SUPERNATURAL MESSAGES FROM THE MUNDANE?
Modern day prophets are an ingenious lot. When mundane circumstances are combined with their fertile imaginations, they come up with all sorts of supernatural interpretations and messages from the Divine. Few realize that what has invaded the Church are very old pagan practices in a new, more acceptable, outfit. There really is nothing new under the sun.
And if anyone surveys a current inventory of prophetic omens, he will be driven to the unmistakable conclusion that God is a big sports fan. Professional, collegiate, it doesn't matter, this new wave of prophets would have us believe that God is sending revelation through them all. Sporting events are not just "big business" for the Las Vegas oddsmakers, but for the Almighty and His Church.
Take for instance, Vineyard pastor James Ryle. Ryle claims revelation knowledge from a purported dream he said he had in 1989. He said the dream revealed to him that coach Bill McCartney and his Colorado University football team would be empowered by God's Spirit and would have a "golden season." And they did. However, when it came to their last game, played for the national championship, Ryle's dream no longer held significance. Ryle said he received a new and different omen from the Lord by way of the team's mascot and the Holy Spirit's prompting him to Isaiah 21:6.
Ryle says the Colorado mascot, Ralphie the buffalo, had a broken horn, which symbolized the Holy Spirit's departure from the team. The interpretation was that it would lead to the team's downfall in the national championship game. And the team did in fact lose to the University of Notre Dame by a score of 21 6. (See further, Hank Hanegraaff, Counterfeit Revival, pp. 70 71.)
And then there's the absurd and frivolous "visions" of Bob Jones of Kansas City Prophets fame. Jones apparently sees his omens and recognizes "prophetic" truth from post season ballgames. Fellow prophet Rick Joyner describes the Jones revelation, adding to it some of his own observations:
"In the spring of 1995, Bob Jones, a prophetic friend, told a number of us that the Atlanta Braves baseball team was going to win the World Series that year as a message for the church in America. This prophecy was fulfilled, and there indeed was a message in it. ... I think it was also significant that it was David Justice who hit that home run. He is a black man, and I do expect young, black 'Davids' to arise and slay the spiritual Goliaths who have been intimidating and holding back the armies of God in America. ... In the spring of 1996, Bob Jones received a word that the Braves would not win the World Series again that year and that this would be a message. When I was offered tickets to go to Game Five of the 1996 World Series in Atlanta, I knew that the Lord was going to show me something important. I was not disappointed" (Rick Joyner, A Prophetic Vision for the 21st Century, pp. 34 36).
Apparently, Joyner loves to use Jones' prophetic glimpses as a springboard for his own impressions. In an article entitled, "Shepherds Astray," Joyner wrote:
"Bob [Jones] was also given a vision of a bridge collapsing in North Carolina. A few days later it happened. As people were walking over a bridge to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, it collapsed, injuring over one hundred people. When the Lord reveals something like this prophetically it is because there is a message in it. In dreams and visions cars often represent ministries because they are 'vehicles' for carrying people. NASCAR is now called the number one spectator sport in America; but there is one bigger the church in America where millions go each week to watch a few people 'minister.' Like a NASCAR race, these ministries are consuming a lot of energy going nowhere fast. They do not really have a destination, but are just going in circles, competing with each other trying to stay in front, banging into each other and running into walls. As the saying goes, 'the only way you can win a rat race is to be a rat,' and that is what the modern form of ministry does to people."
Well, being faced with the obvious that Ryle, Jones, Joyner, and their prophetic friends can all decipher great spiritual messages from sports events, this author just keeps wondering what great spiritual significance was meant by, that at the close of the millennium, the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup in hockey. Then, in an effort to repeat in the new millennium, they tried to win hockey's top prize for a second straight year, before losing to the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the 2001 playoff finals.
For weeks I petitioned God for the answer what does it mean? I struggled and prayed for answers. It had to have some meaning of great spiritual significance. It just had to!
Was it to be interpreted as a revelation of increased activity among the "devils" which would close out the millennium so that it appears they're coming out on top? Were the teams that lost to the Devils on their way to the 2000 Stanley Cup symbolic of the Church's failure to overcome or stop the devils? Was the Colorado team symbolic of an "avalanche" of God's purity and holiness defeating the "devils" in this new millennium? What does it all mean?
Well, I finally got the answer. Here's what it means: It means that the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and were the best team in the National Hockey League that year. This year, it means that the Colorado Avalanche played harder and with more spirit and came out on top. That's it. Nothing more. No esoteric meaning of demonic activity; no clandestine mysterious promise of God's power to overcome evil. There is humor and sadness in the above as we realize that this is the way some try to arrive at truth.
Deciphering supernatural wisdom and predictions from the mundane may be intriguing and entertaining, but it is really nothing more than subjective guesswork and forced interpretation. As shown above, anybody can do it and make it sound quite plausible. Consider yet another creative example; this one gleaned from a Hollywood major motion picture.
In 1992, Paramount Pictures released Leap of Faith staring Steve Martin
in the leading role as faith healer Jonas Nightengale. Nightengale is described
as "a slick as oil flimflam man who'll trade salvation for a donation to
his touring ministry." Martin's character portrayal in the film was strongly
based on the stage practices and dubious strategies of Benny Hinn, Peter Popoff
and other popular spurious faith healers and evangelists.
As the film draws to a close, Nightengale, having been challenged and exposed for the con man he is by the local sheriff, hitches a ride with the driver of a tractor trailer rig. As the truck heads down the road taking Nightengale to new adventures, he asks the truck's driver, "Where you headed?" The driver responds, "Pensacola, Florida."
Pensacola, Florida?! Rewind the videotape and let me hear that again.
Based on the film's climactic concluding dialogue, could we not draw from this Hollywood motion picture a supernatural forecast? Why couldn't one suppose this a prophetic word and that the exaggerated claims of divine impartation, spurious signs and wonders, and financially motivated and humanly orchestrated revival aptly demonstrated by the Nightengale character would literally and actually locate in Pensacola? After all, less than three years after Martin's role hit the big screen, the so called "Pensacola Outpouring" began at the Brownsville Assembly of God with, like Nightengale, grandiose claims of God's miracles and wonders. It all fits so well nearly perfectly.
You see, like the quatrains of Nostradamus, we can see whatever we want in interpreting a personal dream, a major sporting event, or a dramatic scene from a feature motion picture. However, we have a Bible that lays such teaching and insight all out clearly and perfectly for us. We have no need to look for truth in such ambiguous places as a College Bowl game, World Series games, NASCAR, Stanley Cup playoffs, or Hollywood. Peter's second epistle assures us that all we need for life and godliness is found in Scripture. Some biblical writers may have gotten good illustrations from first century sports, but never omens and prophecies. Theater and Greek sports were ignored, if not condemned, by the early Jews as well as Hebrew Christians.
Subjectively creating after the fact prophecies and meanings all just derived from an overactive imagination is not much different than the ancient pagan societies' obsession with divination from arrows and entrails of animals. When the Word of God is ignored, people become crazed with their own imaginations and imaginary meanings in things. Any guessed meaning could have any other number of unlimited possibilities or interpretations.
In his classic, Biblical Demonology, Merrill F. Unger discusses occult practices that began in Babylon, passed into Greece and Rome, and are still fashionable today in parts of Africa, Burma (Myanmar), and Borneo among pagan tribes. Meaning is imagined and interpreted from looking into various parts of an animal's liver for divine revelation and the will of the gods.
Unger says further: "Belomancy, or divination by arrows is represented by Ezekiel as being practiced in Babylon. ... (Ezek. 21:21). ...augury was deduced by the way they fell to the earth" (pg. 132).
A neater, cleaner, more sanitized version of augury is practiced by today's "prophets." It is not as disgusting as poking around in the bloody entrails of a dead animal and certainly sports themes sell well with the sports crazed American public. But what is the real difference? It is still fallen subjective imagination hard at work. On what basis could we be sure that the imaginings and interpretations are not given by demonic suggestion? After all, they are never brought to the Word of God for verification. Certainly our minds could be better used in a study of God's Word.
Christians need to retreat from the foolishness of such mysticism, paganism, Gnosticism, and subjectivism and get back to the objective Word of God. It has been said many times before, but bears repeating: "The Bible: Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else."
"And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19).
The Bible is sufficient. We need not look for supernatural messages from the mundane or the bizarre.
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