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All of us are dreaming something, whether good or bad / selfish or selfless / constructive or destructive – a dream is a still a dream. Dreams are where our desires come to reveal themselves and they would manifest in a form of illusion. I will be writing about dream as in our hopes and goals that we would like to achieve.
This Feb 2nd, 2014 marked my 10th year anniversary in the U.S, and I had a dream, a dream to achieve the greatest things (which I believe) and to make them come true. I dreamed of an American dream, which I believed was to build my life and doing huge things because inside the American dream, everything is possible and that means I need to try hard or this migration would be meaningless. That was how I was taught, and that was what I believed. In my high school essays, that’s what I wrote as a recent immigrant to achieve the “American dream” and do great things like becoming a doctor because it was impossible for me in Burma. I would not disagree that it was a good dream and that people should dream it. But something was missing. SOMETHING BIG. The maker of the dreams Himself was missing. Let me explain it here in a bit how I came to understand it.
We have got the dreams all wrong. Even the definition of the ‘American dream’ itself is wrong because we like to twist things that were created to be good (human nature). I am not a history expert here, but I tried to do some research and found out that the term ‘American dream’ was coined by James Adams in his book American Epic (1931) “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” When he coined the term, it was not merely for the materialistic prosperity but as an idealism to promote hope for people through opportunities — for one thing, it was not a promise! The term “American dream” has changed throughout the history, and now it has been defined mostly as ‘making it big, striking it rich‘ and we are truly mistaken. Our mindsets have been changed into thinking it this way, and lately we can see that it is not the truth. Seeing how America is now so broke, and a lot of people in joblessness and poverty, and with the government in debts, we have to rethink .
“Is it still possible to believe that hard work equates to economic success in this post-Tarp, post-Libor scandal, post-Madoff, post-Occupy, post-growth-of-an-ever-widening-income-gap-between-the-richest-and-the-poorest version of America? Is the promise of one of the nation’s most treasured narratives nothing but a fantasy?”- the Guardian News asked. We should redefine that it is the FREEDOM that we can have in this country that makes it an American dream. We can do whatever we desire, and we can give our best on whatever we want to achieve — that itself is the good way to see the American dream, I believe. The results of the dream? Only God knows.
So why American Dream inside the Kingdom Dream? We have the tendency to put the Kingdom Dream inside the so-called American Dream. What is the God’s kingdom that we pray and read in the bible? It is like this — God’s kingdom is actually not a location, but can be defined it as “the overwhelming, transforming, influence of God”. The kingdom is here as God’s spirit is working in us, transforming us and influencing us and everyone around us. That means that the Kingdom Dream is born as we build our relationship with God — just not at the end time of our lives. Thus we can even pray Matthew 6:9 like this –
Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your “overwhelming transforming influence of God” come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
But what do we do with American dream? When there are things that we want to achieve, we try to put God into the equation, hoping that we plug the right numbers to get the right answers to our prayers. Instead of letting God influencing us, we try to overwhelm, transform and influence the one whom we so-called ‘God’. It is definitely wrong to dream the Kingdom dream through American dream. It is finally so good that we have the freedom to do whatever we want through living in America, but we are using it for our own prosperity to build our own Babel tower to attain the status of God like the rest of the world. What has happened to us? We speak about living for God when in the back of our head, we think about how we would become ‘better’ people by buying huge church building, driving nicer cars, getting higher degrees, and elevating our social statuses. We would like to think that it is God’s blessing when it is just us wanting to bless ourselves in the eyes of the people. If I tell anyone that they are dreaming just the typical American Dream, no one would accept it. “There is nothing wrong with wanting good things because it is God who blesses us and He wants good things for us and He leads us here” — a very genuine response. If we can say to ourselves, “There is nothing wrong with living a mediocre life knowing that God’s blessings are still enough and we can live freely for Him when He has blessed us so much already”, I think we might have gotten the right biblical mindset.
Our thinking will be so different even if we were to own nice houses or get higher degrees in school — because that would have come from the Kingdom dream first. I want to write down some differences between what it means to have (false, what we think of) American dream and Kingdom dream.
Kingdom Dream: You do not need anything more than what Christ has offered for you through His blood [the whole bible].
American Dream: You need to bleed others so that you will have things to offer yourself.
Kingdom Dream: You are good enough in God’s eyes no matter who/what you are — just do your best [col 3:23].
American Dream: You are not good enough unless you are successful at this — and you are not sucessful at this because you are not trying hard enough! You are worthless.
Kingdom Dream: Love your neighbor as yourself / Turn your other cheek [mark 12:31].
American Dream: Don’t love your neighbors too much because they will take advantage of you / Don’t turn your cheek, but turn the person into judgment, you are the victim here.
Kingdom Dream: Seek God’s kingdom first and others will be given to you [matt. 6:33].
American Dream: Seek other things and put them together to make it seem like you are seeking God’s kingdom – after all we are in America.
Kingdom Dream: Put your treasure where moths cannot destroy [matt. 6:19].
American Dream: Put your treasure into the banks/mortgages /stocks and whatever left can go to God.
Kingdom Dream: You do not belong here.. Your citizenship is not here [phil. 3:20].
American Dream: You are the American citizen, and you have the rights have all your belongings.
Kingdom Dream: You can only get this dream by having the real relationship with God [acts 2:17-18].
American Dream: Nah, you can have a good dream as long as you are in America, and go to church of course – don’t even doubt it to yourself.
Kingdom Dream: You have no right to dream this Kingdom dream, but only through God’s grace, you come to have this partnership for His kingdom [deut7:7] .
American Dream: I have the right to dream this American dream — and let’s see where God fits in!
Kingdom Dream: For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake – Philippians 1:29
American Dream: Suffering? What? God did not bring us to suffer here (Prosperity Gospel as some pastors preach). I will believe in Christ, but I will not share in His suffering.
Don’t get me wrong here.
// I am not saying that everyone needs to become missionary or pastor (really, please don’t) and serve God God calls some of us but most of us, probably no.
// I am not saying that we should not put our money in the bank (it is being a good steward financially) or not to apply for U.S. citizenship (we have so much more opportunity when we become a U.S. citizen) or not to dream big (to become doctors, engineers, business owners – so good!).
What I am saying is that let us not try to fit God into our agenda. Let Him never be the second best in our lives. Let everything that we dream flow from our relationship with Him. For certainly, I can say that our motives come from wanting to building our own kingdom in America and trying to let God to live in it. God is much bigger than our dreams and imaginations, and what fools we are build our house on the sinking sand. What an opportunity that God has given us to partner with Him to build His kingdom after saving us. God could just wash the whole world and establish His throne if He wants to … but He CHOOSES to reveal to us what He is doing and how He is doing – and the best thing is that He lets us to take part in this redemption story.
**[Genesis 37] Joseph was a good example of a kingdom dreamer and also dream interpreter. He had two dreams when he was 17 years old: one dream was about sheaves of grain (representing his brothers) bowing down to him and the second dream was about stars (representing his parents) bowing down to him. Not just his own dreams, but there are God-given dreams. Did they happen right away? no. Did he know everything about what would happen? no. Was he so successful at achieving those dreams? no. We see the results in 22 years later. One thing we can see is that he was faithful to God, and he wouldn’t have his life no other way. Through suffering in prison, overcoming temptation of Potiphar’s wife, and being sold by his brothers, Joseph still kept the dreams that he dreamed until they were fulfilled.
What was so significant about God using Joseph’s kingdom dream? Through Joseph saving his family from famine in those years, he saved his brothers including Judah, from whose tribe (genesis 49:8-10, revelation 5:5), our Lord Jesus Christ was born. Through Joseph’s perseverance and faithfulness to his kingdom dreams, God wrote His salvation story.
Will you be a kingdom dreamer who is used by God? Will you be faithful to your kingdom dreams and be called ‘good and faithful servant’? For that, we will need to discern and to live by God’s providence throughout our lives, and I am so glad that God has given us the bible (which Joseph couldn’t have) to show us what His kingdom is like, what it means to dream a kingdom dream, and how it is to interpret our dreams. Sometimes, even Satan can open doors. Sometimes we have to say no and persevere. That’s why we need the Bible. Wisdom is still needed to discern God’s blessing/providence. The kingdom dream will always be within the guidelines of Scripture. ** I have a dream sermon excerpt from Pastor Min Chung. The whole sermon can be found at http://cfchome.org/resources/i-have-dream
Let us not put all our focuses on Joseph’s greatly success story, but on his faithfulness to God in whatever circumstances he was in. The greatest example of “American Dream” in our history was the Puritans, the protestant Christians. They fled from England because of religious persecutions on their reformed Calvinistic theology. They would not agreed with the Angelican church back in England so they left their own country (although they were very well-educated, financially secured there) to start a new life in America as a mission field. For these first Puritans, it was their American Dream to become a city on the hills so that the corrupted world can be reformed. First it was their faith the religious freedom that gives birth to the American Dream. This faith in reform became the central legacy of American Protestantism and the cornerstone of what became the American Dream.
I really pray that God will bring the revival into our Chin community or even more so to all the immigrant communities. I pray that God raises His kingdom workers in different professions and positions– janitors, cab drivers, factory workers, meat packers, doctors, house cleaners, sushi store owners, engineers, babysitters, nurses, lawyers, etc. It is good to dream big because yes we have so many opportunities then but may those dreams come from our love for God solely — not money, fame, ourselves, communities nor parents. May the dream come from the wonder of the Cross rather than the wonder of this land of opportunity. May the dream come into life as the Spirit influences and shows the majesty of the Lord. May the Lord our God Himself give us the dreams and use His living Word to lead us.
One thing I can say is that, if you are not having a true relationship with God or loving the Bible with your heart, you are fooling yourself that your dreams are for God’s kingdom. Please seek God, for He dies to reveal you the best dreams that you can have in this life — to get you out of the illusion and bring you into the reality.
Let us put our freedom of possibility (American dream) to give our best for our Kingdom dream.
Matthew 16:26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
I now have a dream, a real dream worth dying for, it is to live for the Glory of God as I was meant to. amen.
van lian ceu (chicago).