One of the aims of this blog is to not allow anointed teaching and preaching to fade into and become forgotten by history - either deliberately or not. I've made it an aim of my life to preserve magazines, audio tapes and videos where I can that are like piles of stones - reminding the people of God about what God has done in the past. I was intrigued to find the following article by one "Charles" Mahaney in Restoration Magazine - November/December 1985. It's largely excellent. I don't know for sure if he would still agree with what he wrote - but here it is anyway for historical interest;
"God's Prophetic People" - C J Mahaney - Restoration Magazine - November/December 1985
What comes to your mind when you think of a prophet? Perhaps you've been influenced by the way John the Baptistis portrayed in many films; a hairy lunatic covered in dust, almost foaming at the mouth as he shouts out his weird message while no one seems to be listening!
The truth is that a prophet is just an ordinary Christian with an extraordinary message. His burden is to speak the "now" word of God so that the church is motivated to obey. And not only to obey but also to catch the prophet's own heart, and thus to become God's prophetic community.
God's goal is that the spirit of the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12 - apostles, prophets, pastor/teachers and evangelists - should permeate the entire church. He is after a community of people who manifest the fullness of Jesus Christ, not just a handful of men who grow and mature while the Body of Christ in general falls further and further behind.
1. Provoking a Response.
Our concept of what a prophet actually is, then probably needs to change. People tend to label a man a prophet when what they actually mean is that he's an eccentric extrovert, not submitted to anyone. A true prophet however is both normal and under authority, in submission to others. Don't get me wrong. A prophet isn't alwasy the most acceptabe of people. John the Baptist was hardly a conservative man in a three-piece suit. His wardrobe - rough, smelly camel's hair and a leather belt (Matthew 3:4) - was definately different! If you had shared a meal with him you would have made sure it was at your place and not his. 'Locusts and wild honey' (v4) wouldn't have been the most acceptable of dishes! As for his tact in describing the Pharisees and Sadducees as a "brood of vipers" (v7) - I would say he definately hadn't read Dale Carnegie's book; "How to Win Friends and Influence People"!
Any true prophet will share similar characteristics. Bring him into a church situation and his word will have a cutting edge that sometimes hurts but always demands a response. The elders might have everything nicely sewn up until he comes in. Then situations are unlocked and people begin to respond to his word. They have begun to catch the prophetic heart. Soon they will be adopting a similar approach to his in their church life and so a prophetic community begins to emerge.
2. Spiritual VIPs.
Throughout Scripture God stresses the prophet's importance. We find Jehosophat urging God's people to "have faith in His prophets and you will be successful" (2 Chronicles 20:20). Amos declares; "Surely the Sovereign Lord doesnothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).
God has purposely limited His actions to those things that He has revealed to His servants the prophets!
It is important to stress that they are servants first and foremost. God doesn't want proud, haughty men strutting around using their own discernment to wipe people out in the Name of Jesus!
Prophets are given as gifts to the body of Christ in order to inspire a prophetic church, one gripped by a clear vision of God's intentions for His people and the world.
Such a church, like the prophet is committed to obey the current word of the Lord without compromise, regardless of the cost. And it is motivated by an intense burden that has it's origin in the heart of God.
We should be crying out; "Raise up a multitude of prophets around the world, Lord Jesus!" because without them we will never see a "highway for our God" being built (Isaiah 40:3), nor shall we see the Lord Jesus returning in our generation.
Three Old Testament terms - vision, word and burden - characterise the ministry of a modern-day prophet and so show us what a prophetic community should be like. Often God follows this pattern;
He gives vision and then provides a specific word for the current situation which leads to action. Then as we continue in this word, sustained by an on-going burden, the vision becomes reality.
Let's consider these three terms in more detail.
A prophet brings clarity and revelation relating God's ultimate plan to that particular generation. David "served God's purpose in his own generation" (Acts 13:36). The prophet enables us to do the same. We need to stop asking ourselves whether ours is the last generation before Christ's return and start living as if it were. Because it is the last generation for us!
i. Ultimate Goal.
The prophet's envisioning helps us to see the church, not as an irrelevant people ready for an irrelevant defeat, but as part of the generation that will see the restoration of all things, the making of the enemies of God into a footstool for His feet and the hastening of the day of the Lord.
He keeps before us a vision of God's ultimate purpose. As a result we don't allow either past experience or present circumstance to rob us of our faith to see God achieve what He said He would achieve for a generation of responding people. Vision also stops us heading in many unrelating directions at once. It prevents us from becoming discouraged and it keeps our motives right. No longer are we living just to receive personal blessing but to see God glorified.
ii. Consumed with Zeal.
God is on the move today. He has a world to reach and will not be frustrated in His plan. If you are unwilling to move with Him then you could be left behind! God wants to consume us with His vision. The disciples said of Jesus that zeal for God's house had consumed Him (John 2:17; Psalm 69:9). How about us? Does it eat us up inside when we think of how the world views the church as a building? It should! We need to say from our hearts; "God, Your Name is not honoured in this earth and I give my life so that in this generation whether Jesus returns or not, the church shall be the 'praise of the earth'"! (Isaiah 62:7).
iii. The "Now" Word.
In Luke 4 Jesus read from the book of Isaiah, sat down and said "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (v21). At that point all hell broke loose so to speak (v28-29). It's time for us to stop merely preaching Bible verses to the world and start saying "Take a look! Start showing the world the fulfillment of Scripture in the lives of God's redeemed people, the church". Jesus didn't go into the courtyard of the temple and say; "Can I have a word with all the people running the stalls?". He took a whip and drove them out (John 2:13-16) because he saw a lack of holiness in the house of God!
iv. A Holy Church.
God-inspired vision is inseperable from holiness. In order to fulfill God's vision for restoring the church there must come purity. Peter urged those who listened to him on the Day of Pentecost to be saved "from this perverse generation" (Acts 2:40 NASB). Though not a very tactful word to use, it was the truth. In our world today everything around us - politics, education, economics, entertainment and the judicial system is perverted. God is shaking the earth and all the security that man has sought refuge in (Hebrews 12:25-29). The trouble so often is that the church shakes with it!
God wants us to catch the vision of standing out as lights in the midst of a "perverse generation". Then he can channel through our pure hearts a word that will break the yoke of bondage in other people's lives as we confront them with the truth. That's what being a prophetic community is about!
v. Search for Reality.
The account of how Ananias and Sapphira died for lying (Acts 5:1-11) shows the importance God attaches to purity. God is restoring church discipline today. Our prophetic vision will mean that we no longer turn a blind eye to sin but confront it because of our burning zeal. The church didn't dwindle as a result of this severe discipline. Multitudes came to Christ (v14)! Why? Because people are looking for reality. I was brought up in a church where the ushers would stand at the back whispering all kinds of nasty things. Then when it was time to take up the offering, they would put on their holier-than-thou looks. As a young man I determined in my heart to have nothing to do with this sort of thing, I wanted to be part of something real, something that worked.
Many today are catching a vision of God's desire for the church and are sacrificing increased salaries, better homes and higher standards of living to see it achieved. I know one man who turned down an important job and a 50 per cent rise in salary because he would have to leave the area to which God had called him. Money and prestige couldn't compete with the sense of vision and purpose he had received from God. That's commitment!
Vision alone however is not enough. It must be translated into action. Prophets bring the word of God for a situation with the intention of turning the vision into reality. The prophet always starts by asking a question. It is not; "What will people think if I say this?". But; "What is the word of the Lord - God's heart and point of view for this situation?".
i. Facing People with the Word.
His frame of reference is not implications, other people's feelings or possible repercussions. His first and burning thought is; "Father what are you feeling and what do you want us to do in this situation?". This approach can often lead to the mistake belief that the prophet is insensitive to other people. But the truth is that to be a true prophet at all he must have a shepherd heart for the people of God. I once sat and listened to a pastor talking about someone in his church and was deeply touched by his love and concern but I knew in my heart that the person in question was involved in sin - and I said so. I didn't analyse temperaments. I spoke the truth in love. That is the prophetic heart of God. We've got to bring people face to face with the word of the Lord. We've got to think about what God is going to do if we don't obey. We've got to grow up in the love of God to where we can move in the fear of God.
ii. The Right Kind of Fear.
The Lord says that he highly esteems the person who "trembles at My Word" (Isaiah 66:2). Does it move us that we're going to be held responsible for the Word of the Lord that we hear? As a prophetic community we need to speak God's Word in love without fear of other people. A proper fear of the Lord overcomes the fear of man. For instance God might show you that a married couple are living in unreality. Each Sunday they argue in the car on their way to the meeting, until just before they arrive, they call a truce; "Let's commit it to the Lord - until later" and they put on their plastic smiles and their "praise the Lord" terminology for the duration of the meeting. You need to go to them - yes, you! - and speak the truth in love. You can't any longer treat such people by what they seem on the surface because you've been equipped by the prophets to see beyond the superficial, right into a person's heart. That's being a prophetic community.
iii. A Ripe Word.
We may have all the counselling manuals that are available, good though they are, but they can never replace the rhema, the power word of God in a situation. A propehtic word doesn't have to be profound. I remember once saying to a couple from the front; "The Lord is pleased with you". Immediately they both broke down in tears. That's the kind of word that I fight with the Lord before I bring. "Not in front of everyone Lord - I will tell them after the meeting. Give me something deep, heavy and impressive. It's supposed to be prophetic!". I obeyed after wrestling and they broke. You can say the same thing to someone else and they will simply reply; "The Lord is pleased with you too". Because that wasn't the Lord's particular word for them at that time. Instead of just telling people what has helped you, ask God what He thinks in a particular situation. That's the approach the prophets have equipped you to take.
Paul tells us not to let any "unwholesome or rotten word proceed from our mouths" (Ephesians 4:29 NASB). A word that is rotten was once ripe. I know what it's like to share a ripe word with someone. When he takes a bit there is an explosion of the life of God. But the same word used in a different situation will have little or no effect. People often make excuses for not obeying God's Word. "Not yet" is a common one. "The time has not yet come for the Lord's house to be built" they said in Haggai's day (Haggai 1:2). But when the prophets arrived with a ripe word, the word soon began (Ezra 5:1-2). A prophet exposes excuses. A prophetic people too will be ruthless in dealing with them.
iv. Hearing for Ourselves.
We are a people called to more than just quoting Bible verses and seeing no change. We have the very word of God for each situation. The prophets among us equip us to be led by the voice of God. We don't have to be content with secondhand revelation. We haven't come up to Mount Sinai where we send a Moses up to receive God's Word. We hav ecome to Mount Zion and go up to the mountain ourselves to receive revelation (Hebrews 12:18-24).
If you are not hearing the voice of God daily, just as you receive food daily then you are not fully alive in the kingdom of God.
Listen to God's Word, hide it in your heart and then obey it. Allow the prophets to train you to bring that word to other people.
God wants to impart to His people not only His mind but also His heart and feelings. Scripture is full of His love, His anger, His brokenheartedness, His tender compassion. "Burden" means feeling the way that God feels about a situation. It doesn't mean becoming introspective and depressed but it is an emotional commitment that keeps us going to see the vision become a reality. Too often we read from Scripture or bring a prophecy in a flat, monotonous voice. Yet God wants us to convey His emotions - to feel the Word of the Lord, to let it be a very part of us.
When we prophesy about dancing, we should dance. When we talk about lying prostrate before God, we should do it - otherwise we are not being real!
Ezra may have been a mild-mannered man, but the people's unfaithfulness caused him to tear his clothes, pull hair from his beard and sit down "appalled" (Ezra 9:3-4). Imagine one day knocking on your pastor's door to get a little counselling help. Then as you begin to talk together, he stands up, rips his jacket and shirt in two, pulls some of his hair and sits down appalled and horrified! That's what some people need. I've said to God that I am willing to feel the way He feel, except for the hair bit. And I am believing that if necessary I will be ready for that too!
ii. Oh God, the Church!
Nehemiah too, felt the way God felt. When he heard about Jerusalem's devastation he sat down and wept, mourned and fasted and prayed (Nehemiah 1:4). He was experiencing God's heart, knowing God's feelings. He knew that Jerusalem was meant to be the "joy of the whole earth" (Psalm 48:2). No wonder he wept at it's current plight!
When we see that God's purpose for the church today is not merely survival but triumph and worldwide impact and influence, we too will be deeply affected as we view the present state of God's holy city, the church.
Nehemiah's burdenn didn't produce passivity, discouragement or depression in his life. Neither should it in us. Rather, we will be stirred to pray and then build until God makes His church a praise in the earth.
A prophetic community then is a people seeing a clear vision, motivated by a current word and experiencing an increasing burden.
If this is not our present experience then let's cry together from our hearts; "Make us a prophetic community Lord Jesus!".