November 1, 2020 God Still Speaks

God Still Speaks

 

Scripture reading: Matthew 1:18-21.

 

This passage tells us about the wonderful birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It tells us that Jesus did not have an earthly father but that the Holy Spirit impregnated the virgin Mary so that God Himself is the Father of the Lord Jesus. Adhering to the virgin conception and birth is essential to being a Christian. No one can call themself a Christian without holding this truth.

 

Since Mary was found to be pregnant before her marriage, according to law, there must be a trial and the betrothal dissolved if she is found guilty. However, Joseph was a compassionate man and intended on simply setting aside the engagement privately.

 

Then we read:

 

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”[1]

 

The angel commanded Joseph in the dream to name the child Jesus. Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua or, more accurately, Yahshua. The name Yahshua means, “Yah saves.” (Yah is one of the names of God in Hebrew.) In the Old Testament, boys were given this name. For them, it only pointed to the God of heaven. It reminded everyone that salvation and deliverance comes from Yahweh, not by our own strength, nor from others.

 

In Christ it is more than simply an honor to the God of heaven. His name describes who he is. Jesus is the God who saves! This is who are Savior is! He is the God who took on flesh and came to this miserable planet to save us!

 

God spoke through an angel to Joseph in a dream. Mary needed, as did the infant Jesus, a caring and loving provider. Thus, God directed Joseph to take Mary as his wife. Joseph obeyed. When we read this account we may wish that God would speak to us in such a direct way. At times, we are faced with difficult decisions and we wish that we had a word from the Lord to direct us as Joseph did.

 

I am here to tell you that God is still speaking! God is still engaged in giving you direction! When I use the word, “speaking,” I do not mean audibly. I do not mean that you can expect to hear God’s audible voice as the prophets did. For that reason, the word “speaking” is probably not the best word to use. The words communicating, revealing, and directing are probably all better. But speaking is the easiest to understand and is more personal than the other words. So, I am going to use this word. Just remember that I do not mean audible speaking.

 

 

Abraham heard the audible voice of God (Genesis 12:7; 17:1, 9; 18:26-32). Moses heard the audible voice of God (Deut. 4:12; Numbers 7:89). Samuel heard the audible voice of God (I Sam 3). Elijah heard the audible voice of God (I Kings 19:13). God does not speak that way in this age. If he does, I have not heard about it. Every person to whom I have spoken over the last 45 years (that’s how long I have been walking with the Lord) and who has told me that the Lord “told” them something, has never said that they heard an audible voice.

 

God is not speaking audibly today. But he is still speaking. How does he do it? In answering this question I am going to start with the least common way and end with the most common way. But do not think that commonality denotes uncertainty. In fact, the most usual way that God speaks is also the most certain way.

 

[1.] God speaks through visions. I do not mean dreams. A vision occurs when one is awake and they see something happening that is not actually happening. Rather, it is a message that is being received by them through some agent. This agent could be the Holy Spirit.

 

The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. [2]

 

Peter was awake during this vision. A voice accompanied the vision. After the vision ended, Peter did not understand what the vision meant. The Spirit then spoke to him and explained the vision to him.

 

Does God still speak through visions? The answer is yes. St. Patrick had a vision, when living in Britain in the fifth century, where a man came to him with letters from the people of Ireland. In the vision, he opened one of the letters and read the words, “The voice of the Irish.” He no sooner read these words than he heard a voice say, “We ask you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.” He understood this vision to be a message from the Lord that he must return to Ireland. This he did. And, the rest is history. The Lord worked through Patrick to convert many thousands of people there.

 

I knew a brother in the Lord who had a vision of heaven and hell. It shook him greatly and it left him with a burden to share the gospel more faithfully. But he is the only one I have ever met who had a vision. They are rare. So, do not expect to receive one.

 

[2.] God speaks through prophets. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, we read of the Lord giving messages to his people through the prophets. Sometimes these are personal messages. For example, Paul was told by Agabus that if he went to Jerusalem he would be captured and turned over to the Gentiles.

 

Does God still speak through prophets? He does. But there is a great problem with this means of communication. The problem is that there are so many false prophets in the midst of the church. There are many who claim to be prophets.

 

You have heard women who are single complain, “It is so hard to find a good man!” I think their complaint is justified. It is not easy finding a good man. It is because we live in a selfish society which produces selfish men. It may be hard to find a good man. But, it is even harder to find a true prophet. I attended a Pentecostal church many years ago. The pastor of that church kept bringing so-called prophets in to speak. They made prophecies that never came to pass. They were false prophets. And, this is the other problem. You don’t know who is a true prophet or who is a false prophet until after what they prophesy comes to pass. Sometimes that will be too late to be of help.

 

If there are prophets today, they are rare. So, do not expect to receive a message from one.

 

[3] God communicates to us through our circumstances. We can say that God opens doors and closes doors of opportunity in order to lead us somewhere.

 

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

8 “ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.[3]

 

Jesus says, “I have set before you an open door.” What does the phrase “open door” mean? Answer: A door represents access to another place. It is a threshold allowing one to enter another realm. Not all doors are open. In God’s sovereign oversight He opens some doors and others he wants to keep closed.

 

When Jesus says, “I have set before you an open door,” he is saying to the Philadelphians, “I have given you an opportunity and I do not want you to miss it.”

 

An open door is an opportunity to travel a path that we have not traveled.

 

The apostle Paul experienced this. There were times when he experienced closed doors and there were times when he experienced open doors.

 

But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. [4]

 

Paul is in Ephesus and writing a letter to the church at Corinth. He says he will stay in Ephesus because a door has been opened for him and it is a wide door. He refers to the opportunity he had to teach at the School of Tyrannus in Ephesus, which he made use of for two full years! (Acts 19:9) Paul recognized the opportunity to teach at the school as an open door from the Lord.

 

There were other times that doors were closed for the apostle.

 

On the front porch of his little country store in Illinois, a small businessman stood with his partner. Business was all gone, and the partner asked, "How much longer can we keep this going?"

The owner answered, "It looks as if our business has just about winked out." Then he continued, "You know, I wouldn’t mind so much if I could just do what I want to do. I want to study law. I wouldn’t mind so much if we could sell everything we’ve got and pay all our bills and have just enough left over to buy one book--Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law, but I guess I can’t."

At that moment a strange-looking wagon came up the road. The driver drove it up close to the store porch, then looked at the owner and said, "I’m trying to move my family out west, and I’m out of money. I’ve got a good barrel here that I could sell for fifty cents."

The businessman’s eyes went along the wagon and came to the wife looking at him pleadingly, her face thin and emaciated. He slipped his hand into his pocket and took out, according to him, "the last fifty cents I had" and said, "I reckon I could use a good barrel."

All day long the barrel sat on the porch of that store. The partner kept chiding the owner about it. Late in the evening the businessman walked out and looked down into the barrel. He saw something in the bottom of it, papers that he hadn’t noticed before. His long arms went down into the barrel and, as he fumbled around, he hit something solid. He pulled out a book and stood dumbfounded: it was Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law.

That businessman was Abraham Lincoln. He took that as a sign that he should pursue a career in law. Of course, he became a lawyer and then our greatest President! God uses our circumstances to direct us. If you belong to him, then he is directing you in the best path for you.

 

But, do you know what? There is a problem with circumstances also, as far as being a means to know God’s will. If we wish to understand circumstances as a way that God is either getting us to pursue something or getting us to forsake some course of action, then we have to interpret those circumstances. But are we up to the task?

 

How do we know that a certain roadblock that has come in our way is not a discouragement from Satan? How do we know that a certain opportunity is not actually a temptation from the enemy? The more familiar we are with God’s word, the Bible, the easier it will be to discern the machinations of the enemy.

 

God does direct us through circumstances – opening doors and closing doors. The difficulty comes in our own interpretation of those opportunities. Often, we are not clear on God’s leading until after we have gone down a path. We look back and we say, “I see that those events in my life were to get me where I am now.” Thus, circumstances are a tentative way that God directs us and it is not often known until after we have made our decisions.

 

By this time, some may be thinking, “Well, this is not encouraging. Pastor, you revealed three ways that God speaks, but two are rare and one is completely uncertain.” You are right. I point them out so that you will not depend upon them for direction. But now we come to a more common one. One which I believe the Lord uses at times in most people’s lives. It is the means that Joseph experienced.

 

[4] God speaks through dreams.

 

God communicates through dreams. In the Bible, many men of God received dreams, which were God's way of communicating to them. We can think of Jacob, Joseph, Pharoah, and Nebuchadnezzar. We can also include St. Patrick. Patrick had dreams from the Lord wherein he was told where he should go and what he should do. Some of us have had this experience ourselves.

 

There is a famous songwriter who had a dream, which included a melody he had neither heard before nor ever thought of. When he awoke the melody was still in his head. For the next two weeks, he kept asking everyone he knew if they had heard the melody before, because at first, he thought he may have heard it somewhere and forgotten about it. No one had ever heard the melody before. So, he wrote the musical notes to the song, wrote the lyrics, and recorded the song with his band. It became the most "covered" modern song with over 3,000 covers, meaning that it has been played by over 3,000 other artists. This is the song. (Yesterday)


Did Paul McCartney dream this melody on his own or did God bless him with it so that he, in turn, could bless the world? We do not know, but I am inclined to believe that it was from the Lord.

 

Missouri’s own Mark Twain had a dream. Samuel (his real name) and his younger brother, Henry, were set to embark together on the riverboat Pennsylvania, Sam as apprentice pilot, Henry as a lowly “mud clerk”, given food and sleeping space in return for helping out at places on the river where there were no proper landing sites. The night before they sailed, Sam dreamed he saw Henry as a corpse, laid out in a metal casket, dressed in one of his older brother’s suits, with a huge bouquet of white roses on his chest and a single red rose at the center.
Sam woke grief-stricken, convinced this had actually happened and that Henry was laid out in the next room. He could not collect himself, or convince himself that the dream was not “real” until he had walked around outside. He had walked a whole block, he recalled, “before it suddenly flashed on me that there was nothing real about this – it was only a dream.”
Family members urged him to dismiss his terrible dream; after all, it was “only a dream”. It couldn’t be right because they would not be able to afford a metal casket, the most expensive, only a wooden one if it should happen that Henry would pass. Though the force of his feelings told him something else, Sam agreed to try to put the dream out of his mind.
Unusual events began to unfold soon after the two young men boarded the Pennsylvania. The pilot of the Pennsylvania, William Brown, was an autocrat with a violent temper with whom Sam was soon scrapping. During the voyage downriver, Sam got into a full-blown fight with him. The captain sided with Sam and said they would find a new pilot when they got to New Orleans. But a new pilot could not be found and since Sam and Brown could not be in the same boat, Sam was transferred to another vessel, leaving Henry on the Pennsylvania, which started the upriver journey fist.
The Pennsylvania’s boiler exploded in a hell of steam and fire. Badly burned, Henry survived for a few days, to die in Memphis, where the injured were carried. His handsome face was untouched, and the kindly lady volunteers were so moved by his beauty and innocence that they gave him the best casket, a metal box.
When Sam entered the “dead-room” of the Memphis Exchange on June 21, 1858, he was horrified to see the enactment of his dream: his dead brother laid out in a metal casket in a borrowed suit. Only one element was missing: the floral bouquet. As Sam watched and mourned, a lady came in with a bouquet of white roses with a single red one at the center and laid it on Henry’s chest. The scenery in the funeral parlor became exactly as it had been foreseen in Mark Twain’s dream in every minute detail.

It appears that the only two possibilities are either coincidence or the Lord was warning Mark Twain so that he could save his brother’s life.

 

Alexander Campbell was a great man of God who lived in the 19th century. He founded the modern Church of Christ in the early 1800’s. Although many representations of that group are quite sectarian now, it wasn’t so through most of the 19th century. Alexander’s father, a minister, was ordered to leave his home in Scotland by his physician because of health issues and move to America, which he did. After he established and settled himself in western Pennsylvania, the entire Campbell household sailed to join him the following year. Early one day, prior to a storm arising, Alexander had been reading aloud to one of his sisters and soon fell into an uneasy slumber. Suddenly he started up in alarm, and declared to his mother and sisters that he was confident danger was impending, that he had just had a vivid dream, in which he dreamed the ship struck upon a rock and the water rushed in. During the evening, many hours later, the ship was wrecked in just the manner he had dreamt. Alexander led prayers for the frightened passengers “in an unperturbed and resolute fashion.” He hadn’t had any ideas that he would follow in the footsteps of his father but, because of the dream and the life-threatening shipwreck, he meditated upon the vanities of the world and upon the firm character and gentle spirit of his father, and decided that, if they survived, he too would dedicate his life to the service of his Lord. This he did. He would later debate the leading atheist in the world at that time, Robert Owen, who could not get others to debate him because of his eloquence and scholarship. Alexander Campbell debated him for seven days (!) in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1829. The entire debate was published in newspapers all over the nation. Alexander defeated him so soundly that the printed versions of the debate are still being sold almost 200 years later.

It seems evident that Alexander’s dream and the circumstances that followed which brought about his conversion were from the Lord.

 

Stories like this could be multiplied many times over. God still speaks through dreams.

 

The Lord has spoken to me in dreams three times that I can remember. I think there were more than three, but there are three that I am certain were from the Lord. Let me share one with you. In 2010 I was working for a federal agency in Washington State. In May I was visiting my mother who was living on Maui. While there I had this dream. I dreamt that I, along with Josie and all the kids, were in this small town surrounded by tall mountains. We all walked on this runway and we were getting on a jetliner. As we got on I realized that I was the pilot. I sat in the pilot’s seat and Josie and the kids all sat down in their seats. I looked ahead of me and there was this tall mountain and I wondered if the jet could get over it, considering that it wasn’t far away, but quite close to the airport.

 

I started the engines and I could feel the power. I taxied the plane and pulled the throttle up almost full because I knew I didn’t have much distance to get over that mountain. I flew over a street and cleared some telephone poles and then, as I approached the mountain, I began to wonder again if we were going to make it. It was huge. I pulled the throttle to full and I felt more power and the plane cleared the mountain.

 

As soon as we cleared the mountain we were over a giant wave in an ocean and only a few feet above it. It was almost like we were surfing upon the wave. As we were flying over this wave, a wonderful sense of exuberance and joy came over me. I was so full of joy and so were the kids. Then I woke up.

 

I had no idea what the dream meant. By the Lord’s providence, I knew a brother in the Lord that lived there, a friend I had known for many years. This brother had the gift of interpreting dreams, as Joseph had in the Old Testament. I called him up and asked if I could tell him my dream. He said yes and I went to his house which wasn’t far from where my mother was living.

 

He gave this interpretation. The town and the mountains represent my then current vocation. I had been with the agency a long time and the mountains represented the enclosure that one has in a long-standing job. The plane, with its powerful engines, represented the Holy Spirit. The ocean represented a long journey that lay ahead. And the feeling of euphoria showed that I would be filled with joy in what lay ahead. Then he said that it all meant that I would leave the agency I was with and would travel somewhere far and start something new.

 

I was a little dubious because I had no plans on leaving and I was still five years away from retirement. Only a week after this I flew back to the Seattle area where I was assigned. Amazingly, a series of events rather unpleasant unfolded. This happened the very first day I got back. Within three months I took an early retirement (actually, a postponed retirement, where I lost no benefits but had to wait three years to receive the benefits), packed up all our belongings, and moved to Missouri to attend Covenant Seminary. Even being accepted by the seminary, which has high standards, on such short notice (most apply a year in advance) was somewhat miraculous. I graduated magna cum laude which is a testimony to the power of the Spirit as revealed in the dream. That dream had much to do with my success because, at times, I felt overwhelmed by all the changes and the demands of seminary and a large family.

 

God speaks through dreams. He did many times in the Bible and he still does. Do you have a difficult decision to make? Are you in a quandary? Ask the Lord to guide you through a dream. He may or may not answer that request. Because he has already given principles of wisdom and decision making in the Scriptures and he expects us to consult those for guidance. But, in special circumstances he still speaks through dreams.

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Are you in a sin? The Lord may give you a dream to warn you before his hand of discipline comes. Listen to your dreams. The Lord’s speaking may be in them.

 

 

 


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 1:20–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 10:9–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 3:7–8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 16:8–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.