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A Diary of Dreams and Visions Supernatural Stuff

A Brother's Dream

Japan is a beautiful place. The people, the hospitality and the culture is something I can easily say was one of the best experiences of my life. I know that was  greatly aided by the number of wonderful Japanese Christians so willing to take my team and I and in and show us their marvelous country. It was truly a great time for me.

I had been praying a lot before this mission trip. I had a year under my belt now since my Guatemala trip (read here) and the Lord had already spoken a few times through dreams to me, so I was excited about going to Japan to share the gospel with one of the most unreached nations on earth. After the ways the Lord had spoken and moved in my life in the past year, I was sure He was going to have much to say about this trip.

I knew God cared about His people who were yet to follow Him. I knew He cared about me. I was sure God was going to speak in dramatic ways to increase our ministry in Japan. I prayed and fasted and asked God to show up. I knew He would.

For months leading up to my team’s trip to Japan we had problems. I had to convince two different team members not to drop out. They were afraid they weren’t going to be able to go for various reasons. I assured them God always comes through and to hang in there. I had to whisper a prayer under my breath each time I reassured them asking God to “please come through.” But come through He did. Just in time God provided everything we needed to be on our way for a successful trip. Even though I’d not heard anything prophetic from Him before the trip I felt like I’d seen Him move powerfully just to get us there.

I was excited to be in Japan once we landed. It was instant culture immersion, and I loved it. I was just waiting for God to start speaking to me about which Japanese person I met was going to come to know Him. I was waiting for God to reveal to me the secrets of the hearts of those around me so that what Paul said would happen:

But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” 1 Corinthians 14:24-25

The ministry we were engaging in was exciting, but I kept waiting. I kept waiting and asking. I asked the Lord to speak a lot, but no matter how much I asked I got nothing from the Lord. I didn’t hear from God about a single person in Japan. But our ministry went really well. We actually had a tremendous impact on the little church we ministered at, and they had an even bigger impact on us. They were so good to us and I have such a special love for them even today.

Confidence Waning

After about four weeks in country I wondered if God was going to speak. I had figured, incorrectly, that God was surely going to speak clearly when I went on a mission trip. I knew He’d have lots to say to start a revival in Japan. I do know He wants to start a revival in Japan, but it obviously wasn’t through prophetic evangelism while I was there.

One evening I was crying out to God before I fell asleep. I begged Him to speak. I asked Him if He really cared about these people like He cared about the Guatemalans. Then I instantly retracted that. I knew He did, but I told Him I didn’t understand why He seemed to speak to me about seemingly trivial things over the past year but when I was doing the Lord’s highest calling in Japan He had nothing to say. And it wasn’t for lack of me paying attention.

I fell asleep that night wondering why God was so quiet now. Had I done something? Was it me? My confidence in the God who spoke was definitely shaken.

About 4 am I awoke from a dream sobbing. I’d never experienced anything like it. I was actually sobbing uncontrollably when I woke up and I couldn’t stop for thirty minutes. It was out of my control and it was beyond my understanding.

The dream was short. I saw my older brother in prison. He was in a big “tank” as they often call them. I’ve been involved in prison ministry before, so I know a little bit about prison life. A tank is like a big dorm where everyone’s bunk is in a giant open room. They may have 30 or more men all in the same room so that they make more efficient use of their space. The people in the tanks are usually the more docile guys; they reserve the small cells for the ones they can’t trust.

In the dream I saw my brother sitting on his bed in the big open room. Just then a group of thugs came up to him and surrounded him in a circle. They started mocking him and made some comments about his mouth had gotten him in trouble. I was watching the whole thing as if I was twenty feet up and twenty feet away. I had a bird’s eye view of the whole thing.

Immediately I was overcome with emotion. I knew they were going to kill my brother. I wanted to shout out “NO!” but I was mute. I felt helpless. I knew my brother was. He has palsy in one of his arms, so I knew he didn’t have a chance to defend himself against the angry mob.

One of them took out a shiv, a makeshift knife, and began to advance at my brother with it. He was desperately trying to talk his way out of the situation, but there was no use. As the man drew closer to my brother he swiped horizontally at him as if to slit his throat. My brother dodged, but in the process the bridge of his nose was slit. I could see the blood gushing from his nose from a horizontal slice right where the bone meets the cartilage.

Just as I saw all this I was finally able to shout “NO!” The only problem was I realized I was awake now. My shout was probably heard throughout the neighborhood and I was out of control. I couldn’t stop my sobbing. For the only night my entire stay in Japan I was sleeping in my own room, so my roommate never saw it. For thirty minutes I couldn’t stop crying. I sobbed and cried out to God to save my brother. He had to come through for him. I begged God to rescue him. I pleaded for angels to be released to his aid.

The dream felt so real that I couldn’t distinguish dream from reality. After the sobbing stopped I still had a burden for prayer for another half hour. For an entire hour after my dream I cried out for my brother in prayer. Pleading and begging I longed for the dream to be just that. Then finally after an hour, the feeling of dread and helplessness left. The burden for prayer left.

And I was tired, so I fell right back asleep.

Confusion

The next morning when I woke up, quite drowsy from losing an hour of sleep, I couldn’t make sense of my dream. I wondered if it was an allegory the Lord had given me about the Japanese people in response to my pleas for Him to speak. I was confused because if it was God speaking to me about the Japanese people I was no better off than the day before. If it was God speaking, I’d need another dream or prophet just to figure out what the dream meant.

A couple days later after wrestling with the dream’s meaning I decided to email my mother. I thought there was a chance the dream was actually about my brother. I know that seems obvious now, but in the midst of all my crying out to God to speak about the Japanese I was sure He’d answered and I just wasn’t getting it.

I asked my mother if my brother was doing well. I said I’d had a dream about him and he was in trouble. I wasn’t going to tell my mother he was attacked, you just don’t ever tell a mother something like that.

What happened next really surprised me. My mother was overly interested in knowing what my dream was. Then she told me that my brother had been attacked in prison. I hadn’t told her that; only that he was in trouble.

When I had come back from my trip to Guatemala the year before my parents were in the room when our friend Loretta was telling me the dreams she had and how they were exactly what was going on while I was there. It was a new experience for all of us and I think it had left an impression on my parents the same as me. God speaking in dreams and things like that was new to all of us, but I think my mother had really taken to heart the fact that God could and would still speak like that. Ane when it came to one of her sons, she was going to take it seriously.

The rest of my time in Japan flew by. We had a great time finishing up the ministry we were involved over the next two weeks. I still love Japan and I long to go back. I’ve not had the opportunity in over a decade, but my heart longs for Japan more than any place on earth. They are a beautiful people who have a great need for the gospel. If you’ve ever been interested in going, check out my friend (and former teammate there) Robert Adair’s web page and sign up to go!

Meeting Up

When I got back from Japan I had one thing in mind. I had to go to prison and visit my brother. I had to find out if what I had dreamed was real. After a couple days of jetlag and catching up with my parents and friends I made the four hour drive to visit him. I wasn’t prepared for what I was going to see. If someone had described it to me, I don’t think I would have believed it. If someone had sent a photo I would have been skeptical that it was a fluke or Photoshopped.

As I sat across the table from my brother I was speechless. He had a healing scab across his nose right at the bridge where cartilage meets bone. The cut that was healing wasn’t sort of in the same place I’d seen in the dream but in the exact place. It looked 100% like what I’d seen–a clean cut straight across his nose.

As we sat there and talked about it and later with my mother I realized that my dream had been within an hour of when he was attacked in real life. I was asleep dreaming on the other side of the planet and my brother was being attacked during the day back here in the daytime. God surely knows no time zones.

I’m convinced that God showed me my brother’s peril now because He always longs to include and partner with His people in every way. God hears our prayers, and He longs for us to join in with His purposes and plans. I know God has great plans for my brother and He wanted me to know the trouble he was in so I could intercede for him. God wanted my partnership in the situation the same way He’d used Loretta a year before. I was in trouble and crying out to God and He showed a woman through dreams and visions. My brother was in trouble and He showed me.

God really cares about us!

Answering Questions We Don’t Ask

I learned something important through that experience. I still ask God to speak about specific situations, like my ministry in Japan, but I no longer expect Him to answer the exact question I ask. Think about the number of times Jesus refused to answer people on earth with a straight answer. He often posed another question to them entirely or His answer almost seemed to have nothing to do with the question. There’s too many examples of this to list here.

Why did Jesus answer questions this way? Because He’s a lot smarter than us. Often our questions are based in preconceived notions that we’re correct about something. Jesus knows our hearts so well that instead of answering our questions directly, He’ll often go back to the root issue that created our question in the first place and deal with that. Sometimes we’re so removed from the root issue that the answer (or question as it often is) seems nonsensical to us. It certainly did to the Pharisees over and over again.

What I learned was that when I ask for God to speak, I have to be open to hearing what He wants to talk about. He sees everything that’s going on and I need to trust Him that if He speaks, whatever He says is for sure the most relevant thing for me to know at that moment. I’m no longer disappointed when God doesn’t answer my question directly. It doesn’t stop me from continuing to ask questions because God still answers those even when He’s dealing with us on separate issues, but I always take whatever He says with a great deal of seriousness.

I encourage you to write your dreams down. Journal your prayers and questions from God. And definitely begin to ask Him to speak to you. He loves to speak to people who are asking and listening intently.

What do you think? Is God changing the direction of the conversation on you? Is He answering a question you didn’t think you asked? Is he talking about your brother when you’re asking about your bank account?

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Supernatural Stuff Written Word

Asking God To Speak

Many people live their lives without ever asking God to speak to them. I’ve heard tons of people say they’re waiting for God to tell them what to do, but they never actually get around to asking God what to do. In my mind it’s a sad state to be in. It’s like playing childish games with another person you’re mad at. You ask a proxy in the room to tell the other person something instead of directly addressing the person yourself.

Far too many people wait for God to send an angel to tell them the simplest thing to do, and that day never comes. Often people draw very inappropriate conclusions from that. They assume that either God doesn’t speak or He’s not going to speak to them. But they’ve missed something very important. They’ve ignored the process God put in place for a reason.

The process involves three important steps. Hear, Know and Ask.

1. Hear

God has spoken to all of us. He gave us something very powerful beyond imagination: His written Word. The process starts with filling our minds with God’s written Word. We’ve got to know it so that it’s the first thing we think about when we wake up and the last thing we contemplate when we go to sleep. If it’s in us, we’ll dwell on His words and we’ll share them with others. We can’t ever hope to hear God’s still, small, subjective word unless our hearts are overflowing with His eternal, sacred, objective written Word. We must start by learning to hear what God’s voice sounds like.

2. Know

Once we’ve filled our hearts with God’s written Word, we must start to assimilate that into everything we do. We must integrate into our worldview and daily lives the principles of scripture. We know God and His voice by having a relationship with His son, Jesus and fashioning our lives around Him. We cannot put God as a compartment we run to on occasion and expect Him to ever speak to us. He must be the most important thing in our lives at all times.

A trap that far too many people have fallen into is believing they can hear God’s subjective voice without knowing what that voice sounds like first. They are often tempted and swayed by the convincing voice of our adversary, Satan. For a person who is not familiar with the precepts and statutes of God, Satan has an easy time convincing people their sinful ways are right before God.

We must give ourselves to learning what God’s voice sounds like by knowing what couldn’t possibly be His voice. Our only way to do that is to fill our hearts and minds with His written Word. Have you heard God tell you to commit adultery with another person’s spouse? Nope–He’ll never say that! It’s clear from His written Word that He wouldn’t do that. Only when we are so familiar with God’s written Word that it is lodged unlovable in our heart can we resist our wily enemy.

3. Ask

Once we’ve committed to hearing God’s eternal written Word and we know He and His son, Jesus, we can begin to ask God to speak to us. Jesus told us in Luke 18:1-8 that His faithful ones are those who ask until God answers. We can’t give up. I asked God to speak to me for 6 years without hearing anything discernable, but I never gave up. I knew that God was good and that if I kept asking Him to speak He would. And He did. And after He did, He didn’t stop.

The process is important, but we must keep in mind that it’s not a one-time thing. It’s life-long. No one of us will ever be able to understand scripture well enough by the time we die to fully be sure they’ve heard from God when He speaks. We must use wisdom, discernment  and good judgement to know if God is speaking to us. The process starts, but it never finishes as long as we’re alive. We must always be seeking to Hear God, to Know God and to Ask God to speak and move in our lives. We need all three together. When we’re committed to that process, God has a person He can speak effectively to.

So, are you Hearing God by studying His written Word daily? Do you Know God by accepting Jesus and filling your life with His precepts? Are you Asking for God to speak to you daily?

 

And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:15

 

Categories
A Diary of Dreams and Visions Supernatural Stuff

Raising The Dead

We hiked into the village at dusk and it was the first time in a week we didn’t have a service scheduled. We were all so tired we went to bed pretty quickly. After going non-stop for what seemed like 24 hours a day 7 days in a row I slept like a rock. Even with the giant next to me snoring loud enough to keep the rest of the village up. But I awoke to a sound I’d never heard before and one I’ll never forget.

A mother wailing is an unmistakable sound. It’s a noise so distinct you need not ask what happened to cause a woman to cry in such a way. It’s a sound that transcends culture and language. And it still gives me chills twelve years later.

A woman in the village lost her three year-old son overnight and woke up to the grim discovery. Very quickly every friend in the village knew what happened and was attending the family. All of us on our short-term mission team were at a loss for what to do. Very quickly, though, my teammates decided we should take up a collection to help pay for a funeral. I was livid.

We were in Guatemala to share Jesus’ love with the Ixil people. We were there to testify to all the things Jesus had done and what He’d done for us in our lives. I don’t remember Jesus ever paying for a funeral. In fact, I remember distinctly that He wrecked more than one by raising a person from the dead. We weren’t in Guatemala to pay for funerals. We were there to stop them!

My indignation quickly turned to boldness as I approached the long-term missionary and asked him if we could go pray for the boy. I think he thought I meant to ask if we could go pray for the family and he told me he thought it would be appropriate. He talked to the family and they agreed to let us in the house. The wailing hadn’t let up for a minute when I realized the missionary hadn’t understood what I meant. I walked straight past the wailing mother and went over to the boy. The missionary stopped dead in his tracks at the door next to the mother.

Undaunted, I approached the boy and kneeled down next to the bed he was laid out on. Covered by a burlap cloth, I never saw his face. The wailing stopped. The room was completely silent. I could see some of the team through the slats in the flimsy wooden wall, but I immediately focused on the boy. I was in a dilemma now, though.

Before we entered the room, I was filled with a confidence and boldness I’d never experienced before in my life. I was not about to let a boy die while we were there when we could ask God to give him back. I knew God well enough to know that we should at least ask. And before I walked into the room I had a feeling He might just give me what I asked for. Then I walked into the room and all confidence vanished.

 

All Alone

I was left with myself and a dead boy. No confidence. No clue what I was doing. I felt all alone in that silent room–the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life.

But I couldn’t retreat now. Alone or not, I still served a God who answers prayers and raises the dead. I laid my hand on the boy’s chest and began to pray softly.

“God, give this boy back to his family. Raise this boy, please, I ask.”

I went on like that for maybe five or ten minutes. I’m not exactly sure because it seemed like an eternity but I know it wasn’t that long. I think it was just long enough for the missionary to get over his shock of what happened when we walked in and gather himself enough to come put his hand on my shoulder.

“It’s time to go,” he whispered into my ear.

I hesitantly got up and followed him out past the teary-eyed mother and a host of family and friends. The boy was still dead and I wanted more time, but I obeyed the missionary and we walked out. Looking back on it I wish I had told him to go on and I’d stay. I wished I’d stayed for another 8 hours or longer–maybe God would have answered my prayers if I’d stayed longer. But in the moment I decided the missionary knew better about what would be culturally appropriate. My folly, only later did I realize, was that there is never a culturally appropriate way or time to raise a person from the dead. Never. Nowhere.

I came out of that house a broken spirit. I felt betrayed and let down by God. Where was He? Why did He leave me alone in that room? Why didn’t He answer my prayer? As I begrudgingly pitched in for funeral expenses I wondered what would it have taken to raise that boy from the dead? Did I lack faith? Did I need more time? Was God willing?

Those questions haunted me for the remainder of my time in Guatemala. I felt like I didn’t know what was up or down anymore. I wasn’t sure if I had greatly failed God or if God had greatly failed me. One thing was for sure, though; I became known as the guy who’d pray for anything. Anything.

 

The Guy Who Prays

Every village we entered from that point on there was always some dying cow or failing crop that needed prayer. I suppose the news that I was willing to ask God for anything spread through the remote mountaintops as I was the one praying for every person’s smallest needs over the next two weeks.

By the time I got back to Texas my heart felt at an all-time low. I reckoned the trip to be a complete and utter failure. I figured I was not missionary material because I couldn’t handle the emotional turmoil of it.

My parents picked me up from the airport and they were visibly disappointed by my utter sense of shock. I was in a fog and they were expecting their same boy back. I wasn’t the same boy, though. I never would be again. I was deeply wounded in a way I’d never felt or expected before. I felt like God had completely forgotten and abandoned me when I needed Him the most.

As we drove along the highway from the airport my mother said something very curious to me. “Loretta wants to talk to you when you get home. She’s got some things she wants to share.”

Loretta was a fellow church member and friend of the family who had agreed to pray for me while I was gone.

“She said one night you were sweating and being attacked by little demons that looked like gnats, but I told her that was just silly because it was cold where you were because you were so high up in altitude,” my mother continued. “I told her that wasn’t possible.”

“What did she say?” I quickly snapped back. I was instantly out of the fog. I was instantly awake.

“What did she say? She said I was sweating and being attacked by gnats?” I persisted.

“Well, yeah. Does that mean something?” mom said, puzzled.

“I want to talk to her today,” I said. “Not tomorrow. Today.”

Mom didn’t balk at my insistence. I wouldn’t say another word about it so she got Loretta over to the house that afternoon.

 

Demon Gnats

Loretta read from a prayer journal she kept. She told me the very day and hour she wrote down her experience. She’d gone to sleep early that night and quickly awoke from a dream. She saw me sweating profusely, wrapped like a mummy and being attacked by little demons she could only describe as gnats. She said I was in agony and then I cried out to God to rescue me. That’s when she woke up and prayed for me. She wrote it down that night and went back to bed.

I’m rarely at a loss for words, but I couldn’t utter a word. My parents concern over my strange state turned to an intense curiosity as they examined my dumbfounded face. I managed to collect my thoughts and I told them the story.

Three weeks before we had hiked into a remote mountain village to show the Jesus film and share our testimonies. Unfortunately for everyone, the village was infested with gnats. I’ve never encountered a biting gnat before, but we were all being accosted by thousands of gnats that bit. It got really bad when we went to bed.

The rain started coming down so hard and the eves of their houses are open, so the gnats took refuge in our shelter. I was in a 20 degree “mummy” sleeping bag and to keep the gnats off of me I would close it up and seal myself inside. My breath caused me to overheat and even though it was 50 degrees outside, I was sweating profusely. After several hours of sweating and then opening up long enough for a breath of fresh air that brought on a thousand more bites, I cried out to God.

“God, you’ve got to do something about this! I’m miserable.”

A minute later, our host came into our little room with the answer. A smoking corn cob in a coffee can. The thousands of gnats in our room left immediately. To me at that moment, it was one of the greatest miracles I’d ever encountered. That may seem silly to be so happy to be free of biting gnats, but I was covered on every square inch of my body with welts from their bites. And a month later I was still covered with the healing wounds of their bites.

Loretta had no way of knowing what happened that night, but she showed me the time she woke up at and it was the exact time I had cried out to God. I remember because I thought I’d made it through most of the night fighting off the gnats without sleep and I was just ready to get up and leave the village. I decided to brave the gnats long enough to see my watch and I realized it was only 11:30pm; the exact time Loretta had written down that she woke up from her dream.

 

The God Who Sees is The God Who Cares

I was amazed that she had seen me. She described the situation like she’d been there. God showed another person, 1,500 miles away, countries apart, exactly what had happened to me. It turned out that five different times I’d cried out for help on that trip and five different times Loretta had a dream. Ever single time she was able to tell me where I was, what the people I was with looked like and the exact words I said because she’d written her dreams down immediately.

That was the most amazing day of my life. I thought God had forgotten me. I thought I was alone. The whole time, God saw me and cared enough about me to show someone else. He wanted me to know that He cared about every moment of my life.

That day hearing Loretta tell me about what God had showed her changed my life. And I’m continually thankful that since then I’ve had many other times where God would speak directly and very personally to me.

Experiencing God speak directly to you changes you forever. And He wants all of us to experience that.

I encourage you to ask God to speak to you. Ask Him that every day for years until He does.

It’s so worth it.

Categories
A Diary of Dreams and Visions Supernatural Stuff

The People God Loves

A chicken bus

I was completely undone by what I was hearing. I couldn’t believe that such things existed. I had been asking and asking for such things for six years with nothing. But then again, I wasn’t totally sure what I was asking for.

I was in the rugged mountains of Guatemala gazing listlessly out into the picturesque fields dotting the slope across the river. I was listening to a tape series about contemporary prophecy as I was sitting on my own bench of a retired American school bus the locals lovingly call a “chicken bus.” The tape I was listening to had the kinds of stories I’d been asking for over the past six years. The kinds of things that happened in the Bible. Some of them even more amazing than what happened in the Bible. But maybe that was because they happened to someone today.

I was listening to the most amazing stories I’d ever heard in my life while looking out over the most beautiful mountainside I’d ever seen when something stuck in my mind. I pulled off the headphones and looked as far across the mountaintops as I could. A thought kept running through my mind and I couldn’t shake it. I hadn’t thought about it before, but now that it was there I couldn’t get it out of my head.

I’d given up my summer in college to travel to the most remote, desolate place on earth I’d ever imagined. I could have stayed home and had fun at the beach like a lot of my friends, but I chose to raise money to travel to somewhere I’d never heard of before to tell people about Jesus I may never see again. Why?  The words rang over and over again in my head so loud I couldn’t hear anything else.

“Because these are the people I love.”

What the Ixil area of Guatemala looks like

That phrase stuck with me more powerfully than anything I can remember before it. I smiled as I pondered the reality that God had sent me to tell some of the people He really loved about Him. It made me happy that I got to be a part of touching God’s heart.

I melted back into gazing across the mountainside, this time without headphones in my ears. Our 13-hour trip was almost over and I just wanted to soak up what the place looked like where the people God loves live. The hillsides were dotted with tiny little communities you could only spot because a few puffs of smoke rose from the trees. It felt like being sometime, not someplace, as if we’d stepped back into the distant past several hundred years ago.

We arrived at our destination, which happened to be the end of the road. Literally. Our guide was happy to meet us all. Pablo was the same size as every other Guatemalan man I’d met: 5′-3″ tops. But his manner made him seem much taller than all the rest. He was jovial and engaging even with my abysmal lack of Spanish I felt like I instantly connected with him. He introduced us to what is known as the “Ixil Triangle” and went on to thank us for coming. Then he said something that still shocks me to this day.

“I want to thank you all for coming so far away from your homes. I know it was a big sacrifice for you all to be here, but I want to tell you why you all came here. You are all here because God loves these people. These are the people God loves. That is why you are here.”

My jaw was gaping open, I’m sure. I had understood enough of what he said in Spanish to know what he had said, but when our translator confirmed what I’d heard, I was mesmerized. Not by this small man who had just told me the meditations of my heart from 30 minutes earlier, but the fact that God was able to communicate to both of us the same phrase. The implications of this in real life were astounding!

It may seem small to you, but the fact that he used the very same sentence that resounded through my head before captured my attention. Maybe he’d said that same thing to every mission team that came before me, but he didn’t know what I’d been silently pondering a half hour before. And what’s more, I knew that I hadn’t been actively thinking about it. My mind had been somewhere else and all of a sudden that phrase got planted in my brain, and I knew I hadn’t put it there. At least, now I was sure I hadn’t put it there.

I was in awe that I had actually just clearly heard the voice of God as He proclaimed His love and intentions over these people. I thought I may have heard the voice of the Lord before, but I was never sure. This confirmed to me that I’d heard the voice of God beyond a shadow of a doubt.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27

A typical street in the Ixile part of Guatemala

The joy I felt the rest of that day knowing that I had truly heard God’s voice outweighed the gross neglect I’d put into training my body for the rigors of mountain climbing we were currently engaged in. Every day seemed like we made at least six 4,000 vertical foot ascents and descents every day. My body was exhausted beyond imagination, but my spirit was alive like I’d never felt before.

Since that time I’ve learned to pay attention to those little thoughts that run through my mind. I can’t recount to you the number of times this has happened since then, but you always remember that first time you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you heard God. I’ve also learned to pay close attention to people; especially when they’re praying for me. I’ve found that when people pray for me they unknowingly pray the very sentences God put into my mind days or hours earlier. It’s His way of letting us know that it was really Him.

I encourage you to start asking the Lord to speak to you every day. I asked every day for almost six years and He did it. He did it profoundly that morning in the little village of Tsalbal, Guatemala.

But nothing prepared me for what I was going to experience next.

Next time I post, that is.

Categories
A Diary of Dreams and Visions Featured Posts Supernatural Stuff

A Diary of Dreams & Visions

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Ever since my childhood growing up in a strictly cessationist Baptist church, I have been fascinated by the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was taught explicitly and through subtle joking over many years that the gifts had ended with the closing of the canon of scripture. I was even taught that those who claimed to perform miracles, prophesy or speak in tongues today were either charlatans, lying or demonically possessed or deceived.

Those are, in hindsight, pretty radical positions especially when viewed in light of scripture, but they were deeply held by a large portion of the American church while I was growing up.

Something happened to me when I was 15, though. I had an experience which caused me to question the things I’d been taught growing up. The experience wasn’t any kind of supernatural event, but when I saw all my teachers and Bible study leaders acting reprehensible during a contentious church split fight. I was so disenchanted with their actions I began to question their teaching.

I’m happy to say that 99% of what they taught me I was able to hold on to. They were faithful to scripture to teach me the Word of God from a young age. I understood Jesus’ atonement, God’s love for me and His requirement of me to tell the world about Him. I realized they had done a good job save for actions to the contrary. The one thing that fell suspect through a careful inspection of scripture was this one hangup about spiritual gifts. I couldn’t find anywhere in scripture that explicitly relegated miracles, tongues, prophecy, etc. to within the covers of my Bible. In fact, I found it spoke exactly to the contrary.

But still, deeply held and ingrained teachings are hard to let go of. I carefully studied the reasons I had been taught those things don’t happen anymore and I found some of the arguments very compelling, but eventually without substance. Most of the arguments were laughable, however. Most of the arguments were blatantly created lies to back up a position held from prejudice, not careful doctrinal inspection of scripture. The fact is most of the people I knew and their teachers and those they studied just didn’t like “charismatics.” There were a silly lot, unstable in their lives to the point of complete distaste for everything they stood for. I have to admit, especially after many years now of believing otherwise, that their characterization of charismatics is not completely without merit.

Mahatma Ghandi erred eternally in his thinking by saying, “I would be convinced to be a Christian were it not for the Christians I have met.” We must not make the same mistake when it comes to our interpretation of scripture. We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

So after I was convinced from scripture that miracles, tongues and prophecy were for today I set about seeking God earnestly for experiences in them. I prayed faithfully and unsuccessfully every day for years for God to speak through me or use me miraculously. Six years I prayed, actually, with no answer. But that didn’t stop me from faithfully defending and proselytizing my newfound position with those who didn’t believe. I was ready at the drop of a hat to tear to shreds anyone’s arguments who believed miracles or prophecy weren’t for today.

Then something strange happened. God answered my prayers.

At long last, God actually began speaking to me in ways that were far beyond my expectations. I began having prophetic dreams and encounters with other people and my life radically changed. Suddenly my belief in God wasn’t just a deeply held position from scripture but truly the “assurance (evidence) of things I’d hoped for but not yet seen.” I felt like I’d experienced true faith for the first time. I knew without a shadow of a doubt now that God was real. And more importantly, I knew that He knew me and that He actually liked me!

In this blog I will share many of my stories because I want to encourage you to pursue God for the same things as me. I believe everything I’ve experienced is open game for all believers in Jesus, but I no longer feel the great need to argue my position. My reasons are simple:

1. I don’t think cessationism is remotely defensible from scripture, and

2. I couldn’t make my experiences happen; only God could. Therefore, since according to Hebrews 11:1 only God can give assurance (evidence), I feel no compulsion to try to convince others. Only God can do that for them.

I don’t mean that to say that those who believe in cessationism are uneducated or not smart people. To the contrary, there are too many brilliant people to count who are cessationists. But I am confident that their belief comes from prejudice, not from study; something even the most brilliant human beings are susceptible to.

And I’ve noticed something very interesting take place since the early 1990’s in America: more and more people are relinquishing their cessationist beliefs in some form or fashion. Why? Simply because it not longer becomes tenable to believe against something you’ve experienced.

I like to use the illustration of the lunar landing. There are still those around who persist that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax; that it never happened. No evidence to the contrary will sway them because no evidence less than first-hand experience would be good enough for those conspiracy theorists. But even if the whole world were to believe their lies, there are a few people who could never be swayed: those who actually set foot on the moon. You could never convince Neil Armstrong that he didn’t set foot on the moon.

The same is true for believing that God still performs miracles and speaks today. You cannot convince someone otherwise when they have experience. And far too many people in the West have begun experiencing what our Christian brothers in the Eastern world have known for some time: God still acts among us in powerful ways.

There are fewer and fewer cessationist strongholds these days. Some still hold that God can move, but He just doesn’t do it much these days. Some still cling tirelessly to their beliefs and become more emboldened the more people who turn away from them. But the move of the West to a more supernaturally minded people has certainly reached a critical mass. I don’t believe the majority of the church worldwide will ever again accept that God no longer operates miraculously today.

And I have good reason to believe that. Like myself, more and more people are experiencing the supernatural goodness of God for themselves. Like Neil Armstrong, no arguments to the contrary could ever convince them otherwise. And as a final thought, many cessationists hang up on that concept of experience. They believe that our faith and practice should have nothing (or very little) to do with our own subjective experience. We must base everything upon the objectivity of scripture. Whereas that sounds perfectly noble I’ve never actually met someone who really believes or practices it.

Experience is absolutely necessary for the Christian life. In fact, you cannot be born again unless you have had an experience with the Living God, His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is biblically clear from Peter told Jesus He was “The Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)

Even though Peter’s answer could rationally and carefully be found buried throughout scripture, Jesus said it wasn’t any teaching or self-study that led Peter to this conclusion. It was God himself. Peter’s experience with the Living God informed his reality.

And that’s our true reality. We canot study scripture to know more about God, we must study scripture to experience more of God. It’s only through experience that we can grow in God and lead others to Him.

And I’d like to share some of that experience of mine here with you.

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