At Harvest Bible Chapel, we seek to walk a very careful line between avoiding the excesses of much of the charismatic movement and yet not quenching the Spirit of God’s work in our midst. For many years, as both a pastor and a Christian, I avoided any kind of “prophetic” type activity. I have very little experience in this area and am quite cautious about this kind of thing. However, although we are not a “charismatic” church, we also believe that God is big and can certainly speak today if He desires (it will ALWAYS be consistent with Scripture).
Following up on my message this past Sunday on the gift of prophecy, here is some excellent counsel from Pastor J. D. Greear on how to give and to receive a prophetic word:
Ground Rules for Giving Words
Never claim the authority of God on your words, even if you feel convinced the Holy Spirit might be speaking through you.
Prophetic speech is strongest when tied to actual Scripture.
The gift of prophecy has a purpose: building up the church and guiding in mission. Use it only for those things.
Ground Rules for Receiving Words
It’s okay to be a little skeptical.
Ask, “Does this word contradict what God has said in the Scriptures?”
Ask, “Does this word accord with what I know God is doing in my life?”
Ask, “Does this word glorify God or the one giving it?”
Greear has additional, helpful material under each of these points. It’s all found in chapter 10, (pages 145-149) of his excellent book on the Holy Spirit, titled Jesus, Continued…
This morning at Harvest Bible Chapel of Jacksonville I preached a message from Acts 2.17-18 on the gift of prophecy. The title of the message is “What to Expect in the Last Days, pt. 1.” I shared an amazing story from Pastor Matt Chandler about an experience with the gift of prophecy that he had many years ago. Here is another story from Pastor J. D. Greear’s book, Jesus Continued:
“Justin, a young man in my church, told me a story recently about an Indian woman he observed sitting by herself in a city park. He had never seen her before, but had the inexplicable urge to go tell her that though her brother had recently died, god loved her and would never forsake her. He told me that this kind of thing never happens to him but the impression was so strong . . . still, he just couldn’t bring himself to go up to her to say it! What if he was wrong? So he demurred. Several hours later, he ran into the same woman at a Starbucks in another part of the city, and he considered this to be God gently giving him another chance. So he held his breath, walked up to her and said, “Ma’am, we’ve never met, and I’m not sure why I feel this way . . . but I had the sense that God wanted me to tell you . . .” and he gave her the message.
Justin said that when he finished, she stared at him with wide eyes for several, terribly long seconds. Then she dropped her head and began to cry. She said, “How did you know? I thought no one in this city knew. Actually . . . he was not really my brother, but my cousin, but he grew up in my house and I always thought of him as my brother. I even introduced him to others that way. He died last week.” She was Hindu and had just moved away from her family in India to the United States. Justin told her that he could only guess that God cared for her and had a plan for her and her family. Eventually, through further conversation, the lady came to profess Christ as her Savior.” (J. D. Greear, Jesus Continued…, pages 143-144)
This is the gift of prophecy in operation today. Echoing Matt Chandler, for those who say that this kind of work of the Holy Spirit ended around 100 A.D., I say “If this wasn’t God, then who else can get the credit? Satan? Last time I checked he wasn’t in the redemption business!”
As a pastor, I try not to wade too much into politics, but I refuse to refrain from commenting occasionally on the subject. Now is one of those occasions. I am not going to communicate any happiness or distress at the outcome of this election. I was honestly disappointed that these two candidates were the best the leading two parties could put forth.
I’ll start by saying (in case you have successfully ignored the news) that last night Donald Trump shocked most of the world, and seemingly the entire Democratic Party, by defeating Hillary Clinton for the highest office in the land. Although it looks like Trump has probably lost the popular vote, he has handily defeated Clinton on the electoral map.
I tried to stay up last night to witness the final conclusion of the matter, but my eyelids wouldn’t cooperate. When I went to sleep at a little after 1:00 a.m. (EST), the New York Times had projected an almost 100% chance that Trump would win.
When Trump announced his candidacy so many moons ago, I was one who never thought he would actually win the Republican nomination, let alone the Presidency. However, as he stormed through the primaries and won the Republican nomination, I began to realize he should not be underestimated.
The Media “Experts” Speechless
As I sat in bed with my computer, going back and forth between CNN and Fox News (both were providing free live streaming of their coverage), I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the shock and confusion of the media pundits. It was almost like they hadn’t prepared any talking points for Trump winning easily, so certain were they of only three options: (1) Clinton winning easily, (2) Clinton winning a close race, and, least likely, (3) Trump surprisingly pulling out a squeaker. They never dreamed that Trump would actually “flip” any blue states.
Once it was clear that Trump was going to win, they started trying to put into words how this could have happened. And for the most part, they were clueless. They couldn’t figure out how they could have missed so badly. Using a baseball analogy, it’s not that the media swung and missed. They weren’t even in the right ballpark.
Why the Media Could Not Envision a Trump Victory
Here’s why I think the media missed it.
(1) They underestimated how much of America is sick and tired of the political establishment. And rightly so. The American people haven’t forgotten when their representatives in Washington voted themselves a raise right in the middle of a recession (2008). The American people don’t have so short of a memory as to forget when their representatives exempted themselves from the increasingly not-so-affordable Affordable Healthcare Act that they thrust on the rest of us. The American people haven’t forgotten that their representatives passed that legislation before they, the lawmakers, even knew what was in it. Remember Pelosi’s famous words:”We have to pass it to know what’s in it!” As more than one person has pointed out, by choosing the political outsider, Trump, it’s as if America shouted to the political establishment, “You’re fired!”
I personally own three Bibles that I have had rebound, two by Diego Caloca in California and one by Leonard’s in Indiana. I’m increasingly asked about this subject and thought it would be good to provide a list of Bible rebinding specialists. By providing this list, I am not personally endorsing all their work. As mentioned I have only used Deigo Caloca and Leonard’s, and were pleased with their work. That said, I know of other pastors and Christians who have used some of these other companies and have been pleased with their work as well.
From Memorial Day to Independence Day my patriotism swells, and for the past few years I have, therefore, found Summer to be a great season to reflect on our nation’s history by reading books in the American History genre, particularly works related to American military history.
Why not join me this year in some American History reading goals for this summer? I challenge you to join me. I’ve picked out a five books I plan to read this summer.
Have you ever been robbed? A dear couple in our congregation recently had their apartment broken into, and much was stolen: computers, jewelry, credit cards, etc. I’ve never had that happen to me.
My car was broken into years ago; all that was taken was some loose change. But a couple of years ago, through identity theft, Lacey and I funded someone’s Christmas… over $800 of electronics at a Radio Shack in California! Fortunately, Discover believed us when we said we didn’t Christmas shop at that Radio Shack on the West Coast and removed the charges from our bill. All it ended up costing us was the hassle of getting new credit cards.
How should we react when we get robbed? If it ever happens to me again. I hope I respond the way noted Bible scholar Matthew Henry did after he was robbed. Henry was mugged once when he was traveling on foot, the thieves getting away with his wallet. Later, as he reflected on his experience, he wrote in his journal:
“Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my wallet, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because, it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”
We recently watched the sci-fi drama Interstellar starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chasten, and Michael Caine. (**Spoiler Alert**) Sometime in the not-so-distant future, Earth is on the verge of becoming inhabitable. The human race will die unless someone can figure out how to colonize another planet. In the process of searching for a potential planet to colonize, Matthew McConaughey’s character, Cooper, enters a black hole. Expecting to perish, instead he finds himself in a tesseract. Inside the tesseract, Cooper is somehow on the other side of his daughter’s bedroom bookshelves. He is able to peek through the bookshelf and see different time frames of his daughter’s life in that room. Amazingly, he is also able to cross the space-time continuum and actually cause books to fall off the shelf. Using Morse code, he is able to communicate to her via a wristwatch lying on the bookshelf, a watch he gave her prior to leaving on his space journey. Through Morse code he delivers to her quantum data collected from the black hole. This data provides the solution to a gravitational equation that is the key to successfully saving the human race from extinction.
How does this relate to the eminent author C. S. Lewis and 2 Peter 3.18?
When Cooper is in the tesseract, he is able to see into, and even communicate, with his daughter, at various times through her life. He is able to see history not as a progression of sequential events, but, in essence, all at once. He even sees himself in the room (think Marty McFly seeing himself in Back to the Future II). At first, Cooper thinks that he has been aided by some five-dimensional alien beings which are obviously more intelligent and advanced than humans. Eventually, though, he realizes that it is not aliens, but a more evolved humanity that has learned to master the space-time continuum.
Consider these concepts from Interstellar with what C. S. Lewis wrote back in the 1940s, as found in the book Mere Christianity:
“We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from past to future just as we do. But many learned men do not agree with that. It was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all: later the Philosophers took it over: and now some of the scientists are doing the same.”
Lewis is addressing the very principle on which much of the movie Interstellar is dependent: it is possible to be outside of time as we know and experience it. The difference is that Interstellar envisions a God-less, evolved humanity being the ones who will experience and master the implications of such an eternal view. Lewis, instead, believes God is the One dwelling outside of time. Lewis uses the concept of God hearing and answering prayers as an example of how He stands outside of time:
“His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty – and every other moment from the beginning of the world – is always Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of the prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.”
How does this impact our prayer lives?
“He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us… You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created.”
Is your brain hurting yet? If Lewis is correct, then his theory enables us also to think about how God seems to be so more patient in dealing with the things we think He should rushing to fix. In other words, it gives us a clue as to why God is sometimes slow to give us the answers to our prayers. After all, as 2 Peter 3.8 says, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
God is awesome and beyond our comprehension! His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways!