That Time God Spoke To Me In A Dream

What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had? Mine happened on Friday night, and I’m still recovering from it.

I rarely have a dream I can remember. To this day, there are maybe a few dreams that I’ve had that have stuck with me – mostly these are nightmares of loved ones dying, me falling indefinitely, or being lost in a sea of clowns at the circus.

My imagination is a scary place.

So when I woke up on Saturday with a dream lingering still in my mind, I knew I should pay attention.

THE DREAM:

I still remember vividly being the father of three beautiful girls: an emotional and moody teenager, an overly energetic 10-year old, and a small delicate baby. The dream took place in what I imagine is my childhood home. The only child whose name I remember was the youngest, whose name was Charis, which means grace in Greek. I remember wrestling to encourage the oldest, settling down the middle, and holding the youngest in my arms. I woke up feeling so out-of-sorts. I felt love for children I have never met – a longing I’ve never experienced before. I felt my love for them in my sleep and that love is still echoing in my heart days later.

Every night I’ve gone to bed asking God to let me meet them again in my sleep. And every morning I’ve woken up disappointed. I have never had a “prophetic” dream before, but because of the impact of this one dream and how much I’ve dwelled on it, I started asking God if He was trying to tell me something.

THAT’S WHEN IT HIT ME…

Last month my mentor told me that his goal for me this year was to “grow in grace” – to be easier on myself and my role as a husband, pastor, and child of God. I strive for perfection. I put my value in what I do. And I gauge that value on others’ opinions of me. So I always feel like I can be better, or if people really knew me they wouldn’t like me, or that I am always “performing” and never able to truly be myself. My mentor knows this and was encouraging me to look past others and see myself as God sees me.

So it hit me that these three children are representing my life. The oldest was me as a teenager, lost and depressed, locking myself in my room to write songs, searching for meaning, wondering if there was more. Then I found new life and hope in Jesus, and with that came energy and excitement. I was a new person, completely different than the depressed kid of the past. But now my life has given birth to something else – Grace. And the same way my heart has been longing for Charis every night before bed, my heart needs to long for God’s grace.

I finally came to the realization of this truth three days after the dream. It happened Tuesday morning before I did my devotions. Later I shared it with our church staff, finally sharing the details of the dream and the name “Charis,” something I didn’t even share with my wife. I just wanted to share what I felt God was speaking to me. It was good to get it out there and put my faith in what God was speaking into my life. I was also hoping I would get some confirmation that I was hearing correctly what I felt God was loudly screaming in my ear.

About an hour after all of this went down, I got a message from my dad that he was at a hip coffee shop he thought I would like. He said it reminded him of one we used to frequent together in Ohio. He knows I love coffee, so he thought I’d appreciate it. With the message he sent a picture of the coffee shop. This is what the coffee shop’s name was along with what was written under it:

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Charis:

That which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness.

Undeserved kindness or favor.

THE COFFEE SHOP’S NAME WAS CHARIS!!!

WHAT?!

Okay God… I get it.

I needed to not just think God was speaking. I needed to know – especially with the weight of this dream and the depth of emotion it made me feel. And God spoke in such a powerful way!

SO WHAT’S THE POINT?

I need to let Grace grow in my life, let it develop and mature. I need to nurture it and care for it like it is my own flesh and blood. I need to feel it in my heart of hearts – God’s never-ending grace and mercy. No matter how far I’ve fallen or how short of the mark I am, Jesus still died for me and is offering me grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And while I don’t deserve this grace, I need to remember that no one deserves it. That’s why it’s grace.

What is God trying to speak to you? Are you listening? Are you waiting and asking for clarity when He speaks? Is He wanting you to understand something regarding His personhood – like He was speaking to me about His grace? Is He reminding you He is with you in your pain or uncertainty? Maybe He is encouraging to take a step of faith with a job or in reaching out to a family member or friend. But we need to be listening. And when He speaks, we must not dismiss it. So let’s open our ears, let’s listen to our hearts, and let’s expect God to continue to give us visions and dreams like we’ve never had before!

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9, The Message

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The Hudson and Our Inheritance – Galatians 3:1-18

Galatians 3:1-18

The Hudson River isn’t too far from where I live. It kind of reminds me of a dirty salty version of the Mississippi River, but that is beside the point. Imagine you are feeling a little risky – a little adventurous. You think, “I can swim across this thing.” So when the weather gets right, you go to the bank, wetsuit on, and just jump right in. Unfortunately for you, sitting on the couch everyday doesn’t count as proper training for something so strenuous, and you very quickly get winded. You are reaching the point of exhaustion, and to your grim despair, you aren’t even half way across. But you can’t go any longer. As soon as you accept your fate and make your peace with God, a friendly old man in a fishing boat comes and offers you a lift across.

I know at first you might be wondering why a man is out on the Hudson in a small fishing boat, but that doesn’t matter. You are just happy he was at the right place at the right time. You hop in and thank him for his hospitality. Though after a few seconds, your stubborn self catches wind and tells the man you want to get out… You can swim the rest of the way across by yourself.

I’m not too much of a swimmer. Even though I grew up right next to a private lake where I would swim EVERY day during the summer, I am not a strong swimmer. I don’t know the right strokes or how to breathe properly in the water. Not to mention I am incredibly out of shape. So anytime I go across a long bridge or see a wide river or a big lake I just think how hopeless I would be if I tried to swim across it. So, this illustration speaks to me.

After Paul shares his proposition for writing the Galatians in 2:16, He goes on in chapter 3 to explain that God has already given His Spirit to the Galatians, and that the Galatians don’t have to follow the Law if they already have the Spirit. And since they have the Spirit, they no longer have to feel like they need to mark up their flesh through circumcision. Here Paul takes a considerable amount of time to contrast; The Law and faith, the flesh and the Spirit, and being cursed verses being justified.

This is a persuasive argument from Paul. When I read this section I think of how I would write persuasive papers in high school. Appeal to emotion, refer to someone who has some level of authority, and weave some modus ponens in there like a fiend. Paul is the same way here.

First, he starts by appealing to the Galatians’ personal experience. For the Galatians to deny what God has done in their lives through the Spirit would be ignorance. In verse 5, Paul reminds them that God worked miracles among them and the Spirit moved through them because of their faith, not because they followed the Law. Paul even described the crucifixion of Christ to them so vividly when he first presented the gospel that he says in verse 1 that it was as though Christ was crucified before their own eyes. How can they deny what God had done in their lives?

Paul then goes on to present an argument from authority. Now, when we present an argument from authority, we usually quote doctors or specialists. Paul quotes a ton of Scripture in Galatians 3:10-14. If the Galatians were getting tempted by Jewish Christians to become more “Jewish” and follow the Mosaic Law, it would be harder for them to make an argument if Paul is arguing from the same source of authority that the Jewish Christians are.

Here Paul uses the promise of Abraham, the first “Jew,” the Pillar of the People of God. Paul is showing that God fulfilled the promise made to Abraham in Genesis – the promise that God would bless all the nations through him. This was only done through Christ, who is Abraham’s chosen offspring. God not only is fulfilling something that predates the Law, but is using an example of some one who was made right with God before being circumcised. Paul even says in Galatians 3:7 – “That it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” The Galatians, by being people of faith, now are considered welcomed in to the People of God and hold equal status to that of the Jews. This was without the Law, but was through their faith in Jesus Christ!

Here’s what happened. The Galatians were drowning and God saved them. They were warm and safe, but they are thinking about jumping back in the cold and dirty Hudson. Paul is trying to show them that if the Galatians go back to thinking they can do it on their own they will sink. They no longer need to follow the Law of Moses. It hasn’t helped them thus far. It won’t help them in the future. Next Paul will show them that they need to follow the Law of Christ – following the one who perfected the Law of Moses. This can only be done through faith.

Have you jumped out of the boat?

Maybe you are like the Galatians, and denying something God has done in your life. How can you deny what God has done in YOUR own life? It doesn’t matter if it was last week or in the last century, don’t forget the moments when God spoke to you. Don’t forget how God changed your family. Don’t forget that time that God healed you when the doctors said it was hopeless.

Sometimes what God has done in the past is the only thing that will keep us going in the present.

Or have you forgotten what the Gospel is about? It isn’t about following a set of rules and regulations. It isn’t about the Law of Moses. It isn’t about attending church, or going to Sunday School, or playing on the worship team. The Gospel is about how Christ came to reconcile a world that was condemned. Let’s not lose sight of Christ. Let’s not jump out of the boat – not even for humanitarianism, hedonism, or “morally sound deism.”

Remember what God did in history when Christ came and made us Children of Abraham – Children of His inheritance. Remember what God has done in your life through His Spirit. And never forget… It all centers on Christ’s faithful act on the cross and our faith in him.

Redefinition and Justification – Overview of Galatians 2:15-21

Galatians 2:15-21

“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, cause I’ve built my life around you. But time makes you bolder. Even children get older, and I’m getting older too.” –Fleetwood Mac

I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a loved one. I’m not sure what it is like for a couple to go through a divorce after being married for years. The loss of security that comes when one loses their job after being employed for decades brings no emotional response. But I am sure it is hard. For one to completely change what they once knew, who they once were, and what they used to do because of a cataclysmic event is something I can’t really relate to.

Sure I am a child of divorced parents. Yes, I went to college out of state. And I did move across country for a job opportunity. But I didn’t have a family I was bringing with me. I am relatively new to this thing called “life,” so all these changes didn’t affect me as they would someone who was more accustomed to a certain way of life. I couldn’t imagine how it would impact me having to move across the U.S. if I had a family I would have to take with me. I couldn’t imagine the fear that would come if I would lose my job having to provide for people I love.

This section is the main idea of the whole letter to the Galatians. If someone told me to explain this letter in a couple sentences, I would just point them to Galatians 2:15-21. Here Paul takes a look back at what he went through with calling Peter out on Peter’s hypocrisy. This is probably a summary of what Paul said to Peter, along with some personal testimony, theology (ideas about God), soteriology (understanding salvation), and ecclesiology (understanding what the church is).

Witherington states: “[This] argument is not basically about getting in [to heaven], nor even about how one stays in, but rather about how one goes on in Christ and with the aid of the Holy Spirit.” Here Paul develops his argument stating that to be in Christ does not mean that one follows the Law of Moses but instead the Law of Christ. Paul balances the works of the law with the faithful act of Christ’s crucifixion. This is why he says: “One is not justified by works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:16b).

Paul is saying that God wants all people to forget who they once were and get a new identity in Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Paul is saying that he has to strip his identity as a Jew, and he now has to redefine who he is in Christ. He is encouraging the Galatians to also not become Jewish, get circumcised, and follow the works of the Law. Paul is encouraging them to find their identity instead in Christ.

This would be like someone getting divorced after many years. This would be like someone changing their career right before it was time for them to retire. To be a Christian one had to completely change how they once lived. For many, this would be no easy task. Many grew up being Jewish and following the Law, or they were Gentile and merely did as they pleased. To now go from doing those things to following the Law of Christ would be like completely redefining who they were.

Have you redefined yourself since becoming a Christian? Do you see yourself as your own, or do you see your life as being one in Christ? We need to be unified in Christ! We need to discover who we are as individuals and as a community through the understanding of who Jesus is as the Christ. The gospel is the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. It is about how Christ has come to set a wicked world to rights. How has the gospel affected your life? Has Christ’s faithful act of dying on a cross transformed your life?

Take time to reflect on who you once were and who you are now that you are in Christ. Take time to remember what Christ has done for you through dying on the cross – the love, the sacrifice, and the implications of that event. Take a moment to remind yourself of your new identity in Christ.

The First of Faith – Galatians 1:23

“They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’” –Galatians 1:23

Do you have a friend that is so seemingly stereotypical that you actually use his or her name as a replacement for the verb that describes them? I know people who have friends who always try to pull off the most over-the-top events, but they end up royally failing every time. Eventually, they just started using their name to describe when a great plan goes wrong. Like, “Man, you totally ‘Bobby’d’ that surprise party,” except with someone else’s name, because I am awesome. Or maybe you tell someone not to be such a “Bobby,” like this friend’s name automatically makes someone the stalest thing since unsliced bread. You know the term, “Debbie Downer” probably originated from a pessimistic, sorry soul named Deborah. It must suck to be Deborah.

It is strange here how Paul switches out the word “gospel” for the word “faith.” Not only so, but instead of just using a general term for faith here, he includes the definite article with it (“the”) as a means of making this a signpost of Christianity. Dunn states: “‘[Faith]’ had become so characteristic of the new movement to which [Paul] now belonged, that it could function as an identity marker, an identification which was sufficiently distinct to denote and define the movement itself—as equally the talk of ‘preaching Christ’.” The fact that “faith” and “Christ” or “gospel” is interchangeable here speaks magnitudes about the focus of Christianity and what made it different from Judaism.

Faith must have been the major difference between Christianity and Judaism. Before Christ, one had to be Jewish to be one of God’s people, and this came from birth. They had to be circumcised, and they had to then follow the Law of Moses. Now, to be part of the people of God, the Church, one now only has to believe in Christ. This must be what Paul was persecuting before he became a Christian. He was persecuting those who followed this “faith” in Christ. This is why after Paul was saved the Judeans proclaimed: “He who used to persecute us is now preaching THE FAITH he once tried to destroy.”

This is arguably Paul’s first time ever using the word, “faith.” The letter to the Galatians also has the most concentrated use of “faith” in any of Paul’s writings – being used 22 times in this six chapter epistle.

This idea of being saved by faith alone is what the Judaizers were teaching against. They were coming and telling the Galatians they had to be circumcised. They were telling them that accepting Jesus as King by faith wasn’t good enough. Paul is showing that he and the church in Judea stand together on preaching this gospel. This is also showing that at the earliest stages of Christianity, the focus has always been on faith, and not on anything else. Even while Paul was persecuting the church, he was doing so because of faith. Faith is at the heart of the gospel – not the act of circumcision or anything else these false teachers in Galatia were saying.

So how do you see the gospel? Do you see it as a bunch of rules you have to follow? Do you see it as going to church once a week? Or do you see it as following Christ through faith? Christianity is at the foremost about faith – faith in Christ. We don’t follow the Law, we follow the One who perfected it. We assemble as a body and fellowship around this faith. That’s why without faith in Christ, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).

Don’t lose sight of the gospel of faith. Don’t get so caught up in doing the right things that you miss the heart of what it means to follow God. Faith is what it takes to follow. It is central so much to the gospel that the word itself is used in place of it. Remember it, preach it, teach it, and live it.

Preach The Faith.

Pointillism. Picture. Perseverance.

This weekend is going to be a rough one. With coffee as my ally, I will attempt to complete the feet of a lifetime! I have a 300 page book to read and take notes on, I have a study guide to complete and a test to take, I have 9 chapters to read on church history and a test to study for that I’ll be taking on Monday, and I should probably find time to sleep in the midst.

Sometimes life kind of… sucks. Events and circumstances come to a point where they all seem to eclipse, and here we are… stuck in the chaos.

It’s times like these where we learn we need to persevere.

I would pull up some text that has the word “perseverance” in it to help encourage you, but it is cheap. Most texts dealing with perseverance deal mostly with physical trials and tribulations. One deals with persevering to the goal heavenward – holiness. But I don’t want to cheapen what those texts have to say. I don’t want to weaken the text, especially in correlation with the little comfort it would bring those who need it.

The fun thing about worrying and being stressed is that nothing any one says will be consoling. If someone is stressed or is going through a rough time, reading this WILL NOT make them feel better. So… why am I writing this blog if it isn’t going to change people? – Because people need to choose for themselves not to worry or not to be stressed. People have to choose themselves to persevere.

You have to choose to persevere.

I think about my life as a Seurat painting. Seurat was an impressionist painter, most famously known for his pointillism. Pointillism is a type of painting where the artist uses dots to create works of art. Thousands of tiny dots, used across feet of canvas, come together to make a beautiful painting! Seurat is one of my favorite painters. I love to see how he uses all the different dots and brings them together for his unifying purpose.

I feel like these dots are like our trials. We see this single dot (or circumstance) that we are in, and we don’t seem to be sure what is going on. But later, looking back over the course of our lives, we see that God was using these trials to make a beautiful masterpiece (our character).

Maybe you need to step back away from your circumstance and see God might be using this time you’re in to help build up who you are. Maybe God will use this circumstance to help you minister to others who will be facing this trial in the future. Maybe God is trying to make you more mature. But take time and realize maybe your life isn’t so sucky after all. Just take a step back from your circumstance and see the big picture.

Free Will, Faith, and Folly.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” –Romans 8:28-30

Springfield, Missouri’s roads are mapped out like a grid. Almost every single major byway has coordinates facing directly north, south, east, or west. But yet, there are still people who seem to get lost. Oftentimes, I find myself riding shotgun, calling out directions to one of these disoriented drivers behind the wheel. Some drivers don’t trust where I am taking them. I can tell by the way they ask at every intersection if they are supposed to turn or keep going. If they want me to tell them the directions, then why don’t they trust I’ll tell them when to turn when the time is right? Why don’t they have faith in me?

One thing that I’ve been wrestling with these past few months has been defining faith. I’m not talking about faith in God in a salvific sense – the faith that it takes to believe and be saved (Rom 10:9-10; Eph 2:8). But I am talking about trusting in God and allowing him to guide the steps I take. Most of this has been plaguing my mind because of graduation, and sometimes I wrestle and wonder if I am just supposed to do what I think best to do, or if I am supposed to wait until I hear what God through the Holy Spirit tells me to do.

Then one day I remembered this passage in Romans 8 (quoted above). If I am loving God and being faithful to walking the way Jesus did, then shouldn’t things work together for my good? I’m not saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t give me direction, but maybe I have a little bit more decision than I thought.

I think oftentimes I am the person going on with my life asking God at every intersection, “What am I supposed to do?” Am I showing faith in God in those moments, or am I showing a lack of faith because I don’t trust He is guiding what I am doing in those times? As a Pentecostal, I feel as though we fall short here – asking God for everything what He wants to do, when in reality, if we just stay faithful to Him, His will will be done.

Faith and faithfulness have more of a correlation than we give credit.

Ask yourself if you really trust God, or are you using your questions to God as a façade for, “wanting to know His will.” Have faith that God knows where you are at, and that He will give you direction when the time is right. Remain faithful to Him, because you were called by Him. And if you love God and are called by Him heavenward, then believe and know that all things will work together for your good.