The Glue of Spirit-filled Communities

Oftentimes the “prophet of God” is portrayed as an old, hairy man living alone in a cave on a mountaintop.  Or, maybe in a van down by the river.  You get the idea.

There is some merit to this portrayal.  However, what we see in the Old Testament’s company/sons of prophets is different and, I believe, closer to what we see in the New Testament.

Within Samuel’s company of prophets, and Elisha’s sons of prophets, we don’t see a collection of independent prophets but a community of interdependent prophets.  They ministered together (1 Samuel 10:10), ate together (2 Kings 4:38), worked together (2 Kings 6:2), and at times, even lived together (2 Kings 6:2).  They were in community.  There was the mutual submission to each other that makes community possible.  They weren’t “just me and God” lone rangers.

I love this.  Not only was their mutual submission to one another but there was also submission to leadership  (1 Samuel 19:20, Samuel was “standing as head over them.”)  This submission to leadership can also be seen in how the sons of the prophets dwelled “under the charge” of Elisha (2 Kings 6:1).

As seen here, I believe prophetic communities thrive when there is a culture of submission.  This is not to be confused with a culture of control where instead of submission being a gift we offer each other, it’s something people are forced into.  That’s yuck.

Once again, it shouldn’t surprise us to find this idea of mutual submission to each other and leadership in the New Testament.  There are many verses we could look at but the ones that interest me the most are the ones that relate to the cultivation of prophetic environments.

In Ephesians 5:18-21 Paul gives instructions to the prophetic community (i.e. the church) of Ephesus about the cultivation of prophetic environments.  I’m sure most of us are familiar with this passage.  It’s a favorite among us worship leaders.  Paul names a few of the ingredients that best cultivate and sustain a Spirit-filled environment.

He mentions singing to one another, singing to the Lord, overflowing with gratitude to the Father and lastly, submitting to one another.  Mutual submission is the glue that holds a community together.  In its absence, even prophetic, Spirit-filled communities do not stand a chance of surviving.

The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 14 consists of Paul giving the prophetic community of Corinth practical instructions on how to mutually submit to one another in the context of a prophetic environment.

He teaches them how to worship and prophesy in a way that is mindful not only of one’s own preferences and desires, but of the needs of others as well (vv. 16-17).

He encourages them to “weigh what is said” (v. 29) when a prophetic word is given.  The backside of this instruction is that the giver of the prophetic word needs to be “cool” with his word being weighed and possibly corrected.

And then comes his statement in v. 32, that “the spirit of prophets are subject to prophets.”  Whether he’s referring to individuals controlling themselves, submitting to the community or the leadership, a submissive heart is the idea here.

Friends, a culture of honor and submission is essential to the health of prophetic communities.  How can we better cultivate this in our own hearts and communities?  I’m so thankful, though at times I have to choose to be so, for the blessing and safety that comes when I am submitted to my leaders, others in my community and even those I have been entrusted to lead.

God has called us, the New Covenant Church, to be a company of prophets under His leadership that cultivate Holy Spirit-filled prophetic environments in the context of community defined by mutual love and submission.  Stay thirsty my friends!

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5000 Reasons You Have What It Takes

“O the joy of feeling utterly incompetent.”-No One

I think it would be safe to say that most of us have a hate-hate relationship with failure.  Nothing has caused me to drag my feet in the direction of obedience like the fear of failure.  I’ve spent enough time with the fear of failure to learn a thing or two, one of which is that there are few things in life as costly.

Thankfully, the God who created the human psyche also understands it far better than any behavioral specialist could, and knows just how to address and disarm this disabling fear.  Matthew 14 records a time when Jesus did this very thing with His disciples.

The feeding of the 5000 is a story that we are undoubtedly very, if not overly, familiar with.  Familiarity, however, doesn’t only breed contempt, it can breed shallow interpretation as well.

I’d like to submit a couple of observations and conclusions about this passage that will hopefully help us dig a little deeper into it and mine its precious truths.

The first observation is that it seems to me that this miracle wasn’t necessary.  More often than not, a desperate situation of some kind was the occasion of Jesus’ miraculous intervention: someone was on their deathbed or had an illness beyond the help of medical care etc..  However, on this occasion, no one was dying or in danger of dying.  Sure,  it was late and the crowd was hungry, but they were well within walking distance of a village where they could buy food (v. 15).

So why did Jesus perform this miracle if it wasn’t necessary for the 5000?  I believe Jesus performed this miracle because it was necessary for His disciples.

The second observation is that out of the approximately thirty-seven miracles of Jesus that are recorded in Scripture, this is the only one that appears in each of the 4 gospels.

This observation leads me to believe that of all Jesus’ miracles, this one left the biggest impact on His disciples.

Why was this experience so necessary for Jesus’ disciples and why did it leave such a huge impact on them?  Here’s a stab at answering these questions and figuring out what it means for us.

You see, Jesus came declaring that heaven was standing right outside earth’s door.  A new day was dawning where God was going to dwell on earth with mankind.  Not only did He declare it in word but in works of power as well.

Jesus was just about to pass the baton off to His eleven disciples, sending them out to do exactly what He had been doing: proclaiming the message of the kingdom, demonstrating its power and calling people to follow Him etc…  They weren’t to worry about food and clothing and oh yeah, everyone was going to hate them.

They were going to lead a massive movement and develop its future leaders etc…  Being common men, I think it would be safe to say their mission was a bit out of their natural reach.  It was crucial that they knew that what they had was indeed enough.  This, I believe, is what Jesus was teaching His disciples through this miracle.

If they weren’t convinced that what they had was enough, they wouldn’t have made it through the first day on the job.  There was too much at stake:  the world was at stake, God’s plan was at stake, we were at stake, their coming into who God created them to be was at stake.

This is what Jesus was teaching HIs disciples.  He was saying in essence, if You follow me, every day you get out of bed there are going to be 5000 plus hungry mouths to feed and you’re going to have only 5 loaves of bread.  What are you going to do?  Take those loaves, lift them up to the Father and thank Him for what You do have and then start feeding the masses.  Wait and see what happens next.

What does this have to do with us?  Everything.  The baton that the eleven carried has been passed on to us.  We all have different roles God has given us but our purpose is the same.  What roles has God given to you?  Or, where is He leading you?  Are you convinced that you have enough?    If you aren’t, then you are going to pass through life never really “showing up.”  But guess what, that’s not an option.  There’s too much at stake.

It’s not really about what you have.  It’s about what He can do with what you have.

(Image:  “Roko naktys” by Zoi Koraki is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Derivative of original)

Worship Jewels from a Moody Prophet

As mentioned in previous posts, I admit to a slight fascination with the seemingly obscure group referred to as the “company of prophets” or “sons of prophets” in the Old Testament.

We first meet this group in 1 Samuel 10 where the prophet Samuel dismisses the young and future king, Saul, telling him that on his journey home he’s going to meet “a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them” (1 Samuel 10:5).

Whenever I used to read this I would ask myself, why the music?  I mean, I love music as much as the next guy but what role, if any, did the music play in their prophesying?  Was the role of the musicians simply to make the passing of time on their journey more enjoyable, similar to a car stereo?  Or, was there something “magical” in the music that empowered their prophecies?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  I’m sure we could keep guessing and come up with some great theories.

However, I’d much rather look for an explanation in Scripture.  Not that Scripture always explains everything but when it does, it has more weight to me than a good theory.  So, does Scripture offer any insight regarding their use of music in their prophesying?  I believe it does and that it is incredibly relevant today.  But first, we need to fast forward a couple hundred of years.

A reading of the first thirteen chapters of 2 Kings will show that when Elijah the Prophet’s young padawan, Elisha, replaced him in his prophetic office he also took on the role of leader of the “sons of the prophets”.  Elisha was undoubtedly very familiar with the practices of the group.

In chapter 3, the kings of Judah and Israel seek Elisha’s prophetic insight regarding a matter of war they had found themselves in.  When Elisha sees the king of Israel approaching, he is instantly filled with disgust and tells him to go away (3:13).  (Cue “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift).  Despite Elisha’s lack of warm fuzzies towards Israel’s King, he has huge respect for the king of Judah so he agrees to seek God’s word on their behalf.  What happens next is very interesting.

Upon yielding to their request, Elisha requests that a musician is brought to him (3:15).  As soon as the musician begins playing, the hand of the Lord (i.e. Spirit of God) comes upon him and he gives the prophetic word.  What’s interesting to me about this scenario is that there are many other times when Elisha gave a prophetic word without seeming to need a musician (e.g. 4:16).

What was unique about this situation?  The unique thing about this situation was that the man of God was in a pretty foul mood.  Have you ever been asked to pray for someone or offer encouragement when you were in a bad mood?  It’s a bit more difficult wouldn’t you say?  Familiar with the practices of the sons of the prophets, Elisha understood the ability music had to bring one’s mood back into “alignment” with God and thus, into a posture of receiving.

Similar to Elisha and the sons of the prophets, we don’t require music to worship or prophesy but we do need to acknowledge it has powerful properties that can help us do these things more easily.  We shouldn’t be surprised to see that music is mentioned in the New Testament as an essential part of our worship and cultivation of prophetic environments  (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:15, 26; Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:14; Revelation 5:8; etc…).

Music is God’s gift to us.  He designed it to affect human hearts the way it does.  Worship leaders, we are architects of environments and music is one of the most powerful tools we have in our belt.  Let us thank Him for it and use it to His glory and to the edification of His people.