Posts Tagged ‘discernment’

Reverend Fun – Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Things got really weird when the wolf in sheeps clothing happened across the sheep in wolf-in-sheeps-clothing clothing.

(Copyright Gospel Communications International, Inc – http://www.reverendfun.com/)

Accurate Listening

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

One thing we are learning through ministering to others is the need to listen accurately.

It is possible to get so excited when we finally begin to hear in the spirit that we will listen to anything, and accept it as from God. There is such a contrast between our old conservative, ‘Bible only’ Christianity and being a ‘living supernaturally’ follower of Jesus, that we forget that not all spirits are Holy Spirt, and not every thought that pops into our head is necessarily from a spirit at all. We can still hear our own head, just as we did before.

It is interesting when ministering to dissociated people, knowing when they are hearing their own thoughts, a dissociated part, a demon, or Jesus. These seem to come in pretty even proportion most of the time, and we need to discern which is which. There is sometimes a lot at stake if we are wrong.

The standard tests can be applied: is it consistent with the Bible, is it consistent with God’s character, is it something Jesus would do, is it conformed in other ways, etc. However, in the context of ministry it is usually easiest to discern demonic utterances by the fact that while they try to pretend to be Jesus there is always something that gives them away if you are alert.

For example, we’ve had a false Jesus show up, who looked and sounded like the real Jesus, but his eyes were cold, or he was carrying a knife, or when looked at hard he seemed fuzzy, and so on. They try hard, but they are just not good at it.
When they speak an alert listener can find the subtle flaw in their logic. While they have to tell the truth when commanded, so often it is done in a cryptic way. If you give up too soon, which is what they hope for, you will miss some really useful information. Percever, and make them explain every point and the truth is arrived at.

The ones I suspect the most are the stereotype ones that look like a Sunday School picture, with long hair and wearing a clean white robe and sandals. This is so unlikely – Jesus always appears appropriate to the person and the situation. To an Austrlain Aborigine, for example, he would also probably appear black and have fuzzy hair. And why not? The resurrected Jesus is not a Jew from Palestine. He has a new body which can take any form he needs it to.

I’ve found it particulary useful, when a demon is being more uncooperative than usual, to tell them to ask Jesus what he wants them to say. They come back telling the truth through gritted teeth as if every world causes them pain, but tell the truth they do.

When dialoguing with dissociated parts you need to use a lot more grace. Parts never try to deceive, but they don’t always have full knowledge about a situation or a very well developed worldview. After all, some of them are only equivalent to babies or young children. They haven’t had time to learn much. Again, checking with Jesus helps a lot, plus using the person’s own background knowledge.

The Holy Spirit, or Jesus always speak so graciously and respectfully, even when they are being tough on a person. You never feel condemned, even when convicted or challenged. With a demon you hear about how bad you are and that there is no way out. With Jesus hope is always offered, but the choice is still yours.

Jesus does want to teach us how to hear, and he intends us to hear easily, accurately, and quickly. And when we hear and act, things always happen!

Approaches to Listening to God

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

There are many approaches in the church to listening to God. Three that have been part of my own church experience are:

  1. Traditional/Evangelical churches often equate hearing from God with reading the Bible, hearing powerful preaching, listening to authorities, or using some kind of democratic process to decide between alternative opinions. This is what I encountered in the Gospel Mission, Methodist and Baptist churches I have been a part of. There is an implication that God spoke in the Bible, and now we must apply what he once revealed, adapting it to our present circumstances.
  2. Some churches try to use spiritual gifts, but place much reliance on sometimes hit or miss guesswork. Some will speak and trust that God will make their words right, with little or no testing of their accuracy. Any testing tends to be left to the person speaking, especially if they have a track record, or to whether the hearer likes what is being said. I found this approach in my early experience of charismatic renewal.
  3. Some realize that God still speaks today as he did in Biblical times and determine to learn to listen. They use all means provided by God to test what is heard, not just so that they can know what he is saying, but to learn to recognize God’s voice by means of experience and experiment. Such hearing is both a personal and corporate. This has been my more recent experience among combined meetings of people from across a wide range of denominations, including some of those above. It is typical of true intercessors, healers and prophets in any branch of the church.

The first relies primarily on the human mind and on trust relationships between people. Our reasoning about the content of the Bible is the principal resource. God no longer needs to speak. The strongest opinion or the person with the greatest following can carry the decision. While the motivation is to allow God to be completely in control, the result is that the control is taken by people.

The second is similar to the first, relying partly on the mind, but also on emotions and the character of individuals. Whether or not what we hear is from God is left to how it makes us feel, or how someone else says it makes them feel. God is only in control as long as we like what he wants.

The third uses a balance of mind, emotions and spirit, and depends on a good relationship with God and with each other. This requires a balance between diligent study of scripture, the ability to be honest about our feelings, openness with each other, willingness to defer to each other, trust of God’s giving us the freedom to make mistakes, and an acceptance that God can still do today what he used to do in Biblical times. Here the issue is not about who is in control at all, but in each taking responsibility for their part of the mandate. A true cooperation between God and people becomes possible, which is in line with God’s intention in creating them.

Which one sounds most like a truly Christian approach?

An important way that I think the first approach comes undone is in its insistence that the Bible is the only authority for Christian practice, but at the same time dismissing much of what it teaches. By this I mean we tend to accept the propositions that the biblical writers make, but ignore the way they came to the things they say. For example, God spoke to the prophets, both Old and New Testament, but the instruction we are to receive from their books is not limited to what they say God said, but also their descriptions of how God said it to them. Surely we are meant to also learn to listen to God like a prophet does, not just listen to the prophet!

The second approach acknowledges this, but then ignores the fact that in his training of a prophet God was not at all interested in whether the prophet liked what God was saying. He was interested in obedience. People’s lives depended on a quick and faithful response to God’s word. Their feelings were irrelevant, as was their convenience. We forget that true joy comes from dwelling in God’s presence and acceptance, not in getting our own way. When our desires become the same as God’s desires we will get everything we ask.

This is not to say there are not dangers in the third approach. But life has no guarantees, except that it will end, at least on this earth. Safety too often equates to uselessness to be a good guide for living. Obedience and its accompanying fruitfulness is a far better measure of success.

I forget where I heard it but I remember someone using this illustration. Suppose that you are a soldier in a trench during a battle, and someone shouts “Duck!” Do you look around to get a second opinion, or do you first duck to avoid a possible bullet in the head, and then check to see whether you needed to or not?

Purifying the Prophetic – Sanctified Psychic Reading

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

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!

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

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.

Step Out and Prophesy

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

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

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

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.