My passionate desire–for myself, and for you–is an ever-deepening awareness of how God is speaking to us. In small and large ways God orchestrates circumstances to bring about parallel events that will speak to us. When these take place–and we recognize them–God breaks through to make instantaneous, intimate and convincing contact.
In his most recent blog, Seth Barnes tells a story about his friend, Rob, who had just returned from a 9-day personal retreat in a national forest. God had spoken to Rob, telling him what He wanted him to do in the future. But it was so outrageous that Rob asked God to confirm it with total strangers. “And wouldn’t you know, as he emerged from the forest, three different strangers stopped him and shared things with him that were a direct confirmation of what God had said.”
This orchestration of circumstances was a word being sent to Rob.
Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3
‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”
Every relationship builds on the interaction of people with each other, and our relationship with God is no different. He is a real Person on the other side, whose interaction with us leaves His fingerprints on everyday events, transforming them into supernatural encounters that spell out His presence. His interaction with us, in all of its subtleties, is what I call the divine dialogue.
God’s continuous interaction with us strengthens our faith. Faith is not a one-way relationship in which we are duty-bound to believe what strains credulity; faith brings us into the sweeping verification of God’s kingdom.
“We all navigate this twilight space between a physical world we can touch and bump into and a kingdom of God that is so hard to describe that Jesus himself used six different parables in one chapter (Matthew 13) to tell us what it’s like.” [i]
There are few things more important to our survival
(in every sense of the word)
than to learn the art of navigating this twilight space well.
It is an art and a skill that depends on hearing and learning from God.
It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.
The Father teaches us forward, leading us from what we know into what we have yet to know. This was how He brought me to the moment of my conversion, and this is how He’s brought me to every “coming to Jesus” moment since.
There has never been a time more important than right now, for us to be hearing from and learning from the Father as we navigate the twilight space.
What is God teaching me?
In his short insightful piece, Living Like Deaf Dogs, my friend Seth Barnes considers the exquisite orchestration of events by which God confirmed Rob’s way forward. Seth reflects on the practice of listening prayer, describing it as “an exchange with God as opposed to a monologue wherein we ask questions that create space for divine answers and direction.” He ends his piece with a question, “Are you the kind of person who asks God questions and listens for His voice?”
If we are going to become increasingly aware of what God is teaching us, we are going to need to practice two things:
- listening prayer and
- respecting His orchestration of circumstances.
If we will diligently practice these two things, we will not only come to understand how God is directing us, but we will walk with Him in ever deepening intimacy, in which His presence and His power increasingly permeate our life.
Respecting His Orchestration of Circumstances
I believe that God is warning us of a severe coming storm. As outrageous as this message sounds, a divine orchestration of events has taken place in my personal life over the last four years, which I understand to be His confirmation.
By sharing just a few of these, I hope you will understand why I believe what I do. But even more, I hope that you will hear and learn what God wants to teach you.
52 Days of Prayer
One Sunday morning in church in the spring of 2011, God told me that I was to get up early and pray for the church at 5:30 every morning for 52 days… the same number of days in which Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.
When I pulled out my calendar to count the days, I found that the 52nd day was also our last day in Florida, and that the 53rd day we would be flying to our summer home in Montana, which would bring the massive upheaval of relocation. That I would complete my mission in place was notable to me…
I’ve never had a prayer time like that before or since. Sometimes it was like a 3-D movie unfolding around me. I saw believers being overrun by an amorphous enemy, whose shots were unfelt but were taking us out one-by-one, by distraction and apathy. I saw how unprepared the church was: like soldiers roused out of bed half asleep and not fully dressed, undisciplined, not knowing how to use their equipment, almost in a stupor. One day there was a terrible oppressive darkness covering the face of the earth that made me weak. Another day I saw The Holy City descending out of heaven casting light upon the earth. All of this was information streaming to me, which I could not begin to interpret. But in listening prayer, I began to ask what He was trying to teach me.
Those 52 days of prayer were my awakening, as God began to give me His heart and His eyes to see the vulnerability of the church, drawing me along side of Him as He revealed that events were going to be unfolding in which He was going to advance His redemptive calendar and set things right.
Scrolling through my emails a few months later, I saw something from someone named Sid Roth. Having no idea who Sid Roth is, I was about to delete the message when God told me to open it and read it instead.
It was a link to the Sid Roth show in which the Messianic Rabbi, Jonathan Cahn, was laying out the stunning string of “coincidences” that have taken place since 911, “coincidences” that defy all odds of chance. I respected them as divinely orchestrated circumstances–words being spoken to us by God–helping us to navigate the twilight.
In both his books, The Harbinger and The Shemittah, Cahn reviews the stunningly orchestrated parallels between modern events and ancient Biblical history, between our two greatest stock market crashes and the ancient law of Shemittah.
The stunning coincidences stand on their own. America is replicating the same events that took place just before the ancient northern kingdom of Israel was brought down by her enemies.
I respect these stunning parallels as words of somber warning
being spoken to us by God.
I hear a passionate warning, in supplication that we wake up and turn to Him. Scripture reveals God’s heart, that He does not want us to be caught unaware. He always wants to spare, mitigate, or at least prepare those He loves, by warning them of what their defiance has wrought.
My husband is the most beautiful, ethical, responsible, magnificent man I know, but for a long time he was not on the same page with me. I saw a coming storm bringing destruction, he was resistant to the possibility of any such “event.” This was very hard on me, because his is the human voice I trust the most.
I felt very alone. I hated not being “normal.” Very often I was tempted to scrap everything and walk away, but the Lord would not let me. To this end He did something rather extraordinary.
Bill and I were walking on a wintery beach, and I was talking about all these things, when Bill emphatically stated, “Valerie, there is not going to be an event. Nothing is going to happen.” At that same moment, my cell phone began to make noise in my pocket, and I quickly pulled it out to see who I’d accidentally dialed. It turned out to be a u-tube video playing on its own. It was Sid Roth introducing Jonathan Cahn and The Harbinger. I have never ever input that link into my phone, or used my phone to locate that video. The following June, standing at the foot of our stairs, talking about “the event” once again, Bill again stated emphatically, “Valerie, there isn’t going to be any event.” At that exact moment, I heard someone talking on my phone in my pocket. I pulled it out to find Sid Roth introducing Jonathan Cahn and The Harbinger. . .
There is an ironic, sweet, slightly humorous, intimate touch to this . . . that God would orchestrate these “coincidences” for my sake, to shore me up because He knew how hard it was for me to continue when the human voice I trust the most wasn’t able to hear yet.
It is scary to envision a place where we don’t have the means to protect what is precious to us. But both history and Scripture show that God has no qualms about taking us there. Where our abilities end, His begin.
This happened way back at the beginning, when I felt like I was waiting for a hammer to fall. Unable to settle, praying for direction, God’s voice spoke deep within. “When the earthquake comes, you will get into position.”
Earthquake? I hadn’t heard anything about an earthquake up until that time. But, I started passing this on to a few close friends and family … all of whom were struggling with what to do with me.
After a few weeks, I began to falter, wondering if this “word” about an “earthquake” was really from the Lord. Driving home from town one day, sick and tired of not knowing if I was hearing from God or at the mercy of an overly active imagination, I begged Him to make it clear. I asked for a sign.
A few times, on major issues, I’ve done this–asking God for a confirming sign–and He has lovingly condescended to meet my need for assurance that I’m being led by Him. (As He did with Gideon in Judges 6) As I was praying for a sign, I saw in my mind the word “earthquake” written in a font typical of printed words . . . and it came to me that if this was a true message from Him, He would cause the word “earthquake” to pass before me, printed in a font on a piece of paper, not once but at least twice in the same day. And this would happen on a set day between us. And on that set day, only if this took place was I to know that it was a message from Him. The odds were heavily stacked against the “chance” that this “earthquake” message would be confirmed as true.
The very next day as I woke up, He said, “This is the day.” We were on. That day I had to see the word “earthquake” printed on paper twice. And if that word didn’t pop up at least twice, the message was not from Him. And it had to be on paper . . . no cheating, no going to the internet.
I ran into my day with no quiet time, pressing hard because I had so much to do. By early afternoon I found myself struggling with a constant stream of brutal accusations in my thoughts. A voice in my head kept telling me I was a loon… acting like I was some kind of internet prophet, sending out these emails, telling people a calamity was coming … but all I was doing was offending friends, losing their respect, and ruining my reputation as a credible believer. “You purport to hear God. You are an advocate of the divine dialogue, but you are a pathetic joke. You’re totally deluded and not hearing God at all.”
Every one of my worst fears rose up to assault me. Was I under the influence of a delusion that was out to wreck my witness of Jesus? This thought broke my heart. My stomach was tied in knots. It was well past time to go to Him.
I ran to my cellar study and threw myself on Him in tears, telling Him that I would humble myself and write to every person I had ever told about the earthquake, and tell them that I was wrong. I would be the best example of rug eating repentance, if He would just tell me I was wrong. I was desperate to hear from Him. I had to know if the message I had been sharing was truly from Him, or from my own imagination . . . or worse.
As I opened my Bible to where I was supposed to be that day, in my Daily Bible Reading Plan, I took a deep breath praying quietly that this would be a really good time for me to see the word “earthquake” a couple of times. . . and if I didn’t, well He only had a few more hours that day to make it happen. And if it didn’t happen, I would know that I was wrong about the earthquake
My reading began in I Kings 19.
The LORD Speaks to Elijah
And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
I doubt that on any other day of the year, the reading selection would have given me the specific sign we had agreed on. That the word “earthquake” was presented–not just twice, but three times–added to the strength of His confirmation.
Hearing and Knowing the Will of God
The Sunday morning following 911, in New York City, Tim Keller told his congregation along with the many shaken visitors pressing into his church that the safest place any of them could be was in the will of God.
That is not just a nice thought; it is crucial truth. It also pinpoints our great need to be able to recognize God’s will for us, not just in general terms but specifically, in our life. When we become desperate to know God’s will, desperate for relationship with Him, desperate to hear and know His will . . . we will.
The reason we don’t hear God is because we don’t want to… not desperately.
We know from Scripture that God often takes His people through adversity to create that desperation for Him in them. Our wanting Him is somehow key. It was during one of those times of adversity that the prophet Isaiah received God’s fresh, new promise for His people:
Isaiah 30: 21-23
Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. And you will defile your graven images overlaid with silver, and your molten images plated with gold. You will scatter them as an impure thing, and say to them, “Be gone!”
Their idols had separated them from Him, from Whom their life streamed; and He needed to act in order to save them from what would destroy them otherwise. So He intervened by sending privation and oppression. Real love sees the object of its love being destroyed and intervenes, willing to do whatever it takes to save them. He gave them privation and sent oppression, but He never left them. In their adversity they became desperate for Him. When they longed for Him with their entire being, when they searched for Him with their whole heart, He would be found by them. Then their eyes would behold their teacher, then they would hear His voice telling them which way to go. . .
When they came to know His will, it was more than an intellectual feat… they knew it deeply and intimately because their heart has been brought into full agreement with His. And they defiled their idols with a vengeance.
Preparing Places of Refuge
The message that has been coming through to me loud and clear for the last nine months is that God is preparing places of refuge. A place of refuge is a place where people know their God so well that they are beyond the reach of fear. It is a community. It is a place where the people trust God . . .
Psalm 125: 1,2
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.
And for a while now the Lord has been calling me to become a place of refuge. . . a place where His heart is understood and His ends are declared.
My most passionate desire–for both myself, and for you–is that we would be quick to learn what God is teaching us in these days, so that we can not only find but become that place of refuge.
[i] Seth Barnes, Living Like Deaf Dogs, sethbarnes.com, 8/26/15