God said something unusual to me in a quiet time this week. He said: “Unusual miracles will happen when the church at large begins releasing people to do unusual things.”
"Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them." (Acts 19:11, NKJV)
It's almost Labor Day, and with the kids - and hubby! - going back to school, preliminary college visits for my oldest (yes, we're already doing that!), football practice for my youngest, and a variety of other interesting developments, I definitely did not have time to "labor" over this week's post!
Instead, here is an end-of-summer post "roundup" of 5 new, recent, and older-but-popular posts for you to choose from. I hope you'll take time to relax, grab a tall glass of iced tea, and enjoy reading these carefully-selected articles over the weekend. You'll find a couple of new items here, including a cool Slideshare presentation you can use to pray!
And by the way, despite the busyness, I do pray for you, my readers, on a regular basis. Have a new prayer request? Send it to me here. Think a friend would enjoy the posts below? They're free to share. Happy Labor Day!
c. Deborah Perkins / HisInscriptions.com
Deborah Perkins is a Christian author and the founder of His Inscriptions, a ministry focused on life-giving communication with God. Through her website, inspired teaching and a weekly blog, Deborah offers discipleship to those who want to grow their relationship with God. A ministry leader for over 25 years, Deborah is an experienced prophetic counselor, marriage mentor, and prayer warrior. She's also fond of her hubby, 3 sons, and dark chocolate - in that order! To purchase her newest Bible Study, click here.
Leaders in the Body of Christ are called, among other things, to be lifeguards. Watching is the key function of a prophet or intercessor. Rescuing is a priority for the evangelist. Guarding is elementary for the pastor. Warning is a main component of teaching. Vision is essential for the apostle. Believers in the Kingdom of God are expected to be on guard, or more specifically: to keep watch.
My pastor runs a waterskiing ministry at the lake near his church in the summertime. On days when he is alone, the kids know that if he is out on the water training someone, no one swims until he gets back to the dock.
The famous comedian, Woody Allen, quips that "eighty percent of success is showing up." I'm not sure about the numbers, but I do think there's some truth in this. Ask any pastor and you will find that one of their primary concerns is how to keep people coming back to church, week after week, when most people simply crave "down time" on the weekends. We are tired, world-weary, and longing for rest. How do we find the energy to "show up" when we feel like there is nothing left to give?
Matthew's gospel reads:
On the surface, Christianity seems pretty straightforward. Love God, and you’ll be blessed. Disobey God, and things will go wrong. And this is true, to a point. However, this kind of black-and-white thinking leads to a simplistic spirituality that limits faith to a two-dimensional God. He’s either angry or He’s loving. Maybe He’ll bless you or maybe He won’t. You just never know; in fact, you can’t possibly know, since like all human beings, you have blind spots. You can’t see where you might have missed something.
Have you ever wished there were some kind of a "litmus test" to tell you if a prophet is for real? Or to discern whether a prophecy you've received is true? I have. In this noisy world full of voices, it's probably a good idea to have a "back pocket" checklist of some sort to help us sort things out! Will this make us faithless Christians or doubting Thomases? Actually, no. It will help us tune in much more accurately to what God is saying. Here's why.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 summarizes the essence of a biblical approach to prophecy. It says: "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast to what is good." Likewise, the apostle Paul, discussing prophecy (1 Corinthians 14), says he desires that all should prophesy. He elevates prophecy to be among the highest of the gifts. He also encourages believers to judge prophetic words. (Notice that he wants us to judge the words, not the people giving them!)
The New Testament clearly favors the idea of God speaking to us today via the prophetic. It also gives us clear guidelines for how prophets should operate and how we can know if their words are true. Taking a look at five of these will give us greater confidence as we give and receive prophetic words.
1. The Prophet is a Follower of Jesus Christ, Growing in the Faith
This is unquestionably the most important test we can apply to the prophetic. Believe it or not, it IS possible to prophesy without being a Christian! It is unfortunately also true that a Christian can prophesy "soulishly," or from his emotions, rather than giving a true word direct from the Holy Spirit. How do I know this? Take a look at Elijah's prophetic contest on Mount Carmel:
So they (the 450 prophets of Baal) cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out of them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.
How could these Baal-worshipers prophesy if they didn't know God? There are numerous examples in Scripture of seers and prophets who tap into occult power to summon "prophetic" voices or foretell the future. Today's equivalent might be a psychic or fortune-teller. But these prophets on Mount Carmel weren't even that good! Their prophecies were more like "wishful thinking" or vain imaginations. They were devoid of power, and despite the multitude of voices they raised, in the end they were outsmarted by just one true prophetic voice: Elijah's.
A prophet will not always be 100% correct. After all, we see and know spiritual truths only in part. But he or she will be tapping into the authentic Presence of God and relating what they see or hear from the Lord. Yes, it will be in their words. Yes, that's okay. God chose to allow the writers of Scripture to use their own words and personalities to describe His ways, too. What's important here is that the prophet is making time to get into God's Presence, to get to know His Word and His voice.
2. The Life of the Prophet Bears Fruit
This second "test" is an extension of the first. Jesus said "You shall know them by their fruits." Who does He mean by "them?" False prophets. Jesus sets up a powerful contrast in Matthew 7:15-27 to show us the difference between "wolves" (the false prophets) and sheep. Good trees bear good fruit, meaning we should be able to look at the life of an "abiding" prophet and see good things growing:
"Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom
I want to point out several things: first, it is possible to prophesy in the Name of Christ and yet not know Christ or be commissioned to speak for Him. The point Jesus makes here is that even those who function in the most elevated of gifts (prophesying or doing miracles) are still to be judged based on their fruit, not their gifts. In fact, He goes so far as to say that those who do not know Him or who misuse His authority in exercising their gifts are "lawless" (or "rebellious," and therefore about as impressive to Him as the antichrist!) What should make us sit up and take notice is that He says there will be many of them.
The requirements for all believers apply to the prophet, too. Is she submitted to authority? Is he open to correction? Willing to repent? Involved in life-giving relationships within the Body? Being prophetic does not mean someone has "carte blanche" to do or say whatever they want! In fact, given the enormous potential of the gift to help or harm people, prophets do well to stay close to both God and their mentors!
3. Prophecies are Spoken in an Attitude of Love, not Judgment
The maxim of every prophet should be "Encourage, Exhort, Edify!" (1 Corinthians 14). I also like the short checklist in Ephesians 4:1-3, which urges us to "walk worthy of the calling" in lowliness, gentleness, patience, love, unity, and peace. Everything a prophet does should be modeled after the example of Christ's love. Believe me, it could take a lifetime just to perfect walking in these six qualities! Thankfully, there is grace for our failings. But prophetic words that smack of judgment or condescendingly expose others' sins should be restrained, as they are repulsive to believers and unbelievers alike.
The flip side of this coin, and one that the church has not been very good at, is that the handling of the prophetic should also be modeled after the love of God! Prophets, like preachers, need time and safety in order to grow in using and understanding their gift. Any new skill requires practice and patience, and the church has largely failed prophets in this area. We are far quicker to correct and condemn than we are to coach or confirm.
Instead of shutting down the prophetic altogether, we should be looking for ways to train novices and give honest but loving feedback to those who do prophesy. When we react to past abuses by blocking all prophetic words, we eliminate a vital method of communication between God and His church.
4. The Words Bring a Witness
A good prophetic word will "ring true" in a believer's spirit when spoken. This is the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. Difficult to describe, it is a little like the connection that happens when a lamp is plugged in. A spiritual "current," like electricity, is connected from its source (an outlet) to its destination (the lamp). When a prophet, like a connecting cord, delivers a message at "Spirit" voltage from the outlet to the lamp, the light turns on. But if the prophet is plugged in to a foreign voltage, the lamp just won't light up. (And as my electrically-savvy husband pointed out to me, it just might explode instead!)
Prophecies may also confirm things the Lord has already spoken to us, such as a move to a new place or a ministry He wants us to pursue. A true word from God will bring peace to our hearts (1 Cor 14:33). But lest we rest on subjective impressions alone, 2 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that our ultimate measuring rod is the Bible. It is our agreed-upon standard, the inspired Word of God. Anything that is not in alignment with the Word should be questioned.
5. Prophets Exercise Self-Control
Finally, in contrast to the frenzied, exhibitionist demonstrations of Baal's prophets in 1 Kings, God's prophets are called to maintain order as they function in their gifts. Emotional excitement does not validate prophetic words. In fact, our emotions are to be subject to the Spirit of God within us. Paul writes:
You can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may
Beware of prophets who usurp the authority of their leaders or disrupt the flow of the service. God can, of course, redirect a church meeting if He so chooses, but He will confirm that to the ones leading as well. Most churches that honor prophecy have some kind of a protocol for determining whether a word should be given. A true prophet will uphold, not ignore, the order and timing of the church service he is in. Those who cannot are more likely to be moving in selfish ambition than in the unction of the Spirit.
Of all the prophecies we hear, God's authentic voice may not be the loudest. Of the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18), only one was true. Just four chapters later, 400 of King Ahab's prophets prophesied falsely, while just one, Micaiah, spoke truth. (1 Kings 22).
Like Elijah, we must learn to look for the still, small voice amidst the noisy whirlwinds. We need to focus on the words that bring us peace and security in Christ, not the earth-shattering revelations that exalt their messengers. We need to cling to the gentle voice of our Shepherd that leads us towards heaven, not the fiery warnings of judgment and hell! The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. But a prophetic ministry built on love will edify us and bear much fruit.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015. All references NKJV unless noted.
This week is a special one for Jews and Christians alike. Religious communities everywhere are celebrating Passover, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter - all within a 7-day span! Even scientists and new-age psychics are paying attention to this week's appearance of a "blood moon," an extremely rare occurrence that - interestingly - always seems tied to significant events in Israel. In remembrance of our Jewish roots, I would like to clarify just what I believe our relationship is to the Jewish people, and challenge you to think deeply about your response.
As believers who are growing and maturing in Christ, we will eventually reach the point where we feel a new love for the Jewish nation and for Israel. In studying the book of Romans, we will come to realize that it is God’s desire to call the Jewish nation, who initially rejected Christ, back to Him. We will begin to understand that it will be the Gentile church whom God uses in these last days to provoke Israel - through jealousy - to return to faith in God.
When we first realize all of this, however, we must be careful to make one distinction: Our focus should not be on calling the Jews to something, but to Someone. Our mission is not to call them to be members of our Christian church, but to return to their faith in a covenant-keeping (and very Jewish) God. Historically, as in the Crusades, we can see that Christians may be tempted to take pride in Christianity and seek to make converts to religion, not to God. As Romans 11:24 explains, it is not the Jews who were grafted in to the cultivated olive tree, but the Gentiles, who are like “wild olive branches.” We were estranged from Israel’s communal life – until we came to faith in Messiah. As David Stern writes in the Jewish New Testament Commentary, “Israel constitutes the norm and center of gravity, not the Gentiles." (JNT Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1992; p. 582).
And again, in Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul urges us to remember that we were Gentiles by birth, alienated from both Christ and the nation of Israel. We have now been brought near by the blood of our Jewish Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to pray for, watch, and bless Israel, not only because she plays a central role in worldwide political and end-time events, but also because she is God’s chosen nation, through whom all of His moral laws and covenants have come.
While we are not bound to the legalistic requirements of Mosaic law when we turn to Christ, we do gain access into all the wonderful covenants and promises given to the Jewish nation. In Christ, there is no longer any spiritual distinction between Jew and Gentile; the dividing wall has been abolished and we are members of one Body. Christ fulfilled all the legal requirements for us so that we could partake of the blessings and inheritances promised to our forefathers. In Christ, all God’s promises are “Yes and Amen!” (2 Corinthians. 1:20)
One of the most touching stories I have ever heard about reaching the Jews is the story of Richard Wurmbrand. You may know him as the Christian founder of the Voice of the Martyrs ministry (visit the Friends page of this website for more), but before that, he was persecuted as an anti-communist, Romanian Jew.*
In 1938, he was converted to Christianity by a Romanian carpenter named Christian Wolfkes. An unknown man of prayer, Christian lived in a remote mountain area which no one ever visited. Yet he longed for God to send him a Jew with whom he could share the gospel. By a miracle, Wurmbrand arrived on his doorstep one day and was converted, along with his wife Sabina. It would not be the end of Wurmbrand's persecutions, but his life would become a seed that would awaken thousands to the issue of Jewish and Christian persecution worldwide.
One man of prayer. One heart for the Jews. One Jewish conversion in a nameless mountain village. All of which led to a lifetime of impact for the Kingdom of God. How much more relevant is it now, in this end-time, to ask Him to give us a heart for the Jews!
The most exciting promise of all is that Israel will once again turn to her Maker and acknowledge Him as Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, her Messiah and Redeemer. This Passover, ask the Lord to give you a heart for His chosen people. Pray for Jerusalem. Pray for your own outreach to the people He loves so dearly. Pray that He sends you the one that only you can reach, in your own way, with the Love of your Jewish Father who has made Himself one with you!
I wish all of my Jewish and Messianic Jewish friends a very Happy Passover! May your celebrations and Seders lead you deeper into the knowledge of One who gave His life in fulfillment of all the promises of the Bible. Chag Pesach Sameach!
*Richard Wurmbrand's life story is available through Voice of the Martyrs.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Question: Have you ever read or studied Ephesians 2:11-22? What are your thoughts about our Christian response to the Jewish nation?
Feel free to share your comments below.
Maybe regular church (or synagogue) membership just isn't working out for you. Maybe the kids’ sports schedules eat up every moment of your weekend time, especially Sunday mornings. And maybe you as a parent feel just a little bit guilty that you’re not giving your kids a better spiritual foundation. Well, there’s good news, and you don’t need to be in church to hear it! Here are five easy ways to reconnect your family to your spiritual roots, whether Jewish or Christian.
1. What Child Doesn’t Like Mail? For children under age 8, check out the PJ Library. This Jewish organization will send free, fun Jewish children’s books to anyone who signs up. Your child will receive a special package in the mail each month containing a new story based on Judaic values. The stories are colorful, interesting for all ages, and contain helpful background (like why latkes are made at Chanukkah) and conversation-starters for parents to discuss with their children. It’s a perfect “quiet time” in a box!
2. Does your child always ask to play with your phone? Well, for the younger set, an organization called OneHope has partnered with YouVersion (www.YouVersion.com) to launch the first Bible App for kids. It contains animated, storybook versions of the most well-known Bible stories (think Creation, the Fall of Man, Christ’s birth, etc). To help motivate children to continue reading, stars are awarded and points earned. With video-game appeal, this app entertains and educates children at the same time. Find it on Google Play under “Bible for Kids.”
3. YouVersion also has a larger app which will appeal to tweens and teens who are techno-savvy, as well as to parents seeking to deepen their own walk with God. Founded by LifeChurchTV, the YouVersion app has daily devotionals geared towards all ages, and covering a multitude of topics. Writings from popular authors and speakers are included, as are topical word studies. The app contains the entire Bible in at least 27 versions, including the Orthodox Jewish Bible, and can send you daily reminders to read as well as record your thoughts on any passage that sparks your interest. There are an unlimited number of ways to use this app, and the best one just might be that you don’t have to lug that big Bible with you to church anymore!
4. Need to know what time to light the Shabbat candles? Google MyJewishLearning.com and enter your zip code. This educational website will give you the weekly Torah reading portions as well as all kinds of historical and cultural tidbits about Judaism. Learn Hebrew, make traditional Yiddish recipes, and find out what is trending in Jewish news and culture here. Your Bubbe will thank you!
5. Staying on top of the thousands of new songs, movies, and TV shows your family wants to see is a monumental task. But thanks to an ingenious website by Focus on the Family, you can find out ahead of time what your child will be listening to. Search PluggedIn.com for movie titles, songs, video games, and TV shows. A detailed review (from a Christian writer) will give you a heads up on content, sexually explicit scenes, drug and alcohol usage, and various other issues, so that you can make an informed decision about whether your tween should be watching Justin Bieber’s new racecar movie. (Just kidding.) Isn’t it nice to feel in control again?
It’s a brave new world, especially for “traditional” religion, and religion is finally catching up with the times. Most churches or synagogues now post at least an audio version of their services on their websites so you can even listen from your comfy couch! There are proven reasons to keep your family’s spiritual foundation strong. Kids who grow up with a sense of where they come from and what they believe are a lot less likely to be swayed by negative societal pressures. Their identity is stronger and they weather the storms of life better than their peers. These tips can give them an “edge” spiritually that will benefit them not just on the field, but in every area of life.
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.