Apparently there is a new controversy involving the former Lakeland evangelist leader Todd Bentley who had lost his position of leadership due to adultery and divorce and remarriage to the woman he had committed adultery with. His restoration was apparently unsuccessful and he has allegedly gone from bad to worse. It grieves me to even have to write about it, but I’m being asked questions about it, and I feel it needs to be addressed from a different standpoint than just finger-pointing and trying to figure out who to blame. I am posting here a letter to the editor I sent to Charisma for your consideration and prayer, all the while remembering that “but for the grace of God, go I.” I write it in brokenness and a humbled heart, knowing that all of us are held together by Jesus’ forgiveness and merciful grace:
“I am sure I am a minority voice here for a number of reasons, But as someone who was saved at 15 in 1969, filled with the Spirit a week later, and saved out of a heavy occult background and delivered from great darkness, I saw the Charismatic movement begin to go off the rails almost immediately after that. It was a wonderful thing God did in the Jesus movement and the early days of the “Charismatic” movement, but then came the prosperity gospel, off-base deliverance ministries, and the abominable and devastating Shepherding movement. All the while, I was wondering why the leaders didn’t have the discernment necessary to keep the boat from capsizing.
I still believe in all the gifts of the Spirit, prophecy, healing, etc. But the misuses have just grown exponentially since then. The “Toronto Blessing” where Todd started out as a “somewhat normal” believer, a movement that spawned the laughter movement that resulted in people barking like dogs, slithering like snakes and even oinking like a pig and calling it, “The anoinking of the Spirit” gave birth to the current spate of weirdness including angelology, gemology, justified necromancy (visiting with saints who are dead in heaven) and even Kaballah practices, especially in many messianic circles. I am sorry if this upsets people, but as ONE OF YOU I feel I have a right and a responsibility to say these things. Todd Bentley began seeing and hearing manifestations, began getting tatted up all the way on every arm and up his face, and then came the kicking people, the uncontrollable shaking. If you have the nerve to google “Hindu Impartation” videos, you will be shocked to see that they have the exact same manifestations you saw in Florida and continue to see in other meetings, Todd said a female angel brought him bags of money and told him he’d be seeing this every night. He made outrageous claims to have visited with departed saints. And all the while, the NAR folks etc anointed him, proclaimed him a worldwide apostle etc. Where was the discernment, forget about the adultery which got exposed later, I think anyone with even a MODICUM of discernment would have been absolutely grieved over it all, and would NEVER call it a move of God. Folks, we are in a time the bible says we will see signs and lying wonders. But none dare discern and call them such for fear of offending the Holy Spirit, or worse, “authorities.” And unfortunately a few that did discern were so abrasive and so quick to scream “heretic” that they lost the ability to be heard.But enough is enough. THIS.WAS.NOT.FROM.GOD. I warned about it in a book called Trojan Church in 2006 before he got exposed, and yet people persisted in following him. He got exposed, Rick Joyner “restored” him and now here is the result. And I am shocked by how everyone is jumping off the Titanic claiming they weren’t at all responsible.
I am praying that God sends a healthy dose of repentance and true revelation to all the leaders and people involved in this modern signs and wonders movement. If God turns some of the leaders around there may be some hope that they will end the folly and cry out for a true move of God. I write this with a grieved and a broken heart. Jesus, set us free. Apparently the evangelist Todd Bentley is in trouble again, and allegedly his restoration from ungodly activities was short-lived. I think it is important to post a few thoughts I shared on the Charisma news site:
“I am sure I am a minority voice here for a number of reasons, But as someone who was saved at 15 in 1969, filled with the Spirit a week later, and saved out of a heavy occult background and delivered from great darkness, I saw the Charismatic movement begin to go off the rails almost immediately after that. It was a wonderful thing God did in the Jesus movement and the early days of the “Charismatic” movement, but then came the prosperity gospel, off-base deliverance ministries, and the abominable and devastating Shepherding movement. All the while, I was wondering why the leaders didn’t have the discernment necessary to keep the boat from capsizing.
I still believe in all the gifts of the Spirit, prophecy, healing, etc. But the misuses have just grown exponentially since then. The “Toronto Blessing” where Todd started out as a “somewhat normal” believer, a movement that spawned the laughter movement that resulted in people barking like dogs, slithering like snakes and even oinking like a pig and calling it, “The anoinking of the Spirit” gave birth to the current spate of weirdness including angelology, gemology, justified necromancy (visiting with saints who are dead in heaven) and even Kaballah practices, especially in many messianic circles. I am sorry if this upsets people, but as ONE OF YOU I feel I have a right and a responsibility to say these things. Todd Bentley began seeing and hearing manifestations, began getting tatted up all the way on every arm and up his face, and then came the kicking people, the uncontrollable shaking. If you have the nerve to google “Hindu Impartation” videos, you will be shocked to see that they have the exact same manifestations you saw in Florida and continue to see in other meetings. Todd said a female angel brought him bags of money and told him he’d be seeing this every night. He made outrageous claims to have visited with departed saints. And all the while, the NAR folks etc anointed him, proclaimed him a worldwide apostle, etc. Where was the discernment, forget about the adultery which got exposed later, I think anyone with even a MODICUM of discernment would have been absolutely grieved over it all, and would NEVER call it a move of God. Folks, we are in a time the bible says we will see signs and lying wonders. But none dare discern and call them such for fear of offending the Holy Spirit, or worse, “authorities.” And unfortunately, a few that did discern were so abrasive and so quick to scream “heretic” that they lost the ability to be heard. But enough is enough. THIS.WAS.NOT.FROM.GOD. I warned about it in a book called Trojan Church in 2006 before he got exposed, and yet people persisted in following him. He got exposed, Rick Joyner “restored” him and now, here is the result. And I am shocked by how everyone is jumping off the Titanic claiming they weren’t at all responsible.
I am praying that God sends a healthy dose of repentance and true revelation to all the leaders and people involved in this modern signs and wonders movement. If God turns some of the leaders around there may be some hope that they will end the folly and cry out for a true move of God. I write this with a grieved and broken heart. Jesus, set us free.
Gregory R Reid
“…That we may be like all the nations.” (1 Samuel 8:20)
Nobody likes to not fit in. Billions of dollars are spent on advertising each year, in fact, to tell us how to fit in. You need these clothes, that video game, this music CD, these shoes, that car. Culture does not create the marketplace. The market creates the culture. We are told on a continual basis what we need to be cool, the “it” thing, successful, healthy. And the more we do things to be “different”, the more we look just like the rest of the herd.
One thing I love about God is that He doesn’t want us to be anything but what we are – who we are – in our hearts. I wish we knew this.
Christian music is getting weaker and weaker because we “want to be like all the nations.” Unless a miracle happens, I may have bought my last Christian CD. I can’t stand the shallowness of it anymore. It all sounds just like the world’s music, only with insipid, shallow Christian feel-good lyrics. In our desire to create music the world can “relate” to, we’ve left out the Creator who can make music the world is ASTOUNDED by.
When is the last time you played a Christian CD for an unbeliever and they were astounded, or said, “Wow! That got my HEART!”
There was a time, you know. There was a man named Keith Green, who was about to become a music superstar. He found Jesus and poured his life into writing and singing about Him. He sounded and wrote like NO ONE ELSE, not in the world, not in the church. His songs burned with the convicting power of GOD. People left his concerts angry or changed forever.
There was a band called “The 2nd Chapter of Acts.” It was three skinny kids, who, when they sang, leveled audiences. Everyone knew their lyrics and harmonies were not human. They were angelic. From the moment they sang, the power of God descended and crowds were caught up in devastating worship. They weren’t slick, they didn’t dress cool. They were just VESSELS OF THE HOLY.
I weep when I listen to what is produced today. It is STERILE. It is lifeless. Well-intentioned, but lifeless. In striving to sound like the world, we have succeeded fabulously. But there is no power to redeem.
Music and worship are so important to God that He sent the worshipers first onto the battlefield. How can we expect to see lives changed if we don’t create music with that kind of gravity? How can a Christian musician hope to be anything but a passing fad, unless they come close enough to the Holy of Holies to at least be brushed with the wings and winds of the Holy Angels?
No, we can only have it two ways; either to “be like other nations” or cry out for His anointing on our music, career or not.
You won’t make many friends that way. One of the other “prophets of music” was Steve Camp, whose first albums were wildly successful, fun things. Then he got serious. He wrote songs about commitment, sacrifice, suffering, and the cross. I went to a concert here, watched the 500 or so people party while he sang his fun stuff – then watched ¾ of them get up and walk out when he sang and challenged them to surrender everything. By not “being like the other nations”, he lost his shallow audience – but gained a Friend.
There’s no space to write extensively about Christian books, but it’s the same concept. Shallow, fun, sensational and romantic sell. Books with depth tank or never see the light of day. Secular trends become our own, and our best sellers are “just like the other nations”, but nicer, with a nice “Jesus touch.”
The church has grown trendy, hip, multimedia, seeker friendly, more comfortable. It’s hard to tell many church services from an Amway convention these days. We wanted to reach (impress) the world using their methods and their tools, but there is little conviction, there is no challenge, there is no sacrifice. Just a nice place to go once or twice a week, a place we leave unchanged.
We recently had a youth Bible study where God walked in totally unexpectedly and began to put His finger on things we were holding on to from the world. It wasn’t fun, it hurt, it was scary. But it was real. I left thinking, “This is what’s missing.” Most youth ministries are bent on attracting the world through fun, excitement, and a cool trendy youth pastor, so we can “relate” to the world and they to us. “Just like the other nations.” But what is needed is the power of God present and working in youth groups through real worship and the pure Word. If we do not set a higher standard, it’s just fun and games, youth babysitting. Lives will not be changed. Just modified. Nicer kids, but not transformed kids.
God has called us to be a “peculiar people.” Not weird. Although, if we take Him seriously, we’ll be unlike anyone or anything the world has seen. We cannot become life-changing people until we LET GO of the longing for success, popularity, likeability, numbers or acceptance. We must give up all the desire to be “like the other nations.”
God is calling a generation who want to be NOTHING like the other nations, who despise their trinkets, deny their lures, and have no desire to imitate their trends. He’s calling those who will enter the Holy Place to receive eternal music and worship, write with the words of the prophets, preach like Paul and walk in supernatural miracles like it was a common walk. Come up higher, saints. Let go of the world and all its loves. Give Him all, and expect His all – and watch God change the world!
So many Christians are bound by a “rapture mentality” that they have consistently failed to see the wolves at the gate. It has been so for generations. I remember clearly Corrie ten Boom telling of a Chinese pastor that wept as he told her, “I preached that the church would be raptured before the tribulation. Then the communists came and my people were not prepared for suffering and even death because of their faith.” He could hardly live with himself.
I truly hope Jesus comes back before the tribulation, but for the suffering church worldwide, it is hardly an issue – they are already suffering in a way we cannot fathom here.
This is not about theology, but about being prepared. And we are not.
Having been a believer since 1969, there have been many times when world events were so out of control that I anxiously wondered, “Is Jesus about to return? Is this it?” He did not then, but mark my words, He WILL come. After a number of years, one learns to discern the times better. We are near. Believers who can discern the times and the intent of God for our age will be crucial in the days ahead. So I want to share with you what I see.
This was a political year, but so much more. If we had seen “beyond the veil” we would have seen a clash of angelic and demonic so savage it would have terrified us. It is bigger than Iraq, the war on terror, or the economy. It is about our national soul. The only thing preventing judgment is the prayers of the believers.
One of the things we consistently heard during the campaign was, “This nation is deeply divided,” That is correct, Let’s talk about that.
Centuries ago, Israel too was deeply divided. A man named Elijah came to divide it right in two. In fact, he came to clarify and finalize that division. The country was so corrupt that God sent Elijah to draw the line – a dividing line: “Who is on the Lord’s side?” Fire came from heaven and consumed corrupters and corrupted alike – those who chose their corruption over God Himself. Not exactly the candidate of unity, was he?
And that’s where we’ve gotten it wrong. After the Passion of the Christ, I constantly heard, “Jesus came to preach peace.” He certainly did not. He said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace, but a sword, For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother….and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
In the church’s zeal to attract the world, imitate the world and not offend the world, we have lost our fire. We’ve forgotten that we are called to be separate – spiritual troublemakers – ones who turn the world upside down! We are called to be – dare I say it? Dividers. Dividing truth from lie, reality from fantasy, righteousness from sin and corruption. Who we are are, what we believe, who we belong to will put us in direct opposition to the spirit of this age, the antichrist spirit. Get used to it. It’s about to get a lot worse.
But, you say, aren’t we supposed to love people and bring them to Jesus? Of course. But we aren’t a tourist bureau. “Come to the Kingdom – great views, great food, friendly people!”
No. Better to see it as a house on fire while people sleep. You don’t knock and say, “Sorry to bother, but, uh, come over to our house – it’s not on fire. And we LOVE you!”
No, love dictates that we use any and all means to wake people up and get them OUT of the burning house! Don’t ask firefighters to be polite. And don’t ask a true Christian to be inoffensive. The cross, Paul said, is an offense to those who are perishing.
In these last days, people will be saved not because they find it fun but because they find it a matter of life or death.
This was a year that was politically divided – and decided – by the Christian vote. I was taken aback. All my years I’ve seen elections come and go and Christians largely took an, “It doesn’t matter, Jesus is coming back” attitude. I guess we finally realized that while we basked away in our comfortable churches, the devil had been taking our most precious liberties, our beliefs, and our children. This year it got serious. The ten commandments were banned from public places. People were demanding the right to have a doctor pull a 2nd trimester baby from the womb, jam a metal tube into its brain and suck its life out. (It’s called partial birth abortion.) And to top it all, gays were demanding marriage rights and some courts gave it to them. In one year, satan moved his three favorite issues to the front of the line – the elimination of God’s law, the slaughter of babies (infant sacrifice, like the old testament) and the destruction of sexual wholeness for our children.
Perhaps Christians heard the anti-God, antichrist rhetoric and began to see the handwriting on the wall. Perhaps some remembered Nazi Germany, where Christians largely did NOTHING until it was too late. Perhaps they saw into the future, and realized that if we did not act, our future liberty to preach the Gospel of truth will be in danger.
In any event, Christians did respond this time. And clearly, the prevailing issue that turned the tide was neither the economy or the war. It was morality.
Almost as soon as the election ended, the angry cries began: It’s the Christians who ruined this election. The “Jesus freaks”, as one politician and several activists called us. Michael Moore blamed “Jesus Land.” If you are too dull to detect the demonic venom in these reactions, you are in real trouble.
There is a backlash coming. Take advantage of the next 4 years to do everything possible to further the Kingdom of God. The storm is gathering in wicked human hearts, and before it is over, a raw hatred for believers will explode and rage to destroy those who will stand for truth, cost what it may.
And this is where we are at the crossroads. It has been easier to be a Christian in this country than anywhere on earth in history. Think about that. We go to church when and where we want, talk to people about the Lord without going to jail or being beheaded. In former bastions of liberty like Europe and Canada, anti-Semitism and persecution for believers are forcing Christians to count the cost of true discipleship. Europe, in fact, is very much shaping up to be the antichrist government we once envisioned only in last days books and movies. The fiction is becoming fact – fast. Even the EU financial system has been given a chilling name – OCCULT.
What does that have to do with us in the States? The tide will begin to rise against believers. We believe in the good news of Jesus; but if you read the book of Acts, repentance was preached. In addition, idolatry and sorcery were opposed and immorality decried. Paul opposed a sorcerer and he went blind! Not exactly our modern version of “friendship evangelism.”
The crossroads we face is a crisis of the Word of God, the holy Scriptures. It is time to get past “devotional reading” and seize the Word of God for revolutionary LIVING. It is time to stop treating the scriptures like a comforting pillow and take it up as a life transforming sword.
The other day I was attempting to eat a pomegranate that had sat too long. As I cracked it open, I found half of it was ripe and half was rot. If any of it was to be edible, the rotten half had to be cut away and discarded. If I had not done it then, the rotted half would have quickly infected and destroyed the healthy fruit.
In a moment, I saw the church. For the sake of “unity” we have kept the church “whole.” But as we have sat idle, the spiritual rot within has begun to infect the whole. Believers standing for corrupt moral-political spokespeople, the pursuit of prosperity rather than godliness, the softening and watering down of the offensive message of the cross in order to be “seeker friendly” – and worse – the publication of corrupted versions of the scripture such as “Good As New” to accommodate licentious lifestyles, the acceptance of occult literature as messages about God (see “Looking for God in Harry Potter”), and that which no church in history has ever dared do – ordain homosexual priests.
The devil loves a void, and he has come into our midst and sown his rot, and it is becoming a cancer to the parts of the church body that, although healthy, have been spiritually apathetic, idle, content and unused.
The Sword of Truth will be wielded to sever the corrupt from the whole – to cut off the leaven of compromise from the unleavened that remains.
Every believer must decide whether the Word of God, and the truth of it – every word – is true – and if true, to be willing to speak it, live it, and use it, to fight for the truth, cost what it may.
Because the church has idly rested, contented, avoiding the battle for our nation’s future, the wolves are at the gate. Seizing on the opportunity of our sense of ease and invincibility, the devil is coming to challenge our very ability to preach the Word of God with liberty in our churches.
In Canada, you can now be charged with a hate crime for reading scriptures against homosexuality in a negative way and be jailed. Some already have.
Last week I was visiting some of our college kids at Starbucks. While standing in line, I realized there was a couple engaged in a passionate kiss right in front of me. It was two young MEN. My world spun. I went home in shock. “Where have I BEEN?”, I said aloud. Then I realized the gay issue (which I have had to address more times in the last month than in the last ten years with youth) is going to be the first volley in this war. It’s as if I could hear the devil say, “Yes, just try to oppose this. You’ll go to jail for this if you do.” In fact, even trying to reach the gay community for Jesus is going to bring furious opposition.
It was then I realized that I had to make my own decision at this crossroads: Will I let anyone, any man or any law forbid me to preach any scripture from the Word of God? NO! A thousand times NO! If I do not have the guts to preach ALL of the Word of God, I am not fit to preach ANY of it. My decision was made: I will not be silenced. I will proclaim the truth in love, cost what I may. It may one day cost everything. So be it.
The first issue may be homosexuality, but on its heels, the time may come when anyone who speaks the truth about witchcraft, drug use, fornication or adultery will be violently opposed and perhaps charged with a hate crime. Remember, John was beheaded for opposing Herod’s adulterous marriage. It may not come tomorrow. But it WILL come.
And what of these coming days for us? Israel continues to be the flash pan and focus of Biblical and prophetic human history. With the Sanhedrin reseated for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, all things point to the coming of Jesus and the fulfillment of all things written in the Book.
And how do we respond? Recently I shared my excited response concerning prophetic events with some folks – excited because even though hard times are ahead, our redemption draws near.
The response from one person downplayed all I had said, casting questions on my interpretation of prophecy, comforting everyone not to be afraid because, they said. GOD WOULD NOT LET US BE HURT BY ANYTHING. But the blood of the saints and martyrs past and present are testimony against such false security. He said He would sustain us THROUGH – not AROUND – tribulation. And, I realized, in my call to prepare believers and raise up young warriors who can stand the test, the opposition will come from within as well as without – from those frightened of suffering, from those refusing to follow the Way of the Cross, from those unwilling to give up comfortable lives to enter into the Battle of the Ages – from those who read the Word of God as pick-and-choose words of comfort (and they are comforting) rather than a manual for battle and a call to total surrender.
We are soon approaching another mount of decision where the mad prophets of Baal will face the true Elijahs of God, and all must decide: “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
At this crossroads lies the Word of God. Pick it up. Embrace it to your heart. Absorb it. And then speak it, preach it, believe it and use it – and to you will belong the strength to stand, the power of God to do miracles, the message of salvation and the Hope of Eternity,
Any other road in this hour of decision is spiritual insanity.
- Read your Bible consistently, diligently and frequently. “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightfully dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Neither Jesus nor His followers ever deviated from the truth of the Word. If it’s not in there, it’s not from God. (John 17:17) “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) Paul didn’t teach classes on how to speak in tongues or how to prophesy. He taught believers from the scriptures how to follow Jesus and walk with Him. Everything else followed and was always based on scripture.
This is an extraordinarily Biblically illiterate generation, and most Christians can only recite one or two Bible verses. That is a setup for deception. “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) If His Word isn’t hidden in you, then you can easily be led astray by an experience, or a vision, or a prophecy, or a teaching, many of which feel good, sound good and often come from good people, even well-intentioned people. But Paul said “But if I, or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8) Scary words. So if you want to keep from being deceived, know your Word, and reject what is not found in that Word. Otherwise, you have nothing to go on; one person’s experience is as “valid” as the next person’s, and without that measure of what is true and what is a lie that the scriptures give, there is no way to tell which is which.
- Try the spirits. “Beloved, believe not every spirit but try the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
It was true then, it is true now, and in the light of Paul’s clear word that “…the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter time some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1), we better quite sure test the person, and the spirit that is working through them, to make sure they are from God. Just because a person talks about Jesus and quotes a few verses, or even does miracles, it doesn’t mean a thing. Paul said, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Cor. 11:14-15) If false prophets come, how would you expect them to act? Talk? Demonstrate? They will be just like real servants of the Lord, except they will be false. Try the spirits: make sure what you are seeing and hearing and experiencing is Biblical, consistent with scripture and true to it. If not, walk away.
That doesn’t give you permission, by the way, to call someone a heretic if they don’t share your personal position on the rapture, speaking in tongues, method of baptism etc. As long as they are not blatantly UNBiblical or prophesying nonsense or predicting things that do not come true, give people a little leeway. We are not perfect and we are not judging hearts but examining the words and actions that will either find them approved in Christ, or of another nature, another spirit.
Do not think it cannot, and does not, happen. I have lived as a believer for over 49 years and I have seen dozens of false prophets who sounded just like Biblical preachers, who ended up, for example, like the Children of God’s David Berg who led tens of thousands of people astray, molested his own son who later killed his nanny and then killed himself, and taught some of the most blasphemous teachings ever taught in our lifetime. He started out preaching what sounded Biblical, but in a short time he turned his followers into mindless slaves of a sex cult that ruined thousands of lives and is still doing so after his death. The same with Jim Jones, an “inclusive, diverse” Church of Christ preacher in San Francisco who fed the poor, cared for the lonely and disenfranchised – all good things! But then he started preaching to his large church about not needing the Bible, only him…and then led over 900 people to their suicide in Guyana. Try the spirits. Anyone else claiming the title prophet, apostle, seer, etc. better have the scriptural goods, the backing of others as well as the authority that comes from Jesus, or you need to run. Anyone can call themselves anything in these days and gain a following, that is unfortunately how lacking foundation many in the church are.
- Question anything that seems off to you. I’m not talking about your own personal doctrinal preference like when the church is going to be taken out or whether you have to be immersed or you can be sprinkled, but a teaching or activity or manifestation that just doesn’t seem right or feel right. For example, only people who have lost all sense of discernment believe slithering like a snake on the floor or other animal manifestations are a manifestation of the Spirit of the Holy God. And yet I have seen whole congregations caught up in that obviously unholy activity. We are not senseless sheep, and in the end, Jesus is our Chief Shepherd. We are accountable to know “whether these things are so.” (Acts 17:11) We are, like the Bereans, to hear, but then to “search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” And if they are not, you need to confront it and/or walk away. Do it in order, do things decently, but don’t just go along with something that is clearly unbiblical, no matter how much it is presented as true.
There are young people in my Bible study. It is not uncommon for them to question certain things that I say or teach. And they are absolutely right to do so. Beware of those who present a “who are you to question me” response when asked about things. That in itself is a huge red flag. We need to be humbly prepared to answer honest questions. If we’re not willing to do that, we need to go find a job somewhere other than ministry. We are called to be servants, not masters.
- Pray for discernment. 1 Corinthians 12:10 lists discerning of spirits as being one of the gifts or manifestations of the Holy Spirit in us and through us. It is not only the gift to discern demonic presences when they are somewhere or operating in someone, but to discern the nature of a person’s spirit as well, their motives, their actions and even their spiritual state at times.
But it is not just a gift: It is something needing development as well. “But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14) Senses are a “faculty of the mind for perceiving, understanding, judging.” And how do you develop this all-important discernment? By learning the Word of God, by prayer and by using it. Discernment is nearly entirely lacking in the western church today. It requires the maturity to detect a lie or error or deception, or a deceiver, or a wolf, and confront these things, and sometimes people. In an era when the world screams, “The Bible says judge not!” (The only verse they know and like!) Jesus in fact said not to judge according to outward appearance but judge righteous judgment. (John 7:24) Someone has to keep the foxes out of the henhouse and the wolves away from the sheep! Discernment gives you the spiritual eyesight and capacity to confront and chase these things away.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the background, teaching and lifestyle of the messenger. Many people get deceived by overlooking little doctrinal issues, unscriptural practices or ungodly lifestyles out of the public eye and choosing to follow a person regardless. Again, there can be doctrinal disagreements, maybe a quirky ministry style in praying or something, and human quirks we all have. But if someone is, as one well-known evangelist was, kicking people in the stomach to heal them, teaching about unscriptural visions of angels and conversations with dead saints of the Bible and living an adulterous lifestyle offstage, to continue to follow them will cause you to fall into the same deceptions they themselves teach and even worse.
It’s ok to expect more from our leaders and teachers in terms of integrity, biblical truth and moral character than we would people who do not hold that holy place of service. And when you see them doing things that clearly violate these things, you are commanded to flee, or confront, but not to ignore. These things only grow worse with time.
- Talk things out with others. There are many, many teachers, prophets, apostles etc. in our age of superstar Christianity. And many wrongfully assume because a person has a large following, they must be from God. I remind people that Hitler had a large following and Jesus a very small one, so never decide that a thing or person is from God just because they have a large following. Do not assume that because a Christian book is a bestseller like Jesus Calling or The Shack or The Message that it is scriptural or true. All three of those books are full of error, and I know many, many Christians who simply drank the Kool-Aid and ignored the problems because everyone else did. But if something doesn’t seem right, talk to some trusted godly friends who know their sword and discuss your concerns with them.
- Test every spiritual, supernatural experience you see, hear of or experience yourself.
I am not a cessationist, so I need to say that upfront. (For those who are unfamiliar with that term, it is one who believes all the miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit Paul listed in 1 Corinthians are no longer in operation.) I have lived too long and seen too much and had God use me in too many ways to ever believe that those things are not still needed, valid, important. (And you free to disagree without disfellowshipping me!)
Having said that, I think it is absolutely imperative that every experience we have, every “miracle” we witness, every supernatural manifestation, every dream, vision or revelation presented by someone else or experienced personally, is tested. Again, believe not every spirit. Why is this important, doesn’t this make us doubters, skeptics, critics? No, it makes us wise, biblically minded and obedient to the Word of God. Paul made it very clear that in the last days, there would be false miracles and manifestations: “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.” (2 Cor. 2:9) He is speaking about the coming antichrist. Did you read that? He will be accompanied – and no doubt forerun – by power and signs and lying wonders. “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Mt. 24:24) In other words, not all “supernatural manifestations” are from God! Keeping this in mind, we are responsible to not just receive something because it’s supernatural, whether it’s angel feathers, angel footprints, gemstones or whatever. We are responsible to not just receive someone’s word, prophecy, message because they hold a self-given title like prophet or apostle or bishop, or even if they have been conferred that title by others. Test everything. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thess. 5:21)
Does the experience/dream/vision or teaching or word or prophecy, whether received by you or taught by another, align perfectly with the Word of God, or does it contradict it? Search it out! Not all that glitters is Gospel. Is there Biblical precedent for it? Or is it extrabiblical, not subject to testing and judging? We are not asked to receive such things without carefully examining it, which is why scriptures ask one to prophesy and others to judge it. (1 Cor. 14:29) If we are not doing that, we are not following Biblical truth and are in danger of deception. Nearly every cult and false teaching I have ever studied came through a man or woman that got some sort of extrabiblical or exotic dream, vision, revelation or “special knowledge” that suddenly gave them “new truth” and “new revelation” – and in the process elevated them to a place of having a following, authority and eventually the ability to deceive others and fall into even more deception. That’s how the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others got started. Again, if you know your Word, you will be able to tell when something is not true. And if you receive a vision, dream, revelation, what do you do? You test it, by the Word, and also by sharing it with others you know are solid. Ask them – do you think this is valid, or did I just eat too much pizza last night? Do you think this is from God? Many a person has been pulled back from error because they allowed themselves to have that safety net of others who would help them discern truth from error. I do believe God gives dreams and visions from time to time, I do believe in prophecy in its context, words of knowledge, etc. I have had them, and seen others be used in them. But whether it is another person or myself, I always test these things, and you are required to, too.
- Will the person teaching be open to respond to honest questions, or will they wall you off with a band of “handlers” that keep them from talking to you? If so, walk away. I remember David Wilkerson once telling of how he was on his way to a large crusade when a little tiny man caught him walking to the venue and asked to talk with him. David told him to hurry up because he was on his way to an important crusade. The man actually spoke a word from God that said that when David was small in his own eyes, God honored him, but he was being warned not to be lifted up in pride. It apparently devastated David and he had the humility to receive it from a tiny man who had a big word from God. If David had allowed his “entourage” to wall him off, he would have never gotten that word. David was and remained a humble man of God to his passing, a man who was not afraid to go down on the bad streets of San Francisco to put his arms around and pray with alcoholics, AIDS patients and prostitutes. (I witnessed it myself.) In my eyes, if you have to have bodyguards to keep you from “little people” you need to be out of ministry and lose your following. The disciples were followers, not bodyguards – and when they tried to be, Jesus nearly always rebuked them!
- Will the teacher/prophet/apostle be willing to admit error if they are shown to be wrong? If not, you need to walk away. None of us are above missing it; the proof of a man or woman of God’s heart is their ability to admit when they have missed, it, failed, gotten something wrong. Those who “justify” their false prophecies when they don’t come true need to be exposed for what they are: false prophets. And they need to be called to repentance. It’s really that simple.
- Avoid person-driven movements and people. Trends, exciting new movements and people, Christian celebrities, and “dynamic” new ways of “doing church”, as well as “exotic” new teachings (i.e. the extremes of some Hebrew roots teachings, i.e. spiritual fathering movement, i.e. serpent seed teaching or “born again Jesus” teaching) have come and gone since the early church. Our times, the times of Christian superstar ministries, are especially vulnerable to people following people because they are HUGE and they are EXCITING and they are “NEW.” But walking with Jesus is a matter of daily discipline, prayer, devotion, commitment, Word life, good fellowship with boring and often annoying normal people (as we can often be to others!) and just steady running of the race. By contrast, Paul talked about people in the last days heaping to themselves teachers, because they have itching ears (2 Tim. 4:3) – they always want to hear some “new thing” as the Greeks and Romans of Paul and Peter’s times did – always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth! Don’t be like that. Stop looking for shiny things and baubles. Yes, God does miracles. Yes, He does speak to us and through us and through others. Yes, He is a living God and is at work every day if we listen, follow, obey. But we don’t need new gurus, we don’t need to be a people follower. There are far too many famous Christian celebrities, teachers, self-proclaimed apostles, prophets, etc. and not enough simple Jesus people doing the work of the Kingdom. Want to follow someone? Follow Jesus. And follow those who teach, pastor, care, evangelize, build, speak truth, prophesy in truth and Biblically, but can most often be seen, not on Instagram and Twitter inviting a huge following, but in church cleaning toilets, caring for disadvantaged kids, or just quietly washing the feet of “the least of these.” I appreciate true Bible-based popular ministry folks. But I follow no one but Jesus, even though I might follow them on Facebook or Instagram. For we are all brethren and servants of the only one worthy of our adoration and praise.
If you follow these simple guidelines, it is my sincere hope and prayer that God will preserve you wholly spiritually and keep you from the many traps of deception that have surrounded the western church in these last days.
Bix 370006 El Paso TX 79936
I came from an unconventional background, and I lived an unconventional life and did unconventional ministry. I was an unconventional child, much to the concern of my very conventional parents. I tried to re-bury worms when it rained one day because they were coming out of the ground and I thought they would be cold. I cried for hours when I was 6 when I couldn’t find my neighbor friend, and my mom told me he had gone to Washington. She couldn’t figure out why I was so upset…till she figured out it was because I knew Washington was dead, and I thought she was trying to find a nice way to tell me what happened to my neighbor…
I remember my friend David had been brought in as an elder at our church and he kind of defined unconventional. He challenged “doing church as usual,” urged compassion for the less fortunate and irked people who felt inconvenienced by “problem people.” I heard about one meeting where the leadership was discussing whether to help “that family” again since they always seemed to be in need.
David responded, “I know! Let’s just chain them to their beds so they can barely reach their food!” I would have loved to have seen the shocked expressions…
At one point one of the other elders looked at David and said, “You don’t color between the lines, do you, David?” “There’s lines?” David asked in astonishment.
I get David. I get loops, cliffs, turnarounds, but lines? Not really.
I am allergic to “how to” things – especially “how to” youth ministry books. They’re kids. They don’t color well between the lines either, so I figured, let’s just get ‘em to color. If we get them to do Jesus colors, the lines will come.
Some years ago, God set me in the midst of a group of some of the most unconventional kids you could imagine: “barely saved,” as some would say – still smoking, sometimes going on drinking binges, often cussing, ripped jeans, pierced, tattooed and earringed, kids who often went home to abusive parents, occult families or just the streets. I wasn’t prepared for them – but I was completely prepared – to try to steer the Jesus bus in the chaos and pain and crazy lives of my young passengers. I understood their hurt – the abuse, rejection, loneliness, crushing sin addictions.
What I didn’t know was, how do I act around them? How should I talk, dress, behave? Do I become super-parent, taskmaster, schoolteacher or buddy, pal, “one of them?”
When in doubt, ask.
“So what’s the best advice that you can give me?” I asked one of our guys that was most honest and understood my heart. He said, “Don’t blow your class.” I understood immediately. At that time, I was 33. I wasn’t 15 or 18. Or 40. Or 80 or whatever. I could look or act old or like a child but I was still 33.
Recently, we endured what I call the “Rob Bell glasses phenomena.” Rob Bell, the author and later off-the-reservation theological pariah, wrote a millennial-appealing book and did some DVD’s and soon became the de facto role model for a whole new generation of young youth pastors in the early part of the millenium. Soon, everyone was buying Rob Bell glasses, dressing neo-preppie college cool, speaking in short sentences punctuated with angst and profundity followed by long pauses, waiting for the heavy truth to wow the crowd. Short, round bar table to replace the dreaded and outdated pulpit,…iPad and/or MacBook replacing the Bible, which was found on the iPhone app… These guys were plugged in, wired up and ready to go…nowhere…which is where Bell went before plunging off of Heretic Cliff. It was all questions, relevance, the hip du jour trends…and eventually became Emergent Soup, leaving a lot of pretty sincere young youth leaders embarrassed by Bell’s betrayal and having to “rethink” coolness as calling and connecting. All of it was, in the end, simply the sound of fashion, signifying nothing…
And I think we all go through this stage when we’re younger as we’re trying to find our identity. But really…seeing 70-year-old evangelists with a ‘fro…no.
The Impact of our ministry to youth is not the clothes we wear or the hipness we try to exude. It’s in the depth of our message and the realness of our love and care. If “imitating culture” was the trick, John the Baptist was a total failure. Wearing camel hair and chomping on locusts – definitely uncool.
On the other hand, we don’t want to alienate the culture either. Missionary Amy Carmichael did the unprecedented when she began to wear the traditional woman’s Sari dress so as to better fit with the people she longed to reach for Jesus. western dress had tagged her as an imperialist privileged person. Wearing a Sari said, “I do care not to offend you. I do want to identify with you..”
It’s hard to find the balance. I think it is partly in Paul’s “I am all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” (1 Corinthians 9:22) and “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). It’s not to impress. It’s not to be cool. It’s not to be something else. It’s to do what God wants.
And that’s almost always just about matters of the heart. If you’re insecure, you might tend to act and dress to impress. If you were the uncool kid, you might act and dress to PROVE you’re cool. I pray God gives you the grace to avoid all of these things. Just be who God made you to be!
Here’s one key: Paul said, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” Simple, isn’t it? There’s no trying, no struggle, no regrets and no one-upmanship. I am just who He made me to be. Be imitators of Christ, not of the world, not of the culture, not of the newest hip worship leaders or motivational “preacher.” Be who God made YOU to be.
I don’t know who said it, but I’ve taught it to many, many of my youth over the years (if it’s you, let me know and I will credit you, because it’s just so great!) but here’s the best bit of advice I’ve ever heard on this: “Be who you is, because if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.”
As youth pastors, you may be expected to dress up for church events: when you preach, when it’s a special event like Christmas or Easter. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by showing up in ripped jeans and an old Iron Maiden t-shirt. “But I’m not a coat and tie guy!” You’re missing the point. You are all things to all people so you can by all means save some. Even church folks. Get it? It’s not about dress. It’s about the heart. You showing up in radical youth clothes on Sunday is a message: “ I don’t care what you think.” That’s a pretty good way to cut short your stay as a youth pastor.
Tattoos aren’t a great way to “relate” either. I know everyone is getting them. And I will leave the debate about whether it is scripturally allowed or not for another day. I do have a couple of thoughts, though. One, remember that when you get older, everything shrivels and sags and colors fade, and your radically awesome angel will eventually resemble a chunky midlife hippie with receding hair and mysterious lesions on his face…
And if you are getting it to impress others with your coolness, why? And if you’re getting it to impress kids in your youth group with your coolness, how does that model Jesus, bring them closer to Him? How does it model separation from the world? Just a thought for those honest enough to ask themselves these questions. Simply put, what is your real motive?
So how do you dress and still be yourself? Well…dress like you dress, unless (1) It’s offensive or (2) You’re asked to dress otherwise. Other than that, my best counsel is this: dress to minimize attention to YOURSELF. Don’t let anything distract from the message of Jesus. You’re a vessel for the glory, don’t TAKE the glory. It’s ok to look nice, or fun, even hip, but don’t dress to impress. Dress to decrease so He might increase. That means not being decked out in Armani everything and Ft Knox gold hangings that get more comments than whether your message changed anybody. And don’t dress like a slob either. It’s not grungy or classy that counts but what is in your heart’s motives, and whether you are working to become the backdrop to the real star of the show – Jesus.
In the end, kids won’t remember your cool tattoo much. (Unless if was a cheaply done lion head that now resembles a leaf…) They will remember some of your messages, many of your out of the pulpit words, some simple but profound words from God, but mostly, whether you really loved them, and were there for them in that crucial and painful time called adolescence. But most importantly, your prayer should be that they will remember Jesus.
Be who you is – uniquely, warts-and-all you – and avoid the traps of dressing or talking or acting like a kid to impress them with how well you can “relate.” They will see right through it. They’re not looking for someone LIKE them to party with them, but someone different from them to LEAD them.
Don’t stoop to the world to find tricks to impress or clothes to draw attention to yourself. Help youth step up to the kingdom world where it’s not what you wear, but who you are in Jesus that is all that matters.
Don’t blow your class.
Youth Pastor or Youth Director?
A few years ago, I noticed a big change in youth ministry. It came on the heels of – or maybe part of – a package deal with megachurch, purpose driven and seeker friendly methods for “doing church.”
Young youth ministers taking jobs in churches found themselves re-labeled as “youth directors.”
This little change says a lot about who we are and what we’re becoming.
Youth pastors were now youth directors. Youth group kids were no longer disciples, they were “students” and churches were now called “campuses.”
It all seems so…1984 Orwellian “newspeak.” The corporate world talks like this. Why are we talking like this?
Do words matter?
I think they do.
First of all, we are not “students” going to a “campus.” We are disciples who are part of the Body of Christ, warriors training for war. This isn’t a university, it’s boot camp. If you don’t take it that seriously, don’t expect that your “students” will.
But the more dangerous change is going from “youth minister” and “youth pastor” to “youth director.”
My first mental image when I hear this is a goofy, fun-loving party organizer hired to do fun “events.” They have a goofy hat, a clipboard and lots of fun “icebreakers” to get everyone socializing. “Go here, stop, sit down, here we go, everyone sing!”
The corporate world some time ago created “team building” activities to help their employees become one big happy family. I see the value of that, in the secular world.
And honestly, I’m not anti-games in youth groups. (Though I see no scriptural examples of young believers playing catch-the-chariot.) In fact, it actually can be helpful for getting all that angst and adrenaline out so they can hopefully focus on the message (or not, but at least they won’t be hanging from the rafters.)
What concerns me is the idea that the main reason kids are there is to socialize, be entertained, babysat.
It’s not just semantics, either. Many of the new mega and seeker friendly pastors don’t want youth pastors. They want them to direct, not pastor, not teach, not disciple. And the sad, unfortunate thing is, it often comes from two ideas:
(1) Kids can’t handle a lot, so just give them fun and a few little Jesus snacks,
(2) Youth group isn’t for “pastoring.” Let the pastor pastor, let the kids learn in “big church.”
The problem with that is, (a) The truth is that kids can handle as much as you give them, and (b) sermonettes create Christianettes, or in other words, if you give them Jesus tidbits they’ll be malformed, malnutritioned believers (if they stay in the faith after they leave youth group for college) and (c) in many mega/seeker-friendly Churches, they don’t get pastored in “big church.” They get a seeker-friendly, self-help, motivational pep talk with a smidgen of scripture, a tiny bit of psycho-pop talk, and a prayer to put a nail in it. (I won’t say it…)
Even when the message is good, it’s still not pastoring. Pastoring requires time…prayer…love.
So if you expect your youth pastor to direct – not pastor, – then Pastor, you have to pastor them. Get involved, pray for them, teach and disciple them.
“But I’m a pastor, I’m not called to “do youth.” Aha! Exactly. Then cut your youth pastor loose to pastor them and do the hard work of discipleship with them!
“Well, the parents should be doing that.” Right, but very often, they do not, or cannot. Many aren’t even believers, and many times parents saved parents appreciate and count on a youth pastor to pastor them and do the hard spiritual work with them. And they should be able to count on that. And we should respond. It’s not that many parents don’t want to see their kids grow spiritually; they very much do. But they also recognize a parent can’t always be “pastoral” because kids need to hear it from someone else. You know what I mean! “Mom, our youth pastor told us this cool story about why we need to get good grades!” You: “That’s great, honey (I’ve been saying that for years…in one ear, out the other…)
It’s really good that it works this way! We all serve different functions in the body, right? Well, parents are parents, fathers are the High Priests of their home, mothers are nurturers, (and sometimes enforcers!) who teach by scripture, example, love…
…and youth pastors make kids strong, raise up warriors, invest in their faith and future, get them ready for a lifetime walk. And that’s how it should work. Youth pastors teach to underline parents’ lessons, help them grow into Jesus-like disciples and prepare them for a life of service and church fellowship when they leave youth. What’s the downside to that?
I have to wonder if the whole “youth director” thing isn’t sometimes motivated by trying to avoid any underlying competition. But sometimes it’s because some really don’t want serious, 100% all-in and all-out Jesus discipleship taught to kids. We don’t think kids can take it. We may not even see the need for it.
And also, admittedly, you do have some parents who don’t want that either. As I have heard it said many times before, “We wanted a place for kids to find wholesome things to do. You all are too religious and too serious about this ‘God thing’ with kids.”
But in fact, we need to raise strong-as-steel young believers who actually believe Jesus wants it all!
And, pastors, we too often bend to the will of such parents, especially if they are heavy tithers. Can’t we just be honest about that?
So the real test for us is, are we willing to bring on a youth minister who will fire up the youth and make them lifers for Jesus – radical, fanatical kids who actually believe the Bible and are willing to give all – even die for it? You know, like 90% of the Christians in the real world of persecution live? Yes – it could mean some angry parents leaving, loss of tithes, etc. It’s a test of how much you believe in the value of youth ministry. After all, they will either fill or vacate your seats in just a few short years, and most underfed, spiritually anemic but greatly entertained youth never survive their first year in secular college. Think about the long-term effects of hiring a director instead of investing and standing behind a youth pastor that shares your heart cry for a generation raised up strong in Jesus.
And by the way, a number of kids will come to youth that have unsaved parents, no spiritual care at home, or worse – neglect, abuse, anger, pain. Youth is their safe place. Why not find a youth pastor/couple who will stand in the gap as spiritual parents as well, cry with them, hurt for them, wrestle with, fight with and endure with them? No tithes or withdrawal of tithes come with these kids…but they are the lost sheep Jesus calls us to go after! Yes, you do need a youth shepherd to help you build your church. I pray God will give you the foresight and wisdom to get one with a heart just like Jesus.
Let your youth pastor put away the director’s cap, put on the mantle, and pick up a staff – and lead, not direct.
Gregory R Reid
A Letter to the Church-Wounded in “Exile”;
This is a very sensitive message, one I hope to convey with a heart of humility and grace, one I pray will bring a little healing to those who are hurting for reasons beyond your control or choosing.
There are many who have passed through the fires of being “wounded in the house of a friend,” of being on the receiving end of rejection, misunderstanding and sometimes even dismissal or exile due to rancorous and painful church circumstances and dealings. Few dare to speak of it, for fear of being viewed as a malcontent, a bitter soul, a troublemaker or worse. But truth be known, there are multitudes, both people and pastors, sheep and shepherds, who have been mangled by the machinery of church professional business dealings and decisions, especially in our purpose-driven and megachurch age. For both leader and member, nothing stings more than realizing you have suddenly lost your place, your purpose, your “church family.” Yet for the sake of unity, God requires that you bear the pain of it and say not a word, though you be wronged, though your heart cries for understanding, though your flesh longs to lash out and wound those who have wounded you.
Many remain churchless, or without a pulpit, afraid to try again. Many have tried other churches – knowing they need to be in fellowship – only to find a church driven by the same machinery and business dealings that broke their lives and their hearts.
Many, though they would be too proud to admit it, still wait for a call, a text, something from someone in their former fellowship that says, “You still matter. We miss you. We’re sorry if we hurt you.” But the call rarely if ever comes. It is a desolate thing to be “cut off from the life of the church,” even though you are not cut off from the life of Jesus. One can feel as alone and desolate as Joseph who was sent away by his own family to a house of unfamiliar faces and to obscurity and an unknown future and calling.
My heart especially hurts for former or current pastors, youth pastors or church leaders and elders who were deemed too old-fashioned, too “Word-based,” not relevant enough, or young enough, exciting enough, etc. and found themselves given the “left foot of fellowship” – often with a smile, a wave and a parting gift (or not!) simply because PROGRESS must be made, and the new paradigm fairly demands that the old guard get off the stage. After all, we were told by the father of purpose-driven, “What do pillars do? They hold things up…” The sting when you realize it really is not personal, it is just a business decision “for the sake of the church” can be excruciating, indeed. You realize you were simply a broken cog in an apparatus, easily replaced. As I heard a pastor say after hosting a concert by a formerly sought-after Christian artist who now only saw small crowds, “Look what we have done to our treasures. Shame on us.”
If you have felt this – experienced this – if you have had to depart from a fellowship because of these changes, or for any reason that you did not foresee or even want – if you are in this Joseph-like place, few words can comfort, though Joseph’s story surely will. Still, this morning, FB Meyer’s words speak deeply:
“Though stripped of his coat, he had not been stripped of his character. See to it that no one rob you of that! Everything else may be replaced but that!”
God sees your heart, and your hurt. But as with Joseph, God’s main concern is not what was done to you but HOW YOU RESPOND. Though you may have lost your coat (place) never lose your character! Stay sweet. Refuse bitterness. Love and pray for those you no longer are able to even be with. As in Gene Edward’s A Tale of Three Kings, David said, “In my youth…I was David. In my old age, I will be David still. Even if it costs me a throne, a kingdom.”
Many have left fellowships under painful circumstances and leave bitter and angry, taking many with them, and starting a new fellowship (which rarely last long.) I do not believe this is God’s way, ever. If you have left, God requires the hardest thing – that you do so quietly and remain in love, in forgiveness, and in Jesus-like character. That is the coat of character no hard and painful circumstance can take away. Yield that coat and take on the mantle of bitterness, coldness, and anger, and all God was planning for you is at stake. Do not become an Absalom seeking a throne or a Saul seeking to throw spears. Remain a David, even in exile. Does not God surely have an unstoppable plan for you yet?
Joseph – alone, abandoned by all but God, remained Joseph – a sweet, godly young man even under unbearable grief, rejection, loss, and misunderstanding.
And in the end – oh, in the end! God gave Joseph a coat of authority and purpose that only his humble, God-tested character could wear. And in the end, even the injuries were made right, because he saw, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20)
I write this to those who may have or are feeling the “pain of exile” from a church or even family. God knows your heart. His plan for you has never changed. May God bless you with a new and precious fellowship with believers for whom the words “church family” are not just words but a way of life. May he grant you grace to forgive those you left behind who may indeed miss you, but who are so caught up in the busy work of church activity that they simply become swept up in the “out of sight, out of mind” way of such things. Forgive those who injured, especially those who felt it was justified to do so. That may be the hardest. God requires it nonetheless. Wait…heal…trust…If, after years of faithful service, you find yourself without a place, these words again from A Tale of Three Kings speak: “But today I shall give ample space for this untelling God of ours to show us His will. I know of no other way to bring about such an extraordinary event except by doing NOTHING! The throne is not mine. Not to have, not to take, not to protect, and not to keep.”
All things – and you, dear friend, are in His loving care. Wait…pray…heal…and hang on to the character of Jesus through it ALL. God is not through with you yet. The best is yet to be!
With Jesus’ grace and care,
Gregory R Reid
There was a time when ideas like yoga or eastern meditation in the church were only associated with Christ Science churches, Universalist Churches, and a few spurious non-biblical fringe places. In a few scant decades, the walls have been so completely torn down that we not only see no harm in these things, we promote them. This is exactly what Theosophist (Luciferian) leader Alice Bailey predicted would be part of the new age infiltration into the church: ““The three main channels through which the preparation for the new age is going on might be regarded as the Church (emphasis mine) the Masonic Fraternity and the educational field.” (The Externalization of the Hierarchy, Page 511.)
So, in fact, this has been underway for some time. It probably began to get a real foothold in our present time with Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking” theology, quickly adapted by Rev. Robert Schuller who was really the first modern “megachurch” and “Seeker Friendly” church pastor. Their ideas were once considered a bit of an aberration from mainstream Christian doctrine. But here we are decades later, and seeker friendly and power of positive thinking is normal and unchallenged. The crack into Bible-based evangelical churches had begun to open just a little…
Fast forward: In the last three decades we have opened our doors to things like the laughter movement, barking like dogs and oinking like pigs and calling it the “anoinking of the Spirit,” and worse. A number of leaders challenged these things, but its promoters did not repent of it.
A few years later, spiritual formation, “be still” meditation, breathing techniques, “Christian” yoga, “the sacred feminine,” labyrinths, circle making – all an extension of exotic religions, eastern mysticism, and Buddhist/Hindu tools to reach “the divine within” – all began to creep into church media, books, music and movies. Even Father Thomas Merton came to be revered by many evangelicals – a man who said at the end of his life that he wished to ““to become as good a Buddhist as I can,” as well as Henri Nouwen, who influenced millions of evangelicals but at the end of his life denied that Jesus was the only way to the Father.
The door opened a little wider…where were the watchmen? Where were the Shepherds? One at a time, I began to see even pastors welcome these things. And as these things crept in, the Word of God began to become an addendum to our lives, a devotional nicety but not central in our walk with Jesus, and no longer our final determination of truth.
Slowly, the poison seeped into our ranks…one book, one DVD, one movie at a time. Everyone ignored the subtle twisting of the Word of God in Rob Bell’s “Velvet Elvis,” hailing it as “groundbreaking.” And indeed, it was, but not in a good way. His next book, “The Sex God” raised a few eyebrows, but youth pastors everywhere still adored him and emulated him and bought glasses and cool clothes just to look just like him in an attempt to “relate to youth.” Millennial youth pastors began diluting the Word of God and preparing little mini-messages to justify their increasingly party-like youth group atmosphere which was strong on entertainment and weak on the Word of God.
Then Rob Bell wrote “Love Wins,” denying hell and proclaiming universalism – the idea that everyone gets saved. And now, he is speaking at conferences alongside New Age guru Deepak Chopra at conferences titled things like, “The Seduction of Spirit.” 
When he was exposed as being truly a non-evangelical false teacher, I heard nothing but crickets from all those who formerly sang his praises. But by then, everyone was off chasing the next big thing anyway, the next bestseller, the next circle-making, ear-tickling, scripture-diluting thing. We had begun forming a pattern of going after the latest “it,” or hot speaker, or bestselling book, and then when it turned out the thing or person was fraudulent, in error or full of deception, almost no one took responsibility for originally supporting or promoting them – least of all the Christian media and those who peddled their products – even when these false teachers were fully exposed. Very few took responsibility for an evangelist’s crazy, ungodly antics in Florida that hundreds of thousands of believers flocked to see, while behind the scenes he was conducting an affair that shredded his wife and kids. (For the record, I deeply believe in restoring fallen servants of the Lord.) They gave him a short time-out (“restoration process”) and bam! He was back on the circuit – new wife, new life. And few took responsibility for calling him – no, for laying hands on and anointing him – as the “world apostle” in front of an international audience.
Very few called a well-known “prophet” to account for his 2007 prophecy that Obama would be a mighty man of God – a Christian – who would set everything right. They just said, “Oh well, nobody’s perfect” and kept supporting and following his ministry anyway.
Rarely do people say, “we were wrong.” Rarely do leaders say, “We were in error.” And because of that, unrepentant error in discernment has led to greater and greater error, because deception is a PROGRESSIVE DISEASE.
The more error we receive, the more the ability to discern goes numb and then dies in us. It applies to us as individuals. It applies to churches.
Nobody was alarmed that Roma Downey was still attending a new age college at the same time she was working on their television series “The Bible” or that she never renounced her new age beliefs, despite the fact that these concerns were brought to some of the highest levels of leadership in the church and corporate Christian world possible. They gave her a pass on those issues because, as I was told, the benefits of how it would reach people outweighed the theological problems. And nothing kept several bits of clear gnostic teaching from being inserted into their movies, including giving a prominent role to Mary Magdalene, whom new agers consider the “thirteenth apostle.” And to be honest, by the time these concerns were raised, even certain denominations had invested far too much money in promoting the movies to retract, recall product and repent at that point. In the end, I believe financial concerns were more important than truth.
By the time The Shack came around, we had already been prepped through years of “felt need” theology, experiential-based faith and cherry-picking scriptures we liked while ignoring the ones we didn’t.
As the internet grew, I began to understand the power of the appeal to our emotions. More than once, I had seen almost an entire five to ten-minute video on some issue and found myself in tears before I found out at the end that not only was it not a Christian video and did not have a Christian message, but it was produced by people and represented a view that was unbiblical, new age and worse. I got emotionally hooked before I learned the truth. Those without a biblical foundation of truth just get hooked.
People loved The Shack because it replaced the God of the Bible (which deep down they possibly didn’t feel comfortable with, because His ways are beyond our understanding and bad things happen, and it upsets our sunshine version of Christianity) and gave them a God who made them feel good, who took the God of the Bible and said, “That’s not really God, this is what God is like…” and gave them a diluted, false version of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and a dose of Sophia, Greek goddess of wisdom.
I was sure that anyone with even a modicum of discernment would throw the book in the trash. I had underestimated how wide the door of deception had opened. I lost friends who were pastors who were furious at me for questioning the book. One pastor railed at me, “I haven’t had a relationship with God for years, but now I have my ‘Papa’ back! You can’t take that from me!”
Nothing jarred me more than seeing grown men of God just abandoning clear truth because something tugged their heart, justifying the scriptural butchering by saying, “It’s just fiction, it’s not the Bible!” I confronted someone on this the other night. “What about the satanic Necronomicon. Can I read it? It’s just fiction. Can I read pornography? It’s just fiction.” They thought that a bit extreme. Of course it was. My point was, where what was their criteria, where was their own event horizon they were not willing to cross because it was just too obviously wrong? How much scripture bending or ignoring would they accept and justify as ok because it was “just fiction” before they had enough and said no more? The demonic genius of The Shack is how cleverly it has clothed itself in a loose and nebulous garment of scriptures – just enough to justify the complete butchering of the true nature of God and morphing Him into a Trinitarian hybrid god that represents whatever will make you feel better about your horrible tragedies and “great sadness.” The fact is, though, God will not appear as whatever we want. One person said, “God appeared as a fiery bush, but I know he’s not a bush!” But He appeared in the bush. He wasn’t a bush. God will not appear as Shiva, Buddha, or Sarayu, because He is “I AM WHAT I AM.” We can say God is like a rock, but we cannot say God is like Baal. It’s not about imagery, it is about the nature and character of God. And The Shack gives a false representation of both of those.
Look, I get it. I’ve suffered innumerable losses my entire life, and every one of us at some point cries out, “WHY, GOD?” And in those moments, people either reject Him as uncaring, or He brings us into His Kingdom, and we learn to trust Him in the midst of, sometimes in spite of tragedies that seem to have no reason. And we may find ourselves once again crying out in pain, “WHY, GOD?” And His response is, “You don’t need to know all the answers. Trust Me, trust My Word. Trust in My love.” It’s called FAITH. But The Shack is a shortcut to feeling better, a panacea, a spiritual drug that allows you to embrace a conception of God that may temporarily take away the pain but leaves you with an open door to deception because it is not the God of the Word. IT IS NOT THE REAL JESUS.
Is The Shack the God portrayed in scripture? Is God a woman? Is Jesus a clumsy Jewish kid with a hook nose? Is the Holy Spirit a Japanese girl named after a Hindu river? Is the judge of our lives Sophia? Is everyone saved? Is Jesus just the best way to the Father, as the book suggests, or is He what the Bible says – the only way?
“But they’re just parables! Stories! It’s not the Bible!” some argue. So is it acceptable to distort the truth in the guise of fiction just to make a point? How is that ever acceptable? Someone said, “CS Lewis did The Chronicles of Narnia, they were spiritual allegories! It wasn’t scripture!” True, that; but unlike The Shack, when Lewis did touch on the nature of God or Jesus, he kept it fairly consistently in line with scripture and the biblical character and nature of God. The Shack has a radically different version of God: One who does not judge, one who can change, one who suggests Jesus is simply a better way to God, not the only way. But feeling trumped truth, and the book has become a multimillion bestseller. To simplify the responses I have heard, “Don’t confuse me with biblical facts. It made me feel good!”
It did not bother leaders and publishers that Young’s second book, Eve – a “reimagining” of the Adam and Eve story – was laced with kabbalistic themes and occultic, gnostic fairy tales. “It’s just a story.” The door opened wider….
You see, Satan keeps pushing the goalpost deeper and deeper into the center of the church, and every time he sees no resistance, he is emboldened and takes it to “the next level.”
Now, the movie is out. The arguments as to why it’s such an amazing life-changing story despite the clear unscriptural aspects that were brought up when the book came out are the same. The difference seems to be that those who support it are much angrier at those of us who pose the crucial questions. “You’re so judgmental! Who do you think you are? You must be looking for a book deal or something. You’ll never lead anyone to Christ, and I doubt if you ever did before.” I’ve had it all thrown at me the last few weeks as I tried to reason it out with folks on Facebook. And I realize that the level of deception had gone so deep that not only were people willing to embrace a lie and ignore the error, but worse – they saw themselves as fully biblical believers who were completely loyal to the Word of God, while at the same time promoting a story by a man who claims that everyone is “in Christ” already. And you cannot reason with that level of delusion. It seems to bother devoted Shack followers not at all that the author is a universalist.
Universalism, the “all paths lead to God” religion, is exactly what is needed to turn the Christian church into part of the one-world antichrist mystery religion that Alice Bailey wrote about and all Luciferian world leaders are counting on.
We did not accept Rob Bell’s universalism. But now we are willing to ignore William Paul Young’s. That is the malignancy of deception unchecked.
This movie comes at a time when the next level of eastern meditation techniques under the guise of “mindfulness” are being pushed into the educational system, and now are coming into the church. (Mindfulness is a Buddhist technique of detachment, leading to realizing the “divine within,” which eventually leads to Nirvana – nonexistence. There are several new “Christian” books promoting meditation and mindfulness practices with devotional books and coloring books, and a new book on spiritual formation and meditation called The Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age by Tricia McCary Rhodes which “reintroduces us to the classic disciplines of Scripture reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.” In other words, it’s just more repackaged eastern religious teaching and techniques for the church which will further it on the road to the new age goal of “east meets west,” where we all become one under a false one world religion and we all recognize the “Christ spirit” or godhood in each other (Namaste – the divine in me bows to the divine in you.)
Add to that, a new book is being used in Christian youth groups called, God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God by Ken Shigematsu, who “draws on both eastern and western perspectives in writing and speaking.” Those are buzzwords for introducing a mixing of eastern religion thought processes with Christianity and bringing it into the church.
All of this is producing Christian minds that are malleable, soft, undiscerning, half-drugged, feeling good, and completely open to the power of suggestion from…whoever, and whatever. That is what eastern meditation techniques do. You empty your mind and accept that whatever comes must be good and right and from God.
The church has become an entity seeking to have their ears tickled. Seeking to feel better about their painful lives. Seeking to be successful, happy and prosperous. What is it you seek? Step right up folks…we’ve got it all now.
Everything except the whole truth of the Word of God, the way of the cross, the power of the blood to save and heal and forgive, the altar of God where we come to be broken and changed, healed and set free. Everything which made the Gospel powerful has and is being systematically removed by the enemy of our souls – not because it is not powerful, but because we no longer wish to bow to its demands, its holiness or its truth.
We are seeing the fruit of nearly thirty years of dumbing-down and de-prioritizing the Word of God, giving it a mini-place in our lives while shiny things and baubles and the newest “move” catch our attention and send us off on a fruitless quest for the next experience. The seed of the Word of God has corporately fallen on stony ground, without depth, where it grows up quick, shrivels and dies.
I know I am very passionate about this, reluctant to even use the word passionate, so overused it is. I have a right to be. I grew up in the occult, a world of delusions, lies, and darkness. Even when I tried to turn to new age thought to dispel the darkness, turning to Hinduism, Buddhism, and becoming an avid follower of Paramahansa Yogananda in my little bedroom devouring his every word as “truth,” I ended up deceived, wrecked and in utter darkness, even though some of it temporarily numbed my pain and made me “feel good.”
I understand many of these Christians who are so emotionally bound to The Shack that they have thrown caution to the wind and ignored the dangerous reality that it in fact promotes unbiblical lies and is being promoted by someone who has rejected Biblical truth about hell and salvation. I was one of those Christians after I was saved. I was totally brainwashed. I was a universalist. Then came this “mean man,” this “judgmental Christian” Bible study leader named Dave Malkin, who dared to get out the Word of God and without holding back challenged me about my beliefs. This “judgmental, mean man” saved my spiritual life. (I thank God for Dave, may his memory be blessed!) I needed a hard word to break through the lies.
In all my dealings with everything from Rob Bell to The Shack, I understand that simple logic and reason isn’t working with people who are emotionally invested in the teachers or the stories. People need a wake-up call, and that may not feel good or seem loving. But I cannot apologize for my approach because I see that in the end, The Shack is not just a book or a movie but a game-changer that is extinguishing some of the last lights of discernment out of the hearts of thousands of believers. I know how they feel. I have been there. And I thank God that someone cared enough to hurt me with the truth. When a house is burning down and people are asleep inside, one cannot afford to meekly whisper, hoping the people hear. You have to shout at the top of your lungs, “Get out, quickly!” In dealing with these new delusions, it may be necessary to jar people awake.
Jesus said in Matthew 24 that all of this would happen. Paul said, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”. (1 Tim. 4:1) The great falling away is at hand. But a remnant will remain faithful. I can only pray humbly not to be one who falls for the lies in a moment of vulnerability, or weakness, or pain or giving up, for we are all vulnerable. That is where I understand the motto of the French foreign legion that a friend shared with me. “If I falter, straighten me out. If I stumble, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me.” Blunt, but as a spiritual warrior it resonates in my heart. None of us are exempt from having to diligently guard against the lies of this age, outside and inside the church.
I believe all these progressive deceptions over the last few decades have been just the build-up to the next great delusion, which could be the final one. God help us to turn away from the slow poisoning of the church through breath-prayers, eastern meditation, mindfulness, yoga, etc. God help us to surrender our soulish ways of perceiving God based on a book that was written by a wounded man, William Paul Young – unhealed from abuse and bitter church hurts – whom those seeking to make a profit have promoted regardless of his spiritual fragility and woundedness – who rejected the God of the Bible for a god who would somehow ease his pain – one that eases your pain as it kills your soul. The Shack is the spiritual Jack Kavorkian of our age.
Pray for William Paul Young, that God would pull him out of this most dangerous and deadly strange fire. Pray for the multitudes who are believing lies. And may God deal with those mercenaries and moneychangers who care more about what sells and profits them then about the care and protection of the flock of God.
Alice Bailey’s plans are about to come to full fruition. The greatest lie is just around the corner.
Stay strong, saints. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28) He is coming soon!
“Oopsie!” I think if the church stopped labeling things mistakes and called them sins (which we are all guilty of) we could lead people to repentance – the cure at the Cross. By calling sins “mistakes” it implies that we did an “oopsie” and we just need to get our boo-boos cleaned up. But sin is never an oopsie. We very well did mean to do what we did. Sin is deliberate. King Saul lived in the land of “oopsie” – “I made a mistake, the people made me do it, it’s ’cause of David,” etc. But David said, “Against You and You alone have I sinned and done evil in thy sight.”
As Above, So Below – Why It Matters
I did not really understand the spiritual nature of this crisis until I was confronted with the paraphrase, The Message , by Eugene Peterson. Peterson’s “Bible” was very tinged with terms very prone to nature-type analogies that are more familiar to Wiccan and pagan circles than to Christianity.
Something inside was just screaming. It was the same “red light” I have felt on so many occasions and with so many people over the years that indicated something was very wrong spiritually. But this time, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
It wasn’t until I was put in contact with a man named Warren Smith, a former new ager, that the “red light” made sense. I had a long conversation with Warren, and it helped answer a lot of questions. Then we got down to my problem with The Message. “I just can’t read it”, I told him. “I just don’t feel right about it.” “I can show you why,” Warren replied. “What does the Lord’s prayer read?” he asked. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, I answered. “Now read it in The Message.”
I found the passage, and as I read it, my blood ran cold.
“As above, so below.”
That phrase doesn’t mean anything to 99% of the populous, and 99.9% of believers. But to those who know and understand the world of the occult and the New Age, it means EVERYTHING. If you were to type that phrase – “As above, so below” into a search engine, and you will come up with 210,000 web site references – that overwhelming majority of which are from occult and/or new age sites. The very first site, an occult definition site, says, “This phrase comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet (which, incidentally, is listed as the source of “The Secret” in the first pages of Rhonda Byrne’s book by the same name – g.r.) and embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic wording by Hermes Trismegistus. The significance of this phrase is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. “‘That which is above is the same as that which is below’…Macrocosmos is the same as microcosmos. The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man, man is the same as the cell, the cell is the same as the atom, the atom is the same as…and so on, ad infinitum.” (from The Mystica) It has its roots in Egyptian priesthood and magick, and means, among other things, that God and man are equal.
There is no question that this is purely and occult phrase rooted in some of the most ancient forms of “mystery religion” teaching there is, Kabbala, Egyptian magick, Crowlyeyan magick, etc. The phrase is so clear in its meaning, that anyone that uses it deliberately must either (1) Unwittingly use it under the influence of something from the demonic realm, or (2) Knows exactly what it means.
I do not know the author of The Message. What I do know, is that he either had to be unwittingly influenced by something other than the Holy Spirit to write something so absolutely phrase-specific to the world of ancient occultism and new age thought, or, God forbid, he does know what it means. I can only pray it is the former, but regardless, it is very terrifying to me that an occult phrase that is so absolutely highly charged with occult meaning and power and RECOGNITION to those in that world, would pass as SCRIPTURE and no one even gives it a glance. Do you understand my concern? If that were the ONLY problem I had with The Message – and it is not – that would be enough for me to never use it again.
Excerpt from Trojan Church by Gregory Reid