Thursday, November 17, 2005

One personal experience with the prophetic

All of this theological positioning on the charismata in today's world has been sometimes edifying and mostly just interesting to see how the GodBlogosphere is spread out on the issue.

There seems to be an enormous tension specifically on prophetic gifting and whether or not the same prophetic application of the Bible is available to us today.

I think I've gone to great lengths to note I believe the canon of Scripture is closed, at least in the best ways we have to determine it. I personally believe God has imbued many people with a powerful prophetic gifting to guide His church beyond the Bible, among them being the Reformers we hold so dear. They were not 100 percent accurate, though.

I consider Luther's commentary on Galations of enormous importance to the Church and, without a doubt, inspired, but it's not Scripture. I could never walk lock/stock in line with every single inch of Luther's dogma. He was not an apostle. He was not the Protestant Pope.

While I could probably sit here and type out a reasonable defense of the gift of prophecy for today, I'm not going to out-do Grudem. I'm not even going to out-do Adrian or Rob, who have put together strong arguments in favor. Dan has really driven home my own point of view, with examples of which I was unaware. I should also note I agree completely with Phillip Johnson's criticism of fringe charismatic prophets and a loose theology that gives too much credibility to anyone who claims an annointing.

The challenge has been brought by Phillip Johnson and other cessationists to bring forth one 100-percent accurate prophet living among us today. They would even be satisfied with any meeting those credentials beyond the historical close of the canon of Scripture.

It sounds like baiting to me, because most charismatics view prophetic gifting entirely different from the authoritative voice of God that produced the works of our Bible. Those asking know this, but instead of engaging us on the argument of prophetic guidelines, they tell us what they are and demand we meet them. The gift of prophecy, we believe, is to be tested because it is fallible and because many of us draw a distinction between the gift and the office of prophecy. However, we do believe one element of the prophetic gift is foretelling of the future, although I believe too much emphasis is placed on this element in charismatic churches -- by naivete' of the Word, not by misleading intention.

For further Biblical argumentation, see all of Grudem's writings on the topic, since he seems to be the groundstone for the modern charismatic apology.

What I can relate is how I have experienced what I believe to be God's clear prophetic leading in my life.

A little over two years ago my wife and I were going through a turmoil one rarely plans for at such an early stage of life. I had just turned 34 and hadn't even been married a year when my wife lost her job because of an emerging disability.

Her doctor had discovered the disc between her L4/L5 was torn and probably irreperably damaged.

I had been at my job of the time for eight years. It was officially a career, and I made a good living. However, without my wife's income, home ownership would have been a challenge.

When my wife lost her job, her first instinct was to look back to her home in Sacramento. I was not opposed to moving as much as I felt God had us in Phoenix for a reason, the proof being I was still very comfortable and did not want that to change. Yes, money was going to become a short-term problem, but I was confident I made plenty to get us through until we found a medical solution for her back.

My wife insisted, however, as she was homesick and certain God was leading us back to her family. Logically, I resisted. I had a career and I had suddenly become the primary breadwinner. She had a job offer in Sacramento that would not sustain us, and picking a move location before finding a job is always a bad idea for journalists -- there's usually only one daily paper, one paper that pays a reasonable wage, in any given city or town.

I do not do anything like this without counsel, and I began to consult my family, my friends, my pastor. What was evident is no one was willing to strike a strong position other than my father, who was concerned for my financial wellbeing. I could not find strong opposition, though I was earnestly looking for it. It did not "feel" like a smart move. My logical faculties worked overtime in finding the most persuasive argument to keep my wife content where we were.

Ultimately I felt impressed by the Lord that I needed to take care of my first mission field, my home, and take care of my wife. She had grown despondent and lonely in Phoenix. Her life was now at odds. I believed God told me that if I moved my wife back to Sacramento and her family, He would bless us for it.

Now, I don't have that direct line to God to reach Him on impulse. Impressions such as the one above are rare for me or anyone I know who believes in God speaking to us today. I certainly don't feel it's necessary to have an impression or a revelation to make a big decision in life, but I always seek God's input to make sure I'm not ignoring Him in my time of need. My comfortable fallback position is God is always in control, and so as long as I am seeking His righteousness, I'm always exactly where He wants me to be.

I certainly don't need a "word" from the Lord to brush my teeth in the morning. I know it's good for me, so I do it. In the same line of thinking, I don't need any new revelation from the Lord to tell me where my hope should rest, Who is my savior and Lord, and what He expects from me as a believer. I can read these in His Word, and I believe I can walk this out with guidance of His Word and help from the Spirit in a natural, rational way.

Still, when seeking specific direction, I always go back to God in prayer to announce that I leave my life in His hands and will.

So we moved to Sacramento on hope and with need. Because of the impression I had received, I was certain God was going to really "bless" us with my heart's desires: a home, a family, stability.

Anyone who's ever dealt with their fleshly expectations of God knows that is always the wrong perspective to take. Instead of looking for what God was doing, I was looking for what I expected God to do for me.

What resulted was two of the most difficult, challenging years of my life. We spent most of our time relying on the goodness of our friends and family to make ends meet. There were times I did not know how rent would be paid. I often lost sleep as tow trucks drove through our slumly apartment complex, fully expecting our car to get repossessed. Many of those fulfilling relationships my wife so intently expected to rejoin had changed for the worse, and we were crushed to watch some of those so close to us abandon their faith. My wife had major back surgery that only seemed to create a new problem, and she may eventually wind up on permanent disability. Our marriage was challenged, my faith was challenged, and if I were to look back on those two years with any kind of American instinct, I definitely did not hear God's voice. What I expected and what happened were two very different things.

Instead, I have to listen what my wife says about the experience:
It was the most spiritually rewarding two years of her life.
My problem is I was looking for the wrong kind of blessing.

My wife has changed. Her perspective has decidedly moved towards a Kingdom outlook. She has developed an instict for patience, kindness, and understanding when difficulty arises. I have always loved her big heart, but she has become even more encouraging and supportive of me -- a challenge for anyone who knows me. Instead of looking at life where she is owed something, she tends to reflect on what God has given her. Still a social extrovert, she is more intensely introspective, eschewing offense in favor of grace for those who seek to hurt her.

There were moments I was certain I had made a mistake and stepped outside the will of God by moving -- in spite of my earlier statement of confidence that it's impossible to do so for those who are seeking His righteousness. I called out to God to return me to my previous state of grace and blessing, where I was most comfortable, and instead I was often met with financial hurdles only cleared by last minute miracles. Sure, we'd need $500 and somehow we'd receive $1,000. Yes, I'd have no money for gas to get to work, and -- I do not know how -- we'd receive a check in the mail the night before for some error in our favor. Sometimes by willful help and sometimes with unwitting help from others, we maintained an otherwise impossible health care bill. It does not change the fact that few people are so spiritually insightful and discerning to recognize that God is with them even in their time of greatest need.

In reflection, I have no doubt God led us to Sacramento, and the fact I was not comfortable does not change that. I am learning that being so outside of my comfort zone was one of the best things that ever happened to me, but I don't want to belabor an obvious point: God is most effective transforming us when we are weak. It's not what He prefers, it's what He expects. I was weakened in self-assurance and self-reliance so He could be increased in my life.

My grandmother was impressed the other day to deliver me a Scripture passage. She doesn't even know 1/10th of the whole story, she just knows Sacramento was something of a challenge. The passage was Psalms 37:25:
I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
I read it last night as my wife was in bed with a pain spike on our anniversary, and I was lamenting my lack of money to fix my car.

The truth is I have never been so poor that I went a day without food, shelter, or even so much as a soft bed with pillow. It is breaks my heart to see my wife in pain, but she bounces back each time with more enthusiasm and an appreciation of life. Her turmoil has forced me to become a better servant. God has blessed me, and I believe, by putting in me a boldness to listen and follow his voice in a direction that raised flags by my natural logic, I have been changed for the better. Transformation in me has been furthered, something I value infinitely more than homeownership or financial stability.

I realize this is not the best experiential argument for the gift of prophecy for today. I suppose I never intended to convince anyone, but just wanted to affirm my faith that God is actively involved in my daily life and is leading me, usually in spite of my natural instincts. The only definition I can assign to that is divine inspiration, the kind that does not belong in a corporate writ of God, and can only be fully appreciated by the people it directly impacts.

No comments: