A Change of Perspective

In this month’s blog, our intern Lucy is sharing a testimony of how daily seeking God for vision and encouragement for her situation at work has been a transformative experience. We hope you enjoy reading it.

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” Matthew 22:29-31

It’s funny how one little glance at the waves, and suddenly we’re overwhelmed. The idea that Jesus could be stood right in front of us, and yet the moment we choose to take our eyes off him, we find ourselves sinking.

Recently, I’ve felt a little like Peter. Well, perhaps a lot like Peter. I remember, not too long ago, I’d had a very tough week; my new job had become challenging to the point of feeling completely out of my depth. I’d run out of ideas and strength of how to remain hopeful and joy-filled in environments that seemed anything but! Oh the compassion I had for Peter in that moment! Willingly stepping out over the bow of the boat, and being met with battering waves and the feeling of feet slipping.

It was so hard to not look at the circumstances, the trials, and the negatives. I recall being sat on my bed, questioning and wrestling with this, when I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence around me, and in my mind’s eyes I saw perhaps the clearest vision I’ve ever experienced:

I could see around me a war-torn battlefield, which I sensed stretched for miles, although the edges were covered in fog and I could only see a few meters in each direction. I was dressed as a soldier, but I was slumped down on the floor, keeled over. Jesus was knelt beside me, and He whispered to me saying, “Lucy, stand up.” And so in this vision I stood up. Then Jesus whispered to me again, and said softly, “Lucy, step to the left”, and so I obeyed and stepped to the left. Just as I did, an arrow tore out of the fog and went flying past my left-hand side right where I had been standing. Then Jesus spoke again, and said “Lucy, duck down”, so I ducked down, and out
of the fog ripped a huge sword as it came swiping over my head, missing me by a moment.

As I continued to watch the vision progress, I realised that Jesus was giving me moves of how to cross the battlefield whilst remaining unscathed. Jesus, unfazed by the fog, could see the entire picture and every attempted attack, and as long as I obeyed Him, I remained under His shadow and protection.

I remember afterwards, being sat on my bed, thinking, “Jesus, this is incredible! But what does this mean? What does this mean for me at work every day?” And as clear as I’d seen the vision, I felt Him say “Every morning, I want you to get up half an hour earlier and pray to me, asking for a battle-move for that day.”

So, every morning I do just that. My 6:15am alarm goes off, and up I get to pray for that day’s battle-move. And every day, without fail, the relevance of that move is unbelievable. Whether it’s to duck down, and allow everything to wash over me without engaging in any of the negativity; or to lunge forward and strike, reaching out of my comfort zone in order to silence an ungodly belief or bitter attitude.

I don’t think I’ve ever before had a prophetic vision that has transcended beyond a momentary experience in the same way. Perhaps that’s because this is the first time I’ve chosen to engage repeatedly with a vision. If I’m honest, I’m not sure.

But what I do know is that these past few months of walking in this victory have been so hopeful and intentional, and the sense of favour over me at my work place has continued to increase. I no longer rely on my own strength and positivity to get me through the day; rather I completely lean on God’s joy and vision, allowing Him to use me in whatever way He wishes. It’s His vision, not mine, and He will see it to fruition. All He has asked me to do is to obey.

This has been the fruit I’ve seen of daily engaging with God’s word for my work place. Take a minute to think about what situations you are currently in that you are finding difficult, whether that’s at work or at home or at school, etc.
– What is God’s word or vision for this season you’re in?
– How can you practically step into that word and pursue it daily?

 

Embracing Pruning

I’d suspected it was happening, but confirmation came – clearly and unambiguously – through the words of a trusted friend and prophet as she prayed for me:

“Cath, God has shown me a picture of a bunch of red grapes. In the picture the Lord is receiving them from you and telling you He is really pleased with all the fruit. He is reminding you of John 15 and the importance of abiding in Him so that you’ll bear even more fruit. He is telling you not to fear the pruning.”

Those words resonated profoundly in my spirit: I knew this was God speaking to me, speaking into the reality I was facing at that time where pruning was happening at nearly every level of my life: church, ministry, work, family. I was really thankful for the confirmation, but aware that I needed to know how to fully embrace this process and all that God intended to do through it.

What do we mean by pruning? How do we recognise it? Why does God do it?

As a keen gardener I don’t have any problem with the concept of pruning – I love winter-pruning my fruit bushes in anticipation of the fruit they will bear a few months later. A lack of pruning – or even a half-hearted attempt – will lead to unproductive plants that are not as fruitful as they could be and that ultimately become weak and unhealthy.

Jesus speaks a lot about fruitfulness in the gospels. He expects His followers to bear fruit (which of course is fundamentally about spiritual reproduction) but in John 15 He makes it clear that being pruned is an essential process, intrinsically linked to fruitfulness, and something not to be avoided:

“My Father is the gardener… every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” John 15:1-2

There are seasons in our lives when it’s all about the fruit, times when our focus needs to be on stepping out in faith and going and doing the works of the Kingdom. But there are also seasons when God calls us back to the foundations of our relationship with Him and does some deep work on our character; times when there might be fewer external signs of success.

To help us discern the season we are in it can be helpful to frame the question:

“Is God focussing on my ministry or my character?” Because there are times when God is focussed on what He is doing through us, and times when He is focussed on what he is doing in us. (Of course both are often going on at same time, but there will be a particular emphasis that we need to discern).

As I recognised what was going on for me, and sought to align myself with what God was doing in my life, a wise friend gave me two very helpful pieces of advice:

  • Don’t fight pruning: embrace the season and submit to the process.
  • Hang out with Jesus: do all you can to deepen your relationship with Him and get to know Him better.

So I first of all chose to be thankful for the pruning season, and looked for God’s grace in the midst of it. One of the hardest parts of this was the realisation that in a pruning season you can’t do vision and direction. When God is focussing on your character you can’t expect Him to be saying much about your future. I’m usually someone who loves dreaming with God and being led by a sense of vision. But for a season God was asking me walk without a future vision – with no sense of forward direction – only the command to take one step at a time. I needed to stop dreaming about the future. Instead I had to live in the present and concentrate on doing the small things well.

In responding to my friend’s second piece of advice about deepening my relationship with Jesus I found a great book to read: Brad Jersak’s ‘A More Christ-like God’. It was a joy to spend time simply contemplating the person of Jesus through this wonderful book. I also spent quite a lot
of time reading the gospels, particularly thinking about Jesus’ wilderness experience, and how He chose that intense period of retreat before beginning His ministry. And most significantly of all I started (nearly) every day by sitting down with Jesus and asking Him what was happening in the desert that day. The image of the desert became the metaphor for embracing the pruning process head on. Meeting Jesus in the desert each day and hearing Him speak to me in that place meant that God was able to do some really deep work in my heart. He dug out some ugly and ungodly attitudes and led me through some significant repentance. At times this was pretty painful and a battle to yield fully to this work of major heart surgery, but there is a peace that comes in the midst of the refining process.

This became my prayer:

Jesus, I meet you in the desert.

I come to you with empty hands and an open heart

I simply want to be with you with no agenda.

I render unto you what is yours.

I let go and lay down my dreams and visions

I surrender to your ways and your will

I ask the Father to prune me to His satisfaction

Throughout this process I did loads of journaling and found God was speaking to me through all sorts of ways: blogs that I read, conversations with friends, song lyrics, as well as some significant prophecies. I wrote it all down in my journal.

I also learnt the importance of accountability – having good friends around me who understood the importance of this season and sustained me through their prayers.

I think I’m probably coming to the end of the pruning season, but I’m very thankful for it. I’m most thankful for greater intimacy with Jesus: He’s so much better than we can think or imagine. I’m trusting Him for the future. And the good news is that God is committed to making us more like Jesus and sometimes this means that we need to retreat and simply abide in Him for a while. Using the metaphor of ‘pruning and fruitfulness’ is a good way to keep track of what God is doing in our lives.

The Other Friend

This month’s blog is written by Cassi Frank, who lives in Northern Kentucky and is part of the Accessible Prophecy US team.


As an adult, when was the last time you made a new friend?

I grew up in a big denominational church where the message was about God being great, Jesus being the best example for how to live and the Holy Spirit being an afterthought.  If He was mentioned at all, He was reduced to being your conscience. In middle school, numerous people with a local ministry to students shared that there was more to faith than just believing.  They talked about having a relationship with God, which was a powerful new way to think about faith and I gave my life to Him.  In high school, my youth minister was one of the first adults who spoke about their faith like it was still real, not just something you outgrow at graduation. In college, I learned the necessity of taking risks to increase faith. I wanted more and I wanted to know Him more.

Somewhere in the pursuit of trying to get to know God better and faster, my spirituality turned into an intellectual discipline.  It became just another item on my daily to-do list. A transfer to a different college helped me to turn my faith outward towards the world, but it also grew a belief that we didn’t need the supernatural anymore.  If I spent enough time reading scripture and saying prayers each day, I could figure out the right path, right decision, right spouse, right job, or right place to live on my own.

While I worked hard and desperately wanted to experience God more deeply, I failed to do so. This disappointment along with a bit of bad theology, had me believing that God didn’t speak, heal, or communicate directly with people – at least not anymore. The supernatural may have had it’s time, but not in an “intellectual,” “mature” society. I became convinced that God worked in much more subtle ways, by showing up in a person’s devotion to their faith, by serving others, or by loving those hard to love.  But not by someone having a word of encouragement or knowledge about another they just met.  Not by healing.  Not by tongues. Not by anything else miraculous or supernatural.

My faith was real, but it was … exhausting. It took a lot of work and discipline to read and pray each day without hearing anything back.  It took a lot of stubbornness to insist that following God was the best choice I had ever made when there wasn’t much going on between me and God other than a vague sense of peace I felt most of the time.  On the outside, I had all the “good Christian answers” about politics, how to spend my money, how much to drink or not drink.  But inside, when I was truly honest, I was deeply disappointed.  There had to be something more, because what I had then wasn’t worth sharing.

Six years ago that all started to change. My husband attended a 3DM workshop at a friend’s suggestion.  The relationships and conversations that came from it dramatically changed our faith, our life and our family. They talked about God like a friend they heard from each morning.  They talked about ways God had shown up and done miraculous things in their midst on multiple occasions. They talked about recognising where God was leading and what He was saying confidently.  It was just a normal part of their lives.

I had never wanted something so badly.

I couldn’t read enough, couldn’t attend enough workshops, couldn’t listen to enough of the messages and the teachings.  I found myself asking deep questions.  Questions I had forgotten were even there.  Questions about the possibility of experiencing God on a deeper level.   With these questions in the front of my mind often, I sought out help from others to answer them and engage with God in a new way. As I did, I began to learn the value of the word relationship in many many new ways. In fact, the most influential person in this journey, Cath Livesey with Accessible Prophecy, first said to me, “It’s about learning how to become friends with the Holy Spirit.”

Relationships were what helped shift my spiritual journey from one of striving and discipline to one of friendship.  Being vulnerable in relationships with others who were also seeking to hear and learn what God’s voice sounds like allowed me to be vulnerable with letting God peel away the layers of fear and disappointment that had built up over the years.  Relationships got me into a huddle with Accessible Prophecy where those relationships helped me identify the fear and disappointment I had been blind to for so long.  The people who joined me on this journey didn’t have it all figured out and didn’t claim to be “good Christians.”  They just wanted to know and love this person, our Good Father, better.

The process hasn’t been quick or easy.  The first time we practiced in huddle asking the Holy Spirit what He had to say to us at that moment, I was afraid and a bit panicked. I wanted to believe He would speak, but what if He didn’t?  It was a bit awkward and confusing at first, but the friendships in that huddle encouraged me to continue to practice. I kept trying to ask and listen to what the Father had to say.  I still remember one of the first times I received a picture during a listening exercises.  The Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and I were all sitting on a bench looking out over a still, smooth lake as the sun set behind the trees.  I still remember the peace and comfort I felt there.  Because He is a Good Father, He knew my fear of disappointment and let us all sit on that bench shoulder to shoulder comfortably getting used to this new experience without any more expectation of talking, or of emotional exchanges. He let me sit where I was comfortable and let me know that He was there and wanted to be there.

The Holy Spirit has been gentle with me in removing those layers of disappointment and fear.  It’s taken several years, but I can confidently say I know what his voice sounds like.  I don’t always hear it and I don’t always listen, but I know He speaks.  I know He wants me to hear him.  I know He’s a person and that I can’t just get to know a person by reading about Him.  You get to know a person in part just by sitting in silence with them.  You get to know a person in part by walking around the neighbourhood talking and noticing what’s around you or what they notice.  You get to know a person in part by hearing what they have to say to others. I couldn’t have gotten here on my own.  I’m incredibly grateful for the people along the way who have shared their journey with me and for how the Father uses our own relationships to teach us about our relationship with him.  It’s been through huddle that those relationships have turned into friendships. Those friendships modelled safety where I could step out, try something new and not worry about failure.  Those friendships modelled humility as they held out to me words they heard from the Father, offered them as a gift for me and allowed me to go to Him to hear more about what He had to say.  Those friendships have walked with me as I have learned to be friends with the Holy Spirit a little more each day.

It certainly seems like it gets harder to make friends as an adult. I don’t remember it taking so much work as a kid. Maybe that’s a small part of what Jesus meant when He talked about ‘faith like a child’ (Matthew 18:3). Regardless, I’m glad I’ve put in the work to grow my friendship with the Holy Spirit. It’s been worth every minute.