This is my seventh post on the Florida Healing Outpouring and frankly I had no intentions of doing any posts beyond the first one. But, due to popular demand (and subsequent questions) more have come. Initially I had a burden to throw some caution out there to those tempted to occupy the seat of scoffers and so I wrote a couple posts on being careful what we speak against. Some may wonder why I’m now tackling the more controversial points – the Angel Emma, Third Heaven Experiences, is this Kundalini, Violence and the Kingdom of God. It would be easier to say nothing, there is even some potential in my own circles that I’m inviting an unnecessary controversy by even bringing these matters up.
I’m writing on these points to ready us for a move of God. No doubt, as we’ve seen in revival history, when God visits things break out beyond the sinners prayer of the traditional fruitful evangelistic meeting. People weep and wail, there are waves of joy, extravagant giving, shaking, falling out, trances, tongues, healing – the blind see, deaf hear, signs and wonders, dreams and visions, lights, angelic encounters and sightings and more. We want it to be on earth as it is in heaven don’t we? Do we really think it’ll all look like earth does now when heaven graces the earth?
As I’ve indicated, even within our own fellowship, much of this is uncharted waters for, I’d think, half our people. But I’m called to ready the rest – to prepare the way – for God to visit. This venue (the blog) has proved to be a great way to interact on a regular basis with hundreds in our church and thousands more who are seeking God right now and need understanding. So here now I aim to demystify myticism a bit. I’m trying to model how to seek God fully and openly without “passing judgment on disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1) I’m watching people throw labels on stuff that do not fit and are not fair and they do so because it’s human to label things we can’t really grasp so we can get a better hold on them. We try to box up and categorize stuff – that’s “Word of Faith”, that’s “Health & Wealth gospel”, that’s “New Age,” that’s “mysticism,” etc. I remember thinking on my last Africa trip that so many back home would think “that’s not Christian” as the African believers went “happy” during a much extended offering. The “church” is far bigger than our version of it – and God is far bigger yet.
I’ll put myself here in a vulnerable position and share a mystic experience that happened to me. One Sunday morning in between services I was particularly discouraged, wanted to quit, was tired of unfair criticism from people with a far greater “log in their own eye,” and one uninvolved brother made his way up to me to tell me all the ways I was missing God. I wanted to go home and not come back. Those who’ve planted a church know it takes everything out of you and people still want more. Five minutes later I was in the front row entertaining the thought that maybe the brother was right. Worship was starting and I closed my eyes and tried to get in a better state of mind and turn it all over to God. With my eyes closed, up and to the left of me I saw one who I believe to be Jesus sitting on a throne. He looked at me and gave me one nod. This was not a “hey, good to see you” nod. It was the nod of approval and I know that because of the deep, profound and instant effect it had on me. Ten people with the gift of encouragement could have spoken truth to me all that day and it wouldn’t have had a fraction of the effect of this one mystic nod from the One seated on the throne. After the nod, he raised a sceptor (the sceptor of the Kingdom) over our worshipping church. What that brother said to me right before the service suddenly had no effect – I had the approval of the One that really mattered and that one nod ministered to me powerfully for at least ninety days. I pray each of you have those key moments with God.
I’m excited and not surprised at all that people are having heavenly encounters. It’s impossible to fully grow into prayer and seeking God and not have more experiences and encounters on earth as they have in heaven. Many believers have artificial, self-imposed ceilings over their spiritual lives placed there by fear, religious attitudes and the traditions of men (formed by the experiences of men, or the lack there of.) The greatest critics of Todd Bentley and other Christian Mystics blast them for basing theology on experience, but, truth be told, their theology is also based on their experience or particularly, their lack there of. Angel visitations, open visions, the voice of the Lord, impressions and dreams are not uncommon experiences in both the Old and New Testament and all throughout the history of the Christian Church.
I want to see more people released into deeper and more intimate experiences with God. He’s not just an idea or an invisible force out there. He’s a person to interact with and spend time with – and his heart is to reveal himself to you more and more and invite you into his world as well.
Mysticism is simply a term for a human being having a heavenly encounter or experience. I had a lady recently say to me that “sorcery and mysticism are strictly forbidden in the Bible.” Of course sorcery is, but she had no idea what either really were. When I explained mysticism she said “well then you need to use another word because everyone today hears the word mysticism and instantly assumes it’s bad.” Or… (I wanted to say)… we all need to educate ourselves before we pass judgment. My fears of all this went away when I took a class called “Christian Mysticism” in seminary. Some of the fruit of that class is in this article.
I find it helpful to think of a continuum – there are Christians on the one end who have no tolerance for any mystic experiences – I’ve found generally, they are unaware of the fact that Paul, John, Elijah, Jacob, Moses and about 50 other Bible characters were mystics. Ezekiel was transported, Moses saw a burning bush that didn’t burn up, Peter fell into a trance, Jesus was transfigured, Saul/Paul was blinded by light and changed forever by an audible voice, need I say anything about the revelation that came to John?
I’ve also found those with no tolerance for mysticism are unaware of the mystics in church history (I have a list of over 100 – Francis of Assisi, Athanasius, Augustine, John of the Cross,Thomas a Kempis, Brother Lawrence – and, more recent… Evelyn Underhill, TS Eliot, Thomas Merton, William Booth (founder of Salvation Army), AW Tozer, and, of course, Todd Bentley and many others today. I’ve found that people who freak out at the thought of someone having a heavenly mystical encounter today relax when they see the prominent place the mystics have had in the Bible and Church History.
Mystics are typically killed in their own age and made a saint (literally or at least revered) a hundred years later. The church has never known what to do with her mystics. Some were goofy (mysticism is not unique to Christianity). Others lived under an open heaven and those around them on earth couldn’t relate at all and threw rocks (literally). Same story today. A mystic is simply a person who has a heavenly (or supernatural) experience or encounter – that includes a lot of us. But there are new age mystics, eastern religion mystics, Christian mystics, and occultic mystics. And there is a continuum for each of these categories. The unseen spiritual world is accessible to everyone with attuned senses. There are demonic counterfeits – astral travel, witchcraft, New Age occultism, psychics, etc. In our area, Native Americans have Vision Quests. Many non-Christian religions and cults were founded by non-Christian mystics. Gnosticism and Pantheism are a couple notable dangers of mysticism. But the presense of counterfeits is clue that there is the real as well. The world of the mystic is a dangerous world if one is not rooted in the Word of God.
However, scary as all that is, I love this C.S. Lewis quote on Christian mysticism;
Discovering spirituality is like discovering you are in a boat. Mysticism is like pushing off from the dock. Since many leave safe mooring and perish in the waves, this is not to be done in a cavalier fashion – even though it can be exciting to push off into the deep. The issue is not of whether we should push off for Christians must do so as well if they intend to get anywhere (and that is what boats are for), but rather of where you are going… The Christian casts off from this world as well, but with a clear intent to where he is headed, with the best of maps, circumspectly, deliberately. The Christian Mystic arrives, against all dangers and odds. Thus we launch out with fear and trembling, but trust that He who commanded us to do so can calm the waves, and see us through to His real, safe port.
Mysticism has accompanied every prayer movement in Christian history. And, when God has shown up historically, the “theologians” are always the most surprised. Interesting, the word “theologian” isn’t in the Bible.
I have read Todd Bentley’s books, heard him in person a couple times and heard many other messages by him specifically on this topic. He is not on the wacked out end of the spectrum (in my view). There are people he associates with (and I wish he wouldn’t – and as this revival spreads I think he’ll have to distance himself from some) who are much further out on the spectrum that he – John Crowder for example. But even there, in my view, to the dismay of heresy hunters online, none of this fits the bill of “Non-Christian Mysticism.” Bentley preaches Jesus and is hungry for the Glory of God to cover the earth. It is inaccurate and not fair to lump these guys in with the non-Christian eastern religion and New Age mystics. It is ignorant to say contemplative Christian prayer is “new age.” Christian people are labeling his mysticism “new age” because they don’t have any other handles to put on it (again, I believe, due to being generally unaware of Biblical mysticism and mysticism in Church History). And so they label it “new age” and it’s just not. Bentley is a rock solid Christian from everything I’ve seen. Bentley can answer for himself but I’m seeing a great wave of mystic experience in the prayer movement and the lines in the sand have yet to be drawn. I am aware some are crossing “the line.” (Speaking of “crossing the line,” those in the seat of scoffers frequently cross the line and bear false witness against others in the body of Christ on these matters.)
Here is a list of suggestions for those open to these things.
1. Believe there are indeed treasures in the prayer closet.
2. Stay humble. Mystic experiences aren’t the measure of one’s maturity in the Lord – in fact, God sometimes appears to pagans. It’s about what he is doing, not what we are doing.
3. If you find yourself fighting skepticism, it’s okay. However, stay out of the seat of scoffers. Realize before judging someone else’s experience with God that the things we may think are ridiculous, very well may be of the Lord.
4. Seeking Him isn’t something you can hurry. Most don’t remain long enough to have any kind of meaningful encounter with the Lord.
5. Use wisdom. Let the basis for every experience be the Word of God.
6. Believe God’s ability to keep you (give you bread) is greater than the devil’s ability to decieve you (give you a snake).
7. Position yourself in faith and then contend and hunger for God and for everything about him. Daily pull the supernatural realm into the natural realm. Ask the Lord to give you a taste on earth of heaven.
8. Be still and know he is God. Stillness is the key. Yet, stillness doesn’t necessarily mean silence. The Holy Spirit is musical – and sounds and tones can bring our discordant spirits into harmony with his. (Don’t interpret that as “new age” – we can have a CD on in the prayer room can’t we?)
9. Don’t seek encounters for the sake of encounters. Go after encounters because they bring more intimacy with the Lord and because he gives divine strategy to defeat the enemies of the Kingdom and bring more of the Kingdom into the earth realm.
10. Sometimes there is spiritual warfare before we can enter the supernatural realms. Take authority over these demonic influences and hindrances and bind them in Jesus’ name before you wait on the Lord.
11. Be careful what you share and where. Don’t cast pearls before swine. This is where I believe there to be great danger in a media revival as we have in Florida. There is great potential for misunderstanding and for the unintiated, those who doctrine is based on their lack of experience with heavenly encounters to throw stones. Words can cheapen these encounters and others can interpret our sharing as boasting. That’s why Paul didn’t share specifics in 1 Cor. 12 – there are some things God doesn’t want us to share – they are for us only. The best place to share these things is in your journal. Pray about what you are supposed to share. When God allows you to share it is for the purpose of encouraging and building up the faith of others. I’m thankful Bentley is sharing what he is sharing because there are many out there having these experiences and they need to know they are not goofy. I’ve had people in my office timidly and hesitatingly share POWERFUL GOD ENCOUNTERS they’ve had as a kids or throughout their life and they haven’t shared them ever because they figure the church folk will just think they are crazy. God is presently going around the “church” to commune with some people.
12. It’s okay for you to seek and make yourself available for God to visit you.