Monday, May 18, 2020

A dream, a vision

This is from Lee Strobel's The Case for Miracles.

A Dream, a Vision, a Bible, a Baptism

Our world is more knit together than ever before; in fact, the global oil industry has connected the city of Houston, Texas, where I live, to many locales in the Middle East. So perhaps it's not surprising that while I was working on this chapter, I encountered a Jesus dream in the church where I serve as a teaching pastor.

The story involves Rachel, a petite and soft-spoken mother with an olive complexion and a kind and gentle demeanor. She lives with her husband and child in an upscale suburb, where I'm sure her neighbors could scarcely imagine her upbringing as a devout Muslim in a Middle Eastern country where Christianity is forbidden.

When she was twenty-two years old, she was hounded by some personal difficulties. One night before bed she called out to God, "Please send me one of your prophets who will release me from this miserable feeling. I badly need comfort and guidance."

That night she had a dream of being in some sort of movie theatre, where the projector cast an intensely bright light. Suddenly, there was a man—Jesus. "At first, it seemed like a portrait, but the portrait was not still," she said. "He was looking at me with very kind, concerned eyes. It was as if he could feel my pain and my sadness."

She said Jesus spoke to her, but the words weren't as important as the emotion they evoked: a deep and profound sense of relief, comfort, affirmation, and joy. Then his face disappeared. "My eyes opened, but I was sure I was never asleep," she said. "I was in that room with him."

By age thirty, she was married and had moved with her husband to Texas. One day while talking with a neighbor, she blurted out, "I would like to study the Bible." To this day, she's not sure where that comment came from, but eventually, she ended up studying the gospel of John, verse by verse, with a friend who is part of our congregation.

Of course, John's gospel begins with the sweeping affirmation of Jesus not as a mere prophet of Islam but as God himself: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And John features a revolutionary statement by Jesus that would shake the foundation of Rachel's Islamic training: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

As she began studying the gospel—and before she knew anything about baptism—she had a vision. "I saw a man with a book," she said. "I was standing with him in water. I saw my friend holding my arm, and we were both looking at the man with the book open in his hands. The man was looking into the horizon with tears running down his face, and I knew that this man loves Jesus very much."

The duration of the vision, she said, "was fast and not fast. I could see details, but it only lasted a few minutes." She had never seen the man's face before.

When Easter came, her friend brought her to our church. As they sat in the auditorium waiting for the service to begin, Rachel suddenly saw a man walking down the aisle.

"Over there—that's the man!" she exclaimed. It was the man from her vision—a pastor named Alan, who presides over baptisms at our church. She had never met him before, but there he was, right in front of her.

By the time she closed the last page of John's gospel in her Bible study, Rachel put her trust in Jesus as her forgiver and leader—a joyous occasion in her life, but not one she dared to share with her husband.

So one day when he was out of town, a private baptism was arranged. "We all went into the baptismal pool," she said. There they were: the man who loves Jesus, reading from an open Bible, and her friend at her side—just as foretold.

"The vision was coming true in front of my very eyes," she said. "When the pastor spoke, tears streamed down my face. I asked him to keep me longer under the water so I could feel every moment of it."

A dream. A vision. Tom Doyle's words sprang to mind: "Personally, I don't think God has put the supernatural on the shelf."

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