Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dreams, Visions, Challenge, and Change

Experts tell us that everyone dreams. Sometimes we don't remember our dreams and other times they are so vivid we can't help but recall what took place. Many times clients will ask me the significance of a particular dream. They are especially confused because of all the so-called "crazy images" that occur in their dreams. While I am no dream expert, I did take a workshop focused on dreams and learned that dreams are our unconscious seeking to process things we are wrestling with in real life. The "crazy images" are actually the key to determining the meaning of the dream. Dreams have their own unique language which is the language of symbolism. Therefore, once it is determined what the symbol represents, one can decipher the meaning of the dream. I recently had a powerful dream in which the Lord revealed to me how amidst many challenges I was to bring healing and wholeness to the people in my present congregation. This dream along with some other Scriptures God shared with me in His word, helped bring a fresh perspective to my soul and current ministry. It was such a paradigm shift, that I was overwhelmed with the blessings that God was imparting. Dreams and visions are Biblical and God can and does use them to minister to us and others.  If each of us examines our lives we may discover a similar pattern that God is using to draw us closer to Him. Remember Joseph's story in Genesis? It started out with God giving Joseph a dream of his future. (Genesis 37) Later on Joseph became a dream interpreter for the Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker when they were in prison with Joseph (Genesis 40). Joseph also interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. (Genesis 41) The interesting thing is that Joseph's understanding of his own dreams and that of others did not come without its challenges. However, later on the changes came that fulfilled God's plan not only for the people but for Joseph. Likewise, a significant portion of the book of Daniel is devoted to dreams and dream interpretation. Once again, the dreams and visions did not go without their challenges for Daniel but brought about fulfillment of God's will. Of course we cannot forget the New Testament and the how the Lord used dreams and visions in the story of Christ. The Lord spoke to Joseph through a dream as he wrestled with Mary's pregnancy and the family's subsequent escape to Egypt. (Matthew 1, 2) And we can't forget about Luke's birth narrative and the angelic vision experienced by Mary and the shepherds in the fields. (Luke 1, 2) Moreover  Peter, James, and John had a similar experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 17:1-8) These are just a few New Testament examples but all of the stories follow the same pattern of presenting those who experienced the dream/vision with a challenge that led to a significant change in fulfillment of God's ultimate plan. As we enter this Advent season let us not forget about the vision we have been given. God has broken into history to challenge us with the unbelievable story of redemption and the incredible change that would result in the fulfillment of reuniting us with the Father through the gift of His Son. 
Blessings in this Christmas season!
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, November 12, 2011

From Bitter to Better

The past month has been one of ups and downs. There have been disappointments and confusion. It is very frustrating when we try to figure out what God is up to and can't quite fit Him into the box of our own creation. We often have expectations about the way God should act and can easily end up feeling that God owes us something for our faithfulness. However, when we begin to think like that we often already have in mind how the Lord should repay us. The thinking may go something like this, "Lord, I have set my sights on obtaining this or receiving that and I'll just wait for You to make it happen."And when the Lord leads us in a different direction than we expect, we can be left feeling betrayed and bitter. I must confess that has been my struggle for the past few weeks. I realize that my reaction is not unique. In my time of stillness before the Lord I was led to consider once again the Israelites and their journey in the wilderness. There are many twists and turns throughout the book of Exodus, some of them are very impressive (i.e, The parting of the Red Sea) while others we could easily skip over or dismiss. But as Timothy tells us, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16) italics mine. So, I came to the story of the Israelites arriving at the waters of Marah in Exodus 15:22-27. Prior to this passage the Israelites had just finished celebrating the destruction of the Egyptians who had pursued them to the Red Sea. There was dancing and singing and clapping! The people were at a high point and probably expected that this was the beginning of a never ending litany of good things from God. Then they came to Marah after traveling for three days without water. The celebration was over and their mood turned from joy to bitterness. In fact the Scripture tells us that is why the place was called Marah because the people grumbled against Moses. Their expectations were that the "good times" would continue to roll and they probably had it already mapped out in their minds as to how things were going to play out as they made their way to the Promised Land. They weren't expecting any curves in the road, but rather smooth sailing. The interesting verse that caught my attention was verse 25, "Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet." (italics mine) I began to meditate on what to me was the symbolic connection between what Moses did and what Christ accomplished on the cross. In both cases wood became the means by which God made a dramatic change. What was bitter now became better. The wood sweetened the water for the people to drink so they would not perish and the cross was "sweetened" by the blood of Christ so humanity would not perish. Christ's death on the cross turned the bitterness of sin into sweet salvation. When it comes right down to it, God surprises us with His grace and I am anxious to see how He will turn my bitterness into something so much better!
In His grace,
Pastor Sheree

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Are You Ready?

This has been quite a difficult week for many people here in Massachusetts with an unusual Noreaster that dumped heavy, wet snow creating numerous power outages. Even as I write these words there are many brothers and sisters who remain in the dark. My husband and I were fortunate that our power went out last Saturday but was restored 4 hours later. Many folks have not yet recovered from the devastation and trauma that accompanied Hurricane Irene not too long ago. A recurring theme I have heard throughout the week is how much people are "suffering" without the convenience of electricity. The discomfort is exacerbated by the change in seasons and the low temperatures which for some people made it impossible to stay in their homes without heat.  It is at times like these that the reality of our dependance on electricity really hits home. I have been praying for a quick resolution for those left in the dark and stamina for the power companies working 24/7 to get everyone back on line. And while I do not make light of what is happening to people, I am reminded that our faith can be severely tested. We have to honestly ask ourselves the question, when everything falls apart is our faith in the Lord able to sustain us? We as a nation and a Western culture have never experienced suffering to the same degree as other nations/peoples. However, Jesus warned that prior to His return things would become more challenging. (Matthew 24)  Furthermore the attitudes of people would shift towards one another. (2 Timothy 3) There is unrest worldwide and it is even manifesting itself in our cities with the movement against corporate greed. However, are we ready for what is yet to come?  I admit I am guilty of taking for granted the comforts I enjoy everyday and I am quick to cry foul when I am inconvenienced. But am I willing to put my life on the line for Jesus? There are brothers and sisters who are being persecuted everyday for Christ and we rarely hear about it because it is not as news worthy as some celebrity or athlete caught in some scandal.  And it is easy to think that things won't get "that bad" here in our country. However we can't be ignorant about such matters. We need to be faithful and depend on God come what may. Peter's encouragement to the suffering saints is appropriate for us to hear and keep in mind, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything....Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." (1 Peter 1:3,12) italics mine. May the Lord give us the grace we need by the power of His Holy Spirit to be found faithful in times of trial.
Pastor Sheree