A piece of 1960’s angst

I’ve been watching Tommy, the 1970’s rock opera written mostly by Pete Townshend and The Who. I’d quoted something from Tommy in a sermon recently and a friend passed me the DVD in its digitally remastered glory!  It’s not bad – but nothing like as good musically as the original concept album. But then the album was perhaps one of the greatest of the 1960s.

I’d forgotten all about the complex song "Christmas"

Mother:
Did you ever see the faces of the children,
They get so excited
Waking up on Christmas morning
Hours before the winter sun’s ignited.
They believe in dreams and all they mean
Including heaven’s generosity.
Peeping round the door
To see what parcels are for free
In curiosity.

And Tommy doesn’t know what day it is.
He doesn’t know who Jesus was
Or what praying is.
How can he be saved
From the eternal grave?

,,,
I believe in love
But how can men who’ve never seen
Light be enlightened.
Only if he’s cured
Will his spirits future level ever heighten.

Tommy: See me, feel me, touch me, heal me!
              See me, feel me, touch me, heal me!

Thirty years on, the means of revelation and salvation for those which unable to "hear" gospel are unlikely to be discussed in contemporary music.  How many in our community cry out "See me, feel me, touch me, heal me!" 

Ohhh, and a young Elton John sings "Pinball Wizard". 

Delivering a Prophetic Word

Prophecy Faithfully Delivering the Word

How do we know it is the right time to share what we have seen or heard from God? Though everyone is unique, and prophesy can vary with to circumstance, culture and temperament, some common themes emerge which may help us recognize the voice of the Spirit as we start to move in this gift.

1. A kind of ‘bubbling up" inside

The Hebrew word for prophesying in the Old Testament, nataph, means "to bubble up". It describes a kind of eruption inside, the point when divine activity is "coming to the boil" in the prophet’s spirit. It carries the idea of "to ooze", "distil gradually", and  "to fall in drops",

2. A vision/picture or the vivid memory of a dream 

God can speak through supernatural visions and dreams that linger and demand interpretation,

3. God may highlight a biblical text

In your own quiet time as you have been reading Scriptures, a verse will particularly stand out.

4. You may sense an impression or words 

It may be no more than the beginning of a sentence; or it could be that information comes to you as if someone was whispering in your ear about a specific situation, and this simply will not go away.

5. You may have a "gut feeling

This is not to be mistaken for a suspicious or paranoid attitude!

6. There may be a persistent but quiet "still, small voice"

This phrase was used to mean a "gentle whisper" or the "sound of silence"; the gentle, hushed, intimate way God spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12). God came to Ezekiel’s slain army of dry bones as the mighty wind of God’s resuscitating breath. God went before the wandering Israelites in the desert as a pillar of fire. God’s voice is often likened to thunder or earthquake. But Elijah, a true prophet of God, was used to looking and listening for the unusual, and not necessarily a repetition of what the Lord had done in the past. And so there came a "still, small voice", a "gentle whisper", a "silent, thin sound" (1 Kings 19:11-12).

God’s voice can sometimes a half a whisper: very quiet, almost imperceptible,

7. You may experience unusual physical sensations

You may pant or breathe deeply.  You may shake or tremble — this is a frequently the case when the Holy Spirit is moving powerfully.

Some General Principles For Sharing a Prophetic Word

1. Engage  with what you are receiving by asking questions

Revelation is somewhat out of our hands since this is God’s initiative alone; our responsibility is simply to make ourselves open to the Lord and receive from him. We should try to allow a prophetic word to incubate and mature. Try to get as much information about it as the Lord is prepared to give you. He may not tell you everything, but you should be sure you have heard all he has to tell you. Never be in such an hurry that you deliver a half-formed message.

God does not mind us asking questions: "What are you saying in this, Lord?", "What does this mean?", "There are some details about this picture I am unclear about", "Who is this for? Is it for the whole church? Is it for an individual within the church?" "Is there something more I need to know? Am I missing something?" "Is it for now or later? Do you simply want me to pray about this for the time being? Is it for me to tell straightaway or must I put it on hold for now?"

2. Wait for the peace of God

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:7-9

Acting on this principle, be careful about speaking when you are hesitant or uneasy. We are not to feel afraid, nor coerced into producing a prophetic utterance. There is no pressure upon us to pass on prophecies, beyond the innately prophetic lifestyle of love, grace and the desire to serve God.

It is wise to remember that, speaking a word of prophecy is under your control. There is no irresistible compulsion to speak when the Holy Spirit is at work.

"The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of the prophets" (1 Corinthians 14:32).

This is in stark contrast to the activities of mediums or occultists when they testify to being "taken over" by a ghost or spirit. Control is a mark of unholy spirits or demons, not the Holy Spirit.

3. Try to calm down

We are to do all things decently and in order, so that we may lovingly edify people (1 Corinthians 14:33, 39-40).  Simply focus on the task in hand and do not let distracting static or interference confuse your mind or divert you away from hearing from God.

Some Final Practical Issues

1. Speak with clarity

Let’s be sure we have clarity and not confusion, repetition, or rambling. The Holy Spirit is not a Spirit of confusion. Say what the Holy Spirit gives you, and then stop. Try not to talk nonsense.

2. Never sell your gift

The desire to impress people must be resisted or you and your ministry will spiritually weakened. Some seek popularity or notoriety through prophecy, like the court prophets in the pay of the apostate king in ancient Israel (1 Kings 22:4ff). Genuine prophets seek truth not popularity. They don’t do it for reward, but for God’s glory. Let God reward us if he wants to, but never pursue human favours.

3. Write things down if you need to

It will help you to get the message clear. Habakkuk was told: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on so that a herald may run with it" (Habakkuk 2:2). As we write it down, the prophetic flow may flow.

5. Be cheerfully submitted to the church’s leadership

People who are not prepared to do this, independently minded, the "mavericks" who "do their own thing" may eventually become proud, Their abilities and are prime targets for satanic deception:

"Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:5-7

6. Wait for the right time

Because the "spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets" (1 Corinthians 14:32), we can afford to wait for the appropriate moment and leave the matter until the time is right. Prophecy is not only a question of "What?" but also of "How?" and "When?" If you’re not sure of "When?" or "How?", ask someone in authority who might be.

7. Behave normally and naturally

And there is certainly no need to use King James, 1611, Authorized Version English vocabulary and syntax to add a measure of authority to what we say:

"Thus sayeth the Lord: ‘Thou wentest out into the far country in prodigality, but I have regarded thy lost estate and am moved in my bowels to bestow mercy upon thee, though thou manifestly doth deservest it not’."

Just say,

"I sense you have been away from the Lord for a long time, but he has never changed his heart towards you and he is telling me that he is longing for you to come back home"?

10. Be especially careful with personal prophecies

Secrecy and furtiveness can be indicators of false prophecy.  We are all human and subject to temptation.  Be careful.  Prophetic ministry places an extra responsibility upon a believer to be transparently honest, kind and compassionate, simple and humble.

The Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-11)

Jesus never proposed breaking divine commandments or disobeying the Bible. The rules and regulations of the Pharisees were human interpretations and applications of biblical laws.

What Jesus really does for them and us was teach how to interpret the Bible, live life and set priorities.

Jesus shows us what we may do Luke 6:1-5

"The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." He’s saying that he is the Lord and he can give permission for someone to eat his bread whenever he wants. Jesus is saying that he shows us what we may do when our needs are so great that traditions must be overruled. 

We do not live by rules but by Jesus’ Lordship. We live more by relationship than by rules, more by grace than by law. However, there is a danger of terrible misapplication.

But when we start making up our own rules or interpreting them independently, we have become Pharisees and disobedient to God. God gives the rules and Jesus interprets them.

Jesus shows us what we should do Luke 6:6-11

There is also great power in the contrast between those whose lives are lived by rules and those whose lives are lived by grace

The men who lived by rules without grace were furious and were filled with hate.

Many of us frequently face similar choices. We must choose between rules and people. We have to decide the higher priorities. Often these are extremely difficult decisions.

The Bible is full of God’s commandments that are our best interest. The best summary is the Ten Commandments. But the Ruler is more important than the rules. The greatest lesson is to put God first. Never fall in love with the rules. Fall in love with and follow the Lord!

Edifying and Equipping??

I had the privilege of preaching at an induction service yesterday.  I choose a "familiar" passage, Eph 4:1-16.  It was sufficiently familiar that bits and pieces of my sermon appeared all over the service.  If there is ever a next time, I’ll pick on something more obscure!

Every week I get mail inviting me to attend a conference, order a video series, or read a book about church growth. Some are very helpful other not so. There is one great principle of church growth. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."

Not rocket science! We are not responsible for building the church, Jesus is. We cannot build a great church by human means. Jesus will build his church. He simply asks us to join him in the process. Publishing companies publish books, newspapers produce papers, toy companies produce toys, Churches make disciples. Churches are to make disciples, regardless of the building, the services, or the pastor. A church must produce disciples.

1. God wants to equip his church.

Every believer needs to be equipped to serve God.

The word equipping comes from a Greek word that means "to make fit, restore to original condition or make complete." It was used to describe the setting of a broken bone. The common usage in the New Testament is, "to be made complete or whole."

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:11, "Finally, brethren… become complete." The writer of Hebrews prayed in 13:21 that God would "make you complete in every good work to do his will, working in you what is well pleasing in his sight…"

Paul pleaded with the Corinthians to "all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together [be made complete like a broken bone] in the same mind and in the same judgment."

John MacArthur suggests four basic tools that God uses to equip us.

First, God uses the Word

2 Timothy 3:16–17 says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the church of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." God gifts the church with pastor/teachers to patiently feed the people the Word that they might be equipped.

Second, God uses prayer

In Acts 6:4, we learn that the apostles gave themselves "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." We are equipped by praying for ourselves and for other believers. In Colossians 4:12, Paul spoke of Epaphras, who was "always labouring fervently in prayers" that the Christians there might "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."

Prayerless pews make for powerless pulpits!You can join God in the equipping process by praying for fellow believers.

Third, God uses trials

We all from time to time face painful, difficult circumstances. We can’t turn to anyone but the Lord. Through these trials we learn holiness and submission to God. James 1:2–4 tells us to count them as joy because through our trials we are made "perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

Fourth, God uses suffering

God uses the pain we face in this life to mold us for eternal life to come. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:10 that, "after you have suffered a while," God will "perfect [same word as "equip"], establish, strengthen, and settle you."

It’s like that old saying: "I walked a mile with happiness; she chattered all the way; but I was none the wiser for all she had to say. I walked a mile with suffering, but not a word said she; but oh the things that I learned when suffering walked with me."

Thus through the teaching of the Word, labouring in prayer, enduring trials, and undergoing suffering, God gives us the equipment we need. He makes us complete for his service.

The greatest need of the church? More programs and committees? More entertaining services that bring in people? Bigger buildings? No. The greatest need of the church is that every believer is equipped. The more of us who are equipped, the stronger the body, the church becomes.

Many believe that ministry is only for pastors or special people God has called apart. Many believe that the church pays the pastor to do "the work of ministry." That’s a human concept, not a biblical one. The job of the pastor is to join God in the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry." Pastors equip people. People then use their gifts to do "the work of ministry."

If your pastor is no good at this then there is a convenient, painless, yet successful method of getting rid of him or her, which I can across recently

1. Look him straight in the eye while he is preaching and say `Amen!’ once in a while. He’ll preach himself to death.

2. Pat him on the back and brag on his good points. He’ll soon work himself to death.

3. Re-dedicate your own life to Christ, and ask the preacher for a job to do; or tell him you plan to lead some lost soul to Christ. He’ll die of heart failure.

4. Get the church to unite in prayer for the preacher and he’ll soon become so effective that some large church will take him off your hands.

2 God wants his church edified

When God’s people are properly equipped and involved in "the work of ministry", then they will edify the body of Christ. What does this mean? The term literally translates "building up." It pictured the building up of a house or building.

First, having unity of the faith

Paul’s prayer is that "we all come to the unity of the faith." Notice the definite article. This is not just faith but "the faith." This is the theological body of genuine Christian truth. As Jude states in Jude 3, "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."

Show me a church in disunity, and I’ll show you a church that is filled with ignorance. Show me a church in disunity, and I’ll show you a church where people are not involved in ministry and where they are not edifying one another.

How do we preserve unity in the church? We teach the Bible. We encourage believers to minister. We agree on what is most important. Sometimes we will disagree on minor manners: timing of the rapture, the timing of creation, etc. However, we must have "the unity of the faith."

Second, deep knowledge of Jesus
God’s purpose is not only that we have "the unity of faith" but that we also have a deep, abiding "knowledge of the Son of God."gained through years of prayer, Bible study, and faithful obedience. This is the knowledge that Paul prayed for in Ephesians 3:17–19.

Paul considered this knowledge his ultimate goal. He said in Philippians 3:8, "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish [dung, manure], that I may gain Christ."

Third, conformed to the image of his Son.

God wants us to become "a perfect, mature person to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." What does that mean? It means giving up childish, selfish faith and moving on to mature faith, to be complete.

God’s ultimate goal for our lives is found in Romans 8:29. God chose you, called you, predestined you, and saved us so that we might be "conformed to the image of his Son," that each of us might be a "perfect [mature] person," that we might "measure" to the "stature of the fullness of Christ."

Paul said in Colossians 1:28 that his goal was "to present every person perfect [mature] in Christ Jesus." That’s the goal for your pastor, to present you to the Lord as mature believers.

Fourth, not to be tossed around by the world.

Paul reminds us that we "should no longer be children." The word for children here refers to a child who cannot speak for himself.

When Paul uses the word children here, he is referring to believers who refuse to grow up, people who are satisfied to sit in the pew. Children are Christians who are content to be saved but don’t desire to mature. Such believers don’t want to pray. They think Bible study is boring. They can take or leave worship. They rarely think about Jesus through the week.

Such people are "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine." They are susceptible to "the trickery [word used for "loaded dice"] of the world." Children are gullible. They will fall for anything. So are spiritual children.

God purpose for your life is not that you fall prey to "the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting." He doesn’t want the devil to trap you.

Fifth, having a genuine Christian attitude is speaking the truth in love.

To avoid "craftiness" and "deceitful plotting", we are to be "speaking the truth in love." This has been translated "truthing it." We must have both truth and love. Truth without love can be harsh, judgmental, legalistic, and unforgiving. It promotes a pharisaical brand of self-righteousness. Immature believers can speak the truth, only mature believers can speak truth with love.

The story is told of an accomplished artist who was applying the finishing touches to a bronze sculpture. He kept filing, scraping, and polishing every little surface of his masterpiece. "When will it be done?" asked an observer. "Never," came the reply. "I just keep working and working until they come and take it away."

Much the same could be said of the children of God. We are saved by grace and declared righteous in Christ. Yet when it comes to the matter of Christlikeness in our everyday living, we must keep working at it until Jesus comes and takes us away.

Learning to Prophesy

ProphecyA. Stir up the Gift

1. Be humble (Jam 3:14-17; Rev 3:7)

2. Value the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 14:3)

3. Ask God for the gift of prophecy and then stir it up (1 Cor 14: 1, 39-40)

4. Determine to say whatever God gives you to say (Lk 16:9-10; 1 Thess 5:19)

5. Believe strongly that the Lord is with you (Jer 1:8; Jud 6:16; Hag 2:4)

6. Have hands laid on you to receive this gift (Rms 1:11; 2 Tim 1:6; 1 Tim 4:14)

7. Wait for God’s timing
When we begin to move in the prophetic, we have to resist the "urge to splurge".

Timing and true destination are very important matters. Some prophecies are to be announced now; others wait for intercession, and still others may even be for your ears alone. Some prophecies are to be put on file until God tells you when it is time to share them. Some must be written down, perhaps dated and shown to trusted leaders, helping to guard the gift against accusations of fraud when the events eventually transpire and you are accused of prophesying after it all happened!

Some prophecies are for a specific individual, others for the group. You have to know the timing of when to deliver them and, of course, specifically for whom they are intended.

It is also wise to have the humility to check what the Lord shows you, seeking the wise judgment of others you trust. You may have a prayer partner, or be part of a prayer triplet, whose wisdom can help you weigh the message, in prayer and with honest common sense, to test the inspiration that has come to you.

Prophetic words should agree with the tenor of Scripture and be passed on in an attitude of humble submission to the spiritual authority of church leaders, not least because prophetic ministry is very powerful and if it is not clearly submitted to the leadership and exercised within the ministry team of a church, it may appear to be pushing for a rival or independent authority over against them.

Trust in God, act in faith, but keep a wise personal discipline and respect the judgement of other anointed servants of God,

8. Know that you’ll have times of training and testing from the Lord (Heb 12:6; 1 Kn 17:2-6; Jon 1:17)
Prepare yourself for this. Ready yourself for more pain and more darkness than the average Christian will ever experience. Because God is interested in developing your character and your knowledge of him, the truth of Hebrews 12:6, "

Those whom the Lord loves he beats the hell out of" may be a description of yow life.

God may keep you hidden and your gift under wraps until the time for sudden disclosure arrives. Sometimes, you will experience the attacks of wicked people and demonic powers. Satan wants to snuff out your ministry before it can prove truly effective. The Lord therefore wants you safely contained for a while, until you are ready.

You will be sharpened by seasons of change and times of quietness when it seems like God has just forgotten about both you and your gifts and, try as you may, you can’t hear a thing from him and you conclude that people have forgotten that you ever existed. You receive nothing.

This can last for months and, in some cases, years. You begin to think and question: "Did I sin? Have I disobeyed the Lord? What’s gone wrong with me?" The answer is: "Nothing". It is all part of the training. All is well. You are God’s servant and you prayed for this ministry. No wonder God has taken you in hand for special training and preparation, including inevitable obstacles, hurdles and restraints.

Everything is part of God’s good gift as he calls you, equips you and opens the way for you. Just humble yourself and wait for God’s springtime to come again.

B. Know How God Will Speak Through You

1. The Lord can give you a prophetic “oracle”

2. You can give a prophetic exhortation

3. You can pray prophetically (Lk 1:67-79; Ez 9:6-15; Neh 9:6-37; Eph 6:18)

4. Sing prophetically (Rev 4 and 5; Job 38:7; Zep 3:17)

5. Read Scripture prophetically

6. Perform a prophetic action

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