Over recent years I have witnessed a growing acceptance of dreams in Christian circles as a valid way that God speak to His children. Could God be restoring dreams to His church?
Change is the new normal
I have heard it said recently that ‘change is the new normal‘. Those of you who have been in the church for a long time will testify that many things have changed over the years. Some will say it’s for the better, and some for the worse, but the truth is that the church my children have inherited is vastly different from the church I grew up in, and there are things that our parents fought hard for that we now take for granted.
I have been a follower of Jesus for nearly 40 years and I have watched with interest the changing scenes of the worldwide church. I have witnessed many trends and new ideas as they have come and been embraced, or not as the case may be. As with any subject there will be some differing opinions, but in this article I am simply speaking from my personal observations.
“Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first stage it is ridiculed, in the second stage it is opposed, in the third stage it is regarded as self-evident.”Schopenhauer
Restoring things that were lost
As a young adult I would read the book of Acts with a mixture of excitement and sadness mingled together. Excitement because the stories of healings, miracles and people turning to Christ were so wonderful, but sadness because I had never seen anything like that in my own experience of church. In general I felt that many things that the early church walked in had been lost or forgotten somewhere along the line.
Some people think that this is a good thing, and that these phenomena have no relevance now. Much has been written on that subject. However it is my view that over recent centuries God has been gradually restoring much that was lost. I have also observed an increase in the rate of change in recent years.
Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls.Jeremiah 6:16
Martin Luthor and the gospel of grace
In our church we have recently been reading Galatians and revisiting the wonderful gospel of grace that Paul expands upon in his letter. However it was sobering for me to contemplate that the church hasn’t always benefitted from this great news, and in fact the truth was forgotten for many hundreds of years. That was until just over 500 years ago when Martin Luther studied the books of Romans and Galatians for a thesis he was writing.
Luther and his contemporaries had been stressed and struggling with trying to please God though their own efforts. Luther subsequently discovered through Scripture the good news that righteousness before God was only possible through the grace of Jesus Christ. In our generation we freely walk in the knowledge of this grace, but it was contested and fought for in its time. This is just one example that inspires me from history.
Changes I have witnessed
- SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND HEALING: I was blessed to have grown up in a fairly charismatic Anglican Church, which was ahead of its time in regard to spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and prophecy. There was also healing ministry taking place, which was considered quite daring in those days. I remember trailblazers like John Wimber who pioneered miraculous healing, and faced widespread criticism for it. I read his books such as ‘Power Healing’, where he had to convince his readers from Scripture that gifts of the Spirit are available for us today, before he could even start to talk about healing! I can also remember his books being ‘banned’ from our local Christian bookshop! Nowadays with the advent of churches like Bethel church in Redding, it is pretty normal for spiritual gifts to be in operation and churches to offer prayer for healing.
- CONVERSATIONAL PRAYER AND RELATIONSHIP: As a child I was part of quite a forward-thinking church. However all I knew about was saying ‘set’ prayers, singing hymns and dong my ‘bible reading’ every day. Pretty soon the way we prayed together in meetings started to become more conversational in style, as we realised we could actually talk to God as a friend and listen to Him together. Since that that time I have witnessed a huge shift both personally and corporately, from mostly praying pre-set prayers to the current expectation that walking in a real relationship with God is the normal Christian life. I have observed this shift happening in many churches, even more traditional ones.
- WORSHIP MUSIC AND CULTURE: As a musician it amuses me when I choose a classic hymn like ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ and find that not many people know it. There was time when it was hard to sing anything else! Many people like me fought a long battle for modern worship music to be accepted in our churches. Now it is the norm, and YouTube is continually filled with a plethora of new songs. It’s not just about the style of music, but the whole culture of Sprit-filled worship that was being fought over and has now widely been restored. Have a read of my ‘organ story’ below!
An organ story
My husband and I attended a church in our village for many years, where the old organ held sway. The organ wasn’t just a music style choice, it commanded the whole atmosphere of worship. As students we had experienced and preferred a much freer style of worship, but we knew God had called us to this church. Although we occasionally had the opportunity to lead worship, we mostly submitted to the organist who was a church elder.
One day I was walking past the organ when suddenly I felt the urge to pray. I had never felt this before. As I felt led I said, “I break the hold of this organ off from this church. I cut off the religious spirit that accompanies it. You will have no more influence in this place.” Not thinking any more of it I went home.Not thinking
A few days later the organ broke! It turned out to be something too expensive to replace, and the decision was taken not to repair it! Within a week the organist and his wife left the church. Within a few more weeks some new musicians came who were interested in forming a worship group! I didn’t do anything except to say that one prayer.
In the above testimony things eventually changed and the resulting joy was wonderful. But we had walked a long journey (for more than 15 years) to get to the place where we could see that change manifested in our church. We faithfully endured many years of a style that we did not find helpful in order to be in situ when it was the right time for change to be established. Scenes like these have been repeated in countless other churches, and are still ongoing in many.
Could God be restoring dreams in this hour?
So coming back to my original idea: I believe that the same thing is currently happening with regard to dreams. Let me share a piece of my story. (You can read the full version here).
When I was a child I regularly had vivid dreams, but never heard anything to suggest they meant anything. In western culture, dreams were considered to simply be the result of our minds processing life. In the church, I never heard anyone take dreams seriously either. When I think about it this was quite strange, since there are some very well known dreams in the bible. I think most of us thought that dreams from God would somehow be ‘different’ from our normal dreams. Maybe with a trumpet fanfare or announced by a voice from heaven!
That was my view until 2006 when I heard the late John Paul Jackson speaking at a Christian conference and I went on to take some of the courses he had written. The dream training that I took contained a detailed biblical and historical case for dreams, which was very helpful for me. There was a sense of having to persuade Christians to take dreams seriously before one could even think about training anyone to interpret them. Does that sound familiar?
At that point in time I was the only person in my church who was interested in this subject. I experienced a range of reactions from good natured indifference and cynicism to direct ridicule for believing that my dreams could be from God. I persevered despite this reaction, because having tasted the fruit in my life I could never go back to thinking that dreams were irrelevant. I soon realised that it was best to keep quiet and treat it as a personal interest.
An increase in acceptance
As you can imagine, it has been a great joy to me over the last couple of years to see an increase in interest and appreciation of dreams amongst the wider Christian community. I have observed the following trends:
- An increase in friends and colleagues asking me about dreams
- An increase in the acceptance of dreams generally
- The emergence of a number of well-written Christian books about dreams
- An increase in well known ministries offering training in dream interpretation
- Respected prophets posting dreams regularly and treating them as words from God
- An increase in individuals blogging about dreams
Best of all, I am now able to talk about dreams with other Christians without being ‘that crazy dreams lady’ any more!
These are just my observations, but why not keep your eyes open too, and be on the lookout for some of the above? See what you discover! In my links page I share a few of these books and resources. I also have a Facebook Group where I share useful information, dreams and testimonies that I come across.
Are we ready?
For me, it seems evident that we can no longer ignore the subject of dreams or hide it away in a closet. Most things that we enjoy today in our walk with God have been won by people who have paid a price for our gain. We would be so much poorer without these things. I believe we will be so much richer for learning to interpret our dreams in a godly way.
I personally believe that we are about to see a move of God as such that the world has never seen before. I also have a hunch that dreams, visions and spiritual encounters could be a major part of this move,
I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.”Joel 2:28
The question is, will we be ready? If God is moving in the area of dreams and visions, where will people turn to find answers? Will they turn to the New Age and other religions who take dreams more seriously than us? Or will there be followers of Jesus Christ who are ready to help people and point them to a godly understanding of dreams?
On behalf of the worldwide church, I hope that we will be ready. I hope that as Christians we will be able to embrace what God is doing and prepare, both for ourselves, and for a world that is seeking answers.