There is a sometimes overlooked gift called the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I consider this gift from God to be one of my choicest blessings. I know of no other gift from God, other than the atonement of Jesus Christ, that has the potential to bless us so much. The amazing gift of the Holy Ghost has guided me in small matters and large matters both.
For those of you who are familiar with my book, you will be familiar with my life experience with migraine headaches and with being told to find my son Andrew. It was through the Holy Ghost that I was guided to find the source and cure for my headaches. It was the Holy Ghost that enabled my successful search for Andrew. (A task that a Christian Adoption agency told me would be like finding a needle in a haystack)
I am continuing to focus on Depression this week. Last week we talked about delving into the depths of your soul. If you followed last week’s posts, I hope you have gotten to know yourself better and that you experienced a wonderful week of self-exploration.
This week, we are going to focus on depending on God. Thursday and Friday I shared a post from the Patheos website. Today, I continue to share a portion of that post. However, today, we will focus on the whispering of the spirit or the Holy Ghost. God speaks to us most often through the Holy Ghost. Listening to the Holy Ghost takes practice. All prophets of God have depended heavily on the Holy Ghost. We can depend on the Holy Ghost too.
When we listen with our hearts and develop a pattern of sincere communication with our Creator through prayer, we unlock a priceless treasure trove. There is no one who knows us better than God. There is no one better that can assist us with healing and any other need(s) we have.
I have seen amazing things in my life because of this gift from God. If you haven’t already, you can too. I hope you will read today’s story and then contemplate where you are with your relationship with your Creator. Think about it for the rest of the day and then let’s reconvene and talk about it some more tomorrow!:
Divine Guidance Through “Whispering”
The Old Testament book of 1 Kings contains one of the most dramatic stories in all of Scripture (1 Kgs 18-19). Israel was languishing under the corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. The royal couple had led the nation into the worship of the pagan gods, Baal and Asherah. The king and queen had killed the prophets of God, replacing them with hundreds of pagan psychics. Only Elijah remained faithful and alive as a spokesman of the true God.
Empowered by the Lord, Elijah confronted King Ahab and his multitude of prophets, challenging them to a “my God is bigger than your god” kind of duel. Both sides would build altars on Mt. Carmel and prepare sacrifices on the altars. But they would not set fire to the sacrifices in the usual manner. Instead, they would wait for fire from heaven. Whichever deity consumed the sacrifice would be the winner. That god would be recognized as the true God.
The prophets of Baal went first, preparing a bull, placing it on their altar and calling out to their god. When Baal failed to answer, they began dancing wildly around the altar, crying out for a miracle. As Elijah taunted them, they even engaged in ritual self-mutilation in an attempt to motivate Baal’s response. But the fire didn’t fall. Baal was still and silent.
Then Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down by the pagans. He prepared his sacrifice and then, just to make things a lot more difficult for God, Elijah drenched everything with buckets of water until the ditch around the altar was filled to the brim. When all the preparations were completed, Elijah prayed a simple prayer, asking the Lord to demonstrate his sovereignty. God’s response was stunning:
Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the ditch! And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried out, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” (1 Kgs 18:38-39).
In the wake of victory, Elijah zealously killed the vanquished prophets of Baal. But when Queen Jezebel heard what had happened, she sought Elijah’s life, forcing him to flee to wilderness.
Several weeks later, he found himself cowering in a cave in the desert, crying out to God for help. Then God instructed Elijah to stand outside of the cave and watch.
And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a “gentle whisper” (1 Kgs 19:11-12).
The God who had done such wonders on Mt. Carmel, the same God who controls the awesome power of wind, earthquake and fire, chose to speak to Elijah through the “sound of a gentle whisper,” what the King James Version of the Bible calls “a still, small voice.” The contrast between God’s mighty power and his quiet voice couldn’t be more stark. Though we might expect or even prefer dramatic demonstrations of divine guidance that knock us off our feet, the Holy Spirit sometimes speaks in a gentle whisper that brushes our hearts like a soft spring breeze.
Unfortunately, a multitude of contemporary Christians have trivialized this ministry of the Spirit. “God spoke to me” has become a virtual replacement for “I thought,” except that by saying “God spoke to me” a person avoids having to take responsibility for his or her actions. After all, if God told me to buy a new computer that I really don’t need, who are you and who am I to question God’s command? Claiming God’s authority for my own thoughts not only appears to protect me from being corrected, but it also gives an added punch to my own preferences.
While recognizing that the Spirit will speak to us, we must also acknowledge our tendency to misinterpret what we hear, or to mistake our own inner voice for the voice of God. My friend Dave was a pastor to young adults in a large church. Energetic, handsome, godly, and obviously single, Dave found that many of the women in his group were interested in more than just his Bible teaching. Every now and then, one of them would approach him with exciting news, “God has told me that we’re going to get married,” she’d announced happily. At first Dave didn’t know quite what to say to this unwelcome and unlikely bit of divine direction. But over time he developed an appropriate response: “Well, that could be great news. Thanks for sharing it with me. Now, just as soon as God tells me that we’re going to get married, then we’ll do something about it.” Oddly enough, God never told Dave what his young fans had purported to hear from the Spirit. He ended up marrying a wonderful woman who, ironically enough, hadn’t heard God whisper Dave’s name in her ear.
Stories like this make it easy for those of us who are more intellectually oriented to discount hearing from God altogether. I’ve known a few Christians even deny that the Spirit still speaks to our hearts in any direct way. But this extreme view opposes both the biblical record and the testimony of thousands of wise, balanced Christians who are not inclined to conjure up divine voices.
I have another pastor friend whose experience of the Spirit’s guidance for his marriage was quite unlike Dave’s. Greg, a scholarly Presbyterian minister, was teaching an adult Sunday school class one day. In the midst of his lecture, a woman entered and sat in the back of the class. Greg, who had never seen her before, barely took notice of her entrance until he heard an inner voice say distinctly: “You are going to marry that woman.” Not one to have such experiences, Greg just about fell over on the spot. Somehow he managed to finish his lesson. Many months later he did in fact marry that woman, but not because he clobbered her with a claim to spiritual guidance. First, he introduced himself to her. As a friendship developed, they both began to sense what Greg suspected from the beginning. Along with their Christian community, they discerned God’s guidance with all the tools available to them. Indeed, they did marry. Once again, a skeptic could chock up Greg’s experience to overactive libido or simply good luck. But as one who knows his spiritual integrity, I believe that the Holy Spirit spoke to Greg’s heart in order to accomplish God’s will in his life.
Today’s story is shared from the following website: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/how-does-god-guide-us/
As we continue to delve into the depths of ourselves, there is a source of help. It is called the scriptures. I believe that through the scriptures, we can come to better understand ourselves, those around us and more importantly, our Creator.
I can bear testimony to the ability the scriptures have in helping us to understand our importance while also understanding that we are as a grain of sand.
I know that it can be a challenge to understand how God can know each of us individually. All I can say is that He does. I don’t know how it is done but I witnessed it during my near-death experience. Our Creator truly is perfect and without flaw. He is love in its all encompassing perfection.
I know that God desires for you to know yourself and for you to know Him personally and intimately. It is when we better understand him, that we are able to more successfully allow Him to guide us and to help us manifest our true, divine potential.
A wonderful source of guidance in our endeavor to know ourselves is the scriptures. I hope you will enjoy today’s installment written by Mark Roberts and shared from the Patheos.com website! Have a wonderful weekend and I hope you spend some of your time over the weekend getting to know yourself better!
Divine Guidance Through Scripture
In my last two posts I explained that God can guide us through shaping the circumstances of our lives. But I admitted that this sort of guidance is often ambiguous. Circumstances may appear to point in more than one direction at the same time. Or different circumstances might seem to contradict each other. So we need to be able to weigh the events of our lives to determine with greater precision how God may be guiding us.
I would suggest that Scripture often provides the scales for this kind of discernment. Now before I go further, I should mention that I am a Christian who swims in the Reformed evangelical stream of the Protestant tradition. Knowing this about me, you’d expect me to uphold the authority of Scripture. I believe that the Bible is God’s Word given to us in human words that are, like Christ Himself, both divine and human in a mysterious way. I don’t have time here to explain in detail what I mean by this or even to defend it. But I should fess up so as to make sense of what I’m about to say about Scripture.
There are people, including some Christians, who look to the Bible for guidance even though they don’t believe it’s inspired by God in an unusual way. They view Christian Scripture as a source of wisdom similar to other sources, like the plays of Shakespeare or Gandhi’s The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Without denigrating the wisdom found in such writings, I believe that the Bible is uniquely inspired and, therefore, uniquely authoritative, and, therefore, uniquely able to guide us in life.
How Does the Bible Guide Us?
The Bible provides a reliable yardstick by which to measure our claims to be guided by the Holy Spirit through circumstances or feelings. If, for example, you think that the Spirit is leading you to do something the Bible prohibits, you can be sure that your spiritual lenses have become foggy. Throughout history, people have committed blatant sins under the claim God’s guidance. But since the Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture, that same Spirit can be guaranteed not to lead us to contradict the plain direction of Scripture.
Earlier in this series, I referred to a friend of mine, I’ll call him Bill, who claimed that God had brought him and a married woman together to deliver her from a terrible marriage. I think Bill actually believed this. Unfortunately, Bill’s claim to be led by the Spirit to commit adultery contradicted the clear teaching of Scripture in many places, including such “minor” passages as the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. No matter how much circumstances seemed to weigh in Bill’s favor, and no matter how much his feelings led him toward a intimate relationship with a married woman, he was misconstruing God’s guidance. According to Scripture, adultery is wrong, plain and simple.
There is a positive side to scriptural discernment of circumstantial guidance. If events in your life seem to point you in a certain direction, you can be more confident about that direction if it leads you to do that which Scripture affirms. This isn’t foolproof, of course. For example, if someone loses a plane ticket to Indonesia and you find it, you shouldn’t interpret that as proof that God wants you to evangelize in that country, even though sharing the gospel is consistent with God’s Word. It’s much more likely that God wants you to turn in the ticket so the rightful owner can use it. But if, on the other hand, events in your life give you an opportunity to share your faith with your neighbor, the fact that Scripture teaches you to do this very thing makes the probability of divine guidance in that direction more likely.
The Bible gives us much more than the ability to evaluate the spiritual significance of circumstances. It is the primary source for divine guidance in our life. The Spirit who inspired the biblical writers also works in our hearts to help us understand what God wants to say to us through the Bible. One of the chief functions of Scripture is to reveal God’s will for our lives. (Of course I realize that some Christians today do not recognize the unique authority of Scripture. They believe that their experience can trump biblical teaching. But this opens a Pandora’s box of confusion. What if your experience and my experience lead to inconsistent conclusions about divine guidance? How can experience be the ultimate arbiter of God’s guidance?)
Often, when folks say “I am seeking God’s will for my life,” they are referring to God’s specific will, whether to marry a certain individual, or to take a job offer, or to go on a mission trip. But the Bible usually refers to God’s will in a more general sense, as that which we all should do with our lives. For example, Paul writes: “For this is God’s will, that you be fully set apart from this world to live for him, that you keep away from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, my translation). If you are tempted with sexual sin, you really don’t have to spend too much time wondering which partner God wants you to fornicate with. Scripture has made God’s will abundantly clear: don’t do it!
In another place Paul writes, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Through this verse, the Spirit of God is guiding all of us to be thankful in prayer. Given the fact that there are thousands of imperatives in the Bible–thousands of actions God wants us to do–we can’t read too far without encountering divine guidance for our lives.
If we take Scripture seriously, therefore, we can know that it’s God’s will for us to worship him, praise his name, give thanks for his gifts, pray for his help, love God and our neighbors and our enemies, feed the poor, seek justice for the oppressed, invite the homeless into our homes, be faithful to our spouses, tell others about Jesus, gather with other Christians on a regular basis for fellowship, and so on and so on.
I realize that what I’ve just said may not satisfy the person who is asking: “But is it God’s will for me to do this particular thing?” I do in fact believe that sometimes we receive more specific guidance through Scripture, and I’ll say more about this in my next post. But I also believe that if we do the things that are clearly commended in Scripture, our minds and hearts will be shaped by the Spirit so that we are more apt to correctly discern God’s specific will in specific situations.
From Scripture we know that we should love God, love our neighbors, love our enemies, etc. etc. etc.
But what about when we’re facing decisions in which general biblical teaching doesn’t seem to make an obvious difference? The clear call to love my neighbor, for example, doesn’t tall me exactly how to do this, or exactly which neighbors of the hundreds in my life deserve the bulk of my time and attention.
The Holy Spirit can also give quite specific direction as we encounter the text of the Scripture, taking that which is true for all Christians and applying it to our particular lives and situations. This sort of thing happens all the time in personal Bible study, in group studies, and when God’s Word is preached. This is one major reason, by the way, that I am a preacher. I’ve seen God change lives through the power of his proclaimed Word.
For example, several years ago in a sermon I mentioned an Old Testament passage in which the Lord says, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16). I connected this passage to the teaching of Jesus on marriage, calling my congregation to a new commitment to marriage. As I greeted folks after service, I heard the usual collection of “Nice sermon, pastor” comments.
The next morning I received an altogether different kind of response. A man I’ll call Jeff called me at church. He had been in worship the day before and had a desperate need to speak with me. He didn’t want to elaborate on the phone, but said it had to do with my sermon. I rearranged my schedule so I could visit with him over his lunch hour.
“Your sermon really upset me,” Jeff began.
Oh no, not a great start to this conversation, I thought quietly as I steeled myself for his criticism.
“What you said about marriage and divorce has completely messed me up,” he continued. He then told me his story. A couple years ago, he had begun an affair with a coworker. When his wife discovered his unfaithfulness, Jeff left her and their two small children, and moved in with his girlfriend. Shortly thereafter, he began divorce proceedings. At the time of our lunch meeting, everything was final, except one last signature. With the sweep of a pen, Jeff’s marriage would be completely over.
Until the day before when I mentioned that God hates divorce, Jeff had never really questioned the morality of his actions. He was sorry to hurt his wife’s feelings and especially those of his children. But he was tired of his marriage and in love with his coworker. Then, owing to a number of “coincidences,” Jeff had visited our church the day before, only to hear my sermon on marriage and divorce. (This, by the way, illustrates quite wonderfully how the Spirit can use both circumstances and Scripture to guide us.)
“For the first time I’m wondering what God thinks about what I’ve done,” Jeff continued. “Maybe I shouldn’t get divorced. Maybe I should try to get back with my wife, though by now she hates my guts. I don’t know what to do. What do you think I should do?”
I tried in a gracious way to explain to Jeff what God intended for marriage and God’s consequent hatred of divorce (even though it is something God has allowed in some circumstances and which God forgives even when it is completely wrong). I agreed that Jeff’s wife might very well have no interest in reconciliation, but encouraged him to talk with her. She was a Christian, I discovered, as was Jeff, though he had not been living in fellowship with God for many years. As Jeff and I prayed together, I pleaded with God for help. Neither of us felt a lightening bolt from heaven that promised healing for his marriage, but we sensed God’s support for an effort to reconcile.
Ten months later, I found myself praying with Jeff once again. But the context was very different. The intervening months had been an emotional roller coaster for him and his wife. At first she laughed off his offer to reconcile. But, after a while, she sensed a genuine change in Jeff’s heart, especially when he terminated his extra-marital relationship. Lots of counseling, prayer, and support from other Christians slowly brought healing to their broken marriage. Ten months after my first meeting with Jeff I was praying with him . . . and with his wife, as they stood at the altar to renew their marital vows. God had brought them both through an astounding process of reconciliation. Before family and friends they testified to the power of the Scripture to change our lives for the better, by helping us to confront what is wrong and by teaching us to do what is right.
Jeff’s case marvelously illustrates the guidance of the Spirit through Scripture. But, I’ll freely admit, things don’t always happen this way or end this happily. In my next post I’ll include some warnings about the potential for misconstruing God’s will through the misuse of Scripture.
Unfortunately, people can indulge in silly and self-serving interpretations of biblical texts, such as one I heard from a man teaching on Matthew 6:33: “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33, NIV). “Do you want an expensive car? A large home? A financially prosperous life?” he asked, “Jesus promises to give you ‘all these things’!” Of course he took “all these things” completely out of context, turning Jesus’ promise of basic necessities into a guarantee of opulent living.
It seems so obvious that this man’s values were far too worldly, yet we all read the Bible from our own worldly perspectives to one extent or another. No Christian is immune from this disease, including me and you. This means that we will tend to mold both the meaning of Scripture and the guidance of the Spirit to fit our preconceived expectations. You can see this in all sorts of situations. Republicans tend to find their political views upheld in Scripture, while Democrats find their convictions in the Bible. The same is true for Libertarians, Greens, and those who don’t vote for religious reasons. People who oppose the ordination of women see Scripture as lined up on their side, while those who support it believe that their view is biblical. And so it goes.
One basic rule of thumb to remember is this: If your reading of the Bible completely confirms your pre-existing beliefs, you may well have projected those beliefs into Scripture. On the contrary, if you find that Scripture is challenging your assumptions and commitments, then you may well be in touch with its genuine meaning.
If we seek to discern God’s guidance correctly, our very way of seeing and thinking needs to be changed, and Scripture plays a leading role in this process. This is exactly what Paul urges upon us in Romans 12:
Don’t be conformed to this world, but keep on being transformed through the renewing of your minds, so that you might discern what the will of God is, that which is good and pleasing and complete (Rom 12:2; my translation).
As our minds are made new through the work of the Spirit, we will be better equipped to determine God’s will for our lives. Notice that this transformation is an ongoing process, something Paul accentuates with his choice of Greek verb form: “keep on being transformed.” Such transformation begins in conversion and continues throughout our lives. The Bible is one of the chief tools employed by the Spirit in this work of mental remodeling. The more we internalize God’s Word, the more we will be able to determine God’s will because our powers of discernment will be formed and energized by the Holy Spirit.
By the combination of Word and Spirit God guides us. But too often Protestant evangelicals like me envision this guidance individualistically. By so doing, we misunderstand God’s intentions for us and often misconstrue his guidance for our lives.
Divine Guidance Through Reason
So far I’ve shown that God guides us through circumstances, Scripture, and community.
Because the Spirit’s guidance can be so marvelously miraculous at times, we can overlook or even disparage so-called “normal” processes of reasoning. Sometimes, we even sit around like spiritual couch potatoes, waiting for some special gift of guidance while failing to use the gift of our minds, one of God’s most amazing endowments to human beings.
God has given us powers of reason to be used for his purposes. Whether we utilize these powers to make medical discoveries, teach Sunday school, or discern God’s will, God is honored when we use his good gifts for his glory. Moreover, the Spirit of God works in and through what can seem to us so natural and normal.
Some Christians think in terms of a false dichotomy between natural and supernatural activities, believing that God’s hand can be seen only in the supernatural or the extraordinary. But this distinction underestimates God’s presence throughout the natural world. The Son of God, through whom God created the world, “sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command” (Heb 1:3). The Lord is present and active in the “normal” affairs of the universe, in that which seems ordinary to us, even as he is present and active in that which is spectacularly unusual. So, when we use our ordinary human reasoning for the purpose of seeking God’s will, the Spirit can and does guide us.
The problem with this facet of spiritual guidance lies in the sin-induced corruption of our natural reason. Before we knew Christ, we were “alienated from God and enemies of God in our thinking” (Col 1:21, my translation). When we were reconciled with God through Christ, our sin was forgiven and our minds began to be renewed. But that renewal is an ongoing process that continues throughout our lives as we learn to think in new ways. No longer are we stuck in futile, human ways of thinking (Eph 4:17, Col 2:18). We can begin to think in godly ways because we have been given the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). When we allow the Spirit of God to be active in every facet of our lives, then our thinking will also be guided by the Spirit (Rom 8:5-6). But, none of this guarantees the rightness of our intellect. Reason, though a gift of God in creation and touched by the new creation, is not infallible.
As we devote ourselves to the key relationships of the Christian life, spending time in fellowship with God and God’s people, we will start to think more like God and less like a captive of our corrupt culture. As God’s written Word permeates our minds and hearts, we will treasure the things of God and think the thoughts of God. As we prayerfully ask the Lord to inspire our thinking, the Holy Spirit will lead us. Then we can have even greater confidence that our human reasoning, transformed by the Spirit to be more like what God intended it to be, will guide us in God’s paths.
When our reasoning receives input from Scripture, and when it is something done in the context of Christian community, then the possibility of correctly discerning God’s will is greatly increased. Reason often allows us to make connections among key factors, taking in the various kinds of input that God is supplying. I would never suggest that reason alone is adequate for spiritual discernment, but it does supply a crucial link in the chain of divine guidance.
Divine Guidance Through Dreams and Visions
So far in this series I’ve shown that God guides us through circumstances, Scripture, community, and reason. Those who especially liked my last post on divine guidance through reason might find themselves a bit uncomfortable with today’s post.
I must admit that the subject of guidance through dreams and visions does not reflect my personal experience to any great extent. In fact, I feel most comfortable among Christians who are guided by thinking, not by visions and dreams. But as a biblically-committed Christian, I must not truncate my understanding of God’s activity by my own limited experience, no matter how tempting that may be. Rather, I must let the Bible speak. For this reason, I recognize the possibility of spiritual guidance through dreams and visions. Whether we are sleeping or awake, the Holy Spirit can reveal God’s will to us through inspired visual images.
Throughout the Bible, God communicates with his people through visionary experiences. In Genesis 15, the Lord speaks to Abraham in a vision (Gen 15:1). A few chapters later, God speaks to the gentile king Abimelech in a dream (Gen 20:3). So it goes throughout the Old Testament stories. The New Testament begins on a similar note, with an angel appearing in a dream to Joseph, telling him that his fiancée is pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20). Not long afterwards, Joseph receives direction to go to Egypt as, once again, an angel speaks to him in a dream (Matt 2:13).
If we were to think that things like this happened only for biblical characters, the promise of Joel corrects that misconception. Several centuries before Christ, the Lord spoke through this Jewish prophet:
Then after I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike (Joel 2:28-29).
Seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, God poured out his Spirit as promised by Joel. Peter, preaching the first Christian sermon on the Jewish festival of Pentecost, quotes from Joel’s prophecy to explain what has happened to the followers of Jesus who have just received the filling of the Spirit (Acts 2:16-21). The fulfillment of this prophecy at this time implies that Christians, both old and young, will experience divine guidance through dreams and visions.
The rest of the book of Acts illustrates this implication as the Holy Spirit guides the early Christians through extraordinary visual experiences. In Acts 16, for example, the Spirit at first spoke to Paul and Silas, telling them not to evangelize in the Roman provinces of Asia and Bithynia. Then Paul had a vision in the night, in which a man from northern Greece asked him, “Come over here and help us.” The evangelists quickly left for that region, believing that God had called them to preach there (Acts 19:6-10). Later on, when Paul’s ministry in Corinth brought on Jewish wrath, God inspired and affirmed Paul through another vision:
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will harm you because many people here in this city belong to me.” So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God (Acts 18:9-11)
Of course, as we have noted with respect to other forms of guidance, that which we derive from dreams and visions must also be tested by Scripture in the context of prayerful, reasonable Christian community. Throughout history, heretical theologies have often originated in the visions of their founders, visions inspired by something other than the Holy Spirit. The New Testament letter from Jude refers to false teachers as “dreamers” (Jude 1:8). But, for those of us inclined to exalt rationality far above visions, I daresay that most modern heresy stems from thinking, not dreaming.
I know a woman named Sandy who, years ago, had a dream in which she and her husband were missionaries in a city she had never heard of, in a country on the other side of the globe from where they were presently living. As she shared this dream with her husband and with her church, they all began to believe that Sandy had indeed heard from the Holy Spirit, even though she and her husband were not missionaries and the city revealed was in a country that prohibited the entrance of all missionaries. Years of patient discernment followed, as this couple sought to follow God’s leading. He confirmed what Sandy had dreamed in hundreds of ways. Many, many years later, through a most amazing series of divine interventions, the dream was fulfilled, as they began to minister in the very city whose name had once revealed in a dream. A skeptic would scoffingly say that this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. But, knowing the journey of Sandy and her husband, I stand amazed at the grace of God who still speaks to us, as promised, through dreams and visions.
(For the safety of Sandy and her husband, I have not used her real name and I cannot divulge the country in which she serves.)
The excerpt from today’s inspiring article was shared from the following website: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/how-does-god-guide-us/
You may or may not know…not all near-death experiences are positive.
My experience was positive. Yet, when I returned to my body, I still had to contend with a body that was in constant pain, had 24/7 migraines, and was in the throes of severe depression.
I still had a lot to learn and I had a lot of healing to accomplish.
As I look back on my experience, I realize that my experience opened my heart and my soul to new perspectives.
Prior to my near-death experience, I was highly resistant to alternative medicine. Here we are 15 years later and I have adamantly embraced alternative medicine (think herbs, the body’s innate ability to heal, etc) and I have lost my confidence in western medicine.
Those fifteen years have included a considerable amount of healing and an amazing amount of growth. I figure that with another fifteen years of life under my belt, I may “begin” to scratch the surface of all there is to know and understand. 🙂
However, our growth and understanding come…faith is always an important component.
I have made many leaps of faith in my lifetime. When that leap of faith has involved God – I have never been disappointed.
I am grateful to know that God is real… I have seen His face and witnessed His utter and complete perfection.
I hope that in your own way, you too will know of God’s existence and His perfect love for and knowledge of you.
Today’s story really touched my heart. I hope it will touch yours as well!:
My Near Death Experience – Born again
April 16, 2011 by Evri
I was not a religious person. All of my adult life, I only had two prayers. The first, God when the time comes, give me a second chance; the second, please don’t take me until my children are grown. Never really believing, I said these prayers every once in a while, just in case. You know what I mean. Little did I know that both prayers would be answered on the same day, Easter Sunday, 1994.
I had one of those near death experiences that we’ve all heard so much about. They were coming to take me away. (ha-ha, ho-ho) I saw the light tunnel, while looking down at myself. The whole scenario; You know the bit. The twist, it was not pleasant, and I was definitely not going to Heaven. While I appeared to be sleeping peacefully, little did anyone know that there was a tug-of-war going on. I was desperately pleading for my life!!!
The night before, I was feeling rather cocky. I was lying in bed thinking, “Man, I’m really doing good. I have a wife of 23 years, a daughter graduating from college as a civil engineer in two weeks, another in the national honor society going into her final year at high school. I make an above average income, drive an expensive car, live in a nice home, money in the bank, yada yada. I don’t think any body can mess with me now.” As if all that wasn’t vain enough, I couldn’t stop there, I added, “Not even God.”
During the experience, I wasn’t cocky anymore! I was pleading and begging over and over, “God, please give me another chance; then I remember saying, “At least let me say goodbye.” Suddenly, I felt a sense of relief. A moment later, one demon conveyed to the other, “Come on, let’s go. He’s fighting too much, we can get people like him anytime.”
After recovering from my stroke, I was embarrassed to tell anyone for fear that they would think that I had “lost it”. I became totally obsessed with the Bible. I bought several versions of it on CD Rom and began looking up, reading and watching everything that I could relating to my experience.
For years I wondered if I was I actually going to hell or was it a “very vivid dream”? Finally, I swallowed my pride and began going to church to confide in preachers, telling them about my experience. Instead of compassion, counseling and guidance, I was ridiculed. Twice, I was actually asked to leave. I was always asked, “Why you? What makes you so special?” Only Jesus can arise from the dead. (Special? I never died!!! It feels more like a curse!)
Later, when Dr. Vincent, the psychologist (The Death of Old Me) said the words, “Why not you? What makes you so special? It’s our attitudes and choices in life that make the difference.” It all became very clear to me. I instantly realized that I had a choice to make! I could choose to believe that my experience was a dream, that my brain was starving from lack of blood as I’ve been told, and continue to worry about what others think; or that my prayers were answered and I was granted my second chance.
Suddenly, my mind was flooded with memories of past experiences that led up to this event! I began to experience a sense of relief that I had never felt before. The bitterness and contempt just melted away. I actually wanted to live again! I understood that God does love me; and that I was given a second chance for a reason. My mission is simply to tell “You” this story. Within man, God has planted a devine seed. A seed of his self. (A seed of choice) Just like me, you need to make a choice (Satan owns the fence).
I believe that it was then and there that I was “saved”. It didn’t have to happen in a church on Sunday morning, in front of a preacher in a church full of people. It is a personal experience between me and God.
I am not special and have never claimed to be! I believe that we can all take up our cross and be modern day Disciples (Christian Soldiers) if we will take the time to listen and unconditionally do as we’re told. In fact, it seems strange to me that many of those that say “God has no beginning and no end, He can do miracles, and that He is with us always” seem to be the ones that have the most trouble grasping the concept that Christianity is not some out-dated, two-thousand year old, institutionalized religion. But that God is here and now. We ask for His guidance, then if we don’t like what we hear simply ignore Him because of fear of ridicule, rejection and pride.
I still have trouble understanding how people that tell me, “God must really like you,” “He must have a purpose,” and that, “He isn’t through with you yet;” but if I explain my experience they shun me, begin to treat me in a condescending
manner, and are embarrassed to be seen around me.
After reading this, can you imagine being my wife, child or friend? Now, try to imagine how difficult it must have been for the original twelve Disciples. He came to many of them in dreams too. What made them so special? Maybe it was their attitudes and choices in life that made the difference. We read about the twelve Disciples that “took up their cross and followed Him“, but could there possibly have been others that simply chose to write Him off as a “very vivid dream” that we will never hear about?
I have literally seen the light! Quite frankly, now I am terrified not to believe. Whenever in doubt, I just look in a mirror. I still enjoy life, only now my priorities have changed dramatically! I have absolutely nothing to gain by this; except
the next time I hope not to be begging, but to go peacefully knowing that I used my second chance wisely!!!
So many times we hear about others that lead sinful lives. Then, they have a near-death experience. Word spreads through in the media how exhilarating it was; creating the belief that you can get away with anything and still go to Heaven.
Please remember, that lucifer is the “angel of light” and the “father of lies”. He can be very convincing and deceiving. The “light” may not always be what it appears.
The single most important thing that was made crystal clear to me during my ordeal is that contrary to popular belief, “there will be a judgment day!” I truly believe that God wants me to remind you about that. Don’t worry about what others think. You and you alone will be held accountable in the end!
Story shared from the following website: https://evri1.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/the-rest-of-the-story-my-near-death-experience/
I think today’s post is for me. When I found today’s story, it spoke directly to my heart.
I know that God has giant dreams for me. I’m just as sure he has the same kind of dreams for you.
It has been my experience that God does not deal in the business of minimal growth and “just get by” projects. In all of His majesty, God always seeks to transform us from a shack to a castle.
What does God have in mind for you? As you read today’s story, listen to your heart. I suspect it will have important information to share with you…
Fulfilling God-Sized Dreams
By Susan Vanselow
How often have you thought, “This just doesn’t make any sense?” How many times have you been on a path that seemed solid and, suddenly, the earth rumbled and the path beneath your feet was destroyed? How do you summon the strength and courage to find the path again and fulfill the dream God asked of you?
Anita Carman, founder and president of Inspire Women, a ministry in Houston, Texas, that educates and equips women from across ethnicities, denominations, and economic levels to serve in missions and ministry, is no stranger to those feelings. Anita grew up in 1960s Hong Kong, when it was still under British rule. In the midst of Communist uprisings, she clung to her mother as a place of safety.
Then, Anita experienced a devastating emotional upheaval when she lost her mother at the age of 17 to suicide. “I felt abandoned by the only person in the world I trusted,” she said. “Relationships forged in crisis situations are abnormally intense. I was forever trying to fill that missing person in my heart.” Thankfully, Anita knew God and began turning to Him.
Shortly after her mother’s death, Anita and her older sister moved to the United States. During that time, Anita put her full trust in God. “I was doing well with just God and me until He entrusted me with building a ministry that required overcoming all my vulnerabilities.”
Like many of us, Anita’s vulnerabilities had deep roots. “With my mom’s suicide, I always felt rejected,” she admitted. “I don’t handle rejection well.” God further put her vulnerabilities to the test when He put her in the field of theology — a dramatic change from the corporate world where she had thrived.
In 2003, Anita left the College of Biblical studies at Dallas Theological Seminary to launch Inspire Women, a ministry which had zero in the bank, no infrastructure, but had a clear vision from God to come alongside women who had no means to be educated and trained for ministry. In this new field, Anita was doing the work God led her to pursue, but found herself “surrounded by leaders who don’t always believe in the potential of women… I faced rejection often.” God, ever-loving and encouraging, gave Anita a spiritual mentor who journeyed on the path with her for 12 years, providing daily prayer coverage and accountability.
But the ground buckled again when Anita learned her mentor had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Once again, Anita found herself questioning, trying to make sense of the heartbreaking news. “I felt the same fear as when I lost my mom,” she stated. Anita was at a terribly rough spot and felt like she couldn’t move ahead to complete the path God had set her on with Inspire Women. At the same time, she realized that she needed to finish the dream, and that is when she wrote her latest book Making Sense of Your Life – Breakthroughs to Finish the Dream.
“God used it to heal my heart,” Anita explains. “He took me to the book of John to learn from the disciple who doted on Jesus, but was able to keep going when Jesus was no longer physically present. In studying the beginning chapters, I discovered seven principles that helped me find my passion again.”
To date, Inspire Women has reached over 23,000 women and has invested over $1 million dollars in scholarships, biblical resources, and ministry grants to empower God’s servant leaders to step into their divine appointments to accomplish their dreams.
Just Between Us had the opportunity to catch up with Anita and find out just where God has taken her and Inspire Women.
JBU: How did your personal tragedy motivate you to reach out to God and learn how to triumph over life’s struggles?
Anita: I had no one but God. After my Mom’s suicide, I was uprooted from my own country and became a student in a different country. I begged God to carry me through my loneliness and to give me a purpose that no human or event could rob from me. King David spoke of never being shaken. I begged God to get me to a place where I would never be shaken again!
JBU: What encouragement do you have for women in tragic situations?
Anita: When we were in our mother’s womb, God was there. Though we may not have known Him, He knows us. He has a plan for our lives. Life is not so much a question of finding ourselves, but finding God. It is a question of discovering what God has already designed. When we find His purpose, we then understand how our uniqueness and gifts fit into what God is accomplishing. It’s like a dramatic play that unfolds. The light is on us. Here’s our cue! Most people miss their cues and they never realize they were in the middle of a divine appointment.
JBU: Your life is a testament of fulfilling God-sized dreams. How do we do this?
Anita: God-sized dreams are not man-made, they are God designed. No one volunteers for a God-sized dream. If you find yourself coming up with a plan, the dream is too small. When God chooses to confront a situation, He is a big thinker. When He looks at you, He already knows your background. He is not asking you for your resume, He is asking you to be a servant He can trust. If you can be committed enough to do whatever it takes, that is what God wants. You can’t give what you don’t have. You can only give God your loaves and fishes. But most people hide their loaves because they don’t really trust God. In order to fulfill God-sized dreams, you need to be able to trust.
JBU: How did you learn to cultivate a daily dependence on God?
Anita: I learned that unless you have a God-sized goal, you won’t feel the need to go to your knees. So whenever I find myself being too casual, it’s usually because I have forgotten God’s command to reach the world. When my goals are God-sized, I need daily guidance to help achieve those goals.
JBU: How did you deal with your fears as you fulfilled God-sized dreams?
Anita: I reminded myself that this is God’s dream, and He is fully able to finish the dream. The question is whether I will finish with Him, but God provides trust and strength.
JBU: What does it mean to serve in God’s power verses your own?
Anita: It means being a holy vessel and not allowing anything unholy in my life that will block God’s spirit from working.
JBU: In your first book, you talk about women’s emotions. How did God help you overcome loneliness, rejection, and fear?
Anita: God reminded me I was the daughter of a King. A King’s daughter follows a royal family code of behavior. I don’t have the luxury to be an emotional basket case. It is not fitting for one who comes from royalty!
JBU: Why is it so important that women overcome loneliness, rejection, and fear to maximize their impact in their life and world?
Anita: Our emotions can control us and God wants His Spirit to control us. God wants us to live by faith according to His Word. This is a choice, not a feeling.
JBU: Where do women in ministry go to find support and help in a safe environment when they are struggling?
Anita: The sad truth is, it’s not always safe to go to one’s own church because the gossip mill is dangerous. I have known few people who can keep things in confidence. It’s not that people are inherently bad—we are simply a flawed people saved by God’s grace.
When I’ve been struggling, God has been my counselor. His Word has been my counseling manual. In addition, God has given me mentors I can trust. But before you trust a mentor, you need evidence of faithfulness in their lives.
JBU: How does God transform us into a suitable vessel for His purpose?
Anita: God tests us by our trials. The more we bleed for God, the surer we become of the cause. It’s hard to bleed for a cause you don’t believe in!
JBU: How do we rise above our emotions and respond in the way that we should to difficult circumstances?
Anita: By going to God’s Word, finding parallel situations, and asking the question, “How did my faith siblings respond?” Then say, “let me go and do likewise as a member of the family.” Every time I follow the examples God has given me, I affirm my identity as one related to God.
JBU: How do we let God shape our emotions to guard and fulfill God’s purpose?
Anita: We let God conform our mind to the mind of Christ. We discipline ourselves so we do not think things that do not align with God’s character. We ask God to stop the lies so we don’t recycle old tapes and wrong self images. We choose what and how we think.
JBU: Are there some specific principles you adhere to when fulfilling God’s dreams?
Anita: I ask myself, “Am I operating as a holy vessel?” If there is bitterness or resentment, or any unforgiveness, then I am not ready yet to make a decision. Let every decision be made with a heart of a vessel totally surrendered to God.
JBU: What has been your greatest personal breakthrough?
Anita: To realize that life is more than what I do in my lifetime; it’s what I leave behind so those who come after me can do greater things. I have a responsibility to not just this, but future generations.
JBU: Tell us about a time when you were weary, burnt-out, facing failure, and ready to give up. What did you do? Who did you talk to? How did God intervene?
Anita: I talk to friends like Jill Briscoe, one of my mentors, whose work is harder than mine. Then I stopped bellyaching. God also intervenes by sending me what I need. I have said to God, “I just need to know you are still working through me. I don’t want to presume that you want to keep using me. Just show me your choice.” Then I see God do miraculous things to show me He still wants me to hold the staff that parts the waters.
JBU: How do you keep yourself fed spiritually?
Anita: I talk to God a lot—an awful lot! He is my lifeline.
JBU: Tell us about a remarkable woman you have met through your ministry.
Anita: Pam (fictitious name) was a single parent with one son. Her son contracted AIDS during a blood transfusion. After she lost her son to AIDS, Pam appealed to Inspire Women to complete a master’s degree in cross-cultural ministry. She then went to Africa to teach God’s Word in the villages where she met many families who have lost children to AIDS. She is just one of many women whose stories showcase how God transformed their suffering into a ministry to share His comfort with the world.
JBU: How do you balance your personal life and ministry life?
Anita: I love escaping into other people’s stories through movies. My friends and family know that when it’s a marathon movie night, it’s my way to disappear into someone else’s world.
JBU: How do you balance your personal life and your family with such a dynamic and demanding ministry?
Anita: I don’t assume what my husband or my children need from me. Instead, I ask them and conserve my energy by doing only what they need from me. My kids were given the opportunity to choose for God at an early age. So it’s not like Mom is in ministry and they are spectators. Instead, we lead the family as a family to determine how we will all sacrifice. I think sometimes women put a lot of pressure on themselves to create an idyllic world for their children. It’s like they don’t want the kids to suffer. God taught me that it’s okay for my kids to learn to sacrifice. For example, we tell them the implications of our choices. We say we don’t get to go on vacation because the ministry needs funds. Their attitude as always, “That’s okay, Mom, let God have the money. We’ll just do fun things around here.” Family and ministry became one by giving God priority.
JBU: Your latest book, Making Sense of Your Life: Breakthrough to Finish the Dream, was just released. What inspired you to write this book?
Anita: I was grieving the loss of a mentor and didn’t want to continue the mission without her. I observed the Apostle John who doted on Jesus kept going even after Jesus ascended into heaven. So I wanted to learn what John understood about life described in John 4:14 as a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.” By the time I finished the book, I found seven tangible principles that renewed my passion to keep going.
JBU: Do you have specific goals for Inspire Women for 2012?
Anita: We operate with an overall vision and then we let God show us the need. We respond as His servants of mercy. For instance, because the women asked for affordable materials they could share with others, I wrote Making Sense of Your Life – Breakthroughs to Finish the Dream. When the book launched in November, we distributed over 2,100 copies in one day. I never imagined God would use my writing as biblical resources. I see God opening doors for me to be on the radio daily and to speak at women’s and leadership events. I have learned to say, “Here I am God. Use anything.” God decides if, how, and when He will use your gifts. We will continue to focus on the overall objective to reach women across ethnicities and to invest in the potential of others, but we make ourselves available to be surprised by God.
JBU: What makes your heart sad or brings tears to your eyes when you think about what needs to be done in today’s world, particularly in women’s lives?
Anita: When a woman doesn’t know what dreams she has because no one ever gave her permission to dream. It breaks my heart to see women abused, oppressed, or belittled. I ask myself, “What would happen if we awakened the gifts in the other half of the church? What if all women were empowered to change the world with God’s message and mercy?” This is at the heart of what motivates me – to help women fulfill the dream God has for their lives.
Story and interview shared from the following website: http://justbetweenus.org/faith/inspirational-stories/fulfilling-god-sized-dreams/
Are you a fan of adversity? Do you wish it would go away and never haunt your life again?
I used to believe that adversity was a sign that my life was off track and/or I had done something to incur the Lord’s wrath.
Since the time of my near-death experience, I recognize it for what it is: difficult experiences which grow my depth, abilities and gifts.
My near-death taught me about the incalculable worth of adversity. Yet, even now, it is always difficult and often trying.
Yet, I find that as I keep my spiritual muscles well-exercised, I am able to utilize the Lord’s assistance with each trial and get through each event successfully. The bonus is that as I do so, I find myself additionally armed with greater wisdom, strength, and ammunition to address the next trial that comes my way.
What perspective do you use as you endure your trials?
I hope that as life provides difficulties, you will lean on the Lord to help you! I know that He is always there anxious to help you and me!
May great blessings be yours! I hope you will enjoy today’s story!:
Jim Abbott – A Story about Overcoming Adversity
If you’re a baseball fan—and even if you’re not—then you know that with spring comes Spring Training, wherein hope springs eternal…unless, of course, you’re a Mets fan. (Sadly, we speak from experience here.)…
While we’re on the subject of pitchers, there have been quite a few who truly were and are inspirational people—you might say overcoming adversity is a prerequisite to succeeding in any sport.
Christy Mathewson, one of the game’s first clean-cut role models and a WWI veteran, and Sandy Koufax, another great pitcher and role model, throwing no-hitters (including a perfect game and Vin Scully’s legendary 9th inning call) while standing up for his Jewish heritage, refusing to pitch on Yom Kippur—the holiest day on the Hebrew Calendar—before coming back in pitch the Dodgers to victory, both come to mind, as does Tommy John himself, the pitcher for whom the surgery is named.
But while Christy and Sandy are in the Hall of Fame and Tommy was a trailblazer, when it comes to overcoming adversity, few compare to Jim Abbott. In making the big leagues, Abbott truly was one of a kind—he is the only player to have played Major League Baseball with only one hand.
As a boy, he would throw a rubber ball against a wall, slip his throwing hand into his glove—which rested on the stump which ends his right hand—and then fielded the ball using his now-gloved left hand.
But those rubber ball exercises gave Abbott great reflexes, and he went on to not just make his high school and later college baseball teams, where he not only pitched, but batted for himself—and hit home runs one-handed.
He attended and pitched for the University of Michigan, where he won the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1988. From there he made the US Men’s Baseball Team and won an unofficial Gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and the following year he realized his dream and made it to the big leagues, signing with the then-California Angels.
But his crowning moment of glory was still to come. After pitching solidly for the Angels, Jim Abbott moved on to the biggest names in baseball—and sworn enemies of every Mets fan out there—the New York Yankees.
The original Yankee Stadium was called “the House that Ruth Built,” and it saw more than two dozen World Series winners, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, the 1950s Yankees of Mantle, Berra, Ford and Casey, the 1970s variety with Reggie Jackson—suffice it to say it saw some of the biggest names and moments in baseball history.
Even among such hallowed baseball history, Jim Abbott not only showed himself to be an All-Star when it came to overcoming adversity, he earned baseball immortality and joined those other Yankee greats in 1993 by pitching a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. He also pitched for the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he got his first MLB hit—an RBI.
No one overcame more physical adversity to make it to the major leagues than Jim Abbott, after that incredible no-hitter and a career that spanned more than a decade, he’s still working to inspire people, having appeared on Boy Meets World and making his living today as a motivational speaker.
Remember—with baseball, hope springs eternal. Here’s hoping that Matt Harvey makes a great comeback this year…and that he and everyone else who plays the game may do so with the same degree of determination and character as Jim Abbott.
Story shared from the following website: http://www.interconnectedlives.com/overcoming-adversity/2/