Prophet or Whacko? You Decide.

So, I’m reading the book of Jeremiah and it’s brought to mind a question I wrestle with often. How do we know if someone is a prophet of God or a whacko?

Take for instance, Crazy Mary. (That’s not really her name but it wouldn’t matter if I did use her name because she won’t go near computers for fear the government will track her down.) Anyway, Crazy Mary used to show up at a Bible study I led at the Y. Through her study of scripture, she believed that the U.S. government is the reincarnation of Rome and is so sinful that we should have nothing to do with it.

I’ve gotta give this to Mary. She stood by her convictions. She wouldn’t use her social security number so she couldn’t work so she was usually homeless. Occasionally, she would find work but since the federal government produces our currency, she would only allow her employers to pay her in produce. Which was fine because she believed we should not ingest meat or other products that were tainted by chemicals not found in nature so she was also a vegetarian for God.

(I’m thinking of getting paid in produce from now on, too, since on the radio last night I heard that a sizable percentage of our currency regularly tests positive for cocaine! Maybe Mary was onto something.)

Ok, so, mostly, I think Mary is a whacko.

But, she studies her scriptures with devotion, practices what she learns and, homeless or not, she always shows up at a church (never the same one week-to-week so the government can’t track her). So, sometimes I wonder if the way we view Crazy Mary is how the ancient Israelites viewed my Biblical heroes – Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, Elijah and the rest of the “speaking for God” gang. And it gives me pause.

One thing Crazy Mary does is challenge me to stand by my scriptural convictions. So, the first part of that is having convictions in the first place.

Sometimes I read the Bible and I think God’s commands are good ideas but since they’re kind of impractical I don’t aim to follow them dead-on, I just wander somewhere nearer to the vicinity of obedience. I develop “near beliefs” which are the dangerous second cousin to actual beliefs. (Like, since God says gossip is wrong but I KNOW I won’t avoid gossiping, I “share” my gossip as a “concern” and a “request for prayer”. See how creepy that is and so NOT in the neighborhood of obedience?)

So, what Crazy Mary does is challenge me.

I think that if Crazy Mary can be homeless because she’s so sure she’d be disobedient to participate in an evil government, shouldn’t I be willing to have people think I’m clueless rather than share the juicy, inside gossip I do, in fact, know?

Sometimes, it’s not as clear as that.

I’ve been accused of being a whacko for what I think are some pretty non-radical decisions. I homeschooled my kids.I believe they should wait until they’re married to have sex. I believe I’m wrong when I complain about my husband to others. I think it’s wrong to complain at work behind a coworker’s back. This is hardly radical stuff compared to the ancient prophets but to many people in my world, I at least border on whacko.

I’ve had well-meaning but whacko-in-training believers tell me that they’ve received messages from God for me. Usually, the message involves me doing something they know needs to be done but they don’t want to do. I always listen, thank them and then assure them that I’ll make a direct call to the Lord myself for confirmation.

But see, once in a while, someone DOES receive a message from God for me.

And as the world spins more and more out of control, those of us who know the truth will look more and more like whackos than the prophets and priests we are in Christ. So we should really dig into scripture and press in to God to learn how to discern heretics from heroes of the faith.

In I Thessalonians 5:19-22, God says,”Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

I believe the answer lies in day-to-day, moment-by-moment relationship with Christ, obedience to His word, prayer, transparent relationships with mature believers and regular study of God’s word. We can’t be lazy about this. We are up against a master deceiver who knows the best lie is a half-truth. In the words of Winston Churchill, “This is no time for ease or comfort. It is time to dare and endure.”

There are those among us who sound like they speak for God but are whackos. There are those among us who LOOK like whackos but who speak for God. And anyone of those can cross over to the other side with little or no warning.

So, when faced with the question of prophet or whacko, the answer is to know the voice of God well enough that we can spot an impersonator. We can’t just check in on occasion and think we’ll know a counterfeit when we hear one.

Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. And that’s true.

Prophet or whacko? It’s not a board game or a skit on Saturday Night Live. It could be the difference between eternal life or death.

Get in on the conversation

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


    The Conversation

  1. Amy says:

    I love reading your blog. You make great points, and it always makes me think. Hope you’re having a Blessed Wednesday!

  2. Andrea says:

    Great post…it is always good to check in with GOD first and see what HE thinks.
    Blessings, andrea

  3. Thinking is good, Amy! Thank you for your kind words. I hope you’re well! Can’t wait for the heat to break.

  4. Isn’t it amazing that we can go to the original source for wisdom and discernment, Andrea! I hope you are experiencing His joy and grace.

  5. Diana says:

    Great post once again Lori! Thanks for the reminder that it is ok to be different and that it is God we are accountable to. Have a great day1

  6. Cheri says:

    Love this post, Lori! We all need to be challenged with thoughts like this!


  7. dlynne222 says:

    Outstanding post! In a time when too many are calling everyone who believes differently than they do heretics it’s good to be reminded who the authority is and where to find the truth. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for sharing such an important truth. You are a wonderful writer.

  9. Thank you, Sharon! I hope you’ll drop in again.

    Dlynne and Diana, in the days ahead, it will be essential to be different! I just believe we must always be different because of our calling and our relationship with Christ and never “just to be different”.

    Always good to see you, Cheri!

  10. Karen says:

    I have often wondered this myself and have recently reached a peace on this issue.

    If we have a true relationship with God, He will clarify what is real and what is false. We just have to ask Him.

    God answers me through what I can only explain as a cross between a feeling and an instinct. A warm, peaceful feeling equals true. A tense, on-edge feeling equals false.

  11. Thanks, Karen! I truly believe that if we tune our hearing to know His voice we will know the imposters but it takes a day-by-day, moment-by-moment relationship with Jesus. Thanks for the drop by, Karen. Always wonderful to hear from you!

  12. Darla Sue Dollman says:

    If Mary is a real person and not a metaphor, it sounds as though she might possibly have a mental illness. I’m going to step out on a limb I rarely touch with my toes and say that it makes me uncomfortable to see anyone referred to as “crazy,” no matter what they claim. I don’t even know where to start–medications; Post Traumatic Stress; years of abuse. I’ve often pondered the same question you start with–why do we believe what we read in the Bible and doubt what we hear on the streets? I guess what bothers me is the terminology, calling Mary a “whacko,” calling her “crazy!” I get your point, but the words used to explain the message are words we generally attribute to bullies, and to be honest right now I feel pain for Mary to think that people she met with every week and trusted referred to her this way.

    • Lori Roeleveld says:

      I understand the aversion to the terminology, Darla. I work with people every day who strive to cope with mental illness. I use the common vernacular to engage but the message of the piece is to look behind the terms we use and question them.

      • Darla Sue Dollman says:

        Yes, I understood the message, but not the need for the vernacular, which should not be common. Just sharing an opinion. My focus is on bullying in schools, in the workplace, and by medical professionals. The use of those terms weakens the message in my heart. Yes, sticks, stones, and words can be harmful.