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 …

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.

Current Happenings

In a few days, I will get back to posting as usual. I’ve got a few notes ready, but just haven’t had the time to write them out yet, due to some health setbacks, including my mom having a small stroke which affected her sight in one eye. We are spending a lot of time in doctor offices right now! In the meantime, I invite you to …

Connect via FaceBook

I frequently  share smaller bits on my personal FaceBook page about current issues, what I am hearing in prayer, etc. which never come close to making it to the blog. I invite you to join me there. It is a public account, so you can follow along, or ask for a friend confirmation.  I do interact with many friends whom I have never met, and some of us have gotten to know each other well.

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I also have a business FaceBook page, where I post various thoughts and updates, if that would interest you more.

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I also wanted to let you know about a special free offer for our newest book, Teach Your Kids to Hear God!  It’s a short book, which will debut September 1, 2016 at major online e-book stores. In the meantime, we are giving it away through August 31 to everyone who purchases our book, Character Building for Families, from our website.

Entering the Rest of God

We live in a Psalm 46:6 age: “The heathen raged; the kingdoms were moved.” Besides the turmoil and uncertainty we see nationally and internationally, many of us deal with personal difficulties in our health, finances, and relationships. Let’s face it: serenity is hard to come by in the 21st century! These extreme pressures are nothing new. The apostle Paul experienced stress too. He expressed it, “Our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side: outwardly there were fightings, inwardly there were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5).

Yet, in the midst of difficult times, the Lord has promised rest of soul to His people. Hebrews 4:9 tells us, “There remains, therefore, a rest to the people of God.” So, how do we obtain it and then hang onto it?

Rest starts in the spirit and emanates outward to the soul. As we learn to connect with the Holy Spirit, we do experience more rest of soul, but on the other hand, we must also discipline the soul to be quiet and then to stay quiet, so that our spirit-man can connect with the Lord.

It takes deliberate determination to set aside the urgent things clamoring for our attention and to focus on Jesus. We all know this, for we are well acquainted with the story of Martha and Mary, in Luke 10:38-42. Martha was burdened down and troubled about many things. Her soul had no rest. But Mary, who didn’t allow immediate urgencies to keep her from sitting with Jesus, did have inner rest. Ah, this can be such hard work, though! Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest ….”

Our soul, which involves all our natural abilities, thoughts, emotions, and instincts, tends to be in conflict with our spirit, which desires to come into God’s rest. The soul insists on fretting and trying to fix problems on its own. Therefore, our spirit must fight to gain the ascendancy, to subdue the natural tendencies of the soul.

We must force ourselves to step away from the issues of the day, small or great, to enter the pavilion of the Lord’s Presence. Worship can be a point of entrance into that place. So can meditating on a comforting Bible passage. These avenues quiet our soul so that our spirit can commune with the Holy Spirit.

Many ardent Christians are fretting at the soul level about the increasing wickedness about us, wondering how to fix it. However, as we sit in God’s Presence, inquiring of Him, He takes charge of our circumstances and begins to work change in them. He gives us insights on how to pray into problems to achieve the right solutions. Even when those solutions don’t come quickly, He gives us an abiding confidence in Him while we wait. Hebrews 4:10 tells us, “For he who has entered into His rest has also ceased from his own works, as God did from His.”

Here are a few Bible passages which will help you begin to enter the rest of God. Read and ponder them, and use them as springboards to prayer:

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth.

“Father, help me to be still before You, to see and know Who You really are. Whenever I become fearful about the crazy things going on in the world, help me to remember that You are still in charge and that You have promised to be exalted in the earth.”

Isaiah 30:15, 16, 18For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, says, “In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and you would not.”

But you said, “No! for we will flee upon horses” (therefore you shall flee) and, “We will ride upon the swift” (therefore shall they that pursue you be swift).

Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you. For the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all those who wait for Him.

“Father, please forgive me for being so insistent on solving my problems on my own, instead of looking to You. Help me to rest in quiet confidence in You. I ask You to be my strength and my problem-solver from now on. Thank You for waiting patiently and graciously for me to yield my circumstances to You. I put these things in Your hands and receive the blessing You have promised to those who wait for You.”

Matthew 11:28-30Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily weighed down, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls: for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

“Lord Jesus, I am coming to You now, just as You have invited me to. I receive Your promise of rest. Please take all my burdens and strivings. I want to sit with You and learn of You. Teach me to move and work with You, so that I can carry life easily and without anxiety.”

As you diligently seek to come into God’s place of rest, may He bless you with an abiding peace in your heart which is unshakable.

Have You Lost Your Hope?

Do you find yourself battling frequently with a feeling of having no hope? I have felt this way, especially in the last year or so. Many are the times when I have prayed, “God give me hope. Restore my hope.”

I don’t think it is just a response to the current state of our world, although that is a factor. For those of us who know the Lord, it might be a deliberate spiritual attack. And we cannot afford to take it lying down.

First of all, we must understand that God’s will for us is to be filled with hope. If we are experiencing the opposite, something is happening which is against His will. That should be a signal that we need to stand in warfare to retake what has been filched from us.

Hope is such an important part of our covenant with the Lord that He calls Himself “the God of hope”: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”Romans 15:13

The God of hope desires to fill us with joy and peace as we believe on Him. He also wants us to abound in hope — which happens through the power of the Holy Spirit continually working within us. This verse has really come alive to me in recent weeks. I have meditated on it and prayed it back to the Lord frequently. As a result, I am sensing a fresh hope building inside of me.

Some people can pinpoint a specific disappointment or sorrow which caused them to lose their hope. If this is you, you may need to ask Jesus to heal the wound. Like blood oozes from an injured spot, an untended emotional wound can cause our hope to leak away. Maybe you cannot identify a specific cause. You just feel a general blanket of hopelessness weighing you down. No matter what the cause is, there are some ways we can fight back.

The Aggressive Use of God’s Word

Any time we are undergoing spiritual attack, declaring the Word is our prime weapon. It is called “the sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17. When Jesus was tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-14), in each case, He parried Satan’s thrusts by declaring what the Scriptures said: “It is written.” The last verse of that passage tells us that when the assault was over, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.”

In addition to quoting specific Scriptures to silence the enemy’s lies, meditate on uplifting verses about hope and the promises of God. Romans 15:4 tells us “that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” And Lamentations 3:26 reminds us, “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” If you need some verses to get you started, I’ve got a great list of them at my webpage, Encouragement from God’s Word. Even better, ask God to bring to your remembrance verses He wants to personalize to you to rebuild your hope.

Repentance

Along with the aggressive use of God’s Word, we must also repent of the words we have already spoken which aligned us with hopelessness:

  • “I can’t go on.”
  • “I give up.”
  • “This is never going to change.”
  • “There is no hope for me.”

These are sinful utterances, because they are not what God says about our situation. We need to ask His forgiveness for fighting against ourselves and against His plans for us through our contrary words.

Assuredly, the opportunity will come up again to fall into the same trap. So, when the hopeless feelings resurface, we must commit ourselves to resisting giving way to those wrong declarations. While in a faith battle, the less we verbalize how we feel, the better. Pour out your weakness to the Lord in your heart if you need to, but then also tell Him you will trust in Him in spite of the feelings. Don’t spill from your lips anything which opposes what God says about the situation.

Worship

Worship and praise dispel darkness and bring the atmosphere of heaven down all around us. Our outlook can completely change, if we persevere in deliberate extolling of the Lord. It is not easy. Worship is a sacrifice (Hebrews 13:15). It goes against our flesh.

It is also a tool of warfare. Psalm 8:2 tells us, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants You have ordained [established] strength because of Your enemies, that You might still the enemy and the avenger.” Jesus quoted this verse, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants You have perfected praise(Matthew 21:16). We are strengthened to overcome, and the turmoil with which the enemy tries to afflict us is silenced, as we aggressively worship.

Genuine hope is not based on the temporary situations we face right now. It has its foundation in Christ. Ultimately, our hope rests in living from an eternal perspective, our eyes fastened on Jesus, so that we are not like unbelievers, who have no hope.

May we take back from the enemy of our souls the hope which is rightfully ours, and may we then be bearers of it to our hurting world, assuring them that the hope we possess can be theirs in Christ, too.