Recovering The Spirit of Prophecy

There is a significant amount of misunderstanding concerning prophets and their ministry. Many people believe the prophetic ministry is comprised almost exclusively of angry people thundering God’s judgments. In fact, one pastor recently commented to me, “It is dangerous to have the prophetic ministry in a church.” Although I disagree with this statement, I understand the concern and frustration behind it. Because of misunderstandings about the prophetic ministry and mistakes by some who have functioned prophetically, many people are afraid of the prophetic.
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The Origin of False Prophets

Aside from wisdom and warnings, we need to avoid certain pitfalls and see the danger of wrong motivations. So far, I have focused primarily on helping to release people into the prophetic gifts by explaining the principles of receiving, interpreting, and administrating prophetic words. Now that we have established God’s purpose, ways, and means concerning prophetic gifts, we must discuss the issue of false prophets.

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The Root of Deception

Accompanying the problems arising from the wrong motives discussed in the previous handout is the issue of idolatry. Whenever we “hear from God,” it is usually subjective in nature to some degree. Seldom is it completely objective. Rather, we hear God speaking through the issues that exist in our hearts or our minds. As such, it is extremely important to have clean hearts and pure minds, since impurity can taint what we hear from God.

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The Cemetery Syndrome

When studying some material that is currently out there on the market regarding communicating in today’s world I ran across something called “The Cemetery Syndrome.” All public speakers know about this syndrom whether they are motivational speakers, pastors preaching from a pulpit, someone training staff in a boardroom or simply someone sharing the Gospel with others.

The Cemetery Syndrome states: Lots of people are out there, but nobody is listening.

To overcome this problem – and it is a problem when believers are working at fulfilling the Church’s mandate to “seek and save the lost” – we need to ‘connect’ with the people we are about the speak to or share with. We need to ‘connect’ on a heart level (feelings and important life issues) before we can ever hope to connect on a head level (share important and life-changing information). Good ‘connectors’ also manage to set people at ease so that they are open to listening to what they have to say.

Here are some hints to help you, a believer, ‘connect’ with your audience when you are following Jesus and fishing for people as He said we would. These are suggestions that allow us to ‘connect’ and earn the right to be heard – sort of the way to wake up the dead and defeat The Cemetery Syndrome.

1> Work at adjusting and changing your personality, mannerisms, and approach to people so that you have the ability to make others feel comfortable.

2> Always appear to be confident and at ease. Never come across nervous or uptight.

3> Have an ability to laugh at yourself (not at others).

4> Show interest in others; maintain eye contact, self-disclose, ask questions, and actively listen.

5> Extend yourself to those you are wanting to connect with – lean into a greeting with a firm handshake and a smile.

6> Convey a sense of energy and enthusiasm – a joie de vivre.

7> Be well rounded, well informed, and well-mannered.

8> Prepare short stories of actual experiences that are interesting, humorous, and appropriate.

9> Maintain an infectious enthusiasm.

10> Convey respect and genuinely like people – the core of connecting and communicating.

(Adapted from a list called “magnificent minglers” by Susan RoAne)

Remember, when trying to share and communicate THE most important message on the earth we need to represent Jesus well and do what He did … and He did all of the above. And, as a result, He connected and communicated.

A Lesson We Need to Learn Again and Again and

What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer.
[Excerpt from Bounds, Preacher and Prayer, chapter 1,]

I seldom go back to a book I have already read. I read a book with highlighter and pen in hand. I mark it up with my various self-designed symbols telling me of various types of information that I want to come back to and retrieve later. Within a week or so of finishing the book I am scanning, photocopying, and typing material into computer storage systems. When the notes are all taken, I shelf the book in the basement library.

Due to an insatiable appitite for information and mental stimulation and feeding I read a minimum of a book a week – closer to two most weeks. In the slower summer months even more. I buy books faster than I can read them, however. So, there is seldom any desire to go back and reread one that I have already devoured. However, there are a few books for which this is not the case. And, the books by E.M. Bounds are a case in point. There are a few others as well.

Bounds is best known for his books on prayer. He was a pastor, revivalist, lawyer, travelling preacher, army chaplain – but first of all he was a man of prayer. His books, all but two published after his death, include…

Power Through Prayer (e-text)
Prayer and Praying Men (e-text)
Purpose in Prayer (e-text)
The Essentials of Prayer (e-text)
The Necessity of Prayer (e-text)
The Possibilities of Prayer (e-text)
The Reality of Prayer (e-text)
The Weapon of Prayer (e-text)
Preacher and Prayer (Google e-books)
Satan: His Personality, Power and Overthrow (online_text)
Heaven: A Place – A City – A Home (online_text)
(See note #1 below)

These books and others that he wrote are all worth reading and rereading. It has been said of his books… “These books are unfailing wells for a lifetime of spiritual water-drawing.They are hidden treasures, wrought in the darkness of dawn and the heat of the noon, on the anvil of experience,and beaten into wondrous form by the mighty stroke of the divine. They are living voices whereby he, being dead, yet speaketh! ” It is good to see so much of what he wrote now available electronically on line.

I believe that the Church today – and the men and women who lead the Church today – need to return to the basics of the faith. We need to be teaching the basics (I have been doing that intentionally week-by-week for 2 months now – no one is bored and for many it is all new); We need to be re-examining the basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian faith and especially how we are personally doing with them (See note #2 below). We need to be focusing much more on prayer and our own personal walk with the Lord. All ministry arises out of our personal relationship with the Lord.

Listen leaders (and followers) – 20 to 30 minutes a day is not what I am talking about here. I mean we need to get serious about prayer and our Bibles and begin again to spend a few hours a day in the presence of God and on our knees with our faces in His Word. We can make all the excuses in the world – and we do. We can say that the length of time is not imporant – quality over quantity. We can excuse ourselves because we are extra busy helping people and writing teachings. Okay – there are needs to be met and teachings to write. But, everything is rooted and grounded in our personal relationship with the Lord and even ministry, as important as that is, should not get in the way of that.

We need to be making prayer and our personal relationship with the Lord a priority – a daily priority even though the Church today does not, in many ways, encourage that. We need to be investing quality time when we are at our best each day to this pursuit. This needs to become first priority before ministry and making a living. I understand all the other pressures of life and work (ministry). I understand the need to make a living. I realize the damands that are made on our time and the other things we need to focus on. And, I too am often carried away by the pressing needs and pressures of life. But, we all know that what E.M. Bounds wrote and I quoted at the start is true.

I am determined to set some new priorities (renew some old priorities) and do whatever it takes to become the person of prayer I know that I am called to be.

Note#1 – E.M. Bounds writings on prayer are aailable in one volume called: “The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer” ISBN 0-8010-6494-5

Note #2 – A good book with a fresh look at the classic Christian spiritual disciplines is: “The Transforming Habits of a Growing Christian” by William D. Watkins. ISBN 0-7642-2635-5

Talk Too Much?

I have never been someone who needed to talk a lot. I am an introvert and so don’t tend to talk to sort things out – I sort them out inside. If necessary, I write my thoughts down in my journal so that they become clearer. Someone once said (I think Dawson Trotman) that “thoughts and feelings disentagle themselves through the lips and the finger tips.” I have chosen, when needed, the finger tip route – writing in my journal.

I have always been a people watcher. I can go to a coffee shop by myself and simply watch people. People are facinating, amazing, wonderfully different. Yes, at times they are stupid and annoying but then I am not watching the ones I now but total srangers so I don’t know this about them yet. So, I can sit for hours and simply watch people as they come and go, interact with those at the counter when placing their order, when sitting with friends or those they work with having a coffee break.

I am a good listener – I sit by the hour and listen as people I love share their lives with me. I hear their pain, their anxiety, their hope and excitment, their plans and their dreams. I don’t have any need to jump in and share my life with them or to interrupt and communicate a parallel situation to the one they are sharing. If they ask me and if I think it will help them – certainly I will share. But otherwise I am seriously content to simply and lovingly listen, absorb, and either rejoice or weep.

There is no driving need in me to talk – to sort things through verbally, to feel good about myself, to be on public display. I realize that should I share something about my life when not asked I risk boring my listener. If asked – totally different situation. Unlike a lot of people I listen to I am not my favorite subject. Jesus is. So, I simply listen and try to understand and relate to what I am hearing so that, if opportunity arises, I can share Jesus – not necessarily what He has done in my life but who He is and what He has done for the person I am listening to. If it would help to relate briefly (key word – briefly) the night-and-day difference He has made in my life (1 Peter 2:9) I certainly don’t hesitate to do so. But, only if and only briefly.

I learned early in my Christian walk that this was a safe and biblical way to live my life. Jesus said we will be held accountable for every idle (Greek: non-productive) word we speak. So, I make my words few. Gossip is bearing false witness (speaking it or listening to it) and thus a sin (breaking of one of the Ten Commandments). So, I am very confidential with what I hear and know. The book of Proverbs has much to say about words and their power to damage and wound. So, I carefully guard my mouth.

Researchers tell us that most people speak about 16,000 words a day. If you transcribe those words, they’d fill a three-hundred-page book every week. (Matthias R. Mehl I wonder how many of those are “idle” and non-productive. I don’t wonder how much is gossip as it is fairly evident.

I have also found that when someone is known as a good listener and is not always talking about themselves – that when they do speak up others actually tune in and listen. That’s important when sharing the Gospel.

One Thousand Megachurches

Pastor Bob Roberts asked the question in a recent book, “If we (the church) could plant one thousand megachurches all over the United States over the next ten years, wouldn’t we be able to completely change this country for the cause of Christ?” The answer Pastor Roberts reached was, “No.”

Why? Because that is exactly what the church in the United States did over the last ten years. We planted over one thousand churches that have grown to more than two thousand members apiece; and yet, per capita, there are fewer people going to church today than ever before in the history of the country. Something is terribly wrong.

What is wrong is that we are not building the Church of Jesus Christ the way He wants us to build it. We build it with programs and specials and on the back of the pastors. We try to meet everyone’s needs and thus keep them attending. We count bodies, budgets and buildings and at some point determine that we have been successful. Yes, but successful at what? Redistributing the saints moving them from other churches to the new kid on the block? Successful at reclaiming those who were hurt in another church and were not willing to deal with it biblically? Successful at grabbing a few key people with charisma who then attracted many others based on personality and hype? It is a sad state of affairs.

I look on the top of the speakers to my right in the study and I see a pile of books (you can look in any direction – up, over, down, sideways and you will see a pile of books…they are everywhere) that all deal with church “life”… Let me list the titles as I see them:
The MegaChurch Myth
The Externally Focused Church
Church Marketing
Church for the Unchurched
The Breakout Churches
Simple Church
Comback Churches
Leading the Comeback Churches
Surprising Insights (on the Church) From the Unchurched
Organic Church
The Missional Church
The Emergent Church
The Connecting Church
The Prophetic Church
The House Church
And on and on the tall pile goes almost to the ceiling of the room.

“A” for effort; “F” for results. Obviously with fewer Christians per capital going to Church we are not succeeding. Small Churches, medium size churches, large churches, megachurches… rural churches, urban churches, downtown churches … we are not allowing the Lord to build His Church His way. We are not seeing apostolic and prophetic ministries planting churches and laying the correct foundations for these new expressions of the body of Christ to be healthy. We are not seeing existing churches utilizing the ministry of apostles and prophets to repair structural damage and to put things in proper biblical order.

We are not building the Church with the tools the Lord gave to us. We are not building the Church the way the Lord declared it should be built. We are building a pastoral based church meeting the needs of the people and not a prophetic based church fulfilling the mandate the Lord gave to her. The Lord is not being allowed to build His Church His way!

But, this is not the root problem. Wait, don’t hang me as a heretic just yet. Give the thought a few days to sink in first. One of the root issues causing this problem with how we are building for the Lord is that we really don’t know the Lord very well. Wait – I’m not suggesting you are not saved (although it would be good to examine your heart and your relationship with Him to make sure that you really are a true convert). I am simply saying that the Jesus most believers worship is the Jesus proclaimed by the Church. This, in my mind, is a whitewashed version of the real thing. A tamed Jesus and not the Jesus of Scripture – not the real deal!

Once we rediscover the real Jesus and begin to follow this Radical Revolutionary then we will begin to build His Church His way! Just a thought!

The Marginalization of the Holy Spirit

The Marginalization of the Holy Spirit – a guest blogger Bill Lewis, apostle of the Lord Jesus and friend of this ministry and me personally.

I was taught that the work of the Holy Spirit, as far as the miraculous was concerned, ended somewhere around the end of the first century when the apostles of Jesus died. It was kind of a slow fade as each one was martyred or died. Dating John’s death concluded the Holy Spirit’s work that started on the day of Pentecost. That was what I was taught. The Holy Spirit was nothing more than the third part of the trinity and no one really described what He did. Theologically He existed, experientially, He was distant at best.

My pursuits and questions began long before there was a Charismatic Movement that I was aware of. Mine began with a book about inner city ministry to teens on drugs and alcohol who were addicted to the point of death. My interest began with teens since I was in youth ministry at the time. Dramatic conversions and complete turn arounds were what I was looking for too. If this Holy Spirit thing could do that for teens in that predicament, then I was all for it.

I came into the Baptism in the Holy Spirit from that angle. I was not birthed out of the Catholic Charismatic Movement or Lutheran or Episcopal. I was looking for power to work with teens. When I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, it was a hard fought battle to overcome the intellectual assaults made against Him. I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in a meeting in the YMCA that met on Sunday afternoons. It was after that experience that I became aware of something going on called the Charismatic Movement.

Movements, Revivals, Restorations, whatever you call them are really God wooing His people to something real that has been lost. The people coming into the Baptism in the Holy Spirit were not being revived or restored; they were finding life for the first time. They were dead, religious, lost, stagnant, or just ignorant of God, as was I. It was not that I was fighting God; I was ignorant. I was more like the ones Paul met who said they had not heard that there was a Holy Spirit.

I am convinced that without God moving sovereignly in matters of the Spirit from time to time, we would not have a church on the face of the earth. Yet, each time Go moves, along come the compromisers. We slowly see the move erode as fakirs, truth prostitution, excesses, and power struggles become uncomfortable and not dealt with biblically. Rather than judge the issues, we allow them to destroy the move. What comes is a plausible appeal to rationality, social acceptance, control for safety, and a slow, but continuous down turn and turn off of anything that smacks of Holy Spirit movement. Then once again, the Book of Acts becomes a piece of history rather than a guidebook for Christianity.

I see it now. Parents who are spirit filled and their children who are not and do not know about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, period. Churches, who are Spirit filled, have not had a sermon or reference to the Holy Spirit for years. Churches, who believe in the gifts, have not had a gift of the Spirit move or happen in their service for months. Pentecostal churches who refuse to allow a message in tongues are becoming more prevalent.

Someone may say you are just an old war horse, but say what you may, the truth is the truth. The Holy Spirit still wants to move, express himself, teach the church, perform His mighty deeds. He will break out somewhere. He has kept the church alive for 2000 years through all kinds of moves. Denominations, cults, teachers, have come and gone, but the church continues to be resurrected and the Holy Spirit breaks out once again. There were those who taught that God is dead, and there are those who continue to try to drive the Holy Spirit out of the church, but neither will happen. God is alive, and the Holy Spirit will move.

So, What Is Really Happening? – Part Two

So, followers are not following leaders who often don’t know where they are going anyways. This situation exists partly because of a shortage of equipping apostles and prophets who would help to train and raise up true leaders for these days in the Church. (see yesterday’s blog entry)

Bill Lewis went on to say, “Is it any wonder so many are worn out and burned out? Something has to change. We must do two things. 1. We must be willing to step out and provide an alternative; 2. We must speak out and reveal the fallacy of expecting different results while maintaining the same structure.”

Again, I agree with Bill. Most leaders are either worn out or actually burned out. Some have crossed the line and actually had a nervous breakdown. Many are leaving the ministry daily in North America and elsewhere in our world. I am currently just finishing up a good book for leaders and leaders of leaders … “Mad Church Disease – Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic” by Anne Jackson. And, something needs to change so that the Church (and its leaders) can, once again, become healthy and fulfill the mandate to “go into all the world…”

Bill suggests two things that need to happen…

1. We must be willing to step out and provide an alternative

The message we preach is established and cannot be changed. The methods by which we share it must be constantly changing to speak to each new generation. Church as usual on a Sunday will no longer suffice. It must become a dynamic time when people can come – believers and non-believers – and experience the presence and power of God. Teaching His principles is important but teaching alone will not bring people into the Kingdom nor activate those already resident there. The alternative – what people need and are actually looking for – is to experience God. And, the Church needs to remind itself that Jesus is alive and allow His Holy Spirit to move and minister to people every time the saints gather together. It is time to kill the sacred cows (read: Brad Powell’s book – “Change Your Church for Good … the Art Of Sacred Cow Tipping”).

2. We must speak out and reveal the fallacy of expecting different results while maintaining the same structure

I am reminded of one of my mentors saying: “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.” Poor English but truth nonetheless. Christians tend to continue to do the same things but pray and work twice as hard. Two times nothing will still be nothing. It is time to that a serious look at the structures we maintain and protect with such vigor and determination and see if they are really enabling us to reach the lost and win them to Jesus. If they are – fine tweek them. If they are not, take them out back and bury them. Try again. Recognize that, at times, the structure of the Church is killing the life of the Kingdom in the Church. Then determine to bring life-releasing change to the situation you are in. Be a leader!

Yes, we are apparently in a season where “every man does what is right in his own eyes.” But God is bringing us into the season when we will see the sons of Issacar who “know the times and the seasons.” I am excited! Time for the true apostles and prophets to rise up and become the anointed leaders God has called them to be.

So, What Really Is Happening? – Part One

Several weeks ago I posted an article by Bill Lewis – an apostle in the United States that I have begun to relate to. There was one phrase that really struck me and stuck with me and it was this… “Pastors today are left with an impossible task of leading those that don’t want to follow. To follow those that don’t know where they are going and to make sure everyone is happy about the whole thing.

I totally agree with what Bill is saying. It is as if we are living in a season very simlar to that which existed in the time of the Judges of Israel (see the Bible book called Judges). During that season in the life of Israel “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Today, it seems many are doing the same.

But, they are also believing what they what to believe and whatever seems good to them (translated: allows them to live the way they want to). Church and what God might want or demand of His followers is simply an “add on” and not really central to anything. God and His standards for His followers are optional – no longer are they the Ten Commandments, but rather the Ten Suggestions.

So, people don’t want to follow – sheep apparently no longer need a shepherd … an earthly one or the Great Shepherd. They are following a god of their own making. So, it is almost impossible to lead them because they really don’t want to follow (and, in fact, often simply refuse to follow).

Of course, why should they follow someone if they don’t know where they are going? And why is it that shepherds (pastors and leaders) don’t know where they are going? Well, because some of them are, as in the days of Ezekiel, self-appointed pastors and should not be leading. Others, because they have never taken the time to invest in an education and are thus very poor leaders and teachers. Still others because they did invest in an education – the wrong type that knocked all semblance of faith out of them. Almost all have not continued to read and study and stay in touch with the culture they are serving and trying to lead to Jesus and current trends effecting the followers and might-be followers. In other words they are not speaking or leading in a relevant way even though their message is more than relevant – it is absolutely essential.

I also believe that they don’t know where they are going because there are so few true apostles and prophets helping them to know the times and the seasons. Apostles are the Master Builders and thus can read the blueprint of what the Church is to be and become and how to build it the way Jesus wants it built. Prophets are there to help us to know what people are to be doing and their place in the building process. Without them – pastors, evangelists, and teachers (five-fold or not) – will not know where their work is leading or what they are building.

Oh, there are many who call themselves apostles and prophets and have even tacked the word onto their name – “Apostle Richard and Prophet Harry”. They are dynamic speakers, have a great stage presence and can draw a crowd. But there are few true apostles and prophets who are quietly doing the work of the ministry and leading God’s leaders (who then lead God’s people) into the fullness of the plans and purpose of God for today’s Church. Of course, even the true apostles and prophets will have trouble making any lasting impact or change if the leaders are also, like their followers, unwilling to follow and are simply doing their own thing and “what appears right in their own eyes” as well.

And, in the process, everyone seems to think they have the right to be happy. Where in Scripture does it say we have any rights? We are “dead in Christ” and dead people don’t have rights. We are here to serve our Lord and Savior and do whatever it is He is asking us. His agenda, not ours; His will, not our. And where does it say in the Bible that we are to be happy? That is a man-made myth that happiness is a “right” and especially the right of a believer. Contentment – yes! Peace – yes! Challenged – yes! Busy – yes! Fulfilled – Yes! Happy – no!! Just faithful.

But God is up to something – the times, they are a-changing! It is His Church and He will have His way regardless.

More tomorrow…