Inquire of the Lord

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

When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritualists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? (Isaiah 8:19)

 

The Lord makes it pretty clear throughout scripture that we are to inquire of him – for him to be our first port of call with a query, our first line of inquiry. If you are anything like me, I’m sure you make time to inquire of the Lord with the big decisions in life – those times when we have no choice but to stop at a major crossroads and try and work out which way to go. And yet for many of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, our day-to-day reality shows little practical application of this biblical principle. Is it because we are just too busy and preoccupied? Or somewhat nervous about what answer we might get back?

In recent months God has been challenging me to regularly inquire of him in the midst of the many daily decisions I am making – to take the time to pause and seek him for the next step and right call, rather than just trusting in a general sense of, “Well, this feels ok so I’ll go with.”

There is a practical outworking to this call to regularly inquire of God, and we’ve looked at the subject of asking God questions in a previous blog. But the oft-repeated phrase inquire of the Lord also raises deeper issues, and in this blog I want to dig a bit further and look at some fundamental issues of the heart.

The key question the phrase inquire of the Lord generates in my own discipleship journey is:

Am I surrended to God to the extent that I’m prepared to ask him any question about my life, and listen for the answer?

Am I prepared to ask God what his opinion is of my relationships, marriage, ministry and call? Am I ready to inquire of him regarding any sin he sees in my life? Am I willing to ask him what I can do for him every day rather than simply asking him to bless my plans? Am I ready to ask him what he really thinks about my world-view and political opinions?

At its heart, the biblical principle of inquiring of the Lord is less about decision-making and more about submission. It challenges us to examine our heart posture towards God: our motivations, our focus, and our priorities. It requires us to ask ourselves who really is on the throne of our lives.

If there is something in us that resists the call to inquire of the Lord, is this because we have not fully submitted our lives to him? That we’ve given him a certain level of access to our lives without the Access All Areas that he really demands?

The Old Testament prophets frequently hold up a mirror to us with which to examine our hearts. They present a unfavourable description of those to be judged for their sins, but in these black and white pronouncements we often find windows into our own souls. I read this verse in Isaiah the other day and just couldn’t get past it:

Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. (Isaiah 3:8)

To defy God’s glorious presence – to turn our backs on the Lord of Glory – is the very essence of the sin of pride. To defy God’s presence means to openly resist him, to refuse to obey, instead of yielding and surrendering to his light, truth and fiery love. And to maintain a posture of inquiring of the Lord requires us to yield and surrender to him on a daily basis.

I know that I’m not actively and consciously defying God, but reading this verse caused me to examine my heart and consider all the ways I may slightly and subtlety defy him without even really noticing it. What am I hiding from him? Where am I quietly but stubbornly sticking to my plans and my agendas?

We know that in God’s glorious presence there is complete truth and purest light. There is infinite wisdom and relentless love. As his beloved children we are welcome here every day of our lives; but when we stand in this place we must lay aside every one of our own agendas and opinions and surrender every part of our lives to him.

It’s as we engage in the process of surrender that we are best placed to hear God’s voice and receive his revelation. God looks for those who are seeking him, and he can be found by those who seek him with all their heart. Humility is vital for accessing the truth he reveals to us. A humble and submitted heart will easily connect with God’s voice.

As you go about your day today, I’d encourage you to have moments when you pause, reconnect with the Father, and humbly ask his opinion about whatever it is you are doing. Choose to lean a little less on your own understanding….

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding;

In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

 

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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Prophetic Dreams

Last month we posted the blog How Does God Speak? In which I interviewed various members of the 3dm Europe team to see how and where they personally hear from God. This month we are very excited to have a guest blogger, Anna Burgess, who has written this blog about her experience with prophetic dreams.

Does God talk to us in dreams today? 

Definitely! What’s more, in both Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17 we are told to expect God to speak in dreams as part of the Holy Spirit being poured out onto His people:

And afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. – Joel 2:28

But what if you never remember your dreams? How do you know if the dreams you do remember are from God or just a result of some funny cheese you ate last night?

Here are four keys for receiving and interpreting dreams from God:

1. Pray for dreams from God and believe!

How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ – Luke 11:13

Maybe you already dream lots. Or perhaps, like my husband, you rarely remember one. I always dreamed a lot as a child, but I rarely remembered dreams beyond the first few moments of waking.  As an adult I received a prophecy that God would speak to me in dreams.  My husband wanted to take hold of that too, so we began praying that God would speak to us in dreams and that we would remember them! Suddenly, Mark began remembering a dream or two! There is definitely a correlation between the nights we pray for dreams and the nights we get dreams! Another part of believing is getting ready to…

2. Write them down

Ever woken up remembering a dream and five minutes later totally forgotten it? Not only does writing down a dream help you remember it, I have also found that it has helped me remember more of the dream, or other dreams I had that night.  It has also helped me interpret the dream.  If you don’t have time to write the whole dream down, just jot down a few key words to help remember it later.

I think we assume that the dreams that are mentioned in the Bible were all incredibly vivid, accompanied by angels, a fanfare and lots of fuss to mark them as special dreams, but we don’t know that that was actually the case. Some of them may have just been ‘normal’ dreams that the receiver took seriously, even though they were rather weird.

Although I have had some particularly clear and vivid dreams, I have found God has spoken to me powerfully through ‘here-one-minute, gone-the-next’ dreams too, so writing them down has been very helpful in being able to discern whether a dream is from God or not and working out the interpretation. Which leads us onto…

3. Discerning the source of the dream:

‘Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God’ – 1 John 4:1

Just as prophecies can come from one of three sources – ourselves, God and the enemy, so can dreams.

DREAMS FROM THE ENEMY BRING FEAR; ARE OFTEN DARK, HOPELESS; AND MAY BE FULL OF TEMPTATION:

Nightmares are obvious examples, but I have also found the enemy send dreams about things going wrong or dreams to unsettle me about upcoming events which could easily be mistaken as ‘prophetic dreams’ until I look at the spirit of fear and hopelessness in them. Others may seem like they are from God, suggesting that you do something you want to do, but when you look at the spirit behind them, you realize they are a temptation to please yourself not God.

In contrast to the enemy’s dreams which are full of fear, I have had dreams where God has shown or told me about negative things that are going to happen, but there has always been a message of hope within the dream. For example, in one dream, God spoke to me and said ‘a time of persecution is coming, but I am going to use it to unite the team in prayer.’ I shared the dream with the team and we prayed together, and during that week several attacks occurred, including two of our team members being robbed at gunpoint. That week was obviously not pleasant, but it did unite us as a team in prayer and our team daily prayers are now central to our daily life.

DREAMS FROM OURSELVES CAN BE PROCESSING OF EVENTS AND TRAUMA, AS WELL AS REACTIONS TO THE ENVIRONMENT. THEY CAN HIGHLIGHT OUR OWN DESIRES AND FEARS:

Dreams can be our mind’s and spirit’s way of processing events and trauma, and can equally be stimulated by our environment. One night, for example, I dreamed about going to buy a thick winter coat, only to wake up and discover that Mark had taken all the bedcovers!

Although dreams that contain levels of stress and processing could be defined as soul dreams rather than dreams from God, they do often highlight areas of worry that I need to bring to God and process with Him, so they can also be helpful to look at too.

DREAMS FROM GOD MAY BE BRIGHT, FULL OF COLOUR, BRING HOPE, ACCOMPANIED BY A SENSE OF PEACE AND MAYBE WONDER:

I have had dreams where I have seen amazing scenery or flowers in vivid colours I have never seen before – and those dreams have left me with a sense of wonder and longing for heaven, but they have been rare. Most of the dreams I have had from God have been opportunities for God to speak into situations I am currently facing, to bring fresh strategy to our team or to highlight bad attitudes in me. God has also used dreams to move me to pray.

I woke up one night after a dream about women trapped in sex trafficking against their will and had a real burden to pray for them.  God used the dream to help me identify with their plight and pray for them.

4. Ask the Giver of Dreams to help you interpret and apply your dreams:

‘Do not interpretations belong to God?’– Genesis 40:8

Our teammates Lili and Rosa both dream ‘literally’- God often shows them things that later take place. I am struggling to think of even one occasion where I have had a dream like that. Even the dreams where God has talked to me about things that are going to happen, an element of interpretation has been necessary.

So, as is often the case with God’s voice, we need to be aware of the elements of Revelation, Interpretation and Application. Firstly, God gives a revelation (a dream, picture, Bible verse, thought, feeling, etc.) and then comes the process of interpreting the revelation; finally we have to work out the application.

Interpreting dreams is a process which requires relationship with God. There is not a formula or a set dream dictionary that will tell you what your dream means. God desires to be in relationship with you and to help you interpret your dreams.

I have found, however, that God does seem to use a personal dream vocabulary that I understand more over time. My earthly father in my dreams, for example, sometimes represents my Heavenly Father. Who is driving a car in my dream is often important and connected with my family or ministry. The people in my dreams are often symbolic for the meaning of their name.  Numbers and colours have been important at times too – a spring green having represented a new thing, and numbers having represented days.

But things can change, and asking God to show you the interpretation and what you are meant to do with the interpretation (the application) is a process that requires a dialogue with God which may take some time, accountability and help from others.

When you next have a dream, why don’t you ask God first what it means before sharing it with a friend over lunch?

You might like to pray this prayer:

Lord, would You please give me dreams? Even tonight, Lord, would your Spirit give me dreams.  Would you help me to be faithful in writing down any dreams You give me, and would you also please help me interpret and apply them to my life.   Amen.

Anna Burgess lives in Lima, Peru with her husband Mark and three sons, Daniel (7), Joel (5) and Kaleb (2). Together they lead Oikos Ministries. Anna blogs at AnnaCBurgess.com

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

For 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. 

Another 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.

The 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.

But, 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.

God 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?