If you attend a church that is even slightly charismatic you are likely to hear someone say something to the effect of “thus sayeth the Lord.” Of course if God is talking then we better listen, but how can we tell if the message is from God? This can be a tricky proposal because if we aren’t particularly close to God then we won’t have that “I can feel God talking” sensation, and let’s face it, if God is telling us something there is a good chance that it involves us being a bit too distant. Now I can’t guarantee a message is from God, but I can usually identify the ones that are not from God. So here’s the top ten list.
#10: You Can Smell the Alcohol
Now this one is kind of tricky God can certainly use many modes of communicating. He spoke to Balaam through an ass and most drunks I know fit that description, but I feel pretty safe in ignoring anything that some inebriated moron is trying to pass off as a message from God.
#9: You are asked to worship something other than God
Yeah so this is pretty simple, God doesn’t change so He isn’t going to tell us one thing in the Bible and another in a prophecy. The tricky part is catching that the prophecy is actually passing the status of worship to something other than God. Sure it seems pretty obvious if the person outright says, “worship the golden calf I shall make,” but that isn’t how these messages show up. It tends to be more like, “the Lord is angered that you have removed the organ so to please Him once again you must put it in the choice place and devote more worship time to its music.” See how tricky that is? It looks like maybe God is just a real fan of the organ music, but if you pay attention you will catch the key words. Give it the “choice place” and “devote” are dangerous ground. Sounds like God is asking us to worship the organ. I don’t think so.
#8: The prophecy doesn’t line up with Scripture
I hinted at this with the previous entry. This is one of the things I’ve heard most often and many of the other signs of a false prophecy are related to this one. The problem is, you got to know the Word. If people knew what the Bible said they wouldn’t have followed many of the seriously crazy false prophets like David Koresh. This puts the burden fully on you. Sorry.
#7: God prefers wine to beer
Wine is used all the time in the Bible but you don’t see beer all that much. That’s because God prefers wine. Now what does that have to do with prophecy? Well I’ve heard many times about grumpy old … um saint standing up in some meeting or another to complain about how things are going in the church. They loudly proclaim how dissatisfied God is and warn that God is going to write Michelob over the door. Now if it were Merlot or something wine related I might ponder this dire warning for a minute, but a beer reference automatically outs this false prophecy. On a side note, this one also falls under “know your scripture” because this prophecy should have been “write Ichabod” which means “the Glory of the Lord has departed.”
#6: Inconsistent grammatical structure
It might be that the person starts in prophecy and then ends up appending their own thoughts or it might just be a total fail, but I’ve heard this a few times myself. For some reason a bunch of people seem to think all prophecies must be delivered in King James English, so they open up with a bunch of thee’s and thou’s and then transition into y’all this and that.
#5: Self serving admonitions
Thus sayeth the Lord, gimme your money. Now this actually breaks rule number 6 too so it should be doubly obvious but I’ve seen some people seriously hurt by falling for prophecies almost exactly like this. Of course not all are so obvious. “God wants me to be placed over the … department” can be just as self serving and maybe even more detrimental to the body. In the Bible most prophecies end up helping other people. In fact they tend to be focused on helping those than cannot help themselves.
#4: Passing the buck
Not all prophecies are in front of the whole church. Sometimes God has a special message for a special person. If someone comes to you with one of these be especially aware of the next two rules. When someone is throwing God under the bus to pass the buck spend extra time in prayer before assuming God is down with this. “So the pastor asked me to help clean-up after the potluck but God told me you would be better suited to this task.” I’m not saying that you aren’t the better potluckcleaneruperafterer, but I am saying God probably didn’t reveal this.
#3: Telling you something God hasn’t
When Elizabeth tells Mary she is blessed for the task God has called her to Mary had already heard from God. When I had people telling me I was called to ministry, God had already confirmed that. If someone tells me God wants me to go to Alaska I’m just not going to believe them. Now if they tell me God has said to go to Guam I might give it some thought. God has never even hinted that I might be called to Alaska, but I hear all the time about people prophesying others into something or another that God never mentioned to them about. The worst is in Bible College when some guy walks up to some girl and says, “God told me we would be married.” I only wish I was joking and I wish this didn’t work as often as it does. Also I’ve seen it go the other way too so guys aren’t the only ones to blame.
#2: Two part prophecies with a failed first part
God often gives multipart prophecies. He does this so we can know the truth of the prophecy when we see parts being fulfilled and will look to the full prophecy to come to pass. Now if someone throws down with “God has said that the moon will turn red tonight and then … will happen,” and the moon doesn’t turn red, then you can ignore the rest of the prophecy. Watch out for the gambler-con though. Sure the moon turning red is pretty long odds, but a gambler might turn some short odds prophecies and then try to flip you on a long shot. “You will wake up tomorrow,” (very good odds), “you will wish you didn’t have to wake up so early,” (hey if you knew me half way you would feel safe with this one too), “you will see a dog on your way too work,” (starting to get a little longer but hey there are a lot of dogs in the world), “and the number 4 will follow you through the day,” (this is a fun bit of psychology. If you are starting to believe even a little then you will see the number 4 pattern everywhere and so this will come to pass), “then you will know I am speaking truth and do what I have commanded.” Of course if this really is a con then the command will probably violate one of the other rules.
#1: Putting a date on the return of the Lord
I think most Christians know that God isn’t letting us in on this secret, but then we get all stupid when someone comes out with some big prophecy and start worrying about some specific date. 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 sold 3.5 million copies and TBN issued regular rapture updates in the time leading up to the prophetic dates. Prior to the millennial change we saw the same kind of frenzy and I am expecting to see it for December 21st, 2012. We are anxious for the return so it seems to override our reason when we hear about a prophecy. Sure we might laugh at it or pretend we think it is a joke, but the closer that day comes the more we will think about it. We might even start preparing things for the rapture or whatever and then when nothing happens we act like we didn’t give it any thought and hope nobody sees the stock pile of sardines we will be eating for the next 10 years.