Love from (& coworking with) the Almighty, All-knowing God
In a previous post, I mentioned my view that the best way to look at healing is as a subset of love: love from a God that has the power to heal towards a world that needs it in all kinds of ways. I now want to say a very similar thing about the phenomena that I would put in the equally large category of prophetic insights (everyone go ahead and cringe at the word)–such things, whatever we call them, are best thought of as a subset of love from an all-powerful, all-knowing God of love on a mission of love.
To get the definitional issue out of the way, I put any kind of inside information however partial, or direct leading from God, even to take a non-verbal action, in the “prophetic” category. Paul seems to associate, in general terms, the gift of prophecy with insight and beyond natural knowledge. For example, Jesus got inside info on the woman at the well (about her past and present, not her future), to which she replies “I perceive you are a prophet.” At the risk of putting one of my own experiences next to one of Jesus’, I similarly once got a strong conviction to go ask a guy that I didn’t know a specific question that resulted in his immediate conversion from being a secular jew to a Christian. Even cessationists will report “feeling strongly led” to visit a friend at a specific time, which turns out to be truly critical. How did they know to go right then? The Bible didn’t tell them. The Spirit did. I’ll give many more stories in that vein later, but suffice it to say for now that the question I asked revealed a secret this guy had, and he concluded upon hearing it, much to his surprise, as Paul said people would, that God himself was really among us Christians in a powerful way. Prophets get information, however partial or incomplete, that is from God, and helpful towards his purposes in the world. As with healing, this is not a complicated concept, especially in light of God’s goals and abilities.
My concern here, though, is not that such leadings and insights be called “prophetic.” Frankly, I don’t care if we call these things divine insights or “feeling led” or just part of being intimate friends (even sharing the same Spirit!) and co-laborers with an all-powerful, all knowing God. Labels can be helpful. But in this area, in my opinion, the term “prophetic” has picked up so much lint from abuses and fears, it’s hard to see it anymore. Let’s go behind the labels. Let’s talk big-picture. Let’s intelligently discuss what it would intuitively and logically mean, to use a phrase above, to be “intimate friends (even sharing the same Spirit!) and co-laborers with an all-powerful, all knowing God” who is on a redemptive mission towards all people. Even before looking at the examples in the New Testament, which only strengthen the case, we can begin to imagine. If these three attributes–Love, Power and Omniscience–were all someone was told of God, what would they expect of the people, whoever they may be, who were the co-workers with and agents of this God? As a parent of young children (who have a knack for applying these kinds of big picture concepts together with startling clarity), I can tell you that they’d expect, at least something like divine insights and leadings, which is what we see throughout the New Testament as God works through and with his people.
When I talk about “Doin’ the Stuff” as a missional lifestyle, included in that is an openness or, better, an “eager desire” to get leadings and specific insights, even partial ones, that are shaped by God’s knowledge of what people need in a given moment, which, again, is helpful in loving them. What did it mean to the woman at the well for Jesus, as God’s representative, to tell her, in her words, “everything [she had] ever done”? What did it mean to her? It meant hope; it meant God noticed her, knew her, had her in his mind. And it meant God was pursuing her. The experience of being known in this way turned her into an instant missionary, leading her whole town coming out to see this Jesus for themselves.
If we can forget, for just a moment, the fears and unanswered questions we have about trying to discern God’s voice in this way ourselves, and just look both at the big picture of God’s attributes and mission, and the micro-view of this woman’s reaction, can we see the prophetic as a subset of love? Can we see how God’s immense knowledge, especially of us, can be so helpful in communicating love?
I’ll share more stories and some practical tips for practicing these things soon. If you want some tips in the meantime, you can think about doing some of these things as a way of life as you go about your day.