Tuesday, December 11, 2018

SUFFERING: THE FORGOTTEN COMPONENT OF APOSTOLIC MINISTRY

If you had been walking along the road leading into the city of Lystra on a particular day in a.d. 48 you would have noticed a pitiful sight; a man lying by the roadside bleeding and battered, having just been stoned by an angry mob. You may also have noticed a group of people standing quietly around him, and if you had asked, “Who in the world is that,” they may well have answered, “That is God’s apostle to this city.”
Indeed, this was Paul the apostle lying by the roadside, having just been stoned after preaching the gospel in this city (Acts 14:19-20). This incident was, no doubt, in Paul’s mind when he later wrote a description of the lot of those earliest apostles, saying, To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless (I Corinthians 4:11).
Apostles Experience Unique Suffering
An apostolic calling does not exempt one from suffering and persecution. True apostles, in fact, encounter unique suffering because they often are sent to “plow new ground,” i.e., to minister in places and in ways that provoke opposition.
God is a kind and loving heavenly father, but He is not a doting, overly-protective parent that shields His children from every difficulty. Those He prepares, He sends into the enemy’s territory to declare the Good News and to establish His reign.
This often provokes violent reaction and opposition. This was so with Paul who encountered great suffering while carrying out his apostolic calling. In 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 Paul enumerates some of the challenges of being an apostle.
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless, And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
The pagan Greeks and Romans resented Paul’s preaching of an exclusive Savior. The Jews hated him for preaching that God “in Christ” had given Gentiles an equal standing with themselves. He was beaten, stoned, maligned and imprisoned while carrying out the apostolic commission he had received from the Lord.
An Apostle May Not be the Celebrity-Type
If alive today, the apostle Paul would probably be ostracized by much of the modern Ameican church. He would not be a popular speaker at conferences and seminars, nor would he be a frequent guest on Christian TV. He most likely would not be invited to sit on any of the numerous apostolic councils that are emerging. He just would not fit the criteria of what the modern charismatic church demands of its apostles.
A 2nd century writer described Paul as being small in stature, bald, with a “hooked” nose, somewhat bow-legged and eyebrows that met together. To make matters worse, his manner of dress was less than desirable. In the above passage, he describes himself as being poorly dressed, beaten and homeless.
In addition, Paul himself admits that he is not an impressive preacher or public speaker (2 Cor. 11:6). He obviously lacked the qualities and characteristics that would be necessary to “make it” as a leader in an Americanized, celebrity-driven Christianity.
To make matters worse, his resume would surely raise some eyebrows. He has been incarcerated on numerous occasions and is vehemently accused of being anti-Semitic (even though he himself is Jewish). More than once he has been arrested and accused of causing civil unrest and instigating riots. He is just not the kind of person with whom the image-conscious churches and ministries of America would want to be associated.
The Secret of His Success
Nonetheless, Paul was the vessel God chose to take the gospel to the Gentile world and to shake an empire for God. According to I Corinthians 1:27, God purposely chooses that which is most “unlikely” according to the standards of this present world. If, therefore, the Church is functioning in the values of the present world rather than the values of the kingdom of God, then she will misjudge, marginalize and reject those whom God calls and sends.
True apostles have been dealt with by God and have experienced a breaking of pride, egoism and self-centered confidence. When Paul, for example, described his personal state upon arrival in the pagan city of Corinth, he did not offer a glowing resume that delineated his strengths and successes. Instead, he described his ministry in terms of his frail, human weakness and his radical dependence on God. He wrote,
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul’s self-portrait is certainly not the description we would expect of an apostle that is about to shake a city for God. Nonetheless, God’s power worked mightily through Paul and a gifted, powerful and somewhat rowdy church was established in that pagan city.
They key was that Paul did not wallow in his human shortcomings but turned his eyes to the One who was the source of his strength, wisdom and power. In his human weakness, he was made strong by the power of God (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). When he finished, people did not say, “Isn’t Paul a wonderful preacher and great man of God.” Instead, they exclaimed, “Isn’t this God that Paul preaches wonderful, powerful and gracious.
That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:5). Self-made apostles cause people to praise them, while God-called apostles cause people to praise the One who sent them.
True Apostles Are Not Preoccupied with Themselves
An elder shared with me how the young pastor of their church informed the board of elders that he wanted to begin using “Apostle” as a title in front of his name, even though there is no Biblical precedent for such. The elders all expressed their opinion that it was not a good idea.
The elder said the young man was so hurt and frustrated by their rebuff that he began to cry. He obviously was not ready for the kind of apostolic ministry Paul described. If he could not handle being rebuffed about wearing a title, how would he ever handle the suffering and rejection that goes with a true apostolic calling?
True apostles are not preoccupied with titles, status, rank, significance and honor. They are consumed with the commission they have received from the Lord and are willing to go anywhere, face any difficulty and suffer any loss in order to fulfill that commission. Ths is what Paul expressed to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:22-24,
And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.


This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's the book PURSUING POWER: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority and Control Had Divided and Damaged the Church, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com

Friday, December 7, 2018

THE VIRGIN BIRTH CONFIRMED BY ARCHAEOLOGY AND OTHER HISTORIC EVIDENCE


Believing in Jesus Christ and His miraculous birth does not require the so-called “blind leap of faith,” for there is as much evidence for the virgin birth of Christ as any event of ancient history. It is not lack of evidence that keeps people from believing in the virgin birth, but a predisposed bias against the possibility of miracles.
Here are six compelling reasons for believing that Jesus Christ was supernaturally born of a virgin.
1. Documented by a Physician & World-Class Historian
2. Confirmed by Modern Archaeology
3. Confirmed by an Agnostic Professor
4. Predicted by Old Testament Prophets
5. Believed Universally by the Earliest Christians
6. Confirmed by His Amazing World-Impact
1. Documented by a Physician & World-Class Historian.
At the beginning of his gospel, Luke, whom Paul calls “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14, indicates that he has made a thorough investigation of the things about which he is writing, including the virgin birth.
This investigation included his utilization of eyewitness accounts of the events described. Luke spent extended periods of time with Paul in Jerusalem and Judea and would have had the opportunity to interview those who were closest to the event, including Mary herself.
Of all the gospels, Luke gives the most detailed account of the Nativity and mentions Mary 12 times, more than any other biblical writer. In addition to the birth of Christ, he also gives special, detailed attention to the birth of John the Baptist and many see his gynecological interests to be a result of his training as a physician.
There is no reliable information on how long Mary lived, but some traditions say she lived as much as 24 years or longer after the resurrection. The detail Luke presents does indicate that he has derived his information from a primary source, either Mary herself or someone to whom Mary had relayed the intimate details of the event.
At one time, it was thought that Luke was mistaken concerning the events he portrayed surrounding the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-5). Critics argued that there was no census and that everyone did not have to return to their ancestral home. They also pointed out that Josephus had dated the governorship of Quirinius of Syria, whom Luke mentions, as beginning in A.D. 6, too late for the birth of Christ.
In every case, however, modern archaeological discoveries have proved the critics to be wrong. In the case of Quirinius, it was found that he actually served two separate terms as governor, the first beginning around 7 B.C., which fits perfectly with the time of Christ's birth. The late F. F. Bruce, one of the most respected of New Testament scholars, noted that where Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy by modern critics, archaeology has again and again proved Luke to be right and the critics wrong.
The accuracy of Luke as a historian was confirmed by the famous historian, A.N. Sherwin-White, who carefully examined his references in Luke/Acts to 32 countries, 54 cities, and nine islands, finding not a single mistake.
Challenging the claims of critics that the story of the virgin birth was based on a hoax, the noted Greek scholar, Professor John A. Scott, reminded the naysayers of Luke's training as a physician and his reputation as a historian. Pointing to his attention to detail and accurate reporting, Scott declared, "You could not fool Doctor Luke."
2. Affirmed by Modern Archaeology.
Luke's status as a world-class historian, accurate in even the smallest details, has been brought to light by modern archaeology. For example, Sir William Ramsay, considered one of the greatest archaeologists of all time, originally thought he would scientifically discredit Luke's accounts by visiting and examining the places mentioned in his Gospel and Acts.
Ramsay, an Oxford professor, was a product of the skeptical, German higher criticism of the nineteenth century and he taught that the New Testament is an unreliable religious treatise written in the mid-second century by individuals far removed from the events described. But after years of retracing Luke's account of Paul's travels and doing archaeological excavations along the way, Ramsay completely reversed his view of the Bible and first-century history.
Ramsay became convinced that Acts was written in the first century by the traditional author, and he acquired a very high regard for Luke as a historian. He wrote,
Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense; in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians.
In 1896, Ramsay began publishing his discoveries in a book entitled St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen. The book caused a furor of dismay among the skeptics of the world, for its affirmation of the biblical record was totally unexpected. The evidence was, in fact, so overwhelming that many atheists gave up their atheism and embraced Christianity.
Over the next 20 years, Ramsay published other volumes showing how he discovered Luke to be accurate in the tiniest details of his account. In his book, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, he wrote, "You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment."
Archaeology has, indeed, affirmed, not only Luke, but the entire Biblical account. William F. Albright, the renowned archaeologist and late professor of Semitic languages at John Hopkins University spent many years leading archaeological excavations in the land of the Bible. He wrote, "Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and brought increased recognition to the Bible as a source of history."
The evidence begs the question that if Luke was this careful to get his facts right about names, places, events and dates, can we not be confident that he was just as careful to get his facts right concerning the more important things about which he reported, such as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ?
3. An Agnostic Professor of Mythology is Convinced.
C. S. Lewis was the agnostic professor of Renaissance literature at Oxford University, a prolific author and a recognized expert of mythological texts. He too had bought into the idea that the Bible was not a book of reliable history and that the New Testament was filled with all sorts of mythical stories, created by individuals far removed from the events described.
But through the influence of his childhood, and friends who challenged his agnosticism, Lewis began to read the Bible. He was astounded at what he encountered in the gospels, for it was obviously a different genre from the ancient mythologies with which he was so familiar. His surprised response was, "This is not myth!" Lewis went on to become a dedicated follower of Christ and perhaps the most significant Christian apologist of the twentieth century.
At the time, higher criticism was being popularized in German seminaries. Certain theologians, such as Rudolph Bultmann, were claiming that the New Testament accounts of the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles and His resurrection were myths created by His followers.
Lewis challenged these theologians, saying, "I would like to know how many myths these people have read!" He went on to explain that he had been a long-time professor and critic of mythological literature and knew how a myth sounded and felt. "And the gospel story," he said, "Is not myth!"
4. Predicted Centuries in Advance by OT Prophets.
Genesis 3:15 reads, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.
These words were spoken by God to the serpent after the fall of our first parents. The "seed of the woman" in this passage is an allusion to a future descendant of Eve who will defeat the serpent and reverse the curse brought on by his deception.
The Bible normally speaks of the seed of men, but in this case, it is the "seed of the woman." This is a prophecy that clearly anticipates the future virgin birth of Christ—a birth in which the seed of a man is not involved. The Methodist theologian, Adam Clarke, wrote in The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments with a Commentary and Critical Notes, "The seed of the woman is to come by the woman, and her alone without the concurrence of man."
According to this prophecy, the "seed of the woman" will receive a temporary wound from Satan—"you will bruise His heel"—but the "seed of woman" shall inflict on Satan a final and mortal wound—"He will bruise your head." This Messianic promise was fulfilled through the virgin birth of Jesus and through His death and resurrection.
Isaiah 7:14 says, Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. The Hebrew word translated "virgin" in this passage is almah and refers to a young woman of marriageable age, but would normally include the idea of virginity, since that was expected of a young Jewish woman being married for the first time.
That "virgin" is an accurate English translation is confirmed by the Septuagint, which uses the Greek word parthinos to translate almah. Parthinos specifically means a young woman who has never had sex with a man. Parthinos is the word used by both Matthew and Luke in their description of Mary, affirming that she was a young woman who had never had sex with a man when Jesus was born.
Further evidence that Isaiah 7:14 is a Messianic prophecy referring to Jesus Christ is indicated by Isaiah's statement that he shall be called Immanuel, which means "God with us." This is a clear statement concerning the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ and reminds us of the words of Gabriel to Mary that the Son she will bear, will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:32).
5. Believed Universally by the Earliest Christians.
That the virgin birth was universally believed by the earliest Christians is verified, not only by the gospel record, but also by The Apostle's Creed. The Apostle’s Creed is an early confession of faith that dates from the second century and was used throughout the universal church. By including the virgin birth in their creedal statement, these early believers made clear that they considered it an essential doctrine of The Faith. The Creed reads in part:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary (emphasis added).
This earliest belief in the virgin birth was confirmed by the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325 and has continued to be the belief of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians everywhere.
Note the words of the eighteenth century hymn, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," written by Charles Wesley, an Oxford graduate and Anglican minister, and with his brother, John, the leader of the great Methodist revival. Because of the references to the virgin birth, this hymn became a popular carol sung at Christmas:
Christ by highest heav'n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come, offspring of a Virgin's womb!
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emanuel!
Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King!
6. His Amazing World-Impact
There is no question that Jesus Christ is the most influential person to ever occupy this planet. His influence touches all races, classes and tongues from Jerusalem to Timbuktu, from Nairobi to Brasilia and from London to Beijing.
This influence was immediate, with his first followers willing and anxious to give their lives to spread the Good News of His miraculous birth, life, death and resurrection. That same life and death commitment has continued with His followers through the centuries. Napoleon Bonaparte said of Jesus Christ,
I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.
The noted historian, Philip Schaff captured this influence well in the following statement.
Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.
How are we to explain the influence of this one individual born in a stable in a small insignificant town in the Middle East? There is only one explanation and the writer of the following Christmas hymn has captured it well.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight
Conclusion
With such overwhelming evidence for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, it raises the question as to why there remains so much skepticism about this event and other miracles recorded in the New Testament. This question was answered by Yale archaeologist and professor, Millard Burrows, who said, "The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural."
In other words, the barrier to faith is not an intellectual one, but a heart that is committed to unbelief. Any honest seeker who will lay aside their biased presuppositions and consider the historical evidence will also experience the affirming witness of the Holy Spirit in their heart and will know that Jesus Christ was truly born of a virgin. And if that part of the story is true, then we can have confidence that the rest of the story is true as well.
Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an historian, revivalist and Biblical scholar with a passion to see another Great Awakening impact America and the nations of the earth. His books are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehhyatt.com.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

HERE'S WHY WE MUST DISTINGUISH BETWEEN SOUL AND SPIRIT

A “prophet” gave me a prophetic word concerning my “little brother” about whom, he said, I had been very concerned. He assured me there was no need for my concern. God, he said, had revealed to him that my little brother would be saved.
Now, there was only one problem with this prophecy; I do not have a little brother! When I shared this fact with this individual he seemed to be embarrassed and replied, “I will have to be more careful.”
Sadly, the very next day I heard him giving detailed personal prophecies to people, even about God sending them to specific nations. I shook my head in disbelief, and for the sake of the people, thought to myself, “I hope you test what you are hearing.”
He was not a false prophet, but simply a zealous individual who had never learned to distinguish between his soul and spirit. The prophecy he gave me was neither from God or the devil, but had been formulated in his own soul, i.e., his mind and emotions. It was the product of an over-active imagination, perhaps motivated by a desire for importance. 
He was not a false prophet, but simply a zealous individual who had never learned to distinguish between his soul and spirit. The prophecy was neither from God or the devil, but had been formulated in his own soul, i.e., his mind and emotions. It was the product of an over-active imagination, perhaps motivated by a desire for importance.

This is why we must learn to distinguish between soul and spirit. Discerning between soul and spirit is the key for understanding the source of most spiritual manifestations in the church today.
Discerning Between Soul and Spirit
There are three possible sources for a prophecy or spiritual manifestation: (1) From the Holy Spirit who dwells in the reborn spirit of the believer; (2) from a demonic spirit; (3) from the human soul, i.e., the mind, will and emotions. I am convinced that many prophecies we are hearing from Christians today are from the human soul.
It is, therefore, of utmost importance that we learn to distinguish between soul and spirit. The spirit is the innermost part of our being and is that part that is regenerated when we are born again. It is through our human spirit that we have an awareness of God and the spirit realm. In born-again believers, the spirit is the place where the Holy Spirit dwells and, therefore, the place from which gifts of the Holy Spirit originate and flow.
The soul, on the other hand, consists of our mind, will, and emotions. It is the seat of the personality—the ego—and is that part of our being that gives us self-awareness. The soul, i.e., mind, will, and emotions, can be moved by a variety of outward stimuli.
Good music, for example, has the power to stir positive emotions of love, nostalgia, and compassion apart from the Holy Spirit. Likewise, a gifted orator can stir emotions and move people to behave in ways they otherwise would not. These, however, are mere feelings of the soul and have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.
Although some think of the soul and spirit as being the same, the New Testament makes a clear distinction between the two. In I Thessalonians 5:23, for example, Paul says, May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:12 clearly says that the soul and spirit are two distinct entities and that only the Word of God can divide the two. Making a distinction between soul and spirit can be very helpful in discerning the source of a prophecy or spiritual manifestation.
Our spirit is sometimes referred to in Scripture as “the heart.” For example, Jesus was speaking of the human spirit when He said, He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit who would dwell in those who believe in Him and from whom would flow gifts of the Holy Spirit.
How We Mistake Soul for Spirit
Those who are zealous to be used of God and see His power, will often mistake the stirring of their emotions for the Holy Spirit. This is what John Wesley was referring to, when on October 29, 1762, he cautioned a colleague who was mistaking his own thoughts and imaginations for the Holy Spirit. Wesley said;
I dislike something that has the appearance of enthusiasm, overvaluing feelings and inward impressions; mistaking the mere work of imagination for the voice of the Spirit, and undervaluing reason, knowledge, and wisdom in general (Hyatt, Angels of Light, 49).
Many today mistake emotional highs for the presence of God. A “revival” service could be the product of skilled musicians and a savvy preacher stirring people’s emotions. R. A. Torrey (1856-1928), a successful revivalist himself, was referring to such “soulish” revivals when he wrote,
The most fundamental trouble with most of our present-day, so called revivals is, that they are man-made and not God sent. They are worked up (I almost said faked up) by man’s cunningly devised machinery—not prayed down (Hyatt, Angels of Light, 49).
Soulish Prophecies
A young man shared with me about a puzzling and discouraging experience he had with prophecy. He had gone with a small group to pray for a woman who was in the last stages of terminal cancer. As they stood around the bed and prayed, he sensed what he believed was God’s presence and he prophesied to the sick woman that God had heard her prayer and was healing her.
He really felt the prophecy was from God, but just a few days later she died. He was embarrassed and confused. How could this happen? How could he have been so wrong?
I could share numerous stories like this where well-meaning people have given what they sincerely believed was a word from God, but that word turned out to be false. These are usually well-meaning people who desire to be used of God but have never learned to distinguish between their soul and their spirit.
The young man mentioned above did not distinguish between soul and spirit in the prophecy he gave. No doubt, his natural feelings and emotions were moved by seeing the woman lying in bed and dying of cancer. He believed in Divine healing and desired so much to see a miracle of healing.
These, however, were natural feelings of the soul and not from the Spirit of God. He was moved out of his own natural feelings to give the prophecy. He gave what I call a “soulish” prophecy—a prophecy borne out of one’s own feelings and emotions. He was not a false prophet, just a mistaken one.
Prophecy Must Be Initiated by the Spirit
I Corinthians 12:11 clearly states that gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, are given, as He [the Spirit] wills. Contrary to the biblical model, however, some teach that believers can prophesy at their own volition or will. I heard one well-known “prophet” insist that, just as it took Pentecostals several decades to discover that they could speak or pray in tongues at will, many in the body of Christ are now discovering that they can prophesy at will.
Proponents of this teaching point to the fact, that in 1 Corinthians 14:15, Paul says, "I will pray with the spirit," an obvious reference to praying in tongues. They give emphasis to the "I will" in this passage and reason that if one can will to pray or speak in tongues, then one can also will to prophesy.
This is poor hermeneutics and ignores the context of Paul's discussion. When Paul says, "I will pray with the spirit," he is referring to the private, devotional tongues in which he wills, or chooses, to pray. He distinguishes between private, devotional tongues in which he prays at will and the public manifestation of tongues that requires interpretation and comes forth as the Spirit wills, a very important distinction.
The idea that one can prophesy at will has resulted in many "prophets" operating out of their soul realm (mind, will and emotions) rather than from the Spirit. This leads to failed prophecies with the prophet often seeking to justify the failure. It can be devastating for young Christians who had received the prophecy as the word of the Lord.
Prophetic Advice
1.    Stay humble. Recognize you are not perfect. If you miss it, be willing to admit it. Do not try to justify yourself when you are wrong.
2.    Have integrity in the operation of prophecy and Spiritual gifts. I have observed individuals who had become very adept at "reading" people and then giving a word that the recipient could easily apply to his or her own situation. Avoid that temptation.
3.    If you are not sure of the source of what you are sensing, just say, “I feel to share this with you.” Don’t take on the identity of a “prophet” to the point where you think you must begin each statement with a “thus saith the Lord.”
4.    Don’t try to use the Holy Spirit, let the Holy Spirit use you.
5.   Develop an awareness of the difference between your soul and spirit and contend for a pure prophetic flow of the Holy Spirit in your life.

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, Angels of Light, available from his Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and Bible teacher with a vision to see America reconnect with its Christian heritage as a nation birthed in prayer and spiritual awakening. He is also a director of God's Word to Women and the Int'l Christian Women's Hall of Fame, ministries that are lifting the status of women around the world and helping them fulfill their call and purpose in life. If you would like to give a gift to help Drs. Eddie and Susan Hyatt spread the Good News around the world, click the following  link. http://eddiehyatt.com/donate.html


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

3 TREATS FROM MARTIN LUTHER'S BOLD ACT OF FAITH ON HALLOWEEN


For the Christian, good things do happen on Halloween. 501 years ago Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door, an act comparable to a Facebook post today. In it he challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and its selling of indulgences, which offered forgiveness of sins for a price, apart from repentance and faith.
This act ignited the Protestant Reformation which changed both church and world history. In fact, after the year 2000, the editors of Life magazine listed Luther’s act as the second most momentous event of the past millennia, after the invention of the printing press in 1440, and before the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492, which was listed at number three.
Luther, despite his weaknesses, was a man uniquely prepared for a very unique moment in time. I have listed below 3 treats that we inherit from his bold act of faith on that October 31st day in 1517.
Treat #1
Courage to Stand for Truth
We live in a time when Christian values are under attack. Christian morality is mocked in the media and Christian students are subjected to ridicule in the classrooms of America. It is a time for courage, and in this Luther has left us a living legacy and example.
If Luther was anything, he was bold and courageous, so much so that his friends sometimes thought he was too bold. In giving a report to Spalatin about Luther’s bold stand at the Diet of Worms, Frederick the Wise said, “How excellently did Father Martin speak before the Emperor and Estates. He was bold enough, if not too much so (Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 67).
It was, however, no time for timidity or reticence. The church was in shambles. God’s people were enslaved to an oppressive religious system that was obsessed with power. The times called for a courageous voice that would not flinch in the face of the greatest powers on earth. Luther became that voice that God used to change the course of history.
Such bold voices are in great need in the church today. There is so much hedging, evading and ducking by Christian leaders today when it comes to making a clear sound for truth.
For example, this author was astounded to hear a well-known evangelical pastor and leader, dance in circles when asked by a popular TV icon if Jesus is the only way to God. Instead of giving a simple straightforward answer, he ducked, swerved and feinted, but never gave a clear answer to such a simple, straightforward question.
Contrast Luther, who in a letter to Pope Leo X, dated September 6, 1520, and while still a Catholic priest, spoke with such clearness and boldness. He spoke with respect, even addressing Leo as “Holy Father,” but he did not mince words. He wrote,
I have truly despised your see, the Roman curia, which, however, neither you nor anyone else can deny is more corrupt than any Babylon or Sodom ever was, and which, as far as I can see, is characterized by a completely depraved, hopeless, and notorious godlessness (Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 68).
We can all be thankful that Luther did not duck, feint and dance around the issues of his day. He obviously made mistakes, but no one could ever complain of not knowing where he stood. He changed history by being clear, concise, courageous and bold.
May God raise up a generation to proclaim His truth with that same spirit of courage and boldness.
Treat #2
Individual Freedom and Religious Liberty
Luther struck an incredible blow for individual freedom of conscience and religious liberty when at his trial for heresy he boldly resisted demands that he retract his teachings, declaring that “it is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience.” He went on to say, “My conscience is bound in the word of God, and I cannot and will not recant anything” (Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 27).
Freedom of individual conscience was practically unheard of in the medieval world into which Luther was born. Individualism was suppressed. Conformity to the religious and social norms, determined by those in authority, was demanded and enforced.
Those who veered from the established religious norms were punished, imprisoned and even put to death. Individual freedom was sacrificed for what was considered the good of the whole by those in power. Most often, however, it was not for the good of the whole, but for the good of those in power that individualism was suppressed.
By his bold stand at Worms, Luther unleashed a powerful ideal of individual freedom. Others took that ideal and brought it to America—the land of the free--where it was further developed on American soil. Freedom of conscience and individual religious liberty then became hallmarks of freedom-loving people and nations throughout the Western world. We have Luther to thank for this.
Treat #3
The Power and Priority of God’s Word
When you hear a public figure quoting the Bible or hear how the Bible continues to be the perennial all-time best seller, you can thank Martin Luther. Luther directed the attention of the church back to the Bible as the ultimate guide and source of authority for morality, life and faith.
In Luther’s own life, the Bible was supreme. His boldness came from his conviction that Scripture is the highest authority to which one can appeal. When, therefore, he stood before the tribunal at Worms, his appeal was to Scripture. “My conscience is captive to the word of God,” he declared (Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 27).
Luther’s high esteem for the Scriptures is expressed again and again in his writings. In his book, To the German Nobility of the Christian Nation, he wrote,
I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution that does not unceasingly pursue the study of God’s word becomes corrupt (Hyatt, The CharismaticLuther, 70).
The popularity of Bible studies within Protestantism, and now also within Catholicism, can be traced to Luther and his emphasis on sola Scriptura, which is Latin for "Scripture alone." When modern evangelists, like Billy Graham, hold their Bible aloft and preface their statements with, “The Bible says,” that is a direct legacy of Luther. Christians who are seen carrying their Bibles to church are acting in the legacy Luther.
In later life, when asked how he, a simple monk and teacher, had been able to have such an impact when opposed by both the pope and the emperor, Luther replied,
I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. The Word so weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all (Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 29).
Luther’s priority of Scripture for the individual believer, was something new and radical to the world of medieval Europe, which placed ultimate authority with the pope and church tradition. Luther’s placement of Scripture as the final authority above church tradition and hierarchy was momentous for the history of the church and Western society.
Conclusion
Yes, good things do happen on Halloween. For Luther, it was "Hallowed Eve," the day before "All Saints Day," a church celebration of departed saints. There were no witches, goblins or trick or treating associated with October 31 in Luther's world of 16th century Germany. Halloween, as we know it, is a distortion of All Saints Day as it was merged with ancient, pagan celtic traditions in Britain and Ireland.

Nonetheless, the above treats, or blessings, have come down to us because one man chose to stand against the corrupt cultural and religious tide of his day with God’s truth. Luther’s faith and courage were deeply rooted in his belief that God’s truth would ultimately prevail. This is clearly expressed in the following excerpt from his great hymn, “A Might Fortress is Our God.”
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us.
We will not fear, for God hath willed,
His truth to triumph through us.

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's book, The Charismatic Luther, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

3 REASONS I DO NOT PRACTICE CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER

I value quietness and solitude. In fact, it was in such a setting that I received the inspiration and direction for this article. It happened like this.
One morning I found myself wide awake at 3 a.m. No wanting to awaken Sue, I quietly arose and went into another room where I sat in a chair, enjoying the stillness and quietness of the early morning.
As I sat, with only light from a street light streaming through the window, I thought about God and His goodness and faithfulness. At times I would voice quiet words of praise and thanksgiving. As needs and concerns came to mind, I would present these in prayer. It was a wonderful, refreshing time. Sometime, during those quiet hours of fellowship with God, the title and layout for this article were presented to my mind.
Please do not confuse my “quiet time” with contemplative prayer. There is a world of difference. Contemplative prayer, emphasizing "silence," has roots that go back to the mystics of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. The mystics were, in turn, profoundly influenced by Neo-Platonism, a pagan, mystical religion founded by Plotinus, a disciple of Plato.
Although the word “contemplative” is, by itself, a positive word meaning “thoughtful” and “reflective,” contemplative prayer as taught by the mystics is entirely out of sync with what we know of Jesus and early Christianity. I am convinced that it is a hindrance rather than a help in nurturing a relationship with God.
Here are three reasons I do not practice contemplative prayer.
Reason #1
Contemplative prayer is rooted in a Pagan Concept of God
Contemplative prayer began with Plotinus (203-270), the founder of Neo-Platonism, who transformed the philosophy of Plato into a religion. Plotinus taught that all reality had come from a supreme deity whom he called “the One.” This supreme deity, Plotinus taught, is impassible, meaning that he is unmoved by human experiences of joy, sadness, or suffering. This is because he is absolutely “other than” and “separate from” this realm of physical and human existence.
From this One supreme being there had issued forth a series of lower beings resulting in a hierarchy of celestial beings, or gods. The Neo-Platonists believed that it was one of these lower (and evil) heavenly beings that had created the earth and its inhabitants. The Neo-Platonist sought for a way to ascend through this hierarchy of celestial beings and be united with the ultimate deity they called “the One.”
Because “the One” existed in a realm absolutely “other than” this earthly realm, human reason and language were deemed inadequate for understanding or communicating with him. In fact, “the One” could not be known by human beings but could only be experienced in a mystical encounter facilitated by a form of spiritual prayer characterized by silence and a mind emptied of any rational thoughts about deity.
This form of prayer was called “contemplation” or “contemplative prayer.” If one was unable to clear his/her mind of rational thoughts, a “mantra” or “prayer” might be repeated over and over to help them center their thoughts on the goal of their prayer—a mystical union or encounter with “the One.”
This concept of God and the form of prayer associated with it, found its way into the church of the Middle Ages through the writings of a Syrian monk who was obviously influenced by Neo-Platonism. One book he wrote was called On the Heavenly Hierarchy, where in Neo-Platonic fashion, he examined and classified the various heavenly beings in ranks of three with each having three subdivisions—seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, archangels, angels, etc.
According to this writer these constituted an ascending ladder or hierarchy of celestial beings leading to the throne of God. He also advocated a form of mystical/contemplative prayer by which one could ascend through this celestial hierarchy and be united with God.
The writings of this monk, who falsely claimed to be Dionysius, Paul’s convert in Athens (Acts 17:34), became foundational for the mystical movement in the medieval church. His writings were quoted by bishops and some of the most famous theologians of the medieval church, including Thomas Aquinas.
As a result, spiritual experiences and revelations through contemplation were exalted and valued. Paul was interpreted through the lens of this false Dionysius, and as Dr. Justo Gonzalez says, “Paul’s entire life was viewed as a process of mystical ascension.”
Today, both Catholic and Protestant scholars recognize the claim of this author to be the convert of Paul as false. The 16th century Reformers also rejected all notions of a mystical ascension to God through contemplative prayer as it placed too much emphasis on human effort and diminished the work of Christ in opening the way into God’s presence.
I do not practice contemplative prayer because it is a form of prayer rooted in a pagan, non-Christian concept of God. 
Reason #2
The Revelation of God in Scripture Becomes Secondary
Because the contemplative approach to prayer devalues human reason and language, its practitioners tend to neglect the concrete revelation of God in Scripture. This, in turn, leaves them vulnerable to deceiving spirits and the “angels of light” of which Paul spoke in II Corinthians 11:13-15.
Hans Kung, the most widely read Roman Catholic theologian in the world today, addressed this problem among the mystics of the Roman Catholic Church; but his assessment also fits many in the charismatic and prophetic movements today. He wrote,
These new revelations not only overshadowed the Bible and the Gospel, but also Him whom the Gospel proclaims and to whom the Bible bears witness. It is striking how rarely Christ appeared in all these 'revelations,' 'apparitions,' and 'wonders.' Catholics who followed in the wake of every new 'revelation,' which often turned out to be fantasy or deceit and indulged their desire for sensation by looking for the latest reports of miracles—and yet who had never once in their whole lives read the Scriptures from cover to cover (Hyatt, Angels of Light, 103).
The goal of the person utilizing contemplative prayer methods is to have a mystical encounter with God. To facilitate such a mystical encounter, techniques and postures of prayer, breathing, and meditation are very important.
One striking example of this preoccupation with posture and technique is that of Gregory Palamas, a 13th century monk who stressed quietness and stillness in the pursuit of a mystical union with God. As an aid to concentration, he recommended that the chin rest on the chest, with the eyes fixed on the navel.
God, of course, looks on the heart, not the physical posture of the person who seeks Him. This preoccupation with outward techniques and postures--staring at one’s navel--takes the practitioner away from Scripture. This is serious, for as the great historian, Philip Schaff, said, “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.”
The great 18th century Awakenings in England and America were birthed, not out of contemplative prayer, but out of the study of Scripture. The Methodist revival that transformed the British Isles began with John and Charles Wesley leading a study of the Greek New Testament each evening from 6 – 9 p.m.
George Whitefield, whose preaching shook both England and America, lived and moved in the Scripture. In describing his commitment to Scripture after his conversion, he wrote,
My mind now being more open and enlarged, I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees, laying aside all other books and praying over, if possible, every line and word (Hyatt, Revival Fire, 25).
In the 20th century, the Azusa Street Revival that helped birth the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movements was rooted and grounded in the study of Scripture. In the June 1907 edition of the Apostolic Faith, the official publication of the revival, the revival leaders wrote,
We are measuring everything by the Word; every experience must measure up to the Bible. Some say that is going too far, but if we have lived too close to the Word, we will settle that with the Lord when we meet Him in the air (Hyatt, Revival Fire, 27).
I do not practice contemplative prayer because it tends to lead those who practice it away from the Bible into an unhealthy introversion and self-serving pursuit of personal experience, also known as “staring at one’s navel.”
Reason #3
Jesus & the Early Church Did Not Practice or Teach It
Jesus does not advocate any form of mystical or contemplative prayer. He does not teach any postures or techniques for prayer and meditation. Neither is there any mention of silence or centering prayers.
Instead, He emphasizes a relational approach to God in which prayer is simple conversation with a loving, benevolent Being whom He calls Abba, an endearing term used only by children for the father in the Jewish household.
For Jesus, oneness with God is not a mystical union of one’s being with God, but a practical oneness of will and purpose. Not My will but Thine be done, Jesus prayed, showing that, in His incarnate state, union with God consisted of a submission of His will to the will of the Father.
When the disciples, in Luke 11:1-4, ask Jesus to, teach us to pray, He does not respond by teaching them techniques and postures for prayer and meditation. Instead, He says to them, When you pray, say, “Our father who art in heaven . . ..” Jesus teaches them to verbally express themselves to God in prayer. For Jesus, prayer is relational and is characterized by intelligent conversation with a personal Heavenly Father.
The early church followed in the footsteps of Jesus and prayed dynamic, relational prayers in which they recognized God’s majesty and greatness and asked for His help in the urgencies of life (see, for example, Acts 4:23-31). The miracles they experienced (healings, angelic deliverances, etc.) occurred, not in a mystical, contemplative state of prayer, but while they were going about the business of obeying Christ’s command to take the Gospel to the whole world.
I cannot imagine Jesus and His disciples all sitting in the lotus position with their eyes closed seeking to go into a place of silence and contemplation where they will ascend heavenward into a mystical encounter God. Such a picture is completely contrary to what we know of Jesus from the Gospels.
Instead, He promises His followers a baptism in the Holy Spirit that will empower them to be His witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Their encounter with God on the Day of Pentecost does not cause them to withdraw from the world into silence but compels them to go forth into all the world declaring the Good News of what Jesus has done for the human race.
I do not practice contemplative prayer because Jesus did not practice it, nor did His earliest followers.
Conclusion
A number of years ago, Sue and I participated in a weekend retreat in which everyone was asked to take a "vow of silence" and the contemplative approach to prayer and spirituality was put forth. I came away from that “spiritual retreat” convinced that what I had encountered was a substitute for the promised baptism in the Holy Spirit as an empowerment for life and service. My prayerful studies since that time have confirmed that determination and led me to decide to write this article explaining why I do not practice contemplative prayer. 
This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, Angels of Lightavailable from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.