I have been a missionary both at home and abroad. I have traveled to dangerous inner-city ghettos and dusty, dirty African compounds. I have sung songs with poor children in the streets of Mexico and built houses for the homeless in the streets of New Haven. In all my travels, I found that there was only one thing I needed.
November 23, 2015 is the International Day of the Bible. Christians around the world are celebrating the Word of God, which has now been translated, at least in part, into over 2500 languages. In America, we also celebrate Thanksgiving this week, the beginning of our nation's freedom to worship God.
The day before I began writing this post, I spent a few minutes thinking about what I am most thankful for this year. God, family, and YOU - my readers - top the list, of course, but what really creates thanksgiving in me is that there is such a wealth of Christian resources available to so many of us around the world today.
Think about it: in the United States alone, there are multitudes of Bible-believing churches within driving distance, along with Spirit-filled conferences, prayer meetings, and worship gatherings. You can even get a ministerial degree online!
You might also have noticed that thanks to technology, I can link all the Bible verses I use on my website to Bible Gateway, a powerful Bible search engine (www.BibleGateway.com). Bible Gateway, in turn, circulates my blog along with many others to their readers around the world. Online study of the Bible is so common now that even in our church services, we often see people pull out their cell phones when the pastor says "please turn to the book of Hebrews!"
Advances in technology are not just impacting the US. In the 1980's it was prophesied that one day, Chinese workers in the rice fields would have 24/7 access to Christian programming - via a "device like a TV on their wrists." This was long before anyone had conceived the idea of smartphones and smartwatches. Today, Chinese readers make up the second largest group of readers for our "His Inscriptions" blog - outranked only by readers in the United States!
I had a dream this morning in which the Lord revealed two strategies of the enemy that keep His people from entering a place of intimacy with Him. At the same time, God released two prophetic revelations for breaking these strategies: scriptural keys that to help overturn demonic plans.
In the dream, I saw people being drawn down into the depths of a medieval fortress. Everything in the dream resembled the dark ages. I saw a damp cobblestone street that led into a dreary, medieval town. On either side of the street was a walled fortress, like a long, low palace that seemed to extend forever. The scene reminded me of a rainy day in medieval England: dismal, dreary, and dark.
The fortress, or castle, bore no resemblance to the kind of fairy-tale castles our children dream of. It had only low spires and was made of cold, grey stone. It did not have the height of a picturesque castle, either, being only one or maybe two stories high, and extending lengthwise through the town instead of vertically to the sky. Inside the fortress were dozens of rooms, each laid out next to the other. The rooms were unfurnished, no more than cold stone “compartments” in which to hold people. The entire city was sunken into a valley and seemed to descend lower and lower as I walked along the street.
Are you ready to respond to an emergency? Would you be an effective leader in the midst of a crisis? How are you reacting to the disasters we are seeing on an international scale - would you be prepared to face one in your community?
Have you ever wished you could sneak into an intercessor's "prayer closet" with them and find out how they really pray? Maybe see if there's something you've been missing in your own quiet times? I have. I think one of the reasons why the "War Room" movie is so immensely popular for so many Christians is because it gives us a glimpse into what is usually a very private area of someone's life: their personal relationship with God in prayer.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting a friend of a friend, someone who - I had been told for years - loves to pray.
When I mentioned this to her, she said, "You know, there's just nowhere else I'd rather be than in the Presence of God!" Her statement was far from clichéd. I could tell by the way she said it that she meant every word. I thought: wouldn't it be fun to get to know her better and discover some of her secrets to entering the throne room?
So I called her and asked if she'd do an interview with me so that you could meet her, too. She wasn't sure she had anything extraordinary to tell, but my sense was that the Lord felt otherwise. Her name is Carol. Here is what she told me.
My husband and I attended a wake this week for a young man who died in the prime of his life after a long struggle with addiction. He leaves behind a wife, two brothers, and parents who are also struggling, with questions like: “Why? Why him and not me, Lord?” Despite a wonderful show of support from family and friends, the situation is heartbreaking. No one should have to lose a child, and no words can touch that kind of pain.
I took a walk yesterday after visiting the boy’s family. Although I have known his parents for many years, I had met the boy only once, in their church. On that day, the Lord had given me a prophetic word for him, which I shared with his mother and then with him personally. At the time, I did not know the extent of what he was going through.
The wonderful thing about prophecy is that no matter how rough life is at the time, a word from God almost always conveys hope. I felt the love of God for this boy and knew that God envisioned good things for him – saw him as complete, competent, and strong in Him.
It is hard not to get excited about prophetic words when they come; they are like Jeremiah 29:11 in living color, with specific and personal applications for us. We feel God’s pleasure; we know that He is unquestionably for us. It is like the feeling we have when a teacher gives us a good grade on a test, tells us he believes in us, that we will become something great someday. Something in our soul responds deeply to this kind of encouragement, longs to become that wonderful person that has been described; could that really be me, we wonder?
I and this boy’s family believed that what was prophesied to him could really be him. That he could overcome the challenges he faced and turn his life around for the better. I know that his mother has stood her ground spiritually and prayed that word over him for many years since. In fact, when I saw his mother a few weeks ago, she told me how much she had appreciated the word I gave her son, and that she was still believing for those good things God had promised to manifest in her son’s life. Her words greatly encouraged me.
But he died.
And as I walked, I couldn’t help but ask God, “Why?” Why, when parents who are prayer warriors have battled courageously, do children still fall? Why, when a powerful word is given, do we miss it? Why, when we do wage warfare with the prophecies we are given, do we still sometimes suffer defeat?
This is what He said: “Prophecy is not a guarantee; it’s an opportunity.”
In other words, when God releases a prophetic word to you, it’s an open door. He lets you take a look at your future from His perspective, and promises that if you walk through that door with Him, He will do everything in His power to back His words to you. There are some things He will do, and there are some things we must do. It’s a bit like the cutting of a covenant: each party has responsibilities to fulfill. When you receive a word, you must ask: what is God's part? What is my part?
There are prophetic words for all of us in scripture (See Exodus 19:6 and Revelation 1:6), and there are personal prophecies that we receive through His people as we walk with Him. All are meant to encourage, exhort, and edify us – to help us envision a life of peace and fruitfulness when we do what He is doing. (See John 5:19).
Words of correction and direction may also come, with the intended goal of getting us back on track spiritually - always for our good. (For example, Jonah’s prophetic warning to Nineveh didn’t sound very encouraging on the surface. But it resulted in repentance. God’s heart is always for relationship, not destruction.)
However, most prophecies are not guarantees. They are conditional, based upon our acceptance of them by faith and by our willingness to yield or to seize the opportunities we’ve been given. I believe many of us are quick to accept prophetic words by faith – we even run after prophetically gifted people to get them – but not all of us act on them. Just as faith without works is dead, so prophecy without action becomes a missed opportunity. We have a part to play.
Though we pray, prophesy, disciple, give, and encourage others, the one thing we can never do is take away their right to choose, to make their own decisions based on the promises they are given. Sometimes people choose not to walk with God. Sometimes they walk with God, yet don’t take the steps needed to walk into the better future He invites them to experience while they are here on earth. This is a hard thing to watch from the sidelines, like a dropped catch on the football field or a wrong note in a concert. We cringe inside, we wish it had been different, we wish we could go out and “catch” the ball for them, run the touchdown, correct the mistake.
But we can’t.
In the end, I must both believe and act on what I receive. This is the way the Kingdom of God operates.
Overcoming our own fears, weaknesses, anxieties, or addictions is not an easy task. We need each other more than we care to admit. We need the encouragement that comes through the prophetic gifts, the pastoral gifts, the counseling, teaching and discernment gifts, and all of the other wonderful gifts God has made manifest in His Body. We need each other because without that encouragement, we do make wrong choices sometimes.
We’re at war, a war so evil and intense that precious lives are lost along the way. The enemy meant for me to be discouraged when things didn’t go the way I had hoped for this young man. He meant to quench my hope, to make me doubt God and question His wisdom. But he only strengthened my resolve. I cannot choose for another person what he should do. But the losses challenge me to encourage more, to prophesy more, and to pray more, because I see that our resolve must at least match that of the enemy’s. We must remain as committed to life and hope as he is to death and despair.
We serve a great God whose plan is unfathomable, whose Kingdom is eternal. In Him, nothing is lost, nothing is wasted. We will see this young man again in heaven. We celebrate all the ways he did acknowledge God. And we will pray, prophesy, disciple, love, and encourage as many others as God leads to us, in the hope that they will choose to accept their prophetic destinies and live the fruitful lives God is calling them to. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
c. Deborah Perkins / His Inscriptions.
Deborah Perkins is passionate about connecting others with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions. To subscribe to her free weekly blog, click here.
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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.