02 July 2007

Faith and Skepticism (Part 2)

There's so much to say to this, so I'll just start and see where it goes. After all - for those who blog - we understand that this is a conversation and not an article. So forgive the non-linear approach to this.

First of all, let me explain for those who don't know me. I believe in all the gifts of the Spirit, and firmly believe that they are still at work today - and are just as important as when used in the First Century.

Second, I do have a prophetic gift - although I would not call myself a prophet. Let me share a quick story of when it first happened.

I was in a college group at a then Vineyard church in Boulder Colorado. We had just finished with worship (as in song) and some people were gathered in an inner circle just praying. I had this strong urge and random thought to approach this girl and say, "I believe God wants you to marry me!"

Okay, no, that's not what it was, but I wanted to see if you were paying attention!
All I did was come up and say very softly, "I think God just wants you to know that you are beautiful."

Now, I'm not into emotionalism, but I did know that was what God wanted because of her response to God afterwards. It was simple word. God thinks we are all beautiful (so it of course was safe to say), but in this case it was prophetic, and brought some healing into her life.

Ever since then, I've had moments in my life when I could hear God very clearly, and other times when I was submerged under the water not knowing which way was up. But here's a few rules - that I'm still learning mind you.

First, a very quick simple definition of the prophetic is, "Sharing the heart of God." That's pretty wide open, but it works for this purpose.

1. I rarely (as in almost never) make a prophetic statement as an emphatic, 'Thus says the Lord'. Most of the time it comes in the form of, "I'm kind of sensing this..." Or, "Have you ever thought about this..." Or, "I'm not sure about this, so take it as a grain of salt..."

If you read my earlier post on communication, you might remember that I said, "Meaning lies with the receiver." If that's true, then the responsibility - as a general rule - lies with the sender. How much more careful should the sender be if they think they are sharing something from God's heart.

2. In 12 years of moving in this gift, I have never given anyone a word of direction. For example, "You are to move to Iceland." Or, "You need to marry a banker." I sometimes might get a sense of something like, "Is there a change coming in your life?" Or, "Are you interested in other cultures?"

This brings up a very important point that many people who believe in the prophetic forget - God wants to speak to each of us in relationship with him. If we rely on others to hear from God for us, we miss the whole point of walking by faith with him - and we will get burned out or burned.

3. As a result, a prophetic word should only confirm what the receiver already knows. Or it will confirm something down the road. But never take a prophetic word at face value if you haven't heard from God yourself. Prophetic words should build your faith that you do hear from God, not replace your faith.

4. Chris made a good comment in my previous post about the prophetic being used for the direction of the church and not toward a particular individual. He's partly right. There are individual words (The Gospels and Acts provide numerous instances where a 'word' was given to one person, or from one person, or both.


Prophecy is always confirmed in community. Paul is very clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that we see through a mirror dimly and prophecy in part. It must be confirmed in community. A word is never isolated.

This is God's insurance that one man or woman doesn't lead people down some sort of cultish path. If I gave a word to someone and that someone thought it from left field, then that person should seek out others so the community (as in some trusted friends) can decide. If I give a word to a church as a whole, the church needs to decide to follow that word or not. We are the body for a reason.

5. Paul is also clear that any prophecy should be for the building up and edifying. Words should always encourage and always be positive.

Well, this list isn't exhaustive, but let me now finally answer the question, "What if we miss it?"

If these five safeguards are in place, we should be okay. But remember one thing - We DO all see through a mirror dimly. We DO only prophecy in part. We WILL miss it. Which is why humility and community are vitally important as safeguards.

I get the question from time to time, "Well, if someone misses it, doesn't that make them a false prophet?"

There is a difference between a prophet and a person who prophecies, but the principles still apply. And the quick answer to that is no. A false prophet is someone who deliberately uses his/her gift to manipulate for selfish reasons.

I've also heard the statement, "If the mystery of God is revealed to the saints, then we should be certain of what God says." Not true. The mystery God has revealed is in the person of His Son Jesus. The mystery revealed is "Christ in us, the hope of Glory." The mystery revealed is God's redemptive plan on the earth and throughout creation. This has little to do with prophecy, except that the nature of the gift itself has changed a bit since the Old Testament prophets. It has nothing to do with us getting all the answers. Which should be comforting for if we think we have all the answers and we don't, we're in for some rocky times down the road. If we already know we don't have all the answers, we can enjoy the exploring adventurous journey that lies ahead.

God still has mysteries. And it is his good pleasure to reveal them to us, but many times that leads to more mystery. And that's the beauty of walking with God.


Danimal said...

Great post. I tend to use the book of Job as a guide for prophesy.... His three friends really missed the mark because they weren't listening to what God was telling them in relationship to Job. Prophesy, just like reading the bible is all about context and divining magical words from God with Hogwartian Magic.
Unless of course you are tying yourself to the ground and staring at a model of jeruselem for 40 days... also Ezekeiel made some great grain cakes...

David said...

Or...you could marry a prostitute.

I'm glad we live under the Old Law no longer...

Besides it's too cold to walk around Colorado naked in the winter. Although in the summer...it's tempting.

paul said...

nice work bro - i'm not 100% sure that every word of God can be directly encouraging - sometimes in my experience they have been pretty challenging - but then the people delivering them have always walked softer and been about offering help if it was true in walking it out...

apart from one memorable occassion but just cos had fingers burnt once it doesn't stop us lighting fires :)