Delivering a Prophetic Vision (Mennocostal IHOPKC Onething2013 Series)

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“And it shall come to pass afterwards,
    that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29 – http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joel%202:28-29&version=ESVUK)

Have you ever met someone who was so in-tune with the Word of God and could hear God’s voice so clearly that they spoke tremendous truths into your life and brought immense encouragement into a situation that you never even addressed with them personally?  If so, it is very likely that you have met someone with the prophetic gift!

Now before you start getting carried away and thinking that all of this is just some type of Charismatic hoopla, let me stop you for a minute and explain the gift of prophesy.

Before going to IHOPKC, I personally had a lot of doubts about prophesy.  I didn’t grow up in a church which believed in the prophetic gifts, and I had never received a prophesy myself which made any degree of sense. At least I didn’t think I had.  But that’s because I had the wrong idea of what prophesy was!  Like many people, I believed that prophesy was some type of fortune telling akin to the lady with the crystal ball and tarot cards.  I believed prophets to largely be people who were making things up for the sake of gaining attention.  However, at IHOP I acquired a different understanding of what prophesy is.  Sometimes a prophet might be able to speak a word into your life concerning some future event which is to take place, however, more often than not it is about confirming stirrings which others have already started to feel, encouraging individuals about where they’re at in their walk with God while making them crave more, and boldly declaring the Scriptures through rightly dividing the Word of Truth.[1]  People who exercise the prophetic gifts often have a keen sense of observation, a deep level of empathetic compassion which enables them to literally feel the needs and hurts of others, and an ability to pray through the Spirit in an intercessory way which the average young Christian cannot.  Prophets also must have enormous Spiritual maturity as it is a gift which has great potential to be abused.  It is for this reason that when someone prophesies over you it becomes very important to be on your guard and to use discernment before accepting a Word from the Lord for there are many false prophets in our generation.[2]  It is also important to test all the Spirits to see if the Spirit behind the Word is coming from God or a person’s wrongful desires.[3]  You will know that the Word comes from God if it brings you encouragement or admonition into an area of your life that you have been seeking out God’s will for and if it comes as reinforcement or reassurance to questions already brought before the Lord.  On the other hand, if the Word seems to go contrary to other doctrinal teachings and contradicts Scripture itself, you can be sure that there is some reason to raise a level of concern about the Prophetic Utterance.[4]  Finally, if the Word is truly from God, it should also be consistent.  Therefore, the teaching of Prophesy is to ask at least one or two other prophets to see if they receive the same direction from God concerning your life.[5]  If all the prophets reveal the same message than you can be sure that the prophets truly had the gift of God.  On the other hand, if a prophet mentions something unsettling to you or which does not seem to fit and you approach other prophets who do not have the same Word for you and the Words seem to be entire disconnected, it may be possible that you have come into contact with at least one false prophet!   That’s not to say that God will never disturb you through a Prophetic Word.  Just like the Prophet Nathan, sometimes God calls us to prophesy difficult realities over others on topics we would much rather avoid or which are somewhat unpleasant.[6]  Yet, even when God brings our sin to light, a true Prophet should be able to also deliver some level of hope to the situation.

The most common form of prophesy is likely in the form of Prophetic Utterances of Scripture.  If you listen to the majority of people who truly have the gift of prophesy, you will notice that somewhere between 80-95% of what they are saying is either Scripture word for word or messages which are hidden within the Scriptures.  They aren’t just pulling words out of the air, rather they are saying specific verses which are able to speak truth into your circumstance.  Prophetic Utterances of Scripture are verses which are spoken at the right time and in the right way.  Just like the book of Proverbs tells us, “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”[7]  This is yet another way to test if a person is truly prophetic or not.  If you have doubts, you can think back to what they told you and try to match it up with the actual Word of God.  A true prophet cannot contradict what God Himself says!  Oftentimes, when people prophesy they may be able to give it to you in writing or via a recording.  This makes it even easier to look back at their prophesy to not only see if it came true, but also to see if it is following the Word of God.[8]

Sometimes people have this mistaken understanding that prophesy will reveal something life altering to them.  However, this is often not the case.  For the most part, prophesy simply confirms stirrings that have already been in your heart for quite some time or things that you have been praying about (or have been on your mind) for a while.  These thoughts or images that have been pressing on your soul for the last little while may not be anything grand, they may not be a new calling or a new life direction, but nevertheless, hearing a prophet declare truth over the situation you are struggling with can still bring much encouragement.  Oftentimes, these confirmations can be revealed to a prophet during prayer.  Be wary of a prophet who prophesies without first opening in a word of prayer.  Often the Holy Spirit must be tapped into and invited into our midst so that we can truly discern the Word of God.  Without asking the Spirit to come we are simply taking words at random and hoping that they will somehow apply to the situation.

Also, do not doubt your own personal experiences and what Christ is teaching you.  Often a prophetic word which God has given directly to you concerning your own life can be used as a prophesy to others.  Sometimes I have been in a group of people and been able to sense a certain struggle and other times I have simply shared in general terms what Christ had been laying on my heart or teaching me only to hear murmurs from others that that was also a word to them.  Sometimes people were truly encouraged because it felt to them like God was giving a direct Word to them, even though in reality I was just sharing what Christ was teaching me that day.  That’s how prophesy happens sometimes.  It can happen organically.

The very first times I received a prophetic word, I had so many doubts that I often went in with this type of attitude that the prophet should be able to reveal everything about me even though they had never met me before.  I thought that prophesy was exactly like having a tarot card reading.  However, I soon learned that God does not reveal everything about your situation to someone even if they have the strongest gift of prophesy that you will ever encounter.  Personally, I believe this is one way that God protects us.  Sometimes, like in King David’s case, the exact sin is laid before the Prophet.[9]  However, more often than not, our personal sins simply stay between God and us.  There is no reason for a prophet to know all that is going on in our minds and our hearts.  In many instances God only gives as much knowledge to a prophet as is beneficial to the relationship and will bring healing and wholeness to us.  It is for this reason that I’ve had many people minister to me prophetically in ways that were so specific they could not be generic without the person ever saying specifically what I was struggling with.  They may not have known the circumstance, but God revealed enough to them about it that they could deliver a prophetic word which let me know that it was directly from God and that God had given them a specific insight and filled them with compassion because of it. 

I think part of the reason that IHOP has become such a controversial movement is simply because they DO place so much emphasis on the prophetic gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I do not agree with every teaching that IHOP espouses on prophesy, however, I think that perhaps the fact that it is controversial means that maybe, just maybe, they are doing the work of Christ who taught us that “if they hate you, keep in mind that they hated Me first.”[10]  Jesus used strong language here.  He didn’t say, “if they don’t get along with you”, “if they aren’t buddy-buddy with you,” or “if they don’t really like you.” NO.  He said, if they HATE you.  If they persecute you.[11]  If they say all kinds of evil things against you.[12]  Our culture, even our churches, have become so politically correct.  So cautious about offense.  There’s nothing politically correct about the Gospels!  The fact that IHOP is offensive to some shows that to a degree they have gone back to the Biblical roots of Christ!

Perhaps gifts of the Holy Spirit are as foreign to you as living cross-culturally.  Perhaps you don’t know where you stand.  But maybe that’s the point.  Maybe the point is to begin to question and to begin to search out the Scriptures fervently and ask God and trusted mentors in prayer what it’s all about.  Maybe the point is that it will never fully make sense to us until we reach glorious perfection – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  If I understood it would take away the glorious mystery.  But I can still trust and wait regardless.

Actually, it’s crazy looking back at my experience with prophesy and prophetic utterances.  Now that I have a deeper and clearer understanding of what prophesy means I realize that I have often experienced it, sometimes even by people who don’t even believe in the prophetic gifts!   I have experienced words of prophesy as interpretations of tongues, as encouragement from peers at Tyndale who spoke into a circumstance without even knowing it fully, and through the occasional dream or vision which God gifted me with and left me with a burning to passionately intercede for someone in need of prayer.  Yet, until recently, I didn’t even know that those instances were examples of prophesy!  It’s so cool when I think of the fact that I, who once was sceptical, have been so filled with the Holy Spirit both during and after the IHOP conference that I have almost completely forgotten what it’s like to not believe in the charismatic gifts.  I almost catch myself asking the former Deborah, “how could you not see it?  It was happening right before your eyes the entire time!”  But that’s the beauty of grace and faith.  That’s the beauty of realizing that I never knew what it was called so I could not claim it as a lovely blessing sent right from the lap of God.

Not everyone has the gift of giving prophesy, but all of us who are Christians have the ability to strengthen our capacity to hear the Voice of the Bridegroom and through being attentive to that Voice to offer encouragement and support to others.[13]  Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s some further info about prophesy if you’re interested: http://www.kingwatch.co.nz/Prophetic_Ministry/testing_prophets.htm

 


Reflections of a Mennocostal – My IHOPKC Experience (An Introduction to A Blogging Series)

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INTRO TO IHOP: No I am not talking about pancakes…although I do love the IHOP restaurant which I frequented during my days as a seminary student living in Indiana…yum… I drool just thinking of it.  Instead I am talking about an international prayer movement which is spreading around the globe and which the Holy Spirit recently used to break me, wreck me, and mess me up (in a good way).  Let me introduce this movement to you in the next few paragraphs.

Every year tens of thousands from over 100 different nations around the globe flock to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.  Tens of thousands more join the IHOP movement through a live online web streaming of their 24/7 prayer room (which you can access here: (http://www.ihopkc.org/prayerroom/).  IHOP has also gained momentum over the years even offering a university program focused on intercession with majors in media, ministry, music, and missions.  IHOP also offers inner-city and prayer internships, has helped develop several well-known musicians including Misty Edwards and Jon Thurlow, and offers vibrant ministries for children, as well as deliverance ministry for those affected by the sex-trade (known as Exodus Cry: http://exoduscry.com/).  IHOPs are located in many other locations across the United States and a few IHOPs are being formed in both developed and developing countries around the world.  There is also a similar movement in Toronto called THOP (Toronto House of Prayer: http://www.thop.ca/). 

With all of these ministries, it would appear that he Holy Spirit is in this movement, however, not everyone thinks so.  Toted as a revival movement by some and a cult by others, leader and founder, Mike Bickle (http://mikebickle.org/) and speakers associated with the ministry such as Lou Engle are both loved as well as scorned.

Throughout the years, people have, however unfortunately and unrightly, developed inaccurate representations of what IHOP is and I admit that when I went to the One Thing young adult’s conference from December 28th-31st, 2013, I was anything but sold out on the movement.[1]  I was skeptical at best and cynical at worst.  Being a General Conference Mennonite, I’ve always been cautious about charismatic worship, even though over the past 4 years, God has been leading me deeper and deeper into manifestations of the Spirit which I can’t ignore.  I came to IHOP because I was curious – I wasn’t really expecting much.  I literally thought that people would roar like lions and that there would be gold dust and proclamations that people can raise from the dead.  But that’s not what I discovered!  Instead I discovered beautiful new friendships strategically placed in my life, believers passionate about prayer, and a deepened journey with Christ in my own life.

In the following paragraphs I want to share with you just a taste of what God laid on my heart at this conference and why I feel like if I keep it in it will be fire to my bones.[2]

The amazing think about IHOP is that it is a ministry consumed by a passion for prayer.  They do evangelism, social justice, and worship, but everything revolves around an attitude and posture of all day and all night prayer.  This is a unique ministry for although all ministries which are of God pray fervently, very few have someone sustaining it through prayer literally during every hour of the day and night. 

What also surprises me about this movement is that people keep coming back and every year the ministry grows exponentially.  When I asked a young woman from my group who attended her fourth One Thing conference what the draw was she replied, “It’s the longevity.  The fact that it’s the oldest prayer movement in North America, and Francis Chan is speaking.”  She also remarked that One Thing has incredible worship and people are so touched by it that they share that excitement with their friends who then become curious.  Almost everyone in attendance at the conference is there because they have experienced the worship before and loved it or they have heard of someone else’s experience of worship and wanted to join in.

These two things surprise me, but perhaps the biggest surprise is how people who have never even attended IHOP think lowly of this movement.  I DON’T agree with some of the doctrinal theology or priorities which encompass this movement, but I also can’t deny that God has ministered to thousands here – which is why they keep returning, sometimes more than once a year.  We wonder where the youth are in the church but when over 31,000 young adults all gather to worship in one place we disregard it as a cult rather than glorifying the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the thing: If God would have made me want to love Him more, but not given me the Holy Spirit, it would have been enough.

If God would have poured out the Spirit, but not given me a specific missional calling it would have been enough.

If God would have given me a calling, but not spoken into my brokenness, it would have been enough.

If God would have spoken into my brokenness, but not filled me with a love of worship it would have been enough.

But God in His mercy showed me all these things and so much more!

 

It’s incredible how I went to IHOPKC with a group of about 50 young adults ages 18-30 and in sharing testimonies with each other throughout the conference was encouraged to discover that each one was challenged by God in a different way and for different purposes.  Each and everyone from our group has left changed – with a greater passion to know God and a greater desire to do the Will of the Father.

Personally, I left knowing that I want to fall in love with God in the same way that Jacob fell in love with Rachel.  He loved her so much that he worked for 14 years but to him it didn’t even feel like a day because he was so consumed by his love for her.[3]  That’s what I want my relationship with God to look like.  I want to start spending more time WITH God rather than just FOR Him.  I want to go and tell others all that I have seen and heard, how the lame now walk, the blind now see, and the deaf now hear.[4]  I want to see women receive their dead back to life![5]

So, was it worth it to drive 20 hours to the Midwest with a bunch of people I’ve never met, live off of 5 hours of sleep for 6 days, and leave all technology at home fasting from social media?  I think it was.  Allow me to share why in the next several blogs.

KEY LEARNINGS FROM IHOP: I have decided to devote the next several blogs on ZwiebachandPeace to the work that the Holy Spirit accomplished in my life through attending IHOPKC.  I do this with the understanding and discernment (through listening to the voice of the Spirit) that although there are some things which are meant to be of a private nature, between God and I, there are also many things which God confirmed to me would be an encouragement to other believers from around the globe.

My next few blogs will address: 1) A Four Part Series on the Following:

A)     Developing and Remaining in a posture of prayer at all times. 

~ Learning how to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer and fasting.

B)     Expecting great things and revival to happen

~ Great things may happen in miraculous ways, but more often than not they happen in the stillness of our souls and in the sound of sheer silence.[6]

 

C)    Delivering a Prophetic Vision

~ Prophesy is perhaps the one gift that requires the most discernment for there are many false prophets.[7]

~ Many people believe that prophesy is fortune telling so they regard it as ungodly, however, more often than not it is about confirming stirrings which others have already started to feel, encouraging them about where they’re at in their walk with God while making them crave more, and boldly declaring the Scriptures through rightly dividing the Word of Truth.[8]
~ Rev. 22:6

 

D)    Cultivating the Multicultural Reality of Heaven on Earth

~I live in Toronto – the most multicultural place in the world.  There are many times when I am the only visible minority on the bus BECAUSE I AM WHITE!  But compared to Heaven, Toronto is pale, not tastefully colourful.  Heaven is a way more multicultural reality than what any of us can experience anywhere on this earth.

~ Scripture Verse: Revelation 5:9-10

2) Invitation to be an Intercessory Missionary and to Join the Night Watch

~ Practicing 24/7 prayer here on earth so that when we get to heaven we will be used to it and look forward to it (Revelation 4)

~ Revelation 21:22-26, Revelation 22:5

3) Reclaiming the Art of Biblical Fasting

 

WHY THE BLOGGING SERIES? IHOP really messed me up in a good way.  It made my faith so much more of a priority for me.  God taught me so much from this conference.  In 4 days He taught me more than I have learned in the past four months!  He confirmed so many of my searches and gave me assurance for my doubts.  I honestly felt like every time I thought I had maximized the teachings of the Holy Spirit that God showed me something else.  I am blogging because I believe that God meant these lessons to be digested by our generation.  There are many things that God meant personally for me, they are private, individualized instructions and calls to confession and repentance.  Obviously I won’t share those, but I will share the other words God gave me which He confirmed were meant not just for me.  They are meant as encouragement for the faithful and an admonition to wake up for those asleep in their sins.[9]  I share because I believe God wants this generation to move and impact the world.  I believe God wants this generation to be mighty for Him, constantly heading His call.  But I believe it doesn’t start and end with us, no!  I believe our hearts will be joined with the faithful saints of old and with the mighty generation of believers coming after us.  I share these thoughts as an offering to God because I believe the Mennonite church needs revival.  I believe the Catholic, United, Anglican, and Lutheran Church needs revival.  I believe the Baptist and Reformed churches need revival.  I even believe that the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches need revival!  We’ve been stagnant and lukewarm for far too long and God is tired of it![10]  He is calling us to so much, only a fraction of it which He revealed to me.  In the last days He will reveal so much more of His vision to any man or woman who boldly heeds His call and is truly willing to impart those truths to the nations.[11]  Just like Jesus said to Philip when he recognized Christ as Lord and asked that he be able to see the Father “are you for real?  You and I have been tight for so long and yet it’s like you don’t even know Me. Whoa-oh, Baby!  You ain’t seen nothing yet!  You’re going to see so much more than just this.”[12]  In this House of Prayer with the hearts of thousands intertwined with God’s in prayer, worship, and genuine intercession God began to reveal to me the deepest longings of my own heart.  I hope you will also be able to experience such heavenly joy and delightful laughter in your own lives.

CONCLUSION: It’s an understatement to say that I went into IHOP with many prejudices. I went because I was curious – my charismatic experience confined to only a handful of experience of tongues, dreams, and visions.  Having been brought up in churches which do not engage in the gifts and often discouraged by church leaders when I pondered charismatic thoughts with them and shared my own experiences.

I was expecting Holy Laughter, people being slain in the spirit (looking like they were having seizures) and miraculous wonders.  Instead, what I saw was real people who are real in their relationship with Christ – totally sold out on Him.  I had many biases, but God used my lack of understanding in the prophetic to humble me.  I still don’t agree with all of the teachings, but it has left me seeking more.  Unsatisfied with where my years of theological education have left me and wanting my spirit to join fully in God’s unfinished mission.

 I could have chosen to let my inability to fully accept manifestations of the Spirit hinder me and hold me back, but then I never would have experienced Christ’s love impacting over 30,000 young adults all from different walks of life.  I may not understand everything that IHOP stands for, but the Holy Spirit is heavy upon this place.  Come see for yourself.  Come experience rapturous grace and the beauty and mystery in the fact that the Holy Spirit is simply too magnificent to be placed in the box of human comprehension.


All Things Charismatic – A Mennonite’s Perspective on Visions, Prophesy, and Miracles

Image If you read this article and you like it, you can check out some of my earlier thoughts on the Charismatic movement by reading this blog post: https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/a-mennonite-who-speaks-in-tongues/

In our modern world, the Charismatic movement has gotten a somewhat bad rap unless you are Pentecostal yourself.  There are two main ways of thinking of the charismatic movement according to the Christians that I have met.  The first way is to view it as a super incredible movement which is the answer to all of life’s problems.  I see this view played out all the time by churches which claim that they have raised people from the dead (I sincerely have my doubts about that one), go on mission’s trips with no other purpose than to preform healings, and have youth meetings where the only purpose is to receive Words from the Lord for one another.  Although these churches do provide a certain excitement around what the Spirit is saying to the churches[1], I actually feel this is doing a huge disservice.  Placing the expectation on youth and young adults that EVERYONE has the gift of prophesy or speaking in tongues not only adds a lot of pressure but is simply NOT Biblical.  The Bible does teach us that prophesy and speaking in tongues are both gifts,[2] yet by the same token it teaches us that of all the gifts speaking in tongues is the least important.[3]  Looking through the Scripture passages about gifts, we notice that there are many gifts but the same Spirit.[4]  Each gift (if used correctly) can be useful for edification of the church, but no one person has all of the gifts.[5]  In fact, the Apostle Paul reminds us that if everyone in the Body of Christ were an eye we would have no ears and if we had no ears how would we be able to hear?[6]

Yet, when churches make it sound like everyone should be able to receive Words from the Lord they are in effect saying that those who do not have the gift of Special wisdom or prophesy are somehow inferior Christians.  When I was at Tyndale, many of my charismatic friends believed that speaking in tongues was a sign of the Holy Spirit working in your life.  Speaking in tongues is indeed a Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 2 we read that in the first Pentecost this is exactly what was taking place.  People were speaking in tongues and little flames were dancing above their heads.[7]  Yet, for as much as Speaking in Tongues is a Baptism of the Holy Spirit it is only one mode of baptism among many.  I would say that the true Baptism of the Holy Spirit is when your life becomes completely consumed by Christ’s Word and when you begin to live a life that daily exemplifies His character.  After all, when contemplating what true faith is, the Apostle James writes that, “true and undefiled religion in the sight of God our Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep one’s self unstained from idols.”[8]  Looking at this verse reminds us of what the Baptism of Christ truly looks like – it is about doing service and acts of kindness to others, consoling them in their hurt and need, and focusing solely on Christ.  In a world that pushes for fame and recognition we are to keep ourselves pure and only care about the reputation we have in Christ.[9]

The second way of viewing the Charismatic movement is to view it with disdain as if it has no place in the church and in fact distracts from the true message of the cross.  I have no doubt that certain televangelists and teachers do distort the truth.  Their entire message is only one to get them fame and power, they do not actually follow the teachings of Christ.  Yet, at the same time as I disagree with these televangelists, to think that God no longer uses charismatic gifts does not make much sense in my opinion either.  Why do I say that?  For one, I find it hard to believe that God only granted the gifts of prophesy, healing, and miracles for a certain time period – why would He all of a sudden abolish them?  Why are they all of a sudden not important?   Second, how can we be negligent of the fact that the charismatic gifts are still happening all around us every day?  I have seen great things accomplished when my friends have laid hands on other people.  A few times I have received timely Words from the Lord that really spoke into my situation without the other person even being fully aware of what was happening.  Yet at other times, I also have received visions and have spoken in tongues in ways that have edified the Body of Christ.

I did not grow up in the Charismatic movement by any means and when I was younger I also had a negative view of Pentecostalism because I didn’t understand what it truly was.  I saw no point to rolling around and barking like dogs – in fact, I still don’t.  I still have my reservations on many things – gold teeth and being slain in the Spirit included.  Yet, as I have spent time at Tyndale I have come to learn that miracles still do take place and God has often spoken to me in dreams.

I think part of our resistance to the Charismatic movement is the fact that our worldview (if we are from the West) does not welcome these types of responses.  Our first response as Western Christians tends to be to attribute everything on science.  When someone is miraculously healed of cancer we thank the good doctors and surgeons who looked after them.  When a person is told they only have 6 more weeks to live and 6 months later they are completely pain free and moving on with their lives we say that the doctors misdiagnosed them.  We are human and we all make medical errors.  I’m not saying that skilled doctors and nurses don’t deserve our praise, but the truth is we don’t give credit where credit is due!

Yet, on the other hand, in my studies of Global Christianity I have become aware to the many medical and spiritual mysteries that are taking place in certain African and Asian countries where medical equipment is lacking.  Muslims from Africa who have never even heard the name of Jesus have often received visions of Him in their dreams and turned to Him as a result.  There was even one case that I heard about at Tyndale of a young woman who was illiterate and had never even heard of the Bible who received a vision before her (similar to the one Muhammad received) of an open Bible which she was able to read the pages on!  This woman converted to Christ and now evangelizes to others within her tribe!  How can we ignore the fact that these things are taking place and turn a blind eye to the fact that the charismatic movement is still sweeping our globe?

So, what do we do with these two conflicting views and which one is correct?  I would say they both are correct to some extent.  We should not fear the Spiritual gifts of prophesy and tongues, nor should we extoll them as being the important gifts thus insisting that those who have never received these opportunities are somehow less valuable to the Christian church than we are.  At all times, we need to test the Spirit because we know that Satan can use what is good and edifying as a way of destroying the church.[10]

How do we test the Spirit?  This is something that the churches I grew up in never taught me to do, but yet, without testing the Spirit we are opening ourselves up to potentially fatal consequences.  When you test the Spirit you need to first of all determine if what the person is saying makes any sense.  If what they are saying clearly goes contrary to the truths of the Scripture than it is not a true prophesy or vision.[11]  Secondly, their message needs to be timely and relevant to the person who it is being spoken to – if it is overly vague you should have some reservations about it.  Third, you should do your own research to determine if the word spoken to you really was meant for you and how it will play out in your life.  If you continue to be unsure about it ask trusted friends and mentors who have walked the Christian faith longer than you have, talk to your pastor or spiritual director, and continue to wrestle with Scripture on your own.

I would add a fourth idea for testing the Spirit even though I know some people would disagree with me.  In my own experience, I believe that receiving a word from the Lord needs to come out of some pre-existing relationship that you have with the other person.  It should be spoken out of love and concern.  This is not to say that strangers can never offer you a Word from God.  On at least two or three occasions I have received prophetic words which were very timely – one from a complete stranger at a church the other from students at Tyndale who had only seen me in the hallway a handful of times but never struck up a conversation with me.  I still cherish those encounters and believe God used those people to bring light to the experiences I was having at the time.  So, do not discount the fact that God can use anyone to speak to you, but at the same time, be very careful of someone who has no pre-existing relationship with you who is claiming they have some great truth from God to bring into your life.  Many times, these people are little more than false teachers and basing your life off of what they say can end rather poorly.[12]

Especially be cautious of churches or individuals which claim that they can receive a Word from the Lord for anyone as long as you ask them.  When I was in Indiana I visited such a church.  I was invited to sit in a little room with two elders who recorded our conversation on tape and made me sign a waiver form saying that I would not do anything stupid to make the Word of the Lord happen.  The example they gave me was that if the Lord said I was to become prosperous I would not rob a bank and then say that the reason I had done it was because this church told me I would become wealthy.  There is definitely some truth to this.  I think of the story of Abraham and Sarah who were promised a son and when it didn’t happen right away they took matters into their own hands and got themselves into a huge mess which still has consequences today.[13]  On the other hand, this church had no idea who I was and yet they were claiming that God could immediately give them some type of special knowledge about me.  If you experience such a church, RUN AWAY!  These churches have a tendency to have cult-like characteristics, their pastors being little more than a wolves who run around in sheep’s clothing.[14]

So, by all means, do not write off spiritual gifts as being for a different time and a different place.  Encourage one another to use their charismatic gifts and if the Spirit is leading you continue to develop your own gifts in these regards.  BUT be very careful, use common sense, and do not ignore what the other Scriptures teach us.  Charismatic gifts have much to offer to the church, but they have as much potential as being harmful as they do of being beneficial.  In all things, seek the highest aim which is the love of Christ, and only then will the other gifts help to make this happen.[15]


[4] 1 Corinthians 12:4 –  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2012:4&version=ESVUK

[10] 1 John 4:1 –  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John%204:1&version=ESVUK