Prophetic Leaning (Part 1)

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Gerald Sargent Foster, Racing, 1934, Smithsonian American Art Museum, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Recently, the Lord spoke to me, “Lean not on the imaginations of your own heart.” It was a  restating of Proverbs 3:5, “… Lean not on your own understanding.” This was a word for me personally concerning a specific situation, but I think it can also apply in a general way to any of us who hear God’s voice and/or see visions. We should take time to discern whether we are truly hearing and seeing from the Lord, or whether our own imaginations are tainting our revelation.

During the months leading up to the Presidential election, and since then, we encountered many prophetic people with conflicting assertions about what the future held and still holds:

  • President Obama would not finish his term in office. / President Obama would seize a third term for himself.
  • There would be no election. / There would be an election.
  • Hillary Clinton would win. / Donald Trump would win.
  • The election would be a squeaker. / The election would be a landslide.
  • There would be martial law, and on and on.

Obviously, some of the dreams, visions, and “the Lord told me” statements were blatantly false. They came from the imaginations of the prophetic people’s own hearts. Confusion and division within the Body of Christ resulted, as did much skepticism about prophecy in general, which is a terrible shame.

Was all of this coming from false prophets? Not necessarily. Immaturity is a possible factor. Some of the people releasing supposed revelation, especially of a sensational nature, simply succumbed to a desire for fame. The possibility of being heard by the world through YouTube and other social media platforms brings with it huge temptations for the ego.

Some, I believe, received information which was meant as a call to prayer, so that the things they were seeing could be prevented from happening. That wasn’t always clearly understood or stated.

Some, no doubt, experienced dreams or visions fed mostly by their own biases and fears, which in turn bred fear in those who listened to them. There tends to be a lot of fear-prophesying going around.

Before we are too harsh in our judgments, we need to realize that we’re all susceptible to inaccurate revelation based on our inner issues. It’s good to ask ourselves, “How can I avoid making the same kinds of mistakes?”

For most of us, when we receive a word or vision, it is wisest to sit on it for a while, letting it simmer in our hearts. The simmering helps us to discern between what is a product of our own souls and what is genuinely from the Lord. While we keep it between us and Him, we continue to inquire for a fuller understanding of what He is revealing. He often discloses what He wants to say in pieces. Many is the time in my past, when I got excited about something I was hearing from the Lord and released it too soon, only to have the Lord tell me more afterwards, which rounded out or clarified the original word. My revelation would have been far more beneficial to others if I had waited on the Lord for the fullness of it.

We should also be aware that most of what we hear is not even meant for public release. Its purpose is for prayer. While encouraging and assisting the Church through prophecy is very important, it is equally true that much of what we receive is supposed to stay a secret between God and us. It is given so that we can pray it back to Him.

In our next post, we’ll talk about a few specific areas where we can learn to navigate through imaginations to the accurate word of the Lord.

Part 2

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

 

The Merciful Discerner

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. — Matthew 5:7

For those of us who are keen in discernment, there is a weakness we particularly struggle with: criticalness. Show me a person who is gifted in discernment, and I’ll show you a person prone to being critical.

Why is this the case? Criticalness is the soulish side of discernment. When God made mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:26), He made us perfect, like unto His nature. Each human being since Adam and Eve has been uniquely crafted by the Lord, with particular personality and ability strengths which reflect a small piece of Who He is. And what a wonderful variety we are, all intended to complement and balance each other.

But, due to man’s fall into sin back in the Garden of Eden, the image of God in each of us was marred. The good news for believers is, through Jesus our Redeemer, God is progressively bringing us back into His own image. Still, in the process, sometimes we exhibit the old marred nature, and thus it is with criticalness and discernment.

The difference between discernment and criticalness does not rest in what we see: it’s in what we do with it. We must learn to divide between being aware of the faults of others (which is not wrong in itself) and where our minds go with that information. A critical person tends to be frequently suspicious of the motives of others, thinking that he or she is receiving discernment from the Lord. Criticalness makes unholy assumptions and judgments, often based on one’s own faults or inner hurts.

One of the areas where criticalness often rears its head is in the realm of doctrinal beliefs. Those who are well-grounded in the Bible are the most prone to this. We may feel very solid in our understanding of certain theological points, and when we come into contact with people who have a different viewpoint, or a blind spot, we then think poorly of them, perhaps writing them off entirely.

Most of the time, what is such an important issue to us is not a core doctrine of the faith. It’s just a small piece of how we’re working out our Christian walk — but we make it into a very big deal. For instance, my husband and I have encountered a few people who had such narrow views of how healing ministry should be done that they would no longer fellowship with people who did not believe exactly as they did or who were not as strong in their faith.

The apostle Paul talked about criticalness over minor theological matters in Romans 14:1-4. He was speaking into a controversy about whether to eat meat or not, because there was a possibility it had been sacrificed to false gods before showing up in the public meat market. But the principle can be applied broadly by us today:

Accept him who is weak in the faith, but not to arguing over opinions. For one believes that he may eat all things. Another, who is weak, eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat. And he who does not eat should not judge him who eats, for God has received him. Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.

Can we trust God to work maturity in our brothers and sisters, and let Him decide when and how to work on their foibles — even their beliefs which don’t line up with ours to a tee? “Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.”

As we mature in the things of the Spirit, we should find that our discernment is increasingly coupled with compassion, mercy, and patience. That is the heart of God evidencing in us. We must guard ourselves against pride, for Paul warned, “Knowledge puffs up, but charitable love builds up. And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2). He also said, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” (Romans 12:3).

We’ve all got a long journey ahead of us before we reach perfection. Let’s give each other a break.

I’ve written another article on criticalness versus discernment, which contains a list of questions to help us determine whether we are operating in discernment from the Spirit or merely criticalness of the soul. I hope you will find that post helpful.

Truth for the New Year

eternity[This post is a little different from what I usually write at Out of the Fire, but I feel it is what the Lord is currently putting on my heart. Perhaps it will speak to some of my readers personally, or maybe you will wish to share it with people you know.]

In today’s world, it is common for people to make up their own system of spirituality. Finding God on one’s own terms has become the norm. This even goes on among some who call themselves Christians.

But there’s a problem. You can believe things of your own making, but that doesn’t make them really true, just because they sound good to you. If there is a real God (and there is), and He doesn’t agree with you, what then? Who do you think will win in this contest? Will you be able to persuade Him that your way of trying to reach Him was good enough? Hardly.

His answer to such ideas is, “I provided one way for you — one way only. I sent My Son Jesus to die for you. If you refuse Him, there is no alternate path to Me.”

If you consulted a doctor, and he flatly stated that the medicine he was going to prescribe was the only one which would cure you, what would you do? Would you decide that you had a better idea? Whose fault would it then be if you did not get well?

It’s the same with how we reach God and assure our place in heaven. One way has been provided — Jesus. If we choose to reject Him, we will eventually find out, to our everlasting grief, that we have been arrogant and deceived. This is serious business!

You may not believe in hell. But what if God says it exists? (He does.) Deciding that you don’t want to accept God’s way of deliverance from hell (Jesus is that way) means you will end up there. So much for not believing hell exists. It is hard to keep that belief while you are spending a horrible eternity there.

What’s the solution?

If you want to be accepted by God, it’s rather simple, yet it will dearly cost you at the same time. It’s simple in that all you have to do is embrace Jesus as the only One Who can reconcile you to God. It’s costly in that you must humble yourself to admit that you sin, and that you cannot make yourself good enough to please God by your own will or actions. You will have to ask Him to forgive you for all you have done which offends His purity. It’s also costly in that you must lay down your desires in deference to His. Life can no longer be lived on your terms.

Jesus said it is important to “count the cost” (Luke 14:27, 28). The short-term cost of belonging to Him is that you must be willing to stop doing whatever you please, and start letting Him lead you into His plans. The long-term cost? If you decide you don’t like that idea, there is everlasting misery and excruciating pain ahead once you leave this earth. It’s better to plan for the long-term!

If you’ve counted the cost and want the solution, here’s what you need to do:

1.) Tell God you need Jesus. Ask Him to forgive you and take you as His own. He will gladly receive you.

2.) Tell Jesus you are willing to receive Him not only as your Savior, but also as your Lord. Ask Him to guide you from now on and to help you live for Him. He will give you the grace to do that.

3.) Knowing God is not just about getting your ticket out of hell and into heaven. It doesn’t stop there. It is about having deep, ongoing relationship with Him (which is an exciting adventure!). You grow in knowing Him by praying and reading the Bible often. (The books listed below can help you a lot in getting started in your new life with God.)

4.) Connect with other people who love Jesus — through a church, Bible study, and/or home fellowship. You will need other believers to pray for you, encourage you, and help you grow in knowing the Lord. We all need supportive people in our lives.

How will you know you have found a good bunch of people to be with? They will talk a lot about Jesus and what He has done for us through the cross. They will also emphasize living out the truths found in the Bible. And they will demonstrate love for others.

5.) Tell other people that you are now a follower of Jesus and why you came to that decision, so that they will want to know Him, too.

I would enjoy hearing from you, if you have given your life to Jesus through reading this post!

Now those books I mentioned:

 

How to Pray and Read the Bible

 

 

 

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God

 

 

Praying into Current Events

“Preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” It was a popular saying years ago, which eventually morphed into, “Pray with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other,” among intercessors. Pray the news is one of the methods intercessors are still frequently encouraged to use. It has its place. We should be aware of what is going on in the world around us.

However, intercessors can wear out fast, praying about every current event (or supposed current event) that they see in the news and on social media. CNN, MSNBC, CBS, Fox, etc. all thrive on the next big story, and if they can’t find one happening on its own, they manufacture something sensational out of what little material they have. The enemy of our souls uses these things to distract prayer warriors into engaging in lots of anxious prayer scattered in a bazillion directions … for things which are really nonissues from God’s perspective.

We’ve probably all heard that it’s important to choose our battles. If we fight on too many fronts, we lose. So, when there are apparent causes for concern, our first question should be, “What do You say about this, Lord?” He may tell us, even in the face of something which looks like a big deal, not to trouble ourselves about it at all — that He’s already taken care of it. If we ask Him first, and wait for His answer, it will save us a lot of useless care and wasted energy.

Part of the enemy’s spiritual warfare strategy is a smoke and mirrors deception. “Smoke and mirrors” is an idiom derived from the magic tricks illusionists pull off, where things seem to appear or disappear through the clever use of mirrors and sudden puffs of smoke intended to distract the audience. The expression has come to mean that reality is hidden, blurred, or blown out of proportion through half-truths or irrelevant information.

That’s exactly what Satan does. He uses partial, inaccurate, or overblown information, often dispersed through news and social media, to divert intercessors from the truly vital conflicts. He presents numerous false battlefronts to our eyes, attempting to convince us of their urgency. That way, he keeps us from mobilizing where our prayers are genuinely needed. He’s been pretty effective in using this tactic, too! Because we are constantly running in this, that, and the other direction, putting out fires, we are exhausted before we even get to the real deal!

God does not want us to be in a distracted tizzy all the time. It’s easy to go there, based on the mountains of natural information available all around us, but we must resist the urge to pray mainly by what our natural senses are presented with. Instead, the Lord wants us to calm down and listen for His marching orders. If we do that, we’ll be ready and available for the strategic prayer locations where we are actually needed. We’ll do the damage and gain the major victories we’re supposed to have.

Safe Passage — A Parable

girl-hiding-pixabayHave you struggled with feeling embattled, constantly harassed by the enemy of your soul? Perhaps you have even felt on the verge of losing your personal spiritual war. Many months ago, I had a dream and a vision, which I hope will encourage you.

In the dream, a very powerful bad man was trying to get me, to enslave me. His many loyal henchmen were constantly after me, and I could never outsmart them. I ran from one house or building to the next to hide. Whenever I tried to escape out in the open, sometimes in one direction, sometimes in another, my pursuers spotted me. They always seemed to know where I was and what my next move would be, so I couldn’t get away, and I always had to hide again.

The dream ended with me entering still another house to hide, and the people who lived there were willing to help me. They planned on disguising me, so that the bad guys would not recognize me. But by this time, I was pretty skeptical that even disguising myself would be successful, as nothing had worked thus far.

That’s where it ended — not a happy conclusion. What was also disturbing was that I had experienced similar dreams in the past. So, I prayed that God would reveal to me what was going on, hoping that I could then apply His truth and avoid having such a dream again.

Instead of the Lord explaining the issue to me, I entered into a vision, which was a continuation of the story. Jesus, Who bore the title, The Ultimate King, showed up at the front door of a house where I was hiding. He took me out by the front door, right into the street, in broad daylight. He wrapped the full-length cloak He was wearing around my shoulders and held me close by His side, so that we were both covered by His cloak.

All the bad guys who wanted to capture me were standing around in the street, staring at us, but they did not dare touch me, because I was with Jesus. They had to let Jesus pass right through the midst of them and down the street, because they knew He was The Ultimate King, Whom no one dared to touch.

Together, Jesus and I walked slowly and steadily through the enemy’s streets. I was safe, a “hidden one” (hidden in His cloak). I was not invisible, but I was hidden, in the sense of the bad guys not being able to harm me. Jesus and I had safe passage together. I knew that He was unafraid, and I didn’t have to be afraid either. They could not touch me, because they dared not touch The Ultimate King. They knew Jesus held the position of supreme authority through His victory on the cross, His subsequent resurrection, and because He had taken back the keys by which the devil once imprisoned mankind.

************ 

This dream addressed a particular issue I have often struggled with — shame over past events where I had not acted with the maturity I have since grown into. I tend to be quite the perfectionist when it comes to the standards I hold for myself. Sometimes the enemy reminds me of long ago failures, and if I’m not immediately vigilant to reject those thoughts, I end up kicking myself all over again, instead of remembering that Jesus bore all my shame and imperfections on the cross, and that they are mine no more.

I think that is why, in the vision, Jesus came to the front door. My inclination would have been to slink out a back door, but He boldly took me through the front door, into the sunshine, and down the street in full view, acknowledging me as His own.

Perhaps you also struggle with shame — or perhaps your issue is something quite different. Whatever it is, God wants you to know that you are not at the mercy of the enemy. It’s time for the endless game of staying one step ahead of spiritual defeat to stop. Jesus wants not only to help you escape, but to take you out unashamed, safe and secure under His protection, in full view of the enemy. He wants you to know that He is committed to you, and that you are valuable to Him. He wants to walk you through enemy lines fearless and unscathed.

The Word says, “He Who is begotten of God keeps him, and that wicked one cannot touch him” (1 John 5:18). It also says that Jesus “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).

So, stop hiding in the shadows. Let Jesus cover you with His own cloak. And let Him walk you through the enemy lines unharmed, because you are hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3). He is your safe passage.

When Distractions Ruin Prayer

Sometimes prayer flows like a river. We float along on its current and let the Lord lead us where He wills. However, that’s not always the way it is. In fact, it might not even be how things go the majority of the time. Often, our prayer life is more like a battleground. I’m not even talking about actively going against the gates of hell and prevailing against them, as Matthew 16:18 puts it. I’m talking about just the battle to keep praying!

A few months ago, I went through an extended season where my prayer life seemed like a disaster. It was hard to focus, hard to keep a heavenly perspective, hard to get past a swirl of thoughts. Hard, hard, hard! I even struggled to continue praying in tongues at length, which is not at all normal for me. At times, I asked myself, “What did I just do for the last hour or two? My intent has been to pray, but I feel like I have accomplished little.”

In the midst of being concerned about this, the Lord spoke encouragingly to me: “Persevere, My child. Just persevere.” It is in the persevering that we take ground, even when we don’t think we are getting anywhere.

Prayer is not always as perfect as we could wish. The enemy distracts us in various ways. Our own soul distracts us. Sometimes, even good and noble thoughts or causes distract us.

We know what we’re supposed to do: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). But it gets exhausting when we have to do it a couple of dozen (or more) times in any given prayer session, just so we can carry on a coherent, consistent communication with the Lord!

When we run into a battle such as this, we don’t need to get down on ourselves for being weak in prayer. God encourages us to keep pressing on in spite of the struggle. Even when our prayer efforts are imperfect, puny, and even downright messy, all He asks is that we get up and do it again … and again … and again, until we get through the season of distraction. As we do that, we really do continue to make progress, even though we can’t always see it.

The process of persevering through embattlement against our thoughts is something God allows, so that we become stronger. Psalm 18:34 says it this way: “He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.” Perseverance through the warfare of distractions is a tool God uses to make seasoned warriors of us.

If you are struggling to stay at prayer in a focused way, I encourage you to keep at it. You are not a prayer dud. It’s just another form of spiritual warfare. In persevering, you will be doing what the Lord said in Ephesians 6:13“Having done all, stand.”

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered

Adapting to God in Prayer

Many years ago, I was taught an expected form of how my personal prayer time was supposed to unfold:

A — Adoration
C — Contrition
T — Thanksgiving
S — Supplication

In other words, we had to worship first, then repent of every sin we could remember committing since the last prayer time, then spend some time thanking, and finally, ask God for all the things we wanted. We were encouraged to spend an allotted amount of time on each — fifteen minutes apiece, for example, to achieve an hour of prayer. We were supposed to worship (adoration) first, so that God would be willing to listen when we asked for His forgiveness.

But then, a different prayer expert came along and said, “No, no! You must repent first, so that God will receive your worship!” — which left us with

C
A
T
S

— not ACTS.

It all sounds so silly now, yet this was how many people were taught thirty-plus years ago. No wonder prayer was a drudge which few people stayed with!

Fortunately, some of us quietly rebelled, and learned to connect with God through the heart, rather than in a dry form. We worshiped often, because Jesus made our hearts continually glad, repented as the Lord revealed our issues, gave thanks throughout the day, and presented our petitions somewhere in between all the rest. AND, we communed with the Lord for Who He is.

Even when we have not conformed ourselves to somebody else’s plan for how prayer ought to be done, many of us still unconsciously settle into our own little rut. We get comfortable with an idea of how prayer must go, and if we don’t live up to it, we tend to feel guilty, as if we have not really prayed. However, from time to time, the Holy Spirit Himself may wish to lead us into a different mode of prayer. We need to listen to Him, and let Him lead. It is all right if we don’t keep doing it the way we have always done.

For instance, maybe you have a habit of starting prayer with a time of worship. From there, you might meditate on a portion of Scripture, then listen a little for the Lord’s leading, then intercede for the needs on your mind. But what if the Spirit were to put a desire in you to spend your whole prayer time in worship? Or conversation with the Lord? Or tongues? Or thinking about one Bible verse? Or (gasp!) just sitting with Him — while He doesn’t even say anything! Would you feel guilty for not interceding that day? Would you think you were not doing your job as a prayer warrior?

Frankly, I have struggled (sometimes still struggle) with these things. I like to accomplish receiving many answers through intercession. I like to feel I have “done” something, because I see the needs around me, and they are great. However, I am learning that if the Holy Spirit wants to disrupt my routine and focus exclusively on a certain aspect of prayer for a while, it’s OK. If He wants to make my entire prayer time into a conversational session, or a listening time, He’ll take care of the intercession part somehow — perhaps through one- or two-sentence petitions while I’m doing other tasks during the day. Maybe He will have someone else intercede for those concerns. It’s not all up to me anyway.

I’ve tried persevering through and doing prayer the way I’ve always done (because I don’t always “get it” immediately, or because I can be a little mule-headed), and I can tell you, if what I am trying to achieve in prayer is not Spirit-powered, it does not work.

So, if the way you have done prayer for quite some time just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, or if you don’t feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit on it like you once did, step back and ask Him how He would like to change it for a while. “Father, how would You like to do prayer today? Do You have a favorite song You would like me to sing to You? What’s on Your heart?” You might be surprised at where He will take you. And it will be good.

 

The Intercessor Manual