Distractions

04/24/2004

I'm spending this morning writing about something I know very little about. It is not an area where I spend my time, and I am asking God to help me understand what I need to know about it so I am able to keep my focus on Him and not be fearful of such discussions. The only way to do that is to face what I fear boldly by bringing it to the foot of the Throne-not shrinking away from it because of what I think I know, but meeting it head on by asking God for His wisdom on the subject.

All this to say--I had an interesting discussion the other day with a woman I met here in Tucson. She communicates with the dead...she sees ghosts...she receives messages through others about her dead relatives...and she believes in reincarnation and has many ways of looking at this world and the world beyond that I can barely relate to. There we sat, side-by-side at the pool discussing things that are way beyond me, and to tell you the truth, it frightened me a bit. What if I were to "go there" with her? What if I were to allow her to try to "bring Phil's spirit back from the dead" and communicate with him? What is God's view on all of this and should I fear even having this discussion?

I am going to be as honest with you as I can in this message about this conversation, about my questions about it and then hopefully what God will reveal to me as we move on through this and how I, as a Christian, am supposed to handle this very challenging subject.

Are we to communicate with the dead?
Do they communicate with us?
Should we even be sitting and talking about it or should we flee from such conversations and run for cover?
And what about reincarnation? Is it for real?

I hope that you are not already uncomfortable with this subject matter, but I wouldn't be surprised if you were. I was, and still am as I write this, but I want to examine it with the wisdom that God will impart to me this morning-openly, candidly and with a willingness to "go there" just long enough to find the Truth in this very difficult and sometimes scary topic. Difficult because it can be a temptation for so many--trying to get some word, some message, some visitation from those that have moved on into a spiritual realm--having left their physical body here on earth because of sickness, disease, accident or whatever it was that took them from us. Scary because we're not sure what to think about, or whether we even should be thinking about it.

When we are sad, when we miss our loved-ones and long for their physical presence to be with us once again, how far will we go to try to accomplish that in this life-and what does God have to say about it?
Does God forbid it?
And if so, why would He?
Let's ask Him...

As I start to do that, just thinking about asking Him, there is a fear that rises up in me...what is that fear? Is it the fear of treading where I shouldn't dare-even to ask God about it? And why should I not dare to tread there?
Is it because I have been told not to and I'm trying to be a "good girl"?
Is it the fear of what I will find if that door opens up and I "see" that I am able to communicate with the dead...what then?
Is it the fear that if I even look in the way of what I consider "that temptation," I will then be ensnared by it and held captive by it because the lure will be too great once I've experienced it?
Where does all this fear come from?

I think I fear because it is something I know very little about, and I'm wondering if God will even allow me to ask Him questions to learn about it? Maybe just asking is a "no-no."

I think it is also the fear of finding out there might be some truth in what I have always denied is possible, for the most part. It is easier to deny that we can actually communicate with the dead rather than finding out we can and then having to make the decision not to-especially when Phil could be just on the other side of that "door."

Please, don't abandon me on this "walk" through these questions. I am the same as you, I am not falling off the deep edge here, I am simply asking my God what His views are on this very delicate subject because it does exist in the world we live in and I certainly will come across it as I talk with others who have lost their loved-ones. If helping the grieving is the ministry that God is calling me to, then I need to know the answers to these questions and not just stand behind a wall of uncertainly, quaking in fear that if the "subject" is brought up, I will not understand God's views on this.

So as I take my questions to God with my Bible in my hands--I think the first thing I need to do is find out if the dead can be communicated with. I believe the whole Bible is true, so then the verses that talk about these very things are also true. There is a spiritual world outside of this physical world we live in, we need to believe that if we are ever to believe that the dead will rise first when Jesus comes back as written about in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18: (NLT)

"I can tell you this directly from the Lord:
We who are still living when the Lord returns
will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are
in their graves. For the Lord himself will come
down from heaven with a commanding shout, with
the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of
God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise
from their graves. Then, together with them, we who
are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught
up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain
with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other
with these words."

The dead are alive, that is a fact in the Bible! That is our hope in the Bible! Those who believe in Jesus when they leave this earth are with Jesus now. Not in their new bodies--they have to wait on those until His return as talked about in the above verse, but they are present with Him in spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:8
Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather
be away from these bodies, for then we will be
at home with the Lord.

They are not just drifting around somewhere and they are not lying dormant in their graves waiting to come alive, they are alive. Their body has died, their spirit has not! When believers die, their spirit is "at home with the Lord." But even those who are not believers have gone somewhere, to the place of torment the Bible says, and they "live" in that torment for eternity. No one just dies and is dead and gone. Once alive on this earth--always alive somewhere. That "somewhere" is still the question for many...which eternity will they choose? Heaven or Hell?

But this might be getting off the subject of what we are exploring today.
If the dead are alive, can we communicate with them and should we?

The answer to the first question is:
The dead are alive and we can communicate with them.

In 1 Samuel 28, King Saul consults a medium at Endor and asks her to "Call up Samuel." (Verse 11) The Bible says she does it but with hesitation because there has been an order from Saul himself to send all the psychics and mediums from the land. The problem was, Saul had angered God and the "Lord refused to answer him." (v. 6) So Saul consulted a medium to get the answers he thought he needed, even after he had sent them all away. He was breaking his own rules at that point. He needed answers he did not have because his sin had put a wedge between himself and God. He took drastic steps to get his answers.

Saul consulted with Samuel, who was dead, but should he have?

In Leviticus 19:31, God says:

"Do not rely on mediums and psychics, for
you will be defiled by them. I, the Lord,
am your God."

Leviticus 20:27
"Men and women among you who act as
mediums or psychics must be put to death
by stoning. They are guilty of a capital offense."

Isaiah 8:19
So why are you trying to find out the future by
consulting mediums and psychics? Do not listen
to their whispering and mutterings. Can the living
find out the future from the dead?
Why not ask your God?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So to answer the second question:
Should we?
No.

It seems God is very aware of mediums and psychics and what they do, but it also seems it is not in His plan to use them for His glory. He says, we will be defiled by them. He says they are to be put to death.
Pretty drastic measures...
Why would we be defiled by them?
Why should we not rely on them?
Why is it a "capital offense?"

What does God want us to do? Isaiah says we should ask God! So why do some people spend their time trying to communicate with the dead, instead of talking with God who is alive? Can they not hear from God? Why would that be?

What had Saul done when He could no longer hear from God? He had disobeyed what God had told him to do. (1 Sam. 28:18) Did he then get on his knees, ask for God's forgiveness, worship God alone and stay there with Him until He was brought back into a right relationship with God? It doesn't seem so. He went looking elsewhere for his answers. He had Samuel called up from the dead to ask him what to do. Samuel wasn't very happy about it either.

"Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?" Samuel asked.
1 Sam. 28:15 (NLT)

Why would God discourage us from using a medium or a psychic to talk with those who have moved on into the spiritual world when it is possible for us to still communicate with those we are missing? Wouldn't God be happy for us to be able to satisfy that longing we have for those we have to live without? If it is possible, which the Bible clearly says it is, why would God not allow it? Is He just being mean? Is there any sense in what He is telling us to do, or not to do?

You might recall the story in the Bible about Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. Both have died-the rich man has gone to the place of torment, Lazarus has gone to Abraham's side. We are told there is a great chasm between them, Lazarus cannot give any water to the rich man, he cannot cross over to help out even if he wanted to. But what else does the rich man want Lazarus to do? He wants to have Lazarus sent to his father's house so that his brothers can be warned about this place of torment. He doesn't want them to end up there too. Abraham will not agree to it, he says even if someone rises from the dead, they will not be convinced. He explained they had Moses and the Prophets, but they didn't listen to them either! Abraham didn't say it wasn't possible to send him, but he told them they wouldn't listen anyway. Perhaps, it wasn't a "good idea."

Why do our parents say, "No?" When we are young and when we are tempted to eat dessert before dinner, or climb to the top of the highest slide at age two, or when we want to stick a fork into the outlet on the wall, why are we stopped by our parents? It's for our safety, for our own good, and sometimes to even save us from certain death if we are allowed to proceed in our ignorance.

When we're young, when we're immature, it looks so good--we think it will not hurt us. It looks like so much fun, how can there be any harm in it? We don't see the dangers lurking there behind those two little slits in the wall socket, so why shouldn't we just put a fork in there and see what happens...?

As adults, we know the answers to those questions. They are clear to us. There is harm, danger, and sometimes certain death if a child is allowed to continue on the path they are choosing.

As God's children, sometimes we are blinded to spiritual dangers in our ignorance. I am ignorant on the subject of communicating with the dead, and I'm willing to admit it. Is it a temptation for me? To tell you the truth, I have never allowed myself the liberty to even explore it fully enough to find out, but perhaps it is time. Maybe I have "grown up enough" to not fear what I might find when I ask God these questions. Maybe I have "grown up enough" now for Him to explain some of these things to me. Maybe I am able to understand because I have "grown up enough" to love Him no matter what answers He gives me, even if I don't like them.

Maybe I have grown to the point where when I say, "But look, the dessert is there. Are you sure I can't have a piece?" And when His answer is, "No, it's not good for you right now," I can accept His answer and wait until after "dinner."

Maybe I have grown to the point where when I say, "But look God, Phil is there. Can I talk with him?" And when God's answer is, "No, it's not good for you right now." I am able accept His answer and wait until the time when Jesus brings us together again.

How great is the temptation?
How great is the faith God has given me to be able to resist it?
How much do I love and trust God above all else in this world?

I need to get honest with myself and with God on this subject so it will no longer remain a taboo in my life but instead become an issue I have faced head on, discovering God's will in this matter once and for all. Fear is not of God, it is a tactic of the Enemy to keep us in the dark. I believe the temptation to communicate with spirits is also a tactic of the Enemy to distract us from God. God's power in us is greater than that temptation.
Oswald Chambers puts it this way:

"The weakest saint can experience the power of the Deity of the Son of God
if once he is willing to "let go." Any strand of our own energy will blur
the life of Jesus." (My Utmost for His Highest April 12th)

When I "let go" of my son into the hands of God and depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit in me to live without him, Jesus is in clear view. When I try to pull Phil back to me with my "own energy," back into the life I am living here without him, it "blurs the life of Jesus" and blocks the power of the Holy Spirit in me.

But what happens when I talk about this subject with someone who totally disagrees with my "beliefs" on it? I have seen what happens. I want to get defensive and I want to argue my case. I don't want to listen to what they have to say because if I listen too long, I start to wonder if I will get sucked into it also? Will I be tempted to just give it a try, what harm could it do? Just let me taste this "dessert," it might be sweet, it might fill the emptiness I feel having lost someone I love.

But then my thinking is suddenly back again to wanting to jump on my "Soap Box" and start to preach!! I want to stop the flow of what I consider "lies from the Enemy." I don't want to listen to another person's heart, what their life is all about, what they have been handed down concerning the spiritual realm from their grandparents, because it goes against everything I believe in and everything I have been taught. I want to stop loving them, and I want to start condemning them instead. Is this what God is calling me to do?

Not on this day, not with this woman I met. As she talked on about her experiences, her life, her grandmother who handed these things down to her, I remained fairly quiet. I listened to her tell her story, only interjecting from time to time a bit of what I believed. She admitted she was not against God, as she went on telling me about the ghost she had seen, who appeared to her twice in different forms and where she went to get some information as to why he would appear differently to her.

As she talked, I prayed to God for direction. I told her that I had never talked with anyone like her before. Do you know what she said then? She said, "Well, at least your not one of those 'born again' people." Do you know why she said that? Because I had let her talk. I had not stopped her from sharing her life with me. When I told her I was "born again," she was surprised and said something to the effect that it was nice to meet me because the other "born again" people she talks to would have shut her up a long time ago.

Should I have?
Was I dishonoring God by letting her talk?
It didn't seem so, it seemed I was loving her as God was calling me to love her. As I listened to her, I thought about the saying that's popular right now, "What would Jesus do?" and I realized that He would have loved her. He would have shared the Truth with her, as I was, but He never would have forced her to believe. We have been given free will, God does not want robots. He wants us to love Him freely, and of our own choosing.

I explained to her that born again simply means we are born spiritually dead, and when we invite Jesus into our hearts, we become spiritually alive in Him. We are then able to communicate with God because God is Spirit and we can only talk with Him in spirit. It is a shame that the term "born again" is getting such a bad reputation when it's in God's Word. It says in, 1 Peter 1:23 (King James Version):

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of
incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth
and abideth for ever.

She expected me to try and convert her, I did not, although I did not back down on what I believed in. I told her I have dreams of Phil from time to time, and I see those dreams as a gift from God. They are simply a time when I am with him, he is not trying to tell me anything. She said she thinks those dreams are visitations from Phil or Phil trying to communicate with me through them.

As I read about Daniel and his interpretation of dreams this morning, I found it interesting how much God will speak to us through dreams, and there are even people provided who can interpret them, but always when Daniel was called on for interpretation, he gave God the glory.

Daniel replied," There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians,
or fortune-tellers who can tell the king such things. But there is
a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King
Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future.
Daniel 2:27-28

And it is not because I am wiser than any living person that I
know the secret of your dream, but because God wanted you to
understand what you were thinking about.
Daniel 2:30

Once again, it reminds me where my focus should be at all times. Not on my dreams, not on those that have gone on to live in the spiritual realm, but on God and His wisdom and the secrets that He alone can reveal to me.

After our conversation by the pool, she may have gone back to her husband, telling him she met one of those nutcases at the pool, one of those "born again" believers. I could have come home and told Jim that I met one of those nutcases by the pool too, but I don't believe she is a nut case. I did have quite a discussion with Jim about the things she and I talked about, but I know this woman is not crazy. She truly believes what she is telling me, she is an intelligent, educated, professional woman who has led an interesting life and who has her own struggles. She has been handed down teachings through the generations in her family that are very different from my own, and she has caused me to think about things that I would rather have kept buried under the fear of facing the truth about them. Because of this woman, I have delved deeper into the Word of God looking for His answers to things I am not sure about. There is no harm in that, there is no harm in asking the questions--the only harm comes when we go elsewhere for our answers, like King Saul did when he called Samuel up from the dead.

So when discussions arise about reincarnation, where do we go for answers? Is it possible to come back to this earth and live again, in another body, in another time? What does the Bible say about it? As Christians, that should be our first resource in looking for answers! I opened my Bible and looked it up! This is what God has to say:

In talking about Jesus, it said in Hebrews 9:26, "He came once for all time, at the end of the age, to remove the power of sin forever by his sacrificial death for us." Then it goes on in Hebrews to talk about how many times we will die and what happens after that, Verses 27-28:

"And just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people."

We only die once, so we only live once! Am I happy about that? You bet! As I told my new friend at the pool, I don't want to come back here and do this again! Life is hard, and once is quite enough for me!

So you see, God does not fear our questions and we should not fear any questions we take to the Throne of God. What we should fear is fear itself because it can become a form of bondage and it can also make us lash out at those around us who disagree with what we believe.
We don't want to be proven wrong!
We don't want to look like a fool!
We don't want to enter into territory that we know nothing about because we may start to doubt the way "we've always been," and our world might start to crumble around us.

But God's world never crumbles; it only becomes stronger as we turn to Him for our answers. That is where faith comes in. If I am wrong about something, I want to be open and allow God to point it out to me and set me in the right direction again. If I am not willing to admit that we might be able to communicate with the dead, then I am burying my head in the sand. I will find no answers there. If I only shut down someone who is trying to share with me about this aspect of her life, then I am shutting down the love that God would have me share with her. God's Word says, "Be quick to listen. Slow to speak, and slow to get angry." (James 1:19)

When we do this, we learn. We learn about other people, other cultures, other ways of being and we also learn about our God. Because if after listening, questions arise that we cannot answer and we go to our Father for our answers, we grow and we learn--we are not caught in the trap of fear. Our world can be expanded to include even more of God's wisdom, and there's no need to run away anymore. We've been there, we've seen what it looks like, and even though another person's viewpoint may look very different than what we see as the truth, it does not have to cloud our vision of the Truth-God's Truth.

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who
claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test
them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.
For there are many false prophets in the world.
This is the way to find out if they have the Spirit of
God: If a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ
became a human being, that person has the Spirit of God.
If a prophet does not acknowledge Jesus, that person is not
from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist.
You have heard that he is going to come into the world, and
he is already here.
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already
won your fight with these false prophets, because the Spirit
who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
These people belong to this world, so they speak from the world's
viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God;
that is why those who know God listen to us. If they do not
belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know
if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.
1 John 4:1-6

Some may further argue that Jesus talked with the dead. He did! In Matthew 17, verses 1-3, it talks about Jesus taking Peter, James and John up a high mountain. Jesus' appearance changed and his clothing became dazzling white. "Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus." There He is, talking with the dead. But see the difference? It's Jesus!! Not you, not me, not our neighbor, but Jesus! There was no deception going on there, not with the Son of God! The glory of God shone on that mountain!

If I were to "go there," and fall into the temptation of trying to communicate with Phil or sense that he is trying to communicate with me, I could be easily deceived. God knows that, and I believe that is why God warns us against such things. He does not want us consulting with mediums, spiritists, psychics or any such people. If we, who are believers, have as hard a time as we do just trying to hear the voice of God and His direction for our lives, how good would it be for us to mix in the voices of the dead, visions, visitations and such...we could be so easily deceived! It would not be good for us, and our Father in Heaven knows that.

Even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light.
2 Corinthians 11:14

Satan knows a lot of things about Phil. He knows the things Phil said while he was here, he knows the things Phil and I did together, and he knows how much I miss Phil. Satan knows there is nothing in all the world that would distract me from God more than a visit from my son, than to hear his voice, or to have some "message" given to me from him. Satan does not want God to be first in my life, he wants me to be distracted away from all that God is calling me to, and what better tool to use than my son?

I need to be very aware that a spiritual world exists and there are two realms to it, the evil deceptive realm and the good and Truth-filled realm. I need to stay focused on my relationship with my Savior above all else.

Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil,
your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring
lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm
stand against him, and be strong in your faith.
1 Peter 5:8-9

God has a plan, and it is a good one. I will see my son again, but for now, he is to be left at peace with God. I do not care to call him up like Saul did Samuel through the medium in Endor. I do not care to hear Phil say, "Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?" (1 Sam. 28:15) My focus, my visions, my dreams and my life is to be devoted to God. It can be argued that I am missing out on a great opportunity to "talk" with Phil, but for God's sake, and I mean that literally, I will not open up that door to see what's behind it. When Saul saw Samuel, he fell to the ground before him. See the problem there? Who is he worshipping? I will not take the chance on being deceived when I can live in the Truth of God today. God is my salvation, the One who heals my heart, gives me peace, and takes care of my every need. My longings should be for the voice of God alone!

Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires.
These evil desires lead to evil actions and evil actions lead
to death. So don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.
Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above,
who created all heaven's lights. Unlike them, he never
changes or casts shifting shadows.
James 1:14-17

With my focus on God, I know that everything I have comes from him. If I have a dream of my son, I will thank God for it. That is all it is, a gift from God. I am not looking for a message, a vision, or a word of hope. My Hope comes from the Lord, and my life is in His hands.
Do I enjoy dreams of Phil?
You bet I do!
But if they ever become an obsession, I will pray to God for them to stop!!

The people said to Joshua, "We will serve the Lord
our God. We will obey him alone."
Joshua 24:15

If we are not focused on our Lord, we will not have a sure footing on His solid foundation. If we choose to dabble in areas that are not good for us, we may open up a can of worms that could do us great harm. We need to stand strong in our faith!

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves,
and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning
and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the
truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head,
that is Christ.
Ephesians 4:14-15 (NIV)

When meeting new people by the pool, at the ballgame, in the park, on vacation, wherever we may roam, we are to speak the Truth in love-and no matter what the subject matter, we should not fear it, but take our questions to God and find our answers there. It is only at the foot of His Throne that Truth will be found! And whether we like His answers or not, that is not the question, the question is, do we love Him enough to obey Him because we trust that He knows what is best for us?

God does communicate with us in the spiritual realm. He does send His angels to us sometimes, and we can trust when they are from Him that all is well. As an example, there were two angels in the tomb when Mary looked in to find Jesus missing.

But angels are only servants.
They are spirits sent from God
to care for those who will
receive salvation.
Hebrews 1:14

They are not sent to deceive, and they are not sent to harm us. We are not to worship them. They do not appear to us so that our focus will be off of God, but only to draw us closer to Him and to increase our faith in Him, knowing that He is watching over us with the greatest of care.

Phillip Keller writes:

"We are part of a world of men and women whose code of conduct is contrary to all that Christ has advocated. To live with such people is to be ever exposed to enormous temptations of all sorts." (In the book, "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.")

We live in a world surrounded by a spiritual realm we can't see, and also by people who have a different way of looking at this world, and the next. We are exposed to many things that can distract us and cause us to be tempted. The path "home" is very narrow, and Satan would like nothing better than to distract us when he "casts shifting shadows" along the way. By taking our questions, our doubts and our fears to our Father, we will arrive safely.

If God says:

"I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists..."
(Lev. 20:6 NIV)

and

"He...consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger." (2 Kings 21:6 NIV)

and

"...should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?" (Isaiah 8:19 NIV)

Then I will keep my focus on the Lord. I will go to God alone with any questions about Phil, and any longings I have to "be with Phil." I know that God alone has provided all that I have needed, and continues to do so. I do not wish to provoke God to anger or to have His face set against me now. It is just not worth it to me!

Thank you for letting me share this portion of the "journey" with you! I have to say, I am very grateful for meeting this wonderful woman, for the stories she shared with me and for the lessons God has taught me because of this encounter. How can we not live each day with excitement when God has so many things to teach us? He can take us places we have never been and show us things we have never understood when we bring our questions to Him.

Ask and it will be given to you:
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7

Living and learning,

Diane