Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On Meditating

Adjusted Living in a Maladjusted World

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

One writer describes the "silence" of mystical prayer: "When one enters the deeper layers of contemplative prayer one sooner or later experiences the void, the emptiness, the nothingness . . . the profound mystical silence . . . an absence of thought."[1] In his new book Life with God, Richard Foster describes Spiritual Disciplines to be activities Christians engage in so that they might become the athletae dei, the athletes of God. Foster pairs some of the disciplines to be, "fasting and prayers, study and service, submission and solitude, confession and worship, meditation and silence . . ."[2] Both authors associate spirituality with contemplative prayer, meditation, and silence. These aspects of spirituality do seem to connect with one another. But biblically, do they? Does the Bible ask us to approach God through a spirituality of silence?

To answer the question, we must go to the Old Testament where, especially in the book of Psalms, meditation, which contemplative spiritualists presume should be silent, is portrayed as a path to quality living, both spiritual and material. For example, the first Psalm exclaims, "How blessed is the man who . . . [delights] in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night . . . And . . . whatever he does . . . prospers" (Psalm 1:1-3; See 119:15, 23, etc.). In that meditation appears to be such an important avenue to "blessing," it would be well to understand from a biblical perspective what the activity is, and its relation, if any, to silence.

The word "meditate" (Hebrew, haga) occurs approximately twenty-five times in the Old Testament. Though the activity of meditation is not as specific in the New Testament as it is in the Old, Paul does encourage believers to "think upon" the positive values of life, things which are "honorable . . . right . . . pure . . . lovely . . . [and] of good repute" (Philippians 4:8). But integral to meditation under the Old Covenant dispensation was the law of God for it defined the conditions of God's relationship to and presence with His people. For example, after having broken the divine law, David pleads with God, "Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11). Thus, believers in the ancient nation of Israel found spiritual communion with God through meditation concentrated upon God's law, which focus then stimulated their obedience to the law, and which compliance then created a favorable spiritual climate in which God would rain blessing upon their lives (See Deuteronomy 28:1-68.). Meditation upon and obedience to God's law affected prosperity.

Therefore, the Psalmists encouraged meditation upon the "law, precepts, statutes, word, and commandments" of God (Psalm 1:2; 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 148).[3] Indicating the role that mediation played in Hebrew spirituality, one inter-testamental apocryphal book advises: "Let thy mind be upon the ordinances of the Lord, and meditate continually in his commandments" (Sirach 6:37). But how are we to understand "meditation" (Hebrew, haga or siah)? Did Hebrew meditation involve cultivating silence? On this point, the Old Testament meaning of meditation becomes instructive. Several lines of evidence argue that Old Testament meditation did not involve seeking to enter a state of subjective silence.

First, that mediation was to concentrate upon the law indicates that biblical meditation did not involve cultivating a wordless void. Words comprised the law (See paragraph preceding.). For a moment, let's assume that meditation involves cultivating a silence in which the mind is emptied, self-creating, as it were, a tabula rasa (i.e., a hypothetical blank state of mind that must be achieved before the contemplator receives outside impressions). If by meditation the Psalmist meant that the devout were to enter into a zone of suspended thought, a tabula rasa, then there would have been no need to pray, "Let . . . the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer," (Psalm 19:14), for there would have been nothing there for God to be either pleased or displeased with!

Second, the word "meditation" (Hebrew, haga) does not connote silence. As the word's usage in the Old Testament indicates, "meditation" can refer to the growling of a lion (Isaiah 31:4). Such meditation hardly qualifies as a state of silence!

Third, some scriptures indicate that "meditation" involved the "mouth." For example, in one classic passage on meditation, the Lord told Joshua, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy MOUTH; but thou shalt MEDITATE therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Emphasis mine, Joshua 1:8, KJV). In this verse, note the association of "mouth" and "meditate." In the 19th Psalm the Psalmist prays, "Let the words of my MOUTH and the MEDITATION of my heart / Be acceptable in Thy sight, / O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Emphasis mine, Psalm 19:14, NASB). Again, the Psalmist juxtaposes "words" with "meditation." In that "the meditation of my heart" parallels "words of my mouth," Wolf notes that "the psalmist compares his own speech with what God communicates in nature and in Scripture."[4] The Old Testament portrays meditation to be different than the spirituality of silence. Of the process, Wolf concludes, "Perhaps the Scripture was read half out loud in the process of meditation."[5]

Fourth, according to the Old Testament, meditating involves thinking or devising. The 2nd Psalm begins with a question: "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?" (Psalm 2:1, KJV). Interestingly, the word "imagine" means "meditate." Thus, one version translates the verse, "Why do the nations rage, And the peoples MEDITATE a vain thing?" (Emphasis mine, Psalm 2:1, ASV 1901). In other words, unrestrained by God's Word, the heathen were meditating (i.e., devising, plotting, conspiring) a vain thing; namely, that they could build a messianic kingdom without Yahweh, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. According to the second Psalm, meditation can become a fertile state of mind in which to hatch plans for rebellion against God. Such is the commentary of God upon our sinful state of soul (Genesis 6:5; 11:6; Jeremiah 17:9). Such antagonistic meditation hardly qualifies as a silent void of mind. In this regard, John Calvin warns: "If Scripture does not direct us in our inquiries after God, we immediately turn vain in our imaginations."[6] But God has not called us to build imaginary spirituality through silent meditation.

More ominously, when not concentrated upon the Word, meditating can even facilitate spiritualism. Regarding the meditations and mutterings of mediums, Isaiah the prophet warned Israel, "When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter (i.e., haga, or "meditate"), should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?" (Isaiah 8:19, NIV). If devoid of God's Word, meditation can describe an activity by which people enter into the forbidden zone of the occult. (See Deuteronomy 18:9-14.) Seemingly, even Richard Foster was aware of this danger, for he warned regarding the practice of silent contemplation: "I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as supernatural guidance that is not divine guidance . . . there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way!"[7]

Foster's warning highlights exactly why biblical meditation demands the sights and sounds of Scripture. As when the devil tested Jesus - when in His humanity, Jesus experienced solitude and starvation in the wilderness - at the moment of His temptation He fought off silence by audibly quoting the Code of Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10), what stood "written." Of Jesus' response, thrice Matthew records that Jesus, "answered and said . . . Jesus said . . . [and] Jesus said . . ." Though Jesus often practiced solitude, there is no evidence in the Gospels that, in His life and ministry, He practiced a spiritual discipline of silence.

As one authority characterized the activity,

"[M]meditation means active contemplation, not wandering reverie [i.e., a state of dreamy or fanciful musing). It depends on purposeful concentration of the mind on the subject of meditation and deliberate expulsion of discordant thoughts and images. Later mysticism describes a further stage of meditation in which personal activity is inhibited, rational thought transcended, and the individual is carried on a current of contemplative feeling into a state of ecstasy which marks the summit of religious experience. Of this there is no trace in the Psalter . . ."[8]

It might be added that, neither is there a trace of it in the rest of Holy Scripture.

In summary then, biblical meditation does not necessitate cultivating silent silence.[9] The Hebrew words for "meditation" (haga and siah) do not suggest it does. As we have seen, meditation in the Old Testament is a conscious activity whereby devout souls think and speak the "law, precepts, statutes, word, and commandments" of God. Thus, the meditation is objective, not subjective; is active, not passive; is conscious, not unconsciousness; and is even spoken, not quiet. Biblical meditation is neither silent nor empty-headed. As believers focus their minds upon the words of Scripture, meditation involves the participation and response of the whole person, body (speaking and hearing) and soul (cognition, feeling, and obedience), to God's communication, a communication that comes through the words, works, wonders, ways, and wisdom of the most holy and beauteous God (See Psalms 1:2; 63:6; 77:11-14; 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 148; 143:5; 145:5).

Silent contemplation, as least as defined by many contemporary spiritualists, does not qualify as biblical meditation. Our silence does not invoke His Presence. But according to the Old Testament paradigm of spirituality, thinking upon and reciting God's Word does. As Scripture is intellectually engaged and willfully obeyed, they are meditated. As always, Word mediates meditation.

The Truth:

"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But SPEAKING the TRUTH in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ;" (Ephesians 4:14-15)

[1] Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, How Ancient Mystical Practices are Uniting Christians with the World's Religions, 2nd Edition (Silverton, Oregon: Lighthouse Trails Publishing Company, 2006) 33, citing William Johnson, Letters to Contemplatives (Orbis Books, 1992) 13. Johnson is a Roman Catholic writer.
[2] Richard J. Foster, Life with God, Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation (New York: HarperCollins, 2008) 14.
[3] Herbert Wolf, "haga 467," Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Volume 1, R. Laird Harris, Editor (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980) 205. The Old Testament also uses another word for "meditate" (Hebrew, siah, Psalm 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78). As with haga, the range for meaning of siah is broad. Gary Cohen notes: "The basic meaning of this verb seems to be 'rehearse,' 'repent,' or 'go over a matter in one's mind.' This meditation or contemplation may be done either inwardly or outwardly. Since English differentiates these two notions, the word is usually rendered 'meditate,' or 'talk.' . . . In the first instance it is used of silent reflection on God's works . . . and God's word . . . In the second instance it is used of rehearsing aloud God's works . . . If the subject, however, is painful, it is translated 'to complain'." See Gary G. Cohen, "siah 2255," Theological Wordbook, Volume 2, 875-876. However else biblical meditation may be understood, it does not qualify to be the attempt by contemplators to create within themselves, by the application of certain meditative techniques, a silent void.
[4] Wolf, "haga," Theological Wordbook.
[5] Ibid. In January of 1984, I was privileged to tour Israel by bicycle. Yes, I pedaled from Dan to Beersheba. But before departure from New York, via El Al Airlines for Tel Aviv, I noticed several Hassidic Jews standing before an airport wall. Holding a book in their hands, they alternately moved their upper torso forward to and then backward from the wall as they read the Torah aloud. What were they doing? Seemingly, and according to an Old Testament understanding of haga, they were meditating!
[6] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume I, Henry Beveridge, Translator (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972 Reprint) I.14.1, 141-142. Calvin concludes: "Therefore, let us willingly remain hedged in by those boundaries within which God has been pleased to confine our persons, and, as it were, enclose our minds, so as to prevent them from losing themselves by wandering unrestrained."
[7] Richard Foster, Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992) 157.
[8] James S. McEwen, "Meditate," A Theological Word Book of the Bible, Alan Richardson, Editor (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1950) 142.
[9] Trappist monks of the Cistercian order practice silence. Thomas Merton (1915-1968), well known author and contemplative spiritualist who in his later life converted to Buddhism, was a Trappist monk from the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky. See "Trappists," Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trappist).

Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of Church on the Rise: Why I am not a Purpose-Driven Pastor. This article used with permission.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

THE SHACK & Its New Age Leaven

God IN Everything?

By Warren Smith

“A little leaven leaventh the whole lump.”
- Galatians 5:9

The Shack is being described as a “Christian” novel and is currently ranked number one on the New York Times bestseller list for paperback fiction. Many believers are buying multiple copies and giving them to friends and family. The Shack reads as a true story, but is obviously allegorical fiction. The book conveys postmodern spiritual ideas and teachings that challenge biblical Christianity – all in the name of “God” and “Jesus” and the “Holy Spirit.” Author William P. Young’s alternative presentation of traditional Christianity has both inspired and outraged his many readers. All the while his book continues to fly off the shelves of local bookstores.

Much like New Age author James Redfield’s book The Celestine Prophecy, The Shack is a fictional vehicle for upending certain religious concepts and presenting contrary spiritual scenarios. Allegorical novels can be a clever way to present truth. They can also be used to present things that seem to be true but really are not. Some books like The Shack do both.

I was drawn into the New Age Movement years ago by books and lectures containing parabolic stories that were not unlike The Shack. They felt spiritually uplifting as they tackled tough issues and talked about God’s love and forgiveness. They seemed to provide me with what I spiritually needed as they gave me much needed hope and promise. Building on the credibility they achieved through their inspirational and emotive writings, my New Age authors and teachers would then go on to tell me that “God” was “in” everyone and everything.

I discovered that author William P. Young does exactly the same thing in The Shack. He moves through his very engaging and emotional story to eventually present this same New Age teaching that God is “in” everything.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me first provide some background material concerning this key New Age doctrine that “God is in everything.” A good place to start is with Eugene Peterson, the author of the controversial Bible paraphrase The Message. After all, Peterson’s enthusiastic endorsement of The Shack is featured right under the author’s name on the front cover.

Ironically, it was Peterson’s endorsement that caused me to be immediately suspicious of this high-profile, bestselling “Christian” book. Through his questionable paraphrasing of the Bible, Peterson had already aligned himself in a number of areas with New Age/New Spirituality teachings. One obvious example was where he translated a key verse in the Lord’s Prayer to read “as above, so below” rather than “in earth, as it is in heaven.” “As above, so below” was a term that I was very familiar with from my previous involvement in the New Age Movement. This esoteric saying has been an occult centerpiece for nearly five thousand years. It is alleged by New Age metaphysicians to be the key to all magic and all mysteries. It means that God is not only transcendent — “out there”— but He is also immanent — “in” everyone and everything.

But, as I found out just before abandoning the deceptive teachings of the New Age for the Truth of biblical Christianity, God is not “in” everyone and everything. The Bible makes it clear that man is not divine and that man is not God (Ezekiel 28:2, Hosea 11:9, John 2:24-25, etc.) In Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church, I quoted the editors of the New Age Journal as they defined “as above, so below” in their book, As Above, So Below:

“'As above, so below, as below, so above.' This maxim implies that the transcendent God beyond the physical universe and the immanent God within ourselves are one.” (p. 32)

My concern about Peterson’s undiscerning use of “as above, so below” in the Lord’s Prayer was underscored when the 2006 bestseller, The Secret, showcased this same occult/New Age phrase. In fact, it was the introductory quote at the very beginning of the book. By immediately featuring “as above, so below” the author Rhonda Byrne was telling her readers in definite New Age language that “God is in everyone and everything.” Towards the end of the book, The Secret puts into more practical words what the author initially meant by introducing the immanent concept of “as above, so below.” On page 164 The Secret tells its readers—“You are God in a physical body.”

Most significantly, in his book The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom, New Age leader Benjamin Crème reveals that a New World Religion will be based on this foundational “as above, so below” teaching of immanence — this idea that God is “in” everyone and everything:

“But eventually a new world religion will be inaugurated which will be a fusion and synthesis of the approach of the East and the approach of the West. The Christ will bring together, not simply Christianity and Buddhism, but the concept of God transcendent — outside of His creation — and also the concept of God immanent in all creation — in man and all creation.” (p. 88)

New Age matriarch Alice Bailey, in her book The Reappearance of the Christ, wrote:

“…a fresh orientation to divinity and to the acceptance of the fact of God Transcendent and God Immanent within every form of life. “These are foundational truths upon which the world religion of the future will rest.” (p. 88) [link added]

In a November 9, 2003 Hour of Power sermon – just two months before he was a featured speaker at the annual meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals – Crystal Cathedral minister Robert Schuller unabashedly aligned himself with this same New Age/New World Religion teaching. The man who claims to have mentored thousands of pastors, including Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, stated:

“You know in theology — pardon me for using a couple of big words — but in theology the God we believe in, this God of Abraham, is a transcendent God. But He is also an immanent God. Transcendent means up there, out there, above us all. But God is also an immanent God — immanence of God and the transcendence of God — but then you have a balanced perspective of God. The immanence of God means here, in me, around me, in society, in the world, this God here, in the humanities, in the science, in the arts, sociology, in politics — the immanence of God…. Yes, God is alive and He is in every single human being!”

But God is not in every single human being. God is not in everything. One of the many reasons I wrote Deceived on Purpose was because Rick Warren presented his readers with this same “God in everything” teaching. Quoting an obviously flawed New Century Bible translation of Ephesians 4:6, Rick Warren — whether he meant to or not — was teaching his millions of readers the foundational doctrine of the New World Religion. Describing God in his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, he wrote:

“He rules everything and is everywhere and is in everything.” (p. 88)

Compounding the matter further, “immanence” has been taught as part of the Foundations class at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. An ill-defined reference to immanence on page 46 of the Saddleback Foundations Participants Guide plays right into the hands of the New Spirituality/New World Religion by stating:

“The fact that God stands above and beyond his creation does not mean he stands outside his creation. He is both transcendent (above and beyond his creation) and immanent (within and throughout his creation).”

All of this discussion about “God in everything” immanence is to explain why The Shack is such a deceptive book. It teaches this same heresy. This book ostensibly attempts to deal with the deeply sensitive issues surrounding the murder of a young child. Because of the author’s intensely personal story line, most readers become engaged with the book on a deep emotional level. However, the author’s use of poetic license to convey his highly subjective, and often unbiblical, spiritual views becomes increasingly problematic as the story line develops. This is most apparent when he uses the person of “Jesus” to suddenly introduce the foundational teaching of the New Spirituality/New World Religion — God is “in” everything. Using the New Age term “ground of being” to describe “God,” the “Jesus” of The Shack states:

“God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things….” (p. 112)

This false teaching about a “God” who “dwells in, around, and through all things” is the kind of New Age leaven that left unchallenged could leaven the church into the New Age/New Spirituality of the proposed New World Religion. And while many people have expressed a great deal of emotional attachment to The Shack and its characters — this leaven alone contaminates the whole book.

Clearly, the “Jesus” of The Shack is not Jesus Christ of the Bible. The apostle Paul chided the Corinthians and warned them that they were vulnerable and extremely susceptible to “another Jesus” and “another gospel” and “another spirit” that were not from God (2 Corinthians 11:4). In the Bible, the real Jesus Christ warned that spiritual deception would be a sign before His return. He further warned that there would be those who would even come in His name, pretending to be Him (Matthew 24:3-5;24).

Without ascribing any ill motive to William Young and his book The Shack, the author’s use of spiritual creativity seems to give a “Christian” assent to the New Age/New Spirituality of the proposed New World Religion. His mixing of truth and error can become very confusing to readers, and God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33).

Dr. Harry Ironside, pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948, emphasizes the fact that truth mixed with error results in “all error” — a direct refutation of the Emergent Church teaching to find “truth” wherever it may be found — including books like The Shack. Ironside wrote:

“Error is like leaven, of which we read, ‘A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.’ Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died.” (quoted in The Berean Call, April 2008)

The Shack has touched the hearts and emotions of many people. While there are many other examples of the author’s unbiblical liberality, introducing the heretical New Age teaching that “God dwells in, and around, and through all things” is in and by itself enough to completely undermine any value the book might otherwise have for faithful believers. To allow yourself to get carried away by this story, while disregarding the book’s New Age/New Spirituality leaven, is to fall prey to the “truth-and-error” mixture that pervades The Shack. And as Dr. Ironside warned—“God hates such a mixture.”

Before Christians buy one more copy of this book, they need to come to terms with what this author is ultimately teaching and what it is they are passing along to their friends and fellow believers.

The Truth:

“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (1 Timothy 4:4)

Warren Smith is the author of numerous articles and books on the topic of the New Age/New Spirituality and how it is entering the evangelical church.

Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church
The Light that was Dark: From the New Age to Amazing Grace
Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel

Friday, June 20, 2008

Lakeland's Recycled Revival


A Pastor Reports on Todd Bentley's "Revival" in Lakeland, Florida

By Pastor Gary Osborne

The conclusion of a 5-part series


To be honest, it frustrates me to even have to be writing about this subject. The concept of being “drunk in the Holy Ghost” is so unscriptural that it defies logic for anyone to promote it. Yet this is exactly what Bentley does, very much in the same vein as Rodney Howard-Browne and others. All of them make reference to the book of Acts and the day of Pentecost. As Todd was preaching one night recently in Lakeland and staggering around on stage he said, “We are not drunk as you suppose,” making a clear reference to Acts 2:12 and 13 which states that when the people of Jerusalem heard the commotion in the Upper Room where the 120 disciples had been filled with the Spirit and were speaking in other tongues “they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others were mocking and saying, ‘They are full of sweet wine.’”

Please note that it was the mockers who were derisively saying the disciples were drunk. It was not the majority of the people, but only a segment. And they were clearly not saying this because the disciples were staggering about and falling down as if drunk. If that were the case, how could Peter, in the very next verse, begin preaching one of the most powerful sermons ever recorded in Scripture. A sermon, by the way, that stands in stark contrast to Todd Bentley who neglects the preaching of the Word in his services by acting like a drunken sailor. Some then point to Ephesians, chapter 5.

  • Eph 5:18 – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”

Some people say, “See there, God compares being filled with His Spirit to being drunk with alcohol.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of this verse is not to provide a comparison, but a contrast! That’s right, this verse is telling us that being drunk and being filled with God’s Spirit are NOTHING alike. When a person is drunk, they lose all self-control and act contrary to how they would normally act if they were in full control of their faculties. But when we are filled with the Spirit of God, we are self-controlled. We are not off in “another world,” so to speak. That’s the point of the verse! Paul backs this up when he tells us in Galatians that one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control, not acts of drunkenness. Over and over in Scripture we are commanded to be sober, both physically and spiritually. There is no place for this type of nonsense in the Church of God. It only brings a reproach on Christ that is completely unnecessary.

Much, much more could be written about this topic, but space and time do not permit. I would however, direct the reader to a couple of resources. One is found in Larry Thomas’s book No Laughing Matter where he documents many of the things we are talking about. And a second is a book by Pastor Bill Randles called Weighed and Found Wanting. Both are excellent resources and go deeper into much that we have discussed here.


The last point I want to cover involves the Statement of Faith for Fresh Fire Ministries, which is the name of Todd Bentley’s fellowship. It is described as “revival and healing ministry of Todd Bentley” on their own website and is clearly an extension of him and his partners. On this same website we can clearly read their Statement of Faith. And if anyone doesn’t know, a Statement of Faith is composed of the most vital, basic, essential doctrines that a person, fellowship, or denomination believes in. People don’t waste time placing things in their Statements of Faith that are non-essential or unimportant to them. So any Statement of Faith is a great way to get to know the core beliefs and values of a person or group. And Bentley’s reveals some sobering things. I’m going to focus on the last 2 articles of his Statement of Faith. They are points 11 and 12.

11. THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST We believe the Ascension and Exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the throne of the Father proclaims His present rule and reign over the universe. His Kingdom is revealed here on earth through His Body, the Church, resulting in a glorious Church and global harvest at the end of this age. He will be finally revealed through His personal, physical, and soon return and the events described in the following scriptures, including the resurrection of the dead (the just to everlasting life and unjust to eternal separation from God (Acts 1:11 ; 1Thess 4:16 -17; Titus 2:12 -14; 2Thess 1:7-10).

I’ll touch on this point briefly by pointing out the 2nd sentence. Note the use of the phrase “resulting in a glorious Church and global harvest at the end of this age.” Why is that important to take notice of? Because it reveals one more issue that links so many of these men and ministries together, namely that they adhere to a “Kingdom Now” theology. This doctrine teaches that we, as the Church, will basically take over the earth by Christianizing it. People that believe this are not content to preach and teach and see people won to Christ one by one. That’s not good enough. They believe we will see an end-times revival where literally a billion souls will come to Christ. In fact Todd Bentley stated this very thing just a few weeks back on one of the telecasts from Lakeland. This type of “Dominion Theology” (as it is also called) is linked to the Manifest Sons of God teaching we’ve already dealt with. What you’ll notice is that Todd does not mention the rapture of the Church at all in his Statement of Faith because that’s not something he’s really looking for. In an article I wrote several years ago I said the following about this particular theology and how it impacts the church in many ways:

Let's quickly examine this religious fad called the "River revival" [the Lakeland Outpouring is simply a recycled version of the “River Revival,” which consisted of moves like the Kansas City Prophets, Toronto and Brownsville, ed.] and how it pertains to the rapture. It is obvious that since God is sending such sweeping revival to the world that this just couldn’t be the time for the rapture (or so those who don't believe in the rapture reason to themselves). After all, for the first time since the birth of the Church at Pentecost, God is seeing His great desire for the salvation of souls come into full bloom. Years ago TV Preacher Rod Parsley proclaimed that God had told him to let everyone know that 1999 was going to be the year where 10, 50, and even 100x’s more souls would be saved than in all the previous years put together [now Bentley is saying the same thing]! Of course, this didn't happen. But it doesn't stop many from making these continued statements. As another example, Rodney Howard Browne also claimed that in a vision God informed him that a New York City Crusade would bring in thousands of souls! Again, when Browne had his NYC Crusade, he had a terrible time getting people to even show up. And it certainly didn't result in the conversions he claimed it would!

Despite the lack of evidence, we are still consistently being informed by Christian ministries that God is doing a "new thing" in these last days, and we can expect to see miracles as never before. Well, with that being the case, it just wouldn’t make sense for God to call us home quite yet (or so these folks would have us believe). In fact for many, this "revival" is finally going to "Christianize" the entire world, something these people believe the Church MUST do before Jesus can come back! This point was emphasized again on Trinity Broadcasting Network by a minister (I didn’t catch his name unfortunately) who was being interviewed recently on the Praise the Lord show. He said, "God is raising up a new generation. A generation that will do what previous generations didn't’ do. For years the church didn’t accomplish God’s purposes, but now, with this new thing He is doing, giving His people new power, the church is entering its finest hour. Therefore…I can tell you that Jesus won’t come back yet! There is just too much left for us to do!"

Never mind that a last days world-wide revival isn’t even mentioned in Scripture. In fact, Jesus, Peter, John and the apostle Paul tell us the exact opposite – the last days will be characterized by a great falling away, not a great revival! But that is another subject. The point here is that this fascination with "revival" has taken the Christian community’s eyes off of Christ, and specifically His return for His Bride!

Some people don’t realize that our eschatology (what we believe about the future) can and does shape our actions in the present. Since Todd Bentley is looking to Christianize the world before Jesus can come back, it only makes sense that he would not preach and teach the imminent return of Christ. But the Bible tells us this is exactly what we should be expecting.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:7-"awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
  • 1 Corinthians 16:22-"Maranatha."
  • Philippians 3:20-"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;"
  • Philippians 4:5-"The Lord is near."
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:10-"to wait for His Son from heaven,"
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18-"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of {the} archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:6-"so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober."
  • 1 Timothy 6:14-"that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
  • Titus 2:13-"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;"
  • Hebrews 9:28-"so Christ . . . shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him."
  • James 5:7-9-"Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. . . . for the coming of the Lord is at hand. . . . behold, the Judge is standing right at the door."
  • 1 Peter 1:13 -"fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
  • Jude 21-"waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life."
  • Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20-"'I am coming quickly!'"
  • Revelation 22:17, 20-"And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.'" "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."

It should be abundantly clear that we are called, as New Testament Christians, to look for the return of Christ for His Bride. And while we are supposed to witness to the lost and pray for their salvation, we are not looking to build a worldly kingdom on this earth where we as Christians somehow take over every government and institution and then present some man-made utopia to Jesus when He comes back. It will not happen that way! Things will continue to deteriorate as we draw closer to the end, and our job is to work, watch, and wait for the soon return of Jesus Christ. Yet, as bad as his eschatology is, the most disturbing tenet of faith from Todd Bentley’s Fresh Fire Ministries is the last one. If nothing else that I’ve written convinces you to steer clear of Todd Bentley and his Lakeland meetings, this last point should. Read the final tenet in his Statement of Faith:

12. FURTHER REVELATION We recognize that God is continually restoring truth and light to His Church. Therefore, we place no limit on further revelation; however, each must be substantiated according to the Scriptures.

Wow! Did you read that? Todd Bentley believes that God is “continually restoring truth and light to His Church.” Why is that a big deal? Because it’s exactly what cults have been saying for centuries! Whether it be Joseph Smith and the Mormons, Charles Russell and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ellen G. White and the Seventh-Day Adventists, or any other cult this basic tenet is the same: Somehow the Church has lost or suppressed truth down through the centuries and now God is revealing it again. This is incredibly dangerous. If God has not already given us a standard for absolute truth, and He has (the Bible), then anything goes and we are open to all types of deception.

Just as disturbing is the second sentence: “We place no limit on further revelation.” My friends, this is nothing short of heresy. There is no new or further revelation! God has already given all of it to us in the Bible. This is why the Apostle John was so strong in his warning, found in the last book of the Bible.

  • Rev 22:18-19 - I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

Moses gives us a similar warning in Deuteronomy when he says “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you”(Deut. 4:2).

Jude tells us that we have a faith that has “once for all been delivered to the saints.” What is the faith? As Donald Stamps so aptly puts it, the faith “consists of the gospel proclaimed by Christ and the apostles. It is the fixed and unalterable truth, given by the Holy Spirit and embodied in the NT.” Paul tells us that “all Scripture is given by inspiration [literally “God breathed”] of God” (II Tim. 3:16) and Peter states the following:

  • 2 Peter 1:19-21 – “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

What is that more “sure word of prophecy”? It’s the fact that God confirmed His already written Word to Peter and the others through the life and ministry of Christ! Anyone saying they can add to the final revelation given to us in the Word of God speaks blasphemies. And when Bentley tacks on that little “disclaimer” at the end of his 12th Statement of Faith he simply creates an oxymoron. If nothing “new” can be accepted unless it adheres to the Scriptures, then there is nothing new period. What he has done is given himself an open door to say such and such is new or restored truth. Then he simply takes a Scripture out of context and manipulates it to “confirm” what he has said.


After personally attending services in Lakeland, and viewing many more via television, there’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the Todd Bentley meetings are nothing more than a recycling of former “revivals” that would include those that took place in Toronto and Brownsville. It’s the same spirit, the same unbiblical manifestations, and the same unscriptural teachings. There is a common thread that runs through all of these movements, and it calls for the diligent pursuit of truth. Christians looking for the next “new thing” need to understand that these last days we are living in are perilous times. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible, not some Jesus of our own making. For it is He that will be returning soon to deliver us from a wicked and perverse world.

Maranatha. Our Lord come!

[Note: For 3 excellent follow-up articles, authored by Pastor Bill Randles (whose book Weighed and Found Wanting is referred to above) who has long been an expert on the topic of these false revivals, please visit:

The Truth:

"Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.... Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand." (Joel 1:5; 2:1)

[Note: This article series reproduced with author's permission. It was originally published in THE SENTINEL which is a teaching and apologetics newsletter for the Alliance of Biblical Pentecostals. If you would like to receive a complimentary copy please write to A.B.P. at: Alliance of Biblical Pentecostals, 4072 Elwood Rd., Spring Hill, FL 34609. Links were added to this article series.]

[For additional resources and articles on this topic, see the archived newsletters posted at http://www.discernment-ministries.org, especially those published in the late 1990s which covered the false revivals of that period.]

[NOTE: For those looking for the transcript of a Brian McLaren interview, cited in Part 4 of Pastor Jeffrey Whittaker's series last week, "How Everything Must Change," it can be accessed in a cache here, or you can listen to it here.]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

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]


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.


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."


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:

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)

1. http://www.apostasyalert.org/REFLECTIONS/bentley.htm

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lakeland's Recycled Revival


A Pastor Reports on Todd Bentley's "Revival" in Lakeland, Florida

By Pastor Gary Osborne

My first real concern with these crusades revolves around the issue of who Todd Bentley looks up to and who he considers spiritual leaders. He frequently mentions, and even has up on stage with him from time to time, members of the "Kansas City Prophets." And the KC "prophets" are, in many ways, an extension of the Latter Rain movement that really found its legs through the ministry of a man named William Branham.

Although Branham didn’t found the movement, he was instrumental in popularizing many aspects of it. This article will not go into detail concerning Branham and his ministry except to say that he was a preacher who ministered primarily in the 40’s and 50’s. He was a forerunner to many of the “healing evangelists” of today in that he would call out words of knowledge concerning the private lives of audience members, as well as pray for the sick to be healed, all with astonishing results. Interestingly, he would often tell the audience wherever he was ministering that he had to wait for his angel to appear before he could give any “words” or work any healings. This will be an important point that surfaces later in our discussion. But let’s stop right here and ask the question: Does God ask His people to look to angels or to Himself for any need? He tells us it is by His Spirit, and not angels, that He operates in words of knowledge, gifts of healings, and the like (I Corinthians 12).

In spite of his miraculous signs and wonders, Branham was a false prophet according to the standards of the Word of God. Why do I say that? Well, read the exhortation from the Lord to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy.

  • Dt 13:1-3 – “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. “

I believe the Pentecostal Church in Branham’s day failed the Deuteronomy 13 test because while he did perform signs and wonders, he also counseled people to turn from the God of the Bible through his spurious teachings. He taught there was no Trinity (he was “Oneness Pentecostal”); that he was literally the prophet Elijah come back; that the world would end in 1977; that Jesus was “created” and not the Eternal Word as John 1:1 declares; that he was a “god” (and this is where the Manifest Sons of God movement got it’s name and teaching); that he could decree things just like God; that Eve had sexual relations with the serpent in the Garden of Eden; that the Zodiac and the Pyramids were equal with the Bible as the Word of God; and that there would be no eternal Hell.[1]

As you can clearly see, the man was way off in his teaching about God. So the question must be asked, “What criteria do we use to determine if a person is a true prophet or a false prophet?” If you look only to the signs and wonders a person does, and not to their teaching, then you fail the Deuteronomy 13 test. It is NOT the miracles that count. They are only used to CONFIRM the message. It is the teaching coming from the “prophet” that counts the most, according to the Bible. And Branham fails the test miserably. Even today, if one were to visit his gravesite they would see a tombstone shaped like a pyramid!

William Branham helped popularize an entire movement called the “Latter Rain” that has continued to teach differing heresies down through the decades. In the 1980’s a group of men, including Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, Bob Jones, Rick Joyner, and John Paul Jackson formed an alliance of sorts and became known as the “Kansas City Prophets.” Time does not allow me to discuss these men in detail, but it is important to know that these men took some of their cues from William Branham. Two of the main leaders, Paul Cain and Bob Jones, have both been guilty of grievous sexual sin while “ministering” as prophets. Cain has been revealed to be an alcoholic and a practicing homosexual, while Jones admitted to having women undress in front of him to experience the glory of God.[2]

In spite of many doctrinal heresies, this movement continued in one form or another. Whether it be the Toronto Blessing, the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne (“laughter”) or Brownsville Assembly, it can all be traced back to Branham and to the Latter Rain movement that he helped spread. And so it should come as no shock to anyone that Todd Bentley is connected to all these men. And he is. Paul Cain has shared the stage with Bentley in Lakeland.[3] Bob Jones and many of the others have been mentioned in a favorable light on more than one occasion during the revival.

But the kicker to the entire thing is found here, in an interview that Bentley had with BCN (Breaking Christian News) last month. In that interview he said that he “saw an angel he described as carrying the ‘Winds of Change.’ Asking him to describe this angel, Bentley replied that those familiar with the life of William Branham would recognize the angel from being a relevant factor in his healing ministry.”[4] It should be apparent to all that Todd Bentley’s meetings derive from the same spirit as Branham and the rest. It all comes from the same place. Let the reader take serious note of the obvious and continuous bridge between Branham and Bentley.


The second issue I would like to touch on briefly is the emphasis on “feelings” in all these meetings. Don’t get me wrong. We are created beings that do have feelings, and often times those feelings are a part of our worship to the Lord. If I’m going through a mountaintop experience in my life I may very well “feel” great and shout to the Lord. There’s nothing wrong with expressing feelings in this sense. We can clap our hands, jump and sing praises to God when things are going well, and we can cry and lay prostrate on the floor when facing difficult times. But David said, “as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say you are my God.” He understood that regardless of what he was going through, he would not allow his feelings to dictate truth to him. In the same way the point of this passage and many more like it throughout the Psalms is that God’s faithfulness and truth are not conditioned by our feelings. We enjoy it when good feelings accompany our faith, but we must remember that the faithfulness of God is not based on our feelings.

Unfortunately, in the Bentley meetings “feelings” are the big emphasis, to the detriment of the hearers. Why do I say that? Because the Word of God is not preached in these meetings. Rarely does Todd even bring a Bible to the pulpit with him. He actually bragged about bringing more “real Word” to the people than preachers who expound on the Bible week in and week out because he was bringing a living Jesus through the experiences [i.e. “signs and wonders”] he was giving them. I heard this for myself on his Saturday, May 10th God TV telecast from Lakeland. And the people loved it so. No Word of God is ever brought at these meetings. It’s all about the “feelings” they can experience. This type of mindset and philosophy of ministry leads to very shallow Christianity. I fear for most of the people that attend these meetings because when they come down off the “high” they have been on in these emotionally charged services they will probably crash and burn spiritually. I’ve seen it play out too many times in the past to think otherwise.

In the same vein as the “feelings” issue, there’s also a huge stress on what Todd and his crew call the “tangible presence of God.” That phrase, or one similar to it, is used many times in each meeting. People are conditioned to expect some outward, sensual experience with the Holy Spirit. Whether it’s tasting God’s presence, smelling God’s presence, hearing God’s presence, or seeing God’s presence, it’s all a big part of this revival. Todd talks about seeing a mist or cloud. He talks about tasting something similar to honey. He talks about smelling the incense from Heaven. Everything is done on a 5 senses level. Yet no where in the New Testament do we read about the disciples promoting anything like this nonsense. God is Spirit and those that worship Him will do so in spirit and in truth. The more we move from the objective truth of the Bible and more towards these outward manifestations, the more open we are to deception. The Devil can and does work on people’s senses but he cannot get to us if we know and worship God based on His Word. People in other religions have “experiences” but it doesn’t make them godly experiences. So we must be careful not to be pulled into the trap of feelings-oriented or manifestation-oriented theology. Yet this is exactly what Bentley emphasizes.

TOMORROW: Music, Mass Hypnotism and Angels

[For further information, see the following link:

The Truth:

"Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying." (Romans 13:13)

1. www.letusreason.org/Latrain4.htm
2. www.deceptioninthechurch.com/orrel19.html

4. www.freshfire.ca/index.php?Act=read&status=

[Note: links were added to today's post for further explanation and clarification, and to assist the reader in understanding the magnitude of this deception.]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lakeland's Recycled Revival

The Practice of "Revival"

A Pastor Reports on Todd Bentley's "Revival" in Lakeland, Florida

By Pastor Gary Osborne

[Note: This is the 2nd article in a weeklong series. See the Introduction posted yesterday.]


The first night I personally attended was Thursday, May 8th. Mr. Todd Bentley and his crew were now holding services in the Lakeland Civic Center, which can seat approximately 7,000 people. The doors opened at 6:00 PM to the blowing of a shofar from people waiting to get in. The first thing I noticed as I took a seat in the very back of the auditorium was that the music being played was the loudest I have ever encountered in any “Christian” service I have ever attended. It was blaring loud as the worship team practiced a few songs in anticipation of the 7:00 PM service. I was immediately struck by how many people had banners or flags waving, and how many were jumping up and down like Mexican jumping beans.

There was a lot of “cheerleading” from the stage as microphone checks were being done. Another thing that really stood out were certain buzz words that were used repeatedly. The phrase “stir yourselves up” was used repeatedly, as was the concept of a “transferable anointing.” A woman led in prayer for the service and said, “sound waves carry your [God] presence and anointing” and then told the people to “roar like a lion!” At that request, people everywhere shouted at the top of their lungs and blew the shofars. This same lady was jerking and twitching in a similar way to what has happened in meetings in Toronto and Brownsville in the past. She went on to tell the people to look at one another and say, “You are pregnant – with the Holy Spirit and fire!” There was also much talk of “birthing” and “signs and wonders.”

The “MC” (that’s the best word to describe him) for the meetings then came up and told the audience to get ready because we were going live on GodTV in just a couple of minutes. He had a young man stand behind him and gave the audience instructions to look at this man as he held up his hands for a countdown. Everyone was to make as much noise as possible when the services went live, and believe me they did. It was very orchestrated. There was also talk of being “drunk in the Spirit” during this lead up time to going live on TV.

The service began with loud, loud rock style music. By the way, I am not an old fuddy-dud who doesn’t like up-tempo music. I’m a Pentecostal and don’t at all mind exuberant worship. So my comments are not coming from some prejudice in that vein. I love to praise the Lord, and to do so with a full heart. I clap, shout, and have even been known to jump up and down every now and then. But what I saw and heard at the beginning of this service was unlike anything I had ever witnessed in a Christian service before (and I’ve attended my fair share of “off the wall” services in the past). This was different. It had a secular, rock concert feel to it. People were swaying and dancing to the music constantly. The worship leader, if you could call him that, sang a song whose lyrics include the following:

“I am Free to Run, I am Free to Run”
“I am Free to Dance, I am Free to Dance”

And boy how the people responded to that. There were people dancing everywhere. And by dancing I’m talking some of the same stuff you’d see at a secular concert. Even some men and women dancing together!

I realize that the first portion of this article is dealing somewhat with my own subjective thoughts on the meetings. I will get to some objective points about what is taught in these meetings later in the article, but please bear with me because it’s important for you, the reader, to have an idea of what goes on at these meetings and what the general atmosphere is like.

There was a very sensual spirit in the meeting. Much inappropriate dress as well. And everyone was caught up in their own euphoria. After nearly 45 minutes of upbeat music, things finally slowed down. People were still standing everywhere, but the music was now slower and more hypnotic. The same songs were being played over and over and over. People seemed to be in a trance all around me. If the worship leader said, “raise your hands” everyone did so immediately. If he said, “drop to your knees” they did so immediately. In my humble opinion what I observed that night was nothing more than mass hypnotism. The music had the people mesmerized. Oh, and I didn’t know one song they sang the entire night. Not one!

At about 8:30 PM, with music still being played and Todd Bentley still standing with the other leaders on stage, the music leader says, “I’m feeling drunk.” He then tells the people to say to God, “Intoxicate me, Lord” – “Inebriate me, Lord.” I am disgusted at this point. We will deal with the so-called “drunk in the Spirit” phenomenon later in the article. The music continues and picks up again. Now the people are getting truly wild and the leader says, “Scream!!!” and the people let out a yell that shakes the entire building. Finally the worship leader falls to the floor himself, but the back up singers continue. This continued until nearly 9:00 PM and I had seen enough for my first night. I left amidst the shouts of thousands.

Talk of angels was prevalent throughout the night as well. This seems to be a key point with this particular “revival” and we will discuss it more later in this article.


I came back the following Thursday, May 15th, which was the 44th day of the revival, determined to stay and hear Todd Bentley (if the music leader would allow). This time I entered the Civic Center and noticed that people were much more subdued. Why? Because the band was not practicing and instead much softer music was being played on a CD throughout the auditorium. There was only one person with a flag/banner raised this time, as opposed to the 10 or more I saw the first night. Things stayed calm until the MC came out and once again pumped up the audience with a countdown to going live on TV. As soon as that happened the people were the same as before – shouting, jumping, dancing, etc.

Two men, one looking like the bearded guy from ZZ Top, give each other a high-five near the back of the auditorium and both “fall under the power” immediately. The music is going fast and furious and the same emotions and actions that were in the first meeting are in this one as well. There also continues to be much talk of angels in the songs.

After almost an hour and a half of singing the MC comes back to the center of the stage and declares, “I feel the ‘sauce’ tonight.” He then introduces Todd Bentley who comes out wearing a t-shirt that reads, “Jesus Gave Me My Tattoos.” He tells everyone that he “felt like the Holy Spirit was massaging his body” tonight. He then talks about the transferable anointing that comes in like a mist. He claims that God told him he could “feel the anointing just like Moses did” in the book of Exodus! Of course God never told Moses that he could “feel” the anointing. God did say He would “show” Moses His glory, but He never mentioned “feeling” the glory. Yet Bentley continues to emphasize feelings. This is a huge part of his entire teaching. He talks of not only seeing a mist but says that in some of his previous meetings he has been able to smell incense, concluding that this is the glory of God manifest. He then invites people to come to the altar and screams, “Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire!” which is a trademark signature of his.

There’s a real restlessness in the arena. In fact, I’ve never seen more people coming and going, moving from seat to seat to seat, than I have at these meetings in Lakeland. There’s a tremendous lack of peace amongst the people. No one seems to be able to settle in, and people are walking the aisles and moving constantly.

Suddenly, Bentley says there is “great authority” in the building tonight and he says that people can decree whatever they want, but to be careful what they ask for. It’s obvious that he’s heavily influenced by “Word of Faith” teaching and believes that God has abdicated His throne and given us authority to do anything we want, or better yet have anything we pronounce. In fact, he himself says “I speak creation. I speak new hearts, new livers into existence tonight.” Speaking to the audience in general he tells people to take off their oxygen and he commands tumors to fall off bodies and for cripples to get out of wheelchairs. He continues to declare all types of healings. I watch as several people gather around one wheel-chair bound woman and pray for her. They exhort her to rise, but she cannot.

People now begin to come forward to share their testimonies of healing. Everything is carried out just as it would be in a Benny Hinn or Earnest Angley type service. There are claims of everything from headaches cured to resurrections from the dead, but everything is carefully shared on a first name only basis. I imagine Todd and his crew could claim this is done so that the media or other curious people would not harass the individuals giving the testimonies. But what this effectively does is keep anyone from verifying any of the claims. One severely handicapped girl (physically and mentally) was brought forward in a wheelchair and was lifted out of the wheelchair by Todd and another man and dragged several feet before Todd let her go so she could be “slain in the Spirit.” It was a travesty, in my opinion.

Bentley then claims that this revival was prophesied in 1977 and again in 1989 by none other than Paul Cain, of the Kansas City prophets. We will deal with him more later on, but it’s important that the reader gets an understanding of who Todd Bentley looks up to. He is very much in the same camp as the KC prophets, among others. I decided to leave at this point, as it was approaching 10 PM and I had an hour drive back home.


Many other events could be documented, but space limits me from going into more detail concerning the two nights I attended. However, there was one other service that I caught on TV, and fortunately taped, that must be mentioned here. On Saturday, May 17th, a service took place unlike any other I have seen yet. During the testimony time some extreme manifestations took place. One young eleven year old girl was brought up and Todd asked her if she would like to feel the “manifest presence of Jesus” and she sheepishly said yes (clearly not understanding what he was talking about). He took her by the hand and blew on her. Nothing happened. He then told her to close her eyes and repeat after him. “Jesus, fill me with your presence” he said. He placed his hand on her head and was clearly exerting some pressure in an attempt to make her fall down. She still didn’t collapse so he focused his attention on her cousin (who he wrongly called her mother – so much for his prophet status) and blew on her. She went straight down as the little girl watched. He then blew on her one more time but she never went down so he turned away.

As Todd went over to the other side of the stage he began to laugh in a deep, scary way. There is no other word I can think of to describe this laughter. After speaking with that person, who was very hyped, he laid hands on her and gave his trademark yell, “Bam!” She went right down. From there he began to laugh more, and the audience went right along with him. He talked about drinking from the river. He instructed everyone to put their head back and open their mouth and drink. More scary laughter occurs as he blows down another 9-year-old girl. He then tells the girl’s mother that he is “drunk in the Holy Ghost” and as his head is shaking strangely he mentions that “it’s [meaning the anointing] leaking out of my eyes.” More laughter and more “bams” occur as he sweeps his hand over the audience and rows of people react.

Todd then shouts “Fire!” and tells the people to say, “Come Holy Ghost, get me.” This continues for several minutes. He tells Jesus to “get them all.” Others on stage are laughing uncontrollably and staggering around, not even able to talk without slurring their words. The laughter from Todd is very much like Rodney Howard-Browne. As he continues to shake Todd asks the people to stand and make a barrel. So they clasp their hands together and act like they are holding a huge rain barrel in their arms. Then he shouts for them to tip this imaginary barrel up as their head is tipped back and “Drink!!!!” He shouts it again, “Drink!!!!” This is some of the most insane stuff I personally have ever seen in my life. I have been in many of these types of meetings, including meetings conducted by Rodney Howard-Browne and John Kilpatrick. Yet I’ve never seen anything as extreme as this.

The next man up to be interviewed is Pontus and he’s clearly led a rough life. His arms are filled with tattoos and to be honest he speaks as if he’s drunk. Todd comments on one of his nice tattoos and shows the man a similar one on his arm. This man is eventually “slain” as well. Todd continues to laugh in an almost demonic way. He continues to exhort the people to receive the anointing. Another lady is brought forward and the man holding the microphone for her says she’s been “bellied up to the bar here drinking quite a bit tonight.” She is of course an easy mark for being slain. Her husband then receives a “big fat drink of the Holy Ghost” as well. Todd goes on to say he’s “feeling drunk” and then he begins to shake his head to the left and right violently and shouts “ohhhhhhhhhh...!” It’s a truly frightening moment as he seems to be controlled by a spirit and my mind immediately went to the story in Mark’s Gospel of the young boy who was often tossed about by demonic spirits attempting to kill him (Mark 9:22).

Todd then asks God to fill everyone with that “drunken, drunken holy glory” that he supposedly is experiencing. He tells people not to get to close to the edge of the stage lest they fall off. More “bams” and laughter occur. Then Todd asks for a “release of the wine.” I could go on and on about the silliness that occurred that night. People were staggering around, not able to speak correctly, and basically acting like drunken sailors. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed.

TOMMOROW: Todd Bentley's Connection to the Latter Rain Movement

[For interesting historical background information on this "revival," see this report. Also, read the 6-part in-depth report on the "Laughing Phenomena: Its History & Possible Effect on the Church" by Ed Tarkowski, which begins here and continues here, here, here, here, and here.]

The Truth:

"Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink." (Isaiah 29:9)