As Terri and I prayed together on top of the mountain on the big island of Hawaii that morning last spring, she received a visual impression of how my heart had been crusted over with a hardness in the first years of our marriage. In her vision, Jesus had his hand on my heart and was weeping over this hardness. We asked the Holy Spirit to show me how that hardness had come within me, That's when I suddenly and clearly remembered back to when I was 13 and 14. I saw the influence that Robert and Atlas Shrugged' had upon me as an insecure teen who had always thrived on appreciation and attention. I was very vulnerable to the affirmation that Robert freely offered me due to the relational and emotional distance from my Dad. (This was my trauma - the "type A" kind - that has to do with not getting what we need to develop a healthy soul.) As a result, I took in a very cold, calculated, heady and overly-objective view of God, life and relationships. (Please know that I do not hold anything against poor Robert. I have only thoughts of good toward him. Though brilliant, he too was also an unaffirmed and insecure young man at the time!)
We asked the Lord, as we do in the "Immanuel Process", where he was in the traumatic scene (after recalling a time or memory of appreciation as a "home base"). I did not get an answer that day. In fact, it wasn't until an early morning this past September that I received my insight, which came in a flash of God's grace.
I was having a spiritual dream and I saw the cover of the Atlas Shrugged book upon which Atlas is pictured as having the world upon his shoulders. Suddenly, the image animated and Atlas shrugged the globe off of himself and it rolled to the edge of the cover and began to fall off. Then the scene froze and I was taken back in my dream to actual event in my life that happened with I was 6 or 7. I was in the passenger side seat of a car driven by a family friend from the town in Michigan in which my mother grew up. We visited Coldwater very often to see my grandparents. John was the husband of one of my Mom's closest friends. He was a free-spirited artsy kind of adult male. I really hadn't been around men like this before. My brother and John's two sons were in the back seat. Suddenly, he blurted out, "I want to sing you boys a song." He turned and looked at me in the eyes and belted out the song, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands".
I had never heard this song before, but I never forgot the tune or the words. This song left an indelible imprint on me. In the dream, a voice said to me, "Michael, I was in the car with you that day...that's why you remember it so well. I knew what was going to happen to you as a young teen and I want you to know that I had you covered long before then and that I would turn the attack that would later come upon you to serve my purposes." Then I saw the first scene of the dream and it activated again. As Atlas' globe fell of the edge of the book, it landed in two giant hands that I knew were the hands of Jesus. Wow!
Whereas Atlas finally and coldly shrugs off the weight of the world in the view of the objectivist, Jesus Christ is gladly and compassionately there to catch it in His capable hands, as though it were a Nerf ball. He caught me even before I fell into the deception of my youth. He catches you too. He's got the whole world in his hands! (Note: Since that dream in September, I have been writing a lot of poetry and shedding a lot of tears - mostly from joy and gratitude!)
I have struggled for a long time with an imbalance in my life. Some people refer to this a being "top heavy". That is, over-relying on intellectual power in order to survive in this world and be more successful. My "intellectualism" has gotten me into hot water with the Lord on many occasions and in many ways. It has too often quenched the influence of the Holy Spirit in my life, relationships and ministry. A good mind is a great gift, but it's easy for all of us to overuse our strengths in life in our attempts to wrongly protect ourselves, mask our fears and reduce perceived threats against us. This area of weakness in me was the target for the "Immanuel" healing that I would begin to graciously experience on May 16th 2015 in Kona Hawaii.
A lot of times our problems peel off of us in layers as we walk with Jesus as our Lord. I had experienced a number of big breakthroughs in this very same area of my life in previous years. However, there was still an area of "decay" in my soul that fueled my struggle with being too "heady" that I had not previously perceived. As Terri and I prayed together in our hotel room on top of Kilauea that morning I was clearly reminded of the influence upon me of a friend I had made when I was 13 and 14 years old. I probably spent a total of 10-15 full days with this young man. He was a brilliant university student who was studying at a highly-acclaimed school in Chicago. I lived in a NE suburb of Detroit and he was a family friend of our neighbors across the street who introduced me to him. (I finally recalled his name that morning after some effort.) I don't think that I thought of Robert more than a few times since becoming an adult.
I was a young teen and emotionally disconnected from my father. (Dad soon after this time became a follower of Jesus. He moved to Kansas City after my Mom passed away in '89 to be close to me and my family. We built an extraordinary friendship in those years until he passed away in '07.) Anyway, Robert took a genuine interest in me as a person and affirmed me as having the potential to become a highly-educated intellectual like him. He taught me to play chess and we talked about history, life and philosophy. My immature and insecure heart longed for this kind of attention and approval from an older male and so I gravitated toward becoming an intellectual, Robert had given me a copy of Ayn Rand's book, Atlas Shrugged, which I read and talked about with him. Because I admired him on an intellectual level, I thought I'd become an "objectivist" like him. Besides, Mr. Spock appeared on our TV screens around this time and I deeply identified with him too! By 16 years old, I was a very confused pseudo-intellectual-hippie-jock! I was putting on all kinds of masks in a vain attempt to "find myself".
I had previously, with the help of Terri, shed some of the layers of "intellectualism" from the influence of Mr. Spock, but it was in remembering Robert and Atlas Shrugged that I was set up for an even deeper "Immanuel" healing for my heart.
There is a broader eschatological matter than the four different views that surround "millennialism" that I have outlined in my previous posts. I think it's kind of sad that the various "millennial" positions have dominated the conversation for Christians regarding the "end times". There is a more basic matter that revolves around how we ought to go about interpreting the apocalyptic literature/passages of Scripture...especially with the hindsight that 2,000 years of Church history provides for us. I am referencing books like Daniel, parts of Isaiah, Joel, Zechariah, the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 (and the parallel passages in Luke 21 and Mark 13) and Revelation. Yet again, we need to understand that Bible-loving and Jesus-loving believers have embraced all four of these interpretive grids in the long history of our faith. It's very likely that some of your Christian heroes held a different view than you presently have! We should be patient and charitable with one another on this often confusing matter. Whichever grid we choose to embrace can greatly affect our expectations of and convictions about human life, the nature of God and spirituality and the future. We all are the "children" of what we have been taught in our various church movements and most movement leaders/teachers have not clearly shared with their constituencies the various grids of interpretation (and their combinations) that are possible within the pale of orthodoxy. What ministers learned briefly in their seminary classrooms has not typically made it to the believer in the pew. (I'll leave the analysis of both seminaries and pews for another time!) Lord, grant us mercy!
Here are the 4 generalized interpretive views (Note: there are sub-schools of thought that combine elements of more than one view):
1. Futurism - holds that the "apocalyptic" prophecies are primarily to be fulfilled in the years future that just precede and accompany the Second Coming of Christ. This is significantly due to taking a literalist view of the catastrophic astronomical events referred to in these prophecies that will be undeniable when they occur, since they are seen to happen on a global scale and will usher in the end of the time/space world as we know it. Within the scope of this view, there are, among other important differences, various convictions and traditions (pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation and post-tribulation) about when exactly (and for what reason) the children of God, both dead and alive, will be raised (or raptured) to receive glorified bodies and to meet the Lord Jesus "in the air". Many Christians in our culture assume these are the only eschatological differences among true believers. Futurism is the apocalyptic interpretive grid primarily espoused by both forms of premillennialism. (Note: there are some historic premillennialists who are historicists.)
2. Historicism - holds that the apocalyptic prophecies relate to and are being and/or have been progressively fulfilled throughout the entire course of Church history - from the 1st century to the present and beyond. Sometimes these prophecies are viewed as having repeated fulfillment's in various historic scenarios by various personalities, religious movements and governments. In some situations, adherents to historicism have identified individuals and governments (and some that have come and gone), with characters and entities referred to in the book of Revelation. This view has on occasion lent itself, with proper embarrassment and fallout, to failed predictions of the timing of the Second Coming of Christ by some teachers and groups. This view was embraced by many, even most, of the Protestant reformers, including Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards and Spurgeon. This view has become much less popular since the beginning of the 20th century.. Some historic premilliennialists, amillennialists and postmillennialits espouse the historicist apocalyptic interpretive view.
3. Idealism - holds that the apocalyptic images of such prophecies are allegorical and symbolic related to the classic conflict of good and evil. Therefore, assigning specific applications to any literal, physical or historic person, event or nation is missing the point of the prophecies. The only exception to this would be the physical and literal return of Jesus Christ at a future point in history and the final judgment. This view lent itself to the rise of extreme expressions of anti-supernaturalism, doubt about the infallibility of Scripture, the "social gospel" movement in America and the over-individualization of the kingdom of God. Still, there were/are respected believers who embraced acceptable forms of this view. Some amillennialists embrace the idealist interpretive grid for apocalyptic prophecy.
4. Preterism - holds that the apocalyptic prophecies substantially came to pass in the 1st century (preterism means "past"). Some preterists hold that some of the specific fulfillment's occurred up into the 3rd century. (There are some significant differences between "full" and "partial" preterists that will require a future post to more fully explain.) The "great tribulation" referred to by Jesus occurred in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was invaded by the Roman army under Titus. This historical event pointed to "the end" of the old covenant and the religious legal system of temple worship. God validated Jesus's claim to be the Jewish Messiah and raised to His right hand in heaven by fulfilling his great prophecy about the destruction of the temple and how his followers should flee from the city before the invasion. The early Christian historians, Eusebius and Epiphanius, reported that the Christians there did flee to Pella and survived the devastation. Orthodox preterists believe that the resurrection, the Second Coming and the final judgment are yet future events. Preterists hold that the book of Revelation centers around a clear and relevant message to the first century believers and churches in Asia Minor that referred to the judgments of God in their era upon the Jews in Jerusalem and/or Rome and the "world" system. It was purposefully written in vivid and rich Old Testament prophetic images and symbols that require a working knowledge of Scripture to properly decode and apply. It was meant to strengthen persecuted followers of Christ to remain faithful to him. It also applies in many ways, by extension, to all believers throughout the centuries. Preterism and partial preterism is the most common apocalyptic grid for amillennialsim and postmillennialism.
In a future post, I will expand on preterism, since I believe that this view needs much more thoughtful and prayerful exposure among and examination by my fellow believers due to some obvious problems that have arisen in our culture and church movements with "pop eschatology".
We were first introduced to the ministry of Life Model Works and the "Immanuel Process" prayer sometime back in 2009. Our friend, and Terri's Kansas City life coaching colleague, Kim Specker, had been offering some of her coaching skills to their non-profit organization. But...I must digress to tell a bit of the back story. In 2004, my very vibrant wife, Terri, was suddenly stricken with a terrible condition called trigeminal neuralgia in which a vein in the brain wanders and interferes with the 5th cranial nerve. She had a very severe case. She needed brain surgery in order to correct the condition. She suffered unbearable pain in her face for an entire year due to both the condition and the resulting nerve damage. She had to quit her job and basically laid on the couch for two years as she recovered. Thankfully, God freed her from the pain, but her life had been disrupted significantly. Added to this, she also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of all her pain and loss. This series of events was a deep test of her faith and, although God often seemed very near to her in her affliction, she also struggled to hold on to her confidence that God was "for her" as a favored daughter of Christ.
In 2009, during a ministry trip to California, Terri sought out, through Kim's kind introduction, Dr. James Wilder's wife, Kitty, in order to receive some "Immanuel Process" prayer. During the two 3 hours prayer sessions, Terri experienced a remarkable healing from the trauma of her past illness when she had a spiritual vision in which she saw the sparkle in the eyes of Jesus as he lovingly gazed upon and into her. As a result, the symptoms of PTSD immediately abated. It was a miracle! Needless to say, we have been more "tuned in" to the ministry of Life Model Works since then. We recently had the honor of helping to sponsor their first conference in Kansas City called Joy Starts Here, which was a great success. Get to one of their conferences if and when you can.
This last spring, Terri and I were teaching and ministering at the YWAM base in Kona Hawaii. Weeks before we had set aside one day and night to visit the Kilauea National Park. We took in the astounding sights of the live volcano and learned about its history. That night Terri had a dream from God in which a voice said to her, "I have brought you here for an Immanuel healing." Through this dream she understood that the Lord was going to use images from our volcano experience as a part of the healing. She also knew the particular past trauma that He was targeting for a sweet resolution. After she told me about this illuminating dream the next morning, we spent several hours praying together. Terri received another remarkable "Immanuel healing" within her soul that morning (that's another story), but I was surprised to discover that our Lord was planning a very profound healing for my heart too. Apparently one of His Hebrew names could be "Jehovah Sneaky"!
I can't count the times that I have found Divine comfort in Psalm 139 through the years. It is an amazing prayer David wrote that glorifies God as the One who created and knew him intimately long before David came to know God. It reveals that God is truly our "Immanuel" or...our "God with us God"...who has always been very nearby to help us. It also speaks of God's ingenious original design woven into both the visible and invisible parts of the human being. It addresses ways in which all of us are "image bearers" who are truly the crowning touch of God's creative work. At the very end of the Psalm, David prays a very vulnerable prayer that if there are any hurtful ways in him that lie beneath his anxious thoughts, that God would expose and resolve them. This exposure and healing has happened in my life in some very significant ways through the years. I will share about a particular and surprising "Immanuel healing" that recently happened for me in my future post(s) on this subject.
In the first translations of Psalm 139 that I read as a young believer, the "hurtful way" of v. 24 is rendered as "wicked way". I always found this wording to be somewhat "out of tune" with the spirit of the prayer. Recently, I noticed in the margin of the New American Standard Bible, the literal Hebrew says "way of pain in me" and my heart exploded with inspiration.
As a pastor and spiritual director of over 40 years now, I have discovered that there are typically unresolved pains deep in the souls of people who are manifesting anxiety, fear, depression, rage, bitterness, addictions, unhealthy relational patterns...and the list goes on. I have also discovered hidden and repressed pains in my own life as the root problems to the visible brokenness in my way of being and style of relating. You have probably heard the expression, "Hurt people hurt people". A colleague of mine, once told me, "If we do not resolve our pains vertically, they will come out sideways." Wow...that one stuck with me!
Our "ways of pain" may be rooted in injustices done against us, perceived injustices and/or our own trespasses and sinful choices and reactions to circumstances and people - along with the guilt and shame associated with all that. Through the wonderful ministry of Dr. James Wilder and our friends at Life Model Works, we have also seen more clearly how we all get stuck in our pathway to maturity by historic personal traumas of various kinds that are also buried and unresolved. However the pains come, the evil one is always looking for a personal narrative to twist and exploit and confine us into some kind of spiritual, mental, emotional or relational "prison cell". Often, he accomplishes this significantly and early on through the angst of our childhood. Too often, these matrices of lies...or strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4)...plague us and drive us well into our adulthood.
However, the beautiful and wonderful Body of Christ is arising now with mighty spiritual weapons for the destruction and resolution of these "ways of pain" that have jerked us and our friends around long enough. We are becoming more skilled at accessing and applying, simply and profoundly, the healing presence of Jesus and the power of His cross and resurrection deeply into human hearts and lives. The first order of business of the Messiah's anointed mission to proclaim the good news in the prophecy of Isaiah 61 is that he will "heal the brokenhearted".
Our communities of faith would do well to also make this our first order of business as we set out inspire one another to "be" and to "make disciples" of Jesus, since all of our hearts have been broken in one way or another to one degree or another. We simply will not have the joyful inner capacities to be fruitful in life and ministry if we try to pile Bible knowledge and/or spiritual responsibilities on top of our unresolved traumas. I encourage you to pray through Psalm 139 in preparation of some "Immanuel healing" in your life. More to come....
Here are the broad stokes that generally differentiate the other 2 of 4 "millennial-oriented" views of eschatology that I referred to in my second post on this subject. (Note: There are many more differences within these views on specific sub-points that are beyond the purpose of my blog.)
Post-millennialism beliefs - there are only two "ages" rather than three; this age and the eternal age that will fully manifest new heavens and the new earth; the 1,000 years referred to in Revelation 20 is understood as a symbolic time frame within this present age in which the Gospel will be received and lived out in all spheres of life by a vast majority of the people within the nations of the earth (a very optimistic view of the visible effects of the victory of Jesus over sin and human evil through His First Coming); at the end of this "golden age" of a very substantial manifestation of God's glory upon and Christ's reign over human lives on earth, Satan will be "unbound" and allowed to mount a doomed rebellion, Jesus will physically return to quash this final uprising of evil, raise all the dead from their graves (thereby banishing death forever), clothe all of His believers with glorified physical bodies; enact a final judgement of all who have ever lived in light of their beliefs and works; banish Satan, his angels and all who have rejected Christ into a state of eternal separation from His presence and all God's redeemed people; all glorified believers will live forever in a glorified physical realm that is indistinguishable from the realm of God's fullest glory...heaven and earth will be one...never to be invaded by sin and/or death again.
A-millennialism beliefs - for most centuries past, this view was not distinguished from postmillennialism, for it also recognizes only two "ages"; the "symbolic" 1,000 year period of Revelation 20 commenced as an "invisible" reign of Christ with His saints in heaven at His ascension to the Father's right hand; we have been living in "the millennium" since that time (so the "a" is actually a misnomer); although Christ had been and is already reigning as King of all kings of the earth, His rule is not universally recognized and received; Christ's "invisible" rule is and will be received to various degrees by people throughout the nations at various times in history; adherents are more or less optimistic about the depth and scope of the manifestation of Christ's rule in human lives and history; though Satan is "bound", in that the Gospel is free to spread and be received among peoples of all the nations, he is and will continue to be active to persecute believers, hinder the mission of Christ's people and carry on with his other nefarious works upon the earth; the manifestation of evil will actually intensify upon the earth as the Second Coming approaches; some adherents believe there will be a personal Antichrist who will appear in the drama of the very end and some believe a more generalized antichrist spirit will be at work, as it has always been, only in a heightened way; Jesus will return physically and suddenly, and without specific signs or fore-warnings, to enforce and fully manifest His reign on earth. This view coincides with the Post-millennialism view of what takes place after Jesus returns.
In future blogs in this series on eschatology, I will elaborate on other lesser known differences among true Christ-followers that do not revolve so much around the nature and duration of the "1,000 years" of Revelation 20. Rather, these views have to do with a broader...and even more foundational....matter of how different Bible teachers and groups understand and interpret the apocalyptic literature and prophecies of Scripture. If we will "go here", additional and helpful light will be shed upon how and why the 4 views that I have already outlined were formulated.
God is really and always good. Even better...and nearer...than our closest friend could ever be. He is with you and for you today. Invoke His presence and enjoy Him. He is worthy of our full trust even though nothing is going perfectly and not everything is even going well right now. He will smile on us and His blessings will flow to us as we adore Him in the face of any adversities. This is simply what He mostly wants from us. This is the essence of what it means to fight the good fight of faith. And...if we more deeply find ways to love one another, we will add logs to our community fire. Terri and I are here for you. Don't hesitate to call, text or write. Let joy trump any snares of despair today!
A VOICE OF HOPE
Michael Sullivant's Blog
I am a Child of God, a Husband, a Father and a Grandfather. I enjoy putting my prayers and thoughts into words.