#Musing

Amateur prophets

In a day of seemingly rampant fake news, amateur prophets are at large in the Church – and actually, it is brilliant news! One of the most encouraging gifts given to the Church by God is authentic, scripture-honouring, Christ-exalting prophetic ministry, and what a gift it is!

There is a wide difference between the gift of prophecy and the office of a prophet which we look at elsewhere on this site, essentially the core element remains the same in both; encourage, edify and build the local church.  Prophets do much more than that, bringing encouragement, direction and a fresh sense of God’s Word to the wider Church and its leadership.

Why are amateur prophets so valuable to us at this time? To begin to understand that we need to define what is meant by the word “amateur”. Generally, in society, the word has slipped from its original meaning to also carry a derogatory application. A footballer may be good, but not up to the standard of a professional, he’s an amateur. A billboard poster may contain all the relevant information to market an event or a meeting, but we recognise from the design and the inconsistent fonts and clashing colours that it was somebody’s best attempt, but nevertheless amateur. The dictionary comes to our aid and correctly defines for us the word ‘amateur’ as;

“a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science in a non-professional or unpaid manner, someone engaging or engaged in without payment; non-professional.” 

It is worthwhile to consider that definition and then to ask questions. The role of the prophet was never to be a professional one. One of the greatest prophets, Samuel was also employed as a judge over Israel. Amos was a farm hand, Daniel was a civil servant, Jonah was. well, different.  There is simply no room for a professional prophet in the first or second half of the Bible.

John Piper’s excellent book, “Brothers, we are not professionals”  is at pains to emphasise this. Our duty is to attend to the Lord, be led by the Spirit and grow both in our knowledge and devotion to the Lord, and also our enjoyment of Him; including all that He does both for and in us. Prophets are amateurs, attracted to a particular pursuit of righteousness and the profound desire to see the Lord honoured and glorified in the Church, and in the nations.

My friend, Paul Cain would never consider himself a professional prophet. He doesn’t like the term and refers to himself as an evangelist. In all the years I have known him he has never referred to himself as a prophet. The church calls him that, but he doesn’t.  John Paul Jackson told me that people often want to give themselves mistakenly, the title of being a prophet, but are frustrated when people don’t recognise them as such.  On the other hand, when someone comes into church wearing army battle fatigues, dressed as a soldier, no matter how much they deny it, everyone points at them and says, “there’s a soldier” If you really are a prophet, people will know, you don’t have to tell them!

The nearest perhaps we get to a professional prophet is Balaam. To be fair, he is a prophet, but not God’s! Balaam was a mercenary prophet of the worst kind. He was famous, self-willed, double-minded, eloquent, presumptuous, and an evil counsellor. Some people look on the account of Balaam and say that he had a genuine prophetic gift, but wasn’t walking with God. We need to be clear, the prophetic ministry is a distinct call from God. It is relational, and God reveals both Himself and His purposes. There is calling and commissioning involved. God wasn’t toying with Balaam. God spoke to him a few times, but that does not make him a prophet of God. He may have been prophetic, had revelation and insights, but they were not inspired by God, but for the most part by familiar evil spirits and when He did see the real thing, he realised and recognised it, and to some degree, it troubled him.  It doesn’t go well for Balaam.

We want to encourage amateur prophets in the Church because we don’t want anyone prophesying, who is paid to do so. The apostle Paul was adamant that anyone can prophesy, (1 Cor 14:1, 1 Cor 14:39) you just need to eagerly desire the gift, and there is no limit to the numbers who can be involved, Moses wished that all of God’s people were prophets, and Joel said that God was coming to one and all in the Kingdom; young and old, male or female, without class-distinctions and regardless of gender, all would  have the capacity for dreams, visions and revelation.

We are a Joel 2 people. No professional prophets, but amateur ones. Growing, learning and discipling ourselves and others in the uncertain art of knowing, hearing and discerning God whilst walking in faith and obedience to what He is saying, doing or inspiring through the precious Holy Spirit.

We don’t want professional prophets. Professional means someone is paying the bills and has a say in what their money is being spent on. It opens up uncomfortable situations and is susceptible to control or manipulation. A radical alternative is where churches recognise the prophetic ministry lies on certain people in their midst, and are prepared to include them as salaried members of the Church so that they can be free to seek God, free of concern about financial income.

Amateur also speaks of, “a pursuit”. It is far different from a professional framework that has people who have developed, honed or acquired a certain level of skill. Amateur prophets are seeking God. They observe, consider, evaluate, muse, think, study and grow in their gifting. They are consciously incompetent, realising where their strengths are, what their weaknesses are and are focused on learning from their lifetime experiences, pains and concerns.  They are always learning and discovering the vast riches that are to be found in the providence and sovereignty of God and give themselves to a ministry that is borne out of conviction and compassion.

To close, you don’t choose to be a prophet, but you can choose to prophesy. Eagerly desire the gifts, especially that you may prophesy! iSo, welcome your authentic role of being amateur in these things and ask, seek and knock as you come to pray, and may God reveal Himself, His purposes and Will in the most wonderful way to you – the Lord is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him!

  1.  It’s important we remember that this is an exhortation, an imperative, command, and not merely a statement of fact. In 1 Corinthians 12:31 Paul says, “earnestly desire the greater gifts.” The verb translated “earnestly [or eagerly] desire” (zeloute) is grammatically ambiguous (it can be either indicative or imperative). A few insist it is merely a statement characterizing the behavior of the Corinthians, hence “you are eager for the greater gifts.” In other words, they take it to be a statement of fact concerning a state of affairs, not an exhortation to future action.  (back)

Pentecost changes everything

AD33 was a phenomenal year, unequalled by any other year in history. In the first few months of that yeari astonishing miracles happened;

  • Ten men with the dreaded disease of the day are healed of leprosy,
  • Lazarus is raised from the dead after four days in the tomb,
  • Bartimaeus receives his sight, having been born blind – something never before heard of in Israel’s history and receives the ubiquitous nickname of Blind Bartimaeus,
  • with mere words, Jesus of Nazareth speaks to a fig tree and it withers almost instantly,
  • the servant of the High Priest has his ear cut off and is healed immediately. It was a remarkable year. And then to top it all,
  • God died, was buried and then was resurrected from the dead.

That is what you call an astonishing start to a year. What more could you ask for?

But the events of that year continued to amaze everyone. Jesus had talked about a day that lay ahead of the disciples when He would leave, but the Father would send the Holy Spirit, and He would abide in and with them forever.

Fifty days later

Fifty days after He was raised from the dead, after an earthquake shook Jerusalem and the thick curtain of the Holiest place was torn in two, almost impossibly from top to bottom demonstrating an act of God, not to mention countless dead being raised to life and walking the streets of Jerusalem, another event happens.

Spielberg, Scorsese, Hitcock, Tarantino, Scott and Coen could never come up with such a real-life drama.

When you think nothing more can happen, the sound of a mighty rushing wind is heard in Jerusalem, and what appears to be tongues of fire rest on a group of disciples who are doing nothing other than obeying what they were told to do; Wait in Jerusalem until the promise was given – don’t start planning, scheming, strategising – just wait. Wait on God. ii

And it happened. When people saw what was happening when Jesus poured out the Spirit in phenomenal power, 3,000 people from every walk in life were simultaneously saved from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of God. Imagine the joy in heaven!

Not just tongues

It is easy to make Pentecost about tongues, fire, power and all the other elements of the charismatic movement in the heart and life of the Church, and it is all those things, but at the core of it all is the central truth,”But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Mission is back on the agenda!

There is a reason for the infilling of the Holy Spirit and it is mission, the promise of this extraordinary power to sustain and carry forth the work is still valid. In our day crucial breakthrough for the gospel has come because of periodic extraordinary outpourings of the Spirit. Revival results in many turning to Christ because the Church get caught up in the delight of what God is doing, and are moved to be witnesses everywhere, and to everyone! God has often moved in extraordinary ways in the history of the Christian Church. He has poured out his Spirit in fresh, new, uncustomary, dramatic ways.  It is our duty to pray for fresh seasons of the extraordinary outpouring of God’s Spirit—to awaken and empower the church and to penetrate the last frontiers of world evangelisation.

The Holy Spirit is free and sovereign and not bound to anyone’s timing or technique for how to get his power, but we cannot make the Spirit come. When he comes, he comes suddenly. He will never become anyone’s servant. He loves and he serves. But he keeps his own hours. He knows what is best for us.

No need for another Pentecost – but we do need reminding

Why he does this in some places geographically and not others, and at some times and not other times is part of his sovereign wisdom. He is not fire. He is not wind. He is not a dove. He is not a warm glow. So he will not use these manifestations in a way that allows us to confuse him with them. He is free. But when he pleases, there may be fire and there may be sound.

We don’t need another Pentecost. – but we do need what happened at Pentecost. What God gave to the Church at the time of the outpouring in the days of the early Church was sufficient to the task at hand and changed the world – we are hungry for renewing, refreshing and to be reminded just how wonderful, powerful and gracious He really is. Pentecost calls for us to stop and consider our ways.

We are not very good at taking the Bible literally or taking God at His Word. Revival draws us deeply into a renewed sense of intimacy with Him that everything in our lives changes.

Pentecost 2018 is a memorial day for us that reminds us what is available, and that the promise of God still stands, that God is still pouring out the vast ocean of His Spirit on everyone who will come before Him with faith, expectation and obedience. The Lord is doing something remarkable in this nation at this time the air is saturated with the anticipation of revival.

Paul Cain Ministries will be at Kensington Temple on May 19-20 this year. Come to London, but we’ll send you to the world. God will light a match, but you will spread the fire. It’s time. (Visit)

If you are thirsty, come and drink.

  1. citing the Gregorian calendar here – if viewed by the Jewish Calendar it is even more breathtaking!!  (back)
  2. The three hardest words for the Christian today after the two-word encouragement, ‘Trust God’.  (back)

Feasting at the table of giants.

One of my joys every year as I read through the bible is the gripping narrative of the pentateuch, from Genesis to Deuteronomy the story of God’s dealings with mankind is without doubt, compelling and intriguing. Not least, tucked away in the numbering of the tribes of Israel is its driving quest of finding, understanding and obeying its relationship with the God who reveals Himself.

He is a God not made by hands or the thoughts of man, totally unique, holy and unapproachable, and yet He stoops down from lofty grandeur of the inexpressible glory of His own rich glorious and self-existent, uncaused, and independent being, to reveal himself.

He not only reveals Himself, but also His Will for mankind. He is not ambiguous, and we are certainly never left to our own design or with the excuse that we were left unsupervised. That probably is the blame-shifting excuse of my life!

In not leaving us to our own devices but (in breath-taking providence that has incalculable genius at its core) carefully directing us in our choices, God knows how to motivate our heart and stir us from the complacency that does not reflect the richness and challenges that life is meant to carry.

I love the story of Numbers 13 where God commands Moses to send out spies into the land they faced to check it out. Nothing is said by God about what they should expect, but what God has waiting there for them is certainly a lure. He is sending the spies out with the certain intention that they should see the bait, and bite the hook.

When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there.” (Numbers 13:23-24)

You know the story well. The story is compelling. The Israelites have to weigh in the balance the risks – yes, YHWH (or God as we properly know Him)is with them and for them, and wants them to go into the land, but do they want to? God lets them choose!

Fear rules the moment and has an impact on the nation as they make the terrible decision to not listen to Joshua and Caleb, the two future leaders of Israel but in a moment lacking all faith in God, turn away to  listen to a majority who say that it cannot be done. Fear is the antithesis of faith. They already have forgotten the incredible moments of their liberation, and emancipation from the slavery of the magnificent Egyptian army, forgotten the miracles, forgotten the provision and forgotten that God is there.

What fruit, what spoil! Look at what we found, listen to our stories! God is with us! In our day the same can be said. God continuously, in every generation calls us to be like  the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do. He also brings these stories to life, for as the Apostle Paul said, these stories were written for us upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

It is not the transfer of wealth of the nations to the Church that we are looking for, but the Lord is certainly luring us, it is not the bait of food and provision (He already said He knows about those things and will provide) but something that will give us great joy. Go and make disciples of all nations, telling them everything about the wonderful God that welcomes them.  God never throws down a red carpet for us. It is a fanciful idea. Sure, there is a red carpet metaphorically speaking, but it is for Him. We are not even invited to follow Him, not invited to walk in righteousness or godliness. It is not an invitation, it is imperative.

We want to see God do, what He said He will do. He calls us to Himself, and in that calling He is always sending. The giants I refer to in the title of this post, are those who have given themselves to the pursuit of leading others to Jesus as disciples and lovers of God.  It is a table of fellowship and communion, and the reality is that everyone in the Church has a place at that table. They just have to find their setting place, and  decide that they will take their place.

And if the grapes are magnificent, the wine will be amazing!