by Neil Babcox
What did I feel as I heard the prophecies during these conferences? My own feelings are described by a man named Neil Babcox, a man who served as pastor of a Pentecostal church until leaving the movement. Consider the testimony of this man who once gave prophecies himself and who believed in these things:
Prophetic messages were quite common at our church. In fact, whenever we assembled to worship, spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy, were foremost in our minds. Even though we followed no prescribed liturgy, there was an unwritten order of worship that always included the opportunity for one to prophesy according to the proportion of his faith.
Our prophecies seldom if ever predicted the future. Instead they took the form of fervent exhortations or simple words of comfort. Generally they consisted of various biblical phrases and fragments pieced together like a patchwork quilt. Often they focused upon such themes as the imminent return of Christ or God’s forgiving love. Most of the time the prophecies were spoken in the first person as if God Himself were addressing us, but occasionally the phrase “thus saith the Lord” was used even as it was by the prophets of the Bible.
There was something distinctly romantic about the notion of prophesying. There you are standing in succession to the prophets of the Bible. Samuel and Elijah saw your day coming and were glad. True, your lips are unclean, but they have been touched by a live coal from off the altar. Like Isaiah, you have heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And you responded, “Here am I. Send me!”
Yes, it was all very romantic. But gradually, what had started as a romantic venture, an idealistic quest for spiritual gifts, was slowly, imperceptibly changing. Into what, I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that the excitement and romance of prophesying was turning into an uneasy sense that the prophecies I heard, including my own, were hardly worthy of the name. The idea that they were the words of the Living God was beginning to seem painfully ludicrous. Would the romance now become a comedy of errors, or a tragedy, perhaps? At any rate, one thing was certain: this burden of the prophets was becoming a crushing, onerous weight. And I couldn’t help wondering if the weight which I was carrying was not the burden of the Lord at all, but some foreign yoke of bondage.
In my case there were four simple words that played a decisive role in changing my heart: Thus saith the Lord. To me, these were most unsettling words. And the more I comprehended their meaning, the more I understood what the prophets meant when they spoke them and what the Holy Spirit meant when He inspired them, the more unsettling they became.
“Thus saith the Lord.” What abuses I had seen of those words! what bitter fruit I had seen born by men and women speaking these words! I have seen people married on the basis of guidance received from personal prophecies only to be divorced a week later because of a terrible scandal. Many lives have been harmed by such prophetic guidance. What actions, what conduct, have been countenanced by a “thus saith the Lord.”
The moment of truth came when I heard a prophecy spoken at a charismatic church I was visiting. I was sitting in the church trying to worship God while dreading the approach of that obligatory moment of silence which signaled that a prophecy was about to be spoken. The silence came, and soon it was broken by a bold and commanding “Thus saith the Lord!”
Those words triggered an immediate reaction. Conviction, like water rising against a dam, began to fill my soul. “Listen my people.” …[the prophesy commenced] Until finally, the dam burst: “This is not my God,” I cried within my heart. “this is not my Lord!” (Neil Babcox, A Search for Charismatic Reality – One Man’s Pilgrimage, pp. 46-59)