Christians are being taught to look for signs from God about their lives in all kinds of every-day occurrences. There are also countless books that tell Christians how to interpret things that occur in their dreams. People are using signs and dreams to make all kinds of decisions from opening a new business to figuring out why they can't stay awake. But what does the Bible say about God giving us signs and speaking to us through our dreams? Is the modern day signs and dream visions people are looking for the same as the ones in the Bible? How do we know what God is trying to tell us? Tune in and find out!
Gospel Coalition Article mentioned - God is Not a Magic 8 Ball link:
Signs and Dreams: What is God Trying to Tell Me?
Welcome back! Chris, you have bird feeders in your yard. Have you ever seen two birds fighting?
Of course! I just saw two ladderback woodpeckers fighting last week. Why did you ask?
Did you take it as a sign from God?
No! Are you thinking I should have?
You know me better than that! But some people would have answered “yes”. Recently, there was a comment on Facebook from someone who’d seen two birds fighting. According to the post, he’d seen them fighting on four different occasions in the same week. Right before he started seeing them, he’d been having some problems staying awake to do things he used to, like listen to sermons and study the Bible. Because these are good things, he couldn’t understand what the problem was, so he prayed about it. Then started seeing the birds.
And then what?
He said, “I didn’t understand at first, but then God told me the birds had been a sign to me that I was in a battle. That’s why I was too tired stay awake to like I used to.”
That’s a problem, and I think it’s more widespread than we might believe. In an article on guideposts.org, the author talks about getting “little hints” about where she should vacation. That same article talks of how a baby’s sonogram where he looked like he was giving the “thumbs up” let the mother know through the rest of the pregnancy everything was just fine. Another person’s desk telephone cord was in the shape of a heart the last time she looked down at it, on her last day of work after losing her job. To her, that was God saying it was all going to be okay, and she left in peace.
Here’s another. A woman writes that she was driving and thinking about a project she’d always dreamed of doing that she thought was “pie in the sky.” Next thing she knew, she looked up, and there was a cloud that looked like it had the shape of a piece of pie cut out of it.
I saw that, there was actually a picture. And to her it was confirmation of what she’d been dreaming of doing. I’m gonna be honest and say, it sort of looked like it might be a piece of pie – one that didn’t come out of the pie plate very smoothly, but it sort of looked like it. But, I was LOOKING for a piece of pie when I saw the picture, just like she was thinking “pie in the sky” when she saw the cloud.
Christians are being taught to look for signs about their lives in all kinds of every-day occurrences. There are major problems with it, though. Similarly, some are being taught that their dreams are messages from God. There are big problems with that too.
This gets me righteously angry. Let’s give a few examples of how some charlatans are taking advantage of Christians using their dreams.
The first example I’ll use comes from a “Christian” (using the term very loosely here) website called Faithgateway. One author tells her story of a scary nightmare where she walked into the prayer room of her ministry and it was dark, where she got the bad news someone had died. Soon after that, she got news a colleague’s son had cancer. She wondered if her dream meant that he would die. Or, was it a sign the boy’s father would have to leave the ministry to care for him. Or something else? After two months of “praying and wondering” she concludes that the dream was about someone in her organization getting mad about some personnel changes she’d made in those two months, who quit the ministry.
So, let me break this down. First, she assumed the dream had to have some meaning from God. That’s a problem right there. Second, her first few hunches about it don’t pan out, and by the end, she concludes it was about a woman leaving the ministry…. something that not only would be a normal occurrence, it was something she herself had a hand in making happen.
Exactly. And the advice she gives Christians in the article is that, “We need to decipher every dream with God’s wisdom, but an especially disturbing dream or a directional dream demands extra caution. When your emotions are very stirred in a dream … you need to pay extra attention to what the Lord is trying to show you. At the same time, emotions can get in the way of discernment.”
So, “be careful … and your emotions can get in the way.” No Kidding???!!! Deciphering with God’s wisdom is exactly the type of manipulation others use to lure people in. Let me give a couple of examples from websites that have “Christian Dream Dictionaries”. First, one about dreaming of an airplane. “Dreaming of an airplane could represent traveling in one’s personal life or a traveling ministry. Consider the positioning and size of the aircraft. Dreaming that an airplane is flying or soaring could indicate being taken away to a different place, depending on the destination. An airplane could represent operating in the gifts of the Spirit. If the aircraft in the dream is a jet it could represent a powerful or fast progressing ministry. A jet passenger or fighter plane could represent a church or individual person. Dreaming of an airplane may also represent a lack of prayer or preparation if the plane is flying too low. This position of the airplane may symbolize not following or being led by the Spirit. If a plane is flying near electrical lines it could represent danger in one’s ministry. A plane crash could represent a church split or a personal disaster.”
And, Chris, it’s almost summer. So if you’re dreaming of shorts, here’ what another “Christian dream dictionary” says dreams about shorts might mean: “This may refer to your current assignment, but not your long-term calling or shorts symbolize a partial fulfillment of your calling or purpose.”
That’s just stupid. The bottom of the website even says, “CAUTION ADVISED In addition to element symbolism, dream interpretation is based on a myriad of factors which should be considered before drawing conclusions. All dictionary entries are for suggestion purposes only, and we cannot guarantee that the information on this post -including comments- applies to your dreams.”
Yeah, they go on to say that they believe they do a good job of figuring it out though. These people are charlatans. Fakes. And as Christians, it’s important to understand that this is NOT how you go about living your life and trying to figure out what God is going to do, or wants you to do.
Let’s say one more thing about the airplane example. That website gives three scriptures underneath the entry: Psalm 18:10, Acts 8:39 and Acts 18:24. Psalm 18:10 says, “He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.”
And that Scripture is talking about God’s rescue of King David. It has nothing to do going somewhere on an airplane, your ministry, or anything else from the dream dictionary. Let’s look at the next one, Acts 8:39 which says, “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.”
That Scripture is about Philip explaining the Gospel to the Ethiopian Eunuch. After the man understood and was baptized, Philip was snatched away, much like Elijah was in 2 Kings 2:11; one of the miraculous things that happened in the days of the early Church to get the Gospel message spreading. Again, NOT ABOUT YOU!! And the last one, Acts 18:24 says, “Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.”
That doesn’t even have to do with flying of any nature, and I can say Apollos was competent in the Scriptures, but I can tell who isn’t – the people believing this garbage. Chris, I’m going out on a limb again and saying that I think the people who want to look for signs or who are always looking to interpret their dreams don’t want the hard work of actually reading and studying the words that God actually had to say to them – THE BIBLE!
They want something easy. Studying the Bible can be hard work! And all this busyness they’re surrounding themselves with, and all the thinking about this other crap is a distraction and makes people feel like they’re doing something for God or for their Christian walk, but they aren’t!
We’ve talked about dreams; let’s talk about looking for signs from God to help you make a decision or for confirmation of a decision. The first thing we should ask is, “Is there Biblical precedence for this?” And right away people are going to say, “Of course! God gave people signs in the Bible!”
And, the first person they’ll usually point to is Gideon who asked God for a sign. We covered this in our podcast series in Episdoe #73, “The Fleecer” in our series “Sin-filled Nation.” But just to reiterate a few things from that, Gideon wasn’t asking God to confirm what God wanted him to do. He knew exactly what God wanted him to do and had already started doing it.
Right. Gideon wasn’t trying to find out God’s will. Listen to the episode if you want to know more about this.
Looking for signs is something Dr. Steven Lawson, President and founder of OnePassion Ministries and Nathan W. Bingham, director of communications for Ligonier Ministries, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast addressed. Bingham asks, “Is asking God for a sign before making a decision biblical?”
I’ll read the answer Dr. Lawson gave: “I know a lot of people live their Christian lives looking for signs. And what I find is that they can read into anything. It’s like the woman who was trying to figure out, “Should I go to Europe on a vacation?” And she woke up the next morning and the digital clock said 7:47. And she took that as a sign she’s supposed to get on a 747 airplane and fly to Europe. I mean, that is factoring down your Christian life to the single most immature level it could possibly be lived on.”
Those are tough words for some to hear, I’m sure, but what Dr. Lawson said is true! And we aren’t quoting it to be mean! We’re trying, as always, to wake people up about the truth because God expects us to live by what His Word says and when we do, it’s freeing!
It most certainly is! And using this every-day, normal stuff as a way to confirm some decision is only a speck of what people are doing. The example we used at the beginning where someone saw birds fighting several different times and automatically assumed that was some kind of sign from God is taking this to a whole different level! Stop and think about it …. How do you go about your daily life this way? How do you know what is a sign from God and what isn’t? That’s got to be burdensome!!!
Absolutely. Let’s talk about how we should think about these things in light of how we are to use Scripture and what we find in it. Because I know there are people saying that Joseph had dreams, as well as Acts 2:17 says, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams,” and other Scripture talk about signs. How should we biblically be thinking about these things?
First, that verse from Acts 2 is echoing Joel 2:28. God has poured out His Spirit – the Holy Spirit – on believers. Acts 2 is about it happening at Pentecost when the Spirit came on God’s people, and they could speak and understand foreign languages that they had no knowledge of prior to that. That was a miracle of getting the Gospel out because there were people from various different regions in the city at that time, so here they heard the Gospel in their own languages.
In the early Church time, God used dreams sometimes to get the Gospel message spreading. In Acts 16:9 the Apostle Paul had a night vision of a man of Macedonia urging him to come there. Paul went because he concluded that God was calling him to Macedonia to share the Gospel message. Again, this was the early Church time.
And, in Acts 27:23 Paul, headed towards Rome, was on the ship caught in a storm at sea with no food and a bunch of men thinking they were going to die. Paul sees angel one night who comes to him with the assurance that God is definitely going to have him stand before Caesar; therefore, the ship will make it. He also tells Paul that none of the lives of the men on the ship with him will be lost. And how do we know this was God, not just some dream Paul had?
Because it CAME TRUE. That’s an important point to make. What God said would happen actually happened. That’s how the people of God knew true prophets from false. And, notice, these dreams of Paul’s are NOT VAGUE. They are concrete things. They aren’t “symbols” in dreams that you can twist any way that want to in order to make them fit some idea that you have! They are direct, explicit messages that needed no interpretation. When a dream in the Bible did need interpretation, like the ones Joseph interpreted in the Old Testament, God gave the interpretation. That clearly stated, and there was no ambiguity!
There are only about 25ish dreams/night visions in the Bible. Now think about that…. All the people mentioned in the Bible by name, plus those that aren’t, and only 25 or so. That really doesn’t lend itself to all the people today who are wondering about what God is trying to tell them in their dreams. Even if you took into account daytime “visions”, it’s ridiculous to think God is telling a bunch of us something in our dreams! He certainly could if He wanted to, but that’s far from the norm, if it is happening at all. Mention Hebrews 1:1-2 And yet, over and over in Christian circles, people want to interpret their dreams, often they like to sensationalize their dreams. The bottom line is, too many Christians are looking to their dreams and/or signs in the every day things of life for answers to what is going to do in their lives, or what they are supposed to do!
The place all Christians need to look for answers to all of life’s questions and to understand themselves and God and His overarching story, is the Bible. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is what He wants to say to His people. Your or someone else’s interpretation of your dreams is not inspired. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that the Bible is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. THAT’s what a Christian need to be concerned with.
When we read the Bible we need to think about things it says as to whether they are descriptive or prescriptive. The dreams and visions in the Bible are descriptive. There’s no command – nothing prescriptive – to lead us to believe we should go and figure out our dreams or to live our lives looking for signs from God. There are commands to read and study Scripture though.
Right! And as far as signs go, some want to see miraculous signs and wonders, now, as they did in in biblical times. That often has to do with belief or unbelief, healing, or they’re talking about something God used or is going to use in the future to send a message, a warning, or fulfillment of something. and that’s not really what we’re dealing with in this episode.
Right. We’re talking about people who are looking or asking for these signs for decision making, or for finding out the will of God for their life. And some are taking every day, normal random events in life, and are attaching some kind of meaning to them, like the man with the birds fighting.
He saw birds fighting and attached that to his inability to stay awake to study the Bible and listen to sermons liked he’d previously been able to. Was God using that to tell him the reason for being too tired to stay awake that he was in a battle?
If the man knew Scripture, he would know it tells us Christians are ALL in a battle. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” And Satan isn’t our only adversary; the Bible warns over and over that we have to fight against our own sinful flesh that wants to act like the world and do what pleases us! So, there would have been no reason for God to tell this man he was in a battle, using birds to do it. He already said it in the Bible.
And for that very reason, Christians shouldn’t need a sonogram picture or a telephone cord shaped in a heart to comfort them, and we shouldn’t attribute those things to a sign from God for our comfort. Getting to know God’s character through knowing and understanding His Word is how we can have comfort and peace in all situations.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And those are only two of MANY verses that can comfort us. But again, it’s Scripture, not a sign!
Likewise, God isn’t spelling out every detail of our lives for us. We talked about some of this in the Gideon episode 73. But to take it further, God doesn’t use clouds to tell us to go ahead with our plans, or as Dr. Lawson said, we shouldn’t make a decision to get on an airplane because of the numbers on our alarm clock.
Understanding this comes down to God’s decretive will and God’s preceptive will, which I’m sure we’ve mentioned before, probably many times. God’s decretive will – what He has decreed will happen – we CANNOT know until it comes to pass.
Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” None of us can know what God’s plans are, any more than we could possibly thwart them.
But God DID give us His preceptive will – what to do and what not to do – in the Bible, and as R. C. Sproul says, “This aspect of God's will is revealed in His Word as well as in our conscience, by which God has written His moral law upon our heart.” So, should we decide to start a business based on what a cloud looks like at the moment we’re thinking about it?
No. First, you ask yourself if this business goes against any of God’s precepts? Are you thinking of opening a strip club? The biblical answer to whether you should or not is “NO!” As a Christian, you can stop thinking about it right there! Are you thinking of opening a doggie day-care? There’s nothing in Scripture to make you think you should stop considering that!
Right! And God gave us prayer and He gave us intellect and desires, likes and dislikes and other factors to consider when making decisions. Once we’ve determined there’s nothing about our idea that goes against Scripture, we use all of these other factors, and we make our decision. Then we can step out in faith. And God will do with it whatever He wants! He may put up a roadblock, He may not. But we don’t look for signs ahead of time that He’s giving us the go-ahead. And “having peace about it” isn’t a sign of confirmation one way or the other either.
That’s important for this discussion because I’ve seen examples of people who got God’s “OKAY” on something because they say they saw a sign, or they felt peace about a situation, and then it doesn’t work out. And when that happens, there’s example after example where the Christian is crushed, bewildered, and even some feeling like they’re losing their faith.
Again, it comes back to knowing the Bible. When we understand from studying Scripture that God is Sovereign over everything, that He is good, all the time, in every situation; and that He uses all kinds of circumstances to work out His plans, then we can trust Him, even when things don’t go the way we wanted or hoped. Our emotions don’t dictate whether something was “God’s will” or not! That’s why we can’t put our trust in signs we think we’re getting.
In the same way we look for biblical precedence of God using dreams in peoples’ lives to come to the conclusion that it’s not a normal occurrence, and that there were specific things that went along with those dreams in the Bible, like interpretations or specific instructions; you also have to look at biblical precedence for God’s people getting signs.
Yes; specifically in the Church era, meaning from the time of the Apostles forward. What biblical precedence is there for claiming random signs as a decision maker or looking for signs all the time? Was the Apostle Paul, or Peter or any of the others looking for signs to make their next move? Or to figure out what God was trying to tell them? Think back to Acts 6 when the Twelve were finding themselves too busy doing other things to devote themselves to praying and teaching. What did they do? They came up with the idea to select seven men who had the Holy Spirit in them (meaning they were believers) who also had wisdom and then they put those seven in charge of doing some of the tasks. These were the first Deacons, by the way.
And the point is they didn’t ask God for a sign what to do, nor did they ask for a sign of confirmation of their idea before implementing it. I’m going to borrow something I read from reformation21.org here: “In Acts 16, Paul got himself and Silas into hot water in the city of Philippi when he cast a demon out from a young slave-girl and so angered her owners who were profiting financially from her demon possession. Paul and Silas subsequently endured a beating at the bidding of Roman magistrates and were placed in prison. During their night in jail an earthquake occurred, and "immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened." Hit pause and put ourselves in Paul's shoes for a moment. How many of us, I wonder, would have interpreted the open prison doors as a clear sign from God that he intended us to escape an unfair imprisonment administered by the hand of suspect secular authorities? But what did Paul actually do? He remained in prison until daybreak (a fact that led to the jailer's conversion). He subjected himself to the governing authorities instituted by God in that particular city, just like he tells us to do elsewhere (Rom. 13:1-2). He applied some solid moral reasoning to his situation and determined that his proper course of action was to let justice run its course (even though "justice" in his specific situation seemed decidedly unjust).”
That’s a great example. The point is, as Augustine said, “Love God, and do what you want.” If you love God, you’ll keep His commandments. And in order to do that you have to know them, so study the Word!
There are times when we pray for answer from God and He may make things clear. He may do that by things like removing an option we once had, or by putting new information in front of us that we didn’t have before. And those things may give us a clear answer. But it’s not seeing 5 brown ducks cross the road in front of you that gives you an answer. It’s not dreaming about a door being closed either. It’s not seeing birds fighting, it’s not a sonogram picture, it’s not a cloud.
And we can and should (for some things) seek out godly counsel from people who have good theology and doctrine who understand the Bible and know our situations. But that’s not throwing your idea out to an unknown group of people on social media and it’s not just searching to the internet to see what comes up. There are multiple websites about these subjects, other than the ones we already mentioned, that had false teaching, but claimed to be Christian.
Guideposts was one of them. They even had a video on asking God for a sign from a best-selling author and motivational speaker who isn’t Christian! And if you watched the video, you found out she didn’t even talk about God giving a sign; she talked about the universe giving a sign.
There are charlatans everywhere. Satan is a deceiver. We cannot go outside of Biblical teaching. That’s why we also look back for precedence, especially in the New Testament because we’re in the Church era now. The Scriptures are closed, with the last book being Jesus’ Revelation. We cannot go beyond what’s written in Scripture.
And that’s all we have time for today.
 Aydin, Diana. “How to Read God's Signs.” Guideposts, December 19, 2016. https://www.guideposts.org/inspiration/miracles/gods-grace/how-to-read-god-s-signs.
 LeClaire, Jennifer. “Interpreting Dreams with God's Wisdom.” FaithGateway, January 3, 2019. https://www.faithgateway.com/decoding-your-dreams/#.YHbWhS2ZO3c.
 “Joshua Media Ministries Int'l.” Apostle David E. Taylor - Official Site. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://joshuamediaministries.org/dreams/airplane/.
 Institute, The Dreamers. “Clothing & Nakedness in Dreams.” Prophetic Dreamers, March 17, 2021. https://propheticdreamers.com/christian-dream-dictionary/clothing-nakedness-in-dreams/.
“Joshua Media Ministries Int'l.” Apostle David E. Taylor - Official Site. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://joshuamediaministries.org/dreams/airplane/.
 Denlinger, Aaron. “Against Open Doors.” Reformation 21, June 5, 2019. https://www.reformation21.org/blogs/against-open-doors.php.