By: Frank G. Tunstall
John 1:43 “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.”
Genesis 41:1 “Pharaoh had a dream….”
No invitation equals one extended by Jesus Christ!
The Apostle John used the wording, “finding Philip,” which communicates Jesus gave time and effort to seeking for him. Jesus searched until He found him. As the Son of Man, Jesus lived with the limitations of time and space, as do all of us. Locating Philip required seeking him. Achieving this meant Jesus had to leave the setting of His baptism, commonly thought of as Bethabara, or Bethany beyond the Jordan. The distance is about 85 miles from Bethabara to Bethsaida, Phillip’s hometown on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus covered the distance on foot. It was a long walk, but He spent the energy and made the journey. His goal was to “find” Philip, and through him, Andrew and Peter.
This story is a marvelous portrait of how hard Jesus worked to win even one follower. All who love the Lord should be motivated by Jesus’ work ethic. Jesus later said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17-18). The statement underscores how hard Jesus worked in His humanity. The expression was also one of the Lord’s earliest claims to be the Son of God, and the Pharisees angrily recognized the statement as having that meaning.
Let it be underscored: Jesus walked some 85 miles to find Phillip. It raises the question, “How hard will you work to win a lost soul?”
When the Lord located Philip in Bethsaida, He extended the invitation, “Follow me.” To his eternal credit, Philip accepted Jesus’ invitation.
Coming from the Middle East today we are hearing a growing chorus of testimonies showing how the Holy Spirit is working in our time, using dreams to bring people to Christ. We should not think it strange that the Holy Spirit uses dreams and visions to reach people. Please let me explain.
Some fifteen hundred years ago a man named Mohammed withdrew to a cave to meditate and wait on God. The spot is believed to be a cave named Hira about two miles from Mecca in modern Saudi Arabia. While in that cave he received visions and dreams that resulted in his writing the Koran.
Pentecostal believers hold to the authority of the inerrant scriptures recorded in the sixty-six books of the Bible. We do not believe Mohammed received his “revelation” from Jehovah God who is revealed in the Bible and has an only begotten Son named Jesus. The god of Islam is not the God of the Holy Scriptures.
Without question, however, Mohammed’s experience set the standard for Islam. Faithful Muslims to this day commonly believe – it’s a widely held conviction – that God reveals himself through dreams. Jesus is indeed rrevealing Himself in dreams in record numbers to Muslims. Many of them are accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Two dramas are playing out in the Muslim Middle East today. First, Christians are being persecuted and martyred in record numbers, and desperately need our prayers and intercession. Every church should set aside time each Sunday to pray for our fellow believers paying the ultimate price in the Muslim world. The second, is that Muslims are coming to Christ in record numbers too, as the following article will show.
Do you, dear reader, regularly receive counsel and direction from the Holy Spirit? So many in our Pentecostals ranks have ruled out dreams and visions as a vehicle of divine communication. But we really do need to rethink this. Please consider carefully these three stories in the Bible of dreams that resulted in world-changing events:
Pharoah’s dream was the occasion God used to get Joseph out of prison and elevated to prime minister of Egypt. Please do not miss this truth: God communicated with a pagan ruler with a dream, and Joseph gave the interpretation (See Genesis 40).
Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan Babylonian ruler, had a dream that led to Daniel’s elevation to the highest levels of power in Babylon (see Daniel 2).
In the incarnation, Joseph had a dream from God that motivated him to marry Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. After Jesus was born, God told Joseph in a second dream to get up and take the child to Egypt because Herod would try to kill him. Joseph obeyed immediately. In a third dream, God told Joseph when it was time for him to take Mary and Baby Jesus back home. They made the trip and settled down in Nazareth, fulfilling prophecy (Matthew 1:21-22; 2:13, 19-23; Judges 13:5; Isaiah 11:1).
In addition to dreams, we also recognize God has many additional ways to give guidance. The testimony of Assemblies of God pastor David Gable will demonstrate how the Holy Spirit guided a pastor to win a man and save his marriage.
“God Sent Me to Talk to You!”
Her voice was low; she wasn’t sure of herself. She looked to be in her early 20s, a girl I’d never seen at our church before.
“Pastor, could I talk to you for a minute?”
It was my first year as senior pastor at Full Gospel Tabernacle in downtown Fresno, California. I was greeting people after the Wednesday night Bible study.
“What can I do for you?”
“Would you please talk with my husband? He moved out from our home into an apartment with two women. I don’t know what to do.”
“Is he a Christian?”
“He’s the one who led me to a relationship with Christ.”
“I’ll be glad to talk with him. How can I get in touch with him?”
“That’s the problem. I can’t reach him. If he wants to talk, he calls me.”
There was little I could do. I asked her to have him call me if he talked with her again.
I remember the look of despair in her eyes as she walked away.
Friday was my day off. I got up early. We were landscaping our front yard, and I wanted it finished. By late morning the end was in sight. It was hot. I was muddy, aching, and thoroughly tired of the whole project. To add to my woes, I ran out of ornamental plants. I drove to the store for more.
The first store had the right kind, but the price had gone up. A store a mile down the road had them too, and the price was right. I loaded my cart and headed to the checkout. As I waited in line, I glanced at the cashier’s nametag. It looked familiar. As he began to ring up the plants, I motioned to his nametag.
“Is that your name?” [Dumb question, but I wanted to be sure.]
He looked at me blankly, going on full village idiot alert.
“Are you married to ___________?” and I named the woman who had talked with me on Wednesday night.
He looked wary. “Yes?”
I drew myself up to my full 6 feet 5 inches—unshaven, messy, sweaty, and muddy. I gave him my happiest smile. “God has sent me here to talk to you about your marriage!”
Some 300,000 people lived in the Fresno area then. Out of all of them, the first person I had talked to, other than family and staff, since Wednesday night was this husband.
In a lifetime of seeking to be led by the Lord, that is the most powerful example I have experienced. I had heard many stories of people led by the Spirit going to unusual places or saying unusual things. I always wondered what that would be like.
At times I’ve really needed guidance and have prayed earnestly for it. God has helped me. But my unerring, no-wasted-step trip to that husband remains my most remarkable example. Not only was I not trying to be led, I wasn’t conscious of God’s leading. I just wanted the yard finished.1
IPHC people are indeed Word based believers in Jesus Christ who are anchored in the Holy Scriptures. It is a cherished understanding with us that the Bible is the final rulebook and interpreter for all matters of faith and practice. But the Bible makes plenty of room for dreams and visions as vehicles of communication from God.
My prayer, dear reader, is that a new expectation will grow in your heart and mine this Christmas season to believe God for new and specific guidance, including full openness for this to include dreams and visions.
1 C. David Gable, “He Leadeth Me,” Pentecostal Evangel, May 30, 2010, P. 15.