Last week we examined two ways that God can speak to His people. First, we explored God speaking with His own voice in ways that we hear Him either audibly or within our hearts. Second, we discovered that God communicates through the guidance of the Holy Spirit by leading us into all truth. Let’s look at three more ways that God can speak to us that are often considered “supernatural” methods.
Third, God speaks through dreams and visions. Peter declared that when the Holy Spirit is poured out, “your young men shall see visions, and your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). There’s a great book by Jack Deere called, Surprised by the Voice of God. Deere opens the book by describing his own experience while counseling someone. He had a vision of a particular word across the top of this person’s forehead. This former Dallas Theological Seminary professor confesses that this was a first experience for him. His book unfolds his journey and what he has learned about how God speaks through prophecies, dreams, and visions. Open visions are real experiences for some people and most certainly a valid manner of divine communication. Sometimes people will actually see words above someone that they are ministering to. I heard someone talk about seeing a screen above the head of a person and on this screen was detailed information about their life. As a result, they were able to minister to that individual in a profound manner.
Concerning dreams, Deere referenced how the inventor of the modern sewing machine, Elias Howe, credited his invention to a dream. Likewise, Nobel Prize winner, Niels Bohr, claimed that he had seen the structure of the atom in a dream. It was through dreams that God spoke to Joseph about his family and directed them through threats and peril into safety (see Matthew 1:20; 2:13, 19). God spoke to a disciple named Ananias through a vision and told him to meet the apostle Paul and lay hands on his eyes. Meanwhile, Paul was being told in a vision of a man named Ananias coming to lay hands on him (see Acts 9:10-12). And later in Paul's life, God spoke to him through a dream and encouraged him to not fear, but to speak boldly (see Acts 18:9-11).
For nearly one year in my life the Holy Spirit spoke to me through prophetic dreams. In one particular dream, the Holy Spirit warned me about a person in our church who was on the brink of an affair. When I sat down with this person and shared what I sensed, they broke before the Lord and repented. Dreams and visions are authentic ways in which God communicates to His people. If you’re unsure about a particular dream or vision, write it down and pray over it seeking wisdom and revelation (see Eph. 1:17).
Fourth, God can speak through angelic visitations. The Bible is replete with illustrations of angels being sent to bring a word from heaven to God’s people. An angel announced to Zacharias that his wife would give birth to a son (Luke 1:11-17). Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary (Luke 1:26-33). A multitude of heavenly angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:9-14). Three gospel accounts testify that angels announced Jesus’ resurrection (Matt. 28:5-7; Mark 16:6-7; Luke 24:5-7). Two angels appeared to the apostles during the ascension of Jesus and stated that Jesus would return in the same manner (Acts 1:11). We’re told that an archangel will announce the moment when believers will be caught up together to meet the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16-17). The book of Revelation is filled with angelic messages about judgements upon the earth. Finally, there were seven angels in the book of Revelation that were charged with the task of speaking to the churches. I truly believe that God can and will use angels from time to time to communicate a message to us.
Fifth, God can speak through a trance (similar to a vision). What we know from the Bible is that Peter fell into a trance while waiting for a meal to be prepared (see Acts 10:10). While in this trance he saw a vision focusing his heart on his need to minister to Gentiles. Why a trance? Scholars are uncertain why God spoke to Peter in this condition, but because of Peter’s generational bias against Gentiles, it required three encounters with the heavenly voice while in the trance to persuade him. It’s interesting to note that God used a trance in Peter’s life to spread the gospel into the Gentile world. Apparently, God believed that in this instance this was the best way to communicate with one of His servants. Phineas F. Bresee, the founding father of the Church of the Nazarene, while in a trance or a vision, saw a ball of fire descend from heaven and heard a voice telling him to swallow it. His lips burned for several days, and in Bresee’s words, “There came into my ministry a new element of spiritual life and power.” In many ways, the message of entire sanctification preached so ardently by Bresee found its roots in his divine encounter.
Next week we’ll examine one of the most prominent ways that God speaks to us.
God, speak to me any way that you choose. I’m leaning in to you, and I’m inclining my ear to hear you, amen.