I have had a couple of meaningful dreams recently and I don’t want to talk about them without some introduction. As ever I only have a few words and cannot possibly do this subject justice. In addition several of you in the last couple of years have had some really amazing dreams, and we will be adding these in due course. Suffice it to say that God speaks today, as He always has, and often through (although not exclusively) through dreams.
To introduce here are some of the words spoken by the apostle Peter in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. This isn’t by any means the first time we see the activity of the Spirit in the bible, but it is the first time He is being poured out on all peoples and tribes, irrespective of age, sex or rank. It’s very interesting that the gift of tongues that accompanies this first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the fledgling church in Jerusalem means that peoples from far and wide in the Roman Empire get to hear the Gospel spoken to them in their own language immediately. It says something about God’s heart for people.
Now Peter quotes from Joel who references clearly evidential signs of the Spirits activity in the last days, involving dreams visions and prophecy. You may have spoken to Ben in the church, who upon being prayed for to receive the Spirit at our evening service, was so overwhelmed by Gods power and presence He stepped into a vision where Jesus proceeded to talk with Him about his future. This isn’t altogether common but definitely fits within the parameters of the Spirits activity as prophesied by Joel 900 years before the coming of Jesus. We shouldn’t be surprised at His evidential and powerful activity in our midst. (By evidential I mean the activity of the Spirit can be seen). It’s normal. Here is what Joel prophesied and is recounted by Peter to the crowds of people on the day of Pentecost:
-Then Peter stood up with the Eleven raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘in the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
If Luke (the writer of Acts of the Apostles) tells us anything about the Spirits activity in the early church, it’s that the Spirit is part of the churches DNA and clearly evidential. You might remember that whilst Jesus was ministering on one occasion, He was so full of the Spirit, that those about Him could see the presence and power of God on Him and dripping off Him. I have always believed that this activity of the Spirit must be part of our DNA as a church if we are to be the church God desires us to be in this city. If people are able to “taste and see that the Lord is good” we must honour the best evangelist in the Church. Unfortunately for many reason’s the Western church has not only been embarrassed by His presence but also tended to theologise His activity out of the church altogether.
Rich Nathan a Vineyard pastor from Ohio USA describes an encounter with the Holy Spirit, where he was unconsciously disapproving of and resisting what was happening. A close friend turned to him and said “Rich why are you resisting the Holy Spirit”. This clarified intellectually what he was doing. He broke down, as he understood that he was indeed resisting the God he knew and loved.
To misquote an old Victorian proverb – for many in the church the best place for the Spirit isn’t where He can “be seen and not heard” but where He can neither be seen nor heard!
The particular aspect of the Spirits activity I would like to look at in this newsletter are dreams and their interpretation. Here are three references from the bible to dreams as well as the above prophecy quoted by Peter:
-When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions; I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles. (Num. 12:6).
For God does speak— now one way, now another — though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, (Job 33:14-18,).
At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, Ask for whatever you want me to give you. (I Kings 3:5, 9, 12, 15).
So God given dreams can be given to counsel, to give direction, to warn, or to impart gifting to name only a few of their functions to us as Christians. In addition of course all revelation of this sort must be submitted to scripture and needs both an interpretation and an application. Not all dreams are from God or even most, and some are just too much pizza!
Here are two dreams I received before Christmas on two separate nights. I want to use them as an illustration of the way I believe God can speak to us. Please feel free to disagree or add to my later interpretation if I have missed something. I believe both of these dreams were given for encouragement, and also some degree of direction and counsel to me and the church.
On the first night I was riding a powerful horse. (I have tried riding a horse once, and it wasn’t a pleasurable experience for me or the horse!) Anyway in the dream I was more like John Wayne, feeling the immense strength and power of the horse as I ducked underneath branches, and moved to and fro amongst people walking on the ground which was wet green grass. I had the definite feeling of the horse’s strength under me as we galloped along. After several hundred yards the horse turned to go down a very steep incline. I wasn’t prepared for it, got afraid and pulled back on the reins of the horse. Immediately I felt the leather strapping come away in my hand and in the next second I was quite alone standing on the wet grass. People were around me, and a small kindly older gentleman approached me and asked me what I had done with his horse. I pointed and said “he’s gone, galloped off – nothing to do with me!” He then stated that he wanted his horse back and that I owed him money. I said I didn’t have any money and woke up.
This dream may require more unpacking if you don’t know who Bill Hybels is. I will try to do that later. I was in the dream chatting with Bill Hybels and a couple of his colleagues. Bill was dressed down looking fit and as helpful as ever. (In reality I haven’t met him but have read his books and listened to his sermons and like him very much). In the dream Bill asked me what I needed. He said he had lots of information on healing the sick but thought I probably wouldn’t want that. I agreed and Bill said “ask me for anything, whatever I have that can help you, I will give you”. (In reality this is exactly the kind of person Bill is). I stated that I was looking for ways to reach communities of people in our city with the message of Jesus. He said he could help with this, and anything he had that I needed I could have. I then walked away to turn down the gas on the cooker. I think it was some kind of breakfast meeting. As I did so the presence and power of God fell on me and I fell to the floor and screamed, with the surge of what felt like an overwhelming amount of electricity surging through me (this has never happened to me in reality). After a few moments I brushed myself off and got up. I could tell from the people around me, people did find this rather strange but they were not in least perturbed by it. As I was trying to act as normal as possible the Holy Spirit did the same thing again, equally powerfully. This time as I was on the floor I overheard two younger looking men speaking. As I listened into their conversation I got the distinct impression that they were both angels, although I can’t tell you how I know that. They were both from Chicago USA (where Bill Hybels is from) but both were saying that they wish they were in Brighton for what God is doing and about to do. Then I woke up, but with the same feeling of electricity on me, which I generally take to be God’s immediate presence.
Here are some basic keys to help us understand if our dream is from God or not.
- “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort”. 1Corinthians 14:4 NIV. In other words revelation to us from God isn’t to condemn. It is always to strengthen and encourage us. Dreams reveal but do not condemn. Their goal is to preserve life, not to destroy it (Daniel 2:22-23; Genesis 41:16).
- A dream often speaks of the concerns · which your heart is currently facing. So ask, “What issues was I processing the day before I had the dream?” For example, Paul was wondering where to go next on his missionary journey and had a dream of a Macedonian man motioning for him to come on over (Acts 16:6-11). Nebuchadnezzar was thinking his kingdom would go on forever (Dan. 4:28-33) and he had a dream of a tree being chopped off at the roots (Dan. 4:9-27).
- It can be helpful to realise you know nothing about the dream, but through dependence upon the Holy Spirit and the skilful use of questions you may gain an understanding of what the Holy Spirit might be saying. This keeps us open to what He might be saying. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams (Dan. 1:17).
- Many times our hearts will leap and “witness” and say, “Aha!” when it hears the right interpretation, so never accept an interpretation that does not bear witness in your heart. This might appear to you to be very subjective, but the presence of God should resonate with your own Spirit with what you are hearing. Many times people come up to me after a sermon and say it spoke to them or that the sermon this morning felt like it was just for them. I think this is because the Holy Spirit has witnessed the teaching to them.
- · Never make a major decision in your life based only on a dream without receiving additional confirmation from the other ways that God speaks to us and guides us (peace in our hearts, the counsel of others, illumined Scriptures, God’s still small voice, prophecy, anointed reasoning, common sense and reason etc.).
Interpretation of these two dreams
Both dreams are clearly saying something to me, but can also be interpreted in part as saying something to our church and even a wider context to the activity of God’s Spirit in our city. The horse is powerful and I believe is representative of the Holy Spirit and His leading. The Horse is the one carrying me and leading me. Here is what Jesus says about the activity of the Spirit – “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”. John3:8 NIV. I think we often confuse the intimacy and presence of God and assume He is following and being led by us!! In fact we follow Him and can do nothing without Him. The dream therefore is incredibly encouraging to me, with God’s power and strength leading me. I believe the dream is speaking that this leading is going to increase. The dream is also a warning to me and to us as a church. For the sake of simplicity as the dream was given to me I will write in the first person but please apply it to your own life if you feel it is relevant. The Holy Spirit may lead me into a place that my instinctive reaction is to draw back. The dream interpretation is saying that if I pull back on the reins of what God is doing then it will cost me. I spoke to an experienced horse rider and she told me that whenever the horse takes you down a steep incline you must ignore your instincts to pull back on the reins; – rather you must let go of the reins and sit back into the saddle. There are seasons and times when God is very serious about accomplishing something. We can either go with him or He will carry on without us. So forewarned is forearmed and I am taking this dream and its warning seriously.
For the second dream you might need to understand who Bill Hybels is to understand its context. Bill is a tremendous American Christian leader who has pioneered a church in Chicago that welcomes people interested in exploring the claims of Christ. He has had a tremendous impact on his city, by making the church and the gospel more relevant to people. In speaking with him, his willingness to help is very encouraging. My prayers for many years are that we impact people for Jesus, and that instead of the church being the last place people would look towards to explore the questions of life such as “what am I doing here?” – it would be the first place! The presence of God impacting me so powerfully speaks of God’s anointing on me and our church. It also speaks of the dichotomy in church life between needing God’s evidential presence and power and also being sensitive to those seeking. The apostle Paul corrected the Corinthian church for too much charismatic activity that wasn’t beneficial to anyone. (1Cor 14:12). In the western church this isn’t usually something we have to contend with as so many times the charismatic activity that was so essential to the early churches growth is ignored. My prayers are that our church continues towards staying in the place we like to call the “radical middle”.
The part about the move of God in our city is very exciting and is for the wider Body of Christ as well as our