It is written: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh . . . and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17 cf. Joel 2:28).
Dream One – If you want, let me take you into my night visions. On July 25, 2020 in black and white I dreamt that I was unpacking a big box of auto parts (I’m an auto mechanic). As I’m taking them out and assessing them one by one I discover a man’s head in the box! This is certainly startling to write about but weirder than that was my reaction to this discovery: I said to myself in the dream, ‘Whose ever head this is, what an inconvenience! when I’m so insanely busy. O bother, maybe I could just bury it in the back yard so I can get on with all I’ve got to do today. But . . . I guess I should really call the police. What a screw up this is for my day.’ That’s it. The dream repeated itself five nights in a row. Now I got it.
Well, though the hour was early, I finally had my wits about me and went outdoors for prayer with my dog. And as I pondered all this suddenly I became aware of whose head that was – it was Christ’s head! (it looked like the image on the Shroud of Turin). Then it hit me: I can’t believe I was so indifferent about the head in my dream. And I knew this dream was some kind of reproof. I started asking myself, is my car work getting into the way of Jesus? Or, the other way, is Jesus getting himself into the way of my car work? And why a dead head? (for Christ is risen indeed). Several days of puzzlement would drag on as suspense for the interpretation built. It was close at hand.
Dream Two – Then on July 30 I vividly dreamt, this time in color and much detail, that I was in a little town in ND. In the dream I found myself so drawn to the place as I walked up and down its streets, looking around with acute awareness. I was not talking to anyone, for people didn’t come into it; it was about the location. And I was supposed to be there, it felt good to be there, and notably, there so much peace of God. It was a nostalgic feeling, like I had a kinship there. In my own history, ND is God’s country. The town was Hettinger. I don’t know how – I just knew. It’s a little place of 1,200 people in the SW corner of the state, some 617 miles west of Duluth, MN. I had never been there before. I knew also, like the last dream, it had been sent from God and held a meaning, but what? And why was I here? Drama closes in.
You have to understand that I was not myself these days. My focus was interrupted and my mind was preoccupied with the night visions as I turned my wrenches. The dreams had baffled me and a few close friends and I had to resolve it. And resolve led to a decision to take a trip to ND. Maybe both dreams would find their interpretations if I was just fool enough to step into them. A fool, yes. Surely.
On the weekend of August 22-23 I headed west. When I do things like this there always comes a sense of trembling, but also an excitement that a piece of my destiny is breaking in on me from God. He’s in charge and I’m so not. Here we go. About 10 hours later I arrived, got a motel, went to Joe’s bar for supper, watched the Twins play Kansas City, talked to several there about the Cross, and retired for the evening.
Prayer. Hettinger became a place of prayer. I was away from my business, my family, my telephone. I was there to try to unravel the meaning of the dreams. I found grace to pray through the evening till I went to bed, slept for a while but was awakened in the night and for a few hours more I prayed again, and then into the early morning after I hauled it out. God was giving me understanding.
Interpretation of Dream One – The Lord is saying: (about the auto parts box with Christ’s head in it and my unawareness of that in my distracted state) ‘Because of your unbelief you allowed a different vision to be imprinted on your mind. This bewitching got you confused about bearing my image, only to exchange it for another image that has impoverished you. And you have not allowed me to serve you as Head of your business and of your life.’
Jesus’ dead head apart from his body signified that the message is about his missing headship in my life. This also meant a certain deadness translated down to me. I remembered where we read, God “hath put all things under (Christ’s) feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). To say the least, I was greatly troubled and still am. How could I have let that happen and be so wrapped up with trying to make a buck pulling wrenches? It isn’t that I’m a self-employed mechanic, it’s that I gloried in that; that’s the issue. Why did I try to draw identity in this, when these things can never deliver it? And this is certainly about image and identity. How could I have let Satan deceive me about such a foundational issue? Do you dig? I must have Jesus as head over my job and over my life. And now he is, and I just work here; the pressure is off. You can’t believe how hard I’ve been working at this car repair business. And it’s compromised me. It’s been dominating so much time for the last thirty-three years. But I’m called to preach the Gospel, not fix cars. What an inner conflict. I thank God for this crazy dream and how he broke into my awful pattern I had been stuck in for ages. But not now.
Interpretation of Dream Two – In this dream (where I was in Hettinger just walking about it and feeling the presence of God) the Lord is saying, ‘You discovered Me on the ancient path, upon which I ordained you long ago, and sent you to operate within its limitations.’ This brings to mind immediately two Scriptures. Firstly, in Jeremiah 6:16 we read, “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the way, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said (and I), we will not walk therein.” The ‘old paths’ were old in Jeremiah’s day and are ancient now. Yet they are the Good News and are more relevant and currant than the supposed news on your phone.
I must digress for a moment to give a bit of personal context to Jer. 6:16 and the ‘old paths’. Since I was eight till eighteen I had been stuck in south Minneapolis. But right after high school I chanced to be a student at Trinity Bible Institute in Ellendale, ND from 1972-75. It was the first time I actually knew the will of God. It was the first time I acted on what the Lord was showing me. And it was here that the Lord did wonders in my soul with mighty work after mighty work, signs, revelations, renewal, many times over. I had no idea what was going to happen to me when I loaded up my gear in my ’51 Austin and headed west. But in that first quarter Christ baptized me in the Holy Spirit, and that fullness awesomely lifted my whole relationship with God (cf. Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:15 – six times the promise is repeated that Jesus is the baptizer in the Holy Spirit). And North Dakota is where all this happened. The state is sacred to my walk with God and will always so be. Unknowingly I had walked right into an incredible revival happening in America: the Charismatic Movement and the Jesus People Awakening. The main point of all this: the real presence of the Lord.
Now the ‘old paths’ I got on were in ND. Part of the grace of God that came those days had to do with where I worked in the afternoons, at Ellendale Grain and Seed Co. I shoveled grain. The smell, the dust, the storehouse of that raw goodliness was great to be in, and totally new for a MPLS kid. And there was another stream of grace there: hunting ducks and pheasants with Grandpa’s old ’97 Winchester pump 12 ga. shotgun. First I had hunted; so fun. Every friendship at the college, the doctrine and truth I was learning in class, the $1.60/hour I made at the elevator were all things God was working through, yet they had a connection to these rugged natural elements. So in Hettinger all this context and history came thundering back to me. Even while I was yet traveling to Hettinger, and took a little break in Bismark in the shade of a stand of oak, the old paths began to renew me. It was 94 degrees, I was exhausted and just laid there on my back, and then on my stomach, nose in the grass. Suddenly I keenly recalled that smell, the snuff of the grass and earth there, and that holy ground began to revive me. I just worshiped from that position; it felt so good to do that and I knew he was honored.
And when I got to Hettinger and actually started to walk the streets, I had already been there in my dream. One startling thing which may be hard to relate to, was that I came upon an old grain truck parked in front of somebody’s house. It reminded me of the ’47 GMC I drove at the grain elevators. Now here stood a ’41 International Harvester flat head six, flatbed 2 ton with duellys, in all her gnarly glory. The truck was clearly a daily driver for it leaked to the ground out of the rear axle, the lift, the PTO, the tranny, and the engine. I was so drawn to this truck. What the heck! I couldn’t figure it out at first. Then the Lord showed me why: he was calling me back to the ‘old path’. Awesome!
I’m not explaining this very well. Try this: the peace I just described (leaving home to follow the Spirit’s leading for the first time ever, Trinity Bible Institute, the grain elevator, the ducks and the trucks) are the old paths of God for me. That ’41 International illustrated it. As our Lord walked in them, and the Prophets, and the Apostles, now I was walking in them, i.e. the paths of God (cf. I John 2:6 – “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself to walk, even as he walked”). Jeremiah’s ‘old paths’ aren’t about antiques or old things in themselves. The ‘old paths’ are where the Ancient of Days himself has tramped time out of mind. David spoke of these in Ps. 25:10 – “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and testimonies.” Those who walk with God are on these tried-by-fire paths: all hell can never shake them.
But it takes sight to stay on the path. The path’s destiny isn’t just anywhere; it’s limited by an ancient, mysterious, and predestined plan. I needed to see that ‘trail’; it limited me and kept me on course. And I was in awe of discovering these paths. I could stay on them – if, and only if, I walked them with an eye on the path’s evidence, which is faint sometimes, especially when you’ve got a canoe on you back. This is the holy limitation. That limitation is found in John 5:19 where Jesus gives the reason why the lame man was instantly healed: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” This is the holy limitation Jesus walked in, limiting himself to what he saw God doing, and this keeps us on the old paths. This leads to rest for our soul. Imagine that. I hope this doesn’t seem like too tall an order.
Secondly, this leads me to Gen. 22 and the account of the offering up of Isaac by Abraham, which God commanded him to do, who at the last second stopped him after the Lord proved his faith. Abraham offered up a ram instead, which God ‘saw to it’, just as Abraham had unknowingly prophesied to Isaac – “My son, God will provide himself (or ‘see to it’) a lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8). And he did: he provided Jesus, an offering for sin. This whole setting is prophetic: Mt. Moriah where Abraham offered up Isaac would turn out to be the very place called Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. It was an horrific fore-telling of our Lord, and in 33 AD there would be no substitute ‘ram caught in a thicket’, only God, who “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32).
Abraham named that place, “Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen” (Gen. 22:14). We may also translate this phrase as ‘He shall be seen’ i.e. Jesus shall be seen. Abraham actually was looking ahead to him at this moment, for Jesus said of him, ‘‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). This ‘seeing’ is what God gave him and he will give to us too. We need to ‘see’ Jesus ‘in the Mount of the Lord’ or at the Cross. It is the beginning of our sight. From this view just maybe we will be able to ‘see’ the other things Jesus does, and if we can see them from the light of his Resurrection, we can do them. Like Jesus who said: ‘I can only do what I see my father doing’, so it is true of us. We can only do what we ‘see’ Jesus is doing. This is the holy limitation he calls us to. O to do only that!
The ability to ‘see’ Jesus is determined by the heart. In John 12:40, John quotes from Is. 6:9-10 to give us a clue to sight or to blindness: “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart”. The Jewish authorities had witnessed so many miracles, yet because of their perversity of will ‘would not believe’ in Jesus, and this quickly turned into ‘could not believe’ (see 12:37-39). The condition of the heart determines if there is faith, and if so, ‘seeing’ is possible, like Abraham who ‘saw Christ’s day’. But if we call God a liar, then comes divine blindness. In like manner, Jesus said that “everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). This seeing is present and ongoing sight which God wants you to have. It’s part of having everlasting life.
Dream Three – I spent one night in Hettinger. In that night I dreamed about the face of a young girl of twelve or thirteen. All I saw was her face and I was to learn it. Then came a message: “Satan is trying to tempt her to leave Christ. Minister to her.” Then I woke up. And I remembered I had dreamt that just the night before I came here. I got the message twice.
Morning came and it was on my heart to attend church since it was Sunday morning. So I started walking and found a fellowship. I arrived and the pastor greeted me warmly and asked me where I was from and why I was there. I said I was from Duluth, MN and was there because of a dream about the town. This intrigued him and asked if I cared to share it with him. I did, and proceeded to tell him that his town was definitely on God’s map and to be encouraged. He was, and more than a little. He allowed me to share a short word with the congregation. From there at the front, I saw the young girl from my dream! I still find this astonishing, that God can do that. After the service I shared with the girl, her Dad and Mom and older sister my dream, and how Satan was tempting her to leave Christ. I asked her is this true. She looked a little bewildered. So I said that Jesus told Peter on the night of his betrayal that Satan ‘desired to sift him like wheat, but that Jesus had prayed for him that his faith would not fail’ (Luke 22:31-32). And I said that maybe God was showing us this ahead of time before Satan could get away with it, so we could pray about it together before it happened. We did, and she was just beaming. Praise God.
1) Act on the dream. If God gives you a dream that puts you on his ancient path, have some grit and craziness to step into it. Take . . . a . . . risk. God is Mr. Risk himself, you know; he took on risk about you already. See what happens! What do you have to lose, maybe just your bland life? Jesus already spoke about this potential loss of yours when he said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).
2) Get a dream journal. Dreams hold light that is contingent. You can push them away. Dreams are one of the most intimate ways God speaks to illuminate us. Our dreams can really reveal what the secret of our heart is, getting it from the subconscious to our awareness. They can even catapult us into the very will of God where we wouldn’t have gone before (cf. Joseph in Psalm 105:19). So then, if you realize by dreams ‘there’s Somebody’s head in your box’, decide to not hate the light. Dare to step fully into the God’s light, warts and all, presenting your whole self to Him with your whole history. It is precisely at this fork in the road you will discover that now, now, everything you ever did, good or bad, got sanctified by the light. You just got your history back, and the discontinuity of your wretched past just got resurrected by Jesus too; it means something. And now, as it is written, all your “deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:21). Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.
3) Lack a dream? Ask. You never know. They are part of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 as given through the Prophet Joel. Believe for it. Groovay.