Showing posts with label dream. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dream. Show all posts

23 April 2013

To Egypt and back

Leaders in the church, Part 7
< Herod and the astrologers | Index | John the Baptist >

Joseph takes his family to Egypt to escape from Herod, and later they return and head for Galilee. This shows us how important it is to lead from obedience. But what do we do when the information is incomplete? And what does this say about leaders and about followers?

A painting of the escape to Egypt
When I began my trawl through the New Testament for information on leadership, I had no idea that by the seventh article I'd still be in the second chapter of Matthew!

But that is right where we are, looking at Joseph and Mary's escape to Egypt and then their decision to settle in Nazareth in Galilee. (Matthew 2:13-23)

Once again, dreams are an important feature. I've occasionally been guided by dreams in the past, I wonder if you have too? This time, the angel in Joseph's dream instructs him to take his family to Egypt because Herod is going to hunt down the baby to kill him. As before, Joseph was obedient, he got up and set off in the night for Egypt.

Later, when Herod was dead, he was told to return to Israel (again by an angel in a dream) and was finally guided (in another dream) to settle in Galilee in the town of Nazareth.

Leadership - What can we learn from this about leadership? Right away we  can see the importance of acting on what we hear from the Father.

Leading is not about following our own plans and visions, it's about following the Father's plans and visions. In other words, leading is about obedience. It's not about my wisdom, it's about Father's wisdom expressed in whatever way he chooses.

In Joseph's case the Almighty's will was expressed in dreams, it may sometimes be the same for us. However, the Holy Spirit may choose to speak in many different ways. It's up to us to be alert and notice his communication - whatever form it takes.

Acting on incomplete information - Something else we can glean from this story is that leading through obedience is not always easy.

'Escape to Egypt and stay there until I tell you' meant that Joseph's obedience would be open-ended. Not only would they go to Egypt, they would stay there for an unknown period of time. Presumably he would have found work as a carpenter and there was a large ex-pat Jewish community in cities like Alexandria. Should they settle, build a house and set up a business? Or would it be better to do contract jobs and find temporary lodgings?

Similarly, 'Go to Israel' is incomplete information; apparently Joseph was not told what part of Israel to choose or how long to remain there. Guidance and obedience don't always result in the clarity we might like.

There's also the important matter of using our own brains, wisdom and experience. When guidance lacks detail we may need to depend on our own resources to fill the gaps. Joseph decided for himself that it was unwise to go to Judaea. In a further dream he was warned again and decided to settle in Galilee in the small town of Nazareth. He worked the rest of his life and died in Nazareth without seeing what Jesus would eventually do. We rarely see the end from the beginning.

For us and for others - Leading implies followers. We have responsibilities to others and to our heavenly Father. Here is Joseph having to make decisions that also affect Mary and the infant Jesus. Here's the One who has come as Emmanuel ('Elohim with us') placing his safety in the hands of a carpenter! Even those with great authority (even Jesus) must learn to put their trust in the hands of other leaders.

This is true in the church, isn't it? Christ himself is the head of the church yet he has entrusted his body to the leading of ordinary men and women, not because he needs to but because he chooses to. And it's the same for us.

One of the primary ways leaders come off the rails is when they begin to think people should follow them. Demanding to be followed will never be effective because true authority is always given freely, not demanded. If people don't want to follow you no amount of cajoling or threatening or persuading will change their minds. But if you are worthy of respect and trust they will follow you without hesitation, even without conscious thought.

Joseph was followed into Egypt, back to Israel and on to Galilee because Mary respected and trusted and loved him. And the infant Jesus, the fullness of the Most High in tiny, helpless, human form was also entrusted to his care and to that of Mary. Have you ever thought how truly awesome that is?

And have you ever thought how awesome it is that the Father trusts us to lead one another? Jesus lives in every believer, he has planted his Holy Spirit and nature in us individually. If you lead you are leading people who are filled with the presence of the King of Kings! So be very careful and ever so humble in all you say and do and think.

This is why we are told that few should teach (James 3:1) and none should be called Teacher (Matthew 23:8). And it's why Paul wanted the churches to recognise elders who would be true and faithful (Titus 1:5-9). Much depended on it. Much depends on it still.

Leading by doing - Notice how an angel was sent repeatedly to show Joseph what to do next. He was given dreams that showed him the need to journey and provided clear destinations. There's a clue for us here if we are willing to see it.

If anyone aspires to lead the body of Christ they must lead by their actions, not merely by talking. If the lesson is to love one another then leading will involve practical and sacrificial loving. Isn't that how Jesus did it? If the lesson is sharing the good news in every day life then leading will involve inventive ways of sharing it daily.

Unlike Father, we can't insert a dream into a sleeping person's mind. However, we can insert a dream by demonstrating it in our own lives, by acting it out. In the church we are, I think, surrounded by many, many sleeping people (certainly in Western society). So go and show them the dream, reveal it to them by your actions. You are a leader, in many ways we all are. So get to it!

Questions:

  • What would have happened if Joseph had ignored the dreams in his leading?
  • Can you think of examples of local leaders in your own life who show the way?
  • How might you lead, or lead more effectively?
  • Had you considered that when you lead you are leading people who contain Christ?

See also:


< Herod and the astrologers | Index | John the Baptist >

01 September 2011

THOUGHT - A dream yet not a dream

One morning recently as I was in that dreamy state between sleep and wakefulness, Father spoke to me. I was soon fully alert and off to find my notepad so I could jot the thoughts down. Here's what I wrote.

Suddenly - like lightningHe gave me the word 'subito'. There it was in my mind, a word from nowhere. And then he told me, 'I AM love'. The capitals seem very significant, he means 'I AM' as in 'Yahweh', his Name is love and his nature is love too.

He told me, 'If you love me you will obey me (John 14:21). And therefore when you don't obey you show your lack of love. My sheep hear my voice (John 10:27).' I know that he means me, but I also know that he is entrusting these words to me because he wants me to share them with others. They're for me, but they are not only for me. He is looking for an obedient people, a people who are obedient because they love him.

Listening - To obey we must first listen, so if we love him we will also listen to him. Jesus and the Father are one, they are in one another (John 10:38). They are one because they always love and always listen so they always communicate.

If we love and listen we become part of this process of communication, we become part of their community. We become one with them. Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)! We will bear much fruit if we are in this place.

Listening and looking means paying attention. When we truly hear and see we will stop attending to our own needs and aspirations and will refocus on the person who is speaking or doing. This is the case whether it's the Holy Spirit speaking, or another Jesus follower, or someone in the world, or even our enemy.

If we won't focus on the One who is Love we won't hear him or see him. We'll be away in another place like the prodigal son. But the prodigal, although far off, turned and heard the truth in his heart, 'There is safety and sustenance in my father's house.'

Sudden change - Back to that word 'subito'. As the word appeared in my sleepy mind I thought it might mean 'suddenly' in Latin. Sure enough, when I looked it up later I discovered it is indeed 'suddenly' both in Latin and in Italian. I wonder if things are going to change in a sudden, unexpected way? This would be so typical of Father's plans, he is always taking us by surprise!

So now I am waiting for a change of course or direction. It will be initiated by Papa, not by me. I'm neither knowledgeable nor wise enough to change or begin anything - but he is! My part is to be alert and patient - to be listening and loving. Then perhaps I'll be ready to obey.

17 March 2011

THOUGHT - David's slingstone

David is so often a picture of Christ. He is a good shepherd, looking after his Father's sheep. He was anointed and is a mighty King. He also faced and defeated a strong and powerful giant.

Rounded pebbles suitable for a slingI was half awake one morning, and was brought out of that dreamy state with a sudden understanding that Jesus fired off his slingstone at Calvary and it is still on its unerring flight towards the giant's forehead. There must have been a period of perhaps a second or two between David letting loose the stone and the blow that downed Goliath. During that moment he had no idea that he was about to die. If he thought about it at all, he assumed the little pebble would miss, or if it struck him it would bounce harmlessly off his helmet or breastplate. For a short time he had no idea what was coming.

Like the giant, the evil one knows that something has been done against him but doesn't yet see the full implication. For a millenium or two he has been acting as if he thinks he can escape, but the cause of his final demise is on its way and will assuredly arrive.

A good illustration of this kind of behaviour is Colonal Gaddafi. In fact, we all do it. We carry on as if we will live for ever, forgetting that we might die at any moment. Muammar Gaddafi might die today or tomorrow from a heart attack or a stroke, a traffic accident or an assassin's bullet, a slip on the stairs, a falling tree or just plain old age. Yet he continues to act as if he might rule Libya for ever, despite the certainty that we must all die.

That is the same behaviour we see from the evil one, carrying on as if he may still win. Perhaps, like Goliath, he doesn't fully understand what Jesus, this little 'David', has done; the full implication of the cross. I am sure some things are hidden from him.

But it doesn't really matter whether he thinks he can win or not. What is important is that we know he has lost! We know that if we resist him he will run away. We know that prayer is powerful. We know that the enemy will try to distract us, confuse us, and misinform us. He will try to put doubt in our minds and despair in our hearts. But we also know that the Messiah has won the victory once and for ever. We know that we have a share in that victory. We know that it's a victory over death, but also over the enemy. Even captivity has been taken captive!

HalleluYah!

Rejoice, for Jesus IS Lord and King.

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