Revelation: A Heart to Know

Deep calls to deep… Psalm 42:7

 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things… When he comes, he will guide you into all truth… John 14:26 & 16:13

As we continue looking at different ways we can tune into God and receive his revelation, in this blog we’re moving beyond ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ to explore the somewhat less tangible idea of ‘sensing’ or prophetic instinct.

Sometimes we just know something because we know something. Which shouldn’t surprise us, because the Holy Spirit is residing within us, connecting us to the Father, and committed to leading us into all truth. That’s good news! And if we’re pursuing an increasingly close walk with the Spirit we can expect God-given revelation to come to us in the form of gut-feelings, impressions and intuition: that ‘just-knowing’ awareness that defies logic.

Another way to describe this is as a Spirit-to-spirit connection: deep calling to deep.

This is challenging for those of us who prefer a logical and rational approach to life, and it’s easy to look at our more intuitive friends and misunderstand or dismiss their instincts and perceptions as lacking in substance. But regardless of our personalities I believe that we all need to learn to connect with the ‘just-knowing’ part of walking with the Spirit.

We can describe this type of revelation as ‘sensing’ and it’s a really valid way of hearing God’s voice; in fact, for many prophetic people it’s their primary way of receiving revelation. However it’s quite hard to pin down and describe, so sometimes we’re in danger of not paying as much attention to those Holy Spirit ‘vibes’ as we do to more concrete things like words and pictures.

A great first step is to learn to monitor our internal sense of peace. Paul’s advice to us in Colossians 3:15 is to let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (literally ‘be an umpire’) and it’s by paying close attention to the peace of Christ that we take important steps towards a prophetic lifestyle. This first of all means learning to recognise the peace, and then monitoring it regularly: in every decision we make and path we take we ask ourselves where the peace of Christ is leading us. And if we find we’ve lost the peace then we stop and pray and ask the Lord to re-set our steps.

As I’ve allowed the peace of Christ to be an umpire in my life it means that from time to time I get a sense of warning or an ‘unsettled’ feeling in my spirit, and I’m then prompted to listen carefully to God for how to respond. Sometimes he tells me to pray protection over a particular friend or family member; sometimes it’s because I’m about to do something I shouldn’t. Yes, sometimes it seems easier to ignore these little prompts, but more and more I’m taking them seriously and acting on them straight away. And the more I practice responding to them the more I learn how to weigh them (because, as with all prophetic experiences, they need to be tested!)

When I’m trying to make a decision about something – those times when there are two options in front of me, and I have to choose one of them – I try to spend at least a few moments stepping back into my spirit and sensing which one comes with a deep sense of peace and a feeling of ‘right-ness’. This is one practical outworking of a commitment to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) on a daily basis.

Whenever we have the opportunity to pray and minister to people we should be paying attention to Holy Spirit prompts and impressions. We may experience physical sensations or emotions that point our ministry in the right direction. Perhaps the Lord allows us to feel what he is feeling for that person, or we get insight into their pain or brokenness. With each piece of revelation we get it’s important to keep an ongoing dialogue with the Holy Spirit so that he can lead us step by step. As with all forms of revelation we need to be disciplined in asking God for the interpretation and application.

For a lot of people ‘sensing’ is the form of revelation they receive in the busyness of daily life, when there is little practical time to find a quiet room and wait for the word of the Lord. But those little impressions and prompts are God’s grace at work in the activity of our lives, and we can wait on God for them on the busiest of days. A God-conscious lifestyle is one that delights in the smallest of touches or impressions.

Why don’t you stop right now and become consciously aware of the presence of God. Give thanks that he’s right here with you, that his Spirit is connected to your spirit. Have a go at tuning in to his quiet nudges and prompts. Where is his peace leading you?

Revelation: Ears to Hear

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”    John 10:27

Do you know what Jesus’ voice sounds like? Can you recognise it?

As we continue our exploration of different ways that we can tune into God and connect with his heart, this time we’re looking at ‘hearing’ – revelation that comes in the form of words, phrases and sentences.

On a personal level, generally I’m much more of a ‘see-er’ than a ‘hearer’ – so the times when I do hear words from God are really special. I’ve never heard the audible voice of God myself (I know a number of people who have), but there have been plenty of occasions when a word or phrase pops into my head – not connected with my train of thoughts – that catches my attention and resonates in my spirit. To me these are a good indication that it may be God speaking to me, especially if I’m already focussed on him through prayer or worship. Sometimes these words are very faint, but I’ve learnt to pay attention to them, particularly if they appear in my mind from nowhere. I pay much less attention if a thought comes to mind which is just connected with what I’ve already been thinking about – experience has shown me that this is just my brain at work: that it’s just me and my own train of thought.

The command, “Hear the word of the Lord” echoes through scripture and the Bible is full of stories of people who heard the very voice of God, though we’re rarely told the exact nature of these experiences. As is true for us today, I’m sure that in some of these it was the audible voice of God that was heard, but others would have involved the quiet internal voice.

One thing that has helped me in my own journey of hearing God better is the realisation that most of the time God speaks in whispers. He’s the God of the still, small voice, and so to tune in to him requires us to be attentive to those quiet nudges and prompts that are so easy to miss. Most of us live in a very noisy world, full of competing voices and a myriad of distractions, so we have to be very intentional about creating space and a quietened heart to hear him. Remember: there is nothing wrong with God’s voice. He is speaking much more than we realise, we’re just not always very good at paying attention.

There is something very special about the quality of God’s voice that helps us distinguish it from our own thoughts. Yes, he may talk in whispers, but these whispers have the ability to resound deeply in our spirits, and they are full of light and wisdom. Listen for the voice that is wise and kind, and you’ll soon be able to discern the voice of God.

The Bible teaches us that there is a lot of power in spoken words (after all, God created the world through his voice), and I think we sometimes need to be much bolder in speaking out the words that the Lord gives us. When we’re prophesying with pictures (which is my own experience most of the time) we’re just describing the picture; but when we’re prophesying God’s words we are speaking the very words he gives us. It’s as we align our voices with what heaven is speaking we can really start to see breakthrough in situations – really see the power of the spoken prophetic word. Remember what happened when Ezekiel stepped out and spoke God’s words:

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’”    Ezekiel 37:4

So pay attention to those specific words and phrases that just appear out of nowhere, and if they have an accompanying sense of God’s presence, then take a step of faith and have a go at speaking them out, even if no one else can hear you.

A great way to grow in hearing God’s voice is to ask him questions. It’s important that we don’t lose the child-like freedom to ask questions of our heavenly Father. After all, the One we worship has the answer to every question we could ever ask:

“Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”   Romans 11:33

“Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”   Colossians 2:3

The Holy Spirit, the Counsellor and Spirit of Truth, lives within each of us, and Jesus promises that the Spirit will teach us all things (John 14:26). So let’s be confident that if we inquire of the Lord he will have an answer for us.

Journaling is one of the best ways to listen to God’s answers: this is where we write down our conversations with God. I love to sit in a quiet place with my journal, and after a time of simple prayer and worship, start to write down my conversation with the Father. Sometimes the answers come straight away; sometimes they emerge over time as I take note of the different things he draws my attention to in scripture and as I go about my daily life.

As well as journaling there is also the habit of asking questions of God in the moment, throughout the day. Wherever we are we can ask, “Holy Spirit, what are you saying or doing here? How can I join in?” Practising this form of dialogue with the Spirit will sharpen our ability to stay tuned in to his voice. The ability to discern his voice from our own thoughts grows as we step out in faith and act on the whispers.

If you’re someone who finds it relatively easy to receive prophetic pictures but much harder to hear God’s words (I’m describing myself here!), I’d encourage you to persevere with ‘hearing’, even if it feels a bit outside your comfort zone. There is something very special about being able to hear and speak the word of the Lord.

Who has listened and heard his word?   Jeremiah 23:18

Trip to Novi Sad, Serbia

Last month I had the privilege of travelling to the city of Novi Sad in Serbia to lead a prophetic conference with a team from the Netherlands. I’ve asked Marleen, one of the team, to write up her thoughts about the trip.

The Holy Spirit had established a warm cross-European connection between our two churches the year before. Back then, a group of people from Crossroads Rotterdam visited ‘Protestantska Hrišćanska Zajednica’ in Novi Sad, to do some Alpha training with the Serbian church. This had been such a warm acquaintance that we from the Rotterdam group were delighted to be invited again – this time to support Cath Livesey in leading a conference on listening to God’s voice and prophecy.

This Protestant church, in the second city of Serbia, is considered a ‘mega church’ within the Balkan area. Since the Orthodox Church is the main denomination, with strong ties to the state government, there is very little acceptance of other expressions of the Christian faith. Especially because Eastern Europe completely missed out on the Reformation, this Protestant church is considered a religious sect. Understanding this, it was quite amazing to see about a hundred people attending the conference. People came not only from this church but also from smaller churches near the Croatian and Bosnian border.

Although I am familiar with the concept of prophecy, have attended the Prophecy Course, have read books about prophecy and had several opportunities to practice hearing God’s voice, I was actually a bit hesitant when arriving in Serbia. I somehow felt a pressure to ‘perform’. Which is silly because one of the most important things that Cath taught me through the Prophecy Course, is that it’s not about me and my effort: I hear God because I’m His child; it’s certainly not about striving.

It was really remarkable to be part of this conference, where so many people, men and women, young and elderly came together with a hunger for more of Jesus. The desire that we felt in the congregation to draw closer to Him was so inspiring and moving. And although most of the people had never received teaching on hearing God’s voice, hardly anything stood in the way for them to open up and hear His words and see visions. We were so encouraged to hear many stories of people hearing God and stepping out in prophecy for the first time.

During the conference there were several moments when we were asked to mix up and get into groups of two or three people in order to put theory into practice. At one point I formed a group with an elderly lady and a teenage girl, and we were asked to listen to God for prophetic words for each other. When, after a moment of silence during which we listened for the girl, I asked the elderly lady, “Did you receive a word or something?” She replied, “No, there was nothing.” So I asked again, “Wasn’t there anything, something that just popped up in your mind?”

And then, at first hesitantly but then more and more confidently, she started describing an image that she had for the girl in our group. It was very vivid and rather detailed. The girl was really was touched by the picture, and was certain that she should devote this to her personal prayers to receive more insight on it so that she could fully understand it. But most of all, this elderly woman receiving her first ‘word’ from the Lord, was a great encouragement for the three of us!

There were many experiences like this: people whose relationship with Jesus is very strong and loving, but who, up till now, were ignorant of the way God speaks to us to encourage others. It really humbled me that only a few nudges and simple encouragements were sufficient to activate that communication with Jesus. It wasn’t us, the people from Western Europe, who brought the gifts. We weren’t needed there. God’s love for His Serbian people, and their love and desire for Him is enough.

This also became clear to me right before the conference started. The Dutch team was asked to offer ‘prophetic appointments’, where people could come at a set time and receive some prophetic ministry. Our job as team was to listen to God and ask Him, “What do You want this person to be encouraged with? What image or words of knowledge do You want us to pass on to this person?” So I sat with one of my Dutch travel companions, and a young lady came to sit with us. We closed our eyes and we brought this woman in God’s presence. And with my eyes closed, I saw her standing on a pedestal, with her arms open wide, face up towards a beaming light. In this image, the expression on her face was of pure joy – it looked like she was fully soaking up the warmth and the light. Then I opened my eyes and looked at her in ‘real-time’ – and she had exactly that expression on her face! She smiled with her eyes closed and she looked so happy.

I was drawn to tears because of this precious moment. I asked her why she looked like that, what happened to her at that moment. She said that it’s just that she loves Jesus so much and she loves to be near him. That touched me deeply. She had come to the conference to learn about hearing God’s voice. Prophecy was something that she never had received teaching in. But her relationship with Jesus was so apparent and intimate, that she only needed a bit of biblical reference and confirmation in order to activate the heavenly communication. Sharing with her the vision that I had about her was just a confirmation of what she already grasped.

We left Serbia richer than how we arrived.

Revelation: Eyes To See

How does God speak to you? What spiritual language does the Holy Spirit use to bring his revelation to you?

We can perceive the great unveiling in many different ways; we are each uniquely designed to catch the flow of the Spirit and tune in to God’s voice. One of the most common ways is through ‘seeing’, when God communicates to us through the visual dimension of the prophetic, whether it’s a simple internal picture or an ‘open-eyed’ vision.

Prophetic seeing is usually an internal process, and we perceive the content through our ‘mind’s eye’. This may be a simple, still image or it could be a moving picture like a scene from a movie. Sometimes it will be very hazy, as if we have just glimpsed something out of the corner of our eye; at other times it may be incredibly sharp and detailed. Sometimes the picture will come to us fully formed, at other times it may emerge slowly. I often have the experience of a prophetic picture slowly coming into focus, as if I were trying to focus on something through a camera lens. What I’ve learnt over the years is that I must resist the urge to dismiss the revelation at the partially formed stage because it doesn’t make sense. Rather I need to stay in a place of receptivity, patiently waiting for the picture to fully emerge.

Another important principle that God has taught me about the visual dimension of prophecy is that pictures and visions are an invitation to a conversation: they should be a relational, not functional, experience. In fact they are doorways to an encounter with God. If the Holy Spirit gives you a prophetic picture, see it as an opportunity to meet him and go deeper with him, rather than a puzzle to be solved. There is a real joy to be found in exploring prophetic pictures and visions with the Holy Spirit. Let him take you by the hand and go on a journey of discovery into all that you are seeing. Focus in on some details and ask him questions. Enjoy simply dwelling in the revelation a while.

The subject of how to interpret prophetic pictures and visions is an important one. It’s helpful to think in terms of two broad categories of visual revelation (though there is often overlap between them):

Metaphorical language  This is when God uses pictures symbolically to communicate truth to us. An example of this would be receiving a prophetic picture of a bunch of flowers because God wants you to know that he loves you.

Seeing into a different reality  This is when God opens our spiritual eyes so that we see something of the invisible realm of the Spirit. An example of this would be seeing an angel or having a vision of God’s throne in heaven.

Interpretation is a very important aspect of the first category. It’s all too easy to jump to conclusions and attach our own interpretations to prophetic pictures, rather than having the discipline of asking the Holy Spirit what he is saying to us. For many prophetic people, receiving the visual revelation is the easy part; the challenge is discerning the right interpretation. We should always ask the Lord for an interpretation to revelation he gives us, and be content to wait patiently if it doesn’t come straight away.

When we think about the second category of visual revelation it’s good to remember Paul’s encouragement to us in 2 Corinthians 4:18:

  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The Bible speaks to us of two worlds: the physical, material world and the spiritual world, and as Christians we need to be engaging with both realities. To perceive the spiritual dimension of God’s kingdom requires eyes of faith and expectation. There are many biblical accounts of people being shown aspects of the spiritual realm, such Elisha and his servant seeing the heavenly army in 2 Kings 6:17, and the many encounters with angels described throughout scripture. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and John all had visions of God on his throne in heaven (with many similar details). Paul even writes about being caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2).

Ezekiel had a series of remarkable visions and heavenly encounters, and does his best to describe the indescribable:

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it I fell face down… Ezekiel 1:28

But we too can be expectant for glimpses of the realm of glory. We can start by simply asking God for them, and then meditating on passages of scripture that describe visions of God, Jesus and heaven. Setting aside time to prayerfully contemplate John’s visionary description of Jesus in Revelation 1 is a great place to start. Worship too provides a wonderful context for opening the eyes of our hearts to the reality of God’s kingdom and the realm of the Spirit. The next time you are in a time of corporate worship, ask the Lord to give you a fresh revelation of his glory. Ask him to show you what is happening in heaven right now.

So far we’ve largely been talking about seeing with our ‘inner eye’ or with spiritual sight, but of course God can talk to us through the things we observe with our physical eyes. He loves to speak through the ordinary and everyday, especially through the beauty of the natural world. We just need to slow down enough so that we can properly pay attention and look.

However we see the things of God, whether it’s internal or external, what is key is that we are paying attention. God is the great Communicator, but to tune in to his revelation requires us to be active and alert, to be practiced observers – ready to peer in whenever the veil is drawn back. We need to have eyes to see.

 

 

 

 

Creative Ways to Hear God

The God we love and worship is a communicating God. All the way through scripture he is speaking; whether through creation, supernatural encounters, dreams, or directly through his voice. The promise for the New Covenant people of God is of unrestricted access to the Father’s presence through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth who searches out the deep things of God and makes them known to us (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).

As followers of Jesus we need to pay close attention to what he says in John 10:27:

         My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.

Every Christian can learn to know and listen to God’s voice; the promise of Jesus is for all of us. But to grow in our ability to hear God requires active engagement and intentional pursuit. In a world full of competing voices and a myriad of distractions we have to take the time to create the space and to learn the disciplines that will help us tune in.

As we look ahead into this new year, it’s helpful to consider what rhythms and practices will help us to connect with God’s voice and develop a listening lifestyle. Finding a more creative way to tune in will help many of us to re-boot our devotional times. What active steps do you need to take this year so that you are intentionally listening to God?

Here I’m sharing a few suggestions with you that I hope you find helpful, regardless of where you are on your prophetic journey.

Scripture  This is a wonderful place to start. God speaks to us in many ways through scripture, whether through careful study or through the Holy Spirit leading us to specific verses or passages. Whenever we are praying for someone it’s good to ask God if there is a Bible verse that he wants to encourage them with.

At the start of this year I spent some time asking God what the key verses were going to be for me this year. I’ve printed them off, stuck them above my desk and am in the process of memorising them. I’m expectant that God will be speaking to me through them over the next 12 months.

My friend Nathan recently shared with me three questions that he asks God when he reads a passage from the Bible, as a way of hearing God’s voice in the words he is reading. I really like them because they encourage us to be actively listening to God in whatever part of the Bible we’re reading:

  • How can I worship God from this?
  • How can I receive God’s love from this?
  • How can I minister in love out of this?

Find your ‘thin place’ for this year  We can hear God anywhere. In our homes, workplaces, schools, gardens, on top of a mountain, or in the middle of a supermarket. But for most of us there will be a special place or context where we find it easier to tune in to God’s voice. Perhaps it’s a favourite beach or coffee shop, or a quiet room at home. The ancient Celtic Christians used the idea of ‘thin places’ – places where God’s presence seems especially close and accessible.

For me, at the moment, my ‘thin place’ is sitting on a bench in the greenhouse at the bottom of the garden, usually with a thick coat and a cup of tea! During December I carved out at least 20 minutes from my schedule most days and went and sat there in God’s presence with my journal. It’s become a place to encounter God’s peace and quiet whispers, and hear him speak into my life in fresh ways.

I’d encourage you to ask God what special place he has got for you in the year ahead, and then prayerfully put some times in your diary to visit that place as often as you can.

Art  You don’t have to be especially artistic to learn to hear God through activities like drawing and painting. One idea that I like, and which friends of mine use, is to put some worship music on, get out some paper and pens/paints, and then allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you draw or paint something. It may be simple colours and patterns, or it may be a more representational prophetic picture. Whatever images you create, enjoy collaborating with the Holy Spirit in producing something that helps you (or someone else) tune into God’s voice and heart.

Nature  I think we’d all agree that getting out in nature – whether that’s fields, hills, water, or just our own garden – can be a great way to connect with God and hear his voice. But to what extent are we doing this purposefully and intentionally? How often are we slowing down enough to really look for the revelation of God in the wonder of the natural world around us? It’s good to get into the habit of asking the Lord, “How are you speaking to me today through the beauty of the created world?” and then pause long enough to hear the answer.

Psalm 19 reminds us that God is continually speaking through his creation:

         The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

Take some time to get out into your garden or the local park and let the Spirit draw you to something he wants to show you, perhaps a leaf or the pattern of clouds in the sky. Be fully present in the moment and listen to the still small voice.

Ask for dreams  The Bible has many stories about God speaking to people in dreams, and with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost came the promise that Your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams… Of course, you don’t have to be an old man to receive prophetic dreams! I know people of all ages who hear God regularly through their dreams.

I don’t have many prophetic dreams myself, but I’m increasing challenged that I can actively seek more of them, by praying for them each night before I go to sleep: “Lord, thank you that you love to speak to me. Holy Spirit, as I sleep tonight, would you bring the presence and the revelation of the Father and speak deep into my spirit? Please speak to me through my dreams.”

 

My prayer for all of you reading this is that 2018 will be a year of increasing revelation and clearer hearing. Remember that it’s the Father’s delight to speak to you; you simply have to create the space and patterns in your life to properly tune in.

Help! No one is listening!

For those of us who are ‘prophet’-shaped, one of the challenges of working out a mature expression of our calling and ministry is dealing with the frustration of not being listened to. How do we keep our hearts right? This month’s blog addresses this question and is written by Christine Wanstall who leads Accessible Prophecy in Australasia.

 

Occasionally I will have a blog or a prophecy cross my desk and it is clear that the prophet who wrote it is frustrated by the lack of response to their prophetic gift. Often these prophecies are strong in judgment and condemnation and it is clear the prophet is frustrated. I feel for these prophets. I can feel how frustrated they are and I recognise times when I have been frustrated and angry when I have not felt heard. “Don’t they realise this is from God?” or, “If they had only listened to me they would not have found themselves in this situation.” Often when we find ourselves in these spaces we end up on the edge of community, not being heard and it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle of frustration, condemnation and judgment.

It causes me to pause and think, as a prophet, how do I make sure I don’t end up in these places? We know communication is a two-way process so if I am not being heard, maybe there is an issue with how I am communicating, rather than the person receiving it not hearing it correctly? Here are a few thoughts I have found helpful in managing my frustration and placing myself in a posture where the prophetic words I communicate can be well received.

Recognise that a prophet is only one of the five-fold gifts that God gives the church

Being a prophet is no more special than being an apostle or a shepherd, teacher or evangelist. Although my gift means that I have a strong connection to the Father’s heart, this is no more important than the evangelist who sees opportunities to speak the gospel or the teacher who helps people understand the word of God. The New Testament talks strongly about being in community and living as the body of Christ.

If I am a prophet who is constantly speaking words of judgment and condemnation, then I quickly become someone that people don’t want to hang around with or listen to. I am learning to value community and trusting that God is able to speak through other gifts, and that I am not the most important super special. It is a humbling experience…

Make sure I am speaking words of encouragement, comfort and words that build up the body

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness,” the Lord declares in Jeremiah. It is challenging to take a posture of kindness when I am frustrated and annoyed. If I have a word that is more condemning than kind, I am learning to process these with trusted people who help me work out how to communicate them or to discern if maybe they are just words for me to pray through and not communicate!!

Recognise that I don’t always get it right

Although I would like to think I am perfect – I know that this is not the case! There are times when my own agenda, hurt, frustration, ideas and thoughts come to the fore rather than a genuine prophetic word. Taking a posture of humility means that I recognise that I may not always get things right and that’s ok. My identity sits in relationship with the Father outside of my ability to hear God perfectly. So if the prophetic words are not being heard, then maybe I have got it wrong.

Learning to grow in my prophetic gift

It is important to recognise that my prophetic gift is like any other gift that God gives. It requires me to learn and grow in my understanding and ability to hear God and communicate this well to others. This requires patience and tenacity to find the right place and people to help me learn and grow. I deeply value the Accessible Prophecy huddle process where I find myself in a safe environment to be challenged and encouraged to grow in my prophetic gift. I want to steward well the gift God has given me.

Find opportunities to serve the church and the people in the community that God has placed me in

I need to make sure this is not an attitude of, “Let me serve you a cup of broken glass,” but an attitude of genuine love and care for the well-being and future of the people I am placed with in community. Again this requires humility to genuinely serve people with whom I might feel angry or annoyed. In doing this, it has taught me to see that I need to trust the leaders God has placed me under. This includes trusting them in applying the prophetic words rather than me telling them how these words should be applied. Serving the church means releasing the words I hear and caring for, supporting and loving the people that I am placed in community with.

 

It is deeply challenging to find ourselves, as prophets, in a frustrated and angry place and feel like we are not being heard. I invite you today to consider how we can allow God to speak to us about our frustration and grow in our prophetic gift to serve the body of Christ. Listening to God about what sits beneath our frustration allows us to grow and mature in our gift and we then see prophecy taking its place within the community of Christ as a valued gift to the body.

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Learning to be Prophetic

Our blog this month is written by  Kate Hindley from Liverpool.

I’ve always wanted to be prophetic.  I mean who doesn’t want to hear God speak!  Can there be anything more wonderful than hearing what God has to say?

What do I mean by being prophetic and hearing God?  I believe that God is speaking all the time, not just through the Bible (though that obviously is the best way to hear Him) but in real time, right now, and that as His child, I can hear what He is saying.  And as I tell the kids in my Sunday school, He speaks in lots of diffrent ways.  Sometimes we can see pictures in our mind’s eye.  Sometimes He reminds of us a Bible verse.  Sometimes He will cause us to feel something physical in our bodies or emotional in our guts.  And sometimes we just know things in our ‘know-er’ … But in this blog I’m not aiming to explain what prophecy is, there are many more better equipped people to do that.  I’m just sharing how I came to discover prophecy in my own life.

So here’s my story:  Twenty years ago I was on placement with a church in Cape Town, and whilst there, amongst a myriad of great experiences, one moment sticks out.  A lady prophesied over me that in time I would become prophetic.  My immediate thought was “Wow, that’s great! I can’t wait,” and although I longed for her words to come true, I never did anything much about it.  So wait is exactly what I did.  My assumption was that if God wanted to give me the gift of prophecy then at some point He would drop it in my lap.  After all, I’d been nicely brought up not to expect presents or ask for them, but if given one to be suitably appreciative.  Occasionally, I’d have a go at prophesying; listening to God to see if He wanted to give me a word or a picture for someone, but on the whole I was waiting for the time when He would give me a prophetic gift.

Then about two years ago, I persuaded a friend to be my mentor.  The first thing she asked me was: “What spiritual skill would you like to ‘up-skill’ in?”  And although the thought of spiritual skills (as opposed to gifts) was a bit alien to me, my immediate heart’s cry was, “I want to be prophetic.”  I longed to know how to hear God and feel confident that I can and do hear Him.

My mentor suggested I get some training and pointed me in the direction of Accessible Prophecy. I was initially very reluctant, thinking this wasn’t really for me, but was kind of committed since my mentor would be expecting me to follow through on my stated desire to up-skill.  Nothing like being held accountable to get you moving!  So I joined an online prophetic coaching huddle and I’m so grateful I did.  And cutting a 2-year journey short, here is something of what I have discovered about prophecy:

God has shown me that each prophetic word is like an apple.  Yes, an apple.  Bear with me.

My view of the prophetic used to be that IF I were to listen for a friend for a word from God, and IF God had something to say, and IF He wanted to use me to say it, then He would drop that apple in my lap for me to give to my friend.  Somehow regardless of what my head-knowledge might have told me, in my heart I believed that apples were rare.  I believed apples were hard to receive.  Somewhere deep in my heart sat a poverty mindset that apples were rationed.  Not enough for everyone.  Not enough for every day.  My role was to sit and wait to see if He wanted to drop an apple, but I didn’t really expect Him to.  After all, I wasn’t a ‘prophet’, I was merely me.

So why would God use an apple to explain prophecy to me?  Well, in our house with 3 small kids apples are never rationed.  Sweets, yes.  Exotic fruit, yes.  Apples, never.  If you are hungry, even if just before a meal, it’s OK to help yourself to an apple. Now you might need to ask permission to have some things in life, like “may I have a biscuit” but you don’t need to ask for apples.  And it might be considered greedy or rude to ask certain other people for things, like asking friends for birthday presents, but you can always ask anything of your parents.

So what does that mean for prophecy?  Nowadays, when I think of the prophetic, I imagine God’s vast throne room and all down one side of the room there runs a banquet table laden with apples.  All juicy, all crisp, all delicious and good.  There is such an abundance of apples that in a million years you could not run out.  And because I am a child of the King and heir to His Kingdom, I have the freedom to enter the throne room any time I like and help myself to an apple (just as my kids are free to eat as many apples as they like, even without asking, they are there for the taking).  So if I would like an apple to give a friend, I know there are plenty and I can just take one and give it away.  If I’d like an apple for myself, I can go into the throne room and pick one up.  I don’t have to wait; I don’t have to worry there might not be enough apples; I’m not concerned that I might not be permitted or might not be the right person to give out apples.

I’ve come to know that our God is a God who speaks all the time.  He is not distant or remote, but he is a loving Father who loves and longs to talk with His kids.  He is the God of abundance and there is no lack of anything good in His Kingdom.  I believe that I am a child of the King and through Christ have access directly into the throne room of heaven.  I knew all this beforehand in my head, but now I know it in my heart! (contented sigh).  I set out thinking I needed help with a skill … instead I discovered I needed help with a relationship.  My relationship with Abba Father.

So this is what I have learnt about God and about prophecy.  How great is the love that God has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)

Apple anyone?

 

The Father’s Work

In John chapter 5 we are given an insight into Jesus’ modus operandi, the basis of his ministry: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5:19)

This extraordinary statement comes after Jesus had done something that he wasn’t supposed to have done – at least by the strict standards imposed by the Pharisees. He had healed a man who had been disabled for 38 years, but healed him on a Sabbath: So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. (John 5:16)

And it’s after this that Jesus, perhaps as way of explanation, describes his singular approach to ministry. His Father is always at work, reaching people, loving people, healing people; and Jesus chooses to be the physical expression of the Father’s good works, working in perfect harmony with heaven’s purposes. He sees what God is doing and joins in. It’s that simple.

Of all the desperate and broken people that were gathered around the Pool of Bethesda that day, Jesus was able to perceive that there was one on whom God’s eyes were intently resting. Jesus had eyes so focussed on his Father, and a heart so committed to doing his Father’s will, that he was able to step into that moment of supernatural Kingdom potential, and a man’s life was utterly transformed. Heaven’s healing power invaded earthly reality because Jesus could see where God was at work that day.

“I only do what I see my Father doing.”

What might it look like for us to start following and imitating Jesus in his approach to life and ministry? As disciples of Jesus we are invited into the same way of working and living that he had. We are called to follow him and his ways. So even if it might at first seem unattainable, Jesus wants us to follow his example and model our lives on his.

Our starting point is always, that, as God’s beloved children we are rooted in covenantal relationship with him. We don’t have to strive to see and hear him. We have access to his presence at all times. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, has been poured out upon us and he delights to reveal God’s heart and purposes to us (John 16:14, 1 Corinthians 2:9-11).

But to develop a lifestyle of seeing and partnering with the work of the Father requires active participation. To join in with God’s story we need to be intentionally looking: seeking him out with faith and expectancy. For most of us this requires us to change our way of thinking, to cultivate a new posture and mindset. We have to practice!

 

In a recent coaching huddle that I was leading (for more details of huddles see here) we spent time reflecting on how we could begin to imitate Jesus and intentionally live from a place of joining in with whatever the Father is doing. I’m delighted to share with you the testimonies of Donna and Marilyn from Louisiana and their experiences:

 

Marilyn: After our huddle I started asking the Lord every day, “What is it that you want me to see in this day? What are you doing that is of you, Lord? Help me to see you as I go about my day.”

On the first day of starting out with these words, I decided to go by this embroidery shop (it was not part of my plan when I left the house). I arrived at this shop 15 minutes before it opened and decided I didn’t mind waiting, as it would give me time with God as I waited.

Once in the shop I was talking with the young woman about some designs and during our conversation I learned her father had passed away and she used to have a good relationship with him but before he died their relationship had soured. She didn’t have her mother anymore due to drug abuse for as long as she has known her. This young woman had married a man who was addicted to heroine and alcohol. She had 3 young boys. Dealing with all of this had become overwhelming to her. She was crying and said “I don’t know why I am sharing this with you. I don’t cry easy and I never talk about this to anyone.”

I proceeded to talk to her about leaning on God’s word and love. She said she didn’t go to church but talked to Jesus daily. I shared that I knew it was no accident that we met and our conversation went in the direction that it did. It was our Heavenly Father’s plan.  She agreed. I really stressed to her that she needed to hang on to God in her life and, no matter what, to not let go. “In his time he will see you through this,” I encouraged her.

It was a wonderful experience and I plan to see more of this young lady. She knows I am praying for her and her family.  I was on such a high as I left there knowing that God had spoken very clearly to me and to her on this day. Praises!!!!! I love asking him, “What are you up to today?” more that ever before.

 

Donna: My husband and I went to Jazz Fest last month. I had done a huddle earlier that morning where we were challenged to ask Abba Father to show us what he was doing and have us join in with him, which I shared with Larry on the drive into the city. When we go out I normally let my husband do all the talking and just hang out at his side (being an introvert), but that didn’t happen this day.

Part of our Jazz Fest passes included access to the Miller Beer Tent, a private area where you could escape from the big crowd. So after visiting the Gospel Tent we made our way to the Miller Tent to relax. I turned to Larry and told him, “Now would be a great time to ask the Father that question.” “Here?!” he asked. “Why not?” I replied. And so I did and started intentionally looking for the Father’s response. I was not disappointed.

Very soon I felt God draw my attention to a young woman following an older man, both wearing clean-up crew t-shirts. They were walking to the back area, heads down, separate from everyone else. Throughout the day she came into my awareness repeatedly. I noticed how discrete they were in the crowd, and she was always following him.

Larry and I chose the bar located at the very back to use our free drink tickets at. Two young women attended it all day and we easily formed friendly connections with them both (I was more chatty with them than Larry – way out of my normal behavior). We never went to a different bar and would revisit them each time we ventured back to the Miller Tent. Visiting with them became fun for me and for them.

When Larry and I were outside the Miller Tent, the crowd was very big. Thousands of people were milling around the many booths, music tents, food row – it can be intense for an introvert but not this day. Holy Spirit prompted me many times to speak to strangers in my path. One was a cute young girl wearing an eclectic top. “Tell her she looks good in that blouse,” I was prompted, and so I did as I passed her. She beamed with pleasure and thanked me. “Ask him what his food choice is,” I heard, so I did. The young man told me and out of my mouth a reply of, “Oh that’s awesome! It must be delish!” He beamed and said it was. Many times this happened in many different ways and scenarios. Each time I just ‘knew’ that Holy Spirit did ‘something’ in their hearts. I didn’t have to know what it was. I just kept going and I was soaring high with him.

Later in the afternoon, Larry and I ate at a table near the back bar. As we finished, the clean-up crew of two came walking our way and I was acutely aware of them. The man was at my side to pass me when it all went into slow motion. I looked at the young woman, and she at me as my hand went upward toward her. Her hand immediately reached toward mine and fitted right into my hand. I told her, “Thank you,” with great feeling. Her face lit up with the most beautiful smile, her eyes very bright, and she mumbled a response that I think was, “You’re welcome.” She had not slowed her stride and was passing me, our hands still together. As she moved out of my reach, our hands slid apart and our eyes slowing turned away from each other. It was very crowded all around us, and very noisy (Larry and I had been having to lean in to talk and listen to each other), but Holy Spirit had done something and I was very aware of that. That was the last time I saw her that day.

Right after that moment, I clearly heard God say to me, “Those girls [the bartenders] have not had a break or anything to eat today,” and I knew I could get them some refreshment. I immediately got up, went to the bar and asked if they had had a break or any lunch. They both told me no, no, they don’t get breaks and would eat after they got off that night. So I told them that I wanted to get them something to eat. They kept insisting that I didn’t have to do that, they would be fine, but I eventually persuaded them and went off to get them some strawberry shortcake. Amazingly there was no queue at the shortcake booth and I quickly bought two. When I arrived back at the bar the two young women were astonished. One of them exclaimed three times how she couldn’t believe I came ‘right back’. I left them with their treats knowing Holy Spirit had just done something.

I cannot describe the spiritual high of that day and the hunger to live every day like it. It hasn’t happened exactly like that again, but I do ask Abba Father the question, “Show me what you are doing and how I can join in,” every day now.

Going Slow

Going Slow

“Slow down, you move too fast…” sang Simon and Garfunkel rather a long time ago. The Spirit has been whispering a similar refrain to me recently.

I know it’s become a cliché but the pace of modern life is extraordinary. Instant communication around the world, homes full of the latest technology, 24-7 everything. Perhaps that’s why I like gardening so much because you have to slow down and go at nature’s pace for once, with lots of patient waiting for things to happen.

When we’re going too fast our spiritual well-being is jeopardised by a shallow engagement with the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:29 The Message). We lose the ability to still our hearts and minds and fully encounter God’s presence (Psalm 46:10). We fail to heed the gentle whisper of the Lover of our souls (1 Kings 19:12).

A few years ago I came across a quote that has stuck with me and still challenges me:

                “You know what sin is? It’s not paying attention.”

Now, at this point I don’t want to get into a theological discussion about the nature of sin. But I think there is a lot of truth in that statement. Our failure to pay attention to God, and our failure to pay attention to our neighbour, will stifle our ability to follow the two greatest commandments. And the more we rush through life, filling our days with activity, the harder it is to really pay attention.

To grow in our ability to hear God’s voice, and to develop a God-conscious existence, we have to take on the discipline of slowing down a bit. I know in my own life that I have many days when I’m rushing too much from activity to activity, and it’s only when I get to bedtime that I realise that I haven’t heard God that day. And it’s not because God isn’t speaking. I’ve just been too busy and unfocused to pay attention to what he’s saying to me.

I recognise that for most of us this is a real challenge. But how tragic if the reality of our lives is that we don’t have time to listen to God. What are we missing because we’re not paying attention?

Most of the time God speaks in whispers. The Holy Spirit doesn’t tend to shout revelation; rather he chooses to speak in the still, small voice and in fleeting impressions. He speaks in the kind of voice where we have to lean in, get close, and pay attention. It’s the voice of the tender Father rather than a sergeant major. A voice that is easy to miss if we’re going too fast. But if we slow down enough we find a voice of clarity, kindness and breathtaking beauty.

In John 10 we are presented with a simple yet profound picture of how our relationship with Jesus is supposed to work. It’s not complicated: he is our Good Shepherd and we are his precious sheep. We know – and listen to – his voice, and we follow him. This imagery of a shepherd with his sheep reminds us that following Jesus should fundamentally be about a simplicity of lifestyle and a gentle pace: sheep don’t tend to be manically busy.

And to properly tune in to God’s voice we need to choose a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity – that it’s really worth slowing down to listen – because there is so much God wants to show us. We should remind ourselves every day that the Kingdom is indeed at hand, that the Holy Spirit has very much been poured out upon us, that the spiritual realm is in fact the superior reality.

To really grow in the prophetic – to grow in our ability to hear and see things of the Spirit – we have to slow down. We have to embrace a lifestyle of going slow enough to hear, of re-ordering our priorities, of staying attuned and in synch.

I’ll finish with a few simple suggestions of how we can begin to break the habit of going too fast. Why don’t you choose one of these and have a go over the next few days?

  • Put some reminders on your phone throughout the day to stop for a couple of minutes and engage with God’s loving presence. Welcome the Holy Spirit and ask him to show you what he’s doing in the world around you.
  • Find 10 minutes every day to connect with God through nature and to marvel at the wonder of his creation. For example, time in your garden or a local park; looking at the stars; getting out into the countryside.
  • Do something that intentionally slows you down, like walking to work one day a week, and use that time to pray through the Lord’s Prayer or pray in tongues.
  • When you arrive somewhere by car, spend 2 minutes sitting in stillness and listening before you get out and get on with your day.
  • Go to your favourite coffee shop and enjoy Jesus’ presence as you read your Bible.

Cutting Carrots

Our blog this month  is written by Cassi Frank, who is part of the Accessible Prophecy US team.

 

Ever hear from God through carrots? Yeah, me neither. Until last week.

Lately I’ve been frustrated. I’ve spent the majority of my Christian walk trying to engage with God and recognize his voice more confidently.  I long for the ability to easily share what He is saying to me. I want to see Him working in whatever context I’m in.  And I hope to tell stories about adventures and encounters that have no other explanation than following where the Spirit is leading.

I also am a recovering perfectionist with a very developed skill of comparison.  I’ve spent the last several years pursuing help and coaching specifically in hearing God’s voice for myself and others.  It’s been a blast getting to know the Holy Spirit, starting to recognize His voice and seeing ways that he has shown up by putting me in the midst of a few of the kind of stories that can only be explained by the Spirit’s leading.  But, I can be extremely critical of myself when I see people around me seeming to sprint past without appearing out of breath.

I’ve got plenty of challenges and faults to prevent me from hearing God. I’m an expert at striving and planning ways to convince the Holy Spirit to show up on my terms.  I’ve created calendars to practice listening for a word of encouragement for different people on different days of the week.  I’ve gone shopping with the intent of hearing how He wants me to pray for passing strangers. While there is nothing wrong with those kinds of practices, so often, my attitude is about asking the Holy Spirit to enter my life, my workplace, my family, or my plans for how I want to grow in hearing Him.

But now I have this new tension. I’m a new mom. I LOVE being a mom.  I have learned so much in such a short time.  I also love reflection, contemplation, and quietly sitting with God.  There hasn’t been much of that in this new season, so I’ve been frantically searching in the spare moments for new ways of hearing Him for myself and others.

Recently, I stumbled upon a facebook group that focuses on helping make the ordinary days something more important, something sacred. Since I seem to be looking forward to many years of ordinary days and fewer times of quiet reflection, I jumped in. Through this group and the resources many people have shared, I’ve been learning about the liturgical church year.  Learning that there are seasons beyond Advent and Lent have been intriguing as it was not a part of my faith background.

As I’ve been learning about this new perspective my ordinary days have started to change because of this idea: the liturgical year is about Remembering you are stepping into God’s story.

Cue the carrots.

This idea of stepping into God’s story is coming to mind at various times throughout my week.  This week, it happened to be while I was peeling carrots.  Peeling a full 5lbs of carrots meant I had plenty of time to think about how much I wanted to be doing something (anything!) else.  Since God’s story is happening all around us, I decided to ask the Spirit what he was up to here, in my house, with my son sitting a few feet away playing, and no other person in sight capable of intelligent conversation.  I didn’t expect a response. However, the Spirit began comparing me to a carrot…

Some of the carrots I was peeling were long, narrow and flimsy.  Some were short, fat and strong.  Some were twisted, branched, swerving and unbalanced.  In His grace, the Spirit spoke to me about the value of my gifts and my journey in terms of these carrots.  In my striving, I had been trying to force my way into being the biggest and best, tallest and strongest, fastest growing and perfectly symmetrical carrot.  But the Spirit brought my attention to a different kind of carrot.

In that moment, he was encouraging me in the value of a slow, strong, consistent faith.  Like the shorter, wider, stronger carrots, it is not easily set off course; it is not moved by obstacles in the soil; it does not have flailing branches that lose time and energy by shooting off in the wrong direction. I may feel like I’m growing so slowly in hearing His voice, but really he is building and growing a strong foundation that cannot easily be redirected.  As I realized what was happening, I had to laugh out loud.  I thanked Him for using such a simple vegetable to get my attention and for teaching me about His story.

Because of this new encouragement from our Father out of such an ordinary, insignificant activity, I’m continuing to look at the world around me, asking Him “what is happening in your story right here, right now?”  It’s changing my perspective and helping me to focus on what He’s doing instead of how I want to grow in my listening prayers.  It’s helping me to actively show that I believe God is present and active in every moment whether it involves me or not. It is opening my eyes to his Lordship by helping me acknowledge he is in charge and it’s His story, not mine.

There’s one more thing about carrots.  You never know what they look like until you pull them out of the ground. We don’t get to see them fight against hard soil or work their way between buried rocks. All the growth happens in the dark, under the ground, before we see the finished product.  It is only after the growth has happened that we can see the results. By speaking to me through carrots and reminding me I have a chance to step into God’s Story, He’s showing me the importance of trusting His context instead of forcing my own. Just as the soil directs the growth of a carrot, growing in the context of God’s story gives direction to my growth, meaning to what I hear (even in ordinary things) and has the potential to make my sharing of those words more powerful than if I insist on growing on my own terms.

My growth in listening over the last several years hasn’t been on my own.  The ministry of Accessible Prophecy has been invaluable.  Its challenged me to confront my own obstacles in listening and its encouraged me to persevere with others in learning to recognize our Father’s voice.