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What Voices are You Listening To?

Movies are littered with famous lines from Hollywood actors and actresses. Amber Tamblyn played Joan Girardi in Joan of Arcadia, a teenage girl who suddenly has a special connection with God. To disguise this ability, creator Barbara Hall had Joan come down with Lyme Disease to rationalize the voices in her head. Subsequently, as season one ends, doctors chalk up Joan’s hallucinations as side affects of Lyme Disease.

Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, Except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die, Genesis 3:1-3.

In season two, one of her brothers Kevin, played by Jason Ritter recalls Joan’ imaginary friend as a child. Forgetting this period of her life, as Joan puts two and two together, she realizes this still small voice was God the whole time. Unfortunately, talking to an invisible entity often results in being labeled as crazy by your peers. In A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise wanted to know the truth as do I so ask yourself, “what voices are you listening to?”

But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity. And when the woman saw that the tree was good (suitable, pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate, Genesis 3:4-6.

In the Garden of Eden, a snake begins to talk to Eve. Since Eve isn’t surprised by this talking snake, perhaps all animals could speak prior to the confusion at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Regardless of how, the passages above are similar to thoughts rushing through your head daily. As Christians learn to take their thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, you can start to figure out what voices you should listen to and those you need to rebuke and flee from.

by Jay Mankus

Crazy or Enlightened by God?

From 2003 to 2005, Amber Rose Tamblyn starred in the CBS drama series Joan of Arcadia. Amber played Joan Girardi, a sophomore in high school struggling to fit in. The pilot episode introduces Joan while dreaming where she first hears God’s voice as a whisper in the night. The next day God appears to Joan as a human being based upon Joan Osborne’s song “What If God Was One of Us?” This initial meeting sets the format for a typical episode where Joan sees and speaks with God, usually appearing as a different person each time. During this conversation, Joan receives an assignment and performs this task is a round about manner.

Then a fresh division of opinion arose among the Jews because of His saying these things. 20 And many of them said, Jesus has a demon and He is mad (insane—He raves, He rambles). Why do you listen to Him? – John 10:19-20

These encounters make Joan uneasy, unsure if she’s crazy, dreaming or enlightened by God? When Joan regularly leaves her friends to talk to strangers who are God, family and friends begin to get the sense that Joan isn’t all their mentality. In the final episode of season 1, Joan contracts Lyme Disease. After collapsing on the last day of school, doctors believe Joan’s encounters with God were merely hallucinations. Over the summer, Joan is sent to a mental hospital where she meets Judith, as a close friendship develops in season 2. Like many teenagers, when asked to share her special connection with God, Joan changes the topic, never expressing her faith. When you get a chance to share your faith, don’t let these opportunities slip by.

Others argued, These are not the thoughts and the language of one possessed. Can a demon-possessed person open blind eyes? – John 10:20

Telling others that you have a special relationship with God is risky in today’s current climate. Yet, when God put a message upon Jesus’ heart, He regularly shared biblical life lessons. These analogies, parables, and stories threatened many Jewish leaders. Jesus’ teaching caused some to believe that He was either demon possessed or insane. These comments inspired a chapter in C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. Lewis asks an opened ended question: “is Jesus a liar, lunatic or Lord?” This question challenged former investigative journalist Lee Strobel who like Lewis was an atheist. Yet, Strobel’s journey ended in a similar manner, writing The Case for Christ. No one wants to be made fun of or teased, but Jesus calls enlightened individuals to speak up, Matthew 10:32-33. Those who stand up for God will be counted but those who deny God will be rejected.

by Jay Mankus

Prediction, Premonition or Prophecy?

Everyone knows at least one Debbie downer, an individual who conspires and dwells on negative things that will likely occur in the future. These predictions are often influenced by gossip, hearsay and perceptions based upon previous events. When this speculation actually happens, who or what should receive credit for making an accurate prediction. Is this merely a guilt feeling, an unexplained sense in the form of a premonition or merely a self-fulfilled prophecy?

But as [the season was well advanced, for] much time had been lost and navigation was already dangerous, for the time for the Fast [the Day of Atonement, about the beginning of October] had already gone by, Paul warned and advised them, Saying, Sirs, I perceive [after careful observation] that this voyage will be attended with disaster and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship but of our lives also, Acts 27:9-10.

While traveling to Rome, Paul and Luke sail into the middle of a northeaster, similar to a strong typhon. Based upon his numerous missionary journeys, traveling by boat in the Mediterranean Sea, Paul became interested in weather forecasting. Based upon the waves, wind and typically weather patterns, Paul perceives this storm brewing in the distance. In the passage above, two factors contribute to Paul’s prediction, the time for fasting and after careful observation. Paul’s experience sailing and faith steered this man of God to make an accurate prediction.

And when neither sun nor stars were visible for many days and no small tempest kept raging about us, all hope of our being saved was finally abandoned. Then as they had eaten nothing for a long time, Paul came forward into their midst and said, Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have put to sea from Crete and brought on this disaster and harm and misery and loss. But [even] now I beg you to be in good spirits and take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only of the ship. For this [very] night there stood by my side an angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve and worship, Acts 27:20-23.

The further Luke details this real life drama, the clearer it becomes that Paul possessed a special connection with God. After Paul expresses an “I told you so” moment, a new revelation provides hope for those fearful of dying. This second predication isn’t a premonition or prophecy. Rather, Paul reveals the source of his news, an angel of God. In a normal setting, there would be skepticism. However, when your boat is about to sink and panic sets in, this angel is an answer to prayer. Whether you are talking about making a prediction, sharing a premonition or having a prophetic thought, the most important thing is giving God the glory.

by Jay Mankus

Dreams are Like the Stars of Your Destiny

Nightly dreams mainly occur during a stage of sleep known as REM.  This acronym stands for rapid eye movement where brain activity is high, a similar level to being awake.  REM sleep results in the continuous movements of your eyes while you sleep.  Meanwhile, neurologists like Freud and Jung have developed their own theory.  The Dream Theory states that dreams merely come from within the human psyche, exposing what is in your unconscious mind.

For in a multitude of dreams and in a flood of words there is worthlessness. Rather [reverently] fear God [and worship Him with awe-filled respect, knowing who He is], Ecclesiastes 5:7.

When I searched the Bible for another point of view, a Jewish king frowned upon dreaming.  Referred to as one of the wisest men to walk the face of the earth, King Solomon focuses on who to listen to, God or your dreams in the passage above.  Despite this warning, Solomon does have something good to say about dreams in Proverbs 3:24.  Anyone who practices discretion and sound wisdom will be blessed by a deep and sweet sleep.  Later on in this book, Solomon writes about moments in life where dreams, prophecies, revelations and visions are absent, Proverbs 29:18.  When this occurs, rely on God’s laws in the Bible to guide your steps.

And having been warned [by God] in a dream not to go back to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod intends to search for the Child in order to destroy Him,” Matthew 2:12-13.

One aspect of dreaming is described in the New Testament.  The apostle Paul uses the phrase keeping in step with the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:25 as a way to follow God.  In the second chapter of the New Testament, Matthew gives two examples of how God uses dreams.  The first is similar to a nightmare, a warning to not go back to Herod.  Moments later, an angel of the Lord appears in Joseph’s dream.  These clear instructions ushered Joseph into action immediately.  God spoke to Joseph through dreams on numerous occasions, each time to direct and guide his steps on earth.

Now Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him even more. He said to them, “Please listen to [the details of] this dream which I have dreamed; we [brothers] were binding sheaves [of grain stalks] in the field, and lo, my sheaf [suddenly] got up and stood upright and remained standing; and behold, your sheaves stood all around my sheaf and bowed down [in respect].” His brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Are you really going to rule and govern us as your subjects?” So they hated him even more for [telling them about] his dreams and for his [arrogant] words. But Joseph dreamed still another dream, and told it to his brothers [as well]. He said, “See here, I have again dreamed a dream, and lo, [this time I saw] eleven stars and the sun and the moon bowed down [in respect] to me!” – Genesis 37:5-9

In the case of Joseph, his dreams were the stars of his destiny.  Based upon the accounts in Genesis, Joseph possessed a special connection with God.  Some may refer to him as a prophet with others focusing on his gift of dream interpretation.  Whatever the source, the favor of God never left Joseph despite a series of hardships.  While many Christians would have become bitter and given up on hope, Joseph never wavered.  From a practical perspective, if you believe in a dream, destiny or goal, a resolve and will is conceived.  When darkness settles in, faith serves as a compass to keep dreams alive.  May the saying “dreams are like the stars of your destiny” be more than just a slip inside of a fortune cookie.  My the Holy Spirit awaken your soul to reach for the stars as you seek to follow God’s will daily.

by Jay Mankus

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