What I've Learned at The Covenant Center

(I shared this a couple of weeks ago as I said goodbyes to so many lovely people at the church community I have called home nearly ten years. This is where I was safe, healed, and formed. I am in ministry because of the care and love I have experienced with this "family" and it will always be a spiritual home. I will post audio when it is available.)

Download a PDF copy of the following teaching notes.

As I prepare to move into a new season in my life in a new place, I thought I might share about what I have learned in my time here at The Covenant Center. But, as I began to make my list, I quickly recognized that these are not so much concepts that I have learned and sort of have in my pocket for the journey, but practices that I continue to live into. It’s more like they are things I’ve learned to learn. I don’t HAVE any of these concepts, unless I continue to DO them. These are what I recognize, looking back at ten years here, as being the most significant in my own healing and training. I think all are important to any Christian, but for prophets, I do believe these are vital in order to do our job well!

Emotions Matter

When I first came here, I had absolutely no emotional intelligence! I remember first meeting with Pat and she of course began to ask me about what I was feeling. I couldn’t tell her. I had no clue. I literally had to keep a sheet with lists of emotions and their descriptions with me in my journal for a couple of years in order to learn to not only allow myself to feel, but to learn to recognize what I was feeling. This was often painful, I think it’s easier for many people to feel negative emotions than positive, at least it was for me.

This may seem like much navel-gazing or psychological distraction. But, I believe this is one of the most important aspects that we must develop as prophets in order to grow in intimacy with the Lord. Our most primary role is to be intimate with God. God is very emotional! We just can not have the level of intimacy that births prophecy from the very heart of Jesus unless we allow God to teach us how to embrace emotions. 

We are in covenant, which is a relationship, with a God who loves, rejoices, grieves, longs. A God who suffers. We are created in God’s image. We are called to be intimate emotionally, not just to understand concepts or to do right actions. Though those are important, our culture provides a great deal of training and practice in those skills, but emotional ability is not something most of us grew up learning. It is truly a learned skill, and a practice. It does not come naturally to women any more than men, though I know that is a common belief, I think most women would refute that assumption. The only men and women that I know who I believe are emotionally mature have been through a process in order to become so. 

Dealing with emotions can be hard. For those who have suffered much, or for the abused, it can be harder to heal than it was to experience the abuse itself because we might not have felt much at the time of our trauma. Shutting down emotionally is one of the ways we survive the pain of this world. But I promise you, the level of intimacy that is opened up with the Lord when we are able to engage with our hearts and be vulnerable in the pain of our deepest emotions is worth it. It is so worth it! While deadening our hearts is a way of not feeling pain, it also kills our joy, passion, and hope. So, I encourage you to engage in your emotional life. If you need help, there are many here who can help. Yet, Holy Spirit will always be your main guide, and Jesus will welcome you into a deep intimacy of both suffering and joy.

“Never Let Go of the Presence.” by Being Present

I think the original advice “Never let go of the Presence.” came from Cathy and arrived for me through Becky. As I got more in touch with my heart and developed a sense of intimacy with God, I also became more able to recognize when I “feel lost”. It used to be that I could go several months without recognizing my heart was closed down and I was not really connecting with God or others or myself. It would seem that I could not hear anything from God. There are times when God is quiet, but I’m talking about those seasons where I become lost or disconnected because I have shut down my heart. 

I have learned that the best way for me to “Never let go of the Presence.” is to practice being present. I usually lose that sense of intimacy when I am too concerned about my future, engaging in anxiety or constant attempts to figure out how God is going to do something, or too concerned with my past. I might be engaging in regret or un-forgiveness toward God, myself, or others. Though it is important to work through the past and when we are casting vision for the future, I have learned that those tasks also happen best from a place of presence.

To be present means to deal with the truth, with reality, with where I am and who I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It means to know Jesus in this moment, as Truth, as Real, as Present. To look and see Who God Is for me right now, knowing that also deals with both the past and the future.

There are all sorts of ways to practice presence. One of the ways I am usually able to re-engage with presence is to take a long walk in the woods, breathing, praying, releasing, receiving. A lot of it for me has to do with acceptance and gratitude for my present life. It really is true that we live in the moment. Jesus is here, now. Always. And tomorrow, Jesus will be here, now. And he was here, and now, in my past. Time is nothing to Jesus, but I can only really experience intimacy in this moment. 

As prophets, we find ourselves often spending a lot of time in the future. We have words, we see ahead. We have vision. We are created and gifted to do so. But our hearts can grow weary in waiting. I firmly believe God loves us and wants us to have joy. In order to live well, and to serve the church and the world well through our prophetic gifts, I believe that we must learn to “Never let go of the Presence.” by learning to be present.

Jesus is truly the life in us, the source, the spring from which a ministry of prophecy flows that is alive and brings life. We must learn to be in the moment if we are to release the Rhema word, because that is its nature. It is a happening, proceeding moment, like a river that we flow in, and we don’t want to prophesy from any other place.

Pay Attention

Listen, being a prophet is more art than science and any art requires a lot of observation. I really suggest the practice of paying attention. God teaches, trains, and transforms through all sorts of ways.

One of the most beneficial practices I learned here is to seek out mentors. Early on, after my decision to follow Jesus, I prayed and asked God to bring at least three mentors into my life who had been walking with Him for over 30 years. I was very specific about this. I prayed, “I don’t mean they have gone to church or have been Christians for 30 years, I mean people who have walked with you for real and been in the journey for that long. People who know you.” 

God provided men an women who fit the bill within the next six months, and I paid a lot of attention. Since my life was in a time wilderness shut down as God was breaking down all my well-built systems of survival so I could learn to trust, I decided to use the time wisely. I had a boss that once explained to me the phrase “Either fish or cut bait.” People kind of use it to say either do something or give up and bail out, at least that is how I understood the phrase. But it really means that if you’re not fishing, be getting ready to fish. Since God had me in a season where my life was very constricting and I couldn’t do much, I tried to participate with the season. 

Besides mentors, it is good to pay attention to our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. Around here, we have a community of people who are happy to share with you! Sometimes we are maybe too quick to do so, but there is much to learn from one another. 

As prophets, it is important to be grounded in scripture, to type out your prophetic words and dreams, and to journal. I truly believe God develops symbols and language with each of us that can vary from person to person because He speaks to us in ways we can understand. While there are great resources on symbology, I try to not let those replace relationship and my own asking and listening.  

Develop intimacy through prayer, worship, and a lifestyle of listening to God through whatever means He provides. Ask, seek, knock! Record! (Check into 1 Chronicles 16:4 to learn what it means to zakar.) I have come to know that God really wants me to succeed and is not withholding from me but I do have to participate by paying attention. Paying attention to a variety of ways in which God may speak is one of the most fun practices of the prophetic art, I think. It’s like putting puzzles together and is one of the best ways to learn to trust your sense of God’s voice. God will encourage you in this, I promise.

Give Expression to the Impression

“Giving expression to the impression” is another catchphrase I have learned to live into and practice here. As prophets, there comes a time where we must release what we are receiving. A prophetic person or church is called to release, and without that, the flow seems to get stopped up at some point. 

I think this has to do with truths about giving in order to receive and about coming to understand that God does bless us but as individuals but we are always a part of a larger community and purpose. If we don’t bring the piece that God is giving to us, the community is never fulfilled. We each see in part and know in part. We each have something to offer. 

Of course, there is a lot to learn about how to give expression while still preferring others and avoiding the pitfalls of control. There is a lot of fear and anxiety to overcome in giving expression and there is almost always resistance either from our own inner thought life or the adversary. Just like any artist must, I encourage you to push through it. Expect it. Expect to second guess yourself after you give some sort of expression. This does not make you a failure. Expect that this is actually part of any creative, expressive process and that you are learning to practice prophetic arts. But once we can handle the emotional side of giving expression, and have learned to be present to God’s presence, and have learned to pay attention, this all leads to expression. Just like any artist, there is a flow.

And, honestly, there is much that is learned in the expression itself. Teaching, writing, doing art or any other way in which God calls you to release to others provides an activation and experience in which you come to know something in a way that is more real than just thinking about it as a concept. Expression of the impression helps to impart it to you as much as others. 

Practice Humility

A lot of people say “I can do nothing without Jesus.” Well, that’s partially true, I can do a LOT of stuff without checking in with Jesus. Years of stuff, in fact! I think it’s more honest for me to say that I don’t want to anymore because I’ve learned that there is a big difference between myself and God. There really is!  

I have a pretty high view of people, I think all people are made in God’s image, and without truly knowing the full reality of that truth or knowing Jesus, are capable of beautiful acts of love and kindness. However, I know that even my best expression of compassion, for instance, while it is an inclination in me that came from God and can be a blessing to people, pales in contrast to the healing power of the compassion of Christ that flows through me. 

I’ve been learning to think of humility less in terms of debasing or having contempt for my self and my weakness as it is about exalting Jesus. It’s not feeling bad about my humanity, because God doesn’t. It is about realizing that I was created to benefit from God’s divinity. Humility is a really joyful thing. It’s freedom. It is living as fully human, because I was created to be dependent. So I want to rejoice in that and enjoy it too. I am learning that, for me, humility is easier to grasp when my eyes are on Jesus. It just sort of happens in the light of Christ. I get pretty prideful pretty quickly when I lose that vision. 

I know that for prophets, this is a vital practice. There’s a fine line between celebrating the gifts God has given us, and how He uses those gifts, and beginning to think that we are something special or unique. Prophesy is not a special gift, it’s just one of the gifts God has given to the Body. It’s not better than any other way that God is working to bring the Kingdom. Receiving an accurate word of knowledge or seeing someone healed when you pray for them can be exciting, but it’s still a gift, which means we didn’t earn it. Receive it, practice it, be grateful, but above all, be humble.

Trust the Process

My final comment is to “Trust the process.” I still have to catch myself when I start trying to figure things out. I am learning to make plans and hold them loosely. I am learning that God does fulfill promises and prophetic words but rarely in a way that I would have expected. I am learning to wait, and to be in the journey. 

Part of this came for me just from getting too tired to do otherwise. Even burnout is useful! Pretty much anything is useful if we allow it to bring us closer to God, and that should be how we measure all things in terms of their goodness or badness for us.

In nearly ten years here, I have learned that God is for me, and is leading me, and is loving me, and is teaching me, and has my best interest at heart while still having the best interest of community and Kingdom at heart at the same time. A lot of these wonderful lessons were learned in a lot of pain. I’m not able to see and understand why that is. I have to trust when I don’t understand. 

I have had to let go of linear thinking because I used to have goals and end games and points along a spectrum that I would just want to get to some next level or some place or some situation. I’m learning to not only trust, but to enjoy the process, even the painful parts. And I know that in another ten, twenty, or thirty years, I can look back on this expression I am releasing today in this message and probably say…wow you still had a lot to learn, Heather! And I’ve learned to be okay with that, too.

So: emotions matter, be present, pay attention, give expression, and trust the process. That’s what I have learned to be learning and practicing as I grow in intimacy and in the prophetic gifts. Maybe that will be helpful to some of you who are new to this experience. Maybe that is familiar to some who are much further along in the journey than I am. 

Either way, I bless you, in Jesus’ name, to learn and to become the prophetic people and community that God has called you to be.

Bless Your Enemies - A Key to Passover

Andre Jacques Victor Orsel, The Infant Moses Presented to Pharaoh, 1830

Andre Jacques Victor Orsel, The Infant Moses Presented to Pharaoh, 1830

Download a printable PDF copy of the following teaching notes.

Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG)

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Luke 23:34-35 (MSG)

Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!”

From A Catholic Prayer Book

Almighty God, have mercy on N. and on all that bear me evil will and would me harm, and on their faults and mine together, by such easy, tender, merciful means, as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ. Amen. - Saint Thomas More (1477-1535)

It’s Time To Grow Up, Heather

For several months, I keep hearing the Lord say that it’s time for me to grow up. I struggled with that for some time. I thought, “Maybe I need to be more organized, maybe I need to be more serious. Maybe I need to have a more set schedule and discipline in my life.” Now, all these may be true, but those thoughts were causing me a lot of stress. All those “should’s” and “ought to’s” just didn’t really feel peaceful or like the root of the issue. 

Then in my prayer life and study, God began to deal with me at deeper levels about repentance and forgiveness. In the middle of the night last week, I just wanted to read the Sermon on the Mount. Sometimes, it’s just good to go back to the basics. As I read in The Message version of Matthew 5, there it was, “Grow Up!” In context of the scripture, this kind of maturity had to do with not just forgiving, but blessing my enemies. Not just blessing, but actually, really loving them! 

I have been pondering and seeking on just what this means in my life, what it might mean for the corporate body, and the timing of all of this as well. As prophetic people, it seems that God is always dealing with each of us on an individual level of process as we walk. Sometimes, there is value in that for others as well. So, I just wanted to share for those that God might be leading in a similar way during this season, both personally and corporately.

Lent and Passover

Even if we are unaware of God’s seasons, it might be that some of you have been experiencing some leading by the Holy Spirit recently into some introspection and repentance. We should always be examining ourselves, but it just seems there are certain times of the year where God is focused on helping us deal with things that could limit us in the next season. Passover, or the season of Lent which coincides, is one of those times.

Lent is the Christian church’s tradition of preparing for Easter, and is very similar to the activity of preparation before Passover. Passover this year begins on Friday, April 3 and Easter is Sunday, April 5. 

Lent shares similar themes with the preparation for Passover. It is a 40-day period of fasting, introspection, repentance and consecration to God. Traditional preparation for Passover begins a month in advance with one of the most important activities being the removal of leaven from the home. Before Passover there is a week in which no leaven may be consumed. This is tied to the historic narrative of the Exodus when the Israelites left Egypt with unleavened bread because they did not have time to bake. But, to Jews there are spiritual implications as well, as leaven can represent decay and the evil inclination. So, there is the physical cleansing of the home, which also represents a cleansing of the spiritual house.

In the early church, there was also an intensive process for new believers who wanted to be baptized that occurred at this time. Leading up to Easter, the new converts were being intensely discipled one on one in the Christian faith, they were fasting, they were receiving deliverance ministry every day, and they were being prayed for. The baptism itself was quite an incredible experience. Much of this is outlined in The Didache, which was written down sometime between 50-70 AD and recorded the oral tradition of discipleship that had been going on since the beginning of the church. One of the reasons baptism was so serious and they prepared converts so intently is because Christians were suffering persecution and could very well become martyrs for becoming Christian. Yet, as I read this document, which is a series of items that were taught in succession during the discipleship period, it begins with “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” The prominence of the command to love makes sense as it was Jesus' own summary of all the law and prophets. Then the next most important thing to learn was how to bless your enemies.

The Didache

1 There Are Two Ways

1:1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death! and there is a great difference between the two ways.

1:2 The way of life is this: First, you shall love God who made you. And second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you.

1:3 The meaning of these sayings is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the heathens do the same? But you should love those who hate you, and then you shall have no enemies.

Prophets' Blessing of Enemies

Beyond our personal call to bless our enemies and not curse them, I believe there is a corporate call to the church right now in the face of persecution to begin to pray for and bless our enemies. As a prophetic and intercessory community, we can lead the way in this.

Blessing enemies is not just a New Testament convention. There are three stories in the Old Testament that I think model what Jesus made much more clear in His ministry in regard to blessing our enemies. Each story involves a prophetic assignment.

Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah, the capital of Assyria, to prophesy to them. These were people who hated the Jews, who waged war and killed them. These were the military and spiritual enemies of Jonah’s people and Jonah hated them. He hated them so much, that he refused to go and was willing to die instead of prophesy to them. He basically told God to throw him into the sea and kill him, and that he would prefer that experience to delivering God's message to Jonah's enemies. Why? Because Jonah knew God, and he said he knew that God would forgive the Ninevites if they responded to God’s word. But, Jonah wanted them to suffer. He finally did go, reluctantly, and delivered God’s warning to the people who repented and fasted and God spared them. Jonah still wanted to die! He sat outside the city walls wasting away, just hoping to see fire rain down on the Ninevites. God asks Jonah twice, “Do you do well to be angry?” and Jonah says that he does, and angry enough to die because of what the Ninevites have done. Even though the city was full of children and God told Jonah it was his desire to show mercy, Jonah really struggled with this prophetic assignment. 

Elisha was given an assignment by God to bring healing to Naaman, the commander of the army of Syria who also was a leper. He is one of only three examples in the Old Testament of someone being healed from leprosy, the other two were Moses and Miriam. Naaman find outs about Elisha through his slave girl, a girl that had been captured from Israel and was now a slave to Naaman’s wife. This girl had such a heart in her that she told her master that she hoped that he would be healed by Elisha and told her about the prophet Elisha. Talk about blessing your enemies! Naaman asks his king for permission to go, and his king sends him with a letter to the king of Israel asking him to heal Naaman. The king of Israel panics and shows a lack of faith, because no one ever got healed of leprosy! Even Jesus mentions that in Luke 4:27 “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Naaman is not pleased with how Elisha treats him but submits to God’s word through Elisha just as the Ninevites submitted to God’s word through Jonah. Elisha obeys God and Naaman, their enemy, is healed. 

In the story of Moses and the Exodus, I think there are some implications for blessing our enemies that I had never thought of before. If we think back to what the Israelites were doing there in the first place, they had been used of God to bless Egypt, and in that process they were also blessed and saved from famine. Joseph had been sold into Israel as a slave, and in his process learned to bless his enemies through dream interpretation, service, wisdom, and spiritual insight. God used him to bless Egypt and save them from famine, and in the process his own family was saved. He was honored, but sometimes we forget, this all happened in the presence of Joseph's enemies. Four hundred years later, the Pharaoh seems to have forgotten this history and instead of honoring the Israelites, is oppressing them under slavery. God saves Moses, brings him out, but then calls him and gives him a prophetic assignment to go back to Egypt and tell them to “Let my people go!” What if, like the Ninevites, and like Naaman, this was God’s attempt to bless Egypt? 

I know that might seem like an odd question since the scriptures say that God hardened Pharoah’s heart, and also that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. If God hardened Pharoah’s heart, then how is there any chance that he could respond positively to Moses and potentially be blessed by being a blessing to the Israelites? There is a lot of debate about what that idiom about hardening the heart means in Hebrew, but suffice it to say that I think there is ample evidence to show that Pharaoh had choice in the matter and could have responded differently than he did. I think God always gives us choice and honors free will and is always open to repentance.

But, the interesting aspect of the Exodus in regard to it being another example of a prophetic assignment to bless enemies, and something I had never really noticed before, is that many Egyptians left along with the Israelites. [1] “Israel and the early church often lost sight of their missional purpose. When God led Israel out of Egypt, many Egyptians went with them (Exod. 12: 38). Moses and Israel did not try to keep Egyptians—whose ruler had oppressed them—from experiencing God’s glory, power, and love.” [2]

Exodus 12:38 (MSG)

The Israelites moved on from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 on foot, besides their dependents. There was also a crowd of riffraff tagging along, not to mention the large flocks and herds of livestock. They baked unraised cakes with the bread dough they had brought out of Egypt; it hadn’t raised—they’d been rushed out of Egypt and hadn’t time to fix food for the journey.

One article I read said that the number of Egyptians leaving with the Israelites was 2.4 million along with only 600,000 Israelites! These were the elite of the land, the wealthy, educated, and craftsmen, and these were the ones the Pharaoh truly regretted letting go. We have thought of the Israelites taking the wealth out of Egypt in regard to gold and other material riches, but the Egyptian people were the real treasure, though they probably caused a lot of trouble along the way as they tried to bring in some of their old ways. The point is, God blessed Egypt by bringing many out into His promises to become part of His people and this became a blessing to Israel as well, not only in material wealth, but in numbers, in skills, and in an ability to move into the Promised Land.

A Key To Passing Over

As I thought about Passover, I  began to have a sense that, for me, and maybe for many, one of the keys to moving forward into our promises is this command to bless our enemies. Blessing our enemies can be both personal and corporate.

As we read about in The Didache, blessing enemies was considered one of the most important lessons that they could teach new converts in the early church. They were persecuted, but because of their witness, the church expanded and grew. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to be perfect, or mature, to be like God, the Father. He associated maturity with loving and blessing our enemies. In fact, blessing enemies was the very core of Jesus' mission in the earth, and of the cross. The cross was a display of love for all of us who had rejected God and Jesus blessed us by defeating the power of death. He gave us the power to become mature sons and daughters of God (John 1:12) and through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be able to bless our enemies as well.

Our Prophetic Task In The Face Of Persecution

We are living in a time when there is persecution of Christians and we see it in horrific propaganda disseminated by radical terrorists who are most definitely our enemies. Many in the prophetic stream are right to teach and share about what is going on, what the implications are, and some of the beliefs of radical Islamism. But, I am concerned that many of the messages leave the church without direction on what we are to do in the face of persecution. 

I had a wise and tough boss once. He had a mantra: "Don’t bring me a problem unless you already have the solution!"

I believe our prophetic task is not to just call attention to the problem of persecution, but to prophesy encouragement, not fear. The encouragement comes not from saying there is nothing to fear, but that perfect, mature love casts out fear. Just as forgiveness is not a whitewashing of offense or a denial of truth, so is blessing our enemies. To pray blessings instead of cursing our enemies, we come through the truth of the abuse and out into the other side. Jesus said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”, but Jesus knew it clearly and chose to bless.

Jesus offered us the solution to the problem of persecution. Grow up! Be ye perfect as my father in heaven is perfect, by loving and blessing the just and unjust. This is how the victory is won, this is how Jesus does it. 

A Key To A Move Of God

Many of us are well aware of the prophesies of a coming move of God, founded in love, in which a billion souls will come into the Kingdom. Could it be possible that God is allowing persecution at this time so that we have an opportunity to be perfected? Our response may be the very witness to the world that brings in those billion souls! I don’t know, but it would not be the first time God has worked in this sort of way. 

There are so many we could pray for and bless: radical terrorists, sex traffickers, child abusers, and those in our own lives who have persecuted us. As prophetic people, we tend to have a strong sense of justice and we see what is not right in the world very clearly. 

I have felt God asking me to not brace or rail against injustice but to shine in its midst. This does not mean ignoring injustice, or not being truthful, or not calling sin and abuse what it is. It doesn't mean not hating injustice. This is about coming through it and redeeming it the way Jesus showed us to. And I am not good at this! Not at all!

But, it’s not too late to begin. We also have the authority to break any curses we have spoken against others, in the name of Jesus. With the help of Holy Spirit, we can repent and begin to bless our enemies and those who have hurt us. I don’t know what that looks like in each case for each of us. It may just be prayer, it may be more than that. Each of us has to work that out with the Lord. I don’t know what God may do with this sort of obedience, but we may be surprised.

So, as Passover approaches, I encourage you, as Lord leads you, to remember this instruction to bless our enemies, whether personal or corporate. 

Prayer for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Lord, remember not only the men of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have bourne be their forgiveness.

Source: Found on a scrap of paper at the liberation of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany

References 

[1] http://www.torah.org/learning/outsidethebox/5764/beshalach.html
[2]Harper, Brad; Metzger, Paul Louis (2009-03-01). Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction (p. 239). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Rosh Hashanah 5775: God's Presence Is Coming Through The Open Doors

* Note: If the audio file does not load well for you here, you can listen on my media player where the audio is broken down into smaller files. Or, you may download the audio file by clicking here.

The Light of the World, c.1852 (oil on canvas) by William Holman Hunt

The Light of the World, c.1852 (oil on canvas) by William Holman Hunt

As the beginning of the new Hebraic year approaches at sundown on September, 24, 2014, I wanted to share some of what I have been sensing in the last months. I offer this very loosely, but in the hopes that there may be some encouragement to others during this season.

This is a significant time of year and often we may be experiencing much during this season, and again in the Spring as Passover approaches. It helps to be aware of the seasons of the Hebrew calendar because of the spiritual significance associated with God’s movements throughout the year.

The Hebraic calendar has corporate and personal significance. I have noticed that there is a lot of overlap in the liturgical seasons with the Hebraic calendar as well. Right now the church is in the season of Pentecost, in which we pray daily “Come, Holy Spirit!” It’s an active time before Advent in which there seems to be a settling into a lot of stillness and waiting. 

In the Hebrew calendar, this is also an active time. You may be experiencing a lot of transition and also a lot of spiritual activity. You may be experiencing an increase in dreams and visions. You may sense the Lord is revealing things to you in prayer or scripture study. You may be experiencing a lot of spiritual resistance or oppression as well.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches each year, it is a time when God is aligning to release a new season. And it is good to know what the Hebraic years represent so we can be aware of shifts in our lives that may be involved in a bigger picture.

The Open Door: 5774

The current Hebraic year that is coming to a close is the year 5774. The rabbis believe there is great spiritual significance to the numbers and letters associated with years, months, and days in the Hebrew calendar. 

We are currently in the decade of the 70’s and 70 is represented by “ayin” and the pictorial representation is and eye. So we are in a time frame in which God is giving eyes to see and bringing clarity of vision for what God is doing in the earth. The purpose of the revelation is so that we can be in agreement, alliance, and obedience. This is also a season of completion of many things that we have been working toward for many years. 

The year we are completing is 5774 and it is represented as Ayin Dalet, which means, according to the Hebrew, that God has provided a door of deliverance. The letter Dalet is associated with the number 4. You may have even experienced many new open doors in this last year in many areas of your life.

God’s Presence Coming Through the Door: 5775

Rosh Hashanah begins sundown Sept 24 and is the start of the Hebraic year 5775 and is called  “ayin hey”. Originally, this letter was a pictograph of a man standing with his arms out, ready to receive. In modern Hebrew, “hey” is associated with beholding a great sight. It also is connected with breath, God’s presence, and revelation. “Hey” is associated with creative power, because of the power of the proceeding word, God’s breath.

“Hey” also refers to Gods name significantly, it is used in Judaism to indicate “the name”.  In the story of Abraham and Sarah, “hey” is added into their names as God’s covenant and creation enters into their lives. The letter represents the presence of God within the human heart and the transforming power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. There is a lot of connection to joy in this that we will talk more about in a moment.

“Hey” is about gods presence and breath as Jesus comes through the open doors for those that have seen those doors and are in position. We will talk about how to position at the door.

It's a year of rest for the land, a sabbath year. It is actually a 49th year, and 5776 is a jubilee year (every 50th year) and a leap year. In that year, we will experience the year of forgiveness of debts and properties being returned to people as they receive their proper inheritances. So, we are in a significant season of time in these few years.

Our Posture At The Door

To be in position at God’s open door, we must embrace humility and repentance. Especially at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, this is a time of introspection and repentance.

To go through the tent door, one would have stoop down, there is a posture of humility in the transition. Jesus talks about this when he talks about the pride of the rich young ruler, and says for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, it’s like a camel going through the eye of the needle. Jesus was referencing a gate that was quite small and the camel could not fit through until all it’s burdens had been released and unpacked (Mark 10:17-31). This is a great image of repentance. It’s a time to seek the Lord about what needs to be unburdened so that you can be in the door.

I don’t want to give the impression that God is angry at our sin, because that’s not the point here. Repentance is for us. It clears the stream so that we can flow freely, fully alive and enjoying Who God is and who we are. It’s about coming into alignment with truth and freedom for us. It’s about being able to see God clearly with open hearts free to receive as His presence comes through the door. Repentance brings joy and is always the starting point of any move of God because it breaks us free to respond and move in Him, to see God as He is, and to be who we truly are.

Psalm 126:5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. (NRSV)

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (NRSV)

Some Possible Prophetic Signs 

Two significant elder leaders within the prophetic stream of the church, Bob Jones and Arthur Burt, passed away in 2014. Arthur Burt just very recently, in August, and Bob Jones on February 14. Bob Jones carried a prophetic message throughout his ministry of a coming renewal in which a billion souls would come into the Kingdom. The movement would be one of love, so many found it significant that he would pass away on Valentine's Day. Many have connected them together in terms of prophecies about a move of God that they were both promised to see the beginnings of in their lifetimes.

The following word of prophecy was given to Arthur Burt in the 1930’s. He is noted to have said that previous moves of God were ebbed by the problem of human pride. Humility is an important key to this season as we enter into the work Jesus is doing.

“It shall come as a breath… 
And the breath shall bring the wind…
And the wind shall bring the rain.
And there shall be floods and floods and floods…
And torrents and torrents and torrents.
…And there shall be no ebb.”

Another friend and prophetic mentor of mine also sensed some connections to these words. Several months ago, after having a significant dream about waves of water, God led her to study Noah and how God prepared him for the coming flood. She received this significant dream the night before Bob Jones passed away. In this dream, we were not afraid and were having fun navigating the waves together, which I think is also related to the joy that is part of this season.

So, we have to hold these things loosely, but I just have a feeling as I am in different environments, and hearing different people as they share what they sense, is that there is a great excitement that something major is going on. Healing is happening dramatically faster for people and they are sensing God’s presence and movement. There is a sense of fun or a desire to enjoy and celebrate. 

I have personally just felt very caught up in something that seems far beyond me. It’s exciting, and also makes me want to curl up with the Lord and be very small. I know for me there is a lot of perseverance, there has been a lot of resistance in the last few months. But, I can honestly say that I have never experienced what I am feeling in these days, and it is a deep and abiding joy that I think God is forming in me more and more.

A Seed Dies And Produces A Harvest

It can be significant prophetically to pay attention to the passing of certain individuals who have carried something significant for the Kingdom or represent certain things. This is not to say that God lets people die to make a point, but certainly to have Bob Jones and Arthur Burt pass away highlights the message about a move of God that they carried throughout their lives and ministries.

Recently, two famous comedians passed away. Even though both deaths were tragic and unexpected, I felt that was confirming to me that there will be a release of joy. Both of them carried an incredible gift to bring joy into the world, which is a gift from God. The Kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy. 

Joy In God's Presence

John 15:10-11 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (NRSV)

Graham Cooke speaks about this in terms of abiding, as he says "God himself has put you into Christ. You don’t have to do anything to enter but you have to do everything to remain. The key discipline in the New Testament is abiding. Learn to stay. Learn to dwell. Learn to sit. Learn to enjoy.”

Sometimes we can associate obedience negatively with religious teachings that imply we must earn God’s grace. In Hebraic understanding, the law was not about earning acceptance from God, it was a recognition of what God had done, his faithfulness and salvation of a people. A good Hebrew observed the law in order to stay in the bounds of the relationship and life that God had provided, not to get into covenant. It was a sign of gratitude that covenant had been unilaterally made by God on their behalf. We call that grace. And Christ has put Himself into us all, and so repentance just aligns us with that amazing reality.

Remember we are transitioning from the open door to the God’s presence coming through that door. We should expect to experience joy in this season. Recall that “Hey” is about God’s presence and with Abraham and Sarah there was such a connection with joy as God came into their lives. They both laughed in unbelief at God’s promise, but then the child was named Isaac, which mans laughter. 

Psalm 16:11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (NRSV)

Psalm 21:6 You bestow on him blessings forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence. (NRSV)

Double Seasons

As we look at the Hebraic season, I think we experiencing the typical progression of the holy days and feast of this season. But it seems to also be doubled in magnitude because of the significance of the years. Rosh Hashanah is a time of repentance, and so is the year we are in, Ayin Dalet (5774), as repentance is required in order to be in the door. Yom Kippur represents the truth that we are unable to bring ourselves into right relationship with God, but the work of Christ provides restoration of relationship with the Father through the indwelling Holy Spirit. I associated this image with Ayin Hey (5775) as God’s presence comes through the doors. And Sukkot is a time of rejoicing, joy and celebration which coincides with the Jubilee year coming in 5776. We are entering a 49th year, a 7th 7th sabbath year. So, this aspect of doubling might indicate a magnitude of the times in which we live.

Gates And Doors

As we have been in the year of the open door, I believe Psalm 24 (NRSV) is a key scripture for this season. I have made a few connections in italics to the phrases that seem to me to have deep meaning at this time. 

1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, 
the world, and those who live in it;
2 for he has founded it on the seas, (Recall Arthur Burt’s word)
and established it on the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, (Repentance)
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully. (Those in prideful rebellion may not be in a place to see or receive much in this season.)
5 They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
6 Such is the company of those who seek him, (Keep our eyes on Jesus coming through the door.)
 who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in. (Remember the original pictograph of  “hey”, man with arms lifted to receive Him)
8 Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors! (Some Hebraic teachers associate this with a smile as we turn our faces up toward the Lord to receive joy.)
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?    
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory. Selah

Joy In Times of Trouble

I am expectant for a movement full of great joy. Often when we receive a personal prophetic word about something like grace or patience, or any of the spiritual gifts God is forming in us, there can be some situations in which those are strengthened. Those situations often look like the opposite of what was promised, but that is where we receive the true gift that is divine and goes against our natural responses.

Joy is referenced in the New Testament at times in connection to tribulation or times of trouble. If Psalm 24 is an indication, the presence of Jesus may be coming in as a strong warrior, mighty in battle.

In other words, I expect to see and experience the Lord’s presence in this season, possibly in a new way. I am expectant that joy is going to be a part of how God is moving and healing and working in me and others. But, I have no idea what that is actually going to look like. 

I have learned even more in recent months that great resistance manifests when Jesus is manifest. So if there is demonic warfare, look for what God is doing, it should only point us to that so that we can pray into God’s movement and live into the Kingdom. We do not have to be afraid.

Some Final Keys

These are a few insights that God has been highlighting in my own journey as keys for this season.

  • Play.
  • Eyes on Jesus.
  • New authority, less of me, more of him. Humility.
  • Gifts flowing and shifting, pay attention, don’t be dismayed.
  • Courage. The joy set before me.
  • Rest which is not passive but means we are operating as created to, fully ourselves, in our unique identity in Christ.
  • Expectancy without expectations.
  • Hold loosely.
  • Prepared but not preoccupied. Live in the moments. Kingdom is now.
  • Responsive but not responsible.
  • Remember Whose work this is.
  • Ask, seek, knock...workers for the harvest, our place, provisions from a good Father.
  • Healing and prophecy increasing and working together.

I encourage you to pray and ask Jesus if there are aspects of your life right now that may be part of the larger movement of God’s seasons.

Sometimes, we can be swept up into the Kingdom in ways that dismay us if we only think that what we sense is on a personal level. My hope in sharing what I have been feeling may be happening on a larger scale, is that if any of this seems right to you, you will begin to seek the Lord in prayer as well. 

Despise Not Prophesyings

Louis Hersent, Elijah Reviving the Son of the Widow of Zarephath

Louis Hersent, Elijah Reviving the Son of the Widow of Zarephath

I shared a few thoughts recently at The Covenant Center about my struggle with my own prophetic gifts and call.

Because there has been much abuse and impurity in the prophetic ministry, just as there have been distortions in healing ministry, I have not always wanted to be identified with the prophetic.

But, the truth is that we need foundational prophetic ministry in the church and God is training those who are gifted in this way. Prophetic words are a source of healing, encouragement, and wisdom.

I love this painting depicting the prophet Elijah bringing healing to the child of a widow who has honored him because I have also learned that healing and prophetic are so closely connected. Do you notice the artist puts the spotlight on her? Maybe that's because he was focusing on her commitment to honor the prophetic word even in great distress.

I have been blessed to be in a community that honors the prophetic word and trains all believers in the prophetic gifts. I have learned much, struggled much, and been incredibly grateful for the comfort and edification I have received in the community of believers of The Covenant Center. In this recording, I have left some excellent comments by my pastor, Richard Maisenbacher

I encourage you to be open to learning more about prophetic ministry in your own life and look for resources to help you learn to hear the voice of the Lord. If you receive a prophetic word, it's best to write it out and keep it for prayerful reflection. Not all words are pure, but God is speaking through His people and the gift of prophecy is a vital to a healthy church and a vibrant, intimate walk with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward. Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings; prove all things; hold fast that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.

Grace

Cole Thomas, Garden of Eden, 1828

Cole Thomas, Garden of Eden, 1828

Grace is God and God is grace, just as God is love. Grace is who God is, and we are created to be in relation to, receipt of and response to God as grace. Grace is not God's "Plan B" for us, but is the original design that we are created for.

It's time to let go of the shame and guilt that we have been trained to feel in our weakness and vulnerability so that Grace can flow in our lives.

I shared this message at The Covenant Center on November 24, 2013.

Download the teaching notes.

Wailing Upon My Bed

They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds.
— hosea 7:14
Seems to me like wailing and crying out to God are kind of part and parcel of this shared experience with His people.

Seems to me like wailing and crying out to God are kind of part and parcel of this shared experience with His people.

I have done this. I have been in some deep emotional healing for the last three years, and I can tell you I have days where I am weary, tired and frustrated at God's process.

I can be stubborn in my pain, I can lie around in it, wallow in it from my bed, but keep my heart from crying to God, which is the type of crying I need. In fact, if I am not careful, I can use my pain as fuel to resist God altogether, because I don't want to face the truth that I am really angry at Him for allowing the pain in the first place. 

This verse is not an admonishment from God against emotion, against crying, or against feeling. But it is an admonishment against directing all of that energy into places where it does not serve the purpose of redemption and bringing me closer to God. 

My emotions were designed by God, how I respond to them has not always been as He intended, though. For many, many years, I just buried them and refused to feel anything, completely shut down from abuse. As God heals me, learning how to feel has seemed to me to be one of the hardest parts of the journey.

I hope I am learning not to seek redemption in lies as I wail upon my bed, while my heart is shut up to the love and relationship God wants to have with me. I have a sense that God loves it, though, when I cry out from my open heart. I just know I need Him to keep teaching me to discern the difference.

NOTE: Found this in my journal from last year. Not in this same place at the moment, but I want to remember this when I am again. One thing I know about walking with the Lord, He will continue to work in me to make me more like Him. I will cry again. I have no doubt.

The Orphaned Heart: Healing Our Distorted Images Of God


I shared recently on distorted images of God and orphan heart and then we all prayed for each other as we let some of those distortions go.

A good sign that you have a distorted image of God as Father (or Mother/Parent) is if you think or feel that God as Father would behave toward you in some way other than the way Jesus would. If you've seen the Son, you've seen the Father.

There's no good cop, bad cop routine here. Jesus is not somehow standing between you and God as a wall of defense or begging the Father to love you even though He doesn't want to. God's heart toward you is the heart that Jesus displayed toward us when He was on the earth, and now.

If Jesus forgives and heals, it's because He is the perfect representation of God and Holy Spirit. The things you see Jesus doing in the gospels are what God does. Their characters are one, because God is one. Sometimes our father woundings (or wounds from mothers, teachers, pastors or other authority figures) cause us to believe things about God that just aren't true.

But, Holy Spirit can reveal and God heals, just ask.


John 1: 1,2,14

John 5:19

John 12:49

John 14:9

Hebrews 1:3