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Sunday, February 25, 2007

MIND OF CHRIST: Prophecy vs Divination

This is a short interlude into an important topic. One of the aspects of the Mind of Christ which we have not explored in this blog, is that of 'walking in the Spirit' although, in a sense, everything we have spoken of is related directly or indirectly to walking in the Holy Spirit because to have the Mind of Christ formed in you requires it. The Gifts of the Spirit are fairly well known to most believers:
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another [divers] kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 1Cr 12:8-12

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Church Over the Past 50 years.
In the past 50 years [technically 100], perhaps more than any other time in Western Culture, there has been a revival of 'Full' or Complete Gospel Worship: while Churches for centuries kept precepts and general moral commandments and even basic doctrine, sometimes even admirably, the teaching of 'walking in the Holy Spirit' and the outward manifestations of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit was largely neglected [and still is] in mainstream or 'visible' Christianity. With the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, sometimes within and sometimes outside traditional denominations, a focus on the gifts was brought back.

The 'movement' [which should not be a movement at all but a general practice] has been fraught with difficulty and division for several reasons. One is that several heresies were allowed to fester with Churches that practiced the gifts in which some went far from Scripture and some more aberrant Churches even claim that with the gifts the scripture is unnecessary, or limited, which is not only heresy but blasphemy. Churches even practicing the gifts, but apart from the firm anchor of the Word of God, got into 'holy laughter' phases, think and grow rich gospels, and a variety of other aberrations.

On the other hand, Churches without any practice of the gifts, or which teach the gifts are dead or for another time or dispensation, are often found to be legalistic, without love and without the power and Grace of God. Some even teach that the outward working of the gifts are demonic, a dangerous and blasphemous position which comes to close to one of the only ways Salvation can be lost which is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which includes attributing the works of God through the Holy Spirit to the demonic.

There is also though, emulations of the things of the Spirit, which can be very deceiving and so that straight and narrow road is vividly required to have a discerning Spirit. A few principles I have found have helped:

1. Never point a finger at what even looks like the works of the Holy Spirit and cry demonic without knowledge or testing the spirits: this is too great a risk. One can pray and ask God for discernment, pray and ask Him to prosper the true gifts and thwart the ones which are not true, etc. Too many preachers however in the flesh, not wanting to break with age old ways of doing things in the church of man, cry foul without discernment.

2. Go the Word. Always the Word. The Holy Spirit who wrote the Word of God over 5000 years through many voices, will not disagree nor depart from the Word in Gifts. Sometimes, the thing one is given in a word of knowledge, or prophetic utterance may seem a little askance , but recall that prophets and disciples are often asked to do unusual things: stand in the middle of the Gaza desert, for example, or shave off half their beard and scatter it to the wind.

3. Pray, stay in the Word, stand on the Word, and do things decently and in order: God created the universe decently and in order, and His Church is to work that way. If Scripture says that tongues are only "as the Spirit giveth utterance" then it is not self-initiated. If it says that an interpreter is to be present, then massive chaotic prayers do not line up, and though they may edify the individual they do not add to faith or build up the Church. Not only are the gifts given and described in scripture, the prescription for their use is given.

Carefulness and caution with prayerful Bible Study are like the guard rails on a steep highway to a mountain top: its good to get to the 'mountain tops' where we meet with God in fullness, but its good also to have a safe journey upwards! All of this brings us though to the central topic in this section, which is How to discern the veracity of prophetic utterance, or a Word of Knowledge or wisdom from that which is not of the LORD. I have found a few things that will help.

Divination vs Real Prophecy

Perhaps the premiere example in Scripture of the difference between 'Divination' and true gifts, is found in the book of Acts in the case of the young woman who is known for a spirit of divination, off of whom her masters make a lot of money, who when the true apostles appear, begins for 3 days to follow them around saying
"These men are the servants of the Most High God that shew unto us the way of salvation." Acts 16:17.

The apostles call the wrongful spirit out of the woman which causes her merchandisers much dismay as they lose their free income. As a younger Christian , I wondered at this passage because it seemed that she was saying the truth, these truly were the servants of the Most High God [El Elyon], and they really were lifting up Jesus Christ our Messiah and showing the way of Salvation, so I was earlier unsure why the spirit was 'unclean'. There are few other instances in scripture which mention false prophecy as well, for example, in Jeremiah, around the time Jeremiah prophesies to Zedekiah and Gedaliah, a few local prophets of the time, unhappy with his "doom and destruction" message and call for repentance, take the core of his message and turn it into 'all is well', peace and happiness for Israel. They and others then condemn Jeremiah, and even the princes discuss what to do with the recalcitrant prophet who will not water down or restate the prophecy. Rather than kill him, which they note was done in the past (Jer 44), he is thrown into the dungeon, which is a curious event because even though they are punishing him, the King still sends to hear if he has a Word from the Lord as Babylonian armies march in to destroy Jerusalem! They knew the true from the false but did not like the truth.

To get back for a moment to the first example though, the Spirit of Divination mocked and emulated the true workings of the Holy Spirit and the Scripture rather tightly: but there are a number of differences which are alluded to in scripture which help discern the true from the false.

1. Definitions: Divination, is called literally in the Greek in this passage the "Spirit of Python". By definitions derived from the roots and meaning of the word Python, it bears several characteristics, which the woman who followed after Paul and Silas. It was:
A. Repetitive: over and over (ha) without control -it went on for 3 days.
B. Numerous
C. Pressured. [it is curious that some mental 'illnesses' are characterized by pressured speech, but this is often confused with dialectical concerns]

2. Divination is equated with witchcraft, readings, reading animal 'entrails' casting lots and other things: Joseph in the Old Testament has a 'divining cup'. While some servants of God before the Cross used certain of these practices, it appears not to be the best way, can be harmful and destructive and displeases God. Even the apostles remaining after Judas in choosing a new apostle, use the casting of lots, and get Matthias, but many feel it was God Himself who really appointed Paul to the last position, because Matthias is not mentioned again after the lot selection. An example of serious divining or witchcraft is when Saul visits the witch of Endor and she reluctantly calls up the 'spirit' or at least the image of Samuel. This is against the law, and the dead do not return to earth outside of a few which God revives, so the sin was serious and resulted in the fall of the house of Saul.

3. Soothsaying, is a form of divination, qwasam in hebrew, and manteuomai in the Greek, refers to a form of 'oraclism' which is staccato, given in short and repetitive bursts. It is used definitively in the passages about the young woman in Acts who followed the apostles, who can be seen to bear the repetitive and choppy sayings, but it also involves communicating with the dead [BLB] Saul was to stay away from the Witch of Endor, after he himself outlawed such practices, but desperately went to an occultist after the death of Samuel, because God's wisdom had departed from him. People throughout history have gone to 'soothsayers' or oracles of a false nature to hear what they want to hear: soothsaying seldom involves the truth when it hurts. Soothsaying can also refer to prophets of strange nations. True prophecy again, flows more like a babbling and refreshing brook, is always the truth, always in line with the word, never involves communication with the deceased, is given by the utterance of the Holy Spirit (not man's inquiry or self-produced) and will not lie even to the prophets own hurt.

True Prophetic Utterance and Prophecy
True prophetic utterance often bears a number of characteristics also: it is from the LORD, it is through the Holy Spirit in the way chosen. Several words in scripture are used in connection:

1. Propheteuo: (Greek) which according to Strong's refers to "encouraging obedience", foreseeing the future or warning of the future, warning to prepare for the future or admonishing continuing obedience. There are 28 mentions in this form.

2. Episkiadzo-this is not directly prophecy and yet it is, it is like an announcement, as when the heralding angels confront the Shepherds in the field, or when the Angel Gabriel overshadows Mary. The key word in English is "overshadowing" or to cloud over: this describes at least the experience of the prophet who usually describes his experience as been overwhelmed, overtaken or the like in a number of words. Daniel talks about this overshadowing of control (although not the same word) when he confronts an Angel of God who shows him the things of Israel to come.

3. Naba describes the same indicating encouraging, restoration of the Covenant, faithfulness, the telling of future events, or encouraging obedience or the warning against disobedience, only in Hebrew.

4.and Natap- (Hebrew) which is used in conjunction, and interestingly coincides with what the voice of God is described as by prophets: to pour down, gently fall, drip, drip words, preach, prophecy, drop, dropped, dropped down or prophesy.

So true Prophecy or utterance, has many characteristics which divination and imitations do not, even when the same words are said. To begin with it is TRUE, but often not popular, as with Jeremiah. The prophetic encounter, is often followed by exhaustion: spiritual and physical---Daniel is so exhausted that he cannot even stand but is picked up and set upright. On a lesser note, many pastors will tell you that after preaching the Gospel, they are not merely tired from a morning's 'work' but often fall asleep, not just napping but in a spiritual exhaustion. Our encounters with the living God are not mundane! Our limited existence and physical nature, though made by Him, are so minute next to His Glory that even small tastes of that wondrous fruit depletes our being. Great Prophecies are often preceded by intense prayer, often with fastings and length, including Repentance, both individual and corporate: Daniel prays for weeks regarding the sins of Israel, repenting of the very sins which the Prophet Jeremiah and Isaiah and others declared as the reason for captivity 70 years before. Lastly although not exhaustively (we will return later to this topic), as with tongues, prophecies and words of knowledge are under the sovereign direction of God: as the Holy Spirit gives utterance. Forced tongues or prophecies, forced words of wisdom, are often incorrect and quench the Holy Spirit and defy God's sovereignty. I have noted that even in the harshest rebukes God gives us in the Spirit, even for persons gone far into sin, it is most often countered with comfort as one would a straying child.

God is our Parent, our Father, nuturer, and the love of our life. God is Life and Love and Jesus is described as the Way the Truth and the Life, and no man comes to the Father but by Him! (Jn 14:6). His prophecies and words to us are for our benefit and upbuilding---for our learning and it is one of His ways of fitting us for Heaven.
A true prophecy will be in love, even the solid rebuke, because it is so a part of God's nature that it is felt: and His love is so far above ours! We do not treat each other in love that great not even the best of us. His pleadings with Israel in the Babylonian exile to turn back, to repent is like a father who though angry and heartbroken at seeing children walking towards a cliff, begs them, warns them, berates them not to go any farther near the cliff of their destruction. The discernment between true and false prophecy is often not that difficult: though real prophecies may be lengthy, and a few major points repeated, they are not vain repetitions without substance or belief, but the dear and precious calling of Children to walk with a loving God into Eternal Life.
May the Love of the LORD Jesus Christ be with all.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Mind of Christ: The Precious King of a Precious Kingdom

I cannot settle on one favorite passage in Scripture, it would be impossible.
A life verse, some are able to choose, but as soon as I choose one I think of another
it would have to be. A couple of my favorites though are the following:

Hbr 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

Phl 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

This morning, I was reading also about the Preciousness of Jesus Christ, described
as our "Precious cornerstone" in I Peter:

2:4 To whom coming, [as unto] a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, [and] precious,
1Pe 2:6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a Chief Corner Stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

His blood is described as precious [1 pet 1:19] and our faith is described so [2 Pet 1:1] and in a number of other instances, Jesus, the Word, our faith and belief are described such.

Now, it may seem that these two trains of thought may be racing in different directions, but as I read and considered this morning, the two are critically related:
The first two deal with the fact that when we are "born again", born from above,
from Heaven, when the Holy Spirit comes to abide in us through BELIEF in Jesus'
atoning act on Golgotha, when by the blood of Jesus Christ we enter in to eternal
Life, and also into the Mind of Christ and the Life of Christ, as His Children,
we enter then [and also] into a new Citizenship, a new "Nation" a new "Conversation".
I have often felt rather uncomfortable in the world since receiving Jesus Christ and
believing in Him. Even in the beginning, I knew that most of the world did not understand a new life in Christ. I was hungry for the Word of God, and have remained so most of my life since then which is now 22 years. I left a life and lifestyle which while with great burdens, such as a daughter with a life threatening illness, single parenthood, and raising a son as well while fighting off the vultures of academia, still was easy to understand and negotiate, and we had what we needed readily. I did not have to sit and think about whether what I was teaching or doing was right, or face constant decisions whether to stand for anything, much less a faith in God, but rather I dressed, acted lived and negotiated life in the ways everyone else does. Well at least most.

As time proceeded however, and I grew in my faith and the Word, my comfort level with the world was altered: in time, I would leave a number of 'conventions': I left my
career and world view, I home-schooled my children after I had spent my own life in many arenas of public education, I found myself often even in Church at odds with the
worldly views and practices which have crept into today's Church because they just didn't line up with God's Word, and God was constantly calling all of us to "come ye out and be ye separate" and that "friendship with the world is enmity with God."

I have seen that worked out in a number of ways over the years: for some it means not going to movies, for others not going to certain movies. For some it means wearing dresses of a set length, a certain kind of head covering, avoiding defined activities,
not watching tv, homeschooling vs public and the list becomes endless. When I was younger and raising my children, and still younger in the LORD, I was fairly strict myself about what we did, watched, ate or saw. Over the years however (I will eventually get to the point), I learned the difference between liberty and legalism.Most have it wrong leaning too far between the poles and either ignoring Biblical commands or making them a burden no one can bear. All this most have heard before.

Real Separation though, to the point we are in the world but not OF the world, means
that we begin to come into our "Citizenship" or "Conversation" becomes apparent as we receive the King of that new heavenly realm, the reign of God, and agree willingly and in love to become subject to Him and His ways, commands, and 'legislation'.
When the words Peter used are understood, we comprehend that our 'conversation' is no
longer here- it is in eternity. Many of us understood this perfunctorily or metaphorically in the beginning, but if we grow in Christ, we must begin to understand it from the heart and 'put it on'. That new conversation or citizenship means we belong in another place, a better place, where no one can rationalize away our justice, where Love really has won and sits on a Throne in the countenance of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life [Jn 14:6] and where all is made whole, well, and the promise of perfect rest, perfect Shabbat rest is accomplished for all time.

I prayed not long ago for the LORD to help me be eternally minded. This is the true
putting on of the Mind of Christ, not just 'changing opinions'. It has nothing to do with being more moral [there are Buddhists and Islamics more moral than some Christians], or only voting Republican, or watching Christian programming, it has to do with becoming apart of a Kingdom with a King, which has been since before time and
lasts eternally, in which the way we see things must change.

We do not belong in this world when we willingly encounter Jesus in the great exchange: His life for ours, ours for His. Even from the beginning, we understand things very differently, although not at once. When Christ first welcomes us into His
Kingdom, we over overwhelmed with joy and relief. Our sins have been paid for, we do
not have to strive to be beautiful, perfect, excellent or anything else. The work was His and not ours. Over the years, we allow Him, if we are walking right to change us through surrender, through obeying His Word, and learning to walk in the Holy Spirit. If our doctrine is in error, we need only to pray and He becomes the teacher and corrects, always gently never with the condemnation which men love so much. If we choose froward ways, and we all do, too often disobeying in our weakness, He gives us strength, does through us what we cannot [I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me], and when the sorrows and despair of life overwhelm, we have somewhere and someone who will bear it with us and for us. We cannot trade that Love for what this fading tearing world has to offer.

A Citizen of No Mean Country

What does it mean though, to be a 'citizen' of the Kingdom of Heaven? Heaven is not
as tangible as we would like it to be on earth, in fact Hell seems to preoccupy earth far more often. The Apostle Paul in defending himself as a 'freeborn' Roman once
remarked that he was a 'citizen of no mean city' or no 'base' or reviled city.
Act 21
:39 But Paul said, I am a man [which am] a Jew of Tarsus, [a city] in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.

What did he mean? He was only referring to his Roman citizenship to which he had been born, invoking the law to stop his mistreatment. If Paul considered Cilicia "no mean City", though, how much more magnificent and less base is our freeborn status into the Kingdom of God, the City of God?

The tenets of the city I live in are not always pleasant. People are not always treated fairly. There are murders, violence, unfair elections, prejudices, troubles and trials just like in every other city on earth. But there, never to dissolve or
die, is the presence of utter Joy and peace-bliss beyond comprehension, reunion and victory. We are given a little glimpse in Scripture as to how wondrous it will be as
all things are made new. We will not hurt or ache or cry. No love will end. And all the sufferings we experienced here, some of which are overwhelming us in despair,
will not even be remembered-they will have been things Jesus used to bring about His will and our rest, no matter how horrible they seem now. There is nothing He will not turn to the good of the believer: nothing.

To wear that Citizenship and conversation like a garment, though will lift us above the constant concern we have about 'fitting in' or quandaries about whether we should obey Christ or men. Whether we swear an oath or not is not about being legalistic
and old fashion: it is about who our allegiance is too. If our allegiance is to Christ we must understand that the 'principalities and powers' in the world are not going to be pleased at our obeying the Final Authority, the Alpha and Omega over theirs. It is not about rebellion or an unwillingness to obey man's law: we are in truth expected to obey earthly laws more than other people, to do things decently and in order, and to 'obey the higher powers' because they are ordained of God. Far from rebellion, when we do reach a discrepancy between obeying Christ and the commands of His Kingdom over those of nations, it should be with trembling, for while we will have no peace or rest unless we obey Christ, failure to obey men still has an effect, and sometimes an unpleasant one. All the Martyred saints who died at stake, stoned to death, murdered for their faith found this to be the case. John Bunyan did nothing more than refuse to be bound by Anglican ordination in the preaching of the Gospel, Ana Jans would not recant her testimony and lost her life and child to a burning pyre, and thousands through history have died at the hands of earthly religion or governments, kissing the stake they were burned on as merely the door to their Continuing City.

We have all nodded in acquiescence to this 'citizenship' under Christ's Reign.
But to really wear it in all adornment and holiness, helps us to rise above the mire
this world is. I reached a point a few years ago, when so much bad had happened in my life, things unspeakable, that I was at the point of losing my faith. What I could not understand was why God would allow others to hurt us in such deep ways, whenHe promised to protect us. I could not really choose unbelief, because I had seentoo many unadulterated miracles and mysteries and even felt God's presence often during my life. I came to understand though, that the rain does fall on the good and bad alike, that too often even awesomely horrifying things happen to God's children, but this does not indicate that we are not His: it indicates that the world which perpetrates the crime upon us is NOT HIS. They are the ones without healing, Salvation and citizenship in the eternal. We also have to take account of our own obedience: we can get hurt if we do not obey, or if we are out of the way. And sometimes, seemingly unfairly, when other people do not obey, we can be the unjust victim. If we fall into the hands of thieves or worse, though, even this turns to the good of Heaven's citizen, turning to their benefit and His Plan.

The Precious Cornerstone

This new Kingdom, though, the country of our greatest allegiance, is desireable not
merely because we find peace and rest when we walk fully in it, but because the King
of it is a Precious King. As I read the above passages this morning: this is what filled me with joy and love in an aching and aging body: my Precious King, His precious blood which bought my eternal citizenship, the precious faith he has given meas a gift. Precious in scripture describes the Word of God, our souls, jewels, first fruits, and us in the sight of those who love us. The dictionary defines the word as :
pre·cious (prĕsh'əs) pronunciation

1. Of high cost or worth; valuable.
2. Highly esteemed; cherished.
3. Dear; beloved.
4. Affectedly dainty or overrefined: precious mannerisms.
5. Informal. Thoroughgoing; unmitigated: a precious mess.


One who is dear or beloved; a darling.

The word comes from Middle English, French and Latin meaning 'price': and we were bought with one. The Hebrew is Meged, meaning excellent, and the Greek timios
meaning of a great price, honored, esteemed and dear. [blueletterbible.com]
The reason we can put on that new Kingdom and citizenship, where death and sin cannot reign, and where we are promised victory against the Anakim of despair and death in this world, is that we have a King who is Precious: consider the great Price. If we
lose sight of how costly our conversation in Heaven is to Him, how precious, excellent, esteemed and dear His blood, then we slip back into the allegiances and alliances of the nations on earth, a poor substitute with no promise.

If the mind of Christ is framed by any first thing, it is our love and allegiance to the One who bought for us our eternal place in His House forever, who bought our very souls, who purchased us in His excellence and not ours. Mocked, ridiculed, beaten, broken, humiliated, mistreated starved or killed, we stand in a new birthright, as
subjects of a blood bought and excellent Kingdom. As the next choice confronts you in this world regarding what is right or wrong: recall the Continuing City and nation
you are called to, and already walk in if you will, and the Mind of Christ will being to form in you.
2. 84.