Issue #169 -------
January 17, 2005
A dream that is not interpreted
is like a letter that is unread.
"For God does speak -- now one way, now another -- though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, He may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword" (Job 33:14-18, NIV).
Dreams! --- We all have them. Some are pleasant, leaving us refreshed in the morning; others are terrifying, leaving us perspiring and perplexed. Throughout the ages men have pondered, "From whence cometh these dreams, and what purpose do they serve?!" D.H. Lawrence (1875-1961), in a letter to Edward Garnett dated 29 January 1912, wrote, "I can never decide whether my dreams are the result of my thoughts, or my thoughts the result of my dreams." Homer, who lived in the 8th century B.C., observed in his work The Iliad, "Dreams are sent by Zeus." Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) had a somewhat different view of this nightly phenomenon: "A dream is a psychosis" (An Outline of Psychoanalysis). Carl Jung (1875-1961), however, returned to a more spiritual focus in his analysis: "We have forgotten the age-old fact that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions."
Some have speculated that some dreams come from God, others from our own thoughts, and some even from Satan. Cicero (106-43 B.C.) wondered, "If true dreams come from God, from whence come the false ones?" Sometimes our dreams trouble us; perhaps suggesting more about our inner longings than we are comfortable acknowledging! John Cheever (1912-1982) wrote, "I do not understand the capricious lewdness of the sleeping mind." Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) admitted, "I am a worse man in my dreams than when awake." Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) observed, "We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleep." Perhaps William Hazlitt (1778-1830) expressed it best when he wrote, "We are not hypocrites in our sleep. The curb is taken off from our passions, and our imagination wanders at will. When awake, we check these rising thoughts, and fancy we have them not. In dreams, when we are off our guard, they return securely and unbidden."
Some ancient peoples, long before the onset of modern psychoanalysis, believed dreams to be the nightly visitations of various spirits, both good and evil. Some American Indian tribes, as well as other peoples throughout the globe, devised ways to filter these spirits. Pictured above is a Dream Catcher, which was placed above the bed to catch bad dreams and keep them from entering one's mind. The bad dreams would get caught up in the web, become entangled, and thus be unable to adversely affect the sleeper. Some of these devices were also constructed to capture the good dreams, so that they might be enjoyed later on during the waking hours. I'm sure we all, at times, have wished for something that could screen out the nightmares, or for some way to recapture that "great dream" which we can no longer remember when we awaken.
Dreams are fascinating! They comprise a vast, little understood corner of the universe that is our mind. There is also little doubt that God at times will use dreams to communicate with mankind. He has often done so in the past, and I see no reason why He would not continue to do so today. This is certainly not to suggest that you or I receive new truths, never before revealed to mankind, or which are contrary to the revelation of the inspired Scriptures. However, I have no doubt that He "communicates" to us daily in countless ways, affirming His truths and assuring our hearts and minds as we seek to walk with Him. It was prophesied that a time would come when God would pour out His Spirit upon mankind, and "your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions" (Joel 2:28). We see this being fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16f) and at the home of Cornelius (Acts 10:44f; 11:15f).
The Old Testament writings are filled with accounts of God speaking through the medium of dreams. Many of these accounts are very familiar to us. Who can forget the dream of Jacob regarding the goats (Gen. 31:10f), or his dream of the ladder (Gen. 28:12f)? Even the little children can recount the story of Pharoah's dreams which Joseph then was able to interpret (Gen. 41). In similar fashion, Daniel interprets the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2). The Lord God informed Moses, Aaron and Miriam, "If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream" (Num. 12:6). We see this happening time and again throughout the Scriptures. Many false prophets, of course, tried to take advantage of this to promote their own ideas and agendas -- "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, 'I had a dream, I had a dream!' ... who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another" (Jer. 23:25,27). Zech. 10:2 also condemns those who "tell false dreams." Such people were even to be found in the NT church (Jude 8).
The world does not always take kindly to dreamers, however .... even those dreamers whose motives are pure, or who may indeed be presenting a godly message to those desperately in need of hearing it. Joseph discovered this at a very young age. While still in his teens, "Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more" (Gen. 37:5). His dreams continued, however, and he related these dreams to them, "So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words" (vs. 8). On one occasion his father Jacob sent him out to check on his brothers, and when they saw him approaching, they said, "Behold, the dreamer cometh!" (vs. 19). Not wanting to hear any more from him, "they plotted against him to put him to death" (vs. 18) .... "Then let us see what will become of his dreams!" (vs. 20). Yes, sometimes having a dream can prove fatal.
I can't help but think of the famous speech "I Have A Dream," which was delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. It was a vision of freedom. On April 4, 1968 his life was ended by an assassin's bullet while he was on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King had also learned the hard way that men of vision are seldom appreciated by those who promote oppression rather than preach freedom. On the day before his death, in a speech titled "I've Been To The Mountaintop," King stated at the very close of that final speech of his life, "Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
King was a dreamer. He dreamed of freedom. He envisioned a better day; a day when all men could be one, and those barriers that divide us would come tumbling down. King never saw that day, but he knew the One who could bring that day to pass. We still long for that day today. In his speech of 1963, King said, "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." He also had a dream "where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers." He ended that speech with this challenging vision: "With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. ... When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"
Like Martin Luther King, whom we remembered today, I too "have a dream!" I dream of freedom; liberty in Christ for those who are enslaved by legalistic, patternistic tyrants and who are in bondage to the tedious tenets of the traditions of mere men. I have "been to the mountaintop," and I have seen in God's Word the promise of oneness in Christ Jesus; unity of the Spirit; harmony among brethren. "We've got some difficult days ahead," as we struggle together to bring about that glorious day when ALL God's precious children can walk hand-in-hand as one family; where we are judged not by our various creeds, but by our character; where spirituality triumphs over sectarianism; faith over faction! "I may not get there with you," but I will devote whatever remaining time God chooses to grant me in this life to the promotion and realization of that great dream. Though we may never realize it fully here, I know that one day we shall all join hands at the throne and shout as one, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" Lord, hasten that day!
From a Reader in Georgia:
Thank you so much for your Reflections. They are a regular source of thought provoking material and enlightenment. I look forward to each one.
From a Reader in Texas:
I have been reading your web site for several years now, and I want to thank you for all your thoughts. I read your debate covering marriage and divorce, and felt the first hope I had had in many years that maybe my life was not so messed up that I wouldn't be able to find some way back to God. Thanks so much!
From a Reader in Florida:
Once again you have inspired me to a deep study of the breaking of bread. I have believed for some time now that since eating was a very vital part of Jewish worship (eating some of the animal offered in sacrifice and actually eating as a part of worship), and since the NT talks about "love feasts," that the eating involved in the memorial of the Lord's death might have been simply the setting aside of a certain portion of the meal and dedicating that portion as an act of remembrance. I know one thing, the traditionalists among us have made a number of regulations and requirements that God hasn't made. Keep up the good work of challenging us to think and study.
From a Minister in Ohio:
Great article on the breaking of bread! When I was a young preacher boy I preached in some country churches in eastern Ohio. Some of the churches were one cuppers. Ironically, most used two cups -- one for each side of the church building. My brother would sometimes attend with me and before services check to see which side had the tobacco chewers and snuff dippers. Of course, both sides usually had a mixture of both. It was okay to add a little nicotine or chewing gum to the Lord's Supper, but you'd better not have that third or fourth cup!
From an Elder in Texas:
Thanks, Al, for this thorough research and balanced expression -- both consistent with your usual careful work!
From a Methodist Pastor in Iowa:
I just read your Reflections article on the Age of Accountability on the Internet. I found it very interesting. I have a great interest in working with our youth in confirmation and church camp, knowing this is a very crucial time in their lives to make a decision for Christ. I would be interested in receiving your Reflections.
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
Concerning your Reflections on "Breaking Bread," I have always considered these verses to mean a shared meal. Acts 2:42 and 2:46 are more clearly understood by the verses that connect them, from which we can clearly see the communal spirit of these new converts. And, as you so eloquently pointed out, the communal meal signified their common bond. Jude warns about those deceivers who feast with the church pretending to be brethren (Jude 12). Paul explains the reverent nature of the Lord's Supper and how often it should be observed: As often as you desire to proclaim the Lord's death until He returns (1 Cor. 11:26). For me, that's pretty often; at least once a week. It's sad, but as long as men feel compelled to earn their salvation, they will continue to defend the laws they write.
From a Reader in California:
One of the things that I find ironic about the patternists and their legalistic view of the Lord's Supper, is that while they will argue ad nauseam regarding the manner in which the bread is broken, they totally ignore the fact that the first Lord's Supper occurred, most likely, on a Thursday. If they are going to pick only one proper day to observe the Lord's Supper, they should choose Thursday, if they are going to be true to their patternistic principles. I think logic would teach us that there is never an inappropriate time to remember the precious sacrifice of our dear Lord and Savior in the fellowship of our brothers and sisters. I am baffled that anyone, no matter how steeped in tradition, would ever think to put a limit on how much or how often one can meditate on Jesus' sacrifice for our sins.
I believe that the Scriptures and your article are in agreement (that's an excellent state to be in!) in that they show that the early Christians lived in such a state of love for God and unity of Spirit that it became difficult to determine when the regular meal ended and the Lord's Supper began. Wouldn't it be great to be in a fellowship that was so in love with Christ that all encounters were that spiritual? I believe that it is possible when we get our minds off the emblems themselves, and focused back on what they represent: the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and what it means to us. Keep up the great work!
From a Reader in (Unknown):
Your article "Breaking Bread" was very informing. Christianity is and has always been a "heart thing," far above "law things." In God's definition of repentance, by way of the prophet Ezekiel (chapter 18), we read of Him telling Israel to "get yourselves a new heart and new spirit." God help us if we forget this!
From a Reader in Montana:
I believe those in the Church of Christ who say we are "silent where the Bible is silent, and speak where the Bible speaks" disobey that creed more than any other people under heaven. I'm flabbergasted hearing about the fuming, fussing and fighting that's going on among the separated groups over matters about which the Bible has nothing to say one way or another. As for the phrase "breaking bread," you have to strain really hard to get the Communion out of that, and if you want to make an issue out of the time to take it, you have got to strain even harder. If you take Communion at night some time during the week, you just might be closer to the "pattern" than any other time. After all, it was called "the Lord's Supper." As Often as you do it -- this could be once a day in the privacy of my home with two or three gathered in His name. I don't know what God thinks about the way Christians behave and act with each other over such trivial matters, but I see a bad case of stupidity and ignorance. Old traditions don't die or fade away .... they are just passed on.
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