Check out posts in my other blogs

If you are reading this post you would probably also be interested in posts in some of my blogs:

a reasonable mystic

Mal’s Meanderings

speak-in-tongues blog

Distortion of meaning by dictionary definitions

The posts to the Listening 2 God Google group that accompanies this blog have led me to thinking about how the common definitions of words in dictionaries often lead to a distortion of meaning in their common use.

The dictionary is attempting to reflect the common use meaning of a word, but inevitably it helps to change how that word is used. The meaning presented will be biased by a number of factors, such as the understanding of the dictionary compiler, or its use by the sample of sources used by the compiler, which might, or might not, be representative of a large body of users of that word. Consequently, the future use of this word will be biased towards this direction, as people look up the word to find out what it means.

In this way, while the dictionary meanings attempt to follow common useage, at the same time they also establish that common useage.

For example, let’s take the word “prophecy”. Common useage, as indicated by what I read on the web and in books, and by what I hear in conversation, now emphasises predicting the future. This is understandable, given the sensational value placed on it in recent television programs.

If we look up the verb “prophesy” in the Macquarie Dictionary, we find six meanings relating to predicting the future, one for hearing God’s voice, and one for teaching or preaching (another common distortion used in evangelical circles).

But is it accurate? I believe that early Christian references to this word, and even earlier Hebrew useage was more in the line of hearing God’s voice, whether for now or the future.

Another example – “speaking in tongues”. Common useage, as given in dictionaries emphasises ecstacy, possibly because of the inaccuracy of early Pentecostal teaching, but also because of the common perception that it is something wierd. I am sure that the understanding of the early church was rather more prosaic, as is our own experience.

Then there is “demon”. Until recently it was clearly an evil spirit – an angelic being. But more commonly it has been demystified so far as to be only a synonym for human angst.

Most dictionaries will also have an entry for “demon possession”, which is not even in the Bible except as a very poor mistranslation introduced by the king James version and continued in many versions since. A better translation would be to retain the Greek word in its English form of “demonise”, which simply means something like “to have a demon”.

However, if we look up “demonise”, we find that its common useage is now to make a person, idea or institution “look like a demon” – in other words, give them the appearance of evil. Interestingly, if you are familiar with the concept of territorial spirits, you will realise that this idea is not so far off the mark, except that there are definitely evil spirits involved in the process! We see in the world news every day people “demonising” religion. What they don’t realise is that “religion” was demonised long ago. Check out Peter Wagner’s Freedom From The Religious Spirit.

One result of these changes in common useage is that over time they are read back into the original documents, and so influence future understanding and translations. It all becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

It is known that many marginal notes on ancient Bible manuscripts had this effect as they found their way into subsequent copies of the text. Well, the process hasn’t ceased!

Theology of Lying

Then there’s the little boy in Sunday School, who, when asked what a lie was, said:

“It’s an abomination unto God, and an ever present help in time of trouble.”

(from Dutch Sheets, Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth. Regal Books, 1997, p115.)

Prophecy Versus Preaching

There is a common equation made among more conservative evangelicals (and liberals) between prophecy and preaching. Reluctant to allow for the direct gift of prophecy to be still operating today, they instead wish to believe that it has been replaced by inspired preaching. This, notwithstanding that the offices of prophet, pastor and teacher are listed as quite separate by Paul.

Certainly, there are times when a prophet will preach, or a preacher will prophesy. And sometimes the two merge together in prophetic preaching. Does this mean that as well as wishing that “all would prophesy”, Paul would insist that all should preach? I don’t think we could assume this, though all may do so at times. Nor does it mean that prophet equals preacher, or that prophesying equates to preaching.

An example which brings this home to me is the case of C.H. Spurgeon – often called the ‘Prince of Preachers’. Spurgeon was indeed a gifted preacher, with the power of the Holy Spirit very evidently operating in him and amongst his listeners when he spoke from his pulpit. But even Spurgeon was careful to distinguish between prophecy and preaching.

Ernest Gentile, in Your Sons and Daughters Shall Prophesy: Prophetic Gifts in Ministry Today, says “He reckons that there were as many as a dozen cases in which, interrupting his sermon, he had suddenly pointed to someone in his audience and given a striking description without any knowledge of the person. These spontaneous descriptions had usually caused the conversion of the person addressed.”

Bishop David Pytches, in Does God Speak Today?, pp 48-49, recounts a story Spurgeon related in the first volume of his autobiography, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography: The Early Years, 1834-1859 :

“While preaching in the hall on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd and said, ‘There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker. He keeps his shop open on Sundays. It was open last Sabbath morning, and he took ninepence – with fourpence profit from it. His soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!'”

Later a city missionary happened to meet the shoemaker. As they discussed Spurgeon, the shoemaker explained that Spurgeon’s word was exactly right and had caused his conversion. Fearful at first to return to the church and risk further exposure, the man finally concluded that it must have been God. From then on he shut up his shop on Sundays and went to God’s house to hear the Baptist prophet preach. (Gentile, Your Sons and Daughters Shall Prophesy, p 81)

Spurgeon himself described the ‘unction’ that came upon him at such times as, “a dew from the Lord, a divine presence which you will recognise at once … ‘an unction from the holy one.'” (Lectures to My Students, p49)

Another common misunderstanding is that prophecy equates to powerful preaching about societal ills, sin in politics, environmental destruction, exploitation of the vulnerable, and similar important issues. Of course, prophets and preachers may thunder about such things, and probably will, but it is not the thundering which makes such preaching become prophecy. Rather, it is the accuracy and authority which comes from hearing a direct word from God about what to say. As we can see in Spurgeon’s example – he could not have known what he said before he said it. This is one mark of true prophecy.

Anyone can preach about the sin they are aware of among those around them, but few have the gift of speaking about what they do not know beforehand – at least without making fools of themselves.

Purifying the Prophetic – Sanctified Psychic Reading

I am presently reading Purifying the Prophetic: Breaking Free from the Spirit of Self-Fulfillment by Loren Sandford, son of prophetic and healing ministry pioneers John and Paula Sandford.

Loren is a pastor who has had a great deal of experience in prophetic ministry himself, and in equiping, administering and protecting others in such ministry. While affirming the value of prophetic words, and still advocating the kind of training we are engaged in to enable people to hear the voice of God, at the same time he sees certain dangers in the way people often operate in this ministry.

The first one I want to address here is what he calls “sanctified psychic reading”.
We recently had an email from someone seeking advice about whether she is a burden bearer, and how this would affect her feelings towards a man to whom she is strongly attracted. In the course of answering her questions I revisited something that Loren wrote in Purifying the Prophetic. Let me quote him from pp27-28:

“Prophetic ministry is the word from God through men to men. It is not primarily a reading by men of what is in the hearts of men. Ability to sense and even define what is in the hearts of others does not make us prophetic. It makes us human. To learn to do it better does not make us more prophetic, but rather more fully human. We are created in the image of God as spiritual beings. Every human being, therefore, possesses the capacity – tapped or untapped – to sense the feelings and inner condition of others. Because God is Spirit, we each have a personal spirit as part of bearing His image. This is our human birthright and constitutes an essential component of our ability to exercise compassion.

Com = ‘with’
Passion = ‘feeling’
Compassion means ‘to feel with’.

So ‘reading people’s mail’ (their hearts) does not make us prophetic. It just makes us more fully human.

“In less than half an hour, almost anyone can be taught to use the burden-bearing gift resident in every believer (see Galatians 6:2) to sense the heart of another person deeply enough to give a reasonably accurate description of what might be going on inside him. Streams Ministries under John Paul Jackson, a ministry I respect very much, does this effectively in their seminars. It is beneficial training, an awakening of the spirit, but it is not prophetic ministry. At worst it is that sanctified psychic reading flowing from the flesh of those who do it. At best it can serve the purpose of ministry in wonderfully revelatory ways, but it is not fully prophetic until it is coupled with other functions that truly reveal the plans and purposes of God and release the power to accomplish those plans and purposes. We see too little of that kind of release in prophetic ministry today.

“We need to move from mere sanctified psychic reading into the genuine spirit of prophecy that, according to Jeremiah 1:10, tears down and builds up, uproots and plants. It is the word of God to accomplish His purposes.”

Loren has much more to say on this, as do his parents John and Paula Sandford in their writings. But on re-reading this I was caused to reflect on what we have been teaching in our courses and seminars. We do teach about checking what we hear in this way, and that a seminar is a learning experience, and that life-changing decisions should not be made on the basis of such exercises. And we do go on to look at how to test prophecies.

During a seminar I recently attended, in one of the exercises we were arranged in two parallel lines, facing outwards. Then we were asked to first hear or see what the Lord wanted us to give to the person behind us, before turning round to give it. I clearly saw a picture of a large country house. When I turned I found myself with a peson who I knew had just had to sell their house because of debt, and is desperately seeking another place. Now, I know I wanted to hear from God, and I am used to listening to him, but as a previous (now recovering) burden bearer, I could equally well have heard what is in her heart and given it back to her as if from the Lord. Because it was an exercise and a bit of fun I probably was not as careful as usual, so I am not sure which happened without going to the Lord about it afterwards. No instruction was given about the different voices that might be heard, the assumption being that it would only be God! Do you see the danger?

I’m not saying that we should stop teaching it this way – I don’t know a better way myself to get people started. However, I wonder if a bit more explanation might be necessary? Such exercises don’t specifically teach us how to hear God. They teach us how to hear another consciousness apart from our own. This might be God, or a demon, or another human spirit. Sometimes we might even be hearing our own dissociative parts. We need then to teach how to tell which it is we are hearing – or, given the lack of time in a short seminar, at least alert the participants to the different possibilities when they leave the protected environment of the seminar and try it out on their friends.

Tell him he’s dreaming!

I had an unusual experience the other day.

I was taking an exam as part of a course on relationships. The paper consisted of two sections. The first part contained a number of short answer questions, while the second required the writing of a short essay.

The exam was held in quite a large room with only artificial light, and there were about 40 candidates sitting. I did not know any of the other people sitting the exam.

I began the paper and handled the first section fairly well, taking about an hour. I was quite familiar with the material and it would have taken me less time except that the light was not particularly good and my eyesight is not great. As anyone who has poor sight knows, your eyes quickly become tired and you just want to close them. By the time I was ready to begin the essay I was already feeling quite tired.

At one point I suddenly woke up from a deep sleep and realised that I could hardly see. The light was down to a mere glimmer. I then realised that I had not even begun to write the essay part of the paper and I suppose I panicked a bit. I jumped up and groped through the greyness trying to find the light switch. When I found the switches I discovered that only one of the four was on. I turned on another switch and nothing happened. The next caused a computer sitting on a desk against the wall to come on, much to the surprise of someone working at that desk. By then I was beginning to get angry, especially as I then heard the examiner announce that the time for writing was finished. The fourth switch produced a small amount of light so I stormed back to my desk, muttering about the unfairness of it all.

I decided that I would write as much as I could before the papers were collected. I had not chosen a subject for the essay yet, so I decided that I would simply write out what had just occured. So, in fact, what you are now reading is the paper I produced for that exam. As I wrote I began to suspect that perhaps I was being manipulated. Perhaps all of the other students were in on the joke and I was being watched to see how I would react.

At that point the teacher went to the wall, turned a knob, and the room was flooded with light. I kept writing as long as I could and this is the point before I was forced to stop and my paper was collected.

Once the exam was over I began thinking about my reactions. Panic, anger, withdrawal (going to sleep?), feeling of injustice, paranoia, navel gazing! Then there was an intense feeling of relief – if it was a test of a different kind then I need not worry about the result of the written exam.

At that point I woke up and realised that it was all a dream – none of the above really happened! I knew I had to write the paper – I experienced myself writing it during the dream and the Lord enabled me to reproduce exactly what I had written here in this blog.

Once I realised that it was “only a dream” I was then rather mystified as to why it had happened. It seemed so real. I could still feel the emotions invoked by it.

So, my question to you, dear reader (assuming there is only one of you), is, having waded so far through this post, what was your response to finding out that it was all fiction? Perhaps you would like to post a comment in the blog (or in the linked Google group if that is where you are reading this).

Or, was it actually fiction? This was a real dream – I didn’t invent it. I believe it was a dream from God. In which case, the question you might like to answer is what is God trying to say to me?

Then, because I believe God wanted me to post this in the blog (I’m not really that mischeivous – at least not all the time), then what is God saying to YOU?

I await your responses with interest.

Ministry to Children

This morning Diana and I attended part of the Restoration Conference, where Sandra Rule of Sonrise Family Ministries was speaking about ministering to children. Sandra is always interesting to listen to, and I will share more later about her work, especially about her monthly visits to us at Beth Tephillah Ministry Centre. We and some of our staff are interning with her to learn the special skills needed to help children.

However, what particularly stood out today was the need to be totally reliant on listening to God’s voice when ministering to troubled kids and their families. Without the revelation gifts you can do little. Without Jesus you can do nothing!

Some other important points she made include the facts that children do not receive a junior Holy Spirit – he’s the full deal; the power of touch when it comes to blessing people; and the fact that Jesus wants to bless people whether they know him or not.

On the first one, it has been our experience, and Sandra mentioned it again today, that some children are being born filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb. They know Jesus at a very young age. We believe this will become more common as the generation who will bring in the Kingdom are born. Our task is to instruct them in how to live in the Spirit and to allow them to do it.

Step Out and Prophesy

We just had a seminar in Newport called Step Out and Prophesy with Lynn Moresi of Equiping 2 Serve. It was very similar to the teaching and exercises of our Hearing God’s Voice course, and was a great encouragement for people who had never believed that they could prophesy to step out and have a try. The teaching was good and well presented, and the exercises were fun to do. I recommend it to anyone.

The seminar served to provide a safe place for people to practice listening to God’s voice. However, I would have been happier if some instruction had been given about how to tell if it really is God’s voice that they were hearing. I later queried Lynn about this and she basically said that if we have asked for the Holy Spirit then we can trust that this is what God will give.

This is true, if it is the Holy Spirit we are asking for, but in this case we were asking to hear something. It is fine to expect this to happen in the safe envoronment of a seminar, but what happens when they go out into the world, expecting that every voice they hear is God’s. I suggested that as well as God’s voice, people can also hear their own thoughts (or even dissociate parts), demons, and other people’s spirits. Lynn is not at all happy with this last possibility, but anyone who is familiar with the experience of burden-bearing, or of intercession in general, will know it is a reality.

Still, with this one caveat I thoroughly recommend this seminar if you have an opportunity to do it.

Welcome to Listening 2 God blog

Hi and welcome to Listening 2 God blog.

This blog is intended to complement the listening2god.com website – a website for those who want together to learn more about hearing God’s voice, and how to recognise the voice of God among the many other voices claiming our attention.

Is it possible to hear God’s voice? Since God is a person, who desires intimacy with those who he calls his friends, then of course it is possible. In fact, I believe everybody hears God speaking.The real question is – is it possible to learn to reliably recognise God’s voice?

The answer is most definitely YES!

God is not human – God is Spirit. So we would expect that hearing God might be a bit different from hearing another person. But it is not that much different, because humans also are spiritual beings, made in the image of God, and created for communion, and therefore communication, with him. God has built numerous ways into the creation by which we hear him speak. Some of these are:

* Human conscience
* Awe of his created world
* Our spirit can respond to his Spirit
* He can ‘speak’ thoughts into our mind
* The witness of the Holy Spirit – e.g. inner peace
* He speaks through other people
* Spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, tongues, interpretation of

tongues, wisdom, knowledge, discernment of spirits
* Dreams and visions
* His written word, the Bible
* And the primary revelation of God – his Son Jesus Christ

In addition, God has provided ways for us to test and confirm whether what we are hearing is accurate and really from God. This is because His is not the only voice we might hear. We can, of course, hear our own thoughts, but it is also possible to hear the thoughts of others and of angels and evil spirits.

We have learned a number of effective ways for people to sharpen their spiritual hearing and discernment,

If you would like to learn more about how to hear God’s voice, and how to check what you hear, then visit the teaching section of the website, or contact us about a course in Hearing God’s Voice. We also run courses on Intercession and Spiritual Warefare, Prayer Ministry, Intimacy with God, and the Creative Spirit.