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Archive for May, 2008

A blogger over at a site called “End Times Prophetic Words” is doing a very thorough job of keeping up with the multitudes of things that can be written about Todd Bentley and the Lakeland “Outpouring.”  I really admire her work.

Yesterday, I noticed that we’d both put up similar posts showing the youtube videos and discussing the questions surrounding the purported resurrection of a two-days-dead little girl.  When I read through the comments accompanying that site’s article, I noticed the following, posted by someone calling himself “Chairos Seeker.”  He said, in comment #5,

By the way, being raised from the dead is not a resurrection. The disciples were commissioned to “raise the dead,” not resurrect the dead. “Resurrection” refers to being clothed with a new, perfect body. I think this distinction of terms is both Biblical and helpful. I don’t appreciate Todd’s appropriation of the term “resurrection” for raising the dead, let alone raising the brain dead.

I thought this was a very interesting observation.  While I’ve never paid much attention to the technical differences between the phrase “raising the dead” and the term “resurrection,” I believe that “Chairos Seeker” is probably correct in his assessment.  It does seem to go along with everything I remember from Scripture, that the term “resurrection” refers specifically to those who are raised from the dead and given their glorified bodies.

Something else that struck me, as I pondered the way that Todd Bentley has been touting that the revival has produced “13 resurrections,” was yet another question.  Since thus far, no documentation has been forthcoming about any of these “raised from the dead” stories – none of the “formerly dead” people have appeared on stage with Bentley or anything like that – what sort of message does that send to the world about the most important resurrection? 

After all, the whole reason that Christianity is different from all other world religions is because we claim to serve a RISEN Savior.  The resurrection of Christ (which took place after his crucifixion to pay the price for our sins and to reconcile us with the all-powerful, righteous, and holy God) is the absolute centerpiece of the Christian faith.  If you’re a Christian, you believe that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead on third day after His death on the cross.  You believe in this as a LITERAL, FACTUAL, PHYSICAL REALITY.  It’s the reality of Christ’s RESURRECTION that gives us hope.  Really, it’s the ONLY thing that gives us hope, for this life and the next.

So…my question is…what does it do to the Christian faith, to have the term “resurrection” tossed around so glibly?  If the Lakeland “Outpouring” is really all about Jesus, and if it’s truly evangelistic in nature, then shouldn’t more focus be on the one resurrection that absolutely matters? – Jesus’ own resurrection? 

And if all the stories about people being raised from the dead turn out to be just a bunch of hype, where the people weren’t really dead but, as apparently was true for the 3-year-old girl, merely woke up out of comas, doesn’t that just serve to detract from the message of salvation, the message of Christ’s resurrection?

I think it does.

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Here is the video that shows Todd Bentley presenting the story about the little 3-year-old girl who was said to have been raised from the dead:

Here is the video of Todd Bentley on the phone with the little girl’s father:

You will notice that even according to the exuberant testimonies on the video, the little girl in question was “brain-dead,” meaning that she had no detectable brain activity.  She was apparently, however, being “kept alive” on life-support machines.  Otherwise, how could they hope to “harvest her organs” for donation?  Like I said before, common sense tells us that they don’t accept donated organs from a 2-day-old cadaver.

I know that some of you think this is a mere technicality, but I would like to go on the record as saying that THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING “BRAIN DEAD” AND ACTUALLY STONE-COLD DEAD!  Even if a machine is doing your breathing and making your heart pump, as long as you have a pulse and blood is still circulating through your body, you are ALIVE, not DEAD.

So technically, this does not count as one of the supposed “thirteen resurrections from the dead” that the Lakeland, Florida “Outpouring” has been claiming to have witnessed.

Now obviously, having a brain-dead little girl snap out of her comatose, “as good as dead” state and then be completely recovered from the disease that had put her in that condition in the first place, is, all by itself, a HUGE miracle.

And God deserves all the praise for such a wonder…

IF it really happened.

But recently, reports have come out that the Lakeland folks have announced that the little girl, Jaden, has died once more.  This time, her cause of death was (supposedly) because a “New Age” lady came and prayed for her.

It all gets curiouser and curiouser!

But oh – I forgot – those of us who are puzzled by all the discrepencies are the ones who are being divisive.  It’s us questioners who are “quenching the Spirit.”

In case you can’t tell, I’m being just a tad bit sarcastic.  My true feelings on this one? –

Well, quite literally, THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS!  If stories are coming out with crucial details being reported inaccurately, and nobody bothers to correct these inaccuracies (such as, for instance, a “resurrection” turning out to be someone awaking from a coma), then those non-retracted stories or non-corrected details would be LIES.  And we all know who the “father of lies” is, right?

 

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In my email this morning was a message from J. Lee Grady, the editor of Charisma magazine.  It was entitled, “An Appeal For Unity In A Divisive Season,” and in the first part of this email, Grady was basically asking all of us who have serious questions about Lakeland and Todd Bentley to ignore any doctrinal questions we may have and, at least for the time being, shut up with our blogs and our youtube videos in which we point out the unbiblical.

But in the second part of his email, Grady did what I would consider a very good job outlining areas where Charismatics need to reach a theological consensus in order to address concerns that people have raised about Bentley’s unorthodox (to say the least) teachings and practices.

Yet the whole thing left me cold.  J. Lee Grady seems to be trying to appease both sides.  On the one hand, he appeared to be attempting to back-pedal in the face of criticism for his previous editorial expressing reservations about the goings-on in Lakeland, Florida.  In this most recent message, he even said that if he needs to retract portions of his “reservations” editorial and apologize, he would.

On the other hand, he admits that Todd’s teachings and apparent positions on things such as angels, visits to heaven, conversations with the dead, and so forth DO INDEED depart from historical Biblical Christianity’s stances on these matters.

Here is my opinion on J. Lee Grady’s call for unity, that I posted in a comment in the previous article:

I personally don’t think there can BE unity if the “Christians” in question are practicing and valuing different faiths. And since so much of what Todd used to teach – up until recently, when lots of his previous writings were removed from his website – departs dramatically from Biblical Christianity, I’m not sure what sort of faith he’s actually practicing. It seems more like a mixture of New Age spirituality done in Jesus’ name.

I personally refuse to be unified with THAT.

And by the way – I’m NOT calling into question whether Todd is a Christian or not. Only God can know that for sure. But God HAS given us His Word, which clearly does question many of the things that Todd Bentley and this revival are promoting.

Remember – just because seemingly good things happen (like the proported healings), or good feelings are produced (such as the drunken euphoric “highs” that people are reporting), or most importantly, that the name of Jesus is bandied about, that DOES NOT MEAN that the spirit at work is automatically the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told His disciples that many would come IN HIS NAME and yet would be false teachers.

What do YOU think? 

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Awhile back, I put up a post on this site expressing my confusion over some miracles that had been said to have happened at our former church through the use of “anointed” prayer cloths.  Although they should have been quite easy to verify – especially one story, where two sets of x-rays were taken within less than 24 hours, x-rays that supposedly proved the healing – no documentation was ever presented to the congregation.  The more I thought about this incident in recent months, the more I began to question what I had previously accepted wholeheartedly, just because it had been stated from the pulpit.  Given the fact that the “prayer cloth miracle story” was told repeatedly, to cheering crowds eager for their own miracle, it seemed to me highly unlikely that our former pastor would have passed up an opportunity to REALLY promote his church by documenting the incident, since it should have been so simple to document.

I’ve had those same questions about Benny Hinn and his ministry.  Given how money seems to be no object for him, and how he certainly employs plenty of camera crews involved in the production of his show, why haven’t any of these same camera crews participated in a follow-up show?  Why doesn’t Benny Hinn put an end to all the speculation and simply send a couple of these camera guys home with the folks who say they were healed?  American Idol is somehow able to give us camera footage of its contestants in their “natural habitats” – I remember distinctly how one year they even followed one girl (who ended up becoming a finalist) around as she did her mail route (she was a mail carrier).  Why doesn’t Benny Hinn do the same thing?

I’ve been following the stories of Todd Bentley and the “outpouring” that is happening at his meetings in Lakeland, Florida.  Recently, the internet was abuzz with chatter about the miracles that have been taking place there.  One miracle story was particularly spectacular.  Supposedly, a little girl who had been dead for two days and was on her way to “get her organs harvested” suddenly coughed and sat up, brought to life again.

There was footage – which I haven’t been able to find again – of Todd Bentley on the stage in Lakeland, speaking with the little girl’s father by cell phone.  As Todd relayed what the dad was telling him about the girl’s being raised from the dead, the crowd simply went wild.  When Todd got off the phone, he said to the crowd, “So where’s CNN now?”  Everybody roared and cheered in agreement.

I actually had the same question as Todd Bentley – where were the news people?

Of course, Christians will say that the news folks, of a liberal bent and out to discount the miraculous (unless it’s a “crying” stained glass window or something associated with New Age teachings), have such a bias against the Christian faith that they would never promote miracles by pursuing such a story.  And to some degree, they’re probably right. 

But what about the Christian media?  Certainly a publication like Charisma Magazine ought to be able to follow up on a story as thrilling as a child who was dead for two days but is now alive again, right?

You’d think so.  And, in fact, Charisma HAS done several news stories about Lakeland.  One of these stories was published on May 22, 2008 and does mention this particular incident. 

But for me, Charisma’s “coverage” of this story raises more questions than it answers. 

First of all, what is arguably this outpouring’s most spectacular miracle to date is not even mentioned until the eighteenth paragraph.  The story of the little girl who was raised from the dead is buried deep within Charisma’s accounts of all that is happening with the revival.

Moreover, the only thing Charisma finds to say about this story, in terms of documentation, is, “The hospital denied the report.”

That one line simply boggles my mind.  While I give Charisma credit for at least having the integrity to mention the hospital’s response, I simply cannot understand why their reporters would not have pursued this answer in more depth.

For instance, WHY did the hospital “deny the report”?  (I can immediately think of something that made ME wonder – I’m no medical professional, but even I know that organs are not harvested off of 2-day-old cadavers!  Certainly this little detail doesn’t add up!)

Also, even if the HOSPITAL denied the report, there would have to be plenty of other witnesses who could have confirmed that this actually happened.  I mean, what about the girl’s doctors?  The employees who work in the morgue?  What about the nurses?  Even the hospital custodians?  Surely SOMEBODY who had been there when this thing happened would remember it and be excited to talk about it, right?

The fact that Charisma, a publication with a natural bias toward believing in the Lakeland outpouring and promoting what’s going on there, did nothing to pursue this story tells me that they must know it’s fake.

What is wrong with all the people who aren’t pursuing these things?  I just don’t understand why the Christians who are so eager to believe in and promote the dramatic miraculous don’t do more to document what ought to be very easily proven.  If a little girl really did die and was raised from the dead two days later, praise God!  But let’s see a copy of the death certificate.  Let’s see her medical records. 

And if it turns out that this story, presented to such cheering acclaim in a very public and publicized meeting broadcast on the internet, turns out to be false or even partially inaccurate, then these inaccuracies ought to be publicized. 

To do any less shows a bizarre lack of integrity that is woefully out of line with the Christian faith.  I believe Jesus would be ashamed of those who tell lies in His name.

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A few nights ago, in response to a post about “Bullying” at church, I found myself leaving the following comment at a blog I like to visit:

Bullying can take more subtle forms, too. I saw lots of practically wordless bullying when I worked for the “Ladies’ Ministry.”

That’s in quotes, because essentially, our “Ladies’ Ministry” consisted of thrice-yearly get-togethers where the pastor’s wife would speak. There were virtually no activities other than these special events, few Bible studies or other small groups where women could learn the Bible, get to know each other, and form friendships. Instead, it was all about the pastor’s wife. Her elaborate themed events would require literally WEEKS of preparation and untold hours of work from many, many people.

Oddly enough, it was considered an honor to be “asked” (you had to be asked, you couldn’t just volunteer) to work on the decoration team. There was an even more select group, about a dozen of the church’s most socially prominent women, who got to be part of The Committee, who actually got to MEET WITH the pastor’s wife IN PERSON and discuss what they were doing for the next event.

Anyway, there was such a bizarre and totally irrational fear that gripped all the ladies who worked on the decorating team. I was so oblivious when I first came on board. I’d never been part of Charismania before, and I didn’t understand the big deal when some gals were freaking out because the two colors of cloth napkins didn’t coordinate perfectly with the elaborate fresh floral centerpieces. Some of the daisies had come in dyed the wrong color. I actually made the innocent remark of, “Why don’t we just call Mary (pastor’s wife – not her real name) and explain what happened?” My question was met with stunned silence as everybody looked at me with patronizing pity at how naive I was.

I soon learned that Mary was NOT to be bothered, not for ANY reason. She had a few minions who functioned as go-betweens, who actually got to speak with her on the phone. And even they (who were her supposed “close friends”) were extremely reluctant to call her. Everybody was so incredibly afraid of Mary.

I never actually SAW overt bullying on the part of the pastor’s wife, but I heard whispers from people who had seen her temper flare. Apparently that was an experience that you did not want to live through twice. And later, I also found out that one scornful glance from her could cut far worse than any knife. She had a way of lavishing smiles on those who did well, to where everybody yearned for her approval and worked like slaves to get noticed by her. Those who were the recipients of her disdain, though, might as well kiss goodbye any hopes of making it socially at that church.

It was a truly sick dynamic.

After we left our church, I came to the sudden realization (as though blinders had fallen off) that those ladies’ events weren’t even about us ladies. They essentially functioned as outreach events, designed to draw people in to the church and impress them. I realized that I didn’t even enjoy them at all, that they were stiff and uncomfortable and overly gaudy and cost way too much money (tickets were sold, usually at $10 to $20 apiece, depending on the meal served).

Executives at billion-dollar corporations don’t even exhibit the prima donna behaviors that our pastor’s wife displayed. It’s all so much the opposite of the “mind of Christ.” Even now, more than a year after we’ve left, I cannot believe we willingly subjected ourselves to that stuff and thought it was OK…let alone CHRISTIAN.

Taking a few minutes to write out my thoughts like that on the “Clarity Rediscovered” blog caused me to experience something of a flashback, as I remembered just what it felt like to participate in the “Ladies’ Ministry” at our old church.  My time as an “invited volunteer” with the so-called “Ladies’ Ministry” at Living Word Church (for the record, NOT the church’s real name) was probably the first source of my disillusionment with the Smiths’ ministry, more than anything else. 

When we initially came to Living Word, I naively projected everything that I’d known about “church” – from a lifetime of involvement in typical Evangelical/Baptist Bible-believing churches – onto Living Word.  As I worked with the other ladies on the decoration committee, I assumed that certain things were just “givens.”  I was completely unaware of the untouchable celebrity status given to Mary Smith.  I had no idea that their thing for “excellence” actually meant frantic perfectionism.   I believed that Mary, as the director of the women’s ministry, and as basically the only teacher permitted to speak to us women, must simply exemplify what a “good Christian woman” ought to be, in terms of her patience, humility, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

Therefore, when “crises” would arise – like when the fresh floral centerpieces arrived and didn’t quite perfectly match the colors of the napkins – I didn’t understand, at least at the beginning, why it was such a big deal.  I just “knew” that Mary Smith, as a kind and gentle woman who exhibited the fruits of the Spirit, would have wisdom and perspective about such silly details.  I projected what I’d always known about women of good Christian character onto her and assumed that if we just explained what had happened, she’d laugh and tell us not to worry about it.  I “knew” that she’d never, EVER care more about some trivial thing like napkin colors than she’d care about us ladies’ feelings.

But the truth was something quite different.  I learned, soon enough, that Mary Smith’s decorating committee was ruled through fear and intimidation…that Mary Smith had an exceptionally sharp eye for detail…and that a few dozen ladies’ spirits rose or fell depending upon the expression on Mary Smith’s face when she entered the event venue for the first time and reacted to the room’s look and feel after we’d finished decorating.  If she loved the overall effect of the decorations, her face would burst forth into a sunshiney smile, beaming her approval on everybody.  But if something were even just slightly “off” or not quite up to her standards, she would demand that it be changed.

And everyone would hop to attention, wringing their hands over the “ruined” detail, scurrying to do everything in their power to fix it.

That was the fruit of Mary Smith’s “ladies’ ministry,” at least the main fruit that I personally witnessed – stress, worry, fear, intimidation, and the feeling, especially among the new decorating recruits, that it would take years for one to ever fit in and be accepted among the “regulars.”

Because I’d posted that comment the other day, these memories of my time on the decorating committee were still with me in a fresh way as I sat in our new church this past Sunday and listened to a message about putting others first.  It was nothing “revolutionary” – it was based on Philippians 2:1-4.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

No, it was nothing “new.”  But as I sat there and listened to the pastor speak, I was so grateful to be back among “normal” Christians and out of the twilight zone of Charismaniac Christianity! 

And I couldn’t help but wonder, how had Mary Smith seemingly forgotten that passage in Philippians?  How had she lost touch with what it felt like to show up at the church and get all sweaty and grungy as we lowly helpers worked for hours to set up tables?  Even if her committee would have all lost their minds and just thrown up some cheap paper streamers and covered the tables with newspapers, how could Mary Smith have gotten so out of touch with reality that she’d even DARE to flick a glance of disapproval in ANYBODY’S direction? 

To answer my own question – I’ve come to believe that what I experienced during my time in the “Ladies’ Ministry” at Living Word was simply the fruit of spending years listening to sermons about “destiny”…and how we’re the “head and not the tail”…how we’re “above only and not beneath”…how we’re “blessed”…how we’re “anointed.”  While all these things ARE, at least in part, true for the child of God, if you forget about how God’s economy is not our economy, and how God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, then you will wind up completely disconnected from what real Christian living is all about.

Rather than being Christlike, a humble servant who puts other people first, you will behave like Mary Smith.  Listen to enough “empowering” Charismaniac sermons, and you, too, will become a puffed up arrogant diva.

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Every once in awhile, I’ll stumble across something so good that I’ll find myself wishing I would have written it.  I felt that way today, when I found a post entitled, A Challenge to the Sow-a-Seed-For-a-Specific-Need Preachers.  I’d actually recommend the entire website, which is called Theology Today.

In case you’re too lazy to click on over there right this moment, though, here’s the “Challenge” post that I liked so much:

I’m a little bit confused by the “sow a seed for a specific need” teaching that has inundated pulpits and the airwaves worldwide. I understand the principle…but I would love to see it practiced by those who teach it. I want to see THEIR faith in action so I have a little challenge for the prosperity crowd….

Ready?

Give ALL of your money away. Sow that seed into something other then your own ministries….or those of your friend’s mentors, spiritual daddies or mammas and show us that it does indeed work FOR YOU! Airplanes cars yachts and designer clothes….GIVE IT ALL AWAY!

Instead of teaching us to give to you…..so that God will bless us 100 fold…..get the blessing for yourselves! You wouldn’t want to rob God would ya? I didn’t think so so loosen up those purse strings…….offshore bank accounts…..bank vaults or wherever else you’ve stashed your loot and really make a fortune!

If you sow a seed of say….50 million bucks……just think of all the blessings God has in store for you! The days of kissing up to Paul and Jan are over…..no more beg-a-thons…..forget about those endless nights spent shopping on E-bay for those worthless trinkets you give away to those who sow a seed into your ministries…..you will be so blessed you won’t need our seed anymore…..a real life harvest of your own!

Have faith in your seed….in fact have the God kind of faith and just write your need on the seed! Claim that need with your seed and watch the blessings of God rain down from heaven! Just remember that things will be great in ‘08 if you sow that seed today!

Not sure yet? Where is your faith you faithless beings? Don’t you know God wants to bless you….but you have to sow a seed first….and if you sow an uncommon seed….say every penny you have…..then you can expect an uncommon harvest!

So give it all away TODAY! If what you’re teaching REALLY works….then what are you waiting for? Remember that God is a God of patterns precepts and principles and he really wants to bless you….so get blessed today and let us know who you sowed into….how much you sowed and the end result of your sowing…..don’t delay sow today! 

There’s not a whole lot else that I could add to this one – except that I wish Pastor Smith and Paula White and Bishop T.D. Jakes and every single other “Pulpit Pimp” out there would get the message behind these words.  We’re onto your scams.  Especially yours, Ms. White.  How many emails do I get each month that start out with, “I’m praying for your special blessing during this (take your pick) time of the Feast of the Tabernacles/Passover/Jewish New Year/Nordstrom’s Half-Yearly Sale.”  (Well, that last one was just a joke, but I’m sure it’s actually more significant to some of these scam artists – or their wives – as any of the dates on the Jewish calendar.)  Paula White’s emails will always begin with some sweet statement about how she’s praying for our blessing.  But then to SECURE that blessing, we are instructed to sow our best seed into her ministry.

I can’t believe I fell for it for so long.  Can’t believe it.  Can’t, can’t, can’t.  I’m just glad that God woke us up when He did.

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The other day, I had this observation:

It seems like the majority of the time, Charismaniac preachers base their sermons out of the Old Testament.  They base their teachings about tithing and giving out of the Old Testament.  They rationalize their millionaire lifestyles by using themes and passages from the Old Testament.

They neglect what the New Testament has to say about humility, servanthood, and loving worldly goods.

BUT…

When they prophesy, these same Charismaniac dudes (and dudettes) are lightning-quick to declare that Old Testament rules and regulations for prophets do not apply to them.  They will not be held to Old Testament standards for truth or accuracy.  They invoke what they see as New Testament protection for mistakes as they exercise their “prophetic” gifts.

What’s wrong with this picture?

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