Monday, May 20, 2013

Dare To Be a Dreamer

Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your old men will dream dreams,     and your young men will see visions.  Joel 2:28 (NLT)
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.                                                                                                  Romans 8:14 (NLT)
Spirituality is big these days.  With the advent of the “New Age” movement, even well-known celebrities talk about spiritual things.  Sarah Michelle Gellar is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  In an interview Buffy said her …personal spirituality borrows from a hodgepodge of religions.  I consider myself a spiritual person.  I believe in an idea of God, although it's my own personal ideal.  I find most religions interesting, and I've been to every kind of denomination: Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist.  I've taken bits from everything and customized it.[1]
There you have buffet-style spirituality (where you pick a little of this which you like from that religion…and a little of something else here and there); it is the number one religion these days. 
The problem with that when it comes to spirituality, is that you can be sincere in what you think – it just doesn’t mean you’re going to be right in what you think. 
When it comes to God, just because you’re sincere about what you think, doesn’t make you right – or acceptable in God’s eyes.  You cannot simply pick what you want to believe about God. 
In fact, sincerity that is aimed in the wrong direction can get you in big trouble.  God reserves for Himself how He is to be worshipped; THAT is the whole issue of a transcendent God, One who is greater than His own creation.  Either He is Sovereign…in charge…or He really isn’t God.  We cannot tell God what He is to be like, or how to act. 
From today’s texts of Joel in the Old Testament, to Paul in the New, and on down to this very moment, God tells us He will lead us, and we should follow Him.   Living life led by the Spirit of God is no simple chore!  What can be said about the Spirit-led life?
It’s a Life of Dreams and Vision
Visionary Spirit-leadership, according to the Bible, is like a window through which we wonder about tomorrow.  The word “vision” is (in Hebrew  חִזָּיוֹן, chizzâyôn), literally, a revelation[2].  It means we contemplate tomorrow.  Plant life and animals can’t do that.  They react to surrounding influences; they respond to instincts within to build a den or protect a cub.  Only humans set goals and dream of tomorrow’s possibilities.
Do you have goals, dreams and visions?  Are you planning for a bigger tomorrow than today?  Are you planning for a greater tomorrow?  I mean, are you involving yourself in something greater than yourself?
To be led by the Spirit of God is to bend your will to His and allow His revealed word (as we have in the Scripture) to inform your human mind and spirit – to shape you into the image of Christ, obedient, yielded, usable.

How do you do that?

I’ve known far too many people who prayed for the will of God to be revealed, only to sit, unfulfilled for years awaiting the sky to part, and a new Biblical text to unfold mystically before their eyes.  With every revival, and every call for commitment they hold off putting themselves on the line of obedience because somehow the great vision hasn’t yet happened.  They live life wallowing in second-guessing and miserable guilt, sensing they have not followed God.  They’re right…nothing surrendered, nothing gained!
Others I’ve known have made a conscious decision to accept and follow Christ according to the revelation they have; they trust Him to reveal Himself.  They got busy in a local church, studied their Bibles, shared their faith and gave of themselves to build the kingdom of God wherever they are, however they could, with whatever God gave them. 
God has given us plenty of vision.  He tells us to cooperate in building His church, the visible symbol of the Kingdom of God.
…upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
Matthew 16:18 (NLT)
He tells us to love and care for one another – as we would care for Him in person.
 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’                      Matthew 25:40 (NLT)
He tells us to set our goals on things eternal, great visions, magnificent dreams. 
Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.            Matthew 6:20 (NLT)
The Spirit-led life is a life of dreams and vision.  And…
It’s a Life in the Light
Darkness is for bumping into things.  We have all made our share of mistakes.  We have all jumped to the wrong conclusion at times.  We’ve all made the “dumb and dumber list”.
Vision is God’s light on what we think about life.  Figuring out whether we have God’s perspective on something we’re planning to do can be difficult.  James helps us at this point. 
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.   
He will not rebuke you for asking.            James 1:5 (NLT)
Is your vision, a Godly dream or a pipe dream?  Does it match with God’s will?  Bring the light of God’s word to bear on your vision.  It’s a life in the light!  Again…

How Do I Do That?

There are numbers of ways to verify your dreams and visions.  The primary way is prayer and study of the scripture.  Does your life’s path line-up with what God said in His word.  Much heartache and wasted effort could have been avoided in the past had some penetrating questions been put to the Biblical test. 
Ananias and Saphira thought they had a good plan.  They sold a piece of land.  They told the church leaders they were going to give all the money to the Lord’s work.  Secretly they decided to hold back some (nobody would know).  God knew, and lying isn’t part of his plan.  They thought they had a vision of being chief in the giving department – they wound-up feet first in the morgue!
Question #1 is always:  Does your vision line-up with God’s Word?
Another way to bring your vision to light is to share it with respected leaders in the Kingdom.  The scripture says
Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.
Proverbs 11:14 (NLT)
I cannot tell you the number of times I have been saved from myself by the wise counsel of a mentor, or caring church leaders.  I have learned about myself that sometimes I can have a good vision, a Godly vision, but my goals may be off.  Clarifying our vision and goals by sharing in the light of Godly believer’s counsel is God’s way of sharing wisdom. 
I went to school with another pastor.  He had a desire to be the best pastor God would make him…a wonderful vision.  He also had trouble getting along with his wife.  The man stood up in a pastor’s meeting and told the rest of us he was going to divorce his wife so he could spend all of his time becoming a better pastor. 
Friends, God has told us He hates divorce…my colleague-pastor misses the point that you cannot pick and choose where the light of God’s Word falls.  When your vision or dream doesn’t square with God’s word, you don’t have God’s blessing.
Spirit-led – a life of visions and dreams, a life in the light, and…
It’s a Life of Growth
Every living thing is born, grows and dies.  That is a life-cycle.  Your visions and dreams are living things.  If they are nurtured and tended they will grow.  Are you growing?
I read a book[3] some years ago by Dr. Robert Dale of Southeastern Seminary.  The book outlines the health cycle of organizations – with application particularly for church health.  The author traces how things happen in local churches like ours, all the way from first dream, to the pinnacle of ministry, and down the slide to dropout.
In the book’s introduction Dr. Dale suggests there are four ways to revitalize a church, organizationally-speaking.
·        Policy change – this is the easiest…change the way you do things and create some excitement.  Easy, but rarely transforming!
·        Personnel change – fire the minister (let’s not go there!), or get new lay leaders. 
·        Program change – We do that all the time.
·        Purpose revitalization…that is, we re-focus on our reason for being here, and re-cast the vision and dream about where we’re going. 
In the case of our church, it means we focus on what God wants done in this community, and make some plans to get there.
I want to suggest to you today that a real hallmark of being led of the Spirit of God is not how many “screw loose” ideas you can come up with; or policy and program changes.  It isn’t about having a phony smile on your face or singing Kumbayah with feeling. 
Being Spirit-led is all about sticking to the purpose for which God placed you on this planet.  It’s about being an obedient and pliable instrument in the hands of God to accomplish His will.  It’s all about hard work and commitment with no personal agenda; it’s all about being ready to sacrifice and risk what you have for the sake of being the best servant on earth, approved in Heaven.  It’s all about what the Apostle Paul told Timothy he needed to be about…
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.              Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.          2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT)
·        Do you dare to have visions and dreams? 
·        Do you dare to bring them into the light of God’s wisdom and share them with the family of God? 
You can be that way.  God told us that Jesus died just for that…for you, so that you could be living an abundant life, filled with the poured-out Spirit of the living God.  He did it because He loves you.
Dare to be a dreamer; it’s the best life yet!

[1] Ted Olson, "Buffy's Religion," Christianity Today (7-08-02), p. 10
[2] Strongs Hebrew and Greek Concordance
[3] Robert D. Dale, To Dream Again, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1981

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