Loss of the Moral Vision of the West

The protest movement against Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza is the most bizarre protest to my knowledge.  We studied protest movements as part of history; the protest that led to the beginning of English rights and the Magna Carta in 1215; the protests leading to the American Revolution in 1776;  the protest storming the Bastille leading to the French Revolution in 1789; the protests leading to the Russian Revolution in 1917; the anti-Vietnam war Protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and we can name so many more.  Most of them were for some kind of political social rights or greater economic equality.   These movements may not have been solidly based on good religious, economic, or social views, but there was some level of coherence and the people were usually professing, foundationally, the same goals or values.  But this is not the case with these protests. 

For one thing, the protests are more based on mega lies more than any other I have ever studied.  And secondly, the protests bring together three very different groups.   The first group is the Islamic Fascists, who believe in the dictatorship of the Caliph or Muslim rulers world Caliphate.   Hamas and its world partners, Boko Haram in Africa that kills and tortures Christians, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and other such groups seek to violently overthrow the present order of the West and replace it with the Islamic Sunni world state.   Hamas partners with another world movement of radical Shiite Islam led today by Iran and including its partners, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis of Yemen.   Surely if these groups were to defeat the West, they would then turn to fight each other since this is an alliance against a common enemy, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but they would no doubt resume their battle of over 1000 years against each other, Sunni against Shiite.  

The second group is the Neo-Marxists for whom Israel is the white colonial oppressor and the Palestinians are the darker oppressed group.  The Islamic Fascists may mimic the rhetoric for the sake of destroying Israel, but this is not their philosophical or political worldview.  They are good at manipulating media and knowing what these “woke” neo-Marxists want to hear to gain their help to destroy Israel.   Ultimately these two groups would fight.  One needs only to note that the oppressed in neo-Marxism include women gays, lesbians, and indeed the whole gamut of LGBTQ2+ people.  There are people that the Islamic Fascists would and indeed did, toss off buildings and stone.   Women would not have rights but would be covered as they are forced to do in Iran today.  Are the neo-Marxists too dumb to realize this or are they using the chaos to overcome the capitalist West and believe they can deal with Islam later?  After all, joining together produces just the destabilization they desire that Herbert Marcuse called for in his Essay on Liberation (1969).  When it is all destroyed,  a new society can be built.   The goal for these folks is not the destruction of Israel only, but of the American order and the Western order. This group includes Antifa and various radical groups.   Scholar revivalist Michael Brown said that this alliance is so incoherent that it is like Jews for Nazis or blacks for the KKK. 

The third group is all the naïve young people and not-so-young people who really believe these protests are about human rights, a national movement for Palestinians.  Many may not understand neo-Marxism and certainly, they do not understand Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran and their radical support for terrorism.  We have never seen a college population so uneducated and naïve and unable to think, weigh the evidence, and come to good, reasoned conclusions.  Education standards have declined drastically with the decline of the West.  These are just totally subject to the most gross propaganda and don’t even know what they are chanting, the meaning of intifada, or from the River to the Sea.  Yet it feels exciting to be in a chanting marching group for liberation!  

The propaganda attack against Israel is grossly immoral as can be believed.   It is lies from the father of lies at a huge level.  The nation of Israel is attacked by the Hamas movement whose charter and actions are genocidal by the United Nations Treaty on Genocide (1951).  The parallel to this was the genocide promotion and propaganda of the Nazis.  In the most bizarre Orwellian twist, whose promotion would even cause Orwell’s head to spin, the Islamic Fascists accuse Israel of genocide when they defend against genocide and do what they reasonably can to save civilians while prosecuting the war against the genocidal terrorists who showed their total depravity on October 7.  It is a reality reversal. 

The roots of this in Islamic radicalism are not hard to discover.  We have a long history of texts, genocidal war history, and murder that show us that this is only a more recent iteration of a satanic worldview.  However, the roots of Neo-Marxism can also be explained. For us in the West, how did this neo-Marxism gain such sway in our universities and then partner with Islamic Fascism, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union the revealed failure of Communism?  The key is to understand that this is the result of the loss of the moral vision of the West rooted in the Bible.  Once this has been abandoned, all kinds of false “isms” that are not well thought out, nostrums, fill the void.  The reasoning is emotional. 

The moral vision of the West was built up over centuries and was a joining of the best in Greco-Roman civilization and Biblical standards,  but then all was reformed by Biblical norms.  We see this in Augustine’s rules for just war that still inform the West.  We note that genocide was common in the warring tribes of the ancient world and even more recent times, in India, China, and Africa.  The idea of the worth of each human being, and standards for reasoning, evidence, and logic became part of creating the first universities.  The moral vision looked for a society where human rights and material provision could be made available for all who were diligent. It looked for a society where kindness, love, and law were established.  We note today that the importance of a lawful society and enforcing the law equally are today rejected and excuses are given for not enforcing the law. 

The loss of the moral vision of the West has produced Western leaders who have no moral courage.  This is seen in the university presidents that gave in to intimidation and bullying.  People with moral vision and culture do not give in to such tactics, but the culture-formation elite of our universities are largely morally bankrupt.  Only not giving in to bullying can stop bullying and intimidation. 

If we were thinking like FBI or CIA operatives the approach to fighting this movement would be, to paraphrase Eric Bern’s Games People Play, “Let’s You and Him fight.”  We could imagine getting the Neo-Marxists and Islamic Fascists to fight each other over women’s rights and gay rights.  We could envision getting the Sunni Muslim radicals to fight the Shiite Muslim radicals.  Sunni Isis is murdering Shiites in Iraq!  Then it could all fall apart. 

 

However, the above is tongue-in-cheek, though it would be a type of justice. Rather the only answer for this situation is a massive revival of Biblical faith in the West.  Only then can we restore moral vision, real education in universities, the enforcement of law, and the recovery of courage. 

 

Abortion, the Pope and Donald Trump

Donald Trump today invited three responses when he said that abortion policy was up to the States by legislators or referendums. He got pushback against this from the left who were angry over the Supreme Court decision and wanted a national law making it legal with no restrictions to the point of birth. He got pushback from the right that want it to be nationally banned or greatly restricted. Neither is realistic.

Then in the same news cycle, the Vatican just came out with a profound document, five yours in the making on God’s creation order of male and female, marriage, abortion, transgenderism, in vitro fertilization (which Donald Trump supports), and more. Here is my take.

The Catholic statement was amazing. Magnificent, theological, and comprehensive. It is based on two premises: that God created human beings as male and female to be expressed for those not called to celibacy in a marriage where children can be produced. It looks at the agendas of transgenderism as profoundly wrong and seeking to overthink the goodness of God’s creation order. Secondly, it also rejects in vitro fertilization because though they understand the desire to have children, having children is not a right but a gift of God. This is consistent with the position of the Church that the life of the developing baby is sacred and to be preserved from the moment of conception until birth. In vitro violates this since the baby is not conceived in marital love and lab-fertilized eggs are destroyed.

Donald Trump was vilified by some on the right and even even former Vice President Pence. But I think we can defend what he did. Precluding abortion as a national stand is a losing position at this point in history. Yes, maybe after 15 weeks precluding could win, but a pro-life position can not accept abortion at any time, one week or ten or 8 months. What Trump did is require the people to take a stand in each state. Then each state faces God’s judgment for policy. The danger is that referendums from Democrats are radical and with no restrictions to the 9th month. They deceptively frame poll questions and referenda. At this point, the best way for Republicans to win is to change hearts through education and media efforts and to see states make restrictions as they have the political support to do so while still engaging in counseling and pro-life pregnancy centers. They have to do a better job of pointing out radical pro-abortion positions that the majority of people do not support. We have to both look at what we ideally want but also face what is politically possible even if this brings God’s judgment on states that do not fight for life.

INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF PRAYER, KANSAS CITY, A PERSONAL RESPONSE

Not long ago I signed onto a joint statement on the present situation at IHOPKC.  However, my main emphasis and reason in supporting this statement was again to call for an impartial judicial eldership board.  Only this can finally bring judgment and clarity at a level that will settle the controversy, for we now see people on both sides in social media pressing their views, though the larger number is anti-IHOP and Mike Bickle.  

I am not happy about how either side is handling this, either IHOPKC or the Advocates that have taken up the grievances against Mike Bickle and IHOP.   Both sides should have called for an objective panel of elders that was so credible that all sides would submit to their decisions on guilt, innocence, discipline, and restitution.  They would oversee an objective investigator if still needed. This is the main issue in my view. It shows how far the modern churches and ministries are from biblical standards of justice and judicial process (Deut. 1, 16, Matthew 16, 18 and I Cor. 6).  This was well established in many Protestant denominations and is also today found in some new church streams. 

In the statement that we put out, some misunderstood the idea that the accusers’ testimonies were credible.  Credible does not mean proven but sufficiently serious and with enough description and corroboration that they should be taken seriously and heard in a fair court.  But unless there is a court with cross-examination, we can have views, and can think something looks credible, but conclusive judgment requires a court.  Again, this was a common process in many historic Protestant denominations.   In civic law, an indictment does not mean the accused is guilty but that there is enough evidence to bring a trial, but the accused is still innocent until proven guilty in such fair court.  Therefore, we have written, called, and cajoled, but it is still not clear that this to finally be done.  

And what is happening now?  Trial by social media continues.  There is a contingent that is now on a feeding frenzy that is discrediting the prophets who were part of the early days of Kansas City Fellowship (the predecessor of IHOP) from 30-40 years ago.  Some who related to IHOP are in full confession mode, but their confession includes why they were sucked in, but at the same time their confession is full of severe judgments and accusations.  It does not seem only a confession.  Another contingent, smaller but also very strong, is blasting the accusers and seeking to discredit them.  One video that was sent was about a primary accuser being mentally ill and needing intervention.  If true, how sad, and if not true how painful to the accuser!  Actually, it is painful in either case!

We do know that Mike Bickle has repented of some serious things.  We know that IHOPKC has drawn conclusions on Mike’s sin as the overseers of IHOPKC today and their conclusions are credible and may be seen as having judicial weight.  However, there is much more that has not been disclosed including the life that Mike Bickle and some other leaders have lived over more than the last 20 years.  That is foggy.  IHOPKC has also admitted a woefully inadequate government structure of accountability.  

However, I want to speak to the feeding frenzy of attack against IHOP and its history.  First, the leaders’ falling into sin does not mean that mighty things were not done through IHOPKC and Kansas City Fellowship and through its leaders.  I do believe in New Testament standards for qualification and discipline but do want to say something about examples from the Hebrew Bible.  Did God work through Aaron, the brother of Moses, in the Exodus? He was the voice of Pharaoh. He was witnessed as an instrument of the most amazing signs and wonders, amazing prophecy, and more. Yet, he gave himself to make the golden calf and then was in denial as if it happened without his agency.  God nevertheless restored him after his repentance.  Did Mike Bickle sin more than King David?  Not only did David commit adultery but murdered her husband.   He was restored by God and made the preparations for the building of the Temple.  However, his sin was probably the cause of much of the division and civil war that ensued under his son Absalom.  Great tragedy was experienced!  Yet, David unified Israel and established so much and is the ancestor of the Messiah. I am not writing this to say that those who sinned and covered up should be restored. I am writing about what God obviously did through the Kansas City Fellowship and later through IHOPKC.   I personally experienced some amazing times of holiness there over 33 years ago including supernatural signs and wonders.  There was a holy fear of the Lord in His presence. 

Now there is a deep revulsion and rejection of the Kansas City prophets by those who were themselves involved with them.  This leads to the idea that no great work of God was done as a result of the leadership of Mike and his prophets.  I was there at the Vineyard Conference in Anaheim in January 1989 when John Wimber introduced Paul Cain.  His word to John before coming to visit John was an amazing supernatural word that John confirmed.  His ministry in January 1989 came with signs and wonders and a presence of God that was the greatest I ever experienced.  There was a holy Presence that gave rise to deep reverence and fear.  The Holy Spirit’s electricity in the air even set off the fire alarms. Should I deny this because Paul Cain later fell into sin and refused the directions that were given to him for repentance and restoration?   Then there were the other prophets, ones that to our knowledge never fell into sin who prophesied over our ministry and its future, Jim Goll and John Paul Jackson are two I will name.  I don’t think they have any skeletons in their closets.  John Paul wrote a great book on avoiding wrong ways and the casualties from wrong prophetic order.  Then there is the discrediting of Bob Jones.  Did Bob really prophecy that Mike Bickle’s ministry would focus on Israel and its greatest task and fulfillment would be raising 100 million intercessors for Israel?  Yes, he did. Did he do this before Mike had a clue about Israel?  Yes.  Did his later fall did discredit the amazing prophetic happenings and signs and wonders in the early 80s?  The history is in Anglican Bishop David Pytches’s book Some Said it Thundered. It is credible and happened.   The later sins of some did not discredit what happened.  I was a witness to some of this.  As for Bob Jones, he did not have a history of sexual sin to my knowledge, stepped down from ministry for a season, and was fully restored under a well-known national leader who does repentance, discipline, and restoration.   

For me, it is amazing how many forget that the greatest prayer meeting for Israel’s protection and salvation took place on May 28.  Are we forgetting this so quickly?  Without any knowledge of this date, my son led a gathering of leaders in January 2023 and called for fasting and prayer on May 28.  The words from Bob Jones from 40 years ago were amazingly fulfilled and that was some years after his death.  It seems to me that God allowed Mike Bickle’s sin to be hidden until this word was amazingly fulfilled.  IHOPKC and the early prophecy were key to launching great prayer worldwide for the salvation of Israel, prayer houses, integrated 24/7 prayer with congregations, and more.   The pattern of Zinzendorf’s Moravians was resurrected in many nations.  Some even have said they want to destroy IHOPKC.  I think that would be terribly wrong.  Shall God destroy the innocent with the righteous? Abraham plead.

Do I still want fair judgment for those women who are bringing the accusations against Mike Bickle and IHOP?  Yes!   Do I grieve over abuses?  Yes.  Do I want to see an opportunity for cross-examination if there is a desire for a defense to be made by Mike and the former leaders of IHOPKC who are charged?  Yes! Then he and others can be found guilty of what they did do and not guilty for what they did not do.   Do I want to see other charges of manipulation and the use of prophecy for controlling others to be heard with cross-examination?  Yes!  But that is a bit harder to prove.  Strong prophetic gifts can cause people to fall in line.  We too easily forget the responsibility of all believers in the New Covenant to hear the Spirit and to confirm prophetic words for their own individual lives and corporately as well.  Yes, we have to constantly emphasize this.  But none of this discredits that a mighty work was done worldwide through IHOPKC and Mike Bickle.  Again, prayer ministries have been raised up all over the world that pray for Israel and the Messianic Jews.  Also, let us not forget the many who for years served at IHOPKC.  They were not in gross sin, but morally righteous.  They served under a bad leadership structure according to IHOPKC’s present evaluation.  Some of these are now on the Advocates’ side in this battle.  Also, many were blessed, renewed in strength, and sent out to serve the Kingdom after leading to walk in the power of the Spirit. 

So here I am, like a voice in the wilderness. I am calling for two things.  Do not discredit what God did through the Kansas City Fellowship and through IHOPKC.   This is independent of the sin of leaders.  Secondly, let there be fair judgment.  And please stop the prosecution through social media from both detractors and supporters.  I wait and wait for IHOPKC to publicly declare themselves as committed to this objective fair eldership judiciary. 

FOR A BOOK THAT PRESENTS THE CASE FOR ELDERS AND THE WHAT, HOW AND WHY OF THEIR JUDICIAL FUNCTION, DO ORDER AND READ MY BOOK “DUE PROCESS, A PLEA FOR BIBLICAL JUSTICE AMONG GOD’S PEOPLE.”. 

 

A Plea to Transcend Independence, An Essay on the Independent Movement of Churches

ACCOUNTABILITY

My calling and part of my life quest has been to establish good government and accountability in the Messianic Jewish world. This was accomplished in two organizations I led, the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and in Tikkun America.  Both have been effective.  I have also had a good influence in the Church world.  I have written on government.  I also wrote a book that has been a positive influence, Due Process, A Plea for Biblical Justice Among God’s People.

I grew up in a national and world association of congregations (45 million at that time) that were organized into a structure of mutual accountability in each city, region, and nation.  When moral and doctrinal issues arose, there were eldership councils, or courts of appeal, that would resolve these situations.

When I was 18, there was a conflict in my congregation with the pastor.  They appealed to the regional authorities in the denomination and were not treated well.  I was at the congregational meeting with these authorities.  The members were offended.  Most of the elders, Sunday school teachers, and members left and formed a new congregation. (1966)   I was a charter member.  I remember the first meetings and the heady feeling that we were in the right.  We thought that we now were going to have a more truly biblical organization, an independent congregation governed by elders elected by the democratic vote of the members.  We thought we were returning to a more first-century way of congregational organization, free from the interference and control of denominational leadership.  This congregation has had a record of good ministry and integrity and for many years was pastored by one who became a good friend.  I do credit the fact that there are good independent congregations that do good work and have integrity.

However, I was too young and uninformed about government in congregations to realize the dangers and the importance of being connected to something larger where courts of appeal can deal with issues too hard for local leaders.  When I was at Wheaton College in Illinois, I connected to an independent congregation that went into terrible heresy.  There was no appeal for higher authorities to come and help to resolve the issues.  Many friends and some family members were shipwrecked in their faith in this congregation.  Thankfully, Patty and I left when the heresy was just in its beginnings, well before it was full-blown.   When I sought ordination, I returned to my roots and was ordained in an association with mutual accountability and strong standards.  I no longer believed that independent congregations represented the biblical model.  Rather, I believed in congregations and leaders in mutual accountability with a layer of appeal for serious issues beyond the capability of the local eldership.  I now believe that this is much closer to the biblical model where we see the congregations planted by apostles still accountable to the planting apostles and accountable to the apostles in Jerusalem to resolve a major dispute (Acts 15).  This model gives us more than a hint that there has to be something beyond mere local independent congregations.

Such higher accountability structures hold leaders accountable to basic standards of morals and biblical teaching which I call broad orthodoxy.  Many associations also require congregations and leaders to maintain their distinctives which include more than broad orthodoxy, such as Baptist requiring belief in water immersion and Pentecostals requiring belief in the baptism in the Spirit, speaking in tongues and the supernatural gifts of the Spirit for today.

 

HOLDING LEADERS ACCOUNTABLE AND PROTECTING LEADERS FROM FALSE ACCUSATIONS AND ATTACKS

Associations that have a good government hold leaders accountable to its standards, but also protect leaders from false accusations.  In my 51 years in governing as a pastor and as a trans-local association member and leader, I have found that there are more cases of leaders being cleared from false accusations and then finding the accusers guilty of false accusations. Sometimes the leaders were guilty as charged in very significant sin or error.  Sometimes the accusations were tearing a congregation apart and the false accusations were spreading and being believed.  The situation was beyond a local eldership to handle.  Our outside appeal leadership came and heard the cases and were able to re-establish trust for the leaders.  It is wonderful to look back and see how this was successful in many situations. Several congregations were rescued from destruction and prosper today.  In a very few cases leaders had to step down, be restored or be removed permanently.  Much damage was averted in those cases!

History of Accountability

The Reformation leaders reacted against the Catholic Church and its hierarchical structures which often made the Pope and bishops beyond real accountability.  They exercised almost royal leadership.  Different models were embraced after the Reformation; the mutual accountability of the college of bishops (Anglicans, Methodists), the congregationalist model of accountability to all the members voting and then accountability to the larger association, and the Reformed model of a lead elder in mutual accountability to a plurality of elders at the local level, city level, regional level, and national level.   This last model was the least subject to abuse by leaders.  It was a model of mutual submission.  Some Pentecostal denomination and new stream charismatic associations have also embraced this government structure.  I might note that the government of ancient Israel foreshadows this with the elders of the gate and appeal to Jerusalem for cases that were too difficult.

We cannot look to Rabbinic Judaism for our model.  Rabbinic Judaism produced very different models over the course of its history from the royal master of the dynastic ultraorthodox leader to the democratic models of Reform Judaism but whose Rabbis have some limited accountability in its association of Rabbis, to those who have bet din (courts) in modern Orthodoxy and associations of congregation with standards for Rabbis. The last is closer to a biblical model.  However, we have to look to the New Covenant Scriptures for our applications today.

Situations we Face today

One of the characteristics of our day is that so many have become part of the independent church movements.  In the 19th century such congregations, without higher accountability and standards would have been considered rogue.  This included approving qualifications for pastors. There are royal pastors types who are very gifted and lead large congregations but whose elders are mere advisors and certainly do not practice real mutual accountability.  There are royal apostles who lead networks and congregations are accountable to them, but they have such control with ability that they would never be opposed by the team leaders of the network.  They themselves are not accountable.

We recently were notified of a scandal in a prominent ministry.  We still do not know for sure what has happened, the extent of guilt, the guilt of others involved and so much more.  Why does this keep happening.  This happens with charismatic and non-charismatic Evangelicals?  I can give examples in both.  There are many reasons, but I want to write on one.  It is the rejection of the wisdom of the historic Protestant denominations.   These denominations had clear standards for vetting ministry leaders and maintained strong accountability structures.  In addition, some of the major Pentecostal denominations also have embraced these standards.

After mainline denominations did not fully embrace the charismatic renewal of the 1960s to the 80s, there was an arrogant “Plague on your house” response to these denominations.  New independent congregations and streams were founded.  Some of the new streams that connected congregations in networks were solid in their vetting and accountability structures (I can name some) and some were not and embraced a royal pastor model or a royal apostle model for the network.  Some did so in actual government documents and some, though with better government documents, acquiesced to a totally controlling but gifted leader. Some prophecies were given that grieved me, that the day of the denominations was over.  I on the other hand believed that they all could be renewed if they maintained a classic Evangelical confession.  So much of the projection of the “new churches” and ministries shows this root of arrogance.  I am part of one major ministry, Toward Jerusalem Council II, that teaches that when the Church taught it had replaced Israel, replacement theology came into the DNA of the Church.  Now each new movement claims to replace the last movement from which it came. Of course, such attitudes and teaching cannot lead us to the John 17:21 unity for which Yeshua prayed.

What has this spirit of independence produced?  Multiple scandals both sexual and financial!  There is no court of appeal. Very large churches and ministries have gone down with accusers having no appeal court to which the accused will submit.  The situation is therefore handled by public accusations, gossip and today by social media exposure.  Some use secular courts contrary to the exhortations in I Cor. 6 and Matthew 18:15 ff. to constitute a court of those who can judge such matters.  For the world outside of the Church, the Church is considered a bunch of crooks, hypocrites and worse.  Yes, the scandals are a minority of churches and ministries, but it seems so much larger due to media magnification.

I ask a question. Where is a big scandal in the denominations that have stayed biblically orthodox? You do not hear of such because it is so rare, though not non-existent.  In the Presbyterian Church in Chicago all salaries and congregational budgets were presented annually to over 400 elders representing over 200 congregations.  Disclosure and transparency were the rule.  Can you think of any scandals in the conservative Presbyterian denominations?  I can’t.

Were I to state my preferred government, it would be a denomination structure that gives great freedom for ministry expansion by those who give the gifts to multiply but who are still accountable to the association.  It would be an association that embraces five-fold ministry.  We see this today with the Pentecostal Holiness Church and also in the Four Square Churches association.

I know that there are many ways to have an accountability and a strong connection to solve this problem.  A five-fold network of congregations should require all to subscribe to appeal to the leadership team or a judicial board that is appointed for such appeals.  This has been our practice in Tikkun for some 40 years.  The Dove Network under Larry Kreider, with hundreds of churches in North America, Central America, and Africa where there are about 200 more, maintain oversight and appeal for their congregations.  Beyond that if there is serous accusation against the leadership of the network, they maintain a group of outside elders that will be brought into judge the matter.  I was privileged to serve them in this way for ten years.  There has never been a scandal in any Dove Church and probably never will be.  Those who join are joining in a commitment to accountability beyond the locality.

I dream that someday in revival and the embrace of the power of the Spirit that God will bring together the congregations of the city into structures for mutual accountability. Does this fit the prayer for unity of Yeshua (John 17:21).   I wrote a little paragraph for a beginning, a minimal standard to overcome independence.

Serious moral or doctrinal charges against the lead pastor/elder or one who has ministry beyond the local church are too difficult for a local eldership and should be handled by an outside group, either in an appeal to the leadership of an association that they are part of, or another group of elders called together who can serve as an objective group to handle the situation.

I believe this standard should also be embraced by non-congregational ministries as well, an appeal beyond their board.  It can be officially placed in by laws and constitutions.

The historic Protestant churches including the Pentecostals and Charismatic streams that have learned from history have established the following standards.

  1. That churches are to be related and mutually accountable though joining in mutual accountability associations and that their leaders come together in mutual accountability.
  2. That the royal leader idea is to be rejected and the leader of a congregation or association should lead in mutual accountability with other leaders.
  3. That there is a real eldership over every congregation and every sodality (specialized missional community).
  4. That there is a higher level of appeal from a local eldership to an eldership that is called upon to handle accusations against the senior leader or a group of leaders that is too difficult for local elders to handle.  This is an appeal court of the Church.
  5. That there is transparency for finances.  All is disclosed.
  6. That leaders are seriously vetted for moral integrity, marriage and family quality, and basic knowledge of the Word of God.

Some years ago, the famous Derek Prince said to me. “Good leaders can sometime do well in spite of a bad government structure.  Bad leaders can sometimes get around a good government structure.  But these are not reasons to not have the best government structures that we can.”  For Derek Prince, good government and accountability greatly mitigates against leadership abuse and gross sin in the leadership.

I have not addressed the issue of the reason leaders fall into abusive patterns of leadership and then also fall into sin.  A great book on this is The Other Half of Church, by Jim Wilder and Michael Hendricks.  It deals with the self-centeredness and the somewhat narcissistic problem in leaders. Leaders who learn to walk in mutual humidly, mutual correction and mutual submission are a great protection for the people of God.  However, that is for another paper.

Accountability and Historic Protestant Denominations

We recently were notified of a scandal in a prominent ministry.  Most of you can probably figure this out.  We still do not know for sure what has happened, the extent of guilt, the guilt of others involved and so much more.

However, why does this keep happening both with charismatics and non-charismatic Evangelicals?  I can give examples of both.  There are many reasons, but I want to write about one.  It is the rejection of the wisdom of the historic Protestant denominations.   These denominations had clear standards for vetting ministry leaders and maintained strong accountability structures.  In addition, some of the major Pentecostal denominations also have embraced these standards.

However, after mainline denominations did not fully embrace the charismatic renewal of the ’60s to the ’80s, there was an arrogant “Plague on your house” response to these denominations.  New independent congregations and streams were founded.  Some of the new streams that connected congregations in networks were solid in their vetting and accountability structures (I can name some) and some were not and embraced a royal pastor model or a royal apostle model for the network.  Some did so in actual government documents and some though with better government acquiesced to a totally controlling but gifted leader. Some prophecies were given that grieved me that the day of the denominations was over.  I on the other hand believe that they all can be renewed if they have maintained a classic Evangelical confession.  So much of the projection of the “new churches” and ministries shows this root of arrogance.  I am part of one major ministry that teaches that when the Church taught it had replaced Israel, that replacement theology came into the DNA of the Church and now each new movement claims to replace the last movement from which it came. (Toward Jerusalem Council II).  Of course, such attitudes and teaching can not lead to the John 17:21 unity for which Yeshua prayed.

The historic Protestant churches and the Pentecostals and Charismatic streams that have learned from history have established the following standards.

  1. That churches are to be related and mutually accountable through joining in mutual accountability associations with their leadership coming together in mutual accountability.
  2. That the “royal leader” idea is to be rejected and the leader of a congregation or association leads in mutual accountability with other leaders.
  3. That there is a real eldership over every congregation and every sodality (specialized missional community).
  4. That there is a higher level of appeal from local eldership to an eldership that is called upon to handle accusations against the senior leader or a group of leaders that is too much for local elders to handle.  This is an appeal court of the Church.
  5. That there is transparency in finances.  All is disclosed.
  6. That leaders are seriously vetted for moral integrity, marriage and family quality, and basic knowledge of the Word of God.

Some years ago, the famous Derek Prince said to me. “Good leaders can sometimes do well despite a bad government structure.  Bad leaders can sometimes get around a good government structure.  But these are not reasons to not have the best government structures that we can.”  For Derek Prince, good government and accountability greatly mitigates against leadership abuse and gross sin in the leadership.

The Revelation of God and the Miraculous

The older I get the clearer it becomes that the primary revelation of God is through the miraculous.  It is not speculation about the nature of the universe, time and eternity, first causes, or other philosophical approaches.  There are some such verses in the Bible.  Romans says that the creation reveals God’s power and divine majesty, (Romans 1, Psalm 19).  However, the idea may be that the perception of the universe itself and our existence in it is perceived as miraculous.

The Hebrew Bible

In the Bible, God is known for doing great miracles and then by the prophetic word that interprets the miraculous.  The flood and the deliverance of God have miraculous features.  Its meaning is interpreted by God’s prophetic words to Noah. The call of Abraham and Sarah’s pregnancy is a miracle.  God speaks to Abraham and gives him an understanding of this miracle. The plagues and the Exodus from Egypt are miraculous.  Moses and Aaron interpret these events.  Then there is miraculous provision in the desert.  The miracles continue in the phenomena at Sinai.  The miracles are the context for giving the Mosaic constitution, Exodus through Deuteronomy.  They prepare the way to accept God’s word, a constitution for the nation of Israel. Jericho’s walls fell down, a miracle. Jehoshaphat is sent with worshipers and the invading armies kill one another (II Chron. 20:18-23). Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and God reveals himself in the miracle (I King’s 18).  We know who God is and what He is like through His miraculous interventions and the interpretation of these events by the prophets. God is known by the biblical narrative of the people of Israel and the history of their history of miracles and their interpretation.

The Ministry of Yeshua on Earth

With the coming of the New Covenant, the fulfillment of prophecy itself is sometimes miraculous and is interpreted prophetically.  The progress of the ministry of Yeshua is through a plethora of miracles.  Yeshua is the great prophet who interprets these miracles.  He calls people to believe in Him based on his miraculous works (John 10:37, 38).  The resurrection was the great miracle that was interpreted by Yeshua and his disciples after his resurrection.  The Gospels are the interpretation of meaning from the miracles of compassion and deliverance from Yeshua and his apostles during the day of his life on earth.

Progress through Yeshua’s Apostles, Evangelists, and Prophets

The Gospel progresses in Israel through miraculous events interpreted by his New Covenant Apostles and Prophets.  This continues with Paul as he takes the Gospel to the nations. Miracles continue to be part of the cutting edge of extending the Gospel.  Those miracles then are interpreted and provide the occasion for proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom.  The theology of the New Testament, the books themselves, are the teaching of the Spirit through apostolic writers given their foundational credibility by the miraculous as a foundation for belief.  Yes, the lofty nature of the teaching does give it credibility as well.

The First Centuries of Progress after the death of John the Apostle

This continues into the next two centuries after the death of John the last of the 12 Apostles.  It is the key to the growth of the early Church.  It continued into the fourth century.  After this, the miraculous was not as frequent but never ceased. Ramsey McMullen, a noted Yale historian of the Roman Empire, wrote an amazing book, Christianizing the Roman Empire, where he argued that Christianity progressed and overcame paganism largely through the plethora of miracles through this period.  Its miraculous power was demonstrated as far beyond that of paganism. One can doubt that the miracles really happened, but this is the testimony of the people who provided the records from those days.

The Testimony Today, the Story Continues

The testimony today is that on the cutting edge of the extension of the Gospel of the Kingdom in much of the world, especially Southern Global Christianity, the same pattern of miracles continues.  We are seeing a return to the biblical pattern of miracles being a key to the extension of the Kingdom. The writings of Dr. Craig Keener in his Miracles, two volumes of amazing documentation in almost 1000 pages, show that this is key to the progress of the Gospel.  Signs and wonders are key to the conversion of the peoples of nations all over the world.  God shows himself in the miraculous and his evangelists interpret these miracles.  God still heals the sick and casts out demons through his emissaries.  He still raises the dead.  Miracles today are not the context for a new revelation that is authoritative, but instead, confirm the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom and the authority of the Bible as our foundational book for how we are to believe and how we are to live.

Conclusion

Without the interpretations of miracles, we do not have sufficient revelation of God.  We find that God is a God of love, who seeks to give people eternal life.  He brings them into a loving community.  However, he is a God of declared righteous standards and judgment for those who will not submit to God’s lordship and the Lordship of Yeshua.  The God who heals the sick, cleanses the leapers, and raises the dead, also says that we are to live in fidelity in our marriages, raise our children in the faith, care for the poor and widows, and extend the Kingdom in sharing the Gospel.  He confirms the universal standards of the Torah for all people (Matthew 5:16-19).  The history of God’s miracles in the Bible is our narrative theology, or our theology is narrative.  The history after the Bible is the story of the continued advance of the Gospel.  This is why a true biblical theology is a charismatic theology.   Isn’t it wonderful to live in a day of miracles?!

We foster this kind of Gospel of the Kingdom movement in Israel. Our new Bible College will be a school that teaches and fosters the supernatural miraculous Gospel of the Kingdom movement in Israel.

Sukkot or Tabernacles

We are in the middle of Sukkot or Tabernacles when our people were to dwell in tents, the meaning of the plural word Sukkot.  It was to remind them of the 40 years in the wilderness; a time when God provided supernaturally.  It was also a time of discipline for their failure to act in faith and enter the promised land.   Many other meanings are given to Sukkot.  From Numbers, we read of the 70 bulls sacrificed during the 7 days of Sukkot, which in Jewish traditional interpretation is the symbolic number of the nations.  Israel, having had its own sins forgiven at Yom Kippur, five days later, begins sacrifices for the sake of the nations. She is a priestly nation interceding for the nations.  This coheres with Zechariah 14 where after the terrible battle for Jerusalem and the defeat of the international coalition against Israel, all nations celebrate the Feast of Sukkot year by year.  So, for us, it is the celebration of the coming Kingdom of God.

Fr. Dr. Raymond Brown, in his truly great two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John argues that John 5-9 as a section should be titled, “Jesus and the Principle Feasts of the Jews.”  Chapters 7-9 are full of Sukkot themes indicating that Yeshua fulfills or brings to fullness the principle feasts of the Jews.  Two ceremonies are especially important in the context.  One is Yeshua’s proclamation that if anyone thirsts he should come to Him and drink and then. “Out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living waters. (John 7:37, 38)  This was in the context of the very important Hoshana Rabba (7th day, the great day of the Feast) when water was drawn from the Pool of Siloam and poured out at the altar.   Then in chapter 8 Yeshua proclaims that he is “the light of the world.)  John 8:12.  Brown gives reference to the lighting of the special Temple lamps that gave a marvelous light to Jerusalem.  Again, this is indicating that Yeshua makes full the symbols of the Feast.

One of our leaders pointed out some 35 years ago that John 1 says that Yeshua tabernacled among us.  In taking on a temporary mortal body, was Yeshua also fulfilling Sukkot, and was John giving a reference to it?   I am not sure, but it is possible.

One thing however about Sukkot and all the pilgrim Feasts (Passover, Pentecost/Shavuot, and Pentecost/Sukkot, is that they are times of rejoicing, family, and the instruction of children.  This year our families, the Moores, the Hollands and Ben and Lorena and their son Andrew, all gathered to celebrate. Here are some pictures of the Sukkah and a few of the family in a great time together.

The Shepherding Movement

Some fifty years ago the Shepherding Movement was started as a network of congregations.  It was led by five very significant leaders in the charismatic movement.  Charles Simpson, Bob  Mumford, Ern Baxter, Don Basham,  and Derek Prince.  These five were very mature and experienced leaders.  Derek Prince was the first to leave this movement.  I was able to be with him when he was still a part of it (1981) and after he left (1982).  When I came to our congregation in the Washington, D.C. area I hosted a discussion time in my basement recreation room (February 1978).  I shared my goal to strengthen the shepherding of the flock.  One woman cried out, “You mean we are becoming part of the shepherding movement?”  With total innocence, I then said I wanted to foster discipleship.  I did not know that this would have the same reference for this woman and that the Shepherding Movement was also known as the Discipleship Movement.  I said that I was a Presbyterian (I still was in the denomination) and a Messianic Jew, and I had no idea of this movement and what she was talking about.

Later, I looked into the movement and found some good things.  However, there were also very disturbing things.  Leaders usurped the leading of the Holy Spirit and required that all submit their personal decisions to leaders for acceptance or veto.  All but one of the top five, known as the Ft. Lauderdale Five, repented.  The one who did not repent professed that he never taught this error.

However, the Shepherding Movement was addressing a real problem.  They just went overboard in the way they addressed it.  They were reacting to anarchy and damage in the charismatic moment of the 60s and 70s.  Prophecy given to people on who to marry and terribly bad decisions ruining lives with the claim that the “Spirit told me” were frequent. There is mature and immature hearing the Spirit. The congregation Patty, my future wife, and I attended in our Wheaton College Days went into heresy and Gnosticism.  We left in May 1969 never to return.  This congregation was not accountable beyond itself for an appeal with regard to moral and doctrinal error.  It is interesting that Derek Prince and Ern Baxter spoke in this congregation before it went off.  I also know that Ern Baxter was appealed to when he was ministering in a Chicago pastorate about the issues but had no power to do anything about it.  I often wonder if the Shepherding leaders had this church in mind when they formed their association.   

The question that arose was how to bring order and balance to the chaos and lack of accountability in the charismatic movement outside the denominations.  My reaction to the error and chaos was to become a rationalist and to reject the charismatic gifts, prophecy, and the supernatural.  Then when I returned to embrace the Spirit in a charismatic way, I began to work out my views on these issues more explicitly.  They were largely solidified when I wrote my discipleship doctrine guide, Growing to Maturity.  This was developed more in my book Relational Leadership and in the book Dynamics of Spiritual Deception.  Here are the principles that have guided me for the last 41 years.

1.  Congregations are in better order when they are linked in associations, denominations, and apostolic streams.  Those congregations and leaders in these associations pledge to accountability on basic doctrinal and moral foundations.  The overseeing board or team of such associations is a court of appeal for error and such leaders can also investigate reports of abuse, sin and error.

2.  It is important to put guard rails on the prophetic.  Mature leaders confirm congregational prophecy.   Also, they assure that prophecy is always in accord with the Word of God.

3.  Individuals and families are indeed free to follow the leading of the Spirit for their life’s directions.  They are ultimately accountable to God for such decisions.  Every private in God’s army has access to the top general, Yeshua.

4. However, in addition to #3 above, it is important to teach people to seek confirmation from friends and wise leaders before making life directional decisions.  Going through this process of seeking confirmation and agreement can prevent rash decisions and directions that do not end well.  When there is confirmation there is the strength and power of faith agreement. “Plans fail for lack of council but with many advisors they succeed.” (Prov. 15:22)  We have seen that this mitigates against bad decisions.

5. In addition to #4, when there is not confirmation, there should be seeking the Lord and praying again.  If the person cannot shake the conviction of God’s leading them in the non- confirmed direction, it is very important that friends and leaders give affirmation and support for the person to follow their conscience.  In a family it is ideal that the husband and wife agree, if at all possible.  This is also a check.

IF the leaders of the Shepherding Movement had been balanced in their principles, then it would have been great gain for all.  The Shepherding Movement’s demise set the Body back and anarchy ensued again.  However, we see more and more getting this right.

Rosh Hoshana 

The fall Holy Days begin in just two days. Sometimes I assume that my Official Page followers already have a grasp of the Holiday and their meaning in Yeshua. The Fall Feasts include Rosh Hoshana, then ten days later, Yom Kippur-the Day of Atonement, and five days after this, the seven days of Sukkot or Tabernacles.  After the seven days, there is an eighth day assembly, a day of no work, Shimini Atzeret. 

Rosh Hoshana translates literally as the head of the year or the new year.  It is mentioned in the post exilic prophets but is not emphasized as the head of the year in the Torah. Rather it is called Yom HaTeruah, The Feast of the Blowing (of the shofar-the horn of the ram).  It is a day of rest with no work. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the calendar and recounts the atonement ceremonies in the Temple while including many prayers of the confession of sin that connect us to forgiveness.   Sukkot recalls the days in the desert when we lived in tents in the desert for 40 years, and ate supernatural food and drink.  Our clothes did not wear out. 

However, today’s article is on Rosh Hoshana.  There is very little about the meaning of the Feast in the Torah.  The instruction is that everyone needs to hear the sound of the shofar and then take the day as a day of rest unto the Lord.  Jewish tradition fills in the vacuum.  The prayers for the day emphasize the Kingship rule of God and God’s judgment.  It is as if Yom Kippur meanings blend into the meaning of Rosh Hoshana.  There is a festive meal on the evening when the Feast begins and plenty of food the following day.  However, the prayers are solemn.  Maimonides, the famous rabbi of rabbis of the middle ages, said that the shorfar was an awaking call, to wake up from sleep and deal with the issues of God, sin, judgement and eternal life. 

For me, as a Messianic Jew, the most noteworthy tradition of the day is the reading from Genesis 22 on the sacrifice of Isaac.  We recall in in Genesis 22 that God gave the strangest command, that Abraham was to sacrifice his only son of Sarah on the altar.  In the history of Christian interpretation this text is seen as prophecy of the sacrifice of Yeshua, the only Son of his Father in heaven, who sacrifices him on the altar for our sin.  Some Christians have also argued the act of sacrifice was an intercessory act of Abraham giving his all, his most important relationship, to God at such a level that it called forth from God to give his all, the most important gift of his Son as our sacrifice.  In this interpretation, both were necessary and are tied together.  Of course, the Father’s will was to give his Son as a sacrifice, but could He find someone that would give his son in a like way to call forth His great gift?

Judaism finds amazing and helpful meaning in the sacrifice of Isaac.  The sacrifice of Isaac (vicariously though not in actuality) was an act of such merit that it is the foundation for all the sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple.  The location of the sacrifice was on Mt. Moriah where the Temple would be built.  Was it actually where the Most Holy Place would be?  This leads to the rabbinic teaching that the sacrifices of the Tabernacle and Temple were only efficacious became they participated in the meaning of the sacrifice of Isaac.  Of course, we would say they are efficacious because they participated in the in the sacrifice of Yeshua.  There is a question as to whether or not the sacrifices were efficacious at all on the basis of Hebrews 7 which says that the blood of bulls and goats and not really take away sin.   My view is that since Messiah is the Lamb slain form the foundations of the world, these sacrifices did provide forgiveness on the basis of Yeshua’s shed blood.  I understand that the argument in Hebrews to say that the blood of bulls and goats in themselves cannot take aways sin, but point to and participate in the blood of Yeshua.  Only due to Yeshua’s blood do we have atonement. 

Jewish tradition does provide meanings that are helpful in enriching our celebration of this day.  Of course, Gentiles are not responsible to keep these sabbath days.  But if they are in Messianic Jewish congregations we join together in common life.  Those in the church world do well to at least teach on the meanings made full in Yeshua. 

Miracles of Different Categories

In my apologetics evidence for our biblical faith, The Biblical World View, An ApologeticI argue that there are different levels of God’s intervention in healing. Today we have miracles galore worldwide done in the name of Yeshua/Jesus. It is less prominent in the West due to skepticism, but it is happening significantly here as well. I recently attended a conference of Global Awakening with Randy Clark where many miracles took place. 

The most astonishing miracle and sign of Gospel confirmation is a creative miracle. Creative miracles range from resurrections from the dead, the most wonderful and astonishing of all, to replacing organs or creating organs where they are missing. Eyes have been created. Blind people have been given sight which in the most amazing cases means that missing eye parts are created instantly. Parts of bones have been created, limbs have grown out, and so much more. In my book, I mention the testimony of Barbara Comiskey, who on her death bed with advanced MS, was instantly healed, flesh put on her calves, and organs recreated. Such creative miracles are described in Craig Keener’s book Miracles, almost 1000 pages of documented evidence. 

Just shy of creative miracles are instant bodily healings of cancer and other debilitating diseases, deaf ears healed from nerve damage conditions, diseases of hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, and cancers, etc. When these healings are instantaneous, they are really almost in the first category. A miracle is the only reasonable explanation, supernatural intervention. 

The third category of God’s intervention reverses the course of a disease, but the full healing takes place after time of improvement. Some explain this as the body’s own amazing functions kicking in. Stage four cancer that is not instantly healed but which after prayer goes into decline with eventual full remission is an example. This can be the case for heart disease, kidney disease, liver diseases, lung diseases and so many more. Diabetes and high blood pressure are other examples. Doctors who do not believe in God’s healing power will speak of spontaneous remissions or the bodies rejuvenating power. When this process of reversal begins after prayer, we are justified in saying that this shows the intervention of God.