Have you ever thought about prophecy? What comes up for you? Has it been damaging, helpful, scary, or just downright weird? I think we all have heard someone prophesy the end of the world and then it doesn’t happen, so what does that even mean? How can we tell when a prophecy is true? And do we just disregard them all?
As I’ve entered into leadership at my church, and gotten my pastoral license with Foursquare, I’ve realized that prophecy is vital to a growing relationship with Christ, and it also doesn’t have to be weird, or hurtful, or scary. It’s just God speaking to us through His people: God speaking to others through you. And if we want God to speak to us—and to others through us—we’ve got to breakdown this weirdness, and find the truth. I thought I’d share with you my journey here, and maybe we’ll see some breakthrough of the Holy Spirit in our world, as we all learn what it means to prophesy.
As I reluctantly tiptoed into prophecy—really hoping the Bible would let me off the hook for this one—I found this verse:
“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1
Wait, I have to “earnestly desire” prophesy? I have to earnestly desire burning-bush, face-to-the-floor, spiritually-glowing moments with God, and then I have to tell people about them, as loudly and as often as I can? How? When? Where was this supposed to occur? And did it really have to be me, here, now?
And then the more I looked into it, I was lead to the Holy Spirit outpouring at Pentecost, and the reminder (by Peter) of the words from the prophet Joel:
““And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.’” Joel 2:28-32
So what are we to do with this information? With this foreign call for us to prophecy? It is very clear in this verse from Joel that all of us— sons and daughters, old and young— will be receiving words from the Holy Spirit, and that when He pours them out, we’re supposed to share them. And since we have the Holy Spirit outpouring at Pentecost, then the time is now; we’re living this prophecy.
There are two schools of thought that I won’t get into super deeply here: continuationists, and cessationists. The continuationists believe that the Holy Spirit and the gifts being poured out during Pentecost, still exist today. The cessationists believe that it was a situation that occurred during Pentecost, but doesn’t still exist today. For the purposes of my thoughts on prophecy, we are going with the continuationist theory: the Holy Spirit is alive and well and working in our lives today, just as much as when the Spirit was first poured out.
But before I begin this series on the myths about prophecy and how we can combat them and truly “pursue” and “earnestly desire” the gift of prophecy, we need to define the word. What in fact is prophecy, and what is it not?
When I became a Foursquare pastor last year, it became very apparent to me that prophecy was of high value in the Foursquare Church. In our specific church, it doesn’t happen in big-church Sunday; but in leadership team meetings, small groups, and prayer times it is a commonly occurring thing. And much to my surprise: it is not weird.
I think when we come to prophecy we really have to clear our mind of all the weirdness that comes with a word as heavy and important as prophecy. In the book “Prophesy,” by Benjamin Dixon, he gives this simple and straight-forward definition: “a message inspired by God, communicated through a person (14-15).” For the purpose of this blog series, we will stick with this definition.
My intent for this conversation about prophecy is to tear down the walls and misconceptions that prevent us from moving forward into our own prophetic ministry. That may sound big and scary— believe me it does to me— but when we think about it as just a word from God, given to others, it stops being weird. We know God speaks to us through His Word, through our friends, and through people preaching on Sunday, so why do we push away the possibility that God could speak through us to others?
Charles Spurgeon was a cessationist, but in some ways he believed in the Holy Spirit’s power to speak to others through him, but he didn’t call it prophecy:
“‘There are occasionally impressions of the Holy Spirit which guide men where no other guidance could have answered the end. . . . I have been the subject of such impressions myself and have seen very singular results therefrom.’” (Spurgeon, Well Ordered Life, 368).
So whether you want to call it prophecy, or “impressions of the Holy Spirit,” or a “message inspired by God, communicated through a person,” we’re all talking about the same thing. God can and will speak to us through the Holy Spirit, and it could be a message for someone else.
So these next few weeks as I tell you my experiences with prophecy, and discuss some myths about prophecy in our world today, I’d love for you to do the same. Examine your hearts, your minds, your preconceived notions: what do you think about prophecy?
I encourage you to ask God to reveal to you where you stand, and how you can enter in more deeply. And ask the Lord: what am I to learn from this? What can I take home from these words and use for His good?
If we all enter into listening to the Holy Spirit, and speaking what he speaks to us to others: imagine what that could do for the world.
In the past, I have lacked the confidence to speak into another’s life. I’ve learned, first, that God’s ideas are usually way too smart for me to think of, on my own. And secondly, that they always align with scripture. My 2 cents…
Yes! Always align with scripture, and are always higher than our thoughts 🙂