The Ministry of the Prophet – Part Six

It is good to note that prophets are not infallible in their ministry. Prophets hear in part and prophecy in part (1 Corinthians 13:9). This means it is quite important for an individual receiving a prophecy to sense the affirmation of the Holy Spirit for that word in their lives. All believers are in a position to hear from the Lord for themselves. If that affirmation isn’t there, the individual may need to lay the prophecy aside for awhile.

A false prophecy may have accurate information but still be a false prophetic word. In Acts 16:16-18 we see a prophetic word given by a young lady about Paul and his team. The word contained accurate information and its content was absolutely true. However, it was still a false prophecy. There are three reasons for this. First, her source was a “spirit of divination” as we see in verse 16. Secondly, her focus in the word given was on Paul and not on Jesus. And, thirdly, her motive was to earn money for her master. Thus, although the content was accurate this would, for these three reasons, be deemed a false prophecy. All prophecy should be tested (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

So, what is a false prophet? Many people wrongfully think that if someone prophesies something that doesn’t come true, he should immediately be labeled “false prophet.” Since we all prophesy “in part,” just because a prophetic word has some inaccuracies in it DOES NOT mean that the individual is a false prophet. A false prophet is someone who knowingly or unknowingly (if they are blinded by the enemy) tries to lead someone astray. False prophets will tend to bring division in churches and leadership and hinder the building of the church (Matthew 7:15-23, Titus 3:9-11). They are false in their character even if their words are true.

This is not to say that prophets should not be held accountable for their prophetic words. They do need to be held accountable, and when they deliver public words that turn out to be wrong, they need to publicly acknowledge their mistake. This really does not happen often enough. Part of the character of the prophet needs to be one of integrity. If he speaks a prophetic word that is incorrect or only partially correct, then he needs to be held accountable for his ministry.

The Ministry of the Prophet – Part Five

There are three aspects of a prophetic word. When receiving prophetic words it is important for the prophet to understand that there are three separate aspects to every prophetic word. If the prophet and those receiving the word do not understand these three aspects, we are almost guaranteed a problem with the word.

Revelation: The word is given out of the revelation of the Holy Spirit (see: Ephesians 1:17). Many times the Holy Spirit will speak to a prophet (or an apostle, or those functioning in a strong prophetic gifting) in words and pictures that are understood. But, this does not necessarily mean that a prophet should share everything that they see in its entirety. The Lord may show a prophet a drastic picture to drive home the importance of what He is saying, but the prophet may share it in other terms or pictures that get the point across to the individual to whom they are ministering. To share everything received and in the manner received can cause people confusion. Thus they are not helped by some words that were given exactly as they were received without using the discernment of the Holy Spirit to bring proper communication of the revelation.

Interpretation: Often people hear what they want to hear. Often, when a prophet prophesies over someone – they take what was said and tweak it ever so slightly. With this new interpretation, the individual now has a “word of the Lord” to do what he wants to do. So, every word a prophet receives needs to be rightly discerned by the prophet and delivered in a manner that it should not be able to be interpreted wrongly. He must express his revelation accurately and clearly.

Every prophetic word received should be shared with those the person is accountable to because they have his best interests at heart. There is always wisdom in a multitude of counsellors and they will help the person the discern and understand the word received through the ministry of a prophet.

Application: Every word when it is revealed and interpreted, needs to be applied. Someone I know uses an amazing example that helps us to understand this point. He states, “If the Lord shows me that my wife has become an idol in my life, I don’t get rid of her by divorcing her. No, I make adjustments and bring her to the right place in my life.” The right revelation from the Lord (she has become an idol), with the right interpretation (she is lifted above Christ) but with the wrong application (I need to divorce her) will bring about pain and sorrow. It is all in the application. The right application (Jesus needs to be exalted above your wife) will bring about health and maturity in his life.

We need to have Spirit-led revelation from the throne room of God; we need to have accurate interpretation as to the meaning of the word; and we also need Spirit-led application so that the revelation and interpretation are carried out in a redemptive, Kingdom-building manner.

Many times prophetic words delivered by prophets are conditional. If we follow through on our part, God will follow through on His part. God spoke over David that if he and his sons obeyed His commandments, the house of David would always reign over Israel. It was conditional upon their obedience. Of course we know that they didn’t follow through on their obedience, and the Kingdom was torn from David’s descendants.

There are also time frames to prophetic words delivered by prophets. Some may be long, some very short. Take for example the story of Hezekiah recorded in 2 Kings 20 and also in Isaiah 38. The Lord told Isiah to tell Hezekiah that he would die and not live. The Bible states in 2 Kings 30 that Hezekiah wept bitterly after Isaiah left. Before Isaiah got to the middle court of the king’s house, the Lord spoke to him again, and said, “Return to Hezekiah and say to him, ‘I have seen your tears. I have heard your prayer, and I will heal you..'” In this case, the first prophetic word was only accurate for a very short time frame – until Isaiah reached mid-court of the king’s house.

Then there was a new prophetic word given that was directly opposite the first one. That’s because God saw in Hezekiah’s heart something that caused Him to make an adjustment to the previous prophecy – to add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life.

 

The Ministry of the Prophet – Part Four

Let’s look at the qualifications of a prophet. Right up front let’s state that the qualifications of a prophet are the same as those of others in leadership (Titus 1:6-9). Character is the main concern. As with the apostolic, a godly character is critical because prophets are the representatives of Christ. Revelation 19:10 tells us that the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. Therefore, a true prophet will speak forth the Lord’s words with the Lord’s heart.

They have an anointing to minister the Word of God. Lives will be changed when prophets minister God’s Word in small groups and in local churches (Acts 15:32). Prophets must know the Word of God (Bible) so that no prophetic word will be spoken that is contrary to the Bible. The prophetic gift is a proclaiming gift: a prophet proclaims the Word of the Lord. They are called to edify the Body of Christ through the teaching and preaching of the Word of God.

They help mature and perfect the saints. Prophets desire to bring attention to areas of weakness in the Body of Christ and minister until they see a strengthening in those areas. A prophet sees in his spirit weaknesses that must be addressed whether they are in individuals or the larger body. Theirs is a strengthening ministry, bringing the Body to perfection, training them to fight for all that is rightfully theirs, giving no ground to the demonic. They desire to see the captives set free and people restored to wellness.

They guide and release believers into their own ministries. Often a prophet will be used either to confirm a known gift in an individual or identify a gift “in waiting.” They speak it as they see it, calling forth things that are either dormant or have been held back or, through unfortunate life experiences, have been intentionally shut down. A prophet brings possibilities back to life. It was Ezekiel who prophesied to the dry bones: “live.” And they came to life! Prophets have that ability to identify ministries in others and want to release them into those ministries.

They carry an anointing for signs and wonders. A prophet will often minister prophetically through visions, dreams and prophetic utterances ((Acts 21:10-11). Prophets are in tune to the Holy Spirit. They will very often give words of knowledge to bring about healing to an individual or lovingly expose a problem in a congregation.

The confirm and/or give direction from the Lord. Prophets help give direction for individuals, cell groups, local churches, families of churches, churches in a given community or location and businesses in the marketplace. New direction from the Lord will be confirmed by the leadership responsible for those particular individuals or groups (Acts 21:10-14). Prophets have their spiritual antenna up to hear from the Lord. They listen to what the Lord is saying and then speak it forth.

Prophets often deliver a prophetic word that will minister by exhortation (to stir up), edification (to build up), comfort (to strengthen), or conviction (to correct). Paul declared this in 1 Corinthians 14:3, “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort.”

The Ministry of the Prophet – Part Three

As with the apostolic, the prophetic and the role of the prophet is a time-tested ministry. It requires a time of maturing and proving. We should be hesitant to place a title of prophet on anyone before the proper amount of time passes through which they can be tested and matured. With the prophetic call and gift, this is especially critical because when the words, “Thus says God” are used. it carries tremendous authority and weight. How can you argue against what God says? So, I encourage young unproved prophets (in training) to instead use terms like, “This is what I sense the Lord is saying,” “This is what I am feeling,” or better yet, in the form of a question, “Could the Lord be saying…?”

There are two ways to moving the prophetic gift and the ministry of the fivefold prophet to maturity. It can either be matured and then released, or released and then mentored into maturity. One or the other is neither right nor wrong; it is just coming from different perspectives. The choice of which way is best depends on how much a seasoned fivefold minister is willing to mentor a person as he functions in his gifts and calling.

I release and mentor the gifts and callings of apostle and prophet. I encourage the individual to exercise his gift with the intention of then mentoring the calling and gifts to bring them into maturity. Consequently, if a developing prophet speaks a word in a public gathering that is incorrect, they know that I care about them and their development to bring adjustment and correction to the word given in a loving manner. And, to do so publicly. The Bible says that we hear in part and prophesy in part. That means that we do make mistakes. We are not always 100% accurate. By mentoring the individual, I can help bring the prophetic gifting to maturity and enable the prophet-in-training to grow and to learn.

The other way is to mature the gift and the ministry of the young prophet and then release it. This is also done through mentoring, training, and teaching. As individuals continue to grow in their gifts, and I become more confident in their ability to hear the Word of the Lord, I release them to speak at public gatherings and services. The goal is always to bring the prophetic gift and the ministry of the fivefold prophet to a place of maturity so that it will be a builder of the body of Christ,

Many people do not know where to start in the prophetic ministry. I encourage people with a prophetic gifting to start in a small group of people – say, in a house church – where they can find a safe place to begin to exercise their gift and calling. They will make mistakes; that is a given. The key is that they remain teachable and approachable as they continue to grow and mature. Over time, they will learn to hear the voice of the Lord more accurately and become more effective and powerful in ministering. In a smaller group of believers they will find the love and forgiveness they need to be encouraged to continue on developing their gifting.

It is comforting to remember that all prophets started at this basic level at one time. It is also helpful if someone more advanced in the prophetic is willing to be a spiritual parent mentoring the young prophet in this gift.

The Ministry of the Prophet – Part Two

If we compare the ministry of prophets under the Old and New Covenant, we see a number of differences…

Prophets in the Old Testament…
The Holy Spirit came upon them
Frequently they were used to give warning and foresight
Those who were in authority used prophets to hear from the Lord for direction
Often their prophecies also had a demonstration with the Word
They called people to repentance
They most often were alone and living away from other people
They were feared by both the average person and the one in authority
They spoke of Messiah coming

Prophets in the New Testament…
They call people to embrace the provisions of the New Covenant by entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ
The Holy Spirit lives within them
The often affirm what the Holy Spirit has already been speaking to people
They equip people to hear from God for themselves
They declare that Jesus Christ is here and has provided all that is needed and necessary
They mingle among the people
They use their gifts to expose the works of darkness
They desire to bring the body to maturity and unity

Sometimes prophets tend to look at life from a seemingly mythical viewpoint and forget to be practical.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are on a camping trip. After a good meal they were exhausted and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.
“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”
Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.”
“What does that tell you?”
Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in our Galaxy. Time wise, I deduce it is approximately a quarter to three. Theologically, I can see that the Lord is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. What does it tell you?”
Holmes was silent for a minute, and then spoke. “Watson, you idiot, it tells me that someone has stolen our tent!”

Sometimes that is the way it is with a prophetic person. They think in symbols and pictures. They read all manner of things into each and every situation, and they miss the most practical application of what they are looking at.

For example, a prophetic individual is driving down the freeway and realizes he is going the wrong way. Since he just passed exit seven he thinks to himself, “Seven is the perfect number so I must be in the perfect will of God.” He turns around at exit eight, and since eight is the number of new beginnings, he thinks to himself, “The Lord allows us to make mistakes and start anew. Even though I made a mistake I am in the perfect will of the Lord.”

The truth is, this prophetic person probably just missed his exit – plain and simple! Not trying to make fun of the prophetic, but sometimes we try to spiritualize something that is not very spiritual at all. It is just a human error.

If prophets make those kind of statements too often, it turns people off. When prophets do speak the true Word of the Lord, people may question them because they think they are coming from another world again.

The truth remains, however, that someone with a prophetic gift goes through life looking at everything and anything through a prophetic lens. This is how they view life.

Holy Time, Holy Space

(You Gotta Have a Plan)

I want to talk briefly about your personal time with God … 

Devotionals

Bible reading and prayer

Fondly known as “A quiet time”

Really we don;t want “quiet” – we want to hear God speak to us

God can speak through ‘a still small voice’ inside us

God can speak through the Bible – His written Word Read more

The Ministry of the Prophet – Part One

Well, we have finished, for now, looking at the ministry of the apostle. He is the leader of the fivefold ministry team. And, along with the prophet they form the foundation for the Church that Jesus is building (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20).

Two prophets were walking toward each other. The one stuck out his hand and said, “I see that you’re doing okay; how am I doing?”

This humorous interaction communicates how prophets tend to hear from the Lord for others better than they hear for themselves!

One of the best definitions of a prophet is: “Someone who sees what others do not, who hears what others cannot, who speak what others will not.” A prophet is someone who has the ability to consistently speak forth God’s heart to His people. The prophet sees the real issues and priorities. He calls us to action and points the way. A prophet is one who speaks forth God’s heart and mind maturely and who has a proven record of accuracy.

We are told by the Scriptures to seek the prophetic word of the Lord. The Bible tells us in Matthew 10:41 that if we welcome a prophet and receive him, we will receive a prophet’s reward. This is saying, at the very least, that if we are open to the prophetic gift and the ministry of a prophet, we will receive a blessing from God.

The prophet is an extremely important gift to the Church, especially in the way he relates to the apostolic gift in helping to lay a foundation for churches to build and to expand according to Ephesians 2:19-20…”So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.”

Prophets are in place in the Church to bring supernatural revelation and insight so that believers can receive direction from the Lord. In other words, prophets guide. Amos 3:7 says, “The sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plans to His servants the prophets.” A prophet see the picture through God’s eyes and helps to open up our hearts to hear God.

We need to look at and understand Old Testament prophets and New Testament prophets. There are some substantial differences.

The Lord spoke to His people in the Old Testament through the prophets. They needed to be infallible in their ministry (if their words did not come true, they were stoned) and they were used to give guidance and direction to God’s people.

While the Old Testament prophets were the direct mouthpieces of God, today they are often used to confirm the Word the Lord is already speaking to the hearts of individuals (Hebrews 1:2; 2:1-4). This is because every believer can hear the voice of God and recognize that it is His voice (John 10).They may also be used by the Lord to ignite a vision or a calling in an individual.

This must also be confirmed by the witness of the Holy Spirit in an individual’s life and/or the affirmation of his church leadership. Every believer has an “anointing of the Holy One” and can hear from God for themselves (1 John 2:20). So, the role of the prophet and even the prophetic should move from announcing to confirming. However, because most believers have not practiced hearing God they still need the prophets to announce God’s plan and purpose for them. They usually hear it for the first time through the ministry of the prophet. Sad, but true.

Part of the nature of the prophet is that he will not only confirm what God has spoken to us but he also takes us into the realm that will stretch us by calling us to deeper things and a closer walk with the Lord. We do not just follow the prophetic word but the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

God enables His thoughts to be clearly verbalizes through a Spirit-inspired person … “God shares His thoughts about a given situation by inspiring one of His Spirit-filled servants to speak these thoughts to the appropriate person or persons in understandable language and in the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Earnest Gentile)

We must remember that it is the written Word of God, the Bible, that is our plumb line. Every word must measure up to the written Word of God. If someone gives you a prophetic word that is contrary to the Word of God, throw it out. It is not the Lord speaking because He will never contradict His written Word.

The Bible is clear that we should be willing to die for the written Word of the Lord but not the prophetic Word. However, Scripture does tell us in 1 Timothy 1:18 to wage the good warfare according to the prophetic words that have been spoken over us. We must endeavour to secure the victory for the prophetic word to see it become a reality, but it is only the written Word of the Lord that we lay our lives down for.

The Ministry of the Apostle – Part Six

It is essential for modern day apostles to have proven prophets working alongside them (Ephesians 2:19-22). Together they form a powerful team if they learn to honour each other’s gifts and work together. The apostle keeps the Church in a forward thrust, and the prophet helps the apostle to see the current “Word of the Lord” so he is building properly (1 Corinthians 12:28-29). The prophetic also keeps the apostle on track and true to the call of the Lord on his life. The apostle and prophet not only complement each other by working together in the unity of the Spirit, but they also need each other for the enhancement of each of their ministries.

Most apostles are aware of how much they need the prophetic, but not all prophets are aware of how much they need the apostolic in their lives. Without the apostle, the prophet can begin to think more highly of himself than he should, for he carries the “Word of the Lord.” The apostle is able to speak to the prophet and bring correction and adjustment where necessary. The apostles need the prophets, or they will have a tendency to miss some very important things that the prophets can see.

There have been a number of times when, as apostolic leaders, we have a real sense of the direction we should go, but the prophets help to show us some key things that are missing before we can advance to where we want to go. Sometimes it is an aspect of timing or something that is specifically hindering us from moving forward. The prophetic role and gift brings it to light so that we can deal with it effectively.

Sometimes individuals who have both an apostolic and a prophetic gift will find themselves in the following scenario. When they are around someone with a strong apostolic gift with the apostolic authority for a given area, their prophetic gift is much stronger. And when they are around someone with a stronger prophetic gift where they have apostolic authority, they operate in a much stronger apostolic gift. It’s part of the Holy Spirit’s ability to draw out what is necessary where it is needed.

Next time we begin to look at the ministry of the fivefold prophet…

The Ministry of the Apostle – Part Five

Most apostles have been used by the Lord at some time in their lives and ministry in the ministry of prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. They often are a gift mix. In other words, some fivefold ministers are prophetic teachers, others are pastoral teachers, others are apostolic evangelists. Paul was an apostle, a prophet, and a teacher (1 Corinthians 9:1-2; 15:9; Acts 13:1; 2 Timothy 1:11).

As I look at my gift mix, there are a number of things that are becoming clear. I have a strong pastor gift, but in some ways that has lessened over the years, even though it is still evident in the way that I think and minister. I also have a prophetic gift at work. I travel constantly to minister prophetically in a number of nations. The Lord is always faithful to provide prophetic insight and ministry to individuals and the church as a whole. While my prophetic gift is not as strong as some who are purely prophetic in their makeup, there is a discernible prophetic flow that comes out of me. Additionally, there is the apostolic gift that is affirmed by others to whom I give apostolic oversight.

An apostle must have the character qualifications of those in Church leadership (1 Timothy 3:2-7). Just as Christ, the Apostle, came with a servant’s heart, a modern day apostle must have a servant’s heart (Matthew 20:26-28). As a representative of Christ, an apostle must be clothed with humility.

Sent by Christ to do Christ’s work (Philippians 2:5-8), an apostle must have a parent’s heart. This means he has a desire to see his spiritual sons and daughters far exceed him in ministry (1 Corinthians 4:15-21).

An apostle will have a heart to release others, Since his work is to build, he is not afraid to release others to the work of God. He sees others as helping to bring completion not competition to the ministry that the Lord is building (John 3:30).

An apostle will be someone who other leaders will want to emulate and serve and follow (Acts 13:13). An apostle is willing to sacrificially suffer for the Church (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). As a father, he gives no thought to himself, but is concerned only that the vision of God advances.

 

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The thumb, in this illustration, is symbolic of the apostle. The thumb is the driving force that can be powerful when curled into a fist using the other four fingers. If the apostolic gift rises to its place of power and function, bringing the other gifts together, a deafening blow can be dealt to the spiritual powers of darkness.

The apostolic gift is needed to bring the best out of the other four gifts. There is a healthy, divine tension that is present in the spiritual realm between the different gifts. Because of this divine tension, it requires the apostle in the centre to see the whole picture in order to take what the teacher, prophet, evangelist, and pastor are saying and move forward with a united and whole vision of the Church that Jesus is building. Otherwise, the tension may instead cause the other gifts to work against each other.

God has created the apostolic gift to help move the other gifts forward successfully. An apostle has the God-given ability to walk with the prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, drawing them together with a common vision and purpose.

The Ministry of the Apostle – Part Four

As we continue our look at the calling, ministry, and role of an apostle in the Church today, let’s look at apostles working together.

Although there are many different types of apostles mentioned in the early church, let’s look briefly at the Paul-type apostle and Timothy-type apostle and their corresponding roles.

A Paul-type apostle is an overseeing apostle. This kind of apostle is sent by the Lord with a vision burning on his heart to establish a family of churches, and it will burn in his heart until he fulfills it. The blueprint and vision come from the Lord. His call is affirmed by other apostles and spiritual leaders in the body of Christ, the Church (Galatians 1:18-22). This kind of apostle has a burden to see God’s people gather as a united force, and he also has the ability to sense the heartbeat of what the Lord is speaking to a particular family of churches.

An overseeing apostle gets his authority from the Lord (Galatians 1:1), and God equips him for his work, supplying him with the supernatural faith and perseverance to see this vision become a reality. The Lord brings others alongside an overseeing apostle to fill in what is lacking in his gifts so the vision can be fulfilled. Paul recognized that Peter was an apostle to the Jews, and he was called by God to build the Church among the Gentiles. Additionally, a team of apostles served with him (1 Thessalonians 1:1).

A Timothy-type apostle helps the Paul-type. The Timothy-type apostle is affirmed and commissioned to help fulfill the vision received from the Lord by the Paul-type apostle. He is sent by the Paul-type apostle with specific instructions and mandates that will contribute to the main goal the Lord has given to the apostolic team. His field of ministry is limited to that which he was sent to do (1 Corinthians 3:5-15). He is the father to the churches he plants (2 Corinthians 10:13-18). His sphere of ministry is given to him by the Lord and by the overseeing (senior) apostle with whom he serves. Timothy and Titus were sent by Paul to establish elders and oversee churches (1 Timothy 1:1-4; Titus 1:5).

The Corinthians we Paul’s “seal” of his apostleship (1 Corinthians 9:1-2). That is, they were the spiritual fruit of his labours among them. They were proof that God really “gave the increase.” The proof is in the tangible results of changed lives. Also indicative of modern day apostles are supernatural signs, wonders, miracles, and perseverance (2 Corinthians 12:12). Those is apostolic authority should especially bear credentials of demonstrating and imparting a supernatural dimension of the Kingdom of God.

If we are to believe for the supernatural, the apostles should be leading the way, sharing vision and raising the expectations of the people that they serve, demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, our apostle of apostles, came to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and demonstrate the power of the Kingdom. Apostles are to carry on that heritage.

More next time…