vital to having our minds renewed, God has other means as well. One of them is engaging in prayer, including intercession. Whether it is by the Word or prayer, the Lord transforms and renews us through interaction between our spirit and His Spirit.

So, let the Lord renew your mind on any given topic by taking it to Him in intercession and letting Him adjust how you pray. He can give you immediate revelation of how to tackle the issue differently, but usually it’s a process which takes time.

As we “turn indignation into intercession” several things happen:

1.) God convicts us of where we are at fault — spiritual blindness, hypocrisy, offense, bitterness, pride, and other bad attitudes — so that we can repent.

2.) He gives us unique revelation which we could not have thought of on our own about how to pray and what actions to adopt to bring solutions to problems.

3.) He gives us a prophetic voice (as opposed to an opinion) to speak into the situations which we have been interceding about. We are able to bring “salt” and “light” into the conversations we engage in.

4.) He conforms us into the image of Jesus. We become unoffendable pillars of righteousness. We are set free from self and the anger which self generates.

I’ve addressed how intercession can be a pathway to freedom from anger. What other bondages can it set us free from? What is God speaking to you? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.