Category Archives: God’s Voice

Dangerous Dreams

One of the most common supernatural experiences in the Bible besides healing is people having incredible dreams or visions of the future. From the first to the last book of the Bible, dreams are part of the human experience. DawnChere Wilkerson spoke at the recent Vous Conference on the impact of our dreams on our lives. She focused more on “dreams” as our hopes and plans for the future. But these dreams are just as important as the supernatural kind because they can impact the course of our lives.

Looking at Acts 4:29-31, the early disciples faced serious risk after Jesus ascended. They were in danger for their very lives. They looked to Christ for strength and miraculous power. And the Holy Spirit showed up and shook the entire place. They were anointed to boldly speak the Gospel.

The experiences of the early Church were likely different than what the disciples had dreamed or imagined. In the middle of persecution and challenge, it would have been easy for them to give up. Disillusionment likely knocked on the door of their hearts. They may have wondered if the words and predictions of Jesus would come true. They may have thought, “Are we being guided by the right dream?”

Peter, John and the others knew that they lived by faith and not by sight. DawnChere warned in her message, “Living the dream is different than dreaming the dream.” You will face challenges living the dream that you may have never imagined when you dreamed the dream. She added, “God is not honored by the size of your dream but your faithfulness to it.”

Dreams can be funny things. They can propel us forward. But they can also sap our strength when they take too long in coming true or work out in a way far different from what we imagined. How can you know if a dream is worth following?

DawnChere offered this key piece of advice. She said, “A dream is not worth following unless it is centered on Jesus.” As Christians, our starting and ending point is new life in Christ. Is this dream taking you closer or farther away from the heart of God?

No matter the dream. At some point, you have to choose what you will believe and follow. In order to live the dream, you have to believe in it enough to follow it. Following God’s dream is a team sport. One of the things you will see in this chapter is how the early Christians supported each other and provided encouragement to hold to the words of Christ. They needed each other to realize the dream. We pick up courage and strength in community.

One of the big reasons that so many people stop chasing the dream is that they get disillusioned along the way. They think they will never reach the dream. But many times, God is doing more than you can see. He is working behind the scenes and is way ahead of you. As DawnChere challenged, “First comes faith than the fortitude.”

Frequently in life, you will have huge setbacks in realizing your dream. Joseph in Genesis is a great example of this reality. He had amazing dreams. Then, he was abused by his brothers, sold into slavery and taken to a far-off land. He was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison. He was forgotten in jail by those he had helped. Joseph had a lot of experiences stacked against those dreams. DawnChere admitted, “Just like Joseph, sometimes living your dream is a nightmare.”

Even though the number of bad days may have far outnumbered the good days, what God did in the good days overcame and restored what was lost in the many bad days. God can restore in an instant what we have lost in a lifetime. Joseph had to activate his dream by choosing to forgive and do what was right. There are some opportunities you can’t enter into until you forgive and let go of the pain in the past. This isn’t letting others off the hook. It is allowing God to administer justice. You may struggle to do this on your own, but the Lord is right there to help you.

Going back to the early Church in Acts, they prayed and sought the Lord even though they weren’t sure what was going to happen. Along the way, they discovered that knowing and realizing the presence of the Holy Spirit in greater measure is living the dream. The Holy Spirit produced courage and brought assurance that they were not alone. The reality is the early believers were in over their heads. As DawnChere pointed out, “God hasn’t called you to do hard stuff but impossible stuff.”

That is why every believer needs a growing relationship with the Holy Spirit. He convicts the world of sin, equips the Church and reveals the thoughts and mind of Christ. This dream is a dangerous dream because it will upset our self-focused, little worlds. But in the end, it is the only dream worth really dreaming.

Advertisements

Camping with Jesus

Have you ever wondered if Jesus was an outdoorsman? I think he must have been to gain the respect of a bunch of fishermen. He walked from place to place and lived on the move during his three-year ministry. He sometimes didn’t even have a place to lay his head. Jesus loved to find solitude in the wilderness. Yeah, I believe Jesus must have been at home in the great outdoors.

Thinking about this led me to consider what I like and dislike about camping. I love getting away from everything, especially technology. I really like all the varied landscapes and outdoor activities. There is something just soul filling to stare into a camp fire. So, what don’t I like about camping? That’s easy — the difficulty cleaning up after cooking, not taking a shower for days and having to leave at the end of the trip. I always want to stay a little bit longer. But sometimes, you just have to go back down the mountain to reality.

While Scripture doesn’t tell us if Jesus ever enjoyed a smore, we know that he once took his three closest disciples to a high mountain to experience something that they would never forget. This story in Mark 9:2-10 is a first for the disciples. This moment cracked the divide between heaven and earth, revealing just how amazing Jesus truly was.

 

Mark 9:2-10 (NIV) — The Transfiguration

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

 

Sometimes Jesus has to takes us away from the crowd to get our attention. He knows that we need to get away and unplug. These three disciples had no idea what the Lord had in store for them.

Suddenly, Jesus was transformed before their eyes. The disciples got a glimpse of Christ in some of his true glory. Jesus became what he always was. His clothes became a dazzling white suggesting his purity. And as if this wardrobe change was not enough, suddenly Elijah and Moses show up and start talking with Jesus. These are two of the most important figures in Jewish history. Moses represented the Law, and Elijah was one of the foremost prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures. I have always wanted to know what they talked about. But the Bible doesn’t tell us. These little missing details always bug me, but they also create a sense of wonder and mystery.

The three disciples must have been stunned, amazed and frightened. Then, Peter said (Chaille translation), “This is amazing, let’s stay right here. We can pitch three tents — one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Let’s just camp in this moment for a while.”

Maybe Peter said this because he wanted to mark this unbelievable situation and create a memorial to it. Maybe he was scared and didn’t know what to do, and he wanted to create some privacy and protection for this unique encounter. Maybe he just wanted to make this amazing interaction last forever.

The whole situation got more intense when a cloud covered them and suddenly a voice from the cloud identified who Jesus was and his relationship with God the Father. Secondly, the voice instructed the disciples to follow what Jesus instructed. Without any time to debrief or discuss what happened, you see the disciples quickly coming down the mountain.

That was the last thing they probably wanted to do. I can just see them asking, “Where did Moses and Elijah go? Can’t we just stay here a little while longer? Why do we have to go down the mountain?” Even if they didn’t say those things, that would have been what I would have thought and maybe had the courage to say.

I believe that Peter wanted to camp out in this moment. It was the kind of thing that was so unreal that you would want it to last forever. But Jesus knew something that Peter did not realize at the time. The crowds were waiting at the moment. Jesus’ mission was going to be fulfilled down there not up here.

Sometimes we can be transformed and inspired on the mountain. But we can’t fulfill God’s mission until we come down the mountain.

The mountain experience is meant to sustain and inspire us when all those people and situations down there become too difficult to handle. The mountain may seem like a safe place, but it can be perilous to stay up on the mountain when a storm comes.

Take note that Jesus did not turn this miraculous encounter into a self-promotion vehicle. Quite the opposite, he told the disciples not to tell anyone until after his resurrection. Even this command, was a head scratcher. The disciples didn’t know what Jesus meant by rising from the dead.

The two lessons that I see here is that sometimes what we experience with the Lord is just for us. We aren’t intended to share it with others until the time is right. We need to just marinate on it ourselves and let the experience transform and fuel our lives. Secondly, we may not always understand in the moment what Jesus said and did. Our job is to trust and obey not to fully grasp the entire plan. For those who like to be in control and know what is going on, this reality can be a huge challenge. But just as this episode with the disciples demonstrates, many times we aren’t in control. We just need to let God be God. We need to embrace the unexpected.

That is all part of moving on from transfiguration or God moments so that we can embrace our primary mission. The people we need to impact aren’t usually found on the mountain tops. They live in the valley and on the hills. We find them in our everyday routines and lives. As great as it is go camping, we can’t live forever high atop the mountains. We have to return to “normal” life and that is where we can have the greatest impact if we don’t lose sight of what we discovered on top of the mountain. Think about those moments as fuel for what awaits you down the mountain.

Consider this question, “Why do you need to come down the mountain?

No Resolutions This Year, Just a Better Attitude

A friend asked me the other day if I had set any resolutions for 2019.  I had to respond, “No, this year is marked by three attitudes not concrete goals.” Last year was an amazing twelve months, and I accomplished a lot of my goals. This year I went jogging on the first day of January and felt like I wasn’t supposed to set any resolutions focused on specific goals. Instead, I was drawn to three different attitudes that the Lord wants to develop in me.

But wait? I am an American. Don’t I need a goal? Don’t I need a mission? Afterall, goals without clear steps and a deadline are just wishes… right?

I am not saying that 2019 will a do nothing year. No, it will be marked by three attitudes that will hopefully drive me to God’s best. Sometimes it can be so hard to keep New Year’s resolutions because I try to do things in my own strength and drive. The greatest changes in my life I have found can only come when I yield to God’s strength in the middle of my weakness.

No, 2019 is not a year for complacency. 2019 will be marked by a better attitude based on three key focuses tied to Scripture.

1.) Delight in the Lord – I wonder if many Christians are unhappy because they seek satisfaction in the wrong places and things. Sometimes I seek God out of duty not out of delight. I want to get to the point where I truly delight in God’s Word, in sitting on the deck just listening or worshipping, in telling others about Him with such enthusiasm that others are amazed. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4 is quite a promise. So, how does one delight in the Lord? Do I have to fake it until I make it? Does delight start in honestly admitting all the things that I would rather seek than God? How do you truly delight in something or someone? That is what I hope to learn first and foremost in 2019. I will let you know what I discover along the journey.

2.) Rejoice in the Lord Always – The apostle Paul when wrongfully imprisoned and put in shackles didn’t have a pity party or a gripe fest. Quite the opposite, he had a worship party calling on the Lord in thanksgiving. I have so so much to be thankful for. If the Lord never did another thing for me, I should never stop praising. Why can it be so easy to complain about what I don’t have instead of being thankful for the blessings I already possess?

Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say it again: Rejoice!” The apostle Paul learned the secret to happiness is contentment in God not happiness based on his circumstance or situation. Praise and thanksgiving frees up our heart to receive God’s love and to share it with others. Worship is so much more than a song. It is an attitude of hope based in God’s promises. It is rooted in the character of God not the happiness of the moment. In a world where people look for affirmation from likes, retweets and winning social media perceptions, we already have the love that matters most – God’s affirmation, acceptance and love.

One of the few places in Scripture where we see God’s will explicitly detailed is I Thessalonians 5:16-18. It says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

God’s will is for us to give thanks in all circumstances. Wow! That is so hard to do. We don’t have to be thankful for all situations. But we should learn how to rejoice in God no matter what is happening around us.

I now live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a vacation paradise. From word-class skiing to hiking, biking and fishing, it is so beautiful. I live where other people come for vacation. It is a great blessing. One thing that I quickly discovered though is the number of truly depressed and even suicidal people in town. How can you live in a place where every season brings some new treasure and yet the suicide rate in my county is among the worst in the state? A friend and mentor explained that people come to paradise thinking it would fix all their problems, but they quickly discover their problems come with them and may even get worse. A change of scenery doesn’t change the emptiness they feel. Plus, living at altitude can be a physical challenge as well impacting one’s emotional health. Thankfully, I have not faced physical challenges living here.

One key I have found in life is that worship can free my soul. Worship focuses my attention on what is good, lovely and true. Worship takes me outside of myself and into a deeper, broader story.  2019 will be marked by more worship, more thankfulness and more gratitude, even when things don’t go as I had hoped. My desire is to praise and pray first, worry or complain less.

3.)  Keep in step with the Spirit – When it comes to misunderstanding God, I believe the Holy Spirit is the clear winner. This means we try to live holy lives without the Holy Spirit enabling our actions. We try to make decisions based on our own wisdom. We ignore the helper who Jesus sent, and this grieves the heart of God. Jesus was the most Spirit-filled, Spirit-led man who ever lived. What was His secret? How could Jesus in his flesh be the amazing person that He was? Jesus kept in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” I love how the New Living translation renders this verse, “Let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Yes, the Holy Spirit should guide and empower every aspect of our lives. Why do so few Christians truly live in God’s power, I believe it is because we ignore the Holy Spirit. I count myself among those who need so much more of the Spirit in my daily walk. Lord, help me to keep in step with Your Spirit this year and every year.

All three of the attitudes are rooted in a growing, vibrant walk with God. These are not new beliefs or concepts to me. But I think I have only skimmed the surface of delight in God, rejoicing in the Lord and knowing the Holy Spirit.

What is my real goal in 2019? To simply know Him better and let this discovery influence every aspect of my life. Hopefully, this attitude and mindset will lead to my best year yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time

Time is something that we only have a limited amount of, and at the end of our lives wonder where it all went. Time is worth a lot more than dollars per hour; it is a measure of what we value and what kind of legacy we hope to leave.

How we spend our time shows our priorities and what we think is truly valuable. Tell me what you think is important all you want, show me your calendar, and then I will know what you prioritize.

When we die, time is something we will have an infinite amount of if you believe the Scriptures, and what we do in this current life echoes into the next one — especially our relationship with God and dedication to His mission.

Time is a lot like water. We waste a lot of it because, we are lazy and tend to follow the path of least resistance. But properly channeled and used, our time can achieve great things, such as creating a major canyon in the middle of a desert. Wisdom and character can help us know how to use time. But as a Christian, I believe the best guide is the Holy Spirit. He should direct our days. Sadly, I know I call the shots way too often.

What we post about on our Facebook page and Twitter account shows a lot about how we spend our time and what preoccupies our thoughts. I agree that 50 million babies killed in the name of convenience is more than just a tragedy. It is the shame of our generation and a stain on our “progressive” culture.

Ultimately, God is the only one who stands outside of time. That is why He alone has the best vantage point on how we should spend the limited time we have in this life.

Beyond Mere Words — Prayer

Prayer

By George Herbert
Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
         God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
         The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
         Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
         The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
         Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
         Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
         Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
         The land of spices; something understood.

————————————————-

This poem captures well the difficulties in explaining or defining prayer. Prayer is so much more than just giving God our wish list or telling Him what He already knows. Prayer goes beyond recognizing God as God, praising Him for His mighty deeds,  or calling Him to move in the struggles and trials of life. Prayer cannot be broken down to just a simple formula because Scripture is full of many different types of prayers. And each life situation seems to call for something different.

I particularly like the line, “The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,” because I think of prayer more as a journey than anything else. It helps us put to words what is going on inside of us, and more importantly start to imagine what is God’s response. Prayer positions us to explore our true self and identify the areas that most need the power of  the cross. Prayer is not as much about self discovery as it is surrender to Christ and recognition of His higher truth.

We never really “arrive at a final destination” when it comes to mastering prayer. We simply delve deeper and deeper into a treasure that is boundless and difficult to explain. The goal is not knowledge alone but relationship.

Sometimes we may feel that we are doing it wrong — a failure in prayer. But God is not grading our progress as much as He is calling us closer to His point of view. Honestly, we may doubt and feel that we are truly alone. We may wonder if God is really there and start to think that we are merely talking to the wind, but even in this honest admission, we discover God’s grace. The Lord allows the silence because His constant expression might be too much for us to bear. Or He simply may not desire to speak for some reason. He may just want to listen to what His children have to say.

Prayer is based on the reality that we are loved and have access to God. In faith, we must rest assured in the truth that even if He never says another word to us, God has loudly declared His love for us by His sacrifice on the cross and the revelation of His Holy Word. Amen!

What Does God Want from Me?

A lot of people talk about doing the will of God. But to do that, we must know what He truly wants. God could have made this easy on us by writing in the sky, sending angels to answer all of our questions or making the Bible more like a manual or Life for Dummies book. But He didn’t do any of those things. Why is this hearing from God thing so tough? Some people talk as if everything is clear. Others honestly admit that they listen for God and all they hear is the sound of crickets. 

If there are so many paths in front of us, why doesn’t God simply remove the distractions? The good Lord could remove all room for doubt. But then would we really ever have faith or free will?

When many people think about the will of God, they automatically gravitate toward what they are supposed to do for God. But honestly, if God is really God, He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. His plan does include human involvement. But that isn’t out of necessity. It must be for some other reason.

Talking with a high schooler today, I was inspired to write this post. Too often we think of God’s will as a place, action or destination. But what if it is something bigger and yet more basic? What if our thinking about this question is all wrong?

The Bible says we are to take up our cross daily, which seems to suggest that sacrifice is required to do God’s will. But the Old Testament also states that “obedience is better than sacrifice.” The Apostle Paul encouraged believers to become mature in their faith and the fruit of the Spirit. And yet, Jesus said that we could not even enter the Kingdom of God unless we have the faith of a little child. Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make more disciples, which suggests the focus of our mission should be about other people. But Jesus also said that we can do nothing apart from His power and life. So which mission is primary to know and love God or to share the Gospel, make disciples and extend His Kingdom on the earth?

The problem is that we tend to look at this as an either or situation. And in reality, outreach flows from our personal walk with God. As I have pondered this question, I believe the true mission for every Christian is the prayer that David prayed in Psalms 27:4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

The primary mission of a Christian is to know and love God. It all starts with our personal relationship with Jesus. He is the living water as Scripture explains. Just as we need water to sustain life, we must have a relationship with God to live in the way as the Creator intended. This involves a wide variety of experiences and actions, such as reading and following sacred Scripture, prayer, obedience to the Word of God, thanksgiving, recognition of God’s power and presence in daily life, sacraments, spiritual gifts and miracles, confessions of faith, sharing the Gospel, etc.

And in order to have living water that remains alive and pure, it must have an outlet. Otherwise, we become like a stagnant pool where disease and bacteria can grow. That is why part of the Christian mission is to share the love and truth that God has deposited into our lives.

The Lord has given us a picture of this reality in the Dead Sea, which has no outlet. It is one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet because it is located at such a low point. Everything flows downhill and mineral deposits collect killing aquatic life. If you simply receive from God and do not give it away, you will become full and not be able to receive any more. And what had previously been living water can become stagnant, less useful and a breading pool for disease. This picture demonstrates the dual nature of God’s ultimate purpose for humanity. It can be seen in the words of Jesus. He summed up the law and the prophet by saying, “He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).

How you go about doing that is what makes you unique. The key is realizing that God’s will for your life is more about the journey you take with God and the person you become along the way than what you do for God or which path you choose to take.

The Holy Spirit Inspired the Dream

If you have ever heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech it is impossible not to be stirred and feel that you are listening to something epic. It is as if that speech was not mere words. It was a spiritual experience that broke a yoke off the necks of millions of people.

I always thought that when I heard it I was reminded of some of the most moving sermons I had listened to in my life. King was a preacher before he was a civil rights icon. And he knew what it meant to be inspired by God to action. And when I heard a recent TV show exploring the story behind King’s famous speech, I knew that I was right. Those were not mere words.

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Congressman and civil rights leader, John Lewis, spoke about that day. ABC News journalist Byron Pitts spoke with Lewis and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, one of King’s top aids, about King’s speech. This transcript is incredible.
———————————————————-
Andrew YOUNG: He was determined not to speak more than 10 minutes. And he did. He finished his prepared address in just about 9 minutes.

PITTS: But he wasn’t finished. Sitting behind Dr. King was famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson who shouted to her friend, tell them about the dream. It’s a theme he’d used before in smaller settings.

KING: I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

PITTS: Why do you think he made that transition to talk about the dream?

YOUNG: As a preacher, there’s something we, we call being led by the spirit.

LEWIS: The spirit told him to lay that paper down and just go for it.

KING: I have a dream. My four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

PITTS: And it’s a dream that still lives on 50 years later.

(See more on this news discussion at
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/rep-john-lewis-remembers-historic-march-on-washington)

——————————————————–
This transcript clearly shows that the Holy Spirit inspired one of the most incredible political moments of the last 100 years. When people ask, “Where is God with all this injustice in the world?” I can point to moments like King’s speech and know that God’s Spirit stirs mens’ souls. The Holy Spirit moves behind the scenes, and one day, we will realize that the Lord was in those moments after all.

I am not surprised that the Holy Spirit breathed life into words that King had said at other times without the same effect. It was the power of the Spirit that made those words electric. He is moving in history. We just have to see it and know that the Spirit brings the fire that changes history.

I don’t say this in any way to disrespect King’s impact or his personal sacrifice to gain what he fought for. While those were his words, the concept he fought for is deeply rooted in the vision that the Apostle Paul outlined in the New Testament. Primarily, I am pointing out that King was divinely inspired, which should give more credence to his dream.

Praise be to God that we have come so far because Scripture says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” May we continue to bring God’s principles of love, hope and mercy to those who are not free or struggle due to injustice. While our job is not done, history shows that we have come a far way in establishing liberty and freedom in many places in the world.