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Archive for the ‘Revival’ Category


Steve McCoy did a Big 5 on Prayer

Here are some of my favorite books on prayer:

Here are some of the books on prayer that I am interested in reading:

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Michael Wilson  The Ledger

Photo: Michael Wilson The Ledger

This is my last post on Todd Bentley.  I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about him.  But there are things I think need to be said, for the cause of Christ.

I came across this yesterday but didn’t address it.  Contrary to what Todd Bentley told Stephen Strader, there was another party involved.  Fresh Fire Ministries announced that he had an unhealthy emotional relationship with a staff member, and that this had happened before.

My original point, which I didn’t express clearly, was this:  Is this-
A. an example of a man who did not appropriate the blessings of the gospel in his battle with sin.
B. the result of a truncated, incomplete understanding of the gospel.
C. the result of a deviant, and therefore false, gospel.

If the first, it doesn’t affect the validity of the ‘revival’.
If the second, it should cause those who partake in the ‘revival’ to gain a fuller understanding of the gospel.
If the third, I hope it will bring people to realize a false gospel was being proclaimed and to forsake it for the true gospel.

The press release from Fresh Fire Ministries places the blame on the Enemy, as though sin was “out there” instead of in our hearts.  As a result, there is little personal accountability, just the need for “healing”.  This minimizes the sinfulness of his actions- they need healing, not repentance.  Perhaps there are some ways in which Todd Bentley has been sinned against in the past that still require the balm of the gospel to bring healing.  But his transfer of affection in sinful, and indicates a bigger problem than he admits.

We are not sanctified after encounters with angels (as he seems to claim)- we are sanctified as we appropriate the gospel and put our sin to death in the power of the Spirit.  The obsession with miracles and power is remarkably similar to the triumphalism (and sin minimization) of the Corinthians as taught to them by the false apostles.  This obsession with miracles reveals at least a truncated understanding of the gospel, and most likely a false gospel.

This is not a continuationist-cessationist argument, but one about the central message of the gospel (regeneration => conversion => justification by faith => adoption => sanctification => glorification).  When parts of this are dropped off, you have a truncated gospel.  When something is put there in its place, or in addition to them, you have a false gospel.  In the NT they authenticate the message and messenger.  But in some circles they pretty much are the message.  I fear that healing has replaced the core message and people are being summoned to a false gospel that leaves them in their sins and under the wrath of God.  This is far more important than Bentley’s marriage problems.

The assessments of R.T. Kendall and Carl Trueman.

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Though often hailed as a monentous, historic revival, I have not found the Lakeland Outpouring to  compare favorably to other revivals using biblical criteria.  Whether people want to admit it or not, leadership matters.

The “mother of all revivals” was the Great Awakening.  There have been many books critically examining the Great Awakening, some by no less a heart and mind on fire for God than Jonathan Edwards.  Imagine how that assessment might change if Edwards, or Whitefield was discovered to have been an adulterer.  Or simply divorced his wife?  Would we say that God uses flawed people?  Well, of course he does since only Jesus was perfectly righteous.  But when you look at the flawed folks who led revivals in the Bible, did they have such smudge marks?  No.  David’s life was marked by pain and conflict after his affair with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite (not to be confused with Uriah Heep).

Photo 6/12 by Michael Wilson

Photo 6/12 by Michael Wilson

Today I heard that Todd Bentley is separating from his wife– the first step of divorce proceedings in Canada, of which they are both citizens.  She recently packed up her bags and left the warmer climes of Florida with the kids.  This after a few years of marriage counseling.

Rev. Stephen Strader assures us that no third party is involved.  Is this supposed to make us feel better?  No adultery, they just can’t get along.  The ‘gospel’ he preaches can not help them work out their marriage issues.  There is no grace to be offered to one another.  There is no power to change their sinful patterns of behavior.  No miracle for them.

(more…)

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Scottish pastor-theologian Eric Alexander has said this about Our Sovereign Saviour: The Essence of the Reformed Faith by Roger Nicole: “I could not speak too highly of this book.”  That is an apt summary of my sentiments as well.

All the more reason for me to wonder why this delightful little book is so unavailable.  It seems downright difficult to find in the places it should be easy to find.  Dr. Nicole is one of the pre-eminent theologians of the 20th century.  In the words of ‘King Arthur’, “You make me sad.”  But to the book!

In 184 pages Dr. Nicole summarizes and explains the distinctives of the Reformed Faith, and its implications on other doctrines.  Here is a chapter outline:

  1. The Meaning of the Trinity.  He establishes the 3 truths we hold in balance, and how the various heresies exalt one truth at the expense of the others.
  2. Soli Deo Gloria– or to God Alone be the glory.  This is a chapter on the glorious extent of God’s sovereignty, including individuals and the Church.
  3. Predestination and the Divine Decrees.  He explores what is meant, and not meant, by God’s sovereignty.  It does not mean we are puppets, for as the Westminster Confession notes, “nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures (III, 1).”  God ordains all things in keeping with our nature/character and how he plans to work to change our character.  He also briefly explains & critiques supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism.
  4. Calvinism: the Five Points.  He briefly explains the 5 main ideas of Calvinism, and dispells some common misunderstandings based on poor terminology.
  5. Particular Redemption.  He explains and defends the doctine of definite atonement, summarizing John Owen’s arguments from The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.
  6. The Doctrines of Grace in the Teachings of Jesus.  He shows that these are not doctrines of John Calvin, or Paul but taught by Jesus Himself, particularly in the Gospel According to John.
  7. Reconciliation and Propitiation.  He explores the use of these terms in Scripture and how they fit best with an understanding of definite atonement.
  8. Justification: Standing by God’s Grace.  He explores the 3 main illustrations of justification in Scripture to understand it fully.  In this chapter he mentions students who ‘made a virtue of being poorly attired’ hoping they learned to dress better before candidating for a position.  Sadly, I was one of these immature slobs who thought so little of themselves.
  9. Sanctification: Growing unto God.  He explains what it means negatively (mortification) and positively (vivefication).  Whereas justification is something done for us, sanctification is something done in us.
  10. Predestination and the Great Commission.  He shows, primarily through the example of William Carey, that election and evangelism are not at odds with one another if properly understood.  He defends the free offer of the gospel from misunderstandings.
  11. When God Calls.  Shows from God’s call of Paul and Barnabas that God is mission-minded in a way that ought to challenge us all to become engaged.  Without using the term, he builds a quick case for missional living.
  12. Freedom and Law.  He addresses the issue of what freedom really is, against some silly misconceptions, and how the Law fits into freedom.
  13. Prayer: the Prelude to Revival.  He addresses prayer as an established means for revival.  He also talks about some fundamentals of prayer in relation to sovereignty.
  14. The Final Judgment.  He defends the doctrine of the final judgment.

In these chapters you find typical Dr. Nicole.  Though humble and irenic, you find him quite knowledgable and more than capable of dispelling any misunderstandings or strawmen opposed against the truth.  He is brief, not laboring his points.  He uses illustrations from everyday life, and history.  I’m not sure if he’s ever seen a movie.  But this means that the book is not bound in time unnecessarily.  How I wish he wrote more!  This is a book that often moved me to prayer- gratitude and petition.  That is what good theology does.  This is a book that can encourage those who understand the distinctives of the Reformed Faith.  It is also a great, winsome book for those who do not yet understand and embrace them. 

Here are a few choice quotes:

“Thus, the sovereignty of God immediately crushes man as sinner into the very just of the ground, for he is unable to rise in God’s presence but must be the object of his fearful condemnation. … When we talk about the sovereignty of God we emphasize the sovereignty of God the Holy Spirit who works in the lives of men and does not await some consent that would be coming fron unregenerate sinners but who himself transforms at the very depths of their personality lives that are disrupted, distorted and destroyed by sin.”

“There is no circumstance of life that should be totally disconcerting, because God has ordained it and is at the back of it.  His loving and gracious purpose is fulfilled even in the events which may appear quite contrary to our wishes.”

“The grace of God does not function against our wills but is rather a grace which subdues the resistance of our wills.  God the Holy Spirit is able to accomplish this.”

“Authentic Calvinism has always confessed particular redemption and at the same time insisted on the universal offer of the gospel.”

“God cannot punish a sin twice.  He cannot punish it once in the person of the Redeemer and then punish it again later in the person of the perpetrator.”

“The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He is not going to allow his sheep to wander away.  That, in fact, is expressly stated.  He gives them eternal life.  They shall never perish.”

“It is only when we consider how grievous a thing sin is and how greatly displeased God is with it, that we are in a position to understand what it means to be reconciled to him.”

“The very fact that you know this person- the very fact that you are in contact with this person, the very fact that there is a burden upon your heart for this person- ought to be an indication that quite possibly, even probably, he or she has been picked by God.”

“There is no Christian who can say, ‘I am not a missionary.’  There are places that you can reach that nobody else can reach.  There  are people for whom you can work that nobody else can invite in the same way in God’s name.  We have a task to accomplish.”

“What people fail to understand is that the spiritual laws that God has established are equally binding. … They think they can violate the moral laws that God has established at the root of the universe and not bear the consequences. … To disregard the laws of God is not to achieve freedom; it is to sink into futility.  It is to break oneself against the structure of the world in which we live.”

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After Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he led the rebuilding of the city wall.  As the people gather to express their thanks for God, a revival breaks out.  First, I’ll mention the elements of revival and then on Nehemiah’s prayer as part of the public worship among these revived people.

The odd part of Nehemiah 9 is that first they read from the Book of the Law for a quarter of the day.  Wow!  Imagine that today- there would be a mass rebellion which indicates just how much we need revival.  We get ticked if the sermon is a few minutes too long.  Another quarter of the day was spent confessing their sins and worshipping God.  Half a day was spent listening to God and then responding to him with confession and adoration.

Then the Levites lead the people in prayer, and a significant prayer it is.  It reveals a depth of understanding in who God is and how he works among is people.

  • He is the exalted above all else!  The host, armies, of heaven worship him.
  • He is Creator!  He made heaven, all the heavenly host (armies), the earth & all that is on it, the seas & all that are in them.
  • He is the Preserver of creation!
  • He is the God of promise and covenant!  He chose Abram, changed his name and cut a covenant with him.
  • He is righteous, keeping his promises!  The reason given for keeping those promises was his righteousness.  God is a promise-keeping God.
  • He is Redeemer!  He saw the affliction of his people in Egypt, heard their cries and set them free with signs and wonders to humble the Egyptians.  He brings judgment to Egypt and salvation to Israel at the Red Sea.
  • God is Sustainer of his people!  He leads them in the pillar of cloud and fire until he brought them into the land of promise.  He provided manna and water during the 40 year wilderness wanderings.
  • God is the Law-giver.  God guides our behavior by his laws (and humbles us greatly by revealing our sinfulness).

In their prayer, they are retracing the history of redemption.  Their focus so far has been who God is.  There is going to be a slight shift in focus.  This prayer is to honor God, but also to instruct the people.  It reflects what they have just read in the Scriptures.  Our prayers could be more grounded in the history of redemption.  Our prayers could benefit from such a focus on the nature and character of God.  We would probably experience a deeper spiritual life.  They are about to introduce a new theme!

  • We are stiff necked.  The people of Israel acted presumptuously, and did not obey God.  They stiffened their necks and chose someone to bring them back to Egypt.
  • God is “ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.”  This only makes sense in light of the repeated rebellion and stubbornness of Israel.  Even when they made the golden calf, he showed mercy.  Despite their rebellion, he continued to provide manna and water.
  • God gave his Spirit to instruct them!  He sustained them in the wilderness, multiplied their children and gave them the promised land.  Israel became fat and happy.
  • Israel continued to disobey, even killing the very prophets God sent to warn them to repent!
  • ABCD!  Apostasy => Battering => Crying Out => Deliverance cycle.  God gave them over to their enemies, and then provided saviors to deliver them when they cried out.  According to his great mercy, he delivered them many times.  Are you catching the theme here?
  • They stiffened their necks when his messengers came.  He warned them repeatedly by his Spirit through his prophets.  But, they wouldn’t listen.
  • God still didn’t forsake them, for he is “a gracious and merciful God.”

Their view of God was one of “the great, the mighty and the awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love.”  We might look back and think he is a God of wrath (sin does anger him), but the message is really about his mercy and grace.  Despite their stiff neckedness he loves them and works among them.

Finally they come to supplication!

Don’t think lightly of our hardship, even though we deserved it!

Look upon our plight today- slaves in our own homes.  We are in great distress.

Then Nehemiah notes that they renewed the covenant.  Revival should include a fervent commitment to begin to obey, turning away from our stiff neckedness and beginning to listen to his gracious words and be thankful for his steadfast love.

God corrects his people when they become stubborn and rebellious.  He does not destroy them (though it may feel like it to us), but lovingly gets their attention.  I find I have to raise my voice, and sometimes to my hand, to get my children’s attention to call them back to the right path.  God loves us enough to do this lest we destroy ourselves.  Thank him for his persevering grace.

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Bert dropped me a line about some events in our county that  are apparently making some big news around the country.  I was clueless, but I’m not anymore.  The coverage is interesting.

I’ve driven by the Ignited Church, and wondered what it was like.  I didn’t know it was pastored by Stephen Strader, son of Karl Strader the former pastor of Carpenter’s Home Church.  A few years ago, Carpenter’s Home Church was the site of Rodney Howard-Browne’s “holy laughter”.  You could watch that on TV, it was interesting but hardly edifying since the Word of God was not preached, just subjective experience run amuck.

The younger Strader scheduled Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley for a 5-day revival beginning April 2nd.  The terminology has shifted from revival as a sovereign work of God to an event you can schedule and expect/demand that God show up.  And they are claiming He has shown up in powerful ways as Bentley preached “intimacy with God” and extended his stay into May. 

For those involved, this is an obvious no-brainer: God is there.  For those within that theological tradition, the assumption is that God is involved.  It certainly sounds spectacular, and what Christian doesn’t want God to do great things?  But are great things happening?  Here’s what we know:

“Lord, remove the tumor,” Bentley shouted as he delivered a quick, open-handed blow to Borgelt’s midsection. Borgelt fell backward, eased down by the evangelist’s young staff members. A few moments later, after other healings unfolded above him, Borgelt stood.

“It still hurts,” he told Bentley. Not as much, he added.

Back on the arena floor, Borgelt seemed dazed. “I do sense that it’s better. But it’s still there.”

Will he go ahead with the surgery, scheduled today?

“I’m just going to wait and see what the Lord’s going to do.”

Hearing loss. Arthritis. Cysts. One wheelchair-bound woman walked with the help of two of Bentley’s staffers and then took a few steps alone.

Jesus’ miracles were undeniable, clear and everyone in the community knew they really had happened.  The guy born blind saw!  People crippled for years walked away boldly, not just a step or two.  What we read about here is hardly compelling evidence to people like me.  But to people who watch it on Christian TV it apparently is.  They are flocking to Lakeland just as they previously flocked to Brownsville and Toronto to experience miracles- supposedly hundreds of them.  But this “notable miracle” (as Brentley calls them) doesn’t seem notable.  No reports from doctors.  Just claims of …. well … something.  But they are not deterred!

The focus of the services has been on faith healings conducted by Bentley and his associates and Strader. A steady stream of people at the twice-daily services have presented themselves to ask Bentley and others to pray for relief from physical and mental ailments, ranging from cancer and deafness to diabetes and paralysis. Bentley and Strader say that hundreds have been miraculously healed.

“We opened a special room where people can bring the sick early so they don’t have to stand out in the heat. We’ve had people line up as early as 2 p.m. for the evening services,” Strader said. “Last night we had an incredible rush of miracles over cell phones.”

This is one problem as well.  Jesus is not the focus- healing is.  Our culture, our human nature, prefers the spectacular to the mundane.  A guy living out his faith at home and work … not interesting.  Healings, substantiated or not, draw big crowds.  I suspect God is more concerned with the former.  Then the reality that you can’t substantiate a miracle over a cell phone.  Why spread what could be a false report and potentially dishonor God?  Before announcing miracles, substantiate them.  We’ll wait.  We’ll praise God.

“It’s electric. It’s tangible,” said Bentley. “That’s what people are coming for and also the notable miracles.”

“It’s like the day of Pentecost,” said Brenda Copeland, of Lakeland, who has attended the events with her children and grandchildren. “We’re living in perilous times,” she said, and God “has told little Lakeland to throw its weight around.”

Tuesday’s meeting brought visitors from across the United States. Strader and one of Bentley’s assistants have begun holding 10 a.m. morning services at Ignited. More than 85 percent of the crowd at one meeting indicated they were from out of town.

There have been so many people the church’s facility could not hold them.  So off a larger sister church (pastored by Strader’s brother-in-law), the Lakeland Center and then to Joker Marchant Stadium, the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers (perhaps this may miraculously turn around their season).  4-7,00 people are showing up, and the security measures necessary are alleged to be putting a strain on the church.  Supposedly no one is making  money on this.  In revivals found in the Bible, people’s giving increases greatly as they are freed from greed.  If I were healed, I’d be grateful enough to dump in much of what I’d save in doctor bills.  But that is just me.

The services often go on for several hours, with worshippers engaging in ecstatic singing, laughing and shouting and frequently collapsing under what leaders say is the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Some of Bentley’s teachings are considered controversial in Pentecostal circles, such as his claim of being visited by angels. Asked whether Bentley’s theology was a concern, Simmons paused and said, “I think what we’re all about is seeing families put back together and people come to know Jesus. At the revival, I’m seeing people come to know Jesus, and I’m OK with that.”

One little mention of people coming to faith.  Is it to have their sins wiped away?  I don’t know, but there seems little to no mention of that message characterizing the preaching of God’s Word.  I don’t see the biblical pattern of revival here.  I don’t see the historical pattern of revival here (just do a search on this blog for revival and read to your heart’s content).  I believe God can and does send revival.  This just doesn’t seem like one of those times.  But may one come.

To read on this further consider these books:

Counterfeit Revival by Hank Hanegraaff

On Revival by Jonathan Edwards

Revival by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards by R.C. Sproul and Archie Parish including a modernized version of Edwards’ Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.

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I got back to my reading of The Path to True Happiness by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones this afternoon.  He was talking about when Jesus cleansed the Temple in John 2.  He used this to address the church’s relationship to the state.  When this becomes confused, the church loses its real power and the whole nation suffers.

“The church is not here to tell statesmen what to do.  She has a much bigger, a much deeper, calling …  Nor is it the preacher’s task to appeal to world leaders to make peace and banish war.”

Interesting words as much of America, including our President, celebrated the visit of the Pope.  Popes seem to know how to do little else but speak to world leaders.  Sorry, but hugging a sexual abuse victim when the Church of Rome has allowed this sin to fester unhindered for decades is ample evidence of what church’s should not do.  The point: churches lose their moral authority to speak to society if they are not addressing the sin in their own communities first and foremost.

Lloyd-Jones had watched the church in England forfeit its voice for decades.  He was frustrated with a holy frustration.

For it is the tragedy of the hour that the church is telling the world what to do when the question is: Is the church in a fit condition to do so?  I suggest that it is not surprising that the world does not listen.

In tracing this idea through biblical history the Doctor notes:

But the moment there was a declension in the temple worship, deterioration invariably followed in the life of the people: like priests, like people. … Take another verse: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34).  Not possessions, not wealth, not material power, but ‘righteousness.’ … When things go wrong in the Temple they will go wrong everywhere.  The key to everything is our relationship to God.

The Doctor is not blaming “those damned heathens” for the moral ills of his society, and neither should we.  He blamed the church because she had not lived up to her calling which opens the door to rebellion based on hypocrisy.  A vibrant church, which is pursuing righteousness, will change the shape of a nation far more than preaching against the ills of that nation.

Well so often in Israel the first thing that went wrong when they lost the living Spirit was that they turned the temple worship into something formal and external.  … The formalizing and externalizing of religion is a great curse.

We know some of this here in America.  Our churches have been infiltrated by materialism and consumerism (the whore of Babylon).  We pursue success and access, not righteousness.  We condemn non-Christians instead of applying the gospel to our own wicked hearts.  Often our churches are used by the political parties to further their agenda (this happens on both sides of the aisle, folks).  The problem is not the political parties, but the pastors and denominational leaders that bow down to them and fail to protect the flock.

The need is not for something to happen in the state, but for something to happen in the church.  Why are the statesmen ignoring the church?  Because the church has no power (he means spiritual power). … if you and I are genuinely concerned about the world and its state, our first duty is to pray for revival in the church.  It is not to say things to the world, but to seek this power which will enable us to speak to the world in such a manner that it will tremble as it listens to us.

The business of the church is to bring men and women to God and to keep them in communion with him.  The church should be filled with such power from God that everybody, in a sense, will be forced to listen. … The first prayer is to plead with him to come into his Temple, to manifest his glory, to show us something of the might of his power and to fill us with that power.

May King Jesus do just that, manifesting His glory in a people being transformed by grace.  As His church becomes healthier and exhibits spiritual power more will be converted and transformed, thus changing the character of cities, counties, states, regions and a nation.

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