Archive for August, 2008

Isaiah 58

We studied this chapter at house church last night.  Given the backdrop of the recent controversy about revivals and some discussions we’ve had this chapter of Isaiah speaks volumes.

Isa 58:1  “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.
Isa 58:2  Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.
Isa 58:3  ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
Isa 58:4  Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Isa 58:5  Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?
Isa 58:6  “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Isa 58:7  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Isa 58:8  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Isa 58:9  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
Isa 58:10  if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
Isa 58:11  And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Isa 58:12  And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
Isa 58:13  “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
Isa 58:14  then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

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I’m still alive

Things are busy.  I’m about to jump in to the fine art of homeschooling.  I recently did a presentation on Peak Oil and Gas.  One week after we gathered again to talk a little bit about it.  The group inquired about my personal sense of urgency.  I answered honestly in saying I really don’t know because no one knows for sure how much oil Saudi Arabia can pump out.  I think natural gas is the more prominent issue for an institution because of the capital cost of switching to an alternative.  My guess was that there is about a 20-40 percent chance that society could “go off a cliff.”  I reflected more about this afterwards.  I don’t really have that much doubt that we will hit Peak Oil in the next 10 years.  The variable that matters is how people respond.  Are we a going to shuttle emails around about boycotting supposedly evil oil companies are we are going to use our collective imagination to work a way out of the challenges ahead?

We do have the potential to do amazing things.  That is really the great hope. 

Lots of people have been asking me about Obama.  George W. Bush is a little more than radioactive in Canada and McCain is close enough to him to be reflecting that radioactivity.  One would think that I’d like Obama but I don’t.  I don’t like his tax cuts idea, I don’t like what I’ve seen of his energy policy, and I don’t find a lot of substance in what we says.  He is a great orator and he has cute kids and a seemingly normal family but that doesn’t make him qualified to lead the US.  I don’t know if McCain is any better.  McCain does strike me as someone who is just a little past his prime now.  His gaffes are a little too reminiscent of the later Reagan years.

A Canadian election is coming up.  Nice fixed election date promise Stephen!  I’m afraid that Dion’s Green Shift will turn Saskatchewan in a Liberal free zone.  It is too bad because I really like the idea of carbon tax, I just think the revenue from the tax needs to stay in the region that is taxed.

I’m not sure what the Green Party is going to do.  If I think Canada needs a carbon tax, and one party can win and deliver on it, and the other will struggle to get a seat, which one do you think I’d vote for?  I think Dion is banking on absorbing some of the green vote to put him over the top.

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Earnestly contend for the faith

Following the fallout from Lakeland I’m seeing lots of different explanations for what happened. People seem more polarized than ever. While some people like Lee Grady moved solidly in to the critic’s camp, others like Patricia King are laying part of the blame on the revival’s critics . While the Lakeland event has subsided, the tension continues. The conflict between may just be beginning.

What has brought us here? For far too long the church has looked a lot like the Corinthians.

2Co 11:3-4,20-21 NET “But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough!… For you put up with it if someone makes slaves of you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone behaves arrogantly toward you, if someone strikes you in the face. (To my disgrace I must say that we were too weak for that!) …”

The more things change the more they remain the same. Instead of pure and sincere devotion we want quick fix spirituality, healing, and prosperity. We want blessings but no sacrifice. We want the benefits without the cost. We want the power and the glory. We want a free ride. Those who want to provide those things for us lift up the name of Jesus but which Jesus is it? Even in Paul’s day people preached Christ but it was a different Christ, a redefined Christ. In the charismatic movement discernment isn’t much more than a gauge of feelings or proclaimed manifestations. This isn’t enough, it has never been enough.

People, especially charismatics desperately want to see “revival” or an “outpouring” in their own life. They will go to great lengths to will some sort of healing or manifestation in to existence. I was one of those people back in the “laughing revival” in the old Toronto days. If you get enough people mesmerized with enough repetitive singing they start seeing and feeling precisely what they want to. Doubt does creep in later but it is usually stuffed in to the back as you go with the flow of everyone around you. On a historical note I was a part of a church that experienced the “Toronto blessing.” It completely imploded when one leader’s moral shortcomings became apparent to all. People were devastated. One of the most dedicated whole life mission kind of Christians I knew walked away from church and has yet to return.

There are some who don’t want us to “judge” Todd and just pray for him and his family. I acknowledge that we can’t judge someone’s heart or the purity of their motives. Only God knows the motives our hearts. That doesn’t mean we can’t discern the facts and look at the factors that lead to this unravelling disaster. What so many of the ‘we can’t judge’ crowd miss is how much spiritual, social, and emotional death and destruction that is sown in the body of Christ because of this. These events are far bigger than just one man or one family. To ignore the causes and the impact of what happened at Lakeland is to do a terrible disservice to the weary and the wounded.

A lot of pro-lakeland people are accusing the critics of being Pharisees, bitter, jealous or even demonically inspired. The truth is a lot of the most poignant critics are people who care. People who care about the weary, the crushed, the disappointed and the wounded. They are the survivors from past disasters.

These disasters happen because of deep theological and systematic flaws. Most people in charismania don’t want to consider this. They don’t want the charade to end because it would call in to question so much of what they have invested in. Deep down inside many of them know. The doubts at the back of their mind filter forward to the front. “After all these conferences, books, tapes, impartations and manifestations I’m no different. Maybe there is something wrong with me because everyone else talks about how powerful their relationship with God is. I just need to really pray and get committed.” Doubts are pushed back and people trudge on. Sadly many of us started pealing back the layers of this onion and discovered there is very little substance at the core. What is left is our own pride and selfish desire for more wealth, more spiritual power, more prestige and more glory. Read this testimony of a woman who came out of Lakeland to get a deeper picture of this.

We have to return to substance. Those us who know better have to stand up and in the words of Paul “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Today we have more of an opportunity than we’ve had in the past. Up until recently our groupings, denominational and otherwise, have insulated us from each other. In the past when major events would break out one would have to drop in to participate in the experience. Today with the advent of blogs, forums, and online video we can watch things unfold in near real time.

There are critics that went overboard with mockery and inflammatory rhetoric, no question. But there was an amazing amount of collaboration and cooperation among people. Some people did a lot of work sifting through stuff like video, property records, and websites. At times it was a bit surreal seeing voices from the hard core fundies, the truly reformed and the post-charismatics all echoing the same concerns. It was clear that an impact was made. Public figures really have to watch what they say because there is a whole army of people ready to double check all the facts. Those on the outside were able to document the errors and excesses of the movement. Even if they did it in an inflammatory way the video evidence was incontrovertible.

We must continue to leverage new media to bring a measure of accountability to the body that has not existed. Many of us have abdicated our roles to speak up. As the details about Todd’s flaws are revealed it is exceedingly apparent that people would have known and they said nothing. No one wanted to stop the “glory” train or perhaps I should say gravy train.

As Paul advised Jude we must earnestly contend for the faith. To contend for something is strive for it in the face of opposition. My thanks go out to those who have contended for the faith in face of criticism and slanderous attacks. There is more to come. It appears very few are learning what they need to. Charismatic Christianity has as much credibility as a sub-prime mortgage and there is a deep need for a tremendous turn around.

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Lakeland Outpouring fallout

Bene passed on the unfortunate news that Todd Bentley has filed for separation from his wife which in Canada is usually the legal prelude to divorce.  Some couples do reconcile before getting a divorce though.   Todd received a huge endorsement from several major players in the charismatic/prophetic/apostolic movement not too long ago.  There was a huge commissioning service  you can see on youtube (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) .  In this service many prophetic words were spoken which seem extremely unlikely now.  Already one of the major players, C. Peter Wagner,  is distancing himself from Bentley.

Bentley’s marital problems are really the latest of several easily discernable blows to the movement.  The Internet and youtube played a prominent role in both the promotion and discernment of the Lakeland Outpouring.  God.TV promoted it and a legion of bloggers and youtube broadcasters combed through the video highlighting false doctrine, inconsistencies, and strange behaviour.  Another blow came when the mainstream media couldn’t find an independently verified miracle connected with the Lakeland Outpouring.

Often Christian organizations construct boards and councils to ensure accountability.  Far too often this mechanism fails because boards can be filled with "yes men."  A board loses a lot of potency when the leader of the organization decides who gets to be on it.   True accountability occurs when there is transparency and openness, when people with concerns can share them without fear of being attacked or sidelined. 

It is telling that some in the "New Apostolic Reformation", those that stress that everyone needs to be properly aligned with God’s apostolic authority and covering, are among those who uncritically endorsed Bentley and the Lakeland Outpouring in public.  It seems as through proper alignment with the apostles amounted to very little in this case. 

I’ve long been critical of the NAR because imposing control through hierarchy is the surest way to undermine true fellowship and accountability.  In his letter to the Corinthians Paul advises "let the prophets speak and the let the others judge."  A key part of this voice is letting people thinking through things on their own.  They shouldn’t be systematically coerced or manipulated in to giving approval to everything that is going on.

One of the more devastating components to this whole mess for me is the involvement of Rick Joyner.  Rick was at the commissioning service and has given Todd and an enthusiastic approval.  You can even find the DVD’s for the recent Bentley impartation service on the MorningStar website.  Mr. Joyner has a lot of favour in my city and has had considerable influence amongst the charismatic community I’m familiar with.  In my opinion he has written some very compelling stuff.  TheHeresy.com used to be primarily a clearinghouse for Rick Joyner’s stuff.  I started becoming less sure of Joyner after his reaction to 9/11.  Eventually I converted this website to a blog and most of his stuff is gone.  The ministry he is affiliated with, MorningStar, has progressively become more and more commercial following the same path that several other charismatic ministries have taken.

This should be a wake up call.  Only God knows Todd Bentley’s heart is but my guess would be that he is a sincere gifted Christian.  The way things are setup with the money, the hype, the cult of personality I don’t know how anyone can survive it without compromise.  I don’t think I could handle it if the superstars of the Christian world stood on a stage and publicly proclaimed me to be God’s "living epistle" to the world.  What a total mind job! 

I think a lot of this comes down to money.  We start selling a few T-shirts and hats to "support the ministry" and we find ourselves tangled in a web of marketing, hype, manipulation and commercialism.  We have to return to simplicity and give up the quest for money in ministry.  We cannot serve two masters.

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Obama and McCain trying to out tax cut each other

Watching this video you’ll see lots of juicy tax cuts promised by Obama. I presume that McCain is offer is own set of tax cuts.

Now check The Truth in 2008 and you’ll see that America cannot afford social security, medicare, foreign debt and lower taxes.

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I.O.U.S.A.

Check out the trailer for the documentary I.O.U.S.A. coming out this August.

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