Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Importance of Prophetic Ministry

As I sat down to write this, I was amazed at what came from just beginning to write the account of a recent dream. The Lord is so good, so in love with His children that His heart is absolutely full with a longing to connect with them. In my dream I was at some sort of an open house, walking through to view these model homes for sale. I saw people who were living in some of them. The homes were unique in the fact that they were all constructed out of concrete blocks, but there were no windows. In fact, people were being offered fake stickers that looked like windows so that they could make it appear as though they had real windows with light coming in when in reality there was only cement blocks. It was just an illusion yet the people seemed quite happy to settle for homes with no actual windows. I thought to myself, “Why would I want these silly vinyl stickers? Why would anyone want them instead of real windows?” When I inquired about why the buildings had no windows, the sales staff remarked that real windows were not an option. They were in large concrete boxes, and though I saw kids playing in playrooms and the rooms seemed spacious enough, the reality was people that were content to be boxed in with only artificial light.

The homes could represent individual lives but they can also represent churches or ministries. I believe that what was represented in the dream are those that are ‘playing around,’ or have settled for a spirit of compromise. They have exchanged truth and traded in revelation for confinement. Windows represent revelation or prophetic ministry. There was no real light coming in the windows. It was just a vinyl peel off sticker that gave the illusion there was a window. I believe this indicates those that have settled for places in their lives, churches or ministries where comfort has become more important than having revelation. They have settled for something that was an illusion. Concrete walls represent hardened hearts, shutting off the flow of the Spirit, and barriers.

There is nothing more dangerous than the deception of feeling secure through practicing a form of godliness but lacking the authenticity of light, revelation and genuine relationship with God that releases His power and anointing.

Religion will never free you from your confinements. It will never free people from limitations. Religion is incapable of bringing restoration to your life, church or ministry, because the roots of a religious spirit bring constriction and limitations to one’s faith. A religious spirit is a demonic spirit that is very destructive towards a person’s faith. So...how does one know if they have a religious spirit? 

People with a religious spirit may have issues with being judgmental towards others or have a critical spirit. Religious spirits show up in a variety of ways. Some may fight against constant feelings of condemnation or guilt, while others may struggle with double-mindedness, doubt and unbelief. Some may be prone to argumentation and debate over doctrinal beliefs, and be puffed up with religious pride. These characteristics are divisive and create offense in others. A person with a religious spirit is prone to perfectionism and struggles with feeling the need to place conditions upon themselves and others in order for them to feel they have obtained a certain level of acceptance or approval. A religious spirit resists anything to do with grace and, through the manifestations in a person's behavior and thought processes, denies the blood of Christ. It is an anti-Christ spirit, though those that are under it's influence are often blind to that fact and would deny they have it. A religious spirit denies restoration until all conditions are met to the satisfaction of a standard set by man, not God. It lords over others. It replaces grace with self-effort achieved through a works mentality. Good works and selfish ambition elevate pride and self-righteousness, creating spiritual blindness.

'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.…” Rev. 3:6,17

 Jesus was speaking to the church of Laodicea. I am sure that those that heard such a message must have felt incredulous that it was directed towards them! He expected His people to give themselves wholeheartedly to Him, but a religious spirit had dulled their heart and mind. They were neither hot nor cold towards Him. They were indifferent altogether and too blind to realize it. They were led by self-conceit and self-delusion as to the reality of their true spiritual condition! Religious spirits place conditions and restrictions upon people that Jesus never intended. In Luke 11:42 & Matthew 23:23 Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for placing religious conditions upon people while neglecting the truly important things such as love for God, mercy and faithfulness. His perspective hasn’t changed. 

I did not sit down with the intention to write this sort of article. It had not even occurred to me. The writing just sort of evolved into this message, but I believe this is what the Lord is wanting to convey. Time is short. People cannot afford to allow themselves to be stuck in captivity or allow things that cause their faith to wither, slowly...silently leading them to the edge of a cliff. This is the destructive nature of a religious spirit. It hardens a person's heart to the truth so that repentance can, eventually, become impossible. It's the frog in the pot syndrome. Some just never wake up to it. There is far more that can be said, but the Book of Galatians is a great place to start. People can go through the motions of church attendance and doing all the things that tell them they are doing what's expected, but inwardly their hearts can still be far from the Lord. That's how religious spirits take a hold of people's heart and mind.

It’s time to re-dig the wells of truth and dig out the things that have defiled them. It’s time to heal the wells so that they can be purified and the waters run clear and clean again. Each person is a well, but so are individual churches and ministries. God wants to reach them all with a message of hope and restoration. Our Father is calling us to dig deep so that His voice can be heard clearly. Purifying the wells causes the message of the gospel to become sweet to those that hear it. The gospel is still the good news, but only if it’s not tainted by bitter or stagnant water. Stagnant water breeds parasites, and spiritually speaking, a stagnant church does the same. A church or people that are stuck in the past, holding on to the traditions of man, or demonstrates they are consistently unwilling to grow will develop spiritual parasites and be unhealthy. We can’t afford to be confused about what really pleases Him, and what pleases Him is authenticity. A real relationship with Him is more than just attending church, putting money in an offering place or even good works. It’s about truly knowing Him. In as much as we all want to be truly known and loved for who we are, the Lord wants the same from us. Anything we do in acts of service ought to be birthed out of love and gratitude for who He is and the understanding of how great a sacrifice Jesus paid for us. Everything He’s done, He did for us so that we could really know Him and come into a relationship with Him.

A religious spirit refuses to allow faith to grow and experience the reality of God. It chokes out the life of the Spirit of God. By its very nature, a religious spirit utilizes scripture to uphold and enforce the beliefs and traditions of man. The lines get blurred between where scripture leaves off and the traditions and beliefs of man are incorporated. This allows a perverse spirit to bring confusion. Truth becomes somewhat twisted and misrepresented, so that what people are left with is a form of godliness, but it fails to accurately represent God’s heart to His people. This is why the prophetic ministry is so important to God's people. It tells them what God is saying when they have no light of their own. God’s prophetic messengers must be a clear trumpet; a vessel that rings true so that people don’t get the wrong idea about who He is. They are expected to represent God’s heart and character accurately to His people. They may bring a message of correction or warning, but they also bring about messages of hope, comfort, and restoration. When they speak, they speak the way God would speak. Not with anger or a critical spirit or words that always seem to depict foreboding and judgment – but balanced with love, mercy and redemption at the heart of everything they speak. They do not speak out of their own flesh, but as His representative to carefully steward the responsibility of speaking His words to others. Isn’t it amazing that God trusts His people with such an awesome responsibility? Perhaps it is the fear that in our humanity people will get it wrong (and sometimes they do) and people want to guard themselves from what they think will be full of error or confusion. This is why prophetic ministry is judged by the body. Yes, there are growing pains, as people learn how to walk in those gifts, but we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. Or, perhaps it’s the feelings of awkward uncertainty people have that someone will know the secrets of their heart and life. This is exactly what draws unbelievers into relationship with the Lord. It is for a sign and a witness to the unbelieving world that there is a loving Father that knows them and longs to communicate with His children! The reality is, God’s prophetic messengers don’t get to pick and choose what they receive from Him. They are simply entrusted with revelation and a message to deliver.

The prophetic ministry is so vital to the health and well-being to the body of Christ. Prophetic ministry gives light where there is none. It reveals the heart of God to His people. While a religious spirit will reveal the word of God, it often emphasizes the rules without demonstrating the love and heart of the Father to His children. Rules without relationship breeds offense at the Word and rebellion. It tends to leave people feeling that they are being deprived. Life becomes about keeping the rules and expectations of others in order to feel accepted and approved. This religious spirit is like a spiritual vampire. It sucks the life out of those under its control to where they feel they have no pleasure, satisfaction or fulfillment. They feel drained, discontent and dissatisfied with their Christian experience. They often feel frustrated with their relationship with God, not understanding that there is far more available to them through a dynamic, genuine relationship with their heavenly Father; or, uncertain how to walk in it.

Some people never understand that they can have an entirely different relationship with God and therefore never ask for it. They can have spiritual blocks to their prayer such as unforgiveness, offense, or unhealed emotional wounds that prevent them from hearing from God. Those things, and others, can literally work to silence the voice of God – until they understand that certain types of prayer can release their soul from prison and open their ears to hear His voice. Others feel safe or somehow comforted by the expectations of religion and seem to prefer the emotional distance it creates. Perhaps those same people are struggling with brokenness in their lives and have difficulty with emotional intimacy in relationships. They are afraid to let anyone get too close, perhaps out of shame, hurt or some aspect of their life story that they are afraid would be revealed should others get too close. This causes their relationships to be held at a superficial level. Yet, inwardly they long for something real, genuine. They long to be known and loved, accepted and valued. It is these same issues of unhealed wounds that not only keep others at a distance, but they keep your loving heavenly Father at a distance too, for He manifests Himself through human vessels. If this is speaking to you today, I pray, let me encourage you to forsake your brokenness and take some steps of faith towards healing and wholeness. You will never find real intimacy where religious observance overrides personal intimacy with Christ. We had to take steps to trust again too. I know it is difficult, but when you connect with the right people they are a part of restoring your ability to trust again. Trust the Lord to lead you to the right people that will help restore your heart and heal your wounded soul. It is so worth it. But recognize that change is a necessary part of being able to heal. You may have to leave where you’re at and go somewhere new. Be willing to take the risk. Step into the unknown and trust God to lead you.

Prophetic revelation shines like a bright light into the dark places of our heart and mind. It exposes things that don’t line up with truth. It reveals who we really are in Christ – sons and daughters of the living God – and leads us into the truth so that we can live free from ungodly restraints. Through this freedom people are able to receive love from their heavenly Father that they were not aware of previously. They are able to receive words of life, hope, comfort, healing and restoration. Prophetic ministry is vital to the body of Christ because it reveals God’s tender heart of mercy, compassion and incredible patience, sacrificial love to all mankind. This light shed into our hearts allows us to draw close to our Creator and come into a personal relationship with Him, knowing that we truly have a loving Father that would do anything for us. His love is that of a parent that has loved their child even while it was still in the womb. He’s known us from before we were born, from before the foundations of the earth. Before we could do anything to warrant His love, He loved us. He chose us. And, like any proud papa, He delights in us. For no other reason than we are made in His image. We’re His kids. His love is fiercely protective towards His own, tenderly guarding and protecting, steering and guiding, teaching and training, all the days of our lives. Jesus is the Shepherd of our soul. He loves us, cares for us, and represents His Father’s heart to us in every way.

There was a guy named Philip that hung out with Jesus, but he wasn’t so quick to pick up on the truth. I think Philip was a lot like us. He probably came with a lot of questions and religious misconceptions that made him confused. Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.…” John 14:7-9 NIV 

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 NIV
“Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”  John 10:10 MSG

Religion is a sheep stealer, and God wants His flock back. It’s a fake, a fraud, and a counterfeit. It pretends to represent our Father, but it can’t because it’s devoid of His heart and His Spirit. A religious spirit is like an emotionally distant step-father. It reproduces an orphan spirit, causing people to feel disconnected and abandoned rather than lovingly taken into the arms of a caring Father and brought into close relationship with Him. Prophetic ministry exposes this religious spirit for what it is, while drawing people closer to the heart of the Father by revealing their true identity as sons and daughters.

“Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Galatians 4:6 NIV

We need the Holy Spirit to shed this revelation in our hearts because it reveals God’s heart to those that have not yet head this deep and meaningful revelation.

“Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5 AMPC 

Sons and daughters are heirs to the kingdom. We learn what it is to be re-trained to think, act, and live as royalty because we belong to the King of Kings. Not just as children of God, but as His spouse, given full rights and privileges as His bride. What is His, also belongs to us. (That’s quite an attractive benefit, wouldn’t you say?)

“So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:7

“..For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord Almighty is His name: He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 54:5 Living Bible

Another very important role of prophetic ministry is to bring people out of the old and into the new. The prophetic word has the power to shift people out of old seasons and cycles, and old ways of thinking. Religion – dry, stale, lifeless forms of having a form of godliness, but without the power – keeps people trapped in old cycles. A religious spirit produces spiritual blindness, and when people can’t see where they’re going, they stay stuck. The prophetic gifts give sight to the body. It tells people where God is taking them in the Spirit so that they know what to expect, and don't get lost. It works alongside the apostolic gifts because the apostolic gifts help bring order to the church. Apostolic gifts lay the foundation upon the revelation of Jesus Christ so that what can be built is sound and stable. Any building must have a sound foundation or everything else is unstable and prone to collapse. Apostolic gifts help direct the other functions of the body so that people operate in their gifts and function in the right place. They also help steer things back on track and assist with course correction when it’s needed. When there is a convergence of the apostolic and prophetic anointing working together, the Spirit of God flows with power, down from the head into the body, and out the door into the community. There is a great adjustment that the body of Christ is making right now as people find their place of anointed service. Many will have to leave religious institutions in order to find a deeper sense of belonging and fulfillment, if those places are not willing to change. A root of religion will dry up the life of the church. Holy Spirit must be in charge!  The adjustments and restructuring taking place also reveal the great need of the church to make room for apostles and prophets, so that the work can be done in such a way as to release the greatest fruitfulness and anointing. The church needs the gifts of the Holy Spirit moving among the people because that’s how God heals and restores. He heals the broken places of our lives with the prophetic word. It gives light and a new perspective. It shatters old mindsets. Prophetic ministry reveals things that have been hidden and gives us understanding about certain situations that we didn’t previously know.

"When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father--the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father--he will testify about me.”  John 15:26

The essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness of Jesus, Rev. 19:10. Prophetic ministry reveals Jesus in some form. It reveals things only He could know. It sounds like Him. If it sounds like the flesh, it probably is. God’s voice is distinctly different. It reveals His heart for His people. Jesus said that when Holy Spirit came He would reveal truth and the truth would make us free, in John 8:32. God help us not to do anything that would shut down the Spirit of Truth, for He carries the power to make people free.

Prophetic ministry is essential because it’s the breath of God that brings life to the Word of God. The word of God is living and active according to Hebrews 4:12. That’s what makes this relationship with Christ rich, interesting and continually fresh. It’s the living water that runs like a clear, refreshing river deep inside of the Spirit filled believer. When you’re thirsty for something deeper, it can only be found by re-digging the well of truth. It puts life into the Word that keeps things moving along, helping us keep in step with the Spirit.

 The prophetic ministry is literally the voice of God to His people, compelling them to keep in step with His Spirit and not lag behind. It reveals kingdom truths in order to bring people OUT of religion, constriction and false forms of identity – and INTO a new day, and a new way of relating to God. He’s not just ‘God,’ but Father. Dad. Papa. No longer orphaned. Adopted. Accepted. Loved. Valued and esteemed as His dear child. If you’re having a hard time connecting with the Lord, ask Him to give you the revelation of the Fatherhood of God. Ask Him to birth it into your heart so that you experience it.

There is such a peace in knowing that you can have an authentic, personal relationship with your dad. His door is always open. You can always get a hold of Him. Day or night; He is never too busy to take your call or invite you in for a hug. He’s got you. Big ol’ Papa Bear is waiting to give you a great big bear hug and break bread with you. I can see Him laughing and so full of joy! You know, what He really wants is a great big family reunion. He has really missed His kids! All you’ve got to do is swing by and say hello. (You can do that through prayer, connecting with His heart). Gosh, doesn’t it sound good to go home? No stern lectures. No guilt trips. No criticisms on all the things you’ve been worried about. Just love. Whatever has you all tied up in knots, He’s already got it figured out, and He’ll tell you all about it over dinner. All He wants is to spend some time with you and have some quality time together. Go home, son. Go home, daughter. Your dad is already at the door.

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