Thursday, October 20, 2011

Speak, Lord

One Sunday almost two years ago, my pastor's wife was teaching Sunday Bible Training. She paused during the session to give the congregation a message from the Lord. She instructed each of us to buy a journal and start writing down the things that God tells us. Whether they be dreams or words spoken through someone that the Lord uses, we should write it down. She was so passionate about the message that she even offered to buy a journal for whoever could not afford one. It was just that important.

My personal experience with dreams and visions goes back about two and a half decades and started with a dream about someone I knew being pregnant, and the baby was a girl.
As it turned out, not only was this woman pregnant, but even the gender of the baby revealed to me in my dream was the gender of the beautiful baby that was born.

Since that dream so many years ago, I have had the same thing happen somewhere between 16-20 times, including dreaming of my sister's pregnancy with my younger niece. My sister and I live on opposite coasts thousands of miles apart - she's on the east coast and I'm on the west coast. The morning after I had that particular dream, my sister called me at work. "Wait...before you say anything," I said, "Are you pregnant?" "Who told you???" she asked. I explained the dream, to which she replied, "I'm on my way to the doctor to confirm the home pregnancy test!" The result? My younger niece is now 16 years old, healthy and absolutely beautiful. (Sidenote: in my dream I saw what I thought was a baby BOY, with dark curly hair. As it turned out, when my niece was only a few months old, she had dark curly hair. Incidentally, my sister kept the original name for the baby!)

Dreams, visions, a simple word within my spirit with regard to a specific person. And they all have come to pass. The most recent was with a coworker who came into my office. As I looked at him, my spirit "felt" that he and his wife were expecting. I literally saw the word "Baby" when I looked at him. I was bold enough to mention it to him, and he promised to let me know the results. He came in again about a month or so ago to confirm that not only was his wife expecting, but that she was actually pregnant when I had spoken to him about it - they were waiting until after the first trimester to announce the news. This is no coincidence. I've never met his wife. I've never spoken to her. I've never even seen a picture of her.

As I sit here in my quiet living room, I just had a revelation: I believe that the dreams and visions I began having all those years ago were for divine purpose, a purpose that God is slowly revealing to me. The more I think about it, the more it seems that God is exercising my "spiritual muscles", helping to build my trust in and reliance on Him even more.

I fully acknowledge that these dreams and visions are not of my own will or power, but that they have been thoughtfully given to me by God. The Bible tells us in Joel 2:28, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions." Acts 2:17 is almost identical. Note that Joel is in the Old Testament, and Acts is in the New Testament. God does not repeat Himself for naught, but rather for purpose and emphasis.

In 1995, my brother passed away suddenly, three weeks short of his 30th birthday. He had been diagnosed with congenital liver disease as a child, something that I knew nothing about until the year before he passed. During that final hospital stay, I had a dream that the nurses were trying to wake him in order to give him medication. He responded to them, "What? Can't you see I'm trying to go and see my mother?" In reality, my mother had passed away 13 years prior.

God makes no mistakes, and He is merciful. I have always believed that the dream I had about my brother was a dream from God, sent to prepare me for my brother's departure. Though his passing was devastating to me, had I not had the dream, my brother's death would have been more of a shock and much more difficult to deal with.

I had a similar dream in 2010, and it was centered around a family that is very dear to me. Without going into detail out of respect for their privacy, the dream revealed that it was time to prepare to say farewell. Not long after that the Lord called the dear one home.

Throughout the Bible, dreams and visions are used as a means by which God speaks. He uses dreams and visions to warn, instruct, reprove, guide and inform. But it's up to the "dreamer" to listen, pray for interpretation and respond.

The book of Daniel is rich with references of the power of dreams, visions and interpretation of those dreams and visions. When King Nebuchadnezzar began having dreams (chapter 2) that his wise men, enchanters, magicians and astrologers could neither tell nor interpret, he allowed Daniel to speak and interpret. In each instance, Daniel sought wisdom from God, and God showed Daniel the dreams as well as gave him the interpretation. (Daniel 2:19-23) Because God used Daniel to interpret for King Nebuchadnezzar, the king placed Daniel in a high position of rulership within the kingdom.

Notice that the key to Daniel's interpreting the dreams and visions was that he appealed to and trusted in the Most High God, and God honored his requests, resulting in favor with the king.

About a year and a half ago I found myself faced with a dilemma that no one but God could help me with.  Desiring direction from the Lord, I decided to fast and pray for three days, and asked the Lord to reveal His will to me in a way that was unmistakable and easy for me to understand. I opened my heart and extended my faith. It was during this time of fasting and prayer that the Lord gave me the first dream. Over the course of the next year or so, I had four more dreams, all with the same theme as the first. Unfortunately, because I didn't want to accept what I believed God was telling me - it wasn't what I wanted - I allowed myself to reason away each dream.

Recently, however, God spoke to me in a way that not only got my attention, but it caused me to face the truth that my mind and heart didn't want to acknowledge. He had been clearly revealing His will to me in my dreams, but this time, He spoke more clearly than ever before, and this time, I was compelled to listen.

I've been keeping a "Dream Journal" for the past two years, and in it, I journal not only my dreams, but also words of wisdom, knowledge and prophetic words that are spoken to me. I periodically go back and read the pages, while praying and asking God to give me revelation in the words on the pages. Sometimes He answers quickly, and other times He reveals things to me gradually. As I read the journal, I often am astonished that what I'm reading has already come to pass or is currently happening, and I'm grateful that God hasn't given up on me. He says repeatedly in His word that He'll never leave [me] nor forsake [me]. (Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; Hebrews 13:5, NIV)

Here are some Biblical examples of how God speaks to us in dreams:
  • Genesis 40. Joseph interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker
  • Genesis 41. Pharaoh has troubling dreams. Joseph interprets the dreams, and is consequently given all the land of Egypt to oversee. This is one of my favorite chapters so far. Even though Joseph's brothers sold him to the Egyptians, God's plan for his life was such that not only did Joseph help save the lives of countless people (including the very brothers who sold him!), but he was given power, wealth and authority.
  • Joel 2:28-29. Prophecy, dreams, visions
  • Matthew 1:20. An angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph in a dream of the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit
  • Matthew 2:12. Wise men divinely instructed and warned in a dream not to go back to Herod. Thankfully, they were obedient because Herod’s plan was to kill Baby Jesus.
  • Matthew 2:13. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream instructing him to take the Babe Jesus and flee to Egypt and to remain in Egypt until He instructs further because Herod would search for Jesus to destroy Him. Joseph was obedient.
  • Acts 2:17-18. Same as Joel 2:28-29, but written by Peter.
These are but a small number of examples, but if you go to Bible Gateway and type the word "dream" into the keyword search box, you'll be surprised at how many times dreams are used by God as a means by which to communicate. It's up to us, though, whether we will be obedient, prayerful and responsive.