Dreams, as common as they are to all of us, are nonetheless very often overlooked, ignored, or dismissed as a curious result of a double-cheese pizza the night before. Sometimes, as in the case of recurring nightmares, they can be feared or even hated.
But the Bible has much to say about dreams and visions, and it’s important to understand that they have great power to change your life. I remember years ago, in the mid-1980s, as Carol and I had planted our first church in her hometown of Stratford, Ontario, I started to take dreams seriously and began studying them in Scripture. I did a word search on my primitive computer, looking for every time the words dream and vision are used in the Bible. I then printed out the whole list on fanfold paper, and it stretched the entire width of our church. It was a graphic reminder of how abundant and important dreams and visions are in Scripture. I began to take dreams even more seriously.
I remembered that Joseph believed Mary’s story of her virgin conception because of a dream he had and also that after Messiah was born, Joseph fled with his family to Egypt, saving Christ’s life from Herod’s butchers, all because of another dream (see Matt. 1:20- 25; 2:13-15). Wow!
Let me tell you of a life-changing dream I had over thirty years ago.
In the dream, I was told to go to Buffalo, New York, to bring home three pint-sized bottles of cream. Some of you older readers may remember when milk was delivered to your door in quart-sized glass bottles and cream in pint-sized glass bottles (for you younger readers, a pint is about half a liter). Well, in the dream, it was the best cream ever.
I woke up excited, sensing something was up. I related my dream to Carol, and together we immediately took the two-and-a-half- hour drive to Buffalo to see if God would open up anything to us. I knew only one person in Buffalo, and that was Pastor Tommy Reid from The Tabernacle. I didn’t know him at all, really. I had merely said a brief “hello” to him while attending a recent conference at his church.
We arrived at The Tabernacle in the early afternoon. Pastor Tommy was not in, but we met with Gordon Spiller, who was then the dean of the newly formed Buffalo School of the Bible, a Bible school based out of this church. I was very interested in the courses of study that were shown me.
We soon met Mark Virkler, one of their main teachers, and began a friendship that has endured for more than three decades. We have since met his wife Patti and his children, Charity and Joshua, on many occasions.
Well, Carol and I returned home with a manual on “Hearing God’s Voice,” which turned out to be spiritual “cream” of the highest and best order. We had no idea of the fantastic journey of the heart that was being put into our hands. That dream of the cream bottles changed the course of our spiritual destiny!
We brought home what was soon to become one of our four core FIRE values that have formed the basis of our ministry: “intimacy,” or hearing the voice of God. This wonderful teaching from Mark has transformed our lives. It became the fountainhead of all that we hear from the Holy Spirit, including words of knowledge, prophetic words, visions, and even dreams. It amazes me to this day that had I not had that dream of the cream bottles over thirty years ago, our ministry today would be very different indeed.
Our four core values are layered on top of a biblical, evangelical, charismatic statement of faith. They are as follows:
- F—A revelation of the Father’s love (see Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22 NIV).
- I—Intimacy, or hearing the voice of God, a value whose discovery we owe to Mark Virkler. Our life and ministry were transformed through this dialogue and intimacy with God.
- R—Restoration, teaching, healing and deliverance for life’s hurts.
- E—And finally a power and love encounter from the Holy Spirit. This took everything in our ministry to a whole new level of relationship, healing, and evangelism.
The first three, on which we worked faithfully throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, are the fulfillment of my dream about the three cream bottles. These values prepared us and our church teams for the fourth bottle of cream: a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit in power and love that would become known as the “Toronto Blessing.” God is so much more than history, tradition, and Bible study. He pursues us for a dynamic love affair with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Dreams and their interpretations are therefore of the utmost spiritual importance. There is a promise from the Book of Joel that is quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. Peter says that God’s Holy Spirit will be poured out on all flesh and they will prophesy, see visions, and dream dreams (see Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). Dreams are absolutely the will of God. They always have been—and so much the more now for us who live in the last of the last days. Joel’s prophecy is pointing to you and me.
As Dr. Charity Virkler Kayembe points out in her book, Hearing God Through Your Dreams, dreams are one of the main avenues that God uses to communicate with His people. Numbers 12:6 clearly states, “If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream” (ESV).
I strongly encourage you to read this book. Read it carefully, as a new adventure into the promises of God and new experiences with God.
In Hearing God Through Your Dreams, Dr. Charity—daughter of Mark and Patti Virkler—writes out a complete inventory of all the dreams recorded in the Bible, walking the reader through the various kinds of dreams that one may have from the Lord. Dreams are usually subjective, she explains, but occasionally objective and intended for others. They are usually figurative, symbolic, and allegorical, but not always, as occasionally there are literal dreams such as the Angel of the Lord’s message to Joseph in Matthew 1:20-23.
She explains how there is a symbolic language to be learned. It varies for every person, as the same symbols often mean different things to different people. If you learn this language, you’ll be able to discover powerful and meaningful messages and insights from God.
All of humanity is desperate to hear a word from God. People are seeking bizarre and unbiblical experiences. They are even searching for occult communications because so many do not know how available God really is. He truly is available to each and every one of us through dreams, through His Word, and through two-way communication with Him. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice... and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
I was greatly challenged by this book and motivated to focus again on the importance of dreams from the Lord. It helped me to change some things. I now prepare my heart before going to sleep at night, putting paper and pen beside my bed. I take care to see that my final thoughts for the day are biblical and wholesome instead of going to sleep after watching the evening news, which is full of problems and disasters. I am asking God in faith to speak to me more than ever in dreams and revelations in the night.
And do you know what? He’s doing it!