Thursday, February 1, 2018

Three Keys to Understanding Dreams

Did you know that the God who flung the stars into space longs to communicate with us? He is a good Father, and His desire is to share His heart with His sons and daughters. One of the most profound ways that He communicates with us is through dreams. 

For far too long God's people have literally been in the dark when it comes to the subject of dreams. Scientists tell us that everyone dreams but not everyone remembers their dreams. Whether or not this is true, we do know from the Biblical record that God speaks to His people through dreams. Joseph had dreams and interpreted others dreams long before he became second in command in Egypt. In fact, one could say that dreams paved the way from his homeland to ruling in Egypt and saving his family and his nation from starvation. Another Joseph, in the New Testament was given dreams which saved the life of the Messiah, little baby Jesus. This baby went on to save His people and all who would come to Him. There are many, many examples of dreams in the Scripture which were given to guide, warn and prepare the people of God.

So, if God is speaking to us in our dreams, how can we know what they mean? I hope to give a few keys that will help you discover what God may be saying to you. But, first I will tell you what I repeatedly say to my students who come through the prophetic classes I teach. The number one reason God gives revelation is to cause us to pray! The heart of God is longing to connect with those who love Him. He is not just speaking in dreams in order to give us information. His desire is for encounter and intimacy. In other words, He wants us to know Him. That is what every lover desires: to be known by the one we love. The first key to understanding your dreams is to understand that He gives us revelation so that we would seek Him. Dreams are a means to cause us to pray and seek His face. So, this is the first place to start. It may seem elementary, but we often overlook this most important key. We much more easily turn to others to discover the meaning of our dreams, but God holds the answers if the dreams are from Him.

The second key to understanding your dreams is to determine the source of any dream you might have. Dreams can come from our own minds processing the events of the day or the season we are in. They can be influenced by physical factors such as pregnancy, what we have eaten, hormonal changes and many other factors. I also believe that whatever we have allowed our selves to be influenced by can affect our dreams. By this I mean that if we have filled our minds with ungodly images from some form of media, we open our souls to be influenced by the enemy. Dreams can come from different sources but if a dream is from God we want to pay attention. So, it is vital that we learn to discern when a dream is from God. Some clues might be that we sense God's presence while are dreaming, we hear or see Scripture in the dream or the dream contains Biblical symbols. Another indication might be that we are awakened suddenly or if we can recall the dream vividly days or even weeks later.

The third key to understanding your dreams is interpreting the message. What do the symbols or people in our dreams mean? Unless the message is clear, our dreams will not benefit us. Remember, if the dream is from God, He is wanting to communicate something with us. So as always, I remind you to go first to God and pray, asking Him to give you further revelation. Then, you can look up any symbols in Scripture for possible meanings. If there are other people in your dreams you might ask yourself what these people might symbolize to you. Dreams are usually very personal and God will speak in language that makes sense to you. So, what one person in your dream might mean to me may be different than what that same person means to you. As with most things, experience is a great tool for understanding dreams. Keeping track of your dreams can help you to understand their meanings more easily. I always encourage people to keep a journal for their dreams.

This third key, interpretation, is perhaps the most challenging aspect of understanding dreams. So I caution you with this fact: many immature believers have found themselves off track because of misguided interpretation. If God is the source of the dream then the interpretation belongs to Him. Both Joseph and Daniel acknowledged this and God used them powerfully to unveil revelation through interpreting dreams (Genesis 40:8, 41:16, Daniel 2:26-28). I would caution you to avoid interpretation of your own making. We can be good at deceiving ourselves when we want to! Instead of just interpreting your dreams alone, especially over very important relationships or decisions, I encourage you to share the dream with more seasoned believers. Tell them what you think God might be showing you, but allow them to offer their own insights. Their experience and history walking with God can offer you a better opportunity to understand the true message of your dream. Again, I recommend submitting any revelation to your leaders if you feel that it would require a substantial life change. Wisdom and timing are key essentials in following the will of God.

These are just a few keys for understanding dreams, though it is just scratching the surface. If you're wanting to know more of what God may be saying to you, I invite you to check out the resources and messages we have available for free on our website, therivermontana.com. And if you're in the area, come and join us for one of our meetings at The River. We are a people that love to hear the voice of God, and we welcome you to seek God with us.

Focus 2018 - Post 12

As we mature in our relationship with the Lord we will grow in our understanding of how He is the author of all life and everything good. He has the master plan of what real abundant life looks like and how it will flow to us and through us. And even though the very life we have pulsing through our finite bodies is completely from Him at every moment, He sets before us opportunities and choices to align ourselves with His life flow as it is in heaven. And so He comes in His mercy to speak in various ways into our hearts to direct us into the "paths of life" (Psalm 23:3). Because we find ourselves so often in a weakened, sick, depressed and broken-down state, His word of life comes to us as a remedy to what ails us. But unlike medicine we take to restore our health, His instructions reveal what we have not known before to walk in paths we have been blinded to or ignorant of. The beauty of the instruction of the Lord is that if we will align ourselves to it we become transformed and live differently from that time forward. Our path gets brighter, our load gets lighter, and life increases in us and through us to others who know us. 

In Isaiah 58, Father God addresses the mess they are in, and the futility of their choices, which are sucking the life out of them and their nation, because no new transformation that sets us free from cycles of death can take root in us without seeing our broken-down state in some measure and owning our past choices in our words, thoughts, attitudes and deeds. And our God is good enough that He will not offer just a bandaid or drug to mask the pain. He goes to the root of our problem and offers a true remedy. And once we embrace the remedy in obedience and trust, no matter how much it may challenge us, we connect ourselves to His wisdom and light. "For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light" (Psalm 36:9). 

As with the Israelites in Isaiah 58, our way forward in 2018 is to have the eyes of our hearts open to the One Who is "The Fountain Of Life" and has all the answers. King David made it clear in his psalm that God's life will become our life when we are "with" Him. Every instruction of the Lord (and rebukes) that we align ourselves with cause us to be "with" Him. Suddenly light increases by the Holy Spirit and new life springs forth. Righteousness is established and the blessings that come with it.

If you believe that our Father wants to give us great restoration and success in this year ahead of us, let us ask Him to give us a heart that is hungry for His light, ready to follow His directions/corrections. Let us ask, as the apostle Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:17, that the Father of Glory may give to us a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 11

Are we prepared this year to have our Lord ask us questions? This is what we see in Isaiah 58. This is part of our relationship with Him. We know we are called to listen to His voice and read/heed His word to us. But sometimes the questions He asks us can be more instructional and transforming as we ponder what He is asking. And when He asks us a question it is not because He needs information. It is for the purpose of awakening something in our thinking or perspective.

Each of us have come to believe things and draw certain conclusions that seem right to us throughout life. We have developed a mindset, a set of lenses by which we look out at the world and make our choices, with a hope of certain outcomes. We have adopted certain values that influence our priorities and practices. And, mostly hidden to our conscious awareness, we have built defenses and fortresses within our mind and emotions to compensate for the insecurity and inferiority we deal with every day. Left to ourselves, we live handicapped and deceived, never questioning the realities we hold to for living and surviving.

Hence, when we hear and entertain questions from God, it creates an opening for us to look at what we have been holding onto and practicing everyday. His questions can stop us dead in our tracks to consider our ways and plans: "Is this the fast I have chosen?" (Isaiah 58:5). His questions can reveal our unbelief toward Him or wrong understanding of His heart: "Who made your mouth?" (Exodus 4:11). Sometimes His questions will awaken a new level of faith and possibility that we were blind to: "Is there anything to hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:13).

His question is meant to provide an instrument by which we use faculties of our mind and heart to discover and take hold of what we did not previously see or understand or believe. New light comes with new opportunity for something heavenly to be unfolded in our lives and our walk with Him.

Questions can be more challenging to us than being given information. We more easily filter/resist new information and instruction from God with our present view of things and our reason. Questions force us to grapple with what God is asking and we will find our present understanding by which we operate to be lacking. And this sets us up for self-confrontation to deal with our lack of being in alignment with God and His heaven.

Reformation and restoration will come to us and the church as we embrace and engage the questions God will ask us this year. Can you position your heart to receive whatever He may ask you in 2018?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 10

When we identify ourselves as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, hopefully we are also identifying with His plans and purposes, not just His blessings to His kids. And this is a real game-changer as we stand at the beginning of this year 2018 with hopes and dreams for the year. It is part of our human nature, as God created us in His image, to look into our future with hope and desire, for our Father also operates in hope and with desire. Unfortunately, most of humanity tries to muster up a confident expectation for good things to come based in themselves, according to what they feel, think and see from their flesh and natural mind, which is connected to the world.

But you and I have received through Jesus a new nature by which we can access the heart and mind of Christ, connecting us to the very heartbeat of heaven's plans and purposes. And by the Holy Spirit we are given the ability to love what God loves and desire what He desires. And here is the game-changer as we step into 2018. I am given the opportunity to displace my own fleshly (often fear-based) desires with God's and to hitch my wagon load of needs/dreams to His all-powerful wisdom and ability, as He works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). Every time one of God's people set their heart toward God's desire and purpose, giving Him an avenue to reveal His excellent and superior goodness, His glory can be seen in the earth by others.

In Isaiah 58 God invites His people to consider what they are choosing and why. Did you know that every time God comes to us and presses this issue with us, it is a gift to us. We are prone to blindness when it comes to own heart's desires and motivations. He asked of them, "Is this what I choose, is this acceptable to me?" (v. 5). He calls them to ask themselves if they are seeking/acting/planning according to their own pleasure, their own practices/habits, and their own words/thoughts, rather than His (v. 13). Is our Father a selfish, ego-centered person, wanting to control us? No! Rather, He presses us with such questions in order to open our eyes and help bring us into alignment and focus with the absolute best that heaven has already prepared for us in this year. Wow! What a blessing! But the choice is ours.

How about this as a description of your 2018: "Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 58:14). Ask yourself today, what does delighting in the Lord look like and how might I rearrange the priorities and practices of my life to pursue this with passion?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 9

In Isaiah 58 we can see that God's heart is not so much focused on teaching the people about fasting but to help them arrive in a place of blessing where the heaven's are open over them and they fulfill their destiny as a people. The people had wandered far from knowing what this was like and why they existed as a nation under the covenant of God. The nation that King David had built up with its foundations in worship and keeping God's laws, with the ark of God's Presence in their midst, had become just a shell of the former glory. And the glory which had come down numerous times in the temple that Solomon built was no longer a reality they knew or desired. Instead idols were throughout the land and demonic worship and sorcery had become the source of power.

So when Isaiah had his encounter with the glory of God which we read of in Isaiah 6, it was a wake-up call to Isaiah of what they all had been missing. It also was a plumb line for the nation of Israel calling them back into alignment with what set their nation apart from all others. It was not just their temple or their laws, it was the very glory of God in their midst which caused them to know that their God was utterly holy and above all other Gods. This glory created within their hearts wonder, worship, trust and sanctification.

Isaiah reminds the people again in chapter 58 that if they will align themselves again with what God is seeking, "your light will break out like the dawn... the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard... your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday" (Vs. 8-10). These are all references to the glory of the Lord coming into their midst and effecting the quality and impact of their lives. The darkness of the world that had crept into their nation and opened them up to destruction would be pushed back. They would have light again. They would become light again!

And this is what Isaiah so powerfully brought forth in Isaiah 60. As I wrote before, Isaiah 58 -61 really all flow together. What God was trying to bring these Israelites into, as well as us today, was the fullness of His glory in their midst. This would be the answer to all that they needed and hoped for.

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples. But the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising!" (Isaiah 60:1-3)

And this is where Holy Spirit is leading His church again today. 2018 is to be a year of increased glory in our midst. I believe that if we will truly focus ourselves into our Father's heart, following the Son, filled with Holy Spirit, our alignment will become such that the glory will be seen again among us. We will bring about the fulfillment of our destiny that causes "the knowledge of the glory of God to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). Let's shake the darkness and stir the nations!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 8

In yesterday's post I wrote on the passion of God revealed in Isaiah 58 to break all forms of bondage and captivity through the anointing of the Spirit as referenced by Isaiah in chapter 61. Just like Jesus, the Spirit of Lord is upon believers with an anointing to do what He did, destroying the works of the devil around us in other people's lives. It may be to heal the sick around us, cast out their demons, prophesy over them God's favorable plans or something as simple as "dividing our bread" with them, sharing our resources to meet their obvious need with love in the Name of Jesus.

Jesus told His disciples as He sent them out ahead of Him to various places He would be coming to, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). This would be the evidence that "the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (v 7). It takes the rule of God as it is in Heaven to truly break bondages and yokes in people's lives. And giving away what you receive is the hallmark of those of us who carry the power of the Kingdom to change someone else's life.

We see in Acts 4 & 5 how this worked in the early church after the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost. "And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them... For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need... At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people... and all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number" (Acts 4:32-35, 5:12-14).

When God's people are walking in the anointing of God that "breaks the yoke" off people, they will see people in their bondages with different eyes. And they will see themselves as powerful against the captivity that Satan has brought people into. This sense of Holy Spirit power and anointing releases a generosity and freedom to give to others with faith/expectation for a flow of heaven to bring even more resource and supply without end. "Give and it will be given unto you, pressed down and shaken together and overflowing into your lap" Jesus said (Luke 6:38). And you enter into a level of joy and freedom yourself as you divide your bread with others and clothe the naked, satisfying their need.

One of the ways Margie and I have found opportunity to do this in a simple and practical way has happened when we go out to eat. I have been a waiter/server in a restaurant myself trying to feed my family off the tips I receive above my minimum wage earnings. We try to see the server through those eyes in our interactions with the server during the meal and when we are deciding how large a tip to leave. We all are more generous naturally with exceptional service and food. But what if the food and/or service was not only lacking but awful? It has been our joy to use our love, compassion and power of generosity to make that server's day by "shocking" them with a tip and written encouraging word that they would never have expected, but really needed. Most of the time we really can not afford to give like this but we know where our supply comes from. We love the thought that whatever Satan may be working in that server's life to bring hopelessness and fear just got hit with an anointed and strategic sledge hammer from heaven! Let's do this!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Focus. 2018 - Post 7

If you have been following this blog you should have a good sense of what is written in Isaiah 58. It is not a long chapter but loaded with revelation about God Himself; not only His priorities but what is behind those priorities. What we see is an intense hatred for anything that brings bondage and captivity in the lives of those He created for freedom. When God speaks through Isaiah to call for a fast that He has chosen, He reveals His true heart of love: Loosen the bonds, undo the bands, break every yoke and let the oppressed go free. We must understand this about our Heavenly Father if we are to walk with Him in this world. It is a passion for Him.

That is why we read scriptures in the New Testament that say, "It is for freedom that Christ set you free, therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1), and, "Now the Lord is a Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17).

One of the primary purposes for Jesus to bring the Kingdom God (His rule and reign) was to set people free from the brutal regime of Satan's oppression. "He came to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Peter declared to a group of gentiles in Acts 10:38, "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and power and how He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him." One of the great joys of reading the gospels is to see all the stories of how Jesus released heaven's provision for freedom to thousands of the sick, the demonized, the poor, the broken, the estranged, the religious proud, and those who had no hope. And ultimately He breaks the power of death and judgement over all of us who would receive Him, removing the yoke of orphan as He gives the right to become sons and daughters of God.

Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 58. But it was not by starting a social justice group or food bank or any other organized relief program to help people get a leg up in life. He revealed the true means of fulfilling God's heart for the oppressed when he took the scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth that was handed to Him to read. He found Isaiah 61. We see in Luke 4 that He began to read to the people a passage that they all knew and had longed to see fulfilled in their nation, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." After He read all of Isaiah 61 he sat down in the seat of the teacher and declared, "This prophecy/promise of God for which you have been waiting, is NOW FULFILLED in your hearing!"

The ministry of Jesus is explained by Isaiah 61. And Isaiah 61 was the answer to God's call to the people in Isaiah 58! Isaiah 58-61 were all tied together. The answer to setting people free from yokes that had come through Satan's kingdom of darkness was the anointing of the Spirit of God upon a people who would carry the heart of God within them by His Spirit resting on them. Freedom and liberty, release of captives and those in bondage would be the very nature of those who were in Christ and filled with the Spirit.

And this is why Jesus told His disciples in John 14:12, "Whoever has faith in Me, the works I do, He shall also do, and even greater works than these." They would also receive this same Spirit that was on Jesus as a Son. And wherever they went this anointing would break out through them to set captives free. And we see a description of the early church in Acts 4:34, "For there was not a needy person among them... and the people held them in high esteem...but even carried their sick out into the streets to be healed" by the church. Wow! That is called releasing freedom and hope to a city and nation!

As we look into 2018, can we seek the Lord for more of His Spirit to be upon us? Can we be determined to carry the anointing of God and gain His heart for releasing captives and breaking yokes? Can we expect that we will see resources in our hands multiplied to feed thousands? Let's do this!