Hearing God in a Crisis

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good…

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

My family and I are in the midst of a tragedy. We are walking through grief and loss. My older brother has just died at 47. He was in a car accident. He left behind a wife and three kids. We feel like so much has been stolen from us. So much time and so many memories that were yet to happen were ripped away from us in an instant. My nieces and nephew lost their dad. I lost a brother. My parents lost a son. My sister-in-law lost her husband. My kids lost an uncle. The pain is real and intense.

During these kinds of seasons we need the presence of the Lord to be near to us and comfort us. We need Jesus to bring His peace that passes all understanding. And it is extremely helpful to hear from the Lord as He speaks to us about what is happening. Yet, many people report that during difficult times, they don’t hear from the Lord. It often feels like the Lord is silent.

I have some thoughts on this. I believe the Lord wants to speak into these situations in our lives. I don’t believe the Lord wants to be silent. But I believe we often experience a kind of silence for a couple reasons.

Have you ever been on a video conference call and someone started talking while they were still muted? You can see their mouth moving but you can’t hear anything. It’s not that they aren’t talking but the mute button is keeping you from hearing them. I believe we sometimes interact with God this way. God is speaking but we don’t hear him. We have a mute button on in our spirit.

The thing that opens communication with the Lord is trust. If we can trust him implicitly in good times or bad, no matter what happens, then the communication lines stay open. Lack of trust shuts down our ability to hear from the Lord. So if personal crisis causes us not to trust the Lord, then we are shutting down the very thing we need in that moment–the voice of the Lord.

Not only does mistrust shut down our ability to hear, but it will sometimes cause God to stop speaking. He stops speaking because He loves us. That may sound strange but just think about it for a second. Imagine you are grieving an incredible loss in your life. Now imagine someone you don’t trust starts talking to you. In that moment, do you want them to keep talking? No. It doesn’t matter what they are saying. It doesn’t matter if they are saying all the right things. If we don’t trust them, we don’t want them speaking to us while we are in the midst of deep grief. It would be better if they were just silent.

God knows this. If we don’t trust God, it doesn’t matter what He says to us in that moment of grief and pain. If we don’t trust Him, we will misconstrue whatever it is He wants to tell us. We will doubt it, question it, and misinterpret it. Our lack of trust toward God often means it is more loving for Him just to be present with us and not speak to us in that moment.

Yet, in the midst of grief and pain, we are willing to hear from people we trust. So if we trust the Lord no matter what, we are willing to hear from Him in the midst of our pain. God speaks and we listen. And when we hear the word of the Lord in the midst of our tragedy, it is so helpful, so comforting, and so clarifying.

This may sound strange to some, but here’s the truth: God has not been silent during this tragedy in my life. In fact, the only way to describe my interaction with God right now is that God has been downright talkative. In the midst of my grief, pain and loss, He has had so many things He’s wanted to say to me.

He has spoken to me directly through scripture, through prayer (His still small voice in my heart), through friends, and through prophetic words from others. When I didn’t know what to pray, the Lord gave me different themes and things to focus on that directed my prayers. When I was confused by what seemed to be missing pieces of the puzzle, God dropped a puzzle piece on me that brought understanding.

My wife had a prophetic dream in the middle of our crisis that brought tremendous clarity. My good friend had multiple prophetic visions that he shared with me that were hard to hear at first but brought a level of comfort and understanding. This is why the above verse of scripture says, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all.” If we can learn to receive and process prophetic words on our normal days, then they will become lifelines during a crisis.

Trust is what keeps those communication lines open. When God begins to speak, and He says something unexpected, trust is what allows us to receive His word without being confused or offended by it. Jesus is the most trustworthy person I’ve ever met. We owe Him our unconditional, implicit, unyielding trust.

We need to stop believing the lie that God is always silent during hard times. Not true. God loves to talk us through a crisis. He loves to speak. He loves to speak words that bring clarity, understanding, comfort, and peace. If God is quiet, it may be that He knows what we need in that moment is His tangible Presence and not His words. But it also might mean that our inability to trust Him has shut down communication. Let’s make sure our trust in Him keeps those lines of communication open. Even during a crisis, He is worthy of our trust.

Years From Now

When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab’s family;he destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord spoken to Elijah.

2 Kings 10:17

Jehu is anointed King of Israel and goes about destroying the entire family of wicked king Ahab. Both him becoming king and his campaign to rid Israel of Ahab’s family was prophesied by Elijah. What struck me about the above passage is that Elijah had been gone for sometime. Roughly 15 years had passed from the time Elijah prophesied this to the time it actually came about. Fifteen years!

The Lord told Elijah to anoint Jehu king when Elijah had run away and was hiding on Mt. Horeb. This is also when the still, small voice came to him. It was also when Elijah was told to anoint Elisha as prophet to succeed him (1 Kings 19). A couple years after this Elijah would prophesy the total destruction of Ahab’s family. Yet, Elijah didn’t get to see any of this.

Elisha became prophet of Israel, and Elisha is the one who anoints Jehu as king. Elisha gets to see the fulfillment of a word that came to Elijah.

What did your life look like 15 years ago? For me, I had just started pastoral ministry. I was dating my wife but was not married, and I didn’t have three kids. I was a brand new pastor with no wife, no kids, no house and no idea what the next 15 years would hold. If someone had given me a prophetic word about the coronavirus during that time, would I have believed them? And even if I believed them for the first few years, would I have continued to believe it after so many years?

Jesus did something similar in His own ministry. The disciples are overwhelmingly impressed with the splendor and grandeur of the Temple. Then Jesus prophesied about the destruction of the Temple, something that wouldn’t happen for another 40 years.

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Mark 13:1-2

In our fast-food world, prophetic words like this are really difficult for us to process. It seems that in ancient cultures there was a better understanding of how things take time. Maybe personal experience with farming helps a culture understand cultivation and the nature of time. There was a generational approach to things. It was assumed that one might not see something in their lifetime but that it would be important to build toward it for the sake of children or grandchildren. Today, that idea seems so foreign. We don’t plan and build with the next few generations in mind. We want things now.

Maybe God has given you a word or a promise that hasn’t come to pass. And maybe you’re starting to doubt that it ever will. But God’s timing is very different than ours. It could be coming years from now. It could even be coming in the next generation, something you won’t see firsthand. But one thing we can trust is that God keeps His promises. He keeps His word.

Uninformed

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

1 Corinthians 12:1

Paul’s great desire for the churches that he started was that they not be uninformed about the gifts of the Spirit. And yet in so many churches today, most of the members are uninformed about these gifts.

I’ve had so many conversations in the last month where people asked me about the gifts of the Spirit. One girl came to me asking about tongues and whether she should even desire that gift. She also wondered that, because she doesn’t pray in tongues, whether she is baptized in the Spirit.

In another conversation, a pastor of another church came to me asking about the gifts. When he prays for people in the morning, he feels like the Lord gives him the ability to see them the way God sees them. He never had a label or a name for it. It was just something he noticed God enabled him to do. So we talked through the difference between a “word of knowledge,” a “prophetic word” and “discerning the spirits.” All three of these gifts of the Spirit are revelatory in nature but have slightly different functions.

In a different conversation, a woman in my church asked about impartation and its value. Impartation is when a person lays hands on another person and asks God to release a transference of anointing or gifting in the Holy Spirit. We see this sort of thing talked about in Deuteronomy 34:9, 1 Timothy 4:14, and 2 Timothy 1:6. Her question was, “Does baptism in the Spirit or new gifts of the Spirit come only through impartation?” She wondered if one could just receive more from God while praying one-on-one with Him. My answer was that those are the two main ways people receive new things from the Holy Spirit–waiting in prayer and impartation.

In another interaction, a couple in my church had some struggles with healing prayer and wanted to learn more. We dialogued back and forth about certain elements of praying for physical healing which led to them wanting to read about it on their own. So I suggested a few books for them.

In yet another conversation, a pastor of another church had a detailed dream that he felt was significant, but he couldn’t discern its meaning and wasn’t sure if it was from the Lord. So he asked for my help. As he and I discussed the dream, the meaning began to emerge. The Holy Spirit began to lay out the interpretation. When I shared the interpretation that I felt I was hearing from the Lord, he was deeply touched. The Lord had spoken to him so directly and so specifically, addressing a family situation that he had been concerned about.

The point is that many in the church are uninformed about the gifts of the Spirit but are hungry to learn more. People don’t want to stay uninformed, but many pastors are fine with them staying that way. Many pastors are themselves uninformed about the gifts of the Spirit so they can’t begin to teach on it. Or, if they do know about them, they only know enough about them to view them skeptically and suspiciously. They don’t want anyone operating in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in their church because it might mean a loss of control for them. Or maybe they’ve never seen these gifts used with maturity or within healthy boundaries, so they don’t believe healthy use of the gifts is possible. Whatever their reason, it ends up muting the Holy Spirit’s expression in the local church.

The apostle Paul had a different approach. Here’s one of the places he talks about the gifts:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healings by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishings of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NASB

If you are a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit dwells in you and these gifts are available to you. But like most other things in the Kingdom of God, you’ll need to pursue them. And part of pursuing them is becoming informed about them, even the gifts you don’t yet have.

If you want to become more informed about these gifts, how they work, what they’re for, and how to express them in a healthy way in the church, I have an entire teaching series for you. I called it the Supernatural Christian Life. Each week has an audio teaching, slides, links to videos, and book recommendations. It’s a 7 week series where I cover every gift listed in 1 Corinthians 12 in detail. I offer it to you freely at the link below. My only request is that you hunger for more. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

https://horizontowson.com/supernatural-christian-life-study

Psychics, Mediums & Spiritists

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.

The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.”

1 Samuel 27:3-4

King Saul had been living in rebellion from the Lord for some time. He had been chasing David all over his kingdom trying to put him to death. Then the Philistines amassed their army against Israel and Saul was terrified. We often make really bad decisions when those decisions are rooted in fear.

Saul thought he could use the Lord like a slot machine or a Magic 8 ball. He inquired of the Lord as to what to do. Saul wanted to hear from the Lord on his terms. He hadn’t been interested in hearing the truth from the Lord in years, but he wants God to suddenly start speaking to him again now that he’s in a crisis. How many of us do this same thing?

God refuses to be a puppet for King Saul. God is quiet. The normal ways of hearing from the Lord go silent. Saul doesn’t get a word from a prophet. “Urim” was a reference to one way that the priests inquired of the Lord. And Saul doesn’t get a personal dream from the Lord. These were the standard ways that the Lord would speak to His people–through prophet, priest and king.

In desperation Saul does the unthinkable. Years ago, in obedience to the Law of God, Saul had expelled mediums and spiritists from Israel. Yet, because of his fear and because of his life of rebellion, Saul now seeks out a medium–someone who would consult the dead for him.

God was very clear about his prohibitions on mediums, spiritists, fortune-tellers, and other forms of occult practices.

“Do not practice divination or seek omens.”
“Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:26, 31

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.

The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

Deuteronomy 18:9-16

The Lord was clear. What God really wanted to do was to speak to each member of Israel directly. But they were terrified by His Presence, so as a people they asked NOT to hear the voice of the Lord. Still wanting to speak to His people, God honored their request and spoke to them instead through a prophet. But they were absolutely forbidden to engage in the occult practices of the surrounding nations. If they did, they would “be defiled by them.”

This prohibition still stands for us in the new covenant.

God is able to speak to each individual personally through the Holy Spirit–something God always wanted with His people. He also still speaks through people gifted with prophetic gifts. Likewise, God continues to reject all forms of the occult and witchcraft. Divination, sorcery, mediums, spiritists, witchcraft, fortune-tellers, psychics and the like are all avenues to the demonic. Any visit to these practitioners or any experimentation with ouija boards, tarot cards, crystals and the like is an invitation for demons to set up camp in your life. I’ve seen this firsthand.

That Sunday the Presence of the Lord was strong in our worship service. When I concluded my sermon by praying over the congregation, a girl in the room started to shake. The shaking continued through the final worship song, and she knew she needed to get some help. This girl knew something was happening that was beyond her control. She approached me and one of my prayer team members for prayer.

We escorted her back to the prayer room and began to pray. She admitted that she thought she knew the problem. She confessed to dabbling in a certain kind of tarot card reading. She would get fearful about the future and wanted to know how things were going to turn out (sounds a lot like Saul). The more she engaged in these cards, the more something was taking over control of her body. She confessed that she would also engage in automatic writing. This is when she would hold a pen in her hand and invite spirits to take control of her hand and write a message to her. What started by her invitation soon became an oppression she couldn’t resist.

After she shared these things, I knew she had engaged in divination and was likely heavily demonized. As we prayed against a spirit of divination, she violently convulsed, dry-heaving and coughing until this spirit left. When it left she knew. She felt the peace of the Lord come over her. In subsequent weeks, we would pray for this girl multiple times casting multiple demons out of her. Engagement with the occult is a fast-track to demonic oppression.

Some people visit psychics, palm readers, mediums, spiritists, and tarot card readers just for fun. They think it’s a game, like something you’d find at the county fair. Others are afraid of the future and believe this is the best way to alleviate their fears. Some play with crystals, tarot cards, and ouija boards at home thinking these things are harmless. That couldn’t be further from the truth. These practices are all manifestations of witchcraft. They are all forms of the kingdom of darkness trying to imitate the Kingdom of God. They are all demonic avenues into the spirit realm trying to imitate the real thing, which is prophecy and prophetic gifting (1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:1-4).

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures. So even if you don’t have prophetic gifts or know anyone who does, you have the ability to hear from the Lord. Maybe no one taught you how to listen and hear from the Lord, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t speaking. He wants to speak to you personally, through His word and through prayer. Engaging in the occult in order to hear from God or hear about your future is like going to a drug dealer in the city to learn about the side effects of prescription drugs. You’ll end up damaged and demonized by the process. Go to the Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-17) and the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13) if you need to hear from God. He wants to speak to you.

If you have engaged in these occult practices and now want no part of them, here is a prayer you can pray:

In the name of Jesus, I renounce any involvement in (name the occult or the cultic practice).
I renounce (list the practices you participated in). 

I ask you God to forgive me for my ignorance. I didn’t know how dangerous these things were. Forgive me for trusting in these things rather than in You alone. Forgive me for what amounts to worshipping false gods. I declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. Jesus is Lord of all, I will worship God and Him alone. 

I sever all contact I’ve ever had with the occult or with all false religion, and I commit myself to get rid of all objects associated with the occult or false religion. Now I cancel every assignment of darkness and remove every right of the demonic to afflict me because of my sin and my involvement in those occult practices. I break the power of their words over me. I break the victim spirit off of me. I rebuke the fear I have lived under. I cancel my bond to fear. I reject and renounce any unholy prediction made about my life or the life of my loved ones. 

In the name of Jesus, I break every curse against me that came from my involvement in these occult practices. In the name of Jesus, I break every curse against my loved ones that came from my involvement in these occult practices. I take every word captive that has been spoken over me, my loved ones, and that I spoke over myself. I break the power of those curses from hell. I cancel every assignment of darkness and I cast them to the ground. I call blessing to fall on me in their place. I take back every curse I have spoken against another. I cast those words down to the ground. I return a blessing on those with whom I have cursed. Jesus took my cursing so I can live in blessing. 

In the name of Jesus, I command any demonic spirit that has tried to access my life through the occult to leave me right now. In the name of Jesus, I command any demonic spirit that has tried to torment the life of my loved ones through these occult practices to stop right now. In the name of Jesus, I command any afflicting spirit to get out of my body and cause no more damage. In the name of Jesus, I command any tormenting spirit to get out of my mind, my will and my emotions. You are trespassing on the Temple of the Holy Spirit and I command you to leave now in Jesus’s name!

When the Spirit falls

Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah…But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. 

1 Samuel 19:19-24

Saul was out to kill David. Saul was jealous of David and at times lost his mind in fits of rage. Yet, when the Spirit of God falls, the plans of humanity fall apart. No matter how many times Saul sent men to kill David, they all ran into the thick Presence of God and started prophesying. Saul then decided to do it himself, and he too was waylaid by the Spirit of God. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry...especially when God decides to interrupt them.

One of the main promises of when the Holy Spirit is poured out on everyone–prophesied by the prophet Joel and then quoted by Peter–is that everyone will be able to prophesy.

…this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:17-18

So we know that when the Spirit falls upon people (like in the Old Testament), or when the Spirit fills people (like in the New Testament), the result is often the gift of prophecy.

We also know that when the Spirit falls, our plans get interrupted and disrupted. Things get messy. King Saul found himself lying naked day and night. Neat and tidy Sunday services burst open with fervor and fire. Calm and respectable people get undignified. This has always been the case when the Spirit falls in power. It will always be the case no matter how tidy we try to force the Spirit to be.

Sometimes the Spirit falls so powerfully that we are unable to continue with our day. We are knocked to the ground or so enraptured with His Presence that we don’t want to do anything else but be with Him. Notice what happens to one of Saul’s servants when he goes to offer sacrifices at the tabernacle.

Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd.

1 Samuel 21:7

Sometimes in our normal obedience, maybe something we’ve done a thousand times, the Lord comes and detains us in His Presence. Suddenly the ordinary worship becomes a divine encounter. When this happens, it’s best not to fight it. If the Lord wants to interrupt our routines and traditions with His beauty and power, we should be grateful. We should linger. We should surrender and allow ourselves to be detained before the Lord.

We American Christians can get so offended by the messiness that comes with the Spirit of God. We can get put off by such raw displays of divine affection. We like to be in control, and we’ll often resist the move of the Spirit to try to stay in control.

But is that what the Lord did with us?

No. The Lord saw all of our messiness, the sin and chaos of our lives, and never once flinched. He didn’t get offended by our mess or distance Himself because of it. Instead, He did the opposite. He came near. The Spirit saw all of our chaos and mess and decided to move in. He decided to take up residence inside the mess and then invite us to join Him in the great renovation of our lives.

Do we not owe God this same response to the messiness that comes with a move of the Spirit? When the fire falls and we get pushed out of our comfort zone with things like the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t we do what He did for us? Shouldn’t we lean in instead of push Him away? Shouldn’t we embrace Him as He has embraced us…mess and all? Shouldn’t we put to death our inner control freak and let the Spirit lead us?

I think so.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good…

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

A Different Person

Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?…The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.”

1 Samuel 10:1, 6-7

Samual was the prophet and judge for Israel when Israel asked for a king. They wanted to be like all the other nations around them who had a king, so God handpicked Saul. Samuel anointed Saul with oil and spoke a prophetic word over his life. The Spirit of the Lord would come upon Saul, enable him to prophesy, and would change him into a different person. And that is exactly what happened.

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 

1 Samuel 10:9-10

What happened to Saul when the Holy Spirit came upon him is a foreshadowing of what happens to the early disciples when the Holy Spirit comes upon them during Pentecost in Acts 2.

When we put our faith in Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit within us and are saved. We see this happen to the early disciples in John 20:22. Yet, when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, as it did to the early disciples in Acts 2, we often see a dramatic shift in the life of the believer. Along with life change, we see supernatural gifts like prophecy awakened.

When Peter tries to explain the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, he describes it as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:14-18

One of the effects of the Holy Spirit coming upon a believer–sometimes called being “filled with the Spirit”(read Ephesians 5:18; Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8 & 31; Acts 13:9 & 52)–is that they begin to prophesy. In other words, they begin to hear more clearly from the Lord than they’ve ever heard before, and they feel a fiery urge to speak those words. Yes, there are many other gifts that are awakened or imparted when a person is filled with the Spirit, but throughout scripture, prophecy is one of the most prominent and consistent ones.

And similarly to Saul, when a believer goes from having the Holy Spirit dwell in them to then also being filled with the Spirit–having the Spirit come upon them–they feel changed. It often feels like a second conversion experience. Many testimonies attest to the feeling of being changed into a different person, as Saul was.

A hunger for intimacy with God gets ignited. A sense of how completely loved you are by the Father overwhelms you. Gifts and talents that you had before are set ablaze with the power of the Spirit. Love and grace for people around you increases. Your prayer life deepens. Old sin habits aren’t given a second thought because your desires have been renewed. You no longer want the old things you used to want. Your boldness for the gospel triples.

I am convinced that as followers of Jesus we were never meant to only have the Spirit dwell within us. We all were meant to have the Spirit come upon us. We were meant to be changed and empowered as Saul was. We were all meant to be filled with the Spirit and meant to live a dynamic, supernatural lifestyle. This is what God always intended, not a new religion but a new kind of humanity.

“…His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity…”

Ephesians 2:15

By His Wounds

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.” [Isa 53:4]

Matthew 8:16-17

Jesus was able to set the demonized people free from the demonic spirits that afflicted them with just a word. He was able to heal all the sicknesses that people had. Matthew tells us that this ministry of healing and deliverance was the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah 53.

This is the passage in Isaiah that we normally view as a prophecy about what Jesus would do for us on the cross.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:3-6

So you see, what Jesus did on the cross was more than just pay the price for our sin. He also paid the price for our healing and deliverance.

This is really important because some people don’t feel “worthy” to be healed physically or to be set free from the demonic. But we have to understand that healing and deliverance aren’t things we earn. They are things that were earned for us by Jesus on the cross.

When we get healed or delivered, it isn’t even primarily about us! Yes, our Father loves us and wants us set free. But our healing is primarily Jesus’s reward. Our healing is Jesus getting what He paid for on the cross. When we get set free from demonic oppression in our life, it is Jesus’s reward. Our deliverance is Jesus getting what He paid for on the cross. These things were the “joy set before Him” as He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). It’s all about Him and the fact that He is worthy, not about us and whether we’ve earned it.

I want to pray for people–for their healing and deliverance–all the time. But this desire isn’t about me thinking I am someone special (although God sees all of His children as special). This desire comes partially from compassion for the person, but only partially. The deeper root of this desire is to see Jesus get His reward! It is to return to Jesus the very things for which He paid so high a price!

This is why testimonies of healing are so important to share. If we get healed, we don’t share that testimony because we are saying that we are special. We share that testimony because we are declaring that Jesus is worthy! We also share a testimony of healing because it increases faith for people to believe that what God did for that person He can do for me. People have experienced their own healing just by hearing the testimony of someone else’s healing!

Do you need physical healing? Do you need freedom from darkness? Jesus already paid the price for it!

Dreamers

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him…

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. 

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph…

Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee…

Matthew 1:20 & 24; 2:13, 19, 22

In the birth narrative of Jesus, in the first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, God communicates to Joseph four different times through a dream. This is consistent with other times throughout scripture where God communicates through dreams (to Jacob – Genesis 28:10-17; to Joseph – Genesis 37:1-11; to Daniel – Daniel 7; to pagan kings – Genesis 41, Daniel 2 & 4) In the Old Testament, King Saul expected dreams to be one of the ways, along with the prophets, that God communicated with him (1 Samuel 28:6).

The prophet Joel prophesied of a time when, because every believer would have access to the Holy Spirit, dreams would be a normal method of communication between God and His people. When the Holy Spirit is poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter recognizes that moment as fulfillment of the Joel prophecy and quotes Joel 2:

“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:17-18 (quoting Joel 2:28-29)

Some people experience more dreams than others. And often, if those dreams are not ignored, God will speak more and more to those kind of people through their dreams. The Holy Spirit has made this possible.

Not all dreams are from God. The three main sources of our dreams are: 1)our sub-conscience (unresolved emotions or food we ate the night before), 2) the Holy Spirit, or 3) the demonic realm. Often dreams from the Holy Spirit will be filled with light, bright colors, a sense of profound meaning, or vivid in details. Dreams from our own sub-conscience won’t feel as weighty with meaning and will often feel disjointed and disconnected. Dreams planted from the kingdom of darkness will often be full of fear, dark, violent, and will have grey and muted colors (if not colorless).

If we have a dream, we need to: 1) write it down (as much as we can remember), 2) pray for discernment as to its origin, 3) pray for discernment about the meaning or interpretation of the dream (dreams are often highly symbolic in nature), and 4) seek out help from discerning people and people with the gift of interpretation to bring understanding to our dreams.

For those who are willing to have eyes to see and ears to hear, God is willing to speak to us through our dreams. We will have to be discerning as we unpack the meaning and solve the riddle that dreams often are. But God doesn’t hide things from us; He hides things for us. Many in the Body of Christ are dreamers gifted with this form of the gift of prophecy and yet have never been trained to utilize this gift for the glory of God.

Are you a dreamer?

Total Recall

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.

1 Timothy 1:18-19

Paul wrote to Timothy as his spiritual son knowing the prophetic words that had been spoken over Timothy’s life. In order for Timothy to fight the good fight and continue in the faith through hardship, he would have to remember the words spoken over his life.

Sometimes prophetic words–words from the Lord about who we are and who we are becoming–come to us through our alone time with God. Sometimes God speaks to us through a highlighted passage of scripture that the Holy Spirit illuminates. Sometimes God speaks to us in our prayer time, calling us into our future through His still, small voice. And sometimes prophetic words come to us through other people who speak a word from the Lord about our lives.

Life can come at us in a way that makes us forget what God has said about us, our identity, and our future. The Israelites were continually getting into trouble because they forgot–forgot what God said, what God did and who they were called to be. Paul needed Timothy to remember the prophetic words spoken about his life so that he would have the confidence to move forward in faith. Remembering what God says about us emboldens us to break through what everyone else is saying about us.

So, if you get a word from the Lord, either through other people or through your alone time with Him, write it down. Keep a journal. And make it a practice to go back and read through them, remembering the words that God has spoken to you and about you. This is essential in fighting the good fight of faith. This is essential is avoiding a shipwreck of faith.