- Religion and Philosophy
My Visitation From Jesus
My Visitation From Jesus
The story that I'm about to share is true and took place last October, 2015. There is a scripture in Hebrews 13 that tells us, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." I found out first hand that it's not always just angels that visit us unawares.
My spiritual encounter with Jesus occurred while celebrating the Fall Feast of Sukkot. My wife, two granddaughters, and I drove to the Coast of North Carolina to meet up with two Christian minister friends and their families.
Since my visitation happened during Sukkot, I feel compelled to share a few personal insights about Sukkot, before continuing on with my testimony. There are many terrific books already written about Sukkot and the other six Feasts ofGod, which I will not try and rewrite. I will share, from my own perspective, some things that make Sukkot special to me.
The Bible says that when Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, there were also many gentile believers who came along with the Hebrews. In Leviticus 23, God gave us seven specific Feasts that He expected all of His people to follow and keep. That included both His Jew and gentile followers.
All seven Feasts of God point to different important aspects of the coming Hebrew Messiah. Each feast also presents us with a different foreshadow picture piece of the coming Kingdom of God. By keeping the feasts, we are learning how God wants us to fit into His coming Kingdom.
The feast of Sukkot takes place in the Fall, shortly after harvest time. Part of the ceremonial aspect of Sukkot is bringing God a very special food basket offering. This offering is to thank God for His protection and blessings toward us during the previous year. There are some specific scriptures normally read as you do that.
After dedicating your offering up to God, you would then combine your resources with what the others in your group brought. Then you would all sit down to joyfully feast and celebrate in the presence of God.
Sukkot is one of three specific times every year that God instructed the Hebrew men to travel to Jerusalem and worship at the temple. It is believed that the original temple built by King Solomon, was dedicated to God during the Feast of Sukkot.
The term Ingathering is often used when the Hebrew men traveled to Jerusalem for Sukkot. They normally brought their whole family. Perhaps even a whole community would travel together as a group for logistic and safety reasons.
Many scholars believe that Jesus was born during Sukkot. With the terribly overcrowded situations caused at Sukkot, there was no room for Mary at any of the local inns. The next big celebration when everyone was required to gather again in Jerusalem, would be in the Spring time during Passover.
The Sukkot gathering in Jerusalem was the last of the seven annual Feast celebrations for the year. Because of that, the census was normally taken and the yearly taxes were payable then during the time of the Roman rule over Israel.
Sukkot commemorates the forty years that God watched over and protected the Children of Israel after their mass Exodus from slavery in Egypt. For forty long years, Moses led God's people around through the Wilderness while living in temporary dwellings, or sukkahs.
Sukkot was also the name of the first place where Moses stopped to camp during the Exodus. It was thought to be an area, or city, East of the Jordan River, perhaps in the Land of Goshen.
Celebrating Sukkot, which some even refer to as the "Festival of Joy", is a great way for all believers to honor God: First, to thank God for the love and protection that He offered to our forefathers; and also, to thank God the Father for His continued love and protection that He still offers us today.
Most believers have all read the story about the "transfiguration" of Jesus in Matthew 17, but not all understand the importance of the details. Jesus changed or transfigured into a spiritual state of glory, His face began to shine like the sun. Moses and Elijah then appeared before Jesus in that same spiritual state of glory and they talked.
Some scholars believe that Moses and Elijah are the "Two Witnesses," or "Two Prophets" that the Bible says will appear in the end of days. Most people will agree that Moses and Elijah were not just sent to chit chat. It is believed that their real mission was to anoint Jesus as the new High Priest, (Cohen, in Hebrew) of the Kingdom of God.
During the "transfiguration," Peter asked Jesus if he should go and build three sukkahs --- a separate one for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. This inspires one to believe that the spiritual encounter on the Mount ofTransfiguration happened during Sukkot, especially since the terminology "go and build a sukkah" was linked directly to Sukkot.
Scripture does not say that Jesus Christ came with the intent of establishing a new religion called Christianity. Nor does scripture say that our Holy Bible was ever intended to become separated into two books, one half for Jews and the other half for Christians.
The Bible says that our Hebrew Messiah came to establish the Kingdom of God --- a spiritual Kingdom here on earth where all "true believers" are meant live together in spiritual unity, harmony and peace. One King and High Priest named Yeshua, (Jesus Christ, in Greek) shall rule over that Kingdom.
The Sukkot festival requires that a temporary outside structure, called a sukkah, be constructed. A sukkah was basically a makeshift hut with a thatched roof made of palm branches. Holes were purposely left in the roof to watch the stars. It was often decorated with Autumn flowers or colored leaves.
The sukkah needed to be sturdy enough to stand up to the weather for eight days. It was expected that you would spend as much time as you could inside your sukkah. That included eating your meals and sleeping when possible.
The spiritual significance of the sukkah is that it prophetically represents the Messiah and His protective covering over us. Spending time in your sukkah, is actually spending personal quality time with your Messiah. Symbolically, sleeping in the sukkah is reliving the experience that our forefathers had during the Exodus when God was in the camp with them.
Amazingly, when you build and spend quiet time alone in your sukkah, you often feel the awesome presence and power of God. It is a great time to read your Bible, pray, or just sit and talk with God and ask questions.
For the past few years, my wife and I have been using a screen tent for our sukkah. In these modern times, complete panelized "sukkah" building kits are now being sold on line. They can be quickly assembled, broken back down and then stored away for another year.
The times when our grandchildren participated with us have certainly been the most enjoyable. The kids love helping assemble the sukkah. They especially love treasure hunting afterward to find creative things to decorate the sukkah with.
Choosing to view Sukkot as a week long, fun filled, family camping adventure with God, certainly adds appeal and excitement. Even a city bound apartment dweller could find a big cardboard box or two and make a sukkah for their living room. It takes little effort to turn Sukkot into a fun filled week of blessings and a special time to honor God for His love and goodness.
I don't believe that the particular sukkah structure is the main concern of God. What matters is showing a personal willingness to bless God though our obedience, not because it's mandatory, but because we love Him.
Getting back to my story now... Last Fall my wife and I gathered together at the home of two great friends. Rick, a retired geologist and pastor, and his lovely wife Linda, a retired school teacher. They graciously offered to host the gathering. They had the needed accommodations plus a centralized location.
Rick and Linda opened the celebration up and invited the folks from their local Christian church. Every day new people came when they could and left when they had to. The week brought forth delicious food, uplifting testimonies, teaching revelations and spiritual adventure stories. We experienced wonderful times of prayer and worship.
As the celebration week was ending, we decided to take some time and pray for each other. We chose to pray for our good friend Marsha first. Marsha had severely stubbed her big toe and broken it very badly, just prior to our Sukkot gathering.
Marsha is a very tough lady and certainly not one to complain, but we all knew that she was suffering. We had been lifting her up in prayer and we were all very anxious to see Marsha receive a miraculous healing from God.
I stood behind Marsha as she slowly and very carefully eased herself down into an armed dining room chair next to the table. After Marsha was comfortably seated, I gently reached out and placed my right hand lightly on her shoulder.
Just before we began praying as a group, Marsha called out to God and began praying. In a tired, somewhat discouraged and slightly painful sounding voice, Marsha began praising God. She thanked God for His mercy and goodness and then went on to pray a beautiful prayer.
As Marsha was closing her prayer, she asked for one last thing. She asked God if He would please stop the continuous barrage of "trials and tribulations." The enemy had been relentlessly coming against her, their family, and their ministry.
Marsha is a college teacher who also works very closely with her husband Rick. Rick is the founder of a men's intercessory prayer ministry called, Encourage Men To Pray Ministries. Their ministry links praying men together across our whole country. If there is any significant prayer event happening, Rick will usually be there personally or have his ministry represented.
I thought briefly about Marsha's plea for help, and realized that she was asking God for the trying, or testing of her faith to lessen or stop. Even Jesus Himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for The Father to take the "cup" or burden of His upcoming crucifixion from Him, if it was His Father's will. Luke 22
Then the Lord began to remind me of the verses in the Book ofJames 1:2-4 NKJV ..."My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (temptations) 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete (mature), lacking nothing."
I was reminded that James 1 teaches us to remain positive when we come under diverse spiritual attacks, also referred to as trials and tribulations. We are to work through and become an overcomer in those faith-testing trials. Doing so earns us the virtue of patience. Patience brings endurance. Endurance helps lead us into spiritual maturity.
While I stood there waiting my turn to pray, I asked the Lord if and how I could share with Marsha what I had just been reminded of from James. Soon I began to capture and process different thoughts that the Lord started to show me.
Suddenly, out of the peripheral vision of my left eye, a slight movement caught my attention. I began to see, vaguely at first, a misty fog appearing in the empty corner of the dining room.
Then the room opened up into a great expanse and a man came walking out of the mist. Suddenly a wide and very deep gorge appeared and then I noticed a wire stretched across the gorge. The man from the mist stepped on to the wire.
My ears were still hearing the prayers for Marsha, but the voices of my praying friends were fading rapidly. My entire focus now catapulted toward this new phenomena. Who is this man who walked out of the mist? Why is he standing on that wire and why is he staring at me I wondered?
With great astonishment I watched as he gracefully walked across the long, thin wire. Without hesitation and showing no sign of fear, the daring stranger quickly reached my side of the ravine and stepped off the wire.
During the whole time that he was crossing over, we both kept our eyes keenly focused on each other. Without breaking eye contact, the stranger proceeded to walk right up and stop directly in front of me.
He stood there silently for a short time, peering deeply into my eyes. It felt like he was searching my very soul for something, but I didn't know what. Then he caught me totally off guard by asking me, "Do you believe that I can cross back over that wire againto the other side?"
I remember my very first thought after his question. I figured that if he really wanted to turn around and walk back over again --- fine, that was his business. I was not, however, the least bit interested in volunteering to join him.
His question started to make me feel strangely uncomfortable, but not afraid. It took a few moments to collect my thoughts and then answer him. I replied, "Yes, I believe that since I just saw you walk across the wire, that you should be able to make it back over again."
Without a moment's hesitation, the man fired back a second question at me, "Do you believe that I could walk back across that wire with someone riding on my shoulders?"
Almost instantaneously, I caught a mind's eye glimpse of someone doing just that. They were actually riding back across the wire while sitting on this man's shoulders.
After seeing the quick glimpse of the piggy back rider, I remember thinking how dangerous that would be to try. Then an eerie feeling of fear crept over me and butterflies filled my stomach. Suddenly, I knew in my heart that he was going to ask me to be his rider.
Without adequate time to formulate my thoughts and answer his second question, I was immediately asked a third and inconceivable question. The stranger's soul-piercing eyes were now staring directly into my heart. He calmly asked me, "Will you trust me, to carry you back across that ravine on my shoulders?"
A numbness came over me like I was going into shock, like somebody had just tossed a thick, heavy, quilt over my head. My mind was flooding with questions that I couldn't find answers for. No words would come out of my mouth. I just stood there silently, staring back into his eyes.
Many thoughts were running wildly through my mind, but none of them encouraged me to ride piggyback across that wire. I don't even know this man, how could he dare ask me such a question?
The stranger seemed to perceive my every thought. His inquiring eyes had already sought out and found my final answer. I sensed a certain degree of disappointment in his eyes, but no anger. He turned around quietly and began walking away.
I remember feeling like I was seriously missing something in letting him walk away. I felt helpless, speechless, wanting so badly to do or say something, anything, but couldn't. It was like being in some out of control dream. The stranger was almost gone now, walking right back into the same mist from where he appeared.
Suddenly, the knowledge of who the stranger really was struck me like a bolt of lightning. The man walking away from me is my Lord Jesus Christ! It was Jesus who questioned my belief and trust in Him!
In my vision, I could finally speak again. In a voice filled with sheer desperation I cried out, "Jesus, wait!" But it was too late. He continued to walk away without a response. I watched Him disappear back into the mist.
I felt so bad, mentally scolding myself for not recognizing Jesus sooner. Seeking His grace, mercy, and forgiveness, I cried out one last time, "Yes Jesus, of course I trust you! Yes Jesus, of course I will ride back on your shoulders... Now that I know it's you!"
There was still no response. Jesus was gone. The vision ended as abruptly and unexpectedly as it began. The whole encounter happened so fast, it was like I had just watched a video in fast forward mode.
I desperately wanted to find the rewind button and start the event over again. I wanted to change the ending, but there was no magic button to push. What was all this about? What just happened here and why?
Emotionally, I was nearly undone and started to fight back tears. Had I just blown it big time with God? I kept questioning myself over and over, why didn't I recognize that the man in my vision was Jesus?
At that point in time, I realized the piggy back rider could have, should have, been me. "Oh Lord," I passionately moaned from the inner most parts of my being, "what are you trying to show me and why?"
The faded voices of my friends still praying for Marsha became clear again. They had continued in ferverant prayer during my vision. My focus came back again. I was still behind Marsha with my hand on her shoulder. I felt shaken, yet very excited.
The room became intensely quiet, my friends had all taken their turns praying for Marsha. It was my turn to pray now and they waited patiently. Their silence was creating an urgency to pray, but I had no immediate words.
My mind was abuzz with so many thoughts and emotions, yet no words seemed ready to come out of my mouth. I prayed quietly in the Spirit and asked God to quickly give me the right words to speak, and He did.
I took my turn and prayed for Marsha, sharing some of what the Lord had shown me about 'counting it all joy'...
After finishing my prayer, I announced to the group that Jesus had just visited me in a vision. As I shared what I had just witnessed, my friends listened intently. Hearing the details seemed to awaken within them, a deep, spiritual hunger for God. I could see excitement in their eyes as I shared the events that had just taken place.
I told how a stranger suddenly appeared to me, walking out of a mist and stepping onto a wire. How he gracefully walked the wire, crossing the deep and dangerous ravine over to my side. How he walked right up to me and then peered straight into my heart without ever breaking eye contact.
I told my friends about the stranger's first question, if I believed that he could walk back over to the other side again. Then I added my immediate thoughts and response to his first question.
I told my friends his second question, if I believed that he could carry someone back across the wire on his shoulders. I shared about the diverse thoughts and feelings that immediately filled my head and heart after that question.
I told them about having no time to answer his second question before he asked me the third and final question. How he asked me if I would trust him enough to let him carry me back across the wire on his shoulders.
I expounded on how the words from the stranger's last question about trusting him, penetrated deep into my heart. How his words seemed to render me emotionally and physically helpless, unable to respond.
With great disappointment in myself, I confessed to my friends how quickly fear had crept into my heart and eroded my faith. Yes, I did believe the stranger could cross back over the wire again. But when he asked me to trust him with my life in doing so, I waivered and hesitated. I believed, but I just couldn't trust.
I told my friends how Jesus finally revealed Himself to me through the power of His Holy Spirit. How my weak belief suddenly exploded into great trust which removed my fear and renewed faith again.
I shared how immediately after my revelation that it was Jesus, I cried out to Him, "Yes, Lord, I do trust you....." But it was too late. The vision was over and the opportunity to show my new found trust was lost.
My compassionate friends, whom I love and respect deeply, all listened very carefully and quietly to every word about my vision. There was no criticism or sarcasm spoken out by anyone. They responded with love and encouragement.
I once learned that feelings are merely feelings, they are neither right nor wrong. It is what we do with those feelings that determines right and wrong. I believe the same principle applies to temptations. Temptation itself is not sinful, but how we respond to the temptation can be.
The longer we toy with an evil temptation, the more likely we are to give in to it. When Jesus was tempted by the devil He simply replied, "It is written..." and then quoted God's Word. Matthew 4
Marsha, like us all, had grown weary in constantly fighting the spiritual foes of God who continually attacked her and her family. Marsha was tired and weakened from the constant pain in her body, but she never gave up. She cried out to God for help but never quit fighting. Marsha never quit praying and believing that God would help her.
For the record, Marsha shared a praise report with my wife and I a week or so later. She praised God for how quickly her big toe was healing. Marsha also shared how God had been restoring feeling back into her foot again. Feeling which she had started to lose prior to even breaking her big toe. Praise God!
True believers in God will always suffer spiritual attacks, sometimes coming from numerous directions at once. As over-comers we must always keep pushing forward toward the mark, to finish that race that we can never quit running.
I've had nearly a year now to re-visit that vision from last Sukkot. It seems like every time I do, I remember a few more details. At times I have even felt my heart pounding harder as I relived the experience emotionally.
Only recently have I been able to think, pray, and receive answers on what really happened last year during Sukkot --- that joyful feast which God created, hosts, and asks us to celebrate with Him.
I learned that just believing in God is not enough. The term belief leans more toward mentally assenting to something being true. Belief does not always come with a degree of certainty and like hope, is often futuristic in nature.
I have learned that Trust, is deeper than belief. Trust is something that is earned, not just learned. Trust is based on prior knowledge, an experience, a faithful relationship. Trust is being so sure, deep in your heart, of something being true, that you will risk anything to keep it.
As I pondered about what God had been trying to show me, I thought about the twelve handpicked disciples of Jesus. I remembered some of their personal experiences with Jesus. I remembered their struggles with belief and trust.
All twelve of the original disciples said they believed in Jesus. They were tremendously blessed with a once in a lifetime opportunity. They were allowed to live, travel, and minister with Jesus.
They all witnessed untold miracles happening every single day. They heard, first hand, Jesus teach about the Kingdom of God. They learned about the promises and blessings of eternal life coming through Him.
All twelve disciples had seen and believed in Jesus, but only the one called "John the Beloved," really trusted. Only John proved his love, his courage, and his trust by standing tall with Jesus at the foot of the cross. John willingly risked everything that he had. He trusted that the words and love of Jesus were true.
Perhaps the word "believe" is used with the wrong emphasis. Many Christians are taught that just believing is proving your faith. In the Hebrew context, faith is described as the combination of trust plus obedience. Putting into action what you think you really believe.
The Lord has shown me some very important things to remember and share with others during this past year. First, no matter what the circumstances might be, having any type of personal encounter with God is totally awesome
Even an experience that seems awkward, or disappointing at first like mine did, is good. It will still become an unforgettable experience. Just hearing God speak into your heart for the very first time and knowing that yes, it's really Him, will change your life forever.
Spiritual maturity is more than just believing. It comes by having a personal daily relationship with a loving and forgiving God. "Counting it all joy" is more than just speaking out words. It is being able show your love and trust for God publicly, despite the consequences, just like John did.
I pray that all true believers can be blessed with personal God moments. I pray that everyone who is genuinely seeking the reality of God, will soon experience His awesome power. I also pray that all believers will learn to trust in God's unconditional love. I pray that all will trust in God's desire and ability to protect them from evil.
This year's 2016 Sukkot celebration starts at sundown October 16th and goes on for 8 days. We are going back to our friends' house in North Carolina again. If I am given the unexpected opportunity to see Jesus again, whether in a vision, dream, or whatever, will I be ready this time? I can only trust in my heart that I will never be caught unawares again.