CBN.com It was a few days before Christmas, 1967, and Nedra's folks were coming. Nedra was really into Christmas, birthdays and family times like that. She wanted our place to look as nice as possible. The trouble was, even with the furniture we had received from CBN, the rooms were still pretty empty. One day I came home from the office, opened the front door, and there towering over me was this young sequoia, a Christmas tree, 13 feet from the floor to the living-room ceiling.
Nedra was standing on a chair stretching up on tiptoe to hook a popcorn chain over one of the branches. "Oh Scott, here! Help me. Isn't it great!" She handed me one end of the chain. "We may not have a bed but we've sure got a Christmas tree! Doesn't it look fantastic!" On and on she went, excited as a child.
As I walked around the tree, looping popcorn, I saw how Nedra had thrown herself into this thing. She had glass balls and tinsel icicles and cranberry ropes and colored lights and all sorts of stuff all over it. I could tell how much it meant to her, which made what happened next all the more appalling.
The next day at work I had a phone call from a woman complaining about hearing a Christmas Tree carol on CBN programming. The custom of decorating trees, she informed me, was a heathen practice, which the Bible specifically condemned. Well, I thanked her for calling and forgot it. You know, we got all kinds of weird calls.
But that night, with a sleet storm howling outside, I sat in our living room looking at that giant tree. Again those urgent, compelling words started forming themselves in my head. They even had a faintly Elizabethan ring.
Verily, I do not look gladly upon this tree in the house of My people for this tree is an abomination in My sight.
As Pat had suggested I spoke the words out loud, then glanced uneasily toward the kitchen where Nedra was feeding the baby. I could just see her face if she were to hear her beautiful tree called an abomination. I sighed and turned back to the day's stack of Christmas cards, "Seasons Greetings from Your Diaper Service." I looked up at the tree again. It was a creepy kind of night, windy and cold with sleet rattling on the windows. It seemed to me almost as though there were an unwanted presence hovering in the room.
Yea, the presence you yourselves brought in with that heathen tree!
The wind moaned around the corner of the house. I sprang up from the sofa, groped among the branches of the tree till my hands closed around the trunk, and without even stopping to unplug the light cord from the wall, I started dragging it toward the front door. Balls fell off and broke beneath my feet, tinsel got in my mouth. Nedra, with Nedra Kristina in her arms, reached the room in time to see me haul the tree over the threshold and send it crashing down the front steps, electric cord trailing behind. It skidded across the frozen sidewalk to the gutter and I stepped back inside, brushing off my hands against my trousers.
Only then did Nedra find her voice, "Scott Ross, have you gone stark, staring MAD?"
"Not mad, my dear. Prophetic. God spoke to me very clearly just now about that tree, and I have been obedient."
She stared at me. "He spoke to you about my tree? My lovely beautiful Christmas tree? She was too angry to cry. And you acted, just like that, without even discussing it?" she said.
"You don't understand about prophecy, Nedra," I explained. "Prophecy means that God has spoken and when God speaks you don't run around checking it out with people."
"Now Mr. Scott Ross is in to prophecy," she responded. "What's my mother going to say when she sees our Christmas tree out on the sidewalk?"
Even I could see that this scene was bouncing off the wall. I picked up the few balls that had not broken and tried to decorate the mantel. But when Nedra's mother and father, her Aunt Good-Good and her Aunt Oretha arrived later in the week, it was to find a bare living room and a very confused young couple.
Now, this was not the end of it. Just a few days after the tree episode I caught a newscast at the station, which told, of a group of American Indians trapped in a snowstorm out in Arizona. On the talk show that evening I made an appeal for clothing, and it was then that I received a second "prophecy." Right in the middle of the show I got another word from the Lord: I was to chuck everything and go out personally to Arizona to minister to the Indians.
When I came home to Nedra with this incredible piece of news she looked at me as if she truly feared for my sanity. Here we were with a brand new baby and a brand new home, and I suddenly announce that we are going to leave Portsmouth, abandon all our radio and music training, and go out to work among people whose problems we know less than nothing about.
But sure enough, while I was on the air the next night talking about the Indians a man telephoned to say that he too had just heard from the Lord. "You, Scott Ross," he intoned, "are supposed to go out to Arizona to work with these neglected children of God."
What else did I need! I'd had a word from the Lord, and here was the confirmation of what I had heard. The only thing that bothered me was the logic of it. I knew a lot about people who were alienated from the traditional churches, and in radio I was finding a way to reach them. But what did I know about Arizona Indians? The farthest west I'd ever gotten was West Virginia. I didn't bring this doubt up with anyone, though. I had taken a stand. The Lord had spoken; we were going to obey.
And then little Nedra Kristina exploded the whole house of cards.
Nedra was valiantly trying to cope with parents, aunts, friends dropping in, no furniture, no Christmas tree, a new baby, and Mr. Scott Ross who was prophesying. One evening there were more guests than chairs so we all went up to our bedroom and sat around on the big mattress on the floor, singing Christmas carols. Nedra Kristina lay on her back in the center of the group, fists and feet waving.
All of a sudden into my mind popped a portion of scripture I'd read in Matthew that very morning: "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise."
I looked at Nedra Kristina.
I let my voice drop an octave and pronounced that out of the mouth of this babe we were about to hear the praise of God. In English.
Nedra Kristina gurgled.
Nedra looked at me. Her mother and father tried not to. The aunts folded and unfolded their hands. I repeated the prophecy: this very night God was going to bring perfection from those tiny lips.
The baby hiccuped.
All at once, Aunt Oretha, that wonderful, wise and gentle woman, threw back her head and laughed. "I don't know what kind of voice you're hearing, honey, but it sure isn't God's. Why He's just got better sense."
And with the sound of her laughter it was as if a clean, fresh wind blew through the muddle in my brain. Of course God had better sense than to desire a three-month-old infant to converse like an adult. That had been my own far-out interpretation of the Bible verse. Every bit of it had been me: the Christmas tree, still lying forlorn and frozen at the curb, and the brainstorm about going out to Arizona, all a great big head trip.
I'll make coffee said Nedra. And no one in the family mentioned the scene again.
But the first thing I did when I got to the office on Monday was to shut myself in Pat Robertson's office and pour out the whole tale of error. So much for prophecy, I summed up.
To my annoyance, instead of apologizing for his role in the whole debacle, Pat nodded as though this were a perfectly predictable turn of events. "I told you to experiment," he agreed. "And when you did, you got stung. Satan stepped in and nearly scared you off altogether didn't he?"
Satan stepped in . . . The words didn't sound so much like a figure of speech as they once had.
"Don't you know Satan's the great counterfeiter?" Pat went on. "He can whisper the most plausible ideas you've ever heard right in your ear. And he's the slickest old Bible quoter there is."
Then how do you know prophecy from a big lie?
There were three ways, Pat said. Not just one of them, but all three together were the ways God confirmed His word to us. Satan may trump up one of them, or even two, but he's too chaotic a character to get all three working together.
The written word, Pat went on, was the first test. Check every voice you hear against the Bible. Where in the Bible does it say, for instance, that you shouldn't have a Christmas tree?
I don't know where, exactly. The woman who called said the Bible said you shouldn't decorate trees. She said it was a heathen custom.
Of course it was a heathen custom to start with! Most customs were. Don't take anybody's word about what's in the Bible. Check it out for yourself.
Next, said Pat, test the prophecy in your own spirit. Bring everything you have to bear on it experience, common sense, your own past history, your inclinations. Our spirit is to test the spirits, you know.
Finally, he said, when scripture and your own spirit agree, lay your proposed action before the body of Christ. Not some guy you've never met who calls on the telephone. I'm talking about the recognized elders of the church, my friend. Recognized local leaders who will hear out your prophecy and give a mature judgement like it says in First Corinthians. Remember how . . .
But I was no longer listening. Words like elders and leaders were banging around my head. Then where was freedom? Where was the Spirit? Where were the things Nedra and I were looking for when we signed on for this Christian trip?
If I was going to have to start taking orders now, checking it out with
some kind of committee every time I wanted to sneeze, I might just as
well be back in one of those narrow little churches I'd grown up in, with
a list of rules ten miles long, and everyone minding everyone else's business.
The ones that picked my father to death with their gossiping and spying.
No thanks. I wasn't going to listen to anyone but Jesus.
From Scott Free by Scott Ross - Copyright Scott Ross 2000
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