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Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

Paul Dean

Dr. Paul J. Dean's Weblog

I hear more and more talk about the gift of prophecy and how it serves a major function in authentic church life. We’re told that we’ll experience life in the Spirit in a greater way, and the church will more effectively build itself up in love. If that’s true, then that’s what I want. Yet, I wonder if Christians aren’t satisfied with biblical life in the Spirit consisting of heartfelt worship regardless of our emotional state, dealing with sin at the heart level, and engaging in plain ole encouragement of one another, among other things. I wonder if Christians are conditioned to want something more -- to seek the experience. We’re trained that way, especially in America, and we’re taught that way by an increasing number of pastors and pseudo church leaders.

What is Prophecy?

What is the gift of prophecy? Biblically, prophecy is direct revelation from God. That’s it’s main feature. The bible is filled with prophets declaring, “Thus saith the Lord.” They had a word from God, and it was one-hundred percent accurate. And yes, while prophecy may be primarily described as forth-telling the word they had from God, it often had an element of foretelling the future. If the prophet declared anything contrary to Scripture already given, or made a prediction that did not come true, he was to be put to death (Deut. 13; 18).

Charismatic View

Today, there are other views of prophecy. Of course, if they contradict the Scriptures, they’re false views. Broadly speaking, there’s the Charismatic view. Those holding this position assert they receive direct revelation from God, yet often that revelation contradicts Scripture. They might predict a financial windfall for someone, or a healing, but more often than not these things fail to come to pass. Many predict that Christ is coming again in a particular time-frame, something the bible clearly tells us no one knows. Further, they redefine the gift of tongues, a gift that also involves direct revelation from God. Tongues is just an old King James era word for known languages as defined in Acts 2. Charismatics claim the gift of tongues is an unintelligible heavenly language. When spoken to others it is prophetic. They also claim tongues is a private prayer language. Neither of these claims is biblical. The notion the gift of tongues refers to a heavenly or private prayer language flows from misinterpretations of certain verses in 1 Corinthians 13 and 14.

Matt Chandler's View

Another view that’s gaining popularity is that put forth by Matt Chandler and others. It really falls into the Charismatic view, but has slight differences. He illustrated on one occasion by asking an audience to imagine he had a dream. By way of summary, in this dream he saw a pirate ship; it had a number of canons that were firing; a shark was chasing it; and a number of other things happened. He then asked the audience to imagine that this dream was a word from God that he was to give to a friend. Chandler said you don’t really know what the dream means, you might get some of it wrong, but nevertheless, you must go to your friend, and tell him about the dream. You don’t try to interpret it by surmising that Jesus is the shark for example. You simply go in obedience with the prophetic word. You might ask, “Does that mean anything to you?” It might not, he said. Even so, you'll be experiencing more of the Spirit, and those who engage this way will be edifying one another.

The major problem with this view is two-fold. First, prophecy is not defined in the bible this way. If you don’t know whether the word came from God, whether you got it right, or even what it means, then it’s not biblical prophecy. Second, we’re not told in the bible to use the gift this way: taking dreams or impressions that make no sense to anyone and dispensing them to others. Christianity is not built upon random, nonsensical notions that pass through our heads. It’s built on truth. That’s one reason Paul says God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).

The Gift of Exhortation

The church edifies itself in love by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 3). Why not merely engage in the simple practice of encouraging one another with the Scriptures? For some, apparently, it’s not exciting enough.

Of course, there are other views of prophecy. And, there is the main question: is the gift of prophecy in operation today? We’ll turn to those issues in Part 2.

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Churches as Agents of the State

Pastors and denominational leaders from our state (SC) were in on a live stream conference call with our governor, and we were told to make sure our churches do contact tracing. The first thing that needs to be said is that churches aren’t agents of the state. So, no can do. Except, I was shocked to hear a number of pastors happily comply and ask the best way to do such a thing. So much for understanding the times, or the nature of the state, or the nature of the church for that matter. So, no can do, for a few of us.

State Power

The second thing that needs to be said is that the state must not arrogate more power to itself. The Mayor of Kansas City is demanding the names, addresses, and phone numbers of every person attending worship. According to World Net Dailey, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said, “The new order states that by recording names and contact information, the health department will be able 'to more quickly trace, test, and isolate individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The Germans did this very thing to Jews – collecting the names and locations of all known synagogue attendees - in the early days of the Nazi regime.’”

So, a friend of yours tests positive for COVID-19, and you were with him for a few minutes a week earlier. Your friend will be asked for a list of those with whom he’s been in contact, and your name will be on the list. You’ll get a call or a visit and be force quarantined for two weeks. And that’s the least of it. Your privacy will have been compromised, and you’ll be put on other lists that ban you from certain things, like travel, unless you have proper health documentation.

The reality is this move is simply a push for total surveillance. Thomas Luongo noted, “The goal is to finish off the last vestiges of anonymity and individuality started with the destruction of financial privacy during the Clinton Adminstration.” Of course, the surveillance state was ramped up tremendously after 9/11.

Another frightening aspect here is the measure is not merely for tracing and surveillance, but for ensuring social distancing. Millions of people will unwittingly download a contact tracing app on their phones ostensibly to aid with public safety. If they’re not social distancing properly, they’re apt to get a visit from the local authorities. Of course, there are those who think that’s a great idea and are unaware of the consequences of our loss of liberty and privacy.

The Scarlet Letter

Further, those who test positive for COVID-19 become social pariahs. No one wants you around if you’ve got the scarlet letter C on your chest. Even worse, if you’ve been named as someone exposed to COVID-19 through contact tracing, you’ll be punished if you don’t comply with the demands of the state. The end result is an even greater expansion of the surveillance state. As Luongo noted, “They want us snitching on each other and suspect of each other. This is the most pernicious form of social control ever devised, to distrust basic human contact and interaction because there are germs in the world. . . It’s time to end the mass hallucination that we’ve never dealt with something like this before. The mass branding of this COVID-19 as the plague is laughable, and the push for global surveillance is pathetic.” Here’s where we really need a grass roots public service campaign: just say no – to contact tracing.

Sign up free for "True Worldview News," a weekly e-mail newsletter highlighting relevant news stories affecting Christians. Dr. Dean’s comments on selected stories along with editorials are included. The newsletter also features True Worldview, a twice-weekly podcast hosted by Dr. Dean and his daughter, Christi Johnson.

It’s usually not a good idea to listen to the world’s advice on how to have a happier marriage. We’re told to buy gifts, spice things up, take trips, or other things along those lines. Gifts often lead to a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. Spice hardly works on something that’s rotten. And the problem with taking a trip is you bring yourselves along. These things don’t really fix relationship problems. But there are some habits you can develop that will serve to make your marriage happier.

Talk About the Things of God Together

First, talk about the things of God together. True happiness comes from knowing God, and you know Him better by spending time with Him. Talking about the things of God with your spouse serves to draw you closer together as you draw closer to Him, because He’s at work. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy theological study, though that might be for you. You could study the bible, use a devotional, talk about a Christian article, discuss a biblical worldview on something that’s going on, or discuss how God is working in your life. It could be any number of things. Just develop a habit of talking about God together.

Examine your Heart

Second, examine your heart on a regular basis. Your heart is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). We’re called to examine our hearts for any number of reasons, not the least of which is we don’t truly know what’s in our hearts until we examine them through the lens of Scripture (Heb. 4:12). When you see sin in your heart, put it off, and replace it with a godly habit pattern. Paul talks about these things constantly. Put off lying, and put on truth-telling. Put off anger, and put on forgiveness. Put off stealing, and put on hard work. You get the idea. And, you do these things only through the renewing of your mind: by saturating your mind with the Scriptures (Col. 2; Col. 3; Eph. 3; Rom. 12).

Resolve Conflict Quickly

Third, resolve conflict quickly. One of the purposes of marriage is sanctification. It reveals the sin in our hearts. That’s why we examine them, and when sin comes out by way of conflict, we must resolve it. We do that by confessing our sin to God and to our spouse, and repenting. We say, “I was wrong,” and we commit to not sinning in that way again. It’s a constant battle, but that’s the battle! We also have to forgive. If your spouse repents, you forgive. That means you won’t allow the sin to come between you; it means you won’t dwell on it; it means you won’t gossip about it; and it means you won’t bring it up again, especially in a future argument. And, be the one to initiate the conflict resolution. Swallow your pride, and honor God and your spouse. You’ll avoid bitterness over time and have a happier marriage if you’ll get into the habit of resolving conflict – quickly!

Challenge One Another Spiritually

Fourth, challenge one another spiritually. This is not a time to pull out a laundry list of things you don’t like about your spouse and have at it. I’m talking about helping your spouse if they’re doing something that’s detrimental to them spiritually or is bringing reproach on Christ. Give each other permission to lovingly and helpfully challenge in this way. It’s not easy, no one really likes it, but it’s so beneficial!

Pray for One Another

Fifth, pray for one another. All of these things are an attempt to get God in on your marriage, and prayer is essential. God works through prayer. He hears, and He answers. He alone can change the heart. And, it’s hard to be mad at someone for whom you pray. It’s also hard to pray for your spouse without being convicted of your own sin.

Prioritize these things in your life. Make them habits. Do these five things every day, and your marriage will be happier.

Sign up free for "True Worldview News," a weekly e-mail newsletter highlighting relevant news stories affecting Christians. Dr. Dean’s comments on selected stories along with editorials are included. The newsletter also features True Worldview, a twice-weekly podcast hosted by Dr. Dean and his daughter, Christi Johnson.