Monday, May 19, 2008

Honest Questions About the Lakeland Revival



I read the below article by J. Lee Grady on the Lakeland Healing Revival. Those of you who have been reading my blog I have been supporting the Lakeland revival. I truly believe there is a genuine move of the Holy Spirit, many are being saved, Jesus is being preached, unexplainable creative miracles are happening daily that are bringing many to a genuine encounter with God. When I watch the meetings there is a real hunger for God and I believe this is what is fueling this revival in Lakeland. But like any revival, we must beware of any extremes or abuses of the Spirit. I would encourage you read the below with wisdom, discernment and a open mind. As one mentor once told me "Eat the fish, but spit out the bones" Keep seeking God. Pray for Todd Bentley as he is man like any other man. My pastors know him personally and he has been restored recently from a time of brokenness. No one is perfect, so let's pray for great grace upon those who are leading this outpouring of the Spirit...


Honest Questions About the Lakeland Revival


I support any holy outbreak of revival fervor. But let’s be careful to guard ourselves from pride and error.

God is stirring deep spiritual passion in the hearts of the thousands of people who have traveled to Florida during the last month to experience the Lakeland Healing Revival. Since these meetings began in a 700-seat church on April 2, the crowd has moved four times to bigger venues, the fervor has intensified and the news has spread worldwide—thanks to God TV and online broadcasting.

Within a few weeks, the bandwagon effect was in full swing. It’s safe to say that no outbreak of Pentecostalism in history has gained so much international exposure so quickly as these meetings have.

I’m a cheerleader for the charismatic movement, so I rejoiced when I heard the news about revivalist Todd Bentley’s extended visit to Ignited Church. It was thrilling to hear the reports of miracles and to watch the crowd grow until a stadium was required to hold everyone.

When I visited a service on April 15, I was blessed by Heather Clark’s music and the audience’s exuberant worship. And I laughed with everyone else as I watched Bentley shout his trademarked “Bam! Bam! Bam!” as he prayed for the sick and flailed his tattooed arms over the crowd. Hey, Jesus didn’t pray for people according tothe Pharisees’ rulebook, so I’m open to unconventional methods.

But I would be dishonest if I told you that I wholeheartedly embraced what I saw in Lakeland. Something disturbed me, but I kept my mouth shut for three weeks while I prayed, got counsel from respected ministry leaders and searched my heart to make sure I was not harboring a religious spirit. The last thing we need today is more mean-spirited heresy hunters blasting other Christians.

I am not a heresy hunter, and I support what is happening in Lakeland because I know God uses imperfect people (like me and you) to reach others for Jesus. At the same time, I believe my questions are honest and my concerns are real.

My motive is not to criticize Bentley or the pastor who is sponsoring these meetings, Stephen Strader. In September 2002 Charisma featured a seven-page article about Bentley’s amazing conversion from drug addiction. I believe Bentley is a sincere brother who wants people to encounter God’s presence and power. No doubt this 32-year-old evangelist needs our prayers now more than ever, especially since he has become the focus of international media attention.

But as the noise from Lakeland grows louder and its influence spreads, I’m issuing some words of warning that apply to all of us, not just the folks in Lakeland. I hope everyone understands that these cautions are offered in love:

1. Beware of strange fire. The name of Jesus is being lifted up in the Lakeland revival, and three people came to the altar for salvation the night I attended. Larger numbers have come to the front of the auditorium to find Christ every night since then.

Yet I fear another message is also being preached subtly in Lakeland—a message that cult-watchers would describe as a spiritual counterfeit. Bentley is one of several charismatic ministers who have emphasized angels in the last several years. He has taught about angels who bring financial breakthroughs or revelations, and he sometimes refers to an angel named Emma who supposedly played a role in initiating a prophetic movement in Kansas City in the 1980s. Bentley describes Emma as a woman in a flowing white dress who floats a few feet off the floor.

All of us who believe the Bible know that angels are real, and that they work on our behalf to protect us and minister to us. But the apostle Paul, who had encounters with angels himself, issued stern warnings to the Corinthians, the Galatians and the Colossians about angels who preach another gospel or that demand attention. In Colossae, believers were so enamored with angels they had seen in visions that they became “inflated without cause” by spiritual pride (Col. 2:18, NASB). Paul was adamant that preoccupation with angels can lead to serious deception.

We need to tread carefully here! We have no business teaching God’s people to commune with angels or to seek revelations from them. And if any revival movement—no matter how exciting or passionate—mixes the gospel of Jesus with this strange fire, the results could be devastating. We need to remember that Mormonism was born out of one man’s encounter with a dark angel who claimed to speak for God.

2. Beware of bizarre manifestations. When the Holy Spirit’s power comes on people they may feel weak or even fall. The Spirit’s power can also cause people to tremble, shake, laugh or cry. Such manifestations are biblical and we should leave room for them. But where do we draw the line between legitimate experience and fanatical excess?

The apostle Paul had to deal with outrageous charismatic manifestations in the Corinthian church. People were acting like raving lunatics—and turning the church in to a free-for-all of unbridled ecstatic behavior. Paul called for discipline and order, and he reminded early Christians that “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32). In other words, Paul was saying that no one under the influence of the Holy Spirit should act out of control.

In many recent charismatic revivals, ministers have allowed people to behave like epileptics on stage—and they have attributed their attention-getting antics to the Holy Spirit. We may think it’s all in fun (you know, we’re just “acting crazy” for God) but we should be more concerned that such behavior feeds carnality and grieves the Spirit.

When exotic manifestations are encouraged, people can actually get a religious high from jerking, vibrating, screaming or acting intoxicated. (I have even been around people who writhed as if in pain, or made sexual noises—thinking this was a legitimate spiritual experience.) But emotional euphoria doesn’t guarantee a heart change. The person who is bucking like an untamed bronco in a church service would benefit more from sitting still and reading the Bible for an hour. When we put bizarre behavior on the platform we imply that it is normative. Thus more strange fire is allowed to spread.

3. Beware of hype and exaggeration. Our hearts are crying out today for a genuine move of God. We want the real deal. We’ve read about the Great Awakenings of the past and we long to see our nation overcome by a wave of repentance. The church is in a backslidden state, and our nation has rebelled against God. We are desperate!

In our longing for a holy visitation, however, we must be careful not to call the first faint breeze of the Spirit a full-fledged revival. If we do that, we are setting people up for disappointment when they realize it may not be what we blew it up to be.

Some of the language used during the Lakeland Revival has created an almost sideshow atmosphere. People are invited to “Come and get some.” Miracles are supposedly “popping like popcorn.” Organizers tout it as the greatest revival in history.

Such brash statements cheapen what the Holy Spirit is doing—and they do a disservice to our brothers and sisters who are experiencing New Testament-style revival in countries such as Iran, China and India. We have a long way to go before we experience their level of revival. Let’s stay humble and broken before the Lord.

I am rejoicing over all the reported healings at the Lakeland meetings. Miracles are awesome. Crowds are great. But miracles and crowds alone don’t guarantee a revival. Multitudes followed Jesus during His ministry on earth, but many of the people who saw the dead raised or ate food that was supernaturally multiplied later crucified the Son of God.

It was the few disciples who followed Jesus after Calvary who ushered in a true revival—one that was bathed in the fear of God, confirmed by signs and wonders, tempered by persecution and evidenced by thousands of conversions, new churches and the transformation of society. We should expect nothing less.


J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

16 Comments:

At 5/19/2008 08:48:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good article. I agree with the example of Emma, and the point about having self-control.

 
At 5/19/2008 09:40:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

amen. thank you for sharing.

 
At 5/19/2008 10:34:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/more-lies-cover-ups-deception-paul-cain-todd-bentley-steve-strader/

My father once taught me the most valuable values of being a person besides what Jesus taught me. When you obviously know you are wrong just

1.Say sorry from the bottom of your heart

2. ask for forgiveness

3. try your best never to repeat it again

4 n move on...

i think the honest question now should be why is all this happening and it hits world wide media? is it a scheme of satan? or was some other people or things involve? dont always point a finger at satan. we have to agree and be tempted by him to get ourselves in trouble. its never too late to say sorry.

 
At 5/19/2008 10:54:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 5/19/2008 11:35:00 PM , Blogger Jaeson Ma said...

Just to clarify I posted this article by Lee Grady because I believe what he has discerned about the Lakeland revival is good for us as believers of Christ to discern, be watchful and to make sure we don't fall into any form of deception.

At the same time, I am not writing off the Lakeland Revival. I believe and know of many who have gone to this gathering and have receive healing, encouragement and blessing. Nearly every night many are hearing the simple Gospel and are professing faith in Christ and repenting from sins. Fruit is being born.

Yet, as believers we must be careful, watchful and discerning. So it's good to look at both sides of the coin. I pray each of you will discern for yourselves and seek God's truth with an open heart.

 
At 5/20/2008 02:39:00 AM , Anonymous Preparing for Revival said...

Lee Grady's comments are some of the more balanced around.

So what is God doing?

First off, is Todd Bentley a Christian? Of course he is. Is Jesus his Lord. Of course.

And no I'm not a big Todd fan. He's odd, very odd. And I would tell him that to his face.

God used Jonah to start a revival. Outright disobedience, whale puke, and a sorry attitude (before and after)...and this was God's chosen man for Nineveh.

Lakeland's more than likely not "The Big One." But God got are attention. And a lot of people are talking, thinking, praying, and believing for "The Big One."

What's God doing? Could it be He choose Todd the Odd to stir the pot?

 
At 5/20/2008 12:20:00 PM , Blogger elmisionero said...

It seems to me that many are seeking "revival" above God Himself. God has reconciled us to Himself for the sake of relationship. He wants His people to be with Him, to know Him. Is it possible that God isn't constantly seeking to "pour out revival"? I just wonder if we've placed this idealized big revival as the highest priority, when really knowing Jesus, simply being with Him, and working where He's working is of the utmost importance for us as His children. Beware of things becoming formulaic; also beware of unbiblical manifestations and claims.

 
At 5/20/2008 01:41:00 PM , Anonymous becky park said...

thanks jaeson for relaying the article.
it's a sobering post.

 
At 5/20/2008 06:48:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your entry is really deep. =) .
I have noticed there are some 'strange fire' movement going on in the world lately.. which leave me with a lot of questions in my mind. somtimes, people get too excited with 'spirit' manifestation without any discernment... thanks for ur entry =D

Rina

 
At 5/20/2008 07:26:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ps Jaeson,

May I ask you some questions? i have some questions in mind,
if the movement isn't based by the word of God, or more like a cult (like the emma spirit), why is there still the movement of the holy Spirit? isnt the Holy Spirit grieve with it?? if the people really got healed in that service,
isnt it gonna be dangerous for all the crowd to follow the church / pastor?

also.. I have many friends joining a church that practicing the 'grace gospel'. well.. i dont really know their doctrine.. but when i read their blogs.. i dont really agree with their attitude etc.. and my church also doesnt agree with it. I believe in my leader, and my cg leader told me many things about it but still, it leaves me with wonders and questions because they (my grace gospel friends) are very blessed.. they love Jesus even more.. they speak in tounges etc..

And also, there is this Nigerian pastor called Pst T B Joshua, who heals like pastor Benny, but my pastor said he's not from God or . Because the way he heals is very 'strange', weird and controversial, he does things which Jesus didnt do. but once again, so many people get healed,.. and dangerously he was invited for a crusade in my indonesia church.. (my sister's church). when i say a lot of things to them, they will say that because its a 'competitions' between my church or my pastor with other church.. which i believe is not true..

so i'm very confused sometimes..

you dont have to publish it =D.. haha

Please email me in ninin_p@yahoo.com =D ya.. just email me when u have time. =D.. I am praying for a revival in my church camp.. =D.. its gonna be great!

thank you pastor,
your blog is really an inspiration
and give me more knowledge and very encouraging.

Rina

 
At 5/20/2008 10:30:00 PM , Blogger katzy s said...

i read that article last week. i was intently watching almost every night for a week. i believe a lot of this is genuine but i believe that the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ must take preeminence and not the miracles. when you look in the Bible, signs, wonders, and miracles always followed the unadulterated, unashamed preaching of the Gospel. don't get me wrong, i would consider myself a "reformed charismatic" or a "charismatic calvinist" or plainly someone who belives in the combination of Word and Spirit. i believe that the Gospel being preached should be more important and it's something that this Lakeland Revival seems to be lacking. but amen to this post. let us be discerning using the Word of God as our plumbline because we also know that the devil can also mimic revival.

Katzy

 
At 5/22/2008 12:35:00 PM , Anonymous John said...

The motives of the critique are as pure as the content. The body of Christ needed discernment in NT times as it does today. We need to be careful to not throw the baby (thirst for more of God) out with the bathwater (particulars of this ministry). We also need to not stoop into accusation of motives but pray for purity, authenticity and true revival - and that, with whatever Biblical trappings that entails. To God be the Glory!!

 
At 5/29/2008 01:32:00 PM , Anonymous Crystal said...

When I was reading posts on lakeland revival..I had the same feeling as you Jaeson. So some questions was raised in my mind..I was a little puzzled..and you have answered them. I think the real revival is NOT only about sick being healed, is NOT only about signs and miracles being performed. It is about life transformation. It is about our personalities and our attitudes toward each other to be more and more Christ-like. Sometimes, it is through our physical limitation God's glory can be shined. Thanks for posting this on your blog.

 
At 6/09/2008 01:46:00 AM , Blogger Jacky said...

hey jaeson, the comments above seem more nuanced than the norm, yet there are of course those who have more convicted views than those who may or may not be sitting on the fence concerning the lakeland revival. Though I don't have first-hand witnessing of the actual revival, I know some who have and some others who have commented with convictions concerning it as I'm sure you are very aware (e.g. heresy/cult-hunters). since you haven't had the liberty to reply to some of the comments from the people who commented on this post, I thought I should drop in one more thing for you to come back on, which is something another brother has written on the topic and perhaps you can provide an informed view pending his discerning comments @ http://adrianreynolds.blogspot.com/2008/06/lakeland-real-revival.html

What think you?

 
At 6/12/2008 09:57:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jaeson it's too bad that you have to put such article on your blog. Please listen to what Bob Jones and Mike Bickle have to say about the outpouring.

 
At 6/13/2008 08:35:00 PM , Blogger §haron said...

Thanks for sharing a weighted view on extraordinary behaviors that can be miss-interpreted as a spiritual encounter.

i agree that a manifestation of far flung behavior does not necessarily lead to a renewal in heart, and therefore as a responsible person, i need to beware my end is not to seek such experiences but to earnestly seek God's heart, and will for me. If He finds it's needful to show me things out of the ordinary besides quietly listening to Him and reading His word, then let it come from Him.


I pray for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to Truth.

Amen

 

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