The Coming Great Divide

Plumbline Flckr Dayna BatemanFor many months, I have been hearing strongly about a coming division in the American Church. It is the division between the true Church, and a false one. By a false church, I do not mean those who openly deny the deity of Christ and subscribe to grossly unorthodox beliefs. Those have been with us for a long time already and are fairly recognizable for what they are. No, the false church I am referring to is more subtle. And it is fast gaining influence even within evangelical and Spirit-filled congregations.

Many in the false church were at one time aligned with the true, but have veered off course. For those who are pastors/leaders in this false church move, their deviation from the true may have started with a desire for more church growth, popularity with society as a whole, a fear of being persecuted, or the drive to gain more wealth for themselves and their churches.

Because many started out all right, the lines between the true and false have been blurred, and there has been much confusion about which is which. Some of the leaders of this false church continue to convincingly talk the right talk in some ways, while having shifted into compromise and deception in others. They say a lot of wonderful, highly quotable things, which encourage us all that we are loved by God, that God wants to bless us, and that He intends for us to be successful at impacting our world. Those messages are not bad in themselves. We need to be encouraged. The problem is that these good words are mixed with a lot of humanism — worship of ourselves. The gospel message, with Jesus being central, is distorted or nonexistent, and instead there is a constant barrage of “If you just think and speak positively, there are no limits to how successful you can be!”

plumblineIn the midst of the fog of who is who and which is which, God is dropping a plumb line into the Church, which will clearly divide the straight and true from the crooked and false. As time goes on, the distinctions between the two will grow more apparent. Believers will have to make a clear choice to come out from fellowshipping within the false and make a conscious step over into the true, if they are going to continue on with the Lord.

Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30) is another illustration of what is currently happening. At first the tares look very much like the wheat. It is hard to discern between them. But as the plants mature, the differences become more noticeable. Likewise, we are approaching the point where the distinctions between the false and the true Church will become more marked. And when we notice the differences, each of us will have to determine whether we’re going to malnourish our spiritual stomachs with “tares” teaching or whether we will only ingest the wheat.

What are some telltale signs of a false message?

1.)  Universalism — The belief that all will be saved, that no one will go to hell, because God is love, is a heresy which has been around in one form or another for a long time. But in recent years it has made large inroads into many evangelical churches. Jesus is presented as the best way to the Father, but not the only way. The end of what Jesus said in John 14:6, “NO man comes to the Father except through Me” is conveniently not quoted.

2.)  A message which is primarily motivational in nature — There is minimal talk about Jesus, the cross, living a sacrificial lifestyle of obedience to Him, or Jesus’ soon return. The focus is on having a satisfying life now, with little emphasis on eternity. YOUR destiny purpose now, YOUR success now, YOUR happiness now is the all-in-all, rather than the Lord’s desires being fulfilled at any cost.

3.)  Anything goes — The message implies or openly states that God understands we all sin and therefore does not mind if we indulge in whatever sin we would like to keep indulging in.

4.)  Acceptance of homosexuality — This is snowballing on us at an alarming rate, and I personally think it is going to be the clearest dividing line between the true Church and the false in the next couple of years. Several prominent ministries have already fallen off the cliff on this issue, and I think that within a year or two we will see some internationally known pastors openly embracing homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle within their churches. They are already on the brink and teetering.

Watch out for any teaching which says people can be practicing homosexuals and still be Christians at the same time. No matter how much some may want to explain it away, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 still says what it says: “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators [sexually impure], nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind [homosexuals], nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

When God drops a plumb line, it is important not to stay on the wrong side of it.  We will have to decide whom we want to please and whom we are willing to offend. We will have to choose whether we are going to compromise in order to stay comfortable (and popular), or whether we will abide by what God says, no matter how much ridicule, and even persecution, we endure.

James 4:4 states the choice clearly: “… Do you not know that the friendship of the world [system]  is at enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” We can’t have it both ways.

The apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers, “What fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness? And what communion does light have with darkness? … ‘Wherefore, come out from among them, and be separate, … and I will receive you and will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

Moses asked, in a time of crisis within the Israelite camp, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come to me” (Exodus 32:26). God is asking that same question of us today. Let us get up and step across to Him. His plumb line is the dividing point between spiritual life and death.

Misplaced Adoration

There’s a common trap which we can easily fall into — giving the adoration which should belong solely to the Lord to a Christian leader. It is an idolatry which has repeatedly afflicted God’s people.

Paul warned the Corinthian believers about it:

… One says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos” …. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered — but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he who plants anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. … For we are laborers together with God. You are God’s field; you are God’s building — 1 Corinthians 3:4-7, 9.

People who carry a weighty anointing quite naturally attract us. We sense the presence of the Lord upon them, and it makes us want to be near them, to receive from them, to bask in what they have, to be in their inner circle. But no matter how bright their light, we dare not let ourselves forget that it is only a secondary, reflected light, while Jesus is the Source. Go directly for the Source.

We’ve all heard the excessive attraction of one person to another likened to a moth’s attraction to a flame. It’s a good comparison. Fluttering too close to the flame of a fellow, flawed human being will scorch you. It will eventually bring you pain, disillusionment, disappointment. By contrast, flying close to the Lord’s flame will destroy your soulish attitudes and desires, but you will be strengthened, healed, and made clean by His fire. He consumes the impurities, while in exchange giving greater life. No man or woman can do that for you. The best of them will fail you.

So, learn what you can from men and women of God. Let them impart what they are able to give  to you. But don’t slip into worshiping them. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2) is a wise word to live by. If you have already fallen into the trap, ask the Lord to forgive you, and then guard yourself in the future. Refocus your attention on Jesus. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s aid in reordering your affections and thoughts. He will help you.

Leaders, if you don’t mind me saying it, often the problem of misplaced adoration rests at your doorstep. Don’t allow yourself to indulge in the heady flattery of being the center of someone’s world. It’s a snare to you and them. Refuse to be worshiped. Be like John the Baptist, who remained ever conscious that “he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light” (John 1:8). He pointed his young disciples to Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29, 30, 35).

Currently, there is a God-breathed emphasis on older saints becoming “fathers and mothers” to spiritual sons and daughters, with the purpose of raising up a triumphant Church army which moves in the miraculous, just as Jesus said we should do — the “greater works” of John 14:12. In the process, be watchful that they do not misplace on you the awe which rightfully belongs to the Lord. When the sons and daughters come to you with stars in their eyes, point them upward to Jesus, the bright and morning star (Revelation 22:16).

Not one of us is awesome. Only Jesus is awesome. He alone deserves worship.

Miscellaneous and Catching-Up Things

paper stackThis post is a bit of a hodgepodge:

My book-in-progress: There is always at least one (at present I’ve got four started, plus notes for more). The one most likely to be completed first is called Your Intercession Questions Answered. In it, I define prayer warrior terminology and explain experiences common to intercessors (perhaps some not-so-common, but still quite real). I want to make sure I don’t miss anything major. If you have a question which you think should be added, would you be so kind as to give me your feedback?  The best way to do that is to comment on our ongoing Intercession/Prophecy Questions and Answers post here at my blog. I will try to answer your question there, whether it gets used in the book or not. Thanks for your help!

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What I’m hearing for 2015: Thus far, I don’t have anything extremely specific or guaranteed to give you goose bumps (sorry). But here’s what I have for the Church at large:

“It’s not going to be an easy year. It will be a time of great fearfulness. But My children will be taken care of. There is no reason to be afraid, for I am with you. My right hand will sustain you.

“Don’t be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flies by day, nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor for the destruction that wastes at noonday.”  (I heard this in the inner voice, but yes, it is quoting Psalm 91:5. 6.)

My commentary: The focus is on trusting the Lord — not on bad things coming. Those of us who stay close to the Lord’s heart don’t need to indulge in the “great fearfulness.” Many prophetic people are hearing that it is going to be a great year for the Church, where we come into spiritual inheritances and divine suddenlies. Charles Dickens started his book,  A Tale of Two Cities, with the words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and that is how it works with the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdoms of this world as well. We are meant to be overcomers, not fearful people. Fear is for those who have no hope in Christ.

The Lord impressed upon me to read and meditate on Psalm 34, so I’ve been doing that nearly daily and will very likely continue to do so for weeks to come. It is a wonderful way to build confidence in God’s care for us.

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Ebola update: Last fall, I wrote about a dream I had about Ebola coming to the U. S. I also did a follow-up post immediately after the man with Ebola came to Dallas. I am so delighted with the answers that we have seen since then.

Some may say that Ebola was a false alarm for most of the world. Well, no, intercession is meant to stem the tide of trouble behind the scenes before things become dramatic issues. (Perhaps the enormous loss of life in West Africa could have been stopped sooner if more of us had been praying into it sooner.)

In our local prayer gathering, we prayed that Ebola would not spread here in the U. S. (and other parts of the world). Hardly any of those who came in very close contact with people infected with the disease got sick. We prayed for the Dallas nurses to recover, and they did. We prayed for vaccines and serums to be developed to stem the tide of Ebola. Those are coming into being. We prayed for the Church in the affected countries in West Africa to rise up and use their prayer authority to shut down Ebola in their homelands, and they did just that, with nation-wide prayer and fasting.

A friend of ours is currently working on the medical front lines in the fight against Ebola in Liberia. His report is that there are not many cases coming in anymore. It is definitely on the wane.

I know there were many intercessors around the world who prayed much into this terrible disease. Our collective prayers are being answered. We have much to thank the Lord for!

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Lastly, I was very inspired by the following message on prayer, given recently by Wes Hall, from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOP-KC). I hope you can take the time to listen to it.

Wes Hall — OneThing 2014

(Give it a few seconds, if it comes up as “no results” at first. It will open up.)

Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 5)

What if you have been given a phenomenal prophetic word which lines up with Scripture, witnesses to your heart, is confirmed in various ways, and yet it does not happen? Was the prophecy not truly genuine after all?

First of all, many prophecies carry conditions with them: “If you will do this, then God will do that.” We can get so caught up in the promise that we skip over or forget the condition. Did God give you instruction for how to get there, and if so, did you follow through and do what He said?

Most prophecies do not see fulfillment in a matter of days. Many take decades. Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years for Isaac. Joseph’s brothers bowed down to him twenty-two years after he first dreamed about that event. Moses had the revelation that he would deliver the Israelites from bondage to the Egyptians forty years before it happened. How long it takes for fulfillment to come can depend on God threading together a series of complicated circumstances involving many people. It can also depend on how long it takes for us to mature to the place where we can handle that word finally coming to pass. God knows what He is doing, and His timing is perfect. In His love for us and for others, He makes sure circumstances work out best for all concerned. Coming into fulfillment prematurely would mean less blessing for everyone.

We can delay fulfillment of prophecy by not cooperating with the Lord, by trying to take matters into our own hands, by refusing to work with others in the local church, and by not heeding correction from the Lord or those He has placed over us as pastors.

If you see that you have already blown it in one of these areas, however, don’t despair! Ask the Lord to forgive you, and offer yourself afresh to Him. Ask Him to put you back on track. Generally speaking, our mess-ups can and will cause delays, but they don’t negate the word we received. God knew all along what you would do that would get in the way, but He is still committed to getting you to your destination. So, pick up and go on. Your promise is still there for you.

Here are some ways to prepare for its fulfillment:

1.) Write down the prophecy you received, so that you can remember it accurately.

2.) If there are conditions to be fulfilled, be diligent to do what you were instructed to do.

3.) Bathe your prophetic word in much prayer. Pray over it in your prayer language. Contend for it. Find Scriptures which apply, and use them to pray it through.

4.) Listen for God to give you further details as time goes on. Most prophetic words are not all laid out in one lump. The Lord expands our understanding and vision over a period of time.

5.) Ask the Lord to pour grace over His plans for you — to put you in the right places at the right times, to give you connections with people who can help you, and to give you specific strategies to implement the plans and ideas which He has given you.

6.) Have a servant’s heart. Serve in small opportunities which come your way, especially in the local church. God prepares us to walk out our big assignments by giving us opportunities to be faithful in doing less exciting things first. He builds integrity and humility in us in this way, so that we can handle the big stuff successfully when it finally comes. Look at every serving opportunity which presents itself as training ground. (And be willing to continue serving in small ways once you start to receive greater responsibility. We should never develop an attitude of thinking we’ve grown beyond or above doing the menial things.)

7.) Be vigilant to focus on the Promise Giver (Jesus) rather than the prophetic promise. It is extremely easy to inadvertently slip into worshiping our promises. So, watch against idolizing your destiny.

8.) Be aware that seeing a prophetic promise fulfilled often involves a death and resurrection. We reach the end of doing all that we can do, while circumstances may seem to make the promise no longer possible. It looks like all is lost. And then, it suddenly comes to life when we least expect it.

9.) Having done all, stand (Ephesians 6:13). When you’ve done your part, from being faithful to conditions, to serving, to letting God build your character, to praying it all through, it is time to declare your trust in the Lord that He will surely do it, and then determine to rest in that hope. It’s up to Him now.

If we follow through on these nine points, the Lord will see to it that every true prophetic word comes through to completion. He is a pure and holy God, Who never violates His own perfect integrity.

(This concludes the Discerning Personal Prophecy series.)

Previous: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 4) 

From Lee Ann’s upcoming book, The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 4)

We are continuing on with our list of criteria which will help us determine whether a personal prophecy is genuinely from the Lord or not. This next one is a biggie:

Does it appeal to my ego? We need to be wary of prophecies which tempt our flesh. Our old nature lusts for “words from the Lord” which point to glory for ourselves! Unfortunately, there are people out there who give these kinds of words on a regular basis. They are not getting them from the Holy Spirit. They are hearing them from a spirit of flattery or from a desire in their own souls to please.

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

1.  Promises of great wealth: “I see you holding millions of dollars in your hands.”

2.  Promises of great influence, fame, or visible ministry: “I see you leading crusades and ministering to tens of thousands.” You immediately begin envisioning yourself as the next Billy Graham or Reinhard Bonnke (or maybe it is even prophesied over you that you will be like one of them).

3.  Promises of great authority, like unto some well-known person: “You have a Smith Wigglesworth / John G. Lake / Bill Johnson / Whoever-Else-Is-Famous anointing.” Or worse, “You have the spirit of Smith Wigglesworth / John G. Lake / Bill Johnson resting upon you.” I think this is cause for concern. I understand what they are trying to convey — that you will have a similar ministry to that person. But I’d much rather have someone tell me I have the Holy Spirit resting upon me for a particular ministry role, since He is the One it has to come from anyway.

4.  Promises of uniqueness or superiority: “I have never encountered someone with the level of anointing you carry.” Yes, God has made each of us unique, but when you are told that you will be the only one to hold a phenomenal gift or ability, or that you will have it at a level above everyone else, watch out!

5.  Promises that you will save the world in some way: “You are going to be the father (or mother) of a national / international revival.” “Your creative genius is beyond anything I have ever seen. You will invent something that will solve international problems.”

The strange thing is that very few prophetic words say things like this:

  • “The Lord has designed you to serve wholeheartedly in the obscure places of life. He’s so pleased when you do that.”
  • “The Lord has called you to lay down your life for your brothers and sisters.”
  • “The Lord has wonderful things ahead for you, but in order to get there, you must take up your cross daily and follow Jesus through much self-sacrifice.”
  • “You are a forerunner — but this means you will pave the way for others. You will not see the results in your lifetime. You will lay groundwork through your faithful labor, and the harvest will come after you are with the Lord.”

(Some mature prophets do say those things! But they aren’t heard frequently.)

Does the prophecy produce a response in me of an awe of the Lord?
Prophecies which cause soulish lusts to burn within us are generally not coming from God. However, God can and does speak amazing things into us which are way beyond our natural talents or abilities to make them happen.

A good example is found in 1 Chronicles 17. King David desired to build a temple for the Lord. God restrained him from doing so, but then turned around and spoke to him through the prophet Nathan that God would build David a “house” — a family line of kings which would reign forever (vs. 10-15). David’s response was one of humility and awe:

And David the king came and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that You have brought me to this place? And yet this was a small thing in Your eyes, O God, for You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O LORD God. 

“What can David speak more to You for the honor of Your servant? For You know Your servant, O LORD. For Your servant’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. O LORD, there is none like You, neither is there any God beside You, according to all which we have heard with our ear” (vs. 16-20).

David goes on to talk more about God’s greatness and His goodness to Israel. The whole tone of his reaction to the prophetic word is one of awe and dependence, and he places all of his focus back on the Lord.

If we examine a prophetic word according to these criteria, we should be able to get a pretty good idea of whether it is coming from the Holy Spirit or the soul of man. But, what if a word genuinely seems to be from the Lord, and yet it does not come to pass? We’ll talk about that next time.

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Next: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 5)

From Lee Ann’s upcoming book, The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 3)

Last time, we talked about a few reasons why personal prophecy might not be accurate. It is our responsibility to test a word, rather than naively swallowing it without discerning it. Here are some points we should consider in the discerning process:

Does the prophetic word line up with the Bible? If it conflicts with God’s Word, it needs to be thrown out. ‘Nuf said. You need not even apply the other tests.

Does it pass the edifying / exhorting / comforting test? 1 Corinthians 14:3 lays out these three: “But he who prophesies speaks edification, and exhortation, and comfort to men” (NKJV). The ESV words it “upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation.” Exhortation can include stirring up, spurring on, or encouragement to adjust one’s path, but these are all positive things. If it is a condemnatory, critical, cut-you-to-ribbons word, it’s not God.

Do I have a witness? 2 Corinthians 13:1 tells us, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” Anytime we receive a prophecy, even from a well-known prophet, there should be a true witness from the Holy Spirit in our own hearts as well. That can come about by:

  1. Hearing the promise first in our own communication with the Lord, and then having a prophetic person speak what we have already been hearing for ourselves.
  2. God speaking the message again to us personally after it is initially given by a prophet.
  3. More than one prophetic person speaking the same thing to us, without the second person knowing we have already gotten that word from someone else.
  4. A deep, settled knowing (or witness) in our spirit that this is right.

We should never hang all our hopes on a prophetic word which we have not been hearing God reaffirm to us personally in one of these four ways. Any prophecies which do not fall into one of these categories should be recorded and prayed into, but then step back and take a “we’ll see” stance.

Does the prophetic word bring with it confusion? Genuine prophecies sometimes carry elements of mystery, where the meaning of what has been said is not immediately clear in all its parts. As events unfold in the future, we can look back at a prophecy and say, “Oh! So that’s what that meant!” But they should not bring confusion, unrest, or fear into our hearts. 1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace,” and 2 Timothy 1:7 remarks,God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Next time we will talk about discerning personal prophecies based on whether they pander to our ego. I’ll give you some examples of commonly prophesied “words” which I believe are often coming from the flesh, rather than from the Lord.

Previous: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 2)
Next: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 4)   

From Lee Ann’s upcoming book, The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 2)

Last time, I said that personal prophecy is a gift from the Lord, but that we should make it a priority to hear from Him firsthand, above and beyond what others speak into our lives. Personal prophecy should be icing on the cake, not the cake in its entirety.

Do we accept everything people speak as a “word from the Lord” to us? If we do, we’re going to end up in a mess. Some of these folks are speaking out of their own thinking, not by the Spirit of the Lord. Most of the time, at least on a local level, they are well-meaning people who sincerely believe they are delivering God’s word. They may be prophesying from a place of insecurity, desiring to be recognized and honored as a prophet, or wanting to please others. If they are, their main motive is seeking the approval of men. They may actually get it right sometimes, and at other times totally miss it. We need to be merciful to them, realizing they might be in the process of maturing in hearing the Lord, and they just aren’t there yet. Labeling them “false prophets” could hinder them from ever growing up into who they are meant to be.

Occasionally, we might encounter a person who is listening to an evil spirit and prophesying out of a place of darkness. This could be because they are participating in occult activity, because of deep spiritual wounds which have left them vulnerable to hearing wrong voices, or it could proceed out of refusal to let go of sin, such as unforgiveness and bitterness.

Even well-known prophets can miss the mark, for various reasons. Physical illness or exhaustion can affect how well they are tuned in to the Lord. Spiritual warfare being exercised against them can cause them to have difficulty in hearing God clearly in that moment. They may feel immense pressure to perform, and if nothing is coming, they might step out “in faith” and begin prophesying in the flesh, believing that God will then take over as they speak. In some prophetic circles, there is teaching that the prophet can step into prophecy at will and decree into existence whatever he deems necessary or right. I think that is a dangerous place to operate from, but it takes more integrity than some possess to admit that they don’t have anything from the Lord, or that they are unsure of what they are receiving.

In any case, it is our responsibility to discern any word given to us. 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21 (ESV) tells us, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast that which is good.” 

1 John 4:1 exhorts, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God ….” Although John was speaking specifically of false teachers or prophets who were presenting the heresy of Gnosticism, I think we can see that the concept of testing or trying what is said, to measure whether it lines up with God and His Word, is also valuable in discerning personal prophecy.

Whether a personal prophecy is in accordance with the Bible is the first question we should ask in discerning it. If it does not line up there, there is no need to even ask into it any further. But there are other questions we can apply in the proving process, and we will talk about them in our next two posts.

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From Lee Ann’s upcoming book, The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy