Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Matters of the Heart!

Over the years, I have had plenty of people come to me and say, "Chad one thing I value about you is that you have a lot of knowledge when it comes to the Bible and defending the faith." For a few years of my life, I let that image of me define my identity- and I used my knowledge as a means to puff myself up. As Paul told the church in Corinth in I Corinthians 8:1, "Knowledge puffs up but love builds up." These days, when I an told that I am a person with a lot of knowledge, I immediately draw back and think to myself "Does my knowledge shine more than my heart." More than a person with a lot of knowledge, I would rather be seen as a person that has a lot of heart- and if you don't see that I have a lot of heart then I need to make some serious adjustments.

While my bookshelf has quite a few commentaries, books on church history, as well as apolegetics resources that provide knowledge of my faith and the means by which to defend it and the basic tenets of the faith such as the resurrection, the historicity of the Biblical account, the Trinity, etc- I have realized that God calls us first not to be defenders of our faith, but rather to be offenders of the darkness of sin that entangles and imprisons our hearts from drawing closer to Him.

More than ever, that's what people need to see in us as Christians- is that we are people with a lot of heart. While knowledge does have some value- if it interferes with us getting real with ourselves and truly seeking to know who we are in Christ- then we have a serious error on our hands. It is important for us to understand that our hearts will impact the world for Christ more than our minds ever will.

We live in a world where people are constantly going here and there in order to increase their knowledge. I think knowledge is just one of the many things people try to acquire in order that they can portray a feeling of importance and thus wax over the broken pieces of themselves so that they don't have to get real with the things that really entangle and imprison them. Sadly, this is one of the many ways in which we as "Christians" have started to conform to the ways of the world, to the degree that we even have trouble loving amongst ourselves. No wonder that much of the world no longer wants anything to do with Christianity- all they see in Christians is that we are a lot of talk with little action- a clanging symbol making a lot of noise- but with very little heart.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Examining the new "Revival Movement!"

Over the last month at Ignite Church in Lakeland, Florida, there has been a new "revival"outbreak. Already there are people starting to flock by the numbers so that they might be able to experience what is going on there- and to perhaps take it back to their own churches- as has already been evidenced by the "Holy Spirit Breakout" at Morningstar Fellowship Church in the Fort Mill Charlotte area. While it is not my intent to have a harsh and critical tone as I admittedly had in the midst of the last "revival outbreak" I do want to take the time to address the issue of the latest so-called "revival outbreak" and express my concerns. The tone I want to reflect is not a tone of attacking individuals personally- but rather of examining the teachings and philosophies present within this movement and testing whether they do or do not hold up in light of the test of scripture. Below are a list of concerns I have in regards to these latest revival outbreak movements.

1) The respective leaders of these so-called outbreaks encourage their followers not to question but to just dive on into the experience. This is the same concern I had in regards to the "Pensacola Outpouring" and the "Toronto Blessing." While I do NOT deny that some people were indeed saved in those movements- that alone does not validate the movements themselves as being inspired by God. In fact, I have a friend who came to Christ in the midst of reading the Koran. He had grown up a Muslim his whole life and was reading the Koran one day- when the Holy Spirit convicted him of his need for Christ as Lord and personal Saviour. Does the experience of my friend validate the Koran as being from God? Of course not! Being a good Berean as Paul instructs in Acts 16 means we will have questions because we should search out the scripture. We live in a day and age where most people have lost touch with the meaning of scripture in its original contexts and it is easy for scripture to be twisted to satisfy our own beliefs and intents. That's why regardless of where we attend church or what movement we are a part of- we must examine the scriptures not with our own eyes but through the window of which they were written- so that we may be able to discern clearly when lying and deceiving spirits are trying to pull our hearts away from the scriptures.

2) The leaders of this movement are labeled as prophets- though they may not claim it themselves they do nothing to refute it and even promote prophetic ministry. In Paul's own ministry he encountered people that were seen as "superapostles and superprophets." He wrote about this in II Corinthians 11 with a bold statement that we must always remember in v. 14 "For even Satan himself masquerades around as an angel of light." What is unique in particular about the movement is that the leaders proclaim that God has saved the best for last in terms of apostles and prophets in "these last days." So the prophets of today are even greater than the OT prophets who suffered through much persecution in their quests to put from pen to paper what they were hearing from God. Yet these same greater prophets of today are not held by the same standard of 100% accuracy in their prophecies as clearly outlined in Deuteronomy 18:20-22. Bob Jones (not to be confused with the founder of Bob Jones University) and Paul Cain specifically have stated that if the prophets of today get things 66% right, then they're doing quite well. And Morningstar School of Prophetic Ministry teaches the aspiring prophets how to cultivate their gift in order to make their prophecies more accurate though never meeting the 100% mark as prescribed in scripture in order to still walk in the office.

3) The revelatory claims of the leaders give individuals no choice but to treat them as if they are indeed God's superprophets and superapostles, or are thus disillusioned and therefore need to be exposed. From the claims of Todd Bentley (the Evangelist of the Lakeland Revival) who claims that Jesus once appeared to Him in the flesh and placed His hand upon His shoulder, to those of Rick Joyner (Pastor of Morningstar) who claims to have been talked to by great leaders of the past like Abraham and Moses in his book The Call, the claims are indeed extravagant and amazing if they did indeed happen- but must be examined with a questionable and thinking mind that will tests such notions in their doctrine and teachings and whether or not they do indeed hold up in light of scripture. Anytime anyone makes such a claim- we must carefully examine and not simply receive by faith what they say- as throughout history many cults and false religions have started based on people making such extravagant claims and having their followers never question their validity but rather simply believe on faith that they are indeed God's superprophet and superapostle.

4) The signs and wonders phenomena- entree or appetizer? I firmly believe that signs and wonders do indeed take place. However, when we measure them even within the context of the Holy Scriptures- they are rare and not normative. Jesus himself when asked by the Pharisees to show a sign said , "It is a wicked generation that asks to see a sign- no sign will be given it except for the sign of Jonah." In another account in Luke 19, The rich man asks Jesus to send Lazarus the beggar to his family from the dead so that they might believe. Jesus replies, "They have Moses and the Prophets. If they do not believe them, they also will not believe any one who visits them from the dead." In the midst of any "revival outbreak" we must not be deceived into thinking that signs and wonders are what lead people to faith. Such a belief is both deceptive and hollow. In 60+ years of ministry by the great Evangielist Billy Graham the only signs and wonders we have seen have been the power of lives changed by the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I am aware of the neoclassical Pentecostal argument that revival does not take place without signs and wonders- but I beg to disagree. The word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit convicting individuals is what changes lives and brings about revival and it is therefore not dependent on any signs or wonders. In addition, we must remember that just because there are signs and wonders doesn't mean they are of God- for as II Thessalonians 2 says "the coming of the lawless one will be in accord with all sorts of counterfeit lying miracles, signs, and wonders" and as Jesus said himself in Matthew 7 "Many will say to me on that day, did we not drive out demons and prophesy in your name Lord. Yet I will say to them plainly I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers."

5) Both other "revival movements" of this kind ended in a gigantic shipwreck. In making his statement let me state clearly that I am not fully aware of the history of Asuza Street and the Welsh Revivals. I am aware that they too were controversial at the time they existed. The revival movements of the kind Morningstar and Ignite Church in Lakeland are having have their origins in the birth of the Latter Rain Movement in 1946. At the forefront of the movement were leaders like A.A. Allen and William Branham. Branham vehemently opposed the doctrine of the Trinity calling it "of the Devil" and furthermore taught that when Eve partook of the fruit in Genesis it is an allegorical expression that she actually had sex with the serpent Satan- and from that Union her first son Cain was conceived. A.A. Allen was a known alcoholic. In 1949, the Assemblies of God and other mainline Pentecostal denominations denounced the Latter Rain Movement. Branham and Allen still had flourishing ministries until their death. After the death of William Branham were convinced and highly anticipated that he would raise himself from the dead because he was so consumed by the power of God. After that the movement fizzled. The movement was repackaged and had its rebirth with the ascent of the Kansas City Prophets (Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, and Bob Jones) in the 1980's. In 1994 the Toronto Blessing brokeout and one year later was followed by the Pensacola Outpouring in 1995- the two were very closely connected. Both ended in disaster. In Pensacola there was a major split in 2001. Now we have the official third wave allegedly having broken out in Lakeland, Florida with a very charismatic leader who claims to have seen Jesus face to face in the flesh.

As I said, it is not my intent to judge or to attack individuals personally. At some time we are all subject to deception and out of our deception we deceive. But I am saying that we should be good Bereans who tests the Spirits- and that we should not just receive this new wave of revivalism on faith without any questions- because it makes us feel good and the extravagance of miracles, signs, and wonders appeal to our emotions. I could write many more concerns in regards to this third wave of "revival outbreak" but to echo in paraphrase the words of the apostle John at the end of His gospel in regards to the life of Jesus -If I addressed every concern that is valid to have in the midst of this "I suppose that there would not even be enough room in the world for the books that would have to be written."