Posts Tagged ‘environment’

The Prophetic Priority

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)

God was speaking! New Testament Prophetic Ministry shaped the environment and relational culture of the Church. God is passionate about communicating… and we must make a priority for prophetic gifts in our local churches. The Church’s foundation was laid in the midst of an outpouring that would bear the evidence of a prophetic awakening. He wants us to hear His Voice! No question about it… when you look closely at the Early Church; you see the finger print of the Holy Spirit and the leaders leaning intently upon every word that proceeded from the mouth of God. Should it really be any different today?

Every congregation’s experience was a little different. There was a uniqueness in expression seen among the churches of the New Testament. Consider the different applications of prophecy and prophetic ministry in the following list:

  • The Jerusalem Church had a company of prophets, some of whom traveled, ministering prophetically. (Acts 11:27, Acts 15:32, Acts 21:10) The Prophet Agabus was one of this company. (Acts 11:27-28)
  • In Acts 9, God gives Ananias, who is from the Church in Damascus, prophetic insight into the calling on Saul (later Paul). Its interesting to note that Ananias is not a Prophet, simply a ‘disciple’.
  • In Acts 4, the Jerusalem Church gathers to pray. They are united, praying the purposes of God and boldness against threats that were emerging… a prophetic prayer that God answers.
  • The Church in Philippi was birthed through prophetic guidance. God gave the Apostle Paul a prophetic dream concerning his team’s immediate call to Macedonia. (Acts 16:9)
  • Prophetic guidance was used of God in evangelism, missionary endeavors and the establishment of new churches. (Acts 8:26, 10:9-23, 13:1-3, 16:9-10)
  • Prophets were included in the leadership team of the Church in Antioch. (Acts 13:1) They received revelation from the Holy Spirit when it was time to release Paul and Barnabas into their apostolic calling. This prophetic guidance launched Paul’s Apostolic church-planting ministry.
  • When the Apostle Paul visited the Church at Ephesus, the believers received the Holy Spirit. Each one of them prophesied as they were filled. (Acts 19:6)
  • In the Church in Thessalonica the Apostle Paul exhorted the believers not to quench the Spirit, and not to despise prophecy. (1 Thess. 5:19-20)
  • In the Church in Colossae the Apostle Paul encouraged believers to include prophetic or spiritual songs in their gatherings… there was a value placed upon songs directly given by the Holy Spirit! (Col. 3:16)
  • Among the Roman Christians the Apostle Paul called believers to embrace and use the gifts given by God to serve the body, including the gift of prophecy. (Rom. 12:5-8)
  • In the Church in Corinth the Apostle Paul instructs in the use of spiritual gifts in their gatherings, with particular emphasis on the gift of prophecy. He encourages every member to eagerly seek the gift of prophecy. (1 Cor. 14:1)
  • The Apostle Paul reminds his “son”, Timothy of personal prophecies received during his commissioning from the church elders. (1 Tim. 4:14) This may have been at his sending Church in Lystra. (Acts 16:1-2)

No “One Size Fits All” Approach:

Some churches sent itinerant prophetic ministers; others received them. Some churches, such as in Corinth; placed a high value upon prophetic gifts and ministry. However, there does not seem to be a standard or uniform approach to prophetic ministry in the early church. Leaders were open to prophetic revelation, but did not rely on it all the time. It was initiated by God and resulted from their relationship with the Holy Spirit.

So what does this mean for us today?

For those of us who are gifted in prophecy, it means not placing expectations on our local church leaders on what particular expressions of prophetic ministry should be operating in our church or meetings. Being prophetic is not about performance, but following the Holy Spirit’s unique direction for our church. For those who lead ministries and churches, it encourages us to have the freedom to explore our own unique expression of prophetic ministry. And most of all – to appreciate and rejoice in the fresh flow of creative expression, as God’s heart is revealed to the Body of Christ.

Training to See

God is very committed to teaching us how to see. To make this possible He gave us the Holy Spirit as a tutor. The curriculum that He uses is quite varied. But the one class we all qualify for is the greatest of all Christian privileges—worship.

The Environment of Worship:

The environment of worship is the most excellent class room. Learning how to see is not the purpose for our worship, but it is a wonderful byproduct. Those who worship in spirit and truth learn to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. His realm is called the Kingdom of God. The Throne of God, which becomes established upon the praises of His people, is at the center of that Kingdom. It’s in the environment of worship that we learn things that go way beyond what our intellect can embrace.

David’s Example:

David was so affected by this environment that all His other exploits pale in comparison to his abandoned heart for God. We know that he learned to see into God’s realm because of statements like, “I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (Ps. 16:8). The Presence of God affected His seeing. He constantly practiced recognizing God’s Glory. He saw God daily, not with the natural eyes, but with the eyes of the heart.

Seeing By Revelation:

The privilege of worship is a good place for those who wrestle with difficult themes found in Scripture. In worship we can learn to hear the voice of God and receive revelation, a God-given gift. Nothing so moves us as a fresh word from heaven. Its the ability to see with the heart. As we learn to worship with purity of heart, our eyes will continue to open. And we can expect to see what He wants us to see.

Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” (Lk 10:23-24)

It is Written

Scripture: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, and, in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” (Mt. 4:1-11)

Thought for Today: “When Tempters Come… It is Written!”

The tempter came to Jesus and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:3-4)

In this passage we have a wonderful opportunity to see how Jesus dealt with the tempter in the wilderness. It is interesting to note that it is the Holy Spirit who leads Jesus into this situation where we find Him hungry and vulnerable to the tempter’s approach. Jesus has denied His physical body of food for 40 days so that He could focus upon the Words of God. This focus has brought Him into a place of testing that cannot be duplicated in any other environment. He is challenged about His identity, His authority and His loyalty. In every situation His response is the same – “It is Written!” The Word of God was His most valuable weapon… and in the end the Devil left Him discouraged and defeated.

The Wilderness Experience:

There are seasons where we need to remind our body where our true resource is found. Jesus pointed out to His disciples that He had food that they did not know about (Jn 4:32). Whether our appetite is for food, entertainment, or even other people; the wilderness experience reminds us that we were created for more than just flesh desires. Getting to the core values that we stand upon is essential when in the midst of temptation, testing and trials of our faith. If we have a shallow understanding of our faith in God, then we will find ourselves struggling when the tempter comes… and he will come.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (Jn. 10:10)

Focus on God’s Word:

I want to emphasize something we often overlook in those wilderness experiences… the one-two punch of quoting Scripture and fasting. Jesus is focusing on the Words of God within a fasting lifestyle, and that’s His greatest source of strength as the tempter comes to attack Him. Its true, the tempter will try to bring distraction and disruption to your spiritual journey; but recognize the security of knowing your resource is in the Word of God and prayer and fasting. There is just no threat when you live in the stronghold of God’s love and embrace. That is exactly what we have in the Words of God, a Stronghold of Truth that feeds our needy soul (Ps 119:161-168).

Jesus is the Word Made Flesh:

Later Jesus proclaims “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty” (Jn 6:35). God offers us something greater than bread, He offers us life in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. He is our spiritual resource. When we focus upon Jesus, looking into His eyes by faith, we are renewed in strength and revived in spirit (2 Cor 4:6). Likewise, when we focus on the Words of God in Scripture there is a revelation of the provision of God in Christ Jesus, released by the Holy Spirit (Col 1:27). Strength and joy are made available to defeat all enemies and bring revival to our weary souls.

Take note as you live, “the Kingdom of God is not food or drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17).

The Prophetic Church

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)

God was speaking! New Testament Prophetic Ministry shaped the environment and relational culture of the Church, because God is passionate about communicating. The Church’s foundation was laid in the midst of an outpouring that would bear the evidence of a prophetic awakening. He wants us to hear His Voice! No question about it… when you look closely at the Early Church; you see the finger print of the Holy Spirit and the leaders leaning intently upon every word that proceeded from the mouth of God. Should it really be any different today?

Every congregation’s experience was a little different. There was a uniqueness in expression seen among the churches of the New Testament. Consider the different applications of prophecy and prophetic ministry in the following list:

  • The Jerusalem Church had a company of prophets, some of whom traveled, ministering prophetically. (Acts 11:27, Acts 15:32, Acts 21:10) The Prophet Agabus was one of this company. (Acts 11:27-28)
  • In Acts 9, God gives Ananias, who is from the Church in Damascus, prophetic insight into the calling on Saul (later Paul). Its interesting to note that Ananias is not a Prophet, simply a ‘disciple’.
  • In Acts 4, the Jerusalem Church gathers to pray. They are united, praying the purposes of God and boldness against threats that were emerging… a prophetic prayer that God answers.
  • The Church in Phillipi was birthed through prophetic guidance. God gave the Apostle Paul a prophetic dream concerning his team’s immediate call to Macedonia. (Acts 16:9)
  • Prophetic guidance was used of God in evangelism, missionary endeavors and the establishment of new churches. (Acts 8:26, 10:9-23, 13:1-3, 16:9-10)
  • Prophets were included in the leadership team of the Church in Antioch. (Acts 13:1) They received revelation from the Holy Spirit when it was time to release Paul and Barnabas into their apostolic calling. This prophetic guidance launched Paul’s Apostolic church-planting ministry.
  • When the Apostle Paul visited the Church at Ephesus, the believers received the Holy Spirit. Each one of them prophesied as they were filled. (Acts 19:6)
  • In the Church in Thessalonica the Apostle Paul exhorted the believers not to quench the Spirit, and not to despise prophecy. (1 Thess. 5:19-20)
  • In the Church in Colossae the Apostle Paul encouraged believers to include prophetic or spiritual songs in their gatherings… there was a value placed upon songs directly given by the Holy Spirit! (Col. 3:16)
  • Among the Roman Christians the Apostle Paul called believers to embrace and use the gifts given by God to serve the body, including the gift of prophecy. (Rom. 12:5-8)
  • In the Church in Corinth the Apostle Paul instructs in the use of spiritual gifts in their gatherings, with particular emphasis on the gift of prophecy. He encourages every member to eagerly seek the gift of prophecy. (1 Cor. 14:1)
  • The Apostle Paul reminds his “son”, Timothy of personal prophecies received during his commissioning from the church elders. (1 Tim. 4:14) This may have been at his sending Church in Lystra. (Acts 16:1-2)

No “One Size Fits All” Approach:

Some churches sent itinerant prophetic ministers; others received them. Some churches, such as in Corinth; placed a high value upon prophetic gifts and ministry. However, there does not seem to be a standard or uniform approach to prophetic ministry in the early church. Leaders were open to prophetic revelation, but did not rely on it all the time. It was initiated by God and resulted from their relationship with the Holy Spirit.

So what does this mean for us today?

For those of us who are gifted in prophecy, it means not placing expectations on our local church leaders on what particular expressions of prophetic ministry should be operating in our church or meetings. Being prophetic is not about performance, but following the Holy Spirit’s unique direction for our church. For those who lead ministries and churches, it encourages us to have the freedom to explore our own unique expression of prophetic ministry. And most of all – to appreciate and rejoice in the fresh flow of creative expression, as God’s heart is revealed to the Body of Christ.

Platform for Reality

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered Him, We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, You will be made free? Jesus answered them, Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (Jn. 8:32-36)

Perspective is 90% of reality… and Jesus here challenges the perspective of the Pharisees so that they would choose a different platform to base their reality. They believed that their connection to Abraham would serve as their platform of truth and Jesus makes it clear that only those who are disconnected from sin would find access to God’s House. Even in the opening chapter of the Bible, two important facts lay the foundation for us, if we can understand them; we will all gain a fresh perspective and a solid platform of reality.

1st. Creation was God’s Work!

“And God said… And God said… And God said”: This phrase beats in cadence all the way through the chapter, a chapter that mentions the word “God” thirty times. And in this first chapter, the very first glimpse of God is as an artist, who speaks the worlds into existence. Creation was His masterpiece! Butterflies, waterfalls, bottle nose dolphins, praying mantises, kangaroos… they were all His idea. This entire world is the product of His creative flow. God, no one else; is the Master of the Universe, and all that follows in the Bible reinforces the message. Behind all of history… all of reality, there is God. And from His mouth (His Word) will come the fabric that holds an accurate assessment of where we go from here… where we get knowledge, wisdom and truth.

2nd. Creation Was Good!

Another sentence tolls softly, like a bell, throughout this chapter: “And God saw that it was good”. In our day, we hear alarming reports about nature: the greenhouse effect, polluted oceans, vanishing species, the destruction of rain forests. Much has changed, much has been spoiled; since that first moment of creation. Genesis 1 describes the world as God created it, as He wanted it, before any corruption. Whatever beauty we sense in nature today is a faint echo of that pristine state. Our view from the outside looking in is of a Garden called Eden. A place where animals and plants may have looked very different from today, but they were good; the atmosphere was good and the Crowning achievement, the Man – Adam, was “very good”.

Freedom:

In Christ, God is restoring Creation through redemptive glory (Jn. 1:14)(Heb. 1:1-4). When we consider the heavens and the earth in all of their beauty, it behooves us to know what the plan of God was in the beginning, before sin entered our existence and clouded our perspective on reality. Freedom means something to God that it does not mean to us. By God’s own initiative, His creation was given more than just an environment. It was given order and governed by a daily experience with its Creator (Gen. 1:14-17)(Gen. 3:8). To man He said, “have dominion over the fish… the birds… the cattle… over all the earth” (Gen 1:26). And as God looked upon all that He had created and set in order, He was pleased… pleased because He had created a man in His own image and likeness for fellowship and love. This was His greatest hope… freedom, to share unhindered love. Remind yourself today that, “as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gives the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of flesh and blood, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13).

Jesus reveals freedom’s goal: “A Son abides in God’s House forever” – to share unhindered love!

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