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March 2, 2012 / nickpark

Prophecy & Bowel Movements

Before you get mad about the title of today’s blog entry, please take the time to real down to the bottom of the page.

In recent weeks we’ve been studying the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit at the Solid Rock Church in Drogheda.  We’ve looked at many of the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, and we see that not everybody operates in each ministry gift.  Yet there is a sense in which every Spirit-filled believer can move in a manifestation of that gift.  So, for example, not every Christian is a Prophet.  Yet there is a sense in which every one of us can be prophetic.  So what would it mean for a church to truly be a Prophetic People?

Last Sunday we began by looking at the Old Testament:

So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent.  Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and He took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied – but did not do so again. However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp.  They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent.  Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.   

A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 
Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”  Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. (Numbers 11:24-30)
Joshua’s reaction is like that of many leaders in the Church today.  He wanted to limit the exercise of spiritual gifts and power to a limited few, and under circumstances where it could be easily controlled.  We often like things to be neat and orderly, never surprising or discomfiting us. Moses, however, yearned for something that would be undoubtedly messier, but ultimately more empowering.  He wanted all God’s people to prophesy.
So, once again, what would a church look like if it was filled with genuinely prophetic people?  We have to remember that prophecy is not so much foretelling the future as it is forth-telling the mind and heart of God.  So what would a church look like if it adequately reflected what God thinks and says about the world around us and our place in it?
Perhaps it would be better if we started by saying what prophecy is not.  Unfortunately the word ‘prophetic’ has sometimes been hijacked by a small group of crazies.  So let’s begin by popping a few balloons and getting rid of some wrong ideas about prophecy.
1.  Prophecy is not a way of adding legitimacy to your own thoughts, agendas and desires.  The Old Testament speaks scathingly of those who prophesied their own thoughts (Ezekiel 13:1-4;  Jeremiah 23:16).  Sometimes we all want something so much, or are so keen for others to agree with us, that we tack ‘God says’ on to our thoughts.  This, or so we think, adds authority to our words and makes it less likely that others will question us.  After alll, people don’t want to argue with God, do they?  Sometimes the results of this are just plain funny, as when a young man who fancied a girl walked up to her and said, “Thus saith the Lord – you will marry me!”  At other times the results have been tragic as God people have been abused and hurt, then left confused because that ‘Word from God’ turned out to be untrue.
2.  Prophecy is not riding a hobby horse.  Some people think that being ‘prophetic’ means that you always harp on about the one subject – which is usually something to do with Israel or else details of the Second Coming of Christ.  Don’t get me wrong, it is good to pray for the peace of Israel, but therte are some Christians who never talk about anything else.  They try to make themselves sound more spiritual by calling Jesus ‘Yeshua’ and throwing the occasional Hebrew word into conversations.  I get a bit worried about these people.  The New Testament tellls us that the presence of God in our lives should be so evident as to provoke the Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:11).  So why do seem Christians seem to be the ones that are jealous of the Jews, always wishing that the Church would be as spiritual as Judaism?  Something is back to front with that attitude!  The same applies to the Second Coming.  The Return of Christ is key doctrine of the Christian Church, but some believers are so keen to be ‘prophetic’ that they spend their entire lives obsessing over the details of the Great Tribulation or the identity of the AntiChrist.  Ultimately, the people who obsess over such things are the least useful members of a church.  They never seem to be there when there is actual work to be done such as serving one another in love.
3.  Prophecy is not comfortable.  A lot of modern day prophecy is designed to leave us feeling warm and fuzzy inside.  I’ve heard so many ‘prophecies’ that basically just said, “God loves you so much.  He’s so pleased with you as His child.  He wants you to be happy.  If He could, He’d pick you up and give you a big cuddle.”  Now, of course God loves us, but, when I turn to Scripture, I never see biblical prophecy being used as a comfort blanket for God’s people.  Propecy is uncomfortable!  It challenges the status quo, shakes us up when we are complacent, and stretches us to think and do new things!
4.  Prophecy is not destructive.  Sometimes we swing from one extreme to another.  We stop being comfortable and start prophesying doom and gloom over each other, the world, and the Church.  Yet one characteristic of biblical prophecy is that it is redemptive.  God never points out our failings just so as to leave us a quivering mess of shame and regret.  He always points past judgment to repentance, mercy and restoration.  If a so-called ‘prophecy’ just condemns you, without pointing the way to a better future, then it isn’t of God.
So, if that’s what prophecy is not – then how do we recognise the real thing?  What is real prophecy?  What would that church full of prophetic people look like?
First off, prophecy is about knowing the mind of God.  So we need to spend time with Him, hearing His voice so that we will never mistake it for another.
“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:2-5)
I don’t know how true this is, but I’ve heard that some banks train their staff to spot counterfeit banknotes by making sure they handle as many real banknotes as possible.  The more the staff handle the real thing, the quicker they will be to notice something is wrong as soon as a fake banknote passes through their hands.  Something about it just feels wrong!
Have you ever puzzled over how to distinguish between the voice of God and other voices?  Have you ever felt a prompting to do something and then wondered if that was just you or was it the Holy Spirit?  Of course one way to test any ‘voice’ is to check whether it matches up with Scripture.  But another way is to spend so much time in God’s presence that His voice becomes familiar to you – that way you won’t be fooled by a different voice.  Reading the Bible helps us to recognise God’s voice.  So does prayer.  Not just the kind of prayer where we ask for one thing after another as with a shopping list – but the kind of prayer where we spend time in His presence, worshipping and listening.
Another key to being prophetic is to feel the heart of God.  We need to rejoice at what gladdens His heart, and be angry or grieved at the things that offend Him.  And this is where the bowel movements of our title come into the conversation.
There are times when I am glad that our modern Bible translations use idioms and equivalent phrases (what theologians call ‘dynamic equivalence’) rather than translating word-for-word from the Greek and Hebrew.
The NIV renders Isaiah 16:11 as “My heart laments for Moab like a harp,  my inmost being for Kir Hareseth.”  But the Hebrew word is may-aw which literally means ‘bowels’ rather than ‘heart’.  The KJV translate it more literally (and farcically) as “my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab” which is a very unfortunate turn of phrase indeed.
Also in the New Testament, it is said on a number of occasions that Jesus was “moved with compassion”.  The Greek word here is splagchnos – which means ‘bowels’ or ‘intestines’.  I appreciate that this language makes some people rather uncomfortable – indeed there was one heretical group in the Early Church (the Docetists) who were so uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus having bowels that they taught that He didn’t produce excrement like normal people, but rather had a magical process by which His bodily waste dissolved through His skin as an odourless vapour!  But let’s face up to what the Bible says – Jesus was moved with compassion to such a depth and extent that it produced a sensation akin to that which precedes a bowel movement!
Have you ever felt something which such an emotional intensity that it produces a cramping contraction deep inside you?  I remember vividly the day that my youngest daughter died.  As my wife told me what had happened I doubled over in physical pain asmy insides seemed to lurch uncontrollably.  That’s the kind of gut-wrenching intensity that characterises the compassion of God.
As we spend time in God’s presence, we learn to love others with that intensity.  We identify with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and with the weak and defenceless in society, to such an extent that it physically pains us to hear of their suffering.  Our bowels truly are moved with compassion.  And that’s when we begin to step into the prophetic.  If we haven’t learned to love each other in that way then we forfeit the right to stand up and pontificate about what we think the Lord is, or is not, saying.  It is in loving people as God loves them that we start to become a prophetic people.
And that is why, despite what you might have thought when you first read the title of this blog entry, that Prophecy and Bowel Movements are inextricably linked.
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3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Corey Blankenship / Mar 2 2012 10:33 am

    Reblogged this on Missionwriter and commented:
    Nick takes us on a journey to discover the missed connection between prophecy and bowel movements. It is a trip long overdue to clear up blocked minds. Don’t be offended. Just read. 🙂

  2. Michael McMullin / Mar 2 2012 12:34 pm

    Really enjoyed this.

    Glad you were “moved” to write it.

  3. Jonathan Stone / Mar 2 2012 1:15 pm

    This is a great post. Practical and powerful. Thanks, Nick.

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