Not to be outdone by my ‘sister‘…
In early August, soon after the previous blog post, I had one relatively lazy weekend with regard to self-discipline. I ate some junk food on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Specifically, it was the sugar bomb stuff that I’d been aggressively (mostly) avoiding for weeks. I actually ate very little; but just that minor slacking in vigilance created an unmistakable momentum toward disaster. The change was that obvious. In fact I did create a minor disaster that left me spiritually burdened for a few days. Those days served as a tedious reminder that every decision I/we make is a potential step toward darkness or light. There’s no such thing as taking a few decisions off here and there. That idea is screamingly obvious by now, and my recitation of the facts is redundant and tiresome. The brief period of darkness passed with no apparent lasting effects.
The text vision has shown up one time in each of the past two weeks. Two times that I can recall, anyway. The first time was on August 20. I woke up at 0100 exactly, which was a strange time for me to wake up. Somehow in the waking process, I turned my bedside lamp on and discovered the text vision in sudden and unexpected display. I was mostly still asleep and was completely surprised by what I saw. The vision seemed very much alive. I could see certain words clearly standing out from the background. The highlighted words were almost legible, and I’m pretty sure one of the highlighted words was ‘Destiny’.
The most remarkable thing about that particular vision was that the highlighted words appeared to be written in brilliant flames. If not flames, then what looked to be an ‘intentional’ radiance. It sounds a little too perfect, what with DeStiNY being such a hot topic in the past few months. But I do not have the wherewithal to trick myself into waking from a dead sleep at 0100, to then imagine a text vision with such a script writing words like Destiny. Another one may have been Freedom.
Unlike the 12:37 wake-up that I ran away from, I embraced this one more directly. I hung with it for the whole 1.5 seconds or however long it was there. I may have even blinked it away inadvertently, in my enthusiasm to try and see it more clearly. I think it would have been better to keep my eyes open or closed, however they were poised when I first saw the vision. There’s a definite learning curve here, manifest in trial-and-error pop quizzes that come out of nowhere, usually during or around sleep.
The second text vision occurred two mornings back. I was waking from a second sleep at around 0815. The text appeared as I was waking; the words were relatively shadowy that time. There appeared to be legitimate sentences, written in English; and the whole thing was scrolling left. I positively did see the word ‘Behold’ at the beginning of one sentence. Then it was all gone.
These last two manifestations of the TV both appeared without me doing any reading beforehand, which is the first time that has happened in a while. Most of the previous visions appeared after I’d woken in the night and done some Bible reading; gone back to sleep; and woken again. Neither of these two August visions fit that mold. And the fiery words are clearly a new development. It was not until later in the day that I made the connection between those words and the scrolling lampstands from back in June. I’d been wondering if I’d ever see the lamps lit and, if so, what that might look like. So far, it hasn’t happened. But the words with a blazing radiance did show up. I have some confidence that the lamps will get lit eventually.
Ever since the morning admonition to face all my fears, I’ve been intentional about doing so. Or at least thinking about doing so. I’ve taken at least one huge step into faith and against fear since that message, along with many smaller ones.
Later in that same day that heard the ‘fears’ command, I made a list of all my fears I could quickly come up with. Since then I’ve asked God to help me see what fears He is most concerned about. Almost all of my small fears fall under the heading of either fear of man, like people-pleasing and conflict avoidance; or lack of faith in God, which results fear that He will not provide, protect, or keep His promises. To the extent that I manifest any of those fears, I do so much less now than in the past. But I still have some nagging blocks to my faith.
There have also been any number of references in our Sunday messages and public prayers at church regarding facing and addressing fears. Maybe it’s always been this way; but it seems like ‘facing fears’ has only recently become a consistent topic. I believe the increase is in context of people possibly being afraid of any apocalyptic shenanigans in the next few months.
The most striking reference to fear I’ve come across is in Kris Vallotton’s book, School of the Prophets, which I received as a gift a couple of weeks ago. On page 166 Vallotton lists three things that students in the Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry begin learning during a specific exercise on Day 2 of training. Each of these three things is relevant to the elements of faith I’ve been documenting in this blog. The items are:
- You must face your fears to move in faith.
- God does not punish you when you get it wrong, and neither do we (referring to Bethel leadership’s expectation that students will not always ‘get’ prophecy correctly -ed).
- The only way you get good at knowing the voice of the Holy Spirit is to practice and then get feedback.
I thought Vallotton’s first item was a powerful confirmation of what I heard. And his item about facing fears goes so far as to clarify that we are to face fears in order to move in faith. Anyone of us who is bound to an extent by fears is to that extent unable to operate freely as Christ’s ambassadors in this life. Fear keeps us focused on ourselves or our concerns, without the perfect love and light of Jesus Christ illuminating the truth of any situation. Which is not to say that Christians ought never be scared. Fear is a natural response that God gave us to help keep us alive, among other important tasks. It’s when we allow fear to become a twisted refuge that it can turn into a prison. Satan is quite pleased to see us stay in our invisible prison; because within those self-imposed walls, we are no threat to him.
Turn now and face all your fears.
Since the beginning of this blog in Fall 2013, I’ve written a bunch of words about my personal faith walk, mostly as pertains to spiritual activity that wasn’t acknowledged in my Southern Baptist upbringing. My writing has mostly focused on things that are surprising, mysterious, and not apparently born of the material world. Which is what I’d intended from the beginning. But after nearly two years of documenting of All This, I’m aware that such a focus on hocus pocus can give a wrong impression of my faith.
In Matthew 22, one of the Pharisees pressed Jesus to pick the greatest commandment in the Law:
“37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[d] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[e] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
The guy basically says to Jesus, in attempt to trip Him up, “Tell us what is THE one thing we must do.” Jesus efficiently summarizes how best to be faithful: “Love God, and love your neighbor. If you love God and love your neighbor, all the rest will take care of itself.” THAT is the day-to-day reality of following Christ. It is a constant process reflected in one’s lifestyle, one way or another; either you love God and love your neighbor, or you do not. Minute to minute, day to day, year after year. And there’s a huge amount of subtext involved in doing either.
Other people can blog about that. Just because I do not so blog doesn’t mean I think the charismatic life is somehow more important than putting one foot in front of the other on the narrow road. Charismatic manifestations can be one aspect of a Christian’s faith; but they are absolutely not the goal. One of our pastors defined the relationship nicely a few Sundays back. He said something like, “Healing someone is a very practical way of loving them.” In other words, love them however you can; if one of those ways happens to involve a cool spiritual gift, so be it.
It is interesting that Christ most comprehensively addresses spiritual gifts in context of what they are not. In Matthew 7, Jesus has been addressing the crowd during His Sermon on the Mount; warning against the influence of false prophets. He affirms that positive spiritual results done in His name aren’t any proof that a person’s heart is in the right state:
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
For me and anyone else who is earnestly pursuing spiritual gifts, this is a critical lesson. He’s telling the crowd, “It’s actually possible to rightly prophesy in My name; cast out demons in My name; and do other wild and crazy stuff in My name…without having a right relationship with Me. And if you don’t have a right relationship with Me, then none of the razamataz means a thing, with regard to your eternal standing.” None of us should automatically consider a charismatically gifted person to be of stellar character. And neither should we assume that spiritually productive manifestations in ourselves or anyone else are a divine endorsement of that person.
In summary: spiritual gifts aren’t the goal; and spiritual gifts do not confirm good standing with Jesus Christ.
Thursday is the end our church-wide forty-day fast. Each individual has had the liberty to choose whether to fast at all and what he or she would give up. I personally have fasted almost 100% from internet news and related commentary. In that same time frame without such a fast, I’d typically have spent around 70hrs browsing and reading. That’s over three full days! Man, that’s a lot. I can say for sure that ignorance is bliss; I don’t know much about the world right now, and I’m at peace in ways that I could never have been had I been combing through the world’s news with a magnifying glass in that time frame. Not to mention the fact that I had ‘new’ time to spend in more productive ways; and I generally did so. Most notably, I’ve spent more time praying than I would have otherwise. This fast has proved to me that life does go on without knowing as much as possible as quickly as possible; and it goes on in a better way without all the obsessive reading. So I think I will now be less inclined to do such reading when the fast is complete.
Given all the various fasts, temporary or permanent, that I’ve been doing from things that distract me from God and lesser realities, the past five months have been essentially unprecedented in my lifetime. Without some parallel universe for reference, in which I haven’t given up all that stuff, I don’t know what I’ve gained by the discipline. But I believe I have been mostly obedient to God’s impulse; and whoever and whatever I am today is closer to what He would have me be than if I had maintained all my old routines.