Have you been dreaming more during the pandemic and quarantine? There have been numerous news reports of increased levels of dreaming. For me, I’m dreaming as much as I always have. From the time I was a kid, through to the present day, my mind tends to be very active while sleeping. I’ve had nightmares. Recurring dreams. Bizarre mash-up dreams where people from my past are interacting with people from my present, though they don’t know each other in real life. And I’ve had that feeling many times when I woke up thinking, “Whew…woah. I am so glad that was just a dream!”
I wonder if any of you keep a dream journal to help me remember them. I’ve thought about it, but never started one. Most of my dreams I cannot remember. Some I remember very clearly, even dreams that occurred years ago.
Not only is the content of my dreams usually wild, but it is equally fascinating to try to interpret them. Our fears come out in our dreams. Our anxieties. Our desires. Then there is another category of dream, the kind through which God is trying to get in touch with you, and those we would definitely want to interpret, wouldn’t we?
The problem is that it is difficult to know if a dream is the product of our own minds or if it is a message from God. As we continue to study Acts, we’re going to learn about a man who had an unmistakable dream from God, and the interpretation was important. If you’d like to follow along, please open your Bibles to Acts 9:32.
I want to briefly summarize Acts 9:32-43. For the last few chapters we focused on three men, Stephen, Philip and Saul, none of whom were members of Jesus’ 12 apostles. The account in Acts now returns to the man who is generally considered to be the leader of the 12 apostles, and the leader of the whole church: Peter.
In Acts 9:32-43 is Peter has a ministry of healing in two Jewish towns that leads to people becoming followers of Jesus. In verses 32-35, Peter heals a paralytic man named Aeneas, and we read that “all those who lived in the towns of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Then in verses 36-43, Peter raises a woman named Dorcas from the dead! As you can imagine, given the fact that it was a resurrection, “This became known all over the town of Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.”
This is amazing. Peter is doing what Jesus did during his ministry, astounding miracles of healing, including a resurrection. The Spirit of God is at work! But Peter is missing something very important about the mission of Jesus, and he is about to be shocked.
First, though, the scene changes to the town of Caesarea, a Mediterranean port city just to the north. Feel free to read Acts 10:1-8 at this point.
In Caesarea we meet Cornelius, a devout, god-fearing Roman Centurion who has a vision from God, telling him to send for Peter in Joppa. I love this part of the story. God breaks into a non-Jewish man’s life and communicates directly to him. Cornelius, as we read, is a deeply faithful man. God knows this, and wants Cornelius to fully understand the truth about Jesus. It is very interesting to me that God doesn’t tell Cornelius the info, but instead God says there is a man named Peter who will tell Cornelius what he needs to know.
This is very similar to the vision that Saul had in chapter 9. Remember that? Jesus appears to Saul, but instead of giving Saul much information about who he is, Jesus tells Saul to go into the city of Damascus and wait for instructions. Then Jesus, in yet another vision, asks Ananias to go meet with Saul. Now in chapter 10, God instructs Cornelius to send men to Joppa to get a guy named Peter.
Do you notice what God is doing in these situations? God entrusts his mission to his people. He certainly has the power to overwhelm us with his presence. Or if he wanted, he could communicate the story of Jesus to every person on the planet by a vision. There is a sense, then, in which he doesn’t need us. And yet, in his wisdom, he has decided to invite us to join with him in the mission of telling the story of Good News.
He wants to work with us! He desires to partner with us in spreading his goodness and truth! That is what the book of Acts has featured time and time again. It is what flows from Jesus’ Ascension back in chapter 1, that though he has returned to the Father in heaven, he has empowered and included us, his followers, his disciples, to carry on the mission. He is with us in it all as he sent his Spirit to indwell and fill us! Isn’t it amazing how God wants to work together with us for the mission of his Kingdom?
This partnership benefits God, it benefits the one who learns about him, and it benefits us, as we get to partner with him in the mission. Do you see his wisdom and his goodness in that plan? His is a far superior plan than a domineering take-over of a controlling God! That he wants to work with us to share the good news is the outflow of the love and the kindness of partnership! How much better is an apprentice situation for learning a skill than just someone telling someone how to do something? The apprentice gets their hands dirty, learning by doing. Or consider a dad or mom who does all the work and never involves the kids? How much better is it when parents invite their kids to participate in learning new skills or doing chores, even when the kids don’t want to do them? Just like that, God loves partnering with us. In Acts 9 and 10 we are seeing God at work, yes, but his is an intervention that empowers and encourages his people to reach out.
As he reached out to Ananias to go minister to Saul, God now does something similar with Peter. But Peter is shocked by what God says. Check back in to the next post to learn the surprising news God has for Peter.
Today, how is God calling you to partner with him? Has God invited you to use your gifts and abilities? He sure has! How are you joining with him in the mission of his Kingdom?