Guest Commentary: Titus 1- What it teaches us about false shepherds

The following was sent to me by my brother Robert Blake:

Titus is written by Paul to a young pastor who is probably over seeing a new church.
Paul begins by laying out a structure of elders to watch over the church. He gives a clear list of characteristics these men are to have. They are to protect the church, keeping it in line with the truth.
What seems to have hit me with some interest is the second half of chapter one. Paul sets up the structure out of concern for the church, that it maintain its integrity to the truth. He goes on to explain there are false shepherds and lists their characteristics.
These characteristics will all be framed within context of truth, which is mentioned later in the chapter. The characteristics starting at vs. 10 are:

Rebellious– Indicates a person who knows the truth but decides to do the opposite. A question is if we are all rebellious as Paul indicates in other writings, how are these people different? I would say they do not have the Romans 7 struggle between right and wrong actions. They choose to go after wrong actions.

Empty Talkers– It is a ripe term, hypocritical nature is what it is pointing to. Telling people to do one thing, and they do the other. Yes, it is related to the first characteristic. But, I wonder if it is more than that? We are warned in scripture that people in the end times will want their ears tickled, words that will please over words of truth. That is also at the heart of the empty talker, providing words to keep people happy over keeping people on the path of truth.

Deceivers– It tells us that the false teachers are doing more than just wrongly teaching, they are purposefully teaching something and it is wrong. It means they know the truth but choose to teach the opposite. Related to the previous characteristic, keeping the flock happy means they choose a lie over truth, ultimately deception.

Of Circumcision– It means they are participate and are active in the church community, the body of believers. It is why Paul wants elders to protect the church.

Wrongly motivated– They are in it for their own benefit and gain, contrast with the elders who are not self-willed and genuinely care for others. They simply have something to gain and will do what it takes to get it.

Teach Traditions and Commands– Part of their strategy is to use things that appear to be good but are not the truth. The root of what they teach is earth bound appearance instead of genuine faith. Simply put, they will teach things that pull a person away from total reliance upon Jesus for salvation and upon our own actions to obtain it. It is a teaching that counts on our own ability to save ourselves through what we do or do not do. Goes on to say that these people are unbelieving. They do not trust in Christ. Stay away from any teacher who does not point people to Jesus and nothing else for salvation.

No Truth- It is the central component in all of the characteristics, but Paul mentions it specifically. They are unbelieving in the truth and turn away from it. Truth is not their guide.

It is a long list, but a clear litmus test for believers. We are to scrutinize teachers with both the list of positive characteristics and the warnings Paul identifies as signs of a false teacher. When they are applied,  things will be clear. Their are many other items in scripture that warn us about false teachers, this is just one passage that is full to the brim in practical application. Study it and apply it. Follow the recommendations by Paul, to rebuke and silence those who stray from the truth.
We live in a pluralistic age, we are taught to accept all things. Paul tells us to do otherwise, confront it for the benefit of the church so that no one is harmed.

Lakeland Aftermath: An analysis of observed responses:

Well, the furor over what has been called the Lakeland outpouring has died down as Mr. Bentley has stop ministering and the martial issues are coming to light.  This article will not be focused on any of the things recently exposed but rather how people have reacted to these events. In analyzing the reactions, the analysis perspective comes from weighing the evidence of Lakeland and Mr. Bentley and finding it to be a great deception where by many were exposed and invited works of the enemy.  In terms of identifying the varied categories of observed responses, there may be labels used that may seem harsh but are meant to be descriptive and not meant insult anyone. If you see yourself in any of these labels, please pray and seek God and ask God to show you the truth and expose any lies or areas you need to change. We all need to examine ourselves daily, moment by moment.  The starting point of the analysis will be the point where all accept the phenomena presented at Lakeland and else where as being from God and move along a continuum.

 

The Ravenous:  The people who respond in this manner are seeking after the experience.  They are seeking to fill their lusts for more power, more experience.  Many of these people view themselves as seeking more so they can serve God better, but ultimately it comes down to seeking to fill the lust of flesh, lust of eyes, and pride of life.  They rally to the cries of “Come get some” and “More, more, more.”

 

The Desperate:  These are the people who have legitimate hurts and pain either physically or emotionally and find themselves drawn to somewhere where they are told someone can help them.  They are desperate to hear, see, or get a touch from God.  Some of these people may feel God has abandoned them in whatever form of suffering they endure.  These people are focused on what they lack and look to this special place where one of special anointing may give them an answer or touch that fills the lack.

 

The Wounded Servant: These are people wounded and injured by others related to the deception but stay where they are and reach out to others in surrender to God.  These people are isolated, wounded, and have little support. They would have difficulty being aware of any deceptive teaching they may latch onto in their service to God.  

 

 

The Naïve: These are the people who just simply take people at their word. If someone says something is of God and there are experiences to support the claim, they accept what is happening at face value. They follow where they are lead. They do not test, examine, or question. 

 

The Special: These are the people who report having a special relationship with God. They rely on mystical or esoteric experiences. They have their understanding and anyone bringing any questions to the contrary obviously just don’t “get it.” 

 

The Defensive: These are people that have both accepted events and happenings without question but also actively seek to defend. These are people who consistently utter threats such as “touch not God’s annointed” and “don’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” They find ways to spin every evidence in order to engage in what they consider proper defense. They see any confrontation or criticism as an attack to be defended.

 

The  Spinners: Similar to defenders. Basically they engage in rhetoric and find ways to spin the meaning of what is said and find ways to make excuses for wrong teaching or behaviors.  Sometimes the spinners may be sincere in their understanding, but often may just be practicing rhetoric.

 

The Connected: These are people who claim that based on personal knowledge of people involved and their own personal experiences with similar phenomena that they know God had to be working regardless of any evidence to the contrary. 

 

The Seekers: These are people simply seeking God and the truth in the instance. God can and will meet them because those that seek God will find him.  A difficulty exists though in that those that seek and find God in the midst of deception can attribute the deception for the reason they met God. They also may view criticism of the circumstances where they found God as seeking to invalidate what they experienced.

 

The Pushers:  These are people who have a theological investment in what they see happening. These are similar people to the The Connected.  These people value the theology and doctrine promoting the deception and have difficulty accepting any opposing view and fill look for ways to dismiss any presented evidence.

 

The Users: These are people behind the scenes, folks that stand to gain from the event.  What they care about is how the event effects them and how they can use it to improve their own standing and/or agenda.

 

The Ignorant: The are the people that just simply are unaware of what is happening. It doesn’t cross their sphere or circle of life and don’t know what is going on. 

 

The Fence Sitters:  These are people who simply don’t know one way or another whether there is truth. They see good and bad and cannot be sure one way or another. They hear both sides and feel caught in the middle.

 

The Passive:  These are people who know what is going on, know of possible dangers, but express belief that if it is not of God it will die off. These people also may have perspective that what is going on isn’t impacting their life directly so it isn’t really important. 

 

The Betrayed: These are people who used to believe what is being pushed by the deception, recognize it and stand strongly against it. Often they will stand against it in their own strength.  This category of response is similar to how you see ex-smokers interact around smokers.

 

The Obsessed: These are people who don’t accept what is going on but cannot stop reading information on what is happening. May even watch multiple hours of what is happened all to spot ever last bit of error.  Documenting and reading and viewing the event and deception becomes their sole focus.

 

 

The Paranoid: These are people who initially recognize deception and warn others but they begin seeing deception everywhere.  Rather then doing in actual discerning of what is true and what God is doing in people’s lives, they see deception even where there is no deception.

 

 

The Sidelined: These would be the people who recognized and discerned truth, warned people they cared about and left it at that. They didn’t speak out because of a lack of trust in their own discernment or listening to other voices telling them they could be wrong.  They protected their own interests but did nothing to expand their concerns to the church as a whole, including intercessory prayer.  

 

 

The Fighters:  These are people who are angry. They see the church being hurt and sheep being led to slaughter. They see it as their duty to fight for the sheep.  Often times they will use rhetoric, manipulation, satire, and other weapons of the flesh in the name of fighting for the truth.

 

The Self-Righteous: These are people who think they are better then others. They think they understand what is going on completely and will mock others for not understanding, even if their perspective is extreme.  These people think they are better then anyone else, and other would be if that just understood and “got it.”

 

The Concerned: These are people who see or discern the deceptions and express concern. They may actively engage others warning them of the errors but really are concerned about the people involved and work to reach out to any that may listen. They also spend time in prayer but their main response is to reach out to others, sometimes with direct confrontation. These people are truth tellers.

 

The Intercessors: These are people led to pray for the truth, for the sheep being led to slaughter, for God to work His will in the midst.  They seek to do and follow as God leads but primarily are engaged in prayer.

 

The Faithful: Those that hear the deception, examine the truth,  and seek to walk in love. They avoid confronting or fighting  in the flesh and walk in step with God’s leading.  They surrender to God in the matter and follow as God leads.

 

Now unfortunately, we all probably have reactions that are not helpful.  We all would serve best by being faithful and following as God directs, yet we can easily falter and land in other responses that are more self-directed. There of course can be mutliple categories of response not mentioned in this article.  We each can actually respond in a multitude of categories or shift from one area of response to another.  One minute being faithful, the next being a fighter, the next being self-righteous.  The step to being truly faithful is surrender to the King of Kings. We need to constantly examine ourselves and find the ways we are being self-directed and reacting out of ourselves in the name of the Kingdom of God.

Guest Commentary: Honoring the Presence of God

I ran across an interesting commentary at the forum for Charisma magazine. I asked the author if I could post it on my blog and he agreed. I found this article thought provoking and challenging perspective. The author is Sean Steckbeck. He is serving Jesus in Israel and being used by God to lead others into following Jesus as Messiah and entering the Kingdom of God.

Here is the article:

My wife and I were weeping over the state of the church in the past couple days.
We were also talking about the word for the glory of the Lord and reminscing about our days at Brownsville and the glory of the Lord falling so strong there.
My wife and I speak to each other in Hebrew, not in English, this needs to be understood to understand the nature of our conversation.
The word for glory is “kavod” which is from the same root as “k’ved” which means weighty. The presence of God is weighty.
However, we were discussing that the glory of the Lord (kavod) also needs to be honored. For “kavod” is a double meaning- glory and honor. Kavod also is the word for honor.
We then realized that today’s woes with the charismatic church is a lack of honor for the glory of the Lord.

I then saw a picture of a King who came out on a red carpet.
Many were prostrated and shaking in awe (ecstasis in Greek for you River folks) and honor.
Many others were in awe (ecstasis), but took it very lightly and even nearly mocking.

I then asked myself why would these guys do this, don’t they know they could get their heads chopped off by the king.
I then realize they didn’t realize this was dishonoring to the King, but that it was.

My wife got immediately this verse:

Exo 20:7 You shall not take the name of Jehovah your God in vain. For Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.

Exo 20:7 לא תשׂא את־שׁם־יהוה אלהיך לשׁוא כי לא ינקה יהוה את אשׁר־ישׂא את־שׁמו לשׁוא׃

Transliteration by me- Lo tisa et shem adonay elohecha l’shav, ci lo yinka adonay asher yisa et shmo l’shav

Notice the word “shav” here which is translater “vain”.

In Hebrew, shav is used for the following:

1.) A dud for a firework
2.) A bullet that is a dud when shot.
3.) Sperm that does not impregnate.
4.) Something that has a substance, but does not have the reality.

So what can we draw from this in taking the Lord’s name in vain?

1.) A powerless faith— having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. Not having the fruit of a walk in the Holy Spirit while taking on the name of God.

2.) Not living the life—- the word “tisa” and “yisa” means to take on, or to dress yourself with. Interesting it does not even come close to the word “speak” which is usually spoken about this particular scripture. Although it also means this among other things, but is only a tiny part (to not give you a reason to say GD). This scripture is referred to almost immediately after it talks about not taking on other gods and keeping the commandments. God is speaking to Israel as a nation that is His representative nation on the earth collectively and who carries His name, and is speaking to each one’s personal responsibility within this. If we say we represent God or Messiah, and do not live the life of discipleship, we are taking His name in vain. Because we are God’s gun to change the world, and we should not fire duds. Thank God for grace, however, we should also fear. “Lo Yinkeh” means to not ever be found clean. Yeshua broke the curse of the law (lo yinkeh), however, it does not take away from the fact that this is the only commandment with such a severe punishment. One would almost think the unforgiveable punishment in the OT. This talks of how serious and grievous this is to God, even though our sins are washed clean, we don’t want to grieve God with one of the most despicable sins. The law still describes God’s character and order, even though we are relieved from the punishment and curse. Does the church and Israel (God’s two representatives on earth) today shoot blanks? Do we represent the nature and awe of God?

3.) Prophecy—- this might get a bit sticky now. 1 Cor 13-14 is clear that we prophesy in part, all should prophesy, we should desire prophecy, and that it is to be part of the regular house congregation. It is clear we should both judge and love one another concerning this issue. We should be in mutual submission and accountability over this issue. However, what about when it goes public away from the context of the typical house congregation whose responsibility is to produce disciples and growth (with one of the fruits as hearing the voice of God). Public prophecy is different than the incubus of prophecy within a house congregation. There are different standards! Why, prophecy within discipleship is for the growth of the individuals. Prophecy that goes public has a role to represent the words of God on the earth. Ok, here is where we get into shooting “duds” in God’s name. I have heard in the prophetic movement that public prophets can only hope to be 60% accurate at most. If we are talking within the house congregation where prophecies are immediately judged in love, I would be happy to be the first to emphatically state “Yes, but lets aim for higher”, even though we do “prophesy in part.” However, when we step up to the plate to represent God’s words on the earth to the public or to the worldwide church, we better be only 100% accurate. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut and go back to the house congregation incubus.
The Bible is clear that we should not listen to such prophets that publically prophesy like this. Warnings such as God being hurt that prophets as saying “thus says the Lord” when the “Lord hath not said.” They prophesy from their vain imaginations, etc. Believers can be guilty of prophesying from their vain imaginations, I am just as guilty. However, it better not be public. In a ways, God provided the mutual accountability and judgement of 1 Cor 14 as a ways to learn how to tune in to the voice of God, and grace to sometimes miss it. Even grace for learning not to get too wacky. However, God does not provide such a grace for His public representation. God’s public representation is a holy place that angels fear to tread (my slang about the angels, not my theology). There has to be a holiness about the public representation of God, including the purity of the prophetic (aka 100% accurate). We should fear when we go into that place, unless we love the limelight. However, those who love the $$$$ of those who go goo-goo and ga-ga over detailed 20-60% accuracy because those who give the money don’t know how to hear God for themselves is absolutely pathetic! They have traded the honor of the name of God for popularity and limelight. Those who make light of “missing it” in public don’t honor the name of the Lord. They are shooting duds (with sometimes real bullets granted) in public. This disgraces the name of the Lord.

4.) The anointing and the glory—– Taking on the name of God does have proper mannerisms. The fruit of taking on the name of God (fruit of the Spirit) is also self-control. How will the world react if when we are in His presence we act like complete idiots smoking dope and baby Jesus dolls? What will they think about the honor of the name of the Lord? How will they see Him as King? Yes, he is our friend. Yes, there is freedom. But, He is also King. As sons in the kingdom, we should honor Him as King. We should also honor His presence (outpouring of the Spirit). The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets, so no “God made me do it.” While our bodies may react to the presence of God and this may be very natural (laughing, shaking, falling, etc.), let us remember that we should compose ourselves and honor the presence of the Lord. Smoking joints, snorting the Word, smoking baby Jesus, drinking from the breasts of El Shaddai (figuratively acting it out), eating a doughnut for the Lord’s body and getting ecstatic bliss from the sugar, dancing like a drugged up rave party, etc. is not honoring the Lord’s presence. Yes there is room for celebration and joy. Just as a King’s banquet has room for this. Yes there is room for dancing before the King. However, what would you dance? A beautiful ballot’s dance or a prostitutes dance? David did dance before the Ark in glorious procession, however, I am sure it was an honoring dance. Probably a “davidic dance.” Just like it would be absurd to dance a belly dance in an English ballroom.

These people do take God’s name in vain, because they represent a sinful culture to the world (rave dance, joint smoking, etc.) as reprenting the work of the Holy Spirit and even enter into ecstatic supposedly Holy Spirit filled places while doing blasphemous works. My problem is not with the ecstatic (which is biblical), but the fruit of it not being any fruits of the Spirit. This takes God’s name in vain. It adds new levels to blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

In all:

I honor the move of God. I have been the revival meetings where His glory felt like a wave of His presence filling me. I have been to meetings where it seemed like all were seeing visions and prophesying because His presence was sooo thick. I honor this… I honor this…I honor this….

I honor this, because I honor the name of God.

Therefore, I will not act like a complete bafoon because I honor the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Evaluating the “Fruits” of the so-called Lakeland Outpouring:

There is a lot of good information throughout the World Wide Web about Mr. Bentley and what has been proclaim as the “Lakeland Outpouring.” There is much conversation about how he is deceiving, glorifying self and angels, espousing and imparting New Age and occult teachings, and the probable source of the experience and healings (Kundalini). These are important things for a believer to know and spend some time at sites like http://www.deceptionbytes.com and you can learn much. However, I have yet to see a simple evaluation of what is actually occurring at Lakeland.
For me the question is simple. Is what is going on at Lakeland of the God and of the world. The things that are of the world are described in 1 John 2:16: “16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” So for me it is worth examining the Lakeland outpouring to see if what is promoted there consists of what is described as “from the world.”
First let’s look at “lust of the flesh.” When I think of the category of lust of the flesh to me it all comes down to craving an experience or pleasure. It is about what stimulates the senses. When I think about this, the immediate things my mind places into this category are things such as gluttony and sexual immorality. In essence, the core of this category is all about the “experience.” When I examine what is going on at Lakeland, essentially it is all about “the experience.” The ongoing declaration at each session is always “Come an’ get some!” The experience is explained as being of God and being filled with the Holy Spirit, yet really comes down to experiencing the ecstatic. So when I examine the Lakeland outpouring I find part of the nature of the “outpouring” to be “lust of the flesh.”
Next let’s look at “lust of the eyes.” When I think about this, the immediate things my mind places into this category are things such as riches and possessions. In essence, the core of this category is all about the “wants.” When I examine what is going on at Lakeland, I find that it is essentially all about wants. The focus on healing alone is about “wants.” It is about wanting and expecting an “outpouring” that will result in “healing” of the physical. The fact that on the surface people seem to get there ‘wants’ addressed is even offered as ‘proof’ that God is at work. Ultimately to me it is about stimulating and feeding the “lust of the eyes.”
The third category is “the pride of life.” When I think about this, the immediate things my mind places into this category are things such as success, purpose, and self-evaluation. In essence, the core of this category is all about the promotion of self. When I examine what is going on at Lakeland, I find that ultimately self is promoted. I tuned into Mr. Bentley speaking one night for about ten minutes and he seemed to be trying to teach from Acts 2. However, what he emphasized was “great grace.” He challenged all to want to be brought into the “extraordinary.” I have witnessed Mr. Bentley emphasizing the “miraculous” and even fishing for connections of testified miracles. It is all about “the show” and what is happening at “Lakeland.” The message is that what is happening is so extraordinary that not only should you experience it, but you should receive an impartation so that you too can do the “extraordinary. In essence, you can become “special.” It is the essence of “the pride of life.”
So when I look at what is going on at Lakeland, in spite of things being claimed to be done in Jesus name, biblical examination to me results in declaring the “Lakeland outpouring” to be “of the world” and not “of the Father.” Lakeland outpouring is all about experience, wants, and elevation of self. True revival is about denial, surrender, and elevation of Jesus the Son of God come in the flesh.

The beginning, finally.

Hello and welcome. This blog has been a long time coming. I have been felt read to start sharing and writing thoughts about the Church, the world, and whatever God puts on my heart for some time.  I have been negligent in following through with this call until now.

I have been negligent because I have been to wrapped up in distractions and self-pity over events in my life.  I put myself above what God was calling.  I had many excuses and many reasons why not.  I did not surrender fully to God.  And yet now I start.  Finally! Time to surrender!

So what brought me to this point of surrender?  Well, it was a wake-up call from God.  There has always been a part of me that has wanted to see God actively moving in people’s lives.  I yearn to see people healed of deep wounds and set free from bondage.  I want to see people brought into True peace.  In that  yearning, I ultimately was made aware of what is called the “Florida Outpouring.”

                When I first learned of it I tuned in, watched it for the duration.  First, I was glad to see people seeking after Christ.  However, as I watched I had several checks in my spirit.  I observed the “laughter” Mr. Bentley was exhibiting and it seemed to me a faked forced, laugh.  I watched Mr. Bentley take testimonies of miracles and saw him fishing and twisting for connection to the “Lakeland outpouring.”  The third thing of concern was he made a comment stating flat out “You’re going to give me all your money.”  It was a disjointed statement at the time, and I wondered about it. I believe soon after that he began speaking on “seeds of faith” giving, always a red flag for me.  His teaching that night talked about four levels of healing. Nothing seemed off regarding that teaching at the time.  However, in retrospect, it was all about receiving the “healing” and very little about surrender to Jesus, the Messiah.

                I had failed at the time to attend to the red flags. Sent emails out to some family and friends pointing out the revival and initially made some posts defending Mr. Bentley on a Christian forum.  I sadly sent a prayer request for my wife’s health to a pastor of the church sponsoring the event, because I hate how my wife has suffered and want to see her set free.   Well, I went to bed that night and woke up with a heavy feeling in my spirit.  I prayed to God about Mr. Bentley and what was happening and began to research further.  What I found was that Mr. Bentley was not serving Christ and was deceiving many. 

                In making me aware of the deception, God also made me aware that I had put much ahead of Him.  The chief of which is my own entertainment and pleasure. How I had not placed God at the top and that I needed to wake up and surrender to Him.  I needed to take my eyes off the things of this world and focus on Christ.  There were other parts of the wake-up call but in this initial post it is not the time to go into such matters, but God made it perfectly clear .

                In think God’s move in my heart is best summed up in the verses in Ephesians 5:13-16 “13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

            So now that you are a little aware of what finally got me here, blogging, let me share with you what I hope my posts on this blog will do.  First of all and most important is to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God come in the flesh and bring others to a place where they submit wholly to Him.  The second thing I hope to do on this blog is to shed light. I haven’t totally fleshed out what that means, but a key verse God has been directing my life with is “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and Glorify God in heaven.” Matthew 5:16  In time I will expand more on what shedding light means.  The important thing is for me to start posting and let God draw to the sight, those that we will. 

May God’s Grace and Peace illuminate your heart and may you be drawn in surrender to Him.

Timothy G. Blake, Peacebringer.