Friday, July 18, 2008

Error-Proofing Your Life - II

Keep It Simple

"A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five!" (Groucho Marx)

Paul the Apostle must've been a Groucho Groupie: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3) Or was it the other way around? Sometimes I get my chronologies mixed up. Fortunately for me, the Christian life is attainable to a five year-old.

"Seven Steps to…” “Seven Habits of …” “Ten Principles of …” “A Systematic Approach to …” “Thirteen Keys to …” “Twenty-One Surefire Shortcuts to …” Consider this paradoxical book title: The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways To Do Less And Accomplish More. Are you kidding me?! I feel like taking a nap!

Complexity is a common characteristic of false teaching; be leery of any teaching or theological framework that complicates the Christian life. The truth of God will astound you, but not because of its erudition or complexity. If you are looking for a theology that will turn you into a sophisticate, then the teachings of Jesus’ will disappoint you. If our theology doesn't work in the barrio, then we, like Mary, need to spend more time at Jesus' feet.

"Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)

Second only to the authority with which He delivered them, Jesus’ teachings were distinguished by their simplicity. Consider the Savior’s subject matter: birds, bread, candles, farmers, fire, flowers, grain, light, meals, rain, salt, seeds, sheep, shepherds, sowers, virgins, water, weather, weeds, wheat, widows, wind; not very esoteric, but certainly accessible to children and adults possessing childlike faith.

Compiled in one volume, Jesus’ teachings could be titled, “The Complete Idiots Guide to Following Jesus.” Were today’s Christian children’s book publishers unaware that Jesus’ teachings are in the Bible, they might pass over them as too dull for today’s video-game generation. Seminary scholars might grow bored in Professor Jesus’ Systematic Theology class:

"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight." (Luke 10:21)

Apart from the grace of God, the Christian life would be impossible, but is not “rocket science.” If a 500-page book is needed to validate an idea, it should raise a red flag. Essential truths have been made unmistakably clear in the Scriptures, so clear in fact that it is easier for a “child of 5” to grasp them than for a mind drenched in knowledge. Here are some additional biblical references about simplicity:

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified … And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:1-2, 4-5)

"For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." (1 Corinthians 4:20)

"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." (1 Timothy 1:5)

"The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:11-14)

How can a “brainiac” be content with the childlike “simplicity that is in Christ?” By striving to know the source of all knowledge, God Himself. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)

Do you love theology, or literally, the “study of God?” Good. Just don’t forget Jesus words, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39) Paul wrote, "whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." (1 Corinthians 13:8) No amount of knowledge can satisfy or thrill the soul like knowing Him, hearing his voice and following Him.

Complexity accompanies pride and leads to unhealthy dependence on the source. When someone begins to complicate the Christian life, steer clear. If you are going to err, err in favor of simplicity.

© 2008 Seeds for Good Soil. (Revised 16 July 2008)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Error-Proofing Your Life - I

Two Essential Ingredients
(By William Cook)

And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? … Ye therefore do greatly err. (Mark 12:24, 27)

The Sadducees held that there was no resurrection. How could they believe something so absurd? What factors contributed to their deception? Jesus said, “… because ye know not …” Here we see that deception begins with not knowing certain things.

The Lord spoke through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge …” (Hosea 4:6a) Clearly, knowledge is important. But what kind of knowledge? Baseball statistics? The weather report? Financial trends? God didn’t say, “My people are destroyed because they don’t know what the morning newspaper says.”

The first essential ingredient that protects us against error is knowledge of scripture. Jesus said, “… because ye know not the scriptures …” Paul wrote to Timothy, “… from a child thou has known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation ..." (2 Timothy 3:15) Paul also wrote, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) By implication, wrongly dividing the “word of truth” leads to shame and God’s disapproval.

One of my first Christian mentors, now an 83-year old "father in the faith," wrote to me recently:

"Years ago, we didn't have computers, videos or TV and we spent time in the Word. When I hold meetings and quote part of a scripture verse, most people can't complete it. In the 1940’s and 50’s almost everyone in our church could quote hundreds of scriptures. Oftentimes I deliberately misquote a scripture and no one catches it."

How sad. How dangerous! We need to be diligent in our study of scripture. A thorough, accurate knowledge of scripture is essential if we are to avoid the tsunami of deception that is coming on the earth in these last days.

By itself, knowledge of scripture is not enough. The second essential ingredient Jesus emphasized is knowing the power of God, “… because … ye know not … the power of God …” [from Greek, ‘dunamis’] Many people know the Bible very well but do not know or do not believe in the power of God. They can quote scriptures, but they are still in error because they deny the power of God.

Paul did not mince words; he wrote that the last days would be perilous, featuring men who display an external “form of godliness” but who are practical atheists with respect to the power of God.

"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof … ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." [‘power’ from Greek, ‘dunamis’] (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

If we deny the power of God, then we do not believe Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever." We will tend to adjust our theology to accommodate our lack of power and supernatural experience. This is why some Christians deny that spiritual gifts, healing and miracles still happen today. Imagine Jesus telling his disciples "greater works than these shall [ye] do," (John 14:12) then in the next breath, "but make the most of it because after you guys go home to be with the Lord, miracles will cease" or, "After the canon of scripture is complete, miracles won't be needed anymore." How foolish. How heretical! We need the power of God more now than ever!

Error-proofing our lives requires two essential ingredients – knowing the scriptures and knowing the power of God. If either of these is missing or lacking, we are susceptible to error.


Lord, create a deep hunger in me for your Word, for man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Show me Your power and glory.

© 2008 Seeds for Good Soil (Last updated 05 July 2008)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Lakeland Outpouring – I

The Gospel, Repentance and Holiness
(By William Cook)

To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.' For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved right by all her children. (Luke 7:31-33)

What is commonly referred to as “The Lakeland Outpouring” or “Lakeland Revival,” began on April 2, 2008, 93 days ago as of this writing. The meetings are being broadcast live every night on God TV to over 240 nations. The central figure in the revival is an unlikely character -- a 32-year old, tattoo-dipped, eighth grade-educated, Canadian evangelist named Todd Bentley who claims to have experienced angelic visitations, visions and “words from the Lord.” (

In May 2008, my wife, Judy, and I spent four days in Lakeland. We have also been watching the meetings every night live on God TV. This is the first in a series of blog entries about what I have seen first-hand, not a YouTube clip or someone else’s limited second-hand account.

In less than three months, what initially began as a 5-day series of meetings rapidly outgrew the 700-seat Ignited Church in Lakeland and then the nearby 8,000-seat Lakeland Center Arena. On June 10, meetings were moved to a newly-constructed 10,000-seat tent erected at Lakeland's Linder Regional Airport. Thousands of hungry souls from around the nation and the world continue to stream into Lakeland to receive a fresh impartation of the Holy Spirit. Revival is spreading to several other nations and to cities in America.

In less than three months, many Christian theological "watchdogs" have already rejected Todd Bentley as an heretic and Lakeland as a counterfeit move of God. It is as if Lakeland offers a “cause célèbre," a "discernment ropes course" to foster team spirit among "false doctrine police." Since so many seem to have an opinion, tossing my “needle into the haystack” shouldn't poke any other tush in the scrum.

At a time when the Church is in such desperate need of revival and a fresh move of God’s Spirit, I am amazed at the level of "fluting" and "dirging" I am hearing in response to Lakeland. I wonder if Bentley's critics would respond as graciously as he has to the scrutiny, criticism (and death threats, I might add) that he has received?

Are the Gospel, repentance and holiness being preached?

Contrary to some reports, the unvarnished Gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed and demonstrated in Lakeland. Repentance and the need for personal holiness are also being taught and countless numbers are dedicating or rededicating their lives to Jesus Christ. Some are openly confessing sin before a live international audience. Alcohol, drug and sexual addictions are being broken.

Consider Todd Bentley's words in his May 20, 2008 message on repentance:

But what brings you into mercy (and compassion) is repentance. So, when you see repentance, you see mercy. And what do you see when you see mercy? Healing! Repentance, mercy and healing!—which is why I believe that repentance is the most beautiful thing in the Bible—it always brings you into a miracle. The word repent means—to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life; to change one’s mind, and to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary; Matt. 3:8). Genuine repentance is such a radical change in the life of a person that when you look at their character afterwards, you see fruit worthy of repentance. You can tell that something has happened!

Consider Todd Bentley's words in his May 26, 2008 message on repentance:

I believe today God wants us to return to Him. Before mercy and healing, I believe God is saying “I want repentance.” Maybe the Spirit of God has touched the attitude of your heart. Maybe you’ve seen something in your spirit, something that’s been there and God wants to just cleanse the core of your heart.

Does every message in Lakeland make explicit mention of the need for “repentance?” Did the Son of God mention the need for repentance in every one of His teachings? For those who advocate a "seeker friendly" paradigm, are sin and repentance preached in your church every Sunday? Should there be more emphasis on the need for repentance in Lakeland? Perhaps; but give it more time!

Oh Pharisee, Pharisee! The Church in America has needed revival for years. Lakeland began only three months ago. Maybe the Father doesn't want to emphasize sin right now as much as He wants to restore people’s faith that He's actually alive in the Church, not an "opiate of the masses," "God is dead," placebo, fairy tale character like Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny! Maybe he wants to convince the unconvinced of His great love for them by healing them -- even before they are believers!

Many in the Church have reacted "reflexively" to Lakeland, focusing mostly on apparent oddities and things they do not understand, largely ignoring the wonderful things God is doing there. If the American Church is not careful how we steward what God is doing in Lakeland, we could miss out on a visitation from God. Not possible? Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they missed the day of their visitation; they missed Him! (Luke 13:34-35)

How can we capriciously dismiss what God is doing when hundreds, if not thousands are making decisions to follow Jesus Christ? Instead of criticizing, why not find a way to encourage and nurture what God is doing? How can we pray, offer support or, if needed, correction? How can we encourage a shift in emphasis if it is needed? How did Priscilla and Aquila handle misguided Apollos? (Acts 18:26)

While the Church armchairs Lakeland, holding out for the “perfect revival," (How long have we been holding out?) the nation is burning to the ground. Endlessly parsing everything that is said or that happens in Lakeland is a convenient diversion. America is about to be shaken so hard that we may not recover.

If Lakeland is not a move of God, then we need to find the alternative and find it quickly. If repentance is Revival's historical distinctive and we aren’t doing it, let’s get to it. What is stopping us? If we know the word of God well enough to winnow goings on in Lakeland, then we know it well enough to winnow our personal lives.

© 2008 Seeds for Good Soil (Revised 03 July 2008)