Too many people profess to be prophets. To borrow from the soul singer James Brown, they are talking loud but saying nothing. In some cases, their “nothing” proves dangerous. Lives shatter because spiritual leaders demand vulnerable people submit to abusive spouses and authorities as if God required it. Christian leaders bolster oppressive structures rather than helping to dismantle them. So-called prophets seek to profit off desperate followers by exploiting their trust for financial gain. A sure way to identify a false prophet is by their claim that they alone speak for God.

I affirm that God still speaks prophetically. We witness the beauty and power of timely pronouncements that zero in on particular wrongs needing to be righted. At times, prophetic words come from unlikely sources, as well as from faithful pastors and Christian leaders. As Jesus made clear, you can tell a tree by its fruit, and likewise a true prophet: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matt. 7:18).

False prophets have long circulated among God’s people. This was true in ancient Israel, in first-century Christianity, through reformations and revivals. We must not become jaded by their proliferation. Jesus promised they would abound and try to deceive, “if possible, even the elect” who should know better (Matt. 24:24). God still speaks, and we can hear if our spiritual ears attune and our hearts soften to respond.

There is much to muffle God’s voice. Our conveniences and agendas clog our ears. The quest for power, significance, popularity, or other markers of success distorts our hearing. We apprehend only what we want. Pain, grief, or injustice ...

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