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The Lakeland Series:
A Case Study in Advanced Prophetic Listening
[ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Part 7 ] [ Part 8 ]
August 19, 2008 PM
Tonight I was forwarded the following commentary on
and the fall of Todd Bentley. This is by a pastor in Lakeland named Loren Sandford (newsongchurchandministries.org), whom I had never heard of until this week and about whom I know nothing otherwise. It was forwarded to me by a new acquaintance who is not even part of the Reader's Circle. But, like Greg Austin's word, the content of this post is so timely and in harmony with what my listening heart is hearing that I believe you should have it immediately. Denver, Colorado
I want to underscore two particular points from Pastor Sandford. The first is his artful, "surgical" dealing with the evil in this move while embracing the genuineness of the Spirit behind the move itself. He specifically rejects the pharisaic wilderness critics (See paragraph 6). This kind of "receiving discernment" remains the overcoming challenge of the hour for wilderness visionaries like us regarding this and future outpourings!
The second point is Pastor Sandford's reference to Samson (paragraph 10.) You will remember that in my last commentary I said: "there will be more outpourings like [
] featuring contrary evidences and Samsonesque' personalities to be negotiated." I have been repeatedly impressed with the parallel between Samson and Todd Bentley (including the "violent" aspect associated with the Lakeland anointing.) I'm persuaded that understanding Samson is key to accurately understanding Lakeland . Watch for more commentary on this. Lakeland
Our ability as wilderness saints to obtain perception for embracing genuine Spirit rainfall while surgically exposing tare aspects sprouting under its blessing is vital to our final overcoming and fulfillment of genuine Elijah class destiny. So I am persuaded.
Let's keep up the journey...
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 5:12 PM
Subject: Word by Pastor Loren Sandford
Posted: 08/18/2008 at 11:38pm | IP Logged
We're living in a time when God is so serious about His character imprinted into us for the honor of His name, that while He often uses seriously flawed people to accomplish His purposes, there is nothing hidden in any leader's heart or life that will not be exposed. Luke 12:2-3, "But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops."
Yes, God pours out His grace in forgiveness, but we must never forget that God's holiness must be honored and that He does act for the sake of His own name. As God entrusts us with more power and more glory, accountability for character issues rises. As we cry MORE LORD, God answers by asking more of us because we've been given more. Luke 12:48 says, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."
God may not make perfection a requirement for wielding the gift of His mercy and His power, but with the blessing of His mercy and power comes responsibility and accountability to grow in looking like Jesus, being like Jesus, acting and living like a people set apart, different from the world. We MUST grow in His ways.
Many of us are currently grieving deeply over the failure of Todd Bentley's marriage (leader of the Lakeland Outpouring) and his inappropriate emotional relationship with a female staff member. I am praying that there will ultimately be full disclosure of all that has been amiss in his life. I'm praying for the fathers in the faith who have come around him to help him through this and that one day he will be able stand before us all and disclose everything with a broken and repentant heart. I am praying that his ministry will be restored with more power and wholeness than before.
Full disclosure must come because sin, especially in a leader, opens a wound in the body of Christ that can only be healed with full disclosure. I know as a pastor of a flock that if I were to fall into sin, it would open a wound in all of my people. Trust would be breached. This wound Todd has opened needs healing. It needs to happen both for Todd and his wife and for us.
But nothing can be healed that remains hidden. Until full disclosure happens people will instinctively feel that something is off or wrong. This is part of why so much criticism was and is aimed at the Lakeland Revival. There have been the usual vicious, religious-spirited critics whom I dismiss out of hand, but there were many lovers of revival who sensed something wrong that was hidden and has now come to light.
Disclosure must be full and complete. If exposure and repentance have been only partial in the case of a leader who has fallen, then there remains cause for continuing accusation. The ministry is weakened. The rift continues. The wound remains only partially sealed.
We live in a time when our national Christian leaders are bringing dishonor to the Lord's name with distressing frequency. A chief cause has been that we as believers have hungered for the wrong things and lost our focus. We must hunger more deeply for holiness, purity and intimacy with God than we do for power, glory, miracles and manifestations. We've been out of whack and now we pay the price for our lack of attention to character and wholeness.
Does a move of God through someone's ministry indicate that the person is holy and above reproach? Or moral? NO. Does God use unrighteous men or men with serious character flaws? YES. Why does God choose to pour out His healing mercy and power through such flawed vessels? Because of His love for those who receive what these men and women have to give. God responds to the need of His people and will not hold His mercy hostage to the condition of the man on the stage. In Lakeland God responded to the hunger and desperation in thousands of people the world over, in spite of fatal flaws in its leader.
Look at Samson in the book of Judges. God used him to deliver
from enemies that were stronger than they, but here was a man who couldn't keep his pants zipped and kept making bad choices where women were concerned until he met Delilah. His weakness for her left him shorn of his hair, his strength, his eyesight and his freedom. No matter who you are, immorality reaps destruction. Israel
God does place a greater weight of responsibility on those who lead. It's a responsibility to walk with God, to be like Him in a way that people want to follow. THIS IS WHY IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT WE NOT MINIMIZE THE SEVERITY AND THE TRAGEDY OF WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN
. To do so cheats those who have been so wounded by this and leaves the door open for more leadership failures in the name of compassion and mercy. Full forgiveness and mercy can only be granted when the full gravity of the trespass has been faced. Wounds heal only superficially when we fail to adequately assess the severity of the damage. LAKELAND
Because of their impact on others, highly placed leaders more than anyone else must pursue holiness. Hebrews 12:14-15 commands us to, "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." Sanctification means holiness, to become as God is in your character.
Without that character transformation no one will, "see God." We won't experience Him truly or fully, or enter into His intimate counsel. We will miss the real revelation of who He is as sin distorts our vision. It's actually possible to hear God without knowing Him or truly experiencing Him. We can minister His power but never really see Him.
And it would seem that having mystical experiences of angels and heavenly visions is no indicator that anyone has become like Him. One of the most mystical people I ever knew was Paul Cain, and yet he fell into acloholism and homosexuality. Todd Bentley has had many mystical experiences with God, but has been headed for this train wreck for a long time.
Along these lines Jesus warned in Matthew 7:22-23, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" I'm NOT saying that Paul Cain or Todd Bentley are going to hell (they're not), but the Scripture does speak of people who minister power in the name of Jesus without a whole relationship with Him. A whole relationship with Jesus results in righteousness that flows from the inside out, obedience to God that begins with a heart that has absorbed His own character. A ministry of power does not constitute evidence of holiness or godliness. It never has. Look at Samson. God comes for love of the people and often will not be held back by the condition of the man who leads.
Nevertheless, God calls us who lead to a higher standard. I Timothy 3:1-7, "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."
Why all this? So that God's name will not be smeared. When David fell with Bathsheba and killed her husband Uriah, Nathan the prophet confronted him with his sin. II Samuel 12:13-14, "Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' And Nathan said to David, 'The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.'"
Don't focus on the dying child or you'll miss the point. The issue is that sin gives occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. Right now the world looks at the debacle of our falling leaders and cries, "Oh look! The charismatics have made fools of themselves again!" Sad reality!
God forgave David, but an issue remained. "You have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord" When you and I sin, and especially leadership, it's never a private thing. It's about the honor of the Lord, our church, our brothers and sisters. It's about the wider impact. It affects us all, weakens us all and discredits us all.
In the 1980s it was Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart. Recently, it's been the Bynums, Ted Haggard and others. Now Todd Bentley. And the world says, "Where is the power of the gospel if your leaders can't walk the walk?" The witness of every believer in our culture is compromised. "You have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord" That's the issue. God forgives, but the damage is done. And it doesn't make any difference whether the sin exposed is the superstar's or yours. It's only a matter of how many are affected by it, but someone will be.
When someone that you look up to or someone who walks in the power falls, betrays or abuses, what happens? We feel let down, betrayed, reluctant to trust again. In the 80's when Baker and Swaggart fell, donations to churches and ministries dropped across the country. Every Christian ministry felt the impact and paid the price. To this day many in the world accuse us of wanting only their money.
This is why we're so urgently being called to holiness just now. When we fall, no one outside our Christian circles remembers the glory. They remember only the failure. And that failure is taken as permission to sin by multitudes of immature believers. SIN IN LEADERSHIP MUST NOT BE MINIMIZED but faced for what it is, even as we forgive.
God's mercy includes discipline. Abraham illegally fathered Ishmael by Hagar, Sarah's maid when he could wait no longer for the son of promise. It split his family. Hagar and Ishmael had to be driven out and to this day
battles Ishmael. Consequences! God forgave David, but the child of his union with Bathsheba died! Galatians 6:7, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." God forgives, but discipline comes. Israel
Jim Baker magnificently repented, paid for his crimes in prison and wrote a book about it. I'm proud of him for the humility that came to his heart and how he humbly apologized to the body of Christ. But his ministry was never again the same and no one can take away the damage that was done to ministries whose giving declined because of the mistrust Jim sowed.
So we're being called to a higher standard these days as God pours out His power, not because we have a religious and punishing God who loves to get down on us, but for the sake of the honor of the Lord and love for His people and because much more is at stake these days. If we're going to wield His power for signs and wonders we're going to attract a lot of attention. Some of that attention will turn into close examination. We need for our sake and for the Lord's sake to be above reproach when that examination comes. God's honor is at stake.
We're being called to a higher standard because God protects His own holiness even as He loves us, He will expose every sin, every unrighteousness, in order to cleanse us for our own good and for His own vindication. We each have a choice. We can choose confession, expose it ourselves, repent and seek to be clean and holy, pleading for the nature and character of Jesus to completely own us, OR we can hide the sin and be exposed by God in a more public way.
There's a curious line in John 3:19-21 coming after the promise of eternal life for those who believe. "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." The choice.
We leaders need to take the lead in exposing our sins to the light, asking forgiveness of the body of Christ for our mistakes and failures. Over the years I've stood before my own people on a number of occasions to humble myself, confess my sin and ask their forgiveness when my arrogance or failures of character impacted them negatively. I pray the same grace for Todd in this hour for his sake and that of the whole body of Christ. That kind of open confession can go a long way toward healing the broken hearts in God's people and the disillusionment that comes to the body of Christ when a leader falls.
How shall we respond to Todd's failure? Fully face the magnitude of the tragedy and the damage done, but then move to Galatians 6:1-2, "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ."
Most of us will never be in a position to minister to Todd except to pray at a distance. But John Arnott is. Bill Johnson is. Che Ahn is. These men are fathers in the faith and in revival, men who have a relationship with Todd. Pray for them and for the tasks they must now perform on Todd's behalf. And carry the burden of this precious young man in your own heart. Feel it and let it bind you to compassionate prayer.
God didn't throw David away when he sinned. There was discipline and there were consequences, but David remained king and fulfilled his destiny. Same with Abraham. It will be the same for you and me when we fail and for our brother Todd as well. God doesn't throw us away because we fell or made mistakes. He forgives. He heals. He restores. And our destiny awaits us, even in our failure, just as it did for Abraham and for David.
Next: Reflections on Lakeland -- "Is It the End?"
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