Letters

The Controversial Source of the Law.

God offered, “You [Israel] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6) God offered a covenant of equals: you and me, face to face with God with nothing in between. Peers.

They rejected his offer, and counter-offered, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19)


They proposed the intermediary, which is what a priesthood is. And they promised to listen. The original language contains a hint of obedience, but no, this isn’t an express promise (which was probably good).

They rejected the peer relationship, the covenant of equals, and they substituted a vertical relationship: big god with the rules (and therefore the spank stick), and the only way to know him is through a priest. Ick.

So the idea of a priesthood was not God’s idea, but the people’s. And the idea of hearing and obeying rules wasn’t God’s idea, but the people’s. He wanted a face-to-face with every living being, but they threw that back in his face and demanded a priesthood and rules.

So God was backed into a corner: either relate to people through a priesthood and rules, or walk away, wipe his hands clean and start over again.

But he’s not One to walk away.

So he submitted his mighty self to their silly little demands. It was better than no relationship at all.

They wanted a priesthood: Moses started it with Aaron, and it continued on. That’s what Leviticus is all about. Don’t you love Leviticus? Isn’t it fun to read?

They wanted rules. So God gave them a handful. Those rules were never about “Do this and you go to Heaven.” They were “Do this and you won’t get spanked.” (see Deuteronomy 30, and Luke 10:28). “Do this and you won’t be cursed.”

But they broke covenant before the rules were even delivered (remember the golden calf?). Then came more rules. And they failed those, so he had to give them other rules, more specific rules.

If you have rules, then you need to have an enforcer, and that is ALWAYS your god. So God was party to a covenant he didn’t want, and was the enforcer if the people didn’t keep their end of the covenant.

No wonder God was glad to be rid of that covenant. “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13)  He never wanted the stinky old rules or the silly little priesthood in the first place.


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Letters

Maturing in Discernment

Not long ago, we were talking about how discernment is becoming more important in the lives of believers. It’s my opinion that the western church has generally not done a great job of teaching discernment. Somebody asked, “How can you grow in discernment?” Made me think.

There is a secret to begin with: If you want to learn discernment, practice discerning. Hebrews 5.14 points out that “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil..” Discerning is part of maturing, of growing up, but it’s developed by “constant use” and “train[ing] themselves.”

It’s work.
 
Somebody has asked, “Wait! If it’s a gift (1Corinthians 12:10), then why do we need to practice? The gift covers that!”

Yeah, tell that to someone who is a gifted musician, a gifted teacher, a gifted athlete. They still need to practice, to study, to exercise. The gift is the raw material that’s capable of becoming a masterpiece. The skill to make it into that masterpiece includes our own responsibility.

Any skill we practice many, many times, we're likely to with more excellence and less uncertainty than things we only do when we're backed into a corner.

The second is this: provision the gift. If we don't give our "discerner" the material it needs, it cannot function well. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that this is the Word of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bible. We need to be fueled up for discernment to work right. For me, that’s ongoing conversation with the second person of the Trinity, many hours of listening to the Scriptures, and fewer hours studying the scriptures. Your regimen will likely be different.

Then there’s the question of how does the data from the discerning process reach your conscious mind? Yeah, that's  an interesting one too.

First, don't assume that it actually needs to reach your conscious mind. Don't assume that unless you can put it into logical words, it's not valid: that's discerning by the soul (the mind), not by the Spirit. Do not dismiss the subconscious “nudges” that you get. Listen to them, learn their language, recognize their voice and learn to distinguish it from your own voice, from Father’s voice, from the accuser’s voice.

Second, learn God's language, learn how he speaks to you in this area. Discernment is a gift from God (1Cor 12:10). Since God gives gifts for use (not for decorating our mantel), he will also give to make best use of the gift if you ask him for it. If he speaks to you in dreams, learn the language there. If he speaks to you through physical sensation, learn that language. Learn the nudges, the hesitations in your spirit or in your soul. For me, it came down to the spiritual sense of smell. It likely will come down to something else for you.

But don't ask until you're ready to be stretched. It’s very likely that God will move you outside of the box that you think you’re already out of. I suspect that when he begins to school you, it will be an unsettling season for you, and that you’ll have difficult assignments: embarrassing choices, awkward conversations, unexplained changes to your lifestyle.


But continue past the stumbling blocks. This is part of your becoming mature. The Body of Christ needs you mature, needs you operating in full potential, all of us working together. 
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Letters

Maturing in Discernment

Not long ago, we were talking about how discernment is becoming more important in the lives of believers. It’s my opinion that the western church has generally not done a great job of teaching discernment. Somebody asked, “How can you grow in discernment?” Made me think.

There is a secret to begin with: If you want to learn discernment, practice discerning. Hebrews 5.14 points out that “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil..” Discerning is part of maturing, of growing up, but it’s developed by “constant use” and “train[ing] themselves.”

It’s work.
 
Somebody has asked, “Wait! If it’s a gift (1Corinthians 12:10), then why do we need to practice? The gift covers that!”

Yeah, tell that to someone who is a gifted musician, a gifted teacher, a gifted athlete. They still need to practice, to study, to exercise. The gift is the raw material that’s capable of becoming a masterpiece. The skill to make it into that masterpiece includes our own responsibility.

Any skill we practice many, many times, we're likely to with more excellence and less uncertainty than things we only do when we're backed into a corner.

The second is this: provision the gift. If we don't give our "discerner" the material it needs, it cannot function well. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that this is the Word of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bible. We need to be fueled up for discernment to work right. For me, that’s ongoing conversation with the second person of the Trinity, many hours of listening to the Scriptures, and fewer hours studying the scriptures. Your regimen will likely be different.

Then there’s the question of how does the data from the discerning process reach your conscious mind? Yeah, that's  an interesting one too.

First, don't assume that it actually needs to reach your conscious mind. Don't assume that unless you can put it into logical words, it's not valid: that's discerning by the soul (the mind), not by the Spirit. Do not dismiss the subconscious “nudges” that you get. Listen to them, learn their language, recognize their voice and learn to distinguish it from your own voice, from Father’s voice, from the accuser’s voice.

Second, learn God's language, learn how he speaks to you in this area. Discernment is a gift from God (1Cor 12:10). Since God gives gifts for use (not for decorating our mantel), he will also give to make best use of the gift if you ask him for it. If he speaks to you in dreams, learn the language there. If he speaks to you through physical sensation, learn that language. Learn the nudges, the hesitations in your spirit or in your soul. For me, it came down to the spiritual sense of smell. It likely will come down to something else for you.

But don't ask until you're ready to be stretched. It’s very likely that God will move you outside of the box that you think you’re already out of. I suspect that when he begins to school you, it will be an unsettling season for you, and that you’ll have difficult assignments: embarrassing choices, awkward conversations, unexplained changes to your lifestyle.


But continue past the stumbling blocks. This is part of your becoming mature. The Body of Christ needs you mature, needs you operating in full potential, all of us working together. 
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Letters

Maturing in Discernment

Not long ago, we were talking about how discernment is becoming more important in the lives of believers. It’s my opinion that the western church has generally not done a great job of teaching discernment. Somebody asked, “How can you grow in discernment?” Made me think.

There is a secret to begin with: If you want to learn discernment, practice discerning. Hebrews 5.14 points out that “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil..” Discerning is part of maturing, of growing up, but it’s developed by “constant use” and “train[ing] themselves.”

It’s work.
 
Somebody has asked, “Wait! If it’s a gift (1Corinthians 12:10), then why do we need to practice? The gift covers that!”

Yeah, tell that to someone who is a gifted musician, a gifted teacher, a gifted athlete. They still need to practice, to study, to exercise. The gift is the raw material that’s capable of becoming a masterpiece. The skill to make it into that masterpiece includes our own responsibility.

Any skill we practice many, many times, we're likely to with more excellence and less uncertainty than things we only do when we're backed into a corner.

The second is this: provision the gift. If we don't give our "discerner" the material it needs, it cannot function well. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that this is the Word of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bible. We need to be fueled up for discernment to work right. For me, that’s ongoing conversation with the second person of the Trinity, many hours of listening to the Scriptures, and fewer hours studying the scriptures. Your regimen will likely be different.

Then there’s the question of how does the data from the discerning process reach your conscious mind? Yeah, that's  an interesting one too.

First, don't assume that it actually needs to reach your conscious mind. Don't assume that unless you can put it into logical words, it's not valid: that's discerning by the soul (the mind), not by the Spirit. Do not dismiss the subconscious “nudges” that you get. Listen to them, learn their language, recognize their voice and learn to distinguish it from your own voice, from Father’s voice, from the accuser’s voice.

Second, learn God's language, learn how he speaks to you in this area. Discernment is a gift from God (1Cor 12:10). Since God gives gifts for use (not for decorating our mantel), he will also give to make best use of the gift if you ask him for it. If he speaks to you in dreams, learn the language there. If he speaks to you through physical sensation, learn that language. Learn the nudges, the hesitations in your spirit or in your soul. For me, it came down to the spiritual sense of smell. It likely will come down to something else for you.

But don't ask until you're ready to be stretched. It’s very likely that God will move you outside of the box that you think you’re already out of. I suspect that when he begins to school you, it will be an unsettling season for you, and that you’ll have difficult assignments: embarrassing choices, awkward conversations, unexplained changes to your lifestyle.


But continue past the stumbling blocks. This is part of your becoming mature. The Body of Christ needs you mature, needs you operating in full potential, all of us working together. 
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Prophecy

A Season of Bumbling Around

One of the things that I do is I look at the seasons, the “big picture” view of what’s going on in the Spirit.  

This is an interesting one.  I call it the Season of Muddling Around. My brother Craig refers to “fuzzy-fog of not-quite-sure-what's-next.”

It’s a season where God doesn’t seem to be giving as much direction as he has in other seasons. You may experience it as “OK, what do we do next” in your home group or your church gathering. Or you may be having a hard time finding clarity in life choices or in addressing perplexing situations.

Paul went through a similar season. In Acts 16, Paul and his traveling ministry team finished one project, and had trouble finding the next one. They were “kept by the Holy Spirit” from ministering in Asia, and “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them” to minister in Bithynia. This was a challenging transition season for him.

What’s this? The Holy Spirit is preventing them from preaching the gospel? That’s the Great Commission; God can’t be stopping them from obeying what they’re called to do! Yep, that’s what it says.

It seems like a number of believers are experiencing this sort of thing: just trying to do the thing that God has called you to do, but God’s not blessing it, God’s presence isn’t in it, or he stops you before you ever get started.  

So a lot of us are in a season of “bumbling around.” We’re trying this new thing, or that tried-and-true thing, and it’s not working. It’s easy to get frustrated in this season.

If you’re feeling some of this, let me say a couple of things to you:

  1. No, there’s not something wrong. God does different things, or does the same things in different ways, in different seasons. This is that season. This isn’t because of sin, or because you’ve “missed God.” Remember, this is a transition period. It’s temporary.

  1. This is actually a season of promotion. You’ve been maturing, growing up. You don’t need as much direction from Daddy as you used to need. You can make more decisions for yourself and for your place in the Kingdom. Think of this as a season of taking new “baby steps” and learning to walk as mature sons and daughters.

  1. Of course we stay plugged in with God, we stay intimate and connected, eyes on Jesus and ready to hear. Paul eventually had a dream that told him where to go, and it led to a surprising new ministry.  The end result of his transition was pretty awesome.

  1. Don’t be shocked if God leads you in a surprising new direction. Don’t freak out if he takes you in an entirely new and unexpected direction. Likewise, don’t choke if he takes you in the direction you expected, but it turns out to be completely different than the way you thought it would be, or than it has ever been before.

  1. In the meantime, keep doing what you’re doing, and keep your ears open. Stay in healthy relationship with solid people, and keep talking together about what God is doing, what he’s saying.

  1. And stay ready to change gears, quickly if necessary.

So congratulations on the new place in God! Well done! Now, are you ready for the next step? 

nwp


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Prophecy

A Season of Bumbling Around

One of the things that I do is I look at the seasons, the “big picture” view of what’s going on in the Spirit.  

This is an interesting one.  I call it the Season of Muddling Around. My brother Craig refers to “fuzzy-fog of not-quite-sure-what's-next.”

It’s a season where God doesn’t seem to be giving as much direction as he has in other seasons. You may experience it as “OK, what do we do next” in your home group or your church gathering. Or you may be having a hard time finding clarity in life choices or in addressing perplexing situations.

Paul went through a similar season. In Acts 16, Paul and his traveling ministry team finished one project, and had trouble finding the next one. They were “kept by the Holy Spirit” from ministering in Asia, and “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them” to minister in Bithynia. This was a challenging transition season for him.

What’s this? The Holy Spirit is preventing them from preaching the gospel? That’s the Great Commission; God can’t be stopping them from obeying what they’re called to do! Yep, that’s what it says.

It seems like a number of believers are experiencing this sort of thing: just trying to do the thing that God has called you to do, but God’s not blessing it, God’s presence isn’t in it, or he stops you before you ever get started.  

So a lot of us are in a season of “bumbling around.” We’re trying this new thing, or that tried-and-true thing, and it’s not working. It’s easy to get frustrated in this season.

If you’re feeling some of this, let me say a couple of things to you:

  1. No, there’s not something wrong. God does different things, or does the same things in different ways, in different seasons. This is that season. This isn’t because of sin, or because you’ve “missed God.” Remember, this is a transition period. It’s temporary.

  1. This is actually a season of promotion. You’ve been maturing, growing up. You don’t need as much direction from Daddy as you used to need. You can make more decisions for yourself and for your place in the Kingdom. Think of this as a season of taking new “baby steps” and learning to walk as mature sons and daughters.

  1. Of course we stay plugged in with God, we stay intimate and connected, eyes on Jesus and ready to hear. Paul eventually had a dream that told him where to go, and it led to a surprising new ministry.  The end result of his transition was pretty awesome.

  1. Don’t be shocked if God leads you in a surprising new direction. Don’t freak out if he takes you in an entirely new and unexpected direction. Likewise, don’t choke if he takes you in the direction you expected, but it turns out to be completely different than the way you thought it would be, or than it has ever been before.

  1. In the meantime, keep doing what you’re doing, and keep your ears open. Stay in healthy relationship with solid people, and keep talking together about what God is doing, what he’s saying.

  1. And stay ready to change gears, quickly if necessary.

So congratulations on the new place in God! Well done! Now, are you ready for the next step? 

nwp


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Letters

Do We Believe It?

We need to consider whether we actually believe the Bible or not.

Jesus said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19)

Here’s the test question: who has the authority to stop the power of the enemy? Who has the authority to stop what he’s doing, to stop the stealing, killing and destruction?

Now here’s the hard part: Who has the authority to stop evil from happening around us? Who has the ability to limit what the devil is trying to do? Who has the responsibility to put boundaries on what the devil does around our cities and countries, around our families and neighborhoods?

I suspect that solving the problem is easier once we determine where the break is: it’s not on God’s part. (No, it’s not just black & white, but the black & white are a big part of it.)

Brothers & Sisters, let’s pick up the authority, the assignment that Jesus has already given to us, and let’s take our responsibility seriously, and let’s trample on snakes & scorpions; let’s overcome the enemy and his nasty work.

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, here, in my neighborhood, as it is in Heaven. For Thine is the glory, the Power and the. Honor, for ever and ever. Amen.”
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Letters

Do We Believe It?

We need to consider whether we actually believe the Bible or not.

Jesus said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19)

Here’s the test question: who has the authority to stop the power of the enemy? Who has the authority to stop what he’s doing, to stop the stealing, killing and destruction?

Now here’s the hard part: Who has the authority to stop evil from happening around us? Who has the ability to limit what the devil is trying to do? Who has the responsibility to put boundaries on what the devil does around our cities and countries, around our families and neighborhoods?

I suspect that solving the problem is easier once we determine where the break is: it’s not on God’s part. (No, it’s not just black & white, but the black & white are a big part of it.)

Brothers & Sisters, let’s pick up the authority, the assignment that Jesus has already given to us, and let’s take our responsibility seriously, and let’s trample on snakes & scorpions; let’s overcome the enemy and his nasty work.

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, here, in my neighborhood, as it is in Heaven. For Thine is the glory, the Power and the. Honor, for ever and ever. Amen.”
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Letters

The Ministry of Broken People

Here's an interesting observation. I've been with a number of broken people recently. Some of them are regular folks, and some broken people are leaders, occasionally famous leaders.

I'm noticing a trend about some of the broken, messed-up and damaged Believers: God doesn't appear to give a rat's hindquarters about their brokenness. He doesn't seem to be offended by the outcasts, the rejects, the jerks.

If they’re hungry (and that seems to be a clue for all of us!), he is really happy to fill them and use them and empower them. He makes a freakin' mess changing the world through them. He's downright extravagant in showing out through them.

I've been with a number of clean and tidy and well-educated people recently. I'm noticing a trend about some of them, too. They look good, they sound good, they are comfortable to be around.

And there's a whole lot of us in between there.

But really, I see more of God's signs and wonders, more people healed and delivered, more completely unexplainable "coincidences" in the aftermath of the first group. They go places I don't like to go. They take on circumstances that make me uncomfortable. And the glory of God drools out from their brokenness, their foolishness, their awkwardness in ways that most of us aspire to.

It's interesting how our culture labels the beautiful people as the big successes. There's more of us in-betweeners, so we win the popularity polls.

But it's the broken, socially inept, rude, crude and socially unacceptable ones, the ones who actually believe God and His Book, the busted ones trying to do the stuff: these are the ones I think are actually getting it right.
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Letters

The Ministry of Broken People

Here's an interesting observation. I've been with a number of broken people recently. Some of them are regular folks, and some broken people are leaders, occasionally famous leaders.

I'm noticing a trend about some of the broken, messed-up and damaged Believers: God doesn't appear to give a rat's hindquarters about their brokenness. He doesn't seem to be offended by the outcasts, the rejects, the jerks.

If they’re hungry (and that seems to be a clue for all of us!), he is really happy to fill them and use them and empower them. He makes a freakin' mess changing the world through them. He's downright extravagant in showing out through them.

I've been with a number of clean and tidy and well-educated people recently. I'm noticing a trend about some of them, too. They look good, they sound good, they are comfortable to be around.

And there's a whole lot of us in between there.

But really, I see more of God's signs and wonders, more people healed and delivered, more completely unexplainable "coincidences" in the aftermath of the first group. They go places I don't like to go. They take on circumstances that make me uncomfortable. And the glory of God drools out from their brokenness, their foolishness, their awkwardness in ways that most of us aspire to.

It's interesting how our culture labels the beautiful people as the big successes. There's more of us in-betweeners, so we win the popularity polls.

But it's the broken, socially inept, rude, crude and socially unacceptable ones, the ones who actually believe God and His Book, the busted ones trying to do the stuff: these are the ones I think are actually getting it right.
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Letters

The Ministry of Broken People

Here's an interesting observation. I've been with a number of broken people recently. Some of them are regular folks, and some broken people are leaders, occasionally famous leaders.

I'm noticing a trend about some of the broken, messed-up and damaged Believers: God doesn't appear to give a rat's hindquarters about their brokenness. He doesn't seem to be offended by the outcasts, the rejects, the jerks.

If they’re hungry (and that seems to be a clue for all of us!), he is really happy to fill them and use them and empower them. He makes a freakin' mess changing the world through them. He's downright extravagant in showing out through them.

I've been with a number of clean and tidy and well-educated people recently. I'm noticing a trend about some of them, too. They look good, they sound good, they are comfortable to be around.

And there's a whole lot of us in between there.

But really, I see more of God's signs and wonders, more people healed and delivered, more completely unexplainable "coincidences" in the aftermath of the first group. They go places I don't like to go. They take on circumstances that make me uncomfortable. And the glory of God drools out from their brokenness, their foolishness, their awkwardness in ways that most of us aspire to.

It's interesting how our culture labels the beautiful people as the big successes. There's more of us in-betweeners, so we win the popularity polls.

But it's the broken, socially inept, rude, crude and socially unacceptable ones, the ones who actually believe God and His Book, the busted ones trying to do the stuff: these are the ones I think are actually getting it right.
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Letters

Learning About Partnering With Angels

I hold an opinion that makes a lot of Christians, a lot of Christian leaders, very, very nervous: I believe that God gives new revelation in some seasons, which previous centuries of Christians may not have had, or may have once had and have forgotten.

One of the topics that it seems that God’s talking about – and it’s terribly uncomfortable to the traditions I was raised in – is the topic of angels. I believe that God is speaking to his children about angels, who are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”

There are some reasons that this topic has scared people in the church: some leaders have feared that people would be more enamored with the angels than with the God who created them. And some believers have become so angel-centric that they can’t even spend time with their Heavenly Father without invoking angels.

Sure, there are legitimate concerns to avoid. (There are always legitimate concerns to avoid.) We’ll avoid the dangers, but avoiding the dangers isn’t our goal. Our goal is receiving what Father gives us, because if the Creator of the Universe thinks we need it, then who are we to argue? We need it.

I have a couple of these fellows who live at my home. They guard the peace and the people of  my home. They’re also eager to do stuff, so they roam my neighborhood, terrorizing any demons they find. And frankly, they provoke me to press into Father, to dig into the Word, to learn more about how to live with angels.

They didn’t teach me this stuff in Sunday School.




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Letters

Learning About Partnering With Angels

I hold an opinion that makes a lot of Christians, a lot of Christian leaders, very, very nervous: I believe that God gives new revelation in some seasons, which previous centuries of Christians may not have had, or may have once had and have forgotten.

One of the topics that it seems that God’s talking about – and it’s terribly uncomfortable to the traditions I was raised in – is the topic of angels. I believe that God is speaking to his children about angels, who are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”

There are some reasons that this topic has scared people in the church: some leaders have feared that people would be more enamored with the angels than with the God who created them. And some believers have become so angel-centric that they can’t even spend time with their Heavenly Father without invoking angels.

Sure, there are legitimate concerns to avoid. (There are always legitimate concerns to avoid.) We’ll avoid the dangers, but avoiding the dangers isn’t our goal. Our goal is receiving what Father gives us, because if the Creator of the Universe thinks we need it, then who are we to argue? We need it.

I have a couple of these fellows who live at my home. They guard the peace and the people of  my home. They’re also eager to do stuff, so they roam my neighborhood, terrorizing any demons they find. And frankly, they provoke me to press into Father, to dig into the Word, to learn more about how to live with angels.

They didn’t teach me this stuff in Sunday School.




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Prophecy

A Word for the Prophetic Movement

by Mark Sandford,

In mid-April I began to feel purposeless, as if I were going nowhere (in spite of the fact that the opposite is true). I felt heavy and dead, and could take little joy in ministry. I have encountered many prophetic people who have been feeling the same way. But when I tell them why, their heavy feeling lifts.

Have you been feeling this way? Here's what I'm sensing. A change is coming in the prophetic movement. The movement began with a vibrant vision: we would rediscover the prophetic gift and office, and bring them back into the life of the Church. Joy came to many as prophetic words were fulfilled, but immature zeal has had its way. The need for accountability has been eclipsed by a quest for the excitement of prophecies (especially personal ones). We want so much to hear from God that we often fail to test prophetic words, as Scripture commands (1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 1 John 4:1).

Although the Bible regards false prophecies as a very serious matter, too many Christians treat them as a non-issue. A prophetic leader may give false prophecy after false prophecy, and it doesn't even occur to followers to test his words. When even our watchmen are not held accountable for their actions, who is left to warn teachers who would stray into heresy or pastors who would fall into sin? Ample objections come from the internet attack dogs who spew their vitriolic fire hoses not only on fires, but on the very fire of the Holy Spirit. But not enough prophetic voices are speaking out with the balance of firmness and compassion needed to protect the precious gifts with which God has entrusted us.

I sense that in order to protect His children from themselves, at this point the Holy Spirit is applying loving discipline by sending thousands of prophetic Christians into what St. John of the Cross dubbed, "the dark night of the soul." . If you are feeling the heaviness I have described, you may be one of them.

Or, if you have already been through the dark night, such feelings may signal a call to pray for others who are entering into it. God often causes us to feel what others feel, to prepare us to pray from a stance of empathy rather than judgment. If this describes your situation, you are probably beginning to feel lighter even as you read this, for you are realizing that the emotions you have been feeling are not your own.

In the sixteenth century, in his book, "The Dark Night of the Soul," St. John noted that when Christians discover spiritual gifts and mystical experiences they too often fall into spiritual pride, either knowingly or unknowingly, desiring to use these to gain notoriety. Some, aware of this temptation, become overly scrupulous. They desperately attempt to scrub every imperfection from their souls, unaware of a hidden motive to find peace in their own perfection rather than in the arms of a gracious and forgiving God.

St. John saw both of these reactions as expressions of "spiritual gluttony." Through his own suffering he learned that whether we are ravenous for notoriety or perfection, God cures us by putting us on a "spiritual diet." The following are signs that this is happening:

-- You may no longer find pleasure in the things of God or life in general.

-- You may no longer easily feel God's presence, have mystical experiences or hear prophetic words.

-- You may find it difficult to pray, feeling little or no enjoyment in it.

-- You may feel spiritually dead.

-- Because of all this, you may feel like God has abandoned you.

-- You may feel like you are backsliding.

--You may feel like everyone has forsaken you, especially your friends.

You may take all this to mean that God has removed His presence. Quite the opposite is true; He has increased it! It only feels like He has removed it, for two reasons. First, during the dark night you may feel like you are walking from a dimly lit room into full sunlight. The brightness of His holy presence can seem blinding, so that you can't see the light of His presence until the eyes of your spirit slowly adjust. Second, Malachi 3:3 says that God refines us like gold and silver. His increased presence can heat up the metal of your heart, causing dross to surface more quickly. You can become so aware of your sins and the deadness of your soul, that at first you do not perceive that His presence has increased.

You may also think the dark night is punishment or reaping for wrongdoing. It is not; it is God's way of leading you to despair of relying on your own strengths, abilities or gifts. In the process, you may discover sins you were previously unaware of, but these did not cause the dark night; they were merely revealed by it. So don't blame yourself for the dark night; be thankful that God is using this experience to build humble character that reflects more of His likeness.

How long must the dark night last? St. John suggested that in order for it to be effective, it should last at least a few years, but that is not absolute; there are many exceptions. It will last however long it takes to get you to the point of despair of self and then beyond it, to where you can abide in Christ, resting in the knowledge that without Him you can do nothing (John 15:5). Only God knows how long that will take.

Meanwhile, do not try ever harder to hear God or spend extra hours in fasting or Bible study in order to jump-start your stalled spiritual sensitivities (not that you should avoid these activities, but do avoid basing them on this motive). Rather, lean into God's embrace and cling to Him like a child in need. Jesus said, "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them" (Mark 10:15-16, NAS).

To live in Jesus' embrace is, quite simply, God's goal for the prophetic movement. For what is the ultimate purpose of any prophecy, whether it be a word of encouragement, a warning, or even an announcement of impending discipline? Simply to draw us closer to God. What, then, is most destructive to the prophetic movement? Focusing on prophecies instead of God.

For those of you who have been feeling the heaviness in brothers and sisters who are entering the dark night, pray that this will not be a time of torment for them. Torment will come if they strive to recover the thrills His gifts once gave them. Pray for the grace to let that go and to embrace the choice fruit which God designed this season to produce -- sweet contentment in the arms of a loving God. Imagine the babies Jesus took into His arms in Mark 10. Were they prideful? How could they be?

Babies have no gifts or achievements in which to take pride. Did they seek gifts instead of God? Babies know nothing of such things. All that matters to them is the rapturous heart-to-heart and spirit-to-spirit flow of the Father's love. "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." How we squirm in His arms! We would rather be down on the floor where we can play with our spiritual toys.

If you go through the dark night, spend a great deal of time in the quietness of God's embrace. Choose to soak in His presence, even if you cannot yet feel it. Eventually you will! The wait will cultivate patience and humility. Having endured a period without spiritual accomplishments, more than ever, you will know that you truly can do nothing in the power of your flesh. You will become more aware of your shortcomings and sins, yet be far less self-conscious and more self-accepting than before.

And when you finally begin to imbibe the deep satisfaction of the Father's love, it will make you "poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3), for you will no longer feel the need to become rich in spiritual gifts. When gifts come, you will enjoy the God who gives them. When they are absent, you will enjoy God.

When the dark night has made you into a child who knows no reason for pride, it is then that God will increase the gifts, not only because you can be trusted with them, but because there will be less danger that you might use them to bring harm to yourself and others. And although you will be more able to feel God's presence and power, you will no longer see feelings as the measure of God's presence and power.

Lust for emotional highs will fade within the placid stillness of God's heavenly hug. And you will be able to invite others into that peace; you will be able to speak the truth -- even hard truth -- from no other motive than love.

Not everyone's "dark night" will look exactly like that outlined by St. John of the cross. Throughout Scripture we see saints who experienced elements of it, but each one's list of woes had its own configuration. What was common to all is that their time of suffering always led to the same blessed place.

David wrote, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1 NAS). But he also wrote many of the most joyful Psalms. Job complained, "I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me" (Job 30:20, NAS). But his life after his time of trial was twice as blessed as before (Job 42:12 NAS). In Lamentations 3:1-33, Jeremiah mentioned many of the elements of the dark night. He complained, "He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light (vs. 2, NIV). "Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer" (vs. 8, NAS). "My people...mock me in song all day long" (vs. 14, NIV). "I have been deprived of peace" (verse 17, NIV). "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord" (vs. 18, NIV).

Although Jeremiah's prophetic gift brought him nothing but rejection from his countrymen, he found his blessed place in God's embrace: "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (vss. 21-23).

In Lamentations 3:24 (NIV), Jeremiah said, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait on Him." This outlook was what got him through his trial, and the increase of this outlook was the end-result. What is your portion? The extent of your gifts? The "high" they make you feel? The admiration they inspire in others? Being right when others are wrong? Your mind might protest that this is not so, but only God knows your heart. He knows how long it will take you to learn to really live the words, "The Lord is my portion."

You may pray that the length of the dark night be shortened, but do not be dismayed if it is not. I sense that for many, it will last for the next three to four years. For you, it may last for any length of time within that time period. During that season, prophecies may be scarcer than before. Spiritual highs may be harder to come by. But afterward, you will find yourself in a place to be guided by a new vision -- one centered on the simple premise that it's all about the Father's love.

Jesus said, "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24, NIV). In order to bear the fruit God intends, the current prophetic movement must die -- not die off, mind you, but die to its present form and state, to be resurrected into the balance that God intends for it.

"The Lord is my portion." When this season passes, for those who have allowed God to have His way, this may become the catch-phrase of the new vision for His prophetic movement.


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