Sunday, June 29, 2008

Next saga in the revival

We found out that Todd Bentley is coming to UNT to hold a meeting in the basketball stadium this Thursday, the 3rd. Its about 3 miles from our house. So we are going over there to see him. Our church isn't doing anything as far as hosting goes, but Chuck Pierce is going to introduce and welcome him. We hold our conferences in that stadium, so we know our way around there. That's handy.

The interesting thing we heard was that he held a meeting in South Carolina recently, and the people in charge told him that they'd gotten a facility that holds 6000, with room for 2000 overflow. He said that he didn't need a space that big-only in Florida were the meetings that big. (10,000 every night for the last couple of months.) On the way to the meeting, the traffic was so bad that the Highway Patrol had to come escort Todd and his group down the center divider to get to the meeting place. The traffic was from all the people coming to the meeting, and they had to turn away 8000 people.

So, we have decided to get there a few hours early, and bring our dinner for a picnic while we wait. It should be interesting to see what happens. I'll give a report here later.

It will also be interesting to see if the Todd Bentley meeting makes a difference at our church that weekend. I'm going to make sure I have extra workers available for the childcare, just in case.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Florida Revival

I wanted to alert you all to the revival happening right now in Lakeland, Florida. The main minister involved is Todd Bentley, who's ministry we've been watching for a few years now. He is Canadian, and has a very intense testimony, which you can read about in his book "Journey into the Miraculous." He's about 32, is covered with tattoos and piercings, and looks kind of like a shorter William. I've been impressed with his writing and speaking; we've listened to some sermons on his Fresh Fire Ministries website. He's very well grounded in scripture, and obviously has a deep intimacy with the Lord. If you watch the YouTube coverage of the Florida revival, you may not see him giving much content; just getting zapped a lot, and praying for healing for people. For a better examination of his message, look at the Fresh Fire Ministries website.

MSNBC just recently published an article about the Florida revival. I encourage you to read the article here. One of the reasons I decided to write this blog was because of the following paragraph from the MSNBC article:

Not everyone is comfortable with this expression of Christianity, including some Protestant theologians. R. Douglas Geivett, a professor at the conservative, evangelical Talbot School of Theology, is deeply skeptical of the "Florida outpouring" and does not believe Bentley’s claims of supernatural healing are consistent with Christian doctrine

"I don’t think it fits neatly into any branch of Christianity," said Geivett.
"Mr. Bentley’s worldview appears to be a mixture of New Age notions, an obsession with the paranormal, and an untutored grasp of Christian theology."

Most of us reading this blog know Doug Geivett, if not personally, then by close association. He's a good guy, and we have been learning from him for years. Knowing his Biblical scholarship, it is surprising to me that he believes that supernatural healing is not consistent with Christian doctrine. All it takes is a cursory look the New Testament to see that healing is a common thread in the ministries of the main leaders in the early church, and of course Jesus. And we've all heard stories of missionaries who had miraculous encounters with Jesus, or angels, and we probably know someone here in America who has been healed by the Lord. So why is it so hard to stomach something like the Florida revival?

One thing I've learned in my experience with the Lord is that there is always an offense that comes with the moves of the Holy Spirit. To receive what the Lord is doing, there is a requirement of humility and faith.

For example: The Virgin Birth. Who in their right mind would believe that a virgin would bear a child? That doctrine right there keeps people out of the church who cannot make that leap of faith. How about Jesus coming as a Servant, not a Conquering King? The NT shows the havoc that wreaked in the Jewish religious community. And of course, Jesus, a man, claiming to be one in the same as God. That one got him crucified. How about the doctrine of Grace? If you can't accept that you don't have what it takes to get to heaven on your own merit, you've missed the whole point. But it takes humility to get over that one.

In every instance of life change in the Bible, there is a requirement of humility and faith: Naaman dipping seven times in the Jordan to be healed of leprosy; the widow giving Elijah the last of her oil and flour for food, which the Lord multiplied for them and then resurrected her son who died; the entire story of Jonah; Daniel; Mary and Joseph; Nicodemus; The Roman Centurion; The ten lepers; and on and on through the Resurrection and Pentecost, and all the stories of the early church. Even the book of Revelation is a vision, which John had to receive by faith. It's the only pattern we have for our Christian walk.

Then of course there are the various revivals throughout history. There are always those who can embrace the thing God is doing, and there are always those who can't. Revivals necessarily include an emotional response, because people are being confronted with the deep love that Jesus has for them. If you haven't experienced what it feels like to know that Jesus loves you beyond measure, just like you are today, because He made you to be who you are, and knows everything in your heart and mind and still loves you, even in your sin and inadequacy, then ask him to show you what it feels like. It is a feeling like no other. I can't describe it adequately, except to say that it's like having a ball of peace down inside your chest, where anxiety used to be. It's overwhelming, and all you can do is worship.

We have a new song that we sing at our church all about how Jesus loves us. You can hear it here. Here are the words:
He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how gread Your affections are for me
And oh, how He loves us so, oh how He loves us.
We are His portions and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we're all sinking
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violenly inside of my chest
I don't have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way
He loves us, oh how He loves us
Last week I was sitting up with the kids to the left side of the stage, and while we were singing it, I looked over the audience and saw people all over crying. It was because they were feeling the love that Jesus has for them, and being ministered to in a deep place in their spirit.

When I watch what is happening in Florida, it looks crazy. People are crying, and falling down, and shaking, and singing, and laughing. There are non-stop stories of healings and even resurrections from the dead. But having experienced what it feels like to be overwhelmingly loved by Jesus, I can understand, at least a little, what's going on there. Healing is always a result of Jesus' love. It is never a reward to us because we are good enough, or did something right. His love carries the offense that all true love does. It isn't based on my ability to earn it. I'm not loved because I deserve it. I'm loved because He just wants to love me.

You may hear more in the future about the Florida revival. It's been going on for over about two months now. I hope that as you evaluate it, you will remember the humility and faith that it takes to receive any move of God, and not just write it off because it looks so extraordinary.