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Updated: Nov 13, 2023

On a summer evening in August 2019 (obviously not in the Southern Hemisphere), Tyler Ivanhoff wanted to make a campfire for toasting hotdogs with his kids. He was searching for driftwood on a remote beach in western Alaska when he came across a green bottle with a note stuffed inside. His 8-year-old daughter told him she thought it could be a ‘treasure map from a pirate ship’ (an obvious and quite reasonable conclusion I think).

It did, in fact, turn out to be a message from the captain of a ship. On 20 June 1969, Anatoly Botsaneko had written the note in blue ink, rolled it up to fit in the bottle, shoved a cork in it, and tossed it overboard. 50 years later, Ivanhoff discovered it and tossed out a request on the vast ocean of social media asking if there was anyone out there who could translate the note for him. **

Eager Anticipation

The little kid in me gets excited about the idea of finding a message in a bottle.

Who put it there?

How long has it travelled?

Who was it meant for?

What does it say?

These are all the same kinds of questions I have asked myself when thinking about the prophetic words God delivers to us. Whether it comes to you carried in a bottle, a song, a story, or a prophet, what do you find yourself thinking before you have read or heard the message?

What feelings stir within you in anticipation of finding out what it contains?

For me, the idea that someone would have a prophetic word for me was always a terrifying prospect. I would sit there, sick to my stomach with fear and anxiety that they would call me out and deliver a ‘word from the Lord’ to me. I was convinced they could read my thoughts, see the wretched sinner that I was, and give a dreaded word of rebuke (I admit, I was a terrible self-critic).

Maybe you can relate to this in some way. Maybe getting a word from God is like expecting a ransom note from pirates – do this or else! You find yourself fearing it’s about an outstanding debt to be paid. It might be a breakup letter. Maybe an obituary notice.

If so, when a ‘bottle’ comes bobbing our way upon the waters, we tend to look at it and analyse it, but never take hold of it. We never dare to pop that cork because we have already decided it won’t be good news. We are certain it will be a word of correction, or judgment or condemnation, and who wants to hear that right?

But what if, like Ivanhoff’s daughter, you were expecting to discover treasure?

A Surprise Announcement

Within 24 hours of Ivanhoff posting his request for help, hundreds of people had responded and soon enough the message was translated from Russian for everyone to read:

“Heartfelt greetings!” it began, and after giving details of the ship and date, it finished with a hearty comment:

“We wish you good health, long years of life and happy sailing.”

What if you expected the same word from the Lord?

Our expectations of what God has to say to us can either be formed by our own feelings of inferiority or insecurities, or by the character of who God is revealed in His messenger, in person, Jesus. My expectations were distorted and so these kinds of announcements would come as a shock. But, time and time again, much to my surprise, rather than a rebuke a word from God has never failed to encourage, strengthen and empower me.

Heartfelt Greetings!

The truth is God’s heart is full of love for you. He approaches, not with judgment and anger, but with heartfelt, cheerful, affectionate love!

Matthew describes the day when some followers of Jesus discovered a message in a bottle - ok, so it was a tomb, but stay with me. A few days after Jesus had been crucified and buried, a group of his female friends came to care for his body, but it had disappeared. However, an angel was waiting there to inform them Jesus wasn't actually hanging around there anymore, He had risen from the dead.

"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen!” (Luke 24:5-6).

In other words, what were you expecting to find? Death or life?

What are you expecting to hear when God speaks to you?

Maybe you have mixed emotions. The women felt both ‘afraid' and filled with 'joy’ at the news, (Luke 24:28), yet they still anticipated something good was going about to happen and sprinted off to tell the others.

It was then, that Jesus himself suddenly appeared to everyone in person and cheerfully announced:

“Greetings… Do not be afraid!”

Eventually, the girls manage to get the message across to the lads -- this is great news! Years later, they were sending out their own ‘messages in a bottle’. Take a look at the opening lines of the letters to the churches in Galatia, Corinth, Rome, Ephesus, and Colossae (just to name a few). What did those letters start with? A heartfelt greeting!

“Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Not just wishful thinking

These are not just kind words or platitudes. When God speaks grace and peace to us, we actually receive grace and peace from Him. Grace is God’s empowering of us to live in right relationship with Him. Peace is the restoration and rest of our souls. Neither can happen through our own efforts. It is a supernatural impartation we receive from God through the Holy Spirit. A true prophetic word should convey God's loving heart towards us. The Scriptures show us He is always generous and great and good.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” - 1 John 1:5 (NIV)

If a human stranger can have enough love and goodwill towards his fellow man, to say; “We wish you good health, long years of life and happy sailing.”, then surely we can expect that God, who is perfect love, and perfectly willing to show us His goodness, will have even better things to say to us (Jeremiah 29:11).

Out of the ordinary

When you understand how extraordinary it is that God would personally reveal Himself to us, and even more incredible to discover that He greets us with heartfelt love and a life-giving word, then you can begin to look for the next message in a bottle with a sense of anticipation and excitement.

So instead of freaking out, go and find out what He has to say. A true prophetic word from the Lord will indeed be good news!

p.s. If you want to learn how to test a prophetic word check out this post 'Putting Prophetic Words To the Test'


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* All scripture is quoted from NIV translation unless noted

** Read the story of the missing bottle here (Unfortunately, I have lost the original article I found with the quote from Ivan).

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