In my previous post, I linked to various articles and blog posts on the revival and also commented a bit about my experience of previous revivals. In this post (and the next) I hope to share some of my own thoughts on the revival:
Firstly, I have no doubt a lot of what’s happening is of God because of the healings and miracles. I think the ultimate way to judge any revival is through its fruit. It’s the same way to judge miracles and healings and all. Sure, the devil can counterfeit miracles and healings and also revivals and manifestations. But if overall what you see coming out from a Christian meeting (be it a revival or healing or whatever) is people loving Jesus more, then I have no doubt God was in it. When we see weird manifestations happening that we don’t understand, all we gotta do is find out if the person involved has come out of it loving Jesus more or not. That may seem too simple, but I think it’s biblical and based on the Mark 3:24 which says that, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Satan would never counterfeit a miracle or manifestation if the person ends up loving Jesus more. Satan doesn’t do things that builds God’s kingdom! He does things that build his own kingdom!
Another thing is that a lot of people go there to seek God and their healing. They don’t go there to glorify the devil. And I have more faith in God’s ability to heal and in His compassion and love to answer His people’s prayers for healing than in the devil’s ability to undermine God’s desire to bless and heal His people. When we ask for something good from our heavenly Father, He’s going to answer it (Matthew 7:11) and not going to allow demonic activity and deception to reign in a place where He is being glorified and earnestly sought after.
Having said the above, that doesn’t mean I think that everything in these revival services are of God or that God would be pleased with every single thing that goes on in these meetings. On the contrary, and as I’ve said many times, I strongly believe that God moves through imperfect people, imperfect circumstances and imperfect theology. And I think there were a lot of that in the Toronto Blessing, in the Pensacola Outpouring and probably even now in this healing revival in Florida.
I’m a strong believer in grace. But I think a lot of these anointed ministers have sometimes preached “mixture” more than pure grace. But I have no doubt that God still moves through them. I think a lot of people (including myself) would be uncomfortable with some of the weird practices that we see in these revival meetings, and perhaps also the focus of these meetings (which oftentimes is the manifestations). I think perhaps God would not have liked the way certain things were done. But I have no doubt that He still moves through these people and still blesses many people.
Let me give another example. In my early days, I used to be a huge admirer of Benny Hinn. But then when I heard how he taught some outrightly unbiblical stuff (and attributed such teachings to the Spirit telling him such is so), I started to be cautious of his ministry. And I know there’s also been a lot of concern about his ministry’s finances – in fact, there seems to be a lot of concern about the finances of many big (charismatic) ministries, especially those from the Word of Faith tradition. Personally, I don’t think God is pleased with the way a lot of these ministers handle their money – especially since they seem to benefit a lot personally from a lot of the donations people give to their ministry. And anyone who knows me or has read my view of money would know how I would feel about such Christians. And I also don’t really like the way Benny Hinn does things – his showmanship on stage and all. I so much prefer such ministers to be humble and not showy – a good example of such a minister is Heidi Baker who has such a humble disposition in everything she does and it shows so clearly on stage. So I’m not crazy over some of his theology, his ministry’s handling of finances and his showmanship. To say the least, I think he’s less than perfect in many ways. I have a lot of things to be critical about regarding his ministry but that cannot prevent me from believing that God moves through him to heal many people. I would definitely bring a friend in need of healing to his meetings if I could. I know God has healed many people through him and I see Jesus being glorified in his meetings. This only brings me to the conclusion that God blesses and uses imperfect people and move through imperfect circumstances – and thank God for that because we’re all imperfect!
It’s good to read too that the leaders of the revival also know that not everything happening there is of God or is totally perfect as this quote by the pastor of the church at Lakeland demonstrates:
Todd [Bentley] and I know that not everything that’s happening here is of God. There’s a whole lot of flesh going on here as well.
I’ve seen videos of the services and at times I was not totally comfortable with a lot that was going on. This has nothing to do with the healings. I stand in awe of all that God is doing through healing so many people! But I’m uncomfortable with the hype and the self- and revival- promotion. I’m uncomfortable with the fact that sometimes there’s very little solid teaching – or any teaching at all. And perhaps the greatest thing I’m uncomfortable with, and I think the thing that most people who be uncomfortable with at first sight of the revival services, is the messiness, weirdness and disorderliness of what’s happening – and especially the bizarre manifestations that are often seen on stage and in the congregation, which J. Lee Grady talks about in his article. I know that these manifestations – especially when they occur on stage – offend a lot of people and have caused them to label these meetings demonic. I understand the concerns of these critics. I myself am uncomfortable when the focus is on such manifestations. But I’m also very careful not to judge just because I’m uncomfortable. A lot of what I see in Florida was there during the Toronto Blessing times. I think the message was different and God moved differently. Florida is a lot about healing and miracles. But the manifestations (laughter, body movements, etc.) are very much the same.
One reason why I’m careful not to be too critical of these bizarre manifestations is because I know when God comes in power, things start to happen to people. Simply put, they start to be overcome by the presence of God. Weird things may happen. Messiness in the congregation will probably result. Things won’t be so orderly. I believe that’s what happened in past revivals of centuries ago. Maybe not that dramatic, but I’m sure there were a lot of things that occurred that would make many people uncomfortable when the power of God comes. Of course, there may be the flesh working and no one in the revival doubts that, as the above quote revealed. I think the important thing to note is not to draw attention to the manifestations and not to allow the manifestations to take the limelight. The manifestations aren’t manifestations of the Spirit per se, but the body’s response to the presence/manifestations of the Spirit. People react differently. Some may do so to copy others. Others may do so genuinely as a response to the Spirit’s presence.
For me, while I’ve been to a lot of such meetings where people exhibited manifestations, I’ve never experienced such things. If anything, I do long to experience an overwhelming presence of God like they have. I haven’t experienced God like that but I’m not going to be critical of people who are genuinely experiencing something of God. I’ve had a lot of negative experiences. I’ve been on the receiving end of pushes (and so have given out ‘courtesy falls’) when people prayed for me. I think it’s wrong to push others and all. There’s no need to stimulate a fall by pushing people over when praying for them. I think this is an area where people seek to replicate certain manifestations and that’s wrong. (This results when people are too focused on the manifestations and think that such manifestations are badges of holiness or spirituality). It’s an abuse still quite common in charismatic circles. But this abuse isn’t going to make me critical of everything because I know many people are experiencing the real thing – the real overwhelming presence of God – and we all have to be thankful for that.
Rob Rufus has some wise thoughts here:
We cannot say that everything that comes out of Florida will be God. There has never been a revival where everything is God.
…I spoke to Terry Virgo while in the United Kingdom who heads up hundreds of churches around the world and he recognizes that the power of God is there. They are genuine and there are genuine miracles. He is saying that as a movement they don’t necessarily embrace the whole package – there are some things they would have questions about.
There’s nothing wrong with having a few questions – there’s nothing wrong with not understanding everything. Put some things up on the shelf. Everything must be tested but by and large I want to strongly say that God is on the move all over the world and what is happening in Florida IS God. There is no question about that. That is God. But everything that happens through different levels and different doesn’t necessarily represent everything that we would agree with. Behind this passionate, enthusiastic face – there is a thinking mind! I am going to test everything through right theology and all of that – and all that I don’t understand I will put on the shelf and I will wait.
…There has never been a revival – not one – where all three (God, the devil, the flesh) didn’t manifest. Some people are pointing, “Look, some of that stuff is fleshly… some of that stuff is demonic… that doctrine is a bit of heresy over there”. Yes I know – but God is also moving powerfully! You will never have a revival where you can get rid of flesh, get rid of the demonic trying to come in
Commenting on his experience of previous revivals, Terry Virgo writes:
What influenced me most significantly was not the extraordinary physical manifestations but the extraordinary lasting change that I observed in the lives of people I knew. Many displayed a new love and devotion to God and a new sensitivity to the Spirit’s presence. Some embraced a new commitment to Christ and his mission to win the world for his name. The physical manifestations gradually faded but the transformed lives have remained.
Ultimately, it’s not about the manifestations, but about positive change. I may be uncomfortable with some of the manifestations but I’ve seen and heard about a lot of positive change in the lives of those in previous revivals and that’s really the main reason why I’ll never say these revivals are demonic.
So while I’m uncomfortable about this and that and while I’ll disagree with the way certain things are done, ultimately I do believe (for now) that this revival was sent sovereignly by God and that He’s moving powerfully in Florida and even throughout the world.
In my next post, I hope to share my thoughts on the criticisms that this revival has received.