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.

When Prophets are the Enemy of the Prophetic

In last month’s blog Chris Wanstall shared some of the things she’s has learnt about pursuing maturity in prophecy and finding healthy ways to communicate what God puts on our hearts. This month’s blog follows a similar theme as we consider the dangers that an immature prophetic ministry can bring.

The New Testament is pretty clear: prophecy is a gift for all God’s children. A gift to be eagerly desired, that brings enormous blessing as it connects people to the Father’s heart. Over the years I’ve seen the potential of prophetic ministry to bring encouragement, hope and freedom to countless people. And I’ve seen the joy that comes when we realise that we can all join in: it’s not an exclusive gift for a mysterious elite, but a dispensation of grace that the Holy Spirit pours out abundantly. We can all use this gift and be channels of God’s love as we seek His heart for everyone we meet. A healthy prophetic culture is one where there is an active understanding that prophetic revelation is available to all.

So it’s a sobering thought that often the biggest barriers to releasing a healthy prophetic culture are the prophets themselves. All too often the thing that stops people engaging with the gift of prophecy is the immaturity and unhelpful behaviour of prophetic people. By ‘prophet’ I mean the New Testament ‘five-fold-ministry’ prophet that Paul writes about in Ephesians 4: that section of the church who have a particular calling to help the church hear God’s voice. Jesus has given certain ministries or callings to the church, distributing them among all the people as He sees fit. God has made each one of us to fit a certain place where we can serve Him best. These five ministries are given so that the whole body of Christ might grow and mature, that we might live out the unity Paul describes at the beginning of the chapter. That we would become the people Jesus intended us to be.

We get a little glimpse of the mature New Testament prophet from this verse in Acts 15:32:

    “Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to strengthen and         encourage the believers.”

This is a great snapshot of what the prophets were up to in the early church: they were channels of God’s strength and encouragement. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 14:3, when we prophesy we speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. I would have loved the opportunity to hang out with Judas and Silas and be a recipient of their wonderful ministry.

Alongside bringing prophecies and speaking encouragement, the primary role of the New Testament prophet is to help other people hear God for themselves. Mature prophets do this by laying down their own agendas, and the desire to go it alone, and instead focus on investing in others. They find ways to effectively multiply their ministry and allow others to imitate them. They give people a framework to climb on and an invitation to come and join in.

A mature prophet has a key role to play in establishing a healthy prophetic culture in their church. Their heart will be set on edifying the body by encouraging others to step out and listen to God, and they will model a humble, accountable and community-focused approach to the gift. In fact they will model it in such a way that it’s infectious – people will eagerly desire prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1) because they see the fruit of the gift in the mature prophet’s life.

But all too often we see the opposite dynamic happening – immature prophets that actually put people off prophecy. And this is how it happens:  

  • By their attitude and language they imply that this gift is exclusively theirs. Their inability to convey their prophetic experiences in normal, accessible language means it appears unattainable for the rest of the church.
  • Their stubborn independence leads to a lack of accountability and submission. They won’t engage with discipleship and they won’t embrace the common vision of their church family. They end up being a critical voice on the edge of church, quick to point out every problem they see.
  • Their lack of rootedness in community and their avoidance of accountability means they quickly rush into acting on whatever they think God is telling them to do, without the discipline of properly weighing and testing their word with others.
  • Their tendency to speak judgement rather than mercy creates a culture of fear.
  • Because their identity is so caught up in their prophetic ministry, if their prophecies are rejected they feel personally rejected. Anyone who questions their actions or words gets accused of quenching the Spirit.
  • Their lack of humility and grace means they demand to be listened and responded to, becoming frustrated when leaders don’t immediately act on the revelation they bring.

No wonder the response of so many church leaders is to shut down or tightly control any expression of prophetic ministry. No wonder so many church members avoid an active engagement with prophecy.

There is a spiritual battle going on. Prophecy is a wonderful and powerful gift that God has given His church but the enemy hates it and does all he can to twist and distort it . I’m aware of a number of situations at the moment where the desire of churches to develop a healthy and mature prophetic culture is being jeopardised by the attitude and actions of immature and unaccountable prophets. Of course this is exactly what the devil wants.

For those of us who are ‘prophet-shaped’ and long to see prophecy welcomed in our churches, here are some hints on how to be a help rather than a hindrance:

  • Remember: it’s not about you and your ‘gifting’ or ‘anointing’ – rather the focus needs to be on how you can help others hear God for themselves.
  • Actively seek out accountability. Find a safe place of accountability where you can be transparent about your life and ministry.
  • Cultivate a servant heart; read Philippians 2.
  • Get some training on how to communicate your ideas with humility and grace.
  • Look for creative ways to bless your leaders with your prophetic gift.
  • Don’t be weird or super spiritual – aim to be as normal as possible.
  • Hang out with apostles, evangelists, teachers and pastors. Choose to learn from them and their perspectives.
  • Follow in Judas and Silas’ footsteps and seek to say much to encourage and strengthen believers – all the time!

Let us heed these words from 1 Peter 4:10:

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…”

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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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?

 

My Time at Accessible Prophecy

 

Our lovely intern Joanna left the Accessible Prophecy team in the summer after two wonderful years. We really miss her but are thrilled that she is doing so well in her new job at Land Rover. Here are her reflections on her time with us:

Just under two years ago, I chose to give a day a week to Accessible Prophecy. In the beginning I had no idea what this would look like, but I was excited for the opportunity to grow in the prophetic myself, to help others grow in the prophetic, and to be invested in by Cath.

To begin with, I found the internship quite difficult. Nearly all of my time was spent in the office, doing various admin tasks and supporting Cath in all of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work that I had never even considered had to take place in order for a ministry to grow. Quite a bit of this work was initially quite tedious and boring; however I persevered because God had given me a heart for the work that Cath and Accessible Prophecy was doing. I think during those first few months, my servant-heart grew as I learned how to serve well, and to do it lovingly rather than with bitterness or annoyance. It is many of these ‘boring’ bits that, although were done out of serving, have actually really served me now, as I was able to put them on my CV and get myself a job! Two years down the line these tedious tasks don’t feel tedious anymore, they’re just things that need to be done in order for the ministry to run, and therefore I do them because I am able to look at the bigger picture of Accessible Prophecy, and know that I’m making a difference to people’s lives through doing them.

Alongside these more tedious serving tasks, I was also given the opportunity to do some things I loved. I’ve designed some leaflets, made videos, taken photographs, gathered testimonies and written and edited blogs. I’ve enjoyed doing these things, as I love being creative, sharing God’s heart, and building relationships. I was also very involved in the organisation and running of events and learning communities. As someone that loves organising things, (particularly social events!!), this was really good fun and it was great to be able to use some of my skills to bless Cath and take some of the responsibilities she doesn’t enjoy off of her shoulders! Also, I was able to make and develop relationships with amazing people all over the country (and beyond) who had hearts to see their communities and churches all hearing from God.

Over these two years I’ve also been greatly challenged and stretched as I have stepped out in prophesying over people on stage at events, given testimonies in front of large groups of people, begun to teach people to prophesy for the first times and also started a prophetic missional community in Sheffield. I’ve been and spoken at a variety of events now with Cath and the team at workshops, seminars, learning communities and even New Wine in the Netherlands! I am so thankful for these opportunities, and for me they have definitely been the most exciting and stretching parts of my internship!

It’s very bizarre to write down what it is I’ve been doing for the past two years. That last paragraph looks pretty impressive when you read it, and it has been a massive privilege to do those things, but the most important thing about my time at Accessible Prophecy, and in anything, has to be my relationship with God. Yes I’ve had some absolutely amazing times on the team, helping people to grow in the gift of prophecy and speaking at events, and yes I’ve had some rather boring days where things just needed to get done, which have helped give me experience to get a job, but ultimately, it all has to come back to Jesus.

So what have I learnt about God since being at Accessible Prophecy? Firstly, I now know fully and wholeheartedly that God loves to speak to everyone – no really, everyone! The amount of people who have said to us, “I never thought I could hear from God before, but now I can!” or, “You’ve really helped demystify prophecy for me, now I know I can do it,” is incredible! God loves to speak to all of his children, and I’ve seen hundreds of people experience that for the first time. God is good and he loves to speak to us.

Secondly, I’ve learnt how to have, and act with, a servant-heart. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype and in the big picture of something, forgetting about all the little tedious jobs that need doing. It’s so easy to just want to do the ‘good-stuff’ like speaking at events or prophesying over people, because the big picture is very exciting! However, over these past two years I’ve learnt that in order to get to the bigger exciting picture, all the little things need to be done first, not only because they need doing, but to humble myself, and to serve those that need serving.

Thirdly, I’ve learnt how important it is to learn from those further on in the journey than you, to be invested in, and to be a part of a wider ‘family’ that support, encourage, train and invest in you. Cath and the wider 3dm Europe team have really kept me grounded in God over these past two years. I have been surrounded by people that love God and I have been able to join in the 3dm ‘family’. This has meant socials, food, games, and Christmas parties that have been a lot of fun. But the best part has been being able to witness the lives of these people: Cath, Rich, Anna, John, Si, Pip, Andrea, (and everyone else!) – to see how they live, and to witness how they live their lives like Jesus would if he were them. Not only have I seen this, but also I’ve been able to be a part of their lives, and they’ve shown me how to do it for myself. This gave me and my husband the confidence to start a missional community, because we had seen 3dm Europe demonstrate a family on mission so incredibly well, that we knew we could do it too!

I am so thankful for the time I have had with Accessible Prophecy and 3dm Europe. It’s helped me to build strong foundations on which I can live the rest of my life. It’s helped me to grow in the gift of prophecy, in teaching, in admin, in events management, in confidence, and in my identity. But most importantly, being an intern for Accessible Prophecy and in the family of 3dm Europe, has helped me grow closer to living a life like Jesus would if he were me, and it’s taught me how to love and serve his Kingdom. It’s really hard to leave Accessible Prophecy, because it’s something I know God called me into, so it’s hard to now have Him call me out of it when it’s so good! But I’m also excited for this next season, being in a full-time job and in the world, being a light to people that don’t know Jesus yet.

Looking to Jesus in the Gift of Prophecy

WWJD-braceletWhen 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.

lofoten-717725_1280 (1)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.

heart-583895_1280One 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.

photo-1428263197823-ce6a8620d1e1It 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.

photo-1427348693976-99e4aca06bb9You’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.

Tongues & Prophecy: Speaking to God and to Others

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”550px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]At Accessible Prophecy, we want to see all people blessed with the gifts of the Spirit. Although we primarily focus on prophecy and hearing from God, we also believe there are many other gifts available to all of us. In this blog, John White writes for us on 1 Corinthians 14 and his experiences with the gift of tongues.[/dropshadowbox]

The church in Corinth was out of order. Everyone did and spoke “what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Paul had no alternative but to write a letter (1 Corinthians) correcting the excesses in the use and practice of spiritual gifts. He is concerned that “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Speaking at each other. Speaking over each other. But there is a way out of this chaos and confusion in the Corinthian church.  It is the way of love, and Paul sandwiches this “excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31) in chapter 13 between teaching on spiritual gifts and the body of Christ in chapter 12 and the right use of spiritual gifts in chapter 14.

 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 – “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

gong-11484_1280So here then in these verses is the root of the problem that Paul is addressing. During public worship, one group were speaking out in tongues like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals, and, at the same time, another group, because of their understanding of all mysteries and knowledge, were speaking out prophetic revelation. Both groups lacked love and consideration for others in the congregation. Each group was trying to ‘out-spiritual’ the other group. Speaking louder to drown out others? Claiming that they were more spiritual because of their understanding of mysteries and knowledge? Pride and selfishness – what a toxic mix! It was a mess. It was noisy. It was selfish. It was about speaking at each other. It was not the “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Instead of speaking tongues and prophecy at each other, the Corinthians were to be shown the more excellent way, namely the way of love, with those speaking in tongues speaking to God, and those speaking out a prophecy speaking to an individual or to a group of people. The gift of tongues is about speaking to God; the gift of prophecy is about speaking to others.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”550px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Spiritual gifts are gifts of grace, given to serve others and not to achieve personal status. They are not earned by human merit or allocated by human choice. It would seem that the exercise of the spiritual gifts in the Corinthian was more about status than service.[/dropshadowbox]

Let me look at the gift of tongues. There are three situations in which the gift is exercised, namely a tongue in public worship that is unintelligible to both the speaker and the hearers, a tongue that is unintelligible to the speaker but is understood by someone present in the gathering, and finally a tongue that is expressed in private. Privately, tongues can be used at anytime anywhere. Publicly, tongues occur as and when the Holy Spirit anoints a speaker. But, in either case, tongues increase a greater awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Paul writes in Ephesians, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (6:18). Tongues are used for prayer and intercession (Romans 8:26), and for spiritual warfare.

SW_PaulFilitchkin3The gift of tongues is a language directed to God. It is a language of prayer and praise. If an unintelligible tongue is spoken out publicly in a gathering, the tongue requires an interpretation, which should also be directed towards God in prayer or praise. In my experience, some interpretations of a tongue in a public gathering are more about encouraging the gathering, rather than about praying to and praising God. Perhaps, service leaders should be more confident in waiting for the right interpretation to be given. The gift of tongues is a Godward gift, praying to and praising God.  Prophecy, on the other hand, is directed towards men and women, bringing what’s on the mind and heart of God to an individual or to a group of people.

Some are quick to label the gift of tongues as the least of all the gifts by virtue of it being the last in the list. Last in a list doesn’t necessarily mean the least. Paul’s well-known list in chapter 13 has love listed last after faith and hope (13:13). Love is quite definitely not the least, because Paul writes that “the greatest of these is love” (v.13).

I was once praying with a man who had a serious problem with his leg. After a while, I began to pray in tongues. He and his wife suddenly started to laugh as I was praying. They asked me if I had ever visited Saudi Arabia or whether I spoke Arabic. I answered no. He and his wife had spent some time living in the Middle East. Apparently, as I was praying in tongues for the man’s leg to be healed, I was actually speaking in Arabic for God to heal his leg! Amazing! So encouraging for the man!

Personally, I find that there is a coming together of tongues and prophecy when I minister. Praying in tongues before I minister prophetically is about my ministering to God, of praising and adoring him. It is about preparing my heart, and my spirit. It is about increasing my awareness of the presence of God. So, I find it really helpful to pray in tongues before prophesying (often under my breath). There can be occasions when our human language fails us as we seek to pray to and praise God. We cannot find the words that adequately express our deepest cries of the heart. Paul writes in Romans,

“… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (8:26-27).

The gift of tongues is about praying with our spirits rather than with our minds. It helps to strengthen us spiritually. Tongues are immediate and obvious, suggesting something has happened – an encounter with God and his presence and power. And therein lies the issue with tongues.

stress-543658_640Over the years, I have prayed for many people to receive the gift of tongues. We underestimate the stress and anxiety people feel when they come forward to receive the gift. More often than not, they walk away, blessed with having met with God, but not actually being released into speaking in tongues.

I can remember once running a discipleship course. On the particular evening, I was teaching on spiritual gifts, and felt that it was right to pray for people to receive tongues. I mentioned that in my experience God often released tongues when we are at our most relaxed. I said to the group that the process of coming forward to the front of a meeting is not relaxing. It is stressful. It’s a going-through-the-motions of potentially yet another occasion when nothing happens.

I suggested that God sometimes releases this gift when we are relaxed. Yes, there are times and places where God does release the gift in worship settings. One place where we are most relaxed is in our bath at home. I said that I would pray for everyone, and so, after praying for the Spirit to come upon the group, I told the group that they should go home and expect God to fill them with his Spirit and to be released into speaking in tongues as they relax at home.

One person at the meeting was so angry at my offer to pray for people that she stormed out of the building.

The following week I asked the group for any testimony or feedback from the previous week’s prayer ministry. This particular person stood up and told the group that she had been very angry with me the previous week. She had almost lost count of the number of times she had gone forward to receive tongues. But she had never been released into speaking in tongues. Hearing her speak, I was reminded me of the words from Proverbs 13:12 – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”.

sleep-330869_640By her own account, she was in a bad mood when she got home. She went to bed, and at 3am, she woke up and, to her absolute amazement, found herself speaking in tongues. After a while, she suddenly jumped out of bed and started to go to the bathroom, because in all the confusion and amazement and sleepiness, she thought that I had said that you needed a bath to be released into speaking in tongues! Fortunately enough, she realised quite quickly that by lying in her bed she was very relaxed. She didn’t need to run a bath! She got back into bed and went back to sleep.

I suspect that tongues has become an issue, not just because it has been used to define an institution, but because its presence, or more accurately its absence, leads to insecurity and anxiety. Am I truly born again? Does the Spirit live within me? We are desperate for to know for sure that the Spirit has filled us with his presence and his power. Because speaking in tongues is so obviously different to our normal speech, we can feel threatened and anxious about our failure to speak in tongues. In our insecurity, we compare ourselves with those who do speak in tongues and feel like second-class spiritual citizens, resulting in our hearts becoming harder and harder with each succeeding disappointment. Some have even required the speaking in tongues to be a key factor in becoming members of their institution.

We need to rediscover and to practise a right practice of tongues and prophecy within public worship (1 Corinthians 14). We need to expect these gifts to be part of our experience of worship: tongues with the focus on God and prophecy with its outward focus on the individual or a group of people. Faith is required in the exercise of all the spiritual gifts. In our public expression of tongues, in our private expression of tongues, in the prophetic word given out in our gatherings, or to individuals, may we grow in faith as we step out in other spiritual gifts.

 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 – “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

 

 

 

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.

mgyRQue

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!

How does God speak?

The Bible teaches us that we can all hear from God, and we can all engage with the gift of prophecy. However, many of us get stuck thinking that we can’t hear from God because it looks different to someone else who we feel has a very prominent prophetic gift. The thing is, God created us all to be unique. This means that when he speaks to us, we hear Him in different ways and in different contexts.  To understand this better, this month we’ve interviewed a few different people who all hear from God, and asked them how and where they hear Him.

Cath Livesey

sheet music and earbud headphonesFor me the best context of hearing God is in worship. For my husband StJohn, a great context is going out for a walk with the dog. I hear God primarily through pictures, whereas StJohn hears God through a deep down knowing and sensing.”

Simon Ford

As an introvert the context that is important to me is having space to myself on my own. Quite often I will be reading the Bible and God will take me off into a rabbit hole. I’ll read a scripture and ask God what he’s saying. Often a particular sentence or a word or phrase will stick out to me. Then I might be reminded of another passage which relates to the first one, and maybe a few others after that and a certain theme will arise from what I have read. 

nJ6WQM4Another way I hear from God is if, say, I have had a conversation with someone and want to know what God is saying, I’ll sit on my own for five minutes afterwards and ask God what was significant about that conversation, and what I need to remember. Whatever of that conversation then comes to mind or feels significant is what I believe God is saying about it. 

When I get a prophetic word from God which I feel needs to be shared with someone, I basically start getting this download of language. As an introvert I can often struggle with turning my internal thoughts into spoken language. However, when I get a prophetic word, God gives me this stream of language which I have to quickly write down. I won’t have thought about it or have internally processed it as I do with all of my thoughts. I also don’t have to try at all to formulate the language; the prophetic word just seems to go through me as if I’m listening to someone else say it.”

Rich Robinson

I hear from God in a variety of ways. I think being an active person, with an active body and an active imagination; I generally struggle to sit still. So I generally do something around activity and nature. So going out for a walk or run helps me to have my body active but my mind at rest. Ironing is also a great place to hear God as it keeps my body active but gives my mind space to listen. So with a bit of worship on I might walk, run or iron so that I’m able to mentally settle while I’m physically active. Another way I do it is needing the noise and people, but also being able to be quiet. So sitting in a coffee shop I find very helpful as there is noise and people around me, but space to hear God.

mD7RmgsThe way I hear God is in a number of ways. One way is through the bible, I just read about different characters and or different books and just reflect on them, listening to what God says to me through that. I also like to journal, so having a conversation with the Lord. As an extrovert, writing out what I think helps me to feel like I’m having a two-way conversation with the Holy Spirit. I kind of work out what I think as I write it down as I talk to God. Also, just silence. The discipline of silence and stopping. Perhaps staring out the window or looking at a painting in a coffee shop. Just stopping and stilling my mind, listening and seeing what pops into my head or what I think of. Then I just journal that and let that train of thought of consciousness or unconsciousness disappear into what I think God is saying to me.

In terms of in relationship or in leadership, I’m always asking God ‘what are you saying to me about or for this person, or for this situation?’ I do that as a discipline before I go into meetings or when I find myself in conversation so that I don’t drift but make an active decision to listen. As an apostolic extrovert I have 101 words and ideas for every solution and circumstance so actively being made to listen and positioning myself in a way to listen I find really important. Rather than me initially responding out of my own good ideas, just listening and taking a moment to think. Often I’ll have 2 or 3 trains of thought in conversation so I settle on the one which I have a sense of peace about, which is what God is saying or what I feel God is calling us to do.

So it’s owning who I am, loud, active with good ideas and finding the Lord in the midst of that as well as embracing some of the shadow side of listening which isn’t natural to me.”

 Shaun Millward

I’ve found that God speaks to me in different ways depending on the situation.

For example, I was speaking to someone recently about how I hear from God when trying to making decisions for myself and how I have found that generally the way He will speak to me is through a sense and feeling of peace – I think this is often underrated as a way of hearing from God. When I have a decision to make, I will use the resources God has given me to make that decision, but I will also simply wait on God and see which option I feel the most peace about.

mgylgXKBut, when hearing God for other people, the way I tend to hear God is through pictures and visions (by which I simply mean pictures that move). I find it is easier for me with my eyes closed as I tend to get less distracted by everything else. The way that this happens is that a particular (and usually completely random) thing simply pops into my mind and because I’m a visual person I associate these things with images – it’s not a shocking, startling taking over your mind, extravagant kind of picture – it’s just a bit like if I said to you the word ‘boat’, you would see a boat in your mind. That’s how I see the pictures God gives me. They just pop into my mind”

Jacolien van den Steenhoven

When I want to hear God I do so in a context of rest. For me that can mean sitting on the couch and listening to worship music, or it can just mean being restful with my mind and focussing on Jesus. The funny thing is that’s not the only way I hear God. Sometimes when I’m active a name will pop into my head and that there’s something that God wants to say to them. This can happen when I’m standing in the shower, or when I wake up. It comes as just a sense that I want to pray for a certain person. When I get that sense and decide to pray for that person- that’s when I need rest and some time alone with God.

mEeoTVGGod speaks mainly through the Bible to me. Something may just pop up in my mind, a verse or a passage perhaps or maybe a biblical figure. I then like to wait for a day or so, take some time and see if it’s confirmed. If it is confirmed then I know it’s from God. When I have to pray for someone immediately, I can’t take time to wait for it to be confirmed, so it’s more like a step of faith- I just speak it out and see if it makes sense. But I like to wait for confirmation mostly as I’ve found it’s often more accurate and more timely for people.”  

What we can see from these interviews is that we all hear from God in different ways and in different contexts. Some of us may hear from God through pictures, others through a strong sense or gut feeling, and others through the Bible or even through other people. We also engage in prophecy in different spaces. You may find like Cath, you hear God best in worship, like Rich by doing something active such as going for a run, or maybe more like Simon, you hear God best when you’re on your own in quietness. However and wherever you hear from God, remember that your way of hearing Him is just as valuable as the way in which someone else hears from Him. God speaks to us in different ways because He has designed us all to be unique.

  • How and where do you hear from God?
  • If you’re not sure how best to hear from God for you, why not try exploring some of the ways demonstrated in this post?