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While not wanting to fuel any debate with those in the seat of scoffers, I’m devoting a few additional posts on the Florida Healing Outpouring to explain why I’m not thwarted in my belief that “this is mostly God” even by reports of things like angel appearances and other Christian mystic experiences (post on this to follow) and even the matter of Todd Bentley’s violent methods. What follows is an transcription from my final point in my message Sunday where I spoke from Matthew 11:12. You can check out my earlier posts on the revival here and here. I appreciated Peter Kirk’s post yesterday on this topic of violence and the Kingdom of God so you’ll want to check that out. Peter is from Essex, UK. I especially appreciate him drawing in this quote from C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian.
Aslan pounced. Have you ever seen a very young kitten being carried in the mother cat’s mouth? It was like that. The Dwarf, hunched up in a little, miserable ball, hung from Aslan’s mouth. The Lion gave him one shake and all his armour rattled like a tinker’s pack and then – hey-presto – the Dwarf flew up in the air. He was as safe as if he had been in bed, though he did not feel so. As he came down the huge velvety paws caught him as gently as a mother’s arms and set him (right way up, too) on the ground.
Expect the new wine to come forcefully.
This will really stretch your old wineskin… Matthew 11:12 brings us to key point of controversy regarding Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Outpouring. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” 99% of the church has no understanding of this verse. We gravitate toward the nice verses at the end of the chapter… come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest. But verse 12 is every bit inspired as verse 28 and verse 12 says the Kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it. A literal rendering read “the violent take it by force.”
Many church people are rejecting the Florida Outpouring because Todd Bentley is so violent. We’ve all seen him body slam people on stage and knee people in the stomach. And he talks openly about this – he said one time the glory of God wasn’t evident in a meeting and he asked God about it and God said, “It’s because you haven’t kicked that woman in the face.” He said, “What? You want me to kick that 80 year old woman in the face.” God said, “Yes, with your work boot.” And so Todd kicked the woman in the face and just as his boot got to her nose she fell back under the power of God and God’s glory visited that meeting.
You can understand how this kind of thing is causing many to be offended and reject everything about this guy. Surely a loving God wouldn’t tell a guy to kick an 80 year old woman in the face! Are you sure? He told Abraham to sacrifice his son. “Do this Abraham – no wait, don’t… I just wanted to see if you would.” Are we sure the God who shakes nations with earthquakes is always safe and soft?
We all know God doesn’t need us to kick people in the face for them to be healed and Bentley says its not the point – the point is his obedience. Maybe Bentley operates at a great level of power because he is radically obedient. Maybe many in the church are walking in the lowest levels of God’s power in their lives because we won’t even obey a simple prompt from the Holy Spirit to give a bigger offering next week.
The Bible talks about those who have a form of godliness but deny the power. The word power is the word “dunamis” – dynamite, explosive power or force. Those who walk in this power seeing signs and wonders are often forceful, aggressive and walk in a holy violence. Part of the problem is most evangelicals have no knowledge of church history or what is happening in terms of deliverance ministry in the church globally. Nothing Bentley is doing is any different than what is normal many churches in Africa. I’ve been there a couple times… they aren’t driving foul spirits away in Africa by saying “shoo.” African Christians get in the devils face. They are kind/gentle. From what I’ve seen, Bentley is tender with children and it’s indisputable that he’s and his ministry are kind to the poor – he weeps when he talks about intimacy with Jesus. But facing a sickness or a devil, at times he comes out swinging – mostly though with strong words.
Seventy-five years ago Smith Wigglesworth was having mass revival meetings here and all over the world. Wigglesworth is one of the American revival heroes. He considered every type of sickness a work of the enemy – sometimes when he’d identify the part of the body that was hurting he’s punch the person in that part of the body. He’d grab the tongue of a stutterer and some people got upset that he was hitting the sick. He’d reply, “I don’t hit people, I hit the devil and people just get in the way.” Through his ministry people regained their hearing and sight, new limbs were created, cancerous growths disappeared and demons fled. Twenty-three people were raised from the dead at the hands of Smith Wigglesworth.
He once took a corpse out of the coffin and threw it up against the wall. The people were shocked until they saw that the deceased had sprung back to life. I’m not saying you need to rubber stamp this kind of violence, I’m saying we need to be careful to pounce on things like this so quickly as not being from God. I’m saying “the kingdom of God comes by force and forceful men lay hold of it.” The Kingdom of God is not the kingdom of the cushioned pew.
My own testimony is that I was healed when a minister hit me. I was healed of debilitating migraines in 2001 when a guy from Texas came to Church at the Gate for a prayer conference. He hit me on the forehead with the heel of his hand and said, “spirit of infirmity, be gone!” My hair would hurt when I’d have a migraine, and my wife will tell you, touching me was a no-no. So this guy hit me in the head and I haven’t had a migraine since. I don’t recommend that methodology to our prayer team people, but folks, God is God and he does what he wants.
The context of this verse in Matthew 11 on the violence of the Kingdom of God is Jesus talking with John the Baptist’s followers about John. Jesus asked them, “who did you go out in the desert to see, a man in soft clothing?” Is anyone else tired of the soft-clothing preachers who have words but don’t have any works to offer – who have “words” but the sick aren’t healed and the demons aren’t cast out? They ought to put signs out front – DUNAMIS-FREE ZONE, IT’S SAFE HERE – DEMONS WELCOME.
A couple verses later is Matthew 11:16-17. These verses are a bit perplexing. Jesus says; “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” In other words, yours is a generation that is immature in the things of God. You are out there in the world thinking like children and this verse is about expectations and particularly how God isn’t doing what they set up for him to do. Is your church a church that dances to God’s tune or a church that tries to get God to dance to ours. I believe this to be the key issue each of us need to sort out– will we dance to God’s song, or wait til it’s over and try to get him to dance to ours?
God is not coming as we expect. He never limits himself to our expectations. He will not conform himself to our likeness, or liking. I heard Mike Bickle say once that “people are very comfortable with the Jesus in white, but not the Jesus in red.” The red is regarding the blood splattered on his garments when he returns to make war against the kings of the earth and violently remove everything that hinders love. As we near the end of the age, we can expect a great increase in the violent clash between the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness. Maybe next week I’ll preach the John 2:15 verse which talk about Jesus making a whip… :) Would the Jesus you worship really make a whip?
UPDATED – Thanks to Andrew for commenting on this post and pointing us to this verse… 1 Kings 20:35f “Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another BY THE WORD OF THE LORD, “Please STRIKE me.” But the man refused to strike him. Then he said to him, “Because you have not listened to the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will kill you.” And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him and killed him. Then he found another man and said, “Please strike me.” And the man struck him, wounding him.”
Apparently, God does tell people to hit people.