The first chapter introduces the first idea: that Jesus intends for all of us to be like him. He sent out all twelve disciples to heal the sick and proclaim the Gospel, to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, as Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt 6:9-10). We are to represent Jesus on earth, we are his ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20). Additionally, since Christ is in us (Col 1:27), and “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8), then by implication, we should be doing the same things Jesus did: heal the sick, preach repentance, and bring God’s Kingdom on earth. In fact, one of God’s names is “the Lord who heals you” (Ex 15:26), so Dedmon argues that God is always healing, and since Jesus only did what he say the Father doing, he healed, too. Thus in the same way, all Christians should be healing others.
On the subject of prayer, Dedmon observes that all religions have formulae for getting their god to act. Even the Jews in Jesus’ day did: you had to quote the shema (Deut 6:4-9) two times a day out loud, and also the lengthy amidah once a day to be sure of God’s blessing. However, God does not answer according to formula, He answers according to relationship. We are children of God: we can raid the refrigerator and snuggle with God and it is ok, even a good thing. Since we are God’s children, we can access God’s kingdom to bring it to earth. “Prayer that influences Heaven toward earth comes through intimacy. ... The reason intimacy is so important is that the power to release signs and wonders, miracles, and healings comes out of the presence of God. In a sense, living a naturally supernatural life is as simple as soaking and leaking; we are like a sponge, soaking up His presence, and when we walk through the world, we leak what we have received.” (p. 45)
In order to be effective at releasing the Kingdom, we need to know God. Apparently the word the Bible uses is yada in Hebrew or ginosko in Greek, which has five different aspects. First is knowing God by analysis: knowing God in more and more detail. If we do not know God in this way, we need more revelation (helpfully available in the Bible). The second is knowing the principles of how God runs His Kingdom, of understanding God’s ways. Third, we need to know God by personal experience. Fourth, we need to know God face-to-face. Not just encountering His goodness, but actually experiencing Him face-to-face. “If we desire to unlock Heaven, it is important to keep in mind that access and influence are granted through yada [knowing God face-to-face]” (p. 57) “Our Heavenly Father loves to gives us the Kingdom, but He really wants to see our face as we open up Heaven to access [the gift] He has provided. Moreover, without the connection of personal relationship, gift-giving eventually loses its appeal for the giver and the recipient.” (p. 58) The fifth aspect is sexual intimacy; this is what produces fruitfulness. Dedmon is a bit vague on this part, beyond saying that we need intimacy with God to be fruitful, and that sometimes God hides from us so that we will look for Him (just like kids want to play hide and seek), but He wants to be found: “seek and you will find” (Luke 11:9) Our role as Christians is to spread yada of God through the earth: “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2:14). The earth is not merely filled with God’s glory (it already is), but with yada of God—that is God’s answer to Habakkuk’s question about what God is going to do about wickedness.
In order to bear fruit, we need to rest in God’s presence, knowing that because Jesus’ work was finished on the cross, we are accepted without need to perform. So we should not strive to do signs and miracles, but simple rest in who we are in God and release them: “Striving in our own strength to release the Kingdom of God in signs and wonders, miracles, healing, and the prophetic can lead to performance anxiety, resulting in spiritual, emotional, and physical exhaustion.” (p. 67) God is always working (John 5:17), but He is never striving. Fruit does not strive to become ripe, it simply rests in the vine.
One of the ways that God releases healing seems to be joy (for instance, Prov 17:22). Dedmon tells the story of a woman with kidney failure who was 40 but looked much older. She came down the aisle to be healed, and after Dedmon told her that God was not upset at her for using man’s medicine (applying for a kidney transplant), He actually was smiling and dancing around her. At which point, both of them began laughing hysterically. “God gave her a brand-new kidney as we simply laughed. There were no drawn-out prayers or pleading—just laughter. That is the supernatural power of overflowing joy.” (p. 83) (Her newfound health was verified by a kidney specialist who was also attending.) Joy is normal in the Kingdom of God (Ps 16:11), it is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), and we are commanded to “be joyful always” (Thes 5:16).
Dedmon makes the argument that joy and happiness are the same thing, not joy being and state of internal contentment and happiness being external. His argument is that in Matthew 5:1-12, the word translated “blessed” is makarios, which means “hugely happy.” In Matt 5:6, Jesus says "Makarios [hugely happy] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Obviously they will be filled with God’s presence (or, perhaps, the Holy Spirit, which amounts to about the same thing), and since God presence is joy (Ps 16:11), happiness must be the same as joy. “God is in a good mood” (p. 96), and “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Neh 8:10). Thus, we should be happy and joyful, through the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21). “If we desire to be empowered to live naturally supernatural lives, it is imperative that we live from His presence, where we find the supernatural power of overflowing joy.
He then address the issue of laughter being inappropriate (indirectly addressing the controversial “Holy Laughter” of, say, the Toronto Vineyard). “You might be thinking at this point that laughter in the Church can be out of order. True, but so can singing, prophecy, tongues, dancing, and on and on. We are not to discontinue these things just because there is a possibility of disorder. We are to pastor them. I would caution, however, that our sense of order might be a lot different from God’s sense of order. We tend to thing of order as everything being in nice, neat rows, at 90-degree angles, and perfectly level. God’s sense of order is mountains popping up all over the place and winding rivers and trees strewn every which way with no semblance of purpose. A pine tree grows next to a fir tree at a different height.” (p. 87)
To live naturally supernatural, we must drink and leak. In Eph 5:18, Paul says “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be [continuously] filled with the Spirit.” And Jesus say “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38). Apparently this can be more or less continuous: “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52) Thus we are intended to drink the Spirit and leak Him out. Dedmon says that we should be “drunk in the Spirit,” because drunk people have less inhibitions. But instead of leaking out words and actions that embarrass us and that we later regret, being drunk in the Spirit makes us less inhibited to pray for people and invite people to God.
We must have a higher source of power operating in and through our lives. That source is God’s presence, where there is fullness of joy. A river does not work to bring the water into the valleys. It simply flows from a higher source. In the same way, releasing the Kingdom means simply allowing the river of joy to flow through us from Heaven; it is bringing Heaven to earth. To that end, the best way to live a naturally supernatural life—to fulfill the impossible mission—is to cultivate a lifestyle of drinking and leaking. (p. 115)
Some years ago, Dedmon had a vision where he was standing in a convertible driven by Jesus, exhilarated with the wind in his face. He then saw an Aslan-lion, who breathed out particles that became the names of God, entered his mouth and took effect. He then breathed them back out towards people, who received a name that was what they needed. From this, he draws two ideas. First, we must inhale and exhale: inhale from God, and exhale what we received to others. “Renewal is breathing in. Revival is breathing out.” (p. 122) Second, we need both the Wind and the Word. The Word of God has creative power and the Wind (the Spirit, e.g. at Pentecost), is life. We cannot have just one without the other. He goes on to say that words have power, that our words unleash God’s creativity.
Over the years Dedmon has observed that having a hunger to experience God is necessary for breakthrough. The hungrier we are for God, the more He we show up. He cites many of Jesus’ healing miracles: the men who lowered the paralytic through the roof (Luke 5:17-26), blind Bartimaeus shouting for healing even when the crowd told him to shut up (Mark 10:48), the woman who had internal bleeding for years (Mark 5:25-34) are just some examples. Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled (Matt 5:6) and notes that Jesus says he is the “bread of life” (John 6:35); and obviously you need bread when you are hungry. He speculates that perhaps Jesus was born to Mary because maybe she hungered for God’s kingdom (when she praises God she quotes David saying that the hungry are filled with good things (Luke 1:53)). Heb 11:6 says that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Additionally, Dedmon has observed that when he is hungry, or the people he is praying for are hungry, God shows up. If not, then generally God does not show up. Although, occasionally hunger is manifested as anger: people want to see God, but if He does not show up, they may get angry at Him. Hunger is often created through testimonies: when we see how God works in others, we want more of Him, too. Ultimately, we need to live a life of constantly hungering for God. “We can only give away what we have received. And the amount that we receive from God is contingent upon our hunger level. I have found that, the hungrier I am, the more breakthroughs I experience. I would like to suggest that we could grow in our hunger for God and the things of His Kingdom.” (p. 163)
The final chapter is probably fairly controversial, and illustrates many of the differences between the evangelical and charismatic world views. Judging from Dedmon’s comments throughout the book, it seems like he started out fairly evangelical, and it is obvious that his world view has changed as a result of encountering God. He even had a few years where he quit being a pastor and lived pretty much for himself (he quickly repented while being forced to be prayed for on stage and he was in fear of God striking him dead). The first idea he presents is that God has called us to a partnership. This started with Adam and Eve, who were to rule over the world and subdue it: subduing the earth was clearly God’s will, be Adam and Eve got the privilege of expressing God’s with their own personalities.
For many years, I truly believed that I was not gifted enough and did not have enough faith to see people healed through my prayers. When people came to me for healing, I would direct them to someone who was ‘gifted.’ Consequently, no one was ever healed through me. My understanding of the “gift of healing” was that God sovereignly gave the gifts according to how He saw fit—if you had it, then you had it. If you didn’t, then you didn’t. It never occurred to me that I could access the gifts through hunger, as discussed in the previous chapter. (p. 170)
(It should be noted that now Dedmon runs the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, and has seen congregation members of churches his team has visited be verifiably healed of cancer, cut thumbs, removed jawbones, chronic pain.) Jesus commanded all his disciples to heal the sick (among other things), both to the 12 disciples (Matt 10:8) and to the 72 (Luke 10:9). He says that healing is one of the signs that will accompany all believers (Mark 16:17-18). Therefore, we are all commanded to heal (as well as the other things). Furthermore, when Jesus teaches the Disciples to pray, he tells them to say “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done” not “May your Kingdom come.”
Nothing in the Greek text warrants this sense of pleading for His Kingdom to come or hoping that He will somehow grant our request. The problem with praying from this perspective is that it wrongfully relinquishes all of our responsibility for the outcome of breakthrough, placing it all on God and His supposed predetermined will. No wonder God gets the bad rap when things do not work out in people’s lives the way they had hoped. We are relying on God to do what He is relying on us to do! (p. 171)
In fact, apparently come is declarative in the Greek: “Your Kingdom come right now.” (p. 171) Not only that, but the Greek suggests that it is a single point in time, so we need to continually be declaring God’s Kingdom to be coming. We have this authority because we are children of God, bought by Jesus’ blood and because we are God’s priesthood. [Note: also because Jesus gave us His authority, as Luke 10:19 and Matt 28:18-19 suggest] “As priests of God, we are to declare His rule—His influence—wherever we see injustice; we are to mediate Heaven to earth and into every situation that needs God’s intervention.” (p. 173) Thus, we are partners with God, and while God provides the power, He expects us to use it, particularly by declaring that the Kingdom should come. Dedmon gives an example of a woman with debilitating pain who had been prayed for by all the team members without success came to him. It was late, he was irritated, and said “Well then, be healed. I release a 20-year old body to you in Jesus’ name.” She yelled, fell backwards, and some minutes later stood up completely healed of her pain. “Even though I was irritated, reluctant, and had no sense of faith for this woman’s condition, my decision to speak the words released the Kingdom in her body. She received a breakthrough because I chose to partner with God to release His presence.” (p. 173)
So, why don’t we see more healings? Because we think that since God is sovereign, if we are sick, it must be His choice, so He will heal us if He so desires, and therefore we do not ask. But Dedmon argues that we can change God’s mind: Abraham whittled God down from “I will destroy Sodom” to “I will destroy Sodom only if there are fewer than 10 righteous people in it.” Moses changes God’s mind about not coming with the people in Exodus 33. Jesus’ mother, Mary, changes Jesus’ mind about not doing a miracle at the wedding banquet where the wine had run out. Thus as God’s priests, one of our roles is to mediate between Heaven and Earth, influencing God to change the situation.
Dedmon closes by saying that God desires us to partner with Him to bring the Kingdom. We are to work in the harvest field preaching repentance and salvation. We are to heal the sick and cast out demons. We are God’s ambassadors and priests, bringing God’s Kingdom to earth.
This review is rather longer than most of my reviews, so let me summarize Dedmon’s points before discussing them.
- God desires healing. God is generous; God is always in a good mood. God brings healing
- God desires us to be like Him; therefore we should do what He does (including bringing healing)
- There is no formula to get God to act; God acts out of our relationship with Him. The supernatural flows out of our intimacy with God.
- We need to know God in five ways: know information about Him, know His ways, know Him through personal experience, know Him face-to-face, and know Him intimately.
- God is joyful; we need to be.
- To live supernaturally, we need to drink in God’s presence, and then leak His presence out to those around us.
- We should not strive to bring the supernatural, but to let it come naturally out of who we are in God.
- We need to hunger for God; the more we hunger, the more we will be satisfied.
- Jesus gave us His authority.
- God partners with us to bring His Kingdom; it is our responsibility to declare it into being, His responsibility is to provide the power.
Now for the discussion. As an evangelical who has been desiring to experience God, I visited a charismatic church (Hope in the City), where I was generously given this book in response to some questions I had. I should also note that the service, while charismatic, was very orderly and full of wisdom, and that Ron Parrish, the pastor of this church, spoke at Perspectives this year, and is heading out to the mission field again. Furthermore, my fairly conservative pastor is a personal friend of Ron Parrish, speaks highly of him and his church, and had previously even gave me a copy of Parrish’s book on prayer. So I respect this church’s discernment. Yet, here I am given a book, sold within the church, that, quite frankly, says some pretty crazy things and talks about people (like Bob Jones) whom I am rather uncomfortable with. But, when the guy who bought me the book prayed for me, he said that he saw me standing at the ocean, with me feet in the water. He said that the ocean is the Holy Spirit/God; God desires to expand my experience of Him, but how much is up to me. In fact, the whole reason I was at the church in the first place was that I have been “soaking” for the past six months and am so much happier and in love with God than I have been for 10 years, yet I am also uncomfortable with how the Holy Spirit is often expressed. So I cannot just write this off like I have in the past.
My instinctive reaction of the last few chapters is “uh-oh, health and wealth gospel”! I think I understand why evangelicals take a dim view of charismatics: we see the emphasis on the signs and wonders, but we do not see their understanding that blessings and miracles come from a relationship with God. But I do not think that Dedmon is actually preaching health and wealth. For one thing, he never once mentions money and he never proposes a formula. In fact, he specifically says that it is the quality of our relationship with God that influences Him to answer our prayers. What looks to us like a “health gospel” really comes from his assumptions about the Kingdom. As an evangelical, I think my world view is that we are called to persevere out of emptiness in faith, and only in Heaven the Kingdom of God comes in its fullness of health and happiness. In contrast, Dedmon’s world view is that God desires His Kingdom to come on earth, as it is in Heaven. Presumably he realizes that this will not actually be fully realized on earth, since not everyone will choose to participate in the Kingdom, but yet, what is God’s desire? Is it that we suffer patiently on earth, toiling at God’s will of saving people from Hell until He returns? Or, are we to be like Jesus, who said he came to bring abundant life and enjoyed life so much that he was accused of being a glutton and drunkard? Which God are people going to be most attracted to, anyway? I cannot deny that what Dedmon says about God seems correct both from Scripture and from rational thinking, so my conclusion is that I have probably been missing something about who God is.
I also am completely scared to try “declaring” the Kingdom to heal someone, and after thinking about it, I think it is that I am not convinced that God has actually given me that authority and that I am am not convinced that God actually wants us to be healed. But, since I find Dedmon’s argument fairly persuasive and as I write this I cannot think of anything to actually support my lack of conviction, I suspect that this is another case of me simply not realizing who God is. Scripture is on Dedmon’s side, and if so, how awesome would it be to be part of bringing God’s Kingdom on earth to all who would receive it!
Now at this point I suspect some readers will be saying, “But God’s Kingdom is the set of believers; His physical Kingdom cannot come on earth until Heaven because of our sin.” This is a true statement. But just because Israel failed to draw people to God does not mean that was not God’s desire. Just because the Church will ultimately fail does not mean that God does not desire His Kingdom to come through the Church. And what is the Kingdom? Israel was supposed to draw surrounding nations to God through the abundant material blessings of God. Are there to be needy people in the Kingdom? No, we, the hands and feet of God are to work to provide for those in need (Eph 4:28); indeed, God promises to provide for us so that we can be a blessing to others (Luke 12:22-34). Does God desire His Kingdom to be free of sickness? Yes! James 5:13-18 directs us to pray for healing when we are sick. Jesus came to bring abundant life (John 10:10). True, God may not always heal (e.g. Paul’s thorn in the flesh, or due to sin [Jam 5:16]), and we’re going to die from something unless maybe we know God as well as Enoch and Elijah, but it seems like His general will is that His Kingdom be manifest in us in abundance. The key is, the abundance is not so that we can consume it, but to overflow to others.
Dedmon also explains some long-standing questions I have had when reading Acts: why is the life of Christians in Acts so filled with miracles and the Holy Spirit but ours is not, and how did Peter know God wanted to heal the beggar in Acts 3? It seems like it is a combination of several things. First, Peter had an actual relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit; for the most part, our “personal relationship” with Jesus consists of reading the Bible, which while it gives us the first sense of yada, we’re missing 4/5ths of the rest. Second, if God responds based on our relationship with Him, clearly Peter had a more ongoing with-ness of God than we do, so it stands to reason that He was in a better position to sense God’s desires and that God would respond deeply, because his relationship was deep. Third, clearly Jesus gave Peter the authority, and perhaps Peter is simply exercising his authority, like Dedmon describes. So, if I want to be like Peter, I’m going to need to know God well, because why would God entrust great authority to me if I don’t have good relationship with God? Can God trust me to use His authority to advance His Kingdom using His ways?
I found “Unlocking Heaven” to be very useful as a completely different way of looking at God. I tend to view God through my responsibility to Him: honoring and obeying Him. Dedmon looks at who God is: loving, joyful, generous, delegating. Both are Biblical, but Dedmon’s view is certainly more freeing! So I am challenged to ask God to show me if Dedmon is right. If you are an evangelical and you can get over your instinctive reaction to charismatics and healings and ask God to show you what is right, this book will challenge your thinking of who God is and cause you to hunger after Him. And both evangelicals and charismatics alike know that that is Biblical!
Probably not a 100-year book, so writing is a 5 (average). It is a fun read, though, because who doesn’t enjoy hearing about people being healed and accepting Christ on the spot? Yet, while the principles tend to get buried in the stories, he offers some good principles. The book initially feels like ten rather unrelated chapters, but upon further reflection, he is building towards the end—after we know God, understand His character and His desires, we can partner with Him in His desire to bring His Kingdom.