Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Todd Bentley’ Category

My exit out of Living Word Church (a pseudonym), and Charismania in general, for that matter, was prompted by a handful of what Oprah Winfrey would call “Aha!” moments.  One of those moments, ironically, was born out of a friendship, probably the only true friendship I had at Living Word. 

Living Word Church was NOT a place where it was easy to connect with others.  During the years we attended, there were no “Adult Bible Fellowships” (aka “Sunday school classes”).  There were no small-group Bible studies where discussion was encouraged.  They did have a system of church-organized social groups, called “Care Groups” (now changed to “Life Groups”), but the groups rarely met, and when they did, the get-togethers were often painfully awkward meetings of strangers with next to nothing in common.  

Incidentally, something I always found fascinating is how just about every decent conversation among Living Word folks seemed to end up focused on Pastor Smith (another pseudonym) or the story of how one came to be a member of Living Word.  Seriously.  I can remember attending at least three different Living Word get-togethers where there was little but stiff small talk, until someone mentioned something about Pastor Smith.  Suddenly, everyone in the room came alive and began participating in the conversation. 

Much later, I realized that this was exactly the way Pastor Smith liked things to be.  He and his family were the focal point of Living Word Church, and you’d better not forget it.  To ensure that you wouldn’t forget, you could feast your eyes on large portraits of the Smith family plastered prominently in the church lobby.  You could watch people during praise and worship time, prior to the Smiths’ grand entrance on the stage, and feel the level of anticipation for Pastor Smith’s arrival.  If Smith wasn’t going to be there on a particular Sunday, they’d rarely announce that ahead of time, because they knew how few people would actually still show up. 

So in this very Pastor Smith-centric atmosphere, I considered my friendship with two ladies, middle-aged never-married sisters who typically sat in the same area of the sanctuary as we did, a real treasure.  What started because of conversations struck up during long periods of waiting for the church services to begin eventually grew into a deep, heart-to-heart friendship.  

One of the sisters – I’ll call her “Jean” – became an especially close friend.  She and I would always have a wonderful time when we’d talk on the phone or meet for lunch.  Although we shared interests in more mundane things, our conversations also often touched on our deepest spiritual struggles, hopes, and dreams.  Jean and I frequently shared with each other what we were praying about, the things in our lives that we wanted to change, and where we thought God was leading us.  

In retrospect, it seems almost funny that it was one of those conversations that ultimately sent me down the path of questioning just about everything we’d been taught at Living Word.  During the time we were involved with the church, I probably would have said that the one thing that made us less than content with Living Word was the lack of ways to truly fellowship with other believers.  I always felt uncomfortable with the extreme focus on the Smith family and earnestly wished I had more friends like Jean.  

I never would have guessed that Jean would play a role in our leaving. 

Not long after we first became friends, Jean revealed to me something that even at that time struck me as a bit unreal.  In the early days of our involvement at Living Word, I honestly felt like a whole new world had been opened for me.  After a lifetime of a Bible-based faith rooted firmly in reality, where normal human disappointments still might lurk around every corner, I was suddenly introduced to a Christian life that talked about “dreaming big,” about “having favor,” about “taking the limits off.”  After years of knowing that Christians should not love money, should not place too much importance on “things of this world,” and should not put their hopes in earthly riches, we were suddenly thrust into a world where it was OK – indeed, it was merely a sign of God’s blessing – to drive a luxury car and dream for a huge house.  In fact, it was God’s will for us to have those things.  

So when Jean told me that God had given her and her sister an amazing vision and had also told them that it was going to come to pass, I had mixed feelings when she revealed exactly what that dream was.  On the one hand, we were fed a steady diet of, “The sky’s the limit!” from Living Word’s pulpit.  Nothing is impossible with God…it’s God’s will for you to have the desires of your heart…we are more than conquerors through Christ…God wants us to prosper and be in good health… 

Who was I to tell anyone that their dream was too far-fetched for God to turn into reality?  God could do anything! 

And yet…

Well, when it came right down to what the sisters’ dream actually WAS, I ran into huge roadblocks in my thinking. 

They totally and sincerely believed that God had told them they would both soon retire from their secretarial jobs, come into $53 million, and establish a “hospitality house” where they would play hostess to the visiting ministers whom Living Word brought in on occasion to speak to the church.  They already even had selected their exact mansion – in one of the finest communities of luxury homes that this area affords.  Like, they already knew WHICH HOUSE God had shown them that He was going to give them.

They also believed that God had told them that they were going to experience supernatural weight loss – that one day in the near future, Pastor Smith would give an altar call for those who wanted to lose weight, and when they’d go forward for this altar call, a miracle would happen and weight would instantly drop off their bodies, to the point where they’d start losing their clothes as they’d make their way back to their seats. 

In other words, the sisters believed that someday soon, they’d be both wealthy and slim, even though currently their paychecks only afforded them life’s necessities…they had saved NOTHING for retirement, neither of them had health insurance, and they were still living in their mother’s basement…and even though they had absolutely no plans to change their eating and exercise habits. 

I know it might seem silly to those of you who have never been engulfed in the “Charismaniac” mindset, but I did not immediately dismiss the sisters’ beliefs about their future.  I felt conflicted about them, actually.  On the one hand, the part of me that still had my feet planted somewhere near reality would inwardly shake my head and marvel that they could put so much stock in what they thought that “God told them.”  I mean, although Pastor Smith frequently delivered vague but very positive prophecies over lots of folks in Living Word’s audience, he’d never pulled out either sister for a personal “word.”  They didn’t even have one of Pastor Smith’s prophecies to fall back on.  All they had was their confidence in their own prophetic dreams, visions, and ability to “hear God’s voice.” 

I often thought, even as I was growing to love the gals and enjoy our friendship more and more, that they were setting themselves up for a huge disappointment every time they would strain their meager finances to “sow a seed” into Living Word Church or ministries like Benny Hinn’s.  I cringed on their behalf when, right before offering time one Sunday night, Jean whispered to me that although they’d finally saved enough money to buy themselves new mattresses, they felt that God had told them to give the entire amount to the church instead.  Her trembling hand was clutching a white offering envelope, which she proceeded to bring down to the waiting ushers holding the offering buckets at the front of the church.  

Even then – and this was in the midst of my highest love and loyalty for Living Word – I was greatly troubled at the thought of Jean and her sister sleeping on broken-down beds for several more years while the Smiths barely batted an eye at spending $29,000 per year on floral arrangements and “needed” a new $80,000 Mercedes to replace their perfectly respectable 5-year-old model. 

Yet…well, on the other hand, I never could bring myself to completely discount the sisters’ belief in their dream.  After all, who was I to question their faith?  At the time, I myself was “believing God for something” that probably would have seemed quite far-fetched to other people.  

For at least awhile, I made a sort of uneasy peace with the two parts of my thinking.  To be honest, I was motivated by more than a little selfishness.  My reasoning went something like this:  if I did not honor the sisters’ dream – the object of THEIR faith – then why should anybody, God Himself included, honor MY dream and answer MY prayers? 

I never quite lost the sense, though, that there was a missing link in the sisters’ (actually, the whole church’s, mine included) theology.  I realize – again – that this might not make sense to anyone who hasn’t been engulfed in Charismania, but we’d listen to sermon after sermon from Pastor Smith about faith, about believing God for our dreams, about how our “destiny” was always  just about to be fulfilled.  I’d say at least nine Sundays out of ten, the terms “destiny,” “dreams,” “visions,” and “favor” would figure prominently in Pastor Smith’s preaching.  And always, he’d seem to have plenty of Bible verses to back up his assurances to us.  Despite all the years of solid Bible training I’d had and the many college theology courses I’d taken, I could never really pinpoint what – if anything – was wrong with Pastor Smith’s messages.  

The truth was, I actually WANTED Living Word’s teachings – the same teachings that buoyed up my friends’ commitment to their mansion and their future instantaneous weight loss – to be true.  Church had become an extremely positive, uplifting experience for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing, week after week, how God had a great destiny in store for me, and how my dreams would all be fulfilled.  Just like the two sisters, I myself was hoping and praying every day for a specific outcome, and I did not want to lose what I thought were the theological underpinnings for believing that I would eventually get what I wanted. 

Ultimately, though, I finally concluded that since I could never reconcile the God of the Bible with the sisters’ vision, I had to rethink almost everything we’d been taught about God’s “obligation” to answer our prayers and fulfill our dreams.  I had to go back to the Bible alone, and I had to ask the hard questions about whether or not all the “dream talk” was consistent with God’s character and wisdom, as He has revealed those things to us in the Bible. 

When we finally made the painful decision to leave Living Word, it was due in part to the fact that I could never fully and honestly get behind my friends and cheer them on, even though I really wanted to out of my deep affection for them.  I finally acknowledged what I’d always still known deep down:  that the God of the Bible was not likely to give my friends such a dream and “tell them” that they were going to stumble upon $53 million.  I knew that the God of the Bible was not likely to melt pounds off of them during a five-minute altar call.  I knew that the God of the Bible – as He has revealed Himself to us through books like Proverbs – was not likely to promote a lifestyle that never planned for the future, never even tried to save for retirement. 

I recently stumbled upon a book review by Bob DeWaay, in which he discusses this very subject.  While Pastor Smith never cited this particular book (Prayer Quest, by Dee Duke) in any of his sermons, the book is apparently based upon the exact same principles we were taught at Living Word Chuch.  DeWaay articulates far better than I ever could the faulty theology behind Charismania’s extreme focus on “dreams” and “visions.”  I know this blog post is already quite long, but I’d encourage everybody to read the excerpt below.  I’ve put what I considered the key paragraph in bold. 

Bob DeWaay’s Book Review of Dee Duke’s Prayer Quest 

The subtitle to this book is “Breaking through to your God-given dreams and destiny.” Duke speaks of our dreams and God’s dreams throughout his book. In the Bible God gave dreams to certain people. Those dreams, if interpreted by an infallible prophet, revealed God’s will and God plans. In the Bible, the dreams were from God, but they were not God’s dreams. They were the dreams of the people who dreamt them (for example Nebuchadnezzar’s in Daniel 2). Here we have to add a point of clarification: Only the dreams that are interpreted in the Bible by God’s prophets and spokespersons can be considered to authoritatively reveal God’s will. 

The term “dream” in English can mean “hope for an ideal future,” as in, “I have a dream.” This denotes the hope for some better state of affairs that may or may not come into existence. Duke, in his book, is clearly not using the term in the Biblical sense as a dream a person has that has been interpreted by an authoritative prophet. Instead he says, “He calls us now to dream His dreams, to ask Him daily to display His power.  Duke is speaking of a hoped for future when he uses the term “dream”: 

“Welcome to the reality where dreams come true! God has a dream, and it is certain to happen just as He imagines it. He has placed the stamp of His image on our souls, so that we also dream great dreams. As we learn to passionately share and enjoy God’s dreams, we will see Him work in amazing ways . . .” 

This statement involves some serious category problems. Supposedly God’s dream is His imagination about the future. We (all humans evidently because all humans are created in God’s image) can dream like God. Either this is anthropomorphism run amok or some seriously bad theology. God is the one who says this about Himself: “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure‘” (Isaiah 46:9, 10). God does not dream, He decrees. God calls things into being and works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). He doesn’t imagine a potential future that may or may not happen. 

Concerning us, the only thing we know about what God “dreams” (using Duke’s terminology) is what is revealed in Scripture. Our own dreams about what we would like the future to bring are not going to make God do anything. Duke says, “This book is intended to help you learn to walk so intimately with God that you will see Him fulfill His dreams in and through you.” This brings us back to the typical “prayer secret” genre of Christian writing. Supposedly there is some key to “intimacy with God” that is not based on the once-for-all finished work of Christ, not based on availing ourselves of the means of grace by faith, but based on our own level of personal piety and the use of practices not revealed in the Bible. 

Duke asks his readers, “Do you feel as though you’ve given up on dreams you had when your faith was new?” The implication is that our “dreams” (i.e., hopes for an ideal or optimal future) somehow authoritatively reveal God’s will and that we must make these come to pass by some process. But our ideas about what we hope life will be like are nothing more than ideas and may have nothing to do with God’s purposes. Our dreams are part of providence, but providence contains good and evil. Duke is treating personal imaginations about the future as if they were infallible guidance to be nurtured and followed. But personal dreams are not God’s moral law. 

Here is a further definition of what Duke means by “dream,” 

“A dream is a desire felt so strongly that we think and meditate on it constantly until we see it in our mind as clearly as if it were reality. A dream believes that what is desired will happen; it is accomplished by anticipation and positive expectation. People who dream tend to be upbeat and enthusiastic.” 

This is a very much the type of mind over matter thinking that has enjoyed popularity in self-help circles. 

He gives people some practical guidance on releasing their “imagination” in prayer: “Envision yourself embarking on a day trip into the presence of God. . . . Envision yourself approaching God in His glory.” 

This is strikingly similar to guided imagery. He gives more examples of how to manage your dream time with God, including making lists of dream notes. This is a journey into the subjective realm under the guise of “prayer.” 

Much bad teaching comes into the church by route of mysticism, subjectivism, and having faulty theological categories. In previous articles I carefully defined categories to help my readers avoid these pitfalls. Risking redundancy, I must again assert that there is God’s revealed will in Scripture as well as God’s providential will (containing good and evil) that is revealed as history unfolds. Though Duke wants us to dream God’s dreams about the future, he admits that these dreams we might have come from various sources. He lists thoughts from God, your own thoughts, thoughts from the world, and thoughts from Satan. His readers are supposed to sort through their dream notes to find ones that they think are from God. But how? God’s future providential will is not revealed and cannot be known until it unfolds in history. Our dreams about the future cannot be determined to be from God by any means available to us because they are not revealed in Scripture. 

Duke reveals his lack of Biblical understanding when he cites the scripture, “My sheep know my voice,” as proof that we can figure out which of our dreams is God’s voice. That passage in John 10 is about those whom the Father has given to the Son and who consequently will respond to the gospel and follow Christ, not about listening to various subjective voices in our heads and trying to figure out which one sounds the most like Christ. 

There is no need to belabor how bad this book is theologically. It starts from a series of faulty premises and bad theology and builds from there a concept of prayer that is not taught in the Bible. The term “dream” as he uses it is basically the idea of one’s imagination. The Bible tells us about those who speak in this manner: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the Lord‘”. (Jeremiah 23:16).

Read Full Post »

From the Herescope site:

Lakeland’s Recycled Revival

 

Music, Mass Hypnotism and Angels

A Pastor Reports on Todd Bentley’s “Revival” in Lakeland, Florida
By Pastor Gary Osborne
[Note: this is part 4 of a weeklong series of articles on this topic]

MUSIC AND MASS HYPNOTISM

Everything in these meetings is driven by the music. I shared this earlier but it bears repeating. When the music is going strong and loud the people are literally mesmerized. I use that word because it so aptly describes what happens to the masses of people in these services. The music helps to put them in a state where they are susceptible to unbiblical manifestations like being “slain in the Spirit.” In Brother Larry Thomas’s book The Watchman he has a chapter entitled “Slain in the Spirit” where he talks about the phenomenon at length and how it ties into hypnotism and high emotionalism.

 

Alan Morrison, of Diakrisis Publications in England, discusses this phenomenon. Concerning the origin of the “slain in the spirit” manifestation, he writes:
“One of the earliest and most notorious advocates of this experience was an itinerant preacher in the so-called ‘Holiness Movement,’ Maria Woodworth-Etter (1844-1924), who also gained a reputation for falsely prophesying that San Francisco : would be destroyed by an earthquake in 1890. In her preaching in the 1880s, she advocated a religious experience which she called ‘The Power,’ and she would often go into a trance during the services, standing with her hands raised in the air for more than an hour. Nicknamed the ‘trance-evangelist’ and even the ‘voodoo priestess,’ she was often accused of hypnotizing people. And here we come to the very crux of the ‘Slain in the Spirit’ phenomenon.”

Morrison goes on to say that what Woodworth-Etter had discovered was the ancient art of hypnotism, popularized almost a century earlier by Anton Mesmer, the father of hypnotism or mesmerism, as it was also known, and an occultic faith healer. Morrison quotes one researcher who says “the phenomena that are now defined as ‘hypnotic’ emerged from the faith healing activities of Mesmer at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth century.”

One of Mesmer’s famous healing sessions is described in another book on the occult:

“Mesmer marched about majestically in a pale lilac robe, passing his hands over the patients’ bodies or touching them with a long iron wand. The results varied. Some patients felt nothing at all, some felt as if insects were crawling over them, others were seized with hysterical laughter, convulsions or fits of hiccups. Some went into raving delirium, which was called ‘The Crisis’ and was considered extremely healthful.”

The real significance of Mesmer’s sessions was best understood by his contemporaries. The King of France in 1784 ordered two respected bodies, the Academy of Science and the Royal Society of Medicine, to examine Mesmer’s claims.

Among the highlights of this most discerning review were the following remarks:

“That man can act upon man at any time, and almost at will, by striking his imagination; that the simplest gestures and signs can have the most powerful effects; and that the action of man upon the imagination may be reduced to an art, and conducted with method, upon subjects who have faith.”

Morrison drew the following conclusion from his research:

“Just as the Western psychologists are proffering ancient shamanistic practices in a guise which is more palatable to the uninitiated Westerners, so the professing Christian churches which peddle ‘religious fainting’ have simply made the Possession-Trance state of shamanism more readily acceptable to the undiscerning sheep who attend their heated meetings. These are the true origins of the strange phenomena which are being so widely reported today and which are bringing the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ into so much disrepute.” (pp. 69-71)

Sadly, the same things that were happening in Mesmer’s meetings over centuries ago are happening today in Bentley’s meetings. Fainting, laughing, convulsing, and the like are the norm at these meetings. More information about these emotional manifestations, almost always accompanied by music, can be found in Larry’s book The Watchman which can be purchased by writing to A.B.P. at the address given on our website www.biblical-pentecostals.org.

Music is a powerful tool that can be used to draw us closer to God, but also can put people in a position to be lead away from the Lord. We must not fail to put music in its proper place, and be discerning in this area.


EXALTING THE SECULAR AND WORLDLY

By now most people are aware of Todd Bentley’s outward appearance. He does indeed have a body covered in tattoos and he wears earrings, eyebrow rings, and a ring in his chin. He definitely doesn’t try to cover these things up, but instead seems to exalt in his “worldly” ways.

At the Saturday, May 17th meeting he had a young man come up on stage to give a testimony about being healed. As soon as he walked up, Todd pointed out that the boy had a WWE wrestler t-shirt on. Excitedly, Bentley told the boy that the t-shirt he himself was wearing also referenced a WWE wrestler named Edge. Then Todd turned to the audience and with a big smile on his face rattled off the names of several other professional wrestlers. On another night he wore a different WWE wrester’s shirt. Anyone with any common sense understands that wrestling today is a very worldly, sensual form of entertainment that has no business being pimped by a supposed man of God at any time, much less during a revival meeting. By mentioning these things to everyone in the Civic Center, and the people watching around the world, Bentley gave De facto approval of the wrestling industry. And that ought never to be, saints. Never!

Another man came forward that night that had tattoos all over his body. The man was clearly inebriated and was struggling to speak clearly and stand up straight. Bentley immediately noticed his tattoos and told him how nice they were. He then proceeded to show the man a couple of his own tattoos and how pretty they were. And all of this was being done in front of everyone, with not the slightest hint that this could be wrong. Never mind that God’s Word forbids the Christian to defile their bodies made in His image (Leviticus 19:28). Never mind that the Bible tells us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and as such it should be kept undefiled (I Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). Yet Bentley has the audacity to wear a t-shirt one night at the meetings that boldly states “Jesus Gave Me My Tattoos.”

There is no question that Todd Bentley exalts in the secular in many ways, in spite of the fact that our Lord told us we were in the world but not of it. It would be one thing if all of the tattoos and piercing came before his conversion. We cannot help but have “scars,” whether literal or figurative, from our time in sin and darkness apart from God. But once we are saved these things should cease. Not only that, they should not even be talked about, much less exalted in.

  • Eph 5:11-12 – “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.”

“ANGELS” WATCHING OVER ME

Years ago Amy Grant made popular the song “Angels Watching Over Me,” and there is no doubt that God does use angels to carry out his purposes. But the Scripture doesn’t give us nearly the same picture as Bentley does when talking about angels. Todd has claimed on numerous occasions that the source of power at his meetings comes from an angel who will often stand right by the pulpit where he speaks. I heard him say this myself during the meeting in which the “spirit of drunkenness” was so prevalent. Jackie Alnor, a Christian apologist, had the following insightful comments about Bentley and his fascination with angels:

Speaking of angels – that’s another source of power Bentley claims to have working for him.
The parallel passage to the description of Lucifer in Isaiah 14 is the 28th chapter of Ezekiel. Here God further describes His arch-enemy as one who has a great love for treasure.

 

“By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud” (Ezekiel 28:4-5).

Contrast that with Todd Bentley’s focus on riches as documented in an article called “ANGELS & the FLORIDA HEALING REVIVAL – Warning!” written by Andrew Strom, a historian of the Charismatic Movement, who quoted Bentley from an article Bentley wrote in 2003 called “Angelic Hosts.” Bentley wrote:

“So when I need a financial breakthrough I don’t just pray and ask God for my financial breakthrough. I go into intercession and become a partner with the angels by petitioning the Father for the angels that are assigned to getting me money: ‘Father, give me the angels in heaven right now that are assigned to get me money and wealth. And let those angels be released on my behalf. Let them go into the four corners of the earth and gather me money.’”

Todd’s money-gathering angel’s name is Emma, who his good friend Bob Jones (discredited “prophet” who was disciplined for using his prophetic office to get women to undress for him) credits with birthing the discredited Kansas City Prophet movement of the late 1980s. In Bentley’s own words:

“Twice Bob Jones asked me about this angel that was in Kansas City in 1980: ‘Todd, have you ever seen the angel by the name of Emma?’ He asked me as if he expected that this angel was appearing to me. Surprised, I said, ‘Bob, who is Emma?’ He told me that Emma was the angel that helped birth and start the whole prophetic movement in Kansas City in the 1980s. She was a mothering-type angel that helped nurture the prophetic as it broke out. Within a few weeks of Bob asking me about Emma, I was in a service in Beulah, North Dakota. In the middle of the service I was in conversation with Ivan and another person when in walks Emma. As I stared at the angel with open eyes, the Lord said, ‘Here’s Emma.’ I’m not kidding. She floated a couple of inches off the floor. It was almost like Kathryn Khulman in those old videos when she wore a white dress and looked like she was gliding across the platform. Emma appeared beautiful and young – about 22 years old – but she was old at the same time. She seemed to carry the wisdom, virtue and grace of Proverbs 31 on her life. She glided into the room, emitting brilliant light and colors. Emma carried these bags and began pulling gold out of them. Then, as she walked up and down the aisles of the church, she began putting gold dust on people…”

Bentley claims that his angel also assisted William Branham in his healing ministry in the 1960s. [Check out background on William Branham who called the Trinity a pagan doctrine.] In fact, Branham always claimed that he could do no healings until his angel showed up. Bentley refers to his angel as “the angel of the Lord” and also waits upon Emma for the signs and wonders to manifest. However, according to Bible scholars, the term “the angel of the Lord” is an Old Testament reference to the pre-incarnate Christ, also called a Theophany. It seems that Emma is really overstepping her bounds to be referred to as “the angel of the Lord.” [1]

Numerous discerning Christians and ministers have done research on this “Emma” angel and one conclusion that has been reached is that this angel could be a demonic spirit or angel named “Emma-O” who according to Buddhist mythology was the keeper of men’s souls. Whatever this creature is, one thing I know for sure. Nowhere in the Scriptures does an angel ever appear as a woman! Never. They always appear as men and their names are names given to men (Michael & Gabriel). So Todd’s description of Emma appearing as a woman is enough to cause great doubt in my mind as to the validity of the encounter from a Biblical standpoint. But even if there were “women” angels recorded in Scripture I’d still point out that we are never told to give them the emphasis or place that Todd Bentley assigns them.

The Apostle Paul dealt with the inordinate attention the Colossian believers were giving angels when he writes to them and warns:

  • Col 2:18 – “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.”

The apostle Paul also reminds us of a very important fact. Satan was once an archangel, named Lucifer, and therefore it should come as no surprise to us if he “disguises himself as an angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14). This is why we must put our emphasis on God, and not angels! They are only created beings, not the Creator.

TOMORROW: “Belly Up to the Bar”

[For more information, see:
http://www.deceptionbytes.com/ToddBentleysAngels]


The Truth:

“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” (I Corinthians 5:11)

Endnotes:
1. http://www.apostasyalert.org/REFLECTIONS/bentley.htm

 

Read Full Post »

From the Herescope site:

Lakeland’s Recycled Revival

 

TODD BENTLEY’S CONNECTION TO THE LATTER RAIN MOVEMENT
A Pastor Reports on Todd Bentley’s “Revival” in Lakeland, Florida
By Pastor Gary Osborne
My first real concern with these crusades revolves around the issue of who Todd Bentley looks up to and who he considers spiritual leaders. He frequently mentions, and even has up on stage with him from time to time, members of the “Kansas City Prophets.” And the KC “prophets” are, in many ways, an extension of the Latter Rain movement that really found its legs through the ministry of a man named William Branham.

Although Branham didn’t found the movement, he was instrumental in popularizing many aspects of it. This article will not go into detail concerning Branham and his ministry except to say that he was a preacher who ministered primarily in the 40’s and 50’s. He was a forerunner to many of the “healing evangelists” of today in that he would call out words of knowledge concerning the private lives of audience members, as well as pray for the sick to be healed, all with astonishing results. Interestingly, he would often tell the audience wherever he was ministering that he had to wait for his angel to appear before he could give any “words” or work any healings. This will be an important point that surfaces later in our discussion. But let’s stop right here and ask the question: Does God ask His people to look to angels or to Himself for any need? He tells us it is by His Spirit, and not angels, that He operates in words of knowledge, gifts of healings, and the like (I Corinthians 12).

In spite of his miraculous signs and wonders, Branham was a false prophet according to the standards of the Word of God. Why do I say that? Well, read the exhortation from the Lord to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy.

  • Dt 13:1-3 – “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. “

I believe the Pentecostal Church in Branham’s day failed the Deuteronomy 13 test because while he did perform signs and wonders, he also counseled people to turn from the God of the Bible through his spurious teachings. He taught there was no Trinity (he was “Oneness Pentecostal”); that he was literally the prophet Elijah come back; that the world would end in 1977; that Jesus was “created” and not the Eternal Word as John 1:1 declares; that he was a “god” (and this is where the Manifest Sons of God movement got it’s name and teaching); that he could decree things just like God; that Eve had sexual relations with the serpent in the Garden of Eden; that the Zodiac and the Pyramids were equal with the Bible as the Word of God; and that there would be no eternal Hell.[1]

As you can clearly see, the man was way off in his teaching about God. So the question must be asked, “What criteria do we use to determine if a person is a true prophet or a false prophet?” If you look only to the signs and wonders a person does, and not to their teaching, then you fail the Deuteronomy 13 test. It is NOT the miracles that count. They are only used to CONFIRM the message. It is the teaching coming from the “prophet” that counts the most, according to the Bible. And Branham fails the test miserably. Even today, if one were to visit his gravesite they would see a tombstone shaped like a pyramid!

William Branham helped popularize an entire movement called the “Latter Rain” that has continued to teach differing heresies down through the decades. In the 1980’s a group of men, including Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, Bob Jones, Rick Joyner, and John Paul Jackson formed an alliance of sorts and became known as the “Kansas City Prophets.” Time does not allow me to discuss these men in detail, but it is important to know that these men took some of their cues from William Branham. Two of the main leaders, Paul Cain and Bob Jones, have both been guilty of grievous sexual sin while “ministering” as prophets. Cain has been revealed to be an alcoholic and a practicing homosexual, while Jones admitted to having women undress in front of him to experience the glory of God.[2]

In spite of many doctrinal heresies, this movement continued in one form or another. Whether it be the Toronto Blessing, the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne (“laughter”) or Brownsville Assembly, it can all be traced back to Branham and to the Latter Rain movement that he helped spread. And so it should come as no shock to anyone that Todd Bentley is connected to all these men. And he is. Paul Cain has shared the stage with Bentley in Lakeland.[3] Bob Jones and many of the others have been mentioned in a favorable light on more than one occasion during the revival.

But the kicker to the entire thing is found here, in an interview that Bentley had with BCN (Breaking Christian News) last month. In that interview he said that he “saw an angel he described as carrying the ‘Winds of Change.’ Asking him to describe this angel, Bentley replied that those familiar with the life of William Branham would recognize the angel from being a relevant factor in his healing ministry.”[4] It should be apparent to all that Todd Bentley’s meetings derive from the same spirit as Branham and the rest. It all comes from the same place. Let the reader take serious note of the obvious and continuous bridge between Branham and Bentley.

“FEELINGS, NOTHING MORE THAN FEELINGS”

The second issue I would like to touch on briefly is the emphasis on “feelings” in all these meetings. Don’t get me wrong. We are created beings that do have feelings, and often times those feelings are a part of our worship to the Lord. If I’m going through a mountaintop experience in my life I may very well “feel” great and shout to the Lord. There’s nothing wrong with expressing feelings in this sense. We can clap our hands, jump and sing praises to God when things are going well, and we can cry and lay prostrate on the floor when facing difficult times. But David said, “as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say you are my God.” He understood that regardless of what he was going through, he would not allow his feelings to dictate truth to him. In the same way the point of this passage and many more like it throughout the Psalms is that God’s faithfulness and truth are not conditioned by our feelings. We enjoy it when good feelings accompany our faith, but we must remember that the faithfulness of God is not based on our feelings.

Unfortunately, in the Bentley meetings “feelings” are the big emphasis, to the detriment of the hearers. Why do I say that? Because the Word of God is not preached in these meetings. Rarely does Todd even bring a Bible to the pulpit with him. He actually bragged about bringing more “real Word” to the people than preachers who expound on the Bible week in and week out because he was bringing a living Jesus through the experiences [i.e. “signs and wonders”] he was giving them. I heard this for myself on his Saturday, May 10th God TV telecast from Lakeland. And the people loved it so. No Word of God is ever brought at these meetings. It’s all about the “feelings” they can experience. This type of mindset and philosophy of ministry leads to very shallow Christianity. I fear for most of the people that attend these meetings because when they come down off the “high” they have been on in these emotionally charged services they will probably crash and burn spiritually. I’ve seen it play out too many times in the past to think otherwise.

In the same vein as the “feelings” issue, there’s also a huge stress on what Todd and his crew call the “tangible presence of God.” That phrase, or one similar to it, is used many times in each meeting. People are conditioned to expect some outward, sensual experience with the Holy Spirit. Whether it’s tasting God’s presence, smelling God’s presence, hearing God’s presence, or seeing God’s presence, it’s all a big part of this revival. Todd talks about seeing a mist or cloud. He talks about tasting something similar to honey. He talks about smelling the incense from Heaven. Everything is done on a 5 senses level. Yet no where in the New Testament do we read about the disciples promoting anything like this nonsense. God is Spirit and those that worship Him will do so in spirit and in truth. The more we move from the objective truth of the Bible and more towards these outward manifestations, the more open we are to deception. The Devil can and does work on people’s senses but he cannot get to us if we know and worship God based on His Word. People in other religions have “experiences” but it doesn’t make them godly experiences. So we must be careful not to be pulled into the trap of feelings-oriented or manifestation-oriented theology. Yet this is exactly what Bentley emphasizes.

TOMORROW: Music, Mass Hypnotism and Angels

[For further information, see the following link:
http://www.discernment-ministries.org/NL_June1990.pdf]


The Truth:

“Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” (Romans 13:13)

Endnotes:
1. www.letusreason.org/Latrain4.htm
2. www.deceptioninthechurch.com/orrel19.html
3.www.charismamag.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=2408&start
=0&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&sid=386e07de8ab0207fdfb34ca594d2b5ea

4. www.freshfire.ca/index.php?Act=read&status=
revival&Id=132&pid=954&bid=923

Read Full Post »

I decided to take a break today from discussing Todd Bentley and the “Florida Outpouring” so that I could bring you documented proof of the sort of greed for money that we encountered during our time at Living Word Church (a pseudonym).

I’ve described before, in a post entitled Asking For It, just how Pastor Smith (another pseudonym) and his family grubbed for money for themselves. 

Here, for your viewing pleasure (click on the link), is an actual image of the letter we received about ten days ago:

birthday3

Something to note:  Although this letter is ostensibly signed from the church “staff,” the truth of the matter is that Pastor Smith and the rest of the Smith family are in absolute, total control of everything that the church does.  As someone who occasionally used to volunteer in the church office, I know firsthand how NOTHING – not even a postcard advertising Vacation Bible School – was sent out from the church without Pastor Smith’s final approval.  Therefore, to say that this birthday card shower is a “surprise” is an absolute, total lie. 

The only surprise for the Smiths would be if the congregation did NOT celebrate their birthdays! 

My husband and I were joking the other day that they probably plan vacations and major purchases around these “love offerings,” seeing as how a conservative estimate of their “haul” is somewhere in the $10,000 range, quite possibly a whole lot more.

I wonder what the tax laws are when it comes to not-for-profit organizations using their postage meters to solicit personal gifts?  The staff members who wrote, printed, folded, stuffed, and mailed these letters, all while on the church’s time clock – how does that factor into the tax code?  Do the Smiths report this major source of income?

Just wonderin’…

Read Full Post »

From the Herescope website, here is Part 2 of the series about Lakeland:

The Practice of “Revival”

A Pastor Reports on Todd Bentley’s “Revival” in Lakeland, Florida

 

By Pastor Gary Osborne

[Note: This is the 2nd article in a weeklong series. See the Introduction posted yesterday.]


WHAT I OBSERVED IN THE SERVICES

The first night I personally attended was Thursday, May 8th. Mr. Todd Bentley and his crew were now holding services in the Lakeland Civic Center, which can seat approximately 7,000 people. The doors opened at 6:00 PM to the blowing of a shofar from people waiting to get in. The first thing I noticed as I took a seat in the very back of the auditorium was that the music being played was the loudest I have ever encountered in any “Christian” service I have ever attended. It was blaring loud as the worship team practiced a few songs in anticipation of the 7:00 PM service. I was immediately struck by how many people had banners or flags waving, and how many were jumping up and down like Mexican jumping beans.

There was a lot of “cheerleading” from the stage as microphone checks were being done. Another thing that really stood out were certain buzz words that were used repeatedly. The phrase “stir yourselves up” was used repeatedly, as was the concept of a “transferable anointing.” A woman led in prayer for the service and said, “sound waves carry your [God] presence and anointing” and then told the people to “roar like a lion!” At that request, people everywhere shouted at the top of their lungs and blew the shofars. This same lady was jerking and twitching in a similar way to what has happened in meetings in Toronto and Brownsville in the past. She went on to tell the people to look at one another and say, “You are pregnant – with the Holy Spirit and fire!” There was also much talk of “birthing” and “signs and wonders.”

The “MC” (that’s the best word to describe him) for the meetings then came up and told the audience to get ready because we were going live on GodTV in just a couple of minutes. He had a young man stand behind him and gave the audience instructions to look at this man as he held up his hands for a countdown. Everyone was to make as much noise as possible when the services went live, and believe me they did. It was very orchestrated. There was also talk of being “drunk in the Spirit” during this lead up time to going live on TV.

The service began with loud, loud rock style music. By the way, I am not an old fuddy-dud who doesn’t like up-tempo music. I’m a Pentecostal and don’t at all mind exuberant worship. So my comments are not coming from some prejudice in that vein. I love to praise the Lord, and to do so with a full heart. I clap, shout, and have even been known to jump up and down every now and then. But what I saw and heard at the beginning of this service was unlike anything I had ever witnessed in a Christian service before (and I’ve attended my fair share of “off the wall” services in the past). This was different. It had a secular, rock concert feel to it. People were swaying and dancing to the music constantly. The worship leader, if you could call him that, sang a song whose lyrics include the following:

“I am Free to Run, I am Free to Run”
“I am Free to Dance, I am Free to Dance”

And boy how the people responded to that. There were people dancing everywhere. And by dancing I’m talking some of the same stuff you’d see at a secular concert. Even some men and women dancing together!

I realize that the first portion of this article is dealing somewhat with my own subjective thoughts on the meetings. I will get to some objective points about what is taught in these meetings later in the article, but please bear with me because it’s important for you, the reader, to have an idea of what goes on at these meetings and what the general atmosphere is like.

There was a very sensual spirit in the meeting. Much inappropriate dress as well. And everyone was caught up in their own euphoria. After nearly 45 minutes of upbeat music, things finally slowed down. People were still standing everywhere, but the music was now slower and more hypnotic. The same songs were being played over and over and over. People seemed to be in a trance all around me. If the worship leader said, “raise your hands” everyone did so immediately. If he said, “drop to your knees” they did so immediately. In my humble opinion what I observed that night was nothing more than mass hypnotism. The music had the people mesmerized. Oh, and I didn’t know one song they sang the entire night. Not one!

At about 8:30 PM, with music still being played and Todd Bentley still standing with the other leaders on stage, the music leader says, “I’m feeling drunk.” He then tells the people to say to God, “Intoxicate me, Lord” – “Inebriate me, Lord.” I am disgusted at this point. We will deal with the so-called “drunk in the Spirit” phenomenon later in the article. The music continues and picks up again. Now the people are getting truly wild and the leader says, “Scream!!!” and the people let out a yell that shakes the entire building. Finally the worship leader falls to the floor himself, but the back up singers continue. This continued until nearly 9:00 PM and I had seen enough for my first night. I left amidst the shouts of thousands.

Talk of angels was prevalent throughout the night as well. This seems to be a key point with this particular “revival” and we will discuss it more later in this article.

THE SECOND SERVICE

I came back the following Thursday, May 15th, which was the 44th day of the revival, determined to stay and hear Todd Bentley (if the music leader would allow). This time I entered the Civic Center and noticed that people were much more subdued. Why? Because the band was not practicing and instead much softer music was being played on a CD throughout the auditorium. There was only one person with a flag/banner raised this time, as opposed to the 10 or more I saw the first night. Things stayed calm until the MC came out and once again pumped up the audience with a countdown to going live on TV. As soon as that happened the people were the same as before – shouting, jumping, dancing, etc.

Two men, one looking like the bearded guy from ZZ Top, give each other a high-five near the back of the auditorium and both “fall under the power” immediately. The music is going fast and furious and the same emotions and actions that were in the first meeting are in this one as well. There also continues to be much talk of angels in the songs.

After almost an hour and a half of singing the MC comes back to the center of the stage and declares, “I feel the ‘sauce’ tonight.” He then introduces Todd Bentley who comes out wearing a t-shirt that reads, “Jesus Gave Me My Tattoos.” He tells everyone that he “felt like the Holy Spirit was massaging his body” tonight. He then talks about the transferable anointing that comes in like a mist. He claims that God told him he could “feel the anointing just like Moses did” in the book of Exodus! Of course God never told Moses that he could “feel” the anointing. God did say He would “show” Moses His glory, but He never mentioned “feeling” the glory. Yet Bentley continues to emphasize feelings. This is a huge part of his entire teaching. He talks of not only seeing a mist but says that in some of his previous meetings he has been able to smell incense, concluding that this is the glory of God manifest. He then invites people to come to the altar and screams, “Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire!” which is a trademark signature of his.

There’s a real restlessness in the arena. In fact, I’ve never seen more people coming and going, moving from seat to seat to seat, than I have at these meetings in Lakeland. There’s a tremendous lack of peace amongst the people. No one seems to be able to settle in, and people are walking the aisles and moving constantly.

Suddenly, Bentley says there is “great authority” in the building tonight and he says that people can decree whatever they want, but to be careful what they ask for. It’s obvious that he’s heavily influenced by “Word of Faith” teaching and believes that God has abdicated His throne and given us authority to do anything we want, or better yet have anything we pronounce. In fact, he himself says “I speak creation. I speak new hearts, new livers into existence tonight.” Speaking to the audience in general he tells people to take off their oxygen and he commands tumors to fall off bodies and for cripples to get out of wheelchairs. He continues to declare all types of healings. I watch as several people gather around one wheel-chair bound woman and pray for her. They exhort her to rise, but she cannot.

People now begin to come forward to share their testimonies of healing. Everything is carried out just as it would be in a Benny Hinn or Earnest Angley type service. There are claims of everything from headaches cured to resurrections from the dead, but everything is carefully shared on a first name only basis. I imagine Todd and his crew could claim this is done so that the media or other curious people would not harass the individuals giving the testimonies. But what this effectively does is keep anyone from verifying any of the claims. One severely handicapped girl (physically and mentally) was brought forward in a wheelchair and was lifted out of the wheelchair by Todd and another man and dragged several feet before Todd let her go so she could be “slain in the Spirit.” It was a travesty, in my opinion.

Bentley then claims that this revival was prophesied in 1977 and again in 1989 by none other than Paul Cain, of the Kansas City prophets. We will deal with him more later on, but it’s important that the reader gets an understanding of who Todd Bentley looks up to. He is very much in the same camp as the KC prophets, among others. I decided to leave at this point, as it was approaching 10 PM and I had an hour drive back home.

A THIRD MEETING

Many other events could be documented, but space limits me from going into more detail concerning the two nights I attended. However, there was one other service that I caught on TV, and fortunately taped, that must be mentioned here. On Saturday, May 17th, a service took place unlike any other I have seen yet. During the testimony time some extreme manifestations took place. One young eleven year old girl was brought up and Todd asked her if she would like to feel the “manifest presence of Jesus” and she sheepishly said yes (clearly not understanding what he was talking about). He took her by the hand and blew on her. Nothing happened. He then told her to close her eyes and repeat after him. “Jesus, fill me with your presence” he said. He placed his hand on her head and was clearly exerting some pressure in an attempt to make her fall down. She still didn’t collapse so he focused his attention on her cousin (who he wrongly called her mother – so much for his prophet status) and blew on her. She went straight down as the little girl watched. He then blew on her one more time but she never went down so he turned away.

As Todd went over to the other side of the stage he began to laugh in a deep, scary way. There is no other word I can think of to describe this laughter. After speaking with that person, who was very hyped, he laid hands on her and gave his trademark yell, “Bam!” She went right down. From there he began to laugh more, and the audience went right along with him. He talked about drinking from the river. He instructed everyone to put their head back and open their mouth and drink. More scary laughter occurs as he blows down another 9-year-old girl. He then tells the girl’s mother that he is “drunk in the Holy Ghost” and as his head is shaking strangely he mentions that “it’s [meaning the anointing] leaking out of my eyes.” More laughter and more “bams” occur as he sweeps his hand over the audience and rows of people react.

Todd then shouts “Fire!” and tells the people to say, “Come Holy Ghost, get me.” This continues for several minutes. He tells Jesus to “get them all.” Others on stage are laughing uncontrollably and staggering around, not even able to talk without slurring their words. The laughter from Todd is very much like Rodney Howard-Browne. As he continues to shake Todd asks the people to stand and make a barrel. So they clasp their hands together and act like they are holding a huge rain barrel in their arms. Then he shouts for them to tip this imaginary barrel up as their head is tipped back and “Drink!!!!” He shouts it again, “Drink!!!!” This is some of the most insane stuff I personally have ever seen in my life. I have been in many of these types of meetings, including meetings conducted by Rodney Howard-Browne and John Kilpatrick. Yet I’ve never seen anything as extreme as this.

The next man up to be interviewed is Pontus and he’s clearly led a rough life. His arms are filled with tattoos and to be honest he speaks as if he’s drunk. Todd comments on one of his nice tattoos and shows the man a similar one on his arm. This man is eventually “slain” as well. Todd continues to laugh in an almost demonic way. He continues to exhort the people to receive the anointing. Another lady is brought forward and the man holding the microphone for her says she’s been “bellied up to the bar here drinking quite a bit tonight.” She is of course an easy mark for being slain. Her husband then receives a “big fat drink of the Holy Ghost” as well. Todd goes on to say he’s “feeling drunk” and then he begins to shake his head to the left and right violently and shouts “ohhhhhhhhhh…!” It’s a truly frightening moment as he seems to be controlled by a spirit and my mind immediately went to the story in Mark’s Gospel of the young boy who was often tossed about by demonic spirits attempting to kill him (Mark 9:22).

Todd then asks God to fill everyone with that “drunken, drunken holy glory” that he supposedly is experiencing. He tells people not to get to close to the edge of the stage lest they fall off. More “bams” and laughter occur. Then Todd asks for a “release of the wine.” I could go on and on about the silliness that occurred that night. People were staggering around, not able to speak correctly, and basically acting like drunken sailors. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed.

TOMMOROW: Todd Bentley’s Connection to the Latter Rain Movement[For interesting historical background information on this “revival,” see this report. Also, read the 6-part in-depth report on the “Laughing Phenomena: Its History & Possible Effect on the Church” by Ed Tarkowski, which begins here and continues here, here, here, here, and here.]
“Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.” (Isaiah 29:9)

 

The Truth:

 

Read Full Post »

From the Herescope site comes an excellent series of articles about the Lakeland “Outpouring.”  Here is the introduction to the series:

 

A Pastor Reports on Todd Bentley’s “Revival” in Lakeland, Florida

 

By Pastor Gary Osborne

[Note to reader: this article begins a week-long series of posts, an in-depth eyewitness report from a pastor who attended and observed this “revival” as it unfolded.]

A couple of weeks ago I began to receive phone calls and emails asking me if I knew anything about a “revival” that was going on in Lakeland, Florida. Since that town is less than an hour away from me I decided it was important to find out what was happening in my own “back yard,” so to speak. I did some checking and found out that sure enough, revival meetings were taking place in Lakeland under the ministry of Todd Bentley. In fact, the services were being broadcast live on God TV. Therefore, after watching several services, I decided to attend a couple myself, and the following article deals with what I found out firsthand and the conclusions I have come to.

There is no doubt in my mind that the “Lakeland Outpouring,” as it is now being called, is nothing more than a recycling of previous movements that stretch back decades. Whether it was meetings held by people like William Branham, Kathryn Kuhlman, Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne, Steve Hill, or any of the so-called Kansas City Prophets, the spirit and basic doctrine are the same. There’s a common thread of specific heresies that go back a long way. That’s why I call it recycled revival. It’s nothing new at its core. In addition, this revival and ones similar to it promote ideas that are contrary to what the Bible tells us about the end times.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE LAST DAYS

At the outset I’d like to say that I’m very much a Pentecostal Christian. I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today and that God still baptizes people in the Holy Ghost. I also believe in revival. I’ve read the Bible through dozens of times and seen enough genuine moves of God to know beyond any doubt that the Lord still pours out His Spirit on hungry hearts. With the Lord’s help I’ve made a careful study of authentic revivals down through history and the characteristics are always the same: strong preaching against sin; deep repentance; an emphasis on the cross of Christ; an emphasis on the world to come as opposed to this world; and an emphasis on the Bible. I believe we need genuine revival. We need it because of our [the Church in general] apathy. We need it because of our ungodliness. And we need it specifically because we are in the Last Days. But there’s a distinction between praying for God to pour out His Spirit on a person or church and believing that there will be an end times revival that will sweep the world and “Christianize” the nations. There’s a huge difference between those two things and what you believe concerning this point will affect the way you pray and it will affect the way you look at things as we draw closer to the return of Christ.

What does the Bible say about the end times? It’s important that we establish this point before we move on to discuss the happenings in Lakeland, Florida. Let’s examine a few Scriptures. In Matthew 24 Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the end times. They have asked Him to tell them what the signs will be for His return and the end of the age (vs. 3). The first thing Jesus says is what? That we are to expect a great end times revival? That we are to accept what anyone says simply because they claim to be a servant of Jesus? NO! The first thing Jesus says is “See to it that no one leads you astray” (vs. 4).

It’s interesting that Jesus would begin a discussion about the last days with that admonition. He then goes on to say (Matt. 24:11). In Mark’s gospel, He adds to this and says,“many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” “false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (Mark 13:22). So Jesus tells us that one of the primary marks of the last days will be deception. In fact take note that while He says the gospel will be preached to the world He does not say the world will accept the message. Nowhere does He tell us to expect great, worldwide revivals just before He returns.

The Apostles also had much to say about the last days.

  • 2Th 2:1-3 – “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first.”

Note that Paul did not say Christ will not come unless a great worldwide revival comes first. He said “apostasy” which is a falling away. So Paul lines right up with Jesus on what we should be looking for in these Last Days. Paul also tells us in I Timothy chapter 4 “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Again I’d like to point out that no where in this or any other passage does Paul tell us to expect an end times revival that will bring in millions or billions and Christianize the world.

Peter echoes this same thing when he states that “false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (II Pet. 2:1-2).

It should be obvious to any student of the Scriptures that the last days will be perilous times (II Tim. 3), and Christians must pray for discernment. This is in compliance with I John 4:1, an extremely important Scripture for our discussion.

  • “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

This is what I will be doing in this article. I’m not judging anyone. I’m not condemning anyone. I don’t have a “Pharisee” spirit (as one man accused me of recently). I’m simply obeying the biblical command to test the spirits. Remember too that one of the nine gifts of the Spirit mentioned in I Corinthians 12 is the discerning of spirits. There are three basic “spirits” that information or teaching can come from: the Spirit of God, the spirit of man, and demonic spirits. We must understand that just because a person claims to be a Christian and claims to be operating under the anointing of God it doesn’t mean they really are. They could be operating in their own fleshly spirit, or worse yet they could be operating under seducing spirits posing as angels of light (II Cor. 11:14). We must know the Word of God, and know it well, in order to be discerning Christians who can rightly divide the Word of Truth and not be led astray.

Once more, let me emphasize at the outset that we do need genuine revival in the land today. Apathy in the Body of Christ is at an all time high, and I can fully understand people wanting to draw closer to the Lord. That’s a worthy aspiration. In no way is this article judging the intentions or motives of those that go to these meetings. I’m sure that many, if not most, of the people that attend do so because they are somewhat desperate for more of God. But we must never put discernment and the Word of God on the backburner because we feel spiritually dry. In fact, it’s often during those times when we are thirsty that we need to be extra careful about what source we drink from. A desperate man, lost in the desert, may drink from the first pool of water that he comes to, but it may be poison. So let us be careful to diligently seek God when it comes to purported moves of the Spirit in certain churches or services.

This article will be divided up into two distinct sections. In the first section I will give detailed accounts of what I personally witnessed at two of the meetings I attended in Lakeland, and I will also detail a portion of a third meeting I watched and taped off television. This first section will obviously include subjectivity from my vantage point. The second portion of this article will deal with 7 issues that need to be addressed concerning this “Revival” and will include some of the more salient teachings of Todd Bentley.

Read Full Post »

The other day, I was poking around on youtube, and I stumbled across a series of videos recently released by our former church’s music department. Pastor Smith’s (not their real last name) son (an excellent pianist but a horrifically tone-deaf singer) put out a new CD this past spring, and the church had obviously poured a bunch of money into producing some pretty professional looking DVDs of the key songs.

[Random aside:  I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched the choir and backup singers, many of whom are amazingly talented, if Tommy Smith was giving any of these singers and musicians a cut of the money he raked in from selling his CD and DVD.  I highly doubt it.  Yet without those singers and musicians, people would be forced to listen to the pastor’s son sing alone, and he’d be a mere shadow of what he’s now able to think he is as he hides behind those who can actually carry a tune.]

Anyway, I bring up those youtube videos because one of the new songs Tommy had written contained lyrics that focused on how all we as Christians need is “just a moment” with God.

It is actually a very pretty song, one that tugged at my heartstrings as I listened to the emotive harmonies, the whispered, worshipful “hallelujahs” in the background. And a part of it was quite nice, singing about a moment in the Lord’s presence, and how wonderful this could be.

Matter of fact, the majority of the songs Tommy Smith has written are along these same lines, always celebrating God’s presence…with the insinuation being, of course, that it (God’s presence) is found within the four walls of our former church. I’ve been struck by this observation before, but as I listened to this new song, pretty though it was, it yet again occurred to me that the people at our old church really believe that “receiving a touch from God” is what a successful Christian life is all about.  Have a problem?  Get the pastor to lay hands on you.  Need a breakthrough?  Hope and pray that the pastor will give you a prophetic word.  Need to make progress in your Christian life?  Well, the specifics of Godly character were rarely discussed – not even simple things, like being nice to one another in the church parking lot, instead of cutting people off and giving them dirty looks as you fought for your turn to exit after the service. 

We would never hear basic, practical teachings from the Bible.  But we were relentlessly hammered with the idea that “being in God’s presence” – which was defined as falling down on the ground, weeping before the Lord, praying in church – was what was needed to make one holy.  If you wanted to be a victorious Christian, you needed to be where God’s presence was.

Of course, there’s a nugget of truth buried in there somewhere.  But it only takes “a little leaven” to ruin the whole thing, right? 

People at our former church never seemed to be taught that the keys to Christian living were right there in their hands – the Bible, and the indwelling Holy Spirit Who already resides in them as believers.  People were never taught that they should look to the Holy Spirit to help them become more Christlike, in such areas as being more honest (we met more pathological liars at our former church than I’d met in my entire lifetime prior to becoming members).  Aside from being told to give money sacrificially to the church, people were never taught anything about “dying to self.”  Instead, we were told week after week that God was going to make us people of great destiny, that we were going to be favored, that we were going to be prosperous…as long as we remained at Living Word Church (for the record, a pseudonym) and under the “covering” of Pastor Smith’s “anointing” – which, when you got right down to it, was always defined as the power that flowed through him when he preached, prophesied, and laid hands on people.

So, Tommy Smith’s new song is pretty good at summing up what the Christian faith is at our former church – it really is about “moments in time,” where one “feels” God’s presence…with the insinuation being that it happens at church, through the pastor or his appointed guest speakers.

I think more than a bit of that mentality is at work in the Lakeland meetings, too.  “Come and get some” means what?  What, exactly, is going to be the fruit produced by “some” of whatever “it” is?  I guess time will tell…how many of those people will shake and tremble and twitch and roll, “drunk,” all the way back home, and actually exhibit more Christ-like character?

I hope it’s all of them, but from our own experience, I’d be surprised if it were very many at all.  I knew far too many people who did lots of “carpet time” at our old church, only to get up and go and lie and cheat and just be generally wacky flakes the rest of the 167 hours left in the week.

Yet they thought – because we were constantly fed this notion – that they had a superior handle on Christian living since they had access to Pastor Smith’s “anointing.”  They’d enjoyed many memorable moments in “God’s presence” at church.  And since that’s all it takes, they had it all together.

This “moment in time” type of Christianity feels good, and it sounds appealing because it’s easy.  But since its fruit bears so little resemblance to the “fruits of the Spirit” (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), I do not believe that it’s healthy for us to reduce our life in Christ to distinct occasions where we “feel” something that has been dispensed to us through “the anointing” of another human being.

Try as I might, I just can’t find this concept anywhere in my Bible.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »