“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore, let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” -Rom. 13.12
The nature of God’s Kingdom, the way of His government, the glory of His leadership has everything to do with increase. When it comes to the vision of His coming Kingdom, the day when He returns to set the world aright, we see pictures of upheaval, shaking, and trial, followed by everlasting peace, abiding joy, and the entire universe permanently being marked by the righteousness of God. The visions and words of the Biblical Prophets are sure words, completely worthy of our examination, reflection, and obedience. The neglect of the Biblical Prophets has done great damage to the Church in our generation.
Yet and still, it is quite possible in thinking about future tribulation and glory to be distracted from the glory of the Kingdom which the Lord intends to break into the earth through the fallen “earthen vessels” that we are. Paul’s perception of the end of the age is not pessimistic or depressive. He was fully aware of the shakings to come, the future toppling of governments, the cataclysm and trials that lie ahead. Indeed, he was a preacher of the judgment to come. (Acts 24.25)
Though he was aware of the difficulties to come, Paul’s vision was that the night was almost gone, the darkness was dissipating, and that because Christ has been exalted, the day of God is on the positive rise in the lives of the saints. He saw the nature of the Kingdom in the lives of those who believe to be one of increase: the increase of light, the increase of love, the increase of righteousness, the increase of Christ Himself. It was a vital reality to him, and it is available to all in our day and age who would “lay aside the deeds of darkness,” and receive the Holy Spirit.
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near…” Are you turning from “carousing and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and sensuality, strife and jealousy?” Or are you still walking blindly beneath the veil of darkness? Turn from the night, for the day is dawning friends. It is time to receive the Holy Spirit, and if you ask the Father for bread He will not give you a stone.
When the Holy Spirit comes, He will show you the Christ in the beauty of His holiness, and the glorious light of His nature will increase in your life.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: darkness, holiness, Holy Spirit, light, prophecy, prophets, purity, sin
Editor’s Note: A previously published article from Dr. Brown. An important message to take to heart for those of us trying to make an impact in our culture.
When we think of the words “unyielding and hardened,” we think of stubborn sinners defiantly refusing to heed the message of God, of proud and obstinate rebels firmly entrenched in their arrogance and intransigence. We think of sinful hearts that refuse to bow, of determined and resolute wills that mock that which is sacred and disdain that which is holy. We think of the image of the earthly, not the heavenly.
Yet sometimes it is God Himself who makes His servants unyielding and hardened. He does it for His glory, and He does it for their good. It is part and parcel of the prophet’s call. The prophet must be immovable — utterly. The prophet must be a rock.
The Lord said to Ezekiel that:
the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to Me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate. But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are (Ezek. 3:7-8).
The Lord fights fire with fire!
God’s people would not listen to His words. They were defiant and resistant. How could the prophet withstand the pressure? How could he weather the storm? How could he stand firm and hold fast to the commission of the Spirit? The people were so hard. The prophet had to be harder still! Once he moved an inch, the battle was lost.
I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house (Ezek. 3:9).
Yes, Ezekiel, I will make you harder than flint!
This was also the word of the Lord to Jeremiah:
Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land — against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land (Jer. 1:18).
Jeremiah had to be “a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall.” He was standing against everyone!
Some of us get rattled when one unkind word is spoken against us, or when a leader doesn’t pay sufficient attention to us, or when our friends fail to recognize our gifts, or when our unsaved co-workers avoid us because of our faith. Talk about shallow security and shifting assurance! What would we have done if were in Jeremiah’s shoes?
The kings, the princes, the officials, the priests, the prophets, the people as a whole, and even his family stood against him. He had no wife or children, by the direction of the Lord (Jer. 16:20), and he was almost completely without friends. This man was alone in this world. Yet God told him to stand against the crowd, to refuse to be moved, to proclaim a word of terrible judgment and hardship, to declare that the ruthless enemy king was actually the servant of the Lord, that it was God’s will that the chosen people go into exile. How could this be?
“Jeremiah, back down! Look at this thing rationally. Listen to the voice of reason. Everyone can’t possibly be wrong. The leaders can’t all be misled. The prophets can’t all be deceived. The priests can’t all be in error. Nobody else is proclaiming such harsh things. Nobody else is telling us that our women will be raped, our children orphaned, our men slaughtered in battle. Nobody else is telling us that the Temple of the Lord — the very dwelling place of the God of the whole earth — will be destroyed. Never! Jeremiah, come our way and join the crowd. It feels so right to be accepted. It feels so good to be loved. Surely you’re not the only one hearing from God. You’re not a fanatic, right?”
Actually, what God calls faithful the world calls fanatical. Sometimes the pressure is intense! It is true that the prophet is made for pressure and that pressure makes the prophet, but Jeremiah was human, just like us. He needed affirmation and encouragement. He longed for moral support just like we do. The insults and taunts and hatred and rejection of the people must have stung him deeply. What did it feel like to be Jeremiah? His suffering was almost unbearable:
Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends! I have neither lent nor borrowed, yet everyone curses me (Jer. 15:10).
O LORD, You deceived me, and I was deceived; You overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long (Jer. 20:7-8).
Surely a little compromise would be acceptable. Surely there must be some movement on Jeremiah’s part. It was impossible that so many good people could be so wrong. Surely the Lord understood both sides of the story. Surely He was not so inflexible. Hardly:
“Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD (Jer. 15:19b-20).
There it is again! The prophet was called to be a mountain of holy resistance. “Jeremiah, do not budge!”
Listen to the cumulative force of these words from the Lord. God made the prophets as unyielding and hardened as the most obstinate sinners, with foreheads like the hardest stone, harder than flint, like a fortified city, a bronze wall, and an iron pillar. God built them up and God backed them up.
For the prophet, compromise was more bitter than death, and finding the middle ground was an act of treachery against the Lord. As Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt. 12:30). Jesus was no people-pleaser either. In the prophet’s education and calling, there is no “Politics 101.” Who ever heard of a politically correct prophet? How we need the true prophetic spirit again in our day!
Of course, as to our character and attitude we must be meek and lowly, quick to listen and slow to speak, easily approachable, ready to learn, willing to receive correction, open to godly reason, submitted and submissive, teachable and kind, not argumentative but speaking the truth in love. Still I ask you, didn’t Jesus exemplify those characteristics to perfection? And yet He was absolutely inflexible and unyielding when it came to doing the will of His Father. He could not be moved. And wasn’t Paul a walking model of a godly, Spirit-filled minister? Yet who more than Paul refused to go the way of the crowd? Who more than Paul shunned compromise like the plague? It was Paul who asked the Galatians:
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).
Pleasing men and serving the Lord are often incompatible — totally.
Of course, I know there are fanatics and weirdoes who have separated themselves from the Body and who think they are on some kind of divine mission. They and they alone have the revelation. They and they alone — along with their motley little group of self-anointed spokesmen and self-appointed martyrs — have the truth. I am fully aware that there are some flakes out there who believe that the Spirit tells them to wear shorts and a tee shirt in the snow as a test of their obedience. (Why is it always those people who tend to be the most bold and vocal “witnesses,” always carrying their Bibles — their very big, prominent Bibles, of course — and never failing to show up just when you are finally reaching someone with the Good News? Why are they often the ones whose vehicles are so covered with gospel bumper stickers that you can’t even tell if they’re driving a car or a truck?)
To such people I say this: Grow up! Get into a congregation and practice submission. Take the low road and learn in quietness. If God has given you a word, He will make it known. Get your personal life in order and make a meaningful contribution to society (maybe starting right in your own home?). Your end-time prophetic mission to the universe can wait a few more years.
More seriously, there are really tragic cases of truly fanatical acts. I cringe when I think of the deeply deceived and disturbed individuals who have burned babies in ovens and shot, stabbed, and strangled at the supposed direction of the Lord. What a terrible and pathetic shame. What an ugly, inexcusable reproach. The Word of God and the voice of God never led these people to commit such atrocious acts, and nothing I am writing here is directed to such demented souls. What they need is a new heart through repentance and faith. What they need is to be saved from their sins.
But please hear me: There have always been religious fanatics, spiritual weirdoes, Bible-quoting flakes, and demonized pseudo-believers misrepresenting the Spirit of God. There have always been counterfeit Christians, bogus believers and satanized saints wreaking havoc in the name of the Lord. They existed in the days of Jesus, and they exist in our day too. Our error has been to retreat from righteousness because of the extremists and to tone down our message because of the fanatics. Our sin has been to compromise for the sake of “correctness” and to muddle the truth for the sake of middle ground. We justify our comfortable seat on the sidelines of non-commitment because others “take things too far.” As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow expressed so well, “We often excuse our want of [involvement] by giving the name of fanaticism to the more ardent zeal of others.”
This is sheer spiritual suicide, and it is guaranteed to fail. It is the way of the world and the formula of the flesh. It is Satan’s trap, and it is set to ensnare. Only the inflexible will escape. Are you entrapped? How have you fared on the day of testing? Remember: Temptation can come in the form of death threats or in the form of sweet promises. Have you held your ground in the face of temptation? Have you withstood the onslaught of the enemy and the world?
Are you inflexible when it comes to the clear and indisputable standards of God’s Word? Or have you compromised your convictions to keep the peace or to make your way up the ladder in your church or business? Have you quenched the persistent voice of the Spirit because it was too hard to go against the grain? The world can be intimidating. The church can be intimidating. Your friends and family can be intimidating. Your fellow-leaders can be intimidating. Have you feared the face of man, or have you feared the face of God?
And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak My words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you (Ezek. 2:6-8).
Do you grasp what God said to Ezekiel? They are rebellious; they don’t listen to Me. Don’t you be rebellious! Receive My commission, ingest My message, and declare My words to My rebellious people without flinching, without holding back, without watering down the truth. Not to speak is to rebel.
Again it is recorded in the book of Jeremiah:
Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: “This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word (Jer. 26:1-2).
Tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
This was a quality that made Samuel great. When he was still young and after receiving his very first word from God — a frightful, terrible word — the Scripture says: “So Samuel told him [i.e., Eli the priest] everything, hiding nothing from him” (1 Sam. 3:18). He held back nothing, even though that word from God promised judgment and destruction on Eli’s very household. Samuel told the truth. As a result,
The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and He let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD (1 Sam. 3:19-20).
God would back us up too, if we would learn to declare His Word, directly and without dilution.
Yet so often we are weak-kneed wimps. We crumble like cookies and have as much staying power as spaghetti: When the water gets hot, we get soft. Where is our courage? Where is our conviction? Where is our commission?
It will take faces like flint and foreheads like bronze to stand strong in the midst of the world’s immoral madness and the church’s moral morass. Only those who are deep in Him will be able to confront the shallowness of this superficial age. Only those with roots will withstand the flood to come. Are you standing today? Are you firm? Are you moved forward by God, or do you move backward away from God?
For many years I have written and preached that we hardly realize how far we have fallen — as a nation, as families, as individuals, as a church. True restoration will be more radical than most of us (including myself) can imagine. And while we are certainly making spiritual progress in many ways, and while the Lord is truly moving in our midst, we dare not think that we have arrived, that times of refreshing are proofs of total approval, that an increase in spiritual life and power means an increase in prophetic truth and character. No! We must make a determined, fresh stand. We must recover the spirit of holy inflexibility, of divine immovability, of prophetic intransigence. We must reclaim the posture of the uncompromising overcomer — even if it costs us our lives:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:10-11).
May this be our story too: overcoming the pressures of this age, refusing to cave in or give up, ruthless with the flesh, radical in the Spirit, obedient even to death. May God make us harder than flint. May we yield to Him alone.
Posted in Revolution & Justice Tagged with: compromise, ezekiel, jeremiah, old testament prophets, prophecy, prophets
In my previous article, we took a look at the role and function of Prophets & Prophecy in the New Testament context. As promised in that article, I want in this second part to follow on by giving some historic and personally witnessed examples of the above.
We will look specifically at two examples of what I feel to have authentically and powerfully demonstrated some of these things – The Welsh Revival (and the ensuing Apostolic Movement) & the Latter Rain outpouring.
I want to reiterate some things before getting into specifics of these moves. Firstly, these examples are both born in the fires of revival. Therefore, they are God initiated rather than human ideas coming to the fore. Secondly, mistakes WERE made due to their pioneering nature, yet this does not invalidate the fruit that remains. Thirdly, they bear the Divine hallmark and testimony of Jesus Christ at their core. Finally, not all that has happened since in the name of these moves should invalidate the original saints devotion and integrity, and the authenticity of the original outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Remember the sons of Sceva in Acts 19)
So, I would like to deal with the two moves in chronological order, as the two are connected by order of events, as well as certain personnel, not to mention the continuity of the work of God.
The Apostolic Church.
The 1904 Welsh Revival is one of the most famous, if not the most famous revival of relatively recent times. The scope of its impact is huge, not to mention incalculable in terms of lives affected. Without getting into too much detail, many of us are aware of the supernatural nature of the visitation, and how it literally gripped churches, saved and unsaved alike, even entire communities, regions and a nation came under the influence! God’s tangible and manifest presence came in an unprecedented and deep way. To say this is quite remarkable in the light of the fact that Wales in the 1700s & 1800s would have seen regular revivals of a potent nature, sometimes on average in every 15 years! But 1904 – 1905, was peculiar in that it went beyond visitation of a place, to the producing of nation shaking ministries. I could mention the names of Evan Roberts, Stephen & George Jefferies, Rees Howells, Alexander Boddy of Sunderland, plus countless 100s more, who were directly born out of the fire or touched by it in some way.
However, there are two men directly saved and impacted in the ‘04 revival who are less known, but equally as impacting. They were known as D.P. ‘Dan’ Williams and his brother, W. Jones Williams. Time doesn’t permit to go into all the details but suffice to say that these two men were carriers of the fire for an entire generation after. (In my mind the revival went beyond that which historians recognize.) These men not only were saved and later baptized in the Holy Spirit, but were gripped by a revelation/vision, which for its day was literally ‘revolutionary.’ D.P. Williams was gripped by an ‘Apostolic Vision,’ which entailed a revolutionary movement of powerful, Christ–centered ‘foundational ministries’ that would manifest a restoration of the function of the Apostle & Prophet, as was seen in the Acts Church, and the ministry of Paul in particular. At this point I want to emphasize something very important: The vision these young men had was not about creating a hierarchical, tier system of offices. It was not as some do today, about laying a claim to the office or a title which actually only produces ‘renamed Bishops’ without function. It was not about ‘super–apostles’ or ‘lone ranger prophets’ dishing out unchecked words about everything and everyone. For them it was to do with Gospel & Missionary Enterprise, as demonstrated by Paul in the NT. It has been commented by many that these pioneers came into such a revelation of NT Scripture concerning these ministries, that when they expounded about them or selflessly demonstrated them, listeners and onlookers were left astounded as to the quality/humility of character, and powerful depth of Biblical revelation these men conveyed. These men deeply believed that Jesus had given these gifts to the Church in order to build her, mobilize her and mature her into the stature and image of Christ. They were above all, Christocentric in substance and Christ revealing in character.
In particular regard to prophecy, a teenage Jones Williams, began to be stirred from the Welsh Revival onward. They both witnessed powerful prophetic utterance in the years of 04 – 05. In one instance it is noted that the 04 Welsh revivalist, Evan Roberts, regularly went to their home village to visit a lady in a local Church, upon whom he recognized the prophetic spirit. She was remarkably used, so much so that Roberts (a non–Pentecostal) had great reverence for the depth and power of the gift at work within her. So you see, the Revival was more than a ‘soul saving’ awakening, rather it was God birthing revelation of deeper issues in young lives for future ministry. It was not just understanding of NT revelation theologically, but experientially, breathed by the Holy Spirit with freshness in the midst of a great revival.
A few years later, Dan Williams began to minister with his brother Jones Williams, in an Apostle & Prophet ministry. This was not a self-certified thing, but a function in the Church they demonstrated, and were as a result recognized by others in the Body. They weren’t the only ones at the time, they recognized others with them in that kind of function, but they certainly pioneered this ‘functional/missionary type’ vision, operation and understanding of the ministry gifts.
So what were the hallmarks of their ministry? Not to mention the general acknowledgment of Christ–likeness in these men seen by others, there was powerful lasting fruit. DP’s apostolic vision was to see the Apostolic Gospel ‘belt the globe’ – the nations coming into the revelation of the mystery of Christ were at his heart – through the Apostle & Prophet ministry together. And secondly, to see out of that, Apostolically minded churches planted in the nations of the earth. With him, his brother the prophet, along with others of various gifting, they would travel to new places in the UK, and other nations, as Apostolic missionary teams, and stay there some time to see what would come of their visit. Today, Nigeria stands as a witness in that it has 4.5 million apostolic church members radically following Christ, including one Church of 100,000! All this because men of years ago were obedient, selfless, and Christ glorifying in the pioneering years! Also, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Denmark, Latvia, Mexico, Brazil, among many others, are now places bearing fruit from the labors of these pioneers of years ago.
So what typified DP’s brother – Jones Williams’ ministry? He in his function as a prophet, would be seen to play a foundational role in the establishing of new churches, and building up of already established ones. They (he and his brother) would only function together rather than in isolation, due to the nature of Paul’s teaching on the subject and from what they believed to be the Divine pattern of wall-builder & watchman. DP’s preaching and teaching would be Scripturally based, foundational, expositional, Gospel centered and revelatory; whereas his prophetic brother, would compliment this ministry with the prophetic word. PLEASE – when I say ‘the prophetic word’ try not to link that with any particular thing you may have witnessed or heard about in recent times. It was noted by onlookers, that the depth of prophecy coming from this uneducated yet devoted young man was extraordinary and deeply searching in way people had never witnessed before. He prophesied in such a way that it would bring the revelation of Jesus and the fear of God to those who were not right with Him. It would bring the light of revelation to hungry hearts, and it would reveal the wisdom and intent of God to bear upon the people, as a ‘now word’ for their situation. The prophecy through this man was more than the gift, rather he (the man) was seen as the gift itself, carrying a ministry deeply impacting to all who heard.
Jones Williams had been so impacted by the burden of God on one occasion, that it is recorded that he prophesied under an intensity and anointing of God for hours at one time! Please again understand, these were Godly, Jesus centered, holy men, deeply affected by revival, who had such a thorough repentance at conversion, such a deep work of the Spirit thereafter, that to liken it to anything today would not do it justice. Jones would prophesy powerful revelation into the Body, through forth-telling and foretelling. People would literally be changed after hearing this Spirit infused ministry, along with the other ministry of the team they functioned with. Yet despite the clear anointing upon this life, his words were to be judged by those with whom he worked. Yes, mistakes were made at the time both in the judging and handling of words, such is the nature of a fresh visitation and it’s pioneering nature. However, correction has come and lessons have been learnt over the years since.
The prophecy heard was also ‘apostolic’ in content and nature. It went beyond words of encouragement or blessing, and rather came in a way that it would provide an ‘apostolic word’ to the direction of the Church and the mission teams. Sometimes it would concern strategy for missioning new communities, direction to the places/people of God’s choosing, and comfort for those to whom it was foretold would be leaving for foreign soil and not return home alive (we don’t hear that too much today!). From this ministry it would not have been uncommon for the prophet to have signaled God’s intention for a young man or woman, and upon the collective Amen of the brothers, the vessels would be ‘sent out’ and see the most remarkable signs of God’s grace among them, as confirmation of the prophetic revelation. The sent vessels would see souls added to the Church, new churches planted, lives deepened, and in some instances further revivals breakout on foreign soil. (How we need that today!) And yes, those to whom the Spirit spoke of paying the ultimate sacrifice, would have to pay that price for the Gospel.
I want to say also that these pioneers experienced persecution; some lost or had to leave loved ones for the Gospel due to the travel limitations of the day; people spoke evil of them, and yet they never manifested a spirit of retaliation against those who were opposed to them (even from within ‘Christian’ circles). They were in their day called a ‘sect’ by fellow believers just for pioneering the truth of Ephesians 4:11. (Hardly heresy is it?) Yet in the context of their day it was a huge development in the overall progress of the Church, and as with every revolution, upheaval comes.
Finally, one instance comes to mind, where these two brothers were in prayer together seeking the face of God. Jones the prophet, began to prophesy that the Spirit had prepared an unknown family in a given locality and at a specified address, (which was previously unknown to the two brothers, except by revelation!). The Spirit signaled that they were to go there with the Apostolic grace and Gospel, as God had opened a door. So they went, and upon arriving at this unknown address were amazed to find that the Spirit had already visited the home during a family prayer time, foretelling of the visit of these two men to bring truth to them. (Yes this is true, accounted for, and very Biblical) Upon entering the home the ministers were greeted with an accompanying, ‘we’ve been expecting you…’ due to the fact that one of the children of the house had prophesied their visit. From there a local church was planted, established and grew in the grace of the Lord Jesus.
Because of time I cannot tell of the hundreds (literally) of stories that are similar to this, but hope that the little taste will have whetted your appetite for a genuine manifestation. I do believe that there are authentic expressions today of such things, even if they are unseen by most. God is bigger than any one of us, so is His Church. God is faithful in glorifying His Son through these ministries today. Those who come into ‘revelational’ understanding of such things are not licensed to hold exclusive rights on the matters but to share it with the Body. In as much as God visited young men in a powerful revival to restore truth and pioneer it aboard, He can take up vessels today and do the same, if not more! However, my feeling is that the popular claims today in Christian media, of a ‘new wave of Apostolic reformation’ would do well to be checked against a proper investigation of history, and a learning of what God revealed in that visitation from 1904 onward, and other similar moves. From that, perhaps we should again with prayerful hearts search the Word. That way, we can learn from past mistakes and successes, and remain on course for an equally deep and anointed manifestation of it today. Today, I don’t want to experience the seemingly shallower versions, when Scripture and history set a higher and deeper standard! And more importantly, I don’t want some of the obvious dangers of much of today’s ‘prophetic’ talk, without the plumb-line of Jesus and that which He formed in the early church, and that which He poured out through humble, pure servants of God who served in times of revival.
Today, I can testify that whilst not personally part of the UK branch of the movement, I do know of many Godly men and women still serving the Lord working within that structure. They have been over my lifetime and continue to be a people with a powerful revelation of true NT prophecy, both in understanding and practice. You probably won’t have heard of any of them, but that perhaps is a good thing. They have not sought to make their prophetic calling one of ‘Christian mediums’ thus filling large arenas for the sake of those seeking to have their fortune told. Rather they have grasped their obligation to Jesus and the forth-telling of His heart for His people – the Church, expressed in a given locality to proclaim the Gospel of God.
The Latter Rain.
As with many God initiated movements, with the dying out of the pioneering vessels, the Apostolic Church became somewhat institutionalized. After D.P. Williams’ death, and that of his brother, organization was deemed as key to maintain, rather than organic growth from life in the Spirit. It is probably no coincidence then that within a couple of years of the death of the pioneering figures in the UK, came the deluge of God in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. During this season, many established Pentecostal groups had become hungry for a new touch of revival, due to the growing frustration of institutionalized denominations that had been “over-constitutionalized” after the outpouring in UK and America.
A small group of believers and Bible School students from Sharon ‘Orphanage & Schools’ had been intrigued by the visit of William Branham and Ern Baxter to their region. The two men of God were contemporaries of the eventual LR Revival but in no way instigators or involved in it. After witnessing the incredible sense of God’s presence at these meetings, the believers of Sharon began to seek the Lord earnestly for a fresh visitation in their local context. Praise God – the Lord responded to their desperate cry.
Now remember, many of those crying out to God at that time had witnessed the previous Pentecostal outpourings, which were very powerful, and had seen countless thousands of conversions, baptisms in the Spirit and more. Yet, they had become unsatisfied at what man had made of it. Upon God’s visitation in 1948, they began to realize that God was adding further truth and bringing further reform to His Church. These hungry believers were about to come into further revelation regarding the role of the local Church (autonomy & body ministry) laying on of hands, spiritual singing, Apostolic and Prophetic ministry, the Churches role in carrying the Kingdom now, and the return of Jesus to consummate the end time revival.
Let me give you an insight from an eye-witness, George Hawtin, of what took place:
“During the past six weeks we have enjoyed a great visitation of the Spirit of God. Some of us have been praying for twenty years that the nine gifts of the Spirit would be restored to the Church. The Spirit of fasting and prayer has rested upon the whole School all winter. Finally the great ‘breakthrough’ came and the spiritual gifts began to operate among us… The revival is spreading all over the province… A new era is dawning.”
Then another one of the leaders in the movement, Reg Layzell, BC, Canada, gives his account:
There was no religious hysteria present, but much sincere worship and praise. Jesus was the centre of attraction. His presence was desired, cultivated and felt. The laying on of hands was regarded by all as a solemn holy ministry: holy to those ministering and to those being ministered to… In those days it was necessary to fast. There was no such thing as a wholesale invitation to all who wanted hands laid upon them… You will see by this that this was no hard and fast rule, but a sincere attempt was made to follow the indication of the Spirit as was first given by the revelation of the laying on of hands. In the beginning (of the LR) God said: ‘I will indicate from time to time upon whom hands are to be laid.’ All ministers did not take part in the laying on of hands – only those whom the Spirit indicated had such a ministry (generally apostles and prophets) When hands were laid upon a brother or sister in the beginning it was something solemn. All in the meeting entered into the ministry of the Spirit. God was present in such a spirit of unity. It was easy to prophesy and the prophesies were very accurate. The prophets sincerely sought God – they were almost fearful lest they say something that was not God. The utterances were not just ‘nice things’ – many hearts were sought.
WOW! How refreshing to hear of such intense and fearful, Spirit led and anointed ministry. Again, time does not permit me to include all the stories of this beautiful visitation. But as well as the above mentioned brother I will mention those other (unknown to some) but powerfully used servants of God. (Some were directly involved at the time, some were touched indirectly, and some today are spiritual sons of what God did then.) Some of you may have heard of Dick Iverson, who has been instrumentally used of God in teaching on Body ministry, team ministry and some of the LR truths; he also helped build a wonderful local congregation known as Bible Temple, which birthed an entire NT network of strong Biblically balanced and anointed ministries. Iverson is one who was affected greatly by the likes of Reg Layzell, David Schoch, Ernest Gentile (still alive) George Evans – servants who were all in some way touched by the LR revival. Some of these men by all accounts (and from my personal witness) were and are some of the most powerful prophetic ministries in modern times, and would function in the same way as the account given by Layzell.
Also, you can also include Kevin Conner with Iverson, as another respected NT teacher, instrumental in proclaiming truth regarding the Body’s ministry today. Not to mention many others used at the time like George Warnock etc.
I hope that I am conveying to you something of God’s hand at work here, despite many critics back then and today. We must learn to speak to those directly involved in any move of God, to know the truth from rumor. As one writer has rightly said:
The movement itself should be distinguished from those whom it ultimately influenced. Some branches of the movement ultimately led to cult like groups, some parts of the movement remained orthodox, and other parts of the movement moderated the doctrine and ultimately had positive effects on the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches at large.
Many today have claimed influence from the LR, and yet have brought grief to those originally touched and raised up in that time, due to bad teaching and practice, or worse still, heresy in some cases!
Thank God though that what He does is glorious and pure. Such as what Reg Layzell also wrote in another testimony of the revival:
… The revival continues. Hallelujah! It is a wonderful thing when the revival partly leaves the revival with you when you go…. I have seen more souls saved in the last two months than I saw in two years of ordinary church life in Toronto… People were healed! There were many outstanding healings and thanks to God they are lasting… Saints were baptized in the Holy Spirit as hands were laid upon them and were prayed for. Great liberty in the Spirit was among the people and the singing in the Spirit was heavenly…’
Out of this great move of God a restoration of Biblical practice was taking place, marked by the solemnity mentioned by Layzell in the paragraphs above. One practice birthed was where young men and women with the call of God on their lives for service would fast for 3 days, along with the ‘presbytery’. Those gifted along the lines mentioned above would then solemnly gather with the saints, and after this time of seeking God would lay hands on the candidates for prophetic confirmation of God’s desire for those to whom they ministered. (See 1 Timothy 1: 18, 4: 14 & 2 Timothy 1: 6) After that they would be sent on their way in an Antioch fashion.
Now please understand, that because of today’s abuses, because of the strange teaching of men, even if they lay claim to origins or influence of a movement, it does not necessarily invalidate the original work and those sincere saints who continue to walk with God. Did you know today that there are some still alive, powerfully transformed in the LR revival, who are now ashamed to use the name or tell of their links to it, due to the heretical abuses of people today who have tarnished it somewhat by claiming involvement!
Today, I know some of the spiritual sons of those genuinely affected in the LR, and they are some of the most Godly and anointed people I know. They are always welcome among us here to minister in their way because we see their Godly lifestyle, we know their Biblical teaching and anointed ministry – not to mention the fruit they bear for Christ.
I want to finally mention one other prophet who is perhaps a bit more well known. He came into the LR revival and was transformed. He is Stanley Frodsham formerly of AOG UK, friend of Smith Wigglesworth, later on was used powerfully in the prophetic during the LR and in the subsequent Elim Bible Institute, which also was affected by the LR. Frodsham himself also had to endure persecution from his former colleagues in the faith, because of the ‘new thing’ that was happening, yet it is recorded he remained gracious.
During his time in the Elim Bible Institute, he brought a remarkable word. I cannot for space sake write the entire ‘word’ given a number of years ago by this man, but it is easily accessible online through the link below. I hope it demonstrates to you the kind of depth, anointing and purity of genuine NT prophecy that both the above movements have witnessed over the years and sought to hold as a Divine standard.
The word is found at:
Another interesting point to note is that some of the Apostolic UK missionaries who had began serving in Canada and the USA during the time of the LR, came back to Wales and reported the great things God was doing in restoring truth and bringing revival. Unfortunately, the unaffected ministers at home in the UK, like the AOG, said God could not endorse it, despite their brethren’s positive reports. They pointed to ‘unscriptural practices and teachings’ as their cause for concern, and eventually publicly withdrew any connection with the revival. Interestingly today, there are many old saints in the Apostolic Church UK still alive, who all recognize the hand of the Lord in the early years of the LR, and wish that the Apostolic movement UK had opened to it. They felt it would have brought the needed refreshing and reform. Maybe there was a perceived threat due to the similarity of the works among peers. Back then however, the Apostolic UK missionaries were not disheartened totally that their report had been rejected by the establishment. They knew God was moving and returned to their labors in the countries where they served and continued to be used and enjoy the ‘new thing’ God was doing. Glad to say that recently, the previous national leader of the UK movement has led the people in repentance for the previous generation’s rejection of the LR.
So we see that history teaches us valuable things. It teaches us that there is a higher standard of ministry for us today. God does not want us to go back ‘to the good old days’ – which the Scriptures tell us not to say, but He wants us to learn from the saints of old. Hebrews encourages us to learn from their way of life, the consecration, separation and the depth to which they moved. See the fruit of their lives. Listen to their written wisdom, and upon that build for a future work of God’s grace, which will restore further truth from the Word and make it a glorious reality among us for today’s generation. May God’s people aim higher and deeper, for the ministry of prophecy and prophets to be fully recognized in the Body again, but for all the right reasons, AND in their right setting. So that when we hear ‘Spirit utterance’ in the future, people coming in will say: ‘God is among you’. (1 Corinthians 14: 24 & 25)
Unfortunately, I am not able to duplicate the pictures of the people mentioned above, but below are some links with pictures, and far more detail of the history than I have time or space to convey.
Also, there are valuable publications available on the two movements:
1. Your Sons & Your daughters shall prophesy – Ernest Gentile
2. Born in the Fire (Biography of D.P. Williams) by Tom Davies & Peter Yeoman
Posted in Lead Article, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Apostolic Church, D.P. Williams, Jones Williams, Latter Rain, Layzell, prophecy, Revival, Stanley Frodsham, Welsh Revival
The latest edition of our online magazine is now available, focusing in on the very important and controversial issue of prophets and prophetic ministry today.
Are there bona fide prophets in our midst? If so, how do we relate to them? How do they relate to the Body as a whole? What about the characteristics of New Testament prophets? How can all of us as believers learn to be more sensitive to the voice of God and become a prophetic people? And how does all prophecy ultimately point us to Jesus and His vision for this world?
These questions demand solid, practical, biblically-based answers, so dig into these articles, get involved in the discussion, and share the VOR with your friends!
Take a sneak peak at Dr. Brown’s soon to be released commentary on the Book of Jeremiah, thanks to Zondervan publishers, in Entering the World of Jeremiah.
Andrew Yeoman takes a look at the role of New Testament Prophets and Prophecy as put forth in Scripture in The Heart of Prophecy.
Christy Scott encourages the Church to hold on to God’s prophetic promises in Have You Heard Voices?
Bryan Purtle considers the question “What Manner of Man is the Prophet?” with excerpts from the writings of Abraham J. Heschel in The Prophet’s Cosmic View.
Finally, VOR’s Editor proposes a shift in thinking concerning evangelism and doctrine in The Prophetic Gospel.
For further in-depth teaching on the subject of prophets and prophecy, make sure to check out Dr. Brown’s audio teaching series: Prophets and Prophetic Ministry.
Posted in Lead Article Tagged with: prophecy, prophets
Excerpted from Michael L. Brown, “Jeremiah,” in the revised edition of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Tremper Longman and David Garland, editors (forthcoming, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), used with permission, with thanks to Zondervan Publishers.
Entering the World of Jeremiah
According to Jewish tradition, after the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah chose to go into exile with his people, marching with the captives as far as the Euphrates, at which point he decided to return to his homeland (or, was directed by the Lord to return) in order to offer comfort and help to those who remained behind. When the exiles saw that he was about to leave them, they wept bitterly and cried out in a loud voice (cf. Ps 137:1), “Our father Jeremiah, are you also abandoning us?” He answered them: “I call heaven and earth to witness, if you had shed a single tear when you were still in Zion, you would not have gone into exile” (Pes Rab 26:8). That simple anecdote, the creation of tradition and yet conveying so much truth, plunges us straight into the world of Jeremiah, a world so tragic, filled with disappointment and pain, and a world in which the lonely prophet towered above his contemporaries.
Of course, it is often easy for us to read millennia-old accounts that describe death and devastation, misery and grief, suffering and tears, and to remain unmoved. After all, the written text can seem so impersonal and distant, and we do not actually hear the cries of the wounded and dying – in reality, the people involved are complete strangers to us – nor do we smell the smoke rising from the flames of destruction. And when it is scripture we are reading, the tendency to remain unmoved is potentially greater, since we become familiar with the biblical stories, demonizing the villains, lionizing the heroes, and seeking primarily to gain theological or practical insight from the (sometimes) stern dealings of God with his people, forgetting that these were real people too, with very real hopes and dreams and all too human disappointments and hurts.
This is not the case, however, with the book of Jeremiah, a book which makes it almost impossible for the reader to escape unscathed, both emotionally and spiritually. Jeremiah the man is all too real – from his daunting call to a be a prophet while still in his youth to the internal agony he often felt; from the difficult message of judgment he proclaimed for more than four decades to the categorical rejection of his message by kings and princes, prophets and priests alike; from the years of loneliness he endured, commanded not to marry or have children and with precious few real friends, to the heights and depths of his relationship with God, ranging from almost indescribable joy to absolute despair, at times even cursing the day of his birth and feeling utterly betrayed by the only One he could really trust. Through these prophetic pages, this ancient, historical figure becomes strangely contemporary, removed in time and culture and yet so near, jumping off the pages of the OT and making his appeal to us, sharing his burden, his sorrow, his agony, yet somehow offering hope.
Phillip J. King, in his Archeological Companion to Jeremiah, noted that, “From the methodological point of view, dissecting an ancient text and excavating a tell are quite similar experiences” (xxiii), and in many ways, this is quite true. Both the archeologist and the exegete seek to uncover different layers, the one, of earth, the other, of meaning; the one, of successive settlements, the other, of textual history. But in other ways, excavating a tell and dissecting the biblical text are quite different. One is silent; the other cries out; one is dead, the other is alive; one lies hidden beneath the earth, waiting to be discovered; the other beckons to us, calls us, urges us, challenges us. Certainly that is the case with the book of Jeremiah, as the prophet himself speaks again with passion and power as if he was standing in our midst today.
But he is not the only one who comes alive to the reader of the book that bears his name. Other figures come alive with vividness and clarity: Jehoiakim, arrogant, insecure, and downright wicked; Zedekiah, weak-willed, double-minded, and enslaved by fear; Hananiah, the very image of a false prophet of shalom; the Judean remnant in Egypt, urged on by their wives, and to a person, it appears, more defiant after judgment than before; Baruch, obedient and faithful but despondent; Ebed Melech, a rare hero, determined to save God’s servant from the miry pit.
The tragic events that unfold in this book are also hauntingly real: the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, inspiring terror as they make their approach; the starvation of a city under siege; the exiling of the people from their ancestral land; the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple; the slaughtering of the sons of David and the blinding of a king from David’s line; the weeping women teaching their daughters how to mourn. And this is just a sampling. In this prophetic book, one actually does hear the cries of the wounded and dying and one does smell the smoke rising from the flames.
Against this bleak and burning backdrop, the extraordinary faith of God’s prophet stands as a soaring, unshakable monument, as he never backs down in public and never refuses a divine commission, speaking words of ultimate hope instead – including wonderful promises of restoration and a new covenant – even making a personal investment in Judah’s future, buying his uncle’s field as a down payment on his nation’s coming restoration at a time when its destruction was only moments away. Something sacred transacted between God and his servant, and that sacred transaction was profound enough to carry Jeremiah through a terribly turbulent era and a very difficult life, ultimately producing an extraordinary book with an extraordinary message for the ages.
A pivotal moment in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is striking in its relevance, taking us behind the scenes into the heart and soul of a very public and influential leader:
By January 1956, with the Montgomery bus boycott in full swing, threatening phone calls, up to 40 a day, began pouring into King’s home. Though he put up a strong front, the threats unsettled him. One midnight as he sat over a cup of coffee worrying, the phone rang again, and the caller said, “Nigger, we are tired of you and your mess now. And if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out and blow up your house.” King later described what happened in the next few minutes.
“I sat there and thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born. . . . She was the darling of my life. I’d come in night after night and see that little gentle smile. And I sat at that table thinking about that little girl and thinking about the fact that she could be taken away from me any minute.
“And I started thinking about a dedicated, devoted, and loyal wife, who was over there asleep. And she could be taken from me, or I could be taken from her. And I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer. I was weak. . . .
“And I discovered then that religion had become real to me, and I had to know God for myself. And I bowed down over that cup of coffee. I never will forget it. . . . I prayed a prayer, and I prayed out loud that night. I said, ‘Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. I think I’m right. I think the cause we represent is right. But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now. I’m faltering. I’m losing my courage. And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak, they will begin to get weak. . . .’
“And it seemed at that moment I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you, even until the end of the world. . . .’ Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared.” Christian History 65 (Vol. XIX, No. 1), 40.
Only God knows how many times Jeremiah reached that same breaking point, although his laments and confessions proclaim loudly and clearly that he was no stranger to such moments of private anguish. And only God knows exactly what happened between the Lord and his servant at such times. But this much is certain: Jeremiah ultimately withstood each test and took his stand again and again, and because of his perseverance he, being dead, yet speaks (Heb 11:4b), continuing to impact us by his words more than 2500 years later.
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: jeremiah, prophecy, prophets, the bible
Firstly, I want to state that I am not a prophet, though I have prophesied by God’s grace. I come from a strong heritage of Welsh Apostolic / Pentecostal life, which had its roots in the Revival of 1904, and was the only movement to be directly born out of it. Because of God’s grace in saving me, I now speak on these issues, not as the final word, but as one who has been blessed and privileged to have witnessed some remarkable prophetic moments and vessels in my 31 years of life.
There is much debate about the role of prophets and prophecy in the Church today. Some argue that prophets & prophecy are confined to the time of the Old Testament and early church years; others say that whilst prophecy can continue, the role of the New Testament prophet does not. And to add to that, among those who believe in the present day prophet, there is debate as to what exactly he is and does.
Firstly, we need to clarify a number of key issues in this debate. Then God willing, next issue, we will look at some examples in history of prophets and prophecy that in my opinion touch something of the genuine manifestation of such gifts and graces.
There are two key areas for me that capture the heart of what we all need to consider:
1. The Role of the Prophet.
Ephesians 3: 5. This scripture contains Paul’s understanding of the role of the Apostle & Prophet. Paul states that the ‘mystery of Christ… has now been revealed by the Spirit…’ by these two ministries. To him, these ministries were to partner in a foundational role in New Testament ministry. He doesn’t say that the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles were like a foundation to the Church, although of course there is truth to that. Rather, he is expressing the prophet’s present functioning in the New Testament Church, in which they were bringing a present ministry of the revelation of Jesus Christ that was unknown in previous generations! (The OT prophet could not do that!) The Apostle & Prophet were instruments now & together in NT revelation, during the early church years.
So New Testament prophets were and are vital to the ministry of revelation to the Church, of which the essence is Christ. For Paul and the early apostles, the written ministry they brought was eventually recognized to be of an infallible nature. Note however, that the NT prophets words are rarely recorded. We only have small glimpses in Acts, and in the prophecy spoken to the seven churches in Revelation. However, we do know one thing – the prophets in the NT played a foundational role, and worked in team ministry with the apostolic leader. This brought a powerful two-edged sword of ministry, both by revelatory preaching / teaching and through the revelation given in prophetic utterance.
Also, from this scripture, as well as Ephesians 2: 19 – 20, we can see something deeper regarding the prophets partnership with an apostle. It is not only foundational historically but functionally. We know from Acts that Paul (an apostle) & Silas (a prophet), as well as others, ministered on Paul’s Apostolic missionary team. This is vital today in an age where so called prophets are lone-rangers, spewing out words left, right and center, many of which are shallow, unjudged and dangerous, and a far-cry from a revelatory foundational-type ministry.
The concept of the Prophet as a foundational ministry was not new to the early Jewish Church. We read in Zechariah 4 of the prophetic word coming through Zechariah the prophet to Joshua the high priest & Zerubbabel. They were called to begin the building of the temple, to lay its foundations with shouts of ‘grace!’ We then turn to Ezra 5, where the historic account of this is given. There it mentions that Haggai & Zechariah, both prophets, were to accompany the builders of the House of God. In other words, both ministries were foundational in the rebuilding of the temple, one as wall-builders, the other as watchmen. Here we see the Old Testament type of what was to be in the New Testament, Apostle & Prophet working together in the building of the new people of God.
Then we go to the New Testament, in Matthew 21 – 24, Jesus comes to predict the rejection of Himself as the cornerstone, and yet promises the destruction of the physical – literal temple, and the construction of a more glorious spiritual temple. He is the chief apostle and prophet who laid a foundation for a new temple! Can you see what is taking place here? It is with this background in the OT & Gospels that Paul can speak of himself as a ‘wise master-builder’ in 1 Corinthians 3: 10 – 17, who lays a foundation of Jesus Christ, in the planting of new Churches. But what of the role of the watchman – the prophet? He too, with the Apostolic ministry can bring forth the mind of the Spirit in regard to this building ministry, as is so wonderfully demonstrated in Acts 16: 6 – 10, where the ‘Spirit of Jesus’ led them in Apostolic mission and building. Most commentators agree that the role of the prophet would have been key in this account.
Because of time, we cannot go into all of the issues involved in the present debates about the prophet, but I hope the above at least can get us started in beginning to see the issue with clarity. From this we can learn that a ‘go alone prophet’ is not good, nor biblical. Secondly, that whilst God primarily spoke through the Prophet in the OT, He now in the last days has spoken by His Son (Hebrews 1), who in turn has graced the Church not only with one ministry as the prophets of old, but the five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4: 11 & 1 Corinthians 12). They all in their own unique way manifest the revelation and ministry of Jesus Christ to and through His people.
Another thing to note is that OT Prophets prophesied predominantly to a physical nation/s – Israel and the Gentiles. In that mix were those obedient to God, and those rebellious. We have to believe that early church prophets were similar in many ways to the OT characters for them to have been recognized as such. They probably would have had a certain style of conveying the word. The tones of the word, and the substance of the heart of God being expressed would had been familiar to the Jewish disciples. They were men who forth-told, and foretold, and all utterance was born in the heart of God. However, it is evident Scripturally that the emphasis of ministry in the OT went from the lone prophet speaking to a king & nation, to a NT expression of a 5-fold ministry ministering in plurality to a redeemed/ fulfillment body of people. The body of Christ then in AD 60 & now in 2008 is a people of a promise fulfilled. Therefore, whilst God can and does still bring words of chastisement, correction and warning to His NT people at times (we need it!) – the nature of the word now carries the revelation of the mystery of Christ and His heart. Whereas in times before, the OT word pointed ahead in small ways, and came with condemnation at times, in the NT it was no longer primarily a prophetic word of judgment to an unbelieving nation but of revelation to a fulfillment people who related to their Head. In the OT the prophet spoke to kings both good & bad for warning of judgment, instruction and rebuke. Today, our King is Jesus. It is no longer a word to a king but from our King. So therefore whilst there are some characteristic traits which carry through from OT to NT, there are some significantly unique dynamics to the ministry & the revelation NOW revealed! In that word now, we can receive chastisement (See Revelation 3) or warning of God’s severe dealings at times, but as sons! As when the writers of the Epistles gleaned from OT scripture to bring instruction to the NT people, so too the prophets probably ministered through much of the terminology of the OT prophets. However, there was a new dynamic. The prophets now, were in and for the Body of Christ, with other ministries for the maturing of the saints for service, and to bring the body to the full stature of Christ. (Ephesians 4: 13 & 15) We must remember to keep this balance and tension in our thinking regarding prophecy.
2. The Essence & Nature of Prophecy.
For me there are two key verses that capture what prophecy in fact is, both in Biblical times, and today. Firstly, there is the verse in Revelation 19: 10, which states that, ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ In other words, all the prophetic utterance found in the book of Revelation, which came through John to the Church is at the heart – Christocentric (Christ centered)! So then prophecy is not the idea of men; it is not speculative words of things to come (although prediction can come by the Spirit as with Agabus & the famine); it is not impersonal. Rather in its purest sense, it is the Word of the Lord – Himself, by the Spirit to the Church, and thus NT prophets, like the OT ones, would have conveyed it as such. However, today it is not infallible, nor can it be added to Scripture, rather it brings out the treasures of truth written within Scripture. Now remember that prophecy must be judged in the light of Scripture because it comes through imperfect channels, but in its purest essence before coming through the channel, it is out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus to His people. Therefore, we can know how to judge a word when it carries this undeniable mark – the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ and all He has given us in Scripture. The prophetic channel, in keeping this plumb-line of ‘Christ testifying revelation’, can begin to mine the depths of prophecy and bring out treasures of the Kingdom through the prophetic word. They can be words that exhort, instruct, edify, and even through seasoned ministry – direct, so as long as they carry the undeniable mark of God’s character and truth, as revealed in His Son and in Scripture. Once delivered audibly, it then must be judged and agreed by those around that God has spoken. If it is judged to be so, we can act on it with faith!
Prophetic revelation then is a mine of precious stone, that can help the builders of God’s house in that foundational ministry, and in a more general way to encourage the people of God and lead them into greater things in the advancing of the Kingdom.
Secondly, the nature of prophecy is important. How do we know when we are to prophesy, how to prophesy and what to prophesy? Again, there is much to say, which I will say another time, but for me the key text is in 2 Peter 1: 21. Genuine prophecy never has and never should originate in the will of men. It is born of God, by the Holy Spirit in the deep places of a man. Peter says that prophets of God were men carried along by the Holy Spirit. I like the description of prophecy given by a powerful servant of God, D. P. Williams, who came out of the Welsh Revival in 1904 and was used in pioneering an Apostolic movement with powerful prophetic ministries in those he labored with. He says:
‘The prophetic word must be born in the bowels of Mercy, and the affections moved in the operation of the gift. This background of Divine character is most essential to the making of a channel, as there is possibility for the operation of the gift to be on the surface, and remain in shallow waters, or to keep the gift in a babyhood stage, without spiritual development.’
Some practical advice here. The first time I ever prophesied was when I was around 10 years old. I had seen powerful ministry of this kind from a babe, yet how did I know how to prophesy? I simply asked my mother, and she said these words, ‘just wait, be patient, you’ll know when you are to prophesy.’ So simple! And yet she had not tried to cajole me into something that might, or could be it. No! I was to wait for the genuine burning and bubbling of God from deep within! And that is my advice, which I believe to be rooted in the Word, and learnt from genuine experience of seeing powerful, deep and Christ revealing prophets and prophecy in my lifetime. Not to mention hearing of those who over the last 100 years in Wales have continued to bring that foundational ministry of the Prophet with the Apostle in Church planting and building. They too have led other members to be used in the gift of prophecy to the edifying of the Body for service.
Prophecy can come through many ways and means, however let the plumb-line of Peter’s words hold us on course for a genuine manifestation. It takes patience, waiting, depth of seeking, a pure heart and a genuine experience for the prophetic word to come forth. We can have prophetic preaching but also we should see as in both OT & NT prophets, that Spirit infused Word spoken to the people of God, direct from the moving of the Spirit deep within. This is why prophets prophesied in the first person, such was the immediacy of revelation and deep feeling of the Holy Spirit within. Peter says, they were ‘carried along…’ by the Holy Spirit. I am looking for such a manifestation today – genuine, untainted, powerful, and unmistakably God!
A final thought then on all the ‘prophetic talk’ today. For me the above principles are key to judging words, and knowing the authentic among our gatherings. (There is more to say, but time and space doesn’t permit.) But another thing worth considering is what brings about such mixed teaching / understanding about this ministry. One of my feelings is that it is only God Himself who can birth a genuine prophetic vessel, ‘as the Spirit wills,’ says Paul to Corinth. I have noted that the genuine prophetic ministries that I have heard of or witnessed in part, were all born in the fires of genuine revival! Could it be then, that many today are grasping after things or claiming things for themselves that have not been born in a supernatural move of God! I realize that God can and will raise up such vessels in His Church in all seasons, and yet it seems that the understanding of the depth of them is only realized by those come through fire, learn through fire, are hardened by fire and then bring a ministry of fire. They then pass on a baton of truth and understanding to their spiritual sons. The fire tests each man’s work, and purges the worthless! Next issue, I will be looking at these issues in the history of the Apostolic movement that was birthed in the Welsh Revival of 1904, and also the early years of the Latter Rain, which was indirectly influenced by the Welsh movement, but later became something uglier than it initially was.
May God cause this new generation to touch such things and not be satisfied with any less!
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: New Testament, new testament church, old testament prophets, prophecy, prophets, Scripture, the bible
The prophets of Israel were remarkable men who had been seized by the hand of the Lord and brought into a cosmic view of time and eternity, righteousness and rebellion, mercy and judgment, Kings and nations, and the stunning responsibility of speaking on behalf of the One on the Throne.
In 1962, Abraham Heschel’s classic two-volume set “The Prophets” hit the printing presses. It was a work which started out as his Ph.D. thesis in German, and eventually grew into book form, becoming a widely heralded masterpiece on the subject of prophetism. One of the questions he asked in the first volume is looming large in my spirit at this writing, and in an age where there are many boasts and testimonies of prophetic activity in the Church of the West, I think it behooves us to consider it.
Heschel’s question, inspired by long and laborious perusals of the oracles of the Hebrew Bible, was this:
“What manner of man is the prophet?”
Many have asked this question in recent decades, and some have sought to give answers. Indeed, movements and ministries have been raised up with men bearing the title of “prophet.” You can find movements which place the bulk of their emphasis on supernatural activity, in terms of visions, dreams, interpretations and personal words of prophecy. You can find others who say that a prophet is basically one who preaches a message of repentance. Both views have valuable aspects, and should not be thrown out as a whole. There are many variations of these two emphases, and the opinions are often shared with great feeling and concern.
While Eph. 2.20 refers primarily to the apostles and prophets of the Scriptures, it’s clear that without these kinds of foundational servants the Church is going to be severely hindered from coming into the fullness of God. It is most likely to go through unfortunate cycles of backsliding, leaning on the arm of the flesh, and functioning in a mode of life that is far removed from the reality that the Lord has intended and desired. Unless we see the formation and emergence of the kinds of servants that Paul saw as crucial for the Church’s maturity, we run the risk of celebrating all kinds of external ministry successes that will crumble in the day of trial, having been built on faulty foundations.
It is vital, therefore, that we revive the question, “What manner of man is the prophet?”
I am suspicious of the great chasm that has been fixed between the role of the OT prophet and the role of the NT prophet. The idea that a NT prophet has an entirely different ministry, one of edification and encouragement only, is a distortion of the overarching testimony of the Scriptures. This distortion has much to do with the lack of a distinction between the Spiritual gift of prophecy, which may be given to any believer in the Body, and the foundational ministry of the prophet, which is reserved for the Lord’s choosing and can only be placed upon a mature servant of the Lord. The first is accessible to any believer, whether he is a new convert or a seasoned elder. The latter is a holy appointment, a sacred office, and it is reserved for the one whom the Lord has anointed, consecrated, and commissioned for this particular ministry. The blurring of these lines has caused great damage, men have often been prematurely or falsely appointed, and the standard of the prophetic call has been cheapened. We need to recognize this distinction, encourage an atmosphere where the gift of prophecy can bring edification to the Body, while maintaining a jealousy for the raising up of foundational prophetic servants.
It is my contention that we have done with the prophet what we have done with the Lord Himself. We have interpreted the prophet’s role and nature based on our experience, or based on what best meets our present satisfaction. The idea that we have fashioned our own ideas of prophetic ministry is evidenced by the fact that so many believers who are boasting of prophetic activity are virtually non-literate, uninterested and unfamiliar with the words of the Prophets of Scripture.
Many have seen Israel’s prophets as the old order of prophetic ministry, but some elements of the “new order” that have been presented seem to me to run contrary to the Spirit and stature of everything prophetic in both testaments. We have so little written in the NT of prophetic ministry that it is difficult to be as specific as many have sought to be in recent times. Even so, the overall view of the Spirit and nature of prophetic work has not changed in the NT, as I see it. The prophet’s ministry is one of recovery and restoration, calling his hearers away from self-absorption, deception and apostasy, and back to God Himself, back to righteous living, back to love and humility, back to reality.
Little is said of Agabus and Silas in terms of prophetic function, but we see the greatest Prophet, Jesus Himself, in remarkable breadth in the Gospels. We see John the prophet’s experience, and the message he is called to convey over the course of 22 chapters in Revelation. These are New Covenant prophets in the highest sense, and the thrust of their ministry and message is the same as that of the OT prophets. The revelation of God and the message of His Kingdom has only deepened and become more pronounced. Their message is not contrary to that of the OT prophets, it is the fulfillment and fuller proclamation of the same vision and view. Why should it be otherwise? Jesus is the Eternal One who has never changed, and John was encountering the same God that the OT prophets encountered! NT prophetic ministry flows in a continuum with the OT prophets, but it presents more clearly and more fully the heart and Kingdom of God.
I am therefore dubious about an idea or expression of prophetic ministry that runs against the grain of the revelation of God already given in the Scriptures. If we have thousands of believers acquainted with prophetic ministry who consider the words of Israel’s prophets to be somehow “old-hat” or irrelevant to us, then what are we tending towards? If Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, then could it be that the idea of NT prophets replacing OT prophetical stature and function is erroneous and even a gateway to eventual deception? If our idea of any ministry removes or lessens the sense of God that the early prophets and apostles conveyed, should we not raise a cry?
The prophets of Israel had a cosmic view, which means that they had been lifted above the wisdom and counsel of their contemporaries and brought into a revelation of the government and Kingdom of God. They saw beyond the tangible, past the immediate, and through the veneer that most of their friends and neighbors were content to hide behind. They could no longer “go with the flow” of material pursuits, religious pomp, or any other idea of life which robbed them of the presence and heart of the Holy One of Israel. This marked them out as different.
They were distinguished from the religious functionaries of their day because they communicated a word and vision of God as He is, and not as men had fancied Him to be.
The great issue of history is that men have not been willing to receive God as He has revealed Himself. They have been offended at Him, unwilling to surrender their lives to His leadership. They have loved pride when He delights in humility. They have loved hate when He delights in compassion. They have loved sin when He delights in righteousness. They have loved unequal weights and measures when He desires truth in the inmost parts.
The world and its systems are perpetuated and carried along by a pursuit of freedom, pleasure, and self-gratification which is devoid of God’s leadership and government. It is the antithesis of the Lord’s intention for creation. The world is content to live in a pipe-dream. It is happy with the fantasy. “Ignorance is bliss,” they say. The prophet comes to yank the wool from our eyes. He reminds us of the holiness and character of God, calling us back to reality and truth, dashing our self-centric dreams to holy desert grounds, where we are compelled by fear and awe to remove our sandals. We see with wide eyes and dropped jaws that our opinions and rights are the expression of the most despicable kind of presumption. Our feet are bared, and we fall prostrate. We can not proceed to walk in the same way any longer. From that illuminated threshold, we begin to see Him as He is- holy, eternal, and abounding in lovingkindness.
Here are some of Heschel’s thoughts on the manner of the prophet:
“While others are intoxicated with the here and now, the prophet has a vision of an end. The prophet is human, yet he employs notes one octave too high for our ears. He experiences moments that defy our understanding. He is …an assaulter of the mind. Often his words begin to burn where conscience ends. The prophet is an iconoclast, challenging the apparently holy, revered, and awesome. Beliefs cherished as certainties, institutions endowed with supreme sanctity, he exposes as scandalous pretensions.
The prophets must have been shattered by some cataclysmic experience in order to be able to shatter others. The words of the prophet are stern, sour, stinging. But behind his austerity is love and compassion for mankind.
Others may suffer from the terror of cosmic aloneness, the prophet is overwhelmed by the grandeur of the divine presence. He is incapable of isolating the world. There is an interaction between man and God which to disregard is an act of insolence. Isolation is a fairy tale.
…The prophet’s word is a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels the blast from heaven.
…the purpose of prophecy is to conquer callousness, to change the inner man as well as to revolutionize history.
It is embarrassing to be a prophet. There are so many pretenders, predicting peace and prosperity, offering cheerful words, adding strength to self-reliance, while the prophet predicts disaster, pestilence, agony, and destruction.” (The Prophets Vol. I, A. Heschel; Harper Colophon Books, 1962)
The prophet of God is a broken man; one who has been devastated at the plight of the nations. He has a “fierce loyalty” to the Lord, and his heart is shattered from the realization that the God of holiness and beauty is being neglected while men and their petty systems are being exalted and celebrated. When the Name of God is denigrated, disrespected, or misappropriated, the prophet’s heart burns with a jealousy for the restoration of true worship.
The prophet has a cosmic view, a heavenly vision, for He has encountered the God who transcends our prepackaged categories and preferences. He has come to know the Lord as He is, and His heart cannot be satisfied until the ones to whom he has been called have come into that intimate knowledge themselves. This is why the prophet is foundational.
The prophet is the bearer of the thoughts and words of God Himself. He is an earthen vessel, radically connected to the society that surrounds him, yet conveying and communicating a wisdom and reality that the common man and the frivolous religionist have not been willing to see and hear. He is among the people, identifying with them in mercy. He is not an aloof, self-righteous pietist. He is an awakener, using words and tears to remind us how God really feels and thinks. He lives in the world of God. He has been converted from carnality, broken from his arrogance, severed from self-sufficiency. He introduces us to God’s world, the heavenly Kingdom, and quite literally, everything depends upon whether we casually receive his word, reject it, or take it into the deepest parts of our hearts and lives.
The prophet is not a self-consciously dramatic character, doing what he thinks prophets do in attempts at filling a role or office. A prophet is a God-fashioned, God-intoxicated, God-inspired man with a cosmic view of time and eternity. He sees beyond the mundaneness of everyday affairs, the buzz of modern politicking, the pull of fashion and entertainment, and any man-centered attempts at ministry. He is not inflated by flattery, and he has learned to rejoice when opposed. He realizes that he is bearing a Kingdom view which is of utmost value to his hearers. Indeed, life and death hang on the words that he proclaims.
He is not a showman, boasting of a title or inwardly aching for religious fame. Nor is he a grouchy man, putting on some kind of an archaic garb, spiritual aura and hoping to remind us of Moses. He does not have to try at being “prophetic.” There is nothing self-conscious about a foundational servant of the Lord. They are not speaking on behalf of their opinions or the lifting up of their reputations. They have been stricken with a vision of the majestic One, and they speak out of that reality.
I wonder why we have heard so much about prophets, why people will flock by the thousands to conferences and events in hopes of receiving a “personal prophetic word,” when so few have been willing to crack open the Scriptures to hear from the men whom the Lord Jesus valued as prophets. I’m not discounting the genuine works of the Spirit that we see in many circles. I’m asking some serious questions here. Could it be that we have in many ways made our own God, and have not been willing to receive Him as He is? If we are willing to chase men who call themselves prophets, and who have the latest insights and revelations which bring us a positive lift without dealing with the issue of sin, then who are we really hearing from? What manner of man is the prophet, and what manner of a God is he presenting and proclaiming?
I will likely be accused of discouraging the prophetic gifts by asking questions like this, but that is not my intention. We need to “eagerly desire” the gifts, and I have pursued the Lord for their increase in the church for over a decade. But I believe these questions are crucial for our future witness and testimony. If what we have known as prophetic has not brought us into the same consciousness, the same trembling, the same holiness, the same consecration, the same cosmic view that the prophets of Israel and the apostles of the New Testament came into, what can we say of its veracity? Is it the same prophetic reality?
Perhaps a measure of blessing comes as a result of many of these meetings and expressions. I am certain that the Lord is working in many ways through various expressions in the Body, and that healing and blessing have come to many in every setting where Jesus is being lifted up. Perhaps a facet of the Lord’s heart is received, and I don’t want to discount or disregard that. But where is the sense of the fear of the Lord? How can the Church go on with hundreds of pastors stepping down from ministry a month due to sexual sin? How can we blend in so successfully with a world that is moving at breakneck speed toward eternal judgment?
I am convinced that the stature and call of a prophet has not changed with the New Covenant, it has only deepened. Christ has become the center and fulfillment. The Gift of Prophecy has become available to all saints, and the Spirit which rested on the prophets of old has been poured out copiously because of the work of Christ.
Moses’ cry that all God’s people were prophets has become a brighter possibility, but we will not come into that prophetic reality if we are unwilling to receive Him as King, Father, and Judge. We will not come into that prophetic reality as long as we are chasing after faddish teachings or personality-exalting, success ministries. If the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then the Church has a responsibility to be sure that the God we are worshiping and proclaiming is the same as the God that the prophets and apostles of the Scriptures heralded. The cosmic view of the prophets revolved around God Himself, and if He is not being proclaimed as He has revealed Himself, we are in grave danger of falling into a pit with the other blind guides of our generation.
Could it be that with all of our teachings on the prophetic, all of our conferences on the prophetic, all of our insights of prophetic ministry, that most of us have yet to come into the kind of union with the Lord that produced the men who became foundational for our faith? I am thankful for every genuine furtherance of the work of the Spirit in recent years, but my heart is crying out for the fullness of Christ. I know there is a greater love, a greater sense of the fear of the Lord, a higher place of abandonment to His heart. O, for a greater vision of God Himself! The world is perishing for want of true servants who have come out from the holy place, proclaiming the truth of God with incandescent hearts!
“I would choose to see the brightness of the heavenly things, although their lightning-glory leave me blind henceforth to any earthly glow; and I would hear but once the voice of God Almighty sweep in thunder from His Throne, although from hence mine ear be deaf to the sweet trembling chime of this world’s music. I had rather stand a prophet of my God, with all the thrills of trembling, which must shake the heart of one who in earth’s garments, in the vesture frail of flesh and blood, is called to minister as seraphs do with fire- than bear the palm of any other triumph.” -Unknown author, quoted by Oswald Chambers
The Lord is jealous to mold and fashion a prophetic people, walking in the joy of the Lord and the brightness of His holiness. We need to be staggered and awakened from our fairy-tale paradigms, and brought into the revelation of God, and His coming Kingdom. Prophets will bring this necessary jolt.
The prophets of old foresaw a coming King, a Judgment approaching, and a glory covering the earth as a result. They wept in compassion over their own people, who could usually be found straying from the primacy of worship and the hope of His calling. They cried out in warning, with a merciful identification and an intercessory burden. They were glowing witnesses during days of unrighteousness. What will we be in our generation, friends?
If the Lord is jealous to raise up a prophetic Church that loves with His love, is holy as He is holy, and extends His Kingdom to Israel and the nations, how can we give ourselves to any other pursuit, whether secular or religious?
God Himself is coming, saints, and we are not prepared for His coming. Israel is not yet ready. The nations are drastically ill-prepared. When He comes, He will come as Judge and Saviour. There will be terrible judgment and devastation, nations rising up against nations as never before. To the degree that the Lord has a Church of this quality in the earth, to that degree will salvation, revival, and mercy break forth in the midst of the upheaval.
We have a prophetic call to weep and pray, to give ourselves to time in worship and in the Scriptures. We have a call to purify our hands and cleanse our hearts from the sin and pride of this age. We have a responsibility to speak the truth to one another in love. We have a mandate to proclaim His Gospel in every dark place.
What kind of view are you walking in? Does your vision for life consist of a hollow 60 to 70 years of pursuing your own pleasures and wants? Is your vision for ministry a mere hope for success in the worldy sense, accolades from family, friends and colleagues? Or have you been stricken with the majesty of God and brought into the heavenly vision?
We need something more than a Christian T-Shirt and a tract, friends. We need something more than an impeccable model for Church structure. We need something more than impressive buildings and state-of- the-art equipment. We need a cosmic view. We need to see what the prophets of old saw. They saw the beauty and holiness of God. They had glimpses of His coming Kingdom, and they came into the realization that the earth was tottering under the weight of sin, pride and rebellion. Out of the revelation of God, intertwined with glimpses of His coming, they cried out for mercy. If we are not crying out as they did, it’s because we are not seeing as they saw.
JUDGMENT IS NOT THE FINAL WORD
As we come into prophetic reality, we will see mercy and salvation released in our day. And at the end of this age, we will see the ultimate release of righteousness and mercy when “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2. Thess. 1.7-8)
The cosmic view of the prophets did not end in the Judgment. They were possessed by a Divine hope. Judgment, trouble, and turbulence do mark the end of the age, but tribulation is not the final word. The prophetical visions in Scripture end in great glory, the permanent destruction of death, the removal of all sin and sickness, and the indestructible reality of a New Heaven and New Earth inhabited by God Himself!
The prophets panted for this day, the apostles yearned for His return, and they all labored for an expression of that future Kingdom in their present experiences. What a view to abide in. What a hope! What a worship-inducing vision. The hour is later than we know, and the King of Glory is coming. Are you content to spend your days devoid of this cosmic view? Are you treating life with a holy sobriety? Do you have a cry for the fullness of Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom in the nations, or are you content with something less?
“The Bible stirs up an intense and unquenchable hope that an age of time coming on this earth, inconceivably wonderful, when all that we have ever dreamed will fade into silly fancies beside the reality.” -Oswald Chambers
O God, restore the reality of the prophetic vision. We want to more actively join the company of these foundational servants. Let our lives burn with the same passion, brim with the same hope, tremble with the same awe, and love with the same heart. Bring about the recovery of prophetic reality, and let your Name be glorified in Jerusalem, and in the cities of the earth.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: God, Heschel, holiness, Oswald Chambers, prophecy, prophets
“Have you been half-asleep, and have you heard voices? I’ve heard them calling my name. I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it. There’s something that I’m supposed to be. Someday, we’ll find it…the rainbow connection: the lovers, the dreamers, and me” (The Rainbow Connection, by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher).
Most all of us have heard that song—it floated through our childhood through the voice of Kermit the Frog sitting on a log near his pond and dreaming of something more. Have you ever stopped to analyze the words? Have you ever felt something stirring inside of you—calling you to be the person you were created to be? Have you ever felt a Voice inside you telling you that you were born for a purpose, or been told something by someone that you know is what some people might call a “prophetic word”: a word that resonates inside of you and says, “God knows you and knows where you are, He created you, loves you, and is calling you forward into your destiny?”
We all have a destiny, and a loving Creator dreamt a dream of us as He formed us in our mother’s womb. Although it cannot be proven scientifically that He sang over us as we were growing and on the day of our birth, the proof is in the hunger we all feel, at times, to reach for a dream—a vision—a hunger meant to bring us straight to His arms and lead us to His heart. If we stop and listen, we can almost hear a Voice urging us to leave this job, or take that job, or stay where we are and enjoy the contentment of being right where we need to be.
Still, in the changes of stretching for “more”, or in the joy of being where we need to be, the oceans and expansive universe—the depths of the heavens—stir a knowledge in our souls that there is more even than what we are experiencing. The more is a loving God who made us, and calls us, and waits for us to come to Him—to be still enough to let Him find us. He is always waiting to encourage, correct, rejoice with us or mourn with us, and His word at times collides with our world in a voice we can hear: a word (that we define as prophecy or a word of knowledge) that gets inside of us, and changes us, and fills us with purpose and with the awesomeness of being cared for by Him, and we are never again the same.
Moses is an example of this. Picture the scene: “Moses.” The lonely sheepherder stopped and looked around. Who had called his name? “Moses.” Fire leapt to life and crackled in the bush beside him; Moses jumped back from the flames and then leaned in closer to hear. Strange as it sounds, Moses heard the Voice of God—Yahweh–the Creator: the One who had seen Moses’ failure in Egypt and his escape into the desert; the One who was calling Moses back to who he was born to be. Into that place of quiet desperation, God spoke and awakened purpose in Moses’ heart again. With one word of prophecy, God told Moses that He was sending Moses back to Egypt to set the nation of Israel free from slavery and lead them to a Promised Land. Although Moses was scared, the Voice couldn’t be anyone other than God—no one but Moses’ creator knew the pain Moses must have felt at being forced to hide in the desert after killing an Egyptian and all the questions that had raced through Moses’ mind about whether his family—the other Israelites—would ever be free. In one instant, God stepped into Moses’ world, spoke straight into Moses’ heart, and encouraged him, giving him hope for the future and strength to carry the word inside of him until he saw it come to pass.
That word was severely tested over the next days, weeks, months, and years. Still, Moses held onto that word, and the day came when he stood on a mountain and looked over into the Promised Land where the Israelites would live free. God’s Word in our hearts—prophecies we’ve received—may hide for a season and seem to go unfulfilled, but in the end, what God speaks will always come to pass. The question is: will we listen? Will we give His word room to grow inside of us? Will we love Him even more than the fulfillment of His promises; will that love help us endure and trust Him when everything around us whispers that it was all a lie? Will we line ourselves up with His word—developing His character inside of us and setting aside things that could hinder that word like a mother sets aside anything that would harm her baby’s growth?
These days, people serve so many things: money; drugs; fame; sex, etc. They decide that “anything goes;” “nothing matters;” “what works for you is okay for you,” but none of these philosophies really satisfy. Inside, there is a voice calling us—telling us that there is a Way; a Truth; a Life, and the only answer is in Jesus Christ, and in letting His words wash over us and encourage us. His Word comes to bring purpose to our hearts again. His Word tells us that He created us, He loves us, and He came to show us the way into the ultimate Promised Land—eternity with Him. He is always speaking, and it is a joy when His word collides with our world in a word that we can hold onto and cling to when hard times come. His promises—as prophetic words of a future and hope in Him—are true. So, to quote again that song: with His Word in our hearts (His promises as a connection of covenant and love leading the way), “someday, we’ll find it…the rainbow connection: the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”
Posted in Life & Family Tagged with: destiny, dream, prophecy
At the funeral of a family member recently, the pastor of the church at which the funeral was held recounted how in the last weeks of the deceased man’s life, he had met with and preached the gospel to him. The man was literally dying of alcoholism, and it was apparent he had only a little time to live. After weeks of rejecting the evangelistic offerings of the pastor, the man finally answered the pastor’s question of “How do you know you’ll be in heaven when you die?” with a response acknowledging that he had asked Jesus to be his savior. A few days later he was dead.
The story was encouraging, knowing the sinful and God-rejecting life my family member had lived, however, the pastor’s proclamation following the account gave me pause. He told the people at the service that because of the man’s profession, he was now in heaven, and that if we wanted to meet him after our death, that we needed to accept Jesus as well. Perhaps it was because I had been intensively praying and studying on the subject of Hell at the time, but the declaration the pastor made rang in my ears. He wasn’t simply sharing his religious beliefs… he was making a prophecy! And a very bold prophecy at that, considering the way the deceased had lived his life, and the lack of evidence of authentic conversion and repentance. (Did Paul not say that drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God?)
I asked myself, did this pastor really know that this person was in Heaven? Had he with fear and trembling searched the scriptures and received revelation from Heaven that he was accepted in God’s sight? Or was he simply following his particular denomination’s statement of faith, noting that the man had performed the correct religious ritual to attain salvation? What a profound and ultimate prophecy we utter when we pronounce judgment on what a person’s fate will be at the great resurrection of the dead, I hope and pray it is taken seriously.
When we share our faith with others, are we simply giving our or our denomination’s opinion on the matter? Or are we declaring with authority that which we know to be true? Some church movements advocate having flexible “conversations” rather than proclaiming our beliefs to people as truth, and surely this is the best approach to take if we are not sure we are right on a particular subject. However, if we are not absolutely sure about core faith issues such as the resurrection and return of Jesus the Messiah, then whatever we may be, we are not the Church that Jesus and the Apostles founded, and should not identify ourselves as such. (Perhaps philosophical social club would be a better word?)
So, if authentic faith in Jesus requires the proclamation of the good news as fact rather than opinion, what is the manner in which it should be proclaimed? I would like to propose a paradigm shift in evangelism away from sharing our beliefs, and to proclaiming a prophetic gospel. Consider the following account of Paul in Athens:
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”–because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD ‘ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst.
— Acts 17:16-33, NASB
In the midst of a people that loved to hear about new ideas, Paul proclaims He who is the ultimate end to what they had been searching for. Rather than submitting his beliefs into the mix as one more idea to consider, perhaps hoping for his message to be considered more logical or more attractive than others, he supersedes all other ideas by declaring to know and speak on behalf of the creator of all ideas. The god that was unknown to the Athenians was no longer unknown to them, Paul was proclaiming to them who He was, and in the process was showing the Athenians who they were. Are we missing part of the real and authentic gospel, if we retreat from speaking with such authority and conviction?
Paul ends his appeal with a startling prophecy. A day is coming in which all men everywhere will be raised from the dead for the purposes of judgment, God has proven it by raising the one who will do the judging from the dead already, and they therefore need to repent of their ignorance and sin and believe in this man of judgment. Rather than merely a doctrinal point to be studied, this was a startling prophecy that had real application to the people he was talking to. Either he was right or he was wrong, but the men hearing the prophecy didn’t simply “appreciate” it as a “beautiful religious belief”… he was either a lunatic or a man to be taken very, very seriously. Both responses can be seen in the text.
When we preach the gospel, it is both the fullfilment of prophecy and prophecy itself. Every word of God is precious, and just as there is a grave need to jealously guard our speech with regard to individual prophecies and revelations we give, we need to guard the universal prophecies that the Body of the Messiah has been given stewardship over in this time, the premier one being an expectation for salvation through Jesus both now and at His returning. As we guard it, let us also proclaim it in the spirit in which it was first given, when the gospel was by its very nature prophetic.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Athens, denomination, Hell, judgment, Paul, prophecy, prophets, religious beliefs
Over 1900 years ago Paul warned Timothy that, “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3). That time has come. We are witnessing it in our day. So few want to hear the truth anymore!
The Church of today is like Israel of old: “They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!’” (Isa. 30:10-11).
“We’ve heard enough of this judgment message” — but the judgment is now at the door! “We’re tired of hearing so much preaching on repentance” — but you still have not truly repented! “We’ve had it with this holiness emphasis” — but the holy God dwells in our midst!
So many of us in leadership today are guilty of telling the people what they want to hear. We feed them what they think they need. What parent in their right mind would ever do such a thing with their child? Yet many leaders do it with their flocks and faithful supporters. “We don’t want to lose any of our members, do we?” Or, “This message will never bring in the bucks. It will hurt our ministry income!” Or, “If I tell the truth the people will get offended!” Yet we are willing to offend the Lord!
Remember, it was the people of Israel — not Babylon, not Assyria, not Canaan, not Egypt — but God’s own chosen nation that “made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy” (Amos 2:12). They told those who were set apart as holy to the Lord to lower their standards, to quit being extremists, to give up their separation to God. “Just be one of the gang! All of us are children of the Lord. You’ve taken consecration too far!” They told the prophets to shut up. They didn’t want to hear from heaven. “Give us good news and blessings. Tell us the future is bright.” But the prophets had bad news and curses. The future was dark and bleak. Israel wouldn’t repent. How could God shower them with grace?
King Ahab had itching ears. His “prophets” were yes-men and liars. They told him to go and make war against Ramoth Gilead, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand” (1 Kin. 22:6). Four hundred prophets agreed. But Jehoshaphat wasn’t satisfied. “‘Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?’ The king answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah’” (1 Kin. 22:6-7). He had the word of the Lord!
The king’s messenger went to get Micaiah: “Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably” (1 Kin. 22:13). What an incredible line! “Micaiah, tell us we’ll win! Tell us we’ll be victorious!” — even if God knows we’re doomed! How deceived itching ears really are! The four hundred prophets were wrong. The king and his court were wrong. The armies of Israel were wrong. Micaiah alone knew the truth: “So now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you. . . . Mark my words, all you people” (1 Kin. 22:23, 28). Hours later, Ahab was dead, an enemy’s arrow lodged in his chest, and Israel was defeated and fled.
Sooner or later — by God’s grace may it be sooner! — we are going to have to learn that “where all approve, few profit” (John Wesley). The preaching of the cross does not always please the crowds. They reject a God who has standards and laws. They cast off His yoke as a burden. “He’s an old-fashioned kill-joy,” they say.
And some even fall further than this. They hear and agree but do not take heed. They ask for God’s message and ignore what it says. “My people come to you [Ezekiel], as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (Ezek. 33:31-32). Those with itching ears really don’t want to hear. Never cater to them.
The road to destruction is still broad and wide, and the highway to life is as straight as it ever has been. Our big-hearted God has a very narrow mind when it comes to righteousness. We must tell our people the truth! “Ministers are not cooks, but physicians and therefore should not study to delight the palate, but to recover the patient” (Jean Daille). Compromise is cowardice. Flattery is foolishness. Man-pleasers are God-insulters. When will we get our priorities straight?
We have many who tickle the ear, few who prick the heart; many who soothe the grieving mind, few who search the guilty conscience; many who put the people to sleep, few who make them mourn and weep. Where are the prophets of God? We are strong on comforting the sorrowing sheep but weak on confronting the sinning saints; strong on building up what God has not established and weak on tearing down what man has embellished. Our hearts are caught up in this world. We need a blast from heaven.
How many of today’s radio and TV preachers are bringing a challenging, convicting, life-shaking message from the Throne? How many preach the cross and make the flesh uncomfortable? Who is waking up the slumbering church? Who is warning our nation?
Someone is going to have to tell America that she is sick and dying. Someone is going to have to tell her that the party is over. Someone is going to have to prepare her — including the church within her — for radical surgery. The time of pruning is now!
Enough with our feel-good gospel. Enough with our self-serving message. It’s time for the fire to fall — and wherever it falls it will scorch. Do our people smell the smoke in the air, or like Nero, will they fiddle their lives away while America (today’s Rome?) burns to the ground? The collapse of our society looms near. Will we be watchmen — or will we be wimps?
What an indictment it will be against countless pastors, prophets and preachers when their people stand up and say, “But you didn’t tell us the truth! You didn’t give us warning in advance! And we thought you were watching for our souls. You must not have really cared.”
Will that be the charge against us?
Posted in Revolution & Justice Tagged with: holiness, judgment, prophecy, prophets, repentance, seers, visions