Sermon for Sunday April 29th, 2012
Dream Weaver: Does God Speak to Us In Our Dreams? by Dr. Marc Axelrod
A woman woke up one morning and said to her husband: "I had the most vivid dream last night. I dreamed you bought me an expensive diamond ring for my birthday. I’ve never had a dream like that before. What do you think it means?"
"You’ll find out tonight, baby," he said.
She shouts “Wooooo!!!!” She’s go to work, but she’s so excited, she can hardly concentrate on anything else all day! She can’t wait to see her husband at home! Sure enough, he comes home for supper, and he’s carrying a small, beautifully wrapped package.
He hands it to her! She opens it up ... and finds a book entitled The Meaning of Dreams.
That was cruel! But today I want to talk about The Meaning of Dreams. Does God speak to us in our dreams? How do we know if it’s God speaking? How do we know if it’s a dream from God or a dream from our own imagination, and what should we do when we have bad dreams?
We’re going to get answers to these questions and more as we see what the Bible says about dreams and visions.
The thought of Almighty God taking time to communicate with US in our dreams is exciting! But before we get geeked up, remember these two things: Number one: The primary way God speaks with us is through the word of Jesus. Hebrews 1:2 says that “in these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.”
And even though the apostle Paul had visions where God spoke to Him, He always points people back to the Bible. Acts 20:32 says “Now I commend you to Him and to the WORD of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
A secondary way God speaks to us today is through the words of others, as long as what they say is consistent with what God says in His word. If someone says “You should apologize to your mom and ask forgiveness,” that’s good advice, because Colossians 3:13 says “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
But if someone says “Go ahead and take these work tools back to your house. The boss won’t know they’re gone,” you say “Forget it, because Mark 10:19 says “Do not steal.”
But the Bible also tells us that God sometimes communicates through dreams and visions. Number one: He does it to encourage us. Genesis 28:12. Jacob flees to his uncle Laban’s house because his brother Esau wants to kill him. When Jacob reaches a certain place, he stops for the night. He’s stressed out. He lies down on the ground. He takes a stone, and he uses it as a pillow. He falls asleep.
He sees a stairway to heaven. The angels of God are going up and down. The Lord stands at the top and says “I am the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give your descendants the land on which you are lying. They will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and the east and the north and the south.”
Then in verse 15, God says “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Jacob wakes up and says “WOW! WHAT AN ENCOURAGING DREAM! SURELY THE LORD IS IN THIS PLACE, AND I WAS NOT AWARE OF IT!”
A few years ago, I had a dream I was driving alone at night in my minivan. Up ahead, I saw the heavenly city shimmering in the distance! It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw! Automatically, my hands shot in the air, and I shouted “PRAISE THE LORD! HALLELUJAH!!!! GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST!!!!”
I was coming up to a curve, and I knew that I was about to drive off the road. There’s nothing I could do about it. But I was so filled with the Spirit and I was so confident I was about to enter the heavenly city, that I didn’t care! I kept saying PRAISE THE LORD! PRAISE GOD!!!” Then right before I drove off the road, Jeanne woke me up. I said “What did you wake me up for?” She said “You kept shouting “PRAISE THE LORD!!!! PRAISE GOD!!!!!”
I said “Jeanne, we gotta sell that minivan! That thing’s gonna get me killed!” She said “We’re not selling the minivan!”
Later on, I realized “God didn’t give me that dream to tell me I was about to get in an accident. He gave me that dream to encourage me to stay on the road of Christian ministry as long as I can, because someday, He will welcome me into the heavenly city!
God gives dreams to encourage us. Number two: God sometimes gives dreams to guide us. In Genesis 41, Pharaoh has a dream. He sees seven fat cows rise up from the Nile River. Then he sees 7 lean cows rise up from the Nile River. Then the lean cows swallowed the seven fat cows.
Then he had a second dream where seven thin heads of grain swallowed seven healthy heads of grain.
No one knows what the dreams mean. Eventually, Joseph is brought forward, and he says “The dreams are one and the same. God is informing you that you’re about to have seven years of abundance, but those years will be swallowed up by seven years of famine, and you better start saving for the future right now.”
Last year, I dreamed about an old high school acquaintance I haven’t seen in more than 25 years. Three days, I dreamed about him again! I said “Lord, this is weird! Why are you giving me dreams about a guy I hardly I know anymore?”
The words were scarcely out of my mouth when I realized that God was giving me these dreams so I would pray for him. God gave me two dreams so that I would know for sure that He was guiding me into prayer. So that’s what I did.
God gives dreams to encourage us and guide us, and we also see this in the New Testament. Remember the Christmas story in Matthew 1. Joseph was about to divorce Mary, but then in Matthew 1:20, he had a dream where an angel said “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, for what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
And again in Matthew 2:12, the Magi were warned in a dream about King Herod, so they returned to their country by a different route.
And in today’s reading from the book of Acts, the apostle Paul and his companions were guided by a dream/vision. In Acts 2-15, God uses the apostles to preach the Word, and in Acts 16, He uses a dream to tell Paul WHERE to preach the Word! Acts 16:6. Paul and his companions are traveling through Phrygia and Galatia, two regions in the middle of modern day Turkey. They want to minister in the province of Asia, but they were kept by the Holy Spirit from going there. What does that mean? Maybe a messenger said “Hey man, it’s not a good time. The government is cracking down.”
Or perhaps it was because of an earthquake. The province of Asia and Asia Minor used to get them all the time. Huge stones would crash onto the narrow mountain passes, and it’s possible the Holy Spirit spoke to Paul’s heart and said “Don’t travel there.” The bottom line is that Paul concluded with God’s guidance that he wasn’t supposed to go there.
In verse seven, they head north and try to enter the northern province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus would not let them go in. We find out why in verse nine. During the night, Paul has a vision. He sees a man of Macedonia begging him “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” That’s a long trip! Paul’s gotta walk over 200 miles to get to the northwest coast of Turkey. Then he’s gotta hop on a boat and sail west another 150 miles or so to get to Macedonia! I woulda said “dude, go back to sleep. Let’s pray about it. I’m not up for a long shlep.”
But in verse ten, it says that after Paul saw the vision, they took off right away! The point of the story? God’s guidance for ministry gets communicated anyway He wants!
How did Paul know this vision was from God? Because God’s been speaking to Paul with visions and dreams since the day he got saved! How do I know that? Acts 9. Paul’s walking on the road to Damascus. Suddenly, he sees a bright light. He falls to the ground! He hears a voice saying “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Paul says “Who are you, Lord?” Least he was smart enough to call him Lord.
The voice says “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and I’ll tell you what to do next.” Then Saul meets Ananias. Ananias leads Saul into accepting Jesus as His Lord and Savior, Saul becomes better known as Paul, and the rest is history.
So Paul knows from past experience that God sometimes speaks to him with visions and dreams.
You say “Marc, how can I know whether or not my dream is from the Lord?”
After you have a dream (if you can remember it), ask yourself four questions: Number one: Is it scriptural? Is the message of this dream consistent with the message of the Bible? Because God will NEVER give you a dream that contradicts the teaching in His Word.
One of my seminary friends shared her dream. She said “I had a dream where I was incredibly thirsty. Then I was given some amazing water! The water was so good, and it felt so real, and was so incredible, but afterward I realized it was a very simple message from God: seek Him to quench the thirst inside of me.” That’s scriptural! Jesus says in John 4:14 “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”
Number two: Is your dream inspirational? My dad suffered with years of sickness before he died. He was in the hospital for 37 weeks the last year of his life, and he ended up dying in the hospital.
But after the funeral, I had a dream that dad was walking out of the hospital on his own. He was walking along the grass on a beautiful sunny day, wearing a short sleeve button down plaid shirt, a pair of khakis, and he looked healthier and happier than I had seen him in years.
Perhaps God was telling me that dad has entered into a beautiful place where people don’t get sick anymore. That’s biblical because Revelation 21:5 says that there will be no sickness or mourning or crying or pain.
But it’s also inspirational!
You say, "Marc, my wife is in heaven. When I dream about her, is that God’s way of sending her back to earth to visit me?"
Some say yes. The vision seems so real, it has to be a visitation.
But I’m going to stand on God’s Word and say "No." Luke 16:26 is very clear that there is no crossing over. I can’t cross the line to talk with dad, and he can’t cross over to talk with me.
When I dream about loved ones from Ohio who are still alive, that doesn’t mean they’re visiting me. I know for a fact they’re back in Ohio. Same thing here. When I dream about my dad, it doesn’t mean he’s actually visiting me. I know he’s in heaven. But when I dream about him, it encourages me and reminds me that someday we’ll see each other again! That’s why God gives me those dreams!
Number three: Ask yourself, is your dream logical? Most of the dreams we have are just garbled up thoughts from the previous day. I know a lady who dreamed that she was engaged to Steven Tyler from American Idol. She was going to introduce him to her parents, but she was afraid because Steven Tyler wears purple nail polish.
So she took Steven Tyler aside and said “I want you to meet my parents. But you’re going to have to get rid of the nail polish.” The she woke up.
She said “What does that dream mean? I’m happily married! Why would I be dreaming that I was engaged to Steven Tyler?”
It’s easy. She watched American Idol on TV the night before, and somehow the thoughts got all garbled up in her imagination. The dream was not logical.
Number four: Is your dream stressful? Ecclesiastes 5:3 says that dreams come when there are many cares. A person worried about losing their job might dream that they’ve been fired and divorced, and now they’re sleeping on the couch in their mother’s house.
Or a person with unresolved fear in their life might dream they are falling, and they wake up in a cold sweat right before they hit the ground.
Or a person afraid of public speaking might dream that their teeth are about to break. Dreams like this are not messages from God, they are reflections of our own fears.
And sometimes, we have nightmares that are direct attacks from the enemy. If you have a bad dream, tell your parents so they can hug you and pray for you. Psalm 55:22 says “Cast your cares upon the Lord, and He will sustain you.” And if you’re a grownup who has a bad dream, pray to Jesus to help you, and He will.
Or maybe you’re someone who never remembers any of their dreams. That’s okay, because God has a dream for your life. He has a dream that you will love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. According to John 6:40, He has a dream that everyone who looks to Jesus and believes in Him will have eternal life! He has a dream that you will welcome Jesus as the Lord of your life, and that you use the talents you have to serve Him and others!
Come to Jesus and live His dream for your life. Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Amen.