Monday, October 31, 2016

Awkward Continuationist: the Prophetic

My first experience with actually being prophesied over was a memorable one.

We were in a tiny Anglican church -- myself, a few youth from our church, and about seven blue-haired octogenarians -- and we were all kneeling at the front, about to receive the Eucharist.

(This was about five months, give-or-take, before I attended the Vineyard Worship Festival, which accelerated my Awkward Continuationist trajectory.)

As was "traditional" in this little church (and the reason a friend had encouraged us to attend the mid-week service), the pastor would lay hands on the head of each person. At the very least, he would pray a blessing. More often than not, however, the pastor would share a prophetic word that God gave him.

These "words" were astounding, in several directions:
  1. They were usually delivered in words that only the person being prayed for fully understood. The language was English, but it was almost like it was in "code". On one hand, that preserved the person's privacy, and on the other, it showed each of us that God was truly speaking through the pastor (who was often unaware of the full significance of the words he was giving).
  2. We would leave feeling challenged, encouraged, and built up in our faith.
"Do you mind that we're coming here, even though we aren't part of your congregation?" I asked the pastor later.

"Not at all!" he smiled in response. But then his expression and voice turned serious.
"But, six months from now, if the only time you hear from God is in this place, then you have made me into a 'guru' and I won't allow that. All of you can encourage each other through prophecy."
It was excellent advice, and thus began our journey into previously unexplored spiritual gifts.

In hindsight, I realized that I had inadvertently started the "word of knowledge" journey about ten years earlier, during my first semester at Bible college.


It all started innocently enough.

Every first-year student was assigned some manner of "student work" to help off-set the costs of running the college. I had come to college straight from (a) playing in bar bands and (b) working as an assistant manager in a grocery store (I kid you not). Based on this dubious resumé, I found myself drafted into the unenviable position of "night watchman".

Now remember, this was in a long-ago prehistoric time period. Computers didn't show up until my senior year, and back in the day, there was only one thing to see on television after the playing of the Canadian national anthem at midnight.

In short: it got really, really boring in between my rounds throughout the night. Yes, I suppose homework would have been a responsible option, but let's just say you aren't writing your best material in the middle of the night.

So, I started putting encouragement notes into peoples' mailboxes. I would scan the list of names on the wall until one jumped out at me, and then I would scrawl down something encouraging, or a Scripture verse, and pop the card into the appropriate numbered mailbox.

I was just trying to encourage people; nothing more grandiose than that.

And yet, as the semester went on, people would come up to me -- sometimes misty-eyed or actually crying -- to thank me for what I'd written or the Scripture I'd jotted down. "It was what I needed today," and "How did you know?" were two common remarks.
It never occurred to me to call what I was doing "prophetic" or a "word of knowledge"; I was just trying to encourage people.
Which is probably why I'm such a big fan of the Vineyard's "5 Step Prayer Model" -- it's low-key, non-hype, how-can-I-pray-for-you in its approach, and comes with the assumption that the Spirit might whisper something to pray-er and/or pray-ee without fanfare or posturing or any attention-grabbing behaviour.

Less hype = God gets the credit.
Less posturing = Focus is on encouraging others. (NOTE: These are very good things!)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Desperate

A tradition in one of the bands I play with is to "give back" a free concert for the annual Recovery Day held in Vernon BC (about an hour north of K-town).

It's a privilege to be involved, and listening to the stories of those in the midst of recovery is both humbling and inspiring.

The first two steps in a classic Twelve Step Program (Alcoholics Anonymous being perhaps the most well-known) go something like this:
  1. We admitted we were powerless over "___________".
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
The majority of those sharing their stories at the most recent Recovery Day made no bones about it: their "higher power" went by the name of Jesus. And they were grateful for His intervention in their lives, often weeping as they spoke.

I am hardly the first person to make this observation, but it was profoundly moving to me that day:
These precious people in recovery were desperate for God to move in their lives. They had nowhere else to turn (John 6:66-69).
A desperation that we seldom see reflected in our churches. (Or in my own life, for that matter...)
As I listened to the testimonies during Recovery Day, I was struck afresh with the realization that only those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matthew 5:6) will have their hunger and thirst satisfied. Those who are incapable of seeing (or admitting) their need will be left to their own devices (Revelation 3:17).

And as someone who pines for genuine revival, Lord, let me be hungry, thirsty, and desperate!