Offense by Association

Recently the Lord began to speak to me about how many people are being destroyed by offense. This is not a new revelation in terms of the overall battle with offense, but what the Lord has been dealing with me about is offense in a way I had not noticed before. Simply put, the Lord spoke this statement to my heart on a recent Saturday morning:

“Many are being destroyed by offense by association.”

That statement had my attention, and it led me to explore this concept scripturally. I immediately sensed the Lord lead me to Numbers 12 and the story of Miriam and Aaron speaking out against Moses and trying to solidify themselves as ones used by God. I want to pick it up in verse 9:

And the anger of the Lord burned against them, and He set out. When the cloud went away from over the tabernacle, Miriam became leprous as snow, and Aaron turned toward Miriam and saw that she was leprous. Aaron said to Moses, “Alas, my lord, do not lay the sin on us, which we have done foolishly, and which we have sinned. Do not let her be as dead, who when he goes out of his mother’s womb half his flesh is eaten.” Numbers 12:9-12

Miriam became leprous yet Aaron took on her offense. His association with her caused him to take her offense upon himself; he was not leprous, but he cried out as though he was. What Aaron did, however, is important. He immediately took that offense and cried out for Miriam’s deliverance and healing. Consider that he could have become angry and bitter, pulling Miriam off to the side and consoling her; he could have taken it upon himself to fix what ailed his sister. What Aaron did, however, was to properly bear the burden of his sister instead of improperly carrying her burden.

Let me take this a step further from Galatians 6.

Brothers, if a man is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, watching yourselves, lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For is someone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each on shall bear his own burden. Galatians 6:1-4

Paul gives valuable insight into how we can avoid becoming offended by association. First, he encourages us to be willing to “restore such a one,” but as we do so we are to “watch yourselves, let you also be tempted.” The challenge is not in whether or not we should come to the aid of one who has been burdened or offended; the caution is to do so in the proper way as to “fulfill the law of Christ.”

Within the context of these scriptures we find three statements of focus from which we can learn how to avoid offense by association.

“Bear one another’s burdens.”

This call to bear one another’s burdens has been misinterpreted and misused by many people in many ways – myself often included. It does not mean to come alongside someone who is burdened or offended and walk with them through their pain. Neither does it mean to simply sympathize with someone for what they are facing in life. It also does not mean to take upon oneself what someone else is burdened with and carrying.

The word “burdens” means heaviness, weight, or trouble. The root of this word speaks of the notion of going down or being weighed down. It is that which suppresses and even reduces the one carrying the weight. I have often said that the primary work of the enemy in the life of someone is to weigh down or suppress them while God works to raise or to lift up. In Numbers 12 when Miriam became leprous, she was burdened or weighed down with that disease. In life we often meet people who are burdened or weighed down by various issues and ailments; things brought on by circumstances or Satan designed to suppress and steal away their life and vitality.

We are implored by God to bear one another’s burdens, but it does not mean that we are to take those things upon ourselves or to try and help the other one carry the load. The phrase “bear” or “bear ye” means to bear away or to carry off. The implication is not for me to come alongside and to help someone carry the offense or that which is suppressing them; rather it calls for me to help see that load removed from them. I am not called to take it upon myself, but to stand with my brother or sister in Christ and see that the burden is removed completely and they are free from that which is weighing them down.

In other words, to bear someone’s burdens means that nobody is weighed down by it any longer. I do not walk with them to help them carry the load, and I do not take the load upon myself in an effort to be a friend. What happens is that burden is removed and we both walk together in freedom!

“But let each one examine his own work.”

This is a critical point. Paul says this right after warning about someone thinking he is something when he is nothing. This often becomes the greatest barrier to truly bearing one another’s burdens in the proper way – the misplaced value on one’s own ability and work. If I believe I am something important, and I begin to assume that I am responsible for delivering someone else from their burdens, then I will not properly bear those burdens as discussed above. Instead I will take upon myself a savior complex and feel compelled to be a person’s source instead of being God’s resource.

When Miriam became leprous Aaron cried out to Moses for him to do something. Moses immediately responded by crying out to God:

And Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!” Numbers 12:13

Moses did not see himself as the source for Miriam’s deliverance, but he immediately went to the source. As we encounter more burdened and offended people the challenge is going to be to avoid a need to be their savior; to understand that we are called to properly bear their burdens away from them and that only Christ can truly provide their healing and deliverance.

“For each one shall bear his own burden.”

This is what ties this all together. The word “burden” used here is not the same Greek word as “burdens” we explored before. This word speaks of a burden or load that is laid on one by Christ. This immediately brings to mind Christ’s powerful teaching in Matthew 11:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Each one is to bear the burden of Christ and not the burden of circumstances or satanic attack. The burden of Christ is light; it is completely opposite of the burdens spoken of in Galatians 6 that weigh down and suppress. Jesus says for those who are heavily burdened or laden to come to Him. The word “laden” means to load one with a burden of rites and unwarranted precepts. Jesus made this declaration with the understanding that many are carrying things they were never intended to carry.

Much of what people are carrying today is a combination of their own unwarranted precepts and the taking upon themselves the burdens and the offenses of others. Offense by association is destroying many. When I am truly bearing my own burden I will be able to properly bear another’s burdens. That will happen because I will realize that neither of us needs to carry that which weighs down, suppresses, and destroys. The burden of Jesus Christ is light because He is the one carrying the weight.

God cautioned me many years ago to pay attention to the weight of what I feel. He cautioned me to recognize that when something is overwhelming to me it is not of or from Him. In ministry it can be so easy to try and help others with their loads when that is far from the biblical mandate we have been given. It is not a carrying with but a carrying away unto Christ. Take note of Miriam’s own deliverance from leprosy:

Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days, and the people did not set out until Miriam was brought in again. Numbers 12:15

The people did not carry her leprosy with them; they saw that the leprosy was carried away from her and then together they moved forward. They chose to not walk in offense by association but rather to walk together in freedom. That is the great call to us today; to properly bear one another’s burdens and to walk together in freedom and life, with Christ doing the heavy lifting. Do not be weighed down by your burdens or those of others, but be free together in Christ.

The Cost of a Move of God

Recently I sensed the Lord speak to me about many in ministry who have first-hand knowledge about the cost of a move of God and that knowledge now serves as a barrier to them experiencing a move of God in their lives today.

2 Samuel 6 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. 3 And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. 5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. 6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. 8 And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day. 9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me? 10 So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite. 11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household. 12 And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness. 13 And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings. 14 And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

As David was attempting to move the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, those who were carrying the Ark encountered a bump in the road. Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark so that it would not fall from the cart. What he did seemed like the logical, sensible, and even right thing to do. He was not, however, honoring God’s presence, but was choosing to approach Him in the wrong manner. Immediately God struck him dead.

The judgment came quickly in response to the irreverent approach of Uzzah. Perhaps he acted in a manner God called irreverent because he took God’s presence for granted. Uzzah was the son of Abinadab, at whose house the Ark was dwelling at the time David retrieved it. Uzzah likely lived in the house where the Ark was dwelling, but there was still an unfamiliarity or irreverence involving exactly what the Ark represented. David and those with him were celebrating the move of God without understanding the seriousness of or the guidelines that are expected to facilitate the move.

It was never God’s intent for the Ark of the Covenant to be transported in any other fashion. During their forty year journey in the wilderness, it was the responsibility of the Levitical priests to transport the Ark. When God brought the children of Israel to the Jordan in Joshua 3, it was the Levites who first stepped into the Jordan carrying the Ark, after which the rest of the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. God’s instruction demanded that the Ark of His presence be handled in the right manner. The only time we read of a different method of moving the Ark was when it had been captured by the Philistines and they sent the Ark back to Israel on a cart pulled by two cows.

God is specific in how He desires to be honored. Following three months of the Ark being stationary at the home of Obed Edom, David decided to return and finish the move he had started. This time, however, he went about things in God’s prescribed manner. We find that when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. This was much different from before when the Ark was placed on a cart to be pulled by animals. Now the Ark was being borne by people.

When David brought the Ark successfully to Jerusalem he did so in the prescribed manner, with it being transported on the shoulders of men. Along the way they offered sacrifices, offerings to the Lord, and they celebrated Him through worship. The first time around they acted with excitement and zeal; the second they operated in reverence and honor. As a result, God’s presence was brought back to the His people and given a place of prominence in their lives.

And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, and Joel, Shemaiah, and Eliel, and Amminadab, and said unto them, “Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, they ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.” 1 Chronicles 15:11-13

Consider those who were tasked with moving the Ark and what their names mean and represent.
Zadok = just or righteous
Abiathar = the Great One is Father or father of abundance
Uriel = flame of God
Asaiah = made by Jehovah
Joel = the Lord is God
Shemaiah = heard by Jehovah
Eliel = my God is God
Amminadab = my kinsman is noble

Those who were given the responsibility to handle the move of God’s presence were those who represented God’s character and power. The Philistines were not judged for moving the Ark on a cart, because they did not represent the God of the Ark. The people of God, however, must properly represent Him if they hope to see His presence move in their lives and on their behalf.

God’s presence must be handled differently when moving than when stationary, because everything is different when the presence of God is moving. Uzzah was familiar with the stationary ark as it was at the home of his father Amminadab. When the ark was moving, however, he reached out to steady it and handle it as had likely done before. He was struck down by God.

Many people cry out to God for a move of His presence, but I am not sure how many truly count the cost or fully understand what it is going to take to handle a move of His presence. We must understand Him and the manner in which He has outlined being handled and approached. We cannot assume to know, we must be confident in our understanding. To approach God’s presence from our own understanding is extremely difficult and dangerous to us and to those who are with us.

God Cannot be Invoked

How often do we make assumptions in regards to the presence of the Lord? How many times have we taken it upon ourselves to attach God to something from which He is completely withdrawn? What is the outcome of those moments? It is vitally important that we understand God cannot be invoked, but rather wants to be invited. Very little changes take place when His presence is invoked, but everything changes when He is invited.

Just because we bring God into something does not guarantee that He is going to manifest Himself in that thing or that moment. The Israelites learned this the hard way during a battle against the Philistines.

1 Samuel 4 Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer; and the Philistines encamped in Aphek. 2 Then the Philistines put themselves in battle array against Israel. And when they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field. 3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. 6 Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp. 7 So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp!” And they said, “Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines, that you do not become servants of the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!” 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 Also the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

As the two armies encamped for battle there was a keen awareness of the pending loss of life. Israel encamped at Ebenezer which means stone of the help, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek which means fortress or a strong place. By the very names of their camps it could be understood that the Philistines had the upper hand. They were going into the battle with a sense of superiority. The Israelites were entering the battle with a need for help. The problem for the Israelites, however, is that they assumed they had help from God rather than being assured of their help from Him.

Assumed = take for granted or without proof.
Assured = guaranteed, sure, certain, secure.

Faith is never assumed, but always assured. In His presence assumption has no place, but only assurance. The difference between the letter M and the letter R in these two words is huge. What the Israelites assumed they had cost them dearly when they should have been assured of who was on their side. We must caution ourselves to never assume anything in relation to His presence, but to always be assured of who we are in Him and where we stand with Him.

After losing 4,000 lives the elders determined they simply needed to invoke the presence of the Lord by bringing the Ark into the battle. Their assessment of the battle was that the Lord had caused them to lose. They did not consider it a loss to the Philistines, but a loss at the hands of their God. For them the only and obvious solution was to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the camp to ensure victory going forward. It was as if their attitude was, “now that we have failed initially we should play our God card.” Again we see the danger of assumption. How many times do we ourselves get into a situation and then determine it is finally time to bring God into the midst of what is going on so that He can bail us out?

The elders made this seemingly noble declaration, “…when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.” They were taking the stand that God’s presence coming among them was going to change everything. Herein lies a valuable lesson, however.

The presence of God changes little when invoked, but changes everything when invited.

It is also interesting to note the root of what the elders were truly saying. Their declaration sounded holy and righteous, but at its core they were declaring that the Ark was going to come among them like heroic men and save their nation in war. In other words, the Ark represented nothing more than their plan of deliverance. They were not looking for God Himself to come among them, they simply wanted what God was capable of doing to manifest in their midst. This is such a dangerous yet all too common approach. Far too many invoke God for what He can do rather than invite Him for who He is. When life is based on what God can do for you then you will find much disappointment and dejection. When life, however, is based on who God is in and through you then you will walk in the abundant life promised by Jesus Himself.

Throughout the book of Judges we find the Israelites invoking the Lord and Him responding by raising up a deliverer for them (see Judges 3:9, 15). It was a common practice for them to need bailed out by the mercy and goodness of God. God had shown His willingness to use a man to meet that need among His people. In this battle against the Philistines, however, they were not trying to utilize a man; the people were hoping to use God Himself. Perhaps their thought was that since they were all gathered together they had a right to bring the Lord into their midst.

Now before we fully condemn the assumptions of the elders of Israel let us consider our own. How many times have we contextually abused the concept of two or three being gathered together and Christ being in the midst? How many times have we wrongfully assumed that He has no choice but to be where we are, especially if we call it a gathering in His name? We must understand that there is much more to God than simply attaching His name to that which we are doing.

When the Ark was brought into the midst of the camp the people shouted so loudly that the earth shook. This shout is one done with religious impulse. The Psalmist exhorts us to shout unto God with a voice of triumph (Psalm 47:2). Our shout is a powerful weapon and tool of praise, but an empty or religious shout does not mask what is missing. The shout of the people does not take the place of the manifest presence of God. And I have found many times that a soft whisper in God’s presence is more powerful than a loud shout without His presence. The people shouted religiously, but their hearts and their camp were both void of God’s presence.

When the Philistines heard the shout they questioned its meaning. They heard a shout of joy, and they could not understand how the Israelites could be joyful in light of what had just taken place. What they heard was a group of people celebrating an assumed victory when those people should have been known as those who celebrate an assured identity. The sound of the shout brought fear among the Philistines because they were fully aware of what God had done to the Egyptians and to all who had stood in opposition to Israel. Let this image sink in for a moment:

Israel shouted at the sight of the Ark; the Philistines trembled at the thought of His presence.

It is stunning to me to consider how often this is the case. The enemies of the people of God are at times more aware of what God is capable of doing than are the people of God. I never want to be more enamored by that which represents God than I am enveloped by God Himself.

At this point the Philistines determined that their only option was to conduct themselves like and fight like men. They understood that their only chance against God’s people was on the battlefield of the flesh. Our enemy is the same, always bringing the battle to the place of the flesh to cause us to fight like men. Paul teaches in Ephesians that we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:10-18), but the truth is that when we operate without His presence that IS the place we wrestle and fight. There we find ourselves on the enemy’s preferred battlefield and typically find ourselves defeated.

The Philistines determined they were going to fight as they had before; fighting as though God was not present at all. The sad reality is that the enemy is far too accustomed to fighting the people of God void of the person and presence of God. The outcome after Israel invoked the Lord was worse than the outcome when they had clearly gone into battle on their own. They lost 4,000 men at the beginning of the battle as they fought like men. After bringing in the Ark and assuming God’s help they lost 30,000. In addition to the increased loss the Ark itself was captured. Assurance in Christ brings life and His nearness; assumption by us brings death and separation.

Perhaps the most alarming part of this entire story is the ongoing decision of the people. After the Ark was returned by the Philistines we find the people looking to Samuel for guidance and deliverance. They continued to ask him to be their deliverer rather than inviting God. And as Samuel was approaching his time of death the Israelites determined they wanted to have a king to rule over then as did other nations. Having mishandled God on the battlefield they refused to try to handle him again. It was only during the reign of godly kings when the hearts of the people would turn toward the Lord. Because they had assumed and tried to invoke the Lord they walked along a path of separation from Him. May we caution ourselves to walk in a way opposite of that destructive path.

I want my life to serve as an ongoing invitation to Him and who He is. I am not interested in witnessing or experiencing only what He can do; it is necessary for me to know who He is in His fullness. From this day forward let us all be a people who invite Him in faith-filled assurance.

The State of Our Union with Christ

Today I feel compelled to share something I first wrote and shared on Facebook in July 2015. As I read this again this morning I found my heart stirred once again.

For the last several days I have been sensing a stirring in my heart regarding our country. I have not had a stirring either for that which is good or that which is bad. I do sense, however, a warning or a word of caution. There are many things being said in the news, via social media, in print, and over the airwaves. I am not trying to add yet another voice, but I simply feel compelled to share what I am hearing in my spirit.

Judgment is not coming in a manner we are touting or expecting. Judgment will begin with God’s people first. But we must not resist it, fight against it, or ask to be delivered from it. Rather, we are called to praise God and honor Him through it.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God . . .

This is God’s prescribed manner. Judgment must begin with His people; trials, persecution, and suffering. When Jesus Himself came to this world He did not do so to judge anyone, but rather to be judged and condemned for the sake and the advancement of the Kingdom of God. As His followers, we should anticipate, expect, and embrace the same thing.

If the people of God cannot endure the judgment then what hope does the world have at all? The world needs to see an example of an enduring and powerful Church. The world does not need to see an example of a resisting, flailing, and childish Church that operates with a sense of entitlement.

The absolute worst thing we can do when persecution comes upon the Church is to lash out and fight on humanistic, fleshly, or soulish terms. In fact, we need to quit acting as though we are not already victorious in and through Jesus Christ. We often fight as though His work was completely insufficient. 19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

This does not have to be a trying time for the Church. This can be a triumphant time for the Church. We can stand in our victory, endure what comes, and shine as a light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world cannot get between Christ and His bride – He loves His bride very much. Many times, however, His work is limited by our fruitless efforts.

Could it be that our endurance of judgment will be the very thing that saves our country and the world at large from an even greater judgment? What if the Church really is the hope of the world? Are we willing to be who God has destined us to be even if it does not align with our preconceived ideas, opinions, hopes, or desires?

Judgment is not coming; judgment is here. What are we going to do about it? I do not want to show weakness or impotence that gives the world no hope. I want to be able to have sincere grace and mercy flow from me even as Christ on the cross asked His Father to forgive them for the persecution, trial, and judgment He was facing. Can we as His bride carry the cross we have been given? 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Church, this is our greatest hour. How will we be seen and remembered?

5 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship with the Holy Spirit

John 16: 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Jesus told His disciples that it is to their advantage that He go away from them and return to the Father. The departure of Jesus would bring the person of the Holy Spirit to work in each of their lives. Jesus was emphatic about the importance of each believer’s relationship with the Holy Spirit. He had told them in John 14 that the Spirit of God that had been with them would soon be in them (John 14:17). He was clear in His desire for His disciples to have relationship with the Holy Spirit. That remains true today.

Is it possible, however, for a person’s relationship with the Holy Spirit to become unhealthy? Can we actually see this beneficial relationship become harmful? The answer is yes. If we choose to approach or manage our relationship with the Holy Spirit in the wrong way it can move from being our greatest asset to our biggest hurdle. How? Consider the following signs of how our relationship with the Holy Spirit can become unhealthy.

1. Needing to feel His presence to feel His love.

If we find ourselves in a position of needing to feel or experience His presence to know that He loves us then we have stepped into a dangerous place. We must understand that His presence is a result of His love, but it is not proof of His love. It is imperative that we understand that His love for us is secure regardless of what we do or no not feel. This can lead to a very unhealthy place in which we constantly need to feel or experience some manifestation of presence in order to validate who we want ourselves to be. It may even cause us to forego discernment and respond to any feeling as being from God.

2. Wanting others to hear about what He does to or through us instead of seeing what He is doing in us.

If we place more emphasis on outward manifestation than inward transformation then we have stepped into an unhealthy place. Exalting visible gifts above tangible fruit is a major misunderstanding of the person of the Holy Spirit. It is a dangerous place when we want others to see how the Spirit works through us more than we want them to taste the fruit of the Spirit that is being produced in us.

3. Wanting different things for ourselves than we are willing to accept for others.

What a dangerous place to be when we want all of what we perceive to be the great things of God for ourselves or for nobody at all. If we are unwilling to accept God’s graciousness for others if it seems better than what we personally have or experience then we are in an unhealthy place. If we would rather find a way to discount what God is doing in someone else than to rejoice with them, then we must understand that we are not operating in the Spirit of God.

4. Knowing only His acts and not His ways.

If we are only able to recognize what is God based on what we have personally experienced then we only know His acts. This causes us to discredit anything even remotely different from what we have encountered. Psalm 103:7 says that God made His acts known to the children of Israel and His ways known to Moses. Moses was able to flow with anything God chose to do because He knew who He was. The Israelites, on the other hand, were limited by what they had experienced. Anything that did not align with their ideal was discredited as not being from God.

Jesus encountered this often from the scribes and the Pharisees. They were unwilling to accept what He did as being from God, because they were looking only through the lens of personal experience and understanding. It is very unhealthy for us to limit God to our finite minds. The Holy Spirit wants us to know who He is which will allow us to understand that He is much bigger than any one manner, method, or manifestation.

5. Comparing testimonies rather than sharing testimonies.

This relates closely to number three. It is extremely unhealthy for us to need to compare our stories with one another. This leads to competition within the body rather than a healthy and harmonious competing with for the sake of the same Kingdom. Consider when Miriam and Aaron complained that they too had heard from and spoken for God and it was not just Moses (Numbers 12). An unhealthy heart will exalt who it is that God is using more than God and what He is doing. One with an unhealthy relationship with the Holy Spirit would rather God do nothing at all than God do something through someone else they deem as better than what God has done through them.

As you know this is not an exhaustive list and the order is not necessarily delivered in a ranked manner. At any point we can see any of these signs manifest in ourselves or in others. It is so important for us to recognize and take captive every thought that would try and exalt itself against the knowledge of God. Our relationship with the Holy Spirit is designed to lead us into all truth and to glorify Jesus Christ in and through our lives. Anything else lends itself to danger. May we never allow our own agenda to replace God’s purpose. May we forever walk in healthy relationship with the Spirit of God and not fulfill the desires of our flesh. May the healthy relationship we enjoy with the Holy Spirit bring all glory and honor to Jesus Christ.

Keep Your Edge

In ministry there are moments when we recognize the need to go further than we are currently and to build and expand to better accommodate what God is doing. In those moments we find ourselves stepping by faith into unchartered territory, needing to ensure that we have the heart of God before we embark on the new journey. Each step of faith in the process is often done with caution and precision. It is imperative that we know God by His presence is accompanying us and that we have not set out on our own.

In those moments when we know that God is both directing and accompanying us we often encounter obstacles, setbacks, and moments along the journey that seek to steal our edge or our sharpness; moments that attempt to stop our effort and service. The key in those times is to stay focused on what we are doing and pay close attention to the circumstances or situations that may try and steal our edge. Consider the account of the floating axe head from 2 Kings 6 to further understand this important principle in ministry.

2 Kings 6:1 And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us. 2 Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.” So he answered, “Go.” 3 Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” 4 So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” 6 So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. 7 Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

1. The sons of the prophets saw the need for expansion – to go deeper.

The servants of the Lord realized that it was time for growth and expansion. They recognized that they had maxed out their current situation, and to remain stationary was going to be more detrimental than beneficial. They realized they were both spiritually and naturally land-locked and therefore needed to enlarge their tents (see Isaiah 54).

The sons of the prophets recognized that with Elisha (representing God’s presence) with them they were never going to get smaller or less significant. They understood that the presence of God always expands and claims more ground, and they were taking the approach of being proactive so as to prepare for the expansion. They saw the need and were willing to take the steps in advance. The eyes of the prophet will always see what is coming well before it fully arrives, and it will lead him to build and make provision for what may currently be unnecessary.

2. They moved forward under the direction of the Spirit of God.

The sons of the prophets consulted with Elisha about what they saw, and with his blessing they began to move forward. They were unwilling to move forward without the assurance from the Spirit of God that it was the right direction and decision. While the prophet will see what needs to be done, he must be wise enough to not move forward until he has first consulted with God and obtained an understanding the heart of God for the matter at hand.

3. Elisha, the prophet and the representative of God’s presence, accompanied them in their service.

The greatest desire of the sons of the prophets was that if they were going to move forward in the expansion of their territory it was going to be necessary that Elisha accompany them. They were unwilling to move ahead in the matter without the presence of Elisha. I liken this to when Moses informed God that unless He went with them into the land of promise the Israelites were unwilling to go. Even if you know the direction to go, and you know it is God’s heart for you to go that direction, it would be foolish to move forward if His presence does not go with you.

4. As they were being faithful, one lost his edge.

The sons of the prophets did not just set out to expand and then watch as the work was done. They walked and served faithfully. Just because you can see what needs done and you have God with you does not mean that your work is done. It takes effort and hard work to accomplish the plan of God. And that work is always going to be met by resistance and opposition.

This move forward required much cutting and removing of what was currently in place and it took its toll on the edge of one servant. As he was wielding his axe he encountered enough resistance to cause him to completely lose his edge and his sharpness. He quite literally lost his ability to do the work. We like to think that once we set out to do what God has called us to do that everything will simply fall into place. This servant, however, found out this is not always the case.

For many of you reading this you can picture or remember a time when you hit against something that did not want to be cut away and you felt as though you lost your edge and your effectiveness. Some of you are perhaps even there now. It may not involve a cutting down of a tree, but the principle is still applicable. These men were clearly walking in the direction of the Lord and they were accompanied by His presence. Nonetheless, the resistance was strong enough to steal the edge of at least one.

I interact with ministers all the time who have lost their edge. They hit against tradition within the ranks of where they are trying to expand what God is doing; they find themselves being verbally attacked, being spiritually resisted, or in some cases even being physically threatened. In those moments it is easy to lose your edge of effectiveness and wonder if you are even doing what you are supposed to do.

5. Elisha challenges the man to go to the place where his edge was lost.

When the servant who lost his edge cried out to Elisha he was told to go back to the place where his edge was lost. Elisha did not tell him to simply get a new edge, to change his course of action, or to give up altogether. He told him to get his edge back by going back to where he lost it.

For some of you reading these words the Lord would tell you the same thing Elisha told this servant – go back to where your edge was lost and reclaim it. In the height of the days of revival in the mid to late 90’s we often sang “Enemies Camp,” declaring that we went to the enemy’s camp and took back what he stole. This is the word the servant was given. We must not allow circumstances, situations, or resistance to steal our edge and render us impotent or ineffective. We have the authority to go back to the place where the edge was lost and to reclaim it.

For some of you that is going to involve reliving some painful moments and releasing them unto the Lord. For some it may involve confronting something you hoped would forever lie dormant. For some it is going to require you to face head on the same fear, insecurity, and rejection that always seems to steal your edge. You are going to have to go back to where the edge was lost, point it out clearly to God, and allow Him to do miraculous work of restoring your edge.

6. Elisha restored the edge back to the servant and the work was able to continue.

The edge resurfaced. The servant had declared the edge was borrowed; he understood that it was not his but that he was responsible for its care. The edge that you and I carry is the anointing of and gift of God that He has entrusted to our care. God is not honored when we allow people or circumstances to dull or destroy the edge that has been given to us by Him.

I have personally began to realize that there will be people in my life who are hungry for the things of God that He has entrusted to me, and He desires that I be sharp and able to freely give to those what He has freely given to me. At the same time there will be people in my life who desire to dull or remove the edge or sharpness of what God has entrusted to me, but I must not allow them to steal away what He has given to me.

As servants of God we must stay sharp and continue to cut away the obstacles and the things in place that would prevent the expansion of His Kingdom. We cannot allow those things that resist the expansion to cause us to lose our edge. We must not back away or stop the pursuit of God’s best for anyone or anything. If you have lost your edge, go back to where it was lost and get it back and resume the work. If the Lord is on your side and directing the steps you are taking then He will restore your edge back to you and enable you to finish that which you have been commissioned to do. Do not shrink back or be discouraged. Stay sharp and stay on point. Keep your edge and keep cutting away the resistance. The Kingdom of God is being advanced with the help of your sharpness, so do not let it go.

Six Lies that Destroy Covenant Relationship

Jesus made a startling declaration to those gathered around Him in John 8 as they were trying to declare themselves to be the descendants of Abraham. They were staking claim to the inheritance of God, but Christ boldly declared their true identity.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44

In his letter (1 John) the Apostle John expounds upon six lies that are destroying the church, destroying the identity of our inheritance. These lies are believed by those who have assumed an inheritance they simply do not possess.

Lie #1: Those who claim to have fellowship with God yet are walking in darkness.

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 1 John 1:6

This lie is born out of religion, but will lack true relationship and fellowship with God. An individual may be able to fool those around them, but not the One who looks at the heart. Jesus Himself declared that many will say “Lord, Lord,” but Jesus will say that He never knew them.

God is not a perfect balance of light and darkness; He is completely light and good at all times. Those who claim to have fellowship with Him will walk in His light at all times. We cannot claim fellowship with Him while trying to balance the light and darkness in our lives. Darkness that is only occasionally exposed to the light will return to its true nature. We must remain in the Light.

Lie #2: Those who claim to be without sin – have not the capacity for it.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

This lie is born out of the belief that one is above the capacity or nature to sin. This one feels as though he is above sin and cannot possibly get caught up in it. This lie will justify sin by calling it our nature. We have replaced the sin nature with the thought of human nature and falsely assumed and believed it was not a big deal.

The word “sin” here is used in the noun form and not as a verb. This is not speaking of action but of nature. John is likely combatting those who contend that actions or sins are a result of nurture or surroundings and therefore not to be the responsibility of the person. In truth, however, sin is more a principle of human nature than of human action. In Christ I am no longer a sinner, but to be poor in spirit is to recognize the capacity for sin within me and therefore continue in His truth to empower me to live free of the action of sin.

Lie #3: Those who claim to have not sinned.

If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 1 John 1:10

This lie is born out of the belief of being good enough and having done nothing deserving of punishment or hell. By the very nature of this lie, we show that we feel the cross to be unnecessary and God to be a complete liar.

If we do not recognize the sin nature, the capacity for sin in which we have been shapen, we will discount the need for true repentance. If I genuinely believe I have not sinned I will see no need for repentance, and therefore nullify the possibility of forgiveness for my sin.

Lie #4: Those who claim to know Him, yet they disobey Him.

The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1 John 2:4

This lie is born out of the belief that God carries us along and we have no responsibility as His children. We like to scoff at and put down men and women of the Bible for their blatant disobedience to what God said, but are we often very different? We are often more guilty of disobedience in the things that we do not as much as we are in the things that we do.

In John’s day there were antinomian teachers who taught that forsaking a life of sin was optional for the believer in Christ. They taught that one can legitimately claim to “know” God in a saving relationship and at the same time be indifferent to God’s will and His commands, and disobey them. The attempt to be justified through faith in Christ without a commitment to follow Christ is doomed to fail. Our love for God is made complete as we obey His Word. We cannot operate as believers outwardly if we do not allow His Word to first transform us inwardly.

Lie #5: Those who claim to be in the light and love God but hate their brother/sister.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 1 John 2:9

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20

This lie is born out of the belief that my salvation is personal and I can deal with or view others in any way I desire. For those with hatred or ill feelings in their heart toward another person, the love of God cannot dwell in the same heart. All hatred or ill feelings toward another can be traced to hurt and unforgiveness. God has told us that if we are unable to forgive others, we will ourselves not be forgiven.

If we claim to be in the light yet we hate our brother then it is clear that we are still in the darkness. When the true light is already shining it will overflow as love toward God and toward one another. “Nearness to Christ will draw us nearer to each other.” Andrew Murray

“Love must be the distinguishing mark of Christ’s followers. This agape love is basically a self-giving and sacrificial love that seeks the good of another. Thus, the relationship among all believers must be characterized by a devoted concern that sacrificially seeks to promote the highest good of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians must befriend each other in trials, be careful of each other’s feelings and reputation, and deny themselves to promote each other’s welfare” (Full Life Study Bible).

Lie #6: Those who deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. 1 John 2:22

Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 1 John 5:10

This lie is born of the belief that all roads eventually lead to Heaven or that there is no eternity at all and Jesus is a myth. This is the number one hang-up for every person who is unsaved. To believe that Jesus is the Christ means that one must also accept the gospel. The very foundation of the church is built upon the understanding of who Jesus is – the Son of the Living God.

No one who denies the Son has the Father. This is the ultimate goal and work of the antichrist spirit – the dismissal of the Person and Truth of Jesus Christ. It is both temporarily and eternally destructive to turn away from the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

In John’s letter he is not trying to teach truth to people who do not know truth. He is writing to remind believers of the truth because he recognized that lies were coming in to steal away their inheritance. We must never abandon or turn away from the foundational truth taught by Christ and His apostles.

We have an anointing from Christ – His Spirit – and therefore we know the truth. We have been given the Holy Spirit to help us know, discern, and understand truth. Others in our lives may be teachers of the Word, but we have no need of anyone to teach us how to know God’s Word. His Spirit is He which guides us into all truth. As we remain in Him, His Spirit will continue to teach us. Error becomes more likely when we turn away from Him and begin to rely more upon man.

How a Spiritual Father Sees You

What does it mean to be a spiritual father? Paul told the church in Corinth they may have thousands of teachers but they have not many fathers (1 Corinthians 4:15). There are many keys and factors that go into a person being a spiritual father in someone’s life, but for today I want to zero in on one important aspect of this key relationship.

A spiritual father does not look at the condition of the people who come to him; he sees their potential and leads them in a way that draws that potential out of them.

I am going to use David as our biblical example for this key component of drawing out potential in spiritual sons. Look at this account:

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men. 1 Samuel 22:1-2

It is interesting to note those who came to David in the cave. Those who were in distress, those who were in debt, and those who were discontented gathered themselves to him. This is a picture of the position the people found themselves in under the leadership of Saul, under the authority of a father void of spiritual understanding, insight, or authority. They were hurting and essentially like sheep without a shepherd.

These men desperately needed someone to help them, but the only way anyone could describe them was in ways and with words that seem hopeless. These men were not in a positive position in life and they were likely struggling to find anywhere they could fit in or be accepted. I cannot help but wonder if David was their last option, their last hope of finding anyone who could see past their condition. Not only did David see past their condition of seeming hopelessness, he brought out of them greatness and victory.

Over the course of time David and his men brought great victory to many against the hands of the Philistines. He invested in the lives of these four hundred and turned them into mighty warriors. It is quite likely that most if not all of those referred to as David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23) came from this group of men. These men did great exploits, and it is due to the fact that they had a spiritual father who was able to see in them and bring out of them potential for kingdom greatness.

The point is never where you are or where you start; the point is how you finish. A spiritual father in your life is going to be a person who can see the finish for you and help you to properly navigate toward that goal. And his doing so will not be with his own motive or agenda in mind, but so that you can maximize your potential for greatness and overcome all of the previous conditions of defeat. When David met these men they were in debt, in distress, and discontented. As David fathered them, however, they became victorious warriors walking in the security of their true identity. Again I say,

A spiritual father does not look at the condition of the people who come to him; he sees their potential and leads them in a way that draws that potential out of them.

The heart of the Father in Heaven sees where He is taking you; and He gives us spiritual fathers on earth to see us with His eyes. My prayer is that each of us will be blessed to have a spiritual father see in and draw out of us all of the Kingdom potential our Heavenly Father has deposited in our lives. It is time to step out of the false conditions and into our true position.

Are You Walking According to Your Soul?

The balance between our spirit, our soul, and our flesh can be a huge barrier to allowing His divinity to shine through our humanity. How often do we hear the call to walk in the Spirit? Jesus did it and encouraged it. The first apostles did it and encouraged it. Paul did it, taught it, and encouraged it. Today we talk about it, but do we do it?

We have come to the place where we are convinced a person either walks in the Spirit or they walk in the flesh. That causes us to believe that as long as we are not pursuing and constantly gratifying our flesh then we must be walking in the Spirit. But is that true? How much of what we call walking in the Spirit is really walking in our souls? How much is driven by the soulish side of us – that which makes up our feelings, our will, and our emotions?

We may be free of providing for our flesh and the lusts thereof, but what about our selfish desires and our emotionally driven will? We can easily become tied to our soul nature, where every circumstance of life establishes our spiritual condition. Yet we call that walking in the Spirit. We tell ourselves to break through in prayer, but the feelings and drive of our soul may become strong enough that we superimpose our own will into our prayer and what we hear from God. We find ourselves basing God’s leading on our own false pretense, and we allow our desire to become our word from God.

The answer to this challenge is found in God’s Word. The writer of Hebrews says it this way:

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power (making it active, operative, energizing, and effective); it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and (the immortal) spirit, and of joints and marrow (of the deepest parts of our nature), exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (Amplified Bible)

The Word of God divides the soul and the spirit. It brings us to a place of reckoning. It causes us to have our minds renewed. It transforms our lives to a place that is beyond us and our natural ability. It brings us in line with God’s will, as that is always found in His Word. God’s Word possesses the power to move us away from our soulish, selfish desires and into alignment and agreement with His purpose for our lives. We often find ourselves operating in the soul nature of life because we have not learned to be content as the person Christ has made us to be. We must allow His light and divinity to shine through our humanity. This comes from our striving to be something we assume we need to be. As we talked about at the end of the chapter on Honor, God simply wants us to be faithful to Him, and to allow Him to work in and through our lives. He does so with our humanity as we submit it to Him, moving ourselves beyond the flesh and the soul.

How does a person know if he is walking according to the soul? Here are some common characteristics I have observed in those who are walking more according their soul than after the Spirit of God.

1. A person walking according to the soul will have a roller coaster life with high peaks and low valleys. The peaks and valleys will often happen rather closely together. This person will struggle with living on an even plane.
2. A person walking according to the soul will quickly neglect sound biblical truth that does not align with their will, desires or feelings.
3. A person walking according to the soul will pull away from or distance themselves from anyone who speaks truth that is opposed to their stance.
4. A person walking according to the soul will attract others by appearing strong, spiritual, and authoritative. In their opinion others need what they have.
5. A person walking according to the soul will assume their desires and wishes are the voice of God in their life as they have superimposed their will into their prayers.
6. A person walking according to the soul will navigate to and return to whatever gives them the highest peaks on their roller coaster ride of life. It is similar to a junkie looking for his next hit.


Again, the key is the Word of God, where we find the sword which divides the soul and spirit. We can choose to crucify or deny our flesh, but only God’s Word can bring that separation from our soul. That is a huge step in recognizing, embracing, and effectively serving God in our humanity. I do not want to stop short in my soulish approach and miss what is available to me by walking in the Spirit. When I walk in the Spirit I realize and find greater freedom, for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. It does not mean I become any less human, but I learn to focus my attention on God’s power instead of my own.

(This entry is taken from my book, Sustaining God’s Presence, Chapter 5 – Humanity)

False Prophets and the Five Strongholds that Accompany Them

Jesus gave a clear and stern warning about false prophets in Matthew 7:

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

The nature of false prophecy is destructive yet it nearly always finds place among the people of God. In studying two passages from the book of Jeremiah I noticed there are five spiritual strongholds that accompany the work of false prophets. These prophets bring a destructive spiritual atmosphere along with their misguided words and actions. We must be on our guard to properly understand what God is truly saying. He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit is saying to His people.

“Then said I, Alas, Lord God! Behold, the [false] prophets say to them, You will not see the sword, nor will you have famine; but I [the Lord] will give you assured peace (peace that lasts, the peace of truth) in this place. Then the Lord said to me, The [false] prophets prophesy lies in My name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, nor have I spoken to them. They prophesy to you a false or pretended vision, a worthless divination [conjuring or practicing magic, trying to call forth the responses supposed to be given by idols], and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the [false] prophets who prophesy in My name–although I did not send them–and who say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land: By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword; and they shall have none to bury them–them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their wickedness upon them [and not on their false teachers only, for the people could not have been deceived except by their own consent].” ‭‭‬‬‬‬‬‬
Jeremiah‬ ‭14:13-16‬ ‭AMP‬‬

“Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: Behold, I will feed them with [the bitterness of] wormwood and make them drink the [poisonous] water of gall, for from the [false] prophets of Jerusalem profaneness and ungodliness have gone forth into all the land. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the [false] prophets who prophesy to you. They teach you vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility) and fill you with vain hopes; they speak a vision of their own minds and not from the mouth of the Lord. They are continually saying to those who despise Me and the word of the Lord, The Lord has said: You shall have peace; and they say to everyone who walks after the stubbornness of his own mind and heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should perceive and hear His word? Who has marked His word [noticing and observing and giving attention to it] and has [actually] heard it?” ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭23:15-18‬ ‭AMP‬‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

1. Stronghold of Lying
The [false] prophets prophesy lies in My name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, nor have I spoken to them.

This first one is obvious – they speak lies. Many people do so, but a false prophet will do so in the Name of the Lord. When we attach the Name of the Lord to something we must be cautious to ensure it is truly something from the Lord. Just because someone says, “Thus saith the Lord . . .” it does not mean it is from the Lord. First and foremost it must align with the written Word of God. I would encourage everyone to read, Thus Saith the Lord by John Bevere as he covers this quite extensively and well. God warns,

1 Timothy 4 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.

There will be those so bound in deception that they refuse to listen to or heed the truth. Lies and deception will grow in strength the longer we allow them to hang around. Those who refuse the love of the truth or refuse to accept the truth will be deceived and deluded to accept all that is antichrist.

The motives tell a lot about those who teach or prophesy. Why are they doing it? Results are not a mark of genuineness. God tells us to look at the fruit to really know and test someone. Character still counts. We have to bear in mind that we know people by their fruit and not by the perceived fruit of their ministry. Ministry and life flow from the vine, but the fruit of the Spirit must be produced through the branches.

2. Stronghold of Divination
They prophesy to you a false or pretended vision, a worthless divination [conjuring or practicing magic, trying to call forth the responses supposed to be given by idols], and the deceit of their own minds.

False prophets will draw on a supernatural power that does not come from the Holy Spirit. They will operate through divination, some even charging a fee for their ability to speak or give words. This is clearly demonic and destructive. Heed this warning.

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 18:10-13

Often the strongest and most dangerous reality of divination is mixing the holy with the profane. The woman in Acts 16 was attempting to associate herself with the things of God as she followed Paul and Silas around making declarations about God. Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8 wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit because to him it looked like a golden ticket. Some ministries want you to believe that they have all that anyone needs. If you add what they have to Jesus you can be someone or something special. True prophetic ministry, however, will draw out of you what Jesus has already placed in you. It will build on the foundation of Christ. Divination on the other hand will seek to manipulate and control.

3. Stronghold of Death
By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword; and they shall have none to bury them–them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their wickedness upon them [and not on their false teachers only, for the people could not have been deceived except by their own consent].

A stronghold of death seeks to destroy as many as possible. When we consent to what is prophetically declared we consent to the ramifications. False prophets bring death with and through their word. In 2 Kings 4 Elisha raised the Shunammite’s son to life. Death had been defeated over one young man and next we find death coming against the sons of the prophets, against a gathered group.

2 Kings 4:38 And Elisha returned to Gilgal, and there was a famine in the land. Now the sons of the prophets were sitting before him; and he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” 39 So one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, though they did not know what they were. 40 Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. 41 So he said, “Then bring some flour.” And he put it into the pot, and said, “Serve it to the people, that they may eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

False prophets and false prophecy will bring death as opposed to the life intended by and through the truth of God’s Word. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and He is the spirit of prophecy. We must guard against the death that accompanies false prophets, for as we give consent to their false words we embrace the death they bring.

4. Stronghold of a Perverse Spirit
Behold, I will feed them with [the bitterness of] wormwood and make them drink the [poisonous] water of gall, for from the [false] prophets of Jerusalem profaneness and ungodliness have gone forth into all the land.

False prophets will be accompanied by a perverse spirit, causing many to err and follow after things they normally would not follow.

The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit. Isaiah 19:14

This is the only time this word perverse appears in the Bible. It means distorting, perverting, or warping. The root of the word means to bend, to twist, or to distort. It is the same root as in the word iniquity which refers to crookedness. Perverse means showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences. A perverse spirit will cause a person to justify his thoughts or his actions. It will cause the individual to make things fit into the shape he wants them to be.

Proverb 15:4 says that a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. There are many who live with a broken or crushed spirit as a result of the perverse spirit that is speaking through the false prophets. The tongue of a false prophet speaks in a manner designed to overthrow or ruin. The truth is perverted and leaves the hearer in despair, despondency, or destruction. Peter warns about false prophets and false teachers in a strong manner:

1 Peter 2:18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.

It is imperative that we discern truth and not allow prophetic perversion to trap us to the point of becoming slaves of corruption.

5. Stronghold of a Seducing Spirit
They teach you vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility) and fill you with vain hopes; they speak a vision of their own minds and not from the mouth of the Lord.

A deceiving or seducing spirit means wandering, raving, or misleading. It means to be led into error by an imposter or a deceiver. To seduce means to attract someone to a belief or into a course of action that is inadvisable or foolhardy. We must be careful that we do not place a greater emphasis on charisma than we do on character. Jezebel was a woman of charisma, volume, and influence, but she is obviously not someone you would want giving you a prophetic word. How many like her, however, are embraced today as being a prophetic voice? In Revelation Jesus rebukes the church in Thyatira for allowing Jezebel to remain in a place of authority and to lead many astray.

It is necessary that we know the Truth of God’s Word. Those without a solid and strong foundation of truth will be more easily deceived. If you do not know the truth, you cannot recognize a lie. We have gotten to the place in the Church where lies are more easily received than truth. Truth is often considered judgmental. This is quite a high point of deception.

The seducing spirit will accompany false prophets causing people to be more drawn to the apparent signs than they are to Jesus Himself. Jesus warned in Mark 13 that there would be many false teachers and false Christs in the last days that would deceive even the elect if possible. Satan has always been subtle and seductive in his approach toward leading man away from the truth of God. This has not and will not change. We must discern what is truly taking place when someone declares a prophetic word. Do not allow the false prophet to speak or lead you to a place of death through his seductive work. The Holy Spirit will enhance what Jesus has begun in you. Do not be deceived.

The bottom line is that false prophets will operate on their own authority and with their own agenda. They will speak and they will act as though directed by God but the fruit will prove otherwise. We must walk in discernment and understand what God is and is not saying. In conclusion, consider God’s declaration from our Jeremiah passages:

For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should perceive and hear His word? Who has marked His word [noticing and observing and giving attention to it] and has [actually] heard it?”