man holding crutches over head

Miracle Recipient Reveals God’s Memos /Spiritual Meditations

How many times have you watched the rising or setting sun over a beautiful landscape and appreciated the magnificence of God’s creation?  How many times has the Bible addressed  your need?  There are many ways in which God speaks to us, but I know one person to whom God has spoken loudly and he is going to tell us what he’s learned.

How God Speaks to Us

The pyramid below not only represents the ways in which God speaks to us, but also how frequently He does so. (Relevant Bible verses can be found at the end of this post for each level of the pyramid with links to example accounts)

ways God speaks to us pyramid

The top level of the pyramid falls into the realm of miracles; when God speaks to us directly through word or action.  This is what I want to explore today.

What are Miracles?

In its most basic sense, a miracle is an unusual, unexpected, observable event brought about by direct divine intervention. Because they are rare, I want to share with you the insights of my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich who has experienced 46 divine interventions. 

But let’s start with a Biblical example; notice that the lame man did not request a miracle.

One day Peter and John went to the Temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the hour for prayer.  There at the Beautiful Gate, as it was called, was a man who had been lame all his life. Every day he was carried to the gate to beg for money from the people who were going into the Temple.  When he saw Peter and John going in, he begged them to give him something.  They looked straight at him, and Peter said, “Look at us!”  So he looked at them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said to him, “I have no money at all, but I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!”  Then he took him by his right hand and helped him up. At once the man’s feet and ankles became strong; he jumped up, stood on his feet, and started walking around. Then he went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  People there saw him walking and praising God, and when they recognized him as the beggar who had sat at the Beautiful Gate, they were all surprised and amazed at what had happened to him.(Acts 3:1-10 TEV)

Pastor Ehrlich sees a pattern in when and how God acts in our world.  The following are conclusions he has reached and outlined in his book The Long Road to Eternity available on Amazon.

Miracles range in intensity from low intensity things which could be considered fortuitous coincidences or God-incidences, to high intensity things or events which are undeniable manifestations of God’s power and/or presence, such as the healing described in the passage above.

The good news is that the miraculous power of God, that was clearly present in the miracles and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is still available to God’s people today. 

God’s Three General Rules for Miracles

God’s first rule is that God always uses the smallest amount of miraculous power, and on the fewest possible number of occasions, to accomplish His goals.

God limits the use of His power because He wants to preserve our free will and our ability to choose God freely. As we go through life, we unintentionally provide God many opportunities to save us or help us, or to comfort or encourage us. God responds to our needs in varied ways, but in general God’s response is always as limited and small scale as possible in order to bring about the needed result. This hiddenness or unprovability of God was a part of God’s plan because if we could prove God, it would take away our need to have faith, and it is important to God that we have faith.

Why does God want us to have faith? Faith is the overcoming of doubt, hopefully substantiated by reason. Faith, the Bible tells us, is the activating agent of worshipping in the Spirit (James 5:15). God is all around us all the time (Acts 17:28) in the form of the spiritual energy that holds us and all things together (Colossians 1:17), and faith is what opens the door to the Spirit to come into and intervene in the physical world. (Matthew 21:21-22). Because frequent, large, splashy displays of God’s power would take away our need for faith, God uses the least amount of His power and the smallest level of intervention to accomplish His purposes.

God’s second general rule of miracles is that miracles are always for the benefit of God’s people.

God reaches into the lives of those who trust in Him, those who earnestly seek Him, and those who love Him wholeheartedly, and generally, but not always, in response to our prayers.

Sometimes God uses a non-believer to bring about a miracle to save a believer; and God sometimes gives a miracle to a non-believer to reach that person or to reach others who witness the miracle to help them become believers or to comfort or encourage them in their faith.

God’s knowledge of each person is complete and entire, and His wisdom, power, knowledge, and abilities are without limit. God knows what is going on in each of our lives, minute by minute, and God really cares about what we are going through.

God’s third rule of miracles is that His miracles are a gift of his grace: we cannot earn them with good deeds or buy them with a donation to a ministry or other good cause.

Unfortunately, some preachers I have heard twist Paul’s statement that “a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” They say giving money to their ministry is just like planting a seed, that it will always produce an abundant plant of blessing – expect up to a one-hundred-fold return for every dollar you give.

Others who claim to be Christians try to convince people that X number of prayers for X number of days will get a guaranteed result. These beliefs trivialize God and would have you believe He behaves like a cosmic vending machine: put in the dollar and out pops your hundred. All we can do is ask God for a miracle or make ourselves available to be used by God.

What Inspires a Miracle?

Miracles come in two varieties;

  • the first type of miracle are those that occur as we reach up to God in prayer making a request and God responds.
  • The second type of miracle are those that occurs because God intervened without our asking; that is why I said miracles happen generally but not always in response to our prayers. [There are times, as you can see in the scripture regarding the lame man in Acts 3, where God knows what is needed and provides.  Though the man may have hopelessly wished for health he did not ask for or expect it.  In this case Peter and John were the conveyors of the miracle.]

Barriers to Miracles

Anyone can ask God for a miracle at any time, and God may grant one; but for a number of reasons that you and I may never understand, what we ask for may not be granted by God. Among the reasons we don’t receive the answers we are looking for are lack of faith, and improper motives. James writes: “You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures” (James 4:2-3 TEV). Miracles are rare and hard to come by, that is why they are so special.

Miracles are More than Just the Miracle Itself

Miracles are just one of the ways that God speaks to us.  His love for the recipient of the miracle and those witnessing the miracle is introduced into our everyday life.  And these manifestations make a big impact on us internally, externally or both.

Miracles are a bit like fishing with dynamite – they blow you out of the water. They change lives, not just by physically rescuing a person, but by opening people’s eyes to the reality of God and to the nature of God, thus inspiring us to learn more about God and to obey God.

I spent many hours speaking with an atheist who was genuinely curious about what I believe and why. At the end of our talk I convinced him to at least keep an open mind to the reality of God. A few weeks later he told me that he had really been praying intently and God baptized him in the Holy Spirit. He said, “This changes everything!” He wanted to become a pastor and tell everyone what he had discovered.  When we are confronted with the reality of God that knowledge has the effect of causing us to reevaluate our priorities and behavior, and even, for some, to reevaluate our understanding of the universe.

Conclusion

To experience the miraculous, we cannot elicit it from God by using some magical incantation, neither is a life of study required. All that is required to move into miraculous levels of interaction with God is to have enough faith to seek God with all of your heart, and to have a willingness to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength until you find that God is real and knows and cares about you.

You will find several accounts of miracles experienced by Pastor Ehrlich, myself and others in the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category on the Navigation Menu.

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Relevant Scripture

God speaks to us:
Through Nature  


(Romans 1:20)  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  

(Psalms 19:1 – 4)  The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.  They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.  Yet their message has gone throughout the earth and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.

Through Scripture
What to Know About the Bible

(2 Peter 1:20 – 21)  Above all, you must realize that “no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”   

(Hebrews 4:12 NLT)  For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.   

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.   

Through Signs

(Matthew 16:1 – 4 NLT)  One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!  

Through Dreams and Visions
What No One Tells You About Your Dreams
Stunning Vision Reveals Heaven’s Lobby

(Job 33:14 – 16)   For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings.

Through Angels
Angels in Our Lives…Literally  

(Luke 1:26 – 27 NRSV)  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 

Directly and through Jesus
God’s Faithfulness Changed My Life
An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing 

(Hebrews 1:1 – 2 NLT) Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.  

(Exodus 3:4-6) When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.   

fire imposed on top of key and handwritten pages

An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing/Spiritual Meditations

We don’t often hear about spiritual healing experiences and when we do we are usually left wondering if there was a logical or scientific reason for what appeared to be a miraculous event.  After all, our bodies have an amazing ability to restore themselves and time can be a healer.  But in his book, “The Long Road to Eternity” (available on Amazon) my friend and pastor, Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich, describes a life-threatening burn incident that was miraculously healed within one hour.

In January 1989, my second year as pastor at the Olivebridge church, I attended a seminar at a church in Kingston New York on healing through prayer and the laying on of hands. It was being put on by the International Order of Saint Luke, an interdenominational religious order dedicated to the Christian healing ministry. Part way through the afternoon session as I was sitting in a lecture, I heard the pay phone in the hallway ringing. Ordinarily I would not leave an educational seminar to answer in someone else’s church, but I had a strong feeling I should answer that call so I left the classroom and answered the phone.

I was amazed that the call was for me. I don’t know how they found me but it was a member of my Samsonville church calling to tell me there was a gas explosion in the church kitchen and Edith, one of my parishioners, was severely burned with third-degree burns over most of her body. The caller had been there and seen what happened: the oven had been turned on to preheat but no one realized the pilot light was not lit. Edith needed to use the oven and found it was still cold so she started to light the stove but it was filled with gas. It caused an explosion and a fire ball blew her backwards, set her hair on fire and burned all the clothes off the front of her body. An EMT who treated Edith before she was put into the ambulance told the woman who called me that Edith had third-degree burns over her whole body, and that it was not easy for a woman her age to survive something like that.

This was terrible news; it literally could not have happened to a nicer person. Edith was practically a living saint; she was filled with the fruits of the spirit, a dear sweet lady, humble, simple, generous, kind, patient and had a great sense of humor. She practically lived at church; when the church doors were open for anything she was there. Edith was in her 70s at that time. She had come over from England at the end of World War II as a war bride. She missed England but definitely had bloomed where she was planted.

I was told she was taken to a hospital in Kingston; it was not far from me. I got off the phone and interrupted the class to share the news and ask for prayer for Edith. The leader of the class who happened to be the president of the order of Saint Luke stopped the class. He said, “we need to pray.“ He took me out into the hallway, put his hands on my shoulders and I put my hands on his shoulders, and we bowed our heads and pray together for several minutes. It was a powerful prayer time and I felt like an electric current was going through us as we prayed. I immediately felt better.

When I took the call about Edith, he had been teaching that when you pray for healing, you need to have faith that you have received what you prayed for. He said, “you always need to end your prayers requesting healing by sincerely expressing your thanks to God in the confidence that God will grant your request.“ As we prayed, we thanked God for miraculously healing Edith but honestly, I wasn’t expecting a miracle. I thanked the teacher and drove as quickly as I could to the hospital.

It took less than an hour from the time I received the call until I walked into the intensive care unit. At that hospital the intensive care unit was one large room with beds separated by curtains. As I walked into the room I could hear Edith singing! Edith sat behind me singing in the choir every Sunday for the previous 18 months; I knew her voice very well and I was expecting to hear moans of pain, not singing! I found the curtain she was behind and stopped before stepping into her area. I knew that her clothes have been burn off and my earlier experience as a hospital chaplain taught me that third-degree burns victims are often left naked and I was hesitant to walk in on her. I called out “Edith, are you there? She said, “Oh Tim, it’s a miracle! Praise God!“

I said, “Are you decent?“ She said she was so I stepped behind the curtain and she was sitting on the edge of the bed in a hospital gown, her hair was singed and she was grinning widely. She broke into laughter as she told me the story. When she lit the match the explosion blew her across the room, it had blown off or burnt off all of her clothing and it was horrible. She said, “Tim I was in the worst pain of my life. The worst pain ever! And then about a half hour ago the pain just went away. The doctors don’t understand.  The doctor said to me, ‘you were brought in with third-degree burns but now they are first- degree and even less in some places. I can’t explain it’. He can’t explain it, but I can. It’s a miracle! Look at my skin, it is like a sunburn; I am just a little pink and it doesn’t even hurt! “

I have often heard God called the great physician, but it is really amazing to see God in action, to see a dramatic healing like that in response to prayer. The theological lesson here is don’t be afraid to pray for healing for yourself or someone else, and don’t forget to pray with enough faith that you can genuinely thank God for the healing in advance.

Yet we must ask, “Why isn’t everyone we pray for, healed?”  Pastor Tim explains:

God responds to the prayers of his people and He has the power to heal. There is a door between us and God. It is the barrier between the spiritual and physical. There is a lock on the door and our prayer is the key that opens the lock. To unlock the lock the key (our prayer) must hit all the tumblers and each bump on the key represents a different aspect of an effective prayer.

* One of the bumps on the key is that our prayer is for someone that God does want to see healed and healed at this time.

* Another bump: our prayer must be for what is best for the person or situation we are praying for or about.

* Another bump is that God must want the person who is praying to be the instrument of His grace.

* Another bump is that the person who is praying must have his or her heart right with God so that when he or she prays they can live into being what Paul called us: temples of the Holy Spirit.

In this case all the tumblers lined up, the lock turned and she was healed.

Your prayer life can be more effective by developing greater Spiritual Consciousness through the practices mentioned in the Biblical verses found in Key to Effective Prayer.  Miracles are rare but God is present and active in our lives.

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Relevant Scripture

Does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard from Christ. (Galatians 3:5)

Reference

The Long Road to Eternity by Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich

young girl leans head on hand staring into space, flowers window table

How Long Must I Wait, God?/Spiritual Meditations

Do you have a prayer that has been met with no response?  You may decide that this is a ‘no’ from God, but perhaps it’s a ‘not yet’.

Our perception of time differs from one moment to the next.  If we are bored or anxiously anticipating something pleasant, time drags.  If we are overwhelmed with things to do or enjoying a pleasant experience, time flies by.

Waiting for the Best Time

When we have a need, the resolution cannot come quickly enough.  When we have a need great enough to bring to God, we really are hoping He will resolve it now.  Or better yet, why didn’t He handle it before it even became an issue!

But God’s time is not the same as our time.  In fact, I’m thinking that cultural changes, events, acts, realizations, and our emotional, spiritual and mental developments are some of the things that God tracks (and sometimes orchestrates) instead of minutes and years.  Peter left us this logical conundrum – “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8) which expresses this irrelevance of time.

But because God sees all the events of our lives and the thoughts of our minds, His timing is always perfect. His perfect time may be immediate as for the disciples when they healed people around Jerusalem (Acts 5:16). Or it may be a few years: God gave Joseph a dream that did not come to fruition for 13 years (Gen 37, 39-41): the Egyptian exiles wandered for 40 years before entering God’s promised land.  And the Messiah’s perfectly timed arrival was 4 centuries in the making as can be seen in Dr. Leed’s post entitled Eye-Opening Events Between the Testaments.

These huge events make our problems seem kind of small in comparison, yet God knows every hair on our heads.  He loves us,  knows what is best for us and knows when it I best for us.  I once waited for God’s response to my desperate prayers for several months.  But then WHAM His resolution came in one day. You can read about it here.

Waiting on God Changes Us in Important Ways.

It takes practice, but as we let God help us in each situation, we develop patience which is one of the most important Christian virtues. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22). It’s developed only under trial, so we must not run from difficult situations. But “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4).

Trusting God often requires not knowing how He is going to accomplish what needs to be done and not knowing when He will do it. But as we see God’s faithfulness over and over, we rely less on ourselves, and gradually place our trust in Him.

When God directs our paths, He sometimes leads us in ways that don’t make sense to us.  But if we try to reason it out, rationalize His leading and don’t follow His path, we will only prolong our struggle.  Most of us have spent our lives trying to take care of ourselves, but when we accept Christ as our Savior, we must have faith that He will care for us.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 )

What to Do While Waiting on God

1) Prayer / Meditation

The priority for your wait time is prayer and meditation. Let it be your rock. 

  • Pour out your heart to God with all your concerns and doubts.
  • Pray for guidance, patience and strength through the waiting season.
  • Pray for God to reveal the next step in His path for you.
  • Pray for your heart to be open to the work God’s doing during the wait.
  • Pray for transformation and renewal.
  • Pray for peace of heart and trust.
  • Clear your mind and listen for God’s messages.

It’s not easy to go to prayer when you’re frustrated in the wait, but as you develop this habit of (and utter dependence on) prayer, you’ll find the waiting becomes easier.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

2) Read Your Bible

Stay in scripture, especially in periods of waiting. Often what feels like waiting is really a time of preparation. It may be that our heart needs some work, or it may be that God is moving in other areas to prepare the way.

Study God’s Word, especially His promises. “He will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6b). He will be with you through the entire waiting process. Stay focused on Him and His Word and the reasons for your time of waiting will eventually be made clear.

Staying in scripture keeps you grounded in God’s plans and promises. When you’re in that period of waiting, daily reminders of God’s faithfulness will sustain you. Reading about God’s power and plans will fill your heart with hope. Studying biblical people who endured seasons of waiting reminds you that you’re not alone in this struggle.  The Bible may also be helpful in determining if your prayer request is being met with a ‘no’ or a ‘not yet’.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 NIV)

3) Surrender to the Process

Change is a process and can take time. When God is working a change in your life or carrying you through a challenge, it may take time to fully work through the process.

Surrender to God’s work in your heart. Submit to His timeline and process. Let go of your attempts to control and plan your way out and allow God to lead.

Entrust your ways to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will act on your behalf.
He will make your righteousness shine like a light,
your just cause like the noonday sun.

Surrender yourself to the Lord and wait patiently for him.
Do not be preoccupied with an evildoer who succeeds in his way
when he carries out his schemes.

Let go of anger and leave rage behind.
Do not be preoccupied.
It only leads to evil.
(Psalm 37:5-8 GOD’S WORD Translation)

4) Who is Waiting for Who?

Could it be that God is waiting on us?  To arrive at the perfect time for Him to act, perhaps we must first realize, develop or become involved in something.  If God answered right away, many of us would be ill-prepared to handle His solution. Our personal, national or international circumstances may need to change to make the most of His intervention.

Ask yourself: Is there a purpose in your waiting? Do you have some work to do to prepare for the next season? Is God working on your heart?  Is the motive for your prayer acceptable to God.

Consider the lessons and submit to God’s work in your life. If you need to deal with a sin, confess and turn away from old ways. If you need to forgive, do the hard work to let go and forgive. If you need to rid your heart of some stubborn habits or beliefs, dig deep and allow God to do his work.

Exodus 13:17-18 tells us that God led the Israelites the longer, harder way on their journey to the Promised Land because He knew they were not yet ready to go in. There had to be time for their training, and they had to go through some very trying situations.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

5) Focus on the Blessings

Instead of focusing on where you’re going, look around you and find the blessings that already surround you. Even if your situation is dark and stormy, be especially vigilant about looking for blessings.

You could even create a blessing list by writing down everything good that God has blessed you with. Keep the list handy and read it whenever you are feeling low.

There’s nothing like helping others to get a better perspective on your own issues.  Where can you be a blessing to others at this time? Who has God placed you near that you can bless? Who can you pray for and encourage?

6) Worship

In all things, be full of praise and thanksgivings – even while waiting, even through the storm, even when you’re frustrated.  You may find that affirmation and song will lifts your spirits.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)

Conclusion

Wait as long as it takes. He may not answer right away or even give us what we think we need, but God will provide what is best for us when it is best for us.

As much as we want to move forward NOW – sometimes we’re just not ready. We have more to learn, more to change, more to grow.  Sometimes the wait is for God to align other pieces of the plan. Sometimes the wait is for God to align the pieces of our own heart.

Always have an expectancy that He will provide.  There are times when we might give up if we knew how long it was going to take, but when we accept God’s timing, we can learn to live in hope and enjoy our lives while God is working on our problems.

Then be alert for His answer.

God is never accidental. Everything he does has a purpose. He is the expert…let Him handle it

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Relevant Scripture

 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14)

My times are in Your hand;
    deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
    and from those who persecute me.” (Psalm 31:15)

We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-23)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning, (Psalm 130:5-6)

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40: 31)

He has made everything beautiful in its time … God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there shall be a time there for every purpose and for every work.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11,17)

And He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” (Acts 1:7)

But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing (James 1:4).

References

“What to Do When You’re Waiting on God” by Joyce Meyer

“Waiting on God: Why It is Important to Wait on God” by Amy Blossom

When God’s Timing Is Taking Too Long” by Joyce Meyer

holding scrabble tiles spelling encourage

Encouragement-So Little Yet So Much /Spiritual Meditations

Julie Exline recounts her experience of learning to surf.  Not an easy task for anyone, Julie had the extra difficulty of having to work around some physical limitations.   She, however, had an exceptional teacher who provided, not only technical training, but patient encouragement.

Given my limited upper body strength and a decided lack of flexibility in my neck and back, I found it very hard to maintain the surfer position required for paddling. When my instructor saw this obvious problem, she quietly offered me a gift of grace: She gently but firmly hooked her foot on my board and began to tow me out into the waves. 

OK, I’ll admit that this was humbling for me. It was so painfully apparent that I needed the help. I couldn’t do it on my own. I came so close to being overtaken by a dark storm cloud of shame, which would have tainted the whole experience. But instead, I was presented with a lifeline for my emotions, a balm that soothed me and my bruised ego: It was my instructor’s positive attitude.

Although she would have been perfectly justified in grumbling, rolling her eyes, or at least giving me a heavy sigh, she did none of these things. Instead, she presented the situation as though towing me around was just exactly what she wanted to do. Although I don’t remember her specific words, this is the message that she conveyed to me: “This is great! I need some more practice doing this. And I’ll get a good workout.”

Because of the grace that my instructor offered me, I didn’t have to struggle through the waves alone. I was able to put my head down periodically and rest. I didn’t have to hold my body up in an uncomfortable position for too long, and I didn’t have to waste precious time and energy with laborious, inefficient paddling.

My instructor’s consistent encouragement and support steadied me throughout my surfing adventure. When I missed a wave or wiped out, she was gentle and patient in response. She didn’t berate me for my errors, nor did she show a trace of frustration with me or my screw-ups. She would simply watch for the next decent wave, give my board a little push, and then coach me through the steps to stand up.

All that I had in my glass were a few drops of accomplishment. But she chose to focus on the sweetness of those drops, not on how comically small they were or how much of the glass remained empty. And because of her emphasis on what I had achieved, I was able to join her in celebrating my successes, modest as they were.”  

Julie J. Exline Ph.D.

The Purpose of Encouragement

As you can see encouragement can turn an embarrassing situation into a cause to celebrate. An expression of affirmation through language or other symbolic representations can give strength to another person who feels limited, justifiably or not. Courage reduces fear, perseverance combats a desire to give up, confidence addresses low self-efficacy, inspiration resolves a lack of motivation or creativity, and hope decreases pessimism about the future;  all goals that the Apostles would have been striving for with their letters and visits to the first Christian churches who often struggled with the rejection of their former synagogues, friends and business associates.  This article speculates on where the first disciples traveled to spread the Good News.

Alfred Adler (1956), arguably the first psychologist to theorize on encouragement, considered encouragement a core feature of human development.  A broad definition commonly cited by Adlerian scholars says, “encouragement is the process of facilitating the development of a persons’ inner resources and courage toward positive movement”. (Think spiritual faith and Holy Spirit as two of those inner resources.)

Dreikurs (1971) considered the ability to encourage others as the single most important attribute in getting along with other people.

Grounded in humanistic psychology, the purpose of encouragement embraced by Adlerian scholars was to enhance the core features of a fully functioning person: a positive view of oneself,  a positive view of others,  being open to experiences, and a sense of belonging to others.  A measure for children was also developed that focused on three areas of encouragement: a positive view of the self, a sense of belonging, and the courage to be imperfect.  Are these not characteristics strongly supported by Jesus’ words and actions?  Once again Christianity and science coincide. See (Cosmos + Life + Science) = God for other areas of commonality.

Also, useful, our encouragement to others can include a suggestion to replace negative self-talk (inner dialogue) with a positive focus on accomplishments.  In their book Words Can Change Your Life, Newberg and Waldman tell us that positive self-talk improves attentiveness, autonomy, confidence, and work performance.  On the other hand,  negative self-talk can stimulate eating disorders, passivity, insomnia, agoraphobia, compulsive gambling, sexual dysfunction, low self-esteem and depression.  It can make you quite your job in a self-destructive way, and it can drive you to treating your family with disdain.

The importance of our inner thoughts is significant.

The Greater Impact of Your Words

The Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to encourage one another, particularly those who are disheartened (1 Thessalonians 5:11-15). Encouragement is more beneficial and necessary for some people than for others.

There is some preliminary evidence suggesting that encouragement might be relatively more important to the success and well-being of women, minority groups, and some non-Western cultures. Women, racial minority and impoverished individuals who routinely face discrimination might rely more on positive social messages from significant others to build their self-confidence.

individuals from non-Western collectivistic cultures such as in Eastern Asia, might define themselves more strongly in terms of their relationships with others and may, therefore, be more open to the influence of encouragement provided from significant others.

Praise vs. Encouragement

Although encouragement can be expressed through praise and persuasion, it is not the same. Praise refers to communicating positive evaluations of another person’s characteristics, performance, or products.  Although, like encouragement, praise involves the expression of affirmation, praise may not necessarily be intended to instill courage, perseverance, confidence, inspiration, or hope in another person.

For example, praise that is only offered as a form of congratulations would not be considered encouragement. Moreover, praise can be offered merely as feedback for something done in the past (e.g., “Good job on the presentation!”), whereas encouragement always has a present or future orientation. Even when a statement of encouragement refers to a past achievement, the ultimate goal of encouragement is to serve as a stimulus that either strengthens or develops positive motivation, cognitions, emotions, or behavior.

To make it easy to remember, think of praise as for past actions and encouragement as for future actions.

Conclusion

We are to follow the examples of Christ and the apostles to encourage others, especially in their faith.  It costs us nothing to speak a few words of support and what an amazing gift it is. 

As Dr. Julie Exline tells us, “When we ‘en-courage,’ it’s as though we actually infuse courage into another person. It can provide people with strength to look ahead, move forward, and reach for the next goal. The whole emotional tone of a tough situation can be transformed through encouragement. Somehow things seem a little brighter.”

If you found this article interesting, inspiring, informative or helpful, please share it.

Relevant Scripture

So, when they were sent off, they came to Antioch. Having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.When they had read it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. (Acts 15:30-31)

In the day that I called, you answered me. You encouraged me with strength in my soul. (Psalm 138:3)

Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers with many words and strengthened them. (Acts 15:32)

When he had gone through those parts, and had encouraged them with many words, he came into Greece. (Acts 20:2)

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through perseverance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now the God of perseverance and of encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:4-6)

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord an  encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:31)  This is after Paul’s conversion

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak  be patient with everyone. (1 Thes 5:14)

References

Words can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg MD & Mark Robert Waldman – available for Kindle

“The Psychology of Encouragement: Theory, Research, and Applications”  by Y. Joel Wong1

“The Quiet Power of Encouragement” by Julie J. Exline Ph.D.

person comtemplatin cross with bay and city in background

Are You Listening for God’s Messages?/Spiritual Meditations

Because you are a follower of Spiritual Meditations, I believe your faith is, at least, partially based on your own experience with the Holy Spirit.  As such, the following content is especially being sent to you to enhance that experience.  The process of becoming Spiritually Conscious may be new to you or you may practice it regularly. You may be on the first steps of your spiritual path or you may be fully aware of God’s daily presence in your life.  If the following content seems foreign to you, I encourage you to ask God to help you absorb and utilize it to form a greater connection with Him. 

Before getting to the heart of Consciousness, I want to avoid any confusion. 

Conscience is an inner feeling viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior. It includes a sensitive regard for fairness or justice. Although a desirable trait resulting from care and nurturing, that conforms to spiritual consciousness, this is not what will be discussed here.

The medical community will define consciousness as being fully alert, aware, oriented, and responsive to the environment.  It is the worldly perspective but by substituting the word “God” for the words “the environment” we have a good working definition of Spiritual Consciousness.

Those who try to understand the inner life intellectually will meet with failure. The life for which they are looking will vanish in the analysis. S. S. Singh

Spiritual Consciousness Provides Fulfillment

The secret of harmonious living is in the development of spiritual consciousness. Fear and anxiety disappear, and life becomes meaningful with fulfillment as its keynote. The degree of spiritual consciousness which we attain can be measured by the extent to which we relinquish our dependence on the external world of form and place our faith and confidence in something greater than ourselves, in the Infinite Invisible, which can surmount any and every obstacle. It is an awareness of the presence and the grace of God.

Our work may require greater strength, greater knowledge, greater ability then we seem to possess, or there may be greater demands on our finances then we can meet. The human belief may be that there is a physical, mental, or moral demand made upon us that is too great. Instead of accepting this apparent lack, let us remember, “He performs the thing that is appointed for me…. The Lord will perfect that which concerns me,“ or some other scriptural passage. The very moment we turn to God’s spirit, recognizing that He performs that which is given us to do, a weight drops off our shoulders, and the sense of personal responsibility lifts. Suddenly, we are given the necessary ability, which we discover is not our ability at all; it is His ability being expressed through us. Out of our weakness comes strength, but not our strength; it is His strength, and we perform the work through His strength.

We are Not of This World

There is a specific practice which will aid in the attainment of this spiritual consciousness. It is a practice which can be carried out throughout the day as the world crowds in upon us. To every insistent desire proposed by the world, let our answer be “No, no. This is not what I need or want. Thy grace is sufficient, nothing else, only Thy grace“. Let us learn to hold to this resolutely.

Gradually, as over and over the temptation comes to say, “I need; I want; I haven’t enough; I am insufficient “; we remember that our sufficiency is in the Infinite Invisible. This practice deepens spiritual consciousness. Brother Lawrence called it practicing the presence of God. The Hebrews called is keeping the mind stayed on God and acknowledging God and all ways. Jesus called it abiding in the Word. It is a practice that ultimately leads to a complete reliance on the Infinite Invisible, which in its turn brings the visible into our awareness as we need it.

As consciousness becomes more spiritual, confidence in the Infinite Invisible increases, and our love, hate, or fear of the external world diminishes. We see the Infinite Invisible as the law, cause, and activity of all that is and drop our concern for the form, whether it be personal, thing, or condition.

Material living puts its faith in forms of good. Spiritual living makes use of that which is in the world; it enjoys the form, but its reliance is on that which is the substance of the form, that which has created the form, the Invisible God.

The Kingdom of God is Within Us

All spiritual revelation has shown that the substance of this universe is in us. Every issue of life is determined, not by external conditions and things, but by our consciousness. For example, the body, in and of itself, has no power, no intelligence, and is not responsible for its actions. A hand, left to itself, would remain right where it is, forever and ever. There must be something to move it, and that something is called “I”. That “I “determines how this hand will be used; the hand cannot determine that in and of itself. The hand exists as an effect or as a form, and it responds to direction. As a vehicle or tool, it is obedient to us, and we impart to it whatever usefulness it has. This idea can be applied to other parts of the body.

Once we understand this principle, we will have grasped the entire principle of life. Literally, the “I” is the Kingdom of God within us; the law of life – the substance, the activity, the intelligent direction of life – is within us. If we can prove this to ourselves in one single way, that the life, activity, substance, and harmony of our being is determined by the law of God within us, we shall have no difficulty in proving this in every phase of our life, in the health of our body, and in all the relationships. The audio lecture entitled the Inner Kingdom will provide further explanation.  

The whole secret lies in the word “consciousness.“ And intellectual knowledge of the fact that ‘God is all’ is of no value. The only value any truth has is in the degree of its realization. Truth realized is spiritual consciousness. If we are conscious of the presence of the Lord (some will recognize this as the Holy Spirit) we are conscious of the activity of God

God is Omnipresent

In most religious teachings, we are told that the Spirit of God is everywhere just as electricity is everywhere. That is true. Electricity, however, is of no value to us, unless it is connected in some way for our particular use. So it is with the Spirit of God. It is everywhere, in an absolute, spiritual sense. But it is only effective in our experience to the extent we connect to It.

God is; there is a God – never doubt that. God is infinite in nature; eternal, universal, impartial and omnipresent. But how do we avail ourselves of that which God is? How do we bring this that we know about God into our individual experience? To illustrate, we can turn to the field of music. The principle of music is absolute. If, however, we fail to understand its principal and the sounds produced turn into a jumble of discordant noises, we do not fault the principle. We apply ourselves more diligently to practicing the principal until we become proficient in its applications. So it is in our God experience. God is, and God is here, and God is now, but God is available only in proportion to our realization and willingness to accept the discipline that is necessary for the attainment of that mind which was also in Christ Jesus.

There is a spirit in everyone. There actually is a spirit – the Spirit of God. No one is devoid of it, but most of us are unaware of it. God is with us. His presence fills our space; the Spirit of God dwells in us. But how many people have felt that presence? It is talked about, prayed about, theorized about, and sermonized about; but it is not experienced. It is the conscious awareness, the actual feeling or realization of the presence which is necessary.

How to Attain Spiritual Consciousness

Scriptural Immersion and Truth

Spiritual consciousness is attained through the activity of truth in consciousness. Dwelling on scriptural quotations or statements of truth helps to spiritualize thought. The more truth that we read and hear, the more active is truth in our consciousness. Thus, we learn to abide in the Word. This is the first step on the way.  It is important to learn all that we can about the correct letter of truth, to understand every principle, and then to practice these principles until we go from an intellectual knowledge to an inner awareness of them.

Take scriptural passages which embody spiritual principles and live with them. Take them apart, one by one, considering every implication and meaning, talk to God about them. Carry one of them with you day in and day out for a week or a month. Then take another and live with it, using it as a yardstick with which to measure every experience. Hold them up as a banner in the presence of any and every problem, until these principles become automatic.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • God is the only power
  • Love your neighbor as yourself
  • To him who has, more is given.
  • I can do all things through Christ
  • Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart
  • I and my Father are one.  He is always with me
  • My peace I give to you

If we solve enough problems and seek to understand the truth behind issues and situations, day in and day out for one, two, three, or more years, we shall have all the answers available for instant use. Years and years of contemplating God and the things of God, meditating/praying and communing with God, will have eliminated our worries about the things of this world. When a question arises, the right answer is immediately revealed.

Listening to the Holy Spirit

The second, and more important step, is to be able to receive truth from within, to be receptive and responsive to the truth that comes to us. At that point we do not think, read, or hear truth with the mind. We are becoming aware of the importation of the word of God from within because the inner ear and the inner eye have been developed through our knowing the letter of truth, dwelling on it and clearing our mind through meditation. Do not expect to hear from God whenever you meditate. For me, this practice enhances my ability to hear God when He has something to say.

How do we know when the Spirit of God dwells in us? If we are letting go of hate, envy, jealousy, malice, self-seeking, self-glorification, prejudice, and bigotry, we are making room for the Spirit of God, for God cannot dwell amid such qualities. As long as these qualities are present in our consciousness we have more work to do abiding in the truth and letting the truth abide in us, until such time as the Christ has come so alive that’s such mortal thoughts no longer touch us. Then the Spirit of God dwells in us, “which is Christ in you, The hope of glory… Behold I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him, and will stop with him and he with me. “

The listening attitude, the expected attitude, developed through meditation, creates a kind of vacuum into which God rushes with the things we need, whether it be wisdom, power, grace, or with whatever may be necessary.  For further info about meditation, you will find the audio entitled The Art of Meditation very useful.

Living with Spiritual Consciousness

The student of spiritual wisdom cannot go through his day, satisfied that he has read some truth in the morning, or that he is going to hear some truth in the afternoon or evening. There must be a conscious activity of truth going on all the time or a pause at frequent intervals for the practice of the presence (clearing our mind and listening for God). That does not mean that we neglect our human duties and activities; it means that we train ourselves to have some area in consciousness always active in truth. Whether we look out at forms of nature such as trees, flowers, or oceans, or we are meeting people, we find some measure of God in each experience. We train ourselves to behold the presence and activity of God in everything around us and remember that “My grace is sufficient”, that the spirit of the Lord God is upon me, and that His spirit of peace and joy is discernible to me and to all those who come within range of my consciousness.

The goal of God-awareness is very close to us, but nonetheless, as close as it seems, it is far away, because with every horizon reached, another beckons beyond. As we go forward in our quest or search, we can measure our progress in this way: We see the horizon before us and we have the feeling, “oh, I have just a short distance to go”. Sometimes, it takes only a few weeks or months to reach that horizon, then the whole world of spirit is opened before us. We believe we really have entered the kingdom of heaven, and we have – for a few days. Suddenly we become accustomed to this light and we are aware of another horizon that urges us forward, another advance that must be traveled step by step, and again, we press forward to even greater spiritual consciousness.

Conclusion

It is important that we let no hour of the day go by without some conscious reminder within us that the goal of life is to attain that mind which was also in Christ Jesus. The goal of the spiritual life is to attain God consciousness – to live and move and have our being in the eternal awareness of God‘s presence.

It is possible for anyone to change the trend of their life, not by hearing or reading truth, but by making it an active part of their consciousness and daily experience, until it becomes a habit every moment of the day, instead of an occasional thought. Make these principles operate in consciousness morning, noon, and night, until gradually the actual awareness comes. Then we make the transition from being hearers of the word to being doers of the word. Then we shall be abiding in the word and shall bear fruit richly.

A friend once asked me why some people experience God’s presence and others do not.  Only God can answer this definitively, but I can affirm that the practice described above created a stronger God-connection for me. Anyone with enough desire for a realization of God can achieve that realization – the grace of God will guarantee it.

If you found this article useful, informative, inspiring or interesting, please share it.

Relevant Scripture:

Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer regarding his disciples and all believers, was prayed as he was about to leave this world and was already mentally moving into the next.

11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are….

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

20 I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”  (John 17:11-26)

Reference:

Practicing the Presence: The Inspirational Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in Your Life by Joel S Goldsmith

Does Your Idol Speak Louder than Jesus /Spiritual Meditations

Why is there an intense fascination with celebrity?  29 million people in the United States watched the wedding pageantry of British Prince Harry to Megan Markle, an event which affects none of them personally.  Magazines like People and TV shows like TMZ or Entertainment Tonight provide details into celebrities’ comings and goings far beyond what is of any practical value to anyone.  Professional sports players and politicians are lifted as role models and heaped with praise while parents, teachers, godparents, and friends (whom are far more important to a person’s moral development) are hardly acknowledged. 

When we hear the word idol, we often think of statues and objects reminiscent of those worshiped by pagans in ancient cultures. However, the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used thousands of years ago. Today, many have replaced the “golden calf” with an insatiable drive for money or prestige or “success”. Some pursue the high regard of others as their ultimate goal. Some seek after comfort or a myriad of other passionate, yet empty, pursuits. Sadly, our societies often admire those serving such idols.

We support politicians and self-professed leaders. We media-stalk and try to emulate celebrities.  We buy shirts displaying the names of our sports heroes. We behave as though these are infallible and worthy of our devotion. If only we were as wealthy, talented or beautiful as they are, we would receive more attention which appeals to our sense of vanity. Since those dreams are not likely to become reality, we settle for the next best thing – we consider ourselves a part of their ‘flock’. We mimic their rhetoric and make it our own and the more we repeat it the more we are emotionally bound to it.

They become our idols when they absorb our heart and imagination more than God; when we make then more important than God; when we follow their voice like sheep

Of course, we can make idols of possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/ drugs/ gambling/ pornography, etc., but today I’m just talking about people we admire…maybe admire a little too much.

Who are Our Models?

I’m not a “fan”.  I don’t consider anyone more significant than another, but I believe admiration is appropriate when a person demonstrates characteristics consistent with the Golden Rule or as extoled in the Bible.   In my mind, the “A list” of desirable traits is produced by the fruits of the Spirit.  Think of someone famous today, someone that you support, and then compare them to the following:

Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:21-23)

How did your celeb measure up?  No, nobody is perfect and thank God for His grace, but how many of these traits does your favorite politician, hero or celebrity exhibit?  What does their history and lifestyle say about them?  If they profess to be a follower of Christ, are the fruits of the Spirit evident in them?  Can they be a positive influence or model if they aren’t manifesting some of them?

In many cases we see both wealth and poverty as deserved: wealth as the reward for their virtuous behavior and poverty as the reward for their vicious behavior.  With this in mind you may confess that you think that “he / she would never have become great if the fruits of the Spirit were important to them.  They were justified in pushing a few people aside to get where they are.” 

But what is so great about where they are?  If you answered their money, their power or their talent, you are missing the point of Christ’s teaching or have compromised your beliefs to be part of their flock.  What do they have that is of value to the Kingdom of God?  

Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:26-28)

Are your celebs serving anyone besides themselves? Don’t know? Here are some examples of how they can use their fame.

God, as revealed through Christ, is the only One truly worthy of our devotion, our service, and our love.  Those earthly beings that we put on a pedestal are nothing compared to Him.  Although the Holy Spirit seeks each lost sheep, God rejoices in those who listen to His voice and work within His will.  Each person must decide if they want to be part of God’s Kingdom or a part of the world’s pollution.  One can’t be both.

“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me. (Matt 12:30)

Wisdom as a Prerequisite to Leadership

Wisdom isn’t necessarily required for a rock star or actor, although it wouldn’t hurt, and some have delved into the spiritual. But for a political or military leader, wisdom is prized though, unfortunately, rare.  According to scripture, these are a few ways to determine if someone is wise.

  • They accept correction when they know they were wrong.
  • “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
  • They have godly integrity.
  • They are not easily offended
  • They are not obsessed with being ‘right’. When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom. (Prov 11:2)

Again, in Proverbs, the wisdom book:

“For wisdom is better than jewels;
And all desirable things cannot compare with her.
“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
And I find knowledge and discretion.
“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate. (Prov 8:11-13)

If We Aren’t Part of the Solution, We are Part of the Problem

Maybe I’m being too hard on our idols when it is we who are elevating them to this status.  The first commandment is clear.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me

We know this but don’t always realize it when we are creating our idols.  We are so easily led.  It is no wonder that God so often refers to us as sheep as in Psalm 23.  Regarding the jumble of lies and facts surrounding politicians, we know that we don’t know everything and, therefore, accept what our friends and the media tell us; it’s easier.  We usually have the resources to obtain our own answers, but we don’t take the time to do the research. Instead we acquire new opinions that augment or conform to what began as one idea or experience…a small sample of life and perhaps an insignificant one.  With the accumulation of the like thoughts we select, that initial idea grows into a mantra and manifesto.  Now it is hard to see truth; much easier to rationalize it away; more comforting to jump on the “band wagon” with our tribe; less threatening to our egos to continue in our chosen stance.

The Lord is My Shephard

When Jesus referred to us as sheep, He was talking about our vulnerability and His compassion for us. Jesus loved humanity so much that He pushed Peter to an emotional response, making it a point Peter could never forget.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" "Yes, LORD," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He answered, "Yes, LORD, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "LORD, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)

But why this crazy metaphor of sheep of all animals?  Here are just a few of the characteristics we have in common: 

*Sheep can’t defend themselves. When a sheep is frightened, the only thing it knows to do is run.  People can “fight” as well as “flight” but both reactions are based in fear, something God tells us repeatedly is unnecessary. Politicians are notorious for creating fears and then trying to convince us that only they can resolve them. But God is the only defender we need. “The LORD is my defense; and my God is the rock of my refuge” (Psalm 94:22).

*Sheep aren’t intelligent. Sheep are not known to be smart or cunning animals when it comes to safety; rather, they are susceptible and tend to wander away from the protection of the shepherd.   Compared to the wisdom of God, which is all knowing and all loving, human intelligence is miniscule.  (1 Cor 3:19).  People tend to wander away from God and bestow their affection on their idols.

*Sheep are Directionless.  Not only are sheep wanderers, but they get lost easily. When even one sheep goes astray, the shepherd goes after it and restores it to the flock. As Isaiah 53:6 indicates, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.”  If a sheep wanders off from the rest of the herd, it will have a hard, if not impossible time, finding its way back. They have no sense of direction. So it is with those outside the Lord, there is simply no sense of spiritual direction in their lives.

*Sheep follow the voice of their own Shepherd (no other shepherd). The Bible says the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. They follow the one whom they know. You may never have a complete understanding of your circumstances with all the answers to the questions of life, but you will understand the love of God and the importance of following the Lord to the green pastures and living water.  Likewise, the shepherd leads the sheep. The sheep know their shepherd, the sound of his voice and follow him. This is also the way that the sheep are separated into separate herds after grazing or sleeping together. The shepherd calls the sheep and they come. They need no markings to distinguish them – all they need is the sound of the shepherd’s voice.

*A Sheep is a Personal, a Prized and a Precious Possession. This sheep belonged to the shepherd, he paid a personal price to own it and won’t stand idly by while it is lost. (Ill. The price Jesus paid for the sheep – Ill. Calvary – 1 Cor. 6:19-20)- This sheep may have been no different from any other ordinary sheep, but it was special to the shepherd. Despite their differences every sheep was precious in his eyes. So it is with the Lord. He loves all His sheep equally.

*Sheep must be led to grass, just as the Holy Spirit leads us to what we need. If left to themselves sheep will graze in the same place until all the grass is gone. A good shepherd leads them to the best places to graze to keep them healthy. He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Conclusion

There are many people out there vying for our attention and hoping we will contribute to their income.  They want our political donations, votes, ticket buys, and endorsement purchases among other things.  Granted, a little entertainment gives us relief from a stressful world, but let’s consider the source of that entertainment before we count ourselves as a member of its flock.  No person should be made an idol or be blindly followed.  We must open our eyes to who they really are. Only God has our best interests at heart and deserves our devotion.

What do you think?  Are the celebrities, heroes and politicians who you endorse worthy of you? You – one of God’s children?  Whose sheep do you choose to be?  I’m hoping you will answer “Jesus’”.

If you find this article interesting, informative, inspiring or useful, please share it.

Relevant Scripture

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Ex 20:4-6)

 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revelings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did ]forewarn you, that they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.  Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;  and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (John 12:42-43)

Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear
Is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding,
But he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days. (Proverbs 24:15-16)

A fool always loses his temper,
But a wise man holds it back.
If a ruler pays attention to falsehood,
All his ministers become wicked. (Proverbs 29:11-12)

The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. (Eccl 9:17-18)

Your rulers are rebels
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves a bribe
And chases after rewards.
They do not defend the orphan,
Nor does the widow’s plea come before them. (Isaiah 1:23)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

References

“Five Reasons Why God Calls His People “Sheep””  by Bethany Hayes 

“Why Does God Call Us Sheep? on For His Service

“Why is Idol Worship Such a Powerful Temptation?” on Got Questions

“Why Do We Admire Celebrities?” with Jon Murphy 

flowers sky woman joy

How to Realize Spiritual Joy. Don’t Miss Out/Spiritual Meditations

 

Joy is almost a mystery, isn’t it?  Sometimes we struggle to grasp the biblical view of the elusive “joy” because of the way it is defined and described in Western culture today.

What’s the Difference Between Joy and Happiness?

In particular, we often confuse joy with happiness. Happiness may be momentary, as it is a result of short-term contentment; but joy, being related to the inner self, is long lasting. It is a deep-seated sense of what God has done and what He is doing. Happiness simply pleases a person, while joy brings warmth to the heart, and contentment to the soul. Probably the easiest distinction to understand is that happiness is dependent on outward circumstances, whereas joy is a spiritual quality independent of outward circumstances.

That doesn’t mean that all worldly events are without joy. An appreciation of God’s creations, such as nature and music, can be a source of joy.  The “Kingdom of God” is the manifestation of the astonishing sovereignty and glory of God. Sometimes God displays His glory and power by healing (2 Kings 5:1-14). Sometimes He puts a believer in a position of power (Esther 8:1-2). And sometimes He blesses His children with material possessions (Job 42:10-17). The key is that it is God who blesses, and although we may appreciate the gift, we rejoice that He has chosen to pour out His love, sovereignty, and power on us. We rejoice in the Giver, not just in the gift.

The Sources of Christian Joy

Once you realize that joy is not the same as happiness, it becomes a more difficult feeling to recognize but I hope you will be able to identify it by considering your unique experiences in relationship to the following sources of joy.

Joy is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruits of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
“Fruit” here means “the result of labor.” The laborer is the Holy Spirit.  So, what Galatians 5:22-23 really describes are traits characteristic of a believer who has yielded to the Holy Spirit’s work in his or her life. One of these character traits is joy.

God’s Presence Brings Joy

In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalms 16:11).

“There is a joy which isn’t given to the ungodly, that of those who love thee for thine own sake, whose joy thou thyself art; and this is the happy life to rejoice in thee, and of thee. This is it and there is none other.” – Augustine

Joy is Found in a Personal Relationship With God.

The Holy Spirit is God’s spirit, so when you unlock the presence of God or the Holy Spirit you may be feeling joy. This is the source of joy that I identify with the most strongly.  As I write this, I feel my heart, my soul connected with the heart, the Spirit of God. It is an extraordinary contentment or heart happiness.

If you have not already done so, this is something you can experience, in time, by meditating on spiritual truths as described on my blog page entitled “How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness.  There is an expansion of this idea in my post entitled “A Clear Mind Improves God Awareness”.

The Knowledge that God Answers Prayer is a Source of Joy

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
We can feel assured, that all our needs shall be supplied from the fountain that is inexhaustible—and that “no good thing” will be withheld from us. We can trace every mercy, every blessing, to the hand of God, and know that God has sent them in all the kindness and tenderness of a loving Father.  Which brings us to the point that our answered prayers are those within God’s will.

Alignment with God’s Will Brings Joy

We are never filled with more joy than when we are in the center of God’s will. When God can’t be persuaded to do things our way or we can’t change our situation, we finally give ourselves over to the will of God. Let’s surrender to and commit ourselves to pursuing God’s will. In this there is true joy. Also read Acts 20:24 and James 1:22-25.

God’s Word Brings Joy

God’s Word can be a glorious source of joy for the believer. As you read the Bible you may come across passages that suddenly speak to you in the moment, touching your heart with the recognition that God has just spoken to or answered you.  What joy!

Serving God with Other Believers is Joyful

Philippians 2:2 tells us that “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”  If you have been inspired to work with other Christians to provide service to those in need, you know how the gratitude received and the goals accomplished bring you unbelievable joy and satisfaction.

The Joy of Hope During Difficulties.

Because joy resides in our soul, it may not prevent us from experiencing negative surface emotions. To the Christian, who is living near to the throne of grace, there are sources of joy unknown to all others. He or she can even “rejoice in tribulation,” and “be glad in the Lord,” while experiencing pain, suffering, and distress. Not that we are insensible to trial and affliction, or that we steel ourselves to their endurance; not that we can gaze unmoved on the wreck of all our hopes, or see, without a tear of agony, beloved ones laid in their silent grave.

No! our affections are warmer and more tender; our sympathies deeper and stronger; our sensibilities more acute and lively, than those devoid of joy. We can feel and feel intensely the robbing of earthly joys. But then, we know where we can go for comfort, peace, satisfaction and hope and we remember the words of the Savior, “Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).
Given that the Bible tells us it is perfectly legitimate to experience mourning, sorrow, and grief, these feelings do not separate us from God. For we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4). The key is knowing. If we are to stand up under trials and experience joy, we must have a vision toward hope.  Remembering Jesus’ care for us and our ultimate victory in Him, we can experience joy even in our hidden hardships.

Jesus told His followers:

Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!” — Luke 6:22-23

The writers of the epistles followed Jesus’ lead:

You received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. — 1 Thessalonians 1:6

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. — James 1:2

One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. They were beaten; they were imprisoned; and who knew what would happen to them the next day? But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. — Acts 16:25

The kind of joy that gets you singing in jail at midnight with your back bleeding and your life hanging by a thread — that’s joy worth cultivating!

In our culture of instant gratification and constant amusement, it’s hard to understand the suffering the apostles endured for the sake of the gospel. We’ll do anything to avoid trials and tribulations. But often, in an attempt to keep anything uncomfortable from touching us, we miss the very thing God wants to use to lead us to the joy in Him. We can’t avoid difficulties, but amid all our troubles — there is God and His effervescent love.

This doesn’t mean we deny or disguise our feelings. It doesn’t mean we can or should shrug off pain or disappointment or try not to feel sorrow when we have good cause. It means we place our trust in God, and He opens the door to a joy beyond anything we can know on our own: the joy of knowing we are in His hands forever.

Gratitude for Our Salvation Brings Joy

The moment of salvation is inexpressibly joyous. This is our eternal, spiritual delivery from separation from God and our entry into heaven. Jesus came so that we might be saved, and the New Testament testifies that this experience is an occasion for priceless joy; for those converted and for those involved in the process. Many tears of joy have been shed when someone estranged from God, or who has been an enemy of God, has become His adopted son or daughter.

In Luke 15, Jesus told three stories of precious things that were lost and then found, and each was an occasion for joy: the shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep to search for and find one lost lamb; the woman who lost a valuable coin and found it; and the prodigal son, who was lost but found his way home.
In each story Jesus spoke of the rejoicing that surrounds the saving of one soul, and He described the joy that results:
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. — Luke 15:7
After the Ethiopian eunuch was saved, he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39). Luke recorded the conversion of the Gentiles “caused great joy to all the brethren” (Acts 15:3). The Philippian jailer and his family were filled with joy when they became believers in God (Acts 16:34). Never doubt that salvation, the most profound of new beginnings, is also infused with joy beyond description.

The Joy of Helping Another to Heaven

Soul winning is one of the greatest sources of joy a believer will ever experience both now and in the life to come.  Imagine the Apostle Paul in heaven. A great multitude walks by and the Lord says to him, “These are here because you cared, sacrificed and remained faithful to your call (Acts 20:24). Wow, what joy!

The Joy of Knowing Christ and His Love for Us.

The Christian rejoices because he has found Christ, “the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Jesus lived, and suffered, and died that “all that great debt” we owed to law and justice, was washed away.

The Christian rejoices in the thought, that Christ not only “appears in the presence of God for us,” but also that He is ever present with His Church and people on earth. “I am with you always, even unto the end of the ages.” “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” And He prepares us for the enjoyment of His heavenly kingdom.

How to Attain More Joy in Your Life

That brings us back to this matter of how we can be joyful as a matter of discipline or of the will. How is it possible to remain joyful all the time? Paul gives us the key: “Rejoice in the Lord always”. We all can certainly enjoy and appreciate God’s creation but the key to Christian’s joy is its source, which is the Lord. If Christ is in me and I am in Him, that relationship is not a sometimes experience. All our attempts to find joy will be futile if we do not abide in Jesus, because we cannot make ourselves joyful by our own power. But as we live in Christ, His perfect joy will dwell in us and make our experience of joy ever more consistent and full (John 15:10–11).

Even if Christians cannot rejoice in the circumstances, if we find ourselves passing through pain, sorrow, or grief, we still can rejoice in God. We rejoice in the Lord, and since He never leaves us or forsakes us, we can rejoice always.

You who have not discovered your personal relationship with God, have been overwhelmed with sorrow and grief at some time. But when you give your heart to God, He will turn your sorrow into joy. And nothing will be able to steal that joy from you.

When we voice our concerns to God and allow ourselves to be reminded of His goodness, we release our burdens. Jesus said,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
But it doesn’t stop there. Paul goes on to say,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).
After we have given our requests to God, we keep a proper perspective. We think on things that are pure, full of splendor, excellent, right, and praiseworthy. We do not dwell on our heartache but on the goodness of God and the beauty He infuses into our lives. This is important to remember when circumstances are less than joyful. James 1:2 says,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.
In trials, joy is not found in the immediate situation but in the promise that God’s Kingdom will be revealed through the situation. 1 Peter 1:7-9 says that current trials bring an assurance of faith, making the future joy even greater when Jesus returns. Similarly, James 1:3-4 says that trials will strengthen our character. We can rejoice in that trials point to a future gift.

Conclusion

True joy can be found in Jesus (John 15:11). If you look for God’s work and gifts in your life, you will always have joy. Even in hardship, your joy remains, because it depends on God and His promises, which do not change.  If you get caught up in temporary hardships and worldly desires, your joy will be fleeting and weak.

Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are and why you are. The joy of the believer is not bestowed by any man and, therefore, cannot be taken away.  When you need nothing more than truth and the love of a good God to bring you peace, then you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by anything.

Love of God is an essential ingredient of joy, I think, something not necessarily true of happiness.

Relevant Scripture

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)

Break forth into joy, sing together, For the Lord has comforted His people. (Isaiah 52:9)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:1-4)

May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The LORD be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long.  (Psalm 35:27–28)

I encourage you to save this post to be reread on unhappy days, thereby realigning your perspective and reminding you of all you have to be joyful about.

If you found this article useful, interesting, inspiring or informative, please share it using the social media buttons.

References

“Difference Between Joy & Happiness” on DifferenceBetween.net

“Christian Joy” Grace Gems

“Sources of Joy” by Dr Gary Linton

“The Source of Joy” on Ligonier Ministries

“Joy vs. Happiness” by Sandra L. Brown M.A.
night sky milky way cross

Stunning Vision Reveals Heavens Lobby/Spiritual Meditations

Is a revelation during a coma, a dream, a vision or something else?
 
Throughout the Bible, God spoke to people in many ways, each unique and wonderful, including visions and dreams. Many people use these two words interchangeably, and they are similar. Both involve our Lord giving direct revelation. However, one of the main differences is that dreams come to us during sleep, while visions occur when we are awake. But what if a revelation comes to someone during a coma?  Is this a dream, a vision or something unique?
 
Some will say that God uses dreams primarily to speak to us, reveal His plans, enable Spirit-directed communication, warn of impending trouble, and establish prophetic revelation.  And that He uses visions to reveal Himself and His glory.  If these are the only two options, then my friend Matthew experienced both or perhaps a combination of the two.  He will tell you his experience and you can ponder the answer.  But first a little more depth on visions and how we should respond to them.

Characteristics of a God-given Vision

Each of us goes through life-changing moments when a new vision is given, but questions often arise. Before the interpretation or meaning of a vision is provided, the receiver can experience confusion and begins to seek God’s interpretation of what was seen.  These are the primary ways a believer can accept that the vision is from God:
 
• A God-given vision reveals His holiness, glory, and power
 
• A God-given vision exposes your own humanness and frailty.
 
• A God-given vision will leave you astonished and sometimes even numb for days.
 
• A God-given vision will always be followed by its interpretation.
 

Four Steps to Turning a Vision into Reality

It’s one thing to receive a vision. It’s another thing when you don’t understand it or know what to do with what you’ve received. Thankfully, the prophet Habakkuk revealed what you must do to bring your “waking dream” to fruition:
 
1. Pray
Prayer is the key to dreams, visions, revelations, interpretation, and knowledge. Pray and ask God to reveal the meaning of your “waking dream” to you.
 
2. Write the vision down
Time can dim your memory.
 
3. Act upon the vision
Step out in faith and act upon what God has shown you. The instant you begin to act upon what you have seen, you begin cooperating with God to bring it into being.
 
4. Wait for it
This may sound contradictory to acting upon the vision but waiting is an important part of making the vision a reality. In the videos and conversation below, Mathew will tell you how parts of his vision have been revealed but not all at this point.  Even as you step out in faith, we must realize that God’s timing is crucial: For the vision is set for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it. (Habakkuk 2:3) It will always be fulfilled.
 
Let’s look at a few select visions mentioned in the New Testament.

Jesus’ Vision(s)

Jesus may have had numerous visions.  Was it a vision that told Him where the colt was that He was to ride into Jerusalem before His final Passover there?  Was it a vision that showed him the man the disciples were to follow to discover the location for the last supper?  Perhaps, or maybe, being fully anointed with God’s Spirit, He just knew.  However, the Bible clearly says that He saw Nathaniel under a fig tree before He met him.
 
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
 
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
 
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
 
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
 
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
 
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
 
Jesus said, “You believe[ because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you,  you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on  the Son of Man.”   (John 1:45-51)

Peter’s Vision

Through his vision, God told Peter that the Gentiles were to be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Represented as food that was forbidden under Jewish law, he was told that they were not to be considered unclean.
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.
 
Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
 
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
 
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
 
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
 
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
 
While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
 
Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
 
The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”
 
Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
 
The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.  (Acts 10:9-23)
 

Paul’s Visions

Paul experienced many visions in his lifetime. (2Corinthians 12:1)  He had a vision of Ananias coming to him to restore his eyesight (Acts 9:12) and a vision or a dream of a Macedonian man beseeching him to come to his region with the Gospel. (Acts 16:9,10)  Following is another example of a vision he had.
“When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’
 
“‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
 
“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”  (Acts 22:17-21)
You will find an extensive list of Biblical visions in the Relevant Scripture section below.

Visions Today

In many parts of the world, God seems to be using visions and dreams extensively. In areas where there is little or no gospel message available, and where people do not have Bibles, God is taking His message to people directly through dreams and visions. This is entirely consistent with the biblical example of visions frequently used by God to reveal His truth to people in the early days of Christianity. If God desires to communicate His message to a person, He can use whatever means He finds necessary—a missionary, an angel, a vision, or a dream. Of course, God also can give visions in areas where the gospel message is already readily available. There is no limit to what God can do.

Matthew’s Spellbinding Vision

Matthew was 26 when he suddenly became seriously ill.  To allow his body to have a better chance of survival, doctors put him into a coma, during which he nearly died.  The doctors were unable to safely bring Matthew out of his unconsciousness after one to two weeks as initially planned.
 
He remained in the coma for 28 days during which he experienced a nonstop vision that continued each time he fell asleep after he  came out of the coma.  What he saw was truly amazing and the lengthiest vision I have ever heard or read about outside of Revelation.
 
Many near-death experiences include the soul walking toward a bright light and this is included in one part of Matthews vision, not regarding himself, but watching someone else walk toward that light.   He describes this in the second video below.
 
Matthew’s vision elevated his soul into a starry universe, sometimes referred to as the Second Heaven,  where he saw other souls moving along a pathway of stars that led into infinity.  And Jesus was his tutor.
 
In this home video Matthew provides an excellently detailed description of what he experienced.  You will be mesmerized.
 
 
After watching Matthew’s video, I had a couple of questions for him.

Me: Have you ever wondered if your illness/coma was INTENDED to provide the vision?

Matthew: “YES!  I tell everyone that God brought it upon me on purpose. I was in a place in my “salvation” where God could not really speak to me. (Prideful and focused on earthly things.) He had to slap me out of it. I call the experience “my walk in the wilderness”.

I believe we experience tribulation and hard times to refine us in Christ. They are sometimes out of chastisement to correct us, and sometimes to just open our eyes. ALWAYS for correction of some type. (Or in some cases as example to others also). But I don’t think I would have payed as much attention if it was just a dream. This experience got my attention BIG TIME and still has my attention 20 years later.

 
Daniel 11:35 And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.”
 
Me: What do you think was God’s purpose for your vision?  What was He trying to tell you? Is this something you have discovered or is it still to be discovered?
 
Matthew: ”I grew tremendously closer to the Lord through that event. I no longer fear tribulation and death. (I still don’t like them though… LOL) But I also believe God was preparing me for the end times ministry he has set up for me, whatever that should be. Much of what I was shown 20 years ago is starting to happen now… Soooo… It really has me looking back at what I was shown and re-looking at it.
 
I have been shown answers to some, but other parts are still being revealed. I was shown a lot. We’re talking near a month of a continuous vision, then continued visions for weeks after I awoke. That’s a lot of information to process.”

As an example of something that has been revealed to him, Matthew sent to me this video regarding death and the importance of intercessory prayer.

 
 

Conclusion

According to Catholic documents, most people have their visions early in life and move into greater spiritual communion with God after that. In that sense the vision achieved its purpose, boosting one along the spiritual path to something richer.
 
However, we must be careful when it comes to visions and the interpretation of visions. We shouldn’t measure ourselves against these experiences or pursue them as they are clearly not prerequisites to grace and are meant only for those God chooses.
 
We must keep in mind that the Bible is finished, and it tells us everything we need to know. The key truth is that if God were to give a vision, it would agree completely with what He has already revealed in His Word. Visions should never be given equal or greater authority than the Word of God. God’s Word is our ultimate authority for Christian faith and practice.
 
If you believe you have had a vision and feel that perhaps God gave it to you, prayerfully examine the Word of God and make sure your vision agrees with Scripture. Then prayerfully consider what God would have you do in response to the vision (James 1:5). God would not give a vision to a person and then keep the meaning of the vision hidden. In Scripture, whenever a person asked God for the meaning of a vision, God made sure it was explained to the them. (Daniel 8:15-17).

Relevant Scripture

In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  (Acts 2:17)
 
The Most High God covenanted with Abraham in a vision. (Genesis 15:1-21)
 
God spoke to Jacob in either a dream or a night vision. (Genesis 46:2-4)
 
Balaam experienced a vision of the Almighty. (Numbers 24:1-19)
 
Samuel experienced a vision as a child. (1Samuel 3:1-21)
 
Nathan experienced a night vision concerning King David. (2Samuel 7:4-17; 1Chronicles 17:1-15)
 
Iddo, the seer, received multiple visions concerning Jeroboam.  Exactly what his visions and writings were concerning is not stated in the Bible.  He did write genealogies and kept records of some of Israel’s Kings. (2Chronicles 9:29; 12:15)
 
Job experienced both visions and dreams. (Job 7:14)
 
Isaiah experienced a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem. (Isaiah 1:1)
 
Isaiah also saw the Lord sitting upon a Throne in His Temple. (Isaiah 6:1-4)
 
Ezekiel experienced multiple visions. (Ezekiel 7:13; 8:1-4; 11:24)
 
Daniel apparently received both dreams and visions of the Lord. (Daniel 2:19; 8:1-27; 9:21-24)
 
Obadiah received a vision concerning Edom. (Obadiah 1:1-21)
 
Nahum received a vision of the destruction of Ninevah approximately one hundred years after Jonah preached there.  Apparently, they had backslidden again, and it was “time to pay the piper.” (Nahum 1:1-3:19)
 
Peter, James and John had a vision (The Transfiguration) of Moses and Elisha while on the Mountain with Jesus. (Matthew 17:1-13)
 
Zacharias had a vision of the Angel of the Lord. (Luke 1:11-22)
 
Ananias had a vision of the Lord concerning Saul of Tarsus. (Acts 9:10-12)
 
Saul of Tarsus had a vision of Ananias coming to him to restore his eyesight. (Acts 9:12)
 
Cornelius had a vision of an Angel coming to him to reveal how he could hear the Gospel preached. (Acts 10:1-48)
 
Peter had a symbolic vision of the Gentiles being accepted into the Kingdom of God. (Acts 10:9-48)
 
Paul had either a vision or a dream of a Macedonian man beseeching him to come with the Gospel. (Acts 16:9,10)
 
The Lord appeared to Paul in either a dream or a vision bringing him encouragement and guidance. (Acts 18:9,10)
 
Paul experienced many visions in his lifetime. (2Corinthians 12:1)

References

How to Recognize God-Given Visions” by Benny Hinn Ministries
 
“Prophecy Visions And Dreams” by OpenBible.info
 
Supernatural Biblical Guidance” by Paster John Hamel
 
What are Visions” by Alice L. Camille
 
 
 
 
EKG line fist 'life'

Walking Miracles When God Heals / Spiritual Meditations

I don’t often hear about people being healed by God. Perhaps this is because with modern medicine and the ability of our amazing bodies to heal themselves, it is often difficult to recognize a miracle. But in the two experiences below, it is pretty obvious that healing miracles do happen.

Walking Miracle – Once Totally Paralyzed

My name is Riekie and this is how God healed me.

I gave my life to Christ when I was 11 years old. His love and guidance have always been with me.

The summer after my high school graduation, I came down with Polio. By the time I got to the hospital, I couldn’t move anything – I was completely paralyzed – I couldn’t even swallow.

I was very scared. As I prayed through most of the night, a calm came over me as I felt God’s love and protection [I have found this to be a distinguishing characteristic of God’s presence on the scene]. I kept thinking of Deut 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms”. I felt those loving arms supporting me and protecting me.

The day they were going to put me in an iron lung, my fever broke and function began to return. Thanks be to God! I gradually began to walk and use my right arm, but the left one was completely paralyzed. However, over time some function returned. God was with me every step of the way.

My favorite Psalm became #139

You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

God’s right hand was holding me fast and healing me.

During 2 months of rehab, my room mates were a young mother of 2 preschoolers (ages 2 and 4) and a 20-year-old member of the Ice Capades. We weren’t allowed visitors because this was before medical science was very knowledgeable about contagion. The mom missed her kids and the skater was going to miss a year of performing and could only return if her legs regained total strength. I was missing my first year of college with a full tuition scholarship. Whenever any of us was sad, we would all name 3 things we were grateful for. It worked every time – you can’t be grateful and depressed at the same time.

Now fast forward 2 years. I was wondering why God had spared me. What was it He had in mind for me? I thought and prayed about it and the answer was always the same ‘Become a nurse. Take care of My people’

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:16)

Since childhood I had felt a calling to become a nurse, but after the Polio the doctors said it was no longer possible. They said I wasn’t strong enough and I had a pronounced weakness in my left hand and arm.

But I could feel the Holy Spirit nudging me [a feeling of urgency when God is encouraging us to act on something] so I applied to a school of nursing. There were 12 faculty members who did applicant interviews; one of them would decide if I would be admitted.

As it happened, the lady who interviewed me had one leg smaller and thinner than the other and walked with a limp. She said that I might have to do things differently, but that I should be able to find a way. Her final decision was “If I can do it, you can do it”. God sure did send me the right interviewer!

There were periods of challenge and fatigue, but God was always with me; every minute of every day. And I became a nurse.

Prayer:
Let us pray that God may strengthen us through His Holy Spirit, so that Christ may live in our hearts in love. And may we grasp how wide and long and deep is His love. We pray in His name. Amen

I want to share with you this wonderful contemporary song about God’s healing grace. I think you’ll like it.

Entitled “Walking Miracles

Walking Miracle – 7% Chance of Recovery

Hi there, my name is Matthew.

About 20 years ago, I came down with a sudden sickness with much of the same symptoms of Covid19. Within 24 hours, I had respiratory distress diagnosed as double pneumonia. Because my body was laboring so hard to stay alive, the doctors wanted to put me in a coma. I agreed. It was only supposed to be for a week or two. I continued to get worse, with pancreatitis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, and other nasty things. The doctors tried to bring me out of the coma twice but were unable to do so without damage to my heart.

After 25 days the pastor of my church was told by the Spirit to “go lay your hands on Matthew and pray for his healing”. At approximately the same time the youth pastor at my church received the same message. This they did and three days later I awoke.

The doctors had told my wife that I only had a 7% chance to live. And that I would probably not have any more children and may have brain damage because of the high fever. It took several months of rehab to regain my strength but I’ve got three more kids now and the only remaining damage from the whole experience is nerve damage in one foot because the hospital medical staff did not put a boot on it..

While I slept, I was actually walking with the Lord. He had taken me up in the Spirit, and He used my coma to show me things.

In a video, Matthew is  going to describe his spellbinding 28-day vision in the next post. For a while his visions continued after he came out of the coma.  It is very unusual and deserves our attention considering the larger topic of visions, so please stay tuned. You will be amazed.

If you found this article to be interesting, informative, inspiring or useful please share it by clicking the social media icons below.  Thanks.

Relevant Scripture

Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, (Gen 20:17)

“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. (Deut 32:39)

LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. (Psalm 30:2)
Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.(Jer 17:14)

Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matt 9:22)

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. (Matt 12:15)

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. (Acts 4:10)

black sky, burst of light, hand of God

(Cosmos + Life + Science) = God | Spiritual Meditations

 

Do atheists have a scientific basis for their non-belief?

I have been avoiding this subject because the technicalities go far beyond my understanding of science. However, what I know of science may be similar to what you know of science, so I am, hopefully, approaching the topic from our common ground. If you would like to dig deeper, you will find further discussion in the references.

The question of whether science supports the concept of God elicits much discussion and very few answers. Many scientists are backing the idea that there is a Force which created everything needed to produce life. In his book God: The Evidence: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Post Secular World, Patrick Glynn reveals how the branches of science support the existence of God.

Before 1973, the predominant view of modern philosophers and intellectuals was that human life had come about essentially by accident, the byproduct of brute, material forces randomly churning. over time.

However, in the fall of 1973, the world’s most eminent astronomers and physicists gathered in Poland to commemorate the 500th birthday of the father of modern astronomy, Nicholas Copernicus.

Of the dozens of scientific lectures presented during the festivities, only one would be remembered decades later, echoing far beyond the hall in Krakow where it was delivered, indeed far beyond the field of astronomy or even science itself.

It’s author, Brandon Carter, was a well-established astrophysicist and cosmologist from Cambridge University. His principal says that all the seemingly arbitrary and unrelated constraints in physics have one strange thing in common – they are precisely the values needed to have a universe capable of producing life. All the myriad laws of physics were fine-tuned from the very beginning of the universe for the creation of man. Carter’s principal offered a kind of explanation for one of the most basic mysteries of physics….the existence of an initial creating Force. And that the vast, 15 billion-year-evolution of the universe had apparently been directed towards one goal: the creation of human life.

Science is an amazing, wonderful undertaking: it teaches us about life, the world and the universe. As physicists investigate the most fundamental characteristics of nature, they’re tackling issues that have long been the province of philosophers and theologians. And biological evolution has not brought us the slightest understanding of how the first living organisms emerged from inanimate matter on this planet and how the advanced eukaryotic cells—the highly structured building blocks of advanced life forms—emerged from simpler organisms. Neither does it explain one of the greatest mysteries of science: how did consciousness arise in living things? Where do symbolic thinking and self-awareness come from? What is it that allows humans to understand the mysteries of biology, physics, mathematics, engineering and medicine? And what enables us to create great works of art, music, architecture and literature? Science is nowhere near to explaining these deep mysteries. But let’s get back to the controversy.

The First Cause Argument

Why is there something instead of nothing? Scientists don’t fully comprehend the quantum world yet, and their hypotheses about the first moments of creation aren’t much more than guesses at this point.

The primary argument that theists — those who believe in the existence of God — often first argue is that the simple fact that there is physical matter at all confirms the existence of God, because a tangible thing cannot come into being without it being created in the first place. (In religious-speak, this is the “first cause” argument: If one can explain everything back to the theoretical Big Bang, yet cannot explain what caused it, the universe is still unexplained.) In response, some atheists contend that matter has always existed and that theists cannot prove otherwise. As well, some non-believers argue that it is as equally valid to ask theists where God came from as it is to ask non-believers where matter came from.

Here, both sides present arguments based on phenomena that are scientifically inexplicable. Theists contend that there is a god that is outside space and time, while atheists assert that not only can a physical object exist without ever being created (without causation), it can exist forever. One seems as improbable as the other — and as likely as the other.

The Mathematical Argument

The second-most-used logical argument to prove the existence of God contends that an intelligence that created these perfect conditions for life in fact require far less faith than believing the creation of a life-sustaining Earth happened to beat the inconceivable odds of chance.

The Fine-Tuning Sub-Argument

The most persuasive mathematical argument used to prove there is a God is the “fine-tuning argument,” which essentially says that some variables in a universe’s parameters, if changed, could virtually extinguish the chance that life of any type would form anywhere. This basic claim finds very little controversy.

The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet, however, is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces — gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces — were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one of these four values ever so slightly and the universe as we know it could not exist.

But let’s go deeper and consider just the nuclear forces. To explain the quantum-mechanical behavior of even one tiny particle requires pages and pages of extremely advanced mathematics. It appears that there is a vast, hidden “wisdom,” or structure, or knotty blueprint for even the most simple-looking element of nature.

As if by magic, the “God particle”—that Higgs boson discovered inside CERN’s powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider—came into being and miraculously gave the universe its mass. Why did this happen? (I’m going to assume here that you are smarter than I am and will remember more than I do from science class.) The mass constituted elementary particles—the quarks and the electron—whose weights and electrical charges had to fall within immeasurably tight bounds for what would happen next. From within the primeval soup of elementary particles that constituted the young universe, again as if by a magic hand, all the quarks suddenly bunched in threes to form protons and neutrons, their electrical charges set precisely to the exact level needed to attract and capture the electrons, which then began to circle nuclei made of the protons and neutrons. All the masses, charges and forces of interaction in the universe had to be in just the precisely needed amounts so that early light atoms could form. Larger ones would then be cooked in nuclear fires inside stars, giving us carbon, iron, nitrogen, oxygen and all the other elements that are so essential for life to emerge. And eventually, the highly complicated double-helix molecule, the life-propagating DNA, would be formed. (Whew. It took billions of years, but life was created.)

Why did everything we need in order to exist come into being? How was all of this possible without some latent outside Power to orchestrate the precise dance of elementary particles required for the creation of all the essentials of life? The great British mathematician Roger Penrose has calculated—based on only one of the hundreds of parameters of the physical universe—that the probability of the emergence of a life-giving cosmos was 1 divided by 10, raised to the power 10, and again raised to the power of 123. This is a number as close to zero as anyone has ever imagined.

Is there a chance that the atheists are correct? Yes, but according to the mathematical calculations, it’s only a nano-fractional chance.

Or is it possible that the human race has a cosmic purpose after all? Did the universe blossom into an untold number of realities, each containing billions of galaxies and vast oceans of emptiness between them, just to produce a few scattered communities of observers? Is the ultimate goal of the universe to observe its own splendor?

The discussion is extensive, covering every branch of science and filling volumes to explain the scientific technicalities, but I’ve given you the major arguments. Now, the question to you becomes , “Do you believe in math, science, and logic enough to believe in God?”

A Few Quotes from Scientists

German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz described God as “a necessary being which has Its reason for existence in Itself.” It’s interesting to note that Leibniz was also a mathematician and physicist.

One of the world’s most renowned theoretical physicists, Paul Davies, has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming”.

Even the late Christopher Hitchens, one of atheism’s most aggressive proponents, conceded that “without question the fine-tuning argument was the most powerful argument of the other side.”

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” by the developments leading to the fine-tuning argument.

Oxford University professor of Mathematics Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

Conclusion

Science and religion are two sides of the same deep human impulse to understand the world, to know our place in it, and to marvel at the wonder of life and the infinite cosmos we are surrounded by. Let’s respect both and not let one attempt to usurp the role of the other. No matter how close to absolute proof we get, there will always be room for faith.

Based on my experience, I know that the invisible God speaks to my soul and gives me His guidance through inner urgings and outer activities. I have recorded these events and those of other Christians in the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category of this blog. Please contact me if you have some to contribute.

If you found this article interesting informative, inspiring or useful, please share it.

References

New American” article written by Kurt Williamson

“Scientific American” This essay was adapted from the introduction to Saint Joan of New York: A Novel about God and String Theory (Springer, 2019).

The BibleAsk Team

“Time Magazine” article by Amir D. Aczel April 27, 2014