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Posts Tagged ‘charismatic’

I’ve been going through the Old Testament for my Bible reading these days.  Last night I was in the book of I Kings, in the passage where King Solomon dedicates the temple of the Lord.

That’s when I came across a couple of verses that seemed especially familiar:

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD.  And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.

                                                                  — I Kings 8:10-11

I realized that the reason why these verses rang a bell is because I’d heard this passage used many times as scriptural support for the practice of “falling out under the power”  – you know, what happens when a preacher “under the anointing” lays hands on someone?

As I’ve said before, since leaving Charismania, I’ve thought a lot about that whole “falling out under the power” experience.  It’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever fully come to understand.  I know that something was happening to make my knees buckle and force me to the floor when Pastor Smith (not his real name) or one of his visiting ministers placed his hands on my forehead.  I’m still just sort of mystified as to what that something was.

Was it the literal power and presence of God Almighty Himself?

Pastor Smith would have had us believe that that’s precisely what it was – that because Pastor Smith “proclaimed the Word” and had an “anointing,” he had the ability to dispense God to his audience.  He frequently referred to himself as “a conduit” of this power.

And he used I Kings 8:10-11 as scriptural support for this practice.

But here’s the thing that struck me as I read in I Kings last night:  in that passage, it is clear that when the presence of the Lord filled the temple, it was so strong and so powerful the priests themselves were rendered unable to stand.

The priests themselves were unable to maintain control of their actions.

Let’s look a little closer at what this tells us.

Something important to keep in mind is that the priests would have been highly motivated to maintain control of themselves.  No matter what your views on God’s unchangeable nature, it is a biblical fact that He appears to have interacted differently with people in the Old Testament than He interacts with us today.  In the Old Testament, people could be killed on the spot for failing to follow God’s guidelines – even if they did so accidentally.  We don’t see a whole lot of unexplained deaths these days in church.  But in Old Testament times, different guidelines seem to have applied.  In Old Testament times, people related to God through the “old covenant.”

Since that was the case, I’m thinking that the priests doing their duty in I Kings would have been highly motivated to pay attention and be sure they followed every last letter of the law.  I think they would have done all in their human power to remain standing, at full attention.

That tells us that the authentic “presence and power of the Lord” is something so strong, something so unspeakably glorious, that no one, not even the most highly motivated individual, is able to withstand it.

Yet when people “fall out under the power” in today’s Charismaniac circles, lots of people are capable of remaining in full control of themselves and their faculties.

The individual who is purportedly dispensing the “anointing” or “power” remains in full control.

And so do the “catchers,” those big guys who follow the minister and break the falls of the people being prayed for/ministered to.

Last night it struck me that this passage in I Kings absolutely does NOT provide any support for the practice of “falling out under the power” as it is practiced in Charismatic circles today.  If anything, I Kings 8:10-11 would prove the exact opposite – that whatever is causing people to fall down these days when the minister touches them simply CANNOT be the actual “power and presence of God.”

If the GENUINE power and presence of God were “in the house” (as Pastor Smith was fond of declaring), then  all human flesh would bow in response, just as the priests in this passage from I Kings were forced to do.

There would not be anyone left standing.

Not the catchers.  And certainly not the pastor himself.

It suddenly seems terribly obvious that God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, does not manifest himself as some sort of “force” that is dispensed at the will of human beings.  The fact that Pastor Smith chose when, where, and how he’d “lay hands on people” – in other words, when, where, and how the (supposed) power of God would be dispensed – would put God at the control and mercy of Pastor Smith.

The Bible shows us that such a notion is absolutely ludicrous.

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I haven’t posted anything meaningful in quite awhile, mostly because I tend not to think so much anymore about our time in Charismania.  We’ve moved on and are in a good, healthy place.

But every once in awhile, something does trigger a memory, or a flash of insight.

The other night, right as I drifted off to sleep, I had such a moment.

For some reason – I have no idea why – I was remembering all those times at Living Word Church (a pseudonym, as are all other names used in this post) when people would “fall out under the power.” 

For those of you unfamiliar with the goings-on at your typical Charismaniac (hyper-Pentecostal/Charismatic/Word of Faith) church, “falling out under the power” was what happened at certain times during a church service, usually when the pastor or guest speaker would pick a person out of the audience (or prayer line) and “lay hands on” him or her.

At our particular church, this practice was frequently accompanied by the pastor’s declaring a “prophetic word” to the recipient as well, prior to the “laying on of hands.”  Typically, in what had initially seemed very spontaneous but in retrospect was probably far more orchestrated and deliberate than we’d ever imagined, Pastor Smith would, either during points in the praise-and-worship time or after his sermon, suddenly pick someone out in the crowd and stride down from the stage purposefully toward that person.  If the person were a member, someone whom Pastor Smith knew personally, he’d usually call them out by name.  If the person were a visitor, he’d point to them and say something like, “Sir?  Yes, you – you in the brown shirt.  May I pray for you?”

In our years at Living Word Church, we never saw anyone turn Pastor Smith down when he asked that question.  In fact, most people were very eager to be picked out of the crowd like that.  If you went to Living Word for any length of time, you easily picked up on the fact that those “prophetic times” – the times when Pastor Smith “ministered prophetically” to people – were the highest point of the service, the greatest thing that could ever happen to someone.  People could even get petty or jealous about the amount of times that someone “got called out.”  After all, there were folks who’d attended Living Word for years – even some people who were longtime members – who had yet to receive a “word.”  It could start to seem unfair when certain new people would get called out two or three times in one month.

Getting called out for a “word” followed something of a formula.  When we were new to Living Word, I generally believed in the authenticity of Pastor Smith’s “prophetic gifting,” and especially at the beginning, I was enthralled by the sorts of things he’d say to people when he was in his “prophetic” mode.  It wasn’t exactly what I’d have thought of as “prophecy,” in that it wasn’t particularly specific or even very predictive.  It also wasn’t much like the prophecies of the Bible, either, in that it was ALWAYS very positive.  There were never any warnings about repenting – turning away from sin – for instance, which is a typical theme of Biblical prophecy.

Pastor Smith’s prophecies were instead quite frequently about the “great blessing” the person was about to begin walking in, which at Living Word generally was understood to mean FINANCIAL blessing.  It was common for the recipient to react as though he’d just found out he’d won the lottery – there’d be lots of excited jumping around and/or praising Jesus as Pastor Smith would wrap up the prophecy, which would typically end with, “Somebody give Him a praise!”

At this point, the recipient would be caught and lowered gently to the ground by one of Pastor Smith’s “catchers,” the big, burly men who served in that highly coveted capacity and who would have unobtrusively sidled up behind the recipient while Pastor Smith was prophesying to him.

When the recipient would fall to the floor, it was understood that something supernatural and mysterious was happening to him.  Pastor Smith frequently referred to himself as a “conduit” of the “anointing,” which (I guess) was the same thing as the “manifest presence of God,” or the Holy Spirit.  We never did receive clear, coherent teachings on what, precisely, happened during these ministry times, but if you hung around Living Word long enough, you picked up on the lingo and sort of figured out what was supposed to be going on.

As Pastor Smith would shout, “Somebody give Him a praise,” the crowd would oblige enthusiastically, clapping and hooting.  Interestingly, the applause would always be louder if the person seemed to “fall out” in a particularly forceful or dramatic fashion.

“Falling out under the power” could happen in another context, too, which was the prayer line.  This didn’t occur terribly often, but maybe once a month on a Sunday night, Pastor Smith would decide to “pray for people.”  Like a well-oiled machine, the ushers and catchers would direct us to file out of our pews and snake around into a line that led up to the front.  Then they’d place us into position, lined up across the front of the sanctuary.  Pastor Smith would pass back and forth in front of the line, praying in tongues loudly and moving from one person to the next, momentarily placing his hands on the person’s forehead.  “Falling out under the power” was not such a practically guaranteed outcome in this setting, like it was when an individual was “pulled out” and received a personal word.  But it probably did happen to at least 50% of the people whom Pastor Smith prayed for in these prayer lines.

Sometimes a third variation would occur, when Pastor Smith would pause, motion for the music to get quieter, and then would begin to prophesy personally to an individual in the prayer line.  When Smith would go to “lay hands on” the person after delivering the “word,” that person typically WOULD “fall out.”

Because of the need for expediency – after all, even the thinned-out Sunday night crowds were still fairly large, with sometimes as many as 500 people – those who did “fall out” in the prayer line were not permitted to lie on the floor for very long before being helped to their feet by one of the catchers. 

But it was still understood that we were RECEIVING something from Pastor Smith during those times…

Again, we weren’t taught clearly and specifically WHAT we were receiving, but we easily absorbed the notion that God did something to us through Pastor Smith, and that it happened while we were lying down on the floor, after Pastor Smith had touched us.  This practice was one of the things that set our church apart from the inferior “dead” churches out there.  It was one of the main ways that we were “ministered to.”

Of all the things that have puzzled me as I look back on my experiences in Charismania, I have to say that “falling out under the power” is still the one that remains the most mysterious.

The other night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I was once again puzzling over what the whole thing meant.  In the way that one’s thoughts go as one is in that twilight zone between waking and sleeping, here were the random observations that floated in and out of my brain…

We see no instances of “falling out” happening in the Bible, at least nothing remotely resembling the way that it was done at Living Word Church.  Yes, there are places in the Bible where we can read about people trembling in fear at the manifest presence of God and falling on their faces before Him, even (apparently) seeming to temporarily lose consciousness.  But I’ve never been able to find a single instance in Scripture where a man of God (like the Apostle Paul, or Timothy, or one of the disciples) behaved like a physical “conduit” of God’s power, where he would touch a recipient and the recipient would fall backward.

We certainly can find no instructions to the church about doing these ministry times.  I mean, you’d think that if “falling out under the power” were such a crucial way to nourish and serve God’s people, it would have received at least a few verses of teaching somewhere in the New Testament.  But there’s nothing.  Even the verses that do mention the “laying on of hands” say NOTHING about “falling out under the power” and lying on the floor afterward.  There’s NOTHING about receiving something specific or particular from the Holy Spirit during these times on the floor.

But the biggest thing that struck me the other night, as I thought about all this once again, was this:  the applause. 

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit’s main role is to direct people’s attention to Jesus.  Therefore, it would logically follow that if this whole “falling out under the power” thing actually IS the Holy Spirit in action, it would serve to glorify Jesus and make people focus on Him.

But in all honesty, I have to say that that did NOT seem to be the outcome of this practice, at least not at Living Word Church.

At Living Word, when someone “fell out under the power,” I don’t really think that Jesus was thought about all that much.

Instead, the recipient of MOST of the attention seemed to be whichever person had performed the “laying on of hands.”  Even though Pastor Smith was very diligent about telling his audience to give God praise, I never felt like the applause that would follow these times of ministry was actually about God.  It always felt like it was much more a way for the audience to express their awe at how the ministering pastor had just done something to the recipient of the “word.” 

The natural reaction of the people seemed like it was to be impressed with the pastor’s (or visiting minister’s) amount of “anointing,” which was assessed by how forcefully the recipient of the “laying on of hands” had “fallen out,” and how long that person had remained unconscious on the floor.  By default, our attention was not so much on God Himself (Jesus).  Our attention was on the dramatic act of the person’s falling down on the ground, and on the pastor who had touched the person and therefore had caused this dramatic thing to happen.  Looking back, I can even remember how certain visiting ministers were particularly revered for the number of people they “pulled out,” and for how powerful these people’s time on the floor had been to them.

And the recipient – the person who “fell out” – basically received whatever attention the audience had left to give, after they’d applauded at the pastor’s behest.  It was not uncommon for the recipient to be congratulated after the service.  Sometimes, people would even seem to be a bit in awe of the recipient, almost as though they were hoping that some of the “anointing” that the recipient had received would rub off on them.

I have to say that whatever “falling out under the power” actually WAS, it did feel really good.  I was never the recipient of a “personal word” from Pastor Smith, but I “fell out” more than a few times in the prayer line.  Sometimes it was quite powerful, like a jolt of electricity had hit me and my knees buckled.  I’d fall to the floor and be in a sort of zoned-out frame of mind, although I certainly remained fully conscious.  I can remember plenty of times where my mind would be pleasurably blank as I fell, and yet I’d still be aware enough of myself that I’d tug on my blouse to make sure that my stomach hadn’t gotten exposed as I’d fallen.

Also, I can’t really say that anything changed in me during those times that I “fell out.”  If I’m going to be brutally honest, I’d have to say that I always felt just a teensy bit disappointed after each of these experiences. 

I’d return to my seat, sometimes feeling quite befuddled and almost dazed, pretty convinced that whatever had knocked me to the floor had been something from God…

BUT…

Something deep down inside of me sort of knew that if it HAD been God who’d knocked me to the ground, I was still the one at least somewhat in charge of my faculties.  After all, I’d have the presence of mind to adjust my clothing.  (And I wasn’t the only one – I often noticed other ladies doing that very same thing!)  And ultimately, I was ALWAYS able to get up off the ground when I wanted to or was told to by the ushers.

If what had knocked me to the ground was God Himself, it had to be a very watered-down version of God, because my own human will was able to overcome the effects of the “knocking-down” power.

Which brings up another interesting thought:  after being at Living Word for awhile, I had to admit that whatever it was that happened to people while they lay on the floor, it didn’t seem to have very lasting effects in their lives.

Among the regulars who “fell out,” we all seemed to pretty much remain as we had always been.  I don’t know that any of us went forth and lived holier lives, or more actively loved others, or exhibited more patience, or more faith, or did any of the dramatic things that Pastor Smith frequently declared would happen (such as seeing people we touched be instantly healed, or walking into a room and having so much anointing on us that people would burst into tears at our mere presence and demand to pray to accept Christ, without our ever having to utter a word).

And sadly, among the visitors, or more “transient” folks who were prayed for and “fell out,” I think we saw even fewer lasting results.  I can only speak of the folks whom I personally knew, of course, but off the top of my head I can remember several people who attended Living Word for a month or two, people who had major issue with stuff like drug use.  I can picture one gal in particular who got prayed for and “fell out” dramatically.  She disappeared from Living Word about a month after that dramatic moment, only to return maybe a year later, still entrapped in all the same problems she’d always had.

So…

While the practice of “falling out under the power” was something that felt good, and while I still have no real explanation for the jolt of electricity that I myself experienced from time to time, a jolt so powerful that it knocked me backward and made me fall to the ground, I have to say that I’ve come to the following conclusions.

  • I don’t think the practice can be clearly or directly supported by anything in the Bible.
  • I don’t think the jolt of power is God Himself, or else we humans wouldn’t be so easily able to overcome its effects.
  • Moreover, if the jolt IS from God, then that would mean that God is putting Himself at the mercy of fallible guys like Pastor Smith, who then control when and where and how they dispense God to their people.  Ultimately, that would make Pastor Smith and his visiting ministers in charge of God, rather than the other way around.
  • I never saw any lasting positive effects of the practice.  If anything, it seemed to create a cycle in people of just hungering for more of the same.  Sometimes I got the distinct impression that Pastor Smith was fully aware of this, because he seemed to dole out those prayer times judiciously, doing it just enough to maintain attendance.  After all, he could always ensure a much larger Sunday night crowd if he announced in advance that he’d be “praying for people” (which almost always meant that there’d be an opportunity to “fall out”).
  • The practice seems to take attention AWAY from Jesus and what He accomplished for us through His death and resurrection.  Instead, “falling out under the power” directs people’s attention to the person performing the “laying on of hands,” as well as to the recipient of said hands.

I can’t say that I’ve yet reached a definite conclusion about what that whole experience actually was.  It’s possible – faintly possible – that when I arrive in heaven someday and get to ask Jesus about this, Jesus will tell me that yes, this whole thing was something He wanted for His church, and that yes, He actually DID “minister” to people through it.

But I have to say that this would surprise me.

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We’ve written about prayer cloths before. 

We continue to refuse to doubt that God can and does heal people, and we believe that the principle behind the idea of prayer cloths is in the Bible.  Check out Acts 19:11-12 –

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

That being said, does anyone else notice what’s interesting about verse 11 above?

This verse says that God did EXTRAORDINARY miracles through Paul.

Extraordinary.  As in something that doesn’t happen very often.  As in something that was probably pretty limited – perhaps limited to the Apostle Paul…or to those who penned the books that became the Bible…or MAYBE to those who risk life and limb and imprisonment and beatings and beheadings and burnings at the stake in order to preach the Gospel.

Having sat through several “prayer handkerchief anointing services” in our time at Living Word Church (a pseudonym, as are all other names used in this post), and having seen (or even just heard of) VERY FEW miracles resulting from this practice, I couldn’t help but get a huge chuckle from this picture, which I first saw on the sacredsandwich site:

shamwowprayercloth

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Over the past couple of days, I’ve had the opportunity to watch both the HBO special, The Trials of Ted Haggard, and the interview that Haggard and his wife Gayle did with Oprah.

Some troubling stuff there.

Considering that both Oprah and Alexandra Pelosi are firmly in the camp that typically views Bible-believing fundamentalists as irrational nuts clinging to outdated ideas about homosexuality, I was really bothered that Haggard allowed his story to be used by them in such a way so as to further their case against most Evangelicals, who typically view homosexual tendencies as a temptation to be battled rather than an innate identity to be embraced. 

In both appearances, Ted Haggard comes across as a very nice man who was boxed into dishonesty about his sexual identity because he identifies himself as an Evangelical.  Pelosi’s documentary made Haggard look like the pathetic victim of a belief system that just needs to ditch its outmoded ideas about homosexuality and allow the poor guy to move back home and be loved by his church again.  Oprah’s interview showcased Haggard’s newfound “honesty” about his mixed-up sexual orientation.

For someone who is supposedly going through a “restoration” process that most Christians assume contains at least an element of Godly sorrow for how his sins hurt New Life Church, Haggard came across as disgustingly eager to throw his former church under the bus in order to make people feel sorry for him. 

Haggard had to have known that permitting Pelosi to follow him around with a camera as he showed off his sad new life of unemployment, disgrace, and relative poverty would make his former church and his board of overseers appear terribly mean-spirited to anyone who does not think that it’s a sin to be openly and actively gay.

Also, I have a hard time believing that Haggard didn’t deliberately paint his life as even more pathetic than it actually was, just for the sake of the camera.  For instance, at one point in the documentary, Haggard gestured to a U-haul truck and made the statement that it contained “all” of his family’s earthly possessions.  Considering that the Haggard family has now moved back into their Colorado Springs home, which they continued to own during the time that Pelosi was filming them in Arizona, that particular statement almost HAD to have been a blatant lie, as that U-haul truck obviously was not large enough to contain all the contents of their house.  Unless the Haggards had had a gigantic garage sale before heading out to Arizona, they still had a bunch of “earthly possessions” that were stored somewhere else besides inside that small U-haul truck.

Also, maybe I’m missing something, but I have a hard time understanding how the Haggard family could have really been in such dire financial straits so quickly, since it is a fact that New Life Church paid them somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 in severance.

It was bad to watch Mr. Haggard buddy around with Oprah on her show, too.  Not only did he seem just a little bit too comfortable with all the attention as he appeared to revel in the psychobabble about his “complicated” sexuality – he also never spoke up to clearly disagree with Oprah’s continued (and rather forceful) assertions that by denying his gay feelings (and not permitting himself to act out on them), he was denying who he was.

It was especially painful when Haggard’s wife Gayle attempted to state the typical biblical position that not every tendency is meant to be embraced…that there are elements of choice in terms of which behaviors we decide to pursue.  You’d think that the former pastor would have been all over that one – or at least, that he would have clearly stood with his wife, who has so faithfully stood with him.  But no.  Watch this portion of the interview for yourself:

(Random aside:  does anyone else join me in thinking that the Haggards’ body language toward each other does not bode well for their relationship?  They sit on Oprah’s couch with knees angled away from each other, putting practically as much physical distance between themselves as they can.)

The whole thing begs the question, why is Haggard willingly putting himself back in the public eye, particularly in venues where he’s got to know that his story makes traditional Christians – like the pasty-faced and poufy-haired “suits” who comprised the board of overseers responsible for setting the terms of his dismissal and restoration process – look bad? 

Anyone savvy enough to have once been the president of the National Association of Evangelicals has got to be savvy enough to understand that in the world’s eyes, nobody should ever “struggle” against his gay feelings in the first place. 

It’s a funny thing, but when Ted Haggard was initially disgraced for his bizarre secret life, I actually felt sorry for him.  Any honest Christian knows how far one’s own life all too often falls from the ideals that the Bible sets out.  We all have struggles, and we will all sin, even after we become “new creatures in Christ Jesus.”  Mr. Haggard’s particular sins were perhaps more dramatic than the run-of-the-mill stuff that most of us battle, but nonetheless, my heart went out to him.

Now, though, I’m starting to think that Ted Haggard has bigger issues than merely struggling with a sexual attraction to men.  He seems to have an almost pathological need for attention and sympathy.  Before he’s ever declared “officially restored,” I hope that he and his therapist explore what drove him to seek such attention and sympathy from those – Oprah and Pelosi, and also the world at large – who do not share his purported values.

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As I’ve said before, many times, the journey out of Charismania seems to take longer than one would imagine.  We’ve been gone from Living Word Church (a pseudonym, as are all other names in this post) for a year and a half, and yet I still keep coming to new realizations about things we experienced there.  I’ll be going along, thinking that I am SO OVER Living Word, when suddenly I’ll remember something and be hit by a new understanding, a new interpretation, of it.

Like yesterday.  For some reason, I suddenly remembered something that Pastor Smith would often say when talking about people who left Living Word. 

(I’m going to interrupt myself before I even really get rolling, so that I can point out how odd it seems, in retrospect, that a pastor of a fairly large congregation – around 1,000 in attendance on a Sunday – would EVER comment from the pulpit about people who leave.  But Smith did this on many occasions.  He’d often joke about the “revolving door” of the church…and the evil vipers who would spread vicious lies about him…and sometimes he’d say, “If you don’t like it, LEAVE!”

But that would be fodder for another post.)

Anyway…back to what I remembered yesterday…

On many occasions, when Pastor Smith would go on these rants about people who left Living Word, he’d do so in a way that really couldn’t be called a “rant.”  He’d use a very reasonable, borderline patronizing tone of voice, like he was a helpful preschool teacher explaining the obvious.  And he’d say, “You know, I’ve seen so many families, they’re plugged in to this great church.  Their kids are doing well.  Their finances are doing well.  Their marriage is great.  But then they leave.  And somehow, after that, their kids start having problems.  Their finances get messed up.  And their marriages fall apart…”

During that last bit, Smith would shrug dramatically at us and then, still in a very calm, reasonable, preschool teacher sort of voice, finish up with something to the effect of, “Now, I’m not sayin’ ANYTHING.  But you can do the math!”

I got to thinking about this yesterday.  The clear implication of Pastor Smith’s frequent mentions of people who leave, and how their lives basically fall apart after they do, was that attendance at Living Word Church was the thing that had helped these people remain successful in their finances and family life.  Leaving Living Word, on the other hand, meant that you’d lose this magical touch on your life.  You’d lose money, you’d lose your kids, you’d lose your marriage.

Something hit me yesterday about this.  First of all, I need to say that Pastor Smith’s insinuations APPEARED to have some truth to them.  We all knew folks who’d left Living Word, and several of them did get divorced after they left.  Many of them did suffer through financial crack-ups.  Many of them did have problems with their kids. 

I think this is why a bunch of fairly educated, intelligent people could sit there and listen to Pastor Smith say these things and not get upset and walk out – because there SEEMED to be a bit of truth to what he was saying.  It SEEMED like Living Word Church WAS good for a family’s success.

But…looking at it another way…

It’s fully possible that leaving Living Word Church DID lead to all sorts of problems for people.  But NOT because they’d left Living Word’s protective “anointing.”  Rather, people had problems after they left Living Word because of the natural implications of what it means to have been under the sway of a manipulative and abusive ministry!

Financially, people at Living Word strained themselves to give sacrificially.  While I’ll never stop believing in the principle of honoring God first with one’s money, the truth of the matter is that Pastor Smith hammered away at the subject of giving, sometimes even taking up multiple collections in a single church service, to the point where many of the people I knew were jeopardizing their financial health to “sow seed” far above and beyond their tithe.  Many people enjoyed the special attention they got from Pastor Smith when they did this, too.  And a lot of us bought into the idea that we were essentially “investing” when we gave, since we were promised a “hundredfold harvest” from our giving.

So it’s far more likely that those who left suffered financial setbacks BECAUSE of financially harmful decisions they’d made while still attending Living Word.

Likewise Smith’s whole observation about marriages that broke up.

Discovering that you’ve been deceived and manipulated can put major strain on a marriage.  Many people exit Charismania with little sense of what’s real and what’s fake about their Christianity.  This can prompt a major life crisis.  And husbands and wives often handle this crisis differently.  Perhaps one spouse spends all his time reading and researching doctrine, while the other one grows apathetic about all things Christian.  Losing one’s faith in the “Word of Faith” message is akin to losing a loved one.  When you discover that it’s NOT necessarily true that you’ll always be victorious in precisely the way you declare victory…when you discover that miraculous healing is NOT necessarily “always God’s will” for every situation…when you discover that the “hundredfold harvest” is essentially a myth, a con, promoted by unscrupulous “men of Gawd” so that they can line their own pockets and pursue their own luxurious lifestyles even as they themselves do not “sow” all THEY have into OTHER ministries because they KNOW that they won’t receive a “hundredfold return”…

Well, these discoveries are like little deaths.  At least they were for us.  And as with any death, any loss, nothing will ever quite be the same again.  There’s grief.  There’s pain.  There’s a keen sense of disappointment.  And just as the grieving process over an actual physical death can take its toll on a marriage, so can this type of death, the death of one’s belief in the sort of “fairy tale God” taught and promoted at Charismaniac churches.

So yesterday, I suddenly realized that when Pastor Smith made mention of the way people’s lives seem to fall apart after they left Living Word Church, he was – as was so often the case – trying to manipulate his people.  He was trying to control them through fear, by planting the idea in their minds that they somehow needed Living Word Church in order to hold their lives together. 

And he was so often successful in his quest, as we all sat there and remembered the folks we knew who’d had their lives go south after leaving.

Yet – as was also often the case – Pastor Smith was only telling part of the story.  He neglected to mention that the wrecked finances, the broken marriages, the rebellious kids, were far more likely the result of what happens when people have to pick through the reality of deception – deception at the hands of men like Pastor Smith, who promote a false gospel for financial gain.

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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).

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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

 

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