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

16 January 2024

God’s “word for the year” for you?

Every year, all sorts of people decide what’s the word for this year.

No I’m not talking about dictionary publishers. They pick the word for the year, at the end of the year. Usually it’s a word that’s been in the zeitgeist… or a word they hope to put in the zeitgeist for a few moments, either to encourage people, or warn ’em. It’s useful, free publicity for dictionary publishers.

Nope. It’s a word—one word—which is meant to be the theme of this new year.

If the word for the year is “Beginnings” or “Proceed!” or “Starting” or “Launch”—or the conveniently biblical-sounding “Genesis”—it suggests the theme for the year is maybe we’ll begin something new. Or maybe stop doing something we shouldn’t, and start over.

If the word for the year is “Dynamic” or “Powerful” or “Mighty” or “Forceful,” maybe we’ll try something we consider dynamic. Or try to be dynamic. Or invest in utility companies. However you choose to interpret “Dynamic” or the other potential words for the year; however you choose to implement it in your life.

Y’might be thinking, “Oh yeah; my church does that every year. It's a Christian thing, right?” Actually it’s not. It’s a human thing. Plenty of people do it! It’s meant to inspire themselves, and others, to be better people. It’s like a new-year resolution. It’s self-improvement. Nothing wrong with self-improvement!

What Christians have done, of course, is Christianize it. How might we take this optimistic self-improvement practice, and make it nice and Jesusy?

Hence certain Christian leaders come up with a word for the year, based on what they see as something we Christians oughta work on. Or based on something they oughta work on, and since they’re struggling with it, maybe they’re not alone; maybe everybody oughta struggle with it; hey, we can struggle together! Misery loves company. Or, more optimistically, maybe we can support one another. Yeah, that sounds better.

In continuationist churches, in which the Christian leaders strive to hear God, frequently they try to get God in on this. “Hey God, what’s your word for the year?” Surely God knows the best word for the year. Plus it’ll save us all the trouble of actually getting to know the people of our church, and wisely discern what word they’d need. Nah; let’s just get a shortcut from God. We might pick the wrong word, but he’ll always pick the right one.

And maybe, certain Christians figure, just maybe this word for the year will be a prophetic word. By “prophetic” they don’t necessarily mean what prophecy properly means, i.e. God telling us stuff through one of his kids, and confirming it through more of his kids. Nope; they mean predictive—this’ll be a word which tells us our future. If the word for the year is “Prosperity,” it means God’ll make us prosperous! And if the word for the year is “Famine”… well, y’notice somehow it’s never “Famine.” Hm. Wonder why that is?

Now look; I’m not knocking words for the year. Go ahead and pick yourself one. Feel free to go along with your church’s word for the year, if they have one; or bible verse for the year—so long that you remember, unlike some random word, we don’t get to spin a bible verse however we please; it’s got a context.

But I do take issue with anyone who claims God’s behind any particular word of the year. Because words for the year are wildly open for interpretation. But God’s messages are not. He doesn’t do vague. Humans do vague. Fake prophets do vague. Devils do vague. But God doesn’t bother to give us a single word… without giving us a whole paragraph explaining just what that single word means.

15 May 2023

Yeah, that “word for everybody” is for 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

Back in college we had someone in a prayer group get up and say, “God just laid something on my heart.”

I’ll call her Justine. No, God didn’t literally put something on Justine’s physical heart, or even her spiritual one. All this “my heart” talk is pure Christianese lingo. Basically God told her something. I don’t know whether the “just” means he only a moment ago told her this, or he only told her this; “just” is a Christianese filler word and has lots of meanings. But I’ll stop nitpicking her Christianese now.

God told Justine something. She believed it was something he wanted her to share… and when you share what God told you, that’s prophecy. That’s really all prophecy is; it’s not complicated. We complicate it with a lot of otherworldly, magical ideas, but that’s just cosmetic trickery. It’s only “God told me this, so I’m telling you what he told me.”

“Somebody in this room,” Justine said, “is feeling really depressed. Really downhearted. Broken. Like they don’t know how they’re gonna get through the day.” And she went on like that for a bit. Someone—she didn’t know who—was having a rough time and needed encouragement. Well she wanted to encourage that person. God loves that person. You’re not alone. And other encouraging words. So cheer up, dangit!

Our prayer leader thanked her, so Justine sat down and we went back to praying for stuff.

Once the prayer meeting was over, my roommate and I were talking about this prophecy during dinner.

HE. “Y’know, I’d really like to know which of us was feeling that way. I know Justine probably didn’t want to name names and embarrass anyone, but if God thought it was important enough to bring up to the whole room, you’d think he would’ve said exactly who it was.”
ME.He didn’t have to. It’s Justine.”
HE. “Wait, she was talking about herself?”
ME. “Yep.”
HE. “So this was just her ploy for sympathy?”
ME. “No no; she legitimately thinks it’s somebody else in the room with the problem. But you know everybody in the room. Which of them is having serious trouble in their personal lives?”
HE. [thinks a moment] “…Justine.”
ME. “There you go.”
HE. “So God gave her a word… for herself?
ME. “Yep. It wasn’t for the rest of us. He told her he knows what she’s going through, and he’s here for her. But she’s in denial, so she immediately thought, ‘This has gotta be a message for somebody else,’ and basically told on herself.”
HE. “Whoa.”
ME. “I’ve been in denial myself. It’s really messes with your ability to hear God.”
HE. “So what do we do?”
ME. “Pray. Her roommate was there; she knows what’s going on; she’ll be there for her. Now Justine herself just has to figure out what’s going on.”

And gradually she did, though it took some months. But the reason I recognized this phenomenon is because this wasn’t my first encounter with it.

Codependent prophets.

Here’s a phenomenon you run into all the time in 12-step groups for adult children of addicts and alcoholics. (Which I am, which is why I know this.) Addicts’ family members are often codependent people, meaning we spend all our time managing their problems… and never adequately deal with our own. Or figure, “My issues are nothing compared to theirs”—and yeah, they might be lesser issues, but they’re still issues. Sometimes really big issues. Stuff we can’t afford to be in denial about.

Hence codependent people have a bad habit of diagnosing everybody else’s problems, but when it comes to recognizing our own hangups and bad behaviors, the blinders are on. And they’re not coming off without a struggle. Sometimes a fight.

This situation with prophets who are really speaking about themselves: Same deal. Very same deal. The Holy Spirit is trying to help them. But they can’t accept it yet; they insist their issues are nothing compared to that of other people. The message has gotta be for somebody else. And hey, God’s messages for somebody else: That’s prophecy! They got a prophecy! “Hey everybody, check out the prophecy!”—and they proceed to tell on themselves.

Once you learn to recognize this kind of codependent behavior, you’re gonna quickly notice Christians who lack spiritual maturity doing it all the time. Newbies do it. Kids do it. Christians who never grow up do it. There’s this one lady who used to attend my church, who believed she had a really powerful gift for prophecy, ’cause God tells her so many things! But she kept telling herself they were messages for other people, and prophesied them… and now everybody knew what issues she was currently dealing with.

Thick blinders. She never realized how her prophecies always, always perfectly applied to herself. And once people pointed it out to her, her response was, “Oh that’s an interesting coincidence,” but never noticed it was always the case.

Remember how I said codependent people have a bad habit of trying to diagnose others? Codependent people also have a bad habit of trying to become counselors, therapists… and prophets. ’Cause they think they can help! And admittedly they often can; they’ve seen some stuff. But prophets need to be humble, and realize these messages from God may not necessarily be for others, but ourselves, and ask God whether they’re actually for everyone in the room, or the church. They might not be.

But their prophecies might still minister to others. And themselves.

Years ago I went to at a prophecy conference at a nearby church, ’cause I wanted to see what they meant by “activating prophecy.” (I wrote about that elsewhere.) In the middle of the conference, one of the speakers gave us a thought-provoking exercise.

She told us, “I’m gonna have you write a message from God to someone. But I’m not gonna tell you who the message is for, till it’s time to give it. So ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to share with that person. Then write it down. You’re gonna hand that message to that person.”

Weird, but why not. I asked, got something from the Holy Spirit, and wrote it down. Each of us wrote down what we were pretty sure the Holy Spirit told us.

“Okay,” she said, “now look at your paper. That message is actually for you.”

Big surprised reaction from the audience. Kinda pleased reaction, because it turned out a lot of these messages really were suitable for the people who wrote ’em down.

Mine said, It’s okay to have doubts. Hey, it worked!

But the reason this trick worked for everyone, was ’cause of the very same phenomenon this entire article is about. God tells us stuff—and we regularly think the message is for someone else, and it’s frequently our own issues. When I asked the Spirit to tell me something, and started listening to him really hard, what came up was what was already in my conscience. Stuff the Spirit was already telling me to work on, to do. And because I’m just as human as the next person, a lot of the stuff the Spirit tells us is true for everyone. Which is why it’s so easy for us to densely assume, “Hey, that’s for my neighbor”—same as we do with convicting sermons and bible passages.

This fun little exercise tricked the roomful of wannabe prophets into taking their blinders off, just for a moment. That’s why it worked so well.

But it also made me realize every prophet does this. I’ve yet to find one who doesn’t. Unless the Spirit’s message gets really specific (“You need to change your PIN number because your sister’s been sneaking money out of your bank to pay for her video poker addiction”), his messages are usually nudging us to follow Jesus better—and everybody needs to follow Jesus better. It might be my dirty laundry, but everybody’s got laundry.

And everybody, prophets included, need help cleaning the laundry. Help from God; encouragement from one another. We’re all going through stuff. One of the healthiest things we can do is admit this to one another, and pray for one another. Prophets who stand up and state these things aloud might be telling on themselves, but they’re getting these issues out into the open. Ultimately it’s a good thing. Ultimately it ministers to far more people than just the prophet.

So that’s why I don’t wanna tell immature prophets, “Stop telling on yourselves.” Go right ahead and tell on yourself. But realize your messages might be more for you yourself, than you realize.

Lastly, the skeptics.

Yeah, I realize there are gonna be skeptics who say, “So all these prophets are declaring what their own consciences are bothering them about? That’s not God. That’s them. Your conscience isn’t God. It’s all the stuff you’ve been conditioned by your parents and society to believe are right and wrong. It’s pathology, not prophecy.”

There are even Christians who claim to believe in prophecy, yet say this too. Mostly because they don’t believe God regularly speaks to us through prayer, to our spirits, through our consciences. They think prophecy consists, and only consists, of profound God-appearances like a vision or an audible voice. Like an epiphany which blows your mind, or the Holy Spirit possesses you momentarily like one of those psychics claim their spirits do. Bonkers stuff like that.

To them, God doesn’t speak through anyone’s conscience. ’Cause consciences, they figure, don’t work like that. Their theories about how consciences do work, don’t involve anybody adding new morals and values and guidelines to them. Don’t involve the Spirit’s fruit, or the Spirit constantly working on us—and having a lot to say.

Now yes, since the Spirit’s fixing our defective consciences, sometimes the messages we think are the Spirit, are really just us repeating our own defective, demented beliefs. Hence sock-puppet theology and bad prophecies—and the regular need to double-check prophecy against scripture and fellow Christians, lest we get God wrong. I’ve heard many prophets get up, vent their spleen, and think they’re just sharing what God told ’em, but their fleshly attitudes and statements reveal there’s no God in any of it. Just bile. The Christian’s conscience is a mix of godliness and junk, and we’d better learn the difference before we prophesy!

Hence some of the more pressing things in our consciences are gonna be the issues the Spirit wants us to work on most. And if you’re dabbling in prophecy, it’s inevitable that at some point you’re gonna get up and proclaim that thing which presses on you hardest. You’re gonna tell on yourself.

Relax; ain’t no shame in that. Mature Christians have been there too. Some of us are still there, and need the reminder to fight harder. Humans are alike. Christians are alike. We need to hear these things from time to time. And to pray for one another. So keep right on doing it.

As for the naysayers, I can only hope that one of these days a prophet stands up in their churches and declares something which is precisely what they’re going through. I can only hope they have enough sense to set their pride aside, receive it, repent, come forward, and get ministered to. We’re all struggling. We all need grace. That’s why God’s prophets need to remind us of his grace, and this happens to be one of the ways it comes to their minds. Don’t knock it; it works.

10 May 2023

Test every prophet.

Every Christian can hear God. (If we listen. Not all of us do, or know how to, or even know to. That’s another article.) And if God gives us something to share with another person, that’s prophecy. It’s not a complicated concept. Every Christian can potentially be a prophet.

No, not specially-anointed individuals who’ve been assigned that specific ministry office by the Holy Spirit. Those folks might be professional prophets, but that doesn’t mean other people can’t do prophecy. Same as monks, and people who run prayer ministries, might be professional petitioners, but every Christian should pray. God doesn’t put limits on who can do what in his church. We do—and shouldn’t.

That said, anybody—literally anybody—can come up to you and say, “God told me to tell you [SOMETHING THEY THINK IMPORTANT].” Or sometimes they’ll go full KJV hairy thunderer and start it with “Thus saith the LORD,” but it’s the same general idea: God told ’em to tell you something.

Well they think God told ’em to tell you something.

Or they don’t think God told ’em anything, because he didn’t, and they’re phonies. Anything real can be faked, especially for personal gain. So of course there are fake prophets, and Jesus tells us to watch out for them. They’ll lead us astray, for fun and profit.

In bible times you could drag them out of town, throw them off a cliff, and throw heavy rocks down on their bodies. And if we could still legally do that, we’d have way fewer televangelists. But we can’t, and that’s probably best. There are a lot of newbie prophets who are just getting the hang of their ability, and they’re making mistakes. Sometimes they’re just plain wrong. We need to be gracious to these people, and get ’em to stop playing prophet till their accuracy rate is the appropriate 100 percent.

And even when they have a 100 percent accuracy rate, they could always slip up. God told ’em one thing, but they put their own spin on his message and said way more than they should have, and bungled the prophecy. It happens. Especially when certain Christians get overconfident, or when politics gets involved. (That’s likewise another article.) That’s why Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets of the bible, tell us to watch out. Every Christian is wrong in one way or another, and we’re supposed to double-check one another anyway. True of prophecy as well.

So here’s how to watch out for fake prophets. And if you wanna dabble in prophecy yourself, you’d better make sure you share the traits of a legitimate prophet.

04 May 2023

Wanna become a prophet?

There are two really common misconceptions about the word “prophet.” One’s a minor problem; the other’s huge. Small problem first: What a prophet actually is.

Loads of people assume prophets are the same thing as prognosticators: People who know the future, or who can predict it really well. Pagans think this, which is why they treat prophecy like just another category of psychic phenomena. And cessationists think the very same way—to them, “prophecy” is future-telling, and it’s either bunk, like astrology or fortune-telling… or it’s the real thing, but it only has to do with the End Times. It’s why all their “prophecy conferences” consist of End Times goofiness instead of actual prophets talking shop.

True, God talks about the future a lot. Be fair; so do we all. “That’s on my schedule for tomorrow,” or “I’ll do that in the morning,” or “Can’t wait till Saturday.” Like us, God either talks about what he’s gonna do in the near future, or the soon-coming consequences of poor choices: “Stop doing that; you’ll go blind.” But since the future comes up so often in our discussions with him, people assume prophecy is mostly about foretelling the future.

In fact one of the ways we test prophets is by seeing whether any of their statements about the future come true. Dt 18.22 And by that metric, we should probably stone to death most of the people who hold those “prophecy conferences.” But I digress.

A prophet is not a prognosticator. A prophet is simply God’s mouthpiece: Someone who heard God, and is sharing with others what God told ’em. That’s all.

When you pray—you do pray, right?—and God speaks back to you, usually it’s information for you. And sometimes it’s information for others. “Remind your husband I love him.” Or “Warn your daughter her so-called friend is gossiping about her.” Or “See that guy at the bus stop? Wave hi.” Or “I have just one word for your father-in-law: Plastics.” Whatever messages God wants us to pass along to others, that’s a prophecy. When you pass ’em, you’re a prophet.

Thought you needed some Isaiah-style vision, with seraphs and thrones and God calling you to the job? Nah. It’s been known to happen. But it’s far more common God’ll just tell you something, and see how you do with it. And if you do well, he’ll do it more often. And if you don’t, he won’t.

09 December 2022

Jesus, our Immanuel.

Isaiah 7.14, Matthew 1.22-23.

In the middle of the Joseph story, the author of Matthew inserted this comment.

Matthew 1.18-19 KWL
22 (All of this happened so it could fulfill
God’s message to the prophet, saying,
23 “Look, the maiden will have a child in the womb,
and will birth a son,
and they will declare his name to be Immanúël,” Is 7.14
which is translated “God is with us.”)

So let’s jump from the first century of our era, to the eighth century BC, for that story.

If you’re not familiar with the nation of Ephraim, that’s because the writer of Kings preferred to call it “Israel.” It’s the nine northernmost tribes of Israel, which split from Jerusalem and were run by the king of Samaria. Back round the year 735BC, the king of Samaria, Peqákh ben Remalyáhu (KJV “Pekah the son of Remaliah”) joined forces with Radyán of Damascus, Aram (KJV “Rezin the king of Syria”) to attack Jerusalem. 2Ki 16.5 This was one of the first campaigns of the Assyro-Ephraimite War… which eventually destroyed Samaria. The Assyrians dragged all the cities of Ephraim into exile, and all the country-dwellers left behind either moved south to Jerusalem, or evolved into the Samaritans.

While Jerusalem was under seige, the prophets Isaiah ben Amóch and his son Sheüryahsúv had come to King Akház ben Yotám (KJV “Ahaz son of Jotham”) with good news from the LORD: Ephraim and Aram’s plans would ultimately come to nothing. But Akhaz—who wasn’t the most devout of kings—really didn’t know how to take the encouragement.

Isaiah 7.10-17 KWL
10 The LORD’s word to Akház, saying,
11 “Request a sign from your LORD God.
Make it deep as a grave,
or make it high as outer space.”
12 Akház said, “I won’t ask.
I won’t test the LORD.”
13 Isaiah said, “House of David, listen please.
It takes little for you to tire people,
because you also tire God.
14 For this, my Master himself is giving you a sign.
‘Look, a pregnant maiden gave birth to a son.
She declared his name Immánuël/‘God with us.’
15 He’ll eat curds and honey,
and learn to reject evil and choose good.
16 But before the boy learns to reject evil and choose good,
the nations you fear are laid waste
before the face of these two kings.’
17 The LORD is bringing upon you, your people, and your father’s house
days which haven’t been
since the days Ephraim turned away from Judah to Assyria’s king.”

God had Akház’s back. Proof? Little Immánuël. And Matthew quotes this prophecy because Jesus is like little Immánuël.

29 August 2022

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

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.

25 July 2022

Prophetic note-taking.

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!

15 June 2022

Activating prophecy.

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.

07 February 2022

Elisha’s double portion.

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.

06 October 2021

Ask prophets follow-up questions.

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.

11 June 2021

The excuse of the false experience.

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.

24 May 2021

Quenching the Spirit.

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.

19 May 2021

Messianic prophecies.

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.

28 February 2021

Watch out for fake and fruitless prophets.

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.

30 December 2020

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

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?

22 December 2020

Supernatural discernment: Knowing what you 𝘤𝘢𝘯’𝘵 know.

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.

17 December 2020

Sock-puppet false prophecy.

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.

09 December 2020

Killing false prophets: Wanna bring it back?

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.

08 December 2020

How do you 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 you heard from God?

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.

25 November 2020

Immature prophets.

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.