Random Blog Clay Feet: July 22, 2008
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fire, Fear and Real Power

Sometimes my dreams give me clues as to what my subconscious is doing out of sight. I am usually rather cautious about drawing hard conclusions from dreams as they can often be rather fickle and easily affected by things like what you ate the night before etc. My Dad used to say that if you wanted to have a lot of dreams then just eat mashed potatoes before going to bed.

Well, I didn't eat mashed potatoes last night but I did eat a little ice cream which also can have rather strong effects on my sleeping at times. I often wake up literally dripping with sweat in the middle of the night after eating ice cream which gives me quite a strong incentive to avoid doing that. I did wake up last night with a little bit of that but not the full blown version. But I'm not sure how much effect that had on the dream that I had earlier this morning that also woke me up and nearly ended my ability to sleep the rest of my alloted time.

I dreamed that things were getting very dangerous in the world and somehow our house and belongings were reduced to shambles. We were hiding out in lower parts of the house and beginning to search for food in the wreckage while also aware that everyone else was in a state of very heightened distrust of everyone else. During this time I also became aware that some of those I loved and considered part of my family were willing to betray me if the opportunity afforded itself.

At some point in the dream we decided that it was time to leave the area and somehow were going to use our car to drive away. (I don't know where the gas was going to come from.) We hardly started to leave when sure enough we were stopped by an impromptu check-point set up by people in the neighborhood and our car was searched for anything valuable, especially food. I recognized the loved ones I knew in the group and things went from bad to worse at this point.

For whatever reason (dreams seldom follow logic or consistency) the next thing I knew gasoline was being poured on my body and I could feel the burning sensation of it on my skin. I could see my wife and young children looking on with horror and I wondered what was going to happen next. At this point the dream begin to slow down – probably because I was starting to wake up and interfere with the flow of the dream – and I wondered if the gas was just to irritate me or if they planned to turn me into a lighted torch. When the dream got to this point I finally woke up fully with all sorts of fear and questions filling my mind and emotions.

As I have learned to do over the past few years when attacked by strong fears, I began to talk with God about my fears and present them to Him to take them from me and replace them with peace and calm. I prayed for His perspective about the situation and about these people and also remembered that praise, gratitude and focusing on the goodness of God and on His covenant promises are very effective weapons against fear. As I did so I found my emotions beginning to find relief and I continued to push my heart to focus on God and the good things I have been learning about Him over the past few years.

I realized in the process that this was the very same situation that every martyr for Jesus has found themselves in and what I was doing was also the secret weapon that they used when facing fear of death. Instead of allowing the fear to overwhelm them they positively displaced all fear by filling their minds and hearts with the presence of God and some of them are even reported to have died singing long after it was reasonable physically possible.

I pondered whether I should get up or if I should try to finish out the night's sleep that was so intensely interrupted. I finally drifted off back to a much more peaceful sleep and found myself dreaming something almost the very opposite to what had previously occurred. I found myself sharing with a small group of young people what I was learning inductively from a passage in the Bible and encouraging them to process through the verses like I do to discover the connections and the exciting truths that could transform their own lives.

As I was doing this I became suddenly overwhelmed with such a powerful, stirring inspiration of God from the passage to my own heart that I could hardly continue to speak. I began seeing connections in the verses and thrilling revelations of God's passion and love and truth and I eagerly tried to get the others to see them for themselves and feel it with their own hearts, not just their intellect. The whole experience became almost supernatural and my heart was intensely warmed and excited with the opportunity to share and enjoy the very presence and power of the love of God.

When I woke up again about half an hour before our normal time to get up I again lay there talking with God and asking what He wanted me to do today. My plans have been changed radically several times and right now I still have little idea what I will be doing today. But I believe God may have something specific in mind and I want to be in His will wherever that needs to happen today.

But as I prayed my mind also became filled with fast-moving insights about the nature of the great war we are caught up in between God and His archenemy, the accuser. I sensed in a very strong way that the sharpest conflict is between the forces of fear and the power of pure love. My mind seemed to be presented with story after story from the Bible and other places in history to illustrate this and it became very clear that in each story the choice was always between becoming intimidated and subjected to the control of fear or turning the mind deliberately to seek God's face and focus on Him instead.

I pondered for awhile what must have gone on in the thinking of the three Hebrews who ended up in the fiery furnace. They had no assurance that things would work out as they did but they showed unflinching calm and resolution to stick with God at any cost. But this was not due to some super-human ability to grit their teeth and win this stand-off with guts, courage and sheer spiritual determination. That is a sure recipe for experiencing a spectacular meltdown in front of God's enemies.

It occurred to me that these men did not face this decision suddenly as the story might imply to some people from the way it is sometimes told. There was quite a long period of time required for building this giant statue and the furnaces were not exactly built out of sight either. In addition, the attitude of the king was also quite apparent to anyone paying attention at all and it was becoming increasingly clear what his intentions were the closer they got to the great time of forced worship.

So during all these months leading up to this confrontation with the king's demands, the three men had time to consider what their attitude was going to be. They must have known that they would certainly face the fire if they choose to hold to their allegiance to the God who loved them so much. They had literally months to pray and seek God's face and focus their hearts on Him on a daily basis which likely was the real preparation that empowered them to stand with quiet boldness when the time finally arrived for the great showdown. By that time their minds and hearts were so obsessed with the beauty and attractiveness of God's character and His ways that all fear had been banished from their hearts and they were able to face the possibility of torture in the flames without flinching.

By that time it was crystal clear to them that the real issue here was not just about worship but was about whether fear and force would be the controlling, dominating power in their lives or whether the goodness and grace and glory of the true God would so fill their lives and minds that everything else sank into insignificance. For fear cannot be countered with more fear but has to be displaced with genuine love and the true glory found only in God's face.

As I thought about these things it permeated deeper into my heart and mind the clarity of the issues in this great controversy. Fear itself is my greatest enemy and is the primary tool used against me to keep me from having a saving connection with my real Father in Heaven, my Creator who longs to bring me back home to be enthralled with His love for eternity.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:15-19)