And Now a Word from Our Sponsor…

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I read another blogger’s comment that she received some words prayed over her this last weekend. Now comes the mulling of whether or not those words constitute a clear leading of God.

I can sympathize with that conundrum. I use the word conundrum because we receive a lot of “words” in today’s Church, but all too few of them turn into anything at all, making receiving such a word a dicey proposition.

It shouldn’t be that way.

Though I count myself a charismatic and thus have been exposed to hundreds of words prayed over me in my lifetime, I can count on two hands the number that truly reflected the intervention of God. That’s a darned poor track record for “words.”

Scarier still: all the ones I can verify as legit came from the same two men, one an oldster in the Faith and the other a young man old in soul.

Two men in thirty years of my Christian life. Two.

You’ve got to wonder at the damage all those phony messages from God cause. The prophet is in!If I hear another person mention they’re going to a prophecy conference I’m going to lose it. Those folks follow these so-called prophets around like groupies and it’s sad. Considering the accuracy of today’s modern prophets, you’ve got to wonder how many of those conference attendees have had hundreds of words prayed over them, none of them amounting to more than so much air. Yet the addiction’s there, so they go, always seeking, but never finding.

Don’t get me wrong here. I believe in modern day prophecy and gifts of wisdom and knowledge. I’ve given out a few of those in my life, emphasis on few. I’m hearkening back through time and I can count perhaps three—at the most. Why so few? I don’t speak unless I’m absolutely sure of my source.

It bugs me that for all these prophetic words, almost none of them resemble Jesus’ warning to the man at the pool of Bethesda: stop what you’re doing or something bad is going to happen to you. Usually the word consists of some vague reference to how God loves the person receiving the word so much and has grandiose plans for him or her. Every once in a while, you do get someone calling out a “Jezebel spirit” just to keep from seeming too positive. (All I can say is that this Jezebel spirit’s getting a workout in some charismatic circles. Must be exhausted by now.)

It’s all too easy to make up some high-falutin’ spiritual language talking about great nations, lampstands, and watchmen. Curiously enough, none of those handful of accurate words prayed over me ever contained such language. Most were just plain talk. But at least they were right.

On the bogus side, I once received a word from someone telling me I would be a great nation. I’m not truly sure what that’s supposed to mean, although I’m convinced my wife wouldn’t go along with it. Our pastor came from a household with fourteen kids and I can tell you that the Mrs. shudders at the thought. Another time, two very earnest women insisted I’d be getting back into camping ministry “in the next few months,” but my phone’s not rung for that idled career in fifteen years. That’s a whole lot of months.

Pity the poor person who has those mistaken words turned against them, too. When some minor prophet makes a pronouncement and it doesn’t come to pass, it’s never the prophet who’s wrong. It’s the poor unfortunate who received the bad word who gets his or her mustard seed of faith questioned. I don’t know about the prophet, but when I read the Scriptures it says that God’s words don’t return void.

I wish I didn’t have to write this post. Yet with all these “words from the Lord” being bandied about, someone needs to speak up.

About ten years ago, I remember a church meeting where a man stood up and relayed a highly specific word. (Note: the details have been changed for privacy concerns.) This man had a word of knowledge about a woman whose teenage daughter Josie had run away from home, traveled south, and was now deeply immersed in the drug culture of Miami. She’d been gone for three years now, effectively missing, though the mother had heard from her once in that time. The man went on to say that the mother needed to contact her daughter at that last known phone number, even though the daughter had not been at that number for more than a year. The man then said the daughter was afraid to call her mother, but if the mother called her first, God would do a great healing in both their lives and they would be restored to each other. But the mother needed to make that call to the only phone number she had.

My wife turned to me and noted that we didn’t know anyone in the church who fit those details and she suspected the word was wrong. Our small church met in a rented facility, and what no one knew was that a woman had come in to prepare the building for another activity later that day. She was in a back room and heard that word over the building’s sound system. Amazed, she wandered up front to the man who gave the word and told how astonished she was that anyone knew her situation. She prayed with some folks, then went home and called her daughter at that phone number. And yes, everything the man said came to be.

Now THAT’S a word folks. It’s specific. It contains information that can only be spiritually discerned. It intersects with known realities. It meets a need. It makes something happen because of the faith of the hearer who trusts it. And, most of all, it comes to pass.

I guess I’m tired of the burden of proof falling on the one receiving these supposed words from God from someone else. I don’t want to seem glib, put I think “put up or shut up”—a most earthy sort of spiritual testing— applies. If all these folks delivering words have a track record that resembles a 500:1 shot bound for the glue factory, then they need to sit down and stop hurting others with their “gift.”

And yeah, I get a little steamed thinking about it. I wish more of us did.

41 thoughts on “And Now a Word from Our Sponsor…

      • Francisco,

        Okay. I switched from Firefox, my regular browser, to IE and now I see it. Caught me by surprise, but a little digging uncovered the culprit.

        I added WordPress.com’s Stats counter to my site a couple weeks ago. That smiley is part of their tracking system. Evidently, it doesn’t show in Firefox, so that’s why I never noticed it.

        If I ever get my sidebar back to normal, I may switch where I’m loading the stats link.

  1. Deuteronomy gives a good account on how we are to deal with false prophets…Though I suppose putting people to death nowadays is outre.

    I think too many are led to give “advise” in the form of ‘a word from God.’ In my book, that is taking the Lords name in vain. But then, people aren’t too terribly afraid of God anymore, are they? Which then takes one to the crux of the whole issue: Just what God is it that one worships? Am I worshipping the God of the Bible, or am I worshipping a made-up god, one who fits my parameters? If I am, is that idol worship? Am I leading others astray in worshipping ‘my’ god? If I am worshipping a false god, then where is my faith? If my faith is placed in a god of my own manufacture, then how am I saved?

    I fear God, and rightly so. While I am confident in His love for me, I also recognize that He has the power, and the right, to snuff me out like a candle. The greek word used to describe the feeling of the early church towards God was “phobos” where we get the word phobia. Too often that word is softened to mean “awe”, when in fact it means terror. We should remember that. Read Luke 12:5, and question the whole concept of fear. That isn’t satan Jesus is talking about.

    Read on in Luke 12, and find where our words should come from. Unless we are confident our words come from the Holy Spirit, it’s better to keep silent.

    Yah, and just what is that little smiley face in the corner all about, any ways? It’s been there for some time.

    • I disagree. A false prophet is someone who speaks for a false God. If you tell your wife, “I just know God is going to come through for us.” and He doesn’t, does that make you a false prophet in need of being killed?

      I think the worse offense is to say that God speaks so sparingly today that most Christians will never encounter the gift of prophesy written about so much in the Scriptures.

      • I don’t think there is such a thing as God not coming through for us. There are those times when God doesn’t do what we wish He would.

        But to the point in question: Simply stating “God is going to come through for us” is not prophesy, merely a statement of faith, whether accurate or misguided. Stating “God told me the He would do such and such…”, or “I have a word from God…” is putting words in God’s mouth. A true prophet is chosen by God to be the mouthpiece of God. A false prophet speaks for himself, not God.

        But you’re right in saying that we err in thinking that God does not speak to us today. Many have spoken about the “400 years of silence” between Malachi and Matthew. That doesn’t mean God wasn’t speaking. Else there would be no Elizabeth and Zechariah, Simeon, or Anna, not to mention Mary and Joseph. God was speaking, but it didn’t necessarily become scripture as we think of it. Simeon didn’t sit down and write a pamphlet on his “word from God about the coming Christ” for instance. But prophecy serves the same deliberate purpose now that it did then: Direction, blessing, instruction, rebuke, and encouragement.

    • David,

      The advice thing is awful. When I used to run the Sunday night prayer ministry at my old church, I routinely had to tell people not to give advice. We pray and that’s it. If people try to turn advice into a genuine word, then everything you said above is true.

      I don’t ever want to say anything in the “voice of God” that should be said in my voice. In fact, when I’ve given a clear word, I phrase it in such a way that no one is hearing “Thus sayeth the Lord” or anything like that. I don’t like when people do that today. Too many times, it’s a way of propping themselves up.

      I answered the smiley question above in my two replies to Francisco.

  2. J.Kru

    Dan, for those of us non-Charismatics (but also fairly open and “broad church” non-Charismatics) we (or at least “I”) have a past filled with people like MacArthur saying things like “charismatic prophecy is an attempt to add to God’s Word.” My sense is that you are not attempting to “add more Bible” or claim that anyone is doing so. But would you explain why, from your perspective as someone who has had positive experiences with this, a “word of knowledge” that is from God is still not Scripture?

    This is a remarkably pertenant question as we may be moving to an AMIA church.

    Thanks

    • J. Kru,

      Not every prophecy noted in the Bible exists in its full revelation. In other words, the Bible notes that people prophesied, but we don’t have the full text of their prophesying written in the Bible. You see this noted in both the Old and New Testaments.

      For instance, in 1 Samuel 19:20-24, the Spirit of God comes upon King Saul and his messengers. They prophesied so greatly that people took note of it. Yet none of those words they uttered were recorded. In Acts 21:8-11, we hear of Philip’s prophesying daughters. We don’t have any record of any prophecies by them, though. We DO have a recorded prophecy given by Agabus in that same section though. This is all for a reason.

      Most folks who are against modern day revelations never adequately explain this truth: Why didn’t all of these revelations from God make it into the Bible?

      I think the answer is quite simple: not everything was destined for the printed word. This in no way diminishes what was prophesied or somehow makes it not from God. The Lord simply let some things stand for all people in all times and circumstances, while others were meant for a specific time, people, or place. Or He simply didn’t want those words, legitimate though they be, included in the canon. Whichever reason applies, we can’t ignore this truth.

      When Paul noted that he wished all would prophesy, did he mean that he wanted everyone to write Scripture? Obviously not. But that doesn’t diminish the prophesying, does it?

      I could go into more detail, but needless to say, the “every word is Scripture” thing that some people pull out is simply an effort to not have to deal with the reality that God still speaks.

      • J.Kru

        Well, I don’t think that all people are pulling things out to avoid dealing with the reality of God’s speaking. I wouldn’t presume to know every person’s intentions, but I know many people who think that Scripture indicates that those gifts have ceased, and so they are following Scripture as best they can.

        So far I understand you saying that not all prophecy is written down. That beings said, if I have a prophecy, and assuming that it is true, I write it down, how is my written prophecy different from Scripture?

        I’m not personally saying that prophecy is adding to Scripture; I’m assuming that there is a distinction but I’m trying to figure out what it is.

        I do acknowledge that not all prophecy is recorded, and I would even further affirm that not all of Scripture is prophecy.

  3. Dave Taylor

    As a long time “charismatic” (though I no longer use that label to describe myself) I can empathize with you, Dan. But based on 31 years of good and bad experiences with “words” from God (and elsewhere, i.e., usually an immature and inflated perception of the prophet’s role), I can say with conviction that the worst aspect of this is how it discredits the authentic practice of giving words from the Lord.

    Through trials and tribulations, poverty, opposition and distress, I have found them a balm when I’ve been rubbed raw by life or a genuine encouragement to persevere based on a renewed understanding that, yes, you are doing the right thing and going in the right direction. Though they are not a standalone means of knowing God’s will, they supply a valuable confirmation that one-size-fits-all preaching and teaching does not supply.

    The existence of counterfeits or cheap imitations is never reason to dismiss the genuine article. Criminals counterfeit $100 bills because the real thing is valuable.

    • Dave,

      My only problem with it all is that the real thing is getting buried by the counterfeits. The signal to noise ratio is so low anymore that it’s far easier to assume a word is bogus than it’s real.

      • Dave Taylor

        Dan,

        The link mentioned in Carl’s comment (which follows this one) mentions the example of the prophet Micaiah, whose word was given over against the “favorable” word of 400 prophets to Ahab (2 Chron. 18:1-27). If memory serves, Elijah faced down about 850 prophets of Baal and the Asherah on Mount Carmel. To use your phrase, the signal to noise ratio in those instances was pretty discouraging.

        Is the ratio of good to bad as lopsided today? I don’t know. You decide.

        Also, in the interest of not singling out charismatics, there is an awful lot of expository teaching and commentary, blog posts, etc. that has little or no relevance to the pressing needs of the church today, regardless of its orthodoxy. It’s one of the reasons I stopped posting at Every Thought Captive. In both situations, I think it comes down to losing connection with the head (Col. 2:19) that supplies and holds together the body.

  4. Dan, I have an article for you to read that will tickle you to the fullest. Loren Sanford wrote it. You may know his parents, John and Paula Sanford. He comes from a prophetic family and is no cesationist. The first title was “ON EXTRA-BIBLICAL REVELATORY NONSENSE”. The latest title is “CLEANSING THE PROPHETIC STREAM.”

    http://www.newsongfellowship.org/commentary16.html

    I believe in the prophetic but I have heard far more goofy than accurate.

    • Carl,

      “Goofy” is a good word choice. The modern prophetic movement seems loaded full of goofiness that, in the end, makes God look goofy. I read the cleansing piece a while ago, and I agree.

  5. Remember Micah in the Bible? He was the only righteous prophet out of a group of 800, and he got tossed into prison because of it. No wonder nobody wanted the job.

    I think part of the reason true prophets are so hard to come by is because most people don’t want to hear what they have to say.

  6. I agree with you man. We are very cautious about who we allow to lay hands on and prophesy over. This is all because we have seen seasons where so-called “prophets” make their rounds (if these guys had to adhere to bibilical prophet test, ooohh maaan!)

    But to me a clear test is that if the person at the begining of this post had to “mull” it over then it probably was not for her or not accurate. I have seen lives and marriages destroyed because pastors allowing just about anybody claiming to be a prophet to speak over he flock. What kind of “sheppard” is that?!

    • RevMark,

      I don’t know. Not every word may be obvious on the surface. The Bible’s filled with occurrences of prophets wondering what the Lord meant. In time, they found out.

      • Dan,
        That’s very true I think for Biblical prophets who were speaking about things like the Messiah, the Messianic Kingdom, the end of days. Those things were so removed from their everyday experience, they could not have had a clue about what those things they were prophesying meant. They knew God spoke to them, but like Daniel, they had to seal those things away until the time of fulfillment, amazed but not understanding.

  7. I’m a charismatic through and through, and like you Dan, have experienced “words” that were specific, unknowable, and which came to pass. What I don’t understand, have never understood, and probably will never understand is why in a church where everyone is supposedly indwelt by the Holy Spirit do we feel we need someone else to tell us what God is saying to us. Are we that unconnected to the God who lives in our hearts?

    • SLW,

      It’s simple when you think about: for community! God does not want us to live as disconnected islands. Christianity is not meant to be a religion of loners, but a family. For that reason, we need each other’s gifts and connections to the Lord.

      • Yeah, I agree, but about matters of personal guidance? That is a proposition fraught with the potential for abuse. If God wants to direct a born again individual, He’ll talk to them. A word from another should only be confirmational. If someone gives you a message that God hasn’t already spoken to your heart, it ought not to be allowed to be determinant in your decision making (like the Agabus incident with Paul).

    • Agabus & Co. came down from Jerusalem and had what sounds like the usual revival meeting: doom and gloom prophesied with an offering taken up. But Agabus & Co., unlike most of today’s prophets, did not walk off with the proceeds, even if they could be trusted with the money. Barnabas and Saul were chosen to take the offering to Jerusalem. I think this could cut down on some of the corruption in charismatic circles…churches sending their own to hold ministries accountable for the use of offerings.

  8. Jimmy_C

    Dan,

    As a reluctant charismatic, I agree and concur with much of this post.
    Many “outside” of the charismatic stream would think tongues and healing to be misused, while those of us who have been “inside”, would have to admit that the prophectic gift can and has caused much harm to individuals and congregations. I cannot recall in 25 years that I have ever heard a congregation rebuke/correct a prophectic voice for a false word.
    The Prophet can walways fall back on..”It is yet for an appointed time”.
    I have been guilty of subjecting MY family and friends to prophectic meetings where each attendee has a word spoken over them. I now shudder at the thought as much said was spun from whole cloth of fantasy and conjecture. I do beleive in God’s prophectc gift to and in the church, but, what does it look like in the 21st century church is the question we must struggle with.

    • Jimmy,

      We MUST rebuke people whose “gift” isn’t all that gifted. We’re so afraid to exercise spiritual authority and leadership over the less mature (and sometimes even the mature) because we think they’ll leave and take their gift elsewhere.

      We’ve got to stop being afraid to tick some people off. If they leave, that’s only a sign of their own spiritual immaturity. I’d rather have a church of 50 mature folks who can take the rebuke than a church of 5000 where you can’t correct wayward “prophets.”

      • The whole issue of “rebuke” is interesting, and one that needs to be investigated further (hint, hint). I think it is sorely missing in the Western Church. It is our duty to keep one another in line, with the caveat that we do so in love and with the willingness to accept rebuke as well as dish it out. Some may balk and call it judgement, but I call it Christ-like behavior.

      • Jimmy_C

        Dan,

        I attended a wedding a few weeks ago. At the end several brothers were called forward to pray over the new/young couple.
        several “words” were spoken, all very generic and even appropriate. A brother who is considered VERY gifted began to to pray and spoke of the HUGE number of kids this couple would have in the future. They may indeed have many children, but this was inappropriate..the pressure is now on for them to fulfill the “word”, which as I recall biology, they can fulfill for themselves, without on bit of help from the HS. So, is it a word, or is it now spiritual manipulation in favor of large christian families?

  9. Diane Roberts

    The really sad thing about this is the real words that are badly needed by people are cluttered up and even prevented by the “junk” you’ve so ably described.

  10. Pingback: Word Up
  11. Thank you, Dan, for saying it. Someone needed to! I come from a cessationist background but my journey of faith has included an about-face on that matter, but, even still, I’m glad to say, the pendulum has not swung wild and freely to the other side. God speaks. I’ve heard Him, and He’s gloriously spoken through you today, brother!

  12. William

    Hi from across the ‘pond’! In our fellowship we encourage everyone to “hold fast to what is good and reject all kinds of evil”. We in leadership are trying to balance the need for freedom with protecting each other from damage through “fleshy words” and to do that we must rely on Holy Spirit-given discernment. As we are a small (and new) church plant this is relatively easy to implement but I can see how the problem grows with the size and diversity (in the spiritual maturity sense) of the group.
    I myself have suffered many times – when visiting speakers see that I lead worship they automatically kick-in the “Lord is going to bless you with writing new songs” word. The problem is that I have no natural talent or even interest in doing so and, even though I tried to write songs in faith after such a word, I have never written a song worthy of praising God!
    My guess is that we should recognise the problem, talk and teach about it, discuss it in small groups and submit to one another as we learn to use the gifts in faith according to God’s will. But we shouldn’t through the baby out with the bath water.
    Cheers! and thanks for the great post!

    • Partial document – Appx. 100,000 charecters COMING SOON!!!!

      I thought this was just some wacko but now that I see he counts not the words but the characters. This is truly an excentric and a voice that must be heard. Especially that stuff about brainless clones.

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