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It seems that every time God does something new, it raises a lot of controversy. For instance, the Pharisees looked eagerly forward to the Messiah's coming, but when He arrived, they did not recognize Him. Jesus did not act quite the way they expected, He did not scorn sinners and He did not honor the Sabbath according to their traditions. Jesus did what the Father was doing, and it wasn't what the religious leaders expected--and that raised a lot of controversy.
The same religious leaders who were so hungry for the coming Messiah were upset that Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath, so (according to John 5:16), "the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules." Then in John 9:22, they "announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue."
God showed up in there midst; but He did so in a way that the religious leaders did not expect, and they had trouble recognizing Him. And, as you can imagine, that caused a lot of controversy about Jesus.
The same thing happened to the early church. The gospel spread like wildfire, and the leaders could not stop it. For instance, Peter and John healed a lame man in Acts 3. This should have been a cause for celebration, because everyone in the city knew this guy had been lame all his life, and now he was well. But controversy seems to surround the move of God, and instead of being applauded for their good deed, Peter and James were arrested for it (Acts 4).
History is full of God doing various things (revivals and reformations and the like). We look back at them through the eyes of history and say, "That was definitely God." But the people who lived through them did not have the benefit of hindsight--and many of those things we now accept as "of God" were very controversial in their day.
If we go to more recent history, we find that same controversy still abounds. Rodney Howard-Brown was controversial in the 1980s because "laughing" is not something that should happen at church meetings. I once heard someone say, "Laughing is a church service is disrespectful to God." But the "holy laughter" has been going on long enough now that many believers no longer find it controversial.
Then the "Toronto blessing" (a.k.a. "renewal") came along in 1994. Things happened in those meetings that raised a lot of controversy, as the power and love of God touched people's minds and bodies. Some would react physically to God's "touch," and there were all sorts of manifestations. There were things like shaking, roaring, running, dancing, etc. There was all sorts of controversy because some people (ones who loved God) could not figure out what God would do things like that, and some believers assumed it was demonic instead of divine. But that renewal left all sorts of evidences of God's touch--changed lives and transformed hearts, people's passion for God revived, restored marriages, healings of broken families, emotional healings, and even some physical healings. Many people (including myself) were launched into foreign missions or full- time ministry through that renewal, and started seeing the power of God manifest in their lives and ministries. In addition, the Mozambique revival (which is currently sweeping through Africa) is credited to those Toronto renewal meetings. Heidi Baker is one of the key leaders of that revival, and she was touched and empowered for revival in Toronto. There is still some residual controversy regarding the "Toronto blessing," but it is a lot less than it used to be.
After Toronto got going, another wave of 'weird manifestations' began spreading through many churches...things like people's fillings turning to gold, gold dust appearing on people's hands, feathers falling from the ceiling, manna growing out of a person's bible, gems appearing, etc.
[I have to confess that many of these did not make sense to Me--like the feathers, the gems, the Manna. I have seem them all with my own eyes (except of the Manna), but I couldn't wrap my understanding around them. I couldn't see how they served any kingdom purpose and I didn't understand why God chose to do them.] When I asked God to explain them to me, He didn't say much. I asked Him to tell me if they were enemy counterfeits of His power, and He did not say "yes," but He also did not say "no."
I decided to take the strategy of permitting them, but not encouraging or seeking them, because I did not understand them. Some of my peers took the strategy of embracing and seeking them, and those things started happening in their meetings. Others took the strategy of speaking out against them and renouncing them, teaching that they were not of God.
I am sharing this so that you get an idea of why the controversy arises. It is because God does things people don't expect, and they don't have a "context" to process this "new" thing that God might be doing. On one hand, we want to embrace God, but on the other hand, we don't want to be deceived. And at times, God does things so counter-intuitive that it is hard to sort out whether or not it is really Him. Some of God's children are more open to change, and readily embrace it, but others are more closed to it and guarded.
My point is that each time the Lord starts something "new," it is often surrounded by controversy. And the Lakeland healing revival is no exception. There is a lot of "controversy" about it, and some of the "concerns" about Lakeland are being expressed by people who I know and respect. I personally am convinced that both Lakeland and Todd Bentley are "of God," and I am excited about what He is doing. But there are a lot of people who are still trying to figure out of Lakeland is of God or of the Devil or what.
So, what is it about the Lakeland Healing Revival that is controversial? You can take your pick, because a lot of "concerns" have been raised.
Some people have issues with the personality that God selected to usher in this revival: Todd Bentley. Todd is a Gen-X type who was radically saved out of a dangerous and sinful life. He still looks a bit like the "world" that he was saved out of, and he doesn't fit the "image" of a typical pastor or leader. For one thing, Todd wears T-shirts and jeans on the platform instead of a suit and tie. For another thing, he has tattoos covering his arms and neck. [Those tattoos were from his "BC" (Before Christ) days--remember that tattoos don't automatically fall off when a person gets saved.]
Some people have issues with the personality that God selected to usher in this revival: Todd Bentley. Todd was a Gen-X type who was radically saved out of a dangerous and sinful life. He still looked a bit like the "world" that he was saved out of, and he didn't fit the "image" of a typical pastor or leader. For one thing, Todd wore T-shirts and jeans on the platform instead of a suit and tie. For another thing, he had tattoos covering his arms and neck. [Some of tattoos were from his "BC" (Before Christ) days--remember that tattoos don't automatically fall off when a person gets saved.]
Some critics got the idea that Todd's tattoos are "demonic" in nature, and that became a big controversy for a while. The argument was, "how can we trust someone who has demonic artwork tattooed all over his body?" At first, I was under the impression that his tatoos came from his "before Christ" days. I argued that the Todd who got the tattoos was the old carnal man. But the Todd at Lakeland was born again, committed to the Lord, and a new creature in Christ. I didn't know if the tattoos were really demonic or not, because I never got a good look at them. But from what I heard, seen and read of Todd, there was absolutely nothing about the Todd Bentley of Lakeland that honored or supported the demonic in any way. His basic strategy for the devil and demons was to cast them out, and to break their power to oppress people. He was all about destroying the devil's kingdom and building up God's kingdom.
I originally arguned that we can't disqualify a person from God's destiny based on what they did before they were saved, or else we need to rip all of Apostle Paul's writings and teachings out of the Bible and throw away 2/3 of the book of Acts. (Paul was a murderer who was actively persecuting the church before he was saved. But when Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road, he became a different person. He began serving the gospel instead of fighting it, and God used him to bring many gentiles into the kingdom.) I suggested that if we consider the Apostle Paul to be of God and you forgive him for what he did in his BC days, you need to do the same thing with Todd Bentley.
But a bit later, I learned that the tatoos on both of his arms came after he was already saved and in full-time ministry. The tatoos were meant to depict the book of Revelation. That was a bit of a shock to me, because I had assumed they were from his BC days.
When I prayerfully consdiered it, I decided that wasn't really an issue for me. I am from California, which is very "laid back" in regard to personal appearance. Things like preaching in t-shirts and jeans with holes in the knees don't really bother me much, so neihter did the tatoos. But I thought it was very unwise for Todd to have taken tatoos because they offend and alienate a lot of believers, especially the ones from more conservative backgrounds. It was not minstry-smart and I considered it a tactical error--probably due to the fact that Todd was still young and not yet fully mature. But I do not feel that Todd's unwise choice should not disqualify him from ministry, nor did it negate God's anointing and calling on him.
It was not hard for me to look past Todd's physical appearance, but a lot of believers got hung up on that.
Some people get past his appearance, but they take offense at some of Todd's personal supernatural encounters with God. Apparently God sends an angel to speak to Todd once a year (and I think that usually happens somewhere around Mother's Day.) There is another angel, a healing angel, that is also associated with this revival.
I am not sure why people have problems with that, because angels are all over the bible. At times, God sends them to deliver messages to His servants--such as the angel who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the angel who told Mary she was pageant with the Messiah, the angel who told Zechariah that he was going to have a son named John (the Baptist), the angel who to Joseph to take his newborn son and flee because Herod sought Jesus' life, and on and on. And there are times when God sends angels to assist people with tasks or situations, such as the angel who brought Peter out of prison, the angel who gave food and drink to Elijah before his long journey, the angels who ministered to Jesus in the desert at the end of His 40 day fast. Angels are all over the bible, and I can't imagine bible believing Christians having a problem with God sending an angel to Todd Bentley (or to any other believer).
(If you do have a problem with the concept of God sending His angels to give directions or assistance to His servants, I suggest you read my teaching on angels called "Angels Among Us." You can find it online at www.godspeak.net/ps_lessons/ps10_index.html)
Other people have a problem with Todd's emphasis on healing the sick. I don't quite understand that concern, because Jesus (in Matthew 10:7-8) told His disciples to "Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons." Then Jesus sent out seventy followers to the places He was about to go visit and instructed them to "Heal the sick, and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you now'" in Luke 10:8. Jesus linked healing the sick and preaching the gospel in the Great Commission. I am sure you are familiar with it, but let me share it with you again from Mark 16:15-18:
15 And then He told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17 These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in My name, and they will speak in new languages. 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won't hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed."
Some people say that Lakeland is not really a revival, it is just another healing meeting that just happens to be well publicized. Well, I can address that one from personal experience. Every night that I was there, they gave an altar call for first time salvations, and every night people cam forward to get saved. I think the smallest group of first-time salvations I saw on the nights I was there was about 30, and the largest was about 80. I don't know how many salvations they see each week, but I am guessing it is at least 200 a week. (If so, that is over 10,000 people a year!) To me, people getting saved is what revival is all about. The healings are signs of God's love, His reality and His power that help people choose to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.