Friday, October 31, 2003

Naturally Supernatural

Do you ever wonder what is natural and what is spirit... when you have a 'word' for someone... how much is just understanding people and recognizing signs and body language and how much is divine revelation?

It's always left me wondering if I were hearing God or hearing intuition and it bugs me sometimes. Not long ago there were several people gathered around the front of the church for prayer and I eyeballed one couple that I had never met before... and their body language, the way she gripped his arm, communicated a message to me... a very obvious message... so I went up and said "It appears to me that the two of you are dealing with a recently revealed infidelity and you don't know if there's hope for your marriage... if its worth the effort to try to stay together". WOW... they freaked... he couldn't believe I knew and she began sobbing uncontrollably... It was right where they were at... he had confessed less about 2 weeks ago and she was totally broken... and they had told nobody. I ministered to them for an hour. In my wife's opinion (and most anyone else, I suppose) that is a word of knowledge or wisdom... and I honestly don't know if its that or just a natural ability to read people combined with the boldness to act on it.

This is not a new struggle for me... I have asked this question many times throughout the course of my ministry. The Lord did make it pretty clear to me a few years ago to not attribute to my own wisdom the gifts he gives me but I obviously haven't completely resolved the issue. I am still reluctant to uncategorically call what happened that night an exercise of the gifts of the spirit because it seemed like such a natural understanding. Maybe that's what John Wimber used to call "Naturally Supernatural".

There are good reasons I believe for some caution. If you have been around groups like the Vineyard where personal prophecy and words of knowledge are prevalent then you have certainly encountered many well-meaning but utterly ridiculous "Thus saith the Lord" moments. There are several spiritual no-no's that I really work to avoid. My least favorite one is the 'generic word'. I was praying for a lady a few days ago and another person joined me to minister to the woman. They began to pray things like "You struggle with self-esteem issues and God wants to show you his love". Although the truth of the message that God wants to show his love is undisputable the "revelation" of a woman with low self-esteem is kind of like shooting a shotgun into a birdcage. You're not likely going to miss! Statistically low self-esteem is the major issue in almost every woman's life. You could do the same with men by having a word that they "struggle with a pure mind".... duh!!! That type of 'word' amounts to manipulation and I hate it with a passion.

I'm rambling now, but this brings up a point. God does not reveal his power to people who are not put at risk if he fails to move. That sounds pretty dogmatic, I know, but what I mean is that if you are not willing to step out on a limb and risk failure you are not likely to hear many real words of knowledge from the Spirit... and "self-esteem" or "pure mind" words are not usually risky... the corollary then is that they are not likely real words from the Spirit but are more likely a projection of the person praying's own battles. We assume that what we struggle with is likely everyone else's struggle and it works its way out in our prayers.

One of the other things I try to avoid is giving a statement a "The Lord Says..." prefix. Some people we minister to can distinguish on their own what is and isn't from God... but many can't... and we tread dangerous territory when we attribute words coming from our mouth to divine authority. If we "know in part and prophesy in part" (1cor 13:9) then it's obvious that what comes out our mouth is filtered by our own mind, experience and interpretation. Then it seems much more prudent to deliver a word with something like "It appears to me "... or "I believe the Lord may have shown me...." This type of delivery leaves people an option of receiving or rejecting the word as divine and anything less than that is manipulative. It is not our job to coerce a response... only to deliver a message.

While I'm on the subject... the types of words we should be offering...1 Cor. 14:3 says words are for strengthening, encouragement and comfort. The beauty of this is that anyone is free to offer words that strengthen, encourage and comfort. Is my word from God? Run it through this filter... then, even if its totally a product of your own imaginings then the worst that can happen is that it encourages... now that's user friendly prophecy.

We are not free to give words of instruction under normal circumstances. I see many people give what is probably a true word to someone then proceed to undermine it by offering interpretations and directions that are not inspired. My very first experience with a word of knowledge was in a small group. I proceeded to tell someone of the word I felt like God had given me for them and I then began to elaborate on it with an interpretation that was neither inspired nor uplifting. One of the leaders in the room gently took me aside after the meeting and said, "Only speak what the Father is speaking" (John 5:19). He continued "We are safe if we deliver a true message but we have to learn to stop where the message stops".

I will write more later on other filters to use for discerning the prophetic.

I would be interested in hearing from you about your own experiences or rules you minister by... and your own interpretations of my personal struggles with attribution of giftings.

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