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Archive for January, 2007

It all comes down to…

When the fog of Charismania started to lift for me, and I began to acknowledge that a lot of teachings at our church did not really line up with what the Bible said, I wrote the following little blurb for my own personal use. It felt good to define in black and white what I’m now realizing is the crux of the whole issue: Biblical interpretation. And, while I wrote this just to help myself articulate what I was observing, I believe it might be helpful to others. So I’m sharing it with you today. Here goes…

It all comes down to how we view Scripture. Charismatics and Evangelicals both claim to view the Bible as their final, ultimate authority. But it’s always important to define the terms that we use. A traditional Evangelical would define “ultimate authority” far differently than a Charismatic.

Evangelicals see the Scripture as perfect and complete, and, when it comes to interpretation, are vigilant about examining the context of a particular passage, the intent of its original author, the original audience, etc., BEFORE offering up an interpretation or application. A Charismatic, on the other hand, views interpretation much more loosely. When Charismatics say that the Bible is a “living, breathing document,” they mean exactly that. In the same way that, with every breath, a human being is in a constant state of molecular regeneration—cells are perpetually dying and being replaced, to the point where, ten years later, an individual has become a much different-looking person—so the Bible is constantly being “rejuvenated” by the breath of the Holy Spirit, bringing new revelation every time a reader cracks open its pages.

For instance, it is commonplace for a Charismatic preacher to take a couple of verses from the book of Isaiah and use them to bring a new teaching to his congregation. When the “Toronto Blessing,” with its manifestations of “holy laughter” and “chicken flapping” hit in the 1990s, one of the Scripture passages used to support the movement was Isaiah 43:19, which says, “Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Evangelicals, on the other hand, would put much tighter boundaries on that verse. They would say, “Whoa! Wait a minute! That was God speaking to the literal nation of Israel, through the prophet Isaiah, with a specific directive for a specific period of history. Just because you read that passage to a congregation, that does not mean that God is intending to do a ‘new thing’ to the hearers of the passage. You can’t use that verse to support laughing like a hyena or dancing like a chicken, no matter how much you feel the Holy Spirit is telling you to do so, because Scripture is anchored by context and original audience.”

Here’s a good quote from the e-book available at www.intototruth.org (“Anointing or Apostasy?”– http://www.intotruth.org/res/latterrain.pdf ) that describes how Charismaniacs approach Scripture:

Throughout the history of the Church, many have abandoned the literal method of interpreting the scriptures, the method used by our Lord and His Apostles, for what is called the “allegorical” or “spiritualizing” method of interpretation. Basically, this method denies that the primary meaning of the Biblical text is the literal one and teaches that the true meaning is a deeper, “spiritual one” that is hidden beneath the literal rendering of the text. In other words “It doesn’t mean what it says, it means what I say it says!”

Here’s another quote from the same document:

In 1990 I began to hear the term “prophetic interpretation” in our church which simply meant our pastor (now elevated to an apostle) could make the text mean whatever “the Spirit” was revealing. In Latter Rain circles truth is changing and evolving. Scriptures do not have one meaning; the meaning evolves, as does the Church. What Latter Rain people look for in the Bible is the “present day truth” which is arrived at by the Holy Spirit as revealed through His current crop of apostles and prophets.

So you see, while Evangelicals view Scripture within tight boundaries, Charismatics view Scripture as a springboard for new truths and observations that the Holy Spirit might be trying to teach them.

Both views have their dangers. Obviously, when you open the door to interpreting Scripture based upon what “the Spirit is speaking,” it becomes a much more subjective exercise. How do we then determine truth?

But on the other hand, if we think that we can know every last mystery or intention of God based upon context or audience or author’s overarching theme, then we are arrogant and are studying the Bible only within the tight box of our own presuppositions.

The question becomes, how do we develop parameters?

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"Propheteering"

(Guest blogger – my wife) 🙂

I am not a cessationist. I still believe that God speaks to His people today, sometimes through prophetic utterance.

However, one aspect of our journey into “Charismania” that always made me a bit uncomfortable was the seeming over-emphasis our church placed on the pastor’s “prophetic gifting.” It was a pretty common occurrence for the pastor to “pull someone out” of the audience and begin to speak prophetically to them.

Initially I was fascinated by the whole thing. On several occasions, my husband was pulled out, and we quickly learned that everybody took these prophetic “Words” very seriously. We had two dear church friends who even transcribed the Words for the recipients, as a sort of ministry. We kept these transcripts, and, because of how easy it was to slide into “group think” in our enthusiastic, cheering congregation, we also began to view the so-called “prophetics” as coming from God.

At the beginning, I guess you could say that peer pressure caused me to set aside my discomfort. In my desire to exercise my faith—and also, to be like everyone else in our new church family—I neglected to exercise Scriptural discernment.

But I never really completely silenced the questioning voices in my thoughts, the discomfort. And after some years of watching the prophetic ministry, there were a few observations I simply could not ignore.

For instance, I found it suspect that so many of the “personal prophetics” seemed to follow a pattern. If you were a young black man, you were usually told that the devil had tried to take you out, that you were going to be a soul winner. If you were a woman, something would be mentioned about all the times you cried out before the Lord, and how God “hears your prayers, my daughter.”

The prophetic words were very rarely (in fact, I almost cannot remember a “word” that actually WAS) detailed or specific. They often reminded me of horoscopes—they could fit half the people in the room. And, the prophetic words were NEVER rebukes, which made them very little like at least 75% of the prophecies in the Bible.

In the Bible, prophecy was most often used to correct people, rather than encourage them.

I don’t believe that our former pastor was intentionally trying to deceive or manipulate people. I believe he was sincere in the way he exercised his “gift.” But, all too often, our congregation was taught to cling to the so-called “Thus saith the Lords” over our lives, to draw hope from these prophetic declarations. Even we—solidly Biblically educated folks—found ourselves deriving reassurances from our “Words.” As my husband went through some career uncertainties, we found ourselves pulling out those “Word” transcripts and reading them over and over again. They were very encouraging, and often they would help us not to worry about the future. After all, “God” had given us some amazing promises about how things were going to turn out.

Well, as more time passed, my doubts over the prophetic only increased, especially when the ONLY “Word” that contained specifics about timing (“By the end of January, you will be faced with making a decision between two courses of action in your career…”) did NOT happen.

Had God made a mistake when “He” spoke to us?

Since I knew enough to know that that wasn’t possible, I could only conclude that this particular “Word” was not from God.

Which brought up another huge issue for me: how, then, could we possibly figure out which “Words” were accurate (from God) and which “Words” were not?

I finally allowed myself to exercise some discernment, rather than cling in blind faith to what we were being taught. And what I realized is that, while, as I said, I do not believe our pastor was consciously trying to deceive or manipulate anyone, I now know that our congregation would do so much better if we were taught to place our hope in Jesus Christ and the written Word, rather than vague “prophecies.”

I’ve discovered an excellent discernment ministry that addresses many issues pertinent to today’s church. Check it out: http://cicministry.org/ . Below is a small snippet from Bob DeWaay’s commentary on some of today’s so-called prophets. I found his remarks very helpful:

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“The false prophets are full of caveats to get themselves off the hook. They claim that predictions are conditional, and that if nothing happened then enough people in Los Angeles evidently repented so it did not happen. God decided to delay things for some reason. They claim that they are not 100% accurate yet in their prophetic ministries because they are still learning and growing.

All of this does not erase one glaring fact God is portrayed as a liar when someone claims to be speaking direct revelation from God, in His name, and what they say is false. False prophecy is hugely damaging in many ways: lives are uprooted, fear instilled and God’s name is blasphemed. This is a very serious thing and it is disturbing how blithely some are willing to pronounce, thus saith the Lord. People are looking to a man to be an infallible spokesman for God when only the inspired Scripture is inerrant and infallible.

For many, going to prophetic meetings and conferences has kept them away from sitting under solid, exegetical Bible teaching because it has been put aside for the new revelations of man. This creates immature and unstable Christians. Sadly many are starving to death for solid Biblical teaching in churches claiming to be seeking a great move of God. In the audio tape quoted in this article, Bob Jones talks about a hunger for God’s Word, but he was not talking about Bible teaching. The hunger is for personal, subjective revelations.

People want to hear from God. To receive this in their churches they should demand verse by verse expository preaching that delves deeply into the text of the Bible, bringing it to bear on the lives of the hearers. Then they will have heard from God. Paul said, For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1Corinthians 1:21). The message preached, as seen in the context, is the message of the cross.”

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Amen!

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Favoritism

Most cultic groups have an inner and outer circle. The inner circle will contain the privileged, while the cults’ much larger outer circle will contain the ordinary members. Of course everyone in the cult wants to be part of the inner circle, and so much effort is expended in currying favor with those who hold the keys to inner circle membership.

The cults, however, do not have a monopoly on this institutionalized favoritism; Cultwatch has received many reports of favoritism being rife in the Super Apostles’ churches. The six predominantly reported Super Apostle practices of this type include: forming an exclusive inner group that includes both the rich and the Super Apostles favorite lieutenants, Super Apostles surrounding themselves with “bodyguards” who work as a barrier that only the privileged can penetrate, organizing prohibitively expensive “getta ways” with the Super Apostle that only the rich can afford to go on, reserving privileged seating positions near the front of the church for those who are deemed worthy, marking off special car parking spots for the privileged, and promoting the wealthy into leadership positions ahead of the meritorious. There are other methods employed, but these six are ones we hear about most often.

But the Bibles says in James 2:1-11 “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”

Clearly this passage shows us that the Body of Christ ought to be a zone of equality, in contrast to the “wealth equals status” ways of the world. However, in this area the Super Apostle churches have copied the practices of the world, rather than duplicating the ways of the Kingdom of God; they would do much better to heed Scripture and not show favoritism.

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Excellence

Ah, Excellence! We’ve heard it many time. “We do what we do with excellence!” and “We are a house of anointed excellence!”.

In theory, that’s probably a very noble saying. But I believe it depends on your definition of excellence.

I have prayerfully considered this – and (I believe) that the Lord has shown me what the problem is here –

Perfection is the absence of mistakes – Excellence is the absence of sloppiness.

Our experience is that excellence and perfection are being confused, at least in our church. How many times have I seen flashes of anger because a microphone didn’t work exactly as planned – or because of the feedback that came from the monitors on the platform.

People make mistakes – there is only one perfect One.

The spirit of perfection is a debilitating spirit – nobody can measure up to this. Far too much emphasis is being placed on performing perfectly, at all times. All this does is cause stress and an unreachable goal.

Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Matthew 11:30 – perfection is neither easy nor light…

Question of the day – is this isolated? Is it rampant within the Charismatic world?

Comments are appreciated

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We’re on a journey here. It feels like we’ve just left the shore, but our destination is on the radar, with no chance of getting lost.

Our eyes have been opened to some issues within the “Church” that have been there for some time, but for some reason, we just haven’t seen – or wanted to see.

I received an email today from someone that has been in a similar situation. Without knowing all of the “players” in this game, he was able to discern what was happening. I’m going to post (anonymously of course – “Pastor Smith” is a pseudonym) some of his comments/questions to ask in the hopes that you may be in the same place, looking for the same answers –

  • If you had the opportunity to invite a hardened sinner to come see Jesus in your church, would he/she see Him in your pastor or the leadership? Is this the Christ you would want him/her to come to know and submit to? Another question: If you had a little son or daughter, would you want him/her to become like Pastor Smith or the other members of the leadership? Why or why not?
  • How long would the pastor and his family minister at your church should tithes and offerings abruptly cease? How long would they minister should they permanently lose their wealth through flood, earthquake, whatever, and had to take simple, dirty jobs to make a living (like the rest of us). Paul worked for a living, so that he would not be indebted to any man, and that he would not impose himself on the flock. Would Pastor Smith do that?
  • There is an utter lack of humility among the leadership, and the higher one goes, the more high and mighty he/she becomes. Does this attitude reflect Luke 22:24-26? Pastor Smith gives preambles to his sermons, and that the other preachers in the church must recognize that they got their sermon ideas, not from the Spirit, but from Pastor Smith. In other words, they give glory to man, and not to God. Jesus said this of the Pharisees who opposed Him (John 5:44). Is that Christlike (John 13:3-5)? Can you seriously imagine pastor Smith getting on his knees before you and washing your feet in humility? Why not?
  • True prophetic ministry is God revealing accurately what is going on in a person’s life, and exactly what to do about a situation, etc. The key word here is “exact”. “General” just doesn’t cut it. God has all knowledge, and He does not withold things for His children or give them vague directions or promises. God is specific, and an encounter with Him is life-changing. Regarding vague, so-called “prophecies”, they are given by man, not God, and they are used to manipulate the person receiving them into a pre-determined pattern, or given just for appearance’s sake. These are called “shotgun prophecies”, because they are so scattered that they could literally apply to or “hit” anyone within range. They are not true prophecies.

I hope you are able to receive this in the spirit in which it is given. No condemnation – just truth, and with the truth comes freedom.

*update* – I just ran across this list – I think it appropriate to include:

1. Power Questioning – the spiritual leader constantly reminds those who are under his care that he is the authority.

2. Unquestion Authority – the spiritual leader labels anyone who questions his authority as rebellious.

3. Secrecy – church leaders broker information & maintain levels of secrecy for the purpose of maintaining control.

4. Elitist Attitude – a spiritual leader insists that only those who agree with him on everything are true & refuses to acknowledge anyone else as being able to truly know God.

5. Emphasis on Performance – a spiritual leader measures spiritual vitality by self established standards of performance codes of behaviour are imposed over all areas of life.

6. Motivation by Fear – spiritual leaders use fear of falling into the hands of the devil or fear of falling under the wrath of God to maintain control of their followers.

7. Painful Exit – a person cannot leave the group on good terms. Any decision to leave results in excommunication or some other public humiliation & ridicule & censure.

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First post –

No subscribers yet, but I’m trusting they will come.

Why am I doing this?

I am a Charismatic Christian. I’m a bona fide believer – in the FULL Gospel. I believe that the Gifts of the Spirit are for today. I believe that healing is for today (I’m an example – future post). I believe that miracles happen every day.

What troubles me is the move from the Gospel to the material – i.e., “Latter Rain Doctrine”. I’m used to seeing folks dance in the aisles because of either a breakthrough that has occurred, or has been prophetically promised. However, I wonder if those same folks would be so joyous if they had been given a “word” that 5000 souls would be won for Christ in the next week. Makes you think.

I’m looking for some reality – the delivery of the Gospel – the Full Gospel, minus the need for fancy cars, expensive houses, flashy dress, and obvious favoritism in the ranks. I read an interesting article at this link. It was pretty interesting, discussing the difference between Pentecostal teaching and Charismatic teaching. I especially like the graphic (posted below)


I’m looking for a group of folks that want to worship in Spirit AND in Truth. According to the Bible. The whole Bible…not just part of it. Here’s what I’m disturbed about:

  1. Favoritism – obvious that certain folks get “special privilege” because of social status.
  2. Impression that blessing is financial only.
  3. “Pastor as a Celebrity” – what happened to servant leadership?
  4. There is no humility in the leadership
  5. Misuse of Scripture – “Give honor where honor is due” is used as an excuse for the congregation to give gifts to leadership.
  6. No accountability – we’ve heard (many times) “You didn’t hire me, so you can’t fire me – if you don’t like it, you can leave”. Additionally, there is no “public record”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those folks that sits around and tries to disprove ministries, etc. I’m just trying to find the balance…

I believe that there are folks out there that are in the same situation – I’d love to hear from you – feel free to post comments. I’m sure that there are many that disagree as well…I’d love to hear from you too – just stay in the right spirit 🙂

I’m not the smartest guy in the blogosphere – guaranteed. I’m going to ask folks to contribute to this. I want to expose what needs to be exposed, and protect what needs to be protected.

Hang on – here we go

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