Posts Tagged ‘the other side of the river’
LTRP Note: Kevin Reeves is the author of The Other Side of the River, which is an account of his years as an elder in a Latter Rain, “River” church.
By Kevin Reeves
Back in about the early ’90s, my former church went through a series of divine healing videos put out by Charles and Francis Hunter, or “The Happy Hunters.” At the end of each video, we put the teachings to the test—not the scriptural test for truth, mind you, but the “practical application” of what we had just learned. By laying on of hands, usually administered by Jason (our pastor) but sometimes by others in the group, we often felt things—sometimes a sense like an electric current running through the body, sometimes “drunkenness” (I experienced this one time where I literally could not speak without slurring my words), and sometimes in a very strange manipulation of the limbs. This was particularly powerful. Once (and I was not the only one so affected), according to the command on the video, I stretched out my arms and brought my hands together in order to see if my back was out of alignment. Well, according to the Hunters’ criteria it was, and when I asked for God to heal me, right there in that room with about fifteen other people, my back seemed to move of its own accord, my outstretched arms and shoulders slowly rotating as if there was another person inside me doing the motions. There appeared to be a definite power at work unlike any I had ever felt before. I was thrilled. Even elder Smalley was impressed, pointing at me and exclaiming with a huge smile, “Look at Kevin!”
This manipulation went on for about ten minutes, when it gradually subsided and left altogether. We had seen many people on this video manifest in this way, so it was only natural that we should experience the same thing. Incidentally, I never did feel any lasting change in my back.
It wasn’t my spine that needed aligning—it was my heart. And that needed to be aligned using the plumb line of God’s Word. Although we could not find its precedent in Scripture, the experience was powerful,stimulating, and sometimes seemed to work. Even unbelievers who were occasionally brought to meetings testified of the power that coursed through their bodies and moved their limbs of its own accord. At least one, however, left our meeting hurting with worse pain than when he arrived.
Was it of God? What do you think? Its absence from the ministries of Jesus and the apostles should sound warning bells loud and clear. This was a formula prayer, the same thing Jesus had in fact warned against in Matthew 6:7.
“Do this, and this will happen.” How many times I heard that kind of spiritual reasoning in our congregation eludes me. But God simply doesn’t act that way. Jesus healed differently for different people, based on heart attitude, not a specific agenda, method, or ritual. One of the main points of the video, which fell right into line with our own doctrine, was that Christians should not be suffering under sickness. Well, if we believe that, then we will have a very hard time explaining away the sickness of sincere believers like Timothy (I Timothy 5:23), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-27), and Trophimus (II Timothy 4:20). In congregations today that follow these doctrines of men, the many who suffer sickness, sometimes chronically, are placed in the position of being healed or being condemned for their lack of faith, either by church leadership, the congregation, or their own feelings. They believe they have failed God. Or worse, that God has failed them.
Other Articles by Kevin Reeves:
Slain in the Spirit—Is it a Biblical Practice? by Kevin Reeves is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract. The Booklet Tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklet Tracts are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Slain in the Spirit—Is it a Biblical Practice?,” click here.
By Kevin Reeves
Jason had just picked himself up from the floor at the front of the sanctuary and clasped the aged hands of a dear older believer who occasionally came to Sunday service. With a deep reverence, he gently kissed her hands in a gesture of honor.
Only a moment before he had been laid out on the carpet. Sister Carmen had come up front at the service’s end to receive healing prayer for eyes suffering from progressive vision deterioration. She was a sweet old lady, a pioneer who talked a lot about getting back to her home in a small community farther north and deeper into the backcountry. In the previous few months, I had spent considerable time with her and her young companion, a fervent Christian and fellow sticks-dweller who had land staked out for homesteading. A loving and self-appointed protector, he guarded Sister Carmen physically in their travels, and she in turn imparted some of the Christian wisdom gleaned over many years of serving the Lord.
Jason anointed Sister Carmen with oil, and I prayed for her with my eyes closed. I was completely unprepared for what happened next. Sensing a pulling away by Jason, I cracked open my eyelids just in time to see him, frozen in position with his hands outstretched in ministering prayer, free-fall to the hard floor. So stunned that I failed to react, I watched as Jason hit the thin carpeting with a frighteningly loud thump! He lay there in an attitude of sleep while I stood, jaw unhinged and, a ridiculously helpless look on my face. Getting up a few minutes later, Jason said in hushed tones that he had witnessed Jesus overshadowing Sister Carmen.
At the time, I never doubted him, not for a moment. Despite hammering the floor with his head at concussion force, he seemed unhurt, and he was so spiritual about the entire incident that I could barely speak.
Called to the Carpet
Anyone becoming involved with an active charismatic ministry knows what being slain in the spirit means by the end of his first week. It is so common in so many Pentecostal and charismatic services that if it fails to happen for a while, folks engaged in this practice begin to wonder why God’s favor has left them. Experiencing the slain phenomenon for the first time at my old church, New Covenant, I have witnessed it probably hundreds of times in the past twelve years.
But what exactly does being slain in the spirit mean? Traditionally, the term applies to the supposed power of God coming upon a person at a specific time, overpowering his physical strength so that he or she is unable to stand, wherein he or she falls backwards. Sometimes while lying on the floor, the person is totally aware of the experience; at other times individuals claim the power is so intense that all outside influences disappear. Visions are often seen or voices heard during such trance-like states, usually attributed to God. Sometimes the person becomes stuck to the floor, as if held in place by an unseen hand. Some claim to have undergone tremendous spiritual renewal after “falling out,” and still others claim physical healing.
During my years (some of which I was an elder) at New Covenant Fellowship, I believed very strongly in the experience, recommended it to others, and marveled at the power of God that could cut a man’s legs out from under him as with an invisible scythe. I have witnessed entire rows of people go down at the wave of a minister’s hand, bodies collapsing in a disheveled heap on chairs or in the aisles. There were times the anointing seemed to come on me, and I was amazed that I’d lay hands on people or merely walk by them, and they would hit the floor with no warning. The first time this happened, I was awed, deeply grateful that God’s presence had manifested in such a powerful way through so inferior a vessel. I determined to walk more closely with Him, wanting to be used again in this way.
Carnality in Motion
At first, I was very caught up in the excitement, but in later years some disturbing hints began to surface that everything was not as I had first believed. For one thing, a few in our congregation seemed to swoon at the slightest hint of God’s power in the room. Nancy Bullinger was one such, falling out more times than anyone else I knew. I thought it was because she was so sensitive to the things of the Spirit that God just naturally gravitated toward her to demonstrate His presence. But the closer I watched, the more nagging doubts tugged at me. On more than one occasion after she was supposed to be slain, I saw her sit up and pull her skirt down to a discreet level, the hem of which had risen inappropriately when she was laid on the floor by the catcher. She then lay back down and stayed there for a reasonably long period of time. This bothered me. If she was really under the power of God, as we believed, she would have not have had the strength to move, much less be concerned or aware of her modesty.
But this brought up another scriptural inconsistency. I Corinthians 14:40 addresses this concern: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Many of the women who had skirts or dresses fell with legs askew, exposing skin that should have, in decency, been covered. This obvious immodesty even spawned the ministry of covering in some churches, where specific individuals are assigned the duty of draping prepared cloths over the legs of women indecently exposed. One video of a Kenneth Hagin conference showed one of Hagin’s aides going down to the floor under the power, falling into a sitting woman and sliding down the side of her legs—a woman, mind you, who was not his wife. This scenario was repeated in this video numerous times.1
Would the same God who commanded His people to do all things “decently and in order” also permit—rather instigate—a spiritual practice that places them in physically compromising positions?
Catch Me if You Can
In most services where being slain in the spirit occurs, some members of leadership are routinely assigned the duty of catcher. Their job is to stay behind the person being prayed for and be prepared to catch, should the individual be overcome, and to lay him gently on the floor while God “ministers.” Since the job can be physically demanding, most of the catchers are men, and, since a great percentage of those slain are women, the catchers must come into abrupt physical contact with the woman’s body. While a catcher is often able to lay hold of the woman’s arms or shoulders, that is sometimes impossible. I have seen some women collapse so quickly and in such a free fall that the catcher has no time to consider appropriate contact, regardless of good intentions. Many people have swooned without prayer of any kind and with no warning beforehand. Those present are faced with the split-second choice of letting the person hit the floor with a thud or laying sudden hold on whatever limbs or body parts present themselves and lowering the person gently.
Sometimes they are not caught at all. There are simply too many at once responding to “the power,” and they fall one on top of another. During the early ’90s, I witnessed this aplenty, a mass of bodies sprawled out in the aisle, men on top of single women or other men’s wives.
However you slice it, it comes up way short.
I had also been bothered by the very necessity for catchers. If God indeed was knocking His people down, surely He would have the mercy to cushion the fall. In all fairness, I have heard of some who were slain and hit the floor hard, but felt they landed on a bed of feathers. Jason had insisted he was unhurt after his falling out. But that, at best, is subjective. It may or may not have happened the way the person relates the experience. Embarrassment can be a strong silencing factor. Or there may be another reason for that altogether.
But people at times do get hurt, sometimes noticeably. I have personally seen at least one young man go down without realizing no catcher was behind him. He plummeted to the floor and cried out in obvious pain, holding his head. I wonder how many would fall down if they knew nobody would be there to lower them gently. A young church elder visiting our congregation from another town stood behind me as I received prayer during a Sunday service. Noticing I was shaking violently and fighting the urge to fall, he said quietly, “It’s okay, I’m here. You won’t get hurt.”
Of course, I went down.
Context or Pretext?
Where does being slain in the spirit come from? The Bible, presumably. Our favored verse and the one uniformly lifted standard-like by the charismatic community is 2 Chronicles 5:13-14:
[A]s the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.
Whenever anyone asked for scriptural proof for the validity of being slain in the spirit, we’d trot out this verse with a less-than-humble attitude. And, on the surface, it does look very similar to the modern practice.
There’s just one small difficulty—that’s not the end of the story.
Pastor Ted Brooks, in his devastating critique of modern false signs and wonders within the church, I Was a Flakey Preacher,2 notes that we should continue to read down through chapters six and seven of 2 Chronicles, which is a continuation of this same narrative. Solomon addresses the multitudes present, prays to God, and way over in 2 Chronicles 7:1-2, we find a startling revelation:
Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house.
And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house.
The priests were not able to minister in the house of God in the first place because they were not in the house of God at the time. They had come back out and stood with the large gathering of people after setting up the Ark of the Covenant in the holy place. While charismatic teaching would have us believe that the temple was littered with the bodies of incapacitated priests, the Old Testament simply tells us they could not even enter into the area where God had manifested His glory!
A quick reading of 1 Kings 8:10-11 will reveal the same thing. The priests simply were not in the holy place when it was filled with the glory of God.
We must look to Jesus. If He was the Word made flesh (John 1:14), then the entire canon of Scripture is summed up in Him. Not once is it even hinted at in Christ’s ministry that being slain in the spirit ever occurred. It is true that when the soldiers came to take Him in the garden of Gethsemane, He spoke and they all “went backward, and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). But two things must be borne in mind here. For one thing, those who came to take Him were unbelievers and subject to His judgment. In this case, being slain in the spirit is not something to be sought after. Second, the mob didn’t just stay on the ground for a while—they immediately got up again. If Christians are going to use this verse to support being slain in the spirit, it must be used in context with nothing withheld. Seen this way, this particular passage does more damage to the notion than provide support.
Daniel 10:9 has also been used with some success to validate the practice. Confronted by an angelic being, Daniel said “then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground.”
But again, one must read on to verses ten and eleven:
And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.
We need to take every word of God at face value. If Daniel says he fell into a deep sleep, we need to accept that without adding to or taking away. If some call this being slain in the spirit, another could as easily say that he simply passed out from fear. The contrasts between this and current practice are rather graphic. When Daniel was touched by the angelic messenger, he received strength to get up. In church when we were “touched by God,” we lost strength. Daniel stood up to face the angel. We lay down so that God could minister. Daniel’s encounter happened through no human agency, and without another witness present. Being slain in the spirit almost always happens under the touch or prayer of an anointed minister, and it is done in public. While it does happen on occasion when a Christian is alone or in prayer, these instances are reportedly rare, and again, subjective. I have seen enough instances, and experienced them myself, to recognize the effects of heightened expectation. The result is often just what the person believed would happen simply because the desire for the experience was so great.
A Visit With “God’s Bartender”
This very thing happened to me in my living room with my wife and daughter present. When Rodney Howard-Browne and his new wine, get-drunk anointing exploded onto the charismatic scene in the early ’90s, both being slain in the spirit and holy laughter roared through our congregation, like wildfire. We grasped any teaching we could get on those subjects. With a five-pack of Rodney Howard-Browne videos, I sat down to glean as much as I could from this man. Since I hadn’t the funds to travel to his itinerant services in Anchorage or Juneau, I reckoned this avenue the next best. I recall being disappointed with his preaching. Watching him maneuver through the congregation I couldn’t see what all the fanfare was about. Mostly he told stories, anecdotes peppered with rehearsed jokes. He talked about the power and mocked those who questioned its origin. I struggled through the teaching because I wanted to get to the “glory.” It was something dangled before me the entire time, and my expectations of being touched rose concurrent with my desire for the power. By the end of his teaching, I was primed, sitting on the edge of the couch.
When he spoke to the congregation and told them to expect the glory to manifest, I looked at Kris, who was combing my daughter Megan’s hair. “I’m going to do it,” I told her gravely, and stood.
I closed my eyes and listened to Browne’s voice as he prayed. Suddenly, the decibel level shot through the roof.
“There it is!” he shouted, meaning the power of God. I listened as he described the anointing, which was supposed to be the manifest presence of God, as it moved up one side of the building and down the other, knocking people to the floor right and left.
When he shouted something like “Take it!” the air was forced out of me in a loud groan, and I fell like a rock back onto the couch. I heard Kris say of Megan, “Kev, you’re scaring her.”
But with my hands still raised and feeling “drunk in the spirit,” I laughed, wept, and felt the power go all over my body, quite unconcerned about who was being frightened. It lasted maybe a half-hour, and when I came out of it, I felt refreshed, a bit awed, and wanting more.
What happened there? An honest appraisal requires me to admit susceptibility to an emotional surge. It wasn’t the power of God. I’ve seen this same form of manipulation in church services (my former church included), whereby recipients are whipped into a fever pitch of expectation. Of course they will go down! That’s what they’ve been waiting for throughout the entire service. It is only natural that they will respond at the appropriate time to the signals given by the man behind the pulpit.
My suspicions finally had an outworking about two years prior to my leaving New Covenant. By that time, having seen so much obvious hype, fakery, and emotionalism, I decided that if God was ever going to knock me down again, then He would be able to do it with my eyes open and my feet planted solidly. Although maintaining a respectful attitude about the entire practice, I was adamant that I would not fall prey to emotional manipulation.
I was never again slain in the spirit.
It is important to understand that all of what goes on in a slain in the spirit service, regarding the actual manifestation, is attributed to the anointing of God. Depending on which River preacher you ask, this anointing can mean power, the weight of glory, the presence of God, or all of the above. While the Bible does refer to an anointing (I John 2:27), it has in these days of sensual faith been contorted almost beyond recognition. And as with so much of hyper-charismatic experience, it has been placed in the realm of something that needs to be reached for, pursued, or worked up in order to be obtained.
Many of today’s biggest superstars in the church have redefined the anointing in a way that brings the experience more into agreement with occult forces than biblical truth. Benny Hinn told of his touch received at the grave of Foursquare founder Aimee Semple McPherson.3 The anointing rests on her bones, he believes, and he shook with the power emanating from her long-dead body. The idea is that visiting these certain graves will give a double-dose of anointing. There’s the “Rambo” anointing of one major Laughing Revival evangelist,4 and the “Braveheart” anointing of Toronto Blessing’s Wes Campbell.5 It doesn’t seem to matter that both Rambo and Braveheart are the main characters of two R-rated movies of gore, mayhem, and foul language. Then there’s Carol Arnott’s “Sword of the Lord” anointing, that makes you shake, cry out, and jerk violently. The video of this specific women’s conference was very revealing.6 I watched in amazement as one of the ladies participating behind the pulpit hefted a huge Scottish broadsword and passed it over the gathering to the congregational accompaniment of wails, groans, and manifestations. This was like something out of ancient Celtic wizardry.
Another major problem in the error-stricken part of today’s charismatic subculture is that some people, usually big-name ministers like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, or John Kilpatrick, are looked upon as being more anointed than others. This naturally presupposes the necessity of making a journey to wherever they happen to be ministering in order to be touched by them, and consequently, by God. It is universally recognized by River adherents that the impartation of power is passed from person-to-person via the laying on of hands, and that belief has provoked a virtual scramble among regular church members to get to the preacher that has “it.” It was certainly common practice among New Covenant membership to gravitate toward the most anointed minister who happened to be preaching at our meetings. Long lines formed before the power or prophecy minister, even if there were others less prominent in the visiting ministerial team that might be standing around with nothing to do and no one to pray for after the service.
Today’s River proponents believe also that God moves in particular geographical locations, hence the necessity to get wherever God happens to be in order to get a touch from Him. Places like Toronto and Pensacola have become neo-Medieval pilgrimage destinations, and in fact, people are encouraged to make the journey by many of the front-running River preachers and by their own pastors. And this despite Jesus’ obvious counter to that line of thinking when He told the Samaritan woman that physical locations mattered little in the eyes of God (John 4:21). The Temple made of stones would become obsolete. No more yearly pilgrimage. As long as we worship in Spirit and truth, He will dwell with us and reward us accordingly (John 4:20-24).
A little common sense might help here. What about the poor or those in some far distant corner of our planet who simply believe Christ’s Gospel without knowledge of or desire for the Toronto anointing? Does it leave them out in the cold, or have they missed a necessary move of God? Plus, the fact that so much merchandising unarguably goes on in the form of videos, tee shirts, cassette recordings of worship music, conference fees, skyrocketing pastors’ salaries—ad infinitum—that this current movement bears more of a resemblance to the money changers in the Temple than the humble followers of Jesus.
The Biblical Anointing
So, what, actually, is the anointing? In the Old Testament, it was used to signify the setting apart of an object or the ordaining of an individual for special service to God (Exodus 30:22-30). The anointing oil was specially prepared according to the command of God, and was not to be used for any other purpose or manufactured without regard to God’s specific instructions (Exodus 30:31-33). Kings as well as priests were anointed (1 Samuel 10:1, 1 Samuel 16:13). Elisha was also anointed prophet by Elijah (1 Kings 19:16). The act of pouring out the oil on an individual was used to signify God’s selection, authority, and empowerment for the position.
But with the coming of Jesus Christ, this form of anointing (signifying God’s choice for a position) with oil passed away* and was replaced with the anointing by the Holy Spirit, who Himself has come to live in each believer, empowering us to follow Christ (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). He also is the one who ministers the gifts of the Spirit within the congregation (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, Ephesians 4:8-12), and who performs works of miracles (Galatians 3:5) among His people. He leads us into all the truth, and reveals to us the things of God (1 John 2:20, 27). This entire series of Scriptures, and many others on the same subject, shows us that the scriptural anointing is completely different from what is practiced today within the hyper-charismatic circles of which I once participated.
The anointing is not a thing conveniently passed from person-to-person—like getting zapped by a current of electricity a la Rodney Howard-Browne or Benny Hinn. To say, as we so often did in New Covenant Fellowship, “the anointing is now present for healing,” or prophecy, or whatever, is to replace the indwelling Spirit with a physical feeling, emotion, or experience, and to separate Him from His ministry.
This is exactly what is suggested by terms like “getting plugged into the power.” What this kind of thinking promotes is exactly what we are seeing within the River camp, the idea that we need something more than we already possess as believers in Christ. This is precisely the original temptation in the Garden of Eden. Just look in the third chapter of Genesis. The fact is, if the Holy Spirit resides in us (and He isn’t going anywhere), then His power is there as well, to enable us to do what He wants us to do. Anything added to what God has already provided is a counterfeit. We don’t need to get zapped, or experience extra-biblical manifestations in order to feel that we have arrived, or to earn inclusion into the mythical great end-times army of Dominion or Latter Rain doctrine.
Examine the Source
Is there ever a real power at work? I have thought about this one long and hard, because if we admit that there is a genuine supernatural power manifesting, then in light of both the Scriptures and the voluminous evidences of carnality, we must conclude it is a spirit other than the Holy Spirit. Again, if this is so, that can only mean that Christians have opened themselves up to seducing spirits come to lead believers away from the one true God. I have come to the conclusion—very cautiously—that, at times, a real supernatural power is at work. In both River meetings and at the Brownsville Revival, documented testimonies from church leadership have involved vivid descriptions of people lifted bodily by an unseen force and violently thrown across the room and up against walls. Our own Tom Smalley told of being witness to this in one of Howard-Browne’s Anchorage meetings. He’d seen a man well over two hundred pounds thrown back across three rows of chairs at the touch of God’s Bartender. This is scary stuff. And it doesn’t match anything I’ve come across in my Bible about God’s dealings among His faithful covenant people.
I have experienced only two incidents of being slain that felt like a genuine power outside of myself. One was in a local Assembly of God service. A visiting woman preacher laid hands on many who had come forward for prayer, and a mass of them went down. Then it was my turn. Though she never so much as touched me, I felt a numbness sweep over my body, and I fell. On the floor, I shook uncontrollably for about ten minutes. The other time involved a service in my former congregation, again with the aid of a visiting minister. My wife, sitting in one of the pews, described my body contorting backward at a severe angle when the power hit me. To me, they both seemed supernatural. Whether or not that was the case, I will leave for the Lord to decide. If they were indeed supernatural, I now question from which source of power they truly came.
But I have yet to know of anyone, myself included, who, because of being slain experienced a changed life characterized by a love for the truth and a knowledge of God in agreement with the Scriptures. In my experience, the exact opposite has happened. When folks get touched with this kind of power, they routinely become almost unteachable, preferring the experience to the Word of God. I can’t relate how many times I’ve heard, “Well, maybe I can’t find it in the Scriptures, but it happened to me, so it’s real!”
That’s a dangerous step to take. In my many years of involvement with the occult prior to salvation, I had numerous real encounters with the supernatural. Certainly they could not have originated with God, but I once believed some of them did, and to me that was all that mattered. My ears were closed to any protest from Christian friends. Such a stubborn mindset is a fertile seedbed for deception. From just such a people will spring up a world ruler who will lead many to everlasting destruction:
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:7-10)
To order copies of Slain in the Spirit—Is it a Biblical Practice?,” click here.
1. Kenneth Hagin conference video/DVD, “Kenneth Hagin and the Spirit of the Serpent” by Joseph E. Chambers (Charlotte, NC: Paw Creek Ministries). To order this dvd, 800/338-7884.
2. Ted Brooks, I Was a Flakey Preacher (Westlock, AB, Canada: Guardian Books, 1999).
3. G. Richard Fisher with M. Kurt Goedelman, “Benny Hinn’s Move into Necromancy” citing Benny Hinn sermon, Double Portion Anointing, Part #3, Orlando Christian Center, Orlando, Fla., April 7, 1991. From the series, Holy Ghost Invasion.
4. Mike Oppenheimer citing Rodney Howard-Brown, “The New Anointing” (Let Us Reason ministries, http://www.letusreason.org/Pent40.htm).
5. “New Year 1998—Where To Now?” article by Christian Witness Ministries (Australia) citing Wes Campbell’s Braveheart speech. (http://www.christian-witness.org/archives/cetf1998/newyear1998.html).
6. Carol Arnott speaking at the Arise Deborah women’s conference in Pensacola, Florida, January 1999, documented by Jewel Grewe, “The Sea of Subjectivity” (Discernment Ministries newsletter, March/April 1999, Volume #2, Issue #10).
To order copies of Slain in the Spirit—Is it a Biblical Practice?,” click here.
Other related resources by Lighthouse Trails:
The Other Side of the River by Kevin Reeves
“I Just Had a Vision!” by Kevin Reeves
The New Age Implications of Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson by John Lanagan
False Revival Coming: Holy Laughter or Strong Delusion? by Warren B. Smith
A Perfect Storm of Apostasy: The Kansas City Prophets and Other Latter-Day Prognosticators by Mary Danielsen
10 Questions for those who claim The “Supreme Beings” of the Nations Are the True God by Sandy Simpson
NEW BOOKLET: The Perfect Storm of Apostasy – An Introduction to the Kansas City Prophets and Other Latter-Day Prognosticators
The Perfect Storm of Apostasy – An Introduction to The Kansas City Prophets and Other Latter-Day Prognosticators by Mary Danielsen is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of The Perfect Storm of Apostasy – An Introduction to The Kansas City Prophets and Other Latter-Day Prognosticators, click here.
By Mary Danielsen
When speaking of spiritual things, what goes around comes around. This is true of every false movement within Christianity, especially in the last days, because the enemy is not going to let a perfectly good deception go to waste but rather will redesign anything to appeal to a subsequent generation. If a particular aberrant teaching is not rejected by the church when it first appears on the horizon by those who perceived it with spiritual eyes, then this movement or aberrant teaching will continue to lead people astray into a future generation.
Add to that the current social media technology wherein deception can attain an unprecedented level of exposure through multi-media, blogs, and conferences, and you have the recipe for a perfect storm of apostasy containing every unbiblical element imaginable. The latter-rain prophet movement is a perfect example of how this works. Regardless of the teaching, or how absurd it is, there will always be a following due to the church’s death of discernment today. With that in mind, I present to you some information of the current crop of “prophets” and “apostles” within the evangelical church. You can file this subject under “Last Days Deception,” along with everything else in Satan’s bag of tricks.
I’m goin’ to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come.—Fats Domino
Back in the mid 1980s, a modest tremblor rattled many churches in the midwest when Kansas City Fellowship registered on the Christian Richter scale. The buzz we experienced here in Wisconsin was that there was a “great move of the Lord” going on there, and the movers and shakers were prophesying and prognosticating the path or direction of people’s lives and the church as a whole. Enter a strange form of spiritual peer pressure, which proposed that if you wanted to follow the Spirit, you needed to go there because, well, you never know where it might lead and you don’t want to miss out “on what God is doing.”
People began to flock to Kansas and return to their hometown churches with dramatic tales of miracles, signs, wonders, and forthtelling. While this move was preceded by the Latter Rain movement of the 1940s, along with the Manifest Sons of God, Kingdom Now theology, the Word/Faith behemoth, and the five-fold ministry, the Kansas City Prophet movement seemed to catalyze it all, taking previous Pentecostal excesses, spinning them in some sort of spiritual centrifuge, and spewing it all forward for a new generation. Those who embraced a “more is better” version of Christianity found themselves prone to seeking out an experiential spirituality.
The core team of Mike Bickle, Bob Jones, John Paul Jackson, Rick Joyner, and Paul Cain became the primary prophetic celebrities. The very first aberration, that continues to this day in this and offspring movements, is the emphasis on raising up personalities who claim to have certain prophetic or apostolic authority. The instruction and prophecy of the Bible takes a back seat while through the elevation of man and the emphasis on experience, Scripture is no longer considered the final authority. In this storm of apostasy, the cult of church celebrity takes a back seat to no one here, to the great peril of the church. This is a foundational problem, and so you can expect everything to skew from that point, and skew it does.
Regarding the forthtelling by Kansas City Fellowship, a couple questions need to be asked. First, is God revealing new and shiny future revelations to mortals, and second, is this additional information meant for more than just a few select? If so, it is a big deal. A very big deal. Now, if He is not doing this and these people are deceived deceivers, that is very big deal #2. Which is it, and is the church sufficiently concerned about either premise? When all this started out, the church was not concerned at all; if it had been, we wouldn’t have half the mess we have today. I hope that by providing some background and history of the KC prophets, you may be able to come up with some answers.
Mike Bickle and John Wimber
Back in 1982, Mike Bickle claimed to receive a prophecy in Egypt, which started The Mess. According to the IHOP (International House of Prayer) website,
While visiting Cairo, Egypt, Mike Bickle heard the audible voice of the Lord say, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.”1
“God” told Bickle to move to Kansas City and begin a global work. Thus the Kansas City Fellowship was born; it is worth noting that this has been the formula for the genesis of nearly every major cult in the 19th and 20th centuries. A young man (or woman) receives a prophecy or sees an angel telling him he is chosen to do A,B,C or D, which usually involves starting a church or movement. See Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, William Branham (founder of the Divine Healing Movement), and so forth.
Around the same time Bickle was entertaining voices and angels, a man named John Wimber was bringing his version of church-growth mathematics into the evangelical church. The paths of Wimber and Bickle intersect significantly later on. But starting back in the ’70s, after leaving the Quaker church, Wimber moved on to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California to study church growth. He came to believe that the Pentecostals and charismatics were leading the way in church-growth models, so he sought to incorporate signs and wonders, believing “that the Gospel is largely ineffective without signs and wonders.”2
During his time at Fuller, Wimber was greatly influenced by C. Peter Wagner, who is considered by most to be the father of church-growth methodology. This methodology spread across state lines to Illinois, home of Bill Hybels’ mega-growth model, Willow Creek. Wagner, also father of all things related to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), brought the church another gift in the ’80s and ’90s—the “territorial spiritual warfare” falsehood, which taught a generation that we can “take cities for God” and rid the planet of demons so Jesus can return. This strange “warfare theology” and bad eschatology has been around long enough for any sane person to see that our cities and byways are no more “Christian” than they were before and in fact are rapidly degenerating; thus, the fruit of that movement is non-existent. But that too does not keep an entire generation from believing in and giving their hard-earned money to false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing.
C. Peter Wagner himself will say that John Wimber was his mentor and parrots Wimber’s view that the only way churches will grow and produce revival is if they are accompanied by signs and wonders.3 So regardless of what cart came before which horse, what happened to Wimber? Let’s pick up there so we can move forward to our KC prophets.
The Vineyard churches actually began in 1977 when Wimber resigned from Fuller and began to pastor. He requested that Calvary Chapel (a fast-growing group of evangelical churches under the leadership of founder and pastor, the late Chuck Smith) be his covering. However, Wimber sought increasing spiritual power through a combination of psychology and charismatic practices, looking for signs and wonders to explain every imaginable problem known to humans. His church began heading in a direction that was not compatible with Calvary Chapel (according to Chuck Smith’s “distinctives”) as Wimber was drawn to practices that emphasized being “slain in the Spirit,” aura reading, visualization, and other Eastern mystical practices.4 As he shifted completely to an experiential approach to ministry, with nothing off limits including everything from name-it-and-claim-it prosperity teachings to Catholic validity of miracles, Chuck Smith challenged him on his low view of Scriptures and increasingly bizarre practices. Seeing two possible directions for the church under his care to go, one being to stress the systematic teaching of Scripture, the other, to rely on signs and wonders to extrapolate and confirm subjective truth, Chuck Smith offered other Calvarys the choice to stay or go, but he maintained a stand to protect the flock from hyper-charismaticism.
Wimber went on to start the Vineyard churches, which went global. Incidentally, the “Toronto Blessing” was birthed at a Vineyard church—Toronto Airport Vineyard—which not only is proof of the fruit of their deeds but highlights the danger of emphasizing what is perceived as the Holy Spirit’s work over the atoning work of Christ. After founding the Vineyard movement, Wimber left to continue his studies at Fuller, further validating his spiritual worldview in a class he taught called “Signs and Wonders and Church Growth.”
The “Day of the Lord” is re-interpreted by the false prophets to mean that Christ will come to His Church and incarnate (become God in flesh) an army of believers—thus giving them supernatural qualities to execute judgment on the Church.5—Jewel Grewe, Discernment Ministries
According to Ernest Gruen, a Kansas City pastor and “contemporary” (for lack of a better word) of the KC pastors:
Bickle was already convinced early on then, that this was a special movement and the beginning of a “new order” of things. He believed that this “worldwide movement” would see over a billion conversions, headed up by 12 different key churches in America. Kansas City would “cross-pollinate” with Vineyard and become a training center for end-time prophets and apostles. He believed that the KC movement had been established by the “two resurrection angels” which were present at Jesus’ tomb.6
In addition to such a mindset, Bickle believed that in the last days, God would raise up 300,000 to be leaders in “Joel’s Army”; hundreds of apostles would be trained there, and an “authority structure” would be put into place to oversee the end-time church and handle all the prophecies and signs and wonders.7
“Prophet” Jack Deere, who served with John Wimber at Vineyard Christian Fellowship, explains their view of this end-time army of God:
How is God going to bring judgment upon His Church and then judgment upon the land after His Church? He’s going to do it with a large and mighty army.8
Hey, if you are going to dream, dream big or go home, I say. Who has time for just studying the Word, praying, serving the flock, and worshiping the King? Small potatoes if you have a mind so puffed up you cease to even make sense at some point.
Bob Jones’ Visions
Enter Bob Jones at this point. Bob’s is an interesting story. The fact that he was a major influence and mentor to Lakeland, Florida’s hyper-charismatic Todd Bentley should be enough information for those who follow such antics to make a decision to change course. Bob’s bizarre visions could fill a book, but back in the KC day, he was said to have had between three to five visions and bodily translations every night.
Jones’ visions began when he was only nine years old when the angel Gabriel supposedly appeared to him and presented a bull skin mantle, signifying his future office of a “seer.” He describes his young adult life as being one continuous alcohol binge, getting into trouble, and ending up in a mental institution for a brief stay. At that low point, he says that when he cried out to Jesus, “a voice spoke to me,” saying, ‘I can’t help you Bob, until you forgive them [people in his past]. Go kill them or forgive them.”9 His visions and interpretations of bizarre spiritual experiences, which are far too numerous to recount here, were foundational to the KC movement, and this is important to understand. Nevertheless, that did not prevent Bickle and his prophesying cohort Jones from laying hands on people and throwing “thus sayeth the Lord” around like softballs—believe me, it affected the personal lives of many.
Ernest Gruen, a Kansas City pastor and “contemporary” (for lack of a better word) of the KC pastors, wrote a very extensive exposé of the KC mess titled “What’s the Problem?” He also authored a 250-page indictment titled, “Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship.” In this document, he outlines numerous power abuses, false prophecies, Scripture manipulation, and outright heresies that were engaged in by the leadership there.
From that report, Gruen explains how one Kansas City psychologist, who counseled with well over a hundred persons who attended KC fellowship, gives a glimpse into the harm that was done in the name of advancing the interests of Kansas City Fellowship (later renamed Grace Ministries). Over a short span of time, he heard of many personal prophecies predicting sudden deaths, illness, financial ruin, and other impending physical issues, which all proved to be false. Needless to say, there appeared to be zero regard for the spiritual safety of the flock.10
Another brave soul who came out with a well-done exposé was Albert Dager, author of the newsletter, “Media Spotlight.” Dager was one of the first in a line of discerning believers who began to see heresy and apostasy being birthed in the church back in the 80s. His article, “Latter Day Prophets—the Kansas City Connection” is a thorough treatment of the excesses and abuses that many suffered at the hands of supposedly “godly men.”
Children were also led into the fray as these men taught that God was raising up a “super generation” of powerful humans who would usher in the end times. Children in their charge were taught to have out-of-body experiences, see angels, be slain in the Spirit, or be drunk in the Spirit.11
As if this weren’t bad enough (again, barely a surface scratch here), we also have exponential false teaching through Paul Cain, Rick Joyner, Francis Frangipane, John Paul Jackson, Jim Goll, and David Parker, all ready to oversee and manipulate a congregation that went from a handful of people, to over 3000 in a very short period of time, in six congregations.
Paul Cain, a Scotsman and contemporary of Latter Rain guru William Branham, believes he was visited by Jesus Himself at age eight and again at eighteen years old and called to hold healing services. He held all the same convictions of Jones and Bickle when it came to manifestations of spiritual power. As researcher Mike Oppenheimer points out, Cain said William Branham was, “[t]he greatest prophet that ever lived in any of my generations or any of the generations of revival I’ve lived through.”12
Cain was referred to by Bob Jones as a prophet’s prophet of sorts, and Cain’s prophetic record is as abysmal as the rest. At least one of his prophecies revolved around a time when he said all sporting events would be canceled and stadiums used for revivals, displaying resurrections and healings on a global scale.13 He claimed to have regular visitations from the Lord and that every hypocritical TV preacher would be exposed by the end of the ’80s.
Rick Joyner, founder of Morningstar Publications and Ministries, has been and remains an enigma on the Christian scene. In addition to Joyner’s significant role with this gang of prophets, he is a Supreme Council member of an organization called “The Knights of Malta” (an ecumenical—Orthodox, Evangelical, Catholic and Protestant—order). His own website confirms this to be true.14 According to an article by author and lecturer Roger Oakland,
The [Knights of Malta] order is sanctioned and “blessed” by the Vatican. . . . Pope Benedict XVI “invokes . . . the continued protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Each “Knight” . . . is required to take a vow. In this vow, the Knight pledges himself to “be guided by the ideas of the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem (started in 1090 and is the predecessor of the Knights of Malta).15
Joyner believes he is one of the warriors who will come against the Islamic horde on American soil. He is yet another self-proclaimed new breed of “super prophet” and “super-apostle,” all who intend to set up their earthly “kingdom of God” while redefining Christianity.
Where Are They today?
According to a 2005 Charisma Magazine article, Paul Cain admitted to being “involved in long-term homosexual activity and often got drunk, sometimes in public.”16 Bob Jones was discredited in 1991 when he was caught in a sexual misconduct scandal.17 He passed away in February of 2014 to glowing eulogies from his former contemporaries. Until his death in February of 2015, John Paul Jackson had his own ministry involving visions and dream interpretation. Mike Bickle, perhaps the highest profile prophet of them all, developed IHOP in 1999 (International House of Prayer) and continues on in his “prophetic” ways to this day. In addition to his heretical “prophetic ministry,” he has come out as a strong advocate for contemplative prayer (a prayer practice that involves eastern religion practices).18
John Wimber’s health began to spiral down in 1993 after being diagnosed with cancer. He suffered a stroke some time later, followed by bypass surgery. He died of a brain hemorrhage in 1997 after a fall at age 63.
Following all the prophet and apostle mayhem of the ’80s and ’90s, the “Seven Mountains (or Spheres) of Culture” is the latest deceptive fiasco by the NAR to rally evangelicals around their latter-day dominion-promoting theology with a mandate to “take back” the culture. Personalities like Bob Buford, C Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs (head prophetess of the movement), and Chuck Pierce continue to press their bizarre spiritual schemes. Included in this Seven Mountain teaching is legislating a form of morality in which all peoples will follow the Mosaic Law. Given the right political and cultural scenario, things could become remarkably dark and evil as we approach the consummation of this present age.
This assigns a different meaning to “go and make disciples of all nations.” By coercion? Through political channels? The church should reject the dominionism of these false prophets outright in favor of waiting for the return of Jesus Christ for His church, in a world completely ripe for judgment and mass deception.
This booklet is just the tip of the iceberg in exposing the Kansas City Prophets and other “prophetic” voices speaking to the church today. I hope this is enough information to show that this prophets and apostles movement is out-of-control and unbiblical. I encourage you to examine this more closely and weigh these things against Scripture. I have listed some helpful resources on the last page of this booklet.
The Bible warns that in the last days, there will be much deception and delusion.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
To order copies of The Perfect Storm of Apostasy – An Introduction to The Kansas City Prophets and Other Latter-Day Prognosticators, click here.
Endnotes – see below
Resources to learn more about the Kansas City Prophets, IHOP, and the NAR
Let Us Reason Ministries with Mike Oppenheimer: www.letusreason.org.
Herescope Blog: http://herescope.blogspot.com.
Believers in Grace with Pastor Bill Randles: http://www.believersingrace.com.
Media Spotlight with Al Dager: http://mediaspotlight.org.
Deception in the Church with Sandy Simpson: www.deceptioninthechurch.com.
Other Related Booklet Tracts by Lighthouse Trails
What You Need to Know About Jim Wallis and the Social-Justice Gospel by Mary Danielsen
I Just Had a Vision!” by Kevin Reeves
False Revival Coming? – Holy Laugher or Strong Delusion? by Warren B. Smith
The New Age Propensities of Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson by John Lanagan
10 Questions for those who claim The “Supreme Beings” of the Nations Are the True God by Sandy Simpson
2. Albert Dager, “The Vineyard: History, Teachings, and Practices” (Media Spotlight, 1996, http://www.mediaspotlight.org/pdfs/The%20Vineyard.pdf), p. 6.
4. Albert Dager, “The Vineyard: History, Teachings, and Practices,” op. cit., p. 11.
5. Jewel Grewe (Discernment Ministries), “Joel’s Army” (http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/02/joels-army-day-of-lord.html).
6. Pastor Ernest Gruen and staff, “Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship,” Section II: The Movement; Part B. (http://www.banner.org.uk/kcp/Abberent%20Practises.pdf).
8. Jack Deere, “It Sounds Like the Mother of All Battles “Joel’s Army” (Vineyard Ministries International. 1990, audiocassette message); as quoted in “Joel’s Army” by Mike Oppenheimer: http://www.letusreason.org/Latrain10.htm.
9. Mike Bickle with Bob Jones, “Visions and Revelations” transcript, series of five tapes (http://www.ihopnetwork.com/ihop/BobIHOP/FullText.pdf, 1988).
10. Pastor Ernest Gruen, “Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship,” op. cit.
12. Paul Cain, “Selections from Kansas City Prophets,” taken from Mike Oppenheimer’s article “Prophet Paul Cain” (http://letusreason.org/Latrain5.htm).
13. A talk given by Paul Cain at Christ Chapel in Florence, Alabama on August 30, 1995 (evening session); see: “The Significance of Filled Stadiums” by Ed Tarkowski, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/pgn3_sd2.htm.
15. Read Roger Oakland’s article “Will the Evangelical Church Sell out the Gospel for a Dominionist Political Agenda?,” http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=7114.
16. J. Lee Grady, “Prophetic Minister Paul Cain Issues Public Apology for Immoral Lifestyle” (Charisma Magazine, http://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/154-peopleevents/people-and-events/1514-prophetic-minister-paul-cain-issues-public-apology-for-immoral-lifestyle).
17. “Pam Sollner, “Minister removed after confession of sexual misconduct” (The Olathe Daily News, November 13, 1991; http://www.religionnewsblog.com/16929/minister-removed-after-confession-of-sexual-misconduct).
18. See John Lanagan’s article “Mike Bickle of IHOP-KC Instructs followers on Contemplative Prayer”; http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=7574.
To order copies of The Perfect Storm of Apostasy – An Introduction to The Kansas City Prophets and Other Latter-Day Prognosticators, click here.
LTRP Note: Kevin Reeves, a Lighthouse Trails author, was an elder in a River (Latter Rain) movement church for many years until the Lord showed he and his wife the truth about the spiritual deception they were involved with. What happened to him is much the same that is happening to many Christians today.
“Touch Not Mine Anointed”
by Kevin Reeves
Perhaps the single biggest factor hindering acknowledgment and genuine repentance of false doctrine is the unwillingness for believers to relinquish the superstar status of their spiritual heroes. And how many times had our church leadership supported this by telling us not to name names? It was the one thing above all others that tied my hands and put a gag in my mouth. Although I was told to go ahead and speak to whomever I wanted to within our group, such presentations were always followed up with appropriate damage control by the leadership. And I was forbidden to breach the unwritten hyper-charismatic code and expose people like Kenneth Copeland during the times I filled the pulpit….
This fear of exposing God’s anointed, even if they are guilty of repeated heresies, bordered on (may I use the term?) paranoia. Regardless of the evidence presented, there was simply no way anyone in our leadership would even admit the word heresy was applicable. Even when the blood atonement of Christ on the Cross is denied; even when those doing the denying are becoming rich through the tithes and offerings of believers who are often materially far worse off; even when these same ministers threaten divine judgment on those in opposition (the old Ananias and Sapphira tactic – Acts 5: 1-11).
Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with examples of the Lord’s apostles and prophets condemning false brethren. Check out Ezekiel 34 sometime, plus the entire books of Isaiah and Jeremiah. Then look at Jesus’ exposure of the hypocrisy and false teaching of His day, or the apostles’ stern warnings in the epistles, such as found in the entire epistle of Jude. Anyone who claims the Bible commands silence on the subject simply doesn’t know the Word as well as he thinks. Although false prophets are not stoned today (fortunate for them!), their sin will always be one of grave consequences.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)
We must name them. How else will the church be warned? Would that we had the courage of a Nathan, to thunder with the righteous anger of the Almighty, “Thou art the man” (II Samuel 12:7)!
The false shepherds among us have too long used I Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15 as a blank check to do as they please. “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” was God’s warning to the nations through which the Israelites passed during their sojourn through the wilderness. It implied swift judgment for any pagans who would come against the chosen people of the Lord. To wield this like a saber at a sincere brother alarmed at false doctrine smacks of spiritual tyranny, cowardice, and dishonesty. Hammered also with the Acts 5 account of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, a concerned believer in Jesus is usually bullied into silence or into leaving the congregation. It’s already been used right here in our town to squelch close examination of extra-biblical manifestations. (To understand more about the hyper-charismatic and Word Faith movement, read The Other Side of the River by Kevin Reeves)
Also by Kevin Reeves:
“I Just Had a Vision!”
Why are Christians seeking a divine presence that Jesus promised would abundantly flow in them? . . . Why do they need another voice, another visitation, or another vision? Why are some people unthankfully desirous of “something more” than what God has already given to us? Why is it that some Christians, in the depth of their souls, are not seemingly at rest? – Larry DeBruyn
By Larry DeBruyn
Guarding His Flock Ministries and Herescope Blog
Among evangelicals there’s a lot of chatter and publicity about seeking “the manifest presence of God.” For example, some musicians, singers and worship leaders boldly claim that their music can escort listeners “through the door of worship, right into the heart and presence of God.” Christian worshippers are classified as “inner court, outer court, or holy of holies Christians, each one needing a certain period of time to come into the manifest presence of God.” So it becomes incumbent upon the worship team to lead congregants into the divine dimension.
Other evangelicals talk about “practicing the presence,” perhaps by employing mood music, cultivating solitude and silence, or practicing other spiritual disciplines to experience it. Often spelled with an upper case “P,” masses of evangelical Christians are desiring to experience a divine presence in which Jesus might speak to them in an exciting new way. In his newly published book, “Another Jesus” Calling: How False Christs Are Entering the Church Through Contemplative Prayer, Warren B. Smith points out that, in her best-selling evangelical book Jesus Calling (Thomas Nelson, 2004 ), Sarah Young uses “The word ‘Presence’… more than 365 times….” He notes further that, “the term [Presence] is also commonly used in New Age/New Spirituality.” In light of all the talk going on about contemplating or experiencing God’s presence, biblical Christians ought to know something of what Scripture teaches about God’s presence so that His Word can inform us regarding seeking after God’s presence, whether the experience(s) of it ought to be embraced or shunned, whether they are authentic or synthetic, or worse, demonic.
The Bible and the Presence
The subject of the presence of God in heaven with people on earth is the storyline of the Bible from Genesis thru Revelation. The holy, transcendent and infinite God of the universe desires to become known by and to fellowship with finite and sinful people on earth. As recorded in Scripture, the first mention of His stated presence commences with Adam and Eve in the first book of the Bible, when after they had sinned and heard God walking in the garden, they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8), and consummates in the last book when a voice declares: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them” (Revelation 21:3). So in defining God’s presence, the Bible must be our guide.
God’s Presence—He’s Far and Near
In knowing about God’s presence, both His transcendence and immanence must be understood with both of the divine attributes being held in tension with each other. The tension, like a rubber band, can be stretched but it must not break. By God’s transcendence it is meant that He is distant, “that God is separate from and independent of nature and humanity.” In other words, He is not present. By God’s immanence it is meant that He is near, that God is present and active “within nature, human nature, and history.” In other words, He is present.
In his dedicatory prayer for the Temple, Solomon exclaimed, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) In his prayer Solomon pleads with God from earth that He “would hear in heaven” (1 Kings 8:30, 32, 34, 36, 39, 43, 45, 49). In heaven, God is transcendent. Yet, upon that prayer’s completion, the cloud of the glory of the Lord’s presence came to fill the Temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-3; Compare 1 Kings 8:11.). As the occasion of Solomon’s dedicatory prayer indicates, God’s farness and nearness were balanced. Yet some would break the band.
For example, exaggeration of God’s farness ends in deism, the view of God which distances Him so far from history that there arises the perception that He doesn’t care about what happens on earth, that He may not be good and loving. On earth, we’re left to go it alone. Amidst life’s trials, conflicts, pain and vicissitudes, we can expect no help from heaven. God is too far removed to care, let alone help. God is an outsider. He’s not a prayer away! Click here for footnote material and to continue reading this article.
by Kevin Reeves
(author of The Other Side of the River)
History is filled with stories of those who have stood for truth, many of whom gave their lives to defend the faith God had put in their hearts. History is also filled with those who tried to squelch that truth. In his riveting account of the Nazi empire, historian William L. Shirer meticulously documents the internal workings of a system that once threatened to take over the world. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a chilling account of the effects of mind-numbing propaganda.1 The endless barrage of misinformation, incredibly, molded a once-beaten and fragmented people into the icon of elitism, which culminated in grisly death camps and the cold-blooded murder of those deemed lesser humans. A firsthand witness and opponent of the Nazi regime, Shirer recounted instances of conversation with German people, when he dared contradict the ludicrous governmental and media declarations of ethnic, cultural, and military superiority. He was met with shocked silence or an amazed stare. He noted that to question the Nazi machine’s view of anything was considered blasphemy of the highest order. It dawned on him that the minds of many of the people had become so warped that they were no longer able to think for themselves or evaluate anything by a higher standard. Shirer observed that with the rise of the new German empire, the truth had become whatever Hitler and Goebbels said it was; they were the final arbiters of reality— spiritual and otherwise.
Some may think it is extreme to compare the spiritual deception and control tactics within the church today to that of the Nazi regime and the death camps, but we should remember that the church in Germany in the 1930s was very much like the church is today—having a head in the sand mentality about spiritual deception and turning religious leaders into super-human heroes who can do no wrong. Perhaps we are not all that different than Christians in Germany back then. We should not fool ourselves and think we would never be duped like that. The apostle Paul issued a warning to Christians:
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (I Cor. 10:11,12)
Despite all of this, there is hope in the Lord; He is “Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11). And He promised to preserve His church, that true body of believers whom He calls the Bride of Christ. Praise His name—there is hope. When truth is challenged, mocked, and thrown against the wind, we can be sure, it will never be altered. And that Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
The Lord is calling His people out from the midst of the false, to adhere to His truth, no matter what the cost. Let us respond with joy and thankfulness, knowing His grace is sufficient to strengthen us and give us courage.
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:13-14)
1. William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster/Touchstone, 1959).
by Kevin Reeves
These are critical days for the body of Christ. We are in the epoch of church history spoken of by the apostle Paul as “perilous times” (II Timothy 3:1). What makes the danger all the more imminent is that not much of the church believes it. Many of us have owned the glorious but erroneous vision of an end-times remnant walking in unconquerable power, transforming entire societies. The result has been nothing short of catastrophic. How soon we forget. Every cult in the world has sprouted from the fertile soil of deception, always initiated by a drastic move away from the primacy of the Word of God into the nebulous, self-defining atmosphere of experience. At New Covenant, our desire to accumulate otherworldly wealth (i.e., supernatural power) had ushered us into a contrived system of personal spiritual elevation much like such active cults as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In the case of my former congregation, our pre-supposed love of the Word of God, along with our ignorance of and opposition to nearly every scriptural warning about false doctrine and seducing spirits in the church, left us open to bizarre teachings and practices. As we embraced mysticism, our biblical parameters melted away. Yes, we were sincere, but what we were wanting was diametrically opposed to our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Like physical signs of pain, there were signs in our church that something was terribly wrong.But just like the person who ignores the pain and avoids going to the doctor, we too ignored what should have been so obvious. That is, until it got so bad that avoidance was no longer an option.
Why do people ignore warning signs? It’s like a motorist painting over his oil pressure gauge so he won’t notice the depleting measure. But the reality of the situation will become evident enough when his engine seizes up, and the car comes to a sudden halt. I’ve discovered that in the spiritual arena most people will do exactly this: they take pains to look the other way when something bumps up against their doctrine. As a Christian, there’s no quicker way to start a fight with a friend than to tell him that some of his most fervent beliefs are wrong. I know. I’ve lost my share of friendships that way. The problem comes when folks aren’t willing to deal with the uncomfortable. And the horror of it is that in spiritual matters, we’re dealing with eternal things. While the person who ruins his vehicle can at least purchase another, the human soul is irreplaceable….
In my own case, association with a cutting-edge group offered me security and personal power, and for years, the paranoia of offending God kept me from asking too many unsettling questions. It’s ironic that, in a fellowship that taught a watered-down version of the fear of the Lord, it was fear that motivated me to stay put.
Many other Christians find themselves in this same predicament, especially those with a genuine heart for the truth. When some doctrine foreign to biblical Christianity is introduced into the congregation, they want to inquire about its origin and validity, but fear holds them in check. If it comes from the pastor, who surely must be more spiritual than the rest of the group, then God must simply have approved it. Therefore, questioning or opposing the pastor or church leadership is seen as opposing the Lord Himself.
But God doesn’t work that way. Throughout the Bible are examples of those who love the Lord who questioned authority when it was wrong. And what’s more, “prove all things” is clearly God’s instruction to the believer (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
This manipulative pastoral attitude of squelching sincere inquiries was recently brought home in a frightening way. A friend of mine attended a local church service, knowing that the pastor was fully in support of the so-called Brownsville revival. She was nonetheless unprepared for the chilling threat from the pulpit. After reminding the congregation of the judgment deaths of Ananias and Sapphira for opposing the Holy Spirit, the pastor looked directly at the congregation and said, “If you think about questioning anything that goes on in this service … well, you just be careful!”
Two plus two still equals four. His meaning was quite plain. If you want to end up like that evil-hearted couple, just go ahead and do some serious inquiry into the teachings or manifestations of this group.
Brothers and sisters, something is seriously wrong here. Brutalizing the saints with a threat from an angry heart is not the Bible way. But it is becoming quite a fashionable pastime for leadership to silence even well-intentioned criticism with threats and ridicule. It has been going on from both the Toronto and Brownsville pulpits for years and has spilled over into many other groups in the church today. Name calling and ostracizing are common methods to silence critics. Names like hypocrites, Sanhedrin, and God mockers are merely a sampling of the invective aimed at Christians who are concerned about doctrinal error. Nobody wants to be labeled a Pharisee or heresy hunter. But that is often the penalty for daring to step out and ask for a public, biblical accounting of doctrine and practice.
I know the feeling first hand. I have more than once been called legalistic and have been accused of “going down a hard path”–one of my own making, of course. I had been told repeatedly that I was spiritually immature and had not understood the importance of such works as Rick Joyner’s The Final Quest –despite its un-biblical concepts and many outright contradictions to Scripture.
A current river is flowing, which many believe to be of God. Removed from its proper setting in the 47th chapter of Ezekiel, which speaks of a stream gushing out from the Temple of God, this passage in Scripture is today used to promote a last days vision for the church. In its proper context in Ezekiel, this wonderful prophecy is an encouragement that God has not forgotten His covenant people of Israel. But overstepping the sanctity of scriptural boundaries, this passage has been reshaped into the comfortable doctrines of the shallow believism and sensual manifestations that mark a massive shift in the church. As believers, we have taken a hairpin turn from the preeminence of the Word of God to a relative, experiential, and terribly apostate faith.
The River Revival movement–encompassing the Toronto Blessing, Brownsville Revival (or Pensacola Outpouring), Dominion, Latter Rain, Word of Faith, Rodney Howard-Browne’s laughing revival, the Kansas City prophets, and an arbitrary mix of all or some of the aforementioned–is flowing into congregations worldwide. Given impetus by these major doctrinal tributaries, this movement’s teachings have led multitudes away from the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into a dangerous realm of subjective experiences, mysticism, and blatant heresy. Closely follow the curves of this river and you’ll find spiritual deviations at first overlooked. After all the hype, the wild manifestations, the wonderful testimonies, the flamboyant prophecies, and the earth-shaking visions, the discerning eye will gaze upon a farther shore, where an entirely different, frightening story unfolds–a story of broken lives and shattered faith, of rebellion and of merchandising a substitute “anointing.”
There is another side to all the fanfare, a glaring something that for the most part remains unspoken or deliberately avoided. There is indeed another side to the River. As believers, it is time we cross over and take a long, hard look.
(To read more about this, read The Other Side of the River by Kevin Reeves)