Thursday, June 19, 2008

Samson, Peter, and Paul

I saw the guy last night who I mentioned a few days ago - the friend who spent the past few days in Lakeland, FL at the big 'revival'. First of all, he came back healed. He has had 2 disks in his upper back that have been troubling him for some time. He often gets treatments and massages to relieve the pain. As of last night when I spoke with him, he said he'd not had any pain since he'd been prayed for in Lakeland. I don't doubt that he was healed, so I praise God for this healing.

He also came back very excited. Apparently there are about 10,000 people that gather every night for a 5:30 - midnight service. The days that he was there over 30 nationalities were represented. I didn't have time to ask him many questions, but that's the main info I got from him. He was really pumped up and is planning on going back soon and taking his family with him this time.

So as I think about this event and reflect on the things I learned about Todd Bentley, the guy leading this 'revival', I first think about whether God could actually be at work through this guy. And Samson comes to mind. Yes, Samson, the strong man from the Bible stories. There are not many people in Scripture who are less holy, less God-fearing, and less God-following than Samson (read Judges chapters 13-16 for the full story). Yet God did many amazing things through him. I also think of Paul's words to the Philippians about those near him who preached the Good News just so they could make life harder for Paul (Philippians 1:12-20). Whatever Todd Bentley really is and whatever is really in his heart, good things are happening. It seems like Jesus us being glorified. I say 'seems like' because I don't know what is actually happening in Lakeland. J. Lee Grady who visited Lakeland has this to say:
"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."

I also think of my friend's attitude when he came back. There was great excitement, a contagious excitement, about this event and what happened to him there. And there are tens of thousands of people from all over the world who are excited about Lakeland. The apostle Peter also got excited about an amazing event. When Jesus was transfigured before his eyes (as well as James and John's), Peter said, 'Hey Jesus, let's build 3 tabernacles, one for you and one each for Moses and Elijah.' Peter wanted to build a monument and celebrate this wonderful thing he'd seen. But Jesus told them not to even tell people what they saw until after He rose again. He just led them down off the mountain and got back to His Kingdom work. So I'm not against mountaintop experiences, but I'm against trying to live on the mountain when Jesus says its time to come down and do what He's called us to do.

Fruit is another thing I think about in relation to all this. From all that I've read about the 'Toronto Blessing', the long term fruit seems to be a lot of discord and division. The Brownsville revival (also in Florida) didn't necessarily produce a change in the world either. When I read about Brownsville people point to a lack of repentance or growth from the people who went there. I'm sure that good came out of both of those events, but these events make me wonder what the fruit of Lakeland will be. The true fruit won't be known for a while. Its so easy to get caught up in excitement, but its not easy to actually grow up in Christ. In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses the issue of maturity. He specifically tells them that practice of and fascination with the gifts of the Spirit is not maturity. Love is maturity. Prophecy is maturity. I would argue that the theme of 1 Corinthians is "Grow Up!"

Here are 3 cautions offered in an article I referenced a few days ago from Charisma editor J. Lee Grady:
1. Beware of strange fire
2. Beware of strange manifestations
3. Beware of hype and exaggeration
The full article is so helpful in dealing with this topic. Find it here.

To wrap this all up, we have to be focused on God and let nothing take His place. Good things, even things ordained by God, can take His glory away, if we let them. And anything that takes glory from Him is an idol. May Psalm 73:25, 26 always echo in our hearts:
"Who have I in heaven but You?
and besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."


Anonymous said...

Well said bro! Mitzi

Megan Schell said...

I was in high school when the Brownsville revival was going on and also when Tommy Tenney was big. I come from one of the epicenters of charismatic ministry and had great personal experiences and growth when I encountered the power of Christ through some of the ministry of the Charismatic church in my area. However, it did get out of hand and as a young woman and young believer I found myself caught in tension. The gold fillings in teeth and gold dust appearing miraculously sent off red flags for me but I didn't want to doubt God's ability to do such things. I also ended up questioning all my encounters with God-did they count as false encounters like these other manifestations? Many of my friends bought into the hype and ten years later are less than crazy about the Lord. There was quite a bit of disillusionment that came afterwards especially after seeing leaders of the church fall into public, and major sin.

I really appreciate the examples you used of Samson, Peter, and Paul. I find that I get so focused on one part of the story of God that I lose sight of the rest, ie, blessing and power vs. "live in the land and do good" everyday life. I think what is most difficult is that I long and obviously others long for this "heaven on earth" experience. We long for God so deeply to be so near that we lose control. We want to stay in that place because it's much happier than the rest of life. But we are not called to heaven yet. We must fight our desire to stay up on the mountain and walk out our faith on the earth. That in my experience has actually brought deeper intimacy and reliance on the Lord than the mountain top experiences. He dwells in the everyday and has power in us in the ordinary.

So revival has a place but it is just a moment to extend us into the world full of Christ to see His kingdom come.

:) Thanks for sharing!

Ashlie said...

the post and comments have been really good for me as i process this stuff. thanks for tackling it.