The Elijah Task: Not (Exactly) A Review

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(Click the picture or here to buy).

“To be a watchman or a witness is to see what God is doing. We use the word witness too often only to describe our speaking to others. Rather it means one who watches God in operation among men.” ~John Loren and Paula Sandford, ‘The Elijah Task: A Call to Today’s Prophets and Intercessors

Synopsis (from Amazon):

It illumines the Bible like a searchlight, pointing out the mysteries of God. There still is much confusion and misuse of the office and the responsibilities of the prophet and the intercessor in the Christian arena. John and Paula Sandford explain how prophets are called and trained. With a great passion and urgency, they challenge all intercessors to realize and understand their vital role in the world today and how closely they must work with the prophets. John and Paula Sandford clearly explain:

What it means to be called and trained as a prophet or intercessor
How to understand dreams and visions and hear directly from God
Why it is important for the body to work in unity

This book is filled with spiritual discoveries that will effect dynamic changes in every reader.

About the Authors (from Amazon):

John Sandford graduated from theological seminary with an M.Div. in religion. He pastored churches for twenty-one years before founding Elijah House. Paula Sandford was active in the churches in music and Christian education and also taught English and Spanish in the public high school for several years. She joined her husband in the team ministry of Elijah House from its beginning and was ordained in 1995. They are considered pioneers in the prophetic and healing movements of our day. They have been married since 1951, have six children, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

My thoughts:

I have difficulty assigning The Elijah Task: A Call to Today’s Prophets and Intercessors by John Loren and Paula Sandford an Amazon-style rating, or even reviewing it the way I normally review books.  This book came highly recommended when I was looking for a different perspective on prophecy than that which I grew up (predominantly cessationist and quasi-cessationist), in order to learn more about and grow in this particular gift.  In spite of a few doctrinal differences, this book accomplished was helpful in all of the ways I hoped it would be.

The Small Stuff.  I came to this book with the understanding that many in the continuationist camp also hold a replacement doctrine (example: John Piper), so I was not surprised to find it alluded to at the beginning of the book.  It was by no means pervasive, but it was there.  The authors also presented the idea that the Holy Spirit is in and operates through all created things, and I think I understand and agree with the gist of what they are saying (honestly, I am a little iffy), though it may come across as pantheistic to some.  There was also a reference to self-flagellation as being sometimes necessary in the work of prophet or intercessor, a sort of “bearing of sins,” something I wholly reject.  I believe the only sin-bearer is Jesus Christ, and that His work is done.

The Big Beef.  Early on in the book, the authors asserted something to the effect that a prophet “must stand mute before the will of another.”  It’s the idea that a prophet should not beat people over the head with his or her message, or impose his or her will on another.  This concept is in line with the biblical principle that “a servant of the Lord must not strive” (2 Timothy 2:24), and within this context, I wholly agree with what John and Paula Sandford presented.  However, John later shared an anecdote of how God told him not to go somewhere, but a church leadership told him to go, and he went with what church leadership told him, because they were his authorities.  While I think accountability and godly counsel are good and necessary (especially in the realm of prophetic ministry), I believe God is the ultimate authority, not human authority figures, and I follow him first. Perhaps this is because I’ve seen the “authority” card played a few too many times in my life, and perhaps I’ll think differently with more maturity, but … I kind of doubt it.

 Whatever my differences of opinion, God used this book to challenge and grow me.  I had to discern through prayer what I was resisting because of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and what I was resisting because of my stubborn self.  I’m still wrestling with some of the concepts, but the point is that it has been a good and healthy experience being exposed to a new point of view.

My Big Takeaways. The point is not that people know that prophecy is one of my spiritual gifts, the point is not that I must always share what I’ve received, the point is not to beat people into my way of thinking (or to persuade them that my way of thinking is God’s way of thinking).  The point is to direct people to Christ and His riches, and to do it humbly, recognizing I’m every bit in need of Him as anyone else.  The point is to intercede for people, to boldly bring them and whatever circumstances have been revealed before the throne of grace, expecting God to act, because after all, He brought them to you.  The point is to present the truth lovingly and graciously and if necessary indirectly (asking questions, using metaphors/analogies/symbols/allegories). The point is to recognize that humans like to come to their own conclusions and to give them freedom to do that.  (I think this is the best application of standing “mute before the will of another”).

The point is that neither prophecy nor intercession are about me at all, but instruments that God uses to bring about His good pleasure. Going forward, I’m focusing more on intercession, though of course, I hope to speak up when and how God calls me to.

Finally, prophecy seems to be one of those gifts that put you under a microscope, at least coming from my background.  People seem to be waiting for you to be wrong, which you inevitably will be.  So, I learned about grace.  I learned that even if I make a mistake (either personally or in ministry), God’s grace can cover it.  (Which does NOT, by the way, excuse me from repentance or consequences, but it doesn’t disqualify me either).

Overall, this book was challenging and an encouragement – an exhortation, as some might say.  It was exactly what I needed.  And if you’re looking to learn more about prophecy and intercession, and are willing to be challenged on some things you believe, I highly recommend this book for you.*

*I do not recommend this book for cessationists  or people who have everything already figured out.

All this being said, I am looking for more book recommendations or teachings regarding the spiritual gifts of prophecy, exhortation, and mercy-showing.  Any suggestions?

“The ‘summum bonum’ [greatest good] is therefore the work of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Father’s testimony to men. He is the wisdom that sits by the throne of God. He is the expression and vindication of God among men. His life will more and more express itself through the sons of God among men. But the church must learn to trust as He shows us that we are not as yet as He is.” ~ John Loren and Paula Sandford, ‘The Elijah Task: A Call to Today’s Prophets and Intercessors

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