Wednesday, May 07, 2008
DREAMS AND VISIONS
In my meandering spiritual journey I have on occasion experienced my share of what some would call signs and wonders, for lack of a better term.
From the miraculous healing of my Dad's spine, to instantaneous answers of prayer for my sick child, and random words of knowledge to encourage others in their distress, I have had first-hand encounters with the Holy Spirit from time to time.
Still, this sort of thing doesn't happen all the time. Some would argue that it should, but that's beside the point I want to make...which is that God does speak to us and answer prayer and move miraculously in our lives today.
Two of the most powerful examples of this in my life have been in the form of dreams and visions. Or, two dreams and one vision I should say.
THE FIRST DREAM
The first dream came as a rebuke of sorts to my prideful and selfish attitude, and it also helped to correct a bit of idolatry in my heart at the time.
In the dream I was walking across a wide, empty field. The ground was freshly plowed and there were rows and rows of fresh dirt as far as the eye could see. Down the middle of this field was a dirt road and I was walking along this road with a friend of mine. This friend was someone I once worked with in the Christian Music Industry. Our relationship was mainly built upon our common love of music, specifically alternative Christian rock music, and our background working in that industry.
As we walked along my friend was raving about a brand new band he had discovered. He held out a CD case to me and said, "This is Awesome!" Written across the face of the CD was the word "ELOI".
Slowly the sky darkened. My friend and I froze in our steps. There was an awful sense of the power and presence of absolute Holiness in the air. Neither of us dared to move or to breathe. As the shadow continued to cover the sky over our heads I looked up and saw that we were covered by an enormous black wing that blocked out the sun and the sky. Written across the wing, in blazing gold letters was the word "ELOI".
My friend, who could not bear to lift his head to the sky asked me, "What is that?" and I said, "THAT (pointing to the sky) is ELOI. Not this" (pointing to the CD in his hand).
When I awoke from the dream I lay in bed with my heart pounding. I could still feel that incredible sense of the fear of God in the room. It was awesome and terrible and wonderful all at the same time.
As I lay there meditating on what this could mean I realized that God was rebuking me for making an idol out of the music that bears His Holy Name. The industry I was part of was in the habit of utilizing the Name of God as a marketing tool. I was part of that industry.
The word "ELOI" corresponded to the word that Jesus called out from the cross- "Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabacthani" or "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (quoting from Psalm 22).
In the context of the Church I realized that the dream was warning us not to take God so lightly. As a member of a Vineyard Church at that time I was aware that intimacy in worship was our greatest value. However, sometimes that intimacy translated as a lack of awareness of the power and authority and Holiness of Almighty God. In effect, we had made God our "Buddy" at the expense of knowing Him as our Lord and God and King.
That morning after my dream was a Sunday. We had a surprise guest preacher, Todd Hunter, whose sermon went something like this - "You know, in the Vineyard we can be guilty of taking our value of intimacy so far that we forget to experience the fear of God."
I was blown away.
THE SECOND DREAM AND THE VISION THAT FOLLOWED
A few months later I had a second dream and this one scared me more than I can possibly express to anyone. It was a much stronger rebuke of my attitude and a call for me to fully submit my life to God.
In the second dream I was in a two story house. It was raining outside pretty heavily. I was on the second floor looking out the window at the rain as my Dad was preparing to lead a Bible Study for some others in the room. I "knew" (the way you can sometimes know in dreams without explanation) that there was another group of Christians downstairs in a Bible Study of their own. I thought to myself, "There are two kinds of Jesus. The one's downstairs follow Jesus One and we follow Jesus Two". (It didn't make sense to me either...until after the dream was over).
Slowly the group my Dad was leading sat down and we all began to sing the Gaither Song, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that name..." and as we sang the second part, "...Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain.." there was a tremendous thunderclap that shook the building and rattled my bones. Everyone froze in awe. Then we heard a loud knocking outside the window against the glass.
"It's Jesus!" everyone shouted and ran to the window to let him in. (Remember, we were on the second floor of this building).
As everyone ran to the window to let Jesus in I stood back in fear. "What if it really IS Jesus" I wondered? Am I ready to see Him?
Suddenly everyone in that room was gone except me. Then I heard the knocking again on the window- loud and insisting. I just stood there, too afraid to open the window to let Jesus in the room.
I woke up in the darkness and quietly asked God to explain to me what the dream meant. What was the "Jesus One" and "Jesus Two" part about? Even as I asked that question in my mind I heard the song again, "Master...Savior, Jesus" and it made sense. Those in the room below us followed "Jesus One" - The Master. Those of us in the upstairs room followed "Jesus Two" - The Savior.
I laid there a second and thought about that. Was Jesus only my Savior? Is that what the dream was about? Was Jesus not my Master?
Then I saw an open vision. This had never happened to me before...and it has never happened since. (Let me remind everyone I am a good Baptist and these things are not common to my everyday Christian experience).
In this vision, which was like dreaming while your eyes are wide open, was brief but terrifying. First I saw a hand which was stretched and thin like it was made of melting wax being held over a fire. Next I saw a leg with the same melting deformity being held over the flames.
Even before I could ask God what this meant I heard the scripture verse: "And some will be saved..but only as those who have passed through the fire."
I immediately woke my wife Wendy up and begged her to pray for me. I told her breathlessly what had just happened to me. The dream, the vision, the scripture verse, everything. I was shaking, literally, physically trembling uncontrollably throughout the entire ordeal. I could not stop shaking. My heart was pounding and the fear of God was thick in the room- in my heart, like I have never experienced before.
After my wife prayed for me I prayed a prayer of sincere repentance to God and begged Him to forgive me for my supreme stupidity and foolishness- for allowing anything in my life to take His place, for placing the word "ELOI" on any person or distraction or desire except for Him.
These dreams and this vision were all greatly instrumental in influencing my current focus on seeking God and leading others to see His Kingdom.
Strangely enough, my epiphany about the Gospel of the Kingdom and my return to my calling as a pastor and "Full-time Ministry" wouldn't come for another three years or so. First God had to remove me from my job at Vineyard Music Group, which I loved way too much, and He had to lead me on a year and a half long journey through the desert of joblessness where my family and I learned to trust in Him, and Him alone, as our only Hope.
Lately I find myself longing to hear from God in this way again. Even as frightening and troubling as those dreams were, I knew that God loved me and was speaking to me in a voice that I couldn't help but hear.
"After this, I will pour my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions." - Joel 2:28
"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.." -Job 33:14-15