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29 August 2017

Prophesying your own issues.

Funny how a lot of prophecies particularly apply to the person sharing it.

From time to time—in bible studies, church, conferences, prayer groups, what have you—prophets get up and say a little something which “God laid on their heart,” which is Christianese for “God told ’em.”

Or at least they think God told ’em. They were listening to their consciences, which is probably the easiest way to hear God. When we become Christian, the Holy Spirit gets to work on our consciences, growing good fruit in them, fixing our attitudes, poking us there whenever we misbehave. For some of us, it’s our most regular form of communication with him; we’re used to it. Many prophets have learned to listen to our consciences, in case any tugs we might feel are messages from God.

So let’s say a prophet detects this idea in there: “Someone’s not so sure she believes in God. She has doubts.” Sounded to them like something the Holy Spirit would say. So they take it and run with it.

“I feel in my spirit,” they’ll say (this’d be Christianese for “I think”), “there’s someone in this room who’s not sure whether she even believes in God anymore. She has days when she can’t even feel God’s presence. She’s struggling. I just want everyone in this room to know God is real. He cares about you. And if you wanna come forward we’ll pray for you, and pray that God show up in your life. For you to feel his presence.”

Thereafter, five or six girls come forward to be prayed over. And sometimes one or two guys who don’t care which pronoun was used: They’re kinda feeling that way too, and also want prayer.

Okay, time for the analysis.

Everybody doubts. Those who don’t, either had such a profound God-experience they don’t doubt anymore, ’cause they used to doubt, ’cause everybody doubts. Or they’re in heavy denial, which ain’t good. In any event, skip a rock into a crowd of Christians and it’s a safe bet you’ll hit a doubter. So we don’t actually need the Holy Spirit to inform us, “Hey, there’s a doubter in the room.” Maybe we need him to remind us, but not inform us. But get up in any large meeting, prompted by the Spirit or not, and declare, “Anybody have doubts? Come forward for prayer,” and people’ll come forward for prayer. Because everybody doubts.

And because everybody doubts, why’s “Somebody has doubts” sitting in this prophet’s conscience, waiting to be heard? Because the prophet has doubts. That’s a message for them. Since we humans are far more alike than not, it’ll also work for many of the people in the room. But we humans tend to have some really serious blinders on when our consciences are talking to us about ourselves.

So nine times out of ten, you know who’s really going through the struggle with belief and doubt in the room? Duh: The prophet.

The next dozen times you hear prophets get up and declare something, ask yourself, “Say, does this message also apply—if not primarily apply—to the person giving the declaration?” And y’know what? It almost always will.

Yeah, they’re still prophecies. Yeah, they minister to people.

Years ago I was at a prophecy conference where the speaker engaged us in a thought-provoking exercise: She told us, “I’m gonna have you gonna give a message from God to someone… but I’m not gonna tell you who it is till it’s time to give it. So ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to share with that person, then write it down. You’re gonna hand that message to that person.”

Weird, but why not. Each of us wrote down what we were pretty sure the Holy Spirit told us about this unknown person.

“Okay,” she said, “now look at your paper. That message is actually for you.”

Big surprised reaction. Kinda pleased reaction, because it turned out a lot of these messages really were suitable for the people who wrote ’em down.

It worked because of the very same reason I mentioned earlier: We were prophesying our own issues. When I had no clue who I was gonna prophesy to, or what I’d write to them, I did as every prophet does: I asked God to tell me something. Started listening really hard. What came up, was what was in my conscience already. Stuff God wanted me to know, to work on, to do. Stuff that, most of the time, is good advice to just about everyone. Which is why it’s so easy for us to densely assume, “Why, that message is for my neighbor,” same as we do with sermons and bible passages.

This fun little exercise tricked us into taking the blinders off, just for a moment. That’s why it worked so well.

But it also made me realize every prophet does this. I’ve yet to find one who doesn’t. Unless God’s message is obviously individualized (“You need to change your PIN number because your sister has been sneaking money out of your bank account to pay for her video poker addiction”), his message for people in general, is also his message for the prophet too. Sometimes the prophet in particular. But like I said, humans are alike, and his message to the prophet in particular can just as easily work on many other people in the room.

Prophets may be prophesying about their own dirty laundry, but everybody’s got laundry. We’re not the only ones going through difficult stuff. One of the healthiest things we can do is admit this to one another, and pray for one another. Prophets who stand up and state these things aloud might be telling on themselves, but they’re getting these issues out into the open. Ultimately it’s a good thing. Ultimately it ministers to far more people than just the prophet.

So that’s why I don’t wanna discourage this behavior. Keep it up.

As for the skeptics.

Yeah, I realize there are gonna be skeptics who say, “So all these people are getting up and declaring what their own consciences are bothering them about? That’s not God. That’s them. Your conscience isn’t God. It’s all the stuff you’ve been conditioned by your parents and society to believe are right and wrong. It’s pathology, not prophecy.”

There are even Christians who claim to believe in prophecy, who nonetheless say this too. Mostly because they don’t believe God regularly speaks to us through prayer, to our spirits, through our consciences. They think prophecy consists, and only consists, of profound God-appearances. Like a vision or an audible voice. Like an epiphany which blows your mind, or the Holy Spirit possesses you momentarily like one of those psychics claim their spirits do. Bonkers stuff like that.

To them, God doesn’t speak through anyone’s conscience. ’Cause consciences, they figure, don’t work like that. Their theories about how consciences do work, don’t involve anybody adding new morals and values and guidelines to them. Don’t involve fruit of the Spirit. Nor the idea the Spirit’s constantly working on it, trying to improve it, trying to improve us. And has a lot to say.

Now yes, since the Spirit’s fixing a defective conscience, sometimes those messages which we think are the Spirit, are really just us repeating our own defective beliefs. Hence bad prophecies. Hence the regular need to double-check “prophecies” against scripture and fellow Christians, lest we get God wrong. I’ve heard many prophets get up, vent their spleen, and think they’re repeating what God put in them… but the tip-off that this wasn’t God is kinda obvious by the fruitless things they were saying. Lot of anger, divisiveness, envy, jealousy, unkindness, impatience, hatred. Those things don’t come from God, and a Christian who “prophesies” nothing else is not headed for God’s kingdom. Ga 5.21 The Christian’s conscience is a mix of godliness and junk, and we’d better learn the difference if we’re gonna prophesy.

Hence some of the more pressing things in our consciences are gonna be the issues the Spirit wants us to work on most. And if you’re dabbling in prophecy, it’s inevitable that at some point you’re gonna get up and proclaim that thing which is pressing on you hardest.

Which means yeah, us mature Christians now know what the Spirit wants you to work on most. Ain’t no shame in that; we’ve been there too. Some of us are still there, and need the reminder. Humans are alike. Christians are alike. We need to hear these things from time to time. And to pray for one another. So keep right on doing it.

As for the naysayers, I can only hope that one of these days a prophet stands up in their churches and declares something which is precisely what they’re going through. That they have enough sense to set the pride aside, receive it, repent, come forward, and get ministered to. We’re all struggling. We all need grace. That’s why God’s prophets need to remind us of it, and this happens to be one of the ways it comes to their minds. Don’t knock it; it works.