Intro: getting to Know John the beloved (Mark Driscoll on Revelation part 1)

As we are going to start a new preaching series on Revelation soon I thought I would listen to Mark Driscoll’s series on it.

Here are my notes on his introduction:

  • The preaching series follows the theme of worship through the book.
  • Worship is what we do when we come together and what we do the rest of our lives (“your spiritual act of worship”).
  • John, who wrote the book or Revelation, was a leader we should look at an emulate.
  • Jesus was worshiped by the shepherds when he was a baby and the Magi when he was a little bit older.
  • Jesus grew up like most people, going through puberty and doing a job.
  • At around 30 Jesus chose his disciples, like teachers did in those days, to be with him.
  • John was the youngest disciple
  • John was with Jesus, saw the miracles, heard the teaching, ate with him, worshiped with him on the Sabbath and special days, saw Jesus cook, do chores etc.
  • The love between John and Jesus was more like a big brother and a little brother than a prom date.
  • “oh, I love Jesus like a big brother, like a son loves his dad, like a little kid brother loves his big brother. That I get – that makes sense to me. I can get my head around that.”
  • Peter thought out loud, John processed stuff and said less.
  • John was part of Jesus’ inner circle, the three. He was there at the transfiguration, he arranged the last supper and sat right next to Jesus and sang with him (Matthew 26:30). He saw Jesus pray and sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, watched him be whipped and crucified. And Jesus looked down at him from the cross and entrusted his mother to him.
  • At that moment, I would suspect that John embraced Mary, probably holding her up because she was incapable of even enduring the witness of the murder of her son. How many mothers are in this room? And that’s the last thing you want to be present for, is the public execution of your own innocent child. John is there, looking at Jesus. John is there, hearing the crowd cheering. John is there, holding Mary together. And John is there, coming apart himself. That’s John. John is there at the cross looking at Jesus when he hears Jesus Christ cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus quotes the Psalms, John hears it and in that moment, all of John’s sin – past, present, future – were placed upon Jesus and John was there to see the Father turn his back on the Son.”
  • John was the first to recognise Jesus as risen from the dead. (me – not sure what he means by that, Marry saw him first didn’t she? )
  • Because John was with Jesus, loved Jesus, and worshiped with Jesus, he should shape our understanding of worship.
  • John lived through brutal persecution. The first because Christians refused to recognise the Roman government over Jesus and the second because Nero used them as a scapegoat for his negligence in stopping Rome burning. John was himself apparently boiled alive but lived. It would not have been uncommon for John to see the murdered, brutalised bodies of his church members stacked high along the road side.
  • “See, some of you I had the privilege of leading to Christ. Some of you I’ve had the privilege of discipling. Some of you I’ve had the privilege of officiating your wedding or being there when your child was born. John was a pastor; it was not uncommon for him on his way to work, or on his way to church, to pass by a stack of bodies and start seeing members of his church – people that he had led to Christ, people that he prayed with the day before; people that he had just officiated the wedding of, people who had just given birth and their children. John kept preaching. He would get up on Sundays in his church and he would likely read the list of the people who had died that week, and then he would talk about the goodness and the love and the grace of Jesus who takes away sin, and the resurrection of the dead for those who believe so that there is a life beyond this life.” (me – John Loved God and he loved people. He was so devoted to both and so sure that Jesus was who he said he was, that he carried on calling people to respond to the gospel even through he knew it would likely mean their agonising death. His message would not have been a “making life work” kind of talk. He must have had eternity in his sights, and a current experience of the love of God right now). 
  • Some people have foolishly said, “Oh, the writers of the New Testament, they made that stuff up.” My question is why. What is in it for John? Boiled alive; everyone else murdered, everyone you love stripped naked, murdered, stacked in the street. You die in poverty and shame. You don’t do that unless you are irrefutably convinced that what you speak is the truth. And it was the truth and John was there for the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. And he heard Jesus tell him, “Preach Good News about me.” And John did until he was 100 years of age.
  • “I believe that the one thing that kept John on track until 100 years of age was that he knew that Jesus loved him. And he loved Jesus. And if you want to strip all the theology and all the arguments out of all of our faith and just get right down to the bottom line, it’s that God has loved you in Christ and you should love him back. That is worship.”
  • Receive the love of Jesus that will take away your sin, love him back as a person. Be his friend, and spend all of your days with him and for him.

Wow. I wasn’t expecting to be so moved by an introduction to the book of Revelation. Mark D brilliantly takes us through Jesus’ life and the early church through the eyes of John, thereby emphasising not simply the historical facts but the relationship with Jesus that they open up for us. Can’t wait to read the next one.


I love your presence (part 11)

A few more notes from an excellent healing conference I went to a few months ago where two of the guys from Bill Johnsons Bethel church spoke on healing and healed lots of people too!

  • Three ways to carry the anointing
  • Heb 4:11   Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (ESV)
  • you will know the truth / reality and the reality will set you free John 8:32
  • faith is the muscle that moves heaven [me – and you can feel it working sometimes. It may be because I am not trusting fully but it can be exhausting at times!]
  • Faith is expectation [me – hey, I realised that connection a year ago, that’s encouraging]
  • Anointing = smeared
  • They told a story of a guy who saw them do some strange stuff in a parking lot. He was attracted to the joy.
  • Pete : Info gets you so far. Revelation gets you further [yes, there is a big difference! You can know something and then you can own something. Revelation leads to knowing]
  • Pete talked about “The road to Emmaus“:
  • Luke 24:13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem (ESV)
  • They knew Jesus was a prophet but that was not the full truth.
  • They were disappointed (hope had been crushed)
  • Jesus had said he would raise but it had only been information to them.
  • They had to heard the grave was empty but they were not getting the juice.
  • greater things will he do“. “anyone”, is this info to us or revelation to us?
  • Jesus gave them a bible study and their hearts burned. Hope began to rise.
  • Jesus acted like he was going further. [me – I have blogged on this tactic of Jesus to draw us to him ]
  • Jesus wanted an invitation from them
  • “they urged him strongly” [me – I have taken to praying like this recently; calling out to Jesus with loud cries. Of course he can hear me but that fact that he knows what I want even before I say it at all does not make prayer unnecessary.]
  • A bible study will only get you so far
  • We need to invite Jesus in to eat and drink with us.
  • Once they had realized it was Jesus they went to tell others.
  • Many of us are more comfy doing bible studies than telling people about Jesus

I love your presence (part 9)

Here are my notes from a Q&A time at a recent healing conference. Some of this stuff represents years of experience pressing in to God for healing so very helpful:

  • Q: in the past when it comes to healing there has been an emphasis on fasting, and an emphasis on the word. You guys are emphasizing the presence. What’s a helpful balance of these things?
  • A: Grace is a more recent revelation and things have got easier in the light of it. Who wants to go back to doing all the hard work? (me – I actually found this quite helpful. I know and live grace in terms of salvation, but it’s good to have it emphasized in terms of gifting and fruitfulness. It’s not quite a matter of “letting go and letting God” as we need to “launch out and let God” but everything I do needs to rest on and be colored by God’s grace. Fruit will only come through God’s work not mine. My expectation and confidence needs to be in God’s work and not mine. It’s the “abiding in the vine” thing. My work needs to be in step with God’s. Much more could be said of this subtle but important concept but I know I need to emphasis God’s grace more in all I do. PS. They are of course using revelation in the general sense of the word, not the theological sense, which is fine. I’m trying to get over it:-)
  • Q: How do you commune with a multifaceted God?
  • A: Hanging out with a God who is provision means you don’t have to worry about your finances. That is different to asking God to provide for you in the future. Stuff you don’t pray for will happen when you hang out with God who is provision.
  • Q: Could you say something about sickness and evil spirits?
  • A: Sickness is often connected with the spirit of infirmity. If the pain moves it could be a spirit but you need discernment. Stress can lead to illness in which case it’s good to pray for peace. Sin can lead to illness in which case it’s good for someone to repent. Demons can lead to illness in which case it’s good to deal with them. I have not got a 100% success on illness but I have seen 100% success in deliverance. In two Kings God seemed to send an evil spirit. Whether that’s actually the case or not it’s true that we are in a new covenant now! There is a supernatural break between the two. The Old Testament is a holding tank.
  • Q: How do you spend time with God?
  • A: Irrespective of your feelings God is with you but he wants you to experience his presence. Understand grace. You don’t have to feel anything to see God move in power. Spend hours waiting on God. Meditate in your hearts and on your bed and be still.  “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night” Psalm 63:6. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” Psalm 37:7  Give thanks for the small manifestations of his presence and more will come. (Someone said that it’s good to think of God as “I am” and “ing” ie “I was, I am and I will be” healing, providing, etc…).
  • Q: What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?
  • A: No one knows what it was. It is a common phrase anything that is against you. In the context it looks like its people he is talking about. We might say nowadays “a pain in the neck” not referring to a physical pain but a person who is causing the trouble. Jesus is perfect theology. Jesus always said yes when people asked him for healing. We need to interpret the epistles through the gospels not the other way around. Our theology has been too epistles centric rather than Jesus centred. (me – in the light of the rest of the Bible is more likely that Paul is talking about personal persecution rather than physical illness. Many times Jesus was persecuted as was the early church. His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane got an implied “no” and that was about persecution and pain inflicted by people. It’s just a coincidence I’m sure but he got a thorn in his side on the cross when the spear was thrust into him. The references to people not getting healed are mainly implied, don’t have a definite “no” associated with them, and are few and far between.)
  • Q: what is the balance in striving verses enjoying the presence? Do you fast and pray or do we you just soak?
  • A: we need to get away from formula. Discipline can work against you. Do things out of love. Seek first the kingdom which is his presence. If you feel like you are striving it’s probably because you are! If you are worried about how much time you are spending and how much effort you are putting in you are in the wrong place. It’s like food, it’s unhealthy to keep asking “Am I eating too much” or “Am I eating too little”.
  • Q: What about the long-term sick i.e. Joanie Erickson? (me – she was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident as a child. She has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a Christian author and speaker.)
  • A: It’s all about relationship. We need to put our hope in the love of God. These remain whether we are sick or not. We need to direct people’s attention to the love of God. They mentioned a blind lady who has prayed for and seen 50 blind people healed but is still not healed herself. Bill Johnson’s son is still deaf although he has seen many deaf people healed. The point is to be in love Jesus. We must not put our hope or identity in his healing but in his love. Healing is a tool to show us the love of God. It is an overflow, not the thing itself. God does not cause sickness but he can use it. God is a good father.God will heal you even if no one ever hears the testimony“.
  • Q: What about this type only comes out by prayer and fasting“?
  • A: Prayer and fasting in not a technique to be more effective. It’s about a lifestyle relationship with God. It’s not a tool to bring out for a tricky case.
  • Q: Should we pray “if it is your will”?
  • A: No! Asking God if he wants to heal people today is a silly question.
  • Q: “I can live with this” – not sure what the question was
  • A: Peter was once told he was healed of his asthma when he hadn’t been healed of it at all. He had a year of wheezing and not taking his medicine. [You will know if you are healed] Our bodies were created to heal themselves. Just because you get older doesn’t mean you should be pain.
  • Q: How should one move forward in the church where the leadership is not that into healing?
  • A: Bill has built something over the last 20 years but we can give it away much quicker. Always operate in love and honour. Steward your own circle of influence. Live by example. If you are awkward or pushy or not submitted it’s unlikely you will be received. If you are seen to be faithful in stewarding a small thing you may be given more space and influence.
  • Q: Have you seen much success in healing mental illness?
  • A: We have seen some breakthrough with bipolar conditions but are pressing in for greater breakthrough in other areas. We have seen some miracles with down syndrome. Kent has seen some progress in the area of depression.

Authority explored

What is authority and how does it really work? I know it is defined as “the right to rule” or “the legitimate use of power“, but what power and when? Can you exercise authority without exerting power? What is the opposite of authority? ie what are you doing when you use power illegitimately or misuse authority or pretend to have authority when you don’t actually have it? These are some of the questions I have in my head. I will launch out and see where I get to. I will start with a concrete natural example:

A policeman has authority. When he turns on his blue lights and stops your car he is using authority. He hasn’t exerted much physical power though except catching up with you and motioning for you to pull over. If authority is the right use of power then authority must involve some exertion of power. The policeman’s authority at this point relies mainly on your submission. However it is 99.9% effective in the UK. Something real is happening. The mechanism of physical presence and communication are in operation. You pull over because that’s what people do. You pull over because your moral sense of what is right motivates you. You pull over because you know he can exert more power to get you to comply. You pull over because you don’t want to get into any more trouble than you are already in. It’s as if over the years in this country a stone has been rolled up hill. Battles have been fought, laws passed, criminals chassed and imprisoned etc. Now, in many cases, simply giving it a little push will cause the stone to roll down hill releasing all that potential energy.

If the speeding person doesn’t stop then the power has to be ramped up. The policemen has to keep up with you and continue communicating with increasing emphasis. More police cars will arrive, then a helicopter. They will either run you out of petrol or puncture your tires. They will then surround you and order you out of the car. At this point you might comply or you might not, in which case they will physically pull you out of the car. You will then be handcuffed and if you won’t walk to the police car you will be physically carried. It’s all the application of enough power to get you to comply.

Now all the above would be the same (except the moral bit) even in a country  where the police were corrupt. However if someone is misusing authority God will eventually call them to account for it. A person using power illegitimately, for example wearing a police uniform and flagging you down even though they are not a policeman, or mugging you and forcing your handbag from you, does not have authority. They are a rebel. They have power but not authority. There is nothing legitimate about them or their actions.

Now what about Spiritual authority? When we say “In Jesus name be healed” what is going on? Well, in the bible demons recognize Jesus’ authority and they do what he says. They even ask him for permission to do stuff. There is something built into the culture of the unseen spiritual world that makes demons submit to Jesus’ name. Just turning up and issuing a command in Jesus name works in 99.9% of cases. However sometimes more power is needed. Jesus seems to say that comes by praying. Maybe that’s a bit like calling for backup! When Daniel prayed and fasted in the OT an angel was sent.

The issuing of a command must, in itself, involve an exertion of power. It’s not merely a voiced command awaiting further backup. I think the power of the Holy Spirit is exerted when we issue commands. We are clothed with power. Jesus walked in the power of the Spirit. It must also be connected with faith as Jesus says something like “if you say to a mountain move, and believe it will do so, it will move”.

The water flows when the source is lifted or the end of the tube is lowered.

I am thinking of it like a container of water with a tube coming out of the bottom of it. The default position has the end of the tube level with the top of the water so there is no flow. If you raise the container but keep the end of the tube in the same place water will start to flow out of it. The other way to get the water to flow is to lower the end of the tube. The rate of flow is determined by the relative height of the water level in the container above the end of the tube. Now think of faith. Faith can push up the source at the sending end or faith can pull down the tube at the receiving end. By that I mean the person praying could have faith, the sick person could have faith, or they could both have faith. You could touch Jesus with faith and power would flow out of him. Conversely Jesus could operate in faith and raise the dead where the dead person obviously could not exercise faith. The rate of flow of power is determined by the amount of faith present.

Since God’s power is unlimited the flow of power is limited only by faith. Two caveats spring to mind. The first is that God can stop the flow if he wants. The Holy Spirit is not going to empower something that God is not ok with. He can shut it off at the mains if he wants. The second is that often only a little power is needed to release a massive potential power. This potential power has been built up previously through God’s working in that situation.

Christians are like fire fighters holding a massive high pressure hose. Our job is to keep hold of the end and point it where we expect God to work. Actually, putting out a fire is a helpful picture as you can spray water onto flames and it may take a while for them to go out. As with someone running from the law God’s power can be resisted, but not for long. I was struck by a guy from the Bethel team who prayed with me for a lady to get well. We didn’t see anything but he said to her “It is impossible for us to pray and command you to be well and for nothing to happen”. I also remember the time I was getting disheartened about getting well myself. People kept praying for me and nothing seemed to be happening. Then God read my mind and someone brought a prophetic word to the effect that the prayers of the saints were being effective. I’ve held onto that. It is impossible for God’s power to be released and nothing to happen.

If there was no power released at the time of the first command then it’s hard to see what we have to do to see it exerted. If “be healed in Jesus name” doesn’t releases power for healing then why would power be released when we say it a second time? No. Power must be released on the first and subsequent times until, just like a jar lid suddenly pops of, or a fire is put out, a person is healed or delivered.

Finally, just a point on the legitimate use of power. I have heard some say (or I interpreted them as saying) that Satan gained the legitimate right to rule over us and the earth when Adam sinned. I do not think that is a good way of looking at it. The transaction that takes place on the cross is not between God and Satan but between God and God! Jesus pays our ransom to God. We are rescued from the kingdom of darkness but not by some legal transaction between two equal kingdoms. It’s not like one government negotiating with another for the rescue of hostages. It’s more akin to one government sending in a special forces team to destroy the hostage takers and rescue the hostages by force. Since the hostages were taken illegally their rescue is legal. Put it another way. You don’t buy back stolen goods, you seize them and imprison the thief. Satan is a rebel, a liar and a thief. He owns nothing legitimately. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it! The Christians role is to seize what he has stolen and free the people he has imprisoned and oppressed. One day God will bring him to justice and throw him into the lake of fire mentioned in the book of Revelation.

I wonder if the view that Satan has some legitimate right to us or this world comes from a faulty interpretation of this passage:

“And the devil took [Jesus] up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.” (ESV) Luke 4:5-6

We have to remember that what the devil says is going to be a lie or a purposeful distortion of the truth intended to deceive us. Reading what he says I would say it’s a good bet that:

1) He has not been given authority to rule the kingdoms

2) He can not give it to whoever he chooses

He is either deceived or is deceiving.  He may be acting as the prince of this world, but he has no legitimate right to it. We should be very wary of getting doctrine from the devil! Adam and Eve did it in the garden of Eden and things didn’t go too well.

In the Matthew passage the devil seems to be acting out a sham of Matthew 28:18-19 where Jesus says:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (ESV) Matthew 28:18-19

The devil is not in charge of doing bad tings for Jesus. Jesus only does good things. Satan has no legitimate authority at all. The only thing lurking in the back of my mind is that no one can do anything without God’s sovereign permission. God gives Satan permission to hassle Job. Does that mean he uses his power legitimately when he takes Job’s possessions? Is God giving Satan authority to make Job ill? I think it’s important to separate God’s delegated authority with his permissive will. He gives us room to rebel but that does not make our rebellion legitimate. The bent cop is not acting with the governments authority but in rebellion to the government.

Well, I didn’t have any of this worked out when I started writing so as usual it’s my raw thoughts. I will continue to process these ideas. My main hunch is that power is released through faith. It’s not simply a command that may or may not have to be backed up by power later. There is immediately a release of power as soon as a person operates in faith. It may not need much power if power has been exerted previously in that context. For example after decades of law enforcement most people will comply very quickly. Their response has been shaped by previous power. In a similar way we work after the death and resurrection of Jesus. At the cross Jesus dealt a death blow to the forces of darkness. We do not therefore face an uphill struggle to see darkness overcome in Jesus name. I am also persuaded that Satan has no legitimate authority but is a thief, a liar and a rebel. I could go on about mankind’s original remit to rule, the extent to which that is still in effect and how Jesus has now given some increased authority but this blog is way too long already!