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Dreams, Nightmares and Visions

Tue September 25th, 2018

When we shut our eyes in sleep, we often find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. Maybe we are at work, but we are naked and embarrassed, or perhaps we are reliving something from our past that has a twist in the story. Sometimes we have sexual encounters in our sleep, some of them of an inappropriate nature. Occasionally we may have a dream that seems to carry with it some hidden meaning that we puzzle about all day. Perhaps we may even get a message from God in the night. Some people say they never dream, but scientific research contradicts that – it is just that not everyone remembers their dreams. Sometimes people go into a room and have a sense of Deja-vu but often that is only the remembrance of a dream in our subconscious minds. The truth is that mankind has always dreamt and many such experiences have left profound questions. 

Dreamscapes The first dream I remember having was when I was a young boy at school. I was snatched by a huge gorilla, who started pulling out my front teeth.  It was at a time when I was starting to lose teeth naturally and I was growing a couple of nice new ones at the front. It was a natural concern about a physical process. I watched Dr Who from the first episode (the week that JFK was shot). I remember having a lot of terrible nightmares about Cybermen and Daleks trying to kill me! (but I continued to watch it every week from behind the corner of the settee). Those experts that know about such things tell us that often our brain is just stringing random thoughts and ideas together, as a relaxation aid (even if the results seem stressful), whereas others claim that our brain lives out alternative realities to help strengthen our emotional stability. Probably most popular is the idea that in deep sleep or brains are firing random signals that our subconscious mind attempts to interpret as images or dreams. 

Don’t feel dirty Suffice to say that it is normal for people who have had traumatic experiences to have troubling dreams, and dreams with a sexual content are also perfectly normal. You shouldn’t feel guilty or dirty about having a dream. It is also common to dream about someone who is dead, or about someone you feel attracted to. A wise man once told me that you shouldn’t punish yourself for finding someone attractive, you should just discipline your thought life about them. Now, you cannot discipline your dream life, so you should not worry about these matters – just talk to God about it and pray that he will give you good dreams. 

Nightmares What about nightmares? Sometimes we can be troubled by the randomness of a dream, and talking about it to a friend is helpful. Was it all pizza? (Some people say that what your stomach digesting may affect your dreams.) Sometimes things can pray on your mind and a thread can come out in a dream and trouble you. I still get dreams about my son sometimes, dreams that I can wake up from upset and emotional. When I was only very small I remember seeing a face at the bottom of my bed and I just knew this was the devil taunting me – was I awake or was I dreaming, I will never know, but sometimes we need prayer to help us the conflict of our dreamscapes, and I have often known total freedom as the result of such prayer. 

The Bible So are all dreams random, or do they serve a purpose and can God use them to speak to us? The Bible gives us examples how God can speak to his people in dreams or even to those who don’t folly him. In Genesis 20:3, God spoke to Abimelech in a dream and told him that he would die unless he left Abraham’s wife alone. At a critical point in his life, In Gen 28:12, Jacob saw a ladder between the earth and heaven and angels ascending and descending. In Genesis 31, God spoke to Jacob and also to Laban in dreams. To Jacob he reminded him of the last dream and told him to return the way he came; to Laban it was a warning to treat Jacob with respect. In Genesis 37, Joseph gets into trouble by sharing a dream prematurely, and in Genesis 40 and 41 he gets out of trouble by interpreting another two dreams. God is quite clear that dreams are an appropriate method of contact with his people   

Num 12:6Then he told the two of them: “Pay attention to what I have to say! When there is a prophet among you, won’t I, the Lord , reveal myself to him in a vision? Won’t I speak with him in a dream? But that’s not how it is with my servant Moses, since he has been entrusted with my entire household! I speak to him audiblyand in visions, not in mysteries.If he can gaze at the image of the Lord , why aren’t you afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”  ISV

And also     

Acts 2:16 Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. ISV   

In Judges 7:15, God encourages Gideon with a dream In 1 King 3:5 God speaks to King Solomon in a dream In Daniel 2 the prophet interprets a dream and in Daniel 7 he has one himself. Joel prophesies what Peter quotes regarding dreams and visions. Then Joseph the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus, had a dream in which God spoke to him in Matt 1 and again in chapter 2. In chapter 27, Pilate wife suffers much in a dream. Deuteronomy 13 warns us against dividers of dreams – these are those who entice people into walking away from God. There are numbers of Christian ministries today that offer explanation of dreams, but I would beware before getting in too deep. 

Dreams vs. Visions Unless someone prophetically tells you something about your dream, I would also be wary against psychology being applied in a spiritual realm. How do you know when a dream is from God? Usually because you just know. Beware of dreams that purport to reveal some dark truth about people. Be slow to accept such things. Just take your dream back to God and ask him to make all things plain. Probably about once or twice a year I will get a dream that appears to have God’s fingerprints all over it. One that was amazing was when I dreamt I was preaching at Hollybush and I woke up, wrote down the points I had preached about and then at 7:45am Jim Wilkinson rang up to invite me to preach there. I preached what I had dreamed and it is still one of the most profound messages I have ever preached! Another time I dreamed about a new house, that I was moving to, I even knew the address, but have never found it! Not every dream comes to something! Sometimes God will explain something to me in a dream, especially when I am so close to a problem that I can’t see it. 

What is a vision then? I would describe it as a waking dream – almost like God is stood behind you with a film projector and shows you a movie! Clearly, it is normal for God to speak to us through preaching, through our own study of the word, and just whilst we are waiting in Him. Prophecy is also another way God speaks. Dreams are not the norm, for anyone, but they are another way that God will use. Be suspicious of people that sound like they are boasting about their dreams, but welcome them from time to time as a little love note from the Father. The important thing is that you leave yourself open to communication with God. Pray & listen. Sometimes God will burst onto our dreamscape, often when we cannot see the wood for the trees, or simply aren’t listening. In these last days, as Peter tells us, we will dream dreams and have visions. If you don’t, then worry not, if you do then neither should you strive, but in everything approach God prayerfully with thanksgiving and all will be made clear.