Category Archives: hearing God

Report from the Street

By Marv

” The meat is in the street,” John Wimber used to say.

His aphorism goes back to Jesus’ words in John 4:32 and 34

 “I have food to eat that you do not know about.  My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

Jesus had just prophesied open the heart of a fallen, theologically-confused woman and brought salvation to a village. Though He was tired and thirsty (vv. 6-7) and doubtless also hungry, seeing God glorified in the goodness mediated through His own words and actions was more deeply satisfying than the choicest meat and drink.

I recall being cautioned, in Seminary, against Wimber’s contention that the kind of empowered ministry Jesus engaged in here was just the kind of thing we as disciples should do, following in His footsteps. This, despite His explicit instructions immediately afterward to see the “harvest” as He did as well as His reminder that they are commissioned to be “reapers.” The works He did in the Father’s name, everyone who believes in Him will… may… should… do in His name (John 14:12). Let’s get it and let’s do it.

I have a sweet story from some who are learning to “do the stuff” or rather who are going out and doing it. A team of students from a training program at a Dallas church step out each week to lift up their eyes to the Spirit’s leading and do the works in His power which have been prepared for them. Here’s what happened two weeks ago today.

In the morning team leader “C” found himself driving to the church out of his usual route, for some reason. Passing a coffeehouse he had seen but not visited, he sensed his attention being drawn to it and figured this might the spot the Spirit was sending his team to that day.

So there they went, and when C stepped in and saw a familiar face, he knew one of the reasons they were there. The man was a minister–an evangelist–and C had known him slightly, as a customer in a different coffeehouse where C had once been an employee. So C and another team member, “M” (both men, as it happens) sat down and began to chat with him.

Meanwhile, students “F” and “S” (women, as it happens) took a look around, looking and listening for what the Spirit might be saying to them. An adjoining room where patrons sat sipping Java had artwork displayed along the walls. One odd painting caught F’s eye, because it had a small inscription in French, her native language. It read “Pour le corps,” that is “For the body.” Across the top of it a row of human figures stood holding their hands on their bellies. Below them a vicious-looking blob with bared fangs turned menacingly toward a pair of vaguely tear-shaped objects. Weird picture.

“Looks like a liver to me,” F told S, about the lopsided teardrops, and they decided to go for it. The painting hung on the wall over a lady, like a sign, and after introducing themselves to her, they casually asked her if perhaps she had had issues with her liver.

In fact she had, for not a week earlier she had been diagnosed with liver cancer. She declined their offer to pray for her healing, however, first since she was a Muslim and second because she had confidence in the treatment she had been prescribed. She was interested in talking to the ladies however. As it happens the lady was Turkish, while F is French and S Lebanese. And they talked about Jesus, who the lady, being Moslem, said did not die on the cross. Our two ladies explained not only how He did, but why. In short, they preached her the gospel.

Though she declined prayer for healing, she was happy to let them give her a blessing as she was leaving. So bless her they did, with a request for Jesus to reveal Himself to her–even in her dreams, as is reportedly not uncommon among Muslims. Saying goodbye, she kissed them on the cheek, one cultural feature all three had in common. Would she be healed? Would she come to faith in Jesus? This we likely will now know. But did she hear God’s word and sense His love from God’s people? Without question.

Meanwhile C and M were still talking with the coffee-loving minister, and by this time speaking words of encouragement over him, for he was sorely in need of encouragement it seems. F and S joined them, as their lady had left, and a mental image of a little girl flashed through F’s mind. She thought “daughter.” At the same time a cloud-like shape in the mottled floor pattern seemed to jump out at her, reminding her of a “thought balloon” you see in the comics. Had the man been thinking about his daughter?

A second before she could ask, M “stole her thunder.” “Do you have a daughter?” he asked the man. In fact he did, though he had lost contact with her for years. She was grown and living in New York. But she had been on his mind, a great deal, as he was hoping and praying to be able to restore their relationship, which had long since become estranged. So they prayed for this, of course.

Now as for what happened as they were finishing up, you have to understand that this was July in Texas and it was a typical sultry Dallas day, under a clear sky, the hot, humid air lay motionless on us all day. I can testify to that.

C’s prayer for the man had been, among other likely phrases, that God’s Spirit would blow afresh over his ministry–which refreshment he needed. They had stepped out the front door, accompanying him toward his car, when a sudden gust of wind came along, nearly knocking the table umbrellas over, and picking up fallen leaves and pedals from the bushes and swirling them in a vortex.

The man and our team stared in amazement. The event was so striking, several patrons inside the shop ran out to see what was happening. The moment then stepped off the curb, however, the wind stopped.

One man who had stepped out was impressed. “Would you mind praying for me too?” he asked. And so they did.

What do we make of this kind of thing? Acts quality? Not quite, but frankly, I think it’s getting there. Not momentous, not earth-shattering. No thousands were saved. Perhaps not one person was saved through this outing. But people were loved in Jesus name. People heard the good news. People were encouraged. People were prayed for and blessed. And for those with eyes to see, God showed Himself alive and well.

Is it easy enough to toss off every one of these details as imagination, coincidence, simple natural occurrence. Absolutely. And please do so if that is what you wish.

But I think it is a little, sweet example of how the Holy Spirit testifies to Jesus through His people and brings glory to the Father. And it is useful for illustrating a few of the ways the Lord speaks to us, as Jesus promised He would, and leads us into the works prepared beforehand that we should walk in.

It’s a remarkable report, or I guess I wouldn’t be writing about it. But really, if we believe our Lord, this is simply normal Christian life.

 

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Pneumatica according to Matthew

By Marv

Note: “Pneumatica” is a term taken from 1 Cor. 12:1 and 14:1, intended in this series as a general term for Spirit-empowered ministry and its particular manifestations. This series aims to examine how different New Testament writers present this aspect of the Lord’s plan for His Church.
 

Kingdom authority

The gospel according to Matthew presents Jesus as the anointed King. It begins by recounting His royal heritage (1:1-17) and continues with Herod’s jealousy toward the One  “who has been born king of the Jews” (2:2).  When He begins His public ministry, He proclaims “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17).

Not surprisingly then the people see that He “was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29).  Authority (exousia) is a key term in Matthew to characterize Jesus’ standing, His teaching, and in most evident way His power over nature, disease, death and demons. Leave it to a member of the occupying force to get it with crystal clarity, when most of Israel missed it:

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. (Matthew 8:8-10)

Another kind of occupying force understood Christ’s authority all too well, as the demons themselves had to beg to be commanded by Him (8:31).

Jesus Himself explicitly linked His authority over sin to His exercise of acts of divine power:

 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Matthew 9:6)

Note how Matthew expresses the reaction of the crowds:

 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:8)

“To men” he writes, not for a moment minimizing that Jesus Christ is Himself God, but pointing out that as the anointed King expressing the kingdom of heaven on earth, He was Man–the epitome of man: the Son of Man–under the authority of God. He exercised authority because He was a man under authority given to Him.

Disciples as Deputies

“Men,” plural, also because in the Father’s plan, Jesus not only received authority, He deputized others with His authority:

 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. (Matthew 10:1)

He taught His disciples not only to understand and pass on His teaching, but to do the works of power that He was given authority to do (as He would later make explicit in John 14:12). This was essential to what it meant to be a disciple:

 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:25)

He assured them in acting as men under His authority, they would resemble Him in power, but also would face the same opposition from hostile elements. Why would they also be called “Beelzebul”? Because Jesus’ disciples exercise overt spiritual power, as He did. His enemies could not deny the power, but attributed it to Satan (9:34), not to the authority of God, not to the kingdom of heaven.

This first mission was practical training for them, an arrangement of  limited duration–and of limited scope. It foreshadowed and prepared them for a more vast and ongoing mission later, but for the moment, His instructions were:

Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. (Matthew 10:5-8)

How they knew how to do all this, Matthew does not tell us. But they were disciples (mathetai), learners. In addition to learning from Jesus, and seeing His example, He was now having them learn by doing. The trip was not an end in itself, but preparation for what they would be doing after He would leave. Though His instructions were, then and there, to remain within Israel, it would not always be so limited, as He made clear they would eventually “be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:18). Thus the plan was not for the twelve alone, but for all the other disciples after them–until the time of His return:

 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:21-23)

They were told–and since we too are disciples, we are told–to rely on the Spirit of God–to communicate both to us and through us. Pentecost would enable what He says here. Note that “extrabiblical revelation” is not merely allowed–it is commanded:

 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)

Faith as an expression of authority

John would later tell us “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). No one can claim to have done this more literally than Peter, who is the only human apart from Jesus we know to have walked on the water. He did it poorly, to be sure, but he did it. And he understood enough that this was possible–but only possible–as a man under authority:

 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29)

Authority. Remember? “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Authority is a key to Spirit-empowered ministry. Power is a function of authority, and authority a function of Jesus specific command through the Holy Spirit. A man under authority, even He did only and all He was commanded and authorized to do (John 5:19; 14:10). He was always listening. He means for us to be always listening, as the Spirit has given so that Jesus would speak to us, command us, through Him (John 16:14-15).

And this is foundational to faith as Jesus means it, obedience to a specific command, and confidence in that command to empower obedience where He has commanded it, because the authority is God’s. He showed us this with an extreme example, followed by an even more extreme teaching–which He means His disciples to take seriously:

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:18-22)

Understand, He means we can remove a mountain not if we simply feel like it and somehow “have faith” in the power of prayer, but when acting as “one under authority.” He expects us to believe that even a mountain goes if we say go, if He has commanded us to do this–and we have confidence in the power of His authority. Remember again, this clear understanding of authority is the “faith” he saw in the centurion.

Lest we miss it here, Matthew brings us back to understanding authority in the next verse. Jesus’ authority is from heaven–the kingdom of heaven–thought the leaders of the Nation missed it:

 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21:23-27)

The irony, and also the mystery of God’s plan is that the Nation–whose legitimate King was Jesus–did not recognized His authority, for the most part. Their rejection, however, was an effective cause of the kingdom of heaven spreading to the nations, the gentiles.

Authority and the nations

So whereas He sent his twelve disciples out on a limited mission to “only the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” the ongoing mission given to His disciples has no such limitation. Like that first mission, however, Jesus sends out His disciples as people under authority:

And Jesus came and said to them, “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Those words, the great commission, are so familiar, that we might miss how they fit into Matthew’s gospel and its themes.

  • Jesus, the Son of Man, under authority, sends out his disciples under authority. He thus wants them to have full confidence in the power of His authority, preaching the good news and doing the works He trained them to do, such as healing the sick, casting out demons. This is just what the first disciples did, as we see in the book of Acts.
  • He wants them to continue the work among the nations, which He began within Israel. This is what the first disciples did, as we see in the book of Acts.
  • He wants his disciples to make more disciples, who will then following His instructions, make yet more disciples. As disciples, they will also do His work, under His authority, in His power.
  • This is a mission well beyond the lives of the first disciples, the apostles, not in any way dependent on their lifespans, as disciples are self-replicating. All of them, all of us, are people under authority, and He wants us to understand, believe, and act on that authority, as the apostles did.
  • He assures them–and us–that He is with us, not meant as some kind of  sentimental reassurance–but as an assurance of His active presence, ongoing communication through the Holy Spirit, His continuing to do His works through us, in the power of His authority. And this, Jesus says, continues “to the end of the age.

Jaws

By Marv

I see a screen in front of me. On it I see sin being committed. I know the details because the details are right there before my eyes–fellow believers acting in shameful and disgusting ways.

No this isn’t some kind of visionary experince–just the internet. You can have the same experience too, if you think you can stand it–by clicking on this link and reading Phil Johnson’s cyber-slander of Mark Driscoll. If you are so inclined you can join in the all-you-can eat sin-fest offered there. The waters are nicely chummed, and the jaws have not been idle.

I hadn’t planned to do a Pyromaniac hat trick (DP, FT, and now PJ), but the guys are on an anti-Continuationist tear–and are at it still, each of the Pyros seemingly trying to outdo the other in their Cesso fervor. I can’t even keep up with ’em.

This one’s all about a five minute video, clipped and edited from an hour-long message on Spiritual Warfare presented in Februrary 2008, and specifically posted on Youtube by Phil Johnson, for the purpose of inflaming opposition to Driscoll. To ensure that viewers will treat it as scandalous, he qualifies the video as “extremely disturbing” and entitles his post, “Pornographic Divination.” In case his subtlety is lost on you, he is accusing his brother of a double abomination. Nice.

The center piece of the video is surely a one-minute description of what Driscoll presents as a visionary experience through which he had detailed knowledge of a woman’s unconfessed sin. Evidently the woman, along with her husband, had consulted Driscoll in regard to a spiritual problem, and because he believed the incident left a significant foothold for demonic oppression, he confronted her with the facts of the matter.

Now whether or not Driscoll leaves himself open to criticism over this story, Johnson’s labeling of the incident either as “pornographic” or “divination” is wicked–many times more sleazy than the putative scandal he attempt to construct from Driscoll’s words. And the subsequent comment thread once again demonstrates the power of a little blood in the water. “Fish are friends not food,” chanted the twelve-stepping sharks. Remember the ichthys? Identifying a brother in Christ. They’re not food either, chum.

But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Gal. 5:15)

It is difficult to know which part shocks Johnson more: the “pornographic” or the “divination,” but given his blitzkrieg of Cessationist postings of late, I’d venture to say the latter. He explains his objections in six bullet points, which I will address one at a time:

1. Johnson calls what Driscoll is doing “soothsaying.” Thus he puts Driscoll’s acts in the same category as a fortune teller consulting Tarot cards or a crystal ball, despite the fact that Driscoll is not “fortune telling” but in the main incident identifying a sin ten years in the past. Note that at this point it is not a matter of the specific content of Driscoll’s purported visions, but the mode of them. In this his aim is rather wide of the mark, since the activity which Driscoll is at least claiming to be engaged in falls within the clear Biblical description of prophecy:

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor. 14:24-25)

If pointing out specific sins, even sexual sins, through revelation by the Holy Spirit is “soothsaying,” Johnson indicts even our Lord:

Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. (John 4:17-19).

That the revelation behind prophecy can be through a visual experience is also perfectly Biblical, as on a large scale, the book of Revelation shows us.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Rev. 1:1-3)

As does, on a smaller scale, Jesus’ vision of Nathanial.

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” (John 1:48-50).

Johnson objects as well to Driscoll’s using the term “discernment” in regard to this activity, and he cites a couple of verses on “discernment” to show Driscoll guilty of “bad teaching,” saying that the Biblical “gift of discernment” is quite different from this. But what Driscoll is actually referring to is “discernment of spirits,” which he abbreviates simply “discernment.” Recall that this talk is over an hour long, and the clip is five minutes of this. There is certainly “discernment” which has nothing to do with evil spirits, but this does not negate the validity of discernment of Spirits.

Part of the confusion here is that the clip really is torn from context. The message is about “Spiritual Warfare,” dealing with demons who are oppressing people. This is where “discernment of spirits” comes in, and why Driscoll specifically deals with a past unconfessed sin. The aspect of “discernment of spirits” that is involved is determining why a person may be susceptible to demonic oppression. And the revelation that Driscoll refers to serves that function.

Whether the particular instances Driscoll cites are genuine or not, the practices he is teaching about in this video, discernment of spirits, revelation from the Holy Spirit, confronting another regarding sin, have a high Scriptural pedigree, the kind of actions engaged in by Christ and the apostles. Johnson’s charge is thus slanderous at best and perhaps even blaspemous.

2. Johnson next impugns Driscoll for his statement that in perceiving the Spirit’s revelation, he does not always see, hear, or understand clearly. This is based on the wholly spurious but frequently asserted notion that spoken prophecy in Bible times was inerrant as the Scriptures are. Deut. 18:15-22 is often cited as support that at least Old Testament prophecy was inerrant. Actually, the passage teaches precisely the opposite: while God’s revelation to the prophet is perfect, the prophecy spoken is subject to the prophet (1 Cor. 14:32). It ought to exactly equal to the Lord’s revelation, but it might not be. A prophet’s speech is not guaranteed as the Scriptures are. They have to be tested. This is exactly what Paul counsels in both 1 Thes. 5:20-21 and 1 Cor. 14:29. (Since I wrote this, Sam Storm’s excellent post on the subject has now appeared, and makes much the same point.)

One speaking on the basis of revelation, such as Driscoll describes ought therefore to voice conclusions tentatively. And this is precisely what he says he does in the video. He clearly states he does not “know” the details to be factual, but thinks they are. He then advises the person to verify the facts.

Incredibly, Johnson accuses Driscoll of accusing people of serious sins–on the basis of imperfect knowledge. Of course, Johnson does not claim perfect knowledge of Driscoll’s actions. If he contacted him directly prior to posting his screed, he does not indicate it. At least Driscoll advises verification. Johnson just forges ahead based on his own prejudice, and blasts the man before a potential audience of every living man, woman and child in the world.

3. Johnson criticized Driscoll for mentioning graphic details. Once again, he is evidently referring to the one minute section about the woman’s affair. “Salacious details” is the term Johnson uses. He does indicate the man “climbed on top,” but beyond this the details include hair and eye color, type of bedspread, and approximate year. It is about as “salacious” as your average PG movie love scene. By contrast, due to all the blood-letting, Johnson’s post and comment stream have to be at least PG-13.

He may have a point though, that this level of detail is unnecessary. Driscoll’s point, I take it, was to show that visionary revelation may be quite specific and accurate. Neither the video nor Johnson’s post tells us whether Driscoll’s description was accurate. Cessationists are wont to complain of contemporary prophecy and “words of knowledge” as being vague and insipid. Or else the putative prophet is merely engaged in cold reading. One of Johnson’s colleagues, Dan Phillips recently wagged that arguing for Continuationism was “self-refuting” since genuinely miraculous results ought to speak for themselves. So when a prophecy is vague many Cessationists complain of lack of verifiable detail. When it is anything but vague, it contains unnecessary information. If it turns out to be correct, it is a good guess. If it is beyond the power of a good guess… could it be Satan?

4. Evidently it is, Johnson suggests, because the Holy Spirit’s eyes are too holy to look on sin. Clearly, the least sin is perfectly abhorrent to the Godhead, and God cannot look on sin approvingly. But remember that the Spirit is sent to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8). Are we to imagine that sexual sin is beyond His ken, or more repugnant than pride, malice, and strife? He empowers prophecy to reveal the secrets of the heart (1 Cor. 14:24). And, O gentle reader, if you are a believer, He indwells you. And you Mr. Johnson. Who will say that living in such places as your heart and mine He has not been witness to much more sordid spectacles?

Anyway, the Spirit of God, having inspired passages such as Genesis 19:30-38, Genesis 38, and others, can handle revealing the mundane sins of the flesh. (Again, since I wrote this I have another fine place to link to on the “lurid and crude passages of Scripture.” )

5. Johnson further reveals his prejudice in characterizing Driscoll’s statement as “whacko fringe,” cleverly changed to “whacko mainstream.” What? Is he encountering a ten-story Jesus? Is it about Christ’s face on a tortilla? What exactly is “whacko” about revealing the secrets of the heart through the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God and calling sinners to repentence?

What then passes Johnson’s imprimatur for a Continuationist? Muttering in tongues in one’s closet? A little prayer, a little oil? Saying pretty please to demons?

Johnson then rounds up some of the usual suspects, such as Toronto or Paul Cain, matters he seems to understand poorly–despite some curiously strong opinions–in order to besmirch his “theological betters” as his ilk would put it, such as Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Jack Deere, and Sam Storms.

6. Finally, calls Continuationism a “leaky Canon” and Continuationists loose cannons. Frankly, this shows him clueless, as Spirit-empowered ministry is no threat to the Canon or Scripture. He seriously misunderstands Sola Scriptura.

And while any contemporary ministry is weakened through the failings of the feeble human being engaged in it, Spiritual Warfare, discernment of spirits, prophecy and such are not unique in this, but are under the authority and scrutiny of Scripture. But so is theo-blogging.

And among the six yea seven things the Lord hates and are an abomination to him is “one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:19) (Ah, here‘s a nice link to Proverbs.)

In short the characterization of this short video as “extremely disturbing” or “pornographic” or in any way scandalous is seriously contrived, distorted, overblown.

Are there, though, any points of concern or question? Sure. Not for censure of Driscoll as an “out of control” charismaniac. I do get the impression such a conclusion is a “consummation devoutly to be wished.” So that this nigh-on four year old snippet can be puffed into a full-blown scandal, then well done thou good and faithful. Driscoll is an outspoken, and I have to say at least at times well-spoken advocate for Spirit-empowered ministry. He’s also (more than) a little “in your face,” having qualified hard cessationists at least as “worldly.” (Insert gasp here.) The Pyroids don’t seem to have taken this lying down. Naturally their recent flurry of post after post of anti-Continuationist lather is entirely unrelated to any hurt feelings over Driscoll’s mean and nasty name calling.

But the short video can serve as a springboard for instruction, not on whether or not to engage in Spirit-empowered ministry—that is a given—given by our Lord, but in how to go about it. What guidelines can we draw? This can be done by asking questions. Driscoll has no need for me to defend him. Indeed I know very little about him. I have not followed him at all, but have been positively impressed by some things he has said.

Still, this video opens the door to some questions, which might invite criticism in a few areas. So I will address the questions to him, that I would wish to ask if meeting in person. Not as an accusation, but as assistance in keeping the edges of the iron sharp and clean. And what I think may be good counsel to anyone in such a situation.

1. Have you resisted the temptation to be awesome? It was not always clear, since I don’t really know you, that you were not reveling at least a little in an image as one of the “big guys.” As you know, this has no place in this kind of ministry. So watch over your heart and guard it from pride in your abilities. Paul needed a thorn in the flesh to keep him from pride because of the visions. Will that be necessary in your case?

2.I don’t agree with your critics that what you related was “pornographic,” but at the same time, you have to be on guard against corrupted revelation. Visionary experience operates, I would suppose, on the same mental “equipment” as imagination, just as revelatory dreams operate in the space where normal dreams occur. I don’t absolutely know this of course, but if any bits of your own imagination—not to mention fantasy—can break off, as it were, and get mixed in with the revelatory content, you have to detect this and guard against it. I can’t tell you whether this has occurred. But a number of your viewers not only suspect this, but are convinced it is nothing but your imagination. Consider guarding against any misunderstanding—much less correct understanding—which would give opponents cause to blaspheme.

3.Do you consider that receiving revelation about someone is different from permission to share it with that person? In your story about the woman, the circumstances were not quite clear to me. I would be concerned about sharing that kind of material to or about a person in front of others, particularly the person’s spouse. I’m not sure from your sketchy account how the sequence of events transpired. It is to be hoped that such things are done with discretion, dignity, and tact. This five-minute clip did not go into discretion, dignity, and tact. Perhaps you do later in the presentation.

4. Dealing with issues of abuse and other instances when the subject was a child, it is important not to suggest or implant alien ideas that might be false but taken as reality, whether or not confirmed by the subject later. Again, this bit of video does not dwell on how you did, or on how one ought to go about this very delicate matter. Perhaps you do later. If not consider doing so in the future.

None of us is free from sin, and even our best efforts are tainted with our sinfulness. The Scripture tells us even our righteousnesses are as “filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). And if I were to spell out in “lurid” detail what that phrase actually means, I might be the next victim of the feeding frenzy.

Sense and Subjectivity

by Marv

This is the story of two sisters–and the man who loved them.

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5)

Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus–Jesus was their particular friend. There’s not a friend like Jesus–the soul of kindness, and if anyone had a just claim on that kindness, it is a particular friend.

But one day He disappointed them. Lazarus fell ill, and though they dispatched word to Jesus, they sat at their brother’s side, day after day, and watched him–anxious, frustrated, dumbfounded–as he sickened, dwindled and died. And where was Jesus? Where was their particular friend?

Now you know these ladies, daughters of the same mother and father, but so very different in their characters.

Martha is the one who, left to roll the canapés all on her own, dropped the “Don’t you care?” bomb on Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42)

Jesus? Care? You mean the one who left Glory for our sqalid hovel of a planet to come to our miserable kitchen, wipe up the spilled milk we cried over, scrape our burned toast, with His own hands–and at great personal cost–whip up a feast so nourishing that it endures for eternal life? That Jesus?

He told her, basically, that with Him there, a woman’s place was not in the kitchen.

And Mary, the other sister, she was the one who, shortly afterward will engage in–let’s face it–some pretty blatant emotional excess (John 12:1-7). It’s one thing to raise your hands while worshipping, but where’s the sense of decorum?

Still, Jesus doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, He quite approves. The congregation objects, however, particularly Judas (v. 4) who seems to have been working on commission (not the “great” one). Maybe Judas is the patron saint of the anti-emotionalists… Oh, wait, he can’t be anybody’s saint. Silly me.

So here we are, dearest brother Lazarus now dead and buried–for four days no less (V. 17)–before particular friend Jesus makes it to town. He even missed the funeral.

Martha, the sensible one, did the right thing and went to talk with Jesus. Mary, who couldn’t be separated from Him before, doesn’t go. She sits at home.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she says (v. 21). Makes sense. Perfectly theological. She was right. Worse than that, He could have healed Lazarus with a word from anywhere.

She does hint. Gives another very sensible proposition: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (v. 22). A statement of indubitable truth.

In return, Jesus gives her some of the most magnificent red letters in all the Bible.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (25, 26)

Now, I love me some propositional truth–I really do. Objective statements of Scripture that we can ground our lives on, as Jesus Himself said. The gospel is about Jesus Christ, what He did, and does, outside us. Martha understood this. She knows: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (v. 24). She believes: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (v. 27).

Jesus gave Martha a great gift, showed her great kindness. Oh, that His very words to me might be written down forever in Scripture. Unimaginably gracious.

Then He asked to see Mary.

How was Mary feeling? Yes, feeling. Do you suppose John tells us for nothing that she stayed sitting in the house, while Martha went to see Jesus? Grieved over Lazarus, her heart was broken regarding Jesus. Yet, when He called for her, she hurried to Him (29, 31), and fell at His feet, crying. Not just “weeping,” crying (klaiousan).

And she said the same words as her sister: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

And they were the same words, exactly the same words–and yet what she said was not the same.

Now bringing up the Greek, directly, need only be an occasional thing. But here it is necessary. I would not begin to know how adequately to render the difference in the two sisters’ statements to Jesus. So I will show you. Understand, you may have heard that word order is not important in Greek. This is perfectly untrue. It functions rather differently from English, but there are regular patterns and variations, and these signal meaning. One device is known as “fronting,” moving a word or phrase toward the front of a sentence or clause from where it usually would stand. This gives it something called increased “prominence,” which does any number of things, depending on the context.

This is what happens in this passage. The ladies no doubt were speaking in Aramaic, though John represents their speech in Greek. And he is an excellent and thoughtful writer, the difference, subtle perhaps, is non-accidental. Non-incidental.

Martha:
Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἂν ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός μου
Kurie, ei es hode ouk an apethanen ho adelphos mou
Lord, if you-were here not – died the brother of-me.

Mary:>
Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἄν μου ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός.
Kurie, ei es hode ouk an mou apethanen ho aldephos
Lord, if you-were here not – of-me died the brother.

Syntactically, the genitive pronoun which belongs with the noun it modifies, belongs at the end of the clause, is moved up in Mary’s speech about as far as it can go in it’s clause. Semantically, this alters the focus of the statement.

Martha is stating the objective reality about Lazarus. Just the facts, ma’am.

Mary, however, is saying something about herself. Very much personal. Very subjective. It’s something like “if you had been here I wouldn’t have lost my brother,” though that is too forceful, I think.

So what was Jesus’ response to her? What was the gift He gave Mary? Some precious objectivity?

Jesus wept. (v. 35)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. (v. 33)

He was moved, troubled, emotional. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). This was His answer to her prayer. That she should “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

A subjective cry received a subjective response from our Lord, who cannot be unmoved by the tears, the cries, the pain of His particular friends.

He therefore felt with her, wept with her.

And raised her brother from the dead.

Remember, He knew all along that Lazarus was sick and dying, would die, and yet would not be left dead (4, 11, 13-15). He was acting on instructions (John 5:19), though it had to pain Him. And was He not acting in answer to prayer? The prayer, however, came later in time, or prayers, two at least, Martha’s and Mary’s.

There is great mystery here. Does it matter how we pray what we pray? “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8). It’s not a matter of information. Is there something about mingling the subjective with the objective–as we were created for both?

The Voice of the Father

by Scott

There truly is nothing like hearing the voice of the Father. He still speaks, you know. His actual voice.

From the beginning in Genesis 1, God set the precedent for His desire to communicate:

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

And it continues right through the whole of Scripture, capped off with our Lord Jesus saying in the final verses of Revelation – Yes, I am coming soon. (Hmmm. Soon. Ok, this article is not about eschatology….)

Really and truly, the pattern is set that our God is a communicative God via speaking, via His great acts, through providential guiding, through His people, through the written word of Scripture, and so on.

And we know the great voice of God ultimately came through The Word, Jesus.

The Word sets the example – only doing that which the Father is doing (John 5:19) and only speaking that which the Father is speaking (John 8:28).

He is not so bothered with setting up excellent programmes and super-duper campaigns and blow-your-mind slogans. He hears the voice of the Father, he sees the acts of the Father, and that is what compels him into action.

And it is this voice, the voice of the Father that I desire, for we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Father. I suppose starvation from the words of the Father would make us worse off than starvation from bread. The psalmist said, ‘Your love is better than life’ (Ps 63:3), and I gather the same is true of the Father’s voice.

It is powerful, gentle, strengthening, true, tender, gracious, kind, loving, caring, faithful, and so much more. It cuts through confusion and fear and bitterness and exhaustion and a whole host of other things that hold us down.

I’m stirred.

I love this poetic expression of the voice of the Lord found in Psalm 29:

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

Pretty powerful stuff – breaking strong cedars, making a nation leap like a calf, shaking deserts, twisting oaks (or some versions translate that last one as ‘makes the deer give birth’).

The voice of the Father is no patty-cake, patty-cake game. It is powerful, even in its whisper.

And so I’ve recently been re-drawn in to that reality that we cannot simply live on bread – as individuals, as churches. We must live on the words, every word, that proceeds from the mouth of God.

He meant it that way long ago. He means it that way today. He will mean also mean it for the age to come.