Tag Archives: spiritual discernment

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.

Personal Prophecy Continued

 A few months ago, you may have seen my article series, Discerning Personal Prophecy. That series became a springboard for my newest book, The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy, which is now available as an e-book at Amazon. (The print edition is coming in a few weeks.)

The original blog series comprises about 35% of the book, with the balance being all new material. (Unfortunately, due to contract terms, the blog series is not available while the book is exclusively at Amazon.)

Here’s the book description:

Personal prophecy can and should be a great blessing from the Lord to His Church. It can also be an effective evangelism tool, when used rightly. But, as with any of the gifts of the Spirit, it must be cherished and guarded carefully. Those of us who are releasing prophecy to others must watch over the attitudes of our own hearts, so that our words are genuine and pure. And those of us who are on the receiving end of a prophetic word must use wisdom in discerning whether it is truly from the Lord or not, as well as maturity in how we respond to it.

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy explains how to discern personal prophetic words which you receive from others and what to do with those words once you’ve got them. It also gives practical guidelines for how to keep out of trouble when you are prophesying personal words to others.

Table of Contents:
Introduction
Receiving a Prophetic Word:

~  Discerning Personal Prophecy
~  Criteria for Discerning a Word
~  Why Hasn’t My Prophetic Word Happened?
Delivering Personal Prophetic Words:
~  Getting Started in Personal Prophecy
~  Guidelines for Moving in Personal Prophecy
~  Beyond Church Walls
Summing It Up

I hope you will take a peek at The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy  (and our other books too!) at Amazon.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Building Our Spiritual Senses (Part 10)

But strong meat belongs to those who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:14

Last time, I said that the five natural senses of seeing, hearing, touch/feeling, smelling, and tasting have corresponding senses in the spirit realm. We talked about spiritual seeing and hearing and how those manifest themselves. The other spiritual senses are less obvious, but they do exist, and as we use them, our discernment increases. The spiritual senses help us in the discerning of good and evil, of which “discerning of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10) is a part.

Have you ever heard someone say, “That idea just leaves a bad taste in my mouth”? They’re probably sensing something in the spirit. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” That is a metaphorical expression, but there are times when the Lord’s nearness can be sensed very sweetly — almost to the point of “tasting” sweet.

People also commonly express that something just doesn’t smell right. They are not talking about physical odors, but about a situation they are uncomfortable with. Something doesn’t seem above-board. They are sensing that spiritually. Spiritual smell sometimes evidences in the natural, as well. When demonic presences are in the vicinity, occasionally there is an accompanying smell of sulfur, burning cinders, rotten fish, etc. On the other hand, I have personally been in worship settings where the delightful smell of apples, roses, or orange blossoms began to faintly fill the room. It wasn’t my nose playing tricks on me. Multiple people smelled it along with me. It was the Lord, making His Presence known.

What about the sense of touch and/or feeling? Many times we believers talk of having received a “touch of the Lord.” During a time of corporate prayer, I once felt a hand firmly pressed upon my heart for several minutes. I had my eyes closed, and at first I thought someone had decided to pray for me with the laying on of hands and had done so inappropriately. I opened my eyes to find that there was no one touching me. It was either the Lord or one of His angels. The sensation continued long after I had opened my eyes. Perhaps He was imparting something to me in that moment. That was a case of the spiritual sense of touch crossing over into the natural.

We can “feel” in the spirit what is going on with other people. We may sense the Presence of the Lord when a person who has a close relationship with Him walks by us. I tend to experience this as a slight feeling of fire or warm oil while I am around the person. I have sometimes felt an almost tangible darkness around people who were in some kind of spiritual bondage.

The tangible Presence of the Lord often feels like a weighty blanket over us — a thickness-in-the-air sensation. It will sometimes be felt as though rivers of love, or warm oil, are washing over us. This is most common when the Body is gathered together in deep worship, but we can experience it individually as well, perhaps while in personal prayer and worship.

We may have a goose-bumpy sensation when spiritual activity, either good or bad, is going on around us. When angelic activity increases, often in corporate worship settings, a cool, refreshing breeze which has nothing to do with the heating/air conditioning system sometimes manifests. Some have theorized that it might be due to the movement of angel wings. Perhaps it is the “wind” of the Holy Spirit Himself.

On the other hand, an evil presence will sometimes manifest itself as a very cold or hot sensation which is not at all pleasant. We do not need to fear the negative manifestations; they help us to discern the spirits so that we can take whatever action is necessary.

Ask the Lord to heighten your spiritual senses, and expect Him to answer your prayer. As you eagerly anticipate Him doing so, keeping alert in your spirit, you will begin to see your spiritual senses come alive and grow more acute.

Ask the Lord to give you wisdom to rightly apply what you are sensing in the spirit realm. He may be alerting you for prayer purposes, so that you understand more fully how to help others, or for your own personal safety or guidance. When it comes to sensing the Lord’s nearness through any of the five spiritual senses, He may be revealing Himself to strengthen and encourage you, build your faith, or simply to let you know how much He loves you.

I hope this series has been useful to you! I’d be glad to answer any of your questions to the best of my ability, to hear your stories, or to receive your feedback.  🙂

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Building Our Spiritual Senses (Part 9) 

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Building Our Spiritual Senses (Part 9)

I briefly mentioned in Part 5 of this series that there is a thin veil between the five physical senses and their corresponding five spiritual senses, and that it is easy to slip back and forth between the two. You can see, hear, taste, feel, and smell things with your natural senses. You can do all of those with your spiritual senses, too. Seeing and hearing are the dominant ones, but the other senses are also available to us. “Discerning of spirits,” one of the nine manifestations of the Holy Spirit, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, evidences itself through the spiritual senses.

In these last two posts of our discernment series, I’d like to give some examples of how we can increase in discernment, especially in our ability to discern good and evil, by using our spiritual senses, according to Hebrews 5:14: “But strong meat belongs to those who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

How do we exercise, and thereby increase, our discerning muscles? By faith, we need to expect God to communicate to us through our spiritual senses and then deliberately pay attention when He does.

You see with your eyes. There will also be times when you will “see” inwardly, in your mind’s eye. (It is really your spirit’s eye, but it seems to be in the mind.) For example, someone’s face flashes into your consciousness. That is seeing in the spirit, and it is not the time to think, “Huh! I wonder why she just came to mind? I haven’t thought of her in weeks,” and then shrug it off. When a face flashes before you, that is a vision. It is the Holy Spirit giving you a hint to pray for that person.

Seeing in the spirit is usually brief. If you don’t get the message, God may repeat the same picture for you, but don’t expect it to hang there for a minute at a time. It could, but typically doesn’t. That’s why you have to be paying attention, and then act on the information you’ve been given. It might not be a face. God may direct you to go to a certain place in the same way. Or He may release to you a new idea or new understanding about something. You can receive lots of revelation through these brief visions.

There may be times when your spiritual seeing will cross over into your natural sight, so that you see something “open-eyed.” Open-eyed seeing does not usually mean that the natural objects within your vision disappear (although it can happen that way). What you see in the spirit is simply superimposed over the top of what is in your natural environment. Again, this experience is usually very brief, so you have to train yourself to expect such things and to pay attention.

You hear sounds with your physical ears. You can also hear God speak to you on the inside — what we often call an “inner voice.” New Agers talk about hearing the inner voice of self — or even of a channeling spirit. That’s not what I mean at all. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. He’s there to help you and be your intimate Friend. As that Friend and Helper, He speaks to you. But many of us don’t expect Him to, so we’re not tuned in as we ought to be. Cultivate listening for Him, and don’t shrug it off when you hear something on the inside that is out of your ordinary thought process.

Spiritual hearing can cross over into our natural hearing. When that happens, you hear an audible voice, which is actually supernatural in nature. Audible spiritual hearing is not confined to words. It may be a sound of some other sort. I’ve been awakened out of sleep more than once by an alarm clock or kitchen timer that was not really ringing in the natural. The Lord then spoke to me in the inner voice things such as, “Do you know what time it is?” or “It’s time to wake up.” He didn’t mean what time of day it was according to the clock, or that I needed to get up to make it somewhere on time. He was talking about needing to be aware of where the world is at on His last days’ timeline and how to respond accordingly. Some people hear trumpet blasts. God can use any sound He wants to get His point across.

We’ll continue on the subject of building up our spiritual senses for one more post, and then we’ll be done.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Applying It to Prayer, Continued (Part 8)  
Next : Building Our Spiritual Senses, Continued (Part 10)

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Applying It to Prayer (Part 8)

Last time, we started examining some heart-searching questions which will help us to discern whether we are praying according to the Spirit or from a soulish perspective. I said that 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, the charitable love passage, is a standard to help us recognize the difference between the two. Let’s continue on with our list.

4.) What emotions or attitudes are motivating my prayers? As I already mentioned, self-ambition and a desire for personal comfort can muddy our prayers. Fear is probably the biggest single emotion that leads us into soulish praying, while love is the greatest motivator of genuine spiritual prayers. Are your prayers lining up with the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22, 23? If so, you will do all right.

5.) Am I praying by revelation or by my opinion? For those of us who are by nature strong-minded people, it’s not always easy to tell at first. Some of us automatically assume that if we feel strongly about something, we must be moving in the counsel of God.

The good news is that by deliberately practicing discernment — by asking God for His viewpoint and listening for the subtle promptings of His Spirit — we will, over time, learn to distinguish between our personal opinions and the convictions or revelation of the Lord.

Plug into a prayer group where you feel you can safely submit your ideas to others who desire along with you to pray according to the Holy Spirit’s direction. This can be a huge help in increasing your prayer discernment. Be willing to ask what the others think about praying a certain way, and then yield to their counsel. It takes a while to get comfortable enough praying with other intercessors to allow them to help you in discerning, but it is worth the effort and the risk. In addition to building your discerning skills, you will grow in humility — a most desirable goal.

We can and should pray against the actions of destructive people (terrorists, for example), but we pray for the people themselves. One of the ways I personally pray against terrorist threats is by asking the Lord to gut sleeper cells by revealing Himself, even supernaturally through dreams and visions, to the terrorists within those cells. Thousands of Muslims throughout the world have already come to know Jesus through visitations from angels and even Jesus Himself, so why not deliberately ask for such occurrences for terrorists?

You may be thinking, “But evil people sometimes need to be prayed against!” Yes, and I’m not trying to be a mamby-pamby about this or make a rule set in stone. I prayed, along with many of you, that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden would be “taken out.” Just be careful to use those prayers wisely and sparingly, and feel your way through how to pray into those particular situations with the constant help of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is quick [living] and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” This verse implies that the soul and spirit are so closely knit that we need supernatural help in discerning between them. Thank God for His Word, which assists us in doing so, as the Holy Spirit applies it to our hearts!

This is why measuring our hearts by 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 helps to keep our prayers in line with God’s heart. Everything in prayer must be filtered through charitable love!

You can be totally right in your revelation, but totally wrong in what you do with it. This is because it is easy for us to crisscross back and forth between spirit and soul without being aware of it. But if we will practice measuring everything by the Word and asking for the Holy Spirit’s aid in discernment, we will find ourselves more frequently praying from a right spiritual perspective and less frequently stepping over into the flesh with our prayers.

Next time, we will talk about how to strengthen our spiritual senses.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Applying It to Prayer (Part 7) 
Next: Building Our Spiritual Senses (Part 9)

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Applying It to Prayer (Part 7)

We can go two ways in prayer — the way of the soul or the way of being led by the Spirit. Whether we discern the world around us through our soul, with all its flawed natural thinking, or through communion between our spirit and the Holy Spirit makes a huge difference not only in how we act, but in how we pray. Continually asking the Lord to help us discern spiritually, according to His point of view, will increasingly lead us into more perfect praying, which receives answers.

The way of the Spirit is to be life-giving in everything we do, including our prayers. However, it is easy to slip into prayers which are not life-giving, if we do not correctly discern whether we are operating from the soul or the spirit, which is well illustrated in Luke 9:51-56. In this passage, Jesus was journeying toward Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to arrange lodgings in Samaria, but He was not welcomed.

And when James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did?”

But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man has not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

Unfortunately, there are times when Jesus’ prayer warriors do not know what spirit they are of, either, and pray things which are not according to His heart. When we pray from a wrong spirit, guess which kingdom we are cooperating with? (Hint: It is not the kingdom of light!) How can we do better?

First of all, we can ask ourselves some heart-searching questions:

1.) Do I have love and compassion for those involved, or do I possess a heart that is vengeful, angry, and judgmental? During and right after the last presidential election, there were a lot of contentious, judgmental Christians speaking their mind. That carried over into how many prayed. Politics can be quite a hot button, especially if moral issues are at stake, and therefore well illustrates how easy it is to slip into praying out of an angry, judgmental heart. Church disunity is another example of where we can fall into this pit.

It is possible to have a genuine revelation of truth, and yet apply it to prayer out of a wrong spirit, thereby aligning ourselves with the kingdom of darkness, all the while believing we are in union with Christ’s kingdom. I realize this is not the intent. It was not James’ and John’s intent in Luke 9, either. They were upset on Jesus’ behalf, mistook the offense of their hearts for righteous indignation, and were ready to use their spiritual authority to cut down and kill. We have to watch ourselves, so that we don’t operate in like manner.

2.) Do I want what is best for everyone concerned, or am I only interested in what brings advantage and comfort to me? What was going on with James and John? Loyalty to Jesus was present, but there was something of a dark nature motivating their desire to destroy. I would guess it was prideful ambition: How dare they refuse us hospitality? Don’t they know who we are? Throw in with that a desire for immediate gratification of physical comfort needs, and you’ve got a good soulish reason to react as they did.

Philippians 2:3 gives us guidance on the motives which should govern our prayers: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves.” Several translations word “strife and vainglory” as “selfish ambition and conceit.” Strife has also been translated as “a party spirit” or “a faction.” We need to guard our hearts from such attitudes, so that they do not enter into our prayers.

3.) Am I following Jesus’ instructions to bless those who curse me and pray for those who despitefully use me (Matthew 5:44), or am I just concerned about my own vindication?

Using 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, the charitable love passage, as the standard for how we pray will greatly help us. Of course, we live by the whole of Genesis through Revelation, but if we will align ourselves with this particular passage, we cannot go very far wrong in our prayers.

One of the principles of prayer is that you can’t help but love those for whom you pray. Pray with the understanding that Jesus loves and died for the people who are giving you a bad time. You might have to grit your teeth at first, while you consciously pray blessing upon them, but as you obey the Lord by doing so, He will fill you with His perspective and with creative prayers for them which are straight from His heart. You will gain insight into why they behave the way they do, and your compassion for them will be ignited. As time goes on, you will find that your forgiveness toward them is not just a decision, but a heartfelt emotion, too. You may even see them soften and change — but at the very least, you will soften and change.

This goes for people you personally deal with in life, but it also works in praying for morally corrupt political leaders.

We’ll continue this list next time.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Protecting the Gates (Part 6) 
Next: Applying It to Prayer (cont.) (Part 8)