The Sufferings and the Glory

.... When the Old Testament prophets received the revelation of Jesus, the Messiah who would one day come, the whole communication began as a perception of God’s own character and Divine nature felt very deeply within their own hearts (Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10). Essentially, they were shown how God's character would 'play out' into futuristic events as a living expression of His subjectivity in action (Revelation 19:10; see also Psalm 9:16). The prophets would refine their initial understanding of each message by 'comparing spiritual things with spiritual' in searching out the mystery of God's character further, usually through time spent in prayer and meditation with Him (Psalm 77:1-5; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:11).
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In the days before the Holy Spirit was given, Jesus, too, would teach by spiritual comparisons in the testimony of Himself, and He would do this by resorting to the same Old Testament prophecies (Luke 24:44-45). In particular, let’s focus on the testimony of His sufferings and glory:

.... "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow."

(1 Peter 1:10-11)

.... After Jesus was raised from the dead, He returned to the Old Testament perspective twice on the same day to help explain these recent events and their meaning:

.... "Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."

(Luke 24:25-27)

.... We know that the prophets foretold the events of His passion, but how well did they capture His subjectivity in so doing? The truth is that they probably had a much better understanding than the apostles at the time. Think about it. Through most of His sufferings Jesus remained silent, and this was all that the apostles saw and recorded. But the prophets held a perspective from deeply within their hearts that had glimpsed His subjectivity as well. And through them, we find that Jesus was passionately musing throughout His silence:

.... "I said, ‘I will guard My ways, lest I sin with My tongue; I will restrain My mouth with a muzzle while the wicked are before Me.’ I was mute with silence, I held My peace even from good; and My sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within Me; while I was musing, the fire burned . . ."

(Psalm 39:1-3)

.... And the same passage shows us something deeper. The revelatory nature of the prophetic message was so powerful that it actually reshaped the prophet’s own heart; it was so fluent and emotional, so transforming in affect that it was finally rendered in first person. The very heart of Jesus, His very thoughts, were formed within the prophets themselves as they grappled with the meaning in deepest prayer. In fact, most of the passion prophecy was rendered in this same first-person style. It is so extensive and detailed that it can actually be harmonized, like the stringing of pearls, to tell the same story from Jesus’ own point of view.
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In order to demonstrate that this is so, a special module has been prepared. In the right hand column, please find the break-out module entitled The Sufferings and the Glory, and take some time in exploring it. This module retells the entire passion, from Gethesemane to the ascension, in first person narrative, to show you what Jesus was thinking throughout this crucial period.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Acts 16

Beholding in a Mirror

.... In our previous posting we described how the prophets received ‘deep groanings’ from the Spirit of Christ within them (1 Peter 1:10-11; Romans 8:26). Those groanings reflected the heart, mind and emotions of God as He spoke of the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (1 Corinthians 2:10). But receiving something so deeply passionate must have impacted the prophet himself. When he saw the heart of God, what was it doing to his heart? When he perceived the mind of Christ, what was it doing to his mind?
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As the prophets searched out the things that were indicated to them, deep crying unto deep, they struggled with the turmoil this produced in their heart, soul and spirit (Psalm 77:1-6). As they began to appreciate the subjectivity of God Himself, it was so deeply wrought that it actually reshaped their own subjectivity from within, to make them more like Him:

.... "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

(2 Corinthians 3:18)

.... As an example of this concept, Jesus had once asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" And they answered, "John the Baptist. But some say that You’re Elijah, or some say that You’re Jeremiah, or that one of the old prophets has arisen." (Matthew 16:13-14)
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The people said these things because they saw similarities between Jesus and the prophets. One of those prophets was Elijah, so let’s use him as an example to elaborate. Elijah came to the people saying, "If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him. Why do you falter between two opinions?" (1 King 18:21); and Jesus had shown them exactly the same heart in saying, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad." (Matthew 12:30).
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.... When the people saw such similarities in their attitudes, they concluded that Jesus must have been very much like Elijah -- but in actuality, they had it backwards. Because of the Spirit of Christ who was in him, Elijah was the one who was becoming more like Jesus:

.... "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow."

(1 Peter 1:10-11)

.... As the prophets beheld the sufferings and glories of Christ with an unveiled face, they were transformed from glory to glory into the same image, and this accounted for the Christ-like attitudes we saw in them (2 Corinthians 3:18).
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In another place, Elijah came to Mt. Sinai, saying, "I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts." (I King 19:10). But what does it mean to be ‘jealous for’ somebody?
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.... It means we are defensive over the things in which they are defensive; we are zealous over the things that make them angry; we speak on these things as they, themselves would have spoken on them, for we are moved in a similar way. We are jealous for them!
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.... Elijah was consumed with the heart of Christ in those matters, he was jealous for the Lord! He had taken it so much to his heart that these concerns became part of his own character now, and this is the same affect we desire for ourselves in seeking Jesus today.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Acts 15

The Deep Things of God

.... Congratulations on completing the first module on the Oracles of God! Hopefully it has been helpful in presenting the prophetic process, yet two important elements of mystery remain. Both pertain to the spiritual life itself, and we will discuss them in the five postings of this module.
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.... Let's start by introducing the first of these mysteries. You may need to think about this one. When God communicates with us in giving prophecy, we know that the Holy Spirit speaks through deep groanings that cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26). But what exactly are those groanings? And the second mystery is this: if the whole process we’ve described is a means, then in what way is Jesus Himself the end of that means? ‘For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ (Revelation 19:10).
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.... Actually those two mysteries dovetail back into one, so let’s return to the basic communication itself and consider it again very carefully:

.... "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of a man who is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

(1 Corinthians 2:10-13)

.... When the Holy Spirit speaks to us He is revealing the deep things of God, and Paul describes the sense in which we should understand this statement: ‘no one know the things of man except the spirit of a man that’s in him. Even so no one knows the things of God except the spirit of God.’

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In other words, your own spirit knows you perfectly well, searching out your subjectivity, your character traits and your deepest moods and attitudes -- though no other person can pick up on those things about you. In the same way, the Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God. He understands the Father's Divine emotions, His character and nature, and the heart and mind of God that went into producing these traits. So when the Holy Spirit reveals the deep things of God to us, He is showing us the Divine subjectivity of God in each matter. And part of the reason He reveals it in such a deep way is because He wants to conform us to the same image:

.... ". . . through the knowledge of Him . . . that . . . you may be partakers of the divine nature . . ."

(2 Peter 1:4)

.... So when the Holy Spirit speaks to us through deep groanings, He is showing us the heart of God in a particular matter that He wants to reveal to us. This mood or impression is a reflection of His actual character, focused into the application He is addressing, and translated into a living expression.
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.... For example, think of how you would feel if you suddenly received news that made you very sad, and even overwhelmed. That troublesome feeling would be an exact, spiritual representation of the information you just received, combined with the passion of your heart. You would feel this combination as a mood or an impression that weighed in your spirit as you pondered it further. And something similar occurs with God:

.... "Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled."

(John 11:33)

.... This is the story of the death of Lazarus, and in this passage we are seeing the same unique connection. Jesus, who searches the hearts, has picked up on the sorrow of others, and it has quickly produced a sympathetic groaning deeply within Himself. Like them, Jesus was moved to tears because of the love He felt for Lazarus -- and His love for the family and friends as well -- and they were amazed to see how closely He had connected with their own thoughts: "Behold how He loved him!" (John 11:33-36).

.... Conversely, when you receive deep groanings from the Holy Spirit, you are receiving the ‘mood’ of God, including a representation of the full information that produce that mood. This groaning is a living facet of God’s own heart, to be deeply explored within your own heart, by which the information it contains may also appear. It is portrayed in this fashion so you can get the full picture, to understand it in the same sense that God is moved with it, and so it can help to form your own heart and character, to remake you in His image. Talk about an interpersonal connection!
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... We’ll discuss this further in our next posting.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Acts 14

Judging Prophecy - Part 2

.... When we receive a prophetic message from the Lord for the purpose of offering direction to the church, it begins with a disturbance deep inside. In our spirit we'll perceive deep groanings that cannot be uttered, and our hearts will begin to be moved in the same way. As described in our previous posting, a mystery is being revealed, yet we must search it out as clearly as possible to fully understand it (1 Peter 1:11).
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From His own perspective, God has given the message with absolute clarity, so we can not mistake it, or any part of it, for something other than what it is. But even so, it is a higher form of communication than we are accustomed to, and we are exercising ourselves beyond our normal abilities in order to discern it.
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As a result, the prophets find themselves reaching through an enigma. The whole message is like a puzzle, dimly understood; but through a series of spiritual comparisons they begin matching it with similar understandings. These 'matching understandings' are based on other things they've read in the Bible but may also include simpler elements such as knowledge of earthly events (1 Corinthians 13:9). When a match is made with some part of the new message, the form of that particular piece is illuminated. The process continues prayerfully as the entire picture is reconstructed over time:

.... "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

(1 Corinthians 2:13)

.... Even so, one person by themself will probably not be able to discern and resolve the entire puzzle. Parts of it may elude them still. Even if they have a rudimentary ‘feel’ for the remaining parts, they cannot quite put their finger on the meaning nor find the words for expressing it. Nor are they supposed to (1 Corinthians 12:21). As part of a protection mechanism, God uses other prophets within the body of Christ to verify and perfect our understanding of the message:

.... "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge."

(1 Corinthians 14:29)

.... So after you’ve done your best to discern the prophetic message, it’s time to have it judged. You should now approach one or two others in your church who are known to have the ministry of a prophet, and say to them, "I have some prophecy from the Lord that I need to have judged." Their response should be something like, "Yes, I've been hearing from the Lord all of this time also. And I’m ready."
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.... In other words, God has duplicated this message among at least two or three prophets, and when you are coming together you are simply comparing notes. You are, in effect, witnesses of what God has spoken, so you are testifying of what He said:
.... "That by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."
.... In presenting your prophecy you might say, "I believe the Lord has said (thus and so)." and the others will listen carefully. For the prophecy to pass in the judgment, at least one other prophet must be able to confirm that he has heard the same thing. "Yes, I have been hearing that from the Lord, all of this time, also." He should already have heard this from the Lord, before you mentioned it at all. This is not simply a process of approval, it’s supposed to be a confirmation.
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.... Now, let’s say you’ve come to a part that was especially difficult to understand. It was deep and mysterious so you had trouble defining it, and even now, you’re only doing your best to explain what you can of it. The other prophets will probably listen very intently because, remember, they had obtained a basic ‘feel’ for it also, and they’ll recognize what you’re addressing, though they’ve probably had their own difficulties in defining it. So this becomes everyone’s chance for that final break-through.
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.... "I know that this is a part of it . . . and this . . . and I think, maybe . . . this . . ." you might say; and suddenly you’ve supplied the missing piece for one of the other prophets. "Wait!" he exclaims. "I have it now! This is what the Lord has been saying!"

.... "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent."

(1 Corinthians 14:29-30)

.... The second prophet has just achieved a break-through and has the momentum now, so it is time to yield and listen to this 'spiritual surge' as he explains the enigma to the others. Remember that the message could not be confused for something other than what it was, and each prophet did have a rudimentary ‘feel’ for it, so of course they’ll recognize it when they've heard it explained -- and this is how those last bits of revelation will be discovered and confirmed. So in this manner the prophets gather, both to share and to judge each other’s contributions, and to prayerfully agree on the final form in which the message will be presented.
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Anything that is confirmed by two or three prophets will be approved in the judgment. Anything that passes in this way may be shared with the church afterward, in an orderly manner (1 Corinthians 14:40). But when you do this, remember that you are obligating the Lord to confirm this word, so you’d better be honest about it in every aspect, and represent Him truly! (Isaiah 44:26; Ezekiel 13:6-8).
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.... But if a prophet says something that is not confirmed in the judgment (the ‘minority report’) it is not to be shared, no matter how sure the lone prophet might be. This is a mechanism for his own protection! We’ll give examples of it in the ‘comments’ section.

You have now completed the First Module on the Oracles of God. To proceed to the second module, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Acts 13

Judging Prophecy - Part 1

.... In our previous posting we introduced the concept of a 'check and balance' system for receiving and judging New Testament prophecy. Through this, God is likely to speak the same prophetic message to at least two or three persons (1 Corinthians 14:29). This planned redundancy allows the message to be compared, fine tuned, and confirmed before it is announced (Acts 13:1-3; 20:22-24; 21:4; 21:10-14). It must also be checked against the Scriptures for its basic truthfulness (2 Peter 1:19). So let’s combine that understanding with the rest of this module and discuss the whole process of bringing forth prophecy, and having it judged, in the New Testament sense:
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.... To begin with, let’s say that God has given you the ministry of a prophet, having made you a 'furnace of earth' within your church (Psalm 12:6). He speaks to you in terms of direction for your own congregation. He wants your church to understand His intentions in some matter so they can prepare themselves to cooperate and participate:

.... "This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare"

(1 Timothy 1:18)

.... As the process begins, you'll feel a disturbance deeply within yourself. This is not simply a reflection of some personal matter, but you'll perceive the hand of the Lord reaching out to you -- it comes in the form of a deep groaning that cannot be uttered. As we have previously discussed, this mode of communication means that new information is being revealed, the meaning of which you have not yet grasped (Romans 8:26).
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.... Nor is this impression fleeting, for it weighs on your heart for an extended period of time. So as soon as you can, you need to get alone with the Lord to pursue it further. "What are you saying to me?" you may begin by asking; or, "What matter of time are you indicating to me?" (1 Peter 1:10-11). And over the days that follow, the impression will return repeatedly so you can explore it further.
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.... Finding definition for this deep groaning, and turning it into an actionable message for the church, is your task, and it can be daunting. So here’s a clue to think about. Have you ever heard something that suddenly made you angry? That mood matched your understanding perfectly. Or maybe you heard something that suddenly delighted you? Again, your mood was a spontaneous reflection of that thought. Essentially, in discerning the deep groaning you’ve received, you must reverse that process. From the Lord you have perceived the mood, but what are the thoughts that would match it perfectly?

.... "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

(1 Corinthians 2:13)

.... In order to define this impression, you will have to begin a process of spiritual comparisons. How might this impression be similar to some other impressions you’ve had in the past, especially when reading different passages from the Bible?

.... "I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search."

(Psalm 77:5-6)

.... When you find an impression in this way, and it matches some part of the revelation you've received, you will obtain a clue. In concept, part of the mystery you’ve perceived from God is similar to this impression, and through making the association you’ve gained that much more definition. The process will continue through a spectrum of other comparisons as further aspects of the prophecy are defined. In the end, the mystery will be revealed through a ‘patchwork’ of these impressions, working together in a new, cohesive form. And don’t be too surprised if your own, human knowledge of a situation helps define the impression further, especially in regard to its application:

.... "For we know in part and we prophesy in part."

(1 Corinthians 13:9)

.... Through a kaleidoscope of matching impressions and a great deal of searching in prayer, the whole body of the prophetic message will begin to emerge and find a cohesive form of its own. You must verify the result through the Scriptures as best you can (2 Peter 1:19). Probably, even so, some parts of the message will elude your understanding. But once you’ve done your best you’re ready to have it judged. We will continue this discussion in the next posting.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Acts 12

New Testament Prophets

.... To many of us, the term 'prophet' will immediately invoke thoughts of the Old Testament; but prophecy actually continued the New Testament as well. In fact, two basic perspectives on prophecy were portrayed. The first of these is the ministry of a prophet and the second is the spiritual gift of prophecy. While only some of us, probably very few, are called to the actual ministry of a prophet due of its more critical applications, the spiritual gift is more generous. For in this sense we may all prophesy in accordance with our faith (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 14:31).
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This also means there are similarities and differences between the two perspectives. Neither is used to introduce ‘new truths' since God’s final and complete revelation of truth has been given to us through His Son Jesus (Hebrews 1:1; John 14:6). Instead, the spiritual gift of prophecy is used for edification, exhortation and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3), and the actual ministry of a prophet speaks in terms of church direction – which may include foretelling futuristic events:

.... "And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea."

(Acts 11:27-29)

.... In this example, New Testament prophets served a very practical purpose. Through them, God revealed His plans to the church so they could prepare themselves and cooperate with His intentions; or as Paul would say, they used this prophecy to ‘wage the good warfare’ (1 Timothy 1:18). In this particular case, they used the information to make provisions for relief from famine, while there was still time to do so.
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.... In addition to church direction, New Testament prophets can give direction to church leadership (which has a lot to do with church direction):

.... 'And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, "The will of the Lord be done".'

(Acts 21:10-14)

.... When it comes to understanding personal direction through prophecy, this passage can be very instructive. First, let’s examine a check and balance system that is evidenced in the background. Before hearing this prophecy from Agabus, Paul had heard something similar from the Lord on his own (Acts 20:22-24), and he had even heard the same through other prophets (Acts 21:4). So when prophecy is involved in offering personal direction, it will be repetitive and it will come from different sources as a form of verification:
"By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be estabished."
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.... But please notice especially, that when the Lord has new marching orders for you, He will begin by speaking to you personally (John 10:3-5). He may send prophets with the same message in order to confirm this word, but He will not initiate your instructions through them. That would introduce a mediator in your walk with the Lord, and He will never allow this (1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:5).
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.... And here is a second vital lesson. In this example, almost everyone who overheard the prophecy jumped to a conclusion about it. They considered it a warning, and concluded that Paul should avoid this journey at all costs. Yet Paul himself understood otherwise: that whatever pain it might bring him, it was a part of his calling and he was supposed to go on this journey (see Acts 9:16; 23:11).
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Therefore, using prophecy to ‘wage the good warfare’ does not mean: "Thanks for the info, Lord; we’ll take it from here." Because the quesiton of application remains, as we could very well misapply what we've heard:
.... "Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect through the flesh?"
(Galatians 3:3)
.... But rather, when prophecy comes forth it gives us all the more reason to seek the Lord earnestly, to find the application He desires in giving it.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Acts 11

The Furnace of Earth

.... The Spirit of Christ spoke through the Old Testament prophets in foretelling the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (1 Peter 1:10-11). But when they received these initial impressions, clearly indicated though they were, they still had to search them out and make diligent inquiry in order to understand their meaning, asking "What" or "What manner of time" the Spirit of the Lord was indicating to them. And this was the beginning of a process that could take them some time:

.... "The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times."

(Psalm 12:6)

.... The prophet who received the revelation is the 'furnace of earth' mentioned in this passage. Through his deep searching in the spirit, his understanding of the mystery was refined until, at last, it became as pure as the message itself when it was first given. From the time he perceived God's revelation until the time his pen touched to paper, he'd come to understand it's meaning perfectly.
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.... So in this we find a lesson for today, to be applied when someone approaches us with prophecy. It is such a deep work within them simply to understand what the Spirit is saying that, by the time they’ve found the words for expressing it, they should also have a very deep understanding of what God intends by this message:

.... "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge . . ."

(1 Corinthians 13:2)

.... According to this passage, a true prophet should understand the mystery that God has signified, and they should have all knowledge in the matter. This means we should be able to press them for further details in the same manner that they, themselves, had questioned the Lord in the first place: "What is the heart of the Lord in telling us this? What does He wish to convey? What is the Lord attempting to say to us ?" (1 Peter 1:11). And they should really be able to expound on it further, as necessary, to fully presenting it in the manner God intended.
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.... But on the other hand, if you challenge someone and they shrug their shoulders and say, "I don’t know, I just felt led to say it." — beloved, do not believe them. Because, according to 1 Corinthians 13:2, they should understand it, and you are responding quite properly by asking the same basic questions that they should have been asking all along:

.... "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

(1 John 4:1)

.... So if you receive an answer as lame as the one above, you should commit the prophecy back to God and leave it on the back burner unless and until He comes along to support it in some stronger way. And that should definitely include some good, solid Scriptural support for the basic truthfulness of the message content.
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.... But on the other hand, we’re all human and it’s possible for a prophet to make a mistake on his end of the communication. Romans 12:6 gives evidence of a learning curve that a New Testament prophet faces as he learns to step out in faith. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect the same degree of perfection that we saw from the Old Testament prophets who were playing a role for the ages.
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.... In addressing this learning curve, God has provided a protection mechanism for our time. With that as a brief introduction we’ll begin a tangent on the New Testament process of judging prophecy, starting with our next posting.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Acts 10

Revelation Comes Forth

.... In the course of this module we’ve discussed the mystery of prophecy and how it comes forth. As a recap, to explain the basic concept, we showed similar modes of communication from the song of creation, the spiritual testimony of music, and man’s original ability to gain understanding from impressions. In each of those examples information was conveyed, received, and understood with a little meditation and discernment, though actual words may not have been used. So with that as a background, let’s look at the substance of how the Holy Spirit communicates with us today:

.... "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

(Romans 8:26-27)

.... Here is the ‘language’ in which the Holy Spirit speaks, something that is expressed without ‘words of human wisdom’ (1 Corinthians 2:13); for in fact, this whole form of communication ‘cannot be uttered’ in words at all. It consists, instead, of moods and impressions that are invoked through deep, inward groanings, and the fullness of knowledge that this silent turmoil contains. But let's explore the actual substance further:

.... The Holy Spirit has based His prayer on a deeply perceptive glimpse of God's character. Through this He has matched the will of God to each of our lives and provided us with an application, that we may learn His character in a practical way (1 Corinthians 2:10) This, in turn, will help us in becoming Christ like (1 Corinthians 3:18). As such, the whole form of communcation is full of dynamic, life-changing information; and this deep groaning is something that our own spirits understand as well:

.... "Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves . . ."

(Romans 8:23)

.... When these two passages are compared, they demonstrate how our spirit and the Holy Spirit speak the same language. They are fully able to communicate on this deeper level – even if the cognitive part of our mind can not yet fathom the meaning. (This is similar in concept to 1 Corinthians 14:2; 14:14). And this leads us to two important, pivotal points:

.... First: when we do not know how to pray, though we are at a loss, the Holy Spirit comes along side and shows us how to pray according to God's will (Romans 8:26-27). This means that in response to our lack of understanding, revelation knowledge will come forth into our hearts.

.... (We conclude that the Holy Spirit brings this revelation to our hearts because "He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is." In other words Jesus, who understands the mind of the Spirit, perceives His mind by searching our hearts. That’s where the Holy Spirit begins His yearning from and that is also where we, ourselves, are connecting with Him -- Romans 8:26).

.... Through this whole process, extremely pertinent revelation knowledge is moving through our hearts, even though we cannot understand it with our minds. And this leads to our second pivotal point. In the same passage it is said that Jesus Himself – the mind of Christ – can fully understand this spiritual language of deep groanings, and that He does so by searching it out. So can it be that we too, with prayerful searching and meditation, might eventually find the meaning, and even put it into words?

.... "For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ."

(1 Corinthians 2:13-16)

.... As a new creation in Christ, our mind is constantly being renewed to become more like His. So with prayerful searching and diligent inquiry we can eventually interpret this spiritual language just as He does (1 Peter 1:11). We can do this by comparing those deep, groaning impressions with other impressions we are already familiar with, which have usually been gained from the Scriptures:

.... "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

(1 Corinthians 2:13)

.... Remember that in showing us God's will, the Holy Spirit is actually showing us the deep things of His character in application (1 Corinthians 2:10). Also remember that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10). So in every way, this deep groaning a reflection of His personality. In this same living way, if we compare those deep groanings with the character of Christ as shown to us in the Bible, the mystery will gain that much more definition. This process continues until each facet of the message has been discerned and the whole communication takes a cohesive form of it's own, like the pieces of a puzzle fitting together.

.... As we become experienced in receiving this, it will begin to flow together quickly. In fact, some Christians have become so fluent that they believe God is actually dictating words to them. While that is certainly possible, if we press them for details they will usually realize that the communication did, indeed, begin with impressions, and it was simply that they understood it so thoroughly that they, themselves, translated it into proper words almost spontaneously.

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Daily Bible Reading: Acts 9

The Original Language of Man

.... In our previous postings we've explored a realm of communication that can occur without words. We began with the song of creation in the moods of the sky or the sea, or in the face of the land (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:20). These impressions come to us entirely from an outside source; yet we may explore their testimony of God and internalize their meaning through solemn, thoughful meditation. God designed them to be reflective in this way (Romans 1:19-20); and in moments of retreat such as these, we find ourselves growing in touch with Him.
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.... Next we explored the ability of music to convey a message to our heart, even when words were not being used. This was more personal than the testimony of the heavens because a living person created and played the music; but in many ways the affect could be similar. For in meditating or musing on the tune, the tempo, the melody, etc., or the lyrics if they are included, certain feelings can be evoked that will put us in a thoughtful, reflective mood. And once again, depending on the overtones of music itself, we may find ourselves growing in touch with Him.
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.... And now, in this posting, we’ll discuss another type of communication that is completely interpersonal in nature. Like the others, it can take place even without words. It is, in fact, our most primal form of communication, and it is based on a natural ability within us all:

.... "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

(1 Corinthians 13:11)

.... When we were born we spoke no language whatever. Everything we learned was perceived through the attitudes and the tones of voice that we observed in others -- or we might say, that we learned through the moods or impressions that they exposed us to. Our perception of them and of the world was almost spiritual in nature, including a rudimentary element of discernment.
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Gradually, we began to glean intelligence from those words. Soon, through a process of repeated exposure and comparisons between words, intentions and results, we began to associate the proper meanings with the corresponding words (as in 1 Corinthians 2:13). A secondary type of communiation took form as our spoken language was learned.
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As we grew older we began to develop and depend on this spoken language, and to learn new things by it, so that our original ability to learn perceptively was largely replaced, and became rusty. Yet impressions were the original language of every person, and they are still at work in the sort of communications we’ve described from the heavens and in the example of music. This ability comes full circle when another child is born, who gurgles and coos, and no one understands a thing he's saying – except his mother, who understands him perfectly. She has revived this perceptive ability within her own life in order to reach back to him.

.... "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

(1 Corinthians 2:13)

.... When God speaks to us today, He seems to tap into this original ability again, stirring it up and reviving it from deeply within us. In so doing, He may entirely bypass words and their meanings, and speak to us through the testimony of creation, through music, or even through our own times of quiet meditation, by the moods, attitudes or impressions that are formed. All of these may be reflections of His own voice as He speaks directly to our spirit through deep groanings that cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26).
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As we muse on these mysteries and search them out in our heart, what is actually taking place? An overall concept is perceived, and our tendency is to break it down into its particulars. We'll compare these to a spectrum of our own thoughts, searching for a match or at least a similarity to something we may already understand (1 Corinthians 2:13). When this comparrison succeeds, our understanding of the overall mystery receives that much more definition as a result. Then another facet is explored, etc.
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.... Under the auspice of the Holy Spirit, this process continues prayerfully as each facet is considered. The broader meaning of the whole, original concept emerges as these puzzle pieces come back together -- and of course, the role of the Bible is crucial in verifying this (2 Peter 1:19). And if we grasp the true intention behind this mystery, a living connection with our Lord will occur in which His heart, mind and character will be clearly revealed: for "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10)
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.... The whole process takes place deeply within our spirit, and it can be very taxing. Yet it is also very fulfilling. For example the prophets, in finding the words to express the concepts they'd perceived, had spent so much time with them that they came to fully understanding the mysteries they held (1 Peter 1:11; 1 Corinthians 13:2). We’ll continue this discussion in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: Acts 8

The Spiritual Testimony of Music

.... In our previous postings we discussed how God speaks through the witness of creation, using a language that is expressed without words, that is nevertheless understood by all (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:20). We comparred this to His method in speaking to the prophets long ago, as He foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (1 Peter 1:10-11). For the prophets began with impressions; but through meditating on the things they received, they were eventually able to put them into words (see 1 Corinthians 2:13).
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.... In this posting we’ll discuss yet another example of communication without words. For as the face of the heavens above can stir us with thoughtful impressions, music in able to move us in a similar way, even when words are not being used.
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For example, in 2 Kings 3, Elisha was asked to seek the Lord on behalf of the nation -- but for some reason there was a problem. In response he said, "Now bring to me a musician, " (v 15). And as the musician played skillfully, "the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha" and he prophesied.
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.... In this example, listening to music was conducive to receiving prophecy, just as the groaning and travailing of the creation could be conducive. Each conveys an impression or a mood that can make us thoughtful in specific ways, and make it easier for us to connect with God in ways that are conceptually similar.

.... "Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments and symbols."

(1 Chronicles 25:1)

.... In this passage, melody and prophecy were natural companions. David himself played an instrument and spoke of the mysteries that were expressed thereby: "I will utter dark sayings upon my harp." (Psalm 49:1-4). Through the music he wrote, most of the Book of Psalms took form, and went on to become the Scriptural praise songs to the Lord. And are the Psalms prophetic? Is there a testimony of ‘the sufferings of Christ and of the glories that would follow’ to be found in them? In fact, two-thirds of the Old Testament quotations that are found in the New Testament are coming from this book.

.... "My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."

(Psalm 45:1)

.... Music creates a mood, an impression, a 'groaning' if you will, which can be discerned deeply within our own spirit through a thoughtful process of comparisons, as we allow the impressions to match different situations in our lives (1 Corinthians 2:13). Depending on the song, our hearts may be spiritually knit with the meaning, even to the point of reading our own lives into those lyrics (A well-known example would be Roberta Flack’s 1971 hit, ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’). Prophecy can be similar, except in reverse, as the 'lyrics' are reading themselves into our lives (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
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Just as the temple singers of long ago were appointed by David to prophesy, modern musicians will often become the ‘prophets’ of their generation. Thus, the spiritual influence they produce through their music can be used in both good or bad ways. But without deviating too far on that tangent, we’ll return to the subject of true prophecy in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: Acts 7

The Testimony of the Heavens - Part 2

..... In our previous posting we described how the heavens present an impression or a mood which can match with the musings of our hearts as we meditate thoughtfully. But in reality, the heavens are reflecting something of God’s own heart, and they are matching ours because He is thinking of us. This creates a conducive atmosphere in which He, too, may commune with our hearts:

.... "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."

(Psalm 19:1-4)

.... Since the heavens themselves declare the glory of God, let’s apply this to something similar that occurred with the prophets. For it was said, when the Spirit of Christ spoke through them, that He testified of "the glories that would follow" and they, too, had searched and made diligent inquiry.

.... The testimony that comes from the heavens is so fine that it is understood by everyone, regardless of what earthly language they speak (Psalm 19:3). According to Paul it is such a solid testimony that anyone who has not heard it and understood will be without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).

.... But the sky is not alone in creation's witness of God. We may see something similar in the face of the sea, as "Deep calls unto deep" in reflecting upon God's heart toward us (Psalm 42:7). For the sea may churn unrestfully, troubled and disturbed, so that one may perceive a mood in the face of the waters; or perhaps a demonstration of God’s glory will appear to us in a storm:

.... "Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep."

(Psalm 107:23-24)

.... Other aspects of creation have this quality as well. A testimony of God's bounty may unfold from the face of the land, in a fruitful time of harvest:

.... "He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."

(Acts 14:17)

.... These are examples of how "the creation itself groans for the manifestation of the sons of God." (Romans 8:19) and this same, deep groaning is what we’ve picking up on, in the moods or impressions we’ve just described. It’s something we perceive in our spirit, that is able to convey knowledge to us. The Bible says that ‘day unto day utters speech, night unto night reveals knowledge’. (Psalm 19:2)

.... And yet, are the heavens speaking to us in words of human wisdom? No, but they speak in a language of moods and impressions and groanings that cannot be uttered; and they are understood through an avenue of spiritual comparisons, as we match these impressions with the musing of our own heart. In fact we, too, may begin this process with wordless impressions; and through further musing and meditation, on our own end of the comparisons, we may finally find words to express the deeper concept we began with.

.... Again, this is only meant to demonstrate a similarity, because the Spirit of Christ spoke to the prophets from within them, and witness of the heavens is from an outside source. Still, this concept is not far from the experience of the prophets in hearing God, then seeking Him and later expressing His original testimony in human words.

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Daily Bible Reading: Acts 6

The Testimony of the Heavens - Part 1

.... The Scriptures tell us that Holy Spirit does not speak to us in words of human wisdom, but in a language of spiritual comparisons (1 Corinthians 2:13). But what is this mode of communication like? The Bible both describes it and gives us examples that are similar in concept, which may be more familiar to us. So let’s begin by discussing those similar types of communication, in order to obtain a better ‘feel’ for it all:

.... "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."

(Psalm 19:1-4)

.... This passage is quoted by Paul in Romans 2, 8 and 10 as a basis for solid Christian doctrine. Somehow, the face of the heavens conveys an open message about God to us all. But we are still talking about spiritual mysteries so we must open our hearts to discern the deeper testimony that is being offered. Let's begin by talking in terms of human experience:
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.... Think for a moment of a cold winter day. It’s misty, and the sky is full of overcast clouds. They are low, mingling with the mist, and full of the threat of snow. But there’s no wind so they are churning sluggishly and tumultuously. Quietly, the evening begins to fall.
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You’ve gone for a lonely walk in the park, and your gaze is drawn overhead. Perhaps you’ve been moody, and the face of the sky seems to mirror your mood, so that you begin to feel somber in your spirit. As you walk you begin to pray, and somehow you feel closer to God as the sky above you moans and travails, churching softly in this gray and silver gloom. In a subtle, tender way, it’s a reflection of the turmoil in your own heart, in the things you’ve anticipated in your prayer:

.... "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body."

(Romans 8:22-23)

.... Now let’s describe something completely different. Suddenly it is summer again, and you’re standing at the Grand Canyon’s edge, looking over a vast distance to the western rim of the world. The heavens are a splendor in a painted desert sunset. Fluorescent reds and pinks, burnt orange, and shining yellow sunbeams fill the skies with their glowing banners.
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The sun, like a simmering ball, is slipping beneath the horizon; the skies are alive with a blaze of color, playing of God’s glory to the height of the heavens, like playful children who do not know it is time for bed. A grand farewell, a final goodnight, in salute to Him to paints the skies with His heavenly pallet from above.
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In your own spirit, could you not absorb the grandeur, the sense of exhilaration, to join in the heavenly celebration from above? How uplifting to the soul! And any man from any nation, whatever his earthly language, could feel creation’s song in his heart along side of you. Indeed, have they not all heard?

.... "There is no speech or language where their voice is not hear. Their line is gone out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world."

(Psalm 10:3,4; Romans 10:18)

.... Essentially, the face of the heavens convey a mood, a deep moving, like the motion in our own spirits when we’re deeply moved, or when we’re deeply impressed with something. And that mood in the heavens is something we can pick up on in our own spirits.
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.... As we pick up on this testimony it makes us thoughtful, and this is conducive to communication with our spirit. So if God is trying to communicate something deeply to us, that thoughtful attitude in our heart can help convey His message; for a spiritual comparison can be made between the face of the sky on one hand and what the Lord’s trying to say to us on the other. It introduces a concept through an impression, and our own hearts lend themselves to understanding it.
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We will continued this discusson in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: Acts 5