Last weekend I had the privilege of attending The Worldview Apologetics Conference and two of the guest speakers were Dr. Norm Geisler and Ravi Zacharias. I thought to myself, Norm is getting pretty old now, and this might be an opportunity to see him speak while he’s still alive *grin* and Ravi, well, I’d been listening to him on the radio and podcasts for years, it would be nice to see him in person, too.
I’m glad I went, but after the first night I had an unusually disturbing dream. I dream normally. I don’t claim to have a special gift or anything. If I do dream, it’s only in remembering a sense of some muddled images, or pieces of a dream, but rarely do I remember the details after brushing my teeth in the morning. However, this dream was one of those crystal clear dreams that wakes you up and sticks with you for days, maybe even weeks after. It’s these types of dreams I find myself asking God, is there something you’re trying to tell me?
Here’s the dream: I was given a dead child of about a year old. She was beautiful, and perfectly preserved, but she was ice-cold and dead. I was instructed to set her into a baby bath like tub, sit her up and try to bring her face to something that looked like eye glass frames. It was depressing work and morbid. The baby, being dead couldn’t even sit up long enough to get her face to the eye glass frame. She kept falling over, and I’d have to catch her and physically hold her, but nothing changed. She was still ice cold, and dead. As I continued to struggle the baby slipped out of my hands and fell back into the baby bath water.
At first I felt clumsy and irresponsible for letting her fall, but as soon as she hit the water and the water washed over her face, her eyes opened and she took in a deep breath. I quickly grabbed the baby and tried to get her out of the water because I didn’t want her to choke. But as I pulled her out of the water she went unconscious again. Again, being wet, the baby slipped from my hands and fell into the water. As the water washed over her face her beautiful, piercing, life-filled eyes opened and she took another deep breath. Still concerned that she might choke on the water, I was about to take her out again. But as I watched the water swirl over her mouth, she again opened her eyes and took a deep breath. Encouraged, though a little confused why she was able to breath despite the water, I urged her on. “Breathe!” I yelled, “Breathe!”
Then I woke up.
I found the dream disturbing mostly because I don’t like being around corpses. And if that baby hadn’t come alive, I would have dismissed it as a nightmare. I also had the unshakeable sense that the dream wasn’t just for me. But that I needed to tell someone or write it down. Again, this is pretty unusual for me but God has used it before in my life so, I prayed, “Lord if this is from you, and you want me to share this with someone, you’re going to have to make the signs so obvious I can’t ignore them.”
The next morning at the second day of the conference as I was waiting for a friend to arrive, I sat down in the lobby to drink coffee and people watch. Soon, two ladies sat down next to me and we started chatting. One of them was a fairly new believer of about two years old and I asked her if she would please give me the short version of her testimony. She told me she had a Christian friend who shared with her for years but she never really took anything she said very seriously and thought the idea of needing God as silly. But one day her friend mentioned that her church was having a question and answer session for skeptics and she, believing she had nothing to fear from being allowed to ask questions, decided, “Why not.”
As she told me this, she leaned close and said, “But you know what? None of their answers changed my mind, as well thought-out as they were.” Tears began to mist her eyes and she said, “It was the presence of God I felt when I walked through the doors. It was in the worship.”
She said, “Remember what Ravi said last night? He said you can have all the answers, but if you aren’t spending time in the presence of God, and having your life touched and changed by being in relationship with Jesus, no one will listen.”
Now my dream made sense to me. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t make the dead child see. The problem was, she was dead and she needed to be made alive. Only God can do that work. I’m just there to bring the presence of God near to those that are dead, and watch him do the miraculous.
“Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but dead people live.” – CS Lewis
‘Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”‘ John 3:5
After the young believer told me her testimony, I felt safe enough with her to tell her my dream. Afterwards she said, “You need to write that down.”
Our next conference speaker was interesting. And I say that with much respect knowing this particular speaker is well known, a professor of Theology and Philosophy and knows his stuff. But his talk disturbed me. It felt out of place at this conference, mainly because it was going after a movement within the Church that he felt was dangerous and not biblical. I took careful notes and on some of what he said, I completely agreed with him, but much of his concerns could be turned on any church in any denomination or movement and none of it went into any sort of apostasy – at least in the stuff that he presented in his 50 minute talk.
During the talk, I kept thinking about the young believer I had chatted with earlier that morning. To be honest, I was concerned for her and wondered how she would take the last message, knowing her testimony and how she was touched by God. (Some teaching within the movement the professor was criticizing have a big emphasis on the presence of God and the miraculous.)
As I made my way to my next workshop, I saw the young believer again and tried to make my way over to talk to her. I noticed tears in her eyes as she was talking to her friend and I tried to say, ‘Hi,’ as I passed her, but there were quite a few people around and she was in a deep discussion with her friend and didn’t notice me. But I did pick up on a little of what she was saying as I was trying to get her attention. She was disturbed by what the last speaker said, and was confused by some of his broad brush-stroke criticism and seemed to be doubting her own experience. Before I could turn around, the crowd was getting too big and I had to move along. I hoped I’d run into her again, but I didn’t.
Needless to say, that experience soured what was an amazing weekend of equipping us to defend our faith for me and probably that young believer. I worry that sometimes our critique of movements within the body of Christ doesn’t actually do more damage than the movement itself.
‘Jesus told them another parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Matt 13:24-30
It was a good weekend, for sure, and I’m privileged to have been able to go, but the lessons I learned were much different than what I was expecting. ~R.