Does God really use mental images?

images (2)Mental images may come as still images or as “movies” [a scene being enacted in our mind’s eye]. The scene may be purely imaginary or it may be something that we have actually seen [a memory]. Here is one example of the “movie” variety.

In Mark’s words:

“I was scheduled to do a conference in a city a few hours north of ours. I was brushing my teeth in the morning and talking to God about the conference to start that night. I said, “I don’t want to just teach like I usually do, I want to do something different and more “Holy Spirit.”” Immediately this thought came to me:

Take a paper and pen and find a place to sit during the worship where you can look at the people. Scan the group and I will give you words for certain people. When you get up to speak, start by giving the words I have given you.

I have to admit I was excited and intimidated at the same time. That night I sat at the front, to the side, where I could watch the people. Sure, enough my gaze would pause at certain people and a thought about them would come with a message. That night I gave several which were accurate.

The next morning, I did the same thing. As I was scanning the people my gaze stopped on a young girl of about 9 or 10 years old. As I was looking at her I saw a film clip in my mind of a black and white movie taken at a Katherine Kuhlman conference. It was a short clip of her in one of her diaphanous gowns seemingly floating across the stage calling out healings in the audience. I knew it was a real film clip that I had seen sometime in the past. I said,

God, why are You showing me this?” The thought came very clearly, “I am giving this girl the same gift that I gave to Katherine Kuhlman. She will hear my voice clearly even from her youth and she will have the gift of physical healing.

I told the Lord, “There is no way I am telling her parents that she is the next Katherine Kuhlman! That is irresponsible and dangerous!” I decided to de-emphasize the word as much as integrity would allow.

When I got up to speak I pointed to the young girl and said, “I have a word for you.” She ran up to the stage, jumped up, ran over to me, put her arms around me, and clung to me. I was completely taken by surprise by her enthusiastic response. I told her, while addressing her parents, that she is gifted in hearing God’s voice very easily. Also, that she has the gift of physical healing which will show itself more and more as she grows older. I told them not to treat her as special or different, but just to trust God that in His time He will bring her gifts to their full potential. To be honest, I didn’t want to give the word at all. It seemed very irresponsible, but I decided to obey God and take the risk.

After the morning session ended a man came up to me and said, “That girl who came up to you is my daughter and there is something that you should know. When we were driving here this morning she was in the back seat with her brother and she told him,

That guy who spoke last night is going to give me a message from God this morning.

He continued saying, “I don’t understand any of this. We don’t go to church. We only came here because our neighbor invited us. What am I supposed to do?” I told him to start attending this church and ask as many questions as he needs to in order to come to know God for himself and for his family. Later that afternoon, I saw him receiving prayer from our team as he was being overcome by the Holy Spirit. Oh well, just another changed life.

This story illustrates the truth of the importance of the timing of a prophetic word. The word that Mark was going to give to this young girl and her [then] non-Christian family was beyond their understanding. The only thing that gave the word credibility was the fact that on the way to the meeting she heard God tell her Mark was going to give her a message from Him that morning. The timing of what she heard and what Mark then said was just too co-incidental to easily dismiss.

The application of prophetic mental images may have nothing to do with the presenting problem we think we are supposed to pray for.

Leave a comment, question or share an experience you have had in the box below.

Can God talk to me in mental images?

How do we hear the voice of God? Or perhaps better put, how does God communicate with us in an immediate and personal way? God is capable of communicating to us through all of our senses, but most of the time He communicates to us through our minds and our emotions. He places thoughts and images in our minds, which do not originate with us, likewise, with our emotions.

Ironically, we have heard people say that God cannot plant a thought in someone’s mind. We say ironically because these are the same people that tell us that Satan tempts them regularly. What is temptation, but a thought that arises in our mind, which comes from the enemy? God has promised us the “mind of Christ” through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Surely God is capable of dropping His thoughts into our minds. So how do they come?

In Mark’s words: “When I first experienced the gift of prophecy it was mostly through mental images. By mental images I am referring to images seen through your mind’s eye when your eyes are closed. We all know what it is to have someone tell us to “picture” something. This is what I am talking about except that the mental image is placed within our mind by the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that when we are waiting to hear from God with our eyes closed we do not try to “conjure up” an image. We do not need to prime the pump. In fact, trying hard to see something will usually impede the process. If God is going to place an image in our mind, He does not need our help to do so. Quiet trust is the best posture whenever we listen to God. Here are a few of my favorite examples.

I was teaching on hearing the “voice” of God. The subject for the evening was “mental images.” After teaching on how they come, we went into a time of waiting on God to give mental images to us. Everyone was reminded that risk is essential to growth and so everyone should share whatever they “saw” even if it made no sense to them. The goal was to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit as to how to pray for one another. Then we waited…
After a few minutes, someone shared an unusual image. It was of a very nice large desk with a huge leather bag tied with a chord around the top and having the $ sign on the side of the bag. The way he described it was like the money bags you see in cartoon shows. The bag was just sitting on the desk. I asked the group if this image meant anything to anyone in the room. A man at the back of the room, who was a world class effluence engineer with a very large engineering firm, spoke out. He said that on Tuesday his firm was going to a meeting with their bank to ask to borrow a very large sum of money. He said that if they did not get it, many of their engineers would be out of work. I asked the person who got the money bag image to link up in prayer with the engineer and off they went to pray.
The next person to share was a woman named Lucy. With some measure of embarrassment, she said she saw a cat sitting. I asked if this image meant anything to anyone in the room and no surprise, no one claimed it. A minute later a woman named Joy, who was sitting two rows behind Lucy said, with great reluctance, that she saw a large bear standing upright on its hind legs. She said she wasn’t going to share it, but since Lucy mentioned the cat, she would risk mentioning the bear. Again, no one claimed it.
The evening went on with more images being claimed by more people until only a few remained seated in their chairs [the rest had gone off to other parts of the room to pray]. Remaining seated were; the cat lady, the bear lady and between them a new lady I had never seen before. I asked her if she had come to our meeting wanting prayer and she said yes.
I asked the cat and the bear ladies if they would pray with our visitor. They said yes and off they went. About 40 minutes later Joy came back and said, “You will never guess what happened, it was amazing!” She said, “The lady we prayed for is Russian and her last name in Russian is “bear” and the nickname her parents gave her is “Cat!””
Imagine being this lady who hears about a church that prays powerful prayers for people. You come to the meeting not knowing whether or not God knows your name. You come hoping to encounter God. You are surrounded by strangers. God gives your name to two total strangers who end up praying powerful prayers for you! Do you suppose she was encouraged? Do you think she will ever forget that night?”

This story illustrates a very important point having to do with mental images and prophetic words in general. Often the message that comes to us may seem nonsensical or even irrational; after all, seeing a bear or a cat is not much of a message from God.

The temptation with such a cryptic word is either not to give it or to try to add some sort of meaning or interpretation to it, e.g. “God says you are like a little kitten resting in His lap” or “With God’s help you are as strong as a bear!”

We have great admiration for both Joy and Lucy because they risked looking foolish by simply giving exactly what they saw without attempting to interpret it.

Examining How We Hear God’s Voice

aaLast post we shared a video about How to Hear the Voice of God. There are so many ways He speaks to us that it is important to share our stories with one another.

We want to take a moment to analyze how the dream and fortune cookie worked together to bring about life-changing faith.

There was nothing obviously supernatural about the dream itself. It could have been nothing more than Mark’s subconscious wishing that he had more influence. This would be a fair interpretation given his disillusionment with his ministry.
Even though he took the dream as from God and believed that God had spoken to him regarding its meaning, he was little more than encouraged. This is a sad admission because he readily admits that hearing God’s thoughts of encouragement in his mind should have been enough to get him back in the saddle, but it was not. It was just a measure of encouragement.

Had the dream not occurred and he not “heard” God’s thoughts in his mind, the fortune cookie experience would have been insignificant. He would have thought, “That is a nice thought, I wish it were true.” What made the fortune cookie experience so powerful for him was the juxtaposition of it following the dream and the fact that the two messages were word for word. Neither the dream nor the fortune cookie encounter was a supernatural event in itself, but taken together they were conclusively supernatural to him and in their effect.
What we believe happened was that two events, sharing a common message, could not be dismissed as mere co-incidence. The timing of the dream and the fortune cookie defies coincidence. Something beyond natural chance was occurring – something “super” natural was happening. This brush with the supernatural presence of God in Mark’s life produced a supernatural gift of faith that he still draws from two years later.
Because faith comes by hearing God’s words [and because prophecy is a supernatural gift], prophecy gives us what we need, beyond our natural abilities, to believe in God’s goodness to us. If we are correct in our belief that from time to time all of us need supernatural help to believe in God’s promises to us, then prophecy is truly for everyone.

We would love to hear your comments and questions either on this website or
https://www.facebook.com/reluctantlysupernatural/

How Does God Speak to Us?

This is the first part in a practical guide to hearing from God.

One of the ways we hear God’s voice is through His immediate word to us, which is also revelation because it is a work of the Holy Spirit. It has the same effect of revealing His truth to our minds and our lives, but it comes directly rather than through Scripture. It is always consistent with what Scripture teaches us, but it is not dependent upon Scripture for its delivery. When the message comes through another person, we call this the gift of prophecy. How we recognize His voice to us, for ourselves and for others is the subject for another time. For now, we need to understand the power of prophecy and its importance to our lives.

When a true prophetic word is spoken, it is a word of Christ that is coming through an authorized representative. It has the authority and power of God delivered with it! It has the power to engender faith in the hearer, which faith brings the power to fulfill the prophetic word. One prophetic word can produce the kind of faith that perseveres no matter what the enemy throws at you. Here is an interesting example:

A number of years ago the denomination Mark was a part of did a survey of all their church plants – both those that succeeded and those that failed. They tested for a variety of factors believed to be important to a successful church plant.

These included adequate startup funding, level of theological education of the pastor, training for the startup leadership team, demographic studies of the proposed region, etc. One of the questions asked was; “Did you hear God tell you to do this church plant?”
As it turns out, approximately 90% of those who succeeded “heard” God tell them to do the plant. Conversely, approximately 90% of those who failed said they did not “hear” God tell them to do the plant. All of the other factors were inconclusive.

Hearing God imparts faith and prophecy speaks for God. Here is another example of 8 words from God changing the course of a person’s life. The life changed was Mark’s.

Mark describes:

God used a dream and an unusual means (a fortune cookie) to renew my life by giving me a gift of faith that does not need continual positive feedback in order to carry on. The real change is that now I am believing for much more!

In the interests of maintaining peace with our anticipated critics let us say this about fortune cookies: We do not believe fortune cookies are a valid means of discerning God’s will for our lives. The fact that God used a fortune cookie to confirm His previous message must not be taken as some sort of divine endorsement of seeking direction from such means.

Check back on the next blog post for more discussion

 

What do I need to know when I am waiting?

waiting wellAs we discussed in the last blog post, there is something more important to God than our breakthroughs and that is our character development. The breakthroughs He values most are character breakthroughs and He is willing to allow us to wait for our breakthroughs if it is the only way to grow our character.

The upsetting fact is that He will intentionally prolong our wait until we have learned what He intended for us to learn.

David was persevering while running for his life from King Saul when he refused to take his destiny into his own hands to obtain his breakthrough by killing Saul when he had a “perfect opportunity”.

The Apostle Paul was persevering when he ran a tent making business during the day and spent the evenings serving an obscure backwater church for over 10 years before the Holy Spirit sent him out to change Christianity forever. Here is a man who has the equivalent of several earned PHD’s; who has the ability and calling to write the theology that will form the foundation of Christianity for all time; teaching a church of nobodies in a town of nobodies far from the center of the action in Jerusalem [where every brain cell in his head tells him he “should” be].

HUMILITY

1 Peter 5:5-6 “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time”.

There are two kinds of humbling in the Bible, the humbling God brings against us and the kind we can choose for ourselves. If you want to make the wait for your breakthrough as short as possible choose to embrace humility.

David chose humility when he loyally served Saul, a man who was his lesser in every way. Joseph chose humility when he set his God-given dream of greatness aside to serve the prison warden with all of his abilities for more than 10 years. Paul chose humility when he submitted to the counsel of Jerusalem on matters of theology when he knew more than all of them combined. And what is most important to remember about humility – it isn’t humility if it is done with an angry and rebellious spirit. Here is a wise plan of action: whenever you are faced with an opportunity to choose humility, take it!

THANKSGIVING

Phil 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Nothing could be clearer than this command to rejoice in the Lord always. We are excellent at bringing our requests for a breakthrough to God, but often it is with the wrong heart. The fact is, God responds very poorly to an ungrateful heart.

Complaining will actually postpone your breakthrough.

This is what happened to Israel at the border to the promised land. And the opposite is true; Jonah complained about God’s commission for him and found himself in the belly of a whale, but after singing a song of thanksgiving to the Lord he was spit out on the beach.

Paul finds himself chained to a prison wall and after singing praises and thanksgiving to God the chains fall off and the door falls off its hinges. David wrote many Psalms of lament while he was running for his life, but they end with thanks and praise to God no matter what his present circumstances.

A friend of mine from San Francisco was in New Orleans during Marti Gras doing street preaching when an angry man came out of the crowd and put a 38 to his head and said he was going to kill him. I asked my friend what he did. He said he looked the man in the eyes and said, “thank you Jesus, I get to go to heaven tonight!” The man just lowered his gun and walked away.

Thanksgiving doesn’t just shorten your suffering it changes your suffering because it changes you. Thanksgiving changes the spiritual climate around you.

The most relevant question we can ask ourselves when we are waiting for our “breakthrough” is,

“What is my Father God trying to teach me through this time of waiting?”