Jesus in clouds

India Pilgrimage Yields Vision of Jesus /Spiritual Meditations

Have you ever had a spiritual experience that confirmed for you the existence of God?  In the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category on the Navigation Menu you will find several firsthand accounts from people who have experienced God’s presence. One of them is entitled “A Miraculous Intervention by Accident”. It reveals a young man’s promise to turn his life over to God in exchange for God’s miraculous healing of the young man’s critically injured sister.  The following account is the sequel to that post and reveals the young man’s unconventional search for God in India.


Timmy writes:

After God had healed my sister and baptized me with the Holy Spirit, my senior year at Barlow High School was focused on trying to get answers to these questions:

  • What was the meaning of what had happened to me?
  • What did God want me to do with the life of service that I had committed to Him?
  • How could I learn more about God?

I spent time reading and re-reading two books: The Bible and Be Here Now, a book by the former Dr. Richard Alpert, (now Ram Dass). The story line of Be Here Now is that Alpert had gone to India to meet a holy man, the guru Neem Karoli Baba, who he had read could perform miracles like Christ. His encounter with the holy man convinced him of the guru’s miraculous abilities and their encounter so transformed him that he gave up his job as a professor at Harvard to become a disciple of the holy man. The main point of his book was that all of us can achieve Christ consciousness and amazing spiritual power if we will follow the Buddhist Eightfold Path (right effort, right thought, right employment etc.) and use spiritual disciplines and practices outlined in the book, such as meditation.

The religious philosophy of Be Here Now is that of Zen Buddhism that God is an impersonal power in all and through all, which we can tap into through carefully following Buddha’s Eightfold Path. I already knew that God was not an impersonal God because God heard my prayer and healed my sister, but I was interested in Zen Buddhism because of their spiritual disciplines and the practices they promoted to help one attain Christ consciousness.

Alpert reported that practitioners of the spiritual techniques of Zen Buddhism were able to achieve real spiritual power and obtain amazing spiritual experiences. In contrast, Christianity does not offer an Eight-fold path or any systematic plan to attain Christ consciousness or having the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). The key point was that Neem Karoli Baba could allegedly perform miracles like Christ; that was fascinating to me and I hoped it was true.

The weight of my experience and my commitment to God was continually pressing on my mind; it pressed so hard that by the time I graduated from high school everything else seemed trivial in comparison. I knew that I must, for the sake of my sanity, my peace of mind, and my personal integrity find proof that God is real so that I could get on with the process of giving the rest of my life to God in whatever form that was going to take.

When I graduated from high school in June of 1974 my only goal was saving enough money to enable me to go to India, meet the holy man, and if I was convinced that he actually could perform miracles like Christ then I would know that he would be able tell me if God was real, and thus I could put my mind at ease about serving God for the rest of my life.

I immediately started working at a job my father got me, as a dishwasher in a pub on Fire Island NY, working 6-8 hours a day for minimum wage. Fortunately, within two weeks, due to a happy set of circumstances, I was promoted to bartender. The pub I was working in, the Schooner Inn was at that time a transplanted British pub. It had about six tables and the bar itself could seat only about a dozen. It had a limited menu, and the bartender was also the cook and the waiter.

I opened the bar every day at noon and I closed it at midnight on the weekdays and 4:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Working those long hours, six days a week I was able to save enough money so that by the time the beach season ended in early October I had enough saved for a round trip ticket and living expenses for, at least, a three month stay in India. I will never forget Peter’s typical English reaction when I told him my plans; he announced to everyone in the bar, “Bloody Timmy’s going to bloody India to see the bloody guru!”

I flew to New Delhi in October 1974. My plan was to spend a few days getting my bearings, then get a train ticket and set off for the mountains in search of the guru. Alpert (Dass) didn’t want to turn the guru into a tourist attraction so only vague information was given as to his location; the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in the north of the country. True pilgrims would find their way to him. I had his name and photo, a rough idea where he was, and he was famous; I figured it would not be too difficult to find him.

India however was a giant culture shock to me; within a day or two I realized that I was never going to get my bearings; I was in way over my head. I didn’t have the life skills, knowledge, or experience to cope with or take on a solo journey from New Delhi to the Himalayan Mountains and from the end of the train line to who knows where else. My dad had an idea of what I was in for; he tried to talk me out of going, and failing that he gave me his Air Force dog tags to wear saying, “that way when they find your body they will know where to send it.” Once I was in India and saw how difficult it would be to make this journey alone, I thought, “If I go off into the mountains, not only will I likely be robbed and killed, but my body will probably be thrown off a cliff and they will never even find my body or the dog tags to send it back home.”

I didn’t realize until my first day in India what a sheltered and relatively privileged life I had led up to this point. I was shocked by what I saw, from the moment I walked into the arrivals terminal; it was obvious that I was definitely in a third world country, and in a culture that did not value human life the way it is valued in Western nations. Over a million people still to this day live on the streets in New Delhi. I saw homeless people all over the city and almost everywhere I was besieged by beggars of all ages. I had to keep a sharp eye out for the con artists and criminals who mingled where tourists might be found and quickly went after likely targets like me.

I would have given up and gone home after two or three days, but the airline ticket I had purchased had a variable return date: I could stay in India as long as three months, but I had to stay at least two weeks.  So, I decided to make the best of it and get to know the city of New Delhi. I walked around, took in the sights and did some shopping.  Always foremost in my thought was my prayer – “God if you are real, would you please give me a sign? God if you are really God, please give me a sign?”

Each day in New Delhi brought its own adventure. Every morning, as I stepped outside my hotel, little children in rags crowded around begging for money. One day I found a man dying on the sidewalk, ignored by passersby and I spent the day trying to help him. Another day I was eating a banana while standing on a crowded sidewalk in a working-class neighborhood. I put my hand to my side for a moment and something warm and wet took the banana right out of my hand. I turned around and was face to face with a holy cow that snuck up behind me to grab the banana with her tongue. One evening there was a huge commotion on the street outside my hotel, a religious parade was going by, complete with an elephant and many musicians. I decided to go down to the sidewalk and check it out, but I was grabbed by some young men, told to “dance rock and roll” and pushed into the middle of the parade and had to be rescued by a policeman.

On one of my days around New Delhi I took a motorcycle taxi (a three wheel vehicle where the driver sits on a motorcycle up front and the passengers sat in a covered two person cab on the back) to visit a jewelry shop to buy a present for my mom. My cab was traveling through a poorer section of the city down a busy major road that had three lanes in each direction. All the traffic suddenly slowed way down; I could see up ahead.  

Four large cows were crossing the road a few cars ahead of us and traffic came to a stop to allow them to cross. But instead of strolling across the road, they laid down blocking all lanes. We could not back up because of the traffic behind us; we could not go around them because there were tall concrete curbs.  We were stuck.  I discovered that while cows are considered holy in India, and no one would kick, poke, or hit them, apparently yelling at them and beeping one’s horn is allowed.

But the cows were not going anywhere so, accepting the situation, I started looking around. I sat in the tiny motorcycle taxicab looking out to my right side. There were some two-story buildings set back about 50 feet from the curb. It was an incredibly beautiful day; above the row of buildings the sky was deep blue and there was not a cloud anywhere. I looked around the driver to see if there was any movement on the part of the cows and there was not, they were laying there on the road and seemed to be enjoying the sun as unconcerned by the many horns blowing, as if they were in some bucolic pasture in the country.

I looked back to my right and there was Jesus standing in the air only seven or eight feet away from me, and he was looking right into my eyes. I quickly took in the whole picture: He had long dark brown hair, brown eyes, a beard, and mustache and was dressed in a full-length beige tunic or robe with a rope belt around his waist.

He was standing inside a door sized and shaped area that started about three feet off the ground; it had a bright white background that was completely opaque and blocked out my view of the buildings and sky behind him. His sandaled feet stood on the same white as the background. I looked into his eyes and he was looking deeply into mine; His gaze was piercing yet compassionate.

I wish I could tell you that my immediate reaction to seeing Jesus was to exclaim, “Thank you God for this amazing miracle!” but I was being the scientific observer. I said to myself, “How is he doing that?” I leaned out of the cab to get a closer look. It was literally as if a door to heaven had opened in front of me, three feet up from the pavement.

I looked down at the bottom edge of the doorway, the closest part to me, trying to understand what was going on. There was no frame around the door, but I could see that at the edges the opaque white faded into amazingly bright rectangular blocks of the primary colors. They looked to be about ½”high and 1/5” wide and were staggered like bricks in a wall. Those tiny blocks of light were intensely bright and the most beautiful and perfect colors of blue, yellow, and red that I have ever seen. They formed a boarder around the door around an inch wide with six rows of blocks. The blocks closest to the door were the brightest and the outer two lines of blocks the colors were not as bright or intense, the fifth line being somewhat transparent and the sixth line fading into invisibility.

I looked back up at Jesus’ face and He was still looking into my eyes. I could feel the full weight of his presence, Christ was standing here in front of me, but I felt no fear or even shock – it somehow seemed natural. It looked from his expression that he had complete knowledge of my every thought, including my recent “How is he doing that?” but there was no condemnation in His eyes, just compassion. I felt immediately unworthy to meet his gaze and I turned my eyes to the inside of the cab. Instantly the thought flashed through my mind, “This is Jesus and as long as he is here, I need to be looking!” I looked back but he was gone. The whole vision had lasted no more than 10 seconds.

I settled back in my seat. The cows stood up and began to move off the road and we were rolling again. I was stunned; what had seemed so normal when it was happening now hit me and I tried to take it in. It is now forty-seven years later but as I think about it, I sigh, and my heart still beats faster. I saw the living savior with my own eyes! He came to me in the middle of a clear blue-sky day. He didn’t say a word, but he didn’t have to, I got the message: He is alive and of course God is real, and He knows and cares about everything that is going on in our hearts and minds all the time.

It was such a relief to get the answer to the question I had been seeking for so many years. God is definitely real! I could not ask for more powerful proof. Since that time I have reflected on how cool it was that God answered my request for a sign of His reality by sending Jesus because the next deep religious question I was going to have was, “God, now that I know you are real, is Jesus really your son?” How amazing it is that God would answer my prayer in such a spectacular way as a vision of Christ which answered both of my most important spiritual questions at once.

It is a great advantage for me as a pastor to have seen the risen Christ; I don’t have to take it on faith that He is the risen savior alive forever, I have looked Him in the eye. To this day I thank God for that experience every day. It remains a most important moment of my spiritual life because that experience confirmed that my path was set; the rest of my life was to be spent serving God. Now that I have the benefit of education and experience, two things stand out to me about that vision:

  • the shocking realization that God has an amazing knowledge of what is going on in our hearts and minds.
  • God’s compassion for us exemplified by giving a vision like that to an eighteen-year-old who was nobody special in the eyes of the world.

When I was begging him for a sign, I never would have expected such a powerful and perfect answer to my prayers.

Finally, it was my last day in India. I went to the American Express office to cash a Travelers Check for the trip back. As I walked towards the office, I saw a group of attractive looking young women standing at the end of the block talking. I walked in their direction to get a closer look when I saw a bundle on the sidewalk which they were ignoring. The bundle was the general size and shape of an infant. It was wrapped in a dirty light-colored cotton blanket.

I walked towards it; I had to look; and as I knelt on the sidewalk I said, “Please don’t let it be!” but it was. I gently pulled back the blanket: and it was a dead baby! I gently touched its face, but the baby’s skin was cold, I checked it several times but no pulse. If the baby had been alive, I would have taken care of it, even if it meant missing my flight. Dead, it was India’s problem. I covered its face again with the blanket, stood up and walked slowly away; it was I thought a symbol of how I found India to be: overwhelming poverty everywhere and a resignation to the plight of the poor.

On the plane that evening, I thought about all that had happened in the two weeks I was in India: the several other narrow escapes (I haven’t bored you with), the amazing things I’d seen; the few friends I’d made, and of course the miraculous vision of Christ that answered my prayers. My disappointment at not seeing the Guru was forgotten.

About an hour into the flight I began to pray, and I finalized my agreement with God. I gave God my complete and eternal loyalty to the agreement with God that I made on the day of my sister’s accident. I simply said, “Okay God, I will serve you for the rest of my life!” I was relieved to be on the plane and exhausted; my mission was accomplished – I had a clear and undeniable sign of the reality of God. I slept almost the whole flight back.

Conclusion

About a year ago I did a Google search for Neem Karoli Baba; I was shocked to discover he had died on September 11, 1973, over a year before I got to India. I would have loved to have met him, but it would not have altered my path which obviously was not with gurus, but with Christ.

In India God gave me the answer I had been seeking, proving Christ’s words to be true, “seek and you will find.” God also gave me a second demonstration of His knowledge of us and compassion for us. Each subsequent miracle I have seen or been a part of has shown that to me more and more – God truly knows what is in each of our hearts, and He truly loves each of us. Still to this day God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence thrill and amaze me.


This post is an excerpt from Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich’s book entitled The Long Road to Eternity available at Amazon.

Pastor Ehrlich has consented to publication of more posts describing his spiritual experiences. Watch for them in the next few months.

If you found this post interesting, inspiring, informative or helpful, please follow us and share using the social media buttons.   Many more articles written to feed your soul can be found on the Navigation Menu.

Relevant Scripture

Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.  1 Corinthians 15: 8 (NLT)

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.

If you found this article interesting, inspiring, informative or helpful, please follow us and share by clicking on one of the social media icons.  Many more soul-feeding posts can be found on the Navigation Menu.

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.   

stick figures

Reversing the Little Known Causes of Prejudice/Spiritual Meditations

“If he’s fat, he’s a glutton.” “Anyone with that accent is uneducated.” “As a woman, she’s a push over.” Prejudice can target anyone different than us and includes stereotypes of women, men, the rich, the poor, the LGBTQ community, ethnicity, bikers, conservatives, liberals and anyone that comes to mind when asked “who do you consider lesser, avoid or fear?” 

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Why a tax collector? Because they were despised by the Jewish population, which was who Jesus was talking to.  Yet this man humbly recognized himself as a sinner and sought God’s mercy and Jesus declared him exalted and justified.

We don’t have to look far to find our “tax collectors” of today: people who are part of a group despised by someone, people who don’t get the credit they deserve.  We make assumptions about individuals without knowing their heart or mind or their situation.  Whereas Jesus may declare them justified before God.  How do we develop such strong feelings about people we don’t know?

The Development of Social Categories

All people have a need to make sense of the world and we do that from infancy and across our lifetimes by creating categories to help interpret our environment. We create constructs like “fruit” and “vegetable” to categorize types of food. We create constructs about gender, age and other attributes of people.

Most of our constructs are based upon our socialization and the concepts we learn from the people around us, as well as our exposure to books and media. No one is born prejudiced, but as we are exposed to others’ biases, inaccuracies, and stereotypes, we develop beliefs that are discriminatory. Let’s admit it – It is nearly impossible to grow up without some.

Confirmation of Our Biases

Once constructs have been formed, we have a natural tendency to selectively attend to information that agrees with or confirms our existing categorizations. So, biases such as Asian men are good at math and science, black men are good at basketball, or white men are entitled and insensitive to others are reinforced as we selectively attend to any information that reinforces our existing biases. We then have well-entrenched stereotypes that can guide our actions.

Implicit Bias

Once a stereotype is entrenched, it can become unconscious and automatic. We find ourselves just reacting without stopping to think. We may believe that we are truly not prejudiced or racist, while not consciously aware of our automatic thoughts and attitudes. There are generally two parts to this:

  • Conscious, deeply held thoughts and
  • Unconscious thoughts and beliefs that sometimes guide our behavior.

The Escalation of Prejudice

Initially, if a person feels insecure or lacking in identity, they may have a desire to affiliate themselves with a group in order to strengthen their sense of self and find a feeling of belonging.  Being part of something bigger than themselves and sharing a common cause with the other members of their group makes them feel more complete and significant.

There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself.  However, this group identity may lead to a second stage. In order to further strengthen their sense of significance, members of a group may develop hostile feelings toward other groups.  Here we begin to judge others whom we don’t even know.

The third aspect is when members of a group take the step of withdrawing empathy from members of other groups, limiting their concern and compassion to their fellows.  For example, as political tensions polarize us, we become unquestioningly zealous about our party affiliation and feel momentarily justified not empathizing with members of the opposing party – we dismiss them as other.

This is closely related to a fourth aspect, in which individuals belonging to other groups are no longer perceived in terms of their individual personalities or behavior, but in terms of generalized prejudices and assumptions about the group as a whole. 

And finally — moving into the most dangerous and destructive extreme of prejudice — people may project their own psychological flaws and their own personal failings onto another group, as a strategy of avoiding responsibility and blame. Other groups become scapegoats, and consequently can justifiably be attacked or murdered, in revenge for their alleged crimes. Individuals with strong narcissistic and paranoid personality traits are especially prone to this strategy, since they are unable to admit to any personal faults, and are especially likely to demonize others.

Changing Our Minds

Changing our individual unjust social concepts takes conscious effort and practice. Dr Sherry Benton has 3 suggestions on how to do this:

  1. We all have prejudicial beliefs and we need to begin by acknowledging them if we are going to grow.  If we tell ourselves, “I’m not prejudice,” we are likely burying and ignoring the truth.
  2. We need to actively seek out objective facts that do not support our beliefs. Easy enough to do with the internet.  Find those objective sources.
  3. We need to focus on making our stereotypical, deeply ingrained beliefs conscious and reflect on their impact on others. At this point we generally know the right thing to do and we can act without prejudice while recognizing that we do have prejudice.

The Good Samaritan parable is an excellent reminder of how we should act toward others. I you’re wondering who merits such compassion from us, you may find an answer in this article entitled “Who are Your Neighbors?

Conclusion

As social animals we require a healthy balance between a sense of individuality (our own and that of others) and a sense of belonging; prejudice is the loss of that healthy balance.

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Relevant Scripture

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Cor 4:5)

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (Act 10:34-35)

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. (James 2:1)

References

The Psychology of Racism; Racism is a sign of a lack of psychological maturity and integration.” by Steve Taylor Ph.D.

A Surprising Cause of Prejudice; The real problem might be how we relate to people like us”  by Ron B. Aviram, Ph.D.

“Understanding Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Racism; Why we develop social constructs—and how we identify and change them. by Sherry Benton Ph.D.

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.”

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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.

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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
 
 
 
 
Jesus' glowing hand reching out

Saved From Destruction: A Testimony|Spiritual Meditations

By the age of 12, I was smoking a pack a day of cigarettes, using drugs & alcohol, was very racist and had my first tattoo (the Nazi “SS”) on my forearm. I had been arrested for drunkenness in public and spent a month in juvenile hall. Also, during that year I drank so much whiskey one day I was home puking in the toilet and lost consciousness. My head fell into the bowl and I would have drowned in my vomit if my little brother had not found me and pulled me out.

I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance with alcohol poisoning and my heart stopped a couple times and I had to be resuscitated. I can still see the EMT over me fading in and out and saying, “Don’t leave me Bobby . . . don’t leave me Bobby!”

I had a father who was physically abusive when he was not in prison. He tried to kill my mother in front of my brother and I. You know, all the standard stuff. As time went by things continued to get worse.

By 17 I had “WHITE POWER” tattooed across my shoulders and a big swastika on my back and I was running around with the Hell’s Angels and using meth every single day. That went on for 25 years with all the crime and things that go with it. As I look back there are several times that I thought I got “lucky” and should have died from overdoses, near motorcycle wrecks at 120 mph+, and violence including armed robbery. Now, I know my Savior wrapped His loving hands around me to spare my life.

How I Was Saved

I have a daughter who went into the Teen Challenge recovery program with a pill addiction. I was so happy for her because I did not want her to live a life in bondage, as I had all those years, and wanted to support her in every way possible. The girls in the program have a choir and go to a different church each Sunday and sing and give testimonies to raise money. I was at every single one. I had an extremely hard heart because my dad would have beaten me if I cried, even as a little boy, so I was not the crying type. But every week I would hear those girls sing and tell their stories and I would sit and sob (while trying to not draw attention).

My daughter wanted me to go into the program, but I would not. At one point she was going to leave the program (she was there voluntarily by the way) and I told her if she stayed and I was not clean by the time she graduated, I would go in. She stayed in and on October 21, 2012, I showed up for a choir outing at a local church. I had an incredible panic come over me like I had to get out of there, but I knew my daughter was counting on me to be there, so I stayed.

God delivered me that night. I knew something happened but wasn’t sure what. I felt different somehow. I used meth for a few more days and then one day just threw it away. I went through hell physically and it was a rough road, but He took away any desire to use meth. My girlfriend got saved also.

My Recovery From Addiction

I slept the majority of the time for nearly 5 months because my body had to adjust to coming off of 25 years of daily use. My now-wife Coleen would stop by on her way to work and wake me up to feed me. On her way home she would wake me up to feed me again and she would go home. The only other times I would get up was to shower occasionally and go to church and watch a little TV.

Because it might help somebody who has stumbled, I want to tell you that after I had been sober for 9 months (although I was awake more, I was hardly able to function), I started using again. I didn’t start because I had a desire to use, but rather because I was so frustrated after 9 months of being helpless and unable to function. I picked up right where I left off and thought “well, that’s it. God delivered me, changed my life, and I failed Him. He will never want me back”. That was a lie from Satan. A year and a half later, God delivered me again and I have been serving Him ever since (5 years clean this month). It is really amazing that it happened like that because, when I do jail and homeless ministry, I witness to people who have fallen and who also think God does not want them back now and have no hope. I AM ABLE TO DEBUNK THAT LIE OF THE ENEMY WITH MY STORY. God has been so good to me.

My Ministry

God changed my heart overnight too. When I was able to get up and around, I started going to the parks to witness to the homeless and pass out food gift cards my church supplied. I have a huge love for the people that are still in the bondage and it is only by the grace of God I didn’t end up homeless too.

I have a heart for people going down that road (especially kids). I have been there and can identify with them. (I went to a bunch of counselors as a kid as part of probation and would never talk to them because they were from a different world than mine.) I would love to find a way to take what the enemy intended for my destruction and use it for the glory of my Savior. These kids have no idea that they are robbing themselves of their future here on earth as well as what God wants for them in eternity. As the saying goes, “Jails, institutions, and death are the three destinations of abuse.”

Coleen and I were married shortly after we got saved as we didn’t want to live in a sinful relationship any longer. We began to pray for unsaved family members and as of today 9 family members have gotten saved and are faithful church members! All of those people were saved, and I was miraculously delivered because my daughter was in a Christ-based recovery program and they were all praying. Only God could do that.

About a month ago I felt the urge to go sit by the side of a very busy road here in town and hold up a big sign that said, “Drive Thru Prayer”. I finally did it. I sat there praying “Lord please send me somebody who is hurting”. After two hours, I was ready to leave when a truck pulled up in the vacant lot next to where I was. A man got out and was kind of wandering around and glancing at me. He finally came up and made small talk. He ended up asking for prayer. It turns out he had been saved and delivered from meth also. He had just recently gone back to using and lost his job and was having problems at home because of it. I was able to share that I had also stumbled and been set free again years ago. I put my arm around him as we sat on the curb and prayed. I believe God sent me there for that one man.

Sorry to go on so long. I just love to tell anybody who will listen what Jesus, the eternal Lover of my soul, has done for me! We are to tell everybody and never be ashamed. “For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He shall come in His glory, and in His Fathers, and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26

Robert

[If you feel that God wouldn’t want somebody like you, you will find more encouragement and Biblical support in this companion post.]

If you found Robert’s testimony interesting, informative, inspiring or useful, please use the social media buttons below.  Thanks.

Relevant Scripture

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (2 Cor 5:17-18)

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7)

The Lord favors those who fear Him,
Those who wait for His lovingkindness. (Psalm 147:11)

 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (John 14:23)

Photo Attribution

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Jesus praying

Jesus’ Prayers: a Feast for the Soul /Spiritual Meditations

If there is one word to describe the way Jesus prayed, it would be ‘intense”. Before He named the 12 disciples, He prayed all night. While in the Garden of Gethsemane, near the end of His human walk, He spent hours in prayer.

He spoke to God as His Father or “Abba”, a term a child would use for their own father and would go to God really trusting Him to be the divine love and the divine wisdom of this world. He prayed for guidance in where to preach and teach, who to choose, in healing and resurrection and to cast out demons. His prayers were from deep within where there was a hunger, a desire, or a need that was beyond words. When in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said to the disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death”. There was His connection with God, for God is not found on the surface of a person’s mind or their intellect but in their soul.

With a few exceptions, Jesus prayed in solitude; in the wilderness, in a secluded place, on the mountain. There were reasons Jesus wanted those exceptions heard.

The Raising of Lazarus

In John 11, Jesus spoke to God within the hearing of many as He called Lazarus from his tomb of 4 days. He told God “so that they believe that You sent Me”.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:40-42)

Jesus Foretells His Death

In John 12, Jesus spoke His prayer for all to hear so that God would be glorified in His response.

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.  Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”  But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. (John 12:27-33)

This was an important moment. Jesus, in agony, made his final decision of obedience unto death, in servanthood and sonship. Such obedience is indeed the glorification of God. And God answered: I have glorified My name and I will glorify it again. It was judgement; it was the overthrow of Satan; it was salvation. Who comprehended it? Was it merely the sound of thunder or was it the voice of an angel: both material and spiritual perception of revelation were mixed, depending on whether one was in the light or in darkness.

The High Priestly Prayer

This intercessory prayer is the most extensive and profound prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. Jesus prayed this for the benefit of those present, after He finished His final instructions to the disciples and before He was betrayed, arrested, and crucified. Justin Taylor writes that

Jesus’ “high priestly prayer” (John 17) is only about 650 words. It takes only 3 minutes and 30 seconds to read it aloud. But it will take all eternity for us to fully understand it!

One could easily give a full lecture on this chapter, but I will only touch here on points which I do not think are easily noticed. To learn more, I would encourage you to read a full commentary.

In this prayer, as Christ’s crucifixion approached, He told the disciples what was to come for Him and for them. John 17 is often called the “High Priestly Prayer”, as Jesus, the great High Priest, consecrates Himself to His coming death through which He will make atonement for the sin of the world. In the death of the Son, God’s love is revealed most profoundly, for love is the laying down of one’s life.

Yet there is a good deal more to the prayer than just this theme, for it deals with some of the great doctrines of the Gospel – the relationship of Father and Son, (v. 1-5), the relationship of the Son to the disciples and of the disciples to the world (v. 6-19), and the relationship of the Son to later generations of believers and their relationship to the world (v. 20-26)

At the beginning of the prayer, as Jesus turns to address the Father, His speech implies that He is taken up into the eternal presence. He speaks as if His work were already complete (for example, v. 4). Indeed, He even says, “I am no longer in this world” (v. 11, completely obscured in the NIV). But right after that He says, I say these things while I am still in the world (v. 13). He is right there with His disciples just before His death, but He is praying from the realm of eternity.

Jesus’ intercession for his disciples from within God’s presence anticipated His role after His ascension. The disciples’ relation to God had enabled them to recognize the Son and believe in Him. Their knowledge and faith were not as complete as they thought it is, but Jesus affirmed they have reached a decisive point. They had believed in Him and stayed with Him, even when most of His followers abandoned Him (6:60-69). There was still an enormous amount they do not know, and Jesus told them as much when He promised them the Holy Spirit to instruct them (14:26; 16:13).

Father and Son

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh [sometimes translated ‘all Creation’], that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Initially, it seems unfitting for Jesus to pray that He might receive glory for Himself. Looking more closely we find there are several observations concerning this request for glory which puts the matter in a different light.

  • Jesus requested the He be glorified in order to bring further glory to the Father
  • Jesus requested the glory which rightfully belonged to Him. When the second person of the Godhead left heaven to become God incarnate, He temporarily set aside His glory (Phil 2:5-8).
  • Christ’s glory was earned at the price of the cross

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 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. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition [Judas Iscariot] so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

The Disciples in the World

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 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.

Their Future Glory

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.

The value of this thought is that it gives solidity to our ideas of a future life. Our Lord said not only ‘that where I am, they also may be,’ but adds ‘with Me.’ That is not a superfluous addition, but emphasizes the thought of a communion which is intimate and blessed.

The crown of this utterance of Christ’s will is ‘that they may behold My glory.’ In an earlier part of this prayer our Lord had spoken of the ‘glory which I had with Thee before the world was.’ But probably the glory ‘given’ is not that of essential Divinity, but that of His future heavenly work. To His people ‘with Him where He is,’ are imparted fuller views of Christ as Savior, deeper notions of His work, clearer perception of His role in providence and nature. This is the loftiest employment of the spirits who are perfected and lapped in ‘pleasures for evermore’ by their union with the glorified Jesus.

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.”

Jesus Teaches How to Pray

Having highlighted the major prayers of Jesus, spoken for the good of those hearing them, I think it logical that we should consider His instruction on prayer. Here again, I will only address ideas that may not be easily noticed.

So many were the corruptions that had crept into the duty of prayer among the Jews, that Christ saw it needful to give a new directory for prayer. Because “we know not what to pray for as we ought”, He helped by giving a series of headings by which a time of prayer, long or short, may be guided. Not that we are tied to this form because we speak with God as we would to our own father or friend. Note how simple to remember and succinct each heading is, yet it should be prayed with understanding and without vain repetition

There are six petitions; the first three relating more immediately to God and his honor, the last three to our own concerns, both temporal and spiritual; as in the ten commandments, the four first teach us our duty toward God, and the last six our duty toward our neighbor. The method of this prayer teaches us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then to hope that other things shall be added.

11 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say:

[Luke’s Version of the Lord’s Prayer]

‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. [doing God’s will on earth]
‘Give us each day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

[Matthew’s version of the Lord’s prayer in chapter 6]

9‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

A note about “our daily bread”. Jesus refers here to basic sustenance for today without thought for tomorrow but relying on God’s provision. We pray, “Give it to us”; not to me only, but to others in common with me.

Note also that those that come to God for the forgiveness of their sins against Him, with a plea for grace, must have forgiven those who have offended them, else they curse themselves when they say the Lord’s prayer.

I you are interested in a closer look at the Lord’s Prayer, I would encourage you to watch this video Bible study by Pastor Nathan.

Back to Luke

Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children [e]and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

This is often interpreted as indicating a need to keep after God with repeated requests for the same thing. However, Jesus is indicating that if a reluctant man will answer the need, how much more will God do so since He is anxious to meet our needs.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

Here Jesus is referring to our request for the Holy Spirit to come into our lives as is seen in the following verses.

11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:1-13

All Things Will be Granted You?

Because these verses are so frequently misunderstood, I will mention Mark 11:24-25.

24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.

It is a distortion of the intention of these verses to take them to mean that a person can be a powerful magician. God acts through us in accord with His will and not ours. However, even considering only these two verses, while noting that verse 24 is a vital principle in prayer, we must remember that there is a condition in verse 25 that must be fulfilled.

The Essence of Prayer

Prayer should be a desire for spiritual fulfillment.  It is at it’s foundation a contemplative soaking in the infinite love of God.

On our behalf, Jesus prayed “that they [meaning you and I] may all be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us“.  One with God’s Kingdom.

By seeking first the Kingdom of God and being satisfied to let God add other things unto us as He sees is best for us, we open ourselves to fulfillment.  Let our prayers be an inner stillness in which God’s words flow into us reminding us Son all that I have is thine”.

God knows your needs before you do.  it is important that we leave behind all our preconceive notions or ideas of our material hopes, ambitions and desires, because there is no assurance that God will fulfill them on our terms. Trust our loving God to take care of you without telling Him how to do it. We tend to do this about the things we care the most about, when He is in a position to know what is best for us.

It is not the nature of God to withhold from you and then give you those very things because you pray for them and have been good.  The more you realize that God is not a rewarding God or a punishing God, but that the nature of God is infinite love and infinite wisdom, the more clearly you will see that there is little need to repeatedly tell God of your wishes or ask him to fill them. Recognizing His sovereignty and giving our cares to Him shows our trust in God’s hands and allows us to relax in His everlasting arms.  

Yet each heart-felt prayer is a renewal of our connection with God and our most desperate intersessions and thanksgivings are those that generate the hunger, desire, or need that is beyond words and heard the loudest by God.

As Jesus prayed, let us seek to be one with God and Christ and “perfected in unity”. Prayer is the vital breath, the heartbeat of divine energy without which we cannot truly live.

Relevant Scriptures

Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Mark 14:36-39)

Additional Reference

Bible Gateway Commentary https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/John/Jesus-Concludes-Time-Alone

Bible Hub Commentaries-MacLaren Expositions https://biblehub.com/commentaries/maclaren/john/17.htm

Photo Attribution

Photo credit: <a href=”https://visualhunt.co/a5/4e073d2d”>ThiênLong</a&gt; on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re7/305fb8fa”>Visualhunt.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-SA</a>