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Some Encouragement Regarding Dreams - An introduction regarding some basics in discernment and interpretation
by Teri Lee Earl

When Christians ask me to interpret their dreams I often end up sharing things I have learned over the years during my Christian walk and ministry regarding dreams. As I write some of these out for you today, I am aware of that many of you have probably already encountered some discouragement or confusion regarding dreams from the Lord. For one thing, many people in our Western culture are trained by our "Age of Reason" cultural influences to discount dreams altogether. Surprisingly, even some 'Spirit-filled' or 'Charismatic' Christians can disbelieve the spiritual significance a dream can have, preferring to keep to a safer ground that might seem less 'kooky' to them. This is contrary to the attitude displayed throughout the Bible though, where believers were not ashamed of the fact that God or angels spoke to them in dreams. On the opposite end of the scale, there are those who may read too much into their dreams or treat them with a superstition or reverence reminiscent of New Age thought and practices.

If we have had a particular dream they we suspect is from God, then the first order of business is to discern if it really is or not. We all have R.E.M. states in our sleep and some of us remember most of our dreams while others of us remember few, if any. My husband has probably remembered only three or four of his dreams since childhood. In contrast, I usually recall one dream or more each night. Since I have so many dreams to sort through, how then do I know which ones to heed and which ones are a result of indigestion, simple emotional processing, or random neurotransmitter chemicals floating around my brain after a hard day's work? How do I also discern the interpretation?

Step One:
Relax, set aside your ego, and trust God

Generally speaking, the best thing to do when it comes to dreams from God, is to adopt an easygoing attitude. Some people tend to be hyper-vigilant and as a result, may end up reading something significant into their dreams which may or may not be there. Rather than relaxing and trusting God to reveal and speak clearly to them what He will, when He will, and how He will, they make the mistake of obsessing over a particular way or timing that they think He should show them something. This means that if they happen to desire a message from God and think that it should be in a dream, then they are at high risk of counting a dream as somehow being a message from God when it is not.

So first of all, although it is sometimes easier said than done, be anxious for nothing. If you are desirous of God to show you something, then remember that He is a big God and He is more than able to speak to you however He wants. This does not have to be in a dream of course. Second of all, if the issue is an interpretation regarding a particular dream, again, be anxious for nothing. If you have read any of my dream or vision testimonies, you may have noticed that I have had to wait as long as fifteen years to fully understand something God was saying to me. And believe me, nothing could have sped up that understanding or interpretation! On the other hand, I have also understood an interpretation of a dream instantaneously, even within the dream. In that case I have sometimes had to simply wait for the unfolding of the dream (if part of it was predictive), rather than the interpretation of it. In both cases I am waiting upon God. Therefore just as scripture indicates, patience as we wait upon the Lord is a virtue in the Christian faith.

So take a deep breath and relax if you do not yet understand the symbols or meaning of a particular dream. Believe it or not, a deep trust in the Lord will not fail you, because God Himself will not fail you.

Step Two
Ask for help from the Holy Spirit

Rather than search through dreams in my mind every morning for something of quality, I tend to ignore most dreams as matter of habit. How is it that I could have such a seemingly apathetic attitude over the years and yet know and remember (in detail) a dream from the Lord? A good part of that answer is because I had many hardships during my young adult life and I had to depend upon God for many things. Other than reading Scripture, I had little luxury time to spend in efforts to remember or contemplate a dream. Since I trusted that the Holy Spirit would remind me or show me what I needed to know, I often asked for help from the Holy Spirit. And this worked. In fact the only time I jotted dreams down was once upon the Lord's instructions. These were dreams that carried the same theme over the course of about a decade, and I was able to remember them all in detail.

Step Three
Always remember to put your relationship with God first

What has been so special about me that I might have any dreams from the Lord at all? Absolutely nothing, and this is important to remember. We need to know that God loves us regardless, and a 'message' from Him in a dream does not necessarily prove or disprove that love at all. Once our egos or anxieties do not to rule our relationship with God, we will be better off in many ways.

While I was in college, I once had a roommate that I will call Jane. Jane had barely escaped a known pseudo-Christian cult at the time called The Way International. She described the horrendous ordeal she underwent in a communal home of theirs in Texas where, because she could not find a job, the leaders screamed at her and threatened her, quoting 2 Thess. 3:10 to her.  When she still could not find employment, they withheld all food from her. It was quite clear to me that they misapplied scripture and showed no mercy.

Eventually her father sent her money to get out of the cult. She said that she bought an airplane ticket but the cult leaders found out about it. While she was at the airport trying to board her plane, four cult members physically held her down to keep her from leaving. She broke free from them and escaped to catch her plane, which took her back to Florida.

Jane was very troubled due to her cult experience. She was very hostile to me at times, yelled at me, and then cried because she did not trust God to keep us from starving while we were poor college students. I did not tell her this, but there was a time when I skipped meals every day when there was not enough food between us, so that she could eat enough.  Eventually Jane began to understand that God loved her. She turned her life over to God and through incidences that would take too long to detail, she received deliverance from a total of thirteen demons. Afterwards she was much better and this lasted for a number of months.

I do not know how Jane discovered that I had dreams from the Lord. Perhaps other people told her. However, unbeknownst to me she became jealous. Now jealousy of a prophetic gifting is not necessarily lethal in the spiritual sense.  The apostle Paul encouraged us to desire the higher gifts. But jealousy for her turned into a rejection against any type of ministry from me and rebellion toward God. I know this now only because she confessed it to me over a year after she rejoined the cult by attending their local college outreach meetings.

After Jane left the cult again and asked for and received deliverance once again, she confessed to me that  had always wanted to have a dream from God like I did. Since He would not give her one, she got angry with Him and decided not to be a Christian. Once in her cult again, she was miserable again but would not admit it to anyone. Then the Lord gave her a dream.

In the dream she walked into a pleasant looking house. Once inside though, the walls and roof caved in around her and on top of her, and she heard the voice of the Lord from outside of the house clearly saying to her, "I told you not to buy this house!" Jane woke up frightened and shaken, knowing that God had finally given her the dream from Him that she had always wanted, but it wasn't the type of dream she expected!  This, she said, was what drove her to repentance out of fear of God.

So do not let jealousy, anxiety, or any other emotion drive you into rebellion against God.

If we are jealous of anyone who has had an experience or gift that we do not yet have, then let that drive us to prayer as we submit ourselves to God's will, rather than to rebellion against Him because He will not 'play by our rules'.

A dream from God was not at all unusual for people in the Bible, and indeed something that was promised us by the prophet Joel for the last days. So when we have the best attitude we can about it, and when we do the best we can in putting our relationship with God first, we are doing well. If we do have a dream from Him, it is good to think of this as a natural occurrence available to any believer rather than something to covet or create conflict over.

Some Basic Pointers

Now we can come to a few basics about discerning a dream. As a general rule, the following are obvious indicators that a dream is from God:

-any dream the Holy Spirit 'quickens', either during the dream or just after

Sometimes this comes as just a feeling. Sometimes it is stronger then that. The Lord may speak directly to you in the dream as He did with Jane, or perhaps He may say something upon waking from the dream or even during the next day or week.

-any dream with Biblical images or Biblical themes

This is just my opinion, but the exception to this might be "end-time" themes. An "end-of-the-world" dream may be an anxiety dream about concern for our future. While these dreams too can be very important, we must consider our cultural influences. So before jumping to conclusions about the validity of this kind of dream, ask yourself if it is just a regurgitation of movies you've watched or Christian fiction you've read such as the "Left Behind" series. It should be fairly easy to discern the difference between a dream that is fairly meaningless and one that has real spiritual meaning.

-any dream that clearly has a godly purpose or function.

One clear exception to my "end-times theme" caution was a dream that a non-Christian had.  I had just been witnessing to him at the time, when he came to me, distressed over a dream he had (he had no idea I had dreams from God myself, at all) In his dream, he reached out to God just before a huge "door" closed at the end of the world, whereby he was drawn into heaven through the door just in time. As he told me the dream, I knew the 'Door' represented Jesus (Rev. 3:20; Rev. 4:1. A knowledge of Scriptures is a must for interpreting dreams) I told him so and he agreed, even though he had never heard of the relevant scriptures. The dream caused him to be concerned for his spiritual future (eternal life) which was a very good thing!

Although I have said that we should not try to find a dream from God where there is none, occasionally I must confess that I have been too conservative for my own good. Early on especially, I discounted a dream or two that really was from the Lord, and I got taught a lesson this. In retrospect, I knew the Lord's Spirit had been upon the dream and I could tell something was different about the dream as I was waking up, but my intellect or unbelief had kicked in and I set the dream aside in my mind. Or, I was just "too busy" to give it much thought when I should have.

Some people have been 'harassed' by Satan or evil spirits during their sleep and this has happened to me too in the past. There is much I could say about this, but seeing as this is just a friendly introduction, the quickest comment I can make is this: Dreams that are from the Lord are vastly different than those that have a psychic flavor or origin. Dreams from the Lord are less cryptic or bizarre over all, and also are not full of useless sensationalism (remember to question the purpose of the dream!)  Something from the Lord is indeed very different than that from an evil spirit or soulish power, because His character is so much more different than our own or than Satan's.

Now that I have covered these general indicators, I advise that you NOT necessarily be overly impressed by the following qualities to a dream:

-The strength of emotions or lack thereof.

Strong emotions in a dream often means that your mind is 'asking' you to pay attention to the dream, which is important, but it is not necessarily a message from God On High. It may instead be a 'message' from your inner emotional mind or self. Now, if we are filled with the Spirit, the Holy Spirit can be the instigator of a 'revelation' of hidden thoughts or emotions. Think of it as an alarm system going off in order to 'alert' you to a life problem or something you must process.  These are important, but they must be treated with less gravity than we might treat a 'prophetic' dream.

For instance, I have had dreams about my childhood that were very disturbing or power-packed with emotion. They contained very specific plots and images. I remember these dreams to this day, and many times I know exactly what "triggered" these dreams or what they indicated.  Although I have often learned something from these dreams, they were not "from the Lord" in the classic sense - They were instead what I think of as a computer print-out from my mind as I tried to solve a problem or emotional difficulty- important but not necessarily life shattering.

-the length of the dream.

Some of my most powerful dreams from the Lord have only been as brief as just a few seconds long.

This is the end of my general encouragement and introduction to the subject of dreams from God.  Please feel free to read different examples of dreams and their interpretations or outworkings in my "Diary of Dreams" section.

-Teri Lee Earl

This section of "Diary of Dreams" is part of our Prophet 'Un'School