The Meeting Place

Where have you met Jesus today?

I hope you have at least one special place where you find it easy to connect with God. Perhaps it’s a comfy chair in a quiet spot in your house; a sunny bench in your garden; or walking in a local park. I’m about to head off to one of my special places: Burbage Valley in the Peak District is only six minutes away by car, great for dog-walking, and somewhere I find it really easy to pray and connect with Jesus.

Of course we know that God is present everywhere, and Romans 8:29 teaches us that there is nowhere in the whole of creation where we are separated from his love. But throughout the Bible narrative we see God choosing certain places to meet with his people, places of encounter such as Mount Sinai or Gideon’s tree.

The ancient Celtic Christians used the concept of ‘thin places’ – places where God’s presence seemed more accessible and heaven seemed closer. These might be places in creation – perhaps a hill, river, or lake – where connection with the Divine Presence was somehow much easier. These were physical places, and we all need those special locations that we journey to for spiritual refreshment and abiding, whether the pilgrimage is of a few steps or many miles.

Reading the gospels we see that Jesus often used mountains as special places to meet with his heavenly Father:

           After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that   night, he was there alone. Matthew 14:23

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.   Luke 6:12

It’s interesting that Jesus, who did everything out of relationship with his Father (John 5:19-20), still needed to go and find the special places to retreat to where he could meet with his Father in prayer.

Once a week I try to get out to my favourite coffee shop because it’s a place where I love to sit in Jesus’ presence and hear him speak to me as I read my Bible and write in my journal. It’s an easy place for spiritual engagement, one of my own ‘thin places’. The presence of Jesus is often so real and tangible that I want to reach out and touch his hand as he sits at the table with me.

But as well as physical places, God’s Spirit delights to lead us to internal and spiritual places of meeting, which are just as real as their physical counterparts; places of the heart. There are many stories in the Bible of God meeting with people through prophetic experiences such as dreams and visions. Think of Isaiah’s incredible encounter in Isaiah 6, or Jacob meeting God in his dream of a heavenly staircase in Genesis 28. These were real encounters, but took place in the spiritual realm.

One of my favourite ‘listening’ exercises I do with people I’m coaching is to use the scriptural concept of a ‘spacious place’ and ask God to show what this place looks like for each of us, using our God-given imagination.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.           Psalm 18:19

         You have set my feet in a spacious place. Psalm 31:8

As we do this exercise we have a time of quiet and simply ask the Holy Spirit for an internal picture of the spacious place, the place of meeting; something that we can perceive with the eyes of our heart. We then look to see where Jesus is in this place and engage with what he is doing. I love hearing the details of the revelation that God brings to people as his Spirit touches their spirits and opens the way for meeting him. These are not one-off prophetic pictures, but places that we can return to again and again: meeting places in the spiritual realm.

In my own Christian walk I have found that God gives me new internal meeting places depending on the particular season of life I’m going through. A couple of years ago, when I was going through an intense pruning season [see the blog post Embracing Pruning], God gave me the image of a desert to find a meeting place with Jesus. I sat down with him every day in that desert place as he did some really deep work in my heart, and this internal meeting place became a regular venue of fellowship and encounter.

The idea of a ‘meeting place’, whether physical or internal, brings a fresh dimension to prayer, when we start to see prayer fundamentally as an intimate meeting place with God. There is a profound depth to prayer when we approach it as a context or a place that is first and foremost about meeting God before we say any words – a place to wait on his presence and to fix our eyes on Jesus.

The wonderful thing about discovering the meeting places that God has for each one of us, is that he is already there waiting for us. This is the Father that picked up his skirts and ran to embrace the prodigal son. He delights to meet with us – so we don’t have to fear he won’t turn up. Whatever our meeting place looks like the important thing is that it’s a venue for communion and fellowship and deep abiding.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14

 

 

Hearing God for our Churches

What does a listening church look like? How can we hear God together for our churches? God loves every local expression of the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit desires to reveal to us the heart and intentions of the Father so that together we can step into his Kingdom purposes. The gift of prophecy is not just for individuals, and a mature expression of the ministry will involve corporate hearing and responding. A healthy prophetic culture is one in which people have a shared vision of what God is calling them to as a church.

The second and third chapters of the book of Revelation are made up of Jesus’ words to the seven churches in Asia Minor and give an interesting perspective on what God’s word looks like when directed to a church rather than an individual. Each of these letters starts with an expression of the nature and character of Christ, then a specific commendation, followed by a complaint, correction and conclusion. Each letter is precise and to the point. Can we hear God as clearly as that for our churches? Do we know the particular revelation of his nature that Jesus wants us to take hold of in this season? Can we hear his words of affirmation and correction? Can we state with confidence, “These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand….”?

It’s important for every church to know the call of God. Proverbs 29:18 warns that without prophetic vision the people of God perish. Every church needs eyes to see and ears to hear: to discern the bigger picture of God’s intention for us as a body and where he is calling us.

Hearing

Whenever we come together in worship and fellowship there are opportunities to hear the corporate ‘now’ word from the Lord. We simply need to create the space and expectation, and get in the habit of saying, “Let’s just pause for a few minutes and listen to what God is saying to us.” An obvious place to do this is in our Sunday services, but we can do this whenever we are gathered together.

A number of years ago, at my church in Sheffield, we set up a Prophetic Council that has been a very helpful way of discerning what God is saying to us as a church. The Council is made up of a number of mature Christians who have a good track record of bringing accurate prophecies to the church and have a heart to serve the leadership. We meet 6 times a year: each time we meet we share what we think God is saying to the church and city, and then seek to discern, weigh and sharpen God’s rhema word. We then submit these words to the church leadership team.

Other churches I know have set up Listening Groups as a way of encouraging people to hear God together. These are open to everyone who wants to come, and usually follow a simple pattern of worship, basic teaching on hearing God’s voice, and then space to listen. They provide a positive context to pursue God’s heart and intention for his church, and everyone is encouraged that they can listen and contribute.

Recording

If we are serious about hearing God for our churches then we have to be intentional about recording prophecies. God’s voice is incredibly precious, but how do we ensure we keep a proper record of what he is saying to us?

At my church we’ve got files that go back years: we’ve done our best to keep a copy of every prophecy that has been given to our church. We also have a book that is available at Sunday services to record prophecies that are shared. Having everything written down enables us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit and track the themes that emerge over time. We find confirmation for prophecies when we realise that the same word has come from different people over a period of time.

Weighing

The New Testament makes it very clear that prophecy has to be weighed and tested:

     Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.                    1 Corinthians 14:29

Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.                                           1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

Most prophecies we hear and speak will not be 100% accurate and infallible. Some may come very close, but at the end of the day it’s still a human vessel trying to communicate the very mind of God using contemporary language, and we will always need a healthy dose of realism and humility to properly discern what God is actually saying.

Weighing is a very important part of the whole process of hearing what God is saying to our churches. At my church we have encouraged our missional communities to weigh corporate prophecies by discussion, prayer and asking the Holy Spirit for his discernment. Our leadership team also take the process of weighing prophecies seriously. The key question when we weigh significant prophecies is, “Does this word find confirmation in scripture, in our community of faith, and in the witness of the Holy Spirit?”

 Communication

This is probably stating the obvious, but if we’re going to hear God’s voice together then we need to be good at communication. It’s vital that both the church leaders and the intercessors know what the prophets are discerning at any time, but we also need effective channels of communication so that the whole church knows what God is saying in a particular season. Sometimes the greatest gift to a prophetic team is someone who is really good at administration and can take on the role of ensuring good communication. Notice boards and newsletters are great places to share key prophecies.

Responding

The final part of the process, and in many ways the most important, is responding together to God’s spoken word: “If this is what God is saying to us, then what are we going to do about it?”

When God speaks to us he speaks for a purpose and he looks for a response. There is a profound intentionality to God’s spoken words to us; we have to beware a casual attitude to them. We need to be active responders rather than passive receivers.

An incredible helpful framework for processing the prophetic is understanding that there are three parts to any prophecy: Revelation (the picture, word, or dream given to the person by God); Interpretation (“What does it mean?”); and Application (“What are we going to do about it?”) All three parts are equally important, and a mature prophetic culture is one where emphasis and training is applied to all three. Revelation may come from just one person, but the application of prophecy has to be discerned within a context of community and usually requires input from people who are gifted in strategy.

Once we all know what God is saying to us as a church, then wise and strategic leaders can release the Body to step out in faith and obey God’s voice. There is so much God wants to say to his church: let’s be hearers – and do-ers – of his word. Together!

 

Asking God Questions

Children ask the best questions. One that is famous in our family was asked by my then 3-year old daughter:

“Daddy, why do we have two hands?”

The best answer my husband could come up with was:

“Well, I suppose it’s better than one but not quite as good as three…”

One of the joys of being around young children is their natural curiosity about the world around them and the wonderful questions they come up with. Their assumption of course is that adults will have all the answers. Part of the journey for any parent is the realisation that we can’t answer all those questions, but it’s lots of fun trying to.

Questions are good. And for those of us who are parents, on our best days we never get (too) tired of our children’s questions. But what about asking questions of God? Many of us get to a place in our faith journey where we feel we can no longer ask God questions: we might fear the answer, or feel the question is too hard. Perhaps we doubt our ability to hear God’s response, or fear that He will remain silent.

It’s so important that we don’t lose that child-like freedom to ask questions of our heavenly Father. In fact a key part of our journey in learning to hear God’s voice better is asking Him questions – and listening for the answer.

It’s good to remind ourselves of God’s incredible wisdom; that the One we worship has the answer to every question we could ever ask:

All this comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.
Isaiah 28:29

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

These verses encourage me that it’s always worth pausing to ask God questions about every aspect of my life and the world around me. I want to learn how to lean into His wisdom and counsel, and trust His perspective. Rather than rushing into decisions and assumptions based on my limited human understanding, I need to seek His counsel so much more. He has given each of us the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor who teaches us all things (John 14:26), so why are we sometimes so reluctant to ask Him when we need help?

In the Bible David was someone who knew the wisdom of asking God questions; in fact one of the things that set him apart from Saul was his willingness to ‘inquire of the Lord’ on a regular basis, as we see from these two verses:

Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him.  1 Samuel 23:4

Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.   1 Chronicles 10:13-14

 

Here are some simple steps we can take towards seeking the wisdom of God and asking Him questions in a way that will deepen our walk with Him:

 

 

  1. Deal with the fear

It’s important to recognize that for some of us there is fear associated with asking God questions, so the first step is to acknowledge these fears: perhaps it’s the fear of not getting an answer, or the fear of getting an answer we don’t like. Whatever the fear is, we can bring it to God and have faith that His love and grace is sufficient to deal with it.

  1. Come like a child

He called a little child to Him, and placed the child among them. And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”   Matthew 18:2-4

We are in the best place to ask questions of God, and hear His answers, when our posture is that of little children and we approach God as our loving heavenly Father. Sometimes that will mean putting aside cynicism and doubt and anger; it always means choosing a humble heart and choosing to trust Him. I’m sure that the little children who came to Jesus had great fun asking Him all sorts of wonderful questions.

  1. Journal your questions… and God’s answers

A perfectly valid response to this subject is, “It’s all very well asking God questions, how do I know I can hear the answers?”

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 the Holy Spirit in the moment, throughout the day, and at these times the answers usually come in the form of simple words or a sense of ‘just knowing’. I find that, after years of practising this form dialogue with the Spirit, I can ask Him about a particular course of action and His answer will be a deep sense of peace if I’m on the right track.

  1. Ask the right questions!

Of course there are no right or wrong questions to ask God: He can cope with anything we ask Him. But I’ve found that there are some great questions that deepen my relationship with God and help me align myself with His purposes, so it’s these that I tend to use.

I like to focus on the Who, How and What questions. For example, these ones are always a good way to start the day:

  • Who would You like me to encourage today?
  • What do You want me to do for You today, Holy Spirit?
  • Is there anyone I’m supposed to meet today?
  • How can I show Your love to people today, Father?

I’ve learnt over the years that, when faced with the pain and brokenness of the world around me, God doesn’t want me to stay fixated on the problem in front of me, but rather seek Him for the word of life that will open the door to His light and love. One of the marks of a healthy prophetic culture is that rather than asking, “Why is this bad thing happening?” we instead ask, “What’s Your word that will transform this situation?” That’s not to invalidate the heart-felt Why questions, but to recognise that our role is to be Speakers of Life into every situation God puts us in.

 

I’ll finish with a suggestion for you: a good question to ask at this time of year is, “What’s Your word for me for 2017?” Sit down with your journal, ask God that question and listen for His answer.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.   James 1:5

 

The Road of the Holy Spirit

In February I was fortunate to have a weekend in the beautiful city of Lisbon (celebrating a big birthday!) and as my husband and I enjoyed wandering around the old streets near the castle we came upon this road sign:Seeing those words painted onto the ancient stone wall was for me a visible sign of something very precious and close to my heart. The Road of the Holy Spirit. As I paused a while to think about the words they brought both comfort and challenge. Yes, this is the road I’ve chosen for my life, and it’s wonderful; but how many times do I wander off it?

This street sign is a great visual reminder of Paul’s instruction to us in Galations 5:16-26, particularly verse 25:

                      Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 There is an active dynamic to this verse. To keep in step with someone means we walk closely to them, paying careful attention to what they are doing and where they are going. We go at their pace. We follow their lead. We walk the same road.

Every disciple of Jesus has been given the Holy Spirit. One of the incredible truths of the New Covenant we live under is that God has poured out his Spirit upon us. As Jesus expresses it in John 7:38-39:

“Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

 The Spirit of Almighty God lives in me! What a wonderful truth! But life in the Spirit is more than just knowing his in-dwelling presence; it’s about an active, daily decision to walk the same road as him, wherever that may lead. So how are we to follow this road? How do we ensure the Spirit is leading us, step by step?

Over the last few years I’ve intentionally set out to explore ‘The Road of the Holy Spirit’. Here are 4 simple things I’ve learnt and some practical steps we can take:

  1. Get to know the Spirit as a real person and friend

How well do you really know the Holy Spirit?

He’s not an ‘it’; he’s not an impersonal force or power or influence. He’s a person, part of the Trinity with the Father and the Son, with his own personality and attributes.

It’s so important that we don’t treat him as a utility rather than a real person, asking for some heat or power or refreshment when we need it in ministry but ignoring him the rest of the time. He’s a person – he’s God – he’s God with us. That’s why Jesus could say to his disciples in John 16:

   “It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t the friend won’t come. But if I go I’ll send him to you.”  [The Message]

How do we get to know someone? We talk to them, we have conversations with them, we dialogue as friends. God wants us to know his Spirit to the degree that we know our closest friend:

“But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:17

We can welcome the Holy Spirit into our day every morning and honour his presence in our lives continually.

A practical step: Tell the Holy Spirit that you want to get to know him better and start to ask him questions about what things are bringing him joy today.

  1. Pay attention

The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in our lives and in the world around us. He is also continually bringing revelation to us. The problem is that most of us are just not very good at paying attention to what he’s up to. We get so preoccupied with all the ‘stuff’ of life that we lose the ability to see the incredible beauty of the Spirit’s words and works and the opportunities he frequently offers us.

So to keep in step with the Spirit we have to reorder our priorities and actually slow down enough so that we are attuned to his voice and promptings. The Spirit rarely shouts at us; in fact learning to walk his road means cultivating an internal stillness so that we can recognise his voice and hear his whispers. But wonderful adventures start to open up as we discern those subtle promptings and choose to respond to them.

A practical step: put some reminders on your phone throughout the day to stop for a minute and tune into whatever the Holy Spirit is doing in and around you.

  1. Surrender

Getting to know the Holy Spirit and learning to recognise his voice is wonderful, but if we are serious about walking his road and keeping in step with him, then we have to choose to actively follow him. To follow him wherever he might lead us. Being filled with the Spirit is more than just a warm fuzzy feeling; it’s about complete surrender and dependency.

Jesus modelled this life of dependency on the Spirit; he modelled for us what it looks like to be completely led by, surrendered to, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not just filled with the Spirit, but chose to be led by the Spirit, and it’s the same journey for us. It’s the daily choice to follow the Spirit and depend on him. Are we letting him be in control and change our agenda if he so wishes?

A practical step: as you start your day ask the Holy Spirit to be in the driving seat of your life and picture yourself handing him the car keys.

 

  1. Have a mindset of overflow and abundance

In order to keep in step with the Spirit we need our minds to be thinking in line with scripture and live in the incredible truth that we are children of overflow and abundance. The Holy Spirit is not dripped or drizzled, but poured out upon us. When it comes to him and his presence we can eagerly await the limitless generosity of heaven:

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13

We can never have too much of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We can have too much of lots of good things – food, wine, even water – but there is never ‘too much’ of the Holy Spirit. There are no toxic levels of his presence. It is only our own narrow expectations that limit his presence and power in our lives.

A practical step: give thanks every day that your heavenly Father has given you his Spirit and be expectant for more.

As you look ahead to 2017 what might it look like for you to more intentionally keep in step with the Spirit and walk his road?

From Listening to Doing

We’re delighted to have Brandon Kelly from the States as our guest blogger this month. Brandon is part of the Accessible Prophecy US team.

 

As an apostle, my admiration and appreciation of prophets and prophecy has grown significantly over the past couple of years. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to experience a prophetic huddle and have spent a great deal of time with prophets, both of which have developed my understanding and experience of prophecy for my own life. There’s one thing, though, that continues to stand out in most interactions that I have with prophets – they spend too much time listening and not enough time doing.

Now to be fair, apostles spend too much time doing and very little time listening. Once during a prophetic huddle, I was sharing how I always immediately respond to what I think God is saying and was considering giving myself a twenty four hour wait time before I acted on anything. Bursting with pride, I thought that I would be an example to the prophets in my huddle of what it looks like to be patient and wait on God. After everyone stopped laughing, I realized twenty four hours is nothing to a prophet. I was challenged to consider a week or maybe more to fully engage with the voice of God and hear clearly what he is saying before I do anything.

This is why apostles and prophets work so well together. Prophets keep apostles on track with what God has spoken, helping them to hear clearly and deeply. Apostles keep prophets moving forward, helping them to take action. When both are represented there’s an equilibrium of listening and doing in the life of the church. What can a prophet learn from an apostle to help them take action on what God has said?

I’ve found that there are five questions that are helpful to ask yourself, and others, when moving from listening to doing:

  1. What’s one way that you can respond to what God is saying in the next two weeks?
    Usually, there’s never any lack of inspiration for large and lofty plans for us to accomplish when we’ve heard from God. The dreaming of what God can do in us and through us can be significant, especially for more profound and memorable prophetic words. However, if we can’t identify the next action step that’s needed to move us on the journey to God’s words, the likelihood is that we’ll never do anything about it. Asking what someone can do in the next two weeks presses them to the next practical step that can be done. If it can’t be done within two weeks, there’s probably a smaller step that could be taken to move them in the right direction. I like the two week timeframe because it allows enough space for unforeseen issues that come up, but is short enough that the action and word remains fresh in your heart and mind.
  1. When are you going to do that?
    Once the next action step has been identified, it’s helpful to get specific about when the action will take place. If you leave out the specifics now, it’s unlikely they’ll get clearer as time passes on. You need a plan for when your response to God’s word will take place. What day will it be? What time will it be? Even categories of time – in the morning… at lunch… – aren’t specific enough. Will you do it before breakfast or right after you wake up? The amount of clarity that you have about your plan now is directly related to the likelihood of follow through later.
  1. Who’s going to hold you accountable?
    When the plan is in place for what you’ll do and when you’ll do it, you need to figure out who can hold you accountable. This isn’t someone who will guilt and shame you for failing to do what you’re supposed to do, but someone to support and encourage you to do the things you’ve said you will do. It could be someone in your huddle, a friend, a spouse, or anyone that you trust will actually follow up with you. It doesn’t do you any good to be held accountable by someone who won’t hold you accountable. It also doesn’t do you any good to lie about what you’ve accomplished, it misses the point of accountability. Be honest and admit when you’ve fallen short. The person holding you accountable should respond with grace and offer support for making your action step happen.
  1. What can you do right now to ensure that it will happen?
    There are often small things that can be done right away to help ensure that the action step gets accomplished. These are usually simple and quick items such as: emailing or calling the person who’s going to hold you accountable, placing the action step on your calendar, writing yourself a note, or setting up a reminder on your phone. If you can do one of these now, you can set yourself up for success later on.
  1. What roadblocks would stop you from doing it?
    We can’t always foresee the road ahead, but sometimes we can anticipate roadblocks before we run into them. If we can identify roadblocks now, we may be able to adjust the plans we’re making or add some steps along the way that will overcome them before they become an issue. Roadblocks could include: not having the right resources (think time, materials, and knowledge), someone who may be adverse to what you’re trying to do, personal fears, spiritual warfare, etc.

Listening to God is vital to the life of a disciple, but equally important is responding to what He says. As we consider taking action, we can set ourselves up for success by putting some additional thought and intentionality into our planning.

What have you found to be helpful in moving from listening to doing?

What other questions might you ask to bring greater clarity to plans and actions?

Åbenbaring

This month’s blog is written by Anders Lindegaard who is a graduate from The University of Copenhagen with a Masters of Theology. He’s part of Byens Valgmenighed where he leads prophetic ministry. He is also launching ‘Røst’, which is the Danish branch of Accessible Prophecy.

 

Unless you are from Scandinavia or you are, for some reason, familiar with the Danish language, then the title of this blog probably won’t mean anything to you. But allow me to enlighten you with a very small Danish lesson. The word åbenbaring is the Danish word for revelation. It is closely related to the German word offenbaren and is best translated into English as to openly bear/carry something.

For the past nine months I have been intensively studying the prophetic as it was the subject for my Theology Masters thesis. I find it hard to isolate a single aspect of the prophetic and deem it the key purpose of prophecy. It might even be that the purpose of prophecy is entirely relative, since God reveals himself for different people in different ways for a number of different reasons. That being said, I do believe that one of the key reasons for God revealing himself is relationship, which is a concept that is captured in the Danish word åbenbaring.

When we look at the Bible, in particular Genesis, we see how the relationship between God and man was, in it’s original state, one of immediate communication. There was a complete openness where we were able to communicate directly with God. This continuous openness between God and Adam meant that there wasn’t need for any particular moments of revelation. God was showing all of himself all of the time to Adam because he loved him. When you love someone, you desire that other person to be open and transparent. It is absolutely vital. Without openness there is no chance and no room for communication and love to survive. This is the case in every relationship we have with someone.

From the beginning, God was inviting us in to a deep and profound love; a love that already existed within the Trinity. Augustine reflects profoundly on the relationship between revelation and love when discussing the theology of the Trinity. The foundation of the Christian concept of revelation is that God is love and that love can never be love without a person to love, hence meaning that the dynamic bond between the three persons of the Trinity is one of love. This dynamic bond is not only an internal one (Augustine’s words: ad intra operatio) that exists solely between the three persons of the Godhead. It is rather a Trinitarian power that is directed out to other creatures (ad extra operatio). The inner-Trinitarian love between the Trinity’s three persons cannot be separated from the One God’s desire to love others. This means that we are invited into that very love that exists within the Trinity itself.

With the Fall, the immediate openness between God and man was broken and hence revelation became a necessary premise for us to continuously communicate with God. For as we know, God is love! Love is dependent on communication and openness to exist. God’s desire is for us to be part of Him; he desires for the same state as before the Fall. For God then to communicate with man and thereby show his love, he needs to reveal himself to man. God’s love makes revelation a necessity!

Reading the Bible, we see how the Old Testament prophets are the champions of continued openness and communication between God and man; they were his instruments through which he sought to re-establish the broken unity. It is this role of Old Testament prophets that continues with the prophets in a New Testament paradigm.

Revelation is an expression of God’s continued longing to communicate with his people, whom he deeply loves. Through revelation and prophecy God wants to equip, build and edify his people and his church. Revelation manifests as God’s personal words to the individual believer as well as to the church in general. It is an expression of God that still intervenes and cares for his people, both as individuals and the whole church. Hence revelation expresses God’s longing to restore that open and immediate communication that was interrupted by the Fall, which can now only exist through God’s revelation. Revelation allows humanity to access the most insight into who God is.

This understanding of God as being relational and revealing himself in order to show his love was the biggest eye-opener for me growing into the prophetic. Cath Livesey describes my process in her new book My Sheep Have Ears (which, by the way, I highly recommend).

“When Anders moved to a church with a different approach, people started regularly asking him the question ‘What is God saying to you today?’ At first Anders’ response was based on his analysis of the sermon. But as people kept asking him the same question he started to consider the possibility that he might be able to hear God speak to him personally. In this new environment Anders’ mind began to change. As his mind changed he started actively listening for God and found a relational God that was really speaking to him. The new mind-set opened up a whole new dimension of his faith and today Anders hears God with great clarity.”
Cath Livesey, My Sheep Have Ears.

This is why prophecy is so important. It’s revealing purpose in showing people the heart of their loving Father as well as speaking true identity into peoples’ lives, allows them to understand who they really are. It allows them to further understand that they are most beloved children. Prophecy is absolutely dependent on revelation in order to understand and know God and for people to grow into a covenant identity with him.

Disqualified?

Our blog this month is written by Lucy Fardon who is part of the Accessible Prophecy team here in Sheffield.

‘“O Sovereign Lord” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”’ Jeremiah 1:7

I remember when I first read this line in the Bible. I immediately grabbed my blue highlighter pen; scribbling and underlining what summed up in a sentence a thought that had gnawed at me for a good many years. In my mind, my juvenile status limited me entirely when it came to speaking out what I thought God was saying. After all, He is 100% definitely and without a doubt going to speak to someone older and wiser and a lot more mature than me. Isn’t He?

I grew up in a lovely church, surrounded by a bucket load of lovely people all of whom encouraged me in my walk with Jesus and the adventure of learning to hear His voice. Therefore, as you can imagine, I’m struggling to see where and when this idea of ‘being too young for use’ crept into my heart. But regardless, it was there. The more I thought about it, the more I overthought it, and the more I overthought it, the more it dominated my vision, until I was convinced that if I ever dared to speak a prophetic word, I’d humiliate myself. It was basically the church version of the ‘get-to-school-with-no-trousers-on’ nightmare.

Anyway, back to Jeremiah. So as I’m sure you’re all aware, Jeremiah was one of the major Old Testament prophets, writing both Jeremiah and Lamentations. His prophetic ministry extended over 40 years, spanning the lives of five kings, the fall of Jerusalem and Judah, and the destruction of the Holy Temple- pretty hefty stuff to say the least. It is believed that when God first called him, he was 16. Sixteen! No wonder he felt inadequate. Yet God doesn’t let him stay in this inadequacy. Rather, He leads Jeremiah out of his doubts, in a practical and simple way.

What I love most about God’s response to Jeremiah is this kind, slow, parent-like nature in which He explains it to him.

“Look, Jeremiah. What do you see?”

“I see a branch from an almond tree”

“That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.” Jeremiah 1:11-12

There is no complicated theology or complex theories, Jeremiah just looks out and names the first thing he sees- a branch. I always imagine a father and son from this dialogue, it’s such a lovely demonstration of a dad teaching his son how to look deeper. Step by step God takes what’s in front of Jeremiah and tells him what it means. The word for ‘almond tree’ written in Hebrew is almost identical to the Hebrew word meaning ‘my word will be fulfilled’. As Jeremiah steps out of his comfort zone and tunes into God’s voice, God affirms what he has heard is true, “That’s right”. Continually Jeremiah is told, “Do not be afraid of them” (vs 8 & 17), “I have made you strong” (vs 18), “For I am with you, and I will take care of you” (vs 19). To God, age was regardless. Jeremiah was willing to take leaps of trust, no matter how big or small, and so His heart was ready for God to use.

Now of course not everyone is going to have struggles with age. However, I think we can all fall into the trap of disqualifying ourselves from hearing God’s voice in one way or another. Maybe you doubt your ability to hear accurately, or perhaps you doubt God would even want to speak to you in the first place. But like most good and true things, prophecy at times can be something we must fight to take hold of. The enemy is all too aware of the freedom you will bring when you speak aloud the Truth, and so he works on trying to make those doubts louder than God’s voice. The best way I’ve found to silence the enemy in this situation is to work out what he’s saying. What are the lies you’re being told? Because once you know the lies, you can recognise them every time they come up, and you can replace them with a truth. “Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed”, Proverbs 12:19.

God is true and He is powerful, as is His word. If we go back to Jeremiah, when God asked him what he saw, God knew that Jeremiah’s eyes were fixed on Him hence why Jeremiah could interpret reality through heavenly eyes. Take your eyes off God for a moment and the perspective is shifted from a heavenly reality to an earthly reality, and when it comes to hearing God’s voice that shift makes an enormous difference. The more you see yourself as heaven does- as God’s kid- the more your age, gender, past mistakes, income, experience and status all fade.

So I challenge you:
What is making you doubt God’s calling? Be it age, gender, status etc.
What is God saying in response to this doubt?
Finally, what do you see? Take a look out of your office, car, or bedroom window- what do you see?

 

Prophecy and Mission

This blog is written by John White, exploring his thoughts and revelation on prophecy and mission.

“He is the missionary Spirit of the missionary Father and the missionary Son, breathing life and power into God’s missionary church.” (The Cape Town Commitment)

As the missionary Spirit breathes life and power into God’s missionary church, so God’s people are released into prophetic missional activity. Prophecy is to mission as a heart is to life. Prophecy lies at the heart of the mission of God’s people. This has been the case throughout Scripture, whether under the Old or New Covenant.

The history of the early church in the Acts of the Apostles clearly shows the connection between the gift of the Spirit and the missional activity of the early disciples. The Acts of the Apostles is not just about God’s guidance; it is about specific directions from the Spirit for mission.

Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Explore, dream and discover.

There is an extraordinary connection between three chapters in the Bible; Joel 2, Acts 2, and Numbers 11, and all three present an opportunity to ‘explore, dream and discover’.

In Numbers 1 – 10, God was preparing his people for the journey from Sinai through the wilderness to the land that God had promised them. How were the people to relate to a holy God? How were they to be a people on mission? The story of the Bible is how God called a people to himself through Abraham, beginning with liberating the people of Israel from slavery and bondage in Egypt.

So if Numbers 1-10 is an exploration of how to relate to a holy God, Numbers 11 is a ‘bridge’ chapter, that reveals the pressure the people of God faced when starting to walk out God’s mission. It is a chapter of ‘responses’ – the people’s, Moses’ and God’s. Response after response. It is hard being a people on mission for God. So the people complained. Why couldn’t they have stayed in Egypt? What on earth are they doing here in a wilderness? And as for the food; all they got was manna, conveniently forgetting that the manna was God’s gracious provision to keep them alive in the desert.

They craved meat. They looked back to Egypt, hardly halcyon days. They grumbled and complained. Not one for missing an opportunity to get involved, Moses added his complaint. He was fed up with the burden of leading God’s people.

What happens? Seventy people, who were already exercising some form of leadership, were chosen to be elders. God took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and placed it on the seventy elders. The result was that the seventy began to prophesy. Two others, who were not part of the original seventy, also began to prophesy. Joshua thought that they should be stopped, but Moses replied, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29). Moses’ pipe dream? Yes, but one that would be linked through a promise in Joel 2 (2:28 – “And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy …”) to the fulfilment in Acts 2. What was a pipe dream in Numbers 11, and a prophecy in Joel 2, eventually become a reality in Acts 2.

If Numbers 11 is about empowering God’s people to fulfil God’s mission to the world under the Old Covenant, so Acts 2 is the same, but this time under the New Covenant.

Joel’s promise of the gift of prophecy is fulfilled at Pentecost, enabling God’s people to take up Abraham’s call to be a blessing to the nations, a prophetic blessing to the nations. In Genesis 12:1-3, Abram is called by God, who blesses him so that he will be a blessing to the nations. Later, in Genesis 20:7, Abraham is described as a prophet. His ministry was to the nations. His was a missionary call to the nations that had at its heart the prophetic equipping and empowering of God’s people.

Prophecy and mission are intertwined together. As Robert P Menzies has written in ‘Empowered for Witness – The Spirit in Luke-Acts’, “According to Luke, the Spirit of Pentecost is the source of prophetic inspiration and, as such, the Spirit of mission.” The Acts of the Apostles shows us the first disciples seeking to live out their mission as the Spirit-filled prophets, thus demonstrating the outworking of the link between Numbers 11, Joel 2 and Acts 2.

In G Vandervelde & W R Barr’s book, ‘The Spirit in the Proclamation of the Church’, we read: “All God’s people are “to prophesy” … are called to proclaim the story of God’s love.” Frank DeCenso Jr. writes in his book, ‘Amazed by the Power of God’, “… God wants His children to catch the vision of moving in His power to change other’s lives and to tell all people that He is in love with them.”

As then, so now. That’s our mission, that’s our calling; to be a prophetic people living in truth and love, and speaking out God’s prophetic word.

Application: how we go about responding to this
Erwin Raphael McManus: “when we become visible, the invisible presence of God becomes visible.” Am I seeking to be intentionally visible in bringing a prophetic word from God to those I meet? Is God calling me to leave the familiar (like Moses leaving the privileged life of a prince, to be drawn into the wilderness) and to speak God’s prophetic word to those outside my immediate context?