Looking to Jesus in the Gift of Prophecy

When I was a teenager, I wore one of those WWJD (What Would Jesus do?) wristbands, alongside a FROG (Fully Rely on God) one. It’s so important to look to Jesus in all that we do in our lives, to stop and ask ourselves, what would Jesus do? I found this really helpful at school, but the fashions changed and I stopped wearing my band. Not because I didn’t believe in stopping and thinking about what Jesus would do, but because the band had become a fashion item, and it was no longer in fashion. However, the importance of the question remains. This question is central to our faith as people that want to imitate Christ. Therefore, it must be important in prophecy too. So, in this blog post, I will be exploring what it looks like to imitate Jesus in prophecy.

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus says “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” We also see in John 12:14 that Jesus says “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Jesus continually taught about the importance of faith and belief. When I teach people how to hear from God for the first time, I always start by asking them to recognise where God has spoken to them in the past. Perhaps a Bible verse has stuck out to them, or they have felt peace or unrest when making a decision. By encouraging people to recognise where God has spoken to them in the past, it helps to build faith and belief that God has, and does, want to speak to them. Jesus promises us that faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain! So let’s pray to God for faith that God speaks to us, based on the fact He has promised us He will.

One of our favourite verses here at Accessible Prophecy on prophecy is 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Follow the way of love, and eagerly pursue spiritual gifts, especially prophecy.” A key aspect of this verse is that “Follow the way of love” comes before “eagerly pursue spiritual gifts.” We see this demonstrated in the life of Jesus, as Jesus always operated out of compassion and love. (Some examples of this are Luke 7:13, Matthew 15:32, 9:36, 14:14, 20:34, 6:34, Mark 8:2-3, and John 11:34-38.) It’s so important when we prophesy we are rooted in love, and love first. If we prophesy out of a place of anger, resentment, loneliness or hurt, it is very easy for our own agenda’s to get in the way. However, when we operate out of God’s love and compassion, our only agenda being love, God’s love is channelled through us.

It can be really easy to get caught up in the experience of prophecy, rather than getting caught up in the one who speaks to us. In the New Testament, we see Jesus return to the Father, and take space on his own to rest with Him. We see this for example in Luke 5:16 after Jesus healed a man with leprosy, people were gathering all around him “but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” This is integral to our walk with God too, particularly if we are inputting into other people’s lives by giving them prophetic words. Jesus recognised and acted on the importance of withdrawing from people and the busyness, in order to spend time with the Father. It can be quite tempting to ‘do’, rather than to ‘be’, but Jesus had the balance right, and that meant spending a lot of time alone with his Father, enabling him to go out and ‘do’ empowered by the Father’s love.

You’ll notice that Jesus never says “I think I have a prophetic word for you,” or “I feel like God might be saying…” Nor does he ever say “Thus says the Lord!” That doesn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t prophetic, or that God didn’t speak to him- quite the opposite! Jesus operated his whole life on hearing from God, as we see in John 5:19. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” He was one with God and therefore was always listening to Him. As we are united with God, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are one with God too. This means we are able to operate from a place of hearing God’s voice always too. However the majority of us will not do this. Maybe because we don’t know how, because we haven’t had enough practice, or because we haven’t given God permission to do so. As we look to Jesus, let’s aim to hear God always as he did, and to operate our entire lives around hearing from God, not just when we give God permission. This will take practice, and to begin with it will take being intentional, however the more we let God’s voice in, the easier and more natural it will become. (If you want to grow in this, consider reading this blog, which gives a few ideas on how to be intentional and learn to hear God’s voice.)

So, let’s do as Jesus did. As you look to grow in the gift of prophecy, remember to have faith that God does and will speak to you, to operate out of love, to always go back to the Father, and to aim for a place in which you are always and continually hearing from God, as we see demonstrated in the life of Jesus.

by Joanna Millward

What is Anointing?

As a mother of three girls aged 18, 16 and 12, who are all wonderfully different, I am acutely aware of how dangerous it can be to compare ourselves with others. Having to navigate the teenage landscape of exam results, friendship groups, proms, ballet classes and boyfriends, it sometimes seems like every aspect of my daughters’ lives involves comparison with others (including their siblings) and the need for us as parents to provide constant affirmation and reassurance.

And it’s not much better in the church, particularly when it comes to prophetic gifts.

If we’re honest with ourselves, many of us spend far too much time comparing ourselves unfavourably with those around us – making judgements based on what we perceive to be evidence of other people’s anointing and giftedness. This way of thinking is rooted in insecurity and is quite detrimental to our own spiritual growth, and actually ends up preventing many people from learning to hear God’s voice for themselves –

 “I could never be as spiritual/anointed/gifted as that person… so why should I bother trying to hear God myself?

I’m very aware that in certain church circles there is what might be (somewhat cynically) described as a prophetic hierarchy. Everyone knows who the most gifted prophet is, and everyone knows the criteria used to judge relative levels of prophetic anointing: which usually boils down to how many angels have been encountered, how accurate the ‘reading of my mail’ has been, and how ‘spot on’ their words of knowledge have been.

Now I willingly put my hand up and confess to having used these very criteria from time to time in assessing the relative levels of ‘anointing’ of many of the prophetic people I have known over the years. There is something in our human nature that likes to categorise and stratify, to judge and measure, but at the end of the day it’s really unhelpful.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t recognise and honour gifted prophets and appreciate the gift they can be to us. Let’s be thankful for them and the potential they have to hugely bless the community. It’s important that churches can answer the question “Who are our prophets?” – because they can then release them to serve the church with their ministry.

measuringupAnd as a prophetic person myself I am always hungry for more. I want to hear God more clearly and I long for an unhindered flow of revelation. So there is a temptation to use this same judging criteria against myself – sometimes in a healthy way, giving thanks for what God does through me, but perhaps more often in a negative way as I compare my prophetic ministry with others.

Now of course at its basic level the prophetic is simply about hearing God’s voice, and some of us find that easier to do than others. I have spent a lot of my time over the last ten years helping people hear God more clearly and I love doing this. Paul tells us to eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1), and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be sharper, clearer and more accurate as we exercise the gift of prophecy.

But the problem with judging and measuring different levels of prophetic ‘anointing’ is that it causes us to be introspective and self-focused, rather than focused on equipping others, and it reflects a very one-dimensional view of the prophetic. It leads us to asking the wrong sort of questions.

 Rather than measuring each other’s levels of anointing, and comparing ourselves with other people, a far more profound question to ask of ourselves is “Am I living a prophetic lifestyle?”

I met a friend for a coffee a while ago and he asked me a question along the lines of “What does it mean to be a mature prophet?” In giving him my answer I realised that over the last few months I’ve come to have a much more holistic understanding of prophetic expression and ministry. I believe that a truly prophetic lifestyle is one where we:

  • Reveal: reveal the Father’s heart and the light of Jesus to people
  • Equip: help other people to hear God for themselves
  • Steward: be good stewards of whatever He gives us

Did Jesus measure anointing?

John the Baptist was the last – and greatest – of the old covenant prophets. Jesus said of him, “Among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28), but when we examine his ministry we find few prophetic utterances recorded in the pages of the scripture. His significance was not in the quality or quantity of the prophecies he delivered; he was the greatest prophet for the simple reason that he prepared the way for the Messiah and bore witness to Him.

 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him.  Luke 1:76

lynDyjGSR9eR57ouPIEE_IMG_woodsAll John really did was prepare the way for Jesus. Our understanding of John’s role and ministry should inform our perspective on prophecy. There is something about the mature prophetic ministry which opens up the way for Jesus, that goes ahead of the Lord and makes hearts and minds ready to receive His message.

And as I look around at my prophetic friends, the ones I most want to imitate and follow are not necessarily the ones who can tell me what I had for breakfast yesterday, but the ones who are so captivated by the love of God, and who are so committed to following Jesus wherever He leads them, that their whole life is a beautiful prophetic picture: God is revealed to everyone who meets them.

 For all of us who desire to really grow in the prophetic, it’s worth reflecting on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. The message of this parable is to be good stewards of whatever we are given. Jesus says that if we are faithful in a little we will be given much. We need to take what we’ve got and invest it well, even if it’s really little.

Some of us wait a lifetime to receive what we consider to be a reasonable level of ‘anointing’, but it’s the people who are prepared to step out in faith with the smallest level of prophetic proficiency that will see the greatest return on their investment. I’m always incredibly challenged by the people I know who, with grateful hearts, put whatever gift God has given them to work with utter determination.

 Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Matthew 25:21

So let’s choose to have a mature and healthy approach to growing in spiritual gifts and anointing. It’s not about comparing ourselves with others. Rather it’s about pursuing God’s heart, seeking to be a blessing to others, and being faithful stewards of whatever gifts He gives us.

 

 

Prophecy: a Covenant and Kingdom Perspective: Part 1

This month’s blog is part one of a 2-part series on Covenant and Kingdom. It is an adapted extract from Cath Livesey’s book about prophecy that will be published later in the year. If you want to find out more about Covenant and Kingdom mindsets, you can read all about them in 3dmEurope’s book ‘Covenant and Kingdom’ which you can purchase here.

Rooting the Prophetic in Covenant

miOMM9QCovenant and Kingdom are the two fundamental themes that play out through all of scripture, a sort of double helix of DNA in the Bible. Not only do Covenant and Kingdom anchor the prophetic, they also provide a biblical perspective that covers the whole spectrum of prophetic experience. Applying the paradigm of Covenant and Kingdom to absolutely everything we do and say in the prophetic is going to ensure our ministry is grounded, biblical and healthy. It’s the bottom line.

Covenant is the way the Bible describes and defines relationship, first our relationship with God, and then our relationships with everyone else. The theme of Covenant is woven throughout the whole biblical narrative as God calls people into relationship with him. It is from our Covenant relationship with our heavenly Father that we receive our identity as beloved children – and fully understanding our true identity is key for being able to grow in prophetic gifts and ministry.

A covenant mindset releases us into the joy of hearing God’s voice because the bottom line is that hearing God is about who you are, not what you do. We cannot earn the right to hear his voice; it’s not something we achieve through hard work or ‘super-spirituality’. Hearing God flows out of relationship, pure and simple. It’s about being before doing. Knowing our true identity as his children releases us into hearing his voice – because fathers like speaking to their kids.

As we journey deeper into Covenant we find the antidote for legalism and striving. We can’t strive to hear our Father’s voice. Covenant reminds us that we simply align and attune our hearts with his; being still and knowing that he is God. As we focus on his glory and majesty, we can rest in that place of perfect love and enjoy the fact that we are his children.

Without an understanding of Covenant we will be tempted to behave as spiritual orphans rather than beloved children. We will try to earn God’s favour, gifts and anointing. We will compare ourselves with others and the level of ‘anointing’ they seem to have.

We need to recognise the nature of the battle we are in, because the enemy will always attack us on identity. When Jesus encountered Satan in the desert it was Jesus’ identity as God’s son that was targeted: “If you are the Son of God….” (Matthew 4:6)

As Jesus’ representatives we face the same temptations. Brokenness around our identity has the potential to completely de-rail our prophetic ministry. The way of the world – competition, ambition, striving, self-righteousness and success – has affected many in the church and are destructive forces as far as the prophetic is concerned. There is a real danger of finding our identity in our ministry rather than in God.

When we haven’t had a deep revelation of our covenant identity, and lack security in who we really are, then we become vulnerable to three fundamental fears that all have their roots in identity issues:

• Fear of rejection
I have to strive for approval and acceptance. I need to prophesy in a way that will please people
• Fear of lack
God’s voice is a scarce resource. I need to hold onto it. If I make a mistake there will be no more anointing
• Fear of failure
I need to succeed in prophetic ministry. Others need to see me as a success. It will be terrible if I get it wrong 

However, the more we root ourselves in Covenant and take on a mindset of ‘sonship’ rather than ‘orphan’, the less susceptible we will be to these fears. A Covenant mentality gives us confidence and security; being secure in our identity and having confidence in who God is. Security is essential for operating in prophetic ministry – being absolutely secure in our identity and in the nature of our heavenly Father.

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When we know who we really are in God, and are confident in who he is, then we can start to take on a mindset of abundance which declares:

God is good and he is generous with his gifts; there is so much to go around, we can all join in.

Covenant secures and guards prophecy because it keeps drawing us back to the truth that it is only out of relationship with God that we can learn to hear his voice, and as we step out and prophesy over people we do that from a place of rest, assurance and affirmation.

I hear the voice of my heavenly Father because he loves me, and I seek to be a channel of his love to others by sharing his words with them.

Look out for Part 2 in August!