Monday, December 21, 2015

A Christmas Meditation

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:4-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So far the season has failed to represent accurately what Christ's first coming was really about. Far from festivities, over-indulgence, and family, Christ's first coming was all about establishing a relationship with mankind. We are so far from that very first angelic announcement that it is lost in the  holiday shuffle.

He came to the lowest place on the globe to demonstrate no one was too far below him to be LIFTED up by him. He came to those oppressed and lacking freedom to show that he could break EVERY bondage. He walked among the poor to show that God was willing to SHARE his riches. He came under Rome's AUTHORITY so that he might use the Roman roads to share the gospel. He gave his Son to a woman born under the Torah, to show that his life would FULFILL the law, every jot and tittle.

Jesus came that we might receive the spirit of adoption into our hearts. That Spirit only cries out "Abba". Abba is the name of intimacy with the Father. He comes to draw us into the Life giving relationship with God. Have you entered into that relationship with Christ? Have you opened the doorway of your heart to receive the adoptive love of Jesus? This doesn't happen by church attendance, nor by church membership; it doesn't happen by familial teaching or by connections to others who walk with Christ. It happens in prayer. You must pray to receive that which God has procured for you in the coming and dying and resurrecting of the Son that he sent.

The results of such an adoptive relationship, established by our Father in Heaven, are spelled out by Paul. He came to make us his children; He came to set us free from slavery to sin; He came to make us heirs of God. What great fortune that God would set us in his forever family- loved, free, and heirs with Christ!

Friday, December 11, 2015

False Prophets

In thirty some years of ministry I have rubbed elbows with a number of "prophets". I have seen the genuine and the phony, the astoundingly accurate and the sweeping generalities, and the teaching prophet and the stirring prophet. Even though I have been disappointed by some people who have called themselves prophets, I have been enriched by many others. So how does one tell the pretenders from the genuine?

Pretenders follow their own insight, their own heart,and their own spirit. I came to church once and a "prophet" had painted in 6 foot letters on the side of the church exterior that I would be gone in one year. 23 years later I am still the pastor of this church. In fact, that brother was angry with something. His own spirit provoked him to deface the building. False prophets are guided by their own hearts Ez. 13.3

Often the false prophet claims all manner of unbiblical things. They preach fear, they stir up trouble, they spread deceptive accusations in the name of the Lord. We are reminded in scripture that "No one who uses the name of the Lord in vain will be held guiltless (Ex 20.7) I can usually tell a false prophet by the general tenor of his speech. He assumes authority not given, and speaks without the unction of the Lord.

Frequently, the false prophet has a personal history of deceit. They have a track record of rebellion, deceit and lies. Sometimes this is covered in bluster, other times it is overlooked altogether and the pleasantries that are declared are simply false assurances. (Ez. 13.10,15) The spiritual gifts of God are cradled in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the character of the prophet matters. When he speaks his life must bear testimony to his unction and calling.

I have also noticed that there is a difficulty for a pretender to be under a spiritual covering. Frequently they are lone Rangers, moving in and out of different bodies. This difficulty with authority within the local body is a part of their psychological make up, I think. They frequently speak against a person, or a leader. The NT concept of prophecy is described as edification, encouragement and comfort (1 Cor 14.3) yet their harshness betrays the human spirit (or demonic divisive) spirit that drives them.

While all prophets are frequently direct, there is a sense in which the pretenders don't really care for the sheep. They want to discharge a message that judges others by a standard which they themselves cannot live up to. They are inordinately harsh.

The appropriate response is to evaluate the prophecy spiritually (1 Thess 5.21) Test everything. Everything. We do so by comparing it with the written objective Word of God. Jesus and the Apostles as well warned against false prophets. It is helpful to know that there are only three sources for any "word" given. God, the Devil, or human flesh. Pastors need to stay close to God so that when the false word si spoken they recognize it immediately. They should not be put off by a blustery "thus says the Lord" but rather they should evaluate everything.

In spite of the pretenders, I have seen prophetic brothers and sisters, confirm the will of God in the lives of his children, I have watched people called into ministry succeed when there was no inkling of successful ministry skills, I have watch the spirit of God call out hidden sins, and prison sentences to the year, and healings yet to come. When the Spiritually Genuine Gift of God is moving in the midst of Gods church it is a wonderful thing. No wonder we are told to covet the gift of prophecy. BUT we must never speak a word that God has not assigned us.

The drive for the prophet is simple to dispatch in obedience the Word that has been given him or her for the building up and edification of the body of Christ. Financial gain, personal glorification, and personality conflicts are never the driving force behind the Word of the Lord.

Keep Step with the Spirit.

For further study Ezekiel 13, 1 John 4.1-3; Deut 18.22, 2 Peter 2.1-3; Amos 8.11; 1 Thess 5.21