Asking Questions

Every stage you pass through as a parent involves some things you love, and some that you want to move on from as soon as possible. With my son, I am in a phase that I both love and hate – and I think many will sympathise: the ‘Why?’ phase. I have to be very careful what I say, because the response is always ‘Why, mummy?’ or ‘What is that?’ and sometimes ‘What does that mean?’

I hate this phase because it is incredibly tiring. It is exhausting drilling down into the minutiae of every last thing. Each bedtime story is interrupted several hundred times to analyse why each character is making the choices they are making. Tasks that should be simple, such as talking to my husband about the evening ahead, become either a minefield of potential questions, or have to be held in our own personal language – a combination of charades, code and spelling words out (although that won’t last as an option too much longer).

But I also love this phase. I love that my son’s mind is inquisitive. I love having to think about things that I have long accepted without question. I love that we are talking – maybe except when we’re late for school and he doesn’t seem to be able to talk and get dressed at the same time.

And I even love that he is always listening, endlessly repeating his question until I can muster up an answer.

We’re all on a constant journey of learning to hear God better, and recently this has meant entering the ‘why’ phase myself – cultivating a questioning mindset. Thankfully, unlike me, God absolutely loves this phase – he is never exhausted of it.

For example, a few days ago while I was cycling, a memory from over a decade ago popped into my head. It isn’t unusual to remember something random, but I noticed that this particular memory contained quite a number of people I was about to spend some time with. So instead of absent-mindedly pushing it to the side, I asked God a few questions about it: Why have you reminded me of that moment? What are you showing me in what they said and how I reacted to it? What are you showing me about my attitude back then?

I find when I ask God questions in this way, I often hear the answer quickly – it isn’t an audible voice but more like a fleeting thought or an instant heart nudge. So on this occasion, through a seemingly innocuous memory where no-one did anything wrong, God revealed to me where my heart partnered with pride and with the religious spirit, and how some spiritual barriers had been raised between myself and a group of others. I was able to repent and pray for the barriers to be broken down, all because I noticed that this memory must have come up for a reason.

I’m also trying to take my prophecy and words of knowledge to the next level with Him. If I have a picture for someone, I try and ask the Holy Spirit for clarity on why different things are in the picture. Or if I’m praying for someone I try and be aware of different senses – for example, asking if the pain I’ve suddenly had in my foot is just my own pain, or related to something God is doing in the person I am praying for. Then I need to ask for deeper clarity as to whether it is a current physical wound, something connected to the past, or something spiritual.

Another thing I’m learning to ask questions about is my time. Sometimes my ‘to do’ list feels overwhelming and I rush into getting things done every spare minute. But when I reach the end of the day I look back and realise that even though I may have completed some tasks, I don’t feel peaceful in my heart. When I come to that free evening or spare 20 minutes before collecting my son from school, nowadays I try to turn to God first and say, ‘What are your plans?’ I find that even if I then go on to work through my list, in the act of inviting Him in, I find that He becomes part of my time, and not separated from it.

There will, of course, be times when God asks us not to question but to trust. This is part of the life of faith He is drawing each one of us into. But I find that in the very act of questioning, just like my son, I have to also listen for an answer. And this questioning is important for all of us who want to deepen our relationship and understanding of God. He is ready to hear all of our questions and longing to take the time to reply. So today, I encourage you to do just that and see what He has to say!

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, open up my mind and my senses to all You have to say. Thank You that there is always so much more for me to learn and understand about all You are doing in my life, and in the physical and spiritual realm around me. Show me where simple questions can lead to greater intimacy, revelation and transformation in You. Amen.

This week we sent out our first email mailing. If you’d like to be on our mailing list, do contact us: reflectedlightuk@gmail.com

New Year – New Carpet!

Two months ago, we moved into our new house. Every wall was the same shade of off-white and the floor varied from grey carpets to white tiles. It was at best, clean and neutral, but it felt like it had no soul. We did our best to unpack and make our mark on it with varying degrees of success in all but one room: the living room. This room at the heart of our home and family life, needed more and it needed a carpet! And so, unlike the many boxes in the rest of the house that we have slowly been unpacking, the ones in the living room remained packed and piled in the corner in anticipation of the new carpet.

Fast forward a month, the room was measured, the carpet was ordered and Christmas was upon us! With a very excited 3-year-old in the house, the tree was erected and tinsel put up – finely draped over the boxes still stacked in the corner. That was until this weekend when the carpet was finally arriving.

We set to work taking down the tree and moving all our furniture and still-packed boxes out of the room. It was horrible! The room which was empty to begin with, looked even more bare and lifeless now that the tree and lights had also been removed. Where boxes had become a familiar, even comforting sight, now there was nothing but the plain walls and bare floor. I have to admit, I found it difficult to look at – it was not home, it was just a box.

But today, something amazing happened. Not only did the carpet arrive and the fitters do an amazing job, but our living room was suddenly transformed. I realised that these last two months I had mistakenly taken the familiarity of my room as being ‘homely’ when in fact, it was just boxes I had learned to live with. Yet with a carpet in, there was now so much more it could be, and everyone knew it. My eldest daughter so delighted with the change, was now twirling away on the new soft flooring, my youngest was rolling on the floor without us feeling anxious of her hurting herself and the addition of our furniture as we moved it back in, only added to the joy that we all felt. This was now our home!

And just like my living room, God wants to change what is familiar in our lives, even that which we have mistaken as ‘homely’, and instead, give us so much more. He doesn’t want us to live with a ‘make-do’ set up or have what is second best, but He wants to give us the very best there is for us, and it is right there for the taking!

But…

In order for us to have it, the old has to be removed and the room cleared. Jesus came that we would have life and life in all its fullness, and that means that we must often go through a time of stretching and testing before we come out the other side. When Jesus was on the lake in Galilee, He didn’t make the disciples wait until there would be no storm, He made them get in the boat knowing there would be so that they would learn and grow! And the same is true for us. Just as our room needed to remain in boxes and then be cleared out before the new arrived, so too must we be prepared to box everything up and allow God to clear us out, making way for the new. It isn’t always easy and we will often hate the process; but if we allow it, what is given in return is life!

Activation:
As we start the new year, let us ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if there is anything in our lives which needs removing so that the way might be made clear for God to bring in the new and better things He has waiting for us.

Prayer:
Holy Spirit, thank you that You want to bring me freedom and life. I submit to You. Show me the room in the house of my life you want to work in today. Where is the clutter, the broken furniture, the unpacked boxes I have attempted to beautify with tinsel? Where are the cobwebs and the threadbare rugs? What hang-ups, half-truths and unhealthy habits have I become so familiar with I can’t see for what they truly are? I ask for forgiveness, cleansing and healing to make space for all You have for me. Amen.

Letting go

As we come to the end of the year, it is important to reflect on all that has taken place. For some, there will be joyful memories which we can celebrate and thank God for. But for many of us, this year will have been difficult and not at all what we had hoped or longed for. Many have experienced a shaking and dismantling that has been taking place during this current season and it can be incredibly painful at times. But the dismantling brings an opportunity for God to build things anew. We can take new directions with Him if we follow the Spirit and shake off all that is holding us back or keeping us stuck.

The carol ‘Hark! the herald angels sing’ has this line:

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!

The birth of Jesus brings us peace – reconciliation and intimacy with God – and we, through his death, may now carry that peace with us.

Whether Christmas is busy or quiet for you, make sure you take time with God in this season to process all that has gone by in the last 12 months. We need to grieve for all that has been lost, so that there is no place left for our pain to reside. Then, clothed in the armour of God – particularly the shoes of the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15) – it’s time to step into the new year with empty arms, ready to receive all that He has for us.

May you know Jesus and His peace more intimately this Christmas time.

Blessings Helen and Amy

The Canal and the River

I have long been fascinated by the River of Life in the Bible. I love how it meanders through the text, first in the creation story, followed by shadows and hints of it in the earthly rivers, appearing in glorious beauty in the Psalms, Ezekiel and Isaiah, before becoming the centrepiece of the new heavens and new earth in Revelation. I love the life in it, the healing in the trees planted beside it, the stillness and the wildness.

The other day I went for a run. I had my usual snippet of an annoying song in my head (this time ‘Party Train’ by Thomas and Friends – I was subjected to this over breakfast), but instead of letting that dictate the rhythm of my thoughts, I tried to be more intentional about inviting Jesus to run with me and speak to me in all I saw around me. My concentration and focus isn’t always the best, so he was very patient and kind, and spoke to me in something that was with me for much of my run – the canal. The conversation Jesus and I had went as follows:

My church is not built beside my river, but instead has dug its own canal, attempting to siphon off the water of life in the direction of its own choosing. The pure, clear water has become murky and filled with debris and silt.

But I love the canal. It is beautiful and peaceful in a place that is otherwise full of concrete and noise.

I am creative, I am good, I am kind. I bring my beauty to adorn the banks of the canal, and my wild birds to remind you of the wildness of my river. But the water is slow and sluggish. It is restricted by walls and locks. It cannot break free. And it is silent. My river is not silent but full of babbling, trickling, splashing, rushing and roaring. The canal is beautiful, but my river is so much more.

I am part of the church. Where have I settled for just the canal when I could have the river?

You have chosen safety over wildness. You have allowed your worship to become defined by straight walls and your heart to become murky rather than transparent and pure. You have been fearful of the terrain changes demanded by my Spirit, worrying that there might be a waterfall when I longed to bring you to a quiet lake. So you stuck with your canal, knowing that it is always the same – always slow, always quiet, never demanding. You have become stagnant in the times you set aside for me, following the same processes and never asking me where I would like to take you each day.

But I am fearful of the river. I am afraid of the transformation it constantly demands. I am worried it will go in the wrong direction, or leave me high and dry in the desert. I am fearful of saying the wrong things, not having the right answer to a question, being made to look a fool. I know that the river can flood and overwhelm – it is dangerous.

The source is always quiet and calm. In times of difficulty come upstream and find the clearest, gentlest place. At other times allow my brook to wash your feet, refreshing you as your journey on. Sometimes you will find yourself stuck to one side in an eddy, but know that here you can regroup, and seek my path for the white water ahead. And on many days you will need to surrender to the current, allowing my Spirit to carry you along.

And the floods?

Floods change the landscape. They wash away obstacles and flatten strongholds. They are often dangerous and painful times of change. But they also deposit new, fertile soil, where the seeds I have placed in your heart can grow and flourish.

God Almighty, Father, Son and Spirit, I submit to you. I am sorry for choosing the artificially tame over the wild and free. I break partnership with fear. Wash over me, cleanse me, renew me – I surrender to the current of your river.

Ready and Waiting

In times of difficulty, we often ask ourselves, ‘Where is God in this?’ or ‘What is God doing in me through this – what is it that I need to learn?’ And these questions are really important to us and help us grow. But often for the prophets in the Bible, their circumstances were less about what God was doing in their lives, and more about using their lives to portray His message to the people. An example of this is Hosea whose marriage God used to reveal His heart for His people and how He would love them regardless of what they had done, to bring them back to Him. And this got me thinking: if God can use our lives to bring a message to people, what is my life currently reflecting of God’s heart?

With this question in mind, I started to think about things recently and noted down all the times where I have found things hard. Firstly, there was the birth of my daughter. She was over two weeks overdue and it was a fight to allow her to come naturally and in the way that I would have liked for her. Then there was a trip to Scotland that I was to do with Helen and my youngest daughter for an appointment at the Global Prophetic Alliance. We planned hard and paid for flights – only for it to be cancelled the night before we left due to a Covid-19 outbreak. And then there is my house move. We all know that moving is a stressful event in life and I have already moved twice before, but this move seems to have every problem imaginable! We even had our things packed and loaded onto a lorry, all for it to collapse at last minute and be unloaded back into our old house! We have been living in box city for several weeks with two young children and still don’t know if we will move or must start looking for a new property with the whole process starting again. It’s both exhausting and stressful and is taking its toll on many areas of our lives.

Now if I ask myself the usual question of ‘Where is God in this?’ then it is often hard to see or understand, and of course God wants to develop patience and an anchoring in Him in these sorts of times. But if I ask, like the prophets in Scripture, ‘What message is God portraying through my circumstances?’, then the answer becomes very different indeed. You see, in all of these things, there is a time of preparation and of being ready but having to wait. I was ready for my daughter to be born, yet had to wait until she was ready. I was prepared to fly to Scotland with map and passport in hand, and yet I now have to wait to go again. We are ready to move house but still we have to wait.

And like all these things, God is ready but having to wait. He is longing to come and dwell among us, desperate for intimacy and partnering with us and empowering us through the Holy Spirit to do incredible things in His name. But we, in our quest for independence and understanding, make Him wait. We reject what He is offering because we do not think it is necessary or for today and often limit and restrict Him to the small spaces we leave aside for Him in our lives. But He is ready and waiting for us to come to Him and say, ‘Here I am!’

My youngest daughter is nearly 4 months old and refuses to take a bottle. I love feeding her, even though I am craving sleep and space, and it is a great privilege to know that my body has sustained her for many months both before and after she was born. But the stress of all the waiting in recent weeks has taken its toll and this week I was unable to feed her. It was horrendous and heart-breaking. She was hungry and would not take a bottle and I longed to feed her with every fibre of my being, but it would not happen. I had to wait. And so it is like this with God.

John 14:12 says:
‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.’

The signs and wonders of the New Testament and the fullness of life that Jesus offers, is available for us today and God is desperate to give it to us, but He is having to wait. Allowing Him only in our devotional times or in fellowship on a Sunday is not how Jesus lived and neither is it how we should live. Instead, we should adopt a lifestyle of constant communion with God, allowing Him to grow and be established within us. God doesn’t want us to have a half-measure of Him, He wants us to receive ALL that He has to give. But if we want to be in full union with Him and live the life He wants for us, we must stop making Him wait.

Lord, I am sorry for confining You to the hurried quiet times and Sunday services of my life. I am sorry that so often I try to push through in my own strength and forget the infinite resources relationship with You places at my disposal. Thank You for waiting for me. Here I am. Holy Spirit, I give You permission to flow into more of my life. I give You my work time, my rest time and my play time. I give You my journeys, my cooking and eating, my baths and showers, my surfing and scrolling. Nothing is off-limits. Amen.

Photo by web-tiki on Unsplash

Free from condemnation

Today I was listening to the ‘Art of Celebration’ by Rend Collective and though I have listened to it on many occasions, a particular line jumped out at me which hasn’t before and it says this:
‘This is the art of celebration, knowing we’re free from condemnation’

And I wondered: what does it look like to actually live, knowing we’re free from condemnation? How would it change my life and the lives of others if we could do this?

I don’t know about you, but I often wrestle with condemnation, particularly from myself. I have searched the Scriptures and regularly speak them out in the hope that one day my heart would truly believe them. Romans 8 speaks of there being no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, or as the Passion Translation says:
“So now the case is closed. There remains no accusing voice of condemnation against those who are joined in life-union with Jesus, the Anointed One.”

So for those of us who accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour and are therefore joined with Him, there is no condemnation because through Him, the Spirit who gives life, has set us free (Romans 8:2).

So this we know to be truth, but how do we truly overcome the never ending commentary of condemnation and live in freedom of it? I believe the answer lies later in the Scriptures. Paul writes:
“My old identity has been co-crucified with Christ and no longer lives. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives his life through me—we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that he gave himself for me, dispensing his life into mine! So that is why I don’t view God’s grace as something peripheral. For if keeping the law could release God’s righteousness to us, then Christ would have died for nothing.” Galatians 2:20-21 TPT

Christ came and died for me because he knew I could not keep the law and remain out of sin. If I could, He would have had no need to die! But instead, when we accept Him as our Saviour, His Spirit is entwined with our spirits. We become one with Him and His pure and spotless life becomes ours.

I am a mother to 3-month-old and 3-year-old girls and currently neither of them want to sleep. I and my husband are exhausted and my children are too. On top of that, they are not able to communicate their needs and so today, when my eldest daughter wanted her sunglasses and couldn’t have them because they are currently packed up in a box ready to move house, a full meltdown ensued. At the same time, my youngest started crying from the noise and being over tired and the dog started to howl….and all before 9 o clock in the morning! Now I would love to say that I handled this with the patience of a saint…but I confess to joining my children on the crying front and getting very frustrated with my eldest. But as I held her in my arms, desperately trying to calm her and love her through her sobs of saying sorry, I realised that this is how Christ is with us. In that moment, I had the choice of forgiving her and us all moving on, or holding on to my frustrations at her and the fact that I did not parent her in the best way that I would like. 

So how do we live without condemnation? Well, each one of us must continuously die to ourself and instead, replace it with Christ, who is pure and holy and without blemish. We must move our mindset from saving up all our sins and bringing our ‘guilty’ list to Jesus once a week on a Sunday and instead, continually live a lifestyle that is directed by the Spirit, allowing Christ to grow and be established within us. By offering our sins to Jesus and asking for forgiveness, we no longer keep them inside us but allow Him to occupy that space. His purity replaces our guilt and shame.

So in time, as we decrease and Christ increases, we will know the freedom that He brings in the forgiveness of all our sins if we bring them to Him. We must choose to not carry our sins, for Christ took them to the cross on our behalf, and if we no longer carry them, we do not need to continue asking for forgiveness for them: the condemning narrative must cease!

We must also choose to believe all of Scripture and trust that Christ came so that we would have life in abundance. When condemnation whispers or shouts in our ears-we can confidently reply that Christ has dealt with it, it is forgiven and it is gone! What my human mind and heart wants to cling to and be chained down by, Christ Jesus has come and broken it all off, setting me free to live as He lives, without condemnation, sin and death. He has proclaimed freedom for the captives and released me from the darkness. He has taken the ashes I am placing on myself through condemnation, and replaced it for a crown of beauty! Instead of my despair at my own guilt and sin, He has given me a garment of praise and I can be so thankful because He has done all this for me. What an incredible exchange!

‘When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end of all my sin’.
(from ‘Before the throne of God above’ by Charitie Lees Bancroft, 1841-1923)

Cover photo by Melissa Askew on unsplash.com

Moving into a new era

The next few days mark the end of my (Helen’s) time working for a wonderful ministry – Christian Music Ministries (CMM). I have been working for CMM either as an intern, part-time or full-time since 2005, and have been a volunteer associate for even longer. This ministry, and all the friends I have made as part of it, is incredibly important to me and has changed my life. I am so thankful to my immediate colleagues Roger and Annie for all they have taught me about ministering with music and walking with Jesus, and to all the administrative staff I have worked alongside, particularly Nicky and Tim for their camaraderie and heart for the gospel. I am also so thankful to the various touring teams and supporting volunteers for the fun we have had working on the front line, depending on Jesus as we shared His story and His love together. And I am especially thankful to our wonderful support group, EBRG, whose commitment, vulnerability and willingness to risk getting things wrong have led to huge growth for me, particularly in things of the Spirit.

Moving on after such a long time is incredibly painful, especially from such a small ministry where we have grown to depend upon one another so deeply. However, while my passion for music in worship and using music as a tool to bring healing remains, it is no longer the primary thrust of who God has created me to be. Over the last few years I have noticed, in my heart, a slow move away from teaching on worship towards healing, deliverance and freedom in Christ, and this has only been brought into sharper focus in recent months. I absolutely believe God has not finished with CMM, and will be praying for that wonderful ministry and will no doubt stay in touch as a friend and occasional volunteer.

So now, what is this new era going to look like?

Firstly, it is going to be in relationship. My childhood friend and co-worker at CMM Amy, an emerging prophet, is bravely going to be walking this path with me. Psalm 119:130 says, ‘The unfolding of your words gives light.’ We want to bring light to those in darkness through Biblical teaching and prophecy, binding up the broken hearted, proclaiming freedom for captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1). Derek Prince writes this about prophecy:

The gift of prophecy is the supernaturally imparted ability to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and speak God’s mind or counsel. Prophecy ministers not only to the assembled group of believers, but also to individuals. Its three main purposes are:
To edify = to build up, strengthen, to make more effective.
To exhort = to stimulate, to encourage, to admonish.
To comfort = to cheer up.
Thus, prophecy overcomes two of Satan’s most common attacks: condemnation and discouragement.

Both Amy and I have various gifts from God, but neither of us are the complete package, so we need each other (and Him) to minister effectively. We hope that we will also be joined in time by others as God leads them to us.

Secondly, we aim ultimately to be able to speak and minister to groups in person. At the moment this is difficult with the pandemic, maternity leave and childcare, but we believe this will be most effective. So we may well be in touch with our friends to see who is willing to take a risk and invite us as we develop teaching and learn how to deliver it! For the time being keep your eyes on our blog (why not subscribe?) as we try to bring insight from all we are learning.

For now, as Amy continues in her time of maternity leave, we will concentrate on organising the behind-the-scenes official and legal parts of Reflected Light. We will also spend time reading, researching and praying, as well as looking for opportunities for training.

If you want to stay in touch with all we are doing, you can follow us on Facebook or subscribe to this blog by email (scroll right to the bottom of the page). In time we will develop a proper mailing list and supporters’ network. We felt it was important I finished my time at CMM well and gave it my full attention before stepping in to the new era.

Photo by Tom Athawes on Unsplash

A personal prescription

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast from the team at Wild at Heart. They were talking about the upcoming summer. We all tend to use the summer to go on holiday, go adventuring and invite people round for barbeques. That is great, but this year they urged us all to remember that this isn’t any ordinary summer – we have all been through a season of worldwide trauma, that hasn’t completely gone away. The world is opening up again to some extent, and it is tempting to think that going back to how things were before is going to help us heal. But it won’t.

Imagine going to see a therapist and telling them everything you have been through. The isolation, the fear around simply going to the shops. Not being able to see precious family and friends. The lack of closure around the deaths of loved ones. The grief over the postponement or cancellation of much-anticipated events. The frustration when things that used to be simple, like trying to get a doctors’ appointment, have now become fraught with difficulty. The pain of not being able to gather as the body of Christ and worship together.

Now imagine if that therapist was the best one possible – they know your heart and your soul better than you know it yourself. They know exactly what brings you life, but they also know the limitations of your work and family situation. What prescription would they write for the summer ahead?

Well, we do have such a therapist – the Holy Spirit living in our hearts.

This afternoon I sat down and prayed. I asked the Spirit to speak to me about what I need on my personal prescription. I think I need to sit down and do this a few more times yet, but so far, none of the answers have been big, crazy things. They are all the tiniest lifestyle tweaks that open me up, give me breathing space, and calm for my heart and mind. They are not difficult. They still involve me cooking the dinner, doing the washing, looking after my 4-year-old. Some of them I will have to organise in, like finding time for a long walk. Others I need to lay down or moderate, such as non-intentional time scrolling through various media.

They are all simple, yet the warfare over our recovery and healing is intense. The enemy would like nothing more than for us to live half-lives, dazed and fearful. So we need to pray with spunk and determination:

I choose healing for my heart and my soul. In the name of Jesus, I lift off and banish the trauma of the past year. I choose not to partner with fear, frustration and despair, and instead I choose to draw on the life of the Spirit within me. I choose not to comfort eat or comfort scroll, and instead I partner with the love, joy and peace of God. Lord, show me things that are excellent, praiseworthy, noble and good; fill me with your beauty. I refuse to seek out the quick fix or to over-compensate for all I have missed and instead choose to delight in the simple, little things that refresh my soul. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Photo by Jan Padilla on Unsplash

Aligning with Christ

Ephesians 4:11-13

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

In the last year or so I have discovered an entire breed of people I didn’t know existed before: prophets. I first stumbled upon them when searching for teaching on a specific demon, because, well, who else is teaching on that other than a bunch of warrior prophets?

I mean, I knew about prophets because most of the Old Testament was written by them, and Paul lists both the office of prophet and the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 12. I am also quite familiar with prophecy – I have heard loads of teaching about how prophecy is about speaking out what God is saying for the building up and edification of the church (1 Corinthians 14:1-5), and how it isn’t really about foretelling the future. I’ve used the gift of prophecy quite a lot myself. And I haven’t heard any teaching that says there is no such thing as a prophet today, but the church circles I have moved in seem to just turn a blind eye to the possibility. I just assumed a prophet was someone who uses the gift of prophecy a lot.

But then when I search deeper, that understanding is challenged. In Acts 11:26-30, a prophet from the Jerusalem church named Agabus travels to Antioch. There, he stands up in the middle of the believers and prophesies that a severe famine will spread over the entire Roman world. He also has a very tough personal prophecy for Paul in Acts 21:11. These are not ‘nice’ prophecies for building up and edifying the church, and they result in serious action.

John the Baptist was acknowledged as a prophet by Jesus – admittedly he was ministering before the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, but his prophecies were also not enjoyable to listen to.

Jesus himself is our prophet, priest and king – he regularly prophesied, including prophetic weeping over Jerusalem in Matthew 23 and Luke 13. One particular occasion he speaks to Peter in John 21:18, telling him something very difficult about his death.

If the gift of prophecy is solely for comforting and ‘nice’ words – for the edification of the church, who then has the job of pulling the church up when it goes off the tracks? Who will notice when we are not aligned with Christ, and say the strong and difficult word to bring us back? Who will warn us of the plans of the enemy so we can prepare and be on guard? Who will warn us of coming famines and times of change?

That is the office of the prophet – different to the available-to-all gift of prophecy. God releases his Word particularly strongly to those called to this office, and their job is to spend time in deep prayer, learning to steward his gift.

Time and again this year my attitudes and understanding have been challenged by people who have taken on this mantle. And I have to say – it hurts. It is so hard to hear a word that confronts you with your own failings and ungodly mindsets. It is horrible being kicked out of your comfort zone.

Prophets are not easy to be friends with, but it is so, so worth it.

Seek prophets out at your peril. And ignore them at your peril – they will show you where you are not aligning with Christ, reveal the darkness in your heart, and give you the application of the Word to help you move forward in Him. They will also show you the true beauty of the heavenly realm, and point you to Jesus in all his glory and splendour.

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home.” Matthew 13:57

“Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.” Matthew 10:41

Global Prophetic Alliance: https://www.propheticscots.com/

British Isles Council of Prophets: https://www.prophets.org.uk/

Breaking the bondage of shame

In the last blog post I talked about how shame lingers. Even the most lightweight of mistakes can leave my cheeks burning red and my insides curling up and trying to hide. Even though I know I am forgiven.

One of the people who blew it spectacularly and then had to come face to face with the one he had wronged was Peter. Jesus rose from the dead, and no doubt Peter was utterly delighted to see his great friend and teacher again. And yet… when I imagine him face to face with Jesus eating breakfast on the beach, I can feel my own pangs of shame that resonate with his.

You know how smells evoke memories incredibly strongly? For me, the scent of a particular kind of wood fire immediately transports me to Kampala in the early morning. For Peter, I wonder if the aroma of the charcoal fire on the beach reminded him of the smell of the charcoal fire in that courtyard outside the High Priest’s house – the stench of his betrayal, fresh in his mind as he looks at his risen Lord.

How must Peter feel at seeing Jesus again? Ashamed. We all know logically that we are forgiven by Jesus, but the shame lingers and keeps us bound. It stops us lifting up our heads. It makes us feel unworthy in so many ways.

None of the disciples will have felt completely able to look Jesus in the eye – they all slept in the garden and they all abandoned him. I like to imagine Jesus looking each one in the eye as he gives them breakfast. That loving look that obliterates the darkness and pain.

But Peter was a little more tender, so Jesus handles him differently. When I was reading the passage, initially it sounded like he was talking to Peter over breakfast in front of the other disciples. But later on it talks about Peter looking back and seeing John walking behind them. That means they had gone for a walk – this chat was discrete and completely private. Jesus was honouring and loving Peter by keeping the difficult conversation entirely between themselves.

When our wounded hearts need tending to, Jesus is honouring and discrete. If we are willing to let him, he will call things out in us gently and tenderly – in our own private times with him or with a close friend.

The thing that makes shame so hard to shift is that it usually has demonic roots and initially takes the form of a bondage. Bondages come about when we believe the lies of the enemy – you’ll never be good enough – you’re too dirty – you’ll always be abandoned and useless. When we agree with things like this they hold us captive and we struggle to push through them to be fully alive and walking in all God has for us.

The way to get rid of bondages is to break them. We speak truth in place of the lies and choose not to agree with them any more. Jesus, with patient questioning, enabled Peter to declare the truth. “Do you love me?”

“Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Peter spoke out the opposite of his denial.

And then Jesus went even further: “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus’ words could so easily have been condemnation, but instead they were total acceptance. Not only am I not ashamed of you, I want to use you in my Kingdom.

The bondage of shame has been broken – to such an extent that Peter allowed it to become public knowledge that he had denied Jesus. And how many of us have drawn comfort from his foibles? God takes our weaknesses and shame, and he redeems them, heals us, and even uses them to advance his Kingdom.

It is simply impossible to stray too far from his love. He seeks us, kicks down our walls and lifts our heads again.