Showing posts with label #Prophecy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Prophecy. Show all posts

Augury: When the universe becomes God’s game of Pictionary.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 August

Back in the 1970s Peter Jenkins grew disillusioned with life, and decided the cure for this would be to walk across the United States. Halfway through his trip, he met Barbara Jo Pennell in Louisiana and asked her to marry him.

They hadn’t known one another very long at all; just a few weeks. Understandably she had her doubts about him. But one Sunday at church, the sermon was on the story of how Abraham’s slave went to find a wife for Isaac, found Rebekah, and concluded it was the LORD’s providence. Ge 24 and found Rebekah, and figured it was providence. When the preacher said, and repeated, the question Rebekah’s family put to her—“Will you go with this man?” Ge 24.58 —Jenkins and Pennell identified this as a sign. A sign from God. So she married him.

I read this story in the National Geographic, where he first published “A Walk Across America” in two parts; it later became a book. I remember at the time I read it, even though I was a little kid, my first thought was, “That’s a sign?” That wasn’t a sign; that’s a coincidental out-of-context scripture.

No, I don’t believe every coincidence is really God. Ecclesiastes makes it clear there are definitely such things as coincidences. Time and chance happen in God’s universe. Ec 9.11

It certainly was a useful coincidence for Jenkins—and for any man who’s desperately trying to convince a woman to marry him, and she believes in signs. In fact if he’s clever, he’ll slip the preacher a $20 and ask her to say a bunch of sign-like things in her sermon. Like “Will you go with this man?” and “Be not afraid” and “I am my beloved’s and he is mine” and so forth. You can manufacture signs, y’notice.

As can Satan.

Looking for signs in nature, and interpreting nature as if you can find signs in it, is a very, very old practice. Predates Christianity. It’s called augury, and some pagan religions specialize in it. And too many Christians, who aren’t aware God speaks to us and we can hear him, dabble in it too. They want a sign!—so they look for ’em.

Prophetic note-taking.

by K.W. Leslie, 25 July

So you’re in church, someone’s preaching a sermon, and you’re taking notes. You do take notes, right?

Oh you don’t? Well start taking notes!

Some churches include a blank page in their bulletin for note-taking… although some churches stopped producing bulletins during the 2020 pandemic, so that’s not always an option anymore. I used to take a notebook to church with me. Nowadays I use Google Documents on my phone.

You don’t have to write down every single thing the preacher says, or every single thing they put on their PowerPoint slides, or deduce and reconstruct their entire sermon outline. You can try, for fun. But I’ve found pretty much the only things you wanna write down are the things you’ll want to remember later:

  • Profound things they said which you’ll want to meditate upon.
  • Profound scriptures they quoted which you’ll want to memorize.
  • Stuff you’ll want to fact-check. It sounds like good stuff… but is it true?

As a result you won’t have an entire page of notes. Maybe three or four important points. More, if the sermon’s full of a lot of good stuff. Less, if you spend the entire sermon trying to “find the pony.” (I explain what I mean by that elsewhere.) But in general you shouldn’t wind up with full notebooks full of stuff which you’ll never find the time to go back to… like all the notebooks I used to fill when I was a teenager.

Oh, and the fourth thing you oughta include in your notes: Anything the Holy Spirit tells you.

This is why I titled this article, “Prophetic note-taking.” This is the prophetic part. You’re paying attention to the sermonizer… and I would hope you’re also keeping an ear open for the Spirit. ’Cause he’s gonna make comments during the sermon. Ideas are gonna pop into your head which relate to God. (And sometimes they won’t even have anything to do with the sermon. Not that this matters.) Whenever this happens, write ’em down.

“So wait: Every stray idea that pops into my head is the Holy Spirit?” No. Honestly, many of those ideas will be your bright ideas. And some of them won’t actually be all that bright. In fact they might be really stupid. But sometimes, sometimes… one of them is a God-idea. And you’d better keep those!

Activating prophecy.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 June

Every Christian has the Holy Spirit within us, and we gotta learn to listen to him when we pray. And when he has something to tell not just us, but other people—whether other Christians or not—that’s prophecy. That’s all prophecy is. It’s not complicated.

But not every Christian has the patience to wait for God to tell us something. We want a message now. Right now. ’Cause we wanna share God with someone, and it’d really blow their minds if God himself told ’em something. Or we want to know something about the future, or need some encouragement, or need a reminder God’s here… or, let’s be honest, we wanna show off how we really do hear God.

That’s why various Christians will claim we can activate prophecy. That it’s not just the Holy Spirit’s supernatural gift, but a power we can switch on, once we learn to “move in the prophetic,” by which they mean we learn to tap that power, much like connecting your phone to the wifi at the coffeehouse.

So these folks teach us certain techniques we can use to help get us into the appropriate mindset for prophecy. The prophetic realm is all around us! All we gotta do is become aware of it, listen to what the Spirit’s trying to tell us—’cause we’re usually too dense to notice—and we’ll gain the ability to speak a word of prophecy wherever and whenever the need arises.

These techniques include paying attention to your surroundings. Or looking for clues in the person you’re trying to prophesy to: What they’re wearing, what they’re saying, what they react to when you talk to them. Or looking for clues in yourself: The very first word that comes to your mind, or the very first mental image you have, or the very first bible verse which pops into your head. Colors or fragrances might stand out, and evoke a memory or thought from you. Whatever cues might jump out at you and trigger a prophecy. Look for them!

Your job is to take these cues and extrapolate a positive message from them. Those who teach activation, make it very clear all prophecy must encourage and uplift. You know, like Paul said. 1Co 14.4 So if you come up with something negative, you’re doing it wrong; don’t do that; we’re trying to encourage not discourage. Keep it motivational and supportive. And where appropriate, quote bible.

I’ve been to a few of these activation classes and seminars. I agree—these techniques can produce really interesting, encouraging results.

But none of it is actual prophecy. It’s mentalism.

Elisha’s double portion.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 February

2 Kings 2.9-10.

The first time I heard of a “double portion” had to do with food. You’re dividing up the pizza; you want two slices instead of just one; how come Dad gets two slices and you don’t? But no, that’s not what it refers to in the bible.

The first time I heard of double portions in the bible, was in Sunday school. It was a lesson our overeager youth pastor taught us about the eighth-century BC prophet Elijah of Tishbe, the guy who stopped the rain for three years, and made a gentile widow’s food last way longer then it shoulda, and called down fire on both altars and men. And when it was time for Elijah to get raptured, he handed off his job to his apprentice Elisha ben Shaphat, and they had this conversation:

2 Kings 2.9-10 KJV
9 And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. 10 And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.

Elisha, explained our excited youth pastor, asked for twice the spirit of Elijah. Twice the anointing. Double the power!

And after he watched Elisha ascend to heaven, he got it! As proven by the fact Elijah performed seven miracles in the bible, but Elijah performed twice that number, a whopping 14. (True, one of ’em took place after Elisha died, when a corpse came back to life after touching his bones. 2Ki 13.21 But it totally counts.)

Some years later I became Pentecostal. Unlike my previous church, Pentecostals correctly understand the spirit who empowered Elijah is the Holy Spirit; that every time a human being does miracles they’re doing it in the Holy Spirit’s power, ’cause he’s the one who inspired 1Pe 1.21 and empowered 1Co 12.11 prophets. So their spin on “the double portion” isn’t that Elisha was granted twice Elijah’s spirit, but twice the Holy Spirit.

No, this doesn’t mean there were two Holy Spirits knocking around inside Elisha. There’s only one God. It only means the Spirit empowered him twice as much as he did Elijah. Elisha became twice as miraculous. Twice as prophetic.

For fun, let’s say one of Elisha’s students made this same request of him. Theoretically this student could’ve received twice Elisha’s anointing. Elisha did 14 miracles; Elisha’s successor could’ve performed 28 of them. And if this successor passed a double-portion anointing along to a third guy, that guy could’ve done 56 miracles. His successor, 112 miracles. The next successor, 224 miracles. And so on, and so on.

A thousand generations later, devout descendants of Elijah’s anointing and Elisha’s double anointing, could potentially perform so many miracles, they’d do ’em by accident. Sneeze in an elevator, and everybody steps out totally cured of their allergies. Fart and everyone’s gastroenteric problems are gone. And so forth.

How sad, this Pentecostal lamented, that people didn’t have the faith to keep pursuing this “double portion anointing.” They could’ve doubled the miracles in the world with every successive generation.

How sad, I’ve learned since, that people keep repeating this old, and stupid, Christian cliché. ’Cause it proves they’ve clearly not read the other parts of the bible, which clear up precisely what a “double portion” is. Heck, they’ve probably heard it explained before, but some mental disconnect keeps ’em from applying it to the Elijah/Elisha story.

Ask prophets follow-up questions.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 October

Hypothetical situation here. Let’s say you’re having lunch with a friend, and the friend gets a phone call mid-lunch, and has to take it; it’s someone important. So you eat while your friend gabs on the phone a bit. Then your friend hangs up. “Sorry about that,” she says. “By the way he says hi, and wanted to tell you something.”

“Okay,” you say, “let’s hear it.”

“He says he knows you have a presentation coming up, and it’s gonna go really well, but he wants you to make sure you don’t wear something that’ll offend the client.”

“Like what?” you say. You already know better than to wear your “It’s not drinking alone if your dog is with you” T-shirt to such meetings.

“I dunno. Something offensive, I guess.”

“Can you call or text him back and get specifics?”

Now let’s change this story ever so slightly. ’Cause duh, it’s a parable. The friend is a prophet, and the important guy on the phone is the Holy Spirit. (You’re still you.) Unlike a phone, you never hang up; the Spirit’s still there, in the room, listening to this conversation, and knows what your question is. He can answer it, y’know. In my experience he usually will.

Yet what do we Christians usually do? Well, for whatever weird reason, we don’t ask follow-up questions. We just sit there and muddle through what the Spirit meant, confused. As if the Holy Spirit is the author of confusion.

Um… you can ask follow-up questions, y’know. God’s okay with questions. In many cases he’s trying to provoke questions. He wants a relationship with us, and relationships involve a little give-and-take. Not just him giving, us taking, and us figuring our relationship is unidirectional—in either direction.

Instead we treat God’s opening statement as if it’s a decree handed down, and the heavens have closed back up behind it. We figure, “Well I’m not entirely sure what to do with that; I guess I’ll pray on it…” and let it bug us for the next day or so, and generate anxiety instead of peace. Or, more commonly, we forget all about it, because vague statements don’t really make an impact on us… plus we’re not so sure it’s even God anyway.

Of course I’m saying we should stop doing this.

The excuse of the false experience.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 June

One of the various blogs I read is by a cessationist, who insists God turned off his miracles after the bible was fully written. Y’know how sometimes names are changed to protect the innocent? I’ll change his to protect the foolish, and call him Wanjala.

Wanjala claims to love the scriptures. No doubt he’s sure he does! But he simply refuses to believe ’em when they state the Holy Spirit’s supernatural gifts are meant to be the normal, everyday practice of present-day Christians. Wanjala doesn’t believe he’s ever had a God-experience, and exactly like those people who can’t bring themselves to believe I met God, he trusts his personal experiences more than he does bible. As a theological conservative he would never, ever admit to doing any such thing. But it’s precisely what he’s doing. He’s the baseline. Not the scriptures.

So according to his firm belief, God Almighty is exactly like those mute idols the gentiles used to worship; 1Co 12.2 he’s not a speaking God. If we ever wanna “hear his voice,” we have the bible. That’s it. That’ll have to do us till Jesus returns. His bible does all his speaking for him.

I bring up Wanjala because some years ago, one of his continuationist friends challenged him to actually try to hear God. For once, could Wanjala just put his personal skepticism aside and simply ask God to speak with him? So Wanjala took him up on it: He asked God whether he had anything to say, and if so, please just say it.

That night, Wanjala had an unusually vivid dream: He dreamed his wife was cheating on him. He even got the man’s name. He didn’t say the name, but since I’m assigning pseudonyms anyway, let’s say it’s Artsiom.

So Wanjala hacked his wife’s Facebook account (as if a smart adulterer would communicate her affair over Facebook… but hey, there are plenty of stupid people out there) and couldn’t find any Artsiom among her contacts and direct messages. Then he asked his wife point-blank if she knew an Artsiom, and interpreted her blank response as if she’d never heard of such a man. I’ll optimistically presume, as did Wanjala, she’s not an exceptional actor. He concluded his wife is innocent… and how stupid it was for him to believe in prophetic dreams.

So that’s what he blogged: He should’ve never sought a personal, extra-biblical communication from God. His fertile imagination led him astray. And that’s what happens when you dare go outside the cessationist bunker: You go all sorts of wrong, dangerous, heretic directions. Because you think, without proof, God told you such-and-so.

Wanjala’s partly right. But mostly wrong.

Quenching the Spirit.

by K.W. Leslie, 24 May

1 Thessalonians 5.19-21.

More farewell stuff from the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians; general advice which can apply to Christians of any and every church. Each of these one-verse or one-line instructions have turned into entire sermons, lessons, and even doctrines. And in fact today I’m only gonna deal with three short verses, mainly because of what’s been taught about them… and of course what’s been mistaught.

1 Thessalonians 5.19-21 KWL
19 Don’t extinguish the Spirit: 20 Don’t void prophecies.
21 Examine everything: Hold onto what’s good.

In the King James Version this becomes “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” That’s the version I memorized as a child.

Back in the 11th century, Margaret Atheling of Wessex (later, St. Margaret) was an English princess who grew up in exile in Hungary. She went to Scotland to marry King Malcolm Canmore, third of his name. The story has it she nearly drowned while crossing a river. One of the Hungarians who accompanied her, named Bartolf, saved her life by fishing her out, or carrying her across. The story varies, but all of them have him tell her to “grip fast” to him, or a rope, or his horse; whichever. Bartolf was given some land in reward, including a town called Lesselyn… which evolved into Bartolf’s family name, Leslie, and Clan Leslie’s motto is “grip fast.” This is, more or less, the story we Leslies tell of its origin. Maybe it’s true. Doubt it, ’cause it’s far more likely Bartolf and Margaret spoke Magyar with one another.

I didn’t necessarily have this “grip fast” idea in mind when I first read verse 21 as a kid. It just so happens I’m a big fan of examining everything to see whether it’s so. But in context verse 21 isn’t about testing everything; it’s about testing prophecy. It’s just I happen to test everything else too. Just being careful.

So verse 21 has kinda become a “life verse” for me… even though I don’t always stick to the proper context of the verse when testing everything. The more important thing is to hold onto what’s good. Hold tight to it. Abide in Jesus and what he teaches; let everything else go. But like I said, the context of this verse is to hold onto valid prophecies. And if they’re not valid, stop clinging to them as if we can wish them into being if we believe hard enough. That’s not how prophecy works; that’s how magic works, and magic’s not real.

Okay, enough about me and misquoted life verses. Let’s step back to verse 19 and “Quench not the Spirit.”

What does quenching mean?

You might already know when the ancients first came up with the idea of elements—basic building blocks of the universe—they didn’t imagine ’em as atoms, nor as the 118 elements we currently have on our periodic table, from hydrogen to oganesson. They figured there were just the four: Air, earth, fire, and water.

Sometimes the ancients speculated a quinta essentia/“fifth element,” or quintessence; something we don’t have on earth and therefore can’t study. (That’s why scientists have adopted the term to describe dark energy.) Various Christian philosophers have speculated spirits are made of this quintessence, and that’s why we can’t study spirits with our sciences. But the ancients were pretty sure spirits were made of the four basic elements. Oddly, not air, even though πνεῦμα/néfma literally means “wind.” But because spirits are dynamic and moving and powerful and mighty, they can’t be made from merely still, unmoving air. So, they deduced, spirits are made of fire.

Yep. This is why we see so many fire metaphors for spirits in ancient literature. Especially ancient Christian and Muslim literature. And obviously there are fire metaphors for the Holy Spirit in our scriptures.

Acts 2.2-4 KJV
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

So when Christians talk about fire, we either mean God’s refining fire which purges evil out of us, Ml 3.2 or the fires of hell… or the fire of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we mix the metaphors, and talk about the Spirit’s fire as if it’s come to purge evil out of us. (And that’s not always a good thing!) But more often, especially among Pentecostals, we’re talking about the Spirit’s power. His fire’s gonna make us able to cure the sick and prophesy and otherwise perform miracles.

So when Pentecostals talk about quenching the Spirit—and especially about not quenching the Spirit—we usually mean the Spirit wants to do something mighty and supernatural through us Christians. But we won’t let him.

I know. This idea is dumbfounding to deterministic Christians. We won’t let God do something? How on earth can a clay pot tell the potter, “Nope, I’m not gonna hold oil like you intended; I wanna hold beer!” He made us, so we do as he wants. It’s ridiculous to imagine otherwise.

And yeah, they’d have a point if we were simply inert pottery. We’re not. Paul’s pottery metaphor Ro 9.20-21 doesn’t apply to everything in our lives; its point is to explain God’s the creator and we’re the creation, and he knows best what we’re made for. Nonetheless he imbues his creation with free will, and while it’s unwise for “the thing formed to say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” the fact remains “the thing formed” can still ask this question. And sometimes rebel against the creator’s intentions. Humans sin, y’know.

So yeah, if the Spirit wants to do something in his churches, but the people of his churches don’t wanna do that thing, we can resist him. We shouldn’t; it’s stupid. But we do.

And there are gonna be consequences.

Revelation 2.5 KJV
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

If a church is resisting the Spirit, it’s not following Jesus; and if it’s defying Jesus, it’s not his church anymore. It’s heretic. It’s its own thing. That’s a scary place to be—and if you’ve visited such churches, they can be scary places to visit.

But do not get the false idea that the ability to resist the Spirit and do our own thing, makes humanity sovereign, or in any way more mighty than God, or that the Spirit has in any way debased himself by letting us humans do our own thing. Insurgency doesn’t mean the insurgents are in charge now. It only means they think they’re in charge, for now. The hammer’s gonna come down later… when they don’t expect it.

Quenching the Spirit, or quenching immature Christians?

Whenever Christians talk about quenching the Spirit, we have a bad habit of presenting it as a worst-case scenario—a church that’s gone very, very wrong, and cut themselves off from God himself. We Pentecostals in particular have the bad habit of claiming any resistance to any spiritual thing whatsoever is “quenching.” Specifically, spiritual things we wanna do.

Fr’instance a prophet who stands up in the middle of a service, even right in the middle of the sermon, to declare, “Thus says the LORD,” and give out a prophecy. There’s a time and place for this, but they’ve taken it upon themselves to do it right now, and interrupt others. Don’t get me wrong; it might be a legitimate message from the Holy Spirit. But by picking the wrong time to give the prophecy, the prophet’s being a dick, and fruitless prophecy tends to nullify the prophecy. People aren’t gonna remember what we prophesied so much as the interruption, disruption, and rudeness.

If the Spirit gives us a message mid-sermon, the fact something else is going on which it’s rude to interrupt, should be our tipoff that we need to sit on this message for a bit. Meditate on it. Ask the Spirit questions: “What’d you mean by this?” And after the service, talk it over with a few other prophets for confirmation. Blurting it out in mid-sermon means you lack patience—or are more interested in getting attention than sharing God’s message, and prophets are supposed to be humble.

So when someone disrupts a church service, and is told to sit down and shut up: No, nobody’s quenching the Spirit. They’re quenching a jerk. Hopefully kindly. Because when the Spirit disrupts stuff, he does it kindly. He’s being helpful and constructive, or preventing evil. Unkind prophets are doing it wrong. They’re being selfish, unloving, out-of-control, and fleshly.

A lot of the things churches and Christian leaders are accused of “quenching,” are precisely this sort of behavior. Christians who wanna sing for the entire service, even though a preacher has spent all week listening to the Spirit and studying the scriptures to prepare a message: They don’t wanna hear a sermon. They wanna sing! They love that hook in their favorite worship song, and wanna sing it 50 times in a row. It makes ’em feel stuff, and since they don’t know the difference between emotion and the Spirit, they’re convinced it’s totally the Spirit—therefore stopping the music is “quenching the Spirit.” But no it’s not. Your euphoria isn’t producing fruit. Don’t kid yourself.

Likewise Christians who wanna pray in loud tongues during a prayer service, and won’t hear it when people tell ’em to not be so noisy. Or Christians who wanna have a special time of prophecy, not because they wanna share God, but because they want people to listen to them for once, as they prophesy. Really, anybody who wants to hijack a church service and turn it into their thing—and claim it’s really the Spirit’s thing.

Is it the Spirit’s thing? Look at the fruit. No fruit? Quench away.

What if you’re not sure? Well first of all, relax: The Holy Spirit is gracious. If we ever mistakenly stop him from doing his thing, but we are still trying to follow and pursue him, he’s gonna inform us we were mistaken. “I really do want you to hold a healing service for the sick. Do it next Sunday.” And we’ll apologize to him for putting the brakes on him, and apologize to everybody else, and do as the Spirit wants. It’s never too late to repent and try again; don’t let any immature, impatient Christians tell you different. (Because they’ll definitely tell you different: “You’re quenching the Spirit! You’re ruining an opportunity! It has to be done right now!” Hogslop. If it really had to be done right now, the Spirit would’ve forewarned a lot more of the people in charge.)

But pretty much every time we tell an angry, impatient person, “No no, we’re not doing that right now,” it’s not quenching the Spirit. If they produced better fruit, they might have a case to make. But they aren’t, so they don’t.

Quenching the Spirit is not stopping a noisy Christian. Properly it’s intentionally, deliberately, consciously defying the Spirit. It’s deciding, “We don’t do prophecy.” It’s making our official church position a cessationist one: The Holy Spirit stopped talking in bible times, and we don’t recognize anything he has to say unless he only speaks in bible quotes. It’s putting him on mute, because now we get to interpret bible on our own, and promote our doctrines instead of God’s kingdom.

Don’t void prophecies!

The primary way God reveals himself to people, and speaks to us, is through prophecy.

Yeah, even though we have a bible. The bible is prophecy too, y’know: Old prophecies, breathed by God for our benefit, 1Ti 3.16 which are still relevant ’cause it’s the same God, and humanity hasn’t changed any. Anything the Spirit tells us today, isn’t gonna contradict and nullify what he has in the bible, ’cause again: Same God.

When we cut off God’s voice by claiming he doesn’t speak to anyone anymore, we’ve cut off the Holy Spirit. We’ve cut off the one Jesus sent us to make sure we stay true to him. Jn 16.13 We’ve cut off the one who builds up, directs, and explains things to the church, his followers. 1Co 14.3 We might claim, “Yeah, but we have bible”—but we’ve cut off the person who makes sure we interpret his bible correctly!

When Christians claim prophecy’s not for the church anymore, y’notice they now have to rule their churches with an iron fist. Because if the Spirit doesn’t provide them direction and purpose, somebody’s gotta do it. Without the Spirit they’re gonna be fruitless, and get into dozens of disagreements about little, stupid, nitpicky stuff. The whole group is gonna be led astray—not by evil practices nor false doctrines, but simply by the fact nobody knows where they’re going. And nobody’s gonna admit it. And certainly not accept correction about it.

This is what we see all the time in cessationist churches: They don’t follow God, and despise the Spirit’s prophecies. So they become little cults which follow a pastor who’s treated as inerrant. Or, on the other extreme, they turn into benign, powerless groups which squabble over trivia and get nothing done.

Test everything.

If we’re gonna embrace a lifestyle of prophecy, we have to test prophecies and prophets. There are a lot of fakes 1Jn 4.1 —either frauds who want to exploit us, or fools who don’t know what they’re doing; both of whom will lead us astray. We can’t accept just any self-anointed prophet who sounds inspiring, who appeals to our greed, our prejudices, our patriotism, our sense of propriety, or whatever floats our boat.

Jesus warned us to watch out for phonies, so we gotta test prophets. Much as the con artists insist we test nothing, and just trust ’em, because shouldn’t we have faith? And yes we should—but faith in Jesus, not them, and Jesus tells us to test prophets! If their message legitimately comes from the Holy Spirit, it can stand the scrutiny, and if it’s not, it won’t. So test everything. EVERYTHING. Including all the stuff you’ve been taking for granted so far. You’ll be surprised how much of it turns out to be crap. I regularly am.

And once it stands up to testing, you grip fast to it. It’s from God.

Messianic prophecies.

by K.W. Leslie, 19 May

Messianic prophecies are the scriptures in the Old Testament which are about messiah.

And by messiah (Hebrew מָשׁיִחַ/mešíyakh, “anointed [one]”) the scriptures mean somebody who’s put in a high authoritative position. Like head priests Ex 40.15 or the king. 1Sa 9.16 But over time messiah simply came to mean king—the guy the LORD chose to lead Israel, or at least Jerusalem and Judea. And when he became king, there’d be a ritual ceremony where someone dumped a hornful of oil (maybe about a liter) all over the new king, representing the LORD pouring out his Spirit upon the king… assuming the king bothered to listen to the LORD any. Most didn’t.

So since messiah means king, every king of ancient Samaria and Jerusalem—yes, even the rotten ones like Ahab ben Omri, Jeroboam ben Nabat, and Saul ben Kish—was a messiah. Seriously. In fact every time David ben Jesse was given the chance to kill Saul, or have him killed, he’d refuse—because Saul was messiah.

1 Samuel 26.9-11 KJV
9 And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’s anointed, and be guiltless? 10 David said furthermore, As the LORD liveth, the LORD shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish. 11 The LORD forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’s anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.

“The LORD’s anointed” translates בִּמְשִׁ֣יחַ יְהוָ֑ה/be-mešíyakh YHWH, “the LORD’s messiah.” Love or hate him, Saul was selected as Israel’s king by God himself, and David knew better than to overthrow God’s will. Besides, David himself was anointed king, 1Sa 16.12-13 and knew it wouldn’t set the best precedent.

So that’s the Old Testament understanding of messiah, but of course Christians have a different one. By messiah we mean the Messiah, the final and best of all messiahs: Jesus the Nazarene. Our word Christ (Greek χριστός/hristós) likewise means “anointed [one],” same as messiah; it’s Jesus’s proper title as the rightful king of Israel, and conquering king of the world.

Jesus is the fulfillment of everything the title messiah carries. He was anointed by God, and has the Holy Spirit without measure. Jn 3.34 He has no successor; doesn’t need one, for he lives forever. He’s been Messiah way longer than any of the previous kings of Israel. And while David is considered the best of the Israeli messiahs, Jesus is even better. He rules righteously and infallibly.

Because of Jesus’s preeminence above all other messiahs, we Christians really can’t help but read him into every single messianic prophecy in the bible. Even though many of them are clearly about the other messiahs—about Messiah David, Messiah Josiah, Messiah Hezekiah, or even the filthy idolatrous Messiah Ahab. But Christians presume every last one of these messianic prophecies gets fulfilled by, or has its original meaning entirely overwhelmed by the similar actions of, Messiah Jesus.

Watch out for fake and fruitless prophets.

by K.W. Leslie, 28 February

Matthew 7.15-20, 12.33-35, Luke 6.43-45.

Right after Jesus’s teaching about the narrow gate, Jesus gives this warning about people who pretend be prophets, but aren’t. What, there are fake prophets? Of course there are. You’ve met a few.

Pagans tend to define a prophet as someone who foretells or forecasts the future. But properly a prophet simply hears from God, and shares what he said. It doesn’t have to be a message about the future. Most of the time people just wanna hear that God loves them and cares for them, and has their back. Most of the prophecies I’ve ever heard, have been simply that: Reminders that God’s here, knows us very well, and isn’t going anywhere.

And usually that’s all someone has to tell people in order to be a convincing fake prophet. Do a little mentalism trick which makes it look like they know things they can’t possibly have guessed, then encourage people with common Christian platitudes. “God has a great plan for your life,” or “God knows the plans he has for you,” or “Everything’s gonna work together for your good,” and so forth. Those aren’t risky things to say. Most Christians already believe ’em.

Predicting the future’s way harder. So fake prophets avoid that as much as they can, or leave their predictions deliberately vague. Which, if you’ve read your bible, you notice God does not do. Unless he doesn’t want us to know details, and shrouds them in apocalyptic imagery, God gives details. Because he wants us to know it’s him.

Fakes can’t do this with any accuracy, so of course they avoid accuracy. That’s your first red flag.

But I digress. In the Sermon on the Mount, the red flag Jesus pointed to is the fake prophet’s lifestyle. If they’re legit, they should already be following the Holy Spirit, and produce his fruit. If they’re not, they won’t.

Matthew 7.15-20 KWL
15 “Watch out for the fake prophets,
who come to all of you dressed as sheep, but underneath they’re greedy wolves.
16 You’ll recognize them by their fruits.
People don’t pluck grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles, do they?
17 So every good tree grows good fruits, and a rotten tree grows bad fruits.
18 A good tree doesn’t grow bad fruits, nor a rotten tree grow good fruits.
19 Every tree not growing good fruit is cut down and thrown into fire.
20 It’s precisely by their fruits that you’ll recognize them.”

When we follow the Spirit, his personality tends to create a serious impact on our personalities. We start to act like him. More love, joy, peace, patience, and all the godly traits Paul listed in Galatians, Ga 5.22-23 plus other traits we see mentioned in the New Testament, like grace.

If you’re a fake prophet, y’might be able to fake the prophecies convincingly. Maybe even the fruit… temporarily. People who observe you up-close, long-term, will know whether you’re producing the fruit or not. Which is why a lot of the fakes who aren’t, try to make sure people don’t observe ’em up-close, long-term. It’s why they prefer independent prophetic ministries, separate from any churches which might be able to catch ’em when they’re not performing. Why they travel, stay in town just for the weekend, and insist on separate hotel accommodations in their riders, instead of staying with any of the folks of the church, and spending significant time with anyone. Why the stuff they preach sounds so iffy when you know your bible, and the fruit they profess also sounds kinda fake.

“Silent years”: Did God once turn off his miracles?

by K.W. Leslie, 30 December

It’s usually round Christmas when preachers start talking about “the silent years,” or “the 400 silent years,” and how the annunciations of John the Baptist and Christ Jesus mark the end of that era.

As it’s taught, for roughly four centuries between the writing of Malachi, “the closing of the Old Testament canon,” and Gabriel’s appearance to John’s dad, the Holy Spirit was silent. He stopped talking to prophets, and had none. ’Cause if he did, these prophets would’ve written a book, right? But no prophets wrote a book, ergo no prophets.

And during these “silent years,” it’s claimed the Spirit likewise stopped doing miracles. ’Cause if he had, again, someone would’ve written a book about it. But nobody wrote one, so nothing miraculous musta happened. If those 400 years weren’t silent, we’d have more books of the bible.

(Um… what about the books of prophets, and of the Spirit’s activity, in the apocrypha? You realize they were written during that 400-year period. But the preachers who claim there were silent years either know nothing at all about the apocrypha, or dismiss ’em as Catholic mythology—or worse, claim they’re devilish. Either way they don’t count.)

Okay, lemme first clear up a minor mistake: The actual last book written of the Old Testament was 2 Chronicles, not Malachi. It’s what we find in the Hebrew book order. There are three groupings, Law, Prophets, and Writings, which were written in that order. Malachi is among the Prophets; Chronicles is the last of the Writings. Some scholars figure they were written round the same time; some don’t.

Now the major mistake: The entire idea of “silent years” contradicts the scriptures. You knew I was gonna get to that, didn’tcha?

Supernatural discernment: Knowing what you can’t know.

by K.W. Leslie, 22 December

Yesterday a coworker was trying to explain some scripture to me. It’s an interpretation I was entirely unfamiliar with, so I found it interesting. Had my doubts, but kept an open mind. It sounds a little bit plausible, so I spent some of this morning investigating it. Turns out it’s something the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, and nobody else. So, nah.

But yesterday, while he was still talking to me, before I ever looked it up and knew it was something JWs teach, I had deduced, “Y’know, I think this guy’s Jehovah’s Witness.”

No, the Holy Spirit didn’t supernaturally reveal this to me. I deduced it. From the clues:

  • It’s the Christmas season, and I had heard him mock Christmas a number of times. Admittedly I do this too with the materialism around the holiday, but JWs are particularly notorious for not observing Christmas. Big obvious red flag there.
  • He dismissed any comments I had to make, or any corrections I offered to his proof texts. He was entirely sure he knew what he was talking about. JWs are notorious know-it-alls; their claims of knowing it all is largely what attracts people to them.
  • I’ve studied Christianity all my life and generally know what most Christian branches teach about that particular scripture. (And I know what Mormons teach about it; it’s not substantially different.) I’ve not studied JW teachings, so I suspected that was why this teaching was unfamiliar.
  • We have two big JW churches (ar as they prefer to call ’em, “Kingdom Halls”) in town. They’re predominantly black churches; every JW who’s come to my door has been black; and this coworker is black. Yeah, I admit there’s some racial profiling in this “clue.” Still.

So I had a working hypothesis. But of course I couldn’t prove this hypothesis… till I looked this interpretation up on the internet, and bada-bing: It’s a Jehovah’s Witness view; dude’s a Jehovah’s Witness. Okay. So now I gotta approach him from that angle whenever we talk about Jesus.

Okay. How would supernatural discernment work? Simple: The very minute I met him, before he’d said or done anything, before I had anything I can draw a conclusion from, I’d know he was Jehovah’s Witness. I’d just know.

I’d still have to confirm this belief, ’cause while the Holy Spirit is infallible, I’m surely not. It might be my own gut, not him. But it’s the easiest thing to confirm. “Hey, what church do you go to?” “Well it’s not a church; the church is people, not a building.” Ah, so you are one of those. Good to know.

You see the difference? Natural deduction, the non-supernatural stuff, involves my brain finding clues and drawing a conclusion. Sometimes properly, sometimes improperly, but it takes brainpower. The supernatural stuff does not. It’s revelation: The Holy Spirit had to give it to me. It appeared in my mind as if it’s any other data I drew from it, like how many toes are on my foot, or what color are that passerby’s shoes. It felt like pre-existing knowledge, not something the Holy Spirit told me at that instant.

Sock-puppet false prophecy.

by K.W. Leslie, 17 December

Last year I wrote about sock-puppet theology. It’s when people develop their beliefs about God all wrong because of how they came about those beliefs. Instead of doing as we’re meant to—

  • read the scriptures,
  • study their textual and historical context,
  • compare them with Jesus’s character,
  • compare them with the conclusions of other Spirit-led Christians,
  • and of course use our commonsense

—these people take much easier, non-study-based tack. They meditate on certain scriptures, use their imagination to “make the scriptures come alive,” then draw conclusions from these self-induced visions. Sometimes they’ll even talk to the people in their meditations: They’ll have a full-on conversation with, say, David ben Jesse. They’ll ask him what it was like to trust the LORD while he was hiding out from King Saul ben Kish, whether in caves or Philistine territory. David will have a whole bunch of interesting insights. They’ll actually base their relationship with God on “David’s” insights.

But that’s not David. That’s an imaginary David. That’s not the guy who wrote all the psalms, conquered Jerusalem, defeated a coup led by his own son, and circumcised 200 Philistines. (Seriously. 1Sa 18.27) That’s a David based on one person’s limited knowledge of David… which might be heavily distorted by movies and books about David, sermons which oversimplified David, tacky Christian art and other forms of Christian popular culture, and of course their own ignorance. There’s nothing wrong with using our imagination to meditate, but we need to be fully aware we don’t know all—and that the Holy Spirit isn’t filling in all the blanks in our knoweldge; we are.

“David’s” insights are really our insights. And sometimes they’re not insightful at all. They’re just the same old prejudices, the same worldly thinking, we’ve always had… dressed up in a nice Christian package. It’s not David; it’s a David sock puppet.

I remind you of this, and went on about this, because today I’m writing about prophecy, and about one particular practice you’ll find among people who really, really wanna become prophets. But they’re not willing to do the hard work of learning to recognize God’s voice, and confirming it’s him. So what they’ve done… is create a Holy Spirit sock puppet.

Nope, not kidding. Wish I were.

Killing false prophets: Wanna bring it back?

by K.W. Leslie, 09 December

Moses ben Amram was gonna die before the Hebrews entered Canaan, so Deuteronomy tells of his last address to them before they entered that land. He reminded them of the LORD’s commands, had ’em reaffirm their covenant with him, then died.

Up to this point, Moses had been the Hebrews’ primary prophet. If you wanted to know God’s will, and God didn’t tell you directly, you went to Moses. (Or even if God did tell you directly, you double-checked with Moses.) Moses’s death meant people were understandably anxious about losing God’s main spokesperson, but Moses reminded them he was far from God’s only spokesperson.

Deuteronomy 18.15-22 NRSV
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.” 21 You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?” 22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

Yep, the LORD decreed the death penalty for false prophets. Which was kinda necessary at the time: The LORD was Israel’s king, his commands were the law of the land, and a lot of them were life-and-death decrees. And you can’t have a phony spokesperson make life-and-death decrees in his name. It’d kill and ruin people. So false prophets got the death penalty.

True, we don’t execute false prophets anymore. Not because, as some dispensationalists claim, we no longer live under Law but grace. Nor because, as cessationists claim, God stopped doing prophecy. Nope; it’s because of separation of church and state. The LORD is not the United States’ king; our Constitution is the law of the land, and the Supreme Court sorts it out instead of prophets.

So prophets no longer make life-and-death decrees. You’re entirely free to heed them, or not. Yeah, false prophets can still destroy people’s lives; they can start cults and sucker swaths of minions into obeying them, and enforce their decrees within the cult community. But they’re no longer the highest authority in the land: You can call the cops on them. You can sue them. If they’re frauds as prophets, they’re nearly always frauds in every other area of their lives, including finances and taxes and stuff the civic government can prosecute. If they committed or suborned murder, the state can execute them.

If they haven’t crossed legal lines, but they’re still obviously false prophets, we pretty much have one recourse: Prove they’re false, and broadcast our proof widely. We’re supposed to expose such misdeeds. Ep 5.11-14 Warn everybody away from ’em: They can’t be trusted; they’re poison and cancer to our churches; they ruin our Christian sisters and brothers for their own gain, drive some of ’em away from the church or even Jesus, and give pagans an excuse to mock us.

I know; Christians are supposed to do grace like our Father. That’s why we’re to personally forgive these frauds when they wrong us. Be kind and loving to them. Don’t lie about them, nor slander them. Accept their apologies when they make ’em.

But put them into positions of authority thereafter? Nope. They’ve proven they can’t be trusted. They need to be removed from any list of potential leaders we might have. Power corrupts ’em too easily, and isn’t safe in their hands. No “rehabilitation process” should ever put ’em back in charge. Our tolerance level for fakes should be way lower than it is.

How do you know you heard from God?

by K.W. Leslie, 08 December

Let’s say I’m talking with a Christian friend about the time she had to make a great big decision. Like where to go to college, whether to move to Chicago, whether to buy her house, whether to marry her husband, whether to quit her job. You know, the usual life-changing, life-rearranging decisions which people would rather God just tell us what to do, and grant us the best possible timeline.

So as my friend is describing how she came to her conclusion, she drops the inevitable, “Then God told me….”

ME. “Okay but how’d you know it was God?”
SHE. “Well I just knew.”
ME. “Just knew? How could you ‘just know’? Because it felt like God?”
SHE. “Exactly.”
ME. “Well fine; I can work with that. So what’s God feel like?”
SHE. “Oh, he’s indescribable.”
ME. “Yeah yeah; we all know the Chris Tomlin song. Now try to describe him.”
SHE. “I just felt an incredible peace about my decision. That’s how I knew it was God.”
ME. “I know what you mean. I feel an incredible peace after the barista hands me my morning coffee. But I’m pretty sure that’s not divine revelation. Describe him better.”
SHE. “I just wasn’t worried about my choice any longer. I knew I made the right one.”
ME. “You stopped worrying, so you figure God turned off the worries. And if you were still anxious, that’d mean you didn’t make the right decision. God uses your emotions to steer you the right way.”
SHE. “Yes.”
ME. “What about those people in the bible who still worried God wouldn’t come through for them? Like Abraham. The LORD seemed to be taking too long to give him a son, so he borrowed his wife’s slave and put a baby in her. Ge 16.1-4 Shouldn’t God have turned off his worries?”
SHE. “Abraham should’ve had faith.”
ME. “Abraham did have faith. Three different apostles used Abraham as an example of the very best kind of faith. Ro 4.9, He 11.8, Jm 2.23 But great faith or not, Abraham was still anxious about what God was gonna do, and decided to jump the gun. God didn’t steer Abraham through his worries. Abraham’s worries were totally his doing.”
SHE. “God would’ve taken them away if Abraham had only asked.”
ME. “You don’t think Abraham asked? Obviously he asked, ’cause God told him more than once he’d have a son—and he didn’t mean the slave’s son. God even took human form and visited Abraham personally, just so he could promise him again. Ge 18.1-15 Why go to all these lengths when all he had to do was turn off Abraham’s worries?”
SHE. “Abraham wouldn’t let God turn them off.”
ME. “Because Abraham was in total control of his worries.”
SHE. “Yes.”
ME. “Kinda like how you’re in total control of your worries, and whether they’re on or off has to do with you. Not God.”
SHE. “Right. Wait… no. You’re trying to mix me up.”
ME. “Nope. Just trying to point out emotions aren’t the Holy Spirit.

Immature prophets.

by K.W. Leslie, 25 November

Every Christian can hear God. This being the case, every Christian can share God’s messages with others: We can prophesy. We can become prophets. It’s why the Holy Spirit was given to us Christians in the first place: So we can hear and share God. Ac 2.17-18 Now, whether every Christian listens, hears God accurately, and prophesies accurately, is a whole other deal.

See, Christians are at all different levels of maturity. Some of us call it “spiritual maturity,” but there’s no functional difference between intellectual, emotional, and spiritual maturity. If we‘re one, we’re automatically one of the others. Too many Christians presume our knowledge makes us mature, instead of puffing us up like a bratty child prodigy. Likewise too many Christians presume if we’re fruitful, we needn’t be knowledgeable—which means we’re not wise, which means we ain’t all that fruity.

No matter which kind of immaturity we’re talking about, immature people are gonna do dumb. They don’t know any better. And an immature human is always gonna be an immature Christian. We need to recognize this, and not move immature Christians of any sort into any positions of responsibility. 1Ti 3.6 Since I’m writing on prophecy today, obviously this includes letting people speak on God’s behalf. New prophets need supervision!

Y’see, to the person who’s brand-new at listening to God, they may not realize every voice in their head sounds exactly the same. We weed out which spirits are God’s (or the Holy Spirit himself) by learning what he sounds like by reading our bibles. Newbies are new to the bible: They might’ve read it, but they don’t yet get it. They can’t tell the difference between God’s voice, their own voice, some other spirit’s voice, or even a devil’s voice: They all sound alike!

You know the devil’s totally gonna take advantage of this.

Some of these wannabe prophets never do learn the difference. Fr’instance cessationists presume every voice in their head is their own, and every clever idea they get is their idea. Even if it comes from the Holy Spirit. Or Satan. And if they don’t like the idea—even if it’s totally a God-idea!—they assume it’s their own personal crazy idea, which they dismiss out of hand, never share it, never obey it, don’t grow, and don’t grow others.

Now to the other extreme: We got Christians who for the rest of their life presume their own voice is God’s. And whattaya know: He likes what they like! He thinks like they do! He shares every single one of their wants, desires, and opinions! How handy. Hence some of ’em proclaim their various wants, desires, and opinions as if they came from God, because they’re entirely sure they and God are on the same wavelength. They pass for authentic prophets ’cause they sound so certain… and they are certain. But they’re false prophets ’cause that’s their voice, not God’s.

Inbetween we got prophets who do actually hear God. But they can likewise bollix their own prophecies for one rather obvious reason: They think their prophetic ability is fruit. Yep, they confused supernatural gifts with fruit. They think the power to do stuff takes priority, or even takes the place, of love, kindness, patience, grace, and gentleness. And since they’ve not grown that fruit, they’re not yet ready to speak for God. Because—

1 Corinthians 13.1-3 KWL
1 When I speak in human and angelic tongues:
When I have no love, I’ve become the sound of a gong, a clanging cymbal.
2 When I have a prophecy—“I knew the whole mystery! I know everything!”—
when I have all the faith necessary to move mountains:
When I have no love, I’m nobody.
3 Might I give away everything I possess?
Perhaps submit my body so I could be praised for my sacrifice?
When I have no love, I benefit nobody.

—they’re noise. They’re nobody. They benefit nobody. They will someday. Just not just yet.

But lemme remind you these immature Christians aren’t ready to speak for God… but do actually hear him. I’m not at all saying they don’t. Nor am I saying they’re frauds, nor malicious, nor bad Christians. They might not be! But because they lack fruit, they’re functionally just as error-plagued and destructive as any false prophet.

So I warn you about ’em now. Watch out for them. Don’t become one of them.

“Prophets” who only share encouraging words.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 October

There’s a rather loaded word we Christians use on a frequent basis: “Word.” It refers to Jesus. It can also refer to the bible, either as a whole, or to specific statements of God in the scriptures. It can refer to the gospel, Mt 13.19 the “good word.” It can refer to any message or lesson, really: A Sunday school class, a sermon, or a prayer where the petitioner slipped a lesson into it, passive-aggressive or not.

Or it can just be a short, positive saying. An “encouraging word.” A T-shirt slogan, easily short enough for text messages and Twitter.

All my life I’ve heard these little sayings. Had a pastor who’d like to start each Sunday morning service with one of them: “Church, I have a word for you.” Then he’d share it. Might be a popular saying; might be a clever saying; might be a bible verse. Might expound on it a little, but it’d take him no more than 30 seconds, ’cause he was gonna pray, and then we were gonna sing. “Church, be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.” It’d be short.

Christians like to encourage each other with such things. We’ll make memes of them and scatter them all over the internet. We teach ’em to newbies and children. Most are good, and consistent with the scriptures. Some are bunk. But I tend to call them generic Christian truth. Stuff like:

  • Jesus loves you. (This I know, for the bible tells me so.)
  • Be of good cheer!
  • God considers you valuable. You’re not irrelevant.
  • It’s the Father’s good pleasure to give you his kingdom.
  • Jesus is the way, truth, and life.
  • Heaven is real, and someday you get to see it.
  • God wants to help, so don’t forget to pray.
  • Stop fixating on the world’s chaos. It’s passing away.
  • Jesus is returning!

And so on. We put ’em on T-shirts and bumper stickers, put ’em into Christian pop songs, and use ’em to encourage one another. Anybody can do it.

And it takes no prophetic ability whatsoever. The Holy Spirit doesn’t have to tell me, “Hey, go tell that stranger I love her.” You already know God loves her; you can tell her without any prompting from him. We can tell anyone, at any time, “Hey, God loves you!” ’Cause it’s true.

Although sometimes the Spirit does have to give us a little kick in the pants. But that little kick doesn’t count as prophecy; it’s not always because these strangers have to hear God loves them. Yeah, sometimes they do… but a lot of times the Spirit gives us that kick because we suck at encouraging others. So if you ever thought to yourself, “Why’d the Spirit make me go say something to that stranger? He looked so unimpressed”—it’s not because that person needed to hear anything, but because the Spirit’s teaching you to obey. Good Christian. Keep it up.

But let’s get off that tangent and get to those Christians who specialize in sharing generic Christian truths… and think it’s their prophetic ministry.

Yeah. There are such creatures. I know plenty. And I’m not knocking the encouragement! Christians need to encourage one another; probably more than we already do.

The catch is these people think what they’re doing is prophetic, and it’s really not. Like I said, encouragement takes no prophetic ability whatsoever. You don’t need to personally hear God say, “Tell this person these words” before you can share a generic Christian truth with ’em. Plenty of cessationists, who are dead certain God doesn’t talk to people anymore, tweet encouragement at one another. (As they should: Since they think God abandoned us, they especially need the encouragement!) You can slap a bumper sticker on your car, park it, and leave it there… and it’ll encourage every Christian who sees it, including the one who finally tows your car away. And you won’t have done anything more.

But you know how some people would really like to become prophets, and are willing to call anything prophetic if it means they’re prophets. So yeah, they’ll consider encouraging words to be “prophecies.” Even though they’re not. Even when they misinterpret scripture (“God knows the plans he has for you!”) or aren’t even scriptural at all (“Everything happens for a reason!”). You know, stuff the Holy Spirit doesn’t do.

Prophecy and preaching.

by K.W. Leslie, 04 June

Prophecy is when we hear God and share with others what we heard.

It’s not a complicated definition. It only gets complicated when people don’t wanna define it that way. When they wanna claim prophecy is only for the very, very few (not every Christian, like Joel described Jl 2.28-29); that it’s a special office, and they’re one of the few officeholders, so heed them. Or when they wanna claim prophecy ended in bible times ’cause God has since turned off the miracles.

Today I’m dealing with the second group, the cessationists. And if prophecy is when we share what we heard from God, but nobody hears God anymore… are there prophets anymore? Can there be prophets anymore?

Some’ll say no. Which is a problematic belief. If there’s no such thing as prophets and prophecy, what’re we to do with all the verses in the scriptures where we’re encouraged to prophesy, 1Co 14.5 and discouraged from rejecting prophecy? 1Th 5.20 Do we set them aside, ’cause they no longer count in this dispensation?

Others have come up with this explanation: Yes we can hear from God in the present day—through the pages of the bible. When you read God’s word, you’re “hearing” from God, aren’t you? And when you share what you read in the bible, and explain it to people who struggle to understand it… well this, they claim, is prophecy. We prophesy every time we teach bible.

Even Christians who do believe God still speaks, have accepted this redefinition: Teaching bible counts as prophecy. Anybody who expounds on the written word of God is ipso facto a prophet.

Is this an accurate definition of prophet? Hardly.

Quoting bible versus prophecy.

What makes someone a prophet? Simple: The Holy Spirit speaks to everyone. Everyone. He speaks to non-Christians so he can lead ’em to Jesus. And he speaks to Christians so he can lead us to Jesus—not to follow him in the first place, but follow him better. We Christians should be listening to him when we pray. When we pass along what he told us to others—especially when he ordered us to—it makes one a prophet.

Yes, the Spirit’s message will sometimes be a passage from the bible. The Spirit regularly quotes himself. (’Cause he said it right the first time.) So when a Christian needs a bit of encouragement, and the Spirit drops a suitable, timely scripture into her mind, it’s just as good as if he told her something new. It’s just as much prophecy as if the Spirit said something new. It’s all from God, y’know.

Okay, so what about pulling quotes from the bible when we’re not talking with the Spirit?

’Cause that’s what the Pharisees did. They quoted plenty of bible. They were well-known for expounding upon the written word of God, same as we Christians are. Did it make them prophets? Nah.

Nobody identified Pharisees as prophets until they honest-to-goodness prophesied, like Simeon and Anna. Lk 2.25-38 If all they did was expound on bible, they were’t considered prophets; they were considered scribes. They were teachers.

Ezra ben Seraiah, fr’instance. He read the entire book of the Law to the Jews who’d recently returned to Jerusalem, reminding them what was in it, and expounding on it so they were clear about what it meant. Ne 8.2-9 Sounds precisely like the cessationist definition of “prophecy.” But do the scriptures ever call Ezra a prophet? Nope. Because in the books we consider scripture, Ezra wasn’t considered a prophet. He was a bible scholar. He definitely worked for God, had a lot of favor from God, and possibly talked with God all the time. But we never see him share a direct revelation he got from God. He didn’t do prophecy. Wasn’t his ministry.

(Yes, in certain apocryphal books like 2 Esdras, God showed Ezra a series of apocalyptic visions. And if Ezra actually wrote those visions down, he’d be a prophet. But the reason those books are apocrypha is ’cause we’re pretty sure he didn’t write ’em. In the books we consider scripture, Ezra has no such visions. He just teaches.)

In Jesus’s day there were likewise scribes who knew bible backwards and forwards. Yet people didn’t call ’em prophets. They taught God’s word, and taught God said various things in the scriptures. They did all the things cessationists call “prophecy.” Yet the scribes never claimed God directly told ’em one thing or another, and that’s why people didn’t describe ’em as prophets.

Jesus, on the other hand, is called a prophet, Mt 21.10-11 because he did claim he heard from his Father, and shared what he heard. Jn 15.15 It definitely makes him a prophet.

So the scriptures themselves don’t verify this notion that anyone who quotes or expounds bible is a prophet. Because anyone can quote bible. Plenty of pagans do. But to be a legit prophet, we gotta hear God. If the Holy Spirit didn’t tell you anything, you’re no prophet.

2 Peter 1.19-21 KWL
19 We have a prophetically stable message, which you do well to heed,
like a lamp shining in a dark place till the day can dawn, and the morning star rise in your hearts,
20 knowing this first: Every prophetic writing doesn’t come from an individual interpretation.
21 Prophecy was never produced by human effort.
Instead, carried along by the Holy Spirit, people spoke from God.

Yeah, you’ll hear cessationists claim Simon Peter’s description applies only to prophetic writing; namely bible. They claim he wasn’t speaking of present-day prophets and prophetic speakers. And yet interpretive speakers are what cessationists mean by “prophets”: People who crack open a bible, then individually interpret it.

It’s already hard to defend the hypothesis God stopped speaking to his people. But flipping the definition of “prophet” 180 degrees away from how the apostles defined it in the bible so they can turn scribes (namely themselves) into prophets? You gotta wonder whether anything a cessationist teaches is in any degree reliable.

Prophetic preaching.

This said, anyone who preaches ought to first become a prophet.

Anyone who wants to proclaim God’s word, and expound on the scriptures, really needs to begin with a serious conversation with the Holy Spirit. He needs to direct what we preach. Not the guy who wrote some book of sermon outlines. Not the liturgy. God.

Talk it out with the Spirit. Yeah, you might have a bible passage you want to preach about (or are expected to preach about), and the Spirit can work with that. Sometimes he’ll override it ’cause he has something more pressing. But he needs to direct your bible study. He inspired your bible, y’know; who better? Have him show you which points to make, and especially which insights to provide.

If the Holy Spirit is directing your sermon, it’s gonna be so prophetic.

If however, your sermon outline was borrowed from a website, or a big book of sermon outlines; if all your anecdotes were taken from some other big book of anecdotes; if all your research was cribbed from the biblical commentaries in your library (even when the commentaries were written by Spirit-filled scholars): It may certainly look prophetic. And sound prophetic. If you crank up the bass in your church’s sound system, the listeners will even think it feels prophetic. It’ll be a wonderful example of your oratorical skill. But will the Holy Spirit be any part of it?

I’ve heard a number of preachers claim they had the Spirit’s guidance in their messages. I have my doubts, ’cause of various red flags. Like out-of-context bible quotes—the Holy Spirit’s not gonna misquote his own bible! Or rambling, unstructured, undisciplined, meandering preaching. The Spirit’s fruit is self-control, but when preachers exercise very little of that—or other fruit of the Spirit—you gotta wonder how much time they honestly spend with him.

If the Spirit has an impact on people through such teachers, it’s in spite of them, not through them. Wouldn’t you much rather it be through you?

Sermons, preaching, and teaching can totally come through human effort. I admit I’ve written many an article through my own efforts. (Which is why I later gotta go back and revise ’em.) But get the Spirit involved, and he’ll make it prophetic.

Plucking Jesus’s beard. Or not.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 December

Isaiah 50.6.

Jesus fulfills a lot of Old Testament scriptures, and this advent I wanna look at the ones he particularly fulfilled from Isaiah.

Some of them explicitly refer to Jesus, ’cause a future Messiah, a savior, a suffering servant, a King of kings, is precisely who Isaiah was writing about. But some of ’em actually aren’t about Jesus. They’re either about humanity in general, Israelis in general, or even Isaiah himself. But because the same or similar events happened to Jesus, he fulfilled them. His experiences fleshes out these verses. That’s what fulfillment in the bible actually means: Not that Jesus did as predicted, but that Jesus reflects these ideas better, sometimes, than the original ideas.

So today’s passage is one of those reflections. It’s not about Jesus; it’s explicitly about Isaiah himself. About how, as a prophet, he gets crapped on.

Isaiah 50.4-9 KWL
4 The LORD my Master gave me an educated tongue so I might know to say a timely word to the weary.
He wakes me every morning; he wakes up my ear so I can hear like an educated man.
5 The LORD my Master opens my ear, and I won’t rebel or backslide.
6 I gave my back to those who’d beat it, my jaw to those who’d strike it.
I didn’t hide my face from disgrace… and spit.
7 The LORD my Master helps me, so I’m not confused;
so I steady my face like a flint, and I know I won’t be disappointed.
8 He who justifies me is near. Who wants to fight me? Stand up together!
Who’s my lord who justifies me? Have him approach!
9 Look, the LORD my Master helps me; who’s making trouble for me?
They’ll wear out like moth-eaten clothing.

If you believe “prophet” is a title which gets people acclaim and honor, you don’t know any real prophets. Or you might, but you don’t know them; you don’t really see what they go through. Actually hearing and sharing from God means you’re gonna get pushback.

Usually from people who only want a prophet to tell them happy thoughts. Who have their own ideas about who God is (and make him a lot like them), and don’t wanna hear otherwise. Who certainly don’t wanna hear God correct and rebuke the hypocrisy and sin of those who claim to follow him.

Less often, and usually from outside our own churches, we get pushback from people who prefer the idea God doesn’t talk anymore. A number of people like to condemn any and all prophecy, and claim only preaching is a form prophecy—and they’re preachers, so they’re prophets, so listen to them, and no one else. It’s a professional jealousy thing.

Isaiah dealt with both types. And since ancient Israel had no such thing as freedom of speech, Isaiah had to suffer consequences for anything he said. No, not prison; they’d just cane you. Usually without trial: The mob would just whack you with their walking sticks. Or punch you in the jaw.

Prophets in the bible: Read their books!

by K.W. Leslie, 06 September
THE PROPHETS ðə 'prɑf.əts noun, plural. Biblical writings by and about God’s Spirit-inspired messengers.
2. [In Christian bibles and book order] Books in the Old Testament primarily consisting of prophecies. Usually Isaiah through Malachi.
3. [In Jewish bibles and book order] The second major grouping of the Hebrew scriptures: Books written between 1000 and 400BC; Joshua through Malachi.

Sometimes I refer to “the Prophets,” and I admit this can be confusing to Christians who grew up Jewish. To Jews, “the Prophets” are the middle part of their bible—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the 12 minor prophets.

But to Christians, “the Prophets” are the books with prophets’ names on them, specifically written by them, specifically full of their prophecies. Isaiah, Jeremiah (and Jeremiah’s book Lamentations), Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Some of us throw in the New Testament book of Revelation, and others throw in the apocryphal book of Baruch.

And for too many of these Christians, these are flyover books.

Yep. Just like snobs on the east and west coasts assume the middle of the United States consists of irrelevant “flyover states” which one needn’t bother to visit, many Christians figure these books needn’t be read. ’Cause they were written to the ancient Hebrews, not us. And they’re too confusing. Too filled with hard-to-interpret visions. Too weird. Not relevant.

They figure the Prophets have only two functions; only two reasons why we bother to publish bibles including them. First of all, they’re full of predictions Messiah was coming, so they point to Jesus. So we keep ’em for the Messianic prophecies, in case anybody isn’t sure the Prophets did foretell Jesus’s first coming.

The other is because they also foretell Jesus’s second coming. They foretell the End Times. So “prophecy scholars” mine ’em for their End Times prognostications, for anything which might fill in the blank parts of their timelines.

Otherwise, these books are considered a hard read. So Christians don’t read ’em. We read the books we consider relevant: The New Testament. The Old Testament origin stories, or tales of great biblical heroes. The psalms, for the poetry. Proverbs, for the wisdom. Song of Songs, for the smut.

But not the Prophets. Otherwise you’d have to learn about the historical context these prophets were talking about, and that’s way too much homework for your typical Christian’s taste. Plus they’re a bummer, ’cause they’re full of condemnation and God’s wrath. So, as I said, they’re skipped. Mine ’em for proof texts in case there’s a “biblical principle” you’re pushing. But otherwise skip ’em.

This attitude is incredibly short-sighted for those of us who wanna hear from God.

Because these prophets likewise heard God. You wanna know what God sounds like? Read the Prophets. You need to hear what God’s legitimate messengers sound like.

The self-anointed prophet.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 August

When God makes one of his kids a prophet, he doesn’t anoint us.

Anointing, i.e. pouring oil over someone’s head to indicate leadership, is done in the bible to leaders. Not prophets. True, the LORD instructed his prophet Elijah to anoint Elisha ben Šafát, 1Ki 19.16 but that’s as his successor as leader of the בְנֵֽי־הַנְּבִיאִ֥ים/vnéi haneviím, “the sons of the prophets,” 2Ki 2.15 a prophecy guild. Elisha was already a prophet.

’Cause how God makes prophets is to simply start talking to us. Like he did with Samuel ben Elqaná when he was a kid.

1 Samuel 3.3-10 KWL
3 Samuel laid down in the LORD’s sanctuary, where God’s ark was, before God’s lamp was put out.
4 The LORD called Samuel, saying, “Look at me.”
5 Samuel ran to Eli, saying, “Look at me; you called me.”
Eli said, “I didn’t call. Go back. Lie down.” Samuel walked back and laid down.
6 The LORD called yet again: “Samuel.”
Samuel stood and walked to Eli, saying, “Look at me; you called me.”
Eli said, “I didn’t call, my son. Go back. Lie down.”
7 Samuel hadn’t yet met the LORD,
who hadn’t yet revealed the LORD’s word to him.
8 The LORD called Samuel again a third time.
Samuel stood and walked to Eli, saying, “Look at me; you called me.”
Eli realized the LORD called the boy, 9 and Eli told Samuel, “Go lie down.
If he happens to call you, say, ‘Speak, LORD: Your slave hears you.’ ”
Samuel walked back and laid down in the LORD’s room.
10 The LORD came, stood there, and did as he did before: “Samuel. Samuel.”
Samuel said, “Speak: Your slave hears you.”

There are dramatic stories in the bible of a prophet’s first God-experience—or what sounds like a prophet’s first God-experience. People like to point to when Isaiah saw the LORD in his temple, with the serafs and the burning coal and “Holy holy holy!” and all that. But that vision is recorded in Isaiah’s sixth chapter. He had five chapters of prophecy before that! And likely so did all the other prophets whose books start with profound God-experiences. I’m not knocking experiences; they’re awesome. But God doesn’t need to start with that, and usually doesn’t. More often it’s like when he first talked to Samuel.

So when someone starts referring to themselves as an anointed prophet, what we’ve got here is someone who doesn’t know how God selects prophets. Who thinks being able to hear God, automatically makes ’em some sort of leader. Following their logic, Eli should’ve just made Samuel a co-head priest, little boy or not. Jeremiah ben Hilqiyahu should’ve been made a co-regent with King Josiah ben Amon. The ability to hear God catapults you into a position of power, so back up, everyone!