What I’ve Learned in My Adventure with God – Part 2

In a recent article, I shared four lessons I’ve learned as I have journeyed with the Lord. In this article I will share four more lessons learned. Let’s get started!

#5 – God Leads by His Spirit in Different Ways

I have previously shared how God led me to Texas through a dream, but not every major decision in my life has been prompted by a dream. I am grateful that God has spoken to me through dreams, but you don’t need a dream from God to be led by the Holy Spirit.

God certainly leads us through His written word, but sometimes we need more specific direction when it comes to specific decisions.

When it comes to making these decisions, God may lead us by speaking directly to our spirits through an impression or inner voice. I think this is an area where Christians sometimes struggle because we have to learn the difference between our emotions and the voice of the Holy Spirit. I would encourage you to desire to be led by the Spirit, but to be sure to test everything to ensure you are really hearing from God.

God will also speak to us through the counsel of a trusted friend or pastor who can help us confirm that we are being led by the Lord. God may also lead through circumstances, such as open or closed doors.

Entire books have been written on this subject, so I’ll not go into great detail except to say that God always leads through peace. However, it is important to note that spiritual peace is not the same as emotional peace. I have made decisions where I felt emotional turmoil yet God’s peace was evident. Emotions can be wonderful but our emotions are a part of our flesh which needs to be dedicated to God. We cannot always trust our emotions, but we can always trust God’s peace and the leading of His Spirit.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” -Romans 8:14

#6 – God’s Kingdom is of Greater Value than anything of this Earth

When I was a younger man, I had such a hunger for God’s presence in my life. I wanted God like The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (see Matthew 13:44-46). There were times I would lie on my bed just crying out to God for more of Him. I also think I had an emotional void in my life that I wanted God to fill. As the years have gone by, I believe my hunger is still there but perhaps not with the same raw and deep emotional intensity I once had. Also, I can say that God has filled the void I once felt and, although there are areas where I still lack, I am a more full and complete man than I once was.

My desire to walk with the Lord has not changed. More than ever, I want my life to count for eternity. I want to be a man that walks with God. I want my sons to see their Papa as a man who seeks the Lord. The more I journey with God, the more I see that the value of the eternal is vastly more important than anything of this world. This world and everything in it is passing away. It is but a vapor, a brief moment in time. This life matters, but eternity matters so much more.

It saddens me when I see so many people who appear to be living for only this earth with little thought for eternity. We need to have an eternal perspective and live for God by investing in His Kingdom, seeking Him more than anything this world has to offer.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-20

#7 – God is More Concerned with My Character than My Success

When I was younger, I wanted to do something great for God. I remember reading David Wilkerson’s book, The Cross and the Switchblade, and being inspired by how his commitment to prayer launched him into a powerful ministry. Yet, I have often found myself in places which seem so far away from my dreams. I worked for an employer for over 13 years and often felt like I was laboring in obscurity, unnoticed and underappreciated. Then I went to law school and now I’m a state of Texas employee and not in the ministry. Though I have served the Lord and have been involved in some form of ministry much of my life, I have yet to realize my big dream.

We named our first son Joseph in part because of the personal connection I feel to Joseph’s character in the Bible. Joseph displayed impeccable character in the face of great disappointments as he labored in obscurity until the day came for God to promote him. During that time, God proved Joseph’s character and proved His word true in Joseph’s life.

God wants us to face difficulties as opportunities to grow stronger in faith, love and character. As we grow stronger, we take further steps into our destiny in the Lord. The book of your life is not fully written. God has more.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” –James 1:2-4

#8 – God Loves Me and He is Proud of Me!

My Father really loves me, yes He does! There was a time where I struggled to believe that I am loved by God. Through the fires of adversity, God has given me a greater revelation of His love and my confidence has grown.

A few years ago, I graduated law school. Law school was tough, probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I don’t think I always handled the pressure well. I often had to study and/or attend class from morning until evening, six days a week, and sometimes I had to do school work on Sundays. Leslie and I also struggled in our marriage during this time and had too much conflict.

Despite everything, during the graduation ceremony the Lord whispered to me, “You are my beloved son, I am pleased with you.” I sensed His pleasure. Leslie was sitting in the crowd and told me later that she felt God speaking the same thing to her around the same time He spoke to me. It was an affirming moment. Despite the difficulties, we had persevered in obedience to God’s call and had passed the test. I emerged from law school with a greater confidence in myself and in God. Now, I do not doubt God’s love for me. I am His son, His beloved son. My Father is proud of me!

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! -I John 3:1 (NIV)

Living an Adventure with God

Twenty years ago in August, I moved from northern Michigan to Dallas, Texas. To the casual observer, I was just a young college student moving across the country for school. For me, it felt like an adventure with God. In this article, I want to share my story of following God to Texas. I’ll follow up this article with 2 more parts about what it means to live an adventure for God and some of the lessons I’ve learned in my journey. I hope it will be an encouragement to you on your adventure.

Prior to moving to Texas, I attended a university/Bible school for 3 semesters in Minnesota. I desired to be a pastor. After completing those 3 semesters in May of 1999, I decided to move back to Michigan due to some personal failures. I was struggling personally and decided it was best just to leave. I spent the summer of 1999 working for my dad’s employer and living with my parents. That fall, I got a job at a local restaurant and rented a small apartment. I was 20 years old.

In October of that year, I fulfilled a dream and went to New York City for a week to volunteer at an inner-city ministry called Metro Ministries. The leader of the ministry had profoundly impacted my life while I was in high school and I thought perhaps I would become a part of the ministry’s discipleship school. I boarded a Greyhound bus and traveled for about 36 hours, including stops and layovers. I found my way to the ministry by New York’s subway system while also managing to accidentally hit a lady in the face when the subway lurched forward. It felt like quite an adventure for this small town midwestern kid. Nevertheless, after completing my week of volunteer work, I knew in my heart the discipleship school was not the place for me.

Sometimes in following God we know what we are not supposed to do, but we have to wait to hear from God about what we are supposed to do. That’s where I was after returning to Michigan from New York City. During that time, I had a real hunger for God in my heart. I recall that I had such a burning desire for God and His presence in my life. That Christmas, during a choir presentation at church, I recall weeping as I felt God’s presence come over us as we sang. Some months later, I had an encounter with God during a weekend where I had spent a couple of nights praying all night. God touched my life with His power and glory!

Despite my hunger for God, I had no clear direction for my future. I think probably after my personal failure in Minnesota, I wanted to be more certain God was leading me in my next step in life. Because of the influence of Metro Ministries, I believed God had called me to be an inner city pastor. One Sunday night, while praying at the altar at church, I asked the Lord, “If you’ve called me to the city, give me a city.” It was more of a prayer of exasperation. I didn’t necessarily expect God to answer it so specifically, but He did!

That very next Saturday evening, at the end of our worship team practice, my pastor prayed, “Lord, speak to us in our dreams tonight.” That night I dreamed I was driving around a city with my best friend but we didn’t know what city we were in. I asked a couple of people in the dream what city I was in, but they wouldn’t tell me. Then, from the sky I heard a voice say clearly, “Dallas, Texas.” I woke up with a sense of excitement. Texas was not on my radar as a place I might move, but God had a plan for me in Texas. This happened around April of 2000.

In June of 2000, I drove to Texas with a man from my church. There is a university near Dallas that is part of the church denomination I grew up in and I thought perhaps I would go to school there. I scheduled a visit at the university and wanted to spend some time “spying out the land” before I decided to move to Texas. If there were any giants in Texas, I was certainly ready to defeat them!

We drove south through Wisconsin, Illinois and into Missouri. As we drove through Missouri, I took a picture of my Bible, pictured here. I felt like I was following God on an adventure. Interestingly, as soon as we entered Texas, my friend became very negative. He couldn’t say one positive word about Texas. I recognized that the enemy was speaking through him which actually worked only to solidify my conviction that God was leading me to Texas. During our trip, my friend’s true nature was revealed in some other unpleasant ways.

I did not feel particularly drawn to attend the university I visited, but while visiting a church in Dallas, we drove past Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI), a ministry school. I vaguely remembered having heard about the school but I didn’t know much about it. We didn’t stop but when I returned to Michigan I called CFNI and asked a lot of questions about the school. It seemed like the place for me to be, so I enrolled, stepped out in faith and moved to Texas.

For the last 20 years, I have lived in Texas, except for a 3-year stint in Virginia to attend law school. Over these years, I have seen God lead my life every step of the way, not always through dreams but always by His Spirit. Over the years, much of my family has followed me south. My parents and youngest sister live near Fort Worth and another sister lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her family.

God has led me faithfully in every aspect of my life, in finding the right church, in friendships, with employment, in my walk with Him, in ministry opportunities, and in marriage and children. My journey with God has involved unexpected surprises, seasons of agonizing waiting, times of frustration and deep disappointment, and also seasons of blessing and fulfillment. There have been some hurts and heartaches along the way, but in many ways I feel very blessed and full, especially when I look at my wife and 2 growing boys.

I think God has led me in part because I have so earnestly desired to follow Him and know Him. God has led me in the steps I have taken in life, but perhaps more importantly, I have grown in my knowledge of Him and with a greater confidence and assurance of His love. Now I’m 41 years old. It seems like a good time to pause and reflect back on my journey. In some ways, it seems like God has brought some things to a sense of completion in my life and now it is time to look forward to the next adventure with God. In some ways, it feels like I’m just getting started. What has happened to date has been training for greater things. Some of my dreams from God have been fulfilled, but there are many which have yet to come to pass. I’m excited for the next adventure.

What about you? How has God led you in your journey? In my next article, I will talk about what it means to live out an adventure for God. Stay tuned!

God is Moving in the Earth

 

sky earth galaxy universe
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I want to share a dream I had which I believe is from the Lord. When it comes to dreams from the Lord, some dreams are very clear while some have an element of fuzziness or haziness. I always try to do my best to recount the dream as best I remember it. With that, here’s the dream…

Recently, I dreamed that I was in a house and I was beckoned to go outside to the porch. From the porch, I looked into the horizon, into the sky just above the earth. What I saw from the earth was the earth itself. The earth appeared to me in the sky as a large planet, not too different than the picture in this post. It appeared much closer and much larger than how the moon appears in a normal night sky.

Then, it was as if the cover of the earth was peeled back and I saw inside the earth. Inside I saw at least two large golden rings. The rings were as wide as the earth, like three-dimensional wedding bands. The backdrop of the rings was heavenly in nature. The rings were spinning and turning in motion but not in the same direction. The picture was bright and shining. That’s the dream.

I believe the interpretation of the dream is this: When we look at the earth, we see it in its normal state. From a distance, the earth does not appear to be moving, it generally appears still. Also, the earth in its normal, sinful state, has so many things that are wrong with it. Up close, we see wars and rumors of wars. We see pain and violence. We see mass shootings and destruction from cataclysmic weather events. We see protests, political bickering and scandals. We see government corruption, greed, dishonesty, and deception. We see intense persecution of Christians. We see so much anger and hate. Things are much as Jesus described they would be in Matthew 24. These are the obvious things.

What we may miss, if we are not careful, is what is going on beneath the surface. Despite what we see on the surface, which unfortunately is normal for our planet, God is moving. Underneath the surface, God in His glory is at work. He is not still. He is bring forth His royal purpose. He is moving in power, wonder, and magnificence. However, what God is doing is not always obvious to the naked eye. It’s rarely reported in the news.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matthew 24:14

I recently read a book entitled DREAMS AND VISIONS: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? by Tom Doyle. In the book, Mr. Doyle shares beautiful stories of how Jesus is visiting Muslims in their dreams, drawing them to the Father. On the surface, much of the Muslim world may seem in turmoil. We are confronted most with the ugly side of the Muslim religion. Yet, behind the surface, God is moving in the hearts of individual Muslims whom He loves.

I don’t know exactly what the rings mean, but here’s my thought. God is at work in two ways. First, He is working to prepare His bride for His return. The other ring could represent God calling many who are not saved to a covenant relationship with Him. A ring symbolizes the covenant relationship we have with God. It also may symbolize the authority we have on this earth as ambassadors of His kingdom. We have a part to play in bringing forth God’s purpose on the earth.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. -2 Corinthians 5:20

It would be short-sighted for us to be so focused on earthly things that we miss out on what God is doing. It would also be short-sighted for us to become so discouraged by the painful things we see that we miss what God is doing. We need to step back and see the big picture, the real picture. The real news is that God is on the move! Satan is author of the fake news – the messages that bring anxiety and fear. Despite what we see on the earth, God is at work. He is moving in the earth!

Lord, gives us eyes of the Spirit to see as You see. Open the eyes of our understanding that we may see that what You are doing is much greater than what we see in the world around us. Although Your work may seem hidden, it is a work of eternal value. Help us to build our lives on Your kingdom, seeking You first and Your righteousness.

He’s got the whole world in His hands!

ball shaped blur close up focus
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Stay Close to the Father

I recently dreamed that I was prophesying from a church platform. I stood next to a pastor, his identity was unknown to me. I had a microphone in my hand and prophesied from the stage. The prophecy was like a short rhyme, but I don’t recall all the words. It was something like, “Jesus, Jesus, seek Him with all your heart.” The general message of the prophecy was to seek the Lord, to be close to Him.Head on Chest

Then I heard clearly, “Evil days are coming, walk closely to me so I can protect you.”

Next, I saw a silhouette of the Father. In this vision, He was gathering His children close to Him with large and long arms. He was big, but gently reaching out His arms to bring His children close to Him. It was a picture of strength and tenderness.

Psalm 91:1 says,
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Now is the time to seek God and draw close to the Father. For Him to protect us the way that He wants to, we must remain close to Him.

Proverbs 22:3 says,
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself,
But the simple pass on and are punished.

God has not called us to be in hiding, but to hide ourselves in Him. If we will take the time to seek God in the secret place, He will protect us in the open spaces of this world. Stay close to the Father!

Blessings,

Jon

Dream Workshop

I do not consider myself an expert on the subject of spiritual dreams. But I am thankful that God has spoken to me through dreams of the night on numerous occasions. I confess that these experiences have been some of the most exciting of my walk with God. It’s pretty cool to wake up in the morning with the sense of God’s love and presence, realizing you were visited by God by a dream of the night.

I do realize that not everyone hears from God through dreams. I do think that everyone can hear from God through dreams, but for some it is more common than others. I think that some are called to be “dreamers” – they have the gift of dreams. For many others, it may be only an occasional thing or non-existent. I think that those who are dreamers usually, if not always, walk in a prophetic calling.

There are a number of Bible examples of people who heard from the Lord through and interpreted dreams (Joseph, Daniel and Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, being prominent examples). I know there are books on the subject of dreams, most of which I have not read, but perhaps I will someday. One book that I have read is entitled, “Dream: Discover personal strength in one word” by Dr. Mark Rutland. I highly recommend this concise and excellent resource.

The Bible says,

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).

Hearing from God through dreams is certainly biblical, but certainly not every dream is from God. I’ve missed it on occasion. I have had dreams that have profoundly impacted my life. I’ve had dreams that have perplexed me. I’ve had dreams that I think were from the Lord, but there still exists a feeling of uncertainty about the dream. And I’ve had dreams where I have absolutely no doubt were from God.

Numbers 12:6-8,

“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream.
Not so with My servant Moses;
He is faithful in all My house.
I speak with him face to face,
Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;
And he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant Moses?”

Dreams and visions are wonderful things, but the ultimate goal and prize is to walk with God in face-to-face relationship. I don’t seek dreams, I seek the Lord. Yes, sometimes I hope God will speak to me when I lay my head down at night. But my desire is to walk with God in intimate relationship. How He speaks is His prerogative.

I’d like to consider this blog page a dream workshop of sorts. Here, I will post dreams God has given me and share the spiritual insights I believe God has given me through the dreams. Also, as I continue to study God’s word, I’ll share insights regarding spiritual dreams in general.

More to come!