Wednesday, March 12, 2008
(oooh...this turned out kind of long :-) )
I was reading an old acquaintance's blog yesterday. He had posted 3 quotes by someone named Bill Johnson.
- "You can’t get a new mantel until you’ve been dismantled.
- Revering what he has said will position you to hear what he is saying. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God.
- It’s tempting to live by principles rather than presence. But you don’t get breakthrough from principles."
I was curious... the quotes were vaguely interesting, but I don't know a Bill Johson so I googled. "Who is Bill Johnson?" Steve laughed at me because it was like googling "John Smith" or something, but it worked! I love the internet! It turns out he is the pastor at a church in Redding. The church is a "miracle healing" church (for lack of a better way to describe it) and claims that among them "miracles are normal". Maybe that's true. I don't know, and have no way to verify such claims (nor would I spend my time trying...there are lots of those out there...true and false, I suppose).
I'm not one who denies the likelihood of such miracles on any level. I still expect that one or two miracles are coming for me. But I am one who has seen way too much outright abuse of God's precious people in these circles where the striving after "miracles" and "annountings" and other supposedly Christ-like "spiritual manifestations" are paramount. I don't think my Jesus intends for us to rip each other apart, deceive, judge and wound one another in our seeking after Him, and I've seen so much of that in these circles that I am now very wary of this sort of "preaching". So my comments come with a bias, I suppose. (Don't anyone's?).
I wished to leave a comment on that blogger's site, but comments weren't allowed. I suppose I would have offended him if I had...and that's not my intent at all, for I do care about him. But I'm disturbed and wish to leave a comment somewhere...so you...my sweet readers, must bear with me I guess. Bill Johnson did say the the three things quoted above...I found the reference. I'm still not sure quite what he means by them or what the blogger meant by posting them. But Bill Johnson also says,
"He (God) has laced this book with single statement promises that are yet to be discovered. You students of the bible know that when Matthew would quote an old testament passage to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, he didn't quote paragraphs. He took statements out of context. Because the Holy Spirit who wrote the book said, "that's why I put it in there". Are you guys listening? The Lord has put these things all through scripture. It's not to give permission for weirdness, but if you don't take the risk for weirdness you don't get what's available."
I'm sorry, but in 5.5 seconds this pastor debunked over a thousand years of sound Biblical study practice. Every student of the Bible also knows that context is the number one rule of interpreting scripture. And sure...we can toss out that principle and say it's outdated or lifeless or not for today or it restricts the "Spirit's movement or it's legalistic or something, but is there any wisdom in perpetuating such claims? My oldest son has been having a little trouble obeying lately and so Steve gave him some scriptures to copy down so he could start to understand how seriously we (and God) take his disobedience. One of them was Deuteronomy 21:18. It says
"If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid."
Now, is this one of the "single statement" promises for my son that Bill speaks of...the "weirdness" that we must risk in order to get from God "what's available? Or is it only the single statments that we like that we're supposed to claim as our very own promises? If I ignore paragraph and context here I come up with a single promise that all Isreal will be afraid if I purge the evil from my family by stoning my son. I (and my son) take comfort in the context of this scriptural mandate. This is a law written to young Isreal by a God who knew his laws couldn't make them righteous but only point them to His righteousness and thus lead them to his plan for their salvation eventually. There are lots more like it. If I ignore context I have to question whether I sin by not having my son stoned. I know it's extreme, but do you see where statements like this man's lead? Where did the massacre of the crusades come from? Where did Hitler get his "supreme race" ideas. Read your history...in context (chuckle). Using God's Word to propogate evil is not something that could happen only in the extremes, it's something that does happen every day...today. Read your VOM newsletter.
Bill Johnson also says,
"So many people yield themselves completely to the Lord and he begins to stir up and birth desires in them that are authentic, creative ideas that can shape the course of history, but they…people, Christians have been taught to kill those things and suppress them because they're to have none of self. John the Baptist's prayer, "I must decrease, you must increase," is not a legal prayer for you…Jesus died and rose again, was the light of the world, now declares, "you're the light of the world". This is not the time for you to decrease, this is the time for you to increase."
John the Baptist's prayer is not a legal prayer for me? I must seek to increase? So then should I also throw out Paul's "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." Phil 3:7, or Jesus' "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matt 10:39. My dreams and plans must increase? huh?
Bill says a lot of other things that I agree with...I think. He has this manner of speaking that is rather circular and a sort of insincere humility that puts me on guard, and so sometimes I'm not sure what he has said...or if he really meant to say "that".
I have a point to all this. It's not to deride Bill Johnson (I don't even know him) or to discount my blogger friend's post. Rather, I wish to warn him in the gentlest voice I can muster. Be careful who you let speak into your life friend. Be careful what you reach for. Miracles aren't the pinnacle of Christian success, loving your neighbor is... are you loving your neighbor...even if she's still sick after you pray for her? The greatest in this Kingdom is not the pastor, preacher or miracle Max. It is the servant. Are you on your knees washing feet with no thought for your position or power? Those are the things that matter. Bill Johnson also made the comment that most Christians live by principles because it's easier than living by "presence" as he suggests in your last quote. If that were so...why don't we see more foot washers in American Christianity? That's the bottom line principle of the gospel...if it's so easy to live by, why don't we? What about the principle of true religion...taking care of widows and orphans. Where are the American churches that run orphanages instead of Sunday school if Biblical principles are so much easier to live by? Why are our widows left to the welfare of the state?
No. God's Word is the only solid ground we've been given on this messed up sphere. It must be handled carefully and accurately, and I'm going to strive to be like David in my approach.
"Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.
You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed." Psalm 119:1-4
There's divine safety in that. Oh friend. Read Psalm 119 (in context...for me). Where Bill and David disagree...may I suggest that you follow David's lead for he is called by God himself, "a man after God's heart", and that's what I wish for you. Be His heart. Please, please, be careful who you follow.