First Love – A Personal Psalm of Praise

I got up early this morning.
After drinking my morning coffee, checking the weather & news & stuff on my phone, I settled-in for some prayer-journal time.  This is what came out.

Good morning, my Love,

That’s how I feel about You, my God…although it seems strange to write a name for You which seems romantic in nature.  But truly You are my First Love!  And I rejoice in You this morning.

Because of You, I can face today and tomorrow. Because of You my hope and joy are not destroyed when I read the news, or consider the circumstances I must navigate, or deal with the people I must interact with.  Because of You I possess an identity and power that transcend the opinions or approvals of others.  Because of You I am free to be what I am designed and commissioned to be.  Because of You I do not need to compare myself to anyone else to determine my worth, effectiveness, or destiny.  Because of You the investment of my passion, time, and resources are not bound-up in the temporary treasures of this world.  Because of You I have access to the same supernatural, miraculous power that has healed the sick, given sight to the blind, and raised the dead.  Because of You I am empowered to give and receive love with everyone in my life with ever-increasing vitality.  Because of You I am regarded as faithful by those who are loved by me. Because of You I have insight behind the scenes of the world’s dramas, and wisdom underneath its foundations.  Because of You I am independent of every man & woman’s condemnation.  Because of You I have peace in the midst of the wild hurricanes that surround me.  Because of You I have opportunity to walk above the depravities and miseries of the world’s inheritance.  Because of You I have everything I need.  Because of You I have faith, hope, joy, and love that protect my soul from the painful trials I must endure.  Because of You, the people I come into contact with are imprinted with Your attributes by association with me.  Because of You I have purpose, power, pleasure, perspective, promise, and prize that eclipse the sunniest day.  Because of you there is no sacrifice I must make that is not rewarded with 100-times the blessing.  Because of You I live, serve, and sing with joy!

My Love, You are truly and unreservedly amazing!


Spiritual Gifts 7 – Faith, the Prerequisite

I was talking with a good friend a few months ago about the spiritual gift of healing.  He was sharing some pretty amazing stories, and I was feeling defensive because I’ve prayed for people before and it “didn’t work.”  I asked him “what about when it doesn’t work?”  His words have stuck with me, “There are many reasons why prayer sometimes does not produce the results we want, but the Bible is full of promises and examples and commands about praying in faith and seeing miraculous results…so I’m going to focus on that.”  I replied, “How often does it work for you?”  “About 75% of the time….but instead of getting derailed on the other 25%, I’m going to trust in God for the 75%.”

In my personal quest to know God, follow Him, and become like Him, it’s clear that all of my times of greatest learning & growth were triggered by calculated decisions to throw caution to the wind and step-out in faith to where I KNEW God was leading.  There have also been plenty of times when I THOUGHT I KNEW, stepped-out in faith according to that supposed knowing, and was unpleasantly surprised.  Those experiences have been forks in the road of my past…sometimes my faith was strengthened as I learned more about the distinction between God’s voice and my own…His desire and my own.  Other times I furrowed my brow, blamed God for not performing, and withdrew into more controlled & cautious places.  There is a healthy, mature type of caution that avoids recklessness….but fear-based caution is one of our enemy’s most potent weapons in keeping us at arm’s length from our Heavenly Father.  God always responds to faith.

I think that one of the biggest reasons for the apparent spiritual apathy & impotence of the American Church today is lack of faith.  It’s also at the root of why many Christians say things like “why doesn’t God do miracles anymore like in Bible times?”  Well, actually He does…but He insists on partnering with faith. Not faith in the sense of intellectual agreement with the historical facts & moral truths of the Bible, and trying your best to live by them.  That’s Kindergarten faith.  Grown-up faith is a conviction of trust that God is real & personal, and that His way is best for my life.  Faith is the antithesis of fear, and in the Old Testament there was a powerful euphemism for faith: Fear of God.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10).

The opposite of fear of God is fear of man.

Alex Rettman, Pastor of Youth & Young Adults at Bridgetown Church in Portland, says this: “What the fear of man can do in your life is to make looking respectable, responsible, and financially wise more important than being obedient to God…The fear of man is an over-rating of people in your life and an under-rating of God.  Fear of man is actually a hallmark trait of the Pharisees.  They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God…and this is why they couldn’t see Him as the Messiah.”

The Pharisees are known as “the hypocrites” of the New Testament.  This wasn’t because they sometimes lost their temper or said harsh words or sought the places of honor…those were only symptoms, and we all do these things on occasion.  Scripture says that God looks past our facades straight into our hearts; He alone can see our deepest desires & dreams.  The hypocrisy of the Pharisees was rooted in a deep-seated fear of man, or in other words “love of the world,” which stood in direct opposition to what God was doing around them.  Any time we find ourselves resisting what God is trying to do, we’re acting just like them…and it pinches the hose of God’s power that He wants to flow into us.  All of us struggle with fear/lack of faith, and God is constantly, eagerly waiting for us to take the first steps so that He can catch us when we fall.  He can be trusted!!!

In order to experience the “abundant life” that Jesus promises, answers to prayer, miraculous healings, prophetic words & visions, and all the other stuff God wants to do through us, we have to turn away from the false beliefs we have learned and walk toward Him in faith.  His goal for us is not to fill our lives with material blessings and comfortable circumstances that will make us happy.  That’s not God, that’s the American dream…and in terms of the Kingdom of God, it’s actually a narcissistic nightmare that blinds our eyes to the true wealth that Jesus offers us to be victorious in the midst of a broken world.  When we surrender our fears to the Almighty, according to the relationship we have with Him in Jesus, we are free to step-out in faith and receive what He is waiting to give us.


“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39)

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:1-2, 6)

“Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4-5)

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)

“Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

“Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:18-21)

“Jesus left there and went to his hometown…and they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:1-6)

“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5: 14-18)


Spiritual Gifts 6 – Removing Barriers

In my last blog I shared about a truly miraculous, life-changing event that happened to me as the result of being in a great spot with the Lord.  I was running toward Him with all cylinders, enjoying His presence, and open to His voice; and an amazing & supernatural thing occurred (see “Spiritual Gifts 5 – A Prophecy Story”).  Today, I’m going to share about the other fork in the road…when we find ourselves impeded by self-inflicted barriers that block God’s work in us and through us.  We all carry echoes of the fall-of-man within us that continue to war with our Creator.  They’re instinctive urges & expressions of self-will that prevent us from acquiescing to God’s reign over us.  Like the ancient serpent’s whispering temptation into Adam & Eve’s ears “Did God really say…,” our ears itch with similar desires to touch and experience that which has been forbidden by the Most High so we can do things on our own terms; and we end-up suffering for it.  The Bible calls this sin.

I’m going to invite you into my journey, which I think is probably the most effective way to communicate.  Of course, it’s easiest and most convenient when the portions of said journey reflect well upon my character, and cause the reader to admire me in some way.  However, as is always the case behind braggadocious sermonizing & Facebook feeds, I tend to learn my most valuable life lessons through my failures…and I suppose it’s the same for you.  But we don’t really like to share about that, do we? We tend to hide those parts of us that are less than right and cover them over with shiny, happy veneers.  I don’t think it’s necessary or appropriate to go into details, but let’s just say that I’ve been struggling with an area of sin in my life; something that frequently rears its ugly head within me, messes with my motivations & behaviors, and throws wrenches in the gears of my relationships with God & others.  Every time I give myself over to its lies I end up feeling betrayed, distant from God, and devoid of His power…do you have a thing like that?

  • A substance addiction that beckons you with promises of escape & release
  • An unhealthy relationship that causes you to compromise Godly values
  • A fixation on consumption of food, clothing, drink, or experiences as a way of filling the void 
  • A greedy drive for money, power, or possessions that controls your definition of success
  • An unbridled sex-drive that tempts you to engage in porn & unbiblical sexual experiences
  • A self-righteous anger that causes you to seethe with disdain and explode with rage
  • A self-deprecating grief that alienates you from people and entices you with alternative-realities.

So, why am I writing about sin in a series about spiritual gifts?  Because sin puts barriers between us and God. Remember all throughout the Bible how it talks about FAITH being the thing that unlocks God’s blessings and miracles, etc.?  The New Testament word we translate as “faith” literally means to be “fully persuaded,” to “totally trust” that God’s way is best.  Like the good Father He is, God always responds to faith with favor, and always responds to sin with redirection.  The world speaks an opposing narrative of self-determination, and our eyes & ears are filled with lies about this…saying that we can have our cake and eat it too.  We hear things like “God wants me to be happy, and [indulging in something that God condemns] actually makes me feel happy, therefore it must be good for me to [indulge in whatever it is].  I’ve heard this to justify drunkenness, sex outside of marriage, divorce, and other stuff.  Sins like these certainly don’t damn us to hell, but the circular reasoning that justifies them alienates us from the Living God.  We need to get our heads on straight…

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proudbut shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:2-8)

Now, understand me correctly….this is not a “works theology” about salvation.  It’s crystal clear that God’s offer of salvation for heaven is a free gift based upon His grace rather than our obedience.  “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We often misunderstand the difference between salvation and sanctification.  Salvation means that God saves us from eternal death by offering us the free gift of eternal life because of what Jesus did for us through His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead.  Amen on that!  Sanctification, however, means that after we are saved and already part of God’s family, we find ourselves at the beginning of our journey with Him rather than the end…and how we travel the road of life with Him will determine how He interacts with us, and to others through us.  So, although I am free in Christ and saved for Heaven, He’s not going to entrust me with important messages for others when my own lifestyle is in direct opposition to His reign.  Why would we think that God would reward us with blessings of greater understanding, miraculous gifts, prophecies, etc., when we refuse to abide by what He’s already given us?  Remember, His ultimate goal is relationship with you.

I’ve learned (and am learning again) that when I find myself in this unwelcome but familiar place, I have to die to myself in order to find the pathway back to the way of Jesus.  When I hold on to sin it always involves self-deceit, which is a function of the original sin of pride….and self-deceit shields us from the blessing of shame.  Shame has gotten a bad rap in recent years, as new generations of positive-thinkers attempt to live “shame-free” lives by focusing only on the positive and denying the existence of negatives within them and their consequences.  But shame, like any other God-given emotion, is neutral…it can carry our souls to places all along the spectrum.  I agree that there is self-destructive shame, which originates with the lie that “I am bad” and ends up taking me into downward spirals of self-loathing; but there is also life-giving shame, which is part of the God stuff in us that leads to repentance.  When we embrace shame and hand it over to God’s capable Hands, we see clearly how we’ve veered off the right path, how to apologize and adopt His better way, and how to start walking toward Him again in a state of renewed blessing.  This is why I keep friends around me who aren’t afraid to tell me the truth about myself when I’m full of Godless bull-s*$%.  Not because they ridicule me and make me feel like a maggot, but because they love me and have permission to remind me of my deepest and most important values.

It’s essential that we open ourselves to criticism and judgment from those who have our best interest in mind, to scripture, and to the gnawing sense of the Holy Spirit inside us that won’t let us rest in a state of unrepented sin.  Not because God hates us when we do, but because He loves us and hates when we block ourselves from the miracles and hope and love He wants to birth in us. After I have repented and placed the reins back in God’s sovereign Hand, new life springs up like fresh shoots out of April soil, and His celestial GPS navigates a brand-new course toward my destiny from where I’m at.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) 

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) 

“…In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) 

“I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)


Spiritual Gifts 5 – A Prophecy Story

Fateful Bike Ride

Early in the Summer of 2007, I was enjoying a sunny & warm June morning on my bike. I had ridden to the local post office to pickup mail from the PO Box of the fledgling ministry venture that my wife & I had recently started.  We were hosting a small house church of about 12 people…we were growing as a community of Jesus people, and were praying for ways we might be able to serve people in our neighborhood.  On this particular morning, I was praying.  Exercise has always been my prime time with God, especially biking and running.

As I returned toward home, I was riding South on Watson Avenue in central Beaverton…there wasn’t much traffic.  It’s a one-way street, and I was riding along the right-side curb.  I don’t remember what I was talking with the Lord about at the moment, but I do remember that I was experiencing some of the joy & peace we get when we’re able to put all other things aside and just “be” with the Father who loves us.  It was sweet and meaningful, and I was really enjoying the intimacy of the moment.

As I rode, I noticed the Pregnancy Resource Center on my left.  In recent years, the PRC has moved, but at that time it was located on the corner of Watson & 2nd.  I read the sign and thought about the ministry they provide.  Regardless of one’s stance on issues surrounding abortion, I think that everyone can agree that the faith-based PRC provides a really wonderful service to young pregnant ladies & young moms who are seeking help.  As I got nearer, I noticed that the building had a few minor rough & broken spots, and that the landscaping seemed a bit unruly.  Immediately, a phrase popped into my head: “Ask them if they need help.”  I quickly brushed it aside, imagining how weird & awkward it would be for a middle-aged sweaty guy to come in and ask if they needed help.  As I reached the point where I was directly across the street from the building, the phrase came again, this time with much more force and conviction.  It wasn’t an audible voice, though I know many people who have heard audible spiritual voices; it was just a thought-phrase accompanied by a really strong feeling.  This time, I wondered if it was the Lord.  It didn’t make sense to me, so I furrowed my brow and continued on…convincing myself that it was a bad idea and it couldn’t possibly be the Lord speaking to me.  I got a few pedal-strokes past the building, and the phrase rang through my head like a horn blaring from a diesel truck: “ASK THEM IF THEY NEED HELP!!!”  I literally said out loud, “Okay, okay!”

I promptly turned around, rode to the front porch, and leaned my bike against the rail.  I felt totally stupid.  I didn’t know what I was doing, what I would say, or how they would respond.  Besides that, I was wearing dorky bike shorts and I was smelly.  I walked through the unlocked door to the reception area, and there was no one there.  I stood there for a moment, looking around sheepishly and wondering what to do…I meekly said “hello?”  A lady peeked her head through an open doorway behind the counter, “Oh, good morning, we’re not open yet….can I help you?”  This was the moment when I wondered if I was an idiot; internally rolling my eyes at myself, worried that I had put words into God’s mouth.  She looked afraid.  I explained, “I’m sorry, I was just riding by your building on my bike and couldn’t help noticing that there were some things that needed some help.”  She was looking like she wanted to call the police.  I continued, “I’m part of a little church group, and we’re looking for ways to serve our community.  I was wondering if you needed any help around here.”  She relaxed a bit and asked a few questions….we talked for a minute, then she asked me to wait.  “Oh great, now I’m freaking-out this poor lady and I’m gonna get in trouble with the boss.

A different, younger lady came to the counter with a very inquisitive look on her face.  “Hi, how can I help you?”  I started over from the beginning, determined to see this thing through.  The more I shared, the more interested she appeared to be.  She asked a lot of questions about who I was, and what type of group I was from.  She was the director, and it ended-up that we knew some of the same people in the local Church Community.  I could tell that they were no longer afraid of me, and we enjoyed a few minutes of stories and laughter.  After a bit, I felt comfortable with my two new friends, and told them the story about how I had been praying and felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me about helping them.  The director stood there stunned for a moment.  She finally said, “You might think this is really weird, but I have to tell you something.”  She paused, then continued, “Early this morning as I was sleeping, I had a really vivid dream of a man showing up here at the PRC in the morning before we opened, and that I was supposed to listen to him.”

Do you have chill-bumps while you’re reading this?  Cuz I do while I’m writing this…and it’s been 10 years since it happened!

We talked in more detail about her dream, and my impression to stop that morning; both of us totally persuaded that Almighty God had not only spoken to us, but that He had connected us for some reason.  How powerful it was to know beyond doubt that we were walking in the very footsteps ordained by God for us!  We compared notes and talked for quite awhile about what the Lord was doing in their ministry there at the PRC, and how helpful it would be to have our help with some repair & maintenance items.

This is the birthplace of faith. Not that God’s grand plan is to break into human history so that we can get the chills and have all of our needs met; but that He is always orchestrating divine appointments & destinies to advance His greater plans for His people and His work!  Did you know that the original Greek word translated as “faith” literally means “fully persuaded?”  When we see God show-up in the middle of life’s circumstances, intervening and transforming like He does, it reminds us that He’s real and active and working toward great things we cannot see.  How amazing He is!

I returned to the PRC in July with a group of 7 adults and 7 kids.  We repaired a screen door and the floor of the entry porch, did some painting, and raked leaves.  It was encouraging to the ladies who work there every day, and made a nice difference in the appearance of the building.  Honestly, it wasn’t that big a deal; but it was super encouraging for them to know that God cared enough about their work to send us.  For me and my group, it was life-changing.  It was shortly after this project, reflecting on how fun it was for our group and how God had orchestrated it, that we began to dream about the next step…”what if we did something like this to help a low-income homeowner in our neighborhood?”

It started with prayer, was catalyzed by prophecy, and led to the projects we know today as Catalyst NW.  The rest is history.  His history.

”Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)


Spiritual Gifts 4 – The Prophetic

“I grew up in the church” is a phrase you hear often by all types of people, and it’s almost always followed by one of two contractions.  The “and” group seeks to carry the baton of positive memories they received onward; and will finish the sentence with something sentimental, meaningful, or purposeful.  The “but” group, on the other hand, holds their church memories in contempt as proof of the irrelevance & hypocrisy inherent within; seeking to throw shade in the direction of people & practices that tarnished their formative years.  Then you have the third group; those who grew-up in another faith tradition or with no religion at all, who see an endless sea of un-unified christian factions seeking very different expressions of the life & teachings of a special man who lived 2,000 years ago in modern-day Israel.  This continues to confuse and confound many of us.

Today I’m not going to spend any time on parsing the myriad forms of “churchianity,” instead I’m going to cut through the various traditions of men so as to get to some of the real stuff behind them. There’s a vast difference between carrying-on Jesus’ preferences & purposes and hijacking them to justify our own! I’m writing today about what I consider to be a missing link, a lens through which we can view the nature of God’s interactions with people and our own personal histories, which brings His truth into sharp focus in a world of countless opinions.  As a 34-year student of the Bible, I will say that the more I read and understand it, the God who inspired & inhabits it, and the timeless purposes & practices it promotes, I see one overriding theme that many of us instinctively forget day after day.  It’s weird, and it might surprise you.  It’s that the real God who is there is inherently personal and supernatural, and He insists on interacting with us on His terms.

Ever since Adam & Eve were kicked-out of the Father’s direct presence in the Garden, every subsequent move of God recorded in scripture has been heralded, activated, proven, pronounced, and spearheaded by spiritually inhabited men & women in committed relationship with Almighty God who performed miracles, spoke on His behalf, lived differently than the world around them, and recorded their experiences for those of us who would abandon primary allegiance to our earthly societies in favor of living as agents of His Ongoing Spiritual Kingdom.

Why am I writing this?

Because the American Church is asleep, and needs to be woken up!  The vitality and influence of America’s Christians has been steadily declining…free-falling actually…for at least 2 decades, and the answer to turn-around this huge ship and get back on-course is not better music or deeper sermons or more programs, it’s dependency on the supernatural power of God Himself!  In scripture and reality, spiritual vigor is always preceded by humble prayer, initiated by miraculous acts & prophetic words of God, and cultivated by the various gifts of the spirit of all God’s people inside and outside the Church.  We seem to have forgotten these principles, and instead entrusted ourselves into the hands of American business strategies for church growth…which in my opinion are almost always anathema to the Voice Of God.  I’m also writing this because I’m learning.  I grew up in a predominantly stoic genre of Christianity, which at best offered a very small funnel for the more “supernatural” workings of a real, engaged God.  This was true of my upbringing, formal education, and the bulk of my years in full-time church ministry.  I’ve been in detox and reformation ever since, seeking to rediscover and experience a more authentic & spiritually vibrant way of following Jesus like I read about in the New Testament…and I refuse to settle for anything less.

Francis Chan, well-known Christian author/speaker, says ”I believe that the biggest thing the enemy has stolen from the Church in America is our faith in the supernatural. Like we start looking at everything from a fleshly perspective…just like the world.”

Today, in this 4th part of my Spiritual Gifts series, I’m focusing in on THE PROPHETIC.

Prophecy has very spooky & erratic connotations in our post-enlightenment Western society.  You might be thinking right now about the fortune-teller down the street, or the scene from Star Wars of the Jedi prophecy about Anakin Skywalker, or the spacy co-worker who tells about her loopy visions.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about scriptural, contemporary, and personal experiences where God’s thoughts & instructions are supernaturally communicated through reliable, trustworthy, faithful people. defines Prophecy as 1) the foretelling or prediction of what is to come; 2) something that is declared by a prophet, especially a divinely inspired prediction, instruction, or exhortation; 3) a divinely inspired utterance or revelation; 4) the action, function, or faculty of a prophet.  The Bible portrays a much wider variety of Prophetic communication forms that show themselves from beginning to end, and continue to this day.  Here are some rudimentary definitions:

  • Prophecy (generic) is when someone receives some kind of message from God to give to others.
  • Dreams are often used by God to inform us about what He’s doing in our lives or someone else’s.
  • Visions are like dreams when you’re not asleep…like a super-strong flashback or even a trance.
  • Word of Knowledge is when you’re given information about something or someone that you have no way of knowing.
  • Word of Wisdom is when you’re given a direction/answer about a situation that reveals God’s will.
  • Discernment of Spirits is when you’re given insight into the spiritual source of a person’s motivations & power.
  • Tongues with Interpretation is when you’re given a message for the church in a foreign language (either human or angelic), and you or another interprets its meaning. 

I could give a thousand examples of various types of prophecy from scripture, through the ages of God’s people, and of contemporary friends that I know and trust.  Here are a few:

  1. Old Testament: Samuel lived in a time of the history of God’s people when “the Word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”  There was widespread corruption among the people and spiritual leaders, which prevented God’s prophetic messages from “breaking through” (sound familiar?).  Samuel sought God faithfully throughout his growing-up years and into adulthood, and became first in a line of prophets who spoke for God, shared visions from Him, etc. (1 Samuel 3)
  2. New Testament: Paul & Barnabas’ first missionary journey was the result of prophecy.  “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers…While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13)
  3. History: St. Patrick returned to Ireland, where he had been held in captivity, to preach the Gospel about Jesus as the result of a vision. “I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea-and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.'”
  4. Contemporary: The birth of Catalyst’s free construction projects was the result of a prophetic prompting, a resulting conversation, and a corresponding dream the night before that foretold the whole thing.  I’ll tell you about it if you’re interested!

The God of the Bible colors inside and outside the lines, painting a multi-faceted picture of a Living Person who cannot be contained by our understandings or controlled by our preferences… and He invites all of us to live on a higher spiritual plane than the world around us.  This is so uncomfortable and counter-cultural that many followers of Jesus simply ignore those parts of the Bible or develop theologies that dismiss them…settling for religion instead of authentic relational spirituality.  Admittedly, this is messy and scary because it opens us up to all kinds of misinterpretations & claims & inefficiencies.  But do we have the right to strip-away things that are uncomfortable in order to approach God on our own terms?  His highest priority is to cultivate our relationship with Him by faith, and with others by interdependency.  This takes time and patience.  This may not be the “American Way,” but it is certainly God’s.  Many of us need to learn new ways of integrating the prophetic into our church relationships, services, and groups…leaving room for God to be in control.  If we don’t, we may miss His voice and end up worshipping Him from afar.  The result is what we see now in most (not all) of American Christianity, and possibly you & I: Spiritual Anemia. Anemia is a physiological condition of the blood when it lacks enough red blood cells to do what blood is supposed to do…resulting in chronic weakness, fatigue, & all kinds of problems.  What happens when churches/christians don’t have enough of God’s Spirit coursing through their spiritual veins?

Symptoms of Spiritual Anemia:

  1. Going through religious motions without experiencing the peace & purpose they promise.
  2. Focus on God making me happy rather than serving Him from the overflow of joy.
  3. Fixation on understanding theology rather than trusting God in daily life.
  4. Decision-making based on goals & strategies rather than God’s leading & provision.
  5. Prayer becomes an afterthought or last-resort in times of trouble.
  6. Disbelief in the supernatural nature of God, the universe, His work in daily life.
  7. Holding-on to the world’s value system and the desire to be like everybody else, rather than surrendering our reputations and futures to Him.
  8. Redirecting our hopes in worldly political leaders & movements to address spiritual issues

So, what do we do?

  • Pray.  Ask God to reveal any part of you that is trusting in things, relationships, or activities other than Him.
  • Devote time to His Word.  It is His primary voice, and you will never grow in relationship with Him without it.
  • Ask Him to speak to you…through a word or sentence planted in your mind, a vision or dream, a nugget of special knowledge or instructions, etc.  
  • Ask Him to bring people into your life with gifts of the Spirit that you do not have.  Learn to work with them, practicing ways of functioning together as the Body of Christ.
  • Ask Him to show you examples of people, churches, leaders, etc., who are already functioning in this way.  Learn from them and imitate their examples in your own context.
  • Be open to His presence and movements throughout your day, praying constantly and trusting Him.
  • Watch as He shows up and leads. Leave the results to Him.

Frequently Asked Questions & Scripture Answers about Prophecy:

  • Why?  “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:11-16)
  • Does the New Testament say that prophecy will be common & normal for followers of Christ? “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:14-17).  “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)
  • What’s the purpose of the prophetic? “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up… If an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in…they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!… (1 Corinthians 14:24-26 excerpts)  
  • Why does God have to be so weird & crazy about it?  Why not just make His desires & instructions more normal & obvious?  “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
  • Does everyone have a prophetic gift?  “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:3-8) 
  • What about when prophecies are wrong / don’t work? “You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).  “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)
  • Why aren’t supernatural things more common? “And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:57-58)  

“The testimony of Jesus IS the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev.9:10)