What It’s About: Written by Bill Johnson, the book sets out to convince the reader that their current perception about God is wrong. Johnson argues that God is not like the abusive step-father we believe Him to be and more like a good Father that Jesus portrays in the Gospel. Johnson invites us to believe in a God who is good and desires good things for His children.
What I Liked: I love Johnson’s approach to healing and the supernatural. He pushes us to not settle for hopelessness and the idea that God desires sickness and defeat. There is war in his spirit that comes out in this book that will be helpful to the body of Christ. I found myself encouraged to pursue God more, believe Him more, and contend in prayer for the things He wants to do.
What I Didn’t Like: Unfortunately, while I love Bill and some of the things he represents in the Kingdom, there are some things I didn’t like about this book at all.
The first thing I didn’t like is his spurious treatment of the Old Testament. He spends an inordinate amount of time talking about it, defending his love for it, and even showing the goodness of God in it in places, all while he simultaneously seems to diminish its importance. It should be said that I’m a big believer in the following statement from Paul: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16). So, when Johnson makes arguments that the Gospels/Jesus reveal the true nature of God and juxtaposes that argument with a quote from C.S. Lewis that pits the doctrine of the goodness of God against the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Johnson dances dangerously close to setting up a set of books in the Bible that is more inspired than other parts of Scripture. I believe the fullest and most exact expression of God is Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2), but I don’t believe we have to dismiss the rest of Scripture in order to get there.
Secondly, this book would have more aptly been titled “The Failure of Man: We’re God’s PR Problem.” I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I had bought this book to wash my spirit in the goodness of God and hoped not only to get a theological treatment of the topic, but an experiential one that Johnson would be able to provide. Instead, the main thrust of Johnson’s argument is that God is not perceived as good because we have failed to represent Him (especially in the area of manifesting His power) the way He really is. In Johnson’s view, more people would think God is good if we got our act together and believed for the things God wants to do.
Do I believe God wants to do more through his people? Absolutely. Do I think sometimes we focus too much on unclear passages in Scripture and what they say about God’s character than we do about the clear example of God we see in Jesus? Yes. Can we believe God is better than we currently think and become a sign of God’s goodness to others? Undoubtedly. But is diminishing the importance of God’s inspired word and pointing to our failures a good way to help us see God’s goodness? I don’t think so.
Should You Get It: There are a lot of good books by Bill Johnson. I just finished “Raising Giant Killers” by Johnson earlier this year and LOVED it. There are some beneficial things in the book and if you can “eat the chicken and spit out the bones” of this book, you may grow from this book, however, for most, I find it generally hard to recommend.
Deep in the heart of every human being there is a lie that’s been rehearsed to us from as early as we can remember. That lie goes something like this: I’m not valuable. Nobody wants me for who I am. I’m only valuable to God or to others as long as I act like someone else, someone better than me, someone who has things more put together. We all believe this, to a greater or lesser degree.
We all cope with this lie in different ways. Some of us wear masks to hide who we really are. These masks hide who we are behind some kind of alternate reality. Some of them are easy to spot. Jesus called the Pharisees of His day hypocrites, a word which refered to play actors who wore masks that portrayed feelings they weren’t real. Many of us work to portray a much better image to the world around us than what is really going on. We are literally different on the inside than on the outside.
Some of us keep others at a distance. Like Adam and Eve caught in their sin and ashamed at their nakedness, we cobble together clothes for ourselves that hide who we really are. We don’t let others get close. Fear tells us that if we dropped the act and let God or anyone else see who we are on the inside, they would reject us. So we turn to things like perfectionism, business success, and even ministry to make the world think well of us, but we still live empty and broken.
But God’s design for us, the way we were designed to live and the way that is most healthy for us is totally different. Genesis 2 describes the first man and woman living together in perfect harmony with God this way: “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed,” (Genesis 2:25). They lived transparently with each other and before the Lord, hiding nothing from either.
In our lives, this is what healing looks like. We can come to a place where God heals us and we can be totally at peace with God and others knowing exactly who we are. I’m not advocating for actual nudity, but a spiritual transparency where we no longer put on masks and we let others see us as we truly are. We let God in. We let others in. We do one of the scariest things humanly possible and trust others with the ugly realities we see in ourselves.
One of the most healing things I’ve witnessed over the last ten years has been the moments where a brother gets really scary honest about the condition of his heart. This takes mad bravery, the kind you don’t find everyday. When a brother steps up to the plate and says “This is exactly how ugly I am on the inside,” it’s usually the first step on a powerful journey to wholeness.
Why is this? Most of us want to be loved by God. The problem is we don’t believe that God could really ever completely accept us in the state we’re in. This is a problem, especially if we’re believers. Jesus died because God was looking for a way to make men right with Him and anyone who has received Christ as their Savior has been accepted by God (note the past tense). God literally loves us while knowing everything negative about us.
I know so many believers, though, that don’t believe they’ve been accepted by God. Instead they live their lives behind masks and fig leaves, hiding the ugliness they believe not even God can handle. In my life, God has helped me over and over again by sending men that I got scary ugly with in my life. These men had the audacity to not run away, to not laugh at me, to not point a finger at me, but instead they looked at me and said, “You’re stuck with me. I love you. Let’s figure out a way forward.”
Because they didn’t give up on me, over time I’ve had an easier time believing God hadn’t given up on me either. And every time I see the Father’s love reflected through another human being in my life, I have a little easier time believing that God really loves me the way He truly sees me. That enables me to let down the masks.
As I’ve let down my masks and been honest about my struggles, other men around me have found freedom to be honest about theirs. Transparency begets transparency. When one guy lets down his guard and lets others in, others seem to find the courage to be open and honest. Healing comes every time we talk because God promises to bring healing where honesty and contrition meet together: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed,” (James 5:16).
I’ve probably written about this before, but I’m writing again because I’m convinced that only the kind of scary transparency that we all fear with both God and people is the only reality many people will find acceptance, love, and an end to their struggles. If you aren’t in a relationship where this happens, please find someone (of the same gender) who you trust and you believe will love you regardless of your sin . Open up to them. Unburden your soul. Practice the kind of love for each other that Christ showed when He laid His life down for you.
God’s design for us is “naked and unafraid.” When we can get to this place, we can find true healing. It’s a scary kind of honesty, but it brings healing and transformation.
Five months ago a series of meetings with evangelist Todd Bentley erupted with the power of God in Lakeland, Florida. Boasting a range of healing miracles not seen in probably two generations or more, the Lakeland Outpouring (as it became known) began to draw attention from Christians and Non-Believers all across the planet. The revival became widespread knowledge due to the connectedness of Todd Bentley to various streams of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements and the daily broadcasts of the meetings on God TV. Bentley’s ministry estimates 300,000 people visited the meetings and 1.2 million watched it through GOD TV or the internet. Probably unlike any revival before it, the Lakeland Outpouring became an international phenomenon.
The quick and sudden impact of the revival caused knee-jerk reactions among many in the body of Christ. The access to information that allowed news of the revival to travel so far also allowed critics to raise their voices to a new level. Todd Bentley has certainly never lacked his critics, but his new rise to prominence caused even Pentecostals and Charismatics that usually side with him to be suspicious. Questions were raised about his ministry style (which included punching people to heal them), his theology (he believed angels and even dead believers would visit him with messages), and his lifestyle (Todd received a number of tattoos during the revival). So, while every revival has critics, even those who you would normally expect to be excited about massive signs and wonders breaking out in the United States were sometimes calling for reform during the outpouring.
The turning point of the revival came in early August. Todd confessed to his board of directors at Fresh Fire Ministries that he had been ensnared in sin. (I’m leaving out unnecessary details because I believe we frequently enter into gossip in the name of journalism.) Todd turned the reigns of the outpouring to Stephen Strader, the pastor of the church where the outpouring began, and stepped down from ministry to begin a restoration process. With the shift in leadership, the size of crowds at the revival shrunk to a more manageable size that allowed it to be housed in Strader’s church building.
Despite everything that happened, I believe the revival was a real outpouring of God’s Spirit. Todd’s critics don’t bother me a bit. It was obvious that most were motivated by jealousy or fear of the supernatural. The Pharisees and Saducees hated Jesus for the very same reasons. Bill Johnson tells us that his grandparents knew Smith Wigglesworth, but not everyone loved Smith Wigglesworth back in his day. It’s only now that we revere him as a prophet to his generation. Todd Bentley is undoubtedly a sincere believer who has pursued Jesus at an extraordinary level despite the weakness of his flesh. The Bible is full of people who have accomplished the purposes of God with their lives and then gone on to sin in a way that seems shocking to us. David is a prime example. However, David’s sin did not disqualify him from God’s mercy and God’s evaluation of David’s life is wholly different than someone who would just look at the facts of David’s life (see Acts 13:36).
I do believe that many of the miracles that happened in Lakeland were real and legitimate. Having never gone, I can’t testify to seeing any amazing miracles firsthand, but a number of people I trust have reported powerful miracles above what is normally seen here in the States. The revival has also opened up a number of other places to begin flowing in an increasing level of powerful demonstrations of the Spirit’s power. Morningstar Ministries, Harvest Rock Church, Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Albany, Oregon are just a few of the places that have been impacted. The fruit of this move has proven its worth, despite the controversies.
In my next post, I hope to issue an appeal to believers who are reading, talking, and blogging about the Lakeland Revival.