As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am trying to finish up a blog called A Primer on Spiritual Warfare that I wrote a few years ago. In order to do that I need to share two dreams that punctuated both the beginning and end of the church plant in Butte, but before I can do that it’s necessary that I explain a few things about prophetic dreams. All this prophetic stuff is weird anyway, and now I’m adding dreams to my list of weirdnesses? Yes, it is strange, but it is real. I already posted this to my Spiritual Warfare blog, but since it also applies to the major focus of this site and my book Understanding the Prophetic Nature, I want to share it here as well.
That God uses our dreams to share things with us is pretty well-established, both in scripture and in Christian life as it has been lived through the ages. In Genesis, Joseph had two dreams that predicted the future and got him into hot water with his whole family (Gen 37:5-11). Wicked King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in which God showed him the future (Dan 2). Dreams (and visions) were part and parcel for how the Old Testament prophets operated and that phenomenon continued into the New Testament. Joseph of Nazareth was guided by angels appearing in dreams on four occasions. First, he was told to go ahead and marry Mary. In the second dream he was warned that Herod was trying to kill baby Jesus and instructed to run to Egypt – fast! Then, after Herod was dead, he was given the okay to return home, but when they got to the Bethlehem/Jerusalem area he had another dream that warned them not to stick around that area, but to go on to Galilee (Matt 1:20; 2:13,19,22). Moving on to the Apostle Paul, in the book of Acts we are told of how, at the end of a long, dry, fruitless trek across Asia Minor, he was shown that God wanted him to preach in Macedonia (a country north of Greece) (Acts 16:9). The Bible is full of dreams and dreamers to whom God spoke. Now, ever since Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was first poured out on all flesh (rather than just a select few as it was before Christ came) Christians of all stripes and flavors experience God speaking to them in dreams. And not only Christians have dreams. I have a friend (now with the Lord) who was converted to Christ through a (very odd) dream. (He wrote it down in a tract that I included in the appendix of Understanding the Prophetic Nature.) I already mentioned King Nebuchadnezzar, a heathen by anyone’s standard. God used a dream to reach out to him. Testimonies are coming out of Islamic countries of people who went to bed as convinced Muslims and woke up in the morning as converted Christians because the Lord appeared to them in a … you got it … dream!
I’m not going to try to cover everything about prophetic dreams here in this post, but three questions need to be answered: How do you tell the difference between a prophetic dream and the ordinary, too-much-pizza-last-night variety? Why do dreams contain such weird imagery? (For a good example of weird imagery scroll down my Spiritual Warfare blog to find a post where I shared a dream God gave me about Butte. People with animal heads? Really?) The final question that every dreamer has to address is – what do I do with this dream? For the sake of keeping this post to a reasonable length I’m going to give quick and dirty answers to those questions, so keep in mind that you should do some independent study on the subject.
Question # 1: So, how do you tell the difference between a prophetic dream and an ordinary, too-much-pizza-last-night variety? Well, the same way you walk out every other aspect of your Christian life – by the Spirit. Paul told us that if we want to avoid doing fleshly, sinful things we should “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16). We like to layer rules onto our lives to keep ourselves straight, but every time we do something like that we fall into the same mistake the Galatians made. Understand this: God is not pleased with rules-based living! Instead, the New Testament portrays the Christian life as one that is led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This kind of lifestyle stands in stark contrast to rules-based living. Discerning whether or not a dream is prophetic is no different than being lead by the Holy Spirit in your daily life. Get quiet with God, settle back into your spirit and listen to what is being said there. And don’t be too sticky about being absolutely certain you are hearing right! You are under no compunction to shout your dream to everyone you come across (1 Cor 14:32). Most of the dreams I’ve been given are unshared (except with my wife, of course). I write them down and then wait on God to show me what He is saying.
Question # 2: Why such weird imagery? Well, think about it. God is showing you things that have to do with heavenly realities. Trouble is, we are limited in our ability to even see those things let alone understand them, so God uses imageries we can relate to. They serve as a tool for Him to use in directing our thoughts. It’s a lot like visual poetry. He uses pictorial allusion and graphical metaphor, even pulling images from our own background, to help us “get” what He is saying. Why do you think the book of Revelation is so full of so much strange and oddball imagery? Because God, in order to communicate to us the truths He intends, put them in terms He could later, by the agency of His Holy Spirit, use to reveal great and awesome things to us. God will, through His Spirit, use that weird imagery and the strange circumstances of your prophetic dreams to open up “great and mighty things that you know not” (Jer. 33:3).
Question # 3: So, what am I supposed to do with this dream? I think it might, maybe be prophetic, but I really don’t understand it. God showed me this, but what do I do now? Step one is to write it down! Even if you are still doubtful about its “propheticness”, write it down. I have one of those blank-page journals you can buy at Walmart that I use to record my dreams. No, I don’t understand all of them – but some have come more clear over the years since I first wrote them down. Sometimes the meaning is crystal clear from the start only to be broadened as God shows me new things over time. If you are puzzled about a dream and feel there is some sort of urgency surrounding it, sharing it with the leadership of your church body is a good place to start. Go to your pastor or find an elder you relate with and describe it to them. Yes, there is some risk in doing that, but that is how the Lord designed the body of Christ to operate. And…practice makes perfect! Be faithful in writing down the dreams you think may be prophetic and you will find your skills at discerning between prophetic/pizza dreams improving. You will also find that, as you are faithful in this, God will begin giving you more of these dreams. It’s an awesome way to interact with Him!
That brings me to my last point – whether it’s through a prophetic dream, a vision or one of the gifts of the Spirit, through Bible study or deep, intercessory prayer, God hangs around in our space. He’s looking for ways to interact with us. He loves to share life with us! He loves to share His life with us! The dream He gives you may not ever be intended for sharing with other people. It may just be Him sharing with you, His friend, how He’s feeling and what He’s planning. That’s really what this life we live here on this earth is all about anyway, isn’t it?
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
Amos 3:7 KJV