Prophecy Needs Discernment

One of the topics we discuss in our coaching huddles is discernment. Our guest blogger this month is huddle participant Kelly Hennessey from Canada, who shares her insights on this important subject.

One of the best realisations you can have when learning about the gift of prophecy is that prophecy, like life, can be messy.

New Testament prophecy is refreshingly different from the Old Testament. For the church today, in the age of the Spirit, God’s spoken word is freely and generously available. Jesus’ death and resurrection give us direct access to the throne of God, to the loving Father himself.

God cares deeply for us! He has many wonderful things to speak to us and he wants us to hear clearly what he is telling us.

In its simplest form, prophecy works like this: God speaks to the heart of a believer who is meant to receive and share God’s words and images with other believers (and at times, non-believers). This may happen one-on-one, in a group setting, or within a church community. Simple!

And not so simple.

Mistakes are part of learning how to hear God. None of us, in receiving words from the Spirit, gets it 100% right all the time – even most of the time. And yet we often lack granting the gift of grace when others speak prophetic words. Our expectations are too high and unrealistic of our brethren.

For prophecy to flourish and become a vital part of the landscape of a church community, it is important to create a safe space in which to practice and play. We need to remember that we are all on a life-long learning journey with the Lord, and as long as we’re here, we are never going to get it all right. This also applies to the words and images God asks us to share with others.

When we are given a prophetic word – what a gift! – we need to remember a little-focused part of the Lord’s commandment: “Love the Lord with all your heart, and MIND, and strength and soul.” (MSG, emphasis my own). God tells us to show up with our brains as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. It’s called “discernment”.

In prophecy, we need to consider discernment in three areas:

  1. Testing the words God speaks directly to us
  2. Testing prophecies given to us by other people
  3. Testing “corporate words” – prophecies for the whole church, city or region (which can spark conversation and controversy).

In every case, the New Testament makes it clear that we are to weigh things carefully.

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. 1 Thessalonians 5:29 (MSG)

My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. 1 John 4:1 (MSG)

Every child of God can hear His voice. Our personal role is to continue in relationship with the Holy Spirit as friend and companion first, knowing prophecy will naturally flow out of that relationship. Then we need to keep front and centre the reality that even in a safe environment, mistakes can happen.

Whenever we give or receive a prophecy we need to recognize the impact of our own human preferences. Our egos, personal agendas, opinions, assumptions and mindsets are at risk of becoming a filter and muddying up God’s message. Messy.

So before you give another person “a word”, press in to ask yourself how much of this is you? How much do you already know about this person’s life and struggles, and how might that be influencing what you think you’re “hearing”? How much do you want to provide your own advice? How much of this is God? Be diligent to tell the Spirit it’s His agenda, not yours.

Maturity in the prophetic is being able to remove or recognise our own filters before delivering words to another. We will have weighed and tested what we’ve been given before we deliver it.

When we are at the receiving end of a prophecy, God’s Word instructs us to sift and weigh it, too. Who or what is the source of this information? What is the character of the person delivering it? How deep is their relationship with the Lord? Is the Word of God a regular part of their Christian walk? How big are their egos? What might they be projecting on you? How is your relationship with them? Regardless of who is delivering that prophecy, use your mind and your Spirit-led heart before receiving or accepting it. Seek scriptures to affirm, or discount, it.

If you can, find a fellow believer who is familiar with giving and receiving prophecy, for it helps to have accountability and someone with whom to discern “a word”.

These cycles of receiving and sharing prophecies with discernment is a process that will never end, nor is it meant to be one of discouragement. What really matters is that we provide generous, kind room to one another to hear and share – to the best of our ability – God’s intimate direction in our lives. It could be messy.

And that’s okay.

Waves of Brokenness and Pivotal Prayers

A small group of prophetic people from across the UK and the US have been meeting together to pray and discern via Zoom since lockdown began, gathered by Cath Livesey of Accessible Prophecy. We offer our discerning to the wider church body, having submitted ourselves to accountability within the Catalyse Change movement, and praying that what we share equips and enables the church to stand effectively at this moment in time. We very much recognise the need for co-discerning in the Body of Christ as we offer these words.

As a group we had been collectively receiving similar words and pictures about tsunami waves and darkness coming over the earth – much of this was before anyone knew about the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. Initially we shared a scepticism of waves as a prophetic word. Waves have sometimes been unhelpfully played up as a ‘move of God’s power’ in prophetic circles without really appreciating the destruction real tsunami waves bring.  But we think this revelation speaks to this time containing not only the Covid-19 pandemic as a wave, but also other waves that are happening now and also are yet to come. We were horrified to find ourselves talking about a potential pandemic of hatred and racism before the senseless murder of George Floyd.

We do not see these waves as coming from God – they are a result of the deep brokenness of our world.  We’ve also sensed something about this season of waves being a God-ordained time: timing that can’t be changed or altered by us.  There is a deeper spiritual, humbling and exposing work that God wants to do in us (his Body) that won’t be rushed, especially in the West.

We see that some of what God is nonetheless doing through and despite these waves are: sifting the church, calling us to prayer, crying out for justice on the earth, releasing provision and seeking the prodigals. We must trust in him in all things as we look to the signs of his kingdom breaking in through the darkness.

Sifting the church: God is refining us: sifting and heating the church to purify it. This is about shaping good leaders who will care for God’s people, and an end to false religion and idolatry in our culture. Will we identify so much of our cultural norms as what they truly are – idols? Things that replace and dull our dependence on God?

There is a shift to leadership culture & praxis coming that will reorientate the church towards Jesus afresh. There is an anointing on teams, collaboration and 5-fold ministry where leadership responsibility is more shared than most current practice. (Ephesians 4.11) We also wonder that there is something of God’s Spirit especially blessing the ministry of smaller churches with a very distinct sense of community/fellowship, mission and awareness of the supernatural battle we face.

Calling us to prayer: Prayer can change the outcome for individual people – minimising harm and enabling people to stand in the chaos of the waves and the spiritual battle going on within them, where demonic and angelic beings seek to either support the people of earth or destroy them. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented prayer. We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him! And he has already won the final victory. There is a lot to say to encourage the church through this imagery so that action and prayer comes from a place of victory and taking heart rather than fear and intimidation. (John 16.33)

Crying out for justice on the earth: We sense the concern of God’s heart for justice. God invites us to deal with each other fairly, no longer oppressing the ‘foreigner, fatherless or widow’ and to end the ‘shedding of innocent blood’ (Jeremiah 7). This speaks to the current wave of social protest about racial injustice, but it is also bigger than that. We must reframe how we do commerce and trade so that the poorest and most vulnerable are protected. Will the church speak up about this? We sense God giving the church a choice – will we more radically side with the vulnerable and oppressed worldwide and take up our local and global responsibility as the body of Christ?

Releasing provision: God is releasing supernatural miraculous provision to those who ask at this time. There will be more than enough. God’s redemptive purposes will be far greater and bigger than any destruction. He is birthing so many new things in this time; we are to pay close attention to what He is doing that is new or unfamiliar amongst us. Financial hardship will force change upon the institutional church that it has been resisting, but this will result in growth, not death. This is God’s provision for the future – sometimes it must get worse before it gets better. (Matt 6.26-34 & Luke 18.27)

Seeking the prodigals: God’s intention is for many, many children to come home to him at this time. We are to pray in the midst of this darkness for a harvest – God’s arms are open to embrace. There is also huge opportunity in terms of a wave of post-Covid health & economic challenges where the church could and should pivot to be a key voice and place of compassion and healing in society. (Luke 15.11-32)

We hope these five points bring hope and encouragement to many church and other leaders who are faithfully grappling to lead with integrity in this time. In all of the anxiety and fear we need to remember that God will lead us through to better days. God will use this time of darkness for so much more. It is always his way – resurrection always follows crucifixion. (Ezekiel 47.1-12)

June 2020

Cath Livesey (Network Church Sheffield & Accessible Prophecy)

Hannah Montgomery (Central Church Edinburgh)

Ed Wethli (St Ferdinands Cranbury Township Pennsylvania)

Anna Evans (Frontline Church Liverpool)

Charlie Baxter (Freedom Church Romsey)

Why We Love Prophecy- Part Two

In our February blog, we posted the first part of “Why We Love Prophecy” which you can find here. This month we come back for Part Two, which explores three more reasons as to why prophecy is such an exciting and useful gift.

Prophecy builds confidence and gives strength to endure

 A good example of this from the Bible is 1 Timothy 1:18:

Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight.

We see here that Paul encourages Timothy that he is able to fight the good fight by reminding him of the prophecies that have previously been made about him. By doing this, Paul ensures that Timothy can be confident and strengthened in what God has called him to, and reaffirms that God is by his side to “fight the good fight.”

God frequently speaks to us to affirm us in what He has already called us into. It is not uncommon to hear people comment “Ooh, someone else prophesied that over me last week!” or, “I was really struggling with that, now I know to keep going!” when we give them a prophetic word. God loves to affirm us, and when we hear from God, affirming us in what He has called us into, naturally our confidence is built, and it gives us strength to keep on going.

Just last week I was given a prophetic word which I have been given a number of times. Each time I have been given this word, last week included, I was reminded that God has promised me this, that he’s given me that passion for a reason, that I’m gifted in it, and to keep seeking it. Each time I hear this word from God, my confidence is built and it gives me strength and confidence to keep on going for it.

Prophecy leads people to Jesus

For me personally, one of the things I love the most about the prophetic is that it leads people to Jesus.

1 Corinthians 14:24-25 tells us that

 If an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!

The above passage shows us that a prophetic atmosphere reveals the Father.  It  shows us that when we prophesy, people who don’t know God hear His voice. This can look like conviction of sin, or it can look like God speaking into them words of life and truth. A couple of years ago a friend of mine came to a Christmas service at church after being invited by her housemate. She walked into the service as an atheist, heard God’s voice calling her to a life dedicated to Him, and walked out as a follower of Jesus. It wasn’t the talk that brought her to Jesus, but it was hearing God’s voice for herself. Therefore, let us prophesy not only to encourage and bless people, but to bring people to their loving Father.

 Prophecy is a vital tool for mission

Prophecy is not a gift to only be used within Christian circles, waiting for people to come in, but is also a vital tool for mission. Using the prophetic in mission can often feel a lot more difficult than using it within Christian communities, it can feel like a much bigger sacrifice because it feels less safe. However, speaking the words of God to people who do not know him, as we have just seen, can lead them to a relationship with the Father.

Recently I heard a testimony from a friend about utilising the gift of prophecy for mission. He really felt God saying to him to tell a man he saw across the street that God loved him. My friend was obedient even though he felt the word was a bit simple, impersonal and even a little bit cheesy.  To my friends surprise, the man was overwhelmed and started to cry. As it turned out, just the day before this man had considered suicide and asked God for a sign to show him that he was loved. By stepping out in faith, not only did this man hear God loved him but he had his own prayers answered. This encounter lead him to life.

If we align ourselves with the Holy Spirit and let ourselves be guided by Him, we can be confident that we are still safe. So, let’s be available for God to speak through us to all the people he leads us to.

God speaks to all his people, and that includes those who don’t know him yet. We need to act as channels for them, until they learn to hear God’s voice for themselves. Even though it can feel super scary, the potential of stepping out and seeing someone meet Jesus should by far surpass any fear of getting it wrong. Prophecy leads people to Jesus, therefore, let’s use it to bring His lost children back to Him. Align yourself with the Holy Spirit, draw your confidence from God and see who he takes you to.

  • Who can you give a prophecy to today to build their confidence and help them keep on going?
  • For whom can you act as a channel for God’s voice?