Monthly Archives: June 2009

I’d Like To Prophesy…But* (Part 3)

shy2

Click on following links for: Part 1 and Part 2.

What can we learn about the use of prophetic gifts from Jim Jones’ life?

For clarification, I see Jim Jones as a deceived Christian believer, not as an atheist as many have portrayed him. This belief is supported by the small pentecostal church, the Methodist superintendent who supported his ordination, the woman who prophesied to him and William Branham. All saw him as a believer with strong prophetic gifts. (See Part 2.)

An elder must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and the Devil will use that pride to make him fall. (1 Timothy 3:6, NLT)

Sadly, what seems to have happened to Jones has occurred over and over again throughout church history, and furthermore, still continues today. A man was  elevated not because of his godly character, but rather for his spiritual gifts.

We can see it in Jones’ ministry as a young child-preacher, as a nineteen year-old student pastor and as a co-minister with William Branham, he was thought of as the man. A man who spoke for God. People were in awe of his prophetic gifts.

Now, this is not meant as a blanket excuse for Jones’ errors, but it should cause us to pause for a moment, and check ourselves. Do we admire spiritual gifts more than godly character?

If so, we need to repent.

Look at the qualifications for an overseer:

An overseer, then, must be above reproach…temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money…manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity…not a new convert…a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

In other words, an overseer is required to have a godly character. Did you notice that there is no mention of spiritual gifts as a requirement for being an overseer?

And by the way, what are the qualifications for the spiritual gifts to flow in a believer’s life?

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11)

The spiritual gifts are given to us believers by grace (Romans 12:6). It is His decision, not ours.

Jim Jones’ life and ministry illustrates an extreme example of how not to walk in the prophetic gifts. What is the right way?

(Continued in Part 4)

*I have used the word prophesy in a general sense to denote prophecy, words of knowledge and words of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12: 8-10).

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Swimming Upstream: “Obama, National Debt, Illegal Aliens and Terrorists”

Carnac

“Ladies and gentlemen, Carnac the Magnificent,” announces the sidekick, as a turbaned man steps through the curtains, onto the stage.  He turns left, realizes his error and then spins around, heading over to the desk. On the way, he trips slightly, but catches himself, before sitting down.

“Welcome, old great sage, it’s good to see you,” says the sidekick, sitting in front of the desk. “I hold in my hand the envelope which is hermetically sealed and has been kept in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnalls’ porch since noon.

Carnac jerks his head. “Hermetically sealed?”

The side-kick nods. “Yes, and no one knows the question contained in this envelope except you in your border-line mystical way. You will ascertain the answer before even hearing the question which is in this envelope. An amazing feat, but true, right?”

“Could you repeat that?” says Carnac, shaking his head in unbelief. “No…yes, of course it is.”

“Here’s the envelope,” says the sidekick, handing it to Carnac.

“May I have absolute silence,” whispers Carnac. He holds the envelope to his head for a moment and closes his eyes in deep meditation.

Then, he says, “The answer is: Obama, national debt, illegal aliens and terrorists.”

“Obama, national debt, illegal aliens and terrorists,” repeats the side-kick in a matter of fact tone.

Carnac looks around, wondering where the voice came from. The side-kick points to himself. Carnac rips open the envelope, blows into it  and removes a sheet of paper.

Then, he reads it aloud.  “And the question is: how will the Lord remove apathy and lethargy from the American church?”

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

(And of course, I borrowed the idea for this post from the Carnac Magnificent routines on The Tonight Show, performed by Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon.)

Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s  a little of this and a little of that, all written  to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian journeys.

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I’d Like to Prophesy…But* (Part 2)

shy2Click on following link for Part 1.

How important is godly character for operating the prophetic gifts?

Over the years, I have done research on Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple and leader of Jonestown (Guyana) where over 900 people committed mass suicide on November 18, 1978. His name, even today, evokes nervous twitches in us believers who are skeptical of over-the-top religious leaders.

But Jones’ life provides us with a few valuable lessons, especially for the prophetic gifts.

As a child, Jim Jones attended a small Pentecostal church in Indiana. His spiritual gifts were recognized by the church, and he became a child-preacher sensation. People came from all over to hear him.

His mother, Lynetta Putnam Jones, practiced spiritism. And when she discovered her son was involved in preaching and spiritual gifts, she promptly pulled him out of the church.

So, during Jones’  formative years, the young believer’s spiritual gifts and calling were heavily influenced by a wacky mom who was involved with demons and mediums. Certainly, not a healthy environment for a future man of God.

In the 1950’s, Jones was ordained by the Methodist Church as a student pastor. Then, at a state pastors’ convention, his life was forever changed. A woman speaker left the podium, walked down the aisle to Jones and said, “You are called to be a prophet. Go up to the microphone and prophesy.”

Jones was stunned by the woman’s words but followed her instructions. He proceeded to prophesy to everyone there, giving unbelievably accurate words of knowledge and words of wisdom. His ministry skyrocketed from that time forward.

Leaving the Methodists, Jones founded his own church called the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel in Indianapolis. Though William Branham ministered with Jones at times, Jones felt tormented about continually giving prophecies.

On the one hand, he knew the spiritual gifts worked like a magnet, drawing people and money to his church. But on the other hand, he had no desire to expend the time and energy in prayer, developing a solid foundation to shore up his prophetic gifts.

So, he cheated. He had members gather tidbits of information which he passed on as prophetic words of knowledge to hungry listeners. It worked. The crowds and finances kept flowing into his ministry.

It only gets worse from here on out in his ministry. Finally, at a service in his Peoples Temple of San Francisco, he threw the Bible on the floor and declared, “No longer will we pay attention to this Book. My words are more important.”

So, what can we learn about the use of the prophetic gifts from Jim Jones’ life?

(Continued in Part 3)

*I have used the word prophesy in a general sense to denote prophecy, words of knowledge and words of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12: 8-10).

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Swimming Upstream: “Why Me?”

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“O Lord, why me? Why not call Bill instead of me? He has his act together, while mine is a rotten mess,” I said to the Lord one year after my salvation (1986).

The reasoning behind the prayer was simple: my life looked like Dresden after its fire-bombing in WWII. My marriage. My family. My career. My friends. My plans. Boom! Bang! Crack! Smash! All shredded to pieces.

I was the imperfect testimony of a man who loved Jesus. Whatever I tried to do failed to help at all. I was a mess!

The only positive asset on my side of the ledger was the Lord. His presence descended upon me every morning during prayer for forty-five minutes or so. It was so awesome that I wanted to live with Him there.

But sadly, His presence always lifted. Then, I had to get off my knees and walk through my problems which were unavoidable and seemingly insurmountable.

And yet, through it all, I hungered for the next time His presence would envelope me. I wanted to be with Him, my best Friend and Lover.

Maybe I was a mess. Maybe my family was ashamed of me. Maybe all my friends had left me. Maybe I was the biggest failure in the history of the world. Maybe all this was true and more.

But still, Jesus liked to spend time with me.

The Lord eventually answered my “Why me?” prayer. He said in so many words, “I called you, not him. Get over it.”

If I had to walk on every bad road, and through every pig sty and dung hill of my life again, I would do it without hesitation if I knew His presence awaited me somewhere ahead. He’s worth it.

Who when he found found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:46)

Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s  a little of this and a little of that, all written  to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian journeys.

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I’d Like To Prophesy, But…* (Part 1)

shy2Is prophesying still important? Or is it old school Christianity? A relic from a past age, not worth digging up again.

Here is an experience of mine which made a difference in an unbeliever’s life:

Years ago, I worked for a maintenance supervisor whose every word dripped with bitterness and sarcasm. Nobody, including me, wanted to be around him; he was a downer, with a capital D.

But one day, I was stuck working with him on a small project. As usual, he was carrying on about the unfairness of this and that. Blah. Blah. Blah.

For some reason, I turned toward him, and as I did, a prophetic word perched itself on the tip of my tongue. “It wasn’t your fault, you know?” I said, wondering where I was heading with such words.

“What?” he said.

“You know, back in Viet Nam, when the soldier died. It wasn’t your fault!”

He stopped working and stared at me. “Do you know what happened there?”

I shook my head.

He went on to explain how he had been a tank commander in Viet Nam. ” I was a good commander and loved my men. They respected me,” he said.

Then, one day an infantryman asked for a ride back to base. He pointed to the rear of the tank and said, “Jump on.”

The pressures of being constantly on the lookout for booby traps and mines caused him to forget about the soldier. When he did look back later in the trip, he noticed the soldier was missing. So, he turned the tank around.

Two miles later, he found the infantryman dead with his head cut off.  The supposition was the soldier fell asleep, rolled off the tank and was quickly discovered by the Viet Cong.

At a court martial inquiry, he  was found guilty. His career was over.

When he finished, the supervisor asked, “So, who told you?”

“The Lord told me,” I said looking into his eyes. “And Jesus said, ‘It’s not your fault.'” The man’s countenance glowed.

A week or so later, the man quit his supervisor’s job at the motel and started his own company. Whenever I saw him on the street after that, he would cut across in front of traffic just to shake my hand.

Did the man get saved and serve the Lord? I really don’t know as our lives eventually drifted apart. But I do know this: on that particular day, the man knew Jesus truly cared about him.

And guess what?

If you want, you, too, can give prophetic words to unbelievers, believers and whosoever as you journey through life. The Lord is looking for willing vessels to speak for Him.

Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)

(Continued in Part 2)

*I have used the word prophesy in a general sense to denote prophecy, words of knowledge and words of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12: 8-10).

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Swimming Upstream: “What If All Pastors Are Removed?”

calvaryWhat if Hate Crimes’ legislation were enacted which removed all pastors from their positions of church authority? Maybe, even imprisoned them in some remote spots of Canada. Then what?

Would Christianity float belly up and die? What would Christians do? Just sit and stare at empty pulpits Sunday after Sunday,  hoping things would somehow revert back to earlier times.

History has given us a clear example of what could happen if such a calamity occurred.

In 1949, when Mao Zedong and his communist thugs took over China, they sent every missionary home, especially American ones. They executed a large percentage of the native-born pastors and church leaders, and sent the others to be reeducated at reform camps (fancy term for prisons).

So, in effect there were no pastors. Christianity as we Westerners know it did not exist in China at all. It was wiped out.

What happened?

The Lord raised up new leaders. Ones who had not been seminary trained. Ones who had few (if any) Bibles, but who knew and  depended on Him. These leaders reshaped Christianity into the house church format which is now so vibrant and alive in China today.

How effective were the new leaders?

It is estimated there were 500,000 Christians in China at the time Mao took over the nation. Today’s estimates range up to 130 million believers, with more being added everyday.

We Western Christians need to remember who builds the Church and who leads it.

And Jesus is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)

Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s  a little of this and a little of that, all written  to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian journeys.

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Swimming Upstream: “Will America Return To The Good Old Days?”

independenceday

While sitting in the dentist’s office, I chatted with an elderly Christian lady.

“I’ve had a great life,” she said. “But with the direction  America is now heading, I worry about the quality of lives my children and grandchildren will have in the future.”

I agreed and put my two cents into the conversation mix.

“Well, I’m praying for God’s mercy to fall on America so that my children and grandchildren will have lives like I had. You know, lives filled with happiness and prosperity,” she said, summing up her feelings.

The receptionist stepped into the waiting room, ending the conversation.

Okay, let’s say for discussion’s sake, her prayers along with millions of other like-minded Christians hit the middle of God’s bullseye on His throne-room prayer target.  Lights flash. Bells ring. Sirens blare. Trumpets blast. Angels are dispatched.

Next, let’s say that President Obama, all the Senators, all the House Representatives,  Vice President Joe Biden, Chris Matthews, Keith Obermann, Katie Couric, Brian Williams, George Soros, the MoveOn.org crew, Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post gang, Jeremiah Wright and the whole New York Times news organization get saved. Gloriously and radically saved.

Also, let’s say that every church barrier in America is torn down. We Christians finally walk in unity,  and actually love each other.

“Hallelujah!” you shout, standing on your feet, clapping your hands.

But now what?

Will America’s historical destiny return to pre-911 or pre-2008 election conditions?

Probably not.

You see, there’s a new wind blowing. Americans, especially us Christians, are not heading back to the good old days. The past is done. It’s over. Forget about it. Move on. It’s a new day in our nation.

Jesus is refining us Christians and reforming His Church. To achieve what He has in mind, a glorious Bride without spot or wrinkle, it will take pressure. Painful, extreme pressure. Much like the kind that turns lumps of coal into sparkling diamonds.

Where will this extreme pressure come from? Financial problems. Government problems. Church problems. Terrorism. And much more.

And guess what? The diamond making process takes time, lots of it.

So, if you want, you can utter prayers much like the elderly lady is praying. At least, you’re praying, right?

But if you want Your prayers to soar up through the roof of your house and touch heaven’s throne room, pray something like this:

Lord, build Your church in America so that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s  a little of this and a little of that, all written  to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian journeys.

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