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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Dreams and Visions - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Dreams and Visions - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Dreams and Visions - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult, Dream, Vision

Hey, it's a privilege to be with you again. We're continuing our study on "Let's Do Difficult," we're gonna talk about "Dreams & Visions". You know, the heart of this, I think the challenge we're facing right now is the difficulty we have actually recognizing what is in front of us. What's happening is so startling, so beyond the boundaries of what we've considered typical or normal or usual that it's difficult to process, we need the help of the Holy Spirit to see and to understand. Here's the good news, he's present to help us. Get your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart to the Lord.

We're working through a series under the theme of "Let's Do Difficult," and we've kind of agreed we did all the easy yesterday, that what's next isn't easy, but the best things in life are on the other side are difficult. And so it isn't to me in any way a heavy topic or an intimidating topic, it's really one, I think, of great freedom and liberty if we can allow the Holy Spirit to open our hearts. I was invited to travel this week, on Tuesday, to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, where a relatively small group of us were asked to review or to watch a portion of the raw footage from October 7th. It was video footage that was captured from bodycams, several of the Hamas attackers wore "GoPro" cameras, many of them. Some was taken from security footage, some was captured on cellphones, some of it had audio.

It was evil, in any way you describe it. The attack took place on Simchat Torah, it's one of the holiest days and certainly one of the holiest shabbats of the year, so it was a time when the Israelis were far more vulnerable. And they attacked the villages along Gaza, there was a large music festival going on, well more than a thousand Israelis were murdered, it was the worst attack on the Jewish community since the Holocaust. But the true horror wasn't just in the murders, I saw parents killed in front of their children, the truly horrific part was the absolute glee of the people who were doing it. And then they loaded hostages, there's still more than 120 hostages, they loaded hostages in the back of pickup trucks, sometimes with dead bodies. We heard the phone calls coming, "Bring heads, we want to carry heads through the streets so that people can celebrate".

And when they drove back into Gaza, thousands and thousands and thousands of people poured into the streets, celebrating with such unbelievable enthusiasm, it felt like you were in Neylandn Stadium filled with people and somebody announced you'd just won the National Championship. I mean, unbridled enthusiasm. And if they could push through the crowds, they would begin their own assault on the people in the trucks. Since then, I've listened to some interviews with family members of the hostages, I've read the reports from some of the most celebrated intellectuals in our nation that refuse to condemn it, I read the reports that the United Nations participated in it. And I thought about this simple little series that we're working through as a congregation, "Let's Do Difficult".

I can tell you, for the decision-makers in Israel, today, there is no easy decision. The families who have loved ones that are hostages, they want their family back. The people who live in the communities along Gaza will never go back until they're assured that the government will protect them, as they failed to do on October 7th. And for that to happen, it means Hamas has to be eliminated. You don't bargain with evil or negotiate with evil, you don't, there is not a humanitarian offer you make to evil. There are no easy decisions, but for them to live in freedom, for their children and their grandchildren and themselves, they have to face the difficult decisions and move forward.

And I thought of those choices in contrast to the ones we're making, and really, I almost felt like I either needed to change the title or apologize, because if I call what I'm doing difficult then I need a completely different vocabulary for my friends in Israel. Pray for them. I quote Scriptures pretty glibly sometimes, "The one who watches over Israel will never slumber nor sleep". That's true, but they still stay the watch, and they live in a difficult part of the world. Life comes with challenges, folks. And for too long, in contemporary American evangelicalism, we have fallen prey to kind of an easy believism, almost it's like a religious self-promotional program. And I believe God's blessings enrich our lives, I have lived that out, I share those testimonies, I will do my best to teach you how to believe what the Word of God promises for you and your children, but we live in a fallen world, and if we avoid difficult, we will avoid much of the assignment God has for our lives.

In this particular session, we're going to talk about, "Please continue to pray for the leaders of Israel and for the families of those hostages," October 7th is a long time to be in the hands of the people that I saw in those videos. In this particular session, I want to talk a bit about "Dreams & Visions," and I want to start in Isaiah 29. I read this verse and I thought it was about as an accurate description of our particular setting as any single verse I could think of. It's not a new idea, it's one that we've talked about a bit. It says, "The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes," and then the parenthetic inserts here are not from me, they're a part of the Text. "He sealed your eyes (the prophets); and he's covered your heads (the seers)".

The prophets give us a God perspective, the seers were imagined to help us understand where God was leading us. And Isaiah describes to the people as if they're in a coma, as if they're in some unconscious state, "A deep sleep," he says, that our eyes have been sealed and our heads have been covered so that we can't really gain a God perspective and we can't see with clarity what's going on around us. And I would remind you that Isaiah is giving that message to the people of God.

Now, I believe we're more awake than we were a few years ago, I believe we have a more clear vision, and I don't mean to simply step back to that, but I think until we see the purposes of God break forth around us with great clarity and authority, we have to continue to humbly say to the Lord, "Give me an understanding heart," because we are living in a confusing season. I'll give you three simple snapshots from very recent history that I think displays to us how confusing the world we're living in is, and how easy it is for us to remain asleep and say nothing. That's my concern for the church, we're called salt and light by the Lord himself, and we're reminded more than once if the salt loses its saltiness it really has no value.

So, to be called salt and light means we have to be on display and having an impact, that's our assignment in the world. And sometimes that's difficult, it will cause you to be disinvited, left off some lists. It'll have an impact, you'll lose some opportunities, you'll be shunned in some settings. All those things are not only possible, I would submit to you they're probable, in fact, they're probably necessary in the current circumstances. We have the courage to take our biblical worldview and our faith and share it someplace beyond the walls of a congregation, but just a casual glance at some current events, to me, shout at us that our eyes are sealed and our hearts are covered, for whatever reason, we have trouble focusing. It seems to me we're almost in a stupor of self-gratification, we know what we wanna do or what we want to happen to the people we care about, and then we would really just prefer not to be bothered.

I took the topic of borders and the sovereignty of nations. It was September the 11th, 2021, not very long ago, September the 11th is an important day to us. And it was September the 11th, 2021, when the United States withdrew from Afghanistan. We abandoned Bagram Air Force Base, which was a strategic point for US security, we abandoned our US citizens and personnel who had been our allies, breaking our commitment to people who had supported us for a 20-year war. Within days, hours honestly, the Taliban was in control of Afghanistan. We had young men and women spill their blood, sacrifice their lives, families disrupted, and we walked away from that, billions of dollars in weapons were under Taliban control within hours of the last flight leaving that airport.

Within a few short months, February of 2022, not long, Russia invaded Ukraine. Can you believe it's only been two years? It feels like we've lived with that narrative forever. Well, since then, and for fairness, the Russian invasion of Ukraine had a great deal to do with our provocation, or at least our stubborn refusal to defuse the provocation. Well, since that time, the United States has provided more than $75 billion in support to Ukraine, $75 billion, and these are conservative numbers, I purposely chose the most conservative numbers available. There have been more than 500,000 casualties in two years, and those are not Hamas numbers, those are numbers reported from people who want to understate what's happening there. There's an entire generation of Ukrainians that are lost. Even if you could snap your fingers and rebuild the buildings and put the infrastructure back in place, they've lost a whole generation of people.

And step forward two more years, February of 2024, this year, we have millions of people who have invaded our own country. We'll spend $75 billion enforcing a border halfway around the world that most of us probably couldn't find on a map without a little bit of help, and some of the estimates I read, not extraordinary estimates, suggest that more than 8 million people have poured into our country in the last three years, illegally, illegally. We have methods for legal immigration that have been voted on and agreed upon. We are facilitating, encouraging populating our nation who have no hesitation in doing what is illegal. You don't need to be a prophet or discerning or aware to understand what that will foster.

So I wanna take a moment and go back to some fundamentals on instructions for Spirit-directed activity on the part of the church because we're gonna have to extend beyond just our worship services, it's gonna require of us a little different response. Remember the topic, "Let's Do Difficult," not difficult in the terms of the Israelis today or the Ukrainians, I'm not talking about that kind of difficult, difficult in comparison to the way we prefer. We prefer a parking place next to the door, we prefer our favorite seat with the people we like to sit with, we prefer shorter sermons. I understand.

Ephesians chapter 6, it's not an unknown passage, it's familiar to many of us, Paul's writing to the church at Ephesus, he's writing to believers, a group of people he's invested a great deal in. And it's a concluding portion of this letter, in fact, the passage begins by, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes". Now, we've rewritten that, we want to elect somebody or choose somebody or nominate somebody to take the stand that needs to be taken against the devil's schemes. "For our struggle," again, it is implied, it's just, directly, we're going to struggle, there is no life without struggle, there's no faith without struggle, there's no discipleship without struggle, we're not unique. It doesn't mean there aren't triumphs and victories and blessings and wonderful things and incredible freedoms and abundance, I'm not saying that, but in the midst of all of those, the struggles continue.

And I don't see any place we're given the option of raising my hand and saying, "I'm stepping out of the struggle". "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms". Paul is describing for the church at Ephesus a hierarchy of the kingdom of darkness. The Living Bible says that our struggle is, "Against persons without bodies". I think it's a pretty good description, it's describing a spiritual conflict. Satan is the great imitator, I believe he took the structure that he'd seen in the kingdom of God and he repeated it when he organized or structured the kingdom of darkness. Now, I understand, in many segments of the body of Christ, we just kind of fold our arms and go, "You know, I just don't believe that".

Well, bless your heart, I appreciate your opinion, and you're certainly entitled to one, but the refusal to believe something does not change reality. You know, I can fold my arms and say, "I just don't believe the doctor's weight charts are correct," it doesn't make me skinny. And sometimes, Christians, we got this rather naive, stubborn, determined refusal to believe what the Bible clearly invites us towards. So, we are called, we're to engage, that we are in a struggle of a spiritual nature. Now, if you're in a struggle, it would be important to understand how that impacts you, what the tools that are available to you are, what your weapons even might be.

Verse 13, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes," again, the assumption is the day of evil is coming, "You'll be able to stand your ground, and after you've done everything, to stand". There's seven specific instructions in that passage, I broke them out, I don't think I listed them in your notes, but the instructions we're told. "To be strong in the Lord," it's not a suggestion, it's a direction, "Be strong in the Lord". "No, I don't like to workout, it makes me sore". Being strong in the Lord will make you sore too, in fact, you don't gain strength until you exercise to the point of exhaustion, and until you've been exhausted spiritually you're not gaining any spiritual strength.

So, if you're hearing this and to yourself you're thinking, "You know, I'm really spent," you're about to gain some strength. When you come to the end of ourselves, we find that God is there in a whole new way. I don't like those places, I'm not volunteering for anymore of them, I'm just telling you. Thirdly, "Take your stand against the devil's schemes," "Take your stand," not just spiritual stands. Paul's writing this to a community of faith, believers, men and women with earth suits, he's asking them to stand in Ephesus. They've seen millions of dollars of things burned in the public square that had been used to cultivate demonic things, they've seen riots because of the impact of their faith, and Paul's reminding them that they're going to have to take their stand.

It isn't just a spiritual state, it isn't just a polite prayer. In this community, there is some reluctance to remove pornographic books from the libraries of our elementary schools, it's evil, they have to go. It's not the banning of books, that isn't it, it's recognizing that there is developmentally appropriate and inappropriate material for children. We understand that, it's why we don't sell alcohol in the elementary schools, it's why we don't pass out driver's licenses, we wait for physical and emotional maturity to create some of those opportunities for them. Children should not be, at those young ages, being sexualized in a context beyond their parents, it's wrong.

The fourth thing Paul encourages the church at Ephesus is to join the struggle. Don't just watch, don't just nod your head, he said everybody's in, he didn't just appoint the leaders or some specialized group. Fifthly, he said engage on the day of evil. When you recognize something is evil, when you get that awareness, that's your call, you've been mustered, you've been recruited. When you say, "Oh, wait a minute, that's evil, I don't have another description," find the place, stand there. If you can't see anything happening in the world that's evil yet, pray that the Lord will give you an understanding heart. Then we're told, number six, to do everything possible, "After you've done everything," he said do everything possible. Whatever you've got, whatever influence, whatever voice, whatever opportunity, however you could turn it back, however you can take your place, do everything possible. And then he repeats, number seven, and maybe it's the least, he says hold your place, after you've done everything you know to do, then you stand there. I'm not moving, you stand.

Now, that's our assignment. I'll give you just some quick reminders about spiritual conflict. Spiritual conflict and activity is the fabric of Scripture, it's not some subtle subtext, it's not something hidden away in original-language nuance, it isn't subtle, it's the story. The Assyrian army that marched on Jerusalem, Hezekiah is the king, they have no military hope, they cannot defeat the enemy, and God sends a message to the king. I mean, some of you have been to Jerusalem, you've walk through Hezekiah's tunnel, it's a lot of fun, if you're not afraid of dark, wet places. It's not one of those straight tunnels, you know, some of those tunnels you go through are just a straight shot, Hezekiah's tunnel is serpentine. And the spring in Jerusalem is a pulsating spring, which means it releases water episodically.

So, while you're in the dark, and the people who dug Hezekiah's tunnel were not as tall as I am and they're more narrow than I am, so a lot of the time in Hezekiah's tunnel you're like, and then the spring releases and the water gets higher. And if something were to grab your ankle in that dark, then you could go to Jerusalem and walk through Allen's tunnel because he would create a new one. But Isaiah went to Hezekiah and said, "You don't have to be afraid of the Assyrians, they have mocked me, they have mocked the God of Israel, and I'll send them home". 180,000 of them died in one night, that's a spiritual impact in a very physical world. You see, we separate them, we try to create this wall, that we're not gonna deal with spiritual things until our earth suit wears out and we step into eternity. No, folks, your eternity is being defined today by a spiritual conflict, mine and yours, it's all through the Scripture.

Jesus said he could call legions of angels, he wasn't in Gethsemane with a bunch of frightened disciples who couldn't stand up because he had no options, he had options, but that wasn't the objective. Peter was released from prison, I mean, the doors swung open, his chains fell off, he was led by an angel through these doors as they're swinging open. Luke doesn't describe the other angels in that scene for us in the Book of Acts, but it seems very clear to me that there's a whole squad, a whole group of angels that have been released to get Peter out of that cell. They've already killed James. Gabriel, the angel that came in the gospel. We just celebrated the Christmas season not too long ago, with messages for Mary, for Joseph, for Zechariah, I mean, their physical lives, the course of their lives, the birthdays they celebrated for the rest of their existence under the sun were shaped because of a message from an angel. The demons knew who Jesus was, time after time, setting after setting, "We know who you are".

The high priest couldn't figure it out. Satan understands the authority that he held over the kingdoms of this world better than the high priest did. That gives me pause. You can be steeped in religious tradition and training and learning, and spend your life in those professional settings, and be amazingly unaware, if not just completely ignorant. I don't wanna do that. The demons understood Jesus's authority, they said, "Have you come to destroy us"? Again, the fabric of Scripture is about this kind of a spiritual conflict. So, if you and I have been invited into some sort of a Christianity that doesn't make space for this, we've been sitting in the church, basking in the glow, looking for a little shade from the heat, completely unaware of the power that's been invested in us, that is needed in our world to take our stand against evil. Let's do difficult.

The Spirit-filled life is a life that engages in spiritual conflict. You don't have to be afraid of the challenge, the Lord will help us. Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that through the blood of Jesus you have delivered us out of the hand of the enemy, and that you've given us everything we need for life and godliness. And may we stand in your strength, in your peace, confident in your deliverance. In Jesus's name, amen.

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