Friday, February 10, 2017

My time...but for what?

There’s a Right Time for Everything

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
-- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (MSG)

I'm going to bare some nasty inner truth, but take the entire ride with me, don't just get off when it gets too rough.

Sometimes I absolutely hate going to church!  There I said it, it's out, now I can breathe...

Now I feel the need to explain...

I was brought up Episcopalian--Catholic-lite, if you will--and thought I was doomed to the watered down, constantly repetitive, hypocritical, snooty version of Jesus I was being taught.  I knew there was more to it however, than what I was being forced to endure, because every year, a "holiness" church would pitch a tent in a vacant lot not far from my childhood home. They would show another side, a more expressive, spontaneous, vulnerable side to Christianity than to what I had become accustomed.  I liked that, but because it went against my upbringing, I had to sneak out of the house to attend those.  It was worth it though, because my heart was opened to what being a Christian was more about, and it was there where I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Fast forward 20 years, and I had finally wrenched myself away from the doldrums of rote worship and found a place that was more like those tent meetings from my youth.  Initially, I was happy--freedom to express my innermost feelings, approachable Bible teachers I could ask questions of, ability to use some more of my gifts, etc.

Then...I found out that these people were just like the other people, just as hypocritical, ready to criticize, not as willing to help, etc.  What I didn't know, and I have finally come to learn, was that all people have these faults, no matter where I go; the difference is how many churches are brave enough to admit to having these vulnerabilities on their roster?  It took me many years, and many tears, before I was able to separate the people's actions from Who God Is.

I experienced the highs and the lows, I experienced the love and the hate, I experienced the victories and the defeats, I experienced the abundance and the lack.  I went through so much, but I learned from each experience.  I was able to learn to discern between who was really being sent by God, and who was acting out of their fleshly desires.  I learned that not everybody set in the pulpit by the pastor was meant to be there (yes, pastors are fallible too!).  I learned that I can sometimes learn more from the humble mother next to me in the pew, than the most exalted officer of the church staff, if I paid attention to the real lesson God was trying to teach me.  I learned that just because you're loud doesn't mean you're right, or even know what you're talking about (that one applies in life as well, not just in church!).  I learned that just because the sanctuary is quiet, doesn't necessarily mean that it's a welcoming environment to the Holy Spirit. So many lessons learned through the years, and so many still to be learned, and some to be re-learned, but my dread of church has definitely lessened.  Here's why:

As children, we're taught to not question authority, to respect our elders, to submit to those placed over us.  I took that to heart and it carried well into my adult years.  I endured abusive leaders, unsympathetic elders, false prophets, etc. because I thought that's what I was "supposed" to do, in my obedience to their positions.  Then I witnessed something one night that shocked me so much, it changed my entire outlook on how leadership should be.

At a service one night, under the ministry of a "prophet."  They were ministering to a line of people in front of them, and finally came to a person I greatly respected.  When the "prophet" began to speak, I heard the person, stop them almost immediately and said, "No, that's not me."  First of all, I didn't even know that anyone was allowed to do that!  I was so shocked!  Then the "prophet" went on to divulge some other items, when the person stopped them again, and said, "No, that's definitely not me, and I don't receive any of it."  They then turned and walked back to their seat.  They weren't loud or obnoxious, in fact they were very calm and respectful, but they were very firm and clear that what was being said to and about them was incorrect.

The reaction of the "prophet" was less than complimentary.  It was obvious that they were not used to being questioned, much less rebuffed, because their arrogance immediately came to the fore, and they began berating the individual pointedly.  I understood that their feelings were hurt and their ego took a major bruising, but if you're truly a prophet sent by God, then my understanding of your response should have been one of two things: either clarify the "misinformation," or  apologize to the individual for speaking out of turn, and to immediately go into prayer for clarification, stopping any further erroneous activity.  This is just my interpretation of things, so I acknowledge that there still is so much to learn, but I believe in at least those two steps.

Before this incident, I hated going to church during those seasons of false prophecy because I endured so much more "junk" being heaped on me than what I was already enduring.  I became depressed because of the lies and false accusations that were being hurled at me, often in front of entire congregations.  I also endured false predictions of things to come that never materialized, dimming my fervor for service.  But after that night...I learned to say no!  I often didn't even have to say anything, my demeanor spoke volumes, and only the truly confident or real prophets dared approach me or call me out.  I've still maintained my respect for the office and the calling, but unlike my previous sheep-like behavior, I no longer accept everything that comes out of their mouths without examination.

One other experience also helped turn my heart back to God and the church.  This was after my above experience.  Our church has just come out of a season of revival, complete with several guest preachers.  One of the guests went so far "off the reservation" that I really expected people to start walking out.  When they didn't, I chalked it up to shock and the resulting paralysis. At the conclusion of the revival, our pastor got up to speak, and apologized to us all for the offense and hurt we had endured at the hand of the guest preacher.  That was also something I had never experienced before, a pastor apologizing.  And I came to understand that because the people had the pastor's heart they didn't walk out, but waited to see how the pastor would address it, and their love and devotion paid off.  He apologized to the seasoned members, but especially to the newly converted, explaining the errors and why they were so dangerous.  I learned to love and honor my pastor, and in addition to already respecting the office, I learned to respect the person holding the office.

There have been so many experiences through the following years, from all parts of the spectrum, but I've learned to examine them through the keen lens of the Word of God.  And when I wasn't able to immediately find a corresponding passage of Holy Scripture against which to examine the question, I would simply ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand what was in front of me, whether person, place or thing.

Which (finally) brings me to my topic, "My time...but for what?"  Because I really do like going to prophetic conferences and sitting under prophets, I've come across a lot of things in my life.  One common thread I've found though, is the expression, "It's your time."  This expression is almost universally used as a method of encouragement, sometimes with follow-up and explanation, and sometimes as a standalone.   It's the standalones that still give me pause.  It's my time...but for what?

My experience with prophecy is this: if God gave you a message for me, then He is going to tailor it to me.  It is not going to be like anyone else's message, because I am not like anyone else.  God knows I have an analytical mind (He made me that way, after all), and if I get a vague or incomplete message, I'm going to gnaw on it and question it until I get some answers, either from the person delivering the message, or from God Himself.  So that is often my measuring stick for a true vs. a false prophet.  If you can't give me guidance on what you just said, then I am going to reject everything you said because either, 1. You didn't get that from God, or 2. You didn't sit with Him long enough to get the complete message, thus making me question anything else you may have said.  So if you come to me with a simple, "It's your time," be prepared to be grilled!

I don't mean to sound disrespectful or presumptuous or even obnoxious, I just know that if God sends a message to anyone, He wants them to be obedient to it.  Now, how can one be obedient if one doesn't understand the message?  Whether it's a message of caution, repentance, deliverance, healing, cause for celebration, or whatever, the recipient shouldn't go away questioning the message. 

I put prophets on notice because I hold them to a very high standard, they are, after all, the mouthpieces of God here on Earth.  That is not an office to be taken lightly, by the prophet, the people surrounding the prophet, or the people receiving the message from the prophet.  I know there are some whose demeanors are off-putting, but again, if they are really sent by God, with a message from God, God will prepare the recipient to receive the message, regardless of the vessel delivering it.

I have sat in the presence of some very anointed people who, I believe, were operating under the anointing of prophecy, and so I have learned a few things along the way.  One, prayer is key.  There is no way the person can operate under such a deep and heavy anointing without having an extremely rich and active prayer life.  Two, humility is essential.  The prophet, although anointed of God, is still human, and must acknowledge their own faults and shortcomings as such.  If they know that they are not operating in the prophetic anointing or that there is something going on in their lives that may be "blocking" the anointing, don't try to "work something up," be humble enough to say that the anointing has lifted and that going forward would be in opposition to the move of God.  Also, because of that humility, recognize that the message may not always be received immediately or readily; be humble enough not to get offended or offer any more or less than what was instructed by God.  And three, be prepared for the unexpected.  I believe that though the prophet may have really sat with God and was sufficiently prepared, if God decides to "surprise" the prophet, then it is for their own edification, and they should be open to receive the lesson for them, because there is, after all, a time for everything, a time to plant and a time to reap.

There was my time to shut up, but now is my time to speak up.  I have had too many lessons deposited into my life, and now it is time for me to share them.  It is my time...but for what?  To be a conduit of God's wonders and lessons for life in whatever form He chooses.  As of now, I only write when I'm moved to, but the time will come when this will be shared to the very ones to whom He wants them directed.  Until then, my time is to sow...until it's time to reap.