When You Encounter God in a Dream & He Says Be Ready

When I wake from a dream where I encounter God, I attempt desperately to tunnel back into that place of sleep. Recently, God gave me a dream. It was March 29th, 2020.

It was more like an image. It was the silhouette of a child positioned on a chair in a runner’s pose looking out the window. It was night. The child wore a focused look into the distance. But ready, ready to run. Yet to where? The position was held at the glass window. That didn’t seem to matter. The child was posed ready. The words in the dream were “Chase Jesus.”

I woke and wrote in my journal these words:

The irony of a child posed to run from behind a window while we are self-quarantined.

Chase Jesus.

What am I chasing? What chases me?

My Utmost for His Highest on March 29th centered on Luke 12:40 “You also be ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

The devotion ties beautifully in with the image of a child looking off into the sky, in a ready position. A child-like faith and wonder.

“If you are looking off unto Jesus, avoiding the call of the religious age you live in, and setting your heart on what He wants, on thinking on His line – you will be called unpractical and dreamy; but when He appears in the burden and the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready. Trust no one, not even the finest saint who ever walked this earth, ignore him, if he hinders your sight of Jesus.” Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

Oh Father, may we be found looking off unto Jesus. May our life have an attitude of child-wonder.

 

 

When the truth hurts then heals

I remember praying out loud with one of my little boys asking God to develop the fruits of the Spirit. As I prayed I listed them individually. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I also used the term long-suffering, which some translations use for patience. He stopped me mid-prayer, “What is long-suffering?” I responded, “It’s the ability to forebear or endure something well.” Immediately, he exclaimed, “Oh, I don’t have that one. Wait a minute. I don’t think I have any of these.” We closed our eyes and continued praying.

I chuckled as I thought back on this memory. But God brought to mind a story from the Bible that really impacted me several years ago. It’s found in 2 Chronicles chapter 34. In the 18th year of the reign of King Josiah, who took the throne at the mere age of 8, Hilkiah, the priest, found the Book of the Law.

The Law was read to the King. When he heard the Law, he tore his clothes. He grieved over the fact that their fathers had not kept the word of the Lord. Following the reading, Huldah, a prophet, prophesied.

In verses 24-28 we read, ”

24 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people—all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah. 25 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all that their hands have made, my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.’ 26 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 27 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. 28 Now I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.’”

So they took her answer back to the king.”

I don’t know how this passage speaks to you, but in 2015 God woke me with the word Hilkiah. I didn’t know who Hilkiah was and began searching the Bible until I found this story. For weeks and months between 2015 and 2016 God gave me many dreams and showed me themes of judgement and repentance. Through this season, the names Hilkiah and Josiah would run through my mind. God wanted me to see something in this portion of His Word.

We are sitting in the center of a pandemic right now. I trust God is doing amazing, miraculous work. But I also believe it’s time for the bride to be ready. To light the lamps. To take inventory of our lives, to get about His business.

As this relates to our own homes, where we are basically self-quarantined, let’s begin reading aloud His Word. When Josiah heard the Word, it grieved Him. The truth exposed the wickedness. As I prayed with my little boy, it was the reciting of God’s Word that brought the realization He lacked fruits of the Spirit.

The Word is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword. The truth will penetrate, which may hurt deeply, but with it comes healing and restoration.

Maybe in this season where the world is sitting on pause, we take one simple action step that may be the most important step we take during these slowed down days. Open up the Bible. Read it out loud.

Wash your hands and wash your heart

I’ve taken seriously the instructions to wash my hands during this pandemic of COVID-19. Honestly, prior to this outbreak, I’ve not been a major hand-washer. I mean, yes, when I go to the store, the bathroom, etc. But for the most part, I don’t take inventory of the germs on my hands during the day and cleanse them. Until now.

I find myself reminding my boys all through the day as well. We are all washing our hands about 100 times more than we ever have before.

Why? Because we took seriously the warnings to keep clean hands.

What if I washed my heart with the same fervor I’m washing my hands? Like my hands, which carry invisible germs, my heart carries and holds what can live hidden from the naked eye.

Do I take inventory of what my heart holds?

God says if I keep a clean heart, there’s blessings in store.

 

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.

Psalm 24:4-5

What happens when we have a clean heart?

We shall see God.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Matthew 5:8

How do we even clean our heart? Where do we start?

By simply asking Him.

God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

I find it interesting the connection in the Bible with clean hands and clean hearts. Can the outside be clean and the inside filthy?

Luke 11:39 “But the Lord said to him: “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and evil.” I don’t want to live like a Pharisee.

All this talk of hand washing has me contemplating heart washing. Jesus has always been the King of upside down, inside out. Taking our human traditions and flipping them over. He rocked the world with His grace. While the world preaches to start with clean hands, God instructs an alternate starting point.

“Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean.” Matthew 23:26

I don’t start with my heart typically. I start outside and somehow think the cleansing action will work its way into the crevices of my heart.

Lord, give me eyes to see the truth that lives in my heart. Show me what needs to be purified.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:8-10

So maybe we pull out an index card, write scripture on it, tape it by all the sinks, and while we wash our hands for 20 seconds 100 times a day, we recite His Word. Maybe as we clean our hands, we allow His Word to wash our hearts at the same time?

He is good. He is faithful. May we honor Him with clean hands and clean hearts.

 

 

 

 

But He Gives Greater Grace

Greater Grace

Lord, your grace is greater than

Greater than my unfaithfulness

Greater than my unbelief

Greater than my looming fear

To you may I adhere.

Lord, your grace is greater than

Greater than my sadness

Greater than my ingratitude

Greater than my anger

To you alone I anchor.

Lord, your grace is greater than

Greater than my impatience

Greater than my selfishness

Greater than my pride

You will never leave my side.

Lord, your grace is greater than

Greater than my misery

Greater than my worries

Greater than my misplaced chase

You give greater grace.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

James 4:6 “But He gives greater grace. Therefore, He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

It’s time to evaluate, confess, repent. It’s time to surrender in humility. It’s time to submit to His Lordship in deeper ways. The time is now. No matter where we fall short, His grace is greater than.

 

 

Sadness, Social Media, and Social Distancing

We all have a different reality from which we view and experience life. The Lord has given each of us individual grace to a walk through our own personal reality. I don’t have the grace for your reality. You don’t have the grace for mine. But should the Lord merge our realities, we can rest assured we’d each have the grace necessary to manage and rise above the challenge.

One of my boys expressed frustration over a challenge he faced. He brushed it aside as he talked, saying, “I know it doesn’t compare to how hard others have it.” Is that how we process our hard? In the light of another’s?

I assured him that his feelings matter. We need not compare them to someone else’s situation to determine if it’s ok to feel a certain way.

But I get it. I’m sad when I interact with social media these days. We are so quick to dismiss and shame another’s feelings. We also have little patience and grace for the journey we are each on. At the first post where we may express where we are currently, we are blasted by someone with an alternate perspective. As a people we are taking it as our full time job to make sure the rest of the world sees the situation the same as we do. And if they don’t, well we distance ourselves in our heart from them.

I’ve had people respond to things I’ve posted telling me they don’t like my wording and they wish I would change it so it aligned with their thoughts and perspectives. I find that so interesting. Are we not allowed to disagree anymore? Are we not allowed to view the same situation in complete opposition yet still maintain unity? I fear not.

I opened my prayer journal this morning and poured out my sadness to God. Currently, our world is in a situation many of us have never faced. COVID-19 is new and unknown, which brings fear. Fear causes reactions that aren’t our normal.

As I’ve watched this situation develop, my thoughts have developed, transitioned, even changed. This is human. This is natural. But what is happening on social media doesn’t show the full humanity of us as people or this situation. And that leaves me sad.

Just as we each live in our own reality, with our own personal grace from God, we each process life differently.

In the face of great anxiety, humor is a lifeline for some. For others, humor in the face of danger is offensive. I see people post in humor and then others follow behind telling them to take it seriously. I’m not a humor person so initially I felt it was a lack of respect. I’ve changed my opinion. It’s not a lack of respect as much as their way to cope. But in a world where we can’t differ anymore, this becomes harder and harder.

In the face of fear, some take to flight, some take to fight. Some run away and horde. Others take quick action and stand and serve.

In the face of fear, some become extremely sensitive and tender to those around them. Others become cynical.

It’s time to confess and repent of our pride and strong opinions. I’m guilty. I confess. I repent. My I have a heart of compassion stronger than the opinions I hold.

At the same time may we be gentle with our own souls today. The fear is real. The sadness is real. God is more real. We can trust Him.

For the care of my soul today, I poured out my heart to God. I expressed my deep sadness to Him. He cares about what we care about. He cares about our sadness. I decided I wouldn’t judge my sadness in the light of another’s sadness. I wouldn’t compare this trial in our world in the light of WWII or a time in history I didn’t experience or have the grace to walk through.

I’m a human today, living in the real fear and reality of today. I will take those to the cross and hand them to my Savior, trusting He will carry me close to His heart.

Today I told God I’m sad.

I’m sad I won’t see my son finish out his basketball season. I won’t get to hug our teammates and high five a fantastic season.

I’m sad many of us will fail to see the completion of what we’ve worked so hard for.

I’m sad for the beginning that will fail to start. Sad for full seasons that will be skipped.

I’m sad for seniors who will miss so much.

I’m sad for leaders making decisions that hold a weight of enormous impact.

I’m sad for our economy and what lies ahead.

I’m sad for working parents struggling to care for their kids at home and maintain their jobs.

I’m sad for parents who don’t want to homeschool, thrown into a world so foreign.

I’m sad for the judgement cast back and forth on each other based on how we each are processing and handling our fears and realities.

I’m sad for the ones who live with this type of fear all the time not just in an outbreak.

I’m sad our country simply can’t unite, even in sickness and fear.

I’m sad we can’t be physically close to people.

I’m sad we can’t gather together and worship live.

I’m sad we don’t know how long this will last.

I’m sad. Naming my sadness helps.

I don’t need to be understood by others because God understands me full well. And I think that is where many of us are struggling right now. We are reaching out to social media to hold us, to tell us it’s going to be ok. We are reaching out to social media to validate our opinions, positions, and feelings.

It can’t. It won’t. But God desires to be the One to fill our needs, to comfort, to care, to carry us. He hands out grace freely. Grace isn’t only a word used for salvation. Grace is needed to live this life daily, moment by moment.

We are all walking in unknown territory as our nation decides how to fight COVID-19. We are urged to exercise social distancing. Because of that we are in close quarters with our family members and many are excited about a free schedule and more connected time. But then some have no family members. This is extremely hard on them. If we could simply look from alternate views, I believe our empathy would grow.

What is stifling my own empathy is social media. I find my heart harden and cynicism grow. I can’t have that. When I see this happen, I know a social media break is in order. Sometimes I take a one day break, sometimes a one week, and sometimes even longer.

Maybe if social media is what you are struggling with most, a new definition to social distancing can take shape. Maybe social distancing includes a social media distance for a time. So we can process our own emotions without the sway and judgement of others or even our own selves.

I think we can all agree on one thing, we each care about some aspect of this situation, and we are scared. We may be scared about different things, but we are all scared. I pray we can be easy with our feelings, allow them to grow and change as they will, and love others well while they do the same.

We are all in it together. May God be glorified. May we resist fear and hold firm to Christ in the days ahead.

 

 

 

Rise up, Don’t Crumple to Fear

 

Fear is more contagious than any virus. It’s deadly. It kills all that could be. So it’s time to kill the fear.

Fear is crippling. Fear is a liar. Fear is a bully. I hate fear because fear is born in the pit of hell.

Just as fear is contagious, I believe courage and hope are equally contagious. I hope after today you join me in spreading a message of courage in the face of fears running rampant in our world.

He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.

Aristotle

A name holds power. Do you believe it?

The moment the media began spreading information (real or fake) about the coronavirus, it didn’t take long for panic to break out. The naming holds power. Name your fear and remove its power in your life. Today. Right now.

Often when we play out the fear all the way, we see it’s not that scary after all. The fear is bound up in the threat of the unknown and what if scenarios. So play them out. What do you see?

When I was a new staff accountant, I was terrified of visiting clients. One of my managers saw my intense fear and said, “Listen, your fear is scarier than what you are scared of. What is the absolute worst thing in the entire world that can happen? They could kill you? Eat you?” I had to laugh, it was quite ridiculous at that point.

I asked my 11 year old if we should be scared of sickness. His response was this, “Even if we die, we get to be with Jesus.” That’s it. This world was never promised to us to be perfect, whole, or even healthy. We spend our lives trying to achieve something here that wasn’t meant to be. Our perfection awaits us in eternity. But we have a critical role to play while we are here and I fear our fear is limiting us.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

Our role here is to be an ambassador of Christ. Christ didn’t crumple to fear. He overcame it.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Fear is from satan. Satan knows his time is short here. His goal is to kill, steal, and destroy. He can accomplish that quite well with fear tactics.

Once we start listening to all the scary news reports, he keeps hammering it home. He utilizes the power of naming that virus, the power of the internet to spread his fear. And we crumple.

As christians we live with a hope no one else has. We have an opportunity when fear strikes in those without hope to rise up. To share Christ. To share hope.

The Bible instructs us not to fear. Over and over and over again we see scripture telling us not to fear. But we forget, so we fall to the trap fear lays for us.

Right now I’m shocked at the state of fear and panic I see in our world over the threat of a virus.

“In the West, particularly, we have become so resistant to pain that at the slightest hint of it, we prepare to flee by some shortcut or some solution that masks the discomfort.” Ravi Zacharias, I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah.

While this quote is speaking to a different topic, it strikes me as relevant to what we see in our world right now. Have we become so fragile that we are scared to get sick? Have we lived the good western life so well that we simply can’t fathom something similar to a flu virus hitting our home?

If so we have a bigger issue to fear. We are told in scripture that in this world we will have trouble. But Jesus tells us to take heart because He’s overcome the world.

Over the weekend we played 2 of our 3 basketball tournament games only to have the tournament cancelled because one person was diagnosed with coronavirus and had been in the facility. My initial reaction was complete shock. Is this how fragile we’ve become? Do you know how many people walked in that facility with all kinds of viruses. We couldn’t possibly know. But plant the seed of fear and watch what happens.

I read the thread of discussion on the facility website and couldn’t believe how terrified people are.

Don’t panic!

All around I see panic. The stores are sold out of basic supplies as people have stocked up as if the end of the world is here. Schools are canceling. Businesses closing. Around the world quarantines. But the driver behind it all is fear. I’m so sick of fear having the upper hand.

Do you realize one of satan’s tools is isolation? When he isolates us, he can really go to work in our head. Right now people are fearing to assemble. People are scared to touch each other. Groups and organizations are cancelling for fear of spreading sickness. People are scared to be with other people. Exactly what the devil hopes will happen.

Community is vital to our world. Connection is critical to our health and well-being. Touch is healing. We need to be together.

 Ways to Rise instead of Crumple to Fear

  • Proact don’t react.
    • Look up scriptures on fear. Write them on notecards. Read them over and over. God does not want you to live with fear.
    • Take care of your health all the time. Build a strong immune system. God has created us to fight off more than we realize.
  • Stop talking about it. Stop fueling the fire of fear. Fear spreads. Simply refuse to share it with others. We are so scared of people sharing their sick germs with us yet we are sharing a far more dangerous germ when we share every fear based article on this virus or anything for that matter. This world is full of scary things, we don’t have to share them all. Let’s be sharers of encouragement and hope.

“Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,” Proverbs 3:25

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

Would you share this post with your network? Or if not this one, share something that will encourage others to cast out fear. It’s time to take control back. Christ has given us authority over the demons. Let’s not fear gathering with people. Let’s not fear touching other humans. Let’s not fear getting sick and trust if we do, God can be our Healer and Comforter.

Together, let’s rise up in the face of fear through the power of Christ.

 

 

An easier parenting solution to the try hard life

As is normal in most families, or at least this is what I tell myself, we face seasons where peace seems a lofty wish. Siblings bicker more than normal, and we see hints of deeper heart issues needing to be addressed.

I have a stack of index cards filled with verses for such occasions. I’ve been known to pull out a card, read the verse, discuss with the kids, even have them write it several times. But they are getting older, and these methods don’t have the same effect as they did when they were younger. And this leads to me seeking control in an area I have no control.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember I posted a picture of a verse I’d written on the chalkboard in our mudroom.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

We gathered for a family meeting recently to discuss any issues we each feel weighing on us. A theme I’ve seen is what feels like a lack of love, which creates fights and hurtful words to be tossed about. After we each shared our thoughts, we prayed and went about our day.

I felt discouraged honestly. God brought to mind my favorite parenting book by Paul David Tripp titled Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. In his book he reminds us that God never tasked parents with the job of heart change. That is God’s job and absolutely 100% impossible for us.

The harder we try to change a person’s heart, the more discouraged we find ourselves. Only God can change a heart. In his book, Tripp tells us our role is to reflect the Savior and point our kids to their need for a Savior over and over and over again. Not in a preachy, Bible-beating way, but in a way that shows our deep love for them.

As I remembered my role in the lives of my kids, I opened up my lesson for the day with Community Bible Study. This year I’m a core group leader for our local CBS. We are currently in the book of Philippians. In the commentary that day the theme was “Christ – The Supreme Model” from Philippians 2:1-11. This sentence jumped off the page, “The letter reflects Paul’s deep concern about their lack of love and unity, but instead of exhorting them to try harder to be more loving, he directs their attention to Christ as the perfect example of living.”

Well, about an hour prior Steve and I sat our kids down telling them how they needed to try harder to love each other better. Yet, here I sat at my kitchen table hearing the Holy Spirit gently reminding me of a better way. Not only was God showing me that telling my kids to try harder was useless, He was reminding me for myself as well.

Out of my love for Jesus and my kids, I was caught in a try hard cycle. Again. It’s a weakness of mine. I see a problem and want to fix it right away. So I get to work. But when it’s matters of the heart, I simply wear myself out until My Savior whispers me away and gently pulls me back into Him.

He’s so kind like that. He hears my cry, and He responds. He reminds me of how He loves my kids more than I do. They are His not mine. I’ve been tasked to steward this job well in Him, but I’m not responsible for the results.

There’s freedom in understanding this. When I walk in this understanding, fear can’t have its way in my parenting. Parenting from fear and frustration never ends well.

I’ll need this reminder again. But for today I’m grateful I can rest in my Savior. His grace is available in our hardest parenting moments. We simply need to reach out and accept what He’s offering us. He won’t force us. He’s too gentle for that.