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1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NKJV) "Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."
I see a sweeping pattern developing in some Charismatic circles today. People are running from meeting to meeting to experience strange manifestations (barking, howling, roaring, slithering, hissing, shrieking, elongated screams, vibrations, spasmatic jerking, violent shaking, rapid head rotation, unusual laughter, drunkenness, swooning, burning, angelic visitations, spirit travel, visualization, etc.). Many Christians are claiming that these strange, weird, and extra-biblical manifestations are evidence of a new move of God. But where are these kinds of manifestations supported in Scripture? Regarding being "drunk in the Spirit" some will use a Scripture like Acts 2:13 where believers were accused of being drunk with new wine. However, this accusation was made by onlookers because believers spoke with new tongues (a valid Biblical experience) and NOT because they were staggering around and acting like drunken men! People fall into such sloppy interpretations when they try to make their experience fit the Word of God. As a result, this invasion of strange manifestations into the church is producing a growing disdain for the truth of Scripture or any attempt at discernment. Even pastors and ministers are not only asleep at the gate but are also opening the gate for these things to enter the sheepfold. Ironically, accusations are launched against faithful shepherds and laymen who dare question these experiences and who attempt to follow the Biblical command to "test the spirits" (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; 1 John 4:1). They are often accused of having a "religious spirit", of being a "Pharisee", or of being guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. These kinds of accusations make it clear that we are given no option but to just accept these bizarre manifestations by "faith" without any question or testing. But my dear brother and sister, the Bible tells us that the Spirit and the Word will agree (1 John 5:7). If these things are of the Holy Spirit, then why are these experiences not found in the Bible? Why didn't the prophets foretell of them? Some say, "Well didn't similar types of manifestations occur in past revival camp meetings?" Yes they did on the fringes because of human extremes. However, once faithful believers began to test these things by Scripture, they stopped occurring. Unfortunately today few ministers are testing them, thus allowing them to proliferate in the church. If we are honest, I think we would have to admit that these manifestations have more in common with ecstatic pagan and mystical New Age experiences than with the manifestations of the HOLY Spirit described in the New Testament. The services where these manifestations are allowed have no resemblance to the order laid out in 1 Corinthians 12-14 for church meetings. In fact, many of these services are nothing less than a "free-for-all" where anything goes. Some even refer to their meeting as a "Slosh-Fest." Is the Holy Spirit working contrary to the order set forth in His own Word? Unfortunately, we must abandon Scripture and discernment in order to embrace and endorse these highly questionable things. Sadly, I have had to do some soul searching myself. With regret I admit that in times past I have seen and allowed some of these strange manifestations in our own meetings. Granted, I believe God was moving in our midst bringing people to repentance and revival, but strange manifestations polluted the stream. At the time these things were new to me. Because I was unsure, I didn’t want to be quick to judge. I was open to the possibility they could be of God but I had my concerns. I understand now that if I had followed the Scripture and trusted the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, I would not have allowed these extremes to occur. In the midst of that however, God was faithful because I wanted to know the truth and kept seeking the Scripture for discernment. Based upon what I have learned, it seems that these more recent manifestations are directly related to impartation through the laying on of hands. The trail leads back to Rodney Howard Browne meetings in the early to mid-1990's when these manifestations were transferred from one group to another throughout our nation and the world. I am not judging this man's heart, but it does concerns me that these experiences do not generally manifest among churches and Christians where there has been no direct impartation or influence. Why is that? How do we know that this is a pure impartation of the Holy Spirit? Can we imagine Jesus or His disciples experiencing or celebrating these kind of manifestations in their meetings? What did Jesus do when similar manifestations took place in His meetings? Did the New Testament church experience these things? How do we know it is a "new" move of God? Are we suppose to just accept this "new move of God" without testing the message, the spirit involved, or the Jesus being preached? (2 Corinthians 11:4) People are hungry for a move of God. I understand that. So am I. However, we must not allow our hunger for a move of God to make us vulnerable to consume whatever is dished out on our plate. We must be discerning. I do not believe that strange manifestations are indications of a "revival." Neither do I believe that they are indications of a "refreshing" because New Testament refreshing comes after genuine repentance and conversion (Acts 3:19). What we are seeing is a growing emphasis on the "glory." I do not find a Scriptural precedent for seeking the "glory." We are to seek God and that begins with getting right with Him. When people are so determined to get the "glory" that they are bypassing true repentance and conversion and bypassing the truth of Scripture, they are opening themselves up to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. Sadly, they are more likely to experience a counterfeit glory. The Bible warns us that if we lose our love for the truth we will be given over to believe the lie (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). That's very sobering! Don't be gullible. Don't be intimidated. Don't fall in love with strange manifestations. Fall in love with Jesus. Fall in love with His truth. Love the truth enough to test the spirits. If something is not of God, get away from it. Don't be pressured by those who tell you that you are "missing out." Thank God that you are! Be assured that God will give you all of the daily experiences in His presence that you need as long as you love the truth and the God of the truth.
Interesting Documentaries on Strange Manifestations:
Shocking Documentary 1 (Andrew Strom): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBpw2oQrvMM&feature=related
Shocking Documentary 2 (Andrew Strom) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCcGaTRwG_4&feature=related
Shocking Documentary 3 (Andrew Strom) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWeUNoR30_0&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL
Kundalini in Action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7Hidj1OGcE&feature=related
David Wilkerson on Weird Manifestations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrpW6Xctg8Q&feature=related
Romans 12:17-21 (NKJV) “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.’”
Are you being controlled by your circumstances? Troubles and adversities are a reality of life. They come to us all. But the Bible tells us that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. In other words, we are not to be controlled by our circumstances. Rather we are to be God’s instrument for change. Jesus declared it this way: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Throughout history, man has endured the adverse temperatures of nature. He sought shade in the summer and built fires in the winter. Eventually he invented the thermometer as a way of registering his misery. His only partial escape was to move to cooler or warmer regions. In our modern world of air conditioning, man has developed a way to overcome the limitations and miseries registered by the thermometer. Through the invention of air conditioning and heating, man can change the temperature of his environment. The desired temperature is achieved through the use of a thermostat, an apparatus that automatically controls the temperature being produced by the heating or cooling unit. Although it contains a thermometer, it uses that information to bring about change.
We are not simply called to be thermometers. Some people fall into the trap of continually registering the reality of what things are. They worry, murmur, complain, and criticize. They feel that it is their duty to continually remind everyone how miserable everything is. Although they may have some accurate assessments of how things are at the moment, they can offer no hope for relief and no power for change. Jesus had an accurate assessment of this world’s condition but He came to bring hope and change in the lives of all who would believe.
We are called to be thermostats. Like thermometers, thermostats can assess current conditions but uses that information to set the course for change. Thermostats declare a temperature that does not presently exist. Thermostats are not optimistic dreamers. No, they are connected to the power and resources to bring about that change. If the thermostat adapts itself to the current temperature, then there will be no change at all. In the same way, we have the power to adapt ourselves to a dead spiritual environment and continue the misery, or we can set the temperature of vision to the standards of God’s word and begin the process of change. In doing so we will not be victims of circumstance but conquerors in Christ Jesus
2 Corinthians 6:11-18 (NKJV) “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.”
Christians talk a lot about freedom. Unfortunately, the ungodly kind of "freedom" is rebellious and builds a wall between us and God. Do you find yourself hindered in your relationship with God? Do you find yourself hindered in your relationship with God-ordained authorities in your life? If so, then there is a problem. Paul said that the Corinthians had become restricted in their relationship with him because they had become unequally yoked together with unbelievers. What does it mean to be "unequally yoked"? It means to be in an ungodly relationship or partnership with someone who is not in agreement with God and His Word. Paul’s heart was “wide open” to the Corinthian saints. God had put him in their lives to help them grow in their relationship with God. However, Paul detected an obvious wall in their heart toward him. No matter how much he longed to fulfill his God-ordained role in their lives, he could not as long as their hearts were closed to him. What happened to that open heartfelt relationship they had once enjoyed? The problem was that the Corinthians had allowed ungodly relationships to form with unbelievers--those who do not believe and obey God's Word. Paul described the condition of the Corinthian believers. They were:
Unequally yoked together with unbelievers. They were aligned with others in opposition toward God and His Word.
In fellowship with lawlessness. They were in fellowship with those who pursued a freedom without rules or order.
Having communion with darkness. They enjoyed an environment void of the light of God's truth.
In one accord with Belial ("the lawless one"). They were in unity and agreement with those who live according to what is right in his own eyes rather under the authority of God.
Having part with unbelievers. They participated in the sinful activities of others.
In agreement with idols. They put other things before God
What was Paul's solution to remove this restriction in their heart? It was to “Come out from among them and be separate.” If we want to restore our relationship with God and God-ordained authorities in our life, we must separate ourselves from the corrupting influence of anyone and anything that pulls us the other direction.
Malachi 2:15 (NKJV) “But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring…”If there is any hope for America, it will be found in families turning back to God. I hear many Christians say America needs to return to God, but sadly I don’t see many Christian families returning to God. I hear many Christians lament that America no longer gives God His rightful place in our government or in our schools, but sadly I don’t see many Christian families concerned that God is not first place in the home. I am concerned for Christian families today because I see a disconnect between what we say and what we do. The evidence of what we really believe is revealed in what we do and do not do. Through the prophet Malachi, God revealed that His primary purpose for forming families is to perpetuate godly seed—godly children who will put God first in their lives and then form new families who will do the same. The responsibility lies with parents. Are we teaching our children to put God first or education? Are we teaching our children to put God first or a job? Are we teaching our children to put God first place or a career? Are we teaching our children to put God first or obtaining material possessions? Are we teaching our children to put God first or athletics? Are we teaching our children to put God first or family? Are we teaching our children to put God first or friends? Are we teaching our children to put God first place or television, cell phones, music, entertainment, and social media? Are we teaching our children to put God first by faithful attendance at regular church gatherings or do we teach them that other things are more important? We teach our children (and grandchildren) by what we do, what we don’t do, what we allow, and what we excuse. Even those who without children are still teaching children by their example. What example are we setting? What are the children hearing and seeing? If we don’t repent and return back to God at home, we should not be surprised when there is no revival in our churches, in our community, and in our nation.
Since our forefathers first landed on the shores of North America, God has favored and blessed this nation like no other nation that has ever existed. Why has America experienced such blessing? It is because the God of our forefathers was the LORD (YAHWEH or JEHOVAH). Our nation was not founded by Muslims or Hindus. Our God is not Allah or Krishna. Our laws were nor formulated from the Koran or other religious books. Our laws and our justice system was based upon the Holy Bible, the Word of God. And yet, it seems America has forgotten the secret to its greatness. French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting America in 1831, said “I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests—and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning— and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!” America’s greatness will be determined by the God we choose to reverence, honor, and obey. Will we make the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob our nation’s God and the Bible our law for goodness or righteousness or will we turn our backs on God and lose His blessing? I pray that American citizens will wake up before we lose it all.
It is easy to get side-tracked by the devil rather than staying focused on the work God has assigned for us to do. Consider the following challenge by an anonymous writer:
Stick with your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let sectarians quarrel, let critics malign, let enemies accuse, let the devil do his worst; but see to it nothing hinders you from fulfilling with joy the work God has given you. He has not commanded you to be admired or esteemed. He has never bidden you defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood (about yourself) which Satan’s or God’s servants may start to peddle, or to track down every rumor that threatens your reputation. If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord. Keep at your work. Let your aim be as steady as a star. You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected, misunderstood, or assigned impure motives; you may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends, and despised and rejected of men. But see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being until at last you can say, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do."
Luke 16:10–13 (NKJV) "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
How can you know if someone is a faithful person? You can know by how faithful they are with the little things. If a person is faithful with five dollars, then they can be trusted with five hundred. If they cannot be trusted with five dollars, then only a fool would trust them with more! Jesus said that if a person is faithful in what is least, then they would also be faithful in much. On the other hand, if we are not faithful in what is least, then how can we expect that anyone would entrust us with more? The principle of faithfulness is a principle of the kingdom and determines how God will release His blessings in our lives. This principle applies in every area whether it be time, treasure, or talent. However, Jesus uses "unrighteous mammon", i.e. money and wealth, to illustrate this principle. Many people today are struggling financially. We are living in economic hard times. However, in general, American individuals, families, and businesses have not been faithful with the resources God has given. Our nation has squandered its prosperity and is headed toward bankruptcy except the Lord intervene. In addition, we have developed a culture of squanderers who demand more without accepting responsibility or accountability for wasteful and unwise spending habits. Why should we expect God to bless us with more when we have not been faithful with what He has already given us? On an individual level, we often wonder why God has not blessed us with more than what we have. However, if we are honest, we would likely have to admit that we are not faithful with the provision He has already given to us. In most cases, God has provided more than enough to meet our needs but the problem is that we have not been faithful to manage what He has given us. We prove ourselves to be unfaithful stewards by robbing God of the tithes and offerings and being wasteful in our spending. Then we cry out to God and other people for help when the bills are due. Is our financial mess God's fault? Can we accuse Him of being unfaithful to provide? Is it the responsibility of our Christian brothers and sisters to bail us out of our financial mess and tolerate our unwillingness to be a faithful stewards? No. It is our fault and it is our responsibility to repent so that we can become faithful once again. If we will commit ourselves to becoming faithful managers of what God has already given to us, then God will help us and can entrust us with more. Faithfulness is the Biblical way out of a financial mess and the way toward financial peace and blessing.
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV)
Faithfulness is a virtue that is vital in the kingdom of God. Proverbs 20:6 says, “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?” It was this virtue of faithfulness that Paul told Timothy to look for as he considered to whom he would pass on the torch for the next generation of believers. What is faithfulness? Faithfulness is the quality of unwavering commitment in duty regardless of who is watching and what the cost. It is being true to responsibility. Most men will proclaim their ability to do a job, but are not faithful on a daily basis. Employers know how important it is to hire people who are faithful to show up each day on time and will do their job honestly and diligently even while the boss is away. It is these faithful workers who will be candidates for promotion and will be kept when layoffs and cutbacks take place. They are the ones who hold the standard high for any new employee. The wise employer will keep his eyes open to find those who are faithful. The same is true of God. Psalm 101:6 says that God’s eye is upon the faithful of the land. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” How do we find a faithful man? He is not found by listening to what he says, but in what he is doing right now. Look around and find those who are being faithful in areas of responsibility now. Luke 16:10 says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” When it comes to the kingdom of God, God is looking for those who are faithful right now in spiritual things: those who are faithful in their walk with God, in their marriage, in their jobs, in their church attendance, in their tithes and offerings, and in their areas of service to others. These are the ones who are passing the test of faithfulness. These are the ones who are candidates for more influential areas of leadership. Those who are faithful will one day hear their Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord!” (Matthew 25:23 NKJV) Are you a faithful person? God is scanning the horizon now in search of those servants upon whom He can count. Will you be one of those servants?
In a follow up phone call to a recent guest to our church, they eagerly described the service they attended here as one of the best they had ever attended. I might have expected them to say it was the worship or possibly the preaching, but their answer surprised me. In their words there was such reverence, peace, and organization. The service was free from chaos. They felt the presence of God and love of God's people like never before. They proceeded to tell me that their appreciation was based on their previous experience in another church that was unorganized and chaotic and lacked the peace, love, and joy they felt here. Now, I have been around long enough to understand that people can say lots of things. However, I believe there is a principle behind what this person was saying. Unfortunately some churches have adopted the idea that "organization" and "order" are dirty words to God and are code words for "stiff, dead, cold religion". They believe that "freedom of the Spirit" means that they must cast off all boundaries and adopt an "anything goes" mentality where "wilder and crazier" and getting spiritually "drunk" is evidence of God's glory. However, you cannot find this kind of practice and behavior sanctioned in the New Testament church. Paul (who spoke in tongues and would be considered Charismatic or Pentecostal by our definition today), rebuked the Corinthian church for allowing things to get out of hand in the church services. While he encouraged the exercise of spiritual gifts for personal edification outside the church gathering, when it came to the church meetings, everything had to be done decently and in order for the edification of the church. The reason is that God is not the author of confusion. Confusion and chaos are the result of spiritual disorder. Biblical order is necessary to insure that God is glorified and that the people who attend the church gathering are edified. True "freedom" in worship takes place when we worship God within the boundaries of His Word and in loving consideration for one another.
Romans 16:17–20 (NKJV) "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
Did you know that the Scripture tells us to avoid certain persons? Yes. We are to avoid those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which we have learned (i.e. the Word of God). Paul says that those who cause division and spread offenses are deceivers who do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly--their own agenda. In order for deceivers to draw away disciples unto themselves, they use the power of seduction. Deceivers know that they must first soften the heart of those who have heard the truth before they will be willing to embrace the lie. Through seduction--smooth words and flattering speech--deceivers lure the simple. Proverbs describes the "simple" as those who are without wisdom and understanding and who live their lives without clear boundaries. The simple do not have clear boundaries because they are not settled in the truth. Rather than bringing every thought, emotion, and opinion captive to the Word of God, their life is characterized by subjective impulses causing them to wander from one opinion to another. As a result, the simple are easily led astray through the work of seducers who charm their hearts to go astray. The Puritan minister and writer, Thomas Watson (1620-1685) said of these seducers, "They have fine elegant phrases, flattering language, whereby they work on weak Christians. They possess a pretense of extraordinary piety, so others may admire them and suck in their doctrine. They seem to be men of zeal and sanctity, to be divinely inspired and pretend to new revelations." [Glorifying God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), January 3]. In order to avoid falling victim to the work of deceivers, Paul says we must 1) Note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the Word of God, and 2) Avoid them. Those who entertain serpents eventually get bit. If Adam and Eve had noted and avoided the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, they certainly would not have been seduced to believe the lie.
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