"You can't tell a real prophet from a false one by whoever sings the loudest and prays the longest," says Kris, 12. "You can even preach the best, but if the heart is not right, God can't hear you. So it is hard to know a real from a fake prophet, but God knows."

You can pray until your dinner gets cold or sing an inspirational solo before a national television audience, but it doesn't mean your heart is right with God. False prophets know how to impress people with outward shows of piety. As Kris said, God knows what's going on in the heart.

"You can tell false prophets by their attitude, their face and if they are laughing or not," says Cayleb, 7. But Diana, 8, says, "A true prophet is nice to others."

Yes, a true prophet would be nice to children, but false prophets and religious leaders would never think of a true prophet as Mr. Nice Guy. Paintings and movies often portray Jesus as Mr. Rogers with a beard. However, we forget that long before power tools, he worked as a carpenter. He probably looked like he pumped iron. I've never seen a painting of Jesus driving moneychangers out of the temple with a whip.

The Bible is filled with stories of true prophets speaking tough words to belligerent audiences. John the Baptist lost his head, the prophet Isaiah was sawed in two, and the prophet Zechariah was stoned. It's not always popular to tell the truth.

The problem with false prophets is that they usually tell partial truths. There's a Yiddish proverb that says, "A half truth is a whole lie."

"A true prophet will always tell the truth," says Vicki, 12. "And a false prophet will start telling things that aren't true, once you get to know him. Sometimes a false prophet will even say he is the Messiah."

The Apostle John proposed a test for all prophets: "By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God" (I John 4:2-3).

Your first question to people claiming to be God's spokespersons should be, "Who is Jesus Christ?" If they don't confess him as fully God and fully man in one person, you can write them off as false prophets. As C.S. Lewis said, Jesus is a liar, lunatic or Lord. He can't be just a good man or a prophet as many claim because good men don't claim to be God if they're not.

"A false prophet may seem righteous at first, but he's really not," says Ally, 12. "Sometimes it's hard to tell because they are so disguised and so innocent-looking. You really need to pray about it and ask God to direct you to which person to trust."

Ally probably read what Jesus said about the false-prophet wardrobe: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).

Don't expect a false prophet to appear as Darth Vader. Remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood? The big, bad wolf disguises himself in grandmother's clothes to deceive Little Red Riding Hood. Don't expect anything less from false prophets. Outwardly, they look innocent as sheep, but inwardly they're ready to pounce and devour.

Jesus said you would know false prophets by their fruits. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Jesus also said words flow from a person's inner self and eventually reveal who people are (Luke 6:43-45). Listen carefully.

Write and draw for a new book about moms: www.kidstalkaboutgod.com. Bible quotations from New King James version.

COPYRIGHT 2001 CAREY KINSOLVING