Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Prophetic Communication is Alive and Active Today

One reason people don't think prophetic communication from the Lord is alive and active today is because those who are receiving the supernatural communication are quiet about it. It only takes about one or two times of sharing a dream you’ve had from the Lord, a foretelling of a future event the Lord has dropped into your Spirit, or how the Lord communicates to you through a pain in your body to learn that this isn't something you can just share with anyone.

Take Joseph for example who learned this the hard way.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. Genesis 37:5-8

Of course the nature of the dream, and the events leading up to it of their father’s favoritism towards Joseph had already set the stage for jealousy in the brothers' hearts. The telling of this dream and the one after it became the ‘last straw’ that led into the brothers plotting to kill Joseph.

It is wise to discern that some things are to be “kept close” and shared only with “safe places”. When the angel foretold the birth of Jesus to Mary, she hurried off to share the news with Elizabeth who the angel had said was experiencing a miracle all her own. Imagine being Elizabeth for a moment. You are also pregnant, and your relative and friend, Mary, comes to share that she is not only pregnant as well, but due with God’s very own son. What a set-up for comparison. One’s first thought might be, “Why her and not me?” However, Elizabeth, likely caught up in the excitement of her own barren womb being opened (a supernatural miracle in itself), does not react in jealousy, but rather confirms the prophecy, and encourages and rejoices with Mary. You will learn, sometimes by failing, who your Elizabeth’s are and who they are not.

Hearing from the Lord by way of supernatural communication is not a sign of immaturity. It is a sign of intimacy. And this is where the root of jealousy lies. It is the responsibility of the one hearing the account of another’s prophetic communication to check if their unwillingness to receive what is being shared is due to jealousy of the intimate encounter.

On the other hand, it can also be understood why so many get turned off by the way prophetic communication is shared, such as when it is given out in a pious, self-righteous tone. The downfall of hearing from the Lord in supernatural ways is pride. The Lord Himself will protect you from pride in this, if you allow Him. We can observe how He did this with Paul:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh… 2 Corinthians 12:7

So often when we read these verses we focus on the thorn and what Paul learned from it, but we miss why he needed the thorn in the first place. He states that it was given to him so that he didn’t grow prideful from the awesome revelations that he had been receiving from the Lord. The King James version puts it this way: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations…” 

As with anything, self-exaltation is something to be guarded against, and the Lord has His ways of keeping us humble.

At the same time, there is something to be learned on the part of the one sharing their revelations and/or prophetic communications from the Lord of how to do so with humility. This often comes by trial and error. The Joseph approach of bluntness might be tried a time or two before realizing that doesn’t work out so well. One thing that helps is to understand the reason behind why the Lord is gifting you with the prophetic communication in the first place.

But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 1 Corinthians 14:3

(By the way, the Greek definition of the word prophecy used here is “to foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration, exercise the prophetic office, prophesy”)

John Piper defines prophecy this way: “A Spirit-guided expression of something we otherwise would not know or say, which is powerful for the particular moment in which it is spoken to bring conviction, exhortation, consolation, awakening, or up-building of faith.”

A great example of this from scripture is when Paul addresses the crew of the ship he is aboard after a fierce storm has left them battered and helpless at sea…

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” Acts 27: 20-26

In this circumstance, it was appropriate and helpful for Paul to share about the supernatural encounter and message he had received from the Lord in order to encourage and speak life and hope back into those he was with.

There will also be times when the message to be shared is going to be hard to hear or more like a warning to the recipient. In this case it should be noted that there is a difference between offering the message in such a way that it brings conviction, not condemnation. There is a difference between awakening someone’s Spirit, and landing a jack-hammer on someone’s skull. The difference is love.

In the short video I have embedded at the bottom of this post, Piper proposes a great perspective to anyone who is feeling led to share something prophetic with another:

“Offer it to them as a gift. Don’t thrust it at them as a demand.”

Essentially, when you offer what you’ve heard from the Lord you are saying, “See if this helps….” or, “See if this matches up to anything the Lord has shown you…”

Prophecy is not authoritative. Only scripture is. Prophetic communication will be confirmed and oftentimes interpreted by scripture. It is the responsibility of both the giver and the hearer to “test” prophetic communication they receive as 1 John 4:1 instructs ~

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

Peter tests the voice he hears to see if it is the Lord's in Matthew 14:25-29 ~

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 

Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 

“Come,” he said. 

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 

The reason we need to test the spirits is because there are at least four different voices that come to us inside of our heads:

1) The Lord/Holy Spirit
2) The enemy/Satan
3) Your own voice
4) Voice of the world/others

If the testing process is bypassed, you could potentially offer or receive a message that is from a voice not of the Lord. This then could turn out to be misleading, hurtful, or it could negatively affect a person’s relationship with the Lord - and no one wants that. The enemy is a deceiver who masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). It’s his job to trick us. His voice isn’t as obvious as we sometimes like to think. In the Piper video embedded at the end of this post, he gives an example from his own life of a false prophecy given to him that could have been very damaging had he not tested it. I personally believe that the woman who gave him the prophecy had been informed by the enemy (who is always speaking death over us), but she didn’t realize it.

All this to say, there is a fine-tuning that must happen in order to discern the Lord’s voice above all the others. Having a prophetic voice, starts with having a prophetic ear. Isaiah conveys this process…

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. Isaiah 50:4-5

I used to wonder why Isaiah mentioned the part about not drawing back. But once you realize the weight of responsibility that is entrusted to you as you receive supernatural communication from the Lord, there is a feeling of wondering if you really want it. This gifting can get heavy and weighty. But it is also so valuable, and can be used for such good for the body of Christ, if you take the responsibility seriously.

Prophetic communication is meant to be a gift from the Lord, which means, as with all things He gives, it can be abused. It can be used as a source of manipulation, self-exaltation, or even promoting one’s own agenda with a cover that it is from the Lord. Prophetic messages can also be interpreted wrongly (by both the giver and hearer) if careful attention is not given to that process.  At some point, we all either have or will experience any of these aspects, but they aren't grounds to completely reject this gift from the Lord altogether, assign it a bad reputation, or stick our heads in the sand and act like it isn’t there. The misuse of this gift is actually the very reason why it would be helpful for our churches to take an active approach and offer equipping and training in knowing how to handle prophetic communication. 1 Corinthians 14:1 says ~

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 

The Lord sees the value in this gift to His church. So should we.

And rest assured, there are believers operating in this gift in responsible ways, it’s just that they are doing it quietly, respectfully and reverently. We just don’t often hear those stories.

[Video: John Piper on "What is the gift of prophecy in the new covenant?"]

Additionally, I’ve found this book very helpful on this topic: ‘Surprised by the Voice of God’ by Jack Deere. Link to buy:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

NCAA Final Four Raffle/Fundraiser to Benefit Acts 2 Collective

Want to go to the NCAA Men’s Final Four? We thought so! Acts 2 Collective and Siouxland Community Christian School are co-hosting a raffle fundraiser in which you can enter for a chance to win a March Madness ticket package!! Package is for April 1st through the 5th in Houston, TX and includes 2 game tickets to the semi-finals, 2 game tickets to the finals, 2 tickets to the Legends of the Hardwood breakfast on Saturday morning (where the John Wooden Keys to Life Award is presented), 2 tickets to Hoop City which is the fan zone, AND a $500 travel voucher!! It is only $20 to enter the raffle!!! ONLY $20!!! And the best part, all proceeds will be split between Acts 2 Collective and Siouxland Christian to go towards our projects - namely the Sports Mission Complex project we have started in Chad, Africa - as well as toward Siouxland’s scholarship program that assists underprivileged youth with school tuition. Raffle tickets can be purchased starting today through March 16th, 2016. Raffle drawing will be held on March 17th, 2016 at 10:30am. Here is the link to purchase your raffle ticket...may the bounce be with you! 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Local news story on our project in Chad, Africa

Jake is leading the vision of developing a sports mission complex in Chad, Africa complete with basketball courts, a soccer field and track, a handball court, dormitories, classrooms, cafeteria, etc. The land has been purchased and secured, and from here it will take $470,000 to build this sports complex. This project is so close to Jake's heart because it has been through the platform of basketball that God has opened the door in this area of the world for the gospel to penetrate into unwelcome territory. The beautiful thing with sports is that it breaks down walls that often stand between groups of people, which is a main purpose of this project. This weekend our local news did a story on the project, and they did a really great job of conveying the mission...
Read the article here:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Upside down

I won't ever get sick of telling it. Of how God interrupted our lives that day in September seven years ago. "I want you to adopt." Of how I feared we'd be losing - losing our picture perfect American family, losing our close relationships with our biological kids, losing opportunities of what we could give our 'own' kids if we were taking care of someone else's. And what if this adopted child hurt us? Hurt our kids? Was mean and had issues and ruined our family? Every thought I had about this coming adoption was that of loss. Loss, loss, loss. But I didn't yet know it - the upside down way of God's kingdom. "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it (Matthew 16:25)." I didn't yet know that when you lose for His sake, you actually gain so much more. It doesn't make sense.

It doesn't make sense that this adoption that I thought would mess up our biological kids has instead shaped them in ways that we want them to be shaped. That they've learned to lay down their lives and give until it hurts because that is what Jesus did for us. And they won't just read it in their Bible. They will know it because they've lived and breathed the surrender and the sacrifice every day in our home. Through Justice's adoption we've gained the uncovering of our calling, our spiritual gifts and how they are to be used for His kingdom. And when you are fulfilling your calling and operating in your God-given gifts, you feel ALIVE. We've come alive. We've gained a wild testimony of God's justice, His sovereignty, His grace. Who picks out an orange-haired African to match the same exact orange-haired children in a white family in Huxley, Iowa? God does. And through it He whispers to us all that He sees, He is not a distant God, He is closer than we ever dared to have thought. And more than all this, through Justice's adoption, we have gained an intimacy - a closeness with God, that we never would have experienced had we continued on living the comfortable, status quo path of a life we were headed down. You grow closer to God when you need Him. And oh how we have needed Him. It is worth our very lives if all we do this side of heaven is gain that.

So yeah when you look at it all on paper, it doesn't make sense. But I never really liked Math anyways. I thought we were adopting to help change the life of a needy child, but through it the Lord ended up changing us so much more. Today we praise God for this interruption, and celebrate 5 years of Justice being home and in our family. And today we know it better: He means to bless us. It just comes in unexpected, upside down ways.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our Mission Center

Our mission center in Asikuma, Ghana has now been operating for just over 1 year!

We are currently home to 27 children.

In January 2015 we also completed a temporary structure adjacent to our mission center to serve as a school. This is where the children of our mission center attend and it is also open for enrollment to the Asikuma community.

For this 2015-2016 term, we have two teachers who just graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa who have jumped on staff at the school. They teach along with a team of Ghanaian teachers, and are purposing to help develop curriculum and teaching strategies for the school. These two students, Mary and Anna, went on one of our trips to Ghana a few years ago and now live at our mission center while they receive this one of a kind teaching experience. You can keep up with them on their blog here:

This is our head house mother at our mission center, Comfort…

Jake and I have known Comfort since 2012 when she cared for our daughters at her foster home in Accra at the time. At the opening of our mission center last August we had recruited Comfort to move from her city life in Accra out to the rural village life in Asikuma to care for the children at our center. Comfort runs a great schedule at our center, and the kids noticeably thrive under the daily routine that has been established. The children know what to do, what to expect, and what is expected of them. Comfort of course loves children, and is especially fond of babies and toddlers. She really lives up to her name - is genuinely welcoming, kind, and compassionate. One thing that I appreciated when I was at our center last month was something I noticed during bath time for the little ones. Comfort had a bucket a little over half full of cold water ready for the baths. But right before starting she ran inside to grab a saucepan of water she had warmed on the stove which she then mixed in with the cold water to take the bite off. Loved that thoughtful touch.

Comfort receives a monthly salary from Acts 2 Collective and her two children Ajete and Rosemund also live with her at our mission center.

Helena is the house assistant to Comfort at our mission center.

She usually can be found in the kitchen helping to prepare the next meal or playing with one of the children. In Ghana, cooking can be an all day affair so it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare meals.

Helena also has been a big help in guiding and teaching the older girls we’ve taken into our center from Cape Coast. During my time at our mission center I noticed that Helena has an integral role of modeling to the girls how to act appropriately and manage the tasks of a woman in the Ghanaian culture. The Cape Coast girls have never been taught these things before. Now they are learning how to be nurturing and caring to the children as well as learning how to cook, clean, and act socially appropriate....much of which they learn by it being modeled and taught to them by Helena who is close in age to them.

This is not an easy undertaking and there are a lot of battles that go along with guiding these teenage girls, but Helena keeps a very light-hearted approach to it, and holds accurate expectations of them. Helena was raised in Asikuma, left for a time to attend school, and now is back and lives at our center. She is also paid a monthly salary.

This is another of our house helps, also named Comfort, but I like to think of her as Grandma.

Every home needs a Grandmother's presence to bring in softness and gentleness. Grandma Comfort arrives at our mission center in the mornings and stays until evening time before going back to her own home in Asikuma. She is there to provide an extra set of arms to hold and love on the children and also helps with the day to day housework like laundry. The afternoon that I strolled up to take this picture it was midday. Grandma was sitting outside under our wrap-around-porch in the quiet stillness of the afternoon, all snuggled in with our littlest addition to the center, Madjoa. The whole scene was just peace to me, and I loved seeing Madjoa alert and bright-eyed yet content as could be on Grandma's lap. Just how it should be. Grandma Comfort is also one of our paid staff and we are so thankful for her presence at our mission center.

Next up we have Wisdom (pictured left), James (pictured right) and Patrick (pictured center).

Wisdom is the 'man of the house' at our mission center. He does EVERYTHING! He is Daddy to the kids living at our center, handles the intake process for the children who come to live at our center, hires and manages staff, coordinates volunteers, organizes paperwork for each child, runs errands, runs kids to doctor appointments, handles community relations, oversees each part of our campus including the school, feeding program and agriculture, is a leader, visionaire and manager of our Asikuma projects, and basically keeps the place running! Our mission center is thriving in large part to how God is using the leadership and presence of Wisdom. He is a trustworthy and humble servant of the Lord. They just don't come any better.

James works for AgriHope - one of the organizations under the umbrella of Acts 2 Collective. James is from Zambia, but the Lord recently led him to pick up and move his entire life to our mission center in order to help us with creating sustainable farming. And the man is passionate about what he does! On my recent trip I received a very thorough rundown of the farming methods he is employing at our center - all the way from irrigation channels to how to blanket the crops. In as much as we know that James has come to plant physical seeds to grow a harvest, we know that the Lord has also drawn him to Ghana as an evangelist to plant seeds of the gospel in hearts. Just recently he has become friends with one of our mission center groundskeepers and has been encouraging him in his walk with the Lord via using his Iphone to translate from English to French. We love how God is using James to spread His word among our staff, and of course his crop growing skills are top of the line too! Some photos of the corn starting to grow at the mission center….

Patrick, aka 'AJ', is one of the handful of young men assisting James with the manual labor portion of the farming. This is in exchange for Acts 2 Collective paying for his school. I first met Patrick one night when it was pitch dark and I was walking back to the hotel from our mission center all alone. He had just fetched water and was riding his bike back home. He stopped to introduce himself to me the foreigner and just had the friendliest that kind-hearted older brother sorta feel. It was like God used him on my walk back to the hotel to whisper peace and that He was right there with me, watching out for me. Patrick is the definition of hard worker. I feel the Lord has opened a door for him into our center to be rewarded for how he labors wholeheartedly to provide for his younger siblings.

Our prayer is that our mission center would continue to be a refuge, set apart in the community where all who set foot on the grounds will experience life and peace.

[Pictured: Patrick’s sister Patricia comes to our mission center to help do laundry for her family.]