Prophetic Possibilities Part 1

Lately the Holy Spirit has again been drawing my attention to my words in my interactions with others. For example, I recently had a conversation with a neighbour after I returned from walking the dogs early in the morning. A short time later the Holy Spirit took me back through parts of this brief conversation and showed me how I could have spoken more life and encouragement into this mother’s life (Later in the day I was able to do this but felt I had missed an opportunity earlier that would have had more impact.) He then encouraged me to look more to Him throughout the day as I encounter people so He can release more life in my interactions.

So what do I mean by ‘life and encouragement?’ To answer that question I will look at Barnabas in scripture and the meaning of his name, and other scriptures that relate to this concept. The first reference to Barnabas is in Acts 4:36.

36  And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, Acts 4:36 (NKJV)

Here we discover that his actual name is Joses but due to the impact he had in the lives of others the apostles named him Barnabas, Son of Encouragement and that is how he is addressed in the rest of the NT. Later, Barnbas, along with Paul, became an apostle (Acts 14:4, 14).

Barnabas was known as an encourager and if you are familiar with the NT you see this played out in Barnabas seeking out Paul (still Saul at that point) the former persecutor, and advocating for his acceptance by the first apostles. We also see Barnabas supporting John Mark after a significant failure. The same Mark who later wrote one of the four gospels. Barnabas had a significant impact in the formation of the early church, in fact from the scriptures we know more about Barnabas than most of the original 12 apostles.

So what does Barnabas mean? Acts 4:36 tells us it means Son of Encouragement. The biblical dictionary meaning is below.

Barnabas, of Chaldee origin [<H1247> (bar) and <H5029> (nebiy’)]; son of Nabas (i.e. prophecy); Barnabas, an Israelite :- Barnabas.

Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

Given Barnabas could be translated Son of Prophecy just as easily as Son of Encouragement. What else does the NT tell us about this? Paul said the simple gift of prophecy is available to all of us (1 Cor. 14:31) and when we use it correctly (motivated by love, 1 Cor. 13) it does the following.

3  But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NKJV)

This connection to Barnabas is twofold. The Son of Encouragement is the same as the Son of Prophecy and the Greek word translated ‘exhortation’ in 1 Corinthians 14:3 is the word translated ‘encouragement’ in Acts 4:36 (some English bibles translate it as encouragement in 1 Corinthians 14:3. So if NT prophecy is primarily for edification (building people up), exhortation (encouragement) and comfort, when we are speaking life into people we are functioning in a prophetic way.

The mother I spoke of in my introduction is not a believer but we aren’t called to be insular and encourage only one another, we are called to reach the world and many people around us need encouragement. Encouragement is one tool to move them closer to the cross and seeing the need for Jesus.

This raises another point, to speak prophetically we don’t need to quote scripture. Spend some time studying how Jesus spoke into people’s lives in the gospels. The bulk of His interactions were not quotations of the OT, they were words that spoke to hearts. In the same way the Holy Spirit wants to anoint our words so that we speak to hearts in our interactions with others, believers and non-believers alike. I think Toby Mac addresses it well is his song Speak Life.

In future posts in this series I will build more of a scriptural foundation for interacting in this way and talk about various ways to hear His voice. In the meantime, ask Him to make you like Barnabas and release life wherever you are.

Speak Life by Toby Mac

The Fruit of Pursuit Part 4

As I close this series I want to do what I said I would do in Part 1. There I spoke of a 25 year journey. This journey began in the summer of 1993 when I stepped out of a leadership role in a church. My friend Bernie had a prophetic dream about me and I knew that it meant I was heading into a season of testing. I thought it would last a few weeks! However, 25 years later I believe I am coming out of that season.

This is not to say that I have had 25 years of barrenness. I have led small groups, taught, preached, and written. Yet I have had 25 years of a sense of something more. Over a decade ago I, along with a few friends, organized a conference on the connection between Israel and the Church. We called it ‘Prepared for His Purpose.’ For me it feels like in spite of what I have accomplished the last 25 years have been a season of preparation for His purpose.

Why do I believe change is coming, and to some extent has arrived? A couple of reasons. The first is my transition out of work. I have had an inner sense for years that retirement from my secular job was actually about a transition more into ministry. The second is something that happened to me recently connected to this transition. A few times while teaching in a church context I have had the experience of sharing something and as it was coming out of my mouth thinking, ‘that is interesting, I never knew that.’ At those moments there is a download from the Holy Spirit where He is clearly the one teaching. In mid-June I was in Edinburgh and praying early in the morning and this happened. I prayed something I had not planned and as the words came out of my mouth I had a further encounter with the Holy Spirit.

At present I have not experienced the full release of what happened. To me this prophetic experience and promise need to be believed and will manifest over time. It is like what I saw the evening before writing this. I was kayaking in some wetlands in the mountains and watching two families of ducks with half grown ducklings. They were both swimming ahead of me when one suddenly and quietly disappeared into the reeds. While I could not see them, they were still there, and had I stayed and waited they would have reappeared in time. The same is true of His promises in our lives. While we may not see the immediate manifestation if we are faithful we will see the fruit of what He promised.

Why am I sharing this? I think we all go through seasons, some are short and some are long. Yet, in them I believe we need to truly embrace Romans 8:28 to walk through whatever season we are in. In fact I have had a great struggle in writing this because a voice has whispered in my ear things like, “You are just being presumptuous.” “What happens if nothing happens? What will you say then?” What is taking place is the testing of His word. Many times in scripture what we see is a prophetic word then the exact opposite in the experience. Think of Abraham, Joseph and David. In fact it happened to Jesus.

10  And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11  Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 12  Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13  And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him. Mark 1:10-13 (NKJV)

Jesus was baptized and the audible voice of His Father spoke so the crowd could hear the affirmation. What was the immediate outcome? Wilderness and testing. If we want to see the fruit of His promise we need to continue to believe it. In fact scripture says there are two conditions to seeing His promises revealed.

12  that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12 (NKJV)

He requires that we exercise both faith and patience. Yet while we wait there is another promise.

1  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 3  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4  He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. Psalm 91:1-4 (NKJV)

If we learn to abide in Him while we wait we can be in a place of safety and rest. I remember many years ago when we lived on an acreage. We had a few different critters over time. One summer I had a couple of Bantam hens and a rooster. One of the hens had 9 or 10 little chicks. One evening they didn’t return to the chicken coop so I went looking for them. I found the hen perched about 4 feet off the ground in a dogwood bush. There was no sign of the chicks. When I reached out to pick her up I found all the chicks were on her, hidden in her feathers. Just so, as we wait in faith and patience we can be found in Him.

In this post I have shared a lot about myself. My purpose is illustrative rather than prescriptive. Whatever season you are in I encourage you to find that place of rest in Him to go through it. Lastly, I encourage you to listen to this encouraging song by Third Day and believe this line – “I will lift my voice to worship you my King and I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings.”

Your Love Oh Lord by Third Day

The Fruit of Pursuit Part 3

I am sure most of us are familiar with the oft quoted Romans 8:28, but we tend to focus on the ‘all things working together for good’ part. We believe this is a blessing externally poured out upon us and we seldom consider that there is a pursuit inherent in the verse.

28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

28  We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. Romans 8:28 (AMP)

Over 20 years ago, I preached a sermon on Romans 8:28 and talked about how radically different our lives and communities would be if we actually embraced and lived out this verse. Think about it. We would exude peace because we would actually be living out of faith that He is shepherding our lives for our ultimate good, and more importantly, the furtherance of His kingdom. The two qualifiers are loving Him and pursuing His call upon our lives. If we lived this way we would not worry about anything because our hearts would be at rest in His presence and purpose.

Given the importance of our trusting in Him and manifesting His peace as a result, I want to look at an OT counterpart and then more of Paul’s writing. Paul was a theological expert in the OT thus the OT conception of peace would have influenced Paul’s thinking and writing on the subject.

Let’s compare two translations of the same scripture.

3  You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

3  You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)

While the Amplified expands our understanding, what neither translation brings out is that the words ‘perfect’ and ‘peace’ are both the Hebrew word shalom. Isaiah 26:3 literally says, “You will keep him in shalom, shalom….” This transliteration of ‘perfect shalom’ is accurate. It carries the idea of a fullness of shalom, peace. Importantly, shalom is not the absence of conflict, it is His presence active upon our lives. After all, Isaiah said the Messiah would be the Prince of Peace and that is who Jesus is.

In Numbers Moses told the Israelite’s how Yahweh would rest upon their lives.

22  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23  “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24  “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25  The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26  The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’ 27  “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:22-27 (NKJV)

The result of what Moses described was peace, shalom. This concept carries forward into the NT because when we submit to Jesus we take His name upon us. Thus, when we receive Jesus the peace inherent in His name rests upon us. This is a theme in Paul’s writing. As an Israelite, even if Paul wrote in common Greek to accommodate his audience, when he used the word for peace, based on his Hebraic training and thinking he would be reflecting on shalom as he wrote.

19  Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Romans 14:19 (NKJV).

6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

In essence, whether or not we believe it, we have His peace because the Prince of Peace is within us. If we want to experience this peace, as the Amplified notes, let us incline our hearts and minds to trusting in Yahweh’s plan and purpose so His peace may rest upon our lives, no matter our circumstances.



The Fruit of Pursuit Part 2

I believe He calls all of us to pursue His heart. I also believe that a key to this is recognizing that engaging with His presence is the doorway to intimacy, not the outcome. On the surface that may not make a lot of sense but I will explain.

I wrote about this last year (Intimacy Opportunities Part 1 ). In that post I talked about how the Angel going before the Israelites into the Promised Land (Ex. 33) could be translated as the Angel of His face or the Angel of His presence. The key point was that Moses, in spite of all the time he had spent in Yahweh’s presence, didn’t really know Him and prayed for a revelation of His glory (Ex. 34), which he received. This is what resulted in Moses’ understanding of Yahweh’s character and his face glowing with Yahweh’s glory.

There is another aspect I saw recently. We partake of communion on a regular basis in most churches. I don’t know how many of us think about the fact that it is a small part of the Passover meal, a time of fellowship, intimacy and celebration of deliverance. In addition to Passover/Communion, there is another aspect of eating with Him. Jesus issued the invitation below to believers because in addition to being in us He wanted to deepen intimacy and share His heart with us. Consider Jesus invitation.

20  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20 (NKJV)

To help us respond to Jesus invitation, a call to spend time with Him and get to know Him in a deeper way, I have included a long excerpt from a Hebrew dictionary about pānîm the Hebrew word used in Exodus 33, and many other places, which refers to Yahweh’s face or presence.

The noun pānîm, “face,” “countenance,” is derived from the verbal root pānāh (HED #6680), “to turn toward,” and is found in the OT only in its plural form. The noun is well attested throughout the Semitic languages. When combined with le (HED #3937), the term may also function as a preposition, literally meaning “facing,” and often translated “before” or “in front of.”

Pānîm frequently refers to the literal face or head of a living creature. It can denote the face of an animal (Gen. 30:40; Job 41:10; Ezek. 1:10; 41:19), a heavenly being (Exo. 25:20; Isa. 6:2; Ezek. 1:8, 11) or a human being (Gen. 9:23; 43:31; 2 Sam. 19:4; 1 Ki. 19:13; Dan. 8:18; 10:9, 15).

The face of a person provides a window into his or her emotions and inner feelings. For example, Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude, or literally, “the face of Laban,” had changed toward him (Gen. 31:2), and Cain’s face became downcast because God rejected his offering (4:5). Further, a face may become flushed with terror (Isa. 13:8), turn deathly pale due to intense fear (29:22; Jer. 30:6), display tears of sorrow (Job 16:16; Isa. 25:8), show sadness (Gen. 40:7; Neh. 2:2f) or happiness (Prov. 15:13). A fallen face indicates anger or sadness, while the opposite, the raising or lifting of the face, shows joy or happiness.

To “fall upon one’s face” displayed reverence and submission (1 Sam. 5:4). God’s lifting or turning his face upon someone was a sign of blessing and favor (Num. 6:25f). But the withdrawal of such favor was expressed by the Lord’s hiding his face (Deut. 31:17) and turning his face away (Ezek. 7:22).

Pānîm also can depict more than just a face—more broadly, the “presence” of a king or God. “To see the face of a king” meant having an audience in his direct presence, but not seeing his face meant the absence of such a privilege. Seeing the “face of God” had similar connotations of entering his direct presence. To actually see God “face to face” and live (Exo. 33:20) was rare (Gen. 32:30; Deut. 34:10; Judg. 6:22). God told Moses that his “face,” or his “presence” (Exo. 33:14, NIV), would go with him, meaning that God himself would be with Moses and Israel (cf. Deut. 4:37; Isa. 63:9; Lam. 4:16). The face of God is also associated with his power as the instrument by which He did his awesome deeds.

During the wilderness wanderings, the presence of God was made specific through Israelite worship with the “bread of presence [pānîm].” A loaf of bread was always to be left upon the table of the Presence symbolizing the Lord’s continual presence within the community (Num. 4:7).

The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary

A key thing mentioned in this long explanation of the meaning of the word ‘presence’ is that the showbread from the tabernacle or temple, is literally the ‘bread of presence.’ The bread was made fresh daily. If we tie this back to Jesus invitation in Revelation 3:20 we see that Jesus is calling us to partake of His face/presence every day. While the phrase ‘give us this day our daily bread’ (Matt. 6:11) is primarily focused on material provision, what happens if we also see it at a deeper level as an invitation to daily partake of knowing Jesus? What if we sit with Him, encounter His presence, and then invite Him to share what is on His heart? Do you think we will be changed?