Welcome to a new feature here at the blog!
We live in a society that is over-taught and under-inspired. My hope is to help a bit with this by weekly looking for inspiration and sharing a few of those sources in a post with you. Let me know your thoughts.
Maybe this goes without saying, but I don’t expect you to agree with me about everything I post here. In fact, I expect some of the things I post will rattle your theological cages. My suggestion? Be inspired by people who aren’t perfect. Realize you won’t agree with everything I share here. Eat the chicken, spit out the bones.
So, without further ado, here are three sources of inspiration for the week:
The Sent Life: This is a podcast I just discovered on Facebook yesterday. It’s by a brother named Jonathan Ammon. Jonathan is connected to the #NoPlaceLeft network and is passionate about reaching the unreached, making disciples, and building up the church. I’ve listened to a few of his podcasts so far and I’ve been really encouraged. The content is good, but more than anything, I hear in his voice a focus on “sentness” that I don’t hear other places. Jonathan is not a house church guy, necessarily, but for those of you who are, you will find much to be encouraged about. Also, for a church planter, he has a ton of perspective on healing and hearing the voice of the Lord that I don’t hear in most church planting circles.
Shawn Bolz: The other day I had some time with one of my sons and we were talking about the place of the prophetic in the church. He was asking good questions and listening as we read through 1 Corinthians 12 through 14, but when we got to a certain point, I decided to bring up Shawn’s facebook page and watch him minister prophetically to people. After the first video it was obvious that my son was seeing the purpose of the prophetic and was more hungry to see it operate in his life. I was too. Want to be encouraged that God knows you and loves you and wants to communicate that? Check out this video and this one.
Just a Little Faith: Finally, this picture by Earl inspired me. I know, I know, we all know that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to cause things to move in the Earth. But often we forget how small our faith needs to be if God is really in something. This was just an in-your-face reminder that something so small (like my faith) can really change things on the planet.
Recently David Fitch wrote a post called “Self Talk: How to Not Pray to Yourself” and it struck a chord with me because I’ve contemplated the state of the prophetic as of late and peoples’ tendencies to prophesy out of their own soul, not out of God’s Spirit. In the article, Fitch talks about discerning the voice of the Lord and how we get off track when we begin praying only for the things we want without regard for what Jesus wants. This article was helpful, but I still found myself lamenting the lack of an article about prophesy and listening to ourselves instead of the Lord.
The problem, as I see it, is that charismatic prophecy used to be a kind of holy man’s gifting, where the gift was reserved for the truly spiritual and people were only released to prophesy after gaining a significant track record in both their character and their gifting. As the years went on, more and more were ushered into the prophetic and, while we want as many participating in the gifting as we can get, the preparation and forming of prophetic individuals has taken a back seat.
Now, because we want everyone to prophesy, so much of the “track record” that was necessary before is seen as hindering. Many times I see those who are young in the prophetic sharing things they’ve seen in their imaginations, mistaking those things as visions from Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about people stepping out and attempting to hear from the Lord, but I know the danger of people building on what they see in their imaginations, thinking these ‘visions’ are truly from the Lord.
Elementary training in the prophetic teaches that we “hear” from three sources: God, Satan, and ourselves. The trick to dealing with prophecy is knowing where a message comes from. God’s words bring peace, clarity, and freedom to our hearts. They are often accompanied by true confirmation from others who hear from the Lord. Satan speaking to us can be difficult to discern, especially when we’re new. However, usually the voice of the enemy comes with condemnation, shame, and draws our attention away from Jesus and the Bible.
It’s much harder to discern whether what we hear is from ourselves. Many times the things we hear touch areas that are so near and dear to our heart that it’s had to remain objective. I find that the church has a difficult time prophesying politically, for example, because often people are very biased about the topics they are praying and speaking into. Christians know the right answer, the answer that is ultimately right, and I’ve watched as they have prophesied out of “the right answer” instead of what God is truly doing.
The danger in all of this is that we become trumpets for our own hearts and desires and not a vessel for the Lord to speak through. Instead of hearing and declaring what the Lord is saying, regardless of how much it challenges conventional wisdom, we become mouthpieces for what our minds can dream up. God over and over again in Jeremiah and Ezekiel challenged the prophets who prophesied good out of their made up prophecies. This kind of prophecy doesn’t require any obedience. It promises us what we want without submission to the Lord or His process. Like Peter, we end up telling Jesus He’ll never have to suffer and find out later it was the Father’s will for that to happen.
The fix for this is to learn true listening and obedience to what we hear. We have to begin to spend time in prayer listening first and leaving our agendas either till the very end or out entirely. Periods of time spent in silence or asking God questions instead of intercession and request are the beginnings of relationship with God outside of what we want. When we learn to wait on God, to dialogue with Him rather than supply our own answers, quickly we will learn there is a God who answers that is beyond our definition of right and wrong. He is real and wants to interact with us. He will speak, we don’t need to supply the right answers.
In order to grow out of listening to our own soul and truly hear God, we also need to learn how to deny ourselves. Most inaccurate prophetic activity I see both in the New Testament and in the current day stems from a failure to see God’s activity through the lens of the cross. Anyone trying to regularly practice hearing the Lord’s voice ought to focus a specific part of their prayer life asking the Lord to help them lay down their agendas. So much of imaginations that get passed on as prophecy stem from the fact that people are emotionally tied to what they want to see happen. Learning to separate ourselves from what we want and submit to what God wants helps us to see beyond our own personal desires.
Lastly community is key to this process. When I share what I believe I’m hearing with other believers, it gives my community the chance to reflect what they see back to me. Remember, even the most prophetic among us only see in part. When I trust my brothers and sisters with what I’m hearing and allow them to help me discern what is from God, I’m actually getting help seeing beyond myself, which is so hard for all of us, not just those of us with prophetic gifts. Jeremiah was told by God that a key part of his prophetic ministry was to separate the precious from the vile (Jeremiah 15:19) and sharing what we hear with others and letting them weigh our words is a critical part of this process (1 Corinthians 14:29). I don’t know a mature prophetic individual that hasn’t learned this process.
God has an incredible journey ahead for us in hearing His voice. He is not silent and wants you to go on a journey of hearing Him and believing what He is speaking. Critical to that is us learning to separate our own internal voice from the voice of the Spirit that comes and speaks to our hearts. When we separate the precious (God’s voice) from the worthless (our wants and desires) in what we’re hearing, that’s when we become God’s spokesman.
And isn’t that what all of our hearts are truly hungering for?
Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
-Jesus, Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22
For a long time I thought these verses meant that we should pay attention to what the Holy Spirit was saying. That seemed pretty straightforward.
I also used to think the reason that God asked us to share what we’re hearing from the Holy Spirit with others was to keep us from being deceived. And I’m still sure that’s part of the reason.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the Holy Spirit speak to people from different backgrounds and locations about the exact same thing, weaving a tapestry of a message that could never be accomplished if only one person or even one church was the only one hearing what the Spirit was saying. It’s got me thinking that maybe God has something more for us in sharing what we’re hearing than just accountability.
I think there is a place where we can listen to the Holy Spirit ourselves, but when we bring together what we hear from Him, there is a richer, more in-depth, more accurate picture of what God is doing in the Earth. It only takes us being willing to listen with other believers, being willing to wait together to discern His voice, listening to what the Spirit is saying to all of us.
Who knows? Maybe God wants to weave what you are hearing from Him together with what He is speaking to others to accomplish more than you could ever imagine. Maybe, just maybe, if we begin to listen together, we can confirm and establish the reality of what God is doing in our day.
But it starts with us sharing what we’re hearing, together.
Are you listening?
Are you sharing?
A month ago, I had a dream.
In that dream I was walking through the downtown, urban section of a city. I came across a storefront church. It was bustling with young, urban attenders that were very much of the hipster variety. Everything about this church had the buzz of “cool.”
After hanging around for a while with people I didn’t know, I found out that the person I was hanging with invited me to preach but I was totally unaware. The leader of this church had asked me to preach on servanthood, but he was wanting a message on servanthood so that he would have an easier time recruiting people to serve the ministries of this church. He had no interest in servanthood as a value in the Kingdom.
From the front of the building, we walked into the sanctuary with the pastor and his assistant. The sanctuary was actually a stadium-style ice rink. The pastor asked me to sit in the highest row, which is where he spoke from, but the worship of the meeting actually took place at the bottom of the stadium out on the ice. As the worship progressed, I began to realize that this church’s worship was a very detailed production/show and that everyone was dressed very formally. There was an orchestra, dancers and because an ice rink was central to this church, they even had ice skaters. Somehow I had ended up in dressed in a suit but had no shoes and was feeling very awkward about it.
Then suddenly towards the end of the “worship time” it became clear that the ice rink was melting. But it wasn’t just the ice in the rink at the center of the stadium that was melting, but the whole building. Unbeknownst to me the entire building was made of ice and was beginning to melt. The stadium seats, the floors, and even the walls were melting and cracking. It disrupted the whole service and we could not continue. I woke up with this phrase on my spirit: “The frozen church is melting.”
Interpretation: I believe that this is a warning to the church, particularly in the West. The church built on entertainment, cultural relativity, and business values will begin to come undone. This will be in large part due to “atmospheric change” that the church in the West will find itself in. I’m unclear about whether this will come from greater hostility toward the church from society in general or a greater intensity brought to bear on the church by the Lord Himself, resulting in more fervency in the body and a rejection of these values. But one thing is clear: a Christian organization built on man’s organizational values that feeds a consumer mentality in the body of Christ in order to further the success of one or two leaders will be a recipe for a “melting church.”
Hebrews 12:26-27: “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.”
Application: The call then, based on all of this, is to repent. We need to repent of those areas where we’ve been working for our fulfillment and notoriety instead of the Lord’s glory and the advancement of the Gospel. We need to reject human leadership values and church structures based on marketing principles and not God’s word, even if you can vaguely construe Scripture to justify your approach. Go back and do the things you did at first when Jesus was your first love. Begin again to follow Jesus, listen to His voice, and look to Him and His word for how you and your church can begin to follow Him based on what He values.
Now: Do you see anything in the interpretation or application of the dream that I missed? If you do, please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below.
Not just the kind of dreams that are a vision for your future that you want to achieve. I actually believe the dreams you dream at night are sometimes the communication of Heaven to your life.
That means the dreams you dream are sometimes God talking to you.
Why do I believe that? Well, the book of Job (33:14-18) says this:
For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though man does not perceive it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
while they slumber on their beds,
then he opens the ears of men
and terrifies them with warnings,
that he may turn man aside from his deed
and conceal pride from a man;
he keeps back his soul from the pit,
his life from perishing by the sword.
So God uses dreams to get our attention. He uses them to connect to us when we’ve been so busy we haven’t been attending to His voice. He uses our sleep to speak to us about our lives, if we’d only hear it.
I also believe in dreams because God has used them so consistently in the past. He’s used them with Joseph in Egypt, Daniel and the pagan Kings of Babylon, Joseph (Jesus’ father),and others in the Bible. It’s also a way He promised to speak to us after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Wolfgang Simson says that the bed may be the most prophetic place on the planet for human beings. Most of the time, however, we ignore what we see in dreams because we don’t believe they carry messages from Heaven. They do, if we are willing to seek God out for what those messages are.
In my own life, there have been numerous times Jesus has shifted the direction of my life or spoken into a situation through a dream He’s given to me or a dream He’s given to a friend of mine about me. Many dreams have cleared up confusion about a situation I’ve found myself in. Some have foretold things to come. Some have just drawn me closer to Jesus. The fruit has been healthy and well worth the journey.
I also believe dreams are a reality we’re all called to experience. I believe you can go to bed tonight and God can begin speaking to you in away you’ve never imagined. If you’re still reading this, I pray tonight God begins to speak in your dreams and that tomorrow morning you wake up with direction you could have never imagined. Take a notebook with you and write like mad anything you dream about. Then when you wake up, pray about what you remember.
The tricky part comes when we believe in dreams. Because once we believe that God is communicating to us, we become accountable for the messages God is hand delivering to our nocturnal in-box. We get to live the dream.
If you’ve had a dream that God spoke to you clearly in, leave a message in the comment section below.
Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny. These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site. Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.
I thought I would try something new this week. I’ve always meant to include other media besides blogs on our “Food for Thought” posts. It just so happens that this week there are a couple of significant contributions from the organic church world that I think are worth taking a look at. Let me know if you find any of these helpful in the comments section, and if people find them helpful I may try to find more. Enjoy!
Kieth @ the Subversive1 blog has been tearing up the internets with a series of articles on how to minister to the poor. Alan @ The Assembling of the Church references that post in this blog and he quotes a song by LeCrae that illustrates why church planting among the homeless and poor is absolutely necessary.
Shawn is a prophetic voice that has been pioneering a church in L.A. amongst the creative community there. He’s been posting at Shawnbolz’s Weblog about the difficulties of pioneering, and this post talks about the difficulty of continuing to walk in breakthough throughout our everyday lives.
Guy @ The M Blog writes about the need for continual training as we pursue the establishment of God’s Kingdom. I think continual training is a must for anyone serious about Kingdom transformation. Don’t miss the excerpt from Curtis Sergeant’s “What We Can Learn from the U.S. Marines.”
Len at Next Reformation has been thinking deeply about Ephesians chapter 4. Here he quotes various authors’ and thinkers’ thoughts on the realities found in Ephesians 4. What I love about these quotes is how they tie weakness and vulnerability together with displaying the glory of Jesus.
Starfish Files is an e-magazine put together by the leaders of the house church movement in Canada. Don’t miss the feature article: “Repenting of Dead Works for a Great Harvest of Souls.”
Neil Cole teaches on the true place of the five ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4. I love Neil’s emphasis on Christ as the source of all the gifts. There’s a lot to be learned here.