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This  is posted from the  Bethel Church and Christianity Facebook Page.  To date, the author has not been determined.

SAVED FROM THE DECEPTION OF CHARISMANIA

GOD SAVED ME AND BROUGHT ME OUT OF THE SIGNS AND WONDERS MOVEMENT

God saved me, and brought me out of the Signs and Wonders Movement, after being involved in it for nearly twenty-two years; I am now twenty-three years of age and have been saved for about a year and a half. This is my testimony, and in writing this I pray that God would use this to save others out of the movement that I was so heavily involved in, and that above all else, Christ will be magnified and made much of!

I was born and raised in the “Prophetic Movement” (which is now in the process of morphing into the “New Apostolic Reformation”), and I grew up completely oblivious to what Biblical Christianity is meant to look like. Some of the leaders who had an influence on how I perceived what the church is to look like, have included John and Carol Arnott of the “Toronto Blessing”, Rodney Howard Browne of the “Brownsville Revival”, and others such as Kim Clement, Benny Hinn, Chris Harvey, Todd Bentley, Bob Jones, Randy Clark, Patricia King, Georgian Banov, Bobby Conners, Mike Bickle, Lou Engle, and Bill Johnson.

In the fall of 2002 I ended up moving to Redding, California to get “plugged-in” to Bethel Church, which Bill Johnson (a self-proclaimed “apostle”) oversees. It was here where I ended up jumping into and entertaining the supernatural phenomenon, signs and wonders, and mystical experiences (which were falsely attributed to God) in a much greater way then I did when I was a kid growing up. I soon got involved in the youth group, which was heavily influenced by Lou Engle who heads up “The Call” and Mike Bickle who heads up “IHOP” (International House Of Prayer). I later enrolled in Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry in 2006, and went through the whole three-year program. I was heavily engaged and supportive of many of the things, which were being taught and practiced. When Todd Bentley and his, “Lakeland Revival” began to take place, I jumped on board with that as well, and became a full supporter and advocate for it. I was gladfully defending it against all the, “Religious Pharisees” (or so I called them at the time). It was also at this time that I noticed the, “Toking the Ghost” movement and became a “Toker” myself, and a full supporter of John Crowder and Ben Dunn.

However, when Todd Bentley’s affair was made public (August ’08), I ended up becoming grieved by what happened and by the poor response that was to follow. Shortly after the crash of the “Lakeland Revival” I received some severe rebukes for being involved with John Crowder’s and Ben Dunn’s “Toking Mania”, and so I withdrew myself from this aspect of the chaos. It was also at this time, while I was in my third year internship with Bethel, that I was starting to notice that things didn’t line up and I began to question the legitimacy of the Prophetic Movement.

First off, before I share my testimony of how God saved me and brought me out of this movement, I want to explain why I believe that Bethel is a cult, and not just on the charismatic fringe. Labeling someone or a group a “cult” is not a thing to take lightly and so I hope to explain why I believe this to be true with the Word of God. The following statements are examples of the beliefs and practices of Bethel, their school of supernatural ministry, and other ministries who they consider to be their friends and partners in revival. I will not be able to share everything that I was involved with, but in sharing some things I hope to bring some awareness to the dangers that this movement possesses, and bring encouragement to those of you who are praying for friends and loved ones who are entangled in this deception.

TO THE GLORIOUS PRAISE OF MAN AND A STRANGE FORM OF SINLESS PERFECTIONISM

Bethel has a really high view of man, and is extremely man centered. My understanding after being involved with Bethel for almost seven years, and after going through three years of their school of ministry is that they teach that man is basically free to choose good or evil, and that man isn’t all that bad. They would teach that man, prior to coming to Christ is a sinner, but even though he is a sinner he isn’t all that wicked. They would teach that if you pay your bills, don’t cheat on your taxes, and love your family that you are a good person. The leadership at Bethel is quick to impress this into the students who go to the School of Supernatural Ministry in the very beginning of their schooling. Kris Vallotton (a self-proclaimed “prophet”), who is Bill Johnson’s right hand man, would be quick to tell the students how amazing they are, and that they are not wretches or all that bad. It is taught that you are a child of God (which is true for those who are saved), so (by their definition) that means you are “royalty”, “amazing”, “kings” and “queens” so how can you be a wretch? Here is a link to a video clip that is on  Kris Vallotton’s website, where he talks about the royalty of man, and how amazing you are.

(http://www.kvministries.com/media/index.php?type=5&id=47&foreign_id=47&media_id=41)

*update  video no longer available*

But the Scriptures say otherwise concerning the “goodness” of man. The Word of God says that all of man’s righteousness is like a filthy rag useless for anything at all. Isaiah 64:6 “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” This is to say that all of our own efforts of “goodness” amount to disgusting garbage in the sight of God. The Apostle Paul wrote concerning men and their sinfulness. Romans 3:10-18 ““None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”” Paul further writes Romans 8:7-8, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (More Scriptures concerning man’s total depravity: Gen 6:5, Ps 14:1-3, Ps 51:5, Jer 17:9, Ro 5:10-12, Eph 2:1-3) The Scriptures makes it clear that men are born with a sinful nature, and commit sin by nature and choice. Man is not good for the most part, with some sin, but rather man is totally corrupt and in love with his sin, and does not wish to part from his sin. For “no one does good, not even one.” men are naturally “hostile to God” and have a “heart of stone”(Ezekiel 36:26), nor do they naturally seek for God. People are not waiting to hear about the wonderful plan that Jesus has for their life, for they hate Him and are not submissive to Him (John 15:18-25). It is not until God does a saving work in the sinner’s life, (Jon 2:9, Jn 1:12-13, Jn 3:3-8, Jn 6:37, Jn 6:44, Jn 10:25-30, Ro 8:28-30, Ro 9, Tit 3:5) that the person is able and willing to seek for, submit to, and treasure God.

It is also taught at Bethel that once you become a Christian you are no longer a sinner. One of their “key verses” for this is taken from Romans 6:11 “So you also must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Kris Vallotton would take this and say that since you are “dead to sin” you are no longer a sinner. But the context of “consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” means that we are no longer enslaved to sin, to fulfill its lusts and desires, that it is no longer the thing that drives us, it is not that we are no longer sinners. Now, the leadership at Bethel does not teach that a Christian can’t sin, but rather they teach that if a Christian does sin it does not make him a sinner. In other-words (they would teach), if a Christian does sin it is because they believed a lie that they still struggle with sin. Here is a link to a video clip of Kris Vallotton talking about Christians not being sinners. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvS2kkIoyAs) What does scripture have to say about Christians being sinners? Are Christians still sinners? If we were to look at 1 John 1:8-10 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Scripture tells us we are sinners because, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” If we claim to be sinless we lie and do not have the truth in us, or in other-words if someone was to truly believe that they are sinless then they are not truly saved.

Note on Video: [The fundamental error in Kris’ teaching is that he has missed the overriding context of 1 John. John writes to those who have made a profession of Christ (1 John 5:13) in an effort to assure them of their salvation. John does not write to non-believers as Mr. Vallotton suggests, therefore, he is guilty of allowing his presuppositions concerning sin and salvation to misleadingly guide his interpretation down an avenue that the apostle never imagined.]

SHAKE -N-BAKE WITH A SIDE OF KUNDALINI

Among one of the more common and heavily embraced practices would be that of getting “drunk in the Spirit”. This is where you lay hands on each other, pray for each other, or ask the Lord to get you “hammered”, in which people (including myself) would have experienced spiritual bliss, joy, and ecstasies. People would react differently to these experiences, some would fall down and not be able to stand, others would stumble around as if heavily intoxicated with alcohol, some would shake violently, and others would experience the blissful side of this but not necessarily exert any physical manifestations. Although, I do not doubt that their are those who would “fake” being drunk (I did this at times), this does not exclude the reality that people regularly experience spiritual highs when practicing this. One of the main “proof” texts for this is taken from Acts 2:1-15. “But others mocking said, “they are filled with new wine.””(vs. 13) and “These people are not drunk as you suppose”(vs. 15a) The defense for “getting drunk in the spirit” is that they were “drunk”, so they were drunk in the Holy Spirit (aka: falling down, laughing, twitching, and shaking), because people thought that they were drunk, and that is how drunk people act. But if we were to look at the text a little bit closer we would see clearly why they thought that they were drunk. We read in verses 1 -13, “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing him speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians – we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “what does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”” There were those who thought that the disciples were drunk because they were speaking in tongues (foreign languages and dialects unknown to the speakers) “Telling the mighty works of God.” It was because of this that people thought that they were drunk. There is nothing about shaking and baking in the text at all!

These drunken manifestations that are experienced within the Prophetic Movement are identical to that of Kundalini. Kundalini is a practice found in New Age groups as well as eastern mysticism. These practices would include physical manifestations, such as jerking and shaking, and feelings of heat, energy, and pleasure. There is absolutely nothing in the Scriptures that even come close to supporting this practice at all! With this it is safe to say that getting drunk in the spirit is a counterfeit experience. Here is a link to a good video clip that Andrew Strom did on the Kundalini, and the manifestations of “drunkenness” found within the Prophetic Movement. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBpw2oQrvMM). The Scriptures warn us that people will turn away from the Truth and follow what is false: 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teachings, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

WHEN SOLA SCRIPTURA IS NOT ENOUGH

Another common practice is for people to hear the Lord “speak to them prophetically”. In this movement and at Bethel in particular it is taught that the Lord is always and continually speaking to you (apart from the Scriptures), and all you have to do is “tune” in to the right station (like an FM/AM radio) to be able to hear from the Lord. Some of the different ways that they teach that you can hear from the Lord would include: audibly, open visions, angels, the inner-audible-voice (where you hear the Lord speak audibly inside of you, rather than on the outside), the still small voice (like that of a faint whisper), feelings (where you “feel” what the Lord is saying to you), and dreams. (however, compare that with Hebrews 1:1-2) They would say that all prophecy is for edification, exhortation, and comfort and that when you give someone a prophecy, you are doing so to encourage them and to help build them up. For Example: you would receive a prophetic “download” about someone and prophecy over them by telling them something that may sound like this, “The Lord really likes how you like numbers, so I feel like you have a grace on your life to be an accountant.” This is something that if you were to ask the leadership at Bethel about, or anyone who has been apart of Bethel for any length of time, that they would testify too.

This “continual speaking” also embarks into the arena of authoritative new revelations, or extra Biblical revelations. It is believed and taught at Bethel that the Lord is revealing new truths apart from what has already been revealed to us in the Scriptures. Bill Johnson has said, “The Lord wants to give revelation at a measure that has never, I don’t think has ever happened in the world before. The spirit of revelation is being released upon the church, but I’ll, let me tell you one of the things that makes room for the spirit of revelation to come, it’s the fact that we are willing to embrace mystery.” Here is a link to a video clip where you will hear Bill say this, and as well hear him expand on it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pfa_kj1NUk). For an actual example of extra Biblical revelation: Bethel recently had Cindy Jacobs (who is a self-proclaimed “prophetess”) come to Bethel on 09-01-10, which she gave a “prophetic word” over Bethel, about Bethel building buildings, being an apostolic center, and taking the media mountain (the “mountain” concept will be explained in the section “At The Root Of It All”). Here is a portion of Cindy Jacob’s “prophecy” over Bethel.“The apostolic team here will have to pray over this and unpack it and see what it will look like. There might be other buildings in-between and other ways. In order to do what you’re going to do, you are going to need a lot of buildings. Because the Lord says, “I am getting ready to build this apostolic network and many people are going to come and say, “I need to join.” And I am going to show you how to do this organically but yet put structure to it.” The Lord says, “do not fear to step out and do that. My people need a home and a place. I have put a heart in many that have the DNA of revival and healing and revivalists and miracles…. where will they find a resting place? There is a desire to find a resting place.” You can read the full transcript of this “prophecy” at this link

(http://www.ibethel.org/site/articles/2010/08/09/prophetic-word-for-bethel-church).

*update…no longer available*

While I was involved in the Prophetic Movement it was my experience that many people (yet not all) didn’t bother to read their Bibles on a regular basis, which was also the case for me. From what I observed I believe this was the case because it is believed that we need fresh words from the Lord, and the Written Word of God is not enough, and it is believed that you can’t walk in the fullness of your relationship with the Lord using the Scriptures alone.

The Scriptures do teach us that the Word of God is sufficient, 2 Timothy shows us of the sufficiency of Scriptures, that the Scriptures are enough, we do not need new revelation. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The Scriptures are enough that one may be “competent, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 4:2-4 “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teachings, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

2 Peter 1:16-21 “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. . [Peter is referring to his experience on the Mt. of Transfiguration (with James and John) when Jesus was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared] And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, [The exact meaning of “prophetic word” is described in verse 20 as “Prophecy of Scripture”.] to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” What the Apostle Peter is saying is that they have received something even “more sure” than the audible voice of God, transfiguration of Jesus, and appearance of Moses and Elijah… The Word of God! Scripture is enough and there is no need for new revelations whatsoever!

IS IT ALLWAYS GOD’S WILL TO HEAL EVERYONE?

One belief and practice that is heavily embraced and aggressively defended, is that it is always God’s will to heal everyone, and that if someone is sick it is against the will of God, and you have authority to take dominion over sickness, disease, and even death. One verse in particular, that is Bill Johnson’s and Bethel’s “hallmark” verse that is used in the defense of this is found in the Lord’s Prayer, Matt 6:10 “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So the defense goes that there is no sickness in heaven so there should be no sickness here on earth, there is no diseases in heaven so there should be no diseases here on earth. On earth as it is in Heaven. But if we were to look at this verse in its proper context it means that we are to pray that the Lord’s will be done here on earth. God is sovereign over heaven and His will is being expressed and experienced there, so likewise we are to pray that the Lord’s sovereign will be expressed and experienced here on earth as well. The Leadership at Bethel are also contending for a cancer free zone within Redding, California. Bill has said, “It’s really possible for Redding to be cancer free.” He also said, “It’s possible (for Redding to be cancer free) because it doesn’t exist in Heaven, and He said, “On Earth as it is in Heaven.”’ Here is a link where you can listen to a video clip of Bill saying these things (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4wwTw7ZOtk).

*update..video no longer available*

What is the will of God? John 6:32-40, “Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” It is God’s will that men believe in Jesus Christ savingly and receive eternal life!

Another widely used verse that is used in defense of it being God’s will to heal everyone is Matt 10:8, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”. This verse is usually used in conjunction with Matt 28:20a, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (this “defense” here was one of my favorite ones to use) Makes sense at face value, but if we go back and look at Matt 10 again, and in particular verse 5-6 we will see the setting for verse 8. Matt 10:5-6 reads, “These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the hose of Israel.”” So if were to truly be faithful to Matt 10:8, we should only evangelize to those who are Jewish, and forget about everyone else. But this would be in violation of Jesus’ command in the Great Commission “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ”(Matt 28:19a).

It is also taught at Bethel, that physical healing is in the atonement for this life, so therefore it is God’s will to heal everyone. Strong defines “atonement” by stating: “The Scriptures teach that Christ obeyed and suffered in our stead, to satisfy an immanent demand of the divine holiness, and thus remove an obstacle in the divine mind to the pardon and restoration of the guilty.” (Strong, A. H. (2004). Systematic theology pg. 713) Bethel would use a portion of Isaiah 53:5 to support their claim, “with his stripes we are healed.” So it is said that the lashings Jesus received was for the purpose of physical healing in the believer’s life (the leadership at Bethel does not deny, nor would they deny that the problem of sin is dealt with in the atonement), and that if you are a Christian you are then entitled to have physical healing and divine health (where you walk your whole life and never get sick) as your blood bought right. Bill in his book Face To Face With God writes, “The sufferings of Jesus were realized in the persecution He endured and in the burden He carried for people. He did not suffer with disease. That must be removed from our idea of Christian suffering. It is vain to carry something under the guise of the will of God when it is something that He purchased that He might destroy its power over us. An additional concept to remember is that He suffered that we might not have to suffer. For example, He bore stripes on His body applied by a Roman soldier so that they could become His payment for our healing.” (Face to Face with God, ch8 Joy: The Reward pg. 172) Bill also writes, “None of us would say that He died for my sins but still intends that I should be bound by sin habits. Neither did He pay for my healing and deliverance so I could continue in torment and disease. His provision for such things is not figurative: it is actual.” (Face to Face with God, ch8 Joy: The Reward pg. 173) Is this the case? Is physical healing on this side of heaven in the atonement and thus a promise to be claimed for every believer? Let’s take a closer look at Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” What are the “stripes” speaking of? Reading the first part of the verse puts “stripes” into the right prospective. “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace”. This is the type of healing that Jesus’ stripes” brought us. That He substituted Himself on the cross in the place of guilty vile sinners and bore their punishment for their sins’; He bore the holy righteous wrath of God in the sinners place, so that God could bring salvation to those He died to forgive. The Apostle Peter also echoes this 1 Peter 2:24-25 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Now, healing is in the atonement, however, the healing that Jesus (in His first coming) secured was spiritual. Perfect physical healing takes place in the resurrection of the believer, which, as is the case of the myriads that have already physically died, may come at some moment in time subsequent to death.

If you wish to look further into “with his stripes we are healed.” here is a link to a good article on Isaiah 53:5.

(http://www.heraldingtruth.com/Stripes)

How Bethel would incorrectly view Isaiah 53:5 (as how I also use to incorrectly view it) also changes the nature of the atonement, because if physical healing was an absolute promise to the believer in this life, it stands to be true that if a believer isn’t healed of a sickness or infirmity, then they are not truly saved. To bring further clarity, you should be healed the moment you get saved, or at least begin a gradual process of being healed physically, if physical healing is [a promised blessing for all based on] the atonement [which is meant to be realized] this side of eternity. If you change, add to, or subtract from the atonement, then you swap out the Jesus whose shed blood paid the price for the salvation of His elect, for another Jesus. If you preach another Jesus you are then preaching another gospel. The Apostle Paul had some strong words for those who preached another gospel Galatians 1:6-9 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” This is not to say that one by necessity must understand all of the implications of the atoning death of Christ, but one must understand why Christ died and what He died for. These are crucial to not trusting in “another gospel”.

Not only does Bethel and Bill Johnson believe that physical healing is in the atonement for this life, but Bill also believes that if you believe that physical healing is not a promise to be received or claimed in this life then you are preaching another gospel. Bill Johnson in a recent sermon he preached at Bethel on 08-15-10 entitled “The Real Jesus” said it like this, “I refuse to create a theology that allows for sickness” On this same note in the same sermon Bill tries to “illustrate” what he said by referring to Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), by saying “Paul refers to his thorn in the flesh, which has been interpreted by many, as disease allowed or brought on by God. That’s a different gospel. Jesus didn’t model it, and he didn’t teach it. And Paul said you can’t change the standard (Bill earlier in this sermon referenced Galatians 1:8-9).” Here is a link to a video clip of that sermon where you can hear Bill say these things (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhG1x4fOtBw), this part begins at the 3:19min mark. This is heresy! Why, is this heresy? Well, the question must be asked, who is the Sovereign? If God does not allow sickness or disease then who does? With Bethel having such a strong and overbearing emphasis on healing, it makes you wonder if healing is their god. Scripture itself is clear that God does indeed allow sickness, disease, and even death.

Exodus 4:11 “Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?””

Deut 32:39 “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god besides me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”

1 Samuel 2:6-7, “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.”

John 9:1-7 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As Long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. This man who was blind from birth, was allowed to be blind by God, so “that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Now, I do believe that God can still heal today, and does still heal today. It would be in accordance to His will and not our will.

AT THE ROOT OF IT ALL

All of these things which were mentioned stems from a very heavy “Manifest Son’s of God” and “Kingdom Theology”, where the main thrust and goal of us being here on earth is for Christians to take dominion over the world in all “spheres of influence”, or what has often been called “The Seven Mountains” (business, government, family, religion, media, education, and entertainment). Bethel would teach that Jesus has commissioned us with delegated authority to take dominion over the earth and bring it to the highest level of perfection possible to offer up to Himself at His second coming.

The Leadership at Bethel teaches that we are to restore the earth to what it was like in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve fell. Bill would teach that when Adam and Eve fell that they gave up the “keys” of authority to Satan, and when Jesus died on the cross He took those “keys” back from Satan. Now that Jesus has the “keys” He has given us delegated authority to take dominion of the earth. Here is a link where you can read a chapter of Bill’s first book When Heaven Invades Earth, in chapter two entitled “Commission Restored” Bill writes about these “keys” of authority.

(http://books.google.com/books?id=msDOo0EM6ucC&dq=Bill+Johnson+When+Heaven+Invades+Earth&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=0UOETPuoM5OmsQOSsfz2Bw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CDsQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false)

Bill Johnson in his book When Heaven Invades Earth writes, “Jesus destroyed the power of sin, sickness, and poverty through His redemptive work on the cross. In Adam and Eve’s commission to subdue the earth, they were without sickness, poverty, and sin. Now that we are restored to His original purpose, should we expect anything less? After all, this is called the better covenant!” (When Heaven Invades Earth, ch2 Commission Restored pg. 33)

Now, the Scriptures teach that the redemption of creation and our body’s is not for the temporal life, but the eternal life.

Romans 8:18-25 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [“the glory that is to be revealed” is contrasted with and distinguished from “the temporal life”. Paul expects believers to suffer in this present life. If Paul expects it, so should we.] For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

The Leadership at Bethel also believes that God has given man delegated authority to be able to speak things into existence and declare what is not as if it was, by way of decree or declaration. One example of this would be that if there is a storm taking place, (like that of Hurricane Katrina) they teach that you have authority to still that storm, because Jesus stilled the storm when He was in the boat (Luke 8:22-25) and we can do everything He did, because He came as a man to show us what we can do!

Bill Johnson in his book When Heaven Invades Earth writes, “Jesus was sleeping in the middle of a life-threatening storm. The disciples woke Him because they were afraid of dying. He exercised authority and released peace over the storm. It was the peace of heaven that enabled Him to sleep. And it was that same peace that subdued the storm. You only have authority over the storm you can sleep in.” (When Heaven Invades Earth, ch5 Praying Heaven Down pg. 66)

Could it be that Jesus had authority over the storm because He is God? Could it be that God is the only One who could have stilled the storm, because He is the only One who is omnipotent?

Bill Johnson in his book Dreaming With God writes.

‘“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”(Prov. 18:21 NASB). With our speech we design and alter our environment. Realities are created that didn’t exist a moment earlier through simple proclamations. With this tool we can build up or tear down, edify or discourage, give life or destroy it. The declared word has the capacity to resource earth with Heaven’s resources. As reformers we must first pay attention to what we say, realizing that we are actually building the world we have to live in.” (Dreaming with God, ch9 Redesigning Our World pg. 157)

To go further down this trail Bill Johnson has also gone so far as to say that God is in “charge” but that He is not in “control”. Bill has said, “Not everything that comes at us is God’s will. We have confusion, one of our biggest areas of confusion in the church, is concerning the Sovereignty of God. We know that He is all powerful, we know that He is in charge of everything, but with that we make a mistake in thinking He is in control of everything. There is a difference from being in charge and being in control. If you think He is in control of everything then you have to believe that Hitler was His will.” Here is a link to a video clip where you can hear Bill say these things (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhG1x4fOtBw).

This “ Manifest Son’s of God” and “Kingdom Theology” mocks God, by placing a high view on man and a low view on God, rather then placing a low view on man and a high view on God, as it should be. The Scriptures clearly teach that God is the Sovereign and that man is not sovereign (Job 38-41), that God is in fact both in charge and in control.

Exodus 4:11 “Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?””

Proverbs 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Isaiah 45:5-7, “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

Isaiah 46:9-10, “remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purposes,”’

Daniel 4:34-35 “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”’

Amos 3:3-6 “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing? Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing? Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?”

Acts 17:26 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,”

1 Timothy 6:15-16 “which he will display at the proper time – he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”

God is the Sovereign; man is not. God is not powerless to act, and He is not desperately waiting for someone to enable Him to do something, He is not sitting in heaven longing for man to be “In control” or exercise “dominion” of the earth and bring it to a state of near perfection for His second coming. God is God, and man is not. Now, this does not negate away from the responsibility of man. Even though God is Sovereign, man is responsible to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14-15, Acts 17:30-31), go out and preach the gospel (Romans 1:16-17, 10:14-17), and Christians are called to step out in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) these are among a few of the things that man is responsible to do. How the Sovereignty of God works out with the responsibility of man is a mystery that can’t be understood, and it is a mystery that the Bible gives no explanation for.

WHAT ABOUT THE GOSPEL!? WHERE IS THE GOSPEL!?

The worst and most horrifying thing in all of this is that there is no gospel being preached at all! It is all about the signs and wonders and the stories of supernatural encounters and experiences. This creates a spiritual frenzy, that promises health, wealth, supernatural encounters and experiences, for anyone who “presses in”. This false portrait of Jesus can suck anyone in who wants to be wealthy and healthy (which is the desire of almost everyone who has not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit), or anyone who is intrigued by the supernatural. (I should mention I don’t doubt at all that there are some people who are deceived in this movement who are truly saved) At the same time it creates a group of people who would deceive themselves and call themselves Christians, and yet are completely oblivious and hostile to the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ.

At Bethel there is no preaching on the Justice and Righteousness of God, and how God can’t let the guilty go unpunished. There is no preaching of the sinfulness of man, and how everyone has violated God’s standard. There is no preaching on the eternal conscious torments of Hell. There is no preaching of Christ and Him crucified. There is no preaching of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross paying the full penalty of the sins of those He died to forgive, that is penal substitution. There is no preaching of repentance and faith in Jesus’ name as the only basis for which one is justified and declared righteous in the sight of God. Bethel preaches a gospel that is deficient, useless, and powerless to save.

The “gospel” that Bethel does preach is somewhat hard to pin down, since it encompasses the whole package of Manifest Son’s of God and kingdom Theology. To explain further, they would say that God is good all the time (which is true), but what they mean by that is this, sickness and disease is not of God, so be healed. Lack of provision is not of God, so be prosperous. The earth does not look like what it did in the Garden of Eden; so go fix it, by releasing the Kingdom of God. Their “gospel” encompasses fixing and restoring almost everything on this side of eternity to a near state of perfection for Christ second coming, so that when Christ does come back the church can present to Him a near perfected earth. This is the Jesus that they would present to someone who may be lost. That if you believe in this Jesus your life can be restored into right relationship with God. That if you believe in this Jesus you can have good health, restored relationships, and abundance in needs being meant. They teach that if you believe in this Jesus you can have the “good life” now, which is what God wants for you, and you don’t have to live in separation from Him. This false and counterfeit gospel may soothe the appetites of some, but it won’t lead anyone to Christ in the least bit.

This is a different gospel then the one of Christ and Him crucified, paying the penalty of sin, for corrupt sinners and rising again on the third day showing that the wrath of God was satisfied with His vicarious death on the cross. Here is a link to a good video clip of John MacArthur delivering the gospel from (2 Co 5:21), (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZuVt7qWO80). Paul spoke strongly of those who would preach a different gospel. Galatians 1:6-9 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” We also know that there is one gospel and only one gospel with no modifications, no new revelations, and no additions or subtractions to be received. “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to content for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) “The faith”, not “a faith”, but “the faith” was once “for all delivered”, it is sealed, with no changes to be received or made at all!

Concerning the Gospel, Paul wrote Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘“The righteous shall live by faith.”’ The gospel is the power of God for salvation, not signs and wonders. Signs and wonders cannot cause a person to truly repent and believe (Luke 16:19-31, John 2:23-25, John 6) “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, not by seeing signs and wonders. The gospel must be proclaimed, for sinners to repent and put their trust in Jesus Christ. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”’ Romans 10:14-15. This is why the proclamation of the gospel is so important, because “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

FALSE TEACHERS ARE THE ONES WHO BRING DIVISION

We also know from Scripture itself that it is those who teach falsely are the ones who bring division within the visible church, and are the ones who are enemies of the cross of Christ!

Romans 16:17-18 “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

2 Peter 2:1-3 “But False prophets also arose among the people, just as their will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

Jude 4 “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Jude 17-19 “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “ In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”

False teachers deny Christ by preaching another Jesus, by making up for themselves an idol of their own imagination to suit their own lusts and passions. In doing so they blaspheme the One True God! Not only do they blaspheme God, but they are also spiritual terrorists! If you think about it, in history there were fascist dictators like Hitler and Mussolini who killed many people, but false teachers like Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton, and others are a much greater threat then Hitler was! The reason why I say this is because Hitler and Mussolini were only able to kill someone’s body. Though, if someone was to die believing the lies that false teachers teach, they will spend an eternity in Hell, that is the second death.

Even Paul spoke strongly against those who would teach another gospel.

Galatians 1:6-9 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Paul said that those who preach another gospel should be “accursed”, the Greek word for “accursed” is “anathema” which refers to devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell.

Confronting false teachers was not a job that was assigned to the apostles alone. For in the book of Jude we read.

Jude 3 “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Christians are “to content for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” and are to confront those who teach falsely (1 Th 5:20-22, 1 Jn 4:1, and Rev 2:2).

THE CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT I WAS NOT SAVED

IN THE MIDST OF IT ALL

While I was involved in the Prophetic Movement I was entertaining and practicing all these things and I had many supernatural experiences and encounters (which I falsely attributed to God), which at the time I perceived to be absolute evidence and proof that I was truly saved. In reality I was not saved at all; the fruit in my life was testifying to the contrary that I was actually saved. I was living a continual and habitual lifestyle of sin, without remorse, regret or genuine repentance. I was heavily involved with pornography, and watching it several times a week, if not at times daily. As well I had an ongoing struggle with rage and anger, which at times got violent. 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” This verse does not mean that if you stumble once or even twice then you are not a Christian, nor does it mean that the Christian is perfect, but rather it is referring to a habitual manner of walking or pattern, hence the words “walk” and “practice”. In short, it is not about perfection, but rather it is about direction. We also know from other passages in Scripture that it is possible for people to claim to be Christian and have spiritual experiences, but in reality they are not saved. We read in Matt 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” This is not the account of someone on Judgment Day who just out of the blue is claiming that they were saved, for the person is crying, “Lord, Lord,”. Nor is this of someone who was “once saved” then fell away (which is not possible Jn 10:25-30, Ro 8:28-30, Php 1:6, and 1 Jn 2:19) for the Lord responds with “I never knew you”, and not with “I once knew you, but I no longer do.” What will Jesus’ response be to the person who claims to be saved, but in reality was never saved? Jesus response will be “depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Now, lawlessness is the practicing of sin (1 John 3:4-6). So, it is possible for someone to claim to be a Christian, but the fruit in their life testifies to the contrary, that they know not Christ.

HOW THE LORD BROUGHT ME OUT OF THE SIGNS AND WONDERS MOVEMENT

AND MY PRAYER FOR THOSE WHO ARE STILL TRAPPED IN THIS DECEPTION

The following March (2009) while I was still questioning the validness of the Prophetic Movement someone posted a video sermon of Mark Driscoll (whether or not you agree with everything that Mark says and does, their are good fruits coming from his ministry, regardless of the errors) on their Facebook page, and one of the people who rebuked me for “Toking” commented on it saying that Mark Driscoll was one of his favorite speakers. Because of his comment, and the respect I had for him, I figured that I would check it out. While I was listening to the sermon I realized that I had never heard preaching like this before, where it was straight bible, verse by verse, truth bluntly told. I was then hooked, and began to listen to several of Mark’s sermons a day (later on I found out about other ministers like John Piper, John MacArthur, and Paul Washer). It was around this time or soon there after that God saved me, that the Lord drew me to repentance and saving faith in Jesus’ name.

Never before this have I ever been told that I was really, really sinful. Never before did I hear of Original Sin, or the radical depravity of man and how everyone has violated God’s Holy and Righteous standard, and is thus fully deserving of God’s righteous and just wrath being poured out upon them. Never before did I hear of Jesus’ vicarious death on the cross, bearing the righteous holy wrath of God, paying the full penalty of sin for guilty vile sinners. Never before did I hear what the significance was of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead, that His bodily resurrection was proof that God accepted His perfect sacrifice. I was involved in the “church” for nearly twenty-two years, and I never heard the gospel fully preached!

Sure, I would hear biblical truths like, God is Holy and Righteous, Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, Jesus lived a sinless life, Jesus is fully God and fully man, Jesus died on the cross to forgive sinners, Jesus rose bodily from the grave on the third day, and Jesus is now seating in heaven at the right hand of God the Father. Even then, when these truths were mentioned, they were not handled with any real kind of value or importance. These truths were never mentioned together, and when they were brought up it was seldom, far and few in-between, as if they were potholes in the road that were carelessly bumped over!

The fact that I never heard the gospel before, even though I was heavily involved in a movement that professes to be Christian, was completely shocking and devastating to me. What has been even more baffling to me is that God would actually save a wretch like me. I am extremely grateful that the Lord would draw someone like me who was a false convert to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Why God would save me, or choose to save me is beyond my comprehension. For I know that there is nothing good in and of myself that would make God want to save me.

For a short while after God saved me I didn’t know what to make of Bethel and other leaders within the Prophetic Movement. I wasn’t sure if they were Christians who were just really fringe, or if they were plain cultic. After God saved me I struggled with this for a few months, hoping for the best, but at the same time fearing the worst, and I was not sure if I was just being legalistic about the whole thing. During this time period I began to attend Bethel less and less while I was finishing up the last month(s) of my third year internship. Very soon after graduating from the school, I left Bethel all together and began to search for a new home church. I am now at a wonderful Christ centered, Gospel-Driven church, which seeks to Glorify God in everything they do.

I am forever grateful that God would save an undeserving and ill-deserving wretch like me, and bring me out from the cultic chaos, and my prayer is that God would use this testimony to save others who are ensnared in the Signs and Wonders Movement. I pray that those who are truly saved within it would come out, and that God in His beautiful, kind grace and mercy, would grant others repentance and saving faith, and that they would come to see the Beauty and Majesty of Jesus Christ. Through it all, God would receive all the glory and honor and praise. To Christ be the glory, amen!

Some years back, I thought that the New Apostolic Reformation led by C. Peter Wagner would remain a fringe cult. I was wrong. So very wrong.

Listen to a ten minute video of Brannon Howse. I agree with everything he says. The link is below. It is titled:

GOVERNOR OF TEXAS, RICK PERRY BASES CALL FOR NATIONAL PRAYER ON JOEL’S ARMY CULT?

http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-tube/video.php?videoid=4450

Then read:

On September 28, 2009, at 1:40 p.m., God’s messengers visited Rick Perry.

source HERE

On this day, the Lord’s messengers arrived in the form of two Texas pastors, Tom Schlueter of Arlington and Bob Long of San Marcos, who called on Perry in the governor’s office inside the state Capitol. Schlueter and Long both oversee small congregations, but they are more than just pastors. They consider themselves modern-day apostles and prophets, blessed with the same gifts as Old Testament prophets or New Testament apostles.

The pastors told Perry of God’s grand plan for Texas. A chain of powerful prophecies had proclaimed that Texas was “The Prophet State,” anointed by God to lead the United States into revival and Godly government. And the governor would have a special role.

The day before the meeting, Schlueter had received a prophetic message from Chuck Pierce, an influential prophet from Denton, Texas. God had apparently commanded Schlueter—through Pierce—to “pray by lifting the hand of the one I show you that is in the place of civil rule.”

Gov. Perry, it seemed.

Schlueter had prayed before his congregation: “Lord Jesus I bring to you today Gov. Perry. … I am just bringing you his hand and I pray Lord that he will grasp ahold of it. For if he does you will use him mightily.”

And grasp ahold the governor did. At the end of their meeting, Perry asked the two pastors to pray over him. As the pastors would later recount, the Lord spoke prophetically as Schlueter laid his hands on Perry, their heads bowed before a painting of the Battle of the Alamo. Schlueter “declared over [Perry] that there was a leadership role beyond Texas and that Texas had a role beyond what people understand,” Long later told his congregation.

So you have to wonder: Is Rick Perry God’s man for president?

Schlueter, Long and other prayer warriors in a little-known but increasingly influential movement at the periphery of American Christianity seem to think so. The movement is called the New Apostolic Reformation. Believers fashion themselves modern-day prophets and apostles. They have taken Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on ecstatic worship and the supernatural, and given it an adrenaline shot.

The movement’s top prophets and apostles believe they have a direct line to God. Through them, they say, He communicates specific instructions and warnings. When mankind fails to heed the prophecies, the results can be catastrophic: earthquakes in Japan, terrorist attacks in New York, and economic collapse. On the other hand, they believe their God-given decrees have ended mad cow disease in Germany and produced rain in drought-stricken Texas.

Their beliefs can tend toward the bizarre. Some consider Freemasonry a “demonic stronghold” tantamount to witchcraft. The Democratic Party, one prominent member believes, is controlled by Jezebel and three lesser demons. Some prophets even claim to have seen demons at public meetings. They’ve taken biblical literalism to an extreme. In Texas, they engage in elaborate ceremonies involving branding irons, plumb lines and stakes inscribed with biblical passages driven into the earth of every Texas county.

If they simply professed unusual beliefs, movement leaders wouldn’t be remarkable. But what makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government. The new prophets and apostles believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take “dominion” over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the “Seven Mountains” of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world. They believe they’re intended to lord over it all. As a first step, they’re leading an “army of God” to commandeer civilian government.

In Rick Perry, they may have found their vessel. And the interest appears to be mutual.

In all the media attention surrounding Perry’s flirtation with a run for the presidency, the governor’s budding relationship with the leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation movement has largely escaped notice. But perhaps not for long. Perry has given self-proclaimed prophets and apostles leading roles in The Response, a much-publicized Christians-only prayer rally that Perry is organizing at Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Aug. 6.

The Response has engendered widespread criticism of its deliberate blurring of church and state and for the involvement of the American Family Association, labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its leadership’s homophobic and anti-Muslim statements. But it’s the involvement of New Apostolic leaders that’s more telling about Perry’s convictions and campaign strategy.

Eight members of The Response “leadership team” are affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation movement. They’re employed or associated with groups like TheCall or the International House of Prayer (IHOP), Kansas City-based organizations at the forefront of the movement. The long list of The Response’s official endorsers—posted on the event’s website—reads like a Who’s Who of the apostolic-prophetic crowd, including movement founder C. Peter Wagner.

In a recent interview with the Observer, Schlueter explained that The Response is divinely inspired. “The government of our nation was basically founded on biblical principles,” he says. “When you have a governmental leader call a time of fasting and prayer, I believe that there has been a significant shift in our understanding as far as who is ultimately in charge of our nation—which we believe God is.”

Perry certainly knows how to speak the language of the new apostles. The genesis of The Response, Perry says, comes from the Book of Joel, an obscure slice of the Old Testament that’s popular with the apostolic crowd.

“With the economy in trouble, communities in crisis and people adrift in a sea of moral relativism, we need God’s help,” Perry says in a video message on The Response website. “That’s why I’m calling on Americans to pray and fast like Jesus did and as God called the Israelites to do in the Book of Joel.”

The reference to Joel likely wasn’t lost on Perry’s target audience. Prominent movement leaders strike the same note. Lou Engle, who runs TheCall, told a Dallas-area Assemblies of God congregation in April that “His answer in times of crisis is Joel 2.”

Mike Bickle, a jock-turned-pastor who runs the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, a sort of command headquarters and university for young End Times enthusiasts, taught a 12-part series on Joel last year.

The Book of Joel describes a crippling drought and economic crisis—sound familiar?—in the land of Judah. The calamities, in Joel’s time and ours, are “sent by God to cause a wicked, oppressive, and rebellious nation to repent,” Bickle told his students.

To secure God’s blessing, Joel commands the people to gather in “sacred assembly” to pray, fast, and repent.

More ominously, Bickle teaches that Joel is an “instruction manual” for the imminent End Times. It is “essential to help equip people to be prepared for the unique dynamics occurring in the years leading up to Jesus’ return,” he has said.

The views espoused by Bickle, Engle and other movement leaders occupy the radical fringe of Christian fundamentalism. Their beliefs may seem bizarre even to many conservative evangelicals. Yet Perry has a knack for finding the forefront of conservative grassroots. Prayer warriors, apostles and prophets are filled with righteous energy and an increasing appetite for power in the secular political world. Their zeal and affiliation with charismatic independent churches, the fastest-growing subset of American Christianity, offers obvious benefits for Perry if he runs for president.

There are enormous political risks, too. Mainstream voters may be put off by the movement’s extreme views or discomfited by talk of self-proclaimed prophets “infiltrating” government.

Catherine Frazier, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, wouldn’t respond to specific questions but wrote in an email, “The Response event is about coming together in prayer to seek wisdom and guidance from God to the challenges that confront our nation. That is where the governor’s focus is, and he welcomes those that wish to join him in this common cause.”

For the moment, Perry’s relationship with the New Apostles is little known. Few in Texas GOP circles say they’ve ever heard of them. “I wish I could help you,” said Steve Munisteri, the state Republican Party chair. “I’ve never even heard of that movement.”

“For the most part I don’t know them,” said Cathie Adams, former head of the Texas Eagle Forum and a veteran conservative activist.

Nonetheless, Perry may be counting on apostles and prophets to help propel him to the White House. And they hope Perry will lead them out of the wilderness into the promised land.

Listen closely to Perry’s recent public statements and you’ll occasionally hear him uttering New Apostle code words. In June, Perry defended himself against Texas critics on Fox News, telling host Neil Cavuto that “a prophet is generally not loved in their hometown.”

It seemed an odd comment. It’s the rare politician who compares himself to a prophet, and many viewers likely passed it off as a flub. But to the members of a radical new Christian movement, the remark made perfect sense.

The phrase “New Apostolic Reformation” comes from the movement’s intellectual godfather, C. Peter Wagner, who has called it, a bit vaingloriously, “the most radical change in the way of doing Christianity since the Protestant Reformation.”

Boasting aside, Wagner is an important figure in evangelical circles. He helped formulate the “church growth” model, a blueprint for worship that helped spawn modern mega-churches and international missions. In the 1990s, he turned away from the humdrum business of “harvesting souls” in mega-churches and embarked on a more revolutionary project.

He began promoting the notion that God is raising up modern-day prophets and apostles vested with extraordinary authority to bring about social transformation and usher in the Kingdom of God.

In 2006, Wagner published Apostles Today: Biblical Government for Biblical Power, in which he declared a “Second Apostolic Age.” The first age had occurred after Jesus’ biblical resurrection, when his apostles traveled Christendom spreading the gospel. Commissioned by Jesus himself, the 12 apostles acted as His agents. The second apostolic age, Wagner announced, began “around the year 2001.”

“Apostles,” he wrote, “are the generals in the army of God.”

One of the primary tasks of the new prophets and apostles is to hear God’s will and then act on it. Sometimes this means changing the world supernaturally. Wagner tells of the time in October 2001 when, at a huge prayer conference in Germany, he “decreed that mad cow disease would come to an end in Europe and the UK.” As it turned out, the last reported case of human mad cow disease had occurred the day before. “I am not implying that I have any inherent supernatural power,” Wagner wrote. “I am implying that when apostles hear the word of God clearly and when they decree His will, history can change.”

Claims of such powers are rife among Wagner’s followers. Cindy Jacobs—a self-described “respected prophet” and Wagner protégée who runs a Dallas-area group called Generals International—claims to have predicted the recent earthquakes in Japan. “God had warned us that shaking was coming,” she wrote in Charisma magazine, an organ for the movement. “This doesn’t mean that it was His desire for it to happen, but more of the biblical fulfillment that He doesn’t do anything without first warning through His servants.”

There is, of course, a corollary to these predictive abilities: Horrible things happen when advice goes unheeded.

Last year Jacobs warned that if America didn’t return to biblical values and support Israel, God would cause a “tumbling of the economy and dark days will come,” according to Charisma. To drive the point home, Jacobs and other right-wing allies—including The Response organizers Lou Engle and California pastor Jim Garlow—organized a 40-day “Pray and Act” effort in the lead-up to the 2010 elections.

Unlike other radical religious groups, the New Apostles believe political activism is part of their divine mission. “Whereas their spiritual forefathers in the Pentecostal movement would have eschewed involvement in politics, the New Apostles believe they have a divine mandate to rescue a decaying American society,” said Margaret Poloma, a practicing Pentecostal and professor of sociology at the University of Akron. “Their apostolic vision is to usher in the Kingdom of God.”

“Where does God stop and they begin?” she asks. “I don’t think they know the difference.”

Poloma is one of the few academics who has closely studied the apostolic movement. It’s largely escaped notice, in part, because it lacks the traditional structures of either politics or religion, says Rachel Tabachnick, a researcher who has covered the movement extensively for Talk2Action.org, a left-leaning site that covers the religious right.

“It’s fairly recent and it just doesn’t fit into people’s pre-conceived notions,” she says. “They can’t get their head around something that isn’t denominational.”

The movement operates through a loose but interlocking array of churches, ministries, councils and seminaries—many of them in Texas. But mostly it holds together through the friendships and alliances of its prophets and apostles.

The Response itself seems patterned on TheCall, day-long worship and prayer rallies usually laced with anti-gay and anti-abortion messages. TheCall—also the name of a Kansas City-based organization—is led by Lou Engle, an apostle who looks a bit like Mr. Magoo and has the unnerving habit of rocking back and forth while shouting at his audience in a raspy voice. (Engle is also closely associated with the International House of Prayer—, Mike Bickle’s 24/7 prayer center in Kansas City.) Engle frequently mobilizes his followers in the service of earthly causes, holding raucous prayer events in California to help pass Prop 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative, and making an appearance in Uganda last year to lend aid to those trying to pass a law that would have imposed the death penalty on homosexuals. But Engle’s larger aim is Christian control of government.

“The church’s vocation is to rule history with God,” he has said. “We are called into the very image of the Trinity himself, that we are to be His friends and partners for world dominion.”

“It sounds so fringe but yet it’s not fringe,” Tabachnick says. “They’ve been working with Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Sam Brownback, and now Rick Perry. … They are becoming much more politically noticeable.”

Some of the fiercest critics of the New Apostolic Reformation come from within the Pentecostal and charismatic world. The Assemblies of God Church, the largest organized Pentecostal denomination, specifically repudiated self-proclaimed prophets and apostles in 2000, calling their creed a “deviant teaching” that could rapidly “become dictatorial, presumptuous, and carnal.”

Assemblies authorities also rejected the notion that the church is supposed to assume dominion over earthly institutions, labeling it “unscriptural triumphalism.”

The New Apostles talk about taking dominion over American society in pastoral terms. They refer to the “Seven Mountains” of society: family, religion, arts and entertainment, media, government, education, and business. These are the nerve centers of society that God (or his people) must control.

Asked about the meaning of the Seven Mountains, Schlueter says, “God’s kingdom just can’t be expressed on Sunday morning for two hours. God’s kingdom has to be expressed in media and government and education. It’s not like our goal is to have a Bible on every child’s desk. That’s not the goal. The goal is to hopefully have everyone acknowledge that God’s in charge of us regardless.”

But climbing those mountains sounds a little more specific on Sunday mornings. Schlueter has bragged to his congregation of meetings with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, and the Arlington City Council. He recently told a church in Victoria that state Rep. Phil King, a conservative Republican from Weatherford, had allowed him to use King’s office at the Capitol to make calls and organize.

“We’re going to influence it,” Schlueter told his congregation. “We’re going to infiltrate it, not run from it. I know why God’s doing what he’s doing … He’s just simply saying, ‘Tom I’ve given you authority in a governmental authority, and I need you to infiltrate the governmental mountain. Just do it, it’s no big deal.’ I was talking with [a member of the congregation] the other day. She’s going to start infiltrating. A very simple process. She’s going to join the Republican Party, start going to all their meetings. Some [members] are already doing that.”

Doug Stringer, a relatively low-profile apostle, is one of the movement’s more complex figures—and one of the few people associated with The Response who returned my calls. His assignment for The Response: mobilizing the faithful from around the nation. Though he’s friendly with the governor and spoke at the state GOP convention, Stringer says he’s a political independent, “morally conservative” but with a “heart for social justice.”

Stringer runs Somebody Cares America, a nonprofit combining evangelism with charitable assistance to the indigent and victims of natural disasters. In 2009, Perry recognized Stringer in his State of the State address for his role in providing aid to Texans devastated by Hurricane Ike.

Stringer’s message is that The Response will be apolitical, non-partisan, even ecumenical. The goal, he says, is to “pray for personal repentance and corporate repentance on behalf of the church, not against anybody else.”

I ask him about his involvement with the Texas Apostolic Prayer Network, which is overseen by Schlueter. Six of the nine people listed as network “advisors” are involved in The Response, including Stringer, Cindy Jacobs and Waco pastor Ramiro Peña. The Texas group is part of a larger 50-state network of prophets, apostles and prayer intercessors called the Heartland Apostolic Network, which itself overlaps with the Reformation Prayer Network run by Jacobs. The Texas Apostolic Prayer Network is further subdivided into sixteen regions, each with its own director.

Some of these groups’ beliefs and activities will be startling, even to many conservative evangelicals. For example, in 2010 Texas prayer warriors visited every Masonic lodge in the state attempting to cast out the demon Baal, whom they believe controls Freemasonry. At each site, the warriors read a decree—written in legalese—divorcing Baal from the “People of God” and recited a lengthy prayer referring to Freemasonry as “witchcraft.”

Asked whether he shares these views, Stringer launches into a long treatise about secrecy during which he manages to lump together Mormonism, Freemasonry and college fraternities.

“I think there has been a lot of damage and polarization over decades because of the influence of some areas of Freemasonry that have been corrupted,” he says. “In fact, if you look at the original founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, he had a huge influence by Masonry. Bottom-line, anything that is so secretive that has to be hidden in darkness … is not biblical. The Bible says that everything needs to be brought to the light. That’s why I would never be part of a fraternity, like on campus.”

Why would Perry throw in with this crowd?

One possible answer is that he’s an opportunistic politician running for president who’s trying to get right, if not with Jesus, with a particular slice of the GOP base.

Perry himself may have the gift of foresight. He seems preternaturally capable of spotting The Next Big Thing and positioning himself as an authentic leader of grassroots movements before they overtake other politicians. Think of the prescient way he hitched his political future to the Tea Party. In 2009 Perry spoke at a Tax Day protest and infamously flirted with Texas secession. At the time it seemed crazy. In retrospect it seems brilliant.

Now, he’s made common cause with increasingly influential fundamentalists from the bleeding fringe of American Christianity at a time when the political influence of mainstream evangelicals seems to be fading.

For decades evangelicals have been key to Republican presidential victories, but much has changed since George W. Bush named Jesus as his favorite philosopher at an Iowa debate during the 2000 presidential campaign. There is much turbulence among evangelicals. There’s no undisputed leader, a Jerry Falwell or a Pat Robertson, to bring the “tribes”—to use Stringer’s phrase—together. So you go where the momentum is. There is palpable excitement in the prayer movement and among the New Apostles that the nation is on the cusp of a major spiritual and political revival.

“On an exciting note, we are in the beginning stages of the Third Great Awakening,” Jacobs told Trinity Church in Cedar Hill earlier this year. (Trinity’s pastor, Jim Hennesy, is also an apostle and endorser of The Response. Trinity is probably best known for its annual Halloween “Hell House” that tries to scare teens into accepting Jesus.) “We are seeing revivals pop up all over the United States. … Fires are breaking out all over the place. And we are going to see great things happening.”

Moreover, various media outlets have documented a possible coalescing of religious-right leaders around Perry’s candidacy. Time magazine reported on a June conference call among major evangelical leaders, including religious historian David Barton and San Antonio pastor John Hagee, in which they “agreed that Rick Perry would be their preferred candidate if he entered the race,” according to the magazine.

Journalist Tabachnick says politicians are attracted to the apostolic movement because of the valuable organizational structure and databases the leadership has built.

“I believe it’s because they’ve built such a tremendous communication network,” she says, pointing to the 50-state prayer networks plugged into churches and ministries. “They found ways to work that didn’t involve the institutional structures that many denominations have. They don’t have big offices, headquarters. They work more like a political campaign.”

But if the apostles present a broad organizing opportunity, the political risks for Perry are equally large.

In 2008 GOP nominee John McCain was forced to reject Hagee’s endorsement after media scrutiny of the pastor’s anti-Catholic comments. Similarly, Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign nearly fell apart when voters saw video of controversial sermons by the candidate’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright. If anything, Perry is venturing even further into the spiritual wilderness. The faith of the New Apostles will be unfamiliar, strange, and scary to many Americans.

Consider Alice Patterson. She’s in charge of mobilizing churches in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma for The Response. A field director for the Texas Christian Coalition in the 1990s, she’s now a significant figure in apostolic circles and runs a San Antonio-based organization called Justice at the Gate.

Patterson, citing teachings by Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce and Lou Engle, has written that the Democratic Party is controlled by “an invisible network of evil comprising an unholy structure” unleashed by the biblical figure Jezebel.

Patterson claims to have seen demons with her own eyes. In 2009, at a prophetic meeting in Houston, Patterson says she saw the figure of Jezebel and “saw Jezebel’s skirt lifted to expose tiny Baal, Asherah, and a few other spirits. There they were—small, cowering, trembling little spirits that were only ankle high on Jezebel’s skinny legs.”

Those revelations are contained in Patterson’s 2010 book Bridging the Racial and Political Divide: How Godly Politics Can Transform a Nation. Patterson’s aim, as she makes clear in her book, is getting black and brown evangelicals to vote Republican and support conservative causes. A major emphasis among the New Apostles is racial reconciliation and recruitment of minorities and women. The apostolic prayer networks often perform elaborate ceremonies in which participants dress up in historical garb and repent for racial sins.

The formula—overcoming racism to achieve multiracial fundamentalism—has caught on in the apostolic movement. Some term the approach the “Rainbow Right,” and in fact The Response has a high quotient of African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans in leadership positions.

Lou Engle, for example, is making a big push to recruit black activists into the anti-abortion ranks. “We’re looking for the new breed of black prophets to arise and forgive us our baggage,” he said at Trinity Assemblies of God, “and then lead us out of victimization and into the healing of a nation, to stop the shedding of innocent blood.”

Rick Perry is a white southern conservative male who may end up running against a black president. It doesn’t take a prophet to see that he could use friends like these.

There’s one other possible reason for Perry’s flirtation with the apostles, and it has nothing to do with politics. He could be a true believer.

Perry has never been shy about proclaiming his faith. He was raised a Methodist and still occasionally attends Austin’s genteel Tarrytown United Methodist Church. But according to an October 2010 story in the Austin American-Statesman, he now spends more Sundays at West Austin’s Lake Hills Church, a non-denominational evangelical church that features a rock band and pop-culture references. The more effusive approach to religion clearly appealed to Perry. “They dunk,” Perry told the American-Statesman. “Methodists sprinkle.”

Still, attending an evangelical church is a long way from believing in modern-day apostles and demons in plain sight. Could Perry actually buy into this stuff?

He’s certainly convinced the movement’s leaders. “He’s a very deep man of faith and I know that sometimes causes problems for people because they think he’s making decisions based on his faith,” Schlueter says. He pauses a beat. “Well, I hope so.”

But the danger of associating with extremists is apparent even to Schlueter, the man who took God’s message to Perry in September 2009. “It could be political suicide to do what he’s doing,” Schlueter says. “Man, this is the last thing he’d want to do if it were concerning a presidential bid. It could be very risky.”

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