Saturday, August 23, 2008

Why is it dangerous for Christians to seek after anointed leaders?

In an earlier post, I talked about the fact that according to the Bible, all believers are anointed by God. Anointing isn't just something for a few, special leaders. It's God's gift to each of His children. That post talked about why the idea that we "regular" Christians need to gain some special anointing from some chosen "leader" is unbiblical. In this post I want to touch on why it's dangerous.

I feel so sorry for Todd Bentley, his wife, and especially their children. I know first-hand what it's like to grow up in a home that's been torn up by divorce, and it's not good. I hope Bentleys can get their act together so the kids don't have to grow up in a broken home.

But there's another group that I feel almost as sorry for. It's the thousands of well-meaning believers who flocked to Lakeland. They were hoping to find healing or hope or some kind of touch from God. Now, it seems like what they got was a show, put on by an out-of-control minister. I'm sure that some of those people will be so shaken that they will walk away from the faith, too hurt to risk opening their hearts to God or His people.

And that's where the danger is. Anytime we look to leaders to impart something of God to us, we are looking for trouble. Even if a leader is called an "apostle" or they are commended by someone claiming apostolic authority (like Bentley was), they are only human. That means they are susceptible to sin and failings.

The danger seems clear to me, especially when you see Bentley's commissioning service from this past June. This service features a whole stage full of people who many consider "apostles." Each one seems determined to give a more elaborate vision of what Bentley was about to for the Lord. This was less than 2 months before his secret life became public. Obviously, these leaders who are so connected to the Lord didn't see the reality of Bentley's life.

If these "apostolic leaders" were so wrong about Bentley, can you trust them to give a prophetic word in your life? I'm not so sure.

Maybe what we need to learn from this whole thing is that God really does give us all we need to live out His life in us. Rather than spending our time chasing down this leader or that manifestation, let's ask Him to show us where He is at work in us, and the people around us.

But do we really trust that He's good enough, powerful enough, and loving enough to give us His best? Or is it safer to put our faith in a leader who here's directly from God? I think it really comes down to how we see God, and I'll have to pick up that thought later...

Friday, August 22, 2008

NFTW #012--Living in a post-Christian world; What do we do with a fallen believer?

This is 2 weeks in a row that I actually got a podcast out. Shocking!

This week I look at the California court case that upheld homosexual rights over Christian beliefs. I also go into the whole Lakeland revival thing. I'm wondering: when a Christian's private sin is exposed, how should other Christians respond?

Listen here!


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Aren't we all anointed?

I wonder if part of the problem with the Lakeland event that's been unraveling is that Christians are desperate for a special touch from the Holy Spirit. So we go everywhere, looking for someone who has that "unique anointing" from God. We gather around certain teachers, or apostles, or conference speakers, or pastors, thinking they will give us that word from the Lord that we so desperately need.

That way of following Jesus is, in my opinion, dangerous and unbiblical.

It's unbiblical because it ignores the fact that we are all anointed with the Holy Spirit. 1 John 2:20-21 says: "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth." Every Christian has the Holy Spirit living inside them. The Holy Spirit is given to every believer as a sign that he or she a child of God. The Holy Spirit lives in us as God's guarantee that He will continue His work until Jesus' return.

I'm not saying that we can't learn and grow from hearing the wisdom of teachers that God has gifted. What I am saying is that the idea that we are somehow incomplete unless we receive an "anointing" from some special leader is false and unbiblical.

Yet many Christians believe that they need something or someone other than the Holy Spirit living in them to become a whole Christian. I know, because I used to be in this group, and it made me miserable.

It's sad, really. And dangerous. And it says something about what we really believe about God. But this post is getting too long, so I'll jump into the other issues in a future post...

I don't want him to grow up either...

Last night, Little MacGyver and I were sitting in my bedroom, singing some songs. He turned to me and said, "Dada, I don't want to grow up. I want to stay a kid, so I can live with you and mama forever!"

I tried to explain to him that growing up was just part of life, and that we would love each other, no matter how old he was.

But he just wants to stay a kid.

To tell you the truth, I'd love for him to stay a kid too...

Here he is at the Nature Center yesterday, being his goofy, terrific self:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We love the El Dorado nature center!

The Mighty Mrs. J has this week off, so we wanted to do some fun things with the kids. Today we went to the El Dorado Park Nature Center in Long Beach. It's a great place for city kids to enjoy some "wilderness" in the middle of the city. We go there to walk the nature trails and get away from the routine for a while.

It just so happened that I brought along a camera. (Lucky you!)

At the welcome center, kids can look at different exhibits about the plants and animals you might see on the trails. They have a collection of bones and skins from different animals. Here's Little MacGyver looking through the "eyes" of some animal. (I think it's actually a pelvis, but he doesn't care.)

DisneyGirl explores the possibility of life with antlers...

Toddler Houdini found this cross-section of a tree fascinating, for some reason.

Once on the trail, you can get up close and personal with all kinds of animals...

You can cross a small stream...

...or you can just enjoy the the wild buckwheat plants in the sunshine!

When you get tired, some nice mommy will give you a ride.

Everyone gets hungry after a long morning at the nature center!

Actually, the squirrel is on top of the lunches that came with a bunch of school kids. The bus driver wasn't paying attention, and the squirrel took advantage.

El Dorado Nature Center is a great place! Our kids love it, and when we visit, they don't want to leave...

When Christians fail, what do we do?

In regard to the whole Todd Bentley thing, I do have some thoughts on what's going on now. It does appear, from what some leaders in the Charismatic movement have said, there have been people close to the Lakeland thing who expressed concerns about what was going on. But none of these leaders were loud enough, in my opinion, in speaking out about what was going on.

This isn't to keep beating Bentley. I sincerely hope he gets the hope he needs. God still loves him enough to bring him out of the pit he's in.

But there are some things that seem clear to me:
  • Bentley needed people in his life who loved him enough to pull him aside and tell him to cut out the nonsense. That's what happened in this case, with the result that Cain has repented and is seeking help.
  • It's never wrong to question what someone is teaching. Apparently, someone on GodTV said that anyone who questioned what was going on in Lakeland was demonic. That statement is, I believe, pretty demonic itself.
  • The problem with questioning someone's teaching comes when you assume that the person who is teaching has some sort of evil intent. What was the intent of Bentley and his group during this revival? I haven't a clue. I can't judge intent, but I can say where I believe someone's teaching lacks biblical basis.
  • God is absolutely able to stop something that is damaging to His people. He will protect His children, whether he uses other believers, or gets involved more directly.
I've got some more thoughts on what this says about the state of the church, but I'm too tired to keep typing coherently. (As though that's ever stopped me before!) These verses keep tripping through the cluttered back of my mind:

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Does this passage have any bearing on how we treat Bentley from here on out?

Monday, August 18, 2008

More thoughts on Todd Bentley, Lakeland, and spiritual correctness...

You know, I'm still processing a bunch of stuff about the Lakeland Revival business. For the past few months I've heard it from every angle--from "Lakeland thing is the real deal, you've got to get yourself down there to catch the anointing," to "Bentley and his crew are demon-following hucksters, dragging sheep to the slaughter." Both sides are completely sure that they are right, and that the other side is in deep error.

I'm not sure I'm clear about what I think concerning this particular piece of revival fever. But I am beginning to question how we deal with other believers that we think are wrong in their doctrines and/or practices. Here are a few things I am kicking around in my head. My thinking is still a bit fuzzy on this stuff, so I have no answers, just questions...
  • how much "good theology" does a person need to be saved?
  • what is the proper role for "fruit inspection" when it comes to judging a person or movement?
  • how much error can a person have in his/her theology before I break off fellowship with them?
  • if it's the Holy Spirit's job to lead us into truth, what is the role of other believers in that process?
  • when another believer is exposed to be in sin or error, what should my response be?
  • can a person be wrong without being evil?
I've actually got a lot more questions than I've got time for now. I'll have to sort them out in the days ahead. One thing I am pretty sure of: we're losing the idea of being loving AND truthful. It seems like too many of us are one or the other, but not both...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Quick thoughts on the Lakeland Revival and Todd Bentley...

I've been pretty quiet on the whole thing that's been going on in Lakeland, Florida. Mostly that's because listening to both the pro- and anti- Lakeland Revival camps have made me think more deeply about how we treat believers we have disagreements with.

But it seems now that Todd Bentley, the evangelist who has been at the center of these events, is having some marital difficulties. (Scroll about halfway the linked page to see the letter from the board of directors.)

There is a larger issue about the whole Lakeland Revival thing that I won't address now. But it is pretty safe to say that Bentley is a polarizing figure in the body of Christ. Some people have claimed that he has a powerful annointing from God. Others think he's literally doing the work of the devil, deceiving the people of God.

Here's my quick thought for now: whatever your view of Bentley and the Lakeland events, it's clear that he and his family are going through a horrible time. I believe he and his wife have kids, and all of them will be hurt by divorce. Can we please, for once, come together in love and pray for and support a brother and sister who are hurting? Is there any chance we can use this as an opportunity to heal hurting believers, instead of using it as an excuse to blast Bentley?

I mean, I thought Jesus said the world would know we were believers by our love for each other, not by our ability to kick another believer when he's down...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Clean bill of health!

I haven't said a lot about it, because it's a mostly a private matter. But Toddler Houdini had some health problems last year, and she had to go through more tests than you can imagine just so her doctors could figure out what was going on. It wasn't a fun time for any of us.

Well, the doctors didn't find any major problems with her, and her problems haven't returned for over a year. Today she had a follow-up appointment with one of the specialists she saw last year. This doctor decided that she was fine, and discharged her. TH doesn't have to go back!

One truth keeps showing up, going through our kids' adoptions, and with this health scare. The truth is: you only have a short time with the people you love. Don't waste it being angry and doing stupid things. I know I've thought a lot about how things could have turned out for her, and I don't want to waste a second of the time we have together.

Her mom and I are just happy and thankful that God has blessed all of us with good health for our precious little girl...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The world's silence on the Georgia invasion is deafening...

Does anybody else wonder about this? When the US invaded Iraq, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in cities all over the world, denouncing our country's actions. The protesters claimed our actions were a naked power grab. One of the slogans that was chanted constantly was, "No blood for oil!"

My, how things have changed! Russia invades Georgia under the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians who live in a Georgian province. Then the Russian troops kept pressing on, and now they control a large portion of Georgia.

Why is Russia doing this? Well, they certainly want to assert their control over the states that used to be in the Soviet Union. Russian prime minister has said that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the worst mistake of the 20th century.

But this is also about oil. There are oil pipelines that go through Georgia that lead to Turkey and to the Black Sea. Russia would love to get control of those pipelines so they could control even more of the oil that goes to Europe. (Russia already supplies much of the natural gas that Europe uses.)

So it seems pretty clear that this is a war for oil. Where are the protesters? Where are the people comparing Putin to Hitler, like they did to Bush? Where is the outrage over Russia's actions? I haven't heard a peep out of the usual suspects.

I know a lot of Europeans are scared of Russia, and they don't want to say anything to upset Putin. But the hypocrisy is overwhelming. Will anyone hold Russia to account? I'm not holding my breath...

One great thing about America...

I like to gripe about America as much as anybody. (Actually, I probably complain more than most.) But I also realize how blessed I am that I live in this country. Especially when I look at all the nonsense that is going on all over the world. And, although I'm a little freaked out that either this empty suit or this waffler is going to be president come next January, I'd still rather live here than anywhere else.

One of the things I am most thankful for is the ability to worship freely. My family and I are not part of a traditional church. We do get together with other folks, and different people take turns hosting the group for fellowship times. And we can do this without being afraid that we'll be shut down, arrested, or harassed by the government. That's a special freedom that I hope my children will be able to enjoy and appreciate.

There's actually no point to this, except that I'm thankful for my freedom, and I pray that all Christians will soon be able to worship freely...

China ushers in new era of religious freedom...

Hua Huiqi, a Chinese Christian based in Beijing, left for church last Sunday. It was a special day, because US President George W. Bush was going to be visiting the same state-approved Protestant church as Hua.

President Bush made it to church. Hua did not.

He was arrested by the Chinese police. His crime? Hua is active in the house church movement in China, a movement that is outside the control of the Chinese government. Authorities must have been afraid that Hua would make a scene while Bush was enjoying the "religious liberty" that China offers.

Hua apparently escaped from police custody. His brother says he is in hiding, being cared for by other Christians. The article I've linked to talks about other activists who are under virtual house arrest during the Olympics. It also sounds like they are just generally harassing house churches.

So, if you are a freedom-loving person enjoying the Olympics, just remember that there are a lot of people in China who don't have the same liberties you do. Pray for them, and rattle some cages in Washington. You never know what might happen...

The price of not being able to judge a leader's character...

"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.

"I was able to get a sense of his soul."

--George W. Bush, talking about Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, June 16, 2001.

"I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word."

--Neville Chamberlain, talking about Adolph Hitler, September, 1938.

When you aren't able to discern someone's true character, all kinds of bad things can happen...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bad news for religious education...

I don't know if any of you have kids in religious elementary or secondary schools. But there is a court case working its way through the courts in California that could have an effect on religious schools all over the country.

The case involves 5 students from Calvary Chapel school in Murrieta, CA. They applied to the University of California, and some of the courses they took in high school were not accepted because they were taught from a narrow, Christian perspective. A federal court judge ruled that the university was within its rights to disallow these courses based on its Christian content.

I understand that universities have the right to decide what courses they will allow. But I do worry that this ruling will have the effect of forcing Christian schools to alter the spiritual components of its classes. It could happen that Christian schools will tone down or even eliminate those components, in order to make their classes conform to a certain university's idea of how the world works.

The case itself will be appealed, first to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Christian schools will lose there, and then their last appeal will be to the US Supreme Court.

I guess it all boils down to your view of the world. Universities are basically controlled by people who have accepted a materialistic view of the world. They don't have any room for spiritual or supernatural ideas to enter into the realm of objective truth. Depending on how widely they want to enforce their worldview, they could effectively neuter Christian secondary education in the US....

Read reports about the case here and here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Obama sings the hits!

Is this the greatest song ever? Maybe. It might not be as good as this, but it's awfully close.

Enjoy the greatness!

NFTW #011--Here at last!

I finally bowed to intense public pressure, and I''m ready to resume the foray into podcasting excellence that is Notes from the Way. This episode, I try to figure out why men don't like church, and I look a little bit at what it means to be on mission for God...

Listen to it here:

Or, go on over to the Notes from the Way blog...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Great video on AIDS in Africa...

If you can watch this without choking up, let me know. I'll call the paramedics to go to your house. The AIDS problem in Africa is staggering, and the church has been slow to deal with it. I hope that is changing.

The money quote from the video? "People understand their sin without our help. It's grace they need help understanding."

(Thanks to the awesome folks at The God Journey !)

Ya just gotta wonder...

My first thought when I read this? I bet the people who go to his congregation are afraid NOT to tithe...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Birthdays just go on and on...

The girls had their birthdays about 10 days ago, as I'm sure all of you are aware. But just because the birthdays are past doesn't mean you can't give presents.

Tonight, they got to open some gifts from their Aunt Jo, all the way from Colorado. Shockingly, I just happen to have some pictures. (Lucky you!)

Here's everybody waiting for mom to open the box and pass out the gifts...

DisneyGirl loves her new shirt (and her book/purse, too!)...

TH also really likes her purse/book. The only thing she likes more? Posing for the camera...

Because she's the coolest aunt ever, she sent a present to Little MacGyver too. He actually went to sleep wearing his new bug hat. And he had me hide his other bug stuff so the girls wouldn't take it. I think he likes his presents just a little bit...

Here's everybody, showing off their loot. The really cute woman in the middle? She's MY gift...

All the kids say, "Thank you Aunt Jo!!!" We love you a lot!

China's air quality is GREAT for the Olympics...

This is the brand-new aquatics stadium in Beijing, built especially for the Olympics. It's called the Water Cube, and as you can see, it's beautiful.

There's only one minor problem: the smog inside. The Australian swim team reported a "thin blanket of pollution" inside the Cube when they practiced there Monday. The swim events begin on Monday.

Australia is especially worried because a couple of their have asthma. The swim arena was built to give swimmers a chance to compete in air that wasn't super-polluted. Apparently, that didn't work. I do have 3 suggestions: just remind athletes that Beijing's official policy is that there is no smog, only mist; have Chinese officials fire "anti-pollution" pellets into the swim stadium; or get water-proof versions of these:

I hear all the cool athletes are wearing them this season...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P.

One of the greatest writers of the 20th century died this week. (OK, not as great as this guy, but great nonetheless.) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was an author who really opened my eyes to the reality of communism and totalitarianism.

I don't remember why I picked up his book, The Gulag Archipelago, in the mid 1980's. It was based partly on his own experience of being a political prisoner in the Soviet prison system after World War 2. He told the story of what the Soviet Union was really like in a way that was beautiful, terrifying, inspiring, and sickening, all at the same time. Later I read The First Circle, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and a bunch of his speeches and essays.

Solzhenitsyn was a true intellectual heavyweight who understood the evil threat that communism presented to the world. But he also saw that the West was suffering from moral and spiritual decline, which he said were caused by our materialism, reckless individualism, and lack of courage.

I was a little disappointed by Solzhenitsyn's willingness in his later years to embrace Vladimir Putin. Solzhenitsyn's desire to see a strong Russia rise from the ashes of the Soviet Union blinded him somewhat to the excesses of Putin's regime. But that doesn't do anything to lessen Solzhenitsyn's impact on the 20th century. And his insight into the nature of evil still can instruct us today.

In fact, if you read his speeches, and replace "communism" and "Soviet Union" with "Islamic extremism", much of what he said then still applies to the threats we face today.

Solzhenitsyn was unafraid to call communism for what it is: evil. He also wasn't afraid to condemn the evils of secular Western culture.

The lesson I learn from his life? One person who dares to speak the truth with passion, and without compromise, really can make a difference in the world.

Thanks, Mr. Solzhenitsyn. R.I.P.

I hope President Bush enjoys the Olympics...

President Bush will be in Beijing this week to take in the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games. Some Chinese Christians won't be able to attend, however. This article tells of Zhang Mingxuan, a house church pastor who has been kicked out of Beijing, just in case he planned to start any trouble. He and his wife have been "relocated" so they can't meet with any foreign leaders.

The article also talks about how much the harassment of Chinese Christians has increased in the days leading up to the Olympics.

Bush actually had a meeting set up with Zhang, back when he visited China in 2005. But Zhang was detained before he could meet with our president. Bush's reaction to Zhang being arrested because he might say something negative (but true) about China's religious oppression?

Nothing. Bush didn't say one word about this shocking arrest, as far as I can find. But he did enjoy a nice service at a state-approved church in Beijing. He's scheduled to go to another service at one of the registered churches while he's there for the Olympics.

I've expressed on several occasions how disappointed I am by our president, so I won't go into it again. I'll just ask you to pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters. they need God's strength to stay true in difficult circumstances. And pray for our president too. He needs some serious eye-opening and courage...