March, 2011

Mar 11

The Prophet: Beyond the Circumstances

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)

Looking back over my Christian journey, one of the themes that I see unfolding is the reality of the unseen realm. Life in the spirit is a mystery. Those on the outside can desire the same passion. They can pray the same prayers. They can preach the same sermons. But without the spirit of God, they have nothing but dead works. As believers, we must learn to live in the unseen realm of the spirit.

Take Abraham as an example. God had promised a son to him. However, that was humanly impossible. When Abraham chose to look at his circumstances, he made a bad decision that led to an intense familial conflict. Abraham had to learn to live in the unseen realm of God’s promise to Him. His willingness to sacrifice Isaac on the altar reveals how thoroughly he had committed himself to that.

Looking over my spiritual journey, I see some of the challenges of living in the realm of faith, or in the realm of the unseen:

  • God is intent on building faith and building sensitivity to the unseen realities of His kingdom. For me, that has meant living in circumstances that defy the promises of God for my life. Yes, I know God has placed these things in my heart, but I am also surrounded by circumstances that defy them. I must choose: will I be overwhelmed by the circumstances, or will I live in the reality of God’s promise?
  • Sometimes it feels like God has intentionally clouded my “natural vision”. Looking back over my journey, my major life decisions were “no-brainers” only in retrospect. At the time, however, they felt like little more than holy hunches. Yes, I did pray about them and weigh out the options, but in the end, it came down to something about as certain as, “If I tried to figure this out, I could go either way, but I think I feel God lightly beckoning me in this direction.” Once again, I had to choose: will I rely on the things I can see, or will I live in the unseen reality of what I feel God is laying on my heart?

Those are challenges all of us face, but how does apply to the prophet?

As I mentioned, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the prophet is his sensitivity to the heart of God and to the spiritual realities. However, one of my most difficult lessons was learning to separate that from my situation.

For example, say that I’m at a crossroads in my life, such as a career change. I’m investing a lot of time and energy thinking about this and praying about it. Meanwhile, God lays a burden on my heart. More often than not, I will interpret that in light of my prayers. “God, what are you trying to tell me about where I should go?” I’ve had to learn that God usually does not direct through those burdens. Rather, He’s saying, “Hey son, I appreciate you asking me about that, but I’d like to interrupt you with this other thing that needs your attention right now.” When I let go of my agenda and ask God what He wants, the reason for the burden becomes clear. (And God seems a whole lot less concerned about working out the details of my life than I am, maybe because He’s already got them under control!)

The other temptation is to interpret these things in light of our walk with God. Sometimes when we sense something in our spirit, we turn to God and ask, “God, what in the world have I done wrong? Have I messed up?” A friend of mine once walked into a building and thought, “You know, I feel really disconnected with God.” He began to ask the question, “What’s wrong with me that I feel disconnected?” However, he then realized, “This isn’t about me. I’m sensing something spiritual that is bringing a disconnect with God.” When he prayed about that, he felt the spiritual connection return.

Here’s the thing. The things that you experience are rarely without reason, but many times, it’s easy to look at our circumstances to figure out the reason. The truth is that we walk by faith, not by sight. It’s a process to learn what God is saying, but if you allow Him, He will gladly be your teacher!

Mar 11

The Prophet: Joined in Spirit

Many of us have been taught that our feelings originate within ourselves in response to certain circumstances and situations, and while that’s true, it’s incomplete. It overlooks one major fact: we are spiritual beings.

I don’t know when I first recognized this, but I know God has been taking me on a long journey to teach me this. Two years ago, I was reading a book called The Prophets by Abraham F. Heschel (a bit of a scholarly volume but interesting nonetheless). In response to the book, I wrote in a letter:

I keep learning and forgetting how many of my feelings are spiritual. It seems to go against so much that I’ve been taught, until you realize that the Spirit of God dwells within us. When the Spirit of God weeps, we share the tears. When the spirits of darkness rise up against the Spirit of God, they rise up against us. And such.

I’ve spent the past two years learning and forgetting this, although I think I’m beginning to remember more often than I forget!

Here’s the deal.

When we put our faith in Christ, our spirit is joined to the spirit of God. As babes in Christ, our sensitivity is dulled by sin that has not been dealt with, but that does not change the ultimate reality of our connection. As we mature,we grow in sensitivity to the spirit of God.

While this connection is true for every believer, it is particularly strong for the prophet. If the spirit of God rejoices over someone, the prophet will rejoice. If the spirit of God weeps over a city, the prophet will be heartbroken over the sin. The prophet’s emotions can be as vast as God’s heart for the world.

Jesus died so that we could be connected with God. But for the prophet, it doesn’t just mean understanding and relating and getting to know the heart of God. It means experiencing the heart of God. The prophet has a special spiritual sensitivity, and because of that, has one of the most difficult gifts to manage. But as he matures in his gifting, he becomes a powerful force in relating God’s heart for the sake of God’s kingdom.

There’s more to add…tomorrow!

PS: Once again, practicality wins over politically correctness. Just because I am talking about the prophet doesn’t mean I’m excluding the prophetess. 🙂

Mar 11

The Prophet: An Introduction

What I am about to attempt, I’m not sure is possible, but I’ll try. I feel God has taught (and is teaching) me some things about the role of a prophet, and I want to communicate some of those things with you through a series of blog posts. Your mileage may vary. For some of you, this will strike a very deep chord; others may not identify as strongly. Regardless, I hope it will lead you closer to Christ.

Having said that, I couldn’t think of a better way to open this series than with Michael Card’s song “The Prophet”:

Reluctant ride in the middle of the belly of a whale
A wheel on fire in the middle of the sky
Abandoned baby kicking on the side of the road
And a wife has died but you’re denied the right to cry

Three men walk out protected from a furnace of flame
One man cries out from a miry well
See a man in the myrtles and women with the wind in their wings
Understand what these seared lips can tell

I am the prophet and I smolder and burn
I scream and cry and wonder why you never seemed to learn
To hear with your own ears, with your own eyes to see
I am the prophet, won’t you listen to me?
I am the prophet, won’t you listen to me?

I hold out hope to everyone who hears and understands
The Word of God can echo in the voice of a man
He’s the shadow of a great rock in a dry and weary land
With the names of the ones He loved carved into His hands

The sorrow in His anger, my eyes weep His tears
His life a light in me
I am the sword that cuts His people apart
I speak the Word that comforts their faithless hearts

I am the prophet

Words and music by Michael Card
© 1992 Birdwing Music and BMG Songs, Inc. (ASCAP)

Mar 11

How Does Change Happen?

How does change happen?

I talked with a guy yesterday who agreed that our nation is making unwise decisions, headed in the wrong direction. He also agreed that we, as a wealthy nation, have a responsibility to help out the underprivileged. However, when I asked him what he and I could do about it, he shrugged and said there’s nothing we can do. It’s a lost cause, he said.

In short, we have a big problem, and since we are just one person, let’s leave it to everyone else. Really?

The simple fact is that the minds of this world have been darkened by sin. Many don’t see a problem, and many who do see it don’t see a solution. However, we as believers should be able to see the world in its true colors. We are called to be light. We are called to manifest the wisdom of God to the powers of this age, which are ruling over the minds of those who don’t believe.

How does change happen? I don’t know exactly, but how about an audacious faith and tenacious faithfulness?

I might not be able to influence world leaders, but I want to! Until then, will I be faithful in influencing the people around me?

I might not be able to feed all the hungry children in Africa, but I want to! Until then, will I be faithful in feeding the hungry in my community?

I might not be able to solve the unemployment crisis in Nepal, but I want to! Until then, will I be faithful in stewarding my financial resources to those around me?

It’s an uncomfortable tension to carry, with visions of a brighter future and the reality of the world that we know it.



This world needs something that you have to offer.

What will you do about it?