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How to View Claims About Dreams and Visions

When it comes to analyzing dreams and visions, very few people are short on opinion.

Some seek dreams, visions, and other mystical experiences constantly yet don’t even know their Bible. Others dismiss every supernatural claim and prefer rationalism at all costs; unwilling to even accept any possibility that supernatural experiences could either be demonic or that God could providentially use a very normal dream to move someone into realistic action once they wake up.

There are landmines on all sides of this subject, and one of those is that it tends to become a tier 1 issue. In other words, people will make railing judgments about the salvation of an individual based on their position regarding how God may or may not use dreams, or if it is possible for someone to have some supernatural experience. It’s important to navigate these hotly debated waters with a great deal of grace, while still holding fast to the truth of God’s word. A fascinating example of this is when R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler sit with Ravi Zacharias as he shares about some interesting experiences during this Q & A.

What About “Sola Scriptura?” 

The natural question arises for theological conservatives: Wouldn’t such an experience deny “Sola Scriptura?” This question has two answers: Yes, and no (depending on what the claim is).

Why yes?  If someone is making wild claims that demean Jesus and contradict His word, that should be cause for red flags. Especially if they say things that insult Him, like one particular claim from a leader at Bethel Church in Redding, California who declared that in a vision Jesus came and asked for him for forgiveness. You read that correctly. The claim was that Jesus asked for this leader to forgive him.

Why no? While discernment is merited for supernatural claims, someone simple having a dream would fall within the normal pattern of human behavior. A dream is simply defined as “a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep.” It is possible that someone could dream about Jesus and that God could use a dream to lead them to investigate Jesus and the Bible in the same way that someone could dream about baseball and wake up wanting to play baseball. Can we honestly say that God can’t put a thought in someone’s head? That seems far-reaching to deny, even if this subject makes you uncomfortable. Another experience that would not violate Sola Scriptura is if someone had a demonic experience. Such a thing is a non sequitur to Sola Scriptura since most who hold to Sola Scriptura would not deny that the Devil and demons are actively attacking people through deception of all sorts — including demonization, false signs, witchcraft, and more. We can’t possibly deny that demonic experiences are real and that the Devil is actively working to deceive people with real experiences dripping with sinister lies. Therefore, discernment is crucial.

As you navigate claims regarding dreams and visions, here are some practical steps to consider. These will keep you from swinging to extremes or jumping to conclusions. We do well to avoid sign-seeking and sensationalism (Matthew 12:38-39), while at the same time being careful with our words lest we lose an opportunity to guide someone into the truth and needlessly hurt someone with our dismissive or pompous attitude (Colossians 4:6).

1. Be sensitive to new believers and their experiences

When someone comes to us and shares their perceived experience, dismissal is the best way to get yourself dismissed. Just like nobody wants to work for someone who wreaks of smug arrogance, and just like no one opens up to a father who suppresses your expressions and unkindly dismisses questions, nobody trusts those who jump to hasty conclusions or who exhibit a condescending tone.

Some people have experienced something and they need sensitivity and help. What if their experience was demonic and they don’t know it? Could it be that they don’t know their Bible very well and are innocently ignorant? What if they merely had a dream and it led them to further investigation and gospel transformation in a country that doesn’t allow missionaries? Couldn’t Jesus build His church in some way that causes a person to investigate the true gospel? It helps no one when someone opens up to us and we pompously remark: “Whatever you experienced wasn’t real. You’re making this up.” Being sensitive doesn’t mean you’re agreeing or believing. It just means you’re listening and caring.

2. Be discerning because a lot of people make things up

There are a ton of made-up stories. When I was growing up in the Word of Faith movement, one next-generation family member who is now running with the New Apostolic Reformation told me that we have freedom in Christ to make things up sometimes if it builds people’s faith. He made up healings, visions, stories about God verbally speaking to him, and more. Many people do this. Don’t be shocked or deceived.

3. Be willing to confront glaring inconsistencies with Scripture

Oral Roberts was an old hero of mine, a famous pioneer of faith healing, and a dangerous deceiver. He once claimed that a 900-ft tall “Jesus” appeared to him, and later on claimed “God told him” that people needed to give millions of dollars towards a building project or God would kill him.[1]

If someone claims something manipulative like this, they don’t need a 900-ft tall Jesus, they need the Scriptures that the real Jesus taught. Some people we encounter will have had demonic experiences or have been led away by strange and deceitful spirits (1 Timothy 4:1). They need to be taught that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

3. Be willing to say “I don’t know what you experienced.” 

So many want to slam dunk people with black and white answers but the reality is, you can’t know everything or conclude upon every person’s story with absolute certainty. What can you say with total confidence from time to time? Simply say, “I don’t know.” This allows you to point to what you do know — which leads us to the most important point in this article.

4. Be consistently pointing to the sufficiency of Scripture

Let’s imagine for a moment that someone did have a dream about Jesus and it caused them to wake up to reality and seek out answers. Guess what? We don’t live by dreams. We don’t get saved by dreams. We don’t stay saved by dreams. We don’t get filled with the Spirit by dreams. We don’t study the Bible through dreams. We don’t get heaven by dreams. Faith doesn’t come by dreaming.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Even if you think you heard the word of Christ in a dream, you’ve still got to wake up and live by faith in reality!

When it comes to dreams and discerning an experience, we don’t need to be cruel to people. But we also don’t need to be chasing signs or hunting for the next “high” that gets our adrenaline pumping. The word of God is enough for the true believer and will always be enough.

Isaiah 40:8 reminds us, “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

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[1] “Oral Roberts Tells of Talking to 900-Foot Jesus,” Tulsa World, October 16, 1980, accessed December 23, 2016,

Is it Always God’s Will to Heal Now?

Jesus is getting a lot of really confusing press when it comes to physical healing these days. This post will answer one of the biggest questions that arises from all of the confusion.

As of right now, miraculous healing is one of the most popular subjects inside and outside the church. Preachers are preaching it, televangelists are guaranteeing, desperate people need it – it’s a healing-hungry world out there.

Recently, I was on a camping trip with my family and thought I was free and clear of any healing ministry enthusiasts. That first night a man walked up to my campsite out of the blue, introduced himself, and proceeded to spend 2 hours telling me about his divine healing ministry. The crescendo of our campfire pow-wow? No, he didn’t heal my wife’s asthma (or even offer). But he did give me two copies of his most recent book on using the power of positive words to speak healing into every sick person I know. After I declined his offer of 400 copies for our church, I shared truth, and he didn’t return again. houston-1You probably experience the same kind of chaotic intrusion from time to time as well. Peruse through your local TV stations or mainstream Christian bookstore and it won’t be long before you’re promised divine healing and a miracle of some sort. On the flip side to all of that, there’s a whole slew of authors and teachers who will tell you that God does nothing supernatural, so not to get your hopes up.

All of the opinions can be downright confusing for people who just need a clear answer to one begging question:

Is it always God’s will to heal everyone during their life on earth?

To find this answer we don’t need a faith healer’s FAQ webpage, or a blanket guarantee from someone who has “seen and experienced some things” in a healing room or a jungle overseas. We need nothing more than to incline our ears and fill our minds with answers from the word of God.

Here are six clear truths that explain God’s will in regards to healing:

I. GOD DOESN’T HEAL EVERYONE ALL THE TIME

This is the most important point to start off any discussion on God’s will and miraculous healing. God doesn’t heal everyone all the time and the Bible gives irrefutable evidence to support this. Miracles of healing were primarily done through God the Son – Jesus Christ, and His Apostles. Jesus healed just one man out of a multitude of sick people at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:3-8). Jesus didn’t heal people in His hometown of Nazareth (Matthew 13:58). After a healing-spree in the district of Galilee, Jesus plainly decided to go somewhere else to preach even though desperately sick and hurting people were looking for Him (Mark 1:38). His reasoning was simple: “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” Christ didn’t come to earth to hold a healing crusade, He came to bring salvation! As for the most prolific Apostle and writer of 13 New Testament books? Paul wielded miraculous gifts yet told Timothy to take wine for his stomach issues. Why didn’t the Apostle wield his gift of healing? (1 Timothy 5:23). Paul also left one of his faithful ministry teammates, Trophimus, sick at Miletus. Why didn’t he heal him and bring him along? (2 Timothy 4:20). Clearly, God heals as He wills and even sovereignly controlled the specially gifted Apostles. God’s will in healing is not a formula that man can master.

II. GOD DOESN’T HEAL BASED SOLELY ON FAITH

Can you “believe” your way into getting healed? This view on faith healing was first popularized in the early 20th century by faith healing evangelists. They made a lot of money off people by making them repeat customers to their healing crusades. If someone didn’t get healed, the faith healer blamed the sick person and told them to come back with more faith – and usually an offering (we’ll deal with that one next). Fortunately, the Bible clears the air on this abusive teaching. When Jesus healed the cripple at Bethesda, the man didn’t have a clue who Jesus was, let alone have enough faith (John 5:13). In Luke 5:17-26 Jesus did heal based on faith – He healed a man’s soul through salvation. When the Pharisees questioned His authority to forgive the lame man’s sins, He healed the man to prove it. Other times Jesus was in fact moved by people’s faith, but this doesn’t mean that His healing touch was bound to whether or not they had enough faith. When the woman with issue of blood crawled through the crowd just to touch the hem of Christ’s robe, He felt power leave Him (Luke 8:46). In this case, as in others throughout the gospels, Jesus is moved by her faith and heals her, but He tells her of the true healing that has taken place when He says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” (Luke 8:48). Jesus calls her “daughter” because He has offered the greatest healing of all; she is now part of the family of God. So can the healing power of Christ be coerced by faith as a force? Not even close. Jesus is the Great Physician who places a priority on healing the wayward sinner’s soul, more than He does the physical body.

III. GOD DOESN’T HEAL BASED ON GIVING MONEY

Simon the Sorcerer tried to buy it (Acts 8:9-25), fortune-tellers and witch doctors will sell it, and faith healers will tell you to sow your biggest seed to get it. As it has been throughout history, people are convinced that healing, like houses, is FOR SALE. When a beggar asked for a blessing in his cup, the Apostle Peter offered him something better – and gave it to him for free! (Acts 3:6). This truth is pure biblical logic. If God can’t be convinced to heal by a guaranteed formula, and Jesus can’t be forced to heal by the right amount of faith, then it’s unthinkable that the Alpha and Omega can be “bought” into healing with a bribe. No Apostle, no New Testament writer, and not even Jesus Himself, ever told someone to give a financial seed of faith for a healing, a breakthrough, or protection from sickness. It is not God’s will that you give money to be healed.

IV. GOD DOESN’T HEAL BASED ON POSITIVE CONFESSIONS

Positive confession teaching asserts that if you have enough faith, and speak your healing by that faith, then you will be healed. Based on this view of healing, your sickness is caused by your negative confession and wrong thinking and you can control God’s will in healing. Growing up I experienced this belief system first hand and was often scolded if I woke up with a runny nose and said, “I’m sick.” A parent would quickly remark, “Don’t confess that! You are well! You are the head and not the tail! You are healed in Jesus Name – now get ready for school.” This view on healing goes back over a century and has been the cause of much confusion in the body of Christ. This teaching has no foundation in Scripture but if certain verses are twisted and taken out of context, it can be taught. The late Charismatic apologist Walter Martin desperately tried to help his own theological camp understand this unbiblical view on healing with sermons about this erroneous teaching. Ultimately, 1 John 5:14 serves as a helpful clarification for praying “in Jesus’ name” as it says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Confessing something “in Jesus’ name” doesn’t work as a blanket promise if what you’re asking isn’t the will of God. You’ll know God’s will in regards to your healing based on what actually happens – not based on what you confess.

V. GOD SOVEREIGNLY HEALED THEN AND HE STILL SOVEREIGNLY HEALS TODAY

So does God still heal today? As an immutable (unchanging) and sovereign God – of course He does! His will cannot be thwarted and there are those who He has decreed to be healed during life on earth. But He does so according to His will and He does so for His glory. Jesus prayed, “Thy will be done”, multiple times throughout His life and ministry on Earth. At one point, He even prayed this when He was sweating blood (Luke 22:42). Under the greatest weight a man has ever carried, and in preparation to take the sin of the world on His divine shoulders, God the Son still submitted His will to the glorious plan and purpose of the Father’s will. This is a model that should resonate with every believer today. Can God heal? Yes. But sometimes He will glorify Himself through your suffering, your sickness, and even your death. This counter-intuitive way of thinking is foreign to this world. No wonder Peter called us foreigners (1 Peter 2:11), and James said to count it all joy when you encounter trials (James 1:2). Just think of how God will use your story for His glory – no matter what your temporal circumstance may be. That is the greatest honor in this life. Greater than even a healing.

VI. GOD’S WILL GUARANTEES THAT ALL WILL BE HEALED IN HEAVEN

The atonement bought and paid for everything you and I could never afford. Christ died and paid the penalty of sin, sickness, tears, fears, the wrath of God, and the eternal fire of hell. While all of this (and more) is provided for in the atonement, many of the blessings we’ll experience won’t be fully realized until heaven. For example, while we have assurance of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ here on earth, we don’t live eternally until after we die (John 3:16). Similarly, this old decaying body is promised to be replaced by a glorified one (1 Corinthians 15:50-53), but we don’t receive that until heaven. Finally, Christ said He is going to prepare a place for His disciples (John 14:2-3), and that means us indirectly too. Yet, some of us would hardly call our current home a heavenly mansion! Yes, all of the benefits of the atonement were bought and paid for by Christ – but heaven is where we’ll eternally enjoy them in the fullest sense!

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One day the trumpet will sound, the dead in Christ shall rise, death will be no more, He’ll wipe away every tear, cancer won’t exist, wheel chairs will be scrap metal, downs syndrome will be an old diagnosis, blindness will be overcome by marvelous light, and the glorious blessings of the atonement will be realized once and for all eternity.

Some will experience the sovereign healing hand of God in this life. While some will suffer and not be healed until heaven. In every circumstance, let these truths from the word of God bring comfort to your soul, and to your body. Your years of suffering and uncertainty are but a vapor here on earth. Your eternity of perfect joy will never end.