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Jack Deere is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, pastor of several churches, and author of best-selling books, "Surprised by the Power of the Spirit" and "Surprised by the Voice of God." He is dean of the extension schools in the Wagner Leadership Institute and executive director of Covenant Ministries International.
"The Beginner's Guide to the Gift of Prophecy" is published by Servant Publications, ISBN 1-56955-204-5, copyright 2001.
This book is a practical guide to contemporary prophetic ministry. The key points discussed in this teaching are divine revelation and humility and friendship with God.
Divine revelations often come in a different form than we expect. The Bible states in Isaiah 55:8-9: " 'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts'."
Our intellect, no matter how great, will not be able to completely comprehend the ways of God. And we need Him to help us with the interpretation of the messages He gives us. Often we get revelations that don't make sense to us initially. In fact we may resist God's interpretation of a revelation because it may not make sense to us. An example is when Jesus told His disciples that He was going to die and Peter said, "Never Lord." Peter did not agree with God's plan because he had his own idea of how the Messiah was to fulfill the prophecies of old. For the Messiah having to die by way of the cross just didn't make sense to the disciples; it contradicted human wisdom and experiences as well as scholars' understanding of what they thought Scripture had foretold. It is important that we do not immediately reject a message we receive just because our perceptions may tell us to do so.
There are three factors involved when God talks to us. The way we can interpret revelation is by distinguishing between revelation (what is said), interpretation (what it means), and application (what to do about it). Even though all revelations from God are true, in our eagerness to deliver a message, we can give it a wrong interpretation. Also, we may have a true revelation and a true interpretation, but then use the wrong application. An example is applying a message out of season. For a message to benefit, all three conditions of the stages will need to be met. When not sure, it is always good to ask the Lord.
Another helpful practice is to write a revelation down. It is easy for us to forget possibly important details within five or 10 minutes after having received the message. Hence, writing the information down will help. It is also important to recognize that God chooses various methods to speak to His people. If we confine Him to only one method, we will be missing out on much He wishes to convey to us. Once we stop limiting Him in the ways of communication He wishes to use, we will start experiencing a greater and more frequent communication level. Also, be prepared to expect God to speak to you during "inconvenient" times. Often He will speak to us during inconvenient times to test our desire to hear Him.
At times God will intentionally omit certain parts of a revelation to stir us to seek him further about it. This requires pressing in and waiting on the Lord for further clarification. Through this, God is teaching us not only humility, but also the practice of asking Him when we are not sure.
The same applies when we are tempted to judge the accuracy of prophecy by the appearance of the vessel God uses. We may have a preconceived idea of what a prophet looks like and thereby reject anything that comes from somebody who doesn't fit those standards. We need to avoid rejecting a message based on the appearance of the person delivering it. God is not too concerned with the outward appearance of a person, but looks at our hearts instead. When God searches a heart, He looks for a vessel's love for Him and He looks at their humility.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
Our weaknesses, from a worldly perspective, are considered in a negative light. We try to overcome our weaknesses by striving to do better or becoming more committed to the task. God looks at our weaknesses in a different way. Our weaknesses remind us that we can't do things in our own strength, but have to rely on God to work through us. Humility teaches us to see our weaknesses as opportunities for the power of Christ to work through us.
The Scriptures give an example of a humble servant in Moses. Even the Lord proclaimed that Moses was "more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3-8). God considered Moses a friend and spoke to him face to face. The main character quality of all great prophets is humility and that humility is the pathway to intimacy with God. Scripture points out that the humble hear and understand the voice of God. Ps.138:6 states: " Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar."
So the question is, what exactly is humility?
It is not being convinced that we are worthless and insignificant. This is how the world understands humility. God's humility is completely different. God's humility doesn't require us to take on a negative view of ourselves, but it encourages us to believe in our hearts that "our best qualities are not good enough to deserve God's attention or even to gain us the lowest position of service to Him." Instead of comparing ourselves with each other, we need to compare ourselves with the greatness of God.
Humility is not acquired through our comfort, but when our comfort is temporarily removed and we are sent into a desert experience. Those who are used greatly by God have experienced this. The reason why God brings us through the desert is to teach us humility as well as childlike dependence on Him and gratitude. The desert also teaches us not to take things for granted. Jack Deere believes that the greater the prophetic gifting, the greater and more severe the time in the dessert will be. The same way that we need to approach our weaknesses, we need to see the desert as an opportunity instead of a negative thing. It is through that opportunity that we are taught humility and since God will not leave us in the dessert, it also means that promotion and restoration are coming.
Another way God teaches us humility is by putting us into embarrassing situations. We may have a tendency to want to impress people and God may intentionally put us into an embarrassing situation to remind us of who really is in charge. The author states: "To help us die to the pleasure of self-exaltation he occasionally replaces that pleasure with embarrassment."
Humility is also expressed through our obedience to God. When we are willing to obey no matter how painful it may be, God is more encouraged to speak to us and help us understand His voice. However while obedience is essential, a humble person is not satisfied with obedience only, but also wants a friendship with God.
Our friendship and intimacy with God are more important than our ministry. The Bible shows us in Gen. 18:17 that God did not want to keep anything hidden from Abraham because He considered him a friend. The same applies to us. The Lord desires a friendship with His people so He can share His secrets with them. The real goal of a prophetic ministry is not the delivering of prophetic words, but nurturing a friendship with God. Powerful prophetic words are just a by-product of a close friendship with the most powerful Word of all.
Friendships do not just happen overnight, but need to be cultivated and they take time. One way of doing that is by prayer. When we study the lives of people in the Bible who were skilled in interpreting revelation we find that they were always devoted to prayer. Praying is one of the most practical things we can do, to get revelation, and to understand it. It not only allows us to search the depths of Scripture, but also the meaning of visions and dreams. Daniel is one example of a man who had a vision and prayed for three weeks until he finally received the interpretation. The elements that unlock the meaning of revelation are humility expressed in prayer, friendship with God and willingness to obey God.