Seeing Visions and Dreaming Dreams

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Seeing Visions and Dreaming Dreams

Genesis 37:1-28

Joseph Dreams of Greatness

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Joseph Is Sold by His Brothers

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Matthew 14:22–33

Jesus Walks on the Water1

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Joel 2:28 tells a prophecy that Peter interpreted in light of Pentecost – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus after his ascension. However, this particular event was not the first, nor the last time that God worked through visions and dreams. Both the Old and New Testaments have multiple accounts of prophetic dreams and visions in both young and old.

Hebrew poetry, as found often in the prophets, creates emphasis by repeating the same kind of phrase with a slightly different term (known as parallelism). I take that to mean, Joel meant little or no distinction between dreams and visions here. Functionally, they serve the same kind of purpose. Dreams and visions from God push us out of our comfort zone and into God’s mission.Tweet: Dreams and visions from God push us out of our comfort zone and into God's mission.

Those dreams and visions do not bring guaranteed results though, certainly not immediately. Joseph’s dreams came true, but not for many, many years. It is also possible that the suffering he faced from telling his family about those dreams may have been necessary for him to accomplish the results of those dreams. God does not usually show us everything in detail – just our part. Tweet: God does not usually show us everything in detail - just our part.

Even Peter’s vision of Jesus, which was not a hallucination as he feared, but an actual sight of Jesus walking on the water, served in the same way. It called Peter out of his current place of comfort and moved him out into uncharted waters. Unlike Joseph, his vision had immediate effects, but they did not last long at all. Again, Peter probably misunderstood. Seeing Jesus walking on the water was probably less of a promise that Peter too could someday walk on water, and more of a realization that Jesus could not be held back by such things. It was also proof that this particular vision of Jesus was really Him in the flesh and not some evil spirit as Peter feared. Like Peter, we are often slow in comprehending the full importance of God’s visions and dreams we receive. At least until we need to. As in everything else, these gifts are meant to be taken in faith, and more often change the prophet even more than the people around them.

What visions or dreams has God given you?

How have they brought you closer to Christ?

How have they changed you?

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  1. (Mk 6:45–52; Jn 6:15–21)

Chosen for Revelation

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Chosen for Revelation

Ezekiel 29:1-7

Proclamation against Egypt

In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt; speak, and say, Thus says the Lord God:

I am against you,

Pharaoh king of Egypt,

the great dragon sprawling

in the midst of its channels,

saying, “My Nile is my own;

I made it for myself.”

I will put hooks in your jaws,

and make the fish of your channels stick to your scales.

I will draw you up from your channels,

with all the fish of your channels

sticking to your scales.

I will fling you into the wilderness,

you and all the fish of your channels;

you shall fall in the open field,

and not be gathered and buried.

To the animals of the earth and to the birds of the air

I have given you as food.

Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know

that I am the Lord

because you were a staff of reed

to the house of Israel;

when they grasped you with the hand, you broke,

and tore all their shoulders;

and when they leaned on you, you broke,

and made all their legs unsteady.

Luke 11:53-12:3

When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

A Warning against Hypocrisy

Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops

One of the most prized gifts of the Spirit throughout history has been the gift of prophecy. Through this gift, we receive revelation from God as knowledge we could not discover on our own. It is related to the preaching of the prophets in the Old Testament, as well as the preaching of the Apostle’s in the New Testament, and the witness of those persecuted for their faith throughout history. Because it is such a powerful and necessary gift, it is a very desired gift. Because it is such a desired gift, it has been sought after and sometimes imitated out of jealousy and ambition. The abuse of it has caused schisms and destruction in faith communities, which has led large numbers of Christians to avoid anything “prophetic” altogether. However, this reaction, the neglect of this gift, has also brought about stagnation and the slow decay in many of these churches as well.

Look at this list of Global megachurches and their US counterparts. Researchers have noted the rise of the Pentecostal churches across the world. Certainly, the gift of prophecy is not the only factor here, but it is an important aspect of this movement.

When we compare our present world with the early New Testament period, it is important to get some facts before jumping to name-calling. For example, the Pharisees often get a bad reputation in the bible and we have lots of examples to show this. It would be easy for us to assume they would be opposed to the gift of prophecy, therefore anyone today who was opposed to prophecy could be called a Pharisee and given their reputation as a stumbling block for the work of God. However, actual digging in the scripture and historical research shows that the Pharisees had a high regard for the Old Testament prophets and if they questioned the contemporary use of prophecy it was with good reason. Scripture shows us that there was 500 years of silence between the last prophet and John the Baptist – and remember, the Pharisees were there at the Jordan River getting baptized like everyone else too. AIso, you may recall that some of Jesus’s dis ciples were Pharisees. The Pharisees believed in the gift of prophecy but were cautious, wanting to be sure it was legitimate.

The Sadducees on the other hand guarded the ritual of worship and sacrifice and focused primarily on the Torah , or Law of Moses found in the first five books of the bible. Of all the Jewish sects, they would have been most threatened by the gift of prophecy and quickest to silence it. For then, the threat was not doctrinal, but political… which leads us to today.

I believe most of our struggles with the gift of prophecy has to do with the political and social power that we see coming along with it. There is an underlying assumption that whoever God is revealing heavenly information to, should be the person calling the shots. We sometimes excuse this power play by saying “It’s not me, it is what God wants.” Some of the world’s most heinous atrocities have been committed with this excuse. Notice what Jesus says though. All secrets will be revealed. Having the gift of prophecy does not grant yon holy authority. It simply makes you a messenger for God. A vital role, to be sure, but one that can be held by anyone. The Pharisees were hypocrites, not because the dismissed prophecy, but because they wanted to keep it for themselves instead of serving God and giving it away.

Where have you experienced the gift of prophecy?

What is the most important message God wants you to share and who does He want you to share it with?

Taking Turns and Making Turns

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Taking Turns and Making Turns

Jeremiah 3:6–18 (NRSV)

A Call to Repentance

6 The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there? 7 And I thought, “After she has done all this she will return to me”; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. 9 Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretense, says the LORD.

11 Then the LORD said to me: Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah. 12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
Return, faithless Israel,
says the LORD.

I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
says the LORD;

I will not be angry forever.

13 Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you have rebelled against the LORD your God,
and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree,
and have not obeyed my voice,
says the LORD.

14 Return, O faithless children,
says the LORD,
for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.

15 I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the LORD, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your ancestors for a heritage.

God acts strange. In the ocean of sinners that cover this world, He does not simply wipe out the worst of us and threaten us with extinction if we don’t shape up our act. That is the way of fallen humanity. That might even be the way of nature. It is not God’s way though.

Jeremiah was the prophet sent to Judah, the southern half of former Israel, who deemed themselves superior because they had the Temple in Jerusalem. (If you would like to know more about this split, check out the aftereffects of the land Samaria in places like John 4.) His message, to Judah/Judea was that they did not learn from their sister’s mistakes of giving up their trust in God to make treaties with other nations. Whenever you see the word adultery in the Old Testament prophets, it is often referring to political/spiritual adultery more than sexual adultery. The Israelites entered into a political/spiritual marriage with God and he saw their treaties with other nations as cheating on Him.

Judah, did not just make treaties though. They made false idols of wood and stone – probably other gods imported from those other nations. They did not want to be seen as a backward nation with only one God while bigger nations grew around them. They sold themselves and their country out to foreign powers in hopes to attain mercy at their hands. It failed miserably. They lived – and history shows this truth through their story – that if you indeed “…will not stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

Both nations were promised restoration, but the promise was not to every individual. God promised hope and new life, new shepherds, and a new start in this Promised Land to those who would turn away from past mistakes. As it turns out, God can save us from anything, but the one thing He refuses to save us from is ourselves. He will not bar us from following our own evil wills. Repentance means surrender. It is like taking our own will under arrest and putting God in charge. Rather than just taking turns pointing out who the bigger sinner is and blaming each other, God calls us to make turns in our own path, turning around and walking back to Him.

What sins in the world around you stand out the most to you today?

How do those sins affect your own life?

What is something you can do today to take another step in surrendering your selfish will to God?

Keeping Your Priorities Straight While Changing the World – The Fifth Priority – Speaking Truth to Power

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“And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.””

-‭‭Mark‬ ‭2:1-28‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There has been a lot of wind blowing this year. I can remember hearing just a few short months ago about the rally’s put on by Bernie Sanders supporters as well as those by Trump supporters. It seemed like everyone was talking all at once. As we reached and passed through the primaries though, I have noticed a little bit more vacuum out there in social media that formerly was filled with another dozen candidates who felt a legitimate claim to throw their hats into the three-ring circus that had become our presidential election. There is certainly plenty of commentary on both the Republican and Democrat nominees for president, as well as several third and fourth party candidates. But I can’t shake the feeling that the bulk of our nation is holding it’s breath.

We have had the intellectualism. We have had other things as well. Around almost every turn there has been someone attempting to “speak truth to power”. That charade has gotten pretty ridiculous. Mother Theresa, who just recently was canonized , may have been one of best examples of that kind of leadership in my lifetime, and I suspect that she was able to lead the way she did because she followed the example of Jesus.

What is that example? He kept his priorities straight doing these five things and keeping them in order.

  1. He prepared Himself.
  2. He recruited help.
  3. He started at the root of the problem.
  4. He cleaned up the consequences, leaving the place better than He found it.
  5. Then, He spoke truth to power.

This is more than having actions that back up your words. It is about your actions leading your words. This description of the beginning of Jesus’s ministry here in Mark really shows a leader who was going out to change the world with His own two hands and who would routinely stop to talk, primarilly to articulate what He was doing, in case people were confused or unaware. He did not seek out the leaders in order to correct them, because many of those leaders were not the ones facing the actual problems themselves. Jesus gained His authority and the title of “Good Shepherd” not by preaching and teaching to a group of failing shepherds, but by actually getting out and working with the sheep Himself.

In a culture where people found it easier to criticize one another rather than actually get up and do some good, Jesus ignored all the hot air and got to work. That was what gaave Him authority with the people. Yes, He was God in the flesh and probably had a look that pierced right into your very soul, but the truth still stands that when God came to earth in the flesh, He went to work making a difference and kept His priorities straight instead of playing around and serving Himself. He knew He only had a limited time here, and He intended to make the most of it.

There is very little about the example of Jesus that we cannot follow. All of these things that He did in the beginning of His ministry with us, the apostles and the people of the early church did as well. Perfectly? No, but they worked and served and gave their lives as an offering to God because they too understood that they were only here for a limited amount of time and they wanted to use whatever they could to please God and to make this world better.

We are no different today. We spend our time, energy, and resources desperately trying to get people to like us, be it in our buildings, our programs, or by just being a friendly group of people. The sad reality is, if we disappeared, most of our neighborhoods wouldn’t even notice. The missionaries in Africa, Asia, and South America – they would be missed immediately, because many of them are doing ministry and leading change just like Jesus did… but we in America are another story altogether. It is not about relevency. It is not even about effectiveness. We’ve just been trying to put the cart before the horse and grasp at authority before we prepare ourselves for what we are going to do once we have it, and long before we actually get out into the community and start doing something to make a difference. It leaves us barking up the wrong trees and spending our lives fighting symptoms and never getting to the sources of those problems. God didn’t design ministry that way and it doesn’t work. In the end, we simply become another set of reactionaries fighting to maintain their own hold on their way of life – like every other empire that came before us. We too, will become museum-like institutions, while the real ministry of Jesus, bringing hope and help to our world, showing them Jesus, and inviting them into the Body of Christ will carry on.

Why Time Matters. Part 3

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Since the past and present (or study of them) both fall under subjectivist inquiry and may ultimately lead us to a self-serving relativism, we are really left with only one other source of knowledge: the future. I realize that by even mentioning this as a viable alternative, I have stepped outside the realm of modern science into something unprecedented at best, and more likely along the lines of unfounded superstitious beliefs.

Hard science simultaneously preaches the concept of the predictable behavior of matter and an unscripted nature of the future. How does this work? There is an assumption (based on their Positivist foundations) that objects exist only in the present. Just as the past becomes figments of our memory, so the future is only figments of our imagination. Reality exists only in the present. Time travel is a pipe dream. Now, a successful experiment in time travel might be able to change that, but to my knowledge, no such experiment has been received by the scientific community. For them, this option is largely excluded.

Other views exist, and have existed with more precedence than the perspective of hard science. Many spiritual beliefs advocate for the existence of reality set in the future and placed within the context of an overarching meta-narrative in which we play the part of participants and not chief observers or manipulators. Specifics of our participation may vary, but generally all end with the final say to the direction being given to a source outside of us – even if only given in a passive manner. For simplicity’s sake I’m going to refer to two main categories of future-oriented focus: the Prophet and the Mystic.

The Prophet interacts with some form of divine intelligence beyond the normal rules and boundaries of life, gathering insight and wisdom and then becoming a catalyst for the will of the Outsider. The Prophet’s accuracy in prediction is linked to the Outsider’s power to bring about the events of proclamation, or in other words, the prophet is only as good as their god.

The Mystic, on the other hand, acts more as a free agent: interacting with divine others, but with an independent agenda of their own. Mystics are seekers of truth and power beyond the normal scope of natural human experience. The accuracy of their own predictions depends upon their own strength, one of the primary markers setting them apart from prophets.

Now, setting aside the discussion on whether or not divine beings exist and what or who they may be, we have come to a crossroads. We cannot seek enlightenment from the future if we set our epistemology, our way of knowing things, in exclusively objective terms (at least under the current scientific regime and repertoire). Whether we seek truth under the guidance of an outside source as Prophets, or on our own strength as Mystics, we have to transcend our present world if we hope to touch the future.

One more section to go.