Revelation: Eyes To See

How does God speak to you? What spiritual language does the Holy Spirit use to bring his revelation to you?

We can perceive the great unveiling in many different ways; we are each uniquely designed to catch the flow of the Spirit and tune in to God’s voice. One of the most common ways is through ‘seeing’, when God communicates to us through the visual dimension of the prophetic, whether it’s a simple internal picture or an ‘open-eyed’ vision.

Prophetic seeing is usually an internal process, and we perceive the content through our ‘mind’s eye’. This may be a simple, still image or it could be a moving picture like a scene from a movie. Sometimes it will be very hazy, as if we have just glimpsed something out of the corner of our eye; at other times it may be incredibly sharp and detailed. Sometimes the picture will come to us fully formed, at other times it may emerge slowly. I often have the experience of a prophetic picture slowly coming into focus, as if I were trying to focus on something through a camera lens. What I’ve learnt over the years is that I must resist the urge to dismiss the revelation at the partially formed stage because it doesn’t make sense. Rather I need to stay in a place of receptivity, patiently waiting for the picture to fully emerge.

Another important principle that God has taught me about the visual dimension of prophecy is that pictures and visions are an invitation to a conversation: they should be a relational, not functional, experience. In fact they are doorways to an encounter with God. If the Holy Spirit gives you a prophetic picture, see it as an opportunity to meet him and go deeper with him, rather than a puzzle to be solved. There is a real joy to be found in exploring prophetic pictures and visions with the Holy Spirit. Let him take you by the hand and go on a journey of discovery into all that you are seeing. Focus in on some details and ask him questions. Enjoy simply dwelling in the revelation a while.

The subject of how to interpret prophetic pictures and visions is an important one. It’s helpful to think in terms of two broad categories of visual revelation (though there is often overlap between them):

Metaphorical language  This is when God uses pictures symbolically to communicate truth to us. An example of this would be receiving a prophetic picture of a bunch of flowers because God wants you to know that he loves you.

Seeing into a different reality  This is when God opens our spiritual eyes so that we see something of the invisible realm of the Spirit. An example of this would be seeing an angel or having a vision of God’s throne in heaven.

Interpretation is a very important aspect of the first category. It’s all too easy to jump to conclusions and attach our own interpretations to prophetic pictures, rather than having the discipline of asking the Holy Spirit what he is saying to us. For many prophetic people, receiving the visual revelation is the easy part; the challenge is discerning the right interpretation. We should always ask the Lord for an interpretation to revelation he gives us, and be content to wait patiently if it doesn’t come straight away.

When we think about the second category of visual revelation it’s good to remember Paul’s encouragement to us in 2 Corinthians 4:18:

  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The Bible speaks to us of two worlds: the physical, material world and the spiritual world, and as Christians we need to be engaging with both realities. To perceive the spiritual dimension of God’s kingdom requires eyes of faith and expectation. There are many biblical accounts of people being shown aspects of the spiritual realm, such Elisha and his servant seeing the heavenly army in 2 Kings 6:17, and the many encounters with angels described throughout scripture. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and John all had visions of God on his throne in heaven (with many similar details). Paul even writes about being caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2).

Ezekiel had a series of remarkable visions and heavenly encounters, and does his best to describe the indescribable:

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it I fell face down… Ezekiel 1:28

But we too can be expectant for glimpses of the realm of glory. We can start by simply asking God for them, and then meditating on passages of scripture that describe visions of God, Jesus and heaven. Setting aside time to prayerfully contemplate John’s visionary description of Jesus in Revelation 1 is a great place to start. Worship too provides a wonderful context for opening the eyes of our hearts to the reality of God’s kingdom and the realm of the Spirit. The next time you are in a time of corporate worship, ask the Lord to give you a fresh revelation of his glory. Ask him to show you what is happening in heaven right now.

So far we’ve largely been talking about seeing with our ‘inner eye’ or with spiritual sight, but of course God can talk to us through the things we observe with our physical eyes. He loves to speak through the ordinary and everyday, especially through the beauty of the natural world. We just need to slow down enough so that we can properly pay attention and look.

However we see the things of God, whether it’s internal or external, what is key is that we are paying attention. God is the great Communicator, but to tune in to his revelation requires us to be active and alert, to be practiced observers – ready to peer in whenever the veil is drawn back. We need to have eyes to see.

 

 

 

 

Prophets Need Community

 

All the believers were together and had everything in common.”

Acts 2:44

Sometimes it just seems easier to go it alone.

For those of us who are ‘prophet-shaped’ and find ourselves drawn to prophetic ministry, there is often a temptation to turn our backs on the wider Christian community and run to Elijah’s ravine or John the Baptist’s desert: that place where it’s just ourselves and the voice of God.

After all, many of us need a place of quiet and solitude to be able to hear God clearly: a place where we don’t have to explain or defend our prophetic sensibilities; a place where we can pursue the sweet presence of Jesus uninterrupted.

And when we look at prophetic people in our churches we often find that they occupy those more isolated places: perhaps disconnected from a thriving community, and often on the very margins of church life. Isolation and separation are temptations for many prophets. When you can hear God so well by yourself it’s easy to end up thinking, “I don’t need anyone else – I can hear God!”  When you have encountered misunderstanding and even rejection because of your prophetic calling it’s very easy to emotionally and spiritually withdraw from the Christian community you are part of.

But an isolated prophet is an unaccountable prophet and this is a dangerous place for prophets to occupy. The most precarious place for prophetic ministry is right on the edge of things – a long way from the leadership, a long way from the central heartbeat of the church, a long way from accountable relationships. And in this place it’s all too easy for the prophet to end up being a critical voice outside the church – manifesting the spirit of independence and refusing to submit to any counsel or correction.

To gain a biblical perspective on prophetic ministry it’s important to see the huge shift that happens as we move from the old to the new covenant in respect to the role and ministry of prophets. The prophets of the Old Testament often had to minister as ‘lone-rangers’: they were sometimes a single voice in the midst of a corrupt and rebellious nation; often with a message addressed at unbelievers. They were working in isolation and alienation.

But the New Testament paints a very different picture of prophetic ministry and the context it operates in. Community is the crucial lens through which we must now view prophetic gifts, and as we look at the New Testament model of prophecy we see that its true home is a healthy, thriving community of God’s people. The church has become the centre of prophetic activity: a family of listeners, who discern God’s voice together.

New covenant prophets need community. It was all very well for the likes of Jeremiah and Co to minister in isolation, but under the new covenant a commitment to community is the deal for everyone, regardless of what our five-fold ministry is. Jesus never let his disciples do anything by themselves: they even had to find a donkey as a pair. So in order to have a balanced and fruitful ministry we have to overcome the challenges of community and pursue deep fellowship with our fellow believers.

It’s vital that prophetic people have a strong inward dimension to their lives, fully embedded in community, with healthy relationships with other believers. God created us to be social beings and his design for his church is that we are one body. In fact the love that Christians have for one another is the mark that identifies us as Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35). We are all called to live out our faith alongside others.

Prophets need a sense of belonging, so that when they bring a word to the church, they are listened to because they are part of the family. A leader’s job is to help prophets find a supportive community. But more important than that is the need to create a culture where prophets can gain a vision for community, so that they are able to maintain a soft heart towards the body – a heart to build up the body.

So we have to create an environment that draws prophets close to the centre and ensures that they are firmly embedded in community; a place where prophets feel loved, accepted, valued, and invited in. We want to create a culture that communicates that the prophets, and all that they bring, are valued.

A strong culture of community, enhanced by the right sort of language, is going to be key for the healthy development of prophets. A strong community will naturally create trust, and it’s worth recognising that many prophetic people have to overcome their fear of judgement and rejection in order to mature and thrive. It’s really important that prophets feel that they can trust their community not to reject them if they share revelation.

And a strong community will create an environment of healthy submission and mutual respect: the prophet is happy to submit to his/her leader because they are part of the same family.

If we are sensing the temptation to go it alone, here are some searching questions we can ask ourselves that will help us stay focused on loving and blessing our community:

  • Am I committed to my church community?
  • Am I submitted to my leaders?
  • Am I accountable about my life and my prophetic ministry?
  • Am I making myself vulnerable to others?

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.