Revelation: the Great Unveiling

Unveiling; disclosure; uncovering; exposure; when something is made known that was previously secret or hidden

This is how dictionaries tend to define the word ‘revelation’. When I think about the word, I see it as describing the essence of communication between God and man. Revelation is the unveiling of God’s truth to us, the point at which the vastness of God’s thoughts touch our limited human consciousness.

When we stop and think about it, it is extraordinary that we might have any kind of access to the mind of Almighty God. As he declares in Isaiah 55:9,

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways,  and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Yet despite the huge gulf between the mind of the Creator and the human mind, the Bible makes it clear that God readily chooses to communicate with people and unveil his thoughts to us. In fact revelation is inherent to the very nature of God. It’s not just through the written words of scripture that this happens. Throughout the biblical narrative God speaks to people: through creation, through angels and other supernatural experiences, but primarily through his voice.

We know that all creation bears testimony to God and speaks of his majesty, but we can also understand revelation as connection points between the physical world and the supernatural kingdom of God: points in space and time where we get glimpses of the realm of glory. So when we receive revelation from God it’s as if the curtains draw back for a few moments and we get to gaze through a window onto the greater and eternal reality.

God is very good, and it is his good intention that his people have access to his heart, mind and will. We also know that this side of glory there are limitations to what we can perceive: it will be ‘in part,’ like ‘a reflection as in a mirror,’ as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:9 and 12. But we need never settle for silence. He will never be completely hidden from us.

Over the next few blogs we’re going to look at revelation and how we can all grow in eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to know God. But here I want to share a few thoughts about how we can posture ourselves for revelation: how we can best place ourselves for the great unveiling that is God’s communication to us.

 

Family

As followers of Jesus our primary identity is that of children of God, and a growing understanding of this identity is key for receiving revelation. We have to change the way we think and choose to live in the truth of our spiritual adoption. We are sons and daughters of a perfect heavenly Father who wants the very best for us and desires that we should hear his voice. After all, fathers like talking to their children. Knowing in the depth of our being that we are beloved children of God takes us to the place where we can joyfully anticipate God’s presence and voice.

Furthermore, our identity as members of God’s family reminds us that he has designed us for community, and that the best context for receiving revelation is usually in the communities of God’s people that we belong to. It’s together that we are best placed to listen and respond to God’s spoken word to us.

 

Friendship

One of the wonders of the New Covenant that we belong to is that God has given us his Spirit. Jesus’ name for the Holy Spirit is Parakletos: the Friend who will never leave us. And it’s through our relationship with this Friend that we have incredible access to revelation from the very heart of God:

“When he comes he will guide you into all truth… he will speak what he hears… the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”   John 16:13-15

 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  1 Corinthians 2:10-11

 The Holy Spirit is the agent of revelation: he reveals God’s heart and mind to us. A fundamental part of his ministry is to search out the deep hidden things of God and unveil them to us. He speaks directly to our spirits and in this way reveals things to us that our natural eyes or ears could never perceive.

It’s this third Person of the Trinity, this Parakletos, who invites us into close fellowship and friendship. We can walk with him daily, talking to him and listening to him, seeing the world from his perspective. We learn his ways and see what he sees.

 

Follow

Jesus provides us with a wonderfully clear picture of what revelation is supposed to look like in the life of a disciple when he describes himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”  John 10:27

This is the Shepherd with a voice, and with sheep that know this voice above all others. This passage reminds us that along with revelation comes the imperative to respond (“…and they follow me”.) Jesus promises us that we will know his voice to such an extent that we will be able to follow it. We can never be passive receivers of his revelation. Like he says at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, we have to “hear these words of mine and put them into practice.”

Part of our role as followers of Jesus is to follow him in the way he revealed the Father. Jesus came to this earth for many important reasons, but a primary reason was to reveal the Father and give us a true picture of what he is like. Jesus’ revelation of the Father is the greatest and most profound revelation – the greatest prophecy – of all time. But as disciples of Jesus we get to join in as well. The ultimate goal of our ministry is to reveal who God is; to reveal the truth of the nature of God to those who cannot yet see him.

 

Absurdity, Obedience and Listening to God

phone

Our blog this week is written by John White, one of the members of the Accessible Prophecy team.

You know the scenario. You have just used your smartphone; you put it down; you walk out of the room to make a cup of tea; you walk back into the room; and you cannot remember where you put your phone. I’ve just used it a minute ago. Where is it? Ridiculous!

Another scenario; you are driving down to Cornwall. After the tediously long M5, you have reached Exeter and join the A30. A dual carriageway that goes all the way down to Penzance, bypassing Okehampton, Launceston and Bodmin. But what’s this! Just north of Bodmin, the A30 becomes a single carriageway, which results in a massive back up of traffic going north and south. Everything was going really well until this massive traffic jam. Why is there a six-mile single-carriageway bottleneck in a very busy arterial dual carriageway? Ridiculous!

Now you may be thinking that these scenarios, which were my experience over the summer, reflect more on my forgetfulness and impatience. Yes, sadly, there are times when I go upstairs and forget why I have gone up in the first place. And, yes, I am the world’s most impatient person. I enjoy playing patience; but to be patient for an hour, a day, a week or whatever, that is just asking for the impossible!

It is absurd that I can mislay something so quickly. It is absurd that on a major highway, taking holidaymakers into Cornwall, there should be a six-mile bottleneck. I am feeling distinctly grumpy! Absurd!

This has set me thinking. Why ‘absurd’? What does the word really mean? Where does it come from?

Some of you may be familiar with Samuel Beckett’s play, ‘Waiting for Godot’. There is a line in the play –

Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful” Samuel Beckett, ‘Waiting for Godot’.

Here we are introduced to the absurdity of human life, where human existence is portrayed as meaningless or ridiculous.

The word ‘absurd’ has an interesting root. It comes from a Latin word, ‘absurdus’, consisting of ‘ab’, meaning ‘from’, and ‘surdus’, meaning ‘deaf’ or ‘inaudible’ or ‘indistinct’

So, the root of absurdity is inaudibility or indistinctness.

In George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘St Joan’, one of the characters asks Joan of Arc why the voice of God never speaks to him as she claims it speaks constantly to her.

The voice speaks to you all the time,” she says. “You just fail to listen.”

One of the reasons why I think that God’s voice is inaudible or indistinct is that we are not attentive. We fail to listen to God.

The Bible shows us that God speaks: to Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden; to Abraham; to Moses; to the judges, David & the kings, to the prophets; through Jesus Christ to the disciples; to the early church; and finally to John on the island of Patmos in Revelation. God does speak, but he does so in a number of ways

Job 33:14 – “For God does speak – now one way, now another – though man may not perceive it.”

Let me just highlight some verses from the Bible …

Dt.6:4,5 – “Hear, O Israel: ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere, at the very heart of the covenant relationship between God and his people, there is a requirement to hear God and to love God. Our listening to the voice of God becomes a pathway to our loving God.

Lk.10:39 – “She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

I can imagine Martha thinking that it was ridiculous that Mary was not helping her when Jesus came round. How absurd to sit and listen to Jesus, when she should be giving me a hand! Well, we must never let our ‘busyness’ take priority over listening to God.

Mk.9:7 – “Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’”

Peter had great plans to build three monuments to the Transfiguration experience. But God knew better. Monuments can only ever look backwards. Peter needed to listen to, and follow, Jesus.

Jn.10:3,4,27: “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. … My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

I find this verse really encouraging and challenging at the same time. On the one hand, it is encouraging, because I am no longer my own, but Jesus’. On the other hand, it is challenging, because Jesus expects me to hear his voice. It is obvious, because in any relationship there is a belonging to each other and hearing each other

(Jn.8:47 – “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”).

Apart from our lack of attentiveness, there are also times when God’s voice is inaudible or indistinct. I am wondering whether this silence has to do with ‘absurdity’. We so crowd our lives out that we leave no space for God to speak into our lives. Materially purposeful lives, but spiritually purposeless lives.

I was reflecting on Isaiah 50:10-11:
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Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.”

Isaiah is not speaking of moral darkness, but of a time of great difficulty, hardship or need. It is in then that we experience the sound of God’s silence. We feel that God has abandoned us, or at the very least has stopped speaking to us. The absurdity of the inaudibility of God’s voice? Or should it be the absurdity of our ‘busyness’ and inattentiveness to hear the voice God?

When we are very busy and not spending time listening to God, we can be tempted to run ahead of God. As Isaiah puts it, we can create our own light, instead of waiting for God’s light.

meT391cWhen I am too busy for God, when I am inattentive to his voice, when I am spiritually dull, I know that I am deadly. Knives that are dull, or blunt, are deadly and dangerous to use. Knives need to be sharp to be effective. I am only ever truly sharp when I am alive to God’s voice. The answer to my spiritual dullness is to be attentive to the voice of God.

The danger of living a spiritually absurd life, inattentive to the voice of God, is that I begin to live in the ‘what was’, living out of memories, living off yesterday’s fruit. I don’t want to remain in the ‘what was’. I want to live in the ‘what will be’, because it means that I am moving forwards. Movements, by definition, move forwards. ‘What will be’ takes me forwards into a better future. Monuments, by definition, look back to a past season of ‘what was’, going nowhere and gathering dust.

If absurdity is all about the inaudibility of God’s voice, then my second word, ‘obedience’ is about listening. The Latin verb ‘obaudire’, “to listen”, is the origin of the English word ‘obedience’. Listening is a form of obedience. We can be very selective in our listening, in our obedience. But selective obedience is not obedience; it is convenience.

I am reminded of that strange incident in 2 Kings 13:14-19, when the king only struck the ground three times and then stopped. Elisha was angry with him, because he should have struck the ground five or six times for complete victory.

Is there a correlation between striking the ground and complete victory, or is this about the king’s disobedience? Perhaps, Elisha told him to strike the ground five or six times, but he decided to limit it to three strikes. Was he disobedient, or afraid of looking foolish, or did he think that he knew best?

Listening to God requires our obedience. It means letting go of what we think we know best. It means not being afraid of looking foolish. The more we know God, the more we will recognise his voice, the more we will listen to him, the more we will obey him.

 mgyl2fOTwenty 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.” Mark Twain

In my heart, I want to live a life where I can explore, dream and discover all of God’s plans and purposes for me. But to do that, I need to be spiritually alive, not living a dull or absurd life inaudible to the voice of God.

In closing, I am reminded of Song of Solomon 2:14-15 –

O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”

So when I am in absurd situations, or when I have made absurd choices, when I have failed to listen obediently to the voice of God, then I need to cry out to God to see his face, to hear his voice, and to repent of my sins (those little foxes) that spoil my relationship with him.

Hebrews 3:7 –

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice”.

Today, I am saying yes to obedience and no to absurdity.

Now, where did I put my phone?

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!

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.

mhYv4yAI 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.

mBPRbtAIn 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:

mtJNRZMI 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.

okY8y7kInterpreting 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