Monday, July 29, 2013
Years ago when I was a baby Christian, I was being challenged in my faith by a run of the mill hedonist with pagan inclinations. Hi, if you're reading. One thing that he kept advising me to do was watch the movie "Frailty." I eventually did and thought it was an o.k. movie, and wondered why he had wanted me to watch it, because at that immature stage in my Christian walk I thought the character was somewhat justified in his actions and wasn't sure why he'd wanted me to watch.
Of course I also sort of supported the unjust wars being waged, but I digress.
The movie, for those who haven't seen it, is about a guy (Bill Paxton, the "game over man!" guy from Aliens, or as MST3K called him, former star Bill Paxton) who wakes up one day and sees light reflecting off an angel staue/trophy, has a vision, and "receives a message from God," really an angel. The dad basically gets told that the world is going to end soon, and that his family's mission is to kill people who are actually demons to help save the world. As he explains his mission to the kids, he reveals that the angel called he and his kids "God's hands," and with "magical weapons," they will "fight and destroy demons".
Endowed with ordinary, but somehow "special" gloves, a length of pipe, an axe named "Otis", and a fanatical devotion to his vision, the dad of the family goes on an axe-murder spree killing people who were actually really bad people, in an effort to save the world from the devil and fulfil his mission to rid the world of evil.
As he goes about his mission, he touches people to make sure they are demons, to see their sin, and then he kills them. In disposing of the bodies, the dad says the angel was very specific about how to do it all, and that the bodies were to be buried properly, hinting very subtly or unintentionally that this might be some sort of ritual.
One of his sons though, understandably has some misgivings about this mission and in particular, the killing people part. That makes perfect sense. But because of his doubts, dad suspects he's a demon and locks him up until he sees a vision. This son fakes a vision, then kills dad when it's his turn to destroy a demon.
Years later the "demon son" has become a serial killer trying to get his "holy" brother arrested because holy brother has taken up dad's mantle as demon killer. Holy brother eventually kills demon brother and leads a cop (who is also a murderer) to the site of demon destruction, then kills him. It's revealed at the end that dad and holy brother actually seem to have some sort of supernatural power as video cameras can't identify him and no one recalls his appearance. The film also does a reveal of the evil that the demon folk/Paxton's murder victims had done, which is what was seen when they were touched pre axe murder.
We're left with the impression that the supernatural serial murders, aka, demon destruction was actually God's mission and the dad and holy brother were doing God's work.
At the time, I hadn't thought much about it. After all, the people he killed were child molestors, or other baddies, and figured maybe he had been justified and given a real mission by God in the fictional context of the movie.
In retrospect, I think the reason this "friend" had wanted me to see the movie was to undermine my faith and show me that faith in God is irrational, and can cause people to do crazy things if they think God told them to do it. He perhaps wanted me to see that faith in God brings out fanaticism. Certainly at that time people were using God as an excuse for war, and people often say that God told them to do things. Not to mention the horrors of history like the cruades, inquisition, and so on. On a surface level for those who don't do their homework or understand the Bible, there is that issue to deal with.
It's not unit recently when I was hit with a realization, out of nowhere as I hadn't seen the movie in years.
This realization is that if you view this movie with a Biblical perspective, Bill Paxton's character and his son were being used by a demonic spirit or fallen angel. And it's quite obvious once you realize it.
The Bible admonishes us to:
1 John 4:1 - 3
"1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already"
Nowhere in this movie does anyone even come close to attemping this. Paxton sees a shiny light, thinks he hears a message from God and off he goes.
However, we should also add a little more check to the above test, because a spirit that doesn't emphasize the Gospel and Christ's deity, humanity, death and resurrection isn't to be trusted. Especially if they coerce one into murder.
Apostle Paul warns:
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
And we know already that had Paxton's character read his Bible, and examined his mission in light of that, he would have seen that the angel who gave him the message wasn't on the up and up. The angel instructed him that in order to save the world, he had to destroy "demons". In other words, the angel gave him a different Gospel because the world (that is the people of the world) has (have) already been saved by what Christ did. This angel wanted Paxton to add to that or do something else in place of that.
And of course, "the gospel message is simple: "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4).
Anything else beyond that, especially if coming from a supernatural being is not the Gospel.
So although these guys are on a mission, and in fact ridding the world of evil people, they are completely out of God's will. If they had really received a message from God or His angels, they would have preached the Gospel to these "demons" instead of killing them.
Yet another case of Hollywood getting wrong in the supernatural realm, though admittedly they do leave a lot open to the interpretation of the viewer.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
In walking with Jesus, and accepting Him as Lord and Savior, it's perfectly natural to come to a place where you want more than just the once a week Sunday worship, or daily check in with prayer and Bible study. After all, the Christian life is more than a religion, it is a lifestyle and personal relationship with the creator of the universe.
As one reads the Word and contrasts the supernatural and amazing acts of the early church to what we have now, the current church model doesn't quite measure up. Of course we don't always realize the book of Acts was actually many years of exploits, but that doesn't reduce our hunger for supernatural phenomenon and the desire to experience God's power in our daily lives. It doesn't eliminate the desire to see prayer answered and miracles worked.
For some, those Christians who take their walk seriously and those who posess good sense and discernment, this hunger for the supernatural should hopefully draw you closer to God in prayer and study of the Word and in sharing the Gospel with others. For those on the opposite end, like me (years ago, anyways) this desire and hunger for the supernatural outpouring of God's power can lead us down the path of Simon Magus, the pursuit of God's power for our own amusement, gratification and so on. For pride and vanity in other words. When pursued in the wrong motive, I believe (and in my own experience this was true), pursuit of supernatural power as an end in itself can lead you into New Age teachings, or worse, to false Christian teachers (perhaps teaching New Age as something of God). The pursuit of signs and wonders can cause us to wander into deception of one sort or another.
That is not to say that I think God doesn't work miracles today, or that every supernatural manifestation is demonic, but what I do mean to say is thay we need to be careful if we see evidence of supernatural manifestation happening among the Body of Christ, or those who claim to be such. Before accepting a miracle as a God thing, we need to test it (1 John 4) and make sure it actually is.
Before we start, I lay my bias out plainly: on the whole, I would agree that cessation of spiritual gifts does seem to be a reality, and i would agree with the general consensus that its because we have the full, revelation of God's word here in the First World. It is also easy here to fake and doubt a purported miracle, and so God doesn't seem to work that way here because His Word, the Bible is sufficient evidence and testimony.
However, I do believe God can and does work miracles today, when needed, and when they glorify Jesus and bring people to faith in Christ, especially in areas of people where God's revelation and Gospel has yet to reach. Perhaps on the mission field or frontiers where the Gospel hasn't gone before. I know i have personally been delivered from demonic attack and sleep paralysis by calling on Jesus Christ, so I cannot deny that God intervenes supernaturally from time to time.
But if you really want to see signs and wonders, go out and be a missionary, preach the Gospel and make disciples.
The Bible gives us many warnings not to be taken in by hucksters, false teachings or false signs and wonders. Many of the following verses certainly have a proper context (so make sure you understand what that is), often related to Christ's return, but they have the same underlying, unambiguous message. Don't get tricked into leaving the faith to follow a false teacher.
Do not be deceived.
1 Timothy 4:1-2
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
(Regarding Christ's second coming and antichrist)
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; and verse 9
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Verse 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
1 John 3:7
7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Because of the possibility of deception, we need to put Acts 17:11 into practice daily, and especially whenever we see someone claiming God's power is at work. You can go look that one up.
With that preamble in place, I now arrive at the main point of this article.
I don't normally like to call out names (though i guess this is not the first time I've done it) and in fact have gone out in the past and removed Creflo Dollar's name from a blog, but I have recently come across the teachings of one Kevin Dedmon by the providence of God and the meeting of a friend.
Who the heck is Kevin Dedmon?
Mr. Dedmon is one of at least several pastors at Bethel Redding in California, he has written several books, teaches and travels around teaching and giving conferences teaching folks how to heal and do supernatural wonders of a sort.
At first glance, nothing seems obviously amiss, aside from an overuse of catchphrases, until one takes a look at the man behind the curtain. I won't dive into a personal attack, as I bear no ill will to Kevin, nor do i want to tear him down, but I will seek to show where his teachings stray from the Bible. To do this, we shall examine the fruit (Matthew 7:16) borne of Kevin Dedmon in light of God's word and let you decide for yourself, prayerfully. This alone is hard enough to know where to start, so we'll go with what seems to be most Biblical and work out from there.
First off, healings. One of the most obvious signs in the Bible of God working was through healing of physical ailments. Jesus healed many in his ministry, and the Apostles (Acts 1:20 - 26 suggests that an Apostle is only someone who had seen or interacted with the Lord Jesus Christ after His death and resurrection, which Paul did in Acts 9 and he defends in other places) also healed the sick as they went about preaching and spreading the Gospel.
Kevin Dedmon also claims to have many healings under his belt as well, probably rivaling even Smith Wigglesworth. While Dedmon likely has many testimonies of healings on his site, I would guess that these couple are representative of many, if not all of them.
This first one, from one of his Firestorm Conferences (an admittedly awesome name, from a worldly perspective, for a conference) by Dedmon's own admission this account is pretty much an average experience. Dedmon describes it as a testimony, likely from one of the attendees. The testimony of the witness states they watched with "wonder" as healings took place (at the conference) though the witness remained skeptical, and asked themselves what I would classify as healthy questions. Not long after, this the healing skeptic had an opportunity to try their ownhand at healing. The party to be healed by the skeptic had recently injured their knee.
The skeptical healer prayed over the lady with the knee injury, following whatever steps they had learned at Firestorm. What happened next is where things get interesting.
The pray-er had to pray for healing of the knee FIVE TIMES, and each time something more fantastic happened. From slight movement, to heat (intense heat at one point) in the knee, laughing (yes, laughing) and finally, an allegedly complete healing after the fifth prayer and laying on of hands.
This next account, a couple went to someone's house to pray for a cancer patient. During the prayer, the cancer patient felt heat and electricity, then the pray-ers began to sing Dedmon's "healing song" (more on that shortly) and the cancer patient "sang it over themself" and everyone started laughing. Of course, healing allegedly took place. And yet, so many die of cancer each year.
One last example details a baby recovering from a potentially deadly spider bite, the healer allegedly laughed at it over the phone. Other healings were reported; people with metal plates and screws were said to be healed and the implants gone (if true, one would like to see some before and after MRIs, but still, thats not totally unbelievable or even supernatural because some implantable screws and such are designed and made to be absorbed into the body after a set time).
It would be nearly impossible to review every reported healing testimony attributed to Dedmon or his song/followers, but these should suffice, especially since one of them by Dedmon's own admission was a typical example. By looking at these few healings, we see a couple common elements.
First, the feeling of heat, sometimes with electrical feeling (or twitching/jerking), second the healing event is accompanied by laughter and in these two respects bear an unsettling resemblance to manifestation of Kundalini (Yoga, demonic) "energy". One former follower identifies Bethel's practices as Kundalini and explains Kundalini as "physical manifestations, such as jerking and shaking, and feelings of heat, energy, and pleasure."
Despite the ambiguous, and possibly sinister nature of these signs, they are believed to be evidence that God is working. But if it is God working, we should be able to see the same things happening in the Bible, because God never changes.
Although these signs seem to be prevalent in Dedmon's (and his followers') healings, they are not prevalent in the Bible, and in fact do not appear at all. Whenever someone was miraculously healed in the Bible, no sensation was reported, the healing was instant, obvious and verifiable. It was also absolutely clear God was behind it.
OT healing miracles:
Certainly some of the Hebrew Scriptures (aka Old Testament) the Lord asks people to do various things to be healed, but those healings are not attributed to the act alone, nor are they repeatable.
Numbers 21 details the Israelites being healed from snake bites merely by looking at a bronze snake. 1 Kings 17:17 - 24, the widow's son was raised from the dead. Naaman the leper had to wash 7 times in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:10 - 14) to be healed and Hezekiah (2 Kings 20) put figs on his boil, and i get the feeling that the healing was so sudden andv possibly anticlimactic that he had to ask God for an additional sign that he was going to keep living. In the end it was God doing the healing, and no mention of any sensation, heat or jolting, or laughter accompanied the miracle.
When we get to the New Testament, things have changed a bit. Jesus Christ, as God's Son and God in human flesh healed people merely with a touch or by His word. In all of these instances, people were instantly healed or raised to life. No sensation, just healing because of faith in Him. People looking for a show would have been sorely disappointed.
Later, in the book of Acts, we see healings as well. The apostles (again, only those who were witnesses to Christ's resurrection or those who had seen the glorified Christ), were able to perform healing by calling on the authority of Jesus Christ, or if not directly calling on Christ or commanding in His name, using the authority granted them as a believer in Christ to perform a miracle as a way to lead someone to salvation in Christ and to the true God. When attention or credit was given to the apostles, they directed it back to God.
The point of the apostles' healing and probably Christ's miracles were to validate the message they were proclaiming in a time when God had not yet revealed His entire word to us. It was a sign of their authority and the validity of the Gospel message. The Biblical gift of healing is expounded on here.
The article demonstrates that biblical healings are always verifiable, and always glorify God and bring people to Him through His son Jesus.
Contrasting Dedmon's purported healings and the Bible, one can see some interesting discrepancies. In the Bible, the healing is an inroads to Jesus Christ, and restoring a life to Him. It is the stamp of approval on the Gospel message, changes a life, it's merely the catalyst to getting someone right with God. Consider that Paul (who had worked miracles) prayed for healing for himself and never received it.
Looking at the testimony's on Dedmon's site, the healing seems to be an end in themself. Furthermore, Kevin Dedmon often gets credit. The method gets credit. The person praying for and doing the healing gets credit. Even Dedmon's healing song gets credit. But you know who doesn't get credit?
Which should be our first clue that if the healings are legitimate, they are not coming from God, simply because there is no evidence they are leading people to Christ and Him crucified. Further, Christ receives no credit while man receives it all.
"Healing Song" by Kevin Dedmon... er...Michael Stipe
Associated with Kevin Dedmon and his healings, there is mention of his "healing song". You can see a good analysis of it here (with the great point that if it works, why not take it to the children's hospital), but really all you need to know is that it is a phrase repeated to the tune of R.E.M.'s "Its the End of the World as we Know it". This offends me as a music fan. This offends me as a Christian.
To say nothing of the fact that Jesus told us:
"5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."
(Matthew 6:5 - 8)
What Dedmon is promoting as a healing song, aside from being an outright plagiarism of R.E.M. (Stipe should sue, really), is a vain repetition. Also known as a mantra.
A mantra (example from Kundalini Yoga) is basically a phrase one repeats (usually in eastern religions) and this phrase, and repetition thereof, is supposed to have certain powers. Say, the power to heal for example. Really what this repetition does is empty the mind so that one becomes susceptible to contact with demonic entities. These entities, when a "miracle" occurs, would likely be the ones behind the sign and wonder. Recall 2 Thessalonians 2:9.
To contrast the methods of Dedmon, here are a few looks at Biblical healing. One, two and three
Symptom of a Larger Problem?
Though Dedmon's healings (faked or demonic) are not Biblical, this should really come as no surprise, mainly because he is a pastor at the controversial "church", Bethel in Redding, CA. The "about" page for Bethel mentions Jesus thrice (once as Christ) and in those they don't really say or affirm anything about Him, the virgin birth or the Gospel (salvation by grace through faith, though they mention a "gospel of power") or anything that one would recognize as a core tenant of the true Gospel message.
Other sources (all linked below for other reasons) tie Bethel to the New Apostolic Reformation, a group of self appointed apostles and prophets covered extensively in the archives of View from the Bunker. Here are a few, (and last) but you'll want to dig a bit on your own to find more.
As if that wasn't concern enough, Bethel is host to signs and wonders that aren't even Biblical, much like those performed by Dedmon. The following video shows clouds of gold dust floating from an area of ceiling with bad visibility, meaning that the possibility of fraud and chicanery are pretty high.
They also report "angel feathers" which have been proven to be bird feathers in the few instances where they were analyzed. The linked article also highlights other areas of concern including a Bethel intern that was possibly possessed, and a worship service that featured bizarre activities and repetition of a song possibly to induce a trance.
This article takes a fair and critical look at the Bethel ministry and links to videos of alleged signs.
In addition to these items, Bethel seems to have some obvious signs of another kind. Signs of being a cult or under the sway of dark powers.
A testimony of someone who was under the influence of Bethel's signs and wonders, and a testimony of one saved out of Bethel by the true Gospel.
This testimony highlights many important indicators that the Bethel "church" is not Biblical and not of God.
Given that Bethel is teaching false doctrine, entertaining false signs/wonders and possibly demonic powers; in addition to being part of the New Apostolic Reformation, one should do everything in their power to avoid them, their teaching and miracles (fake or real/demonic). This should be extended to anyone who is part of their leadership structure like Kevin Dedmon. Dedmon is part of Bethel and his "healings" and teachings follow the same unbiblical and dangerous methods. If Dedmon or any other Bethel personality is coming to your town, have no part of it.
2 John 1:9 - 11
9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
If you want to get closer to God, place your faith in Christ, accept the Gospel. Pray. Read your Bible. If you need provision, healing, or a miracle, heed the words of the late J Vernon McGee. He advised to pray, and have others pray for your healing (or needs), then go see a doctor. Dr. McGee is a great man of God who suffered from cancer, and ultimately died like all men. But he will take part in the ultimate healing, the resurrection of the body when Christ returns, because he believed the Gospel message that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead according to the scriptures.
And there is no more miraculous healing than that which Christ will give us who have received Him and His Gospel.