I accused my wife of infidelity last year. No, there was no evidence. No, there was no change in our relationship. No, it is not characteristic of her in the slightest. However, I had my reasons . . . but I am getting ahead of myself.

What probably became evident to many of you last year is that I am not a charismatic. I don’t believe in the continuation of gifts such as “effecting of miracles,” healings, or prophecy. I want to; I just don’t. Out of all the so-called charismatic gifts, I believe prophecy and healings are the most important for people to really think deeply about. With so much disease and sickness in the church today, we don’t want to be flippant with any ideas like, “God wants to heal you, but you lack _______.” This can be utterly destructive to people’s faith and hope in the Lord.

Just as difficult is the gift of prophecy. To say that God wants to speak directly into your life through a prophetic encounter is no small statement. It can redirect the entire course of a person’s life. It can send them on witch hunts, cause them to start churches, or even make them drown their kids and blame it on the Lord. I even had a guy at the Credo House last year say that his life long mission was to take down Nike. Why? you ask. Well, according to him, God told him to do so.

However, this reality hit home for me last year more than any other time in my life. I had been discussing this issue with a charismatic friend whom I respect a great deal. Throughout our discussion, I promised him I would keep a prayerful, open mind about the issue. And, to the best of my ability, I was doing just that. I certainly didn’t want to “quench” any movement of the Spirit in my life or my ministry. We happened to be talking about the gift of prophecy. While I believe that God moves sovereignly and definitively in our lives, I have never believed that I should seek or expect any direct encounter from him. Whether through a dream, a vision, an audible encounter, a visit from a prophet, or a donkey talking, I have never heard from God in such a way. I would love to, but I simply have not and have not ever expected to. Yet, I want to be open.

One evening after discussing prophecy with my charismatic friend, who believes that I should live with more expectation to hear from God prophetically (including through dreams), I prayed earnestly before bed that the Lord would take me in the right direction. It was late at night. It was one of those prayers you pray just before you go to sleep. That night, I had a dream. (I am incredibly hesitant to include this for many reasons that will become evident, but I think it is necessary for you to understand the spirit of my writing here.)

The next morning was like any other. Most of the time all dreams of the previous night are never brought to memory. Scientists tell us that during REM sleep, dreams are forgotten as quickly as they occur. Normally, you can only remember the dream you had just before you wake up. All others fade quickly. But even then, the last dream is only remembered with some effort as your memory system processes things differently during the dream state. However, this time was different.

That morning, as the events of the last dream casually moved through my mind, just as I was about to discard this dream without second thought, I remembered my plea before the Lord, “Lord, if you have something to say to me through prophecy or through a prophet, please help me to know and accept it.” Was this something that the Lord wanted me to know? Was this dream a word from the Lord? Surely not. But, if I am serious about what I prayed, I need to consider this. It was an unusually clear dream (or was it?). It was an unusual dream. I dwelt upon it all morning. The moment I would discard it as ridiculous, it would resurface. It was as if I was supposed to remember this dream. Before I left for work, I thought about talking to my wife about it, but then I changed my mind. I need to leave this one alone, I kept thinking.

By midday I was consumed by the dream. Finally, I got on my wife’s account on Facebook and queried “Lewis Johnson.” My dream was about my wife. In the dream, she was having an affair with a man named Lewis Johnson (those of you who are theological gurus, quit laughing!). The main thing I remember from the dream was what I was supposed to do. Indeed, it was what I felt compelled to do. I was to search my wife’s account on Facebook for “Lewis Johnson,” the man with whom she was having an affair. After wrestling with this all morning, I finally did. I went to her account, signed in as her, and typed “Lewis Johnson” in her Friends query. Result? No Lewis Johnson found.

I hung my head in shame. How could I have had such a terrible and wayward thought? But, sadly, this fruitless Facebook search did not stop my wandering (prophecy seeking?) mind. You must understand: I have never accused my wife of cheating on me. Never. I have never suspected anything. Never. In fact, in our family, it has become quite a joke about how unsuspecting I am. We have had those in our family who have battled suspicion about their spouses, but not me. I have been the go-to relative to help those who, from time to time, get caught in this trap of undue suspicion (and it is a terrible trap). Nothing has ever made me doubt my wife’s fidelity. However, this time it was different. This time, I might have had a word from the Lord, through a dream, that made my (otherwise completely unwarranted) suspicions true.

So, that night, I approached my wife very casually and did a name drop. I don’t remember exactly how, but I asked her if she knew a Lewis Johnson. Both the look on her face (or lack thereof), and her casual attitude concerning the name, confirmed my suspicions. She had no clue who he was. She was not having an affair.

Now, I don’t want to be overly dramatic with my story here. My rational mind did not ever really think she was having an affair. However, there was a bug in my ear that caused me to have “what if?” thoughts of infidelity that I never would have had otherwise.

Why all of this? Because seeking an extra-biblical, personal revelation from God – right or wrong, biblical or not, continuing today or not – is a dangerous thing. I let down my guard with the Lewis Johnson Facebook thing. I lowered the standard that a prophecy must pass in order for it to have a legitimate claim to my beliefs. I actively sought prophecy and ended up accusing my wife of infidelity. Luckily, the consequences were not severe. My wife actually liked the idea that I might be jealous. Since then it has turned into a joke, as I ask my wife every once in a while if she has been talking to Lewis Johnson. But this kind of stuff can be terribly destructive and potentially life-altering. Any time people believe they could be privy to transcendent knowledge and commands, the ante is raised. Many people are controlled by prophecies they were given when they were young. Though the “prophet” of my dream gave no compelling signs that he was truly a prophet, many people hang on dreams they have. Why? Because they are taught to expect a word from the Lord. My wife had a prophetic word given to her when she was a teen. She was told that she would die of cancer. A guy at the Credo House told me the other day that he was told he would be a great preacher. Another is told to take this job or that. I was told that I would be hurt in a car crash in a red sports car in my early thirties.

My contention is that we must never believe these things unless there are absolutely compelling reasons for us to do so that go well beyond emotional disposition. Casual dreams or someone coming up to you and saying, “I have a word from the Lord for you,” with nothing to back it up, are not only irresponsible for us to believe, but completely dishonoring to the name of the Lord.  Doing these things can ruin your life.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    156 replies to "The Day I Accused My Wife of Infidelity"

    • NW

      CMP,

      I don’t know what to make of some of the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Cor 12 either. I’m no longer a cessationist in the sense that I now believe that Paul believed that all the spiritual gifts he listed in 1 Cor 12 would remain throughout this dispensation (if I may use the term). But what does it mean for someone to have the gift of prophecy? Or the gift of healing? I just don’t know.

      Sometimes when I’m in a bad mood I’ll make dark prophecies about the dissolution of America into warring regional powers, but I don’t think that’s what Paul meant by the gift of prophecy. On the other hand, sometimes I’ve felt compelled to say an encouraging word to someone at church, or just hug them, but I’m not sure that’s the outworking of a spiritual gift either. Meh.

    • Rick

      Mark Driscoll said in a sermon — “[I] Go up to another person. “Hey, I believe that you were sexually abused when you were young. Did so and so do this to you when you were this age? And you know, did a comforting spirit come to you at that point and, a demon masquerading as an angel of light?” And he said, “Yeah, how did you know?” I was like,”I saw it.” I started having dreams. I started seeing things. I started reading people’s proverbial mail.” — http://hereiblog.com/mark-driscoll-prophetic-dreams-seeing-future/

      It’s a difficult issue, and I really appreciate your point of view. I think Mark Driscoll’s POV above demonstrates that we feel we need to be more connected to God than we are and perhaps we even create a self-fulfilling prophesy for ourselves. It’s a dangerous business. What are your thoughts about Driscoll’s interpretations/imaginations/prophetic visions?

    • NW

      Rick,

      But if Driscoll has a dream of what happened to someone when they were young isn’t it just that, a dream, and not a spiritual gift?

      I believe that people can have dreams and visions concerning things that they could not otherwise have known – heck, I’ve had a few of those myself – but surely this isn’t what Paul meant by spiritual gifts.

    • C Michael Patton

      Rick, I love and respect Driscoll a great deal. But there are always going to be things about people I love and respect that I have problems with. His casual attitude about these things is, in my opinion, very dangerous. I am glad that it is not a central part of his “Gospel”!

    • Lewis Johnson

      I swear I have never met the woman!

    • Theodore

      @NW God can and does speak to us through Dreams, But i have learned through experience that there are some who God gives to them Prophetic Dreams on a consistent bases.

      I actually came to Christ because God through my Pastor spoke to me at a bible study, So i believe and know God does speak in Vision and Dreams but we must Pray about it and see if it is from the Lord or not and if it is according to Gods written word

    • Craig Bennett

      Michael. Scripture tells us to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that we may prophesy….so to eagerly desire those gifts is commendable.

      However, Scripture also tells us that all prophecy must be submitted for evaluation as we can be deceived. I once had a vision, of a big sword. A voice said take this sword, it is the 2 edged sword of the Holy Spirit which will empower you for ministry…I got the hebie jebies, asked God if it was of him, and it turned into a snake and slithered away.

      This experience however didn’t turn me away from seeking the spiritual gifts, as the devil can only fake that which is real.

      You often use your own experience as the criteria for dismissing the gifts of the Spirit – but have you ever had someone give you a word that was true? Or have you ever believed something about a Scripture that was false?

      Did or does your false belief in that Scripture make the Scripture false?

      • C Michael Patton

        Interesting. What does this test look like? Like how would you go about testing a dream such as mine. I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but I have heard this before. The answer is always to “test” the prophecy. However outside of whether it conflicts with sound doctrine, what does such a test look like?

    • Brian

      CMP,

      I really appreciate your journey as I personally have moved from Charismaticism to something … not that. Your writing has helped me be okay with what I see as the deficiencies in those beliefs for myself.

      But I am curious why you struggle with this. Why do you … want?

      Its probably really easy for me to accept the non-charismatic positions as I have travelled through that road. For lack of a better concept – I possessed them, but lost them. You never had them. So I can understand how you might feel you are missing something.

      But perhaps I can posit something that may facilitate your (not)/wanting. God makes us for His purposes. And we are unique in those purposes for the body – eye, ear, foot, hand stuff. Is it l possible that (lets assume for this discussion they are normative in the church) that your purpose doesn’t involve those graces? That without them you serve a different group that needs that kind of person?

      I know I did, as a former “charismatic.”

    • Paul Coleman

      Agreed from the perspective that we should err on the side of caution in such matters. Even so, I do believe in the perpetuity of the gifts, qualified by the perspective that God will speak to me first and then confirm his words through unrelated events or people.

    • Craig Bennett

      Michael. From comment 8.

      I ask myself a number of questions.

      1. Do I know and trust the person giving me this prophecy.

      2. Does the prophecy fall under the scrutiny of Scripture?

      3.)Does the prophecy encourage or condemn – build up faith or weaken it. Does it build love or build hate?

      4. In the Epistles of John we are told to test the spirits. While I know this could mean messenger, most translations still use the term ‘spirits’…so I take it at face value. I speak to God about it.. Ask him if this encounter is from him – I ask the spirit who gave it to me if they confess that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh – I ask the spirit if they honour and bow the knee to Christ. A couple of times I have done this, I have let rip a mighty yawn and the thought is gone.

      5. I submit it to others to pray about and seek their advice.

      Just some thoughts.

    • Aaron

      I have a gift. I’ve an ability to read through situations and often am able to literally fortell the future. But is my ability infallible?No. Sometimes I’m wrong even though the majority of the time I’m right. But the Bible is clear that genuine prophets are always 100% right. I think that God gave me a natural gift like intelligence or athletic ability that gives me insight I can’t easily explain. This could very easily lead me to believe I’m a prophet when in I’m just acting within in the realm of fallible natural gifting. I’ve never met a charismatic who meets the standard of 100% accuracy and I was raised in a charismatic church.

      I don’t know that I’m a cessationist. I’ve seen too many crazy things to discount. But I believe about 95% at least of charismatic gifts are not genuine. And I think they can lead to huge harm as noted in this post. The vast bulk of what I receive as the word of God is conviction of sin or other things I know I already know I should be doing…

    • Dan Wilkinson

      Michael, thanks for sharing this…I appreciate your ongoing desire to seek out the truth. That said, to what extent do we allow experience to trump scripture? I think often times charismatics are guilty of allowing the (supposed) experience and emotion of spiritual gifts to supersede the clear teaching of scripture. But I also see the very real possibility of it working the other way: that negative experiences concerning spiritual gifts may make us unduly skeptical and cautious of God’s work in our lives. As someone who’s still very cautious and perhaps too skeptical about spiritual gifts, I find myself continually reminded to return to the Bible…and though the case for the continuation of the gifts is less-than-definitive, I am becoming increasingly convinced that that is what the Bible teaches. So despite my lack of overt experience of any of those gifts, and despite your negative experience concerning them, I still think it’s important to continue to seek God’s gifts in our…

    • C Michael Patton

      Brian, thanks for your story. I suppose that I want to believe in these things because I love the manifestation of God the represent. Who would not want to have the gift of healing available? Who would not want God to speak directly into their lives. I have a lot of questions for h!

    • C Michael Patton

      Dan,

      You are right. Experience is important for both sides. But, tho we don’t want to admit it, experience is a hermeneutical trump card for everyone. If the Scripture says that we will see God if we love him, but we love him but have not ever seen him and don’t know anyone in history who has, we adjust our interpretation accordingly. When Jesus says ask anything in my name and I will do it, yet our experience proves otherwise, we adjust. It is the same here. The adjustments are not uncalled for. Sometimes they are the only responsible thing we can do.

    • C Michael Patton

      Craig,

      Thanks for the list. But it is very subjective. There does not seem to be any way to know anything with any degree of certainty from that list. Not to put you on the spot, but can you put my dream to the test and tell me if it was prophetic or not?

    • Dan Wilkinson

      Michael,
      I think we too often and inappropriately use PERSONAL experience as a hermeneutical trump card. But there’s a huge difference between personal experience and the experience of the church throughout history and into the present day. My personal experience points me towards cessationism…but cessationism is clearly not the corporate experience of the body of Christ. If even one Christian today is truly receiving supernatural spiritual gifts, then cessationism can’t be true.

    • Rebecca

      OK, I’m really creeped out. When I began reading this post, I thought I was reading an older post that, perhaps someone had just now commented on and it alerted my Email. To confirm my thoughts, that it was an older post, I glanced at eh date at the top. Nope. Today’s date. How can that be? I know I have read this before. The only thing I don’t recall is the guy’s name, Lewis. But everything else I knew. What is that all about? Somebody please tell me Michael has written this before and this is a rerun.

    • C Michael Patton

      Cessationism IS the corporate experience of the historic body. Was that a misstatement? I have read three books which try to argue that these gifts are broadly represented in church history. All they did was solidify my position that they are not as the supposed representation are simply Gods intervention at best, mystical relicalism at worst. The mass majority of church history is cessationist.

    • C Michael Patton

      And if you are just talking about today, then I am not sure. But I don’t agree that even if one person has a true experience Cessationism can’t be true. Maybe hard Cessationism can’t be true, but this does not mean that charismatic view of continuationism is true. The charismatic view requires the idea that these gifts are “normative” in the experience if the church. Exceptions do not meet this rule.

    • Craig Bennett

      Michael great question to ask. From comment 15.

      Dreams have many sources. They can be prophetic from God. They can have a subconscious element to them and they can have a demonic element to them.

      It’s obvious in hindsight that your dream wasn’t a literal prophetic dream from God. Subjectivism is all part of the Christian experience. For instance, having peace in a time of turmoil is a subjective experience.

      Every prophetic experience in the Scriptures is a subjective experience. Visions, dreams etc…how did the prophets receive the word of God?

      It took Peter around 12 years to get it into his thick noggin that the gospel was even for the Gentiles, and that came about through a subjective experience.

      One of the gifts of the Spirit is the Discernment of spirits. Note its not of people. This gift is much needed when dealing with prophecy…think about Paul and his encounter with the slave girl and her prophetic words.

    • C Michael Patton

      Lol. I have told this story before, but this is a different post. It’s the illustration that is not new.

    • C Michael Patton

      Craig, I see what you are saying, but maybe my wife is lying. Does her statement that it is not true provide you with definitive proof that this was not prophetic. Maybe it was and I need to call her on it? I don’t think a criteria such as “does you wife SAY it is true should have any bearing on its truthfulness if this was prophetic. If this is the case, David could have simply told Nathan “I did not sleep with that woman” and Nathan would have had to dismiss his prophecy as subjective dilutions.

    • Scott O

      I have been a Pentecostal minister for over 35 years, and have pastored several churches. Nothing gives me a rash (figuratively speaking) more than people who cannot take the time to carefully consider the Biblical evidence on the manifestation of power from the Spirit. It is the unthinking actions of the over-zealous but un-grounded that gives others a bad taste in their mouths about spiritual gifts. Whatever happened to Acts 17:11? I would suspect that there are those who classify themselves as cautious about spiritual gifts have seen the abuses — and from what I have seen over the years, I don’t blame them one bit! The Bible must always be our only authority and rule of faith and practice — and when it comes to spiritual gifts, there can be no exception. 1 Corinthians 12, 14 and Romans 12 need to speak into the lives of all believers, and especially those who are continuationists.

    • Craig Bennett

      Michael.

      It’s been my experience that a ‘true’ direct prophetic word like that will cut deep into the heart of the situation. Think about the times you have read a passage of Scripture over and over and suddenly you get a ‘aha’ moment! That is what that is saying. You get convicted of it, you might even get excited about it. But what ever it does, you simply cannot ignore it.

      Simply put, it seems that you have fallen ill of a lying spirit and you would rather believe that experience saying that all prophecy is wrong…simply because your experience hasn’t been sound…. Yet is your negative experience of it, a better sounding board than say your friend Sam Storms positive experience of it.

      Btw… I am in a situation at the moment where I am dealing head on with some pretty major abuses of the prophetic and so I am not one to say that all is well within the charismatic scene. But I can also say that I have had some major prophetic experiences which were positive.

    • C Michael Patton

      Craig, I am not trying to dismiss prophecy, I am just saying that it must pass tremendous tests. My assumption is that if God want to talk to us, he knows how to make it clear. I am also saying that if it does not pass tremendous tests, it should never be thought of as prophecy. I don’t mean to be combative, bit your tests are not too tremendous.

    • Craig Bennett

      Michael.

      I don’t think they are that ‘tremendous’ but I’m not sure what you think should be the tremendous tests that are needed.

      What do you think the tests should be to judge prophecy?

    • C Michael Patton

      As best I can tell, there are two:

      1. Test of orthodoxy. But this is an easy test. “God want you to start a church” or “you will die of cancer” will pass.

      2. The test of transcendence. Is there an accompanying miraculous sign that the “prophet” or person gives. Without this, anyone can SAY they have a word from the Lord.

    • Brian

      “I suppose that I want to believe in these things because I love the manifestation of God the represent. ”

      I think that last part got garbled. did you mean “they” not “the”? My question would be how do you know if you love his manifestations if you have not experienced them?

      This is the fallacy I see in Charismania. Too much biblically is said about how the presence of God can be a terrible thing for material beings to encounter.

      “Who would not want to have the gift of healing available? Who would not want God to speak directly into their lives.”

      Dude, remember I have the filter of experience with this. I for one do not want those things. First, the responsibility of them is too much. Especially healing. Two, the lust for power and importance in the broken soul causes many to long for these things and ultimately misuse what they perceive them to be. And that brings me to back to my first question.

      I have a lot of questions for h!”

      Him?

    • Craig Bennett

      I agree with your first one Michael, which is the same as my second or third test.

      But, can you expand your second point more. It seems to me that the miraculous is not a major test to prove legitimacy… for the Egyptian priests were pretty much able to match most of Moses’s miracles…

      And the thing is, anyone can say they have a word from the lord, which is why there are accepted practices for giving such a word – to judge it and to allow others to judge its veracity.

    • Craig Bennett

      I will give you an example of a personal vision and prophecy.

      In 2001 I was walking down the back of the acreage we were renting, hand in hand with my 3 year old son. We were talking about the grass, the sky, the grasshoppers, clouds etc and I was filled with a deep awareness of how much I loved my son.

      Suddenly my left hand rose up, and I had a vision / sense that God had grabbed my hand and we were walking together through that back paddock. I felt in my heart God telling me that just as I loved my son so deeply, he also loved me, only more so. …what in reality was only a few seconds, seemed like hours.

      Fast forward to 2009. I’m separated because of abusive circumstances in my marriage. I have been disabled since Oct 2007. Been black banned from my church because I dared to separate from my wife who bite me, had threatened to stab me, plus much much more.

      continue next comment

    • Bentley

      As a reformed-continuationist I agree with you have demonstrated above. Anyone who is charismatic or continuationist needs to be extremely careful with any dreams, visions, or pictures that deal with any type of specific detail about the past or the future. I also wonder though, if that is really what New Testament prophecy is really centered around.

      1 Corinthians 14:3-4
      On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.

      It seems that it should be more centered around words of encouragement and upbuilding and consolation that God specifically gives in specific situations. So, pictures, insights, dreams, etc that are given for that purpose and because God gave it and knew the needs of the particular person who would hear it makes it particularly effective towards the end of encouragement and upbuilding and…

    • Craig Bennett

      An old friend who lives a distance from me, rang me saying “Craig, I have been struggling with this for a few days, but I feel the Lord wants me to tell you this….

      “Just as I held your hand in that back paddock in 2001, I am still holding your hand right now, and still love you very much.”

      I broke down crying, told my mate I had to go and that I would explain it to him later on.

    • Rebecca

      OK, I’m not weirded out anymore. I didn’t dream the story after all. I can go to bed and know I will do my usual and dream dreams I can’t recall. Goodnight all.

    • […] The Day I Accused My Wife of Infidelity […]

    • Ben Thorp

      Two important things to remember (at least from my experience):

      1. All “prophetic words” should be tested. In our church we use a framework called “BART” – is it Biblical (ie following the follow of Biblical teaching), is there Agreement of others (ie seeking wise counsel), is it Relevant, and does it “Testify” in my spirit. We’ve been using this for a while, but only recently did I realise the similarities between it and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

      2. Dreams are frequently metaphorical, rather than literal.

      3. Dreams and visions should really be interpreted. My experience (as a charismatic) is that the gifts are best served within community, not isolation. Many times I find that one person has the vision, but another has the interpretation.

    • ScottL

      CMP –

      Thanks for openly & honestly sharing your heart.

      You said: My contention is that we must never believe these things unless there are absolutely compelling reasons for us to do so that go well beyond emotional disposition.

      I think one will be disappointed if their measuring stick is “absolute”. I’m gonna bank on it that even our friends we read about in Scripture were not “absolutely” sure, in an objectively verifiable sense. They had real encounters with God, but this doesn’t mark it as “objective”.

      I am beginning to realise how our pursuit and knowledge of God is much more subjective than first thought. Even the biblical canon is not fully objective. None of this means it is false and untrue. It’s simply not as fully objective as the rationalistic mind would hope.

      I think Craig Bennett has given some very solid feedback on these things. I am more a teacher-shepherd than a prophet. I find comfort from those who walk closely with me in discerning…

    • ScottL

      CMP –

      Lastly, on the church history comment, the one where you said 3 books on the topic only confirmed your belief that cessationism is the normative reality of church history.

      Who has recorded history?

      I’m not bashing some of the fathers of the faith. They are beautiful assets to us. We are indebted to them in so many ways.

      But guess what kind of history you get when you read of American colonial pioneers? Then guess what kind of history you get when you read Native American descendants?

    • DLE

      I always find it odd that people who want to support a cessationist view always talk about their one bad “charismatic” experience and how that taught them it ALL was bogus. The odd part is that no other part of the Christian experience gets subjected to that strict a test.

      For instance, no one abandons fellowship because they encountered ONE church that is unfriendly. Or splits before the sermon because of encountering one bad preacher. Or leaves when the offering plate is passed because one church was too focused on money. Or…well, you get the point.

      Keep learning. Learn to hear God’s voice. Grow a little more. Then re-evaluate. That’s maturity.

    • Dave Wilson

      Michael,

      I have been in charismatic/continuationalist churches for the past 25 years and am grateful to say that the abuses you describe are absent from my experience.

      I regularly offer prophetic words. In practice, they are generally directed to the congregation for their encouragement and edification. Personal prophesy is much less common and is not directional in the sense of “leave your wife, quit your job, start this ministry, etc.”

      Are there unhelpful examples related to prophesy? You bet. But the same thing can be said of preaching, counseling and teaching. But I think the remedy for abuse is proper use, not disuse. Would you agree?

      Also, let me encourage you to disconnect dreams and prophesy as you continue to consider this. I believe that God can speak to people through dreams (though I don’t believe we’re called to pursue that kind of direction), but prophesy generally occurs absent the shut-eye in my experience.

      Thanks,
      Dave

    • Ben Thorp

      aaron: Given your comment “But the Bible is clear that genuine prophets are always 100% right.” I suggest you go back and listen to Sam Storms on previous podcast episodes – he does a better job than I would do at questioning this assumption.

    • Brian Roden

      I remember back in the mid-90s, I was in an unhealthy dating relationship. I knew intellectually that I should end it, but couldn’t bring myself to emotionally out of fear.

      One night I had a dream in which I was the main character in a Mission Impossible/James Bond like movie. I was trapped in a building, running from the bad guys, but couldn’t get out. But I did have explosives, and my only way to survive was to destroy the building. I blew it up, and got out alive.

      The next day, I broke up with the girl I was seeing. Over the next few weeks, I learned several more things about her that confirmed my decision to end the relationship. I truly believe “blowing up” the relationship may have saved my life, at least emotionally/spiritually, if not physically.

      I think God gave me that dream to break through my emotional unwillingness to do what I cognitively knew was the right thing. To drive home how high the stakes were. Notice, it was a CONFIRMATION, not the only factor.

    • Brian Roden

      One of my former pastors (now a denominational official in the national office) tells the story about how when he was a single itinerant evangelist, someone prophesied that he would marry a blue-eyed blond (turns out the woman who gave the “prophecy” had a daughter who fit that description). He ended up marrying a black-haired, Dutch/Chinese immigrant. Did he miss God? The longevity of their marriage and fruitfulness of their ministry say “no.”

      One of the things I learned from him was that, as a general rule, God will only use a word of personal predictive prophecy to confirm what He has already been speaking to your heart. I don’t see God speaking through someone prophetically to tell someone to start a ministry that He hasn’t already given them a heart and disposition for. I do think He uses such speech to put the “exclamation point” on what He has already spoken to the person’s spirit.

    • Dan Wilkinson

      Michael,
      As to the idea that all of church history supports the cessationist position, I thought Sam Storms provided a nice summary of why this isn’t the case here: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/11/why-i-amnot-charismatic-church-history-and-the-gifts-sam-storms/
      But sadly, that page is no longer online 🙁

    • Ben Thorp

      That’s odd – I also have that link in my feed history, but it’s gone from the main site. In fact, a good number of those articles are missing 🙁 Care to shed some light, Michael?

    • Ben Thorp

      (FWIW, Sam has an old blog post which seems to be somewhat similar – http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/gifts-in-church-history/ )

    • Dan Wilkinson

      Thanks Ben for that link. I too wonder what happened to all those great articles in the Why I Am/Not a Charismatic series.

    • Richard Klaus

      Last year when Michael and Sam were discussing these issues I posted on this site some comments that may be relevant. I looked at Acts 10 and how both subjective and objective elements combine to show Peter truth. My comments can also be found here:

      http://whiterosereview.blogspot.com/2011/09/acts-10-and-objective-and-subjective.html

      Also, over at J.P. Moreland’s site there is ongoing series by Timothy Bayless on objections to hearing God.

      http://www.jpmoreland.com/2012/04/02/objections-to-hearing-god-part-four-does-god-try/

      I wonder if Michael is looking for something epistemically incorrigible when it comes to this issue. It is as though the only way to avoid error is to raise the bar so high that only a transcendent “burning bush/fire from heaven” experience will ever be enough for Michael to accept.

      Dallas Willard’s book “Hearing God” may be helpful here. To my mind his presentation is scriptural, sane, and avoids the kinds of errors that concern Michael.

    • Brian

      Man commenting is sooo limiting for good discussion.

      I think the issue is how do we come to believe what we believe. I think this is where Michael is at. He is being genuine in his assessment of his experiences and knowledge. His point of view says he doesn’t see it. Those of us who have experienced charismatic events assess our beliefs differently. We do see it.

      Paul said I am what I am by the grace of God. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. God has given to each person a measure of faith. Paul also said be a Jew to the Jew and be weak to the weak.

      I don’t think its our place or effective to try and convince that there are real genuine experiences in present day Christianity when it comes to ‘certain’ gifts (where are the stories of human limbs being restored?). As many legit stories, there are three times that amount that aren’t. For as many that sought and received, they are three times that amount that didn’t.

      Honor the different parts for their…

    • C Michael Patton

      Incorragable?

      Well, all I can try to do is take God’s word seriously. I don’t want to go around saying “God has said” or even “Maybe God has said” as this can be very manipulative and destructive. I want God to say . . . , but I live in continual fear of misrepresenting him. Therefore, I seek to do nothing more than to live by what I see as the requirements of those who claim to speak on behalf of God. Deut 13 and 18 lay these out well. One has to be orthodox and show some type of miraculous sign. This is the standard that God set, not me.

      The egyptian magicians had the miracles without orthodoxy (after all, the said “lets follow after other gods”). One of two is not good enough. For me, it must be both.

    • Rick

      It’s hard to argue with someone’s experience and that’s why it’s hard to make experience the deciding factor in any of this.

      What do we say to Mormons when they say that they’ve had the experience of “their bosom burning,” and that’s how they know that Mormonism is the truth? Don’t we deny the validity of that experience as coming from God?

      I have been in music groups with Pentecostals who ALWAYS pray in tongues (that BTW, no one ever translates). They don’t pray any other way during the group prayer meetings ever. I find it to be (in my experience), an arrogant display of religious superiority. I do not believe that they are actually praying in the spirit when they do this, they are rather, (in the flesh) making themselves out to be more spiritual. The lack of humility is telling and I believe Mark Driscoll is doing the same thing: he’s creating for the flesh something he would like us to believe is a deeply spiritual experience that puts him on a higher spiritual level, a deeper connection with God than other people experience.

      Having said that, I am not suggesting that no one can speak in tongues authentically any longer — nor do I believe that God cannot work miracles when he sees fit to, or speak to Mark Driscoll in a dream about something. My experience tells me that that happens very infrequently however.

      Just as our experience aptly shows us that God does not see fit to always provide the miraculous solution which might demonstrate His real presence, I would suggest that He does not see it fitting to always have us pray to him in tongues either, as if He needs to use our experience to demonstrate the reality of His connection to us.

    • Paul Leonard

      Hi,

      One of the problems with those who stress the gifts is that it is a focus on staying a babe and not progressing.

      Note:NIV Hebrews 6:1-3

      “1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.”

      The laying on of hands covers the granting of the gifts. Yes God is Sovereign and can do a he wishes. However those who are so focused on any Gift that it dominates their theology, have not progressed from the babe state. It is not a mature theology.

      While we want God’s leading in our lives, that is far different than seeking a special gift from God to confirm we have His blessing, when such is really not necessary. It sidetracks people and also hurts many, not to mention the outright fraud that has existed in such movements.

      Read and study God’s word and pray and you will have all the guidance you need. Your response to what you learn will confirm if God is with you or not.

    • Ben Thorp

      “While we want God’s leading in our lives, that is far different than seeking a special gift from God to confirm we have His blessing, when such is really not necessary”

      If you think that this is why the majority of charismatics seek to use their gifts, then you are sorely mistaken. Rather it is seeking to fulfil the instruction in 1 Corithians 12:31 to “earnestly desire the higher gifts”. They are seeking maturity in their faith as much as any cessationist.

      (FWIW, I’m not convinced by your interpretation of Hebrews 6 either, as I don’t think it’s consistent with the other exhortations of maturity in the NT)

    • Richard Klaus

      Michael,
      In reference to your comments in #50.

      “Incorrigible” is a term from epistemology regarding, roughly, the inability to be wrong about a certain belief.

      In regards to your understanding of the tests in Deut 13 and 18. Is it your understanding that everyone who exercised the gift of prophecy in Rome (Romans 12.6) and Corinth (1 Cor 14) also authenticated themselves by a “miraculous sign?” Paul didn’t include that in his instructions in regulating prophecy in 1 Corinthians. I’ve not heard cessationists argue this before and I want to make sure I understand what your saying about NT congregational prophecy. Was it the case that everyone who (legitimately) prophesied in the early church also had attendant miraculous signs to authenticate them as prophets?

    • Marv

      Terrific, the “I once acted like a doofus” argument.

    • Marv

      More seriously…

      If you have a prophetic dream in which you see your wife and know she is haveing an affair with a man named Lewis Johnson, don’t do the following:

      -Interpret the meaning as your wife had an affair with one Lewis Johnson.

      DO do the following:

      1. Ask God to tell you the meaning–interpretations belong to God (Gen 40:8)
      2. Consider the word picture aspect (as with Gen 40, Dan 2)–prophetic dreams typically come in riddles (Num 12:8)
      3. You can certainly ask your wife about a literal “Lewis Johnson” but mainly to rule out a literal interpretation not a riddle.

      Frankly, the last time you mentioned this story I had a possiblity for you. Do you want to hear it? Of course you do…

      Your friend Sam Storms was previously a Cessationist particularly in his Believer’s Chapel days, hence Lewis Johnson represents Cessationism. Adultery would represent a failure of faithfulness to the one you love. I believe this took place during your co-blogging with Sam. In this interpretation, the Lord is warning you that continued rejection of ongoing empowered ministry despite Sam’s demonstration that it is Biblical is willfully turning from His desire for you and clinging to another.

      Or not. Just a suggestion.

    • C Michael Patton

      Yes, I know incorragable. I’ve seen Sound of Music!

    • C Michael Patton

      I would not see why we would say that God was so concerned about the integrity of his word so as to set up parameter after parameter in the Old Teatament only to jettison this concern in the NT. more than that, he does not even ever say that Deut 13 and 18 are not longer required. The only example which are illustrated in the NT (prophetic apostles) and Abagus all showed such signs. Paul even reinforces this in 2 Cor 12:12. So I don’t thin references in 1 Cor 12-14 and Rom add to or take away from what seems to be pretty well established. Any argument otherwise would not only he arguing from silence bit arguing against continued illustrations.

    • C Michael Patton

      Marv,

      “Your friend Sam Storms was previously a Cessationist particularly in his Believer’s Chapel days, hence Lewis Johnson represents Cessationism. Adultery would represent a failure of faithfulness to the one you love. I believe this took place during your co-blogging with Sam. In this interpretation, the Lord is warning you that continued rejection of ongoing empowered ministry despite Sam’s demonstration that it is Biblical is willfully turning from His desire for you and clinging to another.”

      I hope this is not serious. It is so subjective, loaded with agenda, and most of all, totally unverifiable. It is these type of manipulations that not only keep people from the Charismatic movement, but also from the deepening of faith. I would consider it if 1) you were a verified prophet, 2) it was accompanied by a sign or wonder, 3) it had a testable near predictive element to it. If none of those are present, I don’t even want to hear what someone thinks God is saying. It is far too dangerous and I, like everyone else, am too vulnerable. That is why I am glad that these tests are in place.

    • Marv

      Michael,

      I’m not saying that is the interpretation. So in that sense it is not “serious.”

      But if we take what Num 12 tells us, unless we’re on a level with Moses, prophecy does speak through dreams, and those in riddles.

      The main point is to understand that like with the baker and cupbearer, like with Pharaoh, like with Nebuchadnezzar, also as in visions such as the Revelation, entities and pictures represent something ELSE and not always themselves.

      So asking your wife if she actually did do what you saw in your dream does not exhaust the effort to interpret it. It really isn’t even the first step. Or even an early step. It’s just as likely a representation of something else.

      What are those things? Well, I don’t know (as you’ve already figured out). But God knows, and if He did send you this dream as a prophecy, He wants you to know. So He’ll tell you.

      But the details are certainly important, and worth mulling over. And one thing one should consider, and ponder, if a dream contained a story line with one’s spouse in adultery is not that SHE is doing something, but whether “I” am doing something which is symbolized as “adultery” in the dream.

      Never mind the Cessationism part–sure my agenda–but ponder what the name “Lewis Johnson” could mean.

      Don’t give up on this one.

    • C Michael Patton

      Marv,

      In order to be responsible, I must give up on this one. The interpretations and ideas are endless. It is not unlike the alegorical interpretation of Scripture which turned the early church in so many bad directions. When there is not a established verified prophet who is doing the interpreting, we have no business trying to figure out what something *might* mean. This is the word of God we are talking about, not some song on the radio. It carries transcendance and authority.

      Daniel and Joseph’s interpretation comes in a context where these guys were already seen to be God’s men. As well (and most importantly), their interpretations had testability as they were predictive. If there was not seven years of famine, Joseph would have been in trouble. The vindication comes for both as events transpire and definitely show that these were from God. There is no responsibility to believe when there is no way to vindicate the prophecy. And this is what we have here with my dream (unless someone wants to put a foretelling spin on their interpretation).

      Again *anyone* can *say* that they have something from the Lord. Not anyone can vindication their assumptions. Therefore, I think it is irresponsible and destructive to even consider something as prophetic if there is no definite sign.

      Without a definite sign the “what ifs?” will kill you. What if my wife is really having an affair? What if I am leaving my first love? What if, what if, what if… Endless . . . depending on which charismatic is giving you his interpretation.

      Marv, I am not saying that cessationism is true. Even if I was a charismatic, this is the same advice I would give. Don’t play around with God’s word offering subjective interpretations. People are too impressionable. It will effect their life, ministry, and (sometimes) marraige stability.

    • Marv

      Fine, but unless we wish to ignore Acts 2:17 ordinary Christians should expect prophetic dreams (or does that make you and “old man…”).

      And unless we wish to ignore what the Bible shows us about how these actually work–in favor of our own imagined ideas about how these should work–then we will consider not “allegorical” interpretations of texts, but what the images in our dream may represent–the way people in the Bible do it.

      Above all, unless we wish to ignore what the Bible tells us about interpretation of any kind, we should ask God for wisdom, “who gives generously to all without reproach.”

      Rereading your post, I don’t see anywhere you say you asked God. Why not?

      But also re-reading the post I see this happened after specifically asking God to take you “in the right direction” about expecting to hear His voice. So I wonder why you didn’t pursue the dream as being about the subject you prayed for” rather than some unrelated idea about your wife.

      I don’t know Michael, but it now seems to become more about whether you think God answers prayer and whether we can believe His written word than whether this one experience means anything. My suggestion: He DOES answer prayer, and we CAN believe His written word.

      Sounds like you prayed, He answered, His word tells you what to do with it, but now that you’ve got it you don’t want it.

    • […] The Day I Accused My Wife of Infidelity  […]

    • Richard Klaus

      Michael,
      Just so I’m clear on where you’re coming from–do you believe that anyone besides the apostles and Agabus engaged in giving true prophecy? Do you believe that all people who engaged in prophecy in the Pauline churches (to take these as examples) also demonstrated miraculous signs to authenticate the prophecy? In your understanding, should we assume (even though it is not mentioned in the text) that Philip’s four daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21.9) also authenticated their prophecies with miraculous signs?

    • C Michael Patton

      I would say this: all we have to go on is that if someone had a word from the Lord they would have had to demonstrate the truthfulness of their claim in a definite testable manner. Otherwise, how could someone “test the prophets”. I imagine it went much further than asking someone with discernment as how could you test the one with discernment? It is never ending.

      However there is hope. God is pretty big. When he wants to tell us something he knows how. Therefore, anytime that there is a claim to prophecy, we should doubt such until it is verified in an extraordinary way like the examples we have and the direct precepts given in Deut 13 and 18.

      This way, you can remain a continuationist. But most continuationists standards need to increase a great deal. Is that too much to ask if we are protecting Gods reputation?

    • Marv

      Have you discussed this matter with Sam Storms? I wonder what he has to say about it?

    • C Michael Patton

      Marv,

      Sam and I talked about this for a year both on Theology Unplugged and the blog. We talked up down and sideways. Still do sometimes. He is a good friend.

    • Paul Leonard

      Hi Richard,

      Two things about Phillips daughters.

      1. It says nothing about any “signs”, just that they “prophesied”.

      2. In Biblical Greek (and Hebrew) the word “prophet” or to prophecy has two meanings. One is to foretell the future. The other is to speak the already revealed word of God.

      Consequently rather than foretelling the future they could also just be spoken of as active in preaching to others. This would fit that they were daughters of a preacher and in a world where women normally did not get much respect or attention, especially un-married women.

      Other than the Apostles and Jesus, Agabus is the only one who foretold anything we have a specific record of and it was not for the congregation, just for Paul and that is the only account like that I can think of in Scripture.

      That preaching would also require God’s spirit as Jesus spoke of it impelling his followers to preach, even beyond what he did.

    • Richard Klaus

      Hi Paul!

      1. Agreed. The text regarding Philip’s daughters does not mention signs. Michael was the one arguing that all prophets had to have miraculous authentication so I was asking him about this.
      2. Actually, I’m not sure about your comments about the Greek/Hebrew regarding “prophets/prophecy”. In the NT there does seem to be distinction between prophecy and teaching. Prophecy is based on a revelatory experience whereas teaching concerns bringing forth a message based on an already revealed teaching/scripture. Just a bit of the data on this distinction.
      a) 1 Cor 12.29 mentions both “prophets” and “teacher”. There seems to be a distinction.
      b) 1 Cor 14.30 speaks of prophets receiving a “revelation” while in the assembly. This revelation can have the effect of revealing the “secrets of the heart” (1 Cor 14.25).
      c) Paul mentions that he wishes they all would prophesy (1 Cor 14.5) but James states that not many should be teachers (James 3.1) thus showing a distinction between prophecy and teaching.
      d) Women can prophesy (1 Cor 11.5) but are forbidden from teaching in the congregation over men (1 Tim 2.11-12).
      e) Elders must be able to teach (1 Tim3.2) but they are not told they need to have the gift of prophecy.
      There does seem to be a conceptual difference between teaching (based on an already given revelation/scripture) and the receiving of a revelation from the Lord and delivering that revelation to others. For more detailed exposition of this view see Wayne Grudem’s book “The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today”.

      My main point was to point out to Michael that the NT speaks of the gift of prophecy in Romans and 1 Cor. thus assuming that there were people in those congregations that operated with that gift. Michael’s view entails that each and every one of these people who exercised the gift of prophecy also had to authenticate their message with a miraculous sign. That seems a bit of a stretch to me in light…

    • Craig Bennett

      Michael, Do you think perhaps that the setting of Deut is different to that of the NT. After all, didn’t Samuel give King David initial bad advice about the building of the Temple?

    • Brian Roden

      Craig, that would have been the prophet Nathan. Samuel died before the end of Saul’s reign.

      As for criteria for judging prophecy, I think there is a difference in the OT and NT. In the OT, the Spirit of God “came upon” certain people at certain times for specific tasks. In the NT, the Holy Spirit indwells all believers. So in the OT when someone prophesied in the name of YHWH, miraculous signs were an attendant confirmation. In the NT, Paul instructs the congregation to judge prophecies, but doesn’t tell them to wait for certain empirical proofs. Rather, they judge the message based on its congruence with orthodox doctrine (the Apostles’ teaching) and the witness of the Spirit of God dwelling in each believer.

    • C Michael Patton

      Craig, no. I don’t see how. It would require quite a bit of adjustment in my thinking (which, I suppose, in theory, I am willing to make!). Why would God be less protective of his word in the NT than the OT? It would seem odd that the third commandment (which is essentially protecting God’s rep in the face of false prophecy), Deut 13, 18, and Jer. 23 (read this passage).

      Samuel’s bad advice or bad prophecy? If it was just advice, who would have a problem with it? Prophets and Apostles could err outside of their prophetic statements.

    • Paul Leonard

      Hi Richard,

      I did see that you were responding to a previous pop
      st. I just used yours as a springboard to mine.

      Your now have said:d) Women can prophesy (1 Cor 11.5) but are forbidden from teaching in the congregation over men (1 Tim 2.11-12).
      e) Elders must be able to teach (1 Tim3.2) but they are not told they need to have the gift of prophecy.

      Paul: The key here is IN the congregation. There is nothing to indicate that Phillips daughters prophesied IN the congregation. This, in line with Phillip’s own actions with the Ethiopian, could easily refer to prophesy/preaching out side the congregation. This would explain why Paul said that women were not to do so In the congregation. Their prophesying/preaching out side would be OK, like Priscilla’s.

      There is a difference between Preaching and teaching as well, though they can overlap. See Matt 28:19,20.

      ” 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

      Here teaching is done TO disciples, whereas Preaching could also include those not having any knowledge of God and Christ. Kinda like Paul on the Aeropagus (preaching) and Paul in the upper room (Teaching) where the one young disciple fell out the window.

      You also said:

      My main point was to point out to Michael that the NT speaks of the gift of prophecy in Romans and 1 Cor. thus assuming that there were people in those congregations that operated with that gift. Michael’s view entails that each and every one of these people who exercised the gift of prophecy also had to authenticate their message with a miraculous sign. That seems a bit of a stretch to me in light…

      Paul: I would agree.

    • Richard Klaus

      Here is good article by Mark Cartledge “Charismatic Prophecy and New Testament Prophecy” in which he examines the views of J.I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, Max Turner, David Hill, and D.A. Carson. I think it might be relevant to the discussion regarding any potential differences between OT and NT prophecy.

      http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/journal-issues/17.1_Cartledge.pdf

    • Paul Leonard

      Hi Richard,

      I liked his collusion.

      This allows for “prophecy” to be something other than an ecstatic experience and simply brings it into the realm of sharing in an understanding that someone believes they have. This could be correct or not, depending on how it lines up with Scripture. We all do this from time to time as we feel we have learned something new through the guidance of God’s spirit.

    • Marv

      Hi, Michael, please don’t take me as being argumentative about this… So, begging your pardon for continuing.

      Thanks for responding to my question about Sam Storms. I’m quite aware about your blogging and unplugging conversation with him. It was very cool and I appreciate your doing it. In fact I semi-covered it blog-wise, and I’m pretty sure you semi-quoted me once on Unplugged (delusions of grandeur!!!)

      But when you say you discussed “this” with Sam, I’m asking you specifically about THIS dream. I can’t imagine you didn’t mention it to him. Mind sharing with us anything he said in response to this specific subject.

      Thanks, and I’ll try not to be a pest…

      (See, the Lord is doing a NEW THING… LOL.)

    • Missy Markum

      So your wife bore the burden of your deliberate ignorance. Great.

    • Monica

      I have always been taught a cessasionist view and I get it. But it also seems to me that the arguments against these gifts operating currently sometimes spring less from careful exegesis than from a fear of abuse. Disliking the implications or possible distortions of Scripture is not grounds for dismissing it. Plus IMO there are also significant dangers which attend the cessasionist position, namely that we do not truly expect God to work in our lives or to engage our emotions at all. We can become congregations full of bloodless, passionless students, carefully hiding God’s Words in our notebooks but never encountering the living God at all. So, assuming God doesn’t ‘speak’ today through prophecy or dreams or such, what should we expect when we ask God to guide us on a daily basis? Of course we look to the Bible, but when we pray for guidance or understanding, aren’t we asking for something a little different than Scripture?

    • Mo

      This is such an important post. You are so right that people’s lives can be ruined over it. Can you imagine what would’ve happened to you if you’d grown up with this false teaching? Your only two options here would’ve been 1) your wife was lying or 2) God was not real/not faithful. It’s a horrifying thing.

      And yet this business of “The Lord told me” is constant, everywhere. Those same people who always read their Bibles with the “What is God saying to me?” approach will often be uninterested in actual Bible study, learning its context and history, apologetics, etc. It’s all about emotion.

    • Richard Klaus

      Monica,
      You wrote: “But it also seems to me that the arguments against these gifts operating currently sometimes spring less from careful exegesis than from a fear of abuse.”

      I agree. Great point to watch out for in these discussions.

      Mo,
      I’m sure there are people who use the “The Lord told me” in a immature and, even, harmful manner. You really should look at the better, more sophisticated representatives of the broader charismatic tradition as you assess the truthfulness and cogency of the position. Teachers you might want to consider: Dallas Willard, J.P. Moreland, Wayne Grudem, Max Turner, and Jack Deere for starters.

    • Mo

      @ Richard Klaus –

      I am familiar to some extent with the first three but not the last two. Thanks for the information.

      Just to clarify, my view is not that there are no instances of God speaking to someone by a dream or another person or something else. I am open to that happening. (The issue of tongues is something different, since I have NEVER, not once, ever seen it used the way the Scripture instructs, which is with an interpretation given.)

      I guess my concern is, as you said, abuse. It seems to have become common now to use “God told me” or picking out random verses out of context as a replacement for studying the Word in a responsible manner. It’s understandable, because it’s much easier! But it’s also dangerous.

    • EMSoliDeoGloria

      Frequent reader of your blog here, Michael, and I really appreciate your writing. I’m unconvinced here, however, not because I think you are doing something wrong but because I KNOW better.

      I’ve seen plenty of abusive “charismania” type exhibitions. I don’t think most of that is of the devil, I think most if ot is from attention seeking or otherwise vulnerable people.

      But the abuses, as others have noted, don’t negate the real. And the real is – most of the time – I think, very much along the lines of what your earlier commenter “Craig Bennett” described.

      While I won’t rule out the possibility of something else, I generally believe that the subjective witness of the Spirit through a dream or vision or “word (of prophecy or knowledge)” or sense from the Lord is intended to reassure our spirits of objective truth that we already “know.”

      In other words, the subjective shouldn’t be used to make major life decisions (usually) but can provide inner reassurance at a time when we need it – it is a reminder that God sees, God hears, God knows, God loves, God is with us. All of these are objective biblical truths and an unusual experience that reminds us of them should be taken as encouragement.

      This has been my experience at least. It’s true that the test of orthodoxy is easy – it’s also very important.

      God does not tell anyone to divorce their spouse and take up with that attractive younger wo/man at the office.

      God does encourage, edify, and by the power of the Spirit remind people of His word and his character.

    • Nick Mcdonald

      I can certainly relate to the situation here, but I’m not sure the “danger” of prophecy is a good case against it. I could make the same argument about the Bible, because people have:

      1.) Endorsed slavery on behalf of the Bible.

      2.) Slaughtered people groups because of the Bible.

      3.) Cut off limbs on behalf of the Bible.

      But does that mean the Bible is immoral? I don’t think so.

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks guys. The post, I hope you can understand, is not an argument against prophecy or the charismata. I would hope and pray that a charismatic could write a post exactly the same, arguing that Gods word is so precious that we don’t casually invoke its presence. The history of the world is full of false prophecy. Please read Jer 23. The point is that we need some reliable way to test the prophecy to see if it is really of God. The suggested method in the comments is completely subjective. It is not unlike the Mormon burning in the bosom.

    • Chris Miller

      Hey CMP,

      I think you could have used a lot more tact before posting this article.

      I simply think it would have been wise to perhaps share this with someone who does have greater understanding of prophetic things before you give a somewhat disastrous example of perceived prophecy.

      Also, I think it is somewhat easy to demonstrate that the gifts are used to build up or protect the church. Generally, with something you similar to what you shared, you should seek wisdom from people who might help you in discerning its source… Understanding like that generally comes from practicing and being open to these things.

      I do appreciate your appearance of sincerity though.

    • Mo

      Hey, Chris Miller,

      There’s nothing tacky about this article.

      What is tacky, however, is your condescending tone, your accusations regarding the author not seeking wisdom, not being open to these things, and especially your snarky closing comment about an “appearance of sincerity”.

      Now that’s tacky.

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks Chad. I am sorry this came across as disastrous. I think I am sincere. But your rebuke will be taken into consideration. Though I have talked to a lot of people about this (how could you know that I have not?). It’s a difficult issue and both side need to consider it very deeply. People misrepresenting people is one thing. But people misrepresenting God is cosmic. Please just consider that we need a less subjective way to test a prophet or prophecy. Deal?

    • Ben Thorp

      “Please just consider that we need a less subjective way to test a prophet or prophecy. Deal?”

      Please see my first post about the way we (in our church) have always taught on testing – “BART” – Biblical, Agreement of others, Relevant, Testified by the Spirit (and it’s similarity to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral)

    • C Michael Patton

      Yes Ben. That is the kind of subjective testing I am talking about. I’m good with the first. The second and third are subjective. I have no idea what the third means as it is a bit circular. Testified by the Spirit? How do you test that?!

    • Ben Thorp

      OK – we obviously have different definitions on subjective 😉

      The 4 elements are in descending order of importance. Biblical is obvious – if it’s not Biblical then it’s not God! The 2nd is about seeking wise (and therefore presumably objective) counsel. The 3rd is more subjective, I agree – but as a general rule I believe that God speaks into our own circumstances.

      The last is, I agree, the trickiest. But the New Testament in clear that we have the Spirit inside us. The Spirit obviously speaks with us in various ways. One way, for instance, is that He convicts us of sin. There is also the sense of the Spirit “quickening” within us – this is more what this fourth test is about. Does the Spirit quicken within me when I hear this prophecy? Do I recognise the Shepherds voice in this?

    • […] great and honest post from Mike Patton about prophecy and the danger of listening to dreams. If you’ve never spent time at […]

    • […] Tim Challies, a vital and biblical word on the dangers of banking on supposed extra-biblical revelation from God. The writer is C Michael […]

    • Missy Markum

      Because your little test did not work we can now go back to believing and practicing what is true? What kind of theology faith and practice is this? You acted like a spiritual child and demonstrated yourself to be no further theologically or spiritually than an adolescent with this nonsense and you want to lead men and women believers?

    • Mo

      @ Missy Markum

      It’s called the theology, faith and practice of not basing our theology and practice on our subjective experiences. He demonstrated how this can be disastrous. The reason the author was able to avoid this disaster is precisely because he is further (along) theologically and spiritually than an adolescent who depends on their experiences. (And who, may I add, calls people names when they choose to not base their life on emotions and experience.)

      ***

      The nastiness of some people on this thread has left me stunned.

    • Richard Klaus

      I know the longer these comment threads go the fewer keep following….but there is an interesting article over at J. P. Moreland’s blog by Timothy Bayless entitled “Is Missing Something in Communication Merely ‘Not Hearing?'”

      http://www.jpmoreland.com/2012/04/02/is-missing-something-in-communication-merely-not-hearing/

      I think Bayless is on to something as he lays out different ways we can possibly miss or not hear God correctly. He mentions a continuum of how assured one is in their belief that God has “spoken” in a particular instance. Bayless writes:

      “For example, you could make reference to the strength of P’s beliefs about any of the features of his experience—degrees on a scale ranging from agnosticism to utter certainty. In such cases, P’s “missing it” could be a dismissal of his experience that results, say, from his being somewhere close to agnostic about features of that experience (its origin or content, for example). Or it could result from the combination of (1) being less than certain in the beliefs he holds about his experience (a normal occurrence) and (2) wrongly believing that certainty is necessary for knowledge (it isn’t).”

      It seems that Michael (please, correct me if I’m wrong) is looking for a level of epistemic certainty that is much higher than others feels is warranted. I know Michael is attempting to protect the integrity of God’s name and word. No one here wants the goofiness or dangerous kinds of stuff that Michael (and others) are pointing to as potential (and, at times, actual abuses). But I did think that Ben Thorp’s “BART” was helpful. Simply writing it off as “too subjective” doesn’t seem to me to be helpful. In the nature of the case, communication and communion between persons (in this case God and one of his children) will at times have subjectives elements to it. This might make it less than philosophically certain–but why should that be the test by which we judge the communicative…

    • Richard Klaus

      event.

      (It said I had 24 characters left!)

    • Chris Miller

      Mo,

      Relax. Tones are easily misconstrued in typed out responses.

      I suggested there be more tact in posting such a article. -Tact- I don’t mean to say it is tacky, just that the author should have perhaps spoken with someone who could represent the opposing view before posting.

      I listened to the dialogue between Tim, Michael and Sam Storms and anytime Michael was brought to a contentious point, or a point to be challenged, he feigned naivety. It would be wise for one who still openly admits to not understanding a particular viewpoint to avoid posting about it.

      Surveying the comments is a pretty good indicator that CMP, a good guy and much appreciated for his blog, should use more tact in posting about something he is so confused about.

    • Chris Miller

      BTW, where is the dialogue between Sam Storms, Tim, and CMP?

    • Missy Markum

      Mo,

      No, in fact he rejected theology, faith and practice based in objectivity and rather, only after submitting it to an erring test, did he decide on the merit of the former. Mr. Patton can only say because he allegedly eliminated the subjective by the subjective and because it did not work out he now, only opts for what is considered objective. But further, he maintains that he still “wants to believe”. Why would you even utter the desire to believe something that is not true if you were not otherwise convinced. That is a spiritual adolescent. He is in no condition to fill the shoes at the rather public place in which he is sees to fill.

      Now, I am sure there are plenty of those who are confused and unsure who happily find Mr. Patton able to lead them seeing he would tolerate such nonsensical practices as a means to establish Biblical truth. We do not teach truth nor establish it from God’s Word because things do or do not happen, we take the Word of God as truth and don’t play games. We trust it, we don’t reject it and say, “well, just in case this is true I will give it a shot and if it turns out bad I will tell others it isn’t true and they shouldn’t do it even though I gave myself license to do it as a means of establishing Biblical truth”. That is simply awful and the work of a novice no matter his formal education. But worse, he had the audacity and immaturity to force his wife to bear the burden of this ignorance. If you cannot see the gross narcissism of Mr. Patton in this case, well follow as you wish.

    • Marv

      Patient: “Doctor, that pill you prescribed me not only didn’t work–it gave me a stomach ache.”

      Doctor: “Did you take it with food like I told you?”

      Patient: “No, I wasn’t hungry. But it didn’t do me any good either.”

      Doctor: “Really? I’m surprised. And of course you took it four times a day for ten days as instructed?”

      Patient: “No, I thought that would have been excessive. There is a balance to these things. Most days I took it at least twice. There were some days I took it only in the morning. Only two days when I didn’t take it at all.”

      Doctor: “Is that your bottle? It looks as if you haven’t even taken half of them.”

      Patient: “Why should I? They don’t work and they give me a stomach ache. You should be more careful when you prescribe medication, Doctor.”

    • C.B.

      #30 says “truth is subjective.” That assessment is subjective, too, of course. And once we make our own sense of relevance or our own experience of value the criterion of “truth,” we have lost truth. As Schaeffer spent a generation emphasizing, when we make our experiences (finding “”Lewis” on facebook; she really is having an affair; wow — God spoke to me in a dream!) the criterion for truth and the basis of our epistemology, we no longer have a basis for truth at all because very soon we will have an experience that is too complicated to interpret. Then another.

      This whole episode, if true (and not just an illustration) is scary. It reminds me of Richard Feynman’s example: he was drifting off to sleep, started thinking of his grandmother whom he had not thought of or seen for years, though she still was living on the East coast (he was on the West). Then he began dreaming about her. His dream was broken by a phone call, which he never received at the fraternity house. They called him — it’s for you, Richard. He was shocked. He went to the phone and he was amazed — it was not his grandmother.

      We all have selective memory and as a result hear stories of amazing events — out of the billions, the ones that show God is speaking directly because the events lined up. So #30 even rejects these personal histories of others, too (colonialists remember colonialism as good, etc.). And we are left with our own spin on Scripture, subjective conjuring, nothing is objective: extraction of principles, subjectivism, and our own experiences as validation.

      Willard is a mystic — sane but a mystic, as is Foster. Moreland sees miracles but not for attribution.

      Will you change your mind on cessation if the next time your dream comes true? Two out of three? One in a million? This approach means we can never really know — the “black swan” may be just one experience away.

    • Richard Klaus

      Last year Michael had a post that prompted similar discussion. It is here:

      http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/09/my-feeling-from-the-lord-this-morning/

      What came out in that discussion in the comments was Michael’s commitment to “methodological naturalism.” See comments #45-47 and #49. I know Michael believes he is open to communication from the Lord (at least that is what he was doing last year in his post) but his “methodological naturalism” seems to get in the way. Also, another problem last year was Michael’s using a “fleece” as a decision making process. I had pointed out that there were other scriptural procedures derived from Acts 10 (see comment #8) he could have used in his decision making process.

      It seems to me that Michael wants a “miraculous sign”. Anything less than this will be filtered through “methodological naturalism” or an attempt to cajole an allegedly supernatural response in the form of a “fleece.”

      I’m not trying to denigrate Michael. He has been bold enough and open enough to share his experiences. In so doing he is engaged in an exegesis of those experiences and is inviting us all to also engage in the interpretation of those experiences.

    • […] The Day I Accused My Wife Of Infidelity:  Seeking an “extra” revelation from God or wanting to feel we have an insight not given to every believer can take us down a dangerous path, as C. Michael Patton explains in his blog at Credo House Ministries. […]

    • Mark

      I think that Grudem’s position on prophecy sounds convincing to me, namely that the word “prophecy” in the NT context didn’t necessarily mean “thus saith the Lord” like in the OT. One example I have of how I think NT prophecy is played out is with my mother in law and her friend. Quite frequently after an exceptionally challenging week, her friend will say that she felt burdened to pray for her this week. It’s not a proclamation of the future and can’t really be “tested” in the OT sense but it’s clear that something like this is used to build up the church.

      In the biography of George Muller, people would suddenly “feel” like they needed to give to his orphanage and those funds were needed right then. Does God communicate somehow to people in order to meet this type of needs? It’s really the only way to explain how God can receive the credit for the provision. The Bible may teach people to give generally but not to give at a certain time.

      Just my thoughts on this.

    • Paul Leonard

      Hi Mark,

      That is a good observation. Even for those who feel the special gifts of the spirit may no longer be granted, that does not stop God from using His spirit to direct or aid people as He wills.

      I know in prayer many times, I suddenly find I am remembering a verse or series of verses that apply to my request. Is that God’s spirit? I hope so, for sure I am going to give Him credit. However does that mean I am inspired or even right in my theology? Nope, or Mormons’ could just as easily claim they are. The only real way to know is not subjective, but objective. Not simply does the “feeling” exist, but does our theology truly reflect Biblical Christianity, or not.

    • C Michael Patton

      As of this issue needed more discussion! Nevertheless, I wrote a new post based on my experience today. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2012/06/my-experience-with-a-prophetic-vision-today-or-how-to-test-prophecy/

    • C Michael Patton

      Please friends, no more private email interpretations of my dream. It is getting exasperating even if it does illustrate my point in this post.

    • philwynk

      Oh, please.

      Since when is the abuse of a thing a legitimate argument against the proper use of it?

      If you agree that the abuse of prophetic ministry to direct people to drown their children (for one example) argues against legitimate prophetic ministry, then you also agree that the abuse of Christianity to do the same (they are Christian prophets, after all) argues against legitimate Christianity. You cannot have one without the other.

      Or, you can simply admit that your entire argument here constitutes a “poisoning the well” fallacy, and go find a logically suitable argument against legitimate prophetic ministry, instead of wasting our time with logical fluff and nonsense.

      Cessationist Evangelicals never cease to ply the logical fallacies in their quest for self-justifying their rampant, disgusting, anti-biblical, anti-Christian unbelief.

    • Duncan Vann

      Most men are, I suspect, quite capable of finding fault with their wives without needing help from a misleading dream or false prophecy. I know I am.

      So we all need to know how to test our attitudes to see whether they are from God, whether we believe in prophecy or not. And it seems that you have been putting your faith into practice. At any rate you were wise enough to approach your wife tentatively as if you were testing, rather than fuming or sniping at her.

      I bet that helped. I bet that helped your wife to think it’s all funny, instead of whatever.

      I’m pleased to see so many people respond explaining that prophecies must be tested. Because in my experience that’s what really worries more traditional evangelicals: the idea that someone could claim to have the word of God; and the supposition that there could be no argument with that, since God said it.

      That would be nonsense. Churches that believe in prophecy test prophecies. If you’re in a church where folks continually listen out to God and bring the word to one another, then you’re in practice. If you’re in a church where you just listen to a sermon and never talk to each other, never seek to speak into each other’s lives, then how do you know to test when God does speak to you?

      Of course in your case even if your church wasn’t teaching you anything, you would have your wife. And I bet you challenge one another in the Lord and test the spirit of what each other is saying? When she brings a word for your good, don’t you react against it and then eventually stop to listen to her? I know I do. But I am talking about Christ and the church. For in a way you do already exercise and test the gift of prophecy, don’t you?

    • Shannon Gilmour

      Hello, I really appreciate your healthy attitude. I truly believe that there are those that do not give enough attention to dreams and then there are those who give too much.

      I am a person who recieves dreams and visions from God. I cannot doubt that they are of God and it takes a great deal of knowing who you are and who God is to figure out whether the dream is from the person dreaming the dream, or God, or the enemy.

      The first time I had a dream from God, Jesus visited me and answered questions that I had in a really hard time of my life. I was alone, had no family, no friends and really needed answers. I called out to Him ‘ Why is this happening to me, I didn’t ask for this?’

      What I was told by Jesus Himself- although I did not see His face, He wore white that shone a brilliance that no white on earth can create, It wasn’t until a few years later did I realize that Jesus backed up His words and spoke from scripture. Not verbadum, but the truth that He spoke in my dream was found in the bible.

      That was over 15 years ago. I’ve had dreams from the enemy and I’ve had dreams from my own needs, wants and desires. I truly believe that we all make the mistake in not giving the time, and the patience it takes to figure out which dream is from which.

      What I’ve come to discover is that we don’t ask God ‘ God did you mean this, or that?’ nor do we ask God ‘ God what did you mean by this? ‘ Alot of times we allow our hearts to guide us into what we think the answer is or what we should do, and this leads us and steers us wrongly.

      When God speaks to me it is often about personal things that He brings to my attention for me to work on. I’m very fine with that.

      I always take my dream to prayer, and line it up with who I know God is in scripture. Dreams are always subject to our interpretation and I have to strongly suggest this is where we fail. If what we are shown cannot be backed up with scripture- it most likely comes from another…

    • Dan Martin

      Late to the party, I know, Michael, but I really appreciate this. Like you, I absolutely believe God *could*give miraculous gifts to people today and I’m almost equally certain that everything I’ve ever seen that made that claim was counterfeit or a delusion on the part of the claimant. Someday maybe I’ll write up a story on a “prophet” of the 70s charismatic movement who made a very specific prophecy about my three brothers and me…in a public forum. None of his words came remotely true.

    • Terry Danley

      I came in on the middle of a radio message by a preacher who was talking about this “I have a message from the Lord” scenario. He was focusing on the idea of “testing the spirits” and using spiritual wisdom in such situations.

      I particularly liked his comment about how when someone just comes in off the street to his church, claiming to have “a word from the Lord” for his church, he questions them as to where they came from, how they got the message, and what they know of the church. Usually, he said, the conversation (boiled down for time) goes something like, “L have a WORD from the Lord, and I must deliver it to your church today,” with the preacher’s response being, “I have a word for you; sit down and shut up and listen to the word of the Lord that he gave me for this church today!”

    • Joseph

      You know Michael, I just went through a similar event, but mine came true. I felt compelled to leave my wife about two years back because she was sleeping around on me and if I didn’t I would get hurt, but there was no proof. She just wasn’t doing it, or to my knowledge she wasn’t. I prayed for confirmation and had brothers and sisters, without knowing of what i was told, stand up and tell me not to leave her and to work out whatever situation we were in.

      We were not getting along before I left for the middle east and i was convicted, once again, that I needed to leave her because she was an adulteress, so I prayed for confirmation once again and ran into a brother who told me, once again, that I should not leave my wife, even if she did commit adultery for real.

      Weeks before I came home, my wife’s disposition towards me changed as I got closer to Jesus. She started wanting to talk more and wanted my attention physically, a change for the positive I thought.

      I returned home from the sand box hopeful and convicted that I needed to be a better husband and father after meeting brother after brother who had spouses that had either cheated on them or they cheated, and I saw how stupid I had been in all my pride in praying and trying to change my wife. I found that it wasn’t my wife that needed to change for our marriage woes to go away, it was me. So I did.

      I came back ready to work: to be the man of God I should have been, the spiritual leader of my family and best hisband and father i could be. I came back unfortunately only to find that my wife had committed adultery.

      I forgave her, but while I was gone she had become hooked on softcore porn and eventually started talking to men on booty call web sites after I got her to stop talking with the man she had an affair with.. I fought for around 9 or 10 months to keep our marriage together, praying that God would be there and save it.

      Sadly, it was not His will. What He proclaimed from the beginning…

    • Duane

      Craig – you misunderstand “earnestly desire the greater gifts” – It is a criticism, not instruction. It says, instead of seeking to use spiritual gifts by God’s design for edification of the Church, you Corinthians are “earnestly desiring” (meaning wrongly coveting) the greater or “showy” gifts to “edify” yourself. In other words, pride and arrogance and selfishness. They were looking to puff themselves up, to “edify” themselves in the wrong way. The passage goes on to say that I show you a better way – love.
      All things are to be judged by Scripture. The offices of prophet and apostle have ceased and their authenticating sign gifts with them. The only “prophesying” today is to exegetically exposit the Word and teach it.
      There is no justification anywhere in Scripture to look to dreams or anywhere else other than the written Word for instruction.
      Personally I have never, ever had any kind of a dream I would even remotely consider as some kind of message from God. This is sheer foolishness and an indication of the biblical illiteracy that is rampant in our churches today.
      We’ve gone from “thus saith the Lord” to “thus saith Rome” to “in my opinion.” It’s time to get back to sound Bible study from Genesis to Revelation. Scripture is not a a matter of anyone’s private or personal opinion.
      We are to seek to discern, “what hath God said?” and not to challenge Him like Genesis 3, “Hath God said?”
      We are at risk of being like Israel who stoned the prophets God sent to her when we dismiss today’s godly Bible teachers whom He has given to instruct us.

    • George Augst

      I like your honesty and openess. The diversity of personal experience with the Holy Spirit is amazing. After 35 years of experiences, I have found that God speaks to me profoundly thru his word. 99.9% of my prayer experience starts with some aspect of Scripture. I never ask for a word or sign (or dream) from God. However, the remaining 0.1% is very interesting. I will share one occuranece. I was driving down the road when I saw a
      4-wheeler for sale on the side of the road. I wondered if it would better in the back of my pickup than my current one.
      I stopped about 100 yards down the road. As I got out of my truck a thought came to me: “be looking for a wallet”
      Needless to say I thought it strange. But as I walked the ditch I looked for a wallet and didn’t find one. Looked at the 4-wheeler and forgot about the wallet. But as I turned to go back to my car, you guessed it, there was the wallet.
      It had been there for 6 months. There was $40.00 in it and no I.D.; but there was a paper with 5 phone numbers on it. It took 3 weeks and several conversations to finally find the owner. The one conversation that was the most fun was at the local hospital. I had found an appointment card in the wallet. I related my story to the receptionist,
      who then called the appointment person. The appointment was missed and they had no way of tracing it. However,
      while waiting for the info. the receptionist gathered a dozen nurses to hear my story. Needless to say, it had a profound affect on them. I finally got to return the wallet to a teenage girl. Her final words to me were: “Gee, maybe I should start to go to church?” and I said. “Seems like an excellent idea to me.

    • Joseph

      Love is th best way! You don’t need to be a prophet or miracle worker, but it doesn’t change the fact that God still works in this world. The spiritual forces of darkness rejoice at Americas captivity of materialism and this idea that the Holy Spirit of God that we have been blessed with lacks power is music to their ears. Just because you can’t see it or haven’t been blessed with it does not mean that spiritual gifts do not exist; because they do.

    • Nic

      “God wants to heal you, but you lack _______.” This can be utterly destructive to people’s faith and hope in the Lord.

      But what if this was the truth? Truth can only hurt people when it is not ministered in love.

      If one withholds the truth about healing to a brother one is not loving his neighbor as commanded.

      I’d rather see so offended with the truth (and eventually repent) than sick and deceived.

      I believe that it is God’s will for everybody to be healthy and full of life, but a lot of things happening in this world are not God’s will but a result of sin and death.

      nic

    • Ruby

      The fact that one does not believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit does not mean they are not real. The fact that they have been abused does not mean that there are no genuine manifestations.
      Some of us have had and are still having genuine experiences because we believe. Besides such a power, your ministry might not have life and dynamism.
      Ruby

    • Brian Millhollon

      Discussions about spiritual or supernatural gifts, particularly among those that have little personal experience, remind me of a group of Bedouin goat herders having a critical discussion about the risks of surfing the giant waves in Maui. The great power and potential for disaster is undeniable. But with proper training and equipment, you might just be in for the ride of your life. Beats swatting flies in the “safety” of an infertile wasteland.

    • Don Donaldson

      Wow, so many great comments! CMP, thanks for sharing this episode. I have had similar experiences with strange or vivid dreams that seemed to convey a special message but turned out to be… nothing at all. I’ve learned to be wary of dream advice!

      Re: comment #15 – you advocate that if our personal experience doesn’t match up with our interpretation of Scripture, we adjust our interpretation accordingly. Perhaps, in some cases. But this view is the number one reason why so many don’t understand such things as tongues or healing today – they had a contrary experience so, well, the Bible must mean something other than what it actually says. No, no, no! Rather, we re-examine our experience and prayerfully question God about it, reminding Him of what His Word says. Keep seeking!

      It was my insistence that the Bible means what it says (e.g. “the prayer, offered in faith, will make the sick person well”) that led me to eventually understand my negative experience and ultimately receive healing. My problem was that I misunderstood the essence of faith – what it is and how it works in our relationship with God, prayer life, etc. Not simply a matter of “having enough faith” but of even understanding how faith comes – how it is sought and received as a gift from God. Blessings…

    • Brian Huggins

      There is fully NO reason for any of the gifts to exist today. God has spoken ALREADY — He has revealed His will for each one of us, and it’s not that complicated — KNOW HIM. Read the Word, feed orphans and widows (and all that are hurting let them know you care), and love ALL that God has put in your life. We are so caught up in ‘gifts’ and getting what we don’t have that His work isn’t getting done, and other aren’t getting what God has called us to give! Live sacrificially, lay down your life, and kneel at the foot of the cross and bask in Jesus’ love, repent. Know Him. I believe if we do this He will lead and direct our paths.

    • Cheryl Ford

      Be careful not “to throw the baby out with the bath water.” Just because you got a faulty dream, doesn’t mean that God no longer uses dreams, prophecies, or whatever. Be careful not to call any gift from God second-rate or unworthy. I remember Jesus said He’d go away, but I don’t remember the Holy Spirit ever saying HE was going away or removing His gifts/graces from us. We don’t say the fruit of the Spirit went away so why say His gifts went away. Yes, there are mysteries, and yes, we have our issues, but the Holy Spirit is not in conflict with Himself. He has no problem with His gifts.

    • Treovr Geddes

      When Paul claimed the Spirit prevented them entering Asia but they were then spoken to in a dream from Macedonia, I do not see him suggesting that these were spiritual gifts.
      I think the issues of gifts and God speaking should be separated.

      There is considerable NT evidence that God speaks to those whom his Spirit dwells within (Paul is an example), and this indeed is part of being “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8) or being “my friends” (to whom I tell what I am doing) (John 15).
      But hearing the voice of God surely involves a process of learning, just as a child has to learn to hear the speech of its parents. That is only to be expected. The fact that you had a dream you interpreted as possibly being from God when it wasn’t, could be viewed as part of a learning curve in discernment. It does not have to be viewed as evidence confirming that thinking God can speak through dreams is to be avoided. Many good things can be dangerous if not treated with caution.
      In our church we encourage folk to believe God can speak to them but at the same time we teach them to learn to discern his voice, always subject what they think they hear to Scripture and be humble and non-defensive when challenged.
      This has led to health in our community, not the problems you suggest may result. People have become followers of Jesus as a result of this.
      Oh, and I once had a dream that a man I had not seen for several years had left his wife. I felt so convicted by this that in fear and trembling with great embarrassment I rang him at his work that morning. He had indeed left his wife the previous night and was so shocked I had been shown this in a dream he came to see me and went back to his wife that day. To this day they are still faithfully married.
      That has happened to me only 3 or 4 times in my life. Dreams involving me or those closely attached to me I always treat with great caution, but occasionally God has spoken about others.
      Thanks for the helpful posts.

    • Don Donaldson

      Brian Huggins: You advocate a beautiful, faithful life in Christ. But the “gifts” are very much needed today for the building up of the body of Christ, not to mention the confirmation of the gospel with power. Healing the sick, driving out devils, praying in the spirit, etc. all serve a vital purpose, and to live without them is like missing a limb (or several) – sure we can get by, but we’ll only be getting by. Prophecies, dreams, etc. must always be approached with great care and discernment.

      Trevor Geddes – Amen!

    • KC Klarner

      I appreciate your candor and tenderness on the subject.

    • Mo

      @ philwynk #9 –

      Sheer hatred: This is what biblical discernment draws these days, and from supposed Christians.

    • Joe Losiak

      Jacob, the father of Joseph, Joseph, Daniel and in the N.T. Joseph and Mary personal directives were given. Peter & Paul had visions. It was the Church age. I’m like you Theologically, but like you not willing to decide for God or limit Him in any way. We can discern by His word and the witness within what is or is not from God. When I was twenty or so I had a clear vision of going to Poland and sitting with the leaders of Poland to bring them the Gospel. I did meet with some key Communist leaders whose purpose was against God’s will – so did the vision really come from God? Well yes, for me it was verified because I did meet many times with the true leaders of the Poles who were R.C. Priests and with their backing scores of evangelical missionaries were for a time allowed to preach and teach many. There was a second vision years later which led me to go back 30 years later. However I think that Satan and his demons can also present themselves and do disappear as soon as you reject them and the deed they propose. The angels did not minister to Jesus in the desert until He chased Satan away.

    • Stuart

      Two issues here. First, if the Holy Spirit does not speak to individuals today, in any form, how is anyone called into ministry? Or is that just another vocational choice?

      Second, I think you have taken a caricature of the gifts to prove a point. It is as if someone said that they believe in eternal security, so that means they can be an executioner in a nazi concentration camp because they walked an asile in church once. The fact that they have twisted the meaning of eternal security would not be a valid argument against it for someone who believes it.

      If you or anyone demands a particular kind of word – a dream or a prophetic word from someone else – you are likely to get it. It just isn’t likely to be from God. I don’t think most people who believe the Spirit speaks today, at least not most who are balanced, would suggest that anyone change their life based on an uncomfirmed word from another person, or on an unconfirmed dream. God is able to confirm in multiple ways anything that requires significant changes.

      I’m about out of words, so I’ll leave off personal experience stories.

    • Brent Vermillion

      First, because the author had a flaky dream (he probably had too much pizza before going to bed or maybe a subconscious fear surfaced) this does not mean that God does not give the real thing to people on occasion. The Scripture teaches us to test the spirits (spiritual manifestations). We are also told to desire spiritual gifts. We are told to hold to the good and to reject that which is wrong. Dreams that accuse another person can just as easily come from the Devil, The Accuser of the Brethren as Rev. 12 calls him. Being prophetic is not an excuse to make false accusations. It seems the author simply got flacky and now wants to throw out the baby with the bath water based on one erroneous dream.

    • Leonard

      My, that was quite the time you had. So you are taking it that because you had this dream and it was not something that panned out as being a true signal from God, that such things do not happen?

      I do believe that these portions of the Bible that tell us of dreams or of prophecy, or of miraculous healings and works of God are for today, it is far simpler to accept and interpret the Bible by doing so.

      What I think you have is a good object lesson in not just believing that any message or word or dream is a real message from God. There are cautions in the Bible, particularly in Paul’s writings to Corinth and Thessalonica, or even in the Old Testament that warn us of false prophecies, or just erroneous human thoughts, and that the people of God are to pray and to seek God.

      Do remain open to the genuine article, for it does happen upon this Earth of sinful wayward beings.

      Of a number of prophetic messages that I have heard, a few have been confirmed or were so fitting and held up. For others, we don’t know how applicable some word may be. I think that is why Paul says to not despise or to quench prophesying, even at the same time as we are to employ such discretion as we have. Not to say that you are despising, it sounds clearly like you are open to God on this.

      God bless you.

    • David Van Lant

      UR kind of a weird guy huh?

    • C Michael Patton

      U don’t know the half of it.

    • John S

      I think the author has an incorrect view of the gift of NT prophecy. As described (below) it has a corporate function, at least primarily, and is for ‘upbuilding and encouragement and consolation’. It is not predictive in nature like OT prophecy (if so it can be easily judged).

      I’ve seen it function in this way, often in conjunction with a passage of scripture, as a reminder of a truth about God – of his grace, mercy, forgivenss, faithfulness et al. It is not held as anywhere near equal to Scripture, it is not meant to be instructive in nature, it is understood to be delivered by a falible man or woman, it is overseen by the pastors (they can take the mic and make a clarification or correction if it was erroneous in any way) and it is not ‘weird’ or gnostic. Perhaps the ‘word of knowledge’ is something more along the lines of the Spirit revealing a fact to someone. It’s hard to say, but in any case it’s meant to edify – not to be amazed at in itself but to direct someone to be amazed by God. Like the Corinthians were enamored with tongues. The tongues weren’t the problem it was their hearts.

      I find arguments from Scripture for cessation very weak at best. Arguments from experience can be compelling, but this is throwing out the baby with the bath water. I’ve heard terrible, heretic preaching many times. Does that mean preaching itself is the problem – no more preaching!

      (1 Corinthians 14:3-5 ESV)
      On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

    • Rick

      Just had a thought — what if no one shared their ‘word of knowledge’ for some reason; fear, uncertainty, embarrassment, etc. What would God’s response be? Would He be angry? Would He be upset that the person didn’t trust him? Would He feel like we had really missed an incredibly significant moment in our worship? I’m thinking not. I’m thinking if we didn’t get the ‘word of knowledge’ everything would pretty much remain status quo. I’m certain that those who feel they’re compelled to share this ‘word’ have gotten it wrong too. What’s God’s response to that. Is it, “Oh well.” Or is it, “I’m so tired of these people thinking they’re using their gifts?”

    • donk

      Having been around longer than most of you, I recall when the word “charismatic” was coined at Yale Divinity School(mid-60s). At first, it was used mainly by intellectuals as a basket term for pentecostals and the new full gospel people, people who remained in the churches they belonged to even though they were no longer cessationist, hence, Full Gospel Presbyterians, Full Gospel Lutherans, Full Gospel Methodists, etc. Their attitudes and understandings of charisms varied significantly and that has not changed. Rather, an independent church movement that has grown significantly since then has made the differences greater. Denominationalism haunts all parts of the Reformation church and her descendants. Thus, to use the word “charismaticism,” as one has here makes little sense.
      I, personally, have never been able to see the argument for cessationism as usually explained. The reference in I Cor.13:8 is an out of context nightmare. If the time had come (within the context) we would be seeing Him face to face “in all His glory,”as the song goes. But we still sing “bye and bye.”
      Rightly seen, the the coming together of the Bible through council, or other means, had it been so, is a prophetic event, or something much like one- a work of the Holy Spirit. Yet most of the cessationists I have met or listened to predate cessation to the formation of the canon. How churches without a complete canon or charisms could escape heterodoxy is hard to see. Obviously, some didn’t remain orthodox, but, that most did, requires scrutiny.
      One common misunderstanding is that the purpose of prophesy in the pre-kerygma period was to add to the canon. Any careful reading of the Old Testament or Luke 2:25-38, for that matter. Further, Elijah is called the greatest of the prophets, apart from Moses, yet we have little of his prophesy and almost as much of his grumbling. (continued)

    • Glenn Shrom

      Michael, I don’t know if anyone has pointed this out yet, but your prayer was answered. You prayed that if God had anything to say to you through prophecy, for you to accept it. It seems to me that God spoke to you through this whole supernatural experience to confirm His word: “do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold onto the good.” I Thes. 5:19-21

      God was telling you through a dream and your follow-up, that you are to test everything to see if it is from Him or not. Now you don’t only know the importance of this because of what you read in the Bible, but also the importance of this because God used a circumstance, an experience, a word in a dream and on Facebook, to confirm it to you.

      Prophecy often is an example that God shows us, which we relate to a spiritual truth found in His Word. Prophesying in I I Cor. 14:3 is a word from God that strengthens, encourages or comforts. It can be a Scripture used appropriately, or something that illuminates the Scripture given through the Spirit.

    • Joseph

      I think it’s funny, as I look at this debate and get to know more and more about theology, to see just how divided we as brothers and sisters in Christ can make ourselves. Seriously all, the debate needs to stop on these subjects! Why are we sitting here debating when the world doesn’t even know their Savior? We need to unite on the essentials and run the race, spreading the gospel as we go. Look to Jesus and worship the Lord our God with all that you are!!! That’s what He wants! He is calling to each of us, even the world, to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. We are not all leaders, teachers, or prophets, but we all are slaves, servants to the most High God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Those of us who do not believe in the gifts need to stop looking at those of us who do as if we are crazy, and those of us who believe in the continuation of gifts need to stop looking down on those who do not accept it. We all know the proof is in the puding, so let reality set in and eat it. Those who divide us work against us and do us all a real injustice. If you haven’t experienced a healing or heard a prophecy, then AMEN!! If you have then AMEN!! Each of you received what you needed to minister or be ministered to for that time set for you and those around you. Do NOT discount one another because of skepticism, but seek the face of the Holy One of Israel and praise Him for His glorious will being done. A liar will be proven to be what he/she is eventually and The weeds among us will catch fire and perish under the scrutiny of His Holiness. For If our Father is in a ministry, then it will succeed and perpetuate righteousness, but, if not… Peace!

    • donk

      Considering their importance, one might have expected more of the prophecies of Samuel and Nathan than of Nahum and Obadiah by the measure proposed.
      Put another way, any book represents either the intellect of its author, an academic exercise, or the intellect, emotions, life history and geography, goals, hopes, dreams, etc. So, if we say, that at its highest level, God is the author of the Bible, we may draw one of, at least, three conclusions.
      The first is that the book exists primarily or entirely for academic reasons. The second is that the intellectual level of the book does not exceed that of its likely reader. The third is that the book is likely to exceed the reader and its purpose is to bring the reader above his limitations.
      That the first is not so is obvious from its content. That the second is also not true takes a little more thought. Is it written to be best understood by the median reader or the apex academics? It could not have been written to the meanest of intellects as the content, once again, indicates.
      The third is almost certainly true. God is intellectually superior to any in His creation. This is complicated by the total lack of commonality of experience, emotions, goals, experience. That He sends His Son to live in our circumstances and much of the worst of them affirms this. It truly follows from this that He needs to provide a helper to lead and guide us into all truth, not merely the intellectual parts, but the parts of living, fellowship, courage, etc. He might do this on His own, but He says He will come along side us and we can do it together. It is to this end that the charisms should be considered. In my many years as a Christian, I have seen great intellects who have spent years never getting it from the paper to life and a near illiterate who have understood some subtlety of the koine, not plain in the KJV, but because he trusted that he could walk & talk with Him, as they trode the sea.

    • Fitz

      Michael.
      The scriptures warn us in 1 John 4 to test every spirit. I believe in your case here the dream was the “spirit” in question that needed to be tested. How you ask? Perhaps the test in this case could have been to wait it out. To wait and see if you would encounter someone with that name and perhaps it may have been revealed what, if anything, it meant. It could have meant that the wife of someone named Lewis Johnson was being unfaithful..or it could have been nothing at all.
      PS. Maybe you just ate too late…lol!

    • Crystal

      I think you just had a dream and a bad dream. I believe if you believe you hear a word from the Lord there will be confirmation. He says his sheep will know his voice. I believe it is learned.

    • snooop1e

      Listen up people, when ALMIGHTY GOD contacts you there will be no doubt in your mind that ALMIGHTY GOD has contacted you. If God wants to contact you He knows exactly how to do it and there will be no doubt whatsoever in your mind that God has spoken to you. So no, that was not the face of Jesus you saw in your slice of Pizza last night while watching the NBA playoffs and that dream you had does not mean you should take out NIKE. Paul had no doubt that he had met God and neither will you. Now stop looking or prophecy in the lint screen in your clothes dryer and go spend some time with your wife and kids or clean out your garage. Peace in Christ

    • Mo

      @ snooop1e #4 –

      Thank you! This is what has needed to be said all along!

      This entire thread has been illuminating, and not in a good way. I’d been noticing this new trend in Christianity of this business of seeing/hearing God’s voice/direction in everything. (Except God’s Word. More on that in a minute.) But until this discussion, I hadn’t realized to what extent this thinking had taken over the Church. Everything is a sign, everything is something to be deciphered. As you have pointed out, when people in the Bible heard from God, they KNEW it was God! He’s not unclear. He doesn’t give hints. He doesn’t make you figure it by stringing clues along that might mean this or might mean that. Could it be that we don’t quite understand things sometimes? Sure. We’re human. But if you will just go to the Bible and see God’s interactions with people, you will see that it is NOTHING like what we have made it to be today!

      Announce a group to “learn how to hear God’s voice” and you’ll have a crowd. Announce a group to learn how to read God’s Word in context, learn the history, learn the customs of the day, learn about the OT covenants, and learn how to think through today’s issues from a biblical worldview, and you’ll have a hard time getting people interested.

      Who needs all that work when all you need to do is open your Bible at a random point and get your private message for the day? Why bother doing the hard work of learning how to think through issues from a biblical worldview, when all you need to do is pray and God will give you a sign or a dream?

      Let’s leave this Christian superstition behind and let’s get back to the book we say we believe are the very words of God to man!

    • Ben Thorp

      You seem to be under the (albeit common) misapprehension that a) charismatics aren’t equally troubled by this trend in the church at large, and that b) these 2 things are somehow mutually exclusive.

    • Steven

      Michael, Thanks for sharing this struggle. Honestly, you made me laugh at times, but I also recognize the seriousness of what you are saying, and I loved the honesty.

      20/20 – You should have just told your wife about your weird dream in the morning and asked her what she thought about it b4 the whole facebook thing and mental anguish. I bet you already got this by now. Live and learn 🙂

      I hope you stay open to spiritual gifts. I agree we can be led way astray without checking what people say to us or experiences we have against the Bible. I think part of the problem with some of us can be pride too b/c we want to think all these cool supernatural things are going to happen to us because we are so special to God. We are all special to God! My wife actually has prayed to God not to see anything, and she hasn’t – b/c she believes already and doesn’t want to be frightened.

      But I also think the enemy gets really active when we reach out for more, and I think God does test us at times. So where did that dream come from – I think your wife helped you figure it out some. But I think these things take time.

      I have experienced supernatural visions and have been really scared, amazed, confused, and questioning. At another time, I have also been made to feel that my lack of ______ led to the failure of a healing on someone I really loved. Could they be correct? Sure. Could they be wrong? Sure. But it didn’t turn me from God, it brought me closer to Him. I just don’t understand all His ways, but I trust He works all for good and I know Jesus has my back.

      Keep up the good work.

    • (Here is an article ezplaining the reason Reformed Christians reject the outrageous claims of Charismatics)

      Does R. C. Sproul Believe in Miracles? From R. C. Sproul

      http://www.ligonier.org/blog/does-rcsproul-believe-miracles/

    • donk

      Hershel,

      Giving ourselves the right to be outraged is giving ourselves the right to disengage. If your statement was in regard to some of the claims some of the people you regard as charismatics, it is too broad.

      I say regard because the word increasingly includes a larger and larger number of groups with differing histories and doctrinal streams- Pentecostal, Latter Rain, Full Gospel, original Charismatics, some of the Jesus People and so on. They are not identical in their views on charisms, dreams, miracles or many other doctrinal matters. You can no more say, “all charismatics are (or believe)… than you can say, “all Blacks are…” or “all Hispanics are…” or “all Asians are…”

      But it is also true that, in this instance, Sproul is wrong. See Ephesians 3:20-21. If He is willing to do exceedingly above all we can ask or think, then we should expect that He will. Sovereignty is a tool that never goes unused. If Sproul were right, then the very affirmation of this scripture would suffice to prevent the miraculous and, I suppose, a number of other things. But, since it was Paul’s experience that the miraculous happened, it is hardly likely that he was praying for its cessation in this two verse prayer, especially in the context of Ephesians chapters one through three. All we have here, then, is Sproul’s take on what should and should not be called a miracle and why, in his considered opinion they cannot happen now. It is lacking.

      As a matter of good practice, I try not to confuse my opinions with His truth, no matter how well reasoned. Perfect arguments based on defective premises always lead astray.

      (For the purposes of disclosure, I am frequently called a charismatic, but I don’t use the name. I find it unhelpful).

    • Thank you Mr Donk for your response. I will say this and then let it rest.

      Considering that I was in Charismatic churches for over 16 years and have preached in many of them and having attended all types of charismatic churches, anything from Assembly of God, Church of God, United Pentecostals, Independent Pentecostals, etc…..then I can brush with a broad stroke.

      I actually still receive a magazine or two from some of these denominations and they still speak of visions and dreams.

      I realize that.Charismatic doctrines have spilled over into every denomination: Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, etc….. and having originated in these latter years in Roman Catholicism, we seea uniting of all denominations in an ecuminical move to be one, but not because they all believe the same doctrines, but because they are all being united by the same false spirit.

    • Ben Thorp

      I mentioned the RC Sproul article in a comment on a newer post.

      I have to agree with donk that I find Sprouls argument to be flawed and somewhat circular. He seems to be arguing that miracles are supernatural events that authenticate an agent of revelation. But given that he doesn’t believe in “agents of revelation”, he doesn’t believe in miracles, and because he doesn’t believe in miracles, there obviously aren’t any “agents of revelation”.

      Beyond it being somewhat circular (which I wasn’t overly surprised at – Sproul is a very hard cessationist) I find it difficult to reconcile with Jesus advising that there would be false prophets and false workers of miracles in Matthew 7:21-23.

      Whilst I appreciate Sproul in many areas, he is not, IMO, the best cessationist apologist.

    • ken

      This is really common in charismatic circles. That’s is why I moved away from them. I got tired of being accused by some jealous fool because of some prophetic dream. The only antidote for this is some straight up theology and Bible study. It clears the head and keeps the devil from whispering his lies into the believers ear. I was a little surprised to see my hero fall for this trick. I am glad he is so transparent to show us his own experience to expose this trick of the enemy.

    • Paul Leonard

      A friend left because they kept pressuring her to speak in tongues, etc. That isn’t how it would work.

    • Nathan

      I simply want to speak on the matter of prophets being 100% correct. If you read in the New Testament Jesus clearly says you will know them by their fruit, not the perfection or correct words. By their fruit you will know they are of me! Fruit of the Spirit!

    • Paul Leonard

      Yep, if they gave a prophecy of the far distant future, no one would know until then and if far enough in the future it wouldn’t help when he gave it. His works however would show up quite plainly.

    • John

      I was once in a church. Not really a charismatic one. Nobody was going around making prophesies. But a woman made a prophesy about me. She was never making prophesies before. The prophesy was something that I couldn’t envisage any possible scenario where it could come to pass. I didn’t even want it to come to pass, not at all. It was totally out of left field. It was a stupid prophesy. Well, within about a year, my life had changed, and this prophesy did come to pass.

      Sometimes prophesies do check out. Maybe Lewis will turn up, lol. Actually though, most times people are just trying too hard. Dreams are crazy. Most visions are just deep seated fears. But occasionally, some holy person will come out with something insightful. Usually not in a dramatic fashion, but quietly.

    • Über genius

      Acts 11:28 One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius.

      Acts 21:10,11 As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles

      Neither of these examples of NT prophecy have anything to do with Sproul’s ” authorizing agents of revelation.” By overextending the NT definition of prophecy cessationists are able to attack the extension (equivocation). Sproul’s is a great scholar who could have easy access to the refutation above in Gordon Fee’s works and dozens of other scholarly works. He also knows about the logical fallacy of equivocation and overextension (straw man) If a great man like Sproul is given to fits of bias from time to time then we certainly must be on our guard against bias being mere mortals.

    • Über genius

      Michael,

      Great post…danger will Robinson! ( you may have to be 50+yrs old to get that reference). As someone who is an evangelical practicing gifts since the mid-seventies it is good to be suspicious of dreams, possible words of knowledge, or possible prophecies that are very destructive in nature. The purpose of these gifts is to edify and encourage the body of believers. Especially when just getting your feet wet so to speak I suggest focusing on things that are specific and edifying. Start with a group of 2-4 believers and recognize that some of these gifts take some time to develop as your inner life and faith develops. Also recognize that love is essential to the Christian life and gifts are not. Dreams are as messy in terms of the quality of revelation as your story aptly illustrates. In small experimental groups you can state things such as “I just saw a picture of Bob but he was young…maybe 13 or 14 yrs old at the time. In the picture he was being picked on mercilessly by a black-haired boy who looked older…does that mean anything to you Bob? Yes. That black-haired boy was my older brother, the one I don’t talk to anymore.” You might then ask Bob to choose to forgive his brother and pray with him for that brother, etc. Don’t get trapped by another fallacy which requires 100% accuracy. NT prophecy is not a role similar to OT prophet. Were the OT prophets there to encourage the Jews? Seldom. You are not called to bring judgement. 1 Cor 13 is the standard. Finally, if exercising the gifts becomes divisive step away for awhile and drill back into the reasons for the gifts. We never sacrifice unity to get more power or specific revelation that is how the world uses power, remember Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-25. Don’t want anyone to go blind.

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