Tonight, December 21, they say the planets Jupiter and Saturn will align to create a bright “star” in the sky. Some have speculated that the star of Bethlehem may have been this same event. I did some research a few years ago on the star, because I wondered what astrologers from “the east” would have seen that told them a new king of the Jews was born, and why Herod and his Jewish subjects didn’t see it?
A conjunction not as rare as Halley’s Comet, but in the year 7 B.C., there were three conjunctions of the two planets. That might have got their attention. However, it looks to me like the most likely explanation is rather a conjunction of Jupiter, Venus, and a star called Regulus. I haven’t found my notes on it, but A Wikipedia article brought back most of the details for me.
In September, 3 B.C., there was a triple conjunction of Jupiter (the “king planet”) with Regulus (the “king star”).
In June, 2 B.C., Jupiter was in conjunction with Venus, associated with love and fertility. We don’t usually associate fertility with Jesus, but considering this came nine months after the Jupiter-Regulus conjunction, astrologers from the East might have seen the previous event as the conception, and this as the birth.
A comet, supernova, or some other new bright “star” in the sky would have been noticed by most people in Jerusalem. However, an alignment of planets would be subtle enough that Jews would not notice, since astrology was forbidden to them. That makes this a much more likely explanation.
One problem with this theory is that Herod’s death has been dated at 4 B.C., because Josephus said it happened shortly after a lunar eclipse (Ant. 17.6.4). However, modern physics has calculated besides 4 B.C., there were also two lunar eclipses in 1 B.C. I think a good argument can be made for the lunar eclipse of December 29, 1 BC as the one Josephus referred to. That would put the Jupiter-Regulus-Venus conjunction(s) still within the right time-frame. One question you might have now it, “How cold Jesus have been born ‘Before Christ’?”
Most Experts Think Jesus Was Born B.C.
The makers of the Gregorian Calendar (the one we still use today) tried to reset the calendar with the birth of Jesus at 1 AD. But evidence came to light later that indicated they miscalculated. Most notably, Josephus reports Herod died in the time between a lunar eclipse and the following Passover (Ant. 17.6.3-4, 9). Astronomical events like that can be dated accurately. A lunar eclipse was visible in Judea in 4 BC, and two more in 1 BC. This could give us a solid reference point, because the Gospel of Matthew says Jesus was born shortly before Herod’s death. Here is the order of events according to Matthew.
Jesus is born in Bethlehem.
The magi see a star that tells them a new king of the Jews has been born.
The magi visit Herod, seeking the new king.
The magi encounter Jesus as a child (not a baby) with his father and mother. They offer gifts they brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The magi return home, avoiding Herod.
Joseph is warned to flee to Egypt with his wife and child.
Herod orders every male child under two years old killed.
Joseph and family return to the land of Israel, settling in Nazareth.
Herod’s death (8) in either 4 or 1 BC seems to be the most solid reference point. Matthew hints that the star (2) appeared to the magi as much as two years before the slaughter of the innocents (7). Herod’s death happened shortly after that, but we don’t know how long. If we accept June, 2 B.C., based on the magi’s observations, and the lunar eclipse of 1 B.C. as the one (how long?) before Herod died, then Jesus could have been about a year and a half when Herod died.
The visit from the magi could not have been long before that, since Herod thought the child could be as much as two years old. Maybe Jesus was about one-and-a-half, but Herod made the age limit two, just to be sure.
So this looks to me like the most plausible theory about the star of Bethlehem. Now here are a few other details around the Christmas story you might not have known.
Did You Know?
Caesar Augustus Ordered Three Censuses, Like Luke Described
Another clue comes from Luke, when he said the emperor Augustus ordered a census the year Jesus was born. Luke also gives this as the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But they don’t correspond to the year we think Jesus was born (6-4 BC). So while the practice of taking censuses in general can be confirmed, a Census date that matches Jesus’ birth cannot.
I am missing my notes, so I don’t have any more info on this right now.
Jesus Was Not Really Born on December 25
The story of Jesus’ birth comes from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. The most relevant detail for Jesus’s birthday comes from the Gospel of Luke, which says,
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
(Luk 2:8-12 NRS)
You are probably familiar with this story of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to some shepherds. For trying to figure out what time of year Jesus was born, the key phrase is that the shepherds were keeping watch over their flock by night. I have heard from modern shepherds who say this would place it between late February and mid-April, when they had to stay up to assist the ewes giving birth. On the other hand, if it was at the Jupiter-Venus conjunction, that would place his birthdate in June.
All of that to say no one knows exactly the day he was born.
So Why Do We Celebrate on December 25th, You Ask?
In the fourth century, when the Roman emperor Constantine wanted to make Jesus’ birthday a holiday, no one knew exactly when it was. Devotees of a Persian deity named Mithras, who was also popular at the time, claimed his birthday was on December 25th, probably to coincide with the winter solstice. Constantine figured since no one knows when Jesus was born, why not make it the same day? He believed combining the two celebrations would help unite the people.
Now you may be wondering, why didn’t anyone record the date of his birth if he was going to be such an important person? From what I’ve seen, the date a great man was born was not necessarily important among the Jews. Do we know the birthdays of Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, Solomon, or any of the prophets? And if you follow the trajectory of preaching about Jesus in the first century, no one seemed to think his birth was important until decades after his death. The focus of their message was on Jesus’ death, resurrection, and promised return.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
-ancient church confession
They seemed to believe great religious figures should have some mystery surrounding them, so they would not necessarily be interested in his natural origins. Mark and John did not include birth narratives in their Gospels, because it wasn’t important to them (see also Heb 7:3).
It was only in later years, maybe around the 60’s or 70’s, that people began seriously wanting to know where and when he was born. The issue of where he was born became more pressing, because scholars insisted the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem (Mat 2:4-6). How was Jesus of Nazareth born in Bethlehem? Luke investigated and found there was a census where Joseph had to return with a pregnant Mary to the place of his birth, which just happened to be (drum roll) Bethlehem! If he’s right, we’re good on that. Matthew also included a “birth narrative” that placed his Nativity in Bethlehem. I put birth narrative in quotes because …
… Jesus Was Probably Not a Baby When the Magi Arrived
Yes, I already told you this, but you might forget it when you look at your Nativity scene. Matthew gives us the narrative of the Magi who came from the east to pay homage to the one “born king of the Jews” (2:2). They saw a star that told them this had happened. Since they were looking for a newborn king, the palace of Herod seemed the natural place to look. They didn’t know, however, just how jealously Herod guarded his power.
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.
(Mat 2:7 NRS)
He would make an infamous order based on that information. Herod told the magi the king they seek would have to be born in Bethlehem, according to the chief priests and scribes (2:4-6). He sent them on their way and asked them let him know where the child was, so that he too could come and worship him. Yeah, right.
When the magi find Jesus, he is referred to as a “child,” not a baby (2:11; cf. Luk 2:16). The conclusion some have drawn from this is the shepherds visited the holy family the night of Jesus’ birth, but the magi arrived some time later. This is recognized in some traditions that celebrate January 6 as Epiphany or Dia de los Reyes (“Day of the Kings”). The belief is that the magi (also called “kings” or “wise men” by some) arrived twelve days after his birth. But Matthew’s account says it could have been as many as two years.
“According to the Time That He Had Learned from the Wise Men”
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
(Mat 2:16 NRS)
The magi (or “wise men”) tricked Herod, because an angel warned them in a dream not to return to him, so they went home without informing the reigning king. In the same way, Joseph received warning from an angel and fled with his wife and child to Egypt.
Herod responded with shocking cruelty. He ordered his soldiers to kill every male child up to two years of age. Herod was known to be ruthless to anyone who could threaten his position. There is some debate about whether this “slaughter of innocents” really happened. First century historian Josephus gives a lot of detail about Herod the Great, but he says nothing about this. However, Josephus tells us enough to say it is consistent with his character. He even had two of his sons killed when he suspected they were not willing to wait for him to die of natural causes. Afterwards, Emperor Augustus commented it was safer to be Herod’s pig than his son, since as a Jew he would not kill a pig.
But if Jesus was a baby (newborn or less than a month old), why kill all the males under two years old? Under one, I could see. You want to be generous with your margin for error. But by the time they are two years old, they are usually walking and much bigger than a newborn. They might even be speaking a few words. You don’t need to go that far ahead to “off” a newborn baby. But remember, Matthew told us Herod asked the wise men “the exact time when the star appeared.” That is probably why he said two years or under.
The Kingdom of God vs. The Powers that Be
The shepherds and the magi saw Jesus’ birth as a cause of celebrating and worshipping God for giving the long-awaited Messiah to the world. Herod saw Jesus’ birth as a threat to his power and position. The powers of this world would be even more threatened when he became an adult and revealed himself as the Messiah. He was not like the kings of this world, who secure their power through violence, oppression, and intimidation. And he would not ally himself with such powers. He was the Messiah because he came as the prince of peace, and of the increase of his kingdom and his peace there would be no end. The shepherds and the magi, representing the lowly and the high born, both received the news with rejoicing. The ruling king of the Jews, on the other hand, saw this news as a threat to the power and position he had worked so hard to maintain.
Truly he taught us to love one another,
His law is love, and his gospel is peace.
The chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
-“O Holy Night”
The power structures of the world were turned upside down, good news for those living under violence and oppression. Bad news for the oppressors. Herod is not unique. This is how the powers of this world have always reacted when they see their power threatened. Not so with Jesus. He taught his disciples greatness in his kingdom does not come through power, wealth, and military might. If you want to be great in his kingdom, you must be the servant of everyone (Mat 20:25-28; Mar 10:42-45).
It seems our world today is still ruled by Herods, even where we once thought we were safe from them. Still, the voices of the angels ring through the ages,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
So many people staying at home now. Some of you are busier than ever with your kids at home instead of school. But some people have some extra time on their hands. I’ve been wanting to start a podcast, and now seems like a good time. So if you are bored sitting at home, you’ll have something new to listen to. The first episodes will be on faith in a time of Coronavirus. I’ll let you know when it’s up. In the meantime, here is a script for what I think will be the first episode.
I want to talk to the prophets of America. I know usually in December and January, you give a word to the faithful for the coming year. I have gone back and listened to what you predicted for 2020. One minister made it pretty easy. He asked 20 prophets to make predictions for 2020 and played them all. 20 prophets. I transcribed the program. Here is a word cloud I made from it.
is big, no surprise. Going is big, probably because you were talking about what
God is “going” to do in 2020. Year is big, of course, because you were talking
about the new year. I also see America is prominent, again no surprise. I see
Gregorian at the bottom and Hebrew at the top to the right, because a couple of
them talked about the alignment of the year 2020 on the Gregorian calendar with
the year 5780 on the Hebrew calendar. Because 5+7+8+0=20. I’m sorry, but I don’t
call that an alignment. 20 is not the same number as 2020.
regardless of that, you know what I don’t see? Coronavirus, COVID-19, or pandemic.
No mention of a virus at all. Nothing that would even suggest what we’re going
through now. I know the Biblical writers knew nothing about viruses, but you
still could have used some Biblical term, like plague, or pestilence, or
disease. The word “shaken” or “shaking” should be on there. I did hear that a
few times. This could be called a shaking. But even then, the rest of their
message did not sound like they were anticipating this current crisis. One of
them did say we would see a shaking in the first four months. That is the
closest any one of them came to predicting this. And a couple of others
mentioned a “shaking like nothing before.” Again, that could be a reference to
what we’re experiencing now. But one of them specified “the soil will be shaken.”
That sounds more like an earthquake than a pandemic.
out of 20 prophets, who claim to hear directly from God and speak directly for
God the word for today, only a couple of them even hinted at what we are going
through now. And on top of that, one of them said she had just come from a
conference of 42 prophets from around the world. I didn’t get the transcript of
that. But if any of them saw a pandemic coming, she didn’t say so.
you see decade is prominent? Several of them talked about not only what the year
would bring, but also the decade, because this is the beginning of a new decade.
Except it’s not. The decade does not begin in 2020. It begins in 2021. Even if
you don’t know when the decade begins, God does. Why would God make a mistake
is this the year of? According to them, it’s the year of fire. The year of evangelism.
The year of the Father. The year of the voice. The year of the mouth. In reality,
it is the year of Coronavirus, the year of pandemic. Why didn’t that make it
onto your list of “Year of”s? Is it possible you heard a voice or saw a vision that
you thought was from God, but it wasn’t?
First Sign of a False Prophet
Back in Biblical times, this was how they detected a false prophet. This is from the English Standard Version (ESV).
… when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
(Deu 18:22 ESV)
you going to curse me for pointing out that your prophecies are not coming true?
Go ahead. This verse says I need not be afraid of you. You prophesied miracles,
healings, and the manifest glory of God in worship, where people are gathered
together. They will even gather in stadiums, you said. Are people gathering
together now? No, because we have to maintain social distancing. Stadiums are
closed, along with businesses, and schools. Churches are closed and moving
their services online. They aren’t gathering together.
prophesied healings. Instead, people are getting sick at an alarming rate. You
prophesied prosperity. Look what’s happening to the economy. People are losing
jobs in record numbers. Does that sound like prosperity? You prophesied that
every dream would come true this year for God’s faithful. This is not what we
How do we know the prophet is false? Deuteronomy 18:22 could not have summed it up any better. … if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken. You spoke words in the name of the Lord that the Lord did not speak. And since most of you were on that program because you’ve been doing this for years, I think it’s safe to guess that this is not the first time. These were not the first prophecies that did not come true, meaning, you spoke words in the name of the Lord that the Lord did not speak. You spoke presumptuously. Again, I ask, is it possible that you heard something or saw a vision that you thought was from God, but it wasn’t? It’s time to own up to that fact.
A Democracy, Not a Theocracy
was the penalty in ancient Israel for speaking false prophecies? According to Deuteronomy
18:20, the prophet was put to death. There are some indications in the Bible that
was not practiced consistently, but still, that was supposed to be the penalty.
Think about it. Speaking a word in the name of the Lord that the Lord did not
speak? That is taking the Lord’s name in vain, a violation of one of the top
ten commandments. We usually think of taking the Lord’s name in vain as saying
like, OMG! Or Jesus Chr…! But that is a minor offense compared to
false prophecies. When you speak in the name of the Lord, and God did not speak
to you? You speak in the name of the Lord presumptuously? That is much more
in ancient Israel, they were supposed to put someone to death for that. We can’t
do that here. Israel was a theocracy, and we are not. In a theocracy, you can
put someone to death for blasphemy or speaking the Lord’s name in vain. You can’t
do that in a democracy or republic. And personally, I’m glad for that. Because if
we were still living by that standard, I shouldn’t be alive today.
Redemption Is Possible
for scaring you with that talk of the death penalty, but I want you to get this
is serious. And I want you to know redemption is possible. We are not in the
theocracy of ancient Israel, so no one is going to stone you to death or put
you in front of a firing squad. But you are still accountable to God for every careless
or presumptuous word you utter in God’s name (Mat 12:36-37). But redemption is
did not get on stage or broadcast prophecies to the public, but I did say
things to people who came forward in church services seeking a word from God. And
I spoke in the name of the Lord. But looking back, I have to admit I had no
idea if it was the Lord or not. And sometimes, it was clearly not the Lord. How
do I know? Because it did not come to pass, or it led me or others to do the wrong
thing. I know what it is like to hear something and think it is from God and then
find out it wasn’t. It’s a really tough pill to swallow. It will make you
question everything you thought you knew about God. But even though it is scary
as hell, it’s a good thing when you own up to it.
I Spoke Presumptuously Too
used to belong to a church that encouraged people to flow in the gifts of the Spirit
according to 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Part of your task as a believer, they said,
was to uncover which of those gifts was yours. I felt drawn to gifts of prophecy
and healing. I didn’t know if either of them was for me, but I thought if I didn’t
try, I would never know. I was cautious at first, but with practice I grew bolder.
One time, a young man came forward who I knew pretty well. We were both involved
in the youth ministry of the church. He had just been married, and he was
worried about being able to provide for both him and his wife, and potentially
children down the road, and he said he wanted some security. I could hear the
distress in his voice. I told him something like, “I hear the Lord saying,
security does not come from your job. Security only comes from trusting God. The
Lord will provide.”
the Lord really say that? Or was I just parroting what I had always heard in
the church? “Trust God for your needs. God will provide, no matter what the
circumstances. Jehovah Jireh, the LORD will provide.” To this day, I don’t
know. I do know that even as I said it, I felt like a fraud. I was single. I had
never had to take care of anyone other than myself, and I was barely doing
that. Still, I had money coming in. I knew where it was coming from. I had
security. And whenever it looked like I might lose it, did I say, “That’s okay.
I trust God. God will provide. I’ll be fine.” Oh, no. I was scared spitless (as
in, when you get scared, your mouth gets dry). Who was I to “prophesy” to my
friend, “Don’t worry. Be happy. Trust God”? I didn’t know it for a fact, but it
sure felt like I had spoken in the name of the Lord presumptuously.
didn’t do much prophesying in the church after that. And when I did, I played
it a whole lot safer. I wouldn’t tell people to do things I wasn’t doing myself.
I Wasn’t the Only One
As I saw how people in that church were pursuing the gifts of the Spirit (see 1 Cor 12:1-11 for the full context), I became more and more disillusioned with the whole thing. I saw people prophesying things that did not come true. Not just church leaders, or members who believed they had the gift of prophecy. I’m including the televangelists they held up as being the most anointed people on earth, people like the ones on this “Prophecies for 2020” program. They “prophesied” things “under the anointing” that did not come true. They told people, “Your cancer is gone. Your arthritis is gone. Your MS is gone.” None of it came true. How many times did I go forward to get healed of my Irritable Bowel Syndrome? I can’t even remember. Guess what? Never healed.
himself told us, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (Mat
know you never thought you would be one of those false prophets. Neither did I.
You thought your gift of prophecy was real. So did I. But if you know deep down
you are a fraud, it’s time to come clean. Look at what you prophesied for 2020
and compare that with what is really happening. It doesn’t match. One “prophet”
even said on February 28, it would not become a pandemic. Did you miss the news?
It became a pandemic. You said God doesn’t do anything without first telling
God’s prophets. Why didn’t God give any of you a heads up?
Giving up Too Early?
might be thinking, “The year is not over. The good things I prophesied can
still come to pass.” Maybe so. At some point, we will get control of the
Coronavirus. We will be able to contain it, because of measures like shelter-in-place,
social distancing, and quarantines, and hopefully, because of new medicines and
vaccines. After that, we’ll see people gathering in churches and stadiums
again. When people know it’s safe to go out, not only for themselves but for
their elderly neighbors and relatives as well, they will start shopping and
spending money again. The economy will bounce back when people get back to work.
That’s not the prosperity you prophesied. That’s just the natural order of
things. You don’t get any credit for that. And besides, we don’t know if the
economy will be as strong as before, even after Coronavirus is gone. Some
businesses closed that might never reopen.
are the healings you prophesied? The US now tops the world in number of Coronavirus
cases. We need those healings, and we need them now. Did you claim you were
anointed to heal with the same Spirit that anointed Jesus to go about healing
all who were oppressed of the Devil? Are you going to do like Jesus and go into
New York or California or one of the other hot spots and say, “Let all who are
sick come and be healed in the name of Jesus”? The fact that you’re not doing
that, that you have never done that, speaks volumes to me. If you do that and
have cures medically verified, then whatever I say about false prophets and fake
healers doesn’t apply to you.
The Truth Will Set You Free, But …
if you know you have prophesied things that did not come true, redemption is
possible. I won’t sugarcoat it for you. It will be painful. You know, when
Jesus said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Joh
8:32 NRS), I think he should have added, “But first it will hurt a lot.” Here’s
what you need to do. 1) Confess; 2) Repent; 3) Get back to basics; 4) Embrace
uncertainty; 5) Focus on the Fruit rather than the Gifts.
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1Jo 1:9 NRS)
will have to confess that you spoke presumptuously. You will have to admit you were
wrong. Not just to God, but to the people who have been watching you in church,
on YouTube, on TV, or whatever. See, I told you it would hurt. But the good
news is God is faithful. If you confess, God will forgive and cleanse you from
all unrighteousness. The people may or may not understand, but you have got to
get right with God before you can minister to them.
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
(Mar 1:14-15 NRS)
came to announce the Good News that the kingdom of God has come near. What is the
proper response? Repent. Repent means stop and turn around. Turn away from the
path you are on and follow the way of the Good Shepherd. That means you must
stop prophesying. In fact, you should give up your ministry entirely for a time,
so you can finally unlearn the errors you’ve been preaching.
the Lord called me to preach and prophesy.”
Maybe. But did you or did you not prophesy falsely and presumptuously, even when you were sure it was the voice of the Lord? That shows how spiritually disoriented you’ve become. If you try to preach to people now, you are the blind leading the blind.
When I first started hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit, I was thrilled. I could hear God speaking to me. But then, the truth became unavoidable. That voice that for years I thought was the Holy Spirit within me was something else entirely. Was it the Devil, or was it my own imagination? I don’t know, but either way the result was the same. My whole world crumbled to the ground. But that was when my relationship with God really began. Because I finally learned to follow the truth, wherever it led. Even if I had to let go of some of my most cherished beliefs, I made a commitment to accept the truth.
I don’t care how deeply you feel it, or how sincerely you believe it, or how many Bible verses you quote. If the facts on the ground say it’s not true, it’s not true. We don’t need false prophets speaking from their own imagination, wishful thinking, Bible verses taken out of context, the devil, or whatever they are hearing. We don’t need to hear, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. We need the truth. That is the only thing that will set us free.
I know this hurts. Being a prophet has become part of your identity. It always hurts when we find out we are not what we thought we were. I’ve been there. But how can you effectively minister in the name of the Lord when you yourself are following a voice that is not of the Lord?
I think you should take a sabbatical, so you can get reoriented to the truth. But if you won’t do that, then at least tell the people since you prophesied things that did not come true, you are clearly not qualified to be a prophet. You will preach the Gospel, but you will not be giving any more prophetic words. Furthermore, there will be no more prophetic words in your services or prayer meetings from you or anyone else. There was no judgment in the Bible for not speaking false prophecies, only for speaking them.
people will leave the church. We will lose money.”
Do you remember Jesus saying, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (Mar 8:36 NIV)? God does not call ministers to scratch itching ears by telling them what they want to hear. God calls ministers to feed his sheep by making the truth of the Gospel known to them. I was so disoriented I didn’t even know what the Gospel was anymore, which brings me to the next step.
Get Back to Basics
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
(Joh 3:16 NRS)
Luther called this the Gospel in a nutshell. God loved the world so much that
God gave God’s only[-begotten] Son for us. Through Christ, we have eternal
notice, it’s not about health, wealth, success, and making every dream come
true. Nothing about prophecies, healings, miracles, signs, or wonders. It’s
about receiving the gift of eternal life, which means life in relationship with
God. God loves us. That is the Gospel, and Gospel literally means “good news.”
we worthy of that love? Absolutely not. We have all sinned and fallen short of
the glory of God (Rom 3:23). That is the reason God gave his only Son. “But God
proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us”
(Rom 5:8 NRS).
relationship with God is broken because of sin. But Christ died so our sins
could be forgiven, and our relationship with God restored. That is eternal
life. And because our relationship with God has been restored, the kingdom of
God has come near.
eternal life does not just mean we go to heaven when we die, though that is
also part of the good news. Your relationship with God begins in this life and
will continue even after you die.
told it this way to the Corinthians.
“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.”
(1Co 15:3-4 NRS)
died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised on the third day. All in accordance
with the scriptures. God promised in the scriptures to send a Messiah, who
would bring righteousness and the kingdom of God to this earth. Jesus Christ
was that Messiah, who fulfilled God’s will according to the scriptures. How do
we know? He rose from the dead in accordance with the scriptures. Death did
not end his life, and it will not end ours. Nothing in all creation, not even
death, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:38-39).
are the basics. When was the last time you preached a good sermon on that? You don’t
need any supernatural gifts of the Spirit to share the basics. Get to know them
again before you even think about taking the stage, the microphone, or the pulpit
I first had to face up to the fact that the brand of Christianity I was following
was wrong, I mean, not just wrong but egregiously wrong, I didn’t know what to
do. This scripture came to mind.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Mic 6:8 NRS)
gifts were not working for me, so I thought I had fallen out of favor with God.
I thought God was going to require some great sacrifice, and I didn’t think I
could go through with it. Praise God, I didn’t have to. Just as the angel
stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, the Lord stayed my hand from making one
of the worst mistakes of my life.
wasn’t looking for any great sacrifice to prove how much I loved him. God didn’t
require me to obey every voice that said it was God without testing it first.
God wasn’t blocking gifts or blessings from me because I didn’t instantly obey
the voice I once thought was God but was beginning to question. God did not
want me inventing new doctrines that cause division based on a Bible verse here
or there that I or someone else took out of context.
What does God require of me and you? Do justice. Treat others with love and kindness. Walk humbly with your God. That’s all.
if you are used to thinking of yourself as a prophet, that last one will be the
most difficult. When you thought you were one of the chosen few mouthpieces of God
on earth, you walked with God but not humbly. After my great humbling, I had to
rebuild my faith starting from zero. Certainty was no longer a virtue. It was a
sin. If I was to continue walking with God, I had to completely redefine the
most basic terms for a life of faith, like faith, Gospel, discipleship,
obedience, the Holy Spirit, sin, holiness, the Word of God, salvation, healing,
redemption, the truth, etc. I had to admit I didn’t know what any of those
terms meant anymore, and I was going to have to learn from scratch. My walk with
God was now a limp. I could not even stand in faith without leaning on Jesus. That
may sound scary. You may think you want to avoid that at all costs. Truth is,
if it had been my choice, I wouldn’t have chosen to go through that. But I’m
telling you, that is where I learned what it means to walk humbly with God.
people think faith means being certain about whatever you say. “The Bible says
it. I believe it. That settles it.” Or, “The Lord told me this.” “God told me
that.” “This is the word of the Lord for 2020.” And all the while, God is
saying, “Leave me out of this!”
is confidence or assurance, but it is not certainty. There is no humility in
certainty. You can’t learn and you can’t listen when you are certain of everything.
There is no way we as mortals can know everything, so embrace uncertainty. Try
walking humbly with God for a change.
Focus on the Fruit Rather Than the Gifts
can’t blame anyone for wanting the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Cor 12:8-10.
Gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of
tongues, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, they must have been spectacular
to see. What must it have been like not only to see them, but to wield these
gifts like Peter or Paul? I can only imagine what it would be like to actually
have and use these gifts. The key phrase there is, “I can only imagine.”
though at times I thought I might have some of these gifts, I really never did.
It looked like I would almost get there, but I never quite made it. Over the
years, I have come to doubt whether these gifts really are for the church
today. Maybe they were just for Jesus and the first Apostles, because the
foundation of the church was still being laid.
even if you do believe in these gifts for today, remember Jesus warned us that such
gifts are not in and of themselves proof that the man or woman is of God. “For
false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and
omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Mat 24:24 NRS)
it comes to false prophets, this is what he said. “You will know them by their
fruits” (Mat 7:16 NRS). We need to look for what the Bible calls the fruit of
the Spirit before we accept any signs and omens. What kind of fruit should
we look for?
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
(Gal 5:22-23 NRS)
you give up on your so-called gift of prophecy, what should you do? Cultivate the
fruit of the Spirit, first in yourself, then in your ministry. They used to
tell me that a church without the gifts of the Spirit had no Holy Spirit and
therefore was dead. Now, when I look for evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence
in a church, I don’t even think about the gifts. I look for the fruit of the
Spirit. When I see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then I know the Holy Spirit is
present. And where the Spirit of God is, there is life.
life, that is.
Paul’s Lesson about God’s Timing
I’d like to say again if you realize you have prophesied falsely and are
willing to come clean with it, God bless you. I know it takes a lot of courage.
But I want to suggest again that you step down from whatever ministry you are involved
in. I’m speaking from experience. I know how disorienting this is, and you will
need time to rebuild your faith from the ground up.
you won’t listen to me, think about Saul of Tarsus. He persecuted the church
because he was absolutely certain that he was right, they were wrong, and God
was on his side. Then Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and said, “No,
Saul. You’re the one who’s wrong.” I’m actually paraphrasing, but that’s
the gist of it.
you get how disorienting and humbling that must have been for him? To go from
thinking he was absolutely right because he was standing for God and the
scriptures, to finding out he was absolutely wrong, and God and the scriptures
were not on his side? I have a pretty good idea. How long do you think it took
him after that to go on his first missionary journey? According to some New
Testament timelines I’ve seen, it was about thirteen years. What did he do
during that time? We get a hint of it in 1 Corinthians.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures …
(1Co 15:3-4 NRS)
this is the Gospel he preached. That Christ died for our sins, he was buried,
and he was raised on the third day, all in accordance with the scriptures. But he
wasn’t one of Jesus’ disciples before his death, so how did he know the Gospel?
Look what he said at the beginning of verse 3. For I handed on to you as of
first importance what I in turn had received.
had to receive the message of the Gospel from the disciples before he could
hand it over to the Corinthians, or to any of the cities he evangelized. After
this verse, he goes on to explain some of the details of how he learned from
them. If he had clung to his certainty that he was right in the face of
overwhelming evidence he was wrong, he never could have learned the good news
that would eventually turn him from Saul of Tarsus to Paul the Apostle.
even though the message of the Gospel was simple, the implications for a man
like Paul were staggering. I think it took him that long to come to a place
where he knew again what he believed, why he believed it, and what that meant
for his life. For him to try to take his place as a minister of the church
before then would have been a mistake. You believe in God’s timing, right? He
followed God’s timing. If he hadn’t, well, who knows? We might never have even heard
of Paul the Apostle.
are a lot of false prophets in the world today, just as Jesus warned us there
would be. Some ministers have taken it upon themselves to expose them. I think
that is important work. I have watched them on YouTube and learned a lot from
them. Some of these false prophets are definitely wolves in sheep’s clothing,
preying on people’s earnest desire to draw closer to God, taking their money in
exchange for words that feel good but hide them from the truth.
However, I know it’s possible some of them honestly believe they are speaking the Rhema words of God. I’ve been there myself. One of the good things that may come out of this crisis is that it is exposing false prophecies.
spoke only what you heard, but what you heard was not from God. You believed it
was. I understand that. You don’t want to admit you were wrong, not only this
time but also in times past, because that would mean the end of your prophetic
ministry. I understand how scary that is. Where I might have sounded harsh, it
was only because I wanted to break through that fear and stubbornness, so you
could see the truth. The truth will set you free, if you accept it. It will
hurt, but it will set you free.
Redemption is possible, if you follow the five steps I laid out for you: confess, repent, get back to basics, embrace uncertainty, and focus on the fruit of the Spirit. I know because I’ve been there. Even if you lose the world, you will find your soul. The false gods must be swept away before we can know the true God.