It began at 1:23 a.m.

Something or possibly someone awakened me out of a deep sleep. I sat straight up in the bed, sensing a presence in my room. My wife lay in the bed next to me asleep. Wide-awake and confused, I began to see in my mind’s eye what I would now call a “vision.”

My room was dark with a bit of light from the street. The red numbers – 1:23 a.m. – on the alarm clock glared at me from my right, but my mind’s eye was drawn to the light of this vision. I saw someone. Within this vision, I sensed God’s displeasure for this person.

I began to sense and see things that were a part of another’s private life.

I was overwhelmed by the emotion of the scenes that I saw in my mind’s eye.

Probably like you, I have had many “bad” dreams in my lifetime. I could fill books with stories that I have seen in my sleep and worries that have come out of the dreams of my sleep. However, this was different, really different.

I was freaked out.

As quickly as the “vision” came, it left.

My body was tingling with fear, anxiety, worry, concern, and just a deep sense of “what the heck just happened to me?”

Having grown up a Southern Baptist pastor’s son in Kentucky, I had seen and experienced a few things in my lifetime that had more than freaked me out and left me with little explanation of what just happened to me and those around me.

As a young evangelical, I was taught to “walk by faith” but figure out a rational explanation ASAP. I’m a Southern Baptist, a graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a Masters in Theology. This resume in hand, my mind went to work fast to solve this dilemma with a “that makes sense” sort of answer.

I said to myself, “This couldn’t be real, could it?”

I learned a long time ago that, when something goes “boom” in the night, it is either God or gas. I got up to eliminate the one about which I could do something. On my way back to bed, I tried to shake off what I had just experienced, but I was “spooked” to say the least.

I said to myself, “what just happened to me?”

I lay back down in bed, facing my wife. She was still sound asleep. It seemed like an eternity but as I looked at the clock, only a few minutes had passed.

What little did I know that this moment would monopolize the next sixteen years of my life and bring some of the greatest pain and humiliation my life has ever experienced, setting me on a journey that I am still trying to make sense of today.

Perhaps you, too, are on a journey with God that you are trying to make sense of, too.

How do we discern God’s voice in our lives so we can “make sense” in our everyday, routine, boring, who-cares kind of lives?

That is the big question. Really, the simpler question is, “Does God speak to us personally?” Does He talk to us? Does He use things and people to speak into our lives individually, and, if so, how?

Beginning that night at 1:23 a.m., I began to learn more than ever before how He does this.

I don’t expect you to believe everything you will read in this book. For years, my hesitation in writing this has been my overwhelming fear of hurting someone and being left to look like a fool in the process. I don’t “understand” everything that I am going to share with you, but I can assure you, it happened, I was there, and I am still trying to make complete sense of it.

But I also know that God was in it.

As a Southern Baptist Pastor of 20 plus years, I have learned God uses a variety of ways and methods to communicate with human beings. One of the most common ways he uses to convey his will is through visions and dreams. These words occur 198 times in the Bible. Proverbs 29:18 even says, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” But do these things still occur today? Joel 2:28 says, “And it shall come to pass afterwards (in the last days) …your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions.” This same sentiment is repeated in the New Testament in Acts 2:17-21.

This reality scares me, but it is the Epic of the One True God of the Holy Bible.

When I was 19 years old and a freshman at Liberty University, I met my future wife, Tosha. She had been a journaler since she was 13 years old. Through our developing friendship and dating relationship, she challenged me to take up journaling as well. So, in the summer of my 19th year, I began putting my thoughts on paper, something I have continued to this day. This exercise would provide invaluable data for me to recall and write the content of this experience that spanned for over a half a decade of my life.

I am confident that you will either be really encouraged by what you are going to read or you will toss this book aside and declare me a kook. Just so you know, I wouldn’t blame you at all. I have wondered and wandered through this process and often thought, “I’m losing my mind. It is crazy of me to even take the time to write this down.”

One of my favorite seminary professors, Dr. John Hannah of Dallas Theological Seminary, used to say, “Men, you know the difference between those in the insane asylum and us? We on the outside have learned to manage our crazy.” Well, at times I am not sure I have done a very good job of “managing my crazy” and after you read this, you might agree.

Now at this point I am not sure what image it is that you have of me. Do you see me like Albert Einstein with wild hair, odd glasses and bizarre ideas? Can you envision me as the “Doc” in the Back to the Future movies with a lab coat and crazy hair? Maybe you envision me as a creeper with a pale face and sinister eyes.

Whatever image you have of me, I am probably different than what you might think. I am a plain, simple, country guy who happens to be a pastor. I graduated from high school with a 2.7 grade point average. I got cut from my high school basketball team multiple times. I grew up on a dairy farm in Kentucky and spent more time with cows than people as a kid. These days, a good day to me is when I hang out with my family and our black angus cattle down in the barnyard. You may say to yourself, “Well, that explains it!”

Oh, that the ways God speaks to us were as easy to explain!

“The Mystery of 23:God Speaks”, which began that night at 1:23 a.m., haunts me, compels me, inspires me, scares me, frees me, and invites me to experience how, though I cannot yet fully explain how it works, the Divine speaks into my every day, routine, boring, who-cares kind of life.

It is important for you to know this book is not a book about how numerology fits with Biblical interpretation through numbers though numbers played a very significant role in my “vision.” “23” for whatever reason is the number God chose for me, your experience will more than likely be different. However, I am learning how to hear God speak in ways that I never, ever saw coming through this experience.

I invite you to join me on this journey of discerning God’s voice for your life, too.

Because who we are and what we do for God matters. It matters to God.

You can check out the full story of this blog in the book, “The Mystery of 23: God Speaks.”

You can go to my author page for more details at

What we do for God matters, and in the end, it is ALL that matters!

Pastor Kelly

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