Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I feel, as much as I've ever felt in my life, that I want the spiritual gift of prophecy. Eighteen years ago, at our HSRM conference in green Lake, Wisconsin, Jack Hayford was the speaker. As he talked about spiritual gifts it was not coercive and manipulative. Instead, I felt God, through Jack, was extending an invitation to me.

I like being invited rather than being pushed in. I think, when it comes to experiencing the river of God, some are divers and some are waders. I shared this with my congregation a few months ago. I asked, "You know me pretty well. How many of you think I'm a diver?" A few strangers raised their hands. "How many think I'm a wader?" Everyone in the building raised their hand.

It's true. I am a wader. And I can tell you that waders don't like being pushed. In fact, I hate it. I hate being pushed. I also hate being judged if I'm not out there diving. I don't mind seeing people dive. But the thing is, I've seen some people who dove into the River of God years ago and they're not even in the water anymore, while here I am still wading out into deeper waters.

I'm still in the water, and I'm going further. I think that's what counts. Are you in the water now or not? While diving seems more dramatic and faith-filled, how one gets into the water and stays means little to me now. I don't mind seeing people dive into the River of God, but I think there are more waders around than divers. This conference years ago allowed me to wade, and Jack Hayford was the perfect beginning to that.

It's an invitation to come in, not a push. I don't even want someone to push me in the lake. I'll go in if I want to. But look, I'm out in the deep waters, and my report is the waters are fine, and I'm crying out to God for the gift of prophecy.

Look at 1 Cor 14:1-3: Follow the way of love, eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. I take that literally - especially, desire the gift of prophecy. So I feel I'm out in this water deeper now, and I'm swimming around, and I hear this. And we're all still growing; we never stop growing. We're either green or growing, or we're dying. I need and want a propehtic upgrade - that's currently part of my own green-growth. And I think I see more clearly why I want this gift.

1 Corinthians 14:3 says, "everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort." The idea here is that God is able to give you or me something to say, from God, to another person, that would strengthen, encourage, or comfort them. Who wouldn't want that? I know that I do, because there are many people I love and minister to, and a lot of times I feel inadequate because my cognitive abilities are inadequate. I find myself crying out to God for the words that will heal and deliver and save.

I have had this happen to me, and find myself speaking prophetically into people's lives more and more. For example, I still carry with me a prophecy spoken to me through my good friend Gary Wilson. When Gary speaks prophetically he always does so with great humility, often adding words like "John, I believe God is saying this, so I am presenting it to you." Some of the things God has spoken to me through Gary and others have so encouraged me that I know it was God. I am so thankful for friends who risk sharing good words with me.

Last Sunday morning I was praying for a number of people and felt impressed by God to share some specific things with a number of them. My experience is, as I am praying for them, a thought comes to me. In my mind I weigh that thought for a few moments. If it seems like something that would strengthen, comfort, or encourage them, I share it, often adding the words "I think God is giving me something to share with you." After sharing it I might ask them, "Does this make sense to you? If this helpful? Encouraging? Strengthening?" Most of the time the person says, "Yes."

In my past life as a hyper-left-brained "evangelical" I would have thought such things were the equivalent of magical fortune-telling and should be avoided. Now I think that fortune-telling is the dark copy of the real thing, just as counterfeit twenty-dollar bills exist precisely because there is such a thing as a real twenty-dollar bill.

Desire especially the gift of prophecy. I do. Not so I can be some TV "prophet," but so God can speak through me to strengthen, comfort, and encourage the many people I love and minister to. My desire for the gift of prophecy is accompanied by a deepening sense of my own indequacy to really help people. Have you ever counseled failing marriages, drug addicts, sex addicts. control addicts, bondage-situations, and the like? I have and do all the time. In my own strength and on my own talents and abilities the success rate is far short of 100%. Do I think an all-knowing God has the keys to unlock and open the doors to freedom? Of course. Do I think an all-loving God would want to set captives free? Indeed. With these truths securely in mind I find myself seeking God for other people, and asking "God, give me your healing and freeing and delivering words, and I will risk communicating them to your children."

Remain in Jesus, dwell in the perichoretic Tri-unity, let God make his home in you, and more and more God's thoughts will be your thoughts. Speak God's thoughts to others. That's prophecy.

(Josh Bentley and I will teach a Prophecy class at Redeemer in the winter, Tuesdays, 5-7 PM. For information call 734-242-5277.)