Are God’s Dreams Your Dreams?

Door-to-Better-WorldThe topic of this article has come to my mind on several occasions over the years, and again recently. For some time, I’ve been fascinated by the reality of the emotions of God. Many in the Church have believed for far too long that the main emotion God feels is anger – mostly toward us when we fail. Thankfully, that has been and is changing in recent years and this is good news. God is very much an emotional being, just as we are, for we are made in His image. He feels joy, sorrow, sadness, anger, happiness, and other typical emotions. But have you ever considered that God also has dreams? Not the kind of dreams we have when we sleep, for He never slumbers. Dreams for us, for His bride, for His kingdom, for what He intends to accomplish on the earth. He has given us dreams as well; desires that we long to experience and accomplish.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a familiar verse, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The word “plans” used there literally means, “purpose, invention, imaginations, and thoughts.”  Those words are mostly synonymous with dreams. What parent doesn’t have dreams for their children? They want to see them prosper, succeed, and become mature, healthy adults. As broken humans, we sometimes project our unfulfilled dreams on our children, but God isn’t like that. He knows and wants what is best for every one of us.

Religion has lied to us and told us that our dreams are selfish and ungodly. Many believers feel guilty when they experience the desires of their heart being fulfilled. But God said, ‘Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4) It is not wrong to desire or dream, as long as those desires don’t replace Him. I believe this verse is also saying that the dreams and desires that are in our hearts are not our own, but His, especially when we are following Him, by His grace. He loves to bless His children, even more so when we are living for Him. As a parent, I always loved my kids when they were young, and wanted to give them whatever they wanted (within reason, of course!) Yet when they went out of their way to do something special for me, it made me want to do so even more. This is just a small example of how God feels toward us.

I believe it pleases Him greatly when we acknowledge and passionately pursue the dreams He has put in our hearts. With no fear of failure, no guilt, shame, or condemnation from religious people who try to tell us we are being selfish or greedy, or living for ourselves. One of a parent’s greatest pleasures is when the dreams they have for their kids are embraced and pursued with joy by their kids. If we feel that way, how much more does God? Of course, we still love them even if they choose to go a different way, and so does He. We should at least consider the possibility that those desires and dreams in our heart may actually be His. Ask Him for a new perspective and pray for the courage to follow those dreams, trusting His grace to lead and empower you. What dreams has God put in your heart? Are you pursuing them? If not, why not? Talk to Him about it.


The Jesus You Thought You Knew

As I continue to contemplate what God is doing in this season of my life, I recognize road-to-emmausanother “theme,” for lack of a better word. I am reminded of a book I read years ago by Graham Cooke called, Hiddenness and Manifestation. The gist of the book is how God reveals Himself differently in different seasons of life in order to broaden and deepen our revelation of who He is and what He is like. It also speaks of how, at times, He is easily seen and felt in our emotions, and other times it seems, He is a million miles away. We can’t see or feel His presence and it may be more difficult to hear His voice.

I went through an incredible eight year season of manifestation that began in 2004 and began subsiding in 2012. It was as if God was right beside me continually – I could feel His presence, hear His voice, sense His heart, feel His pleasure towards me. It was the most incredible season of my journey thus far! I was full of joy, nothing angered or upset me, I didn’t worry about anything…I had never before experienced this level of intimacy with my Lord. Even the difficulties I went through didn’t detract from the peace and confidence I felt.

About eight years later, the trials became more intense and seemed to multiply in different directions – health, ministry, relationships, finances; it seemed I was being bombarded from every direction. Gradually, over time, the nearness of His presence began to wane. It was more difficult to hear His voice and sense His heart. In short, He was transitioning me to see a new revelation of Himself. Job went through a similar situation. After the loss of his wealth, children, and health, he realized he didn’t know God as well as he thought he did. He said, “My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.”

Mary Magdalene also received a new view of Jesus after His resurrection at the tomb. She first thought He was the gardener because He looked differently than He had before. When He says her name, her response is, “Rabboni,” (which means Teacher). Up until that time, that was the revelation she had of Him – a Teacher – yet here she saw Him in His glorified state as the One who conquered death and the grave.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus also saw a new side of Jesus. As He walked alongside them on their journey, “He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures  concerning Himself.” Yet they didn’t recognize Him as the Living Word until He broke bread with them and their eyes were opened.

There are many other examples, of course. What about you? Has Jesus revealed Himself to you in ways you didn’t recognize at first? Has He hidden Himself from your emotions? He does this to prepare you to see Him in a new way. Ask Him today, “Lord, open my eyes to see all You would have me to see, that I may know You and love You more.”


The Key to Healing and Freedom

If you’ve been attending church for very long, you’ve probably heard the word forgivenessheart & key used more times than you can remember. Though we are familiar with the topic, many don’t understand what forgiveness is, why it’s so important, and how to achieve it. You may or may not know  that forgiveness is the key to healing and freedom.

Before we look at what forgiveness is, I want to look at what it is not. Forgiveness is not making excuses for those who hurt you. For example: “Well, my mom didn’t really have a mom, so she didn’t know how to mother me like I needed her to.” This may be true, but it does not take into account the pain suffered from a lack of mothering. You may understand as an adult why your parent(s) did (or didn’t do) what they did, but it doesn’t lessen the effect their failures had on you as a child.

Forgiveness is not denial. Denial is believing that what happened didn’t affect you, or that it didn’t actually happen. This is deception, not forgiveness. Denial is often accompanied by suppressing, or stuffing your feelings deep inside you. This leads to emotional numbness, the inability to feel pain or pleasure. Eventually the feelings will come out, most often in the form of outbursts of anger, fits of rage, and/or depression, which is anger turned inward.

Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a choice of your will. You can choose to forgive someone even though you still have negative feelings toward them. Once the choice is made, then God can heal your emotions. In time, your feelings toward the offender will change. You have truly forgiven someone when you can genuinely pray for that person’s well being, success, and blessing.

This is what forgiveness is:

  • to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
  • to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
  • to grant pardon to a person
  • to cease to feel resentment against someone
  • to cancel an indebtedness

In order for forgiveness to be complete, you must get in touch with the core of the pain that was caused. This requires total honesty with yourself and God. Many struggle to do this when the offender was a parent. We all want to believe the best about our parents, even if they failed miserably. It is not dishonoring your parents to be honest about their failures. It is necessary in order for you to get free. Forgiveness is not about blaming anyone for your problems.

During my own healing journey, I found it extremely helpful to write a letter to each person who had hurt me. This was not given or mailed to the person, it was just between me and God for my own benefit. I now do this with those I minister to in Restoring the Foundations. Many who thought they had forgiven find that there are still feelings of pain and/or anger that surface during this simple exercise. These feelings are a clear indication that the process of forgiveness is not complete.

In the letter you state what the person did (or didn’t do) to you that caused pain. You tell how this affected your life and how it made you feel (without making excuses). It is best to be brutally honest. Then you make the choice to forgive and release the person, declaring that they owe you nothing, placing them in God’s hands. Afterwards, you can burn or shred the letter. In essence, this is what Joseph did with his brothers in Genesis 50:20 when he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…”

In addition to forgiving others, we must forgive ourselves. Many find this more difficult than forgiving others. But if God has forgiven us (and He has if we have confessed and repented), then we can forgive ourselves. To say you can’t forgive yourself is to put yourself above God. We must also release God from any ways we have blamed Him for our painful circumstances. If we hold anger or disappointment towards Him in our hearts, this can hinder us from receiving the healing He paid for and longs for us to have.

Forgiveness is required because God commands it if we want to be forgiven. It is not negotiable. He has forgiven us a debt we could never repay. Unforgiveness is an open door that allows the enemy to torment and oppress us. This can be seen in the parable Jesus told in Matthew 18:23-35. Because He commands us to forgive, He also supplies the grace necessary to do so. He never tells us to do something He hasn’t already done Himself!

Though it can be very difficult, working through the process of forgiveness is definitely worth it. In my own life, it was like taking a huge weight off my shoulders. I’ve seen many others gain great freedom as well.  Make the choice so you can receive healing and freedom – it’s a choice you will never regret!

The Healthy Way to Handle Negative Emotions

In over ten years of ministering to people seeking emotional and/or spiritual healing, I argumentshave found that many believers are uncertain about how to handle their negative emotions. This was true for me as well until I discovered through my own healing journey, a simple, biblical process that may help you or others you know that struggle with this issue. First, it’s important to understand that negative emotions in and of themselves are not wrong or sinful. However, the ways in which we handle them can be. Reacting wrongly usually compounds the problem that caused the negative emotions to begin with, leaving us and others even more hurt and confused.

When dealing with negative emotions, there are typically two different ways most people I’ve encountered respond. (There may be other ways that I’m unfamiliar with.) Some people tend to stuff their emotions down inside, keeping them hidden from others. Others seem to do just the opposite. When the emotion is anger, this would look like a temper tantrum, an angry outburst, or fit of rage, and these reactions could be verbal or physical, or both. Both of these methods are inappropriate and unhealthy for everyone involved.

Stuffing or suppressing negative emotions on a long term basis can lead to serious health problems. Stress, fear, and anxiety are contributing factors in many diseases, both physical and mental. We were not created to carry these painful emotions inside of us, and doing so can be just as destructive to our body, God’s temple, as eating poorly or abusing drugs or alcohol. Stuffers usually fail to properly confront other’s hurtful behavior which enables them to continue to hurt us and others; this too is unhealthy.

On the other hand, pouring out our negative feelings to others can be equally harmful to them and to our relationship with them. Lashing out at others in anger for example, can seriously damage any relationship, especially if it happens frequently, and can wound the one on the receiving end. This method of response is also wrong. So how do we handle these emotions?

The biblical and therefore best, way to deal with negative feelings is to pour them out to God. He already knows how we feel anyway, and He won’t reprimand us for feeling the way we do, as people often will. The book of Psalms is full of examples; Psalm 142 is just one of many: “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before Him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. I cry to You, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise Your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of Your goodness to me.”

Taking our negative emotions to God is healthy. He can handle them and we can release them so that they don’t hurt us or others. I challenge you to try it and see for yourself!

How do you typically deal with negative feelings? You can comment below.