Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Three

The Bible tells us that God sends angels at times to deliver messages to His people. God speaking through such a supernatural occurrence is a more uncommon way for us to hear God, but when angels speak we should listen to what they say. 

God can and will speak to us in every way that He has spoken in the past. I choose to believe God speaks through angels, because of the clear evidence in the Bible which I believe to be the true Word of God.

Today’s culture is fascinated with the topic of angels because it is searching for supernatural and spiritual meaning. We have TV shows, magazine articles, and books taking the topic of angels quite seriously, but most reveal a very poor grasp on what the Bible really teaches about angels. This only adds to the confusion of who holy angels really are and what they do. 

Angels are messengers of God and servants of God and are described in Hebrews as spirits to help and care for those who are to receive His salvation (Hebrews 1:14). They are God’s messengers to protect, provide, proclaim God’s truth or carry out God’s judgments. They are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him and humankind.

Let me begin by saying there are many incidences of angels appearing in the Bible. In both the Old and the New Testament angels were commonplace. Many times angels appeared to guide, comfort, and provide for God’s people as they performed certain tasks. Sometimes they intervened in the affairs of nations or helped people in times of suffering and persecution.

An angel shut the lions’ mouths when Daniel was thrown into their den. An angel appeared to Mary telling her she would bear a son. An angel rolled away the stone from Jesus’ tomb. Cornelius was visited by an angel who told him to send to Peter. As a result, Peter was instrumental in leading Cornelius and his whole household to Christ, 

Although holy angels are the messengers of God, the Bible tells us there are also other angels — demons of darkness. God’s holy Angels remain obedient to God and carry out His will, but the fallen angels fell from their holy position and now try everything to thwart God’s purposes here on earth. In his book, “Angels,” Billy Graham describes how some of God’s created angels fell:

“Few people realize the profound part angelic forces play in human events … Satan, or the devil, was once called ‘Lucifer, the song of the morning.’ … When the angel Lucifer rebelled against God and His works, some have estimated that as many as one third of the angelic hosts of the universe may have joined him in his rebellion. Thus, the war that started in heaven continues on earth and will see its climax at Armageddon with Christ and His angelic army victorious.”

God’s holy angels war against the fallen angels on our behalf. And, often the fallen angels win a battle or two such as when Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, experienced a deceptive angel of darkness (Galatians 1:8), not one of God’s angels. The devil, we are told in the Bible, masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). This is why we need to know the Word of God, so we can discern between the real and the counterfeit.

Regardless of our culture’s fascination with angels, we should never contact angels, pray to them, or worship them. In addition to not contradicting the Bible., any action of holy angels will glorify God and be consistent with His character.

If you are a Christian, according to the Bible, you have angels looking out for you. God created angels to help accomplish His work in this world, and they watch over Christians and will assist us because we belong tho God. Psalm 91:11 says, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

When Peter was released from prison by an angel and arrived at the door of Mary’s house, the believers meeting there could not believe it was Peter in person but said, “It must be his [guardian] angel” (Acts 12:7-15). Jesus told His followers earlier that those with childlike faith would have the services of angels, “… their angels have constant access to My Father” (Matthew 18:10 LB). As a believer, God provides angels for you because He loves you and will speak comfort and protection to you through His messengers.  

You may not be aware of the present of angels around you and you cannot predict how they will appear. This explains the verse in the Bible that says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). Just because you have never seen an angel does not mean angels are not present with you.  

Although Angeles are spirits, they make themselves visible when needed. There have been angelic sightings all over the world. 

John G. Paton, pioneer missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, told a thrilling story involving the protective care of angels. Hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them. The Patons prayed all during the terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see that, unaccountably, the attackers had left. They thanked God for delivering them.

A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Jesus Christ, and Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief relied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had with you there?” The missionary answered, “There were no men there; just my wife and I.” The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard — hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them.

Many Christians can recall those times when they were in danger and were miraculously spared. Could it be that, although they saw no angels, their presence helped avert tragedy? Is God trying to get our attention and remind us of His goodness towards us?

Even if we never see an angel physically, we should be aware of how close God’s ministering angels are and sense their presence so we can face each day, trusting God to care for us. Moreover, be sure to be kind to strangers as they could be angels sent from God to speak to you!

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Two

Prayer is communicating in intimate conversation with God. Regardless of the different ways God communicates with is, He often speaks to us in response to prayer. Psalm 91:15 says that when we call on Him, He will answer. Although we have been been discussing prayer indirectly in each of the ways that we can hear God, let’s take a closer look at how it affects our everyday lives. 

God speaks to Cornelius in the book of Acts in response to his sincere prayers. “And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea’” (Acts 10:30-32).

Cornelius, a Gentile, who was not yet a believe in Jesus Christ, had a generous heart. He prayed and God noticed and spoke to Him. He sent an Angel to tell Cornelius to invite a Jewish stranger to his home who would tell him about Jesus. God loves to answer us when we pray sincere prayers to Him.

The parents of John the Baptist, heard God speak in answer to their prayers. “And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:11-13).

Jesus tells two stores in the book of Luke that emphasize the importance of continuing a determined perseverance in prayer. In the first story He says:

“‘Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs” (Luke 11:5-8).

Just as this man gave in after repeated requisitions from his friend, so Our God will reposed after persistent prayer. Jesus went on to say:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10)

We must ask in order to receive an answer. When we seek Him, we find Him. When we continue to knock, God will answer. The Bible tells us that we do not have, because we do not ask (James 4:2).

If we feel we seldom hear from God, perhaps we have stopped asking. If we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). He is waiting for us to make the next move. He already made His move towards us when He sent Jesus to the cross over 2,000 years ago.

Jesus told His disciples a second story:

“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?“ (Luke 18:1-7)

Prayer and fasting go hand-in-hand. Fasting is a discipline of intercession that carries the potential of answered prayer and hearing the voice of God more clearly and accurately. Then we fast and intercede, we pray and expect God to answer clearly.

What is fasting exactly? When we fast, we are abstaining from daily nourishment for a period of time. We “starve” our bodies in order to feed our spirits. The essence of a fast is self-denial in order to turn our thoughts to God. We can hear God’s voice more clearly when we fast because we find in Him a sustenance beyond food. When prayer and fasting is combined, powerful things happen.

In Mark 9, Jesus healed a boy with an evil spirit. The disciples came to Jesus afterwards and… 

“His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9 28b-29). Jesus was challenging His disciples to be prayed up and maintain a life of prayer and fasting so that their faith remained firm.  

The Full Life Study Bible states: “Jesus does not mean that a time of prayer was necessary before this kind of an evil spirit could be driven out. Rather, a principle is implied here: where there is little faith, there is little prayer. Where there is much prayer [and fasting], founded on true commitment to God and His Word, there is much faith. Had the disciples been maintaining as Jesus did, a life of prayer, they could have dealt successfully with this case.

Maintaining a life of prayer and fasting is paramount to hearing from God. Fasting is not an option for Christians who are serious about their walk with God. One time as Jesus was teaching on prayer and fasting, He used the term “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16) and went on and made His point. Notice, he did not say, “If you fast…” Jesus knew that fasting would open up a whole new realm of revelation for Christians and make it easier for them to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In addition to increasing our capacity to receive from the Lord, fasting has a way of quieting all the background noise of life so we can tune in to His voice. In the book of Acts, we find the early church receiving direction from the Lord as they were fasting. In Antioch there was a group of church leaders who were worshipping the Lord and fasting when the Holy Spirit spoke to them about commissioning Barnabas and Paul and sending them on a trip to preach the Gospel (Acts 13:3). This trip later became known as Paul’s first apostolic journey that took Christianity to areas that previously had not heard the Gospel. 

On this trip, Paul and Barnabas experienced many miracles, saw a large number of new converts, and planted new churches. When it was time to appoint leaders for those churches, how do you think they heard from God about who the leaders should be? It was through prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23).

Leadership selection is a major decision in a church. If fasting should be involved in major decisions in the church, then it should certainly be involved in major decisions in our lives. If you are considering marriage, changing jobs, changing careers, or other significant life decisions, it is to your advantage to include fasting in your decision-making process.

I love the story of Daniel. He had fasted for a period of three weeks when an angel appeared to him and said, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:12). Daniel had a question that he was asking the Lord, and the answer came as he was fasting. I sometimes like to call this the missing piece of the puzzle. God showed Moses the pattern for the tabernacle on the mountain while fasting. Queen Esther instructed her Jewish brethren to fast for three days and three nights before she appeared before the king in order to plead for the livers of her people. God answered by giving her favour with the king. The Bible is filled with examples of godly men and women receiving direction from the Lord as a result of fasting.

Although I believer we are all called to fast at certain times, we must avoid the legalistic approaches to fasting. God gives grace for some individuals to fast for longer periods of time and others for shorter times. If you have never fasted before, ask God for His grace to experience His blessing of fasting.. Start by missing a few meals or fast for a day or two. Some Christians fast for a few meals or a day each week. Be sure to drink water or juices when you fast. 

What if you fast and the Lord does not speak to you in a significant way? This really is the wrong question to ask. What if you fast and He does speak to you? We know it is His will for us to fast, so we can trust that He will honour our obedience as we seek His voice through prayer and fasting. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-One

God speaks to us through journaling. A way to enrich your quiet time with the Lord and hear His voice is through the discipline of journaling.

Journaling is writing down what is in your heart — your thoughts, prayers, fears, disappointments, joys and miracles in your life. Sometimes you may record a Scripture that God quickens to you. Did you ever experience a verse almost leaping off the pages of the Bible during a time alone with God? You may have read it one thousand times, but this time it really “grabs” you. God is speaking to you! Write it down so you do not lose it when you need it most. Proverbs says, “Treasure my commandments within you … Write them down on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 7:1-3).

I have heard someone say that the only thing required of journaling is honesty. Journalling is like keeping a spiritual diary. Writing down your honest thoughts and God’s responses to your requests, thoughts, feelings, and insights provides a way of remembering God’s activity in your life. A journal helps you to look back over time and see a written record of the Lord’s dealings with your life. 

When the prophet Habakkuk needed an answer from the Lord, the Lord replied by mentioning the importance of writing down what He said to him and waiting for a reply.

Habakkuk 2:1-3 “I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower,

and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the LORD answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.’”

Habakkuk was a prophet who was seeking to hear God speak. First he went to a quiet place where he would be alone and wait for God to speak. He listens and “looks to hear what God will say.” When God begins to speak, He tells Habakkuk to record the vision that he is sensing in his heart. God clearly showed His prophet how to dialogue with Him by using the combination of coming to a quiet place, listening and journaling.

Writing down what God is speaking to you becomes a reminder of the revelation God has given to you that has not yet come to pass. When the Lord speaks to me, I write it down so I do not lose it. There are things God spoke to me more than 20 years ago that are only now coming to pass. And those revelations often look much different than I expected. If I had not written them down, I would no longer have them to help guide me into what God has for me today.

Journaling is really a method to be used to help you learn to discern God’s voice. In “Communion With God,” Mark and Patti Virkler believe one of the greatest benefits of using a journal during time spent with the Lord is that it allows you “to receive freely the spontaneous flow of ideas that come to your mind, in faith believing that they are from Jesus, without short-circuiting them by subjecting them to rational and sensory doubts.” Mark further explains it like this: 

“I found that before I began keeping a journal, I would ask God for an answer to a question, and as soon as an idea came into my mind, I would immediately question whether the idea was from God or from self; and, in so doing, I was short-circuiting the intuitive flow of the Spirit by subjecting it to rational doubt. I would get one idea from God and doubt that it was from Him, and therefore get no more. Now, by writing it down, I can receive whole pages in faith,. Knowing I will have ample time to test it later. Maintaining a journal keeps your mind occupied (therefore, out of the way) and on track as you are receiving God’s words.”

Some people object to journaling because they compare it to Satan’s counterpart — automatic writing. Journaling is not to be confused with demonically inspirited automatic writing which allows you to be overtaken by a spirit that controls your hand to write down what a voice is telling you. Instead, biblical journaling comes from the flow of ideas birthed by God in your heart and then writing those thoughts down with a hand under your own control. These spontaneous thoughts, feelings, and impressions should always be tested and examined later to be sure that they line up with Scripture.

Journaling is really just a written record of how God has been working in your life. God may speak to you about something today that you may need then years down the road. It is a way to look back over the years and see how God has been faithful to hear and answer your prayers and discover how you have grown spiritually. It is a way of holding yourself accountable to move on to spiritual maturity. 

Journaling can also be a form of meditative worship. Alone with God, we can explore our passion for the Lord as we write what is on our hearts to God.

You can use a simple spiral notebook or a fancier hardbound journal to keep track of your impressions, inspired thoughts and Scriptures as you write down what God is speaking to you. Your journal could even be your computer where you type your thoughts during your quiet time with God. I have heard of some who make an audio recording of the thoughts coming to them during their time with God. Any of these methods of keeping track of hearing from God are valuable ones.

Cultivating an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord through journaling helps you to clearly think through what you believe the Lord is speaking to you about. You can test it with the Scriptures and read it from time to time to see how your mind, heart, and spirit have been renewed by the Lord. You will discover that you have learned to converse with God as you focus the eyes of your heart on God and receive fresh words from Him each day. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty

Daily time set aside to meet with God should be like a visit with your closest friend. We make time for close friends and look forward to their visits with us. The Lord cherishes time with us too. He is a God of relationship. He created use with a desire to have close and intimate relationships. First and foremost, we were created to have a relationship with Him and then with one another.

Why is it so vitally important for every believer to have a daily time with God? Although we “pray without ceasing” and walk with the Lord minute by minute, setting a special time of day to be alone with the Lord is vital to relating heart-to-heart with God. It helps to give a divine rhythm to our daily routine as we place ourselves in a position to hear from God.

Yet so frequently, as Christians we find it hard to commit to a daily time with God. Often, we fall into a rut of allowing our time to become a drudgery or an obligation.

Max Lacado writes that because some of us have tried and not been successful, we practice a type of surrogate spirituality where we rely on others to spend time with God and try to benefit from their experience.

Let them tell us what God is saying. After all, isn’t that why we pay preachers? Isn’t that why we read Christian books? These folks are good at daily devotions. I’ll just learn from them. If that is your approach, if your spiritual experiences are secondhand and not firsthand, I’d like to challenge you with this thought: Do you do that with other parts of your life? I don’t think so.

You don’t do that with vacations. You don’t say, “Vacations are such a hassle, packing bags and travelling. I’m going to send someone on vacation for me. When he returns, I’ll hear all about it and be spared all the inconvenience.” Would you do that? No! You want the experience firsthand. You want the sights firsthand, and you want to rest firsthand. Certain things no one can do for you. 

The simple fact remains — if you truly want an intimate, grace-filled relationship with God, we have to spend time alone with Him on a regular basis.Listening to God is a firsthand experience. 

Ralph Neighbour suggests that our meeting time with God would involve so much more than a one-way conversation in which we speak to God. He says, “It also involves listening to Him, and everyone needs a listening room where we can hear the directions of God for our own life and needs, the needs of others, and for His assignment to us.

A Japanese pastor invited an American pastor to visit his home. The Japanese pastor took his guest to a lovely garden behind the house, where a one-room cottage stood. The pastor explained. “This is my listening room.”

Our listening room is more an attitude, a value of our lives, than a special room built for that purpose. It is a condition in which we not only speak to Him, but also hear from Him. God does speak.

When we spend time listening for God to speak, He will! Our daily alone time with God gives us the opportunity to hear Him speak so that we can be encouraged. 

Avoiding legalistic approaches to spending time with the Lord will help to keep the time fresh and inviting. First of all, we should never allow others’ expectations to manipulate our emotions and make us feel guilty for not devoting an hour or two alone with God each day. Although some people will easily spend an hour or more each day with God, others may have to start at five, ten, or fifteen minutes, and increase it over time. Allow the peace of God to rule in your heart about the time you believe God wants you to spend with Him. The best length of time spent with God is the time you will actually practice! Start with a realistic goal.

If you want your encounters to stay fresh, you cannot do it out of legalism but instead because you hear God calling you each day saying, “Arise, my love … and come away…” (Song of Solomon 2:10). If you miss a day or two, God is not disappointed in you. He always welcomes you back with open arms. He is thrilled when you seek a friendship with Him.

You should pick the time of day that works for you. It works best for me to spend time alone with the Lord in the morning. I find that I am most alert and can give God my peak concentration in the morning; but everyone is different. So find the time, readjust your priorities, and plan for it.

Two main activities of spending time with God are reading the Bible and prayer. The Bible is God speaking to humanity. Reading the Bible opens the door to communication from God. 

Trying to listen for God’s voice without being dedicated to spending time in God’s Word on a regular basis will open us up to hearing voices that are not from the Lord. Knowing the written Word of God protects us from deception. There are many evil spirits ready to whisper lies to us if we are not prepared spiritually by reading and studying the Word of God regularly.

Knowledge of the Word is of vital importance to us in discerning the voice of God. If we don’t know the Word, we won’t have anything with which to compare the ideas and arguments that war against God’s perfect will for our lives. The devil can give us ideas that may make sense to us, but just because something seems logical does not necessarily mean it is from God. We may hear what we want to hear, but it doesn’t mean we have heard from God. Any idea can feel  good to our emotions but fail to give us lasting peace when it isn’t in line with God’s Word. 

Prayer is, of course, simply talking with God from our heart. It is a two-way conversation between you and God. When you spend time alone with a friend you start to understand your friend’s hopes, dreams, needs, and wants. You do this by speaking and taking the time to listen to your friend. Communication is incomplete if all you do is talk.

The more listening time you spend with your heavenly Father, the better you will understand His heart for you. Do not expect God to function simply as a drive-through fast food restaurant. While we may place our order (heart’s desire), we must take time to hear His heart’s desire on the matter. God always knows what is best and always has the timing exact. 

God seeks to quiet the noise in order to make way for His voice to be heard. When is the last time you got away for an extended period of time without technology at your fingertips, where you just sat and quieted yourself by the beach, or simply closed the door and sat in silence waiting on God? Too often life is such a rush that we rush up to God, say a few hurried prayers and rush away again.

To hear God’s voice, we must learn to find ways to be quiet and listen for the Lord to speak. We must fix our eyes on Jesus and worship Him and Him only without distractions. The Bible says that Jesus departed to a lonely place to pray early in the morning (Mark 1:35), and after a day’s ministry, He went to a mountain to pray and be alone with God (Luke 5:16).

As you talk to God and spend a quiet time listening, you can draw on His presence and power to give your spiritual life energy and vitality. You will begin to understand Him better and know what He want you to do. 

God desires our closeness. He wants our unwavering love. Developing a love relationship with the Lord changes us from the depths of our beings. We will learn to hear His voice more clearly when we spend time with Him. Let God have all of you as you develop a listening heart that is open to hear His whispers. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Nineteen

God speaks to His people (plural) through the gift of prophecy. Prophecy is always to a corporate group – a household, a family, a church, a town, a region or province, a country. His prophetic words will speak about the present and the future so as to impart vision and declare what He sees as the potential the people have and the opportunities He is offering to them. When God speaks prophetically over a single person it is because this person is a leader of a group (a church, a city, a country) and the vast majority of the prophetic word will really be dealing with the group and the work that will be accomplished or the direction taken by the group under the leadership of that leader.

The key purpose of the prophetic words is to build up, cheer up, and stir up. 1 Corinthians 14:3 states, “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” In the Old Testament only the prophets could prophesy. In the New Testament Church-era everyone who is Baptized in the Holy Spirit can prophecy. We see this in Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth

2 Corinthians 14:31, 39 “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged … So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”

In the Old Testament prophecy was used to bring judgment, but in the New Testament, it is to bring direction and create vision for God’s people. It speaks of the group’s potential and the opportunities God is placing before the group. It most often deals with the future such as when Agabus the prophet gave a prophetic word in the book of Acts when he predicted a famine, while at other times it can be a message of encouragement for God’s people. 

God is a God of the “now.” He wants Hs people to receive a current word from Him so we know what He is saying and doing today. We describe God’s Word as both logos and rhema. Prophecy is a rhema word that sometimes clarifies and emphasizes God’s already revealed heart, mind, and His plans in His logos Word – the Bible. A rhema word will never conflict with the written Word; in fact, it often makes the Bible come alive to us.

When God says something prophetically to us, He is speaking out and releasing our potential. God is supernatural, and as Christians, we must, by definition, be supernatural as well. People today are hungry for the supernatural as we can see by the themes of many of the books people are reading and the menu of television shows we have placed before us day after day. I believe God places this desire for the supernatural in us, yet the enemy is quick to take advantage and produces a counterfeit that draws people away from God, rather than closer to Him.

True prophetic words come from God and draw us closer to Him. They are edifying words that God speaks so we can hear Him as His people. When God’s rhema word becomes a reality to us, we realize that God is taking notice and is interested in our situation and circumstances. He has heard us and spoken to us. 

Dr. Bill Hamon defines prophecy as: “…simply God communicating His thoughts and intents to mankind. When a true prophecy is given, the Holy Spirit inspires someone to communicate God’s pure and exact words to a group for whom they are intended. It is delivered without any additions or subtractions by the one prophesying, including any applications or interpretations suggested by the one speaking. To be most effective, it must also be delivered in God’s timing and with the proper spirit or attitude.”

The New Testament prophets revealed Jesus through their words of encouragement and insights on coming events, and it the model for the church today. The Bible gives many examples of prophecies that were spoken to give direction to the people of God.

Agabus the prophet prophesied that if Paul went up to Jerusalem he would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles. It happened just as it was prophesied — Paul was arrested in Jerusalem (Acts, Chapters 21 and 22). Timothy received a spiritual gift through a prophetic word when the elders laid hands on him and prayed for him (1 Timothy 4:14). Paul’s word over Timothy referenced his actions on behalf of the church he was leading.

Many times prophecies are confirmations of those things the Lord has already spoken to us in our hearts. At other times the Lord may use prophecy to give us clear direction for our lives. Either way, the prophecy must be in line with the Word of God and our spirits must affirm it.

All prophecy needs to be tested, according to the Scriptures. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 states: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” We should always, of course, test the words received to the written Word of God. If it does not line up with the Bible, do not receive it.

We must especially test a prophetic word for timing. It may be for today or it may be for ten years down the road. We must be careful not to assume we know what every prophecy means immediately. Timing is always a critical part of seeing a prophetic word come to pass. Getting the wrong timing for prophetic words is the most common error made in processing prophecy. 

If the prophecy received doesn’t bear witness and agreement in your heart, you often know it by a lack of peace in your spirit. Something tells you things are not quite right. There are a lot of well-meaning people who think they are hearing from God for others, but the truth is they are not. If someone prophecies something to you that is not already in your heart, then I suggest you write down the words that are spoken and wait for the Lord to reveal to you whether or not the words are from Him. If it is from God, He will clearly show you. 

The Lord desires to place His words in our mouths and speak through us prophetically to others. Jesus promises to “…give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:15).

I believe God wants us to be encouraged with prophecies that help us to know Him better. We can trust that, as His sheep, we will learn to recognize His voice (see: John 10:3-4), all the while remembering that prophecy is just one of the ways God speaks to us and should not be used exclusively to hear from God. Nevertheless, let’s continue to seek Him and keep our hearts open as He speaks prophetic words that help refresh and encourage our walk with Him. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Eighteen

Because God longs for a close relationship with us, He freely gives us spiritual gifts that serve as a means of communication — a divine link between us and God. Spiritual gifts are not meant to be mysterious. We are to use spiritual gifts to communicate with the Lord and with others. We can hear God through spiritual gifts! The Lord will often use these gifts to speak directly to us as well as to speak to others, especially non-believers, through us. 

God wants us to understand and use spiritual gifts so we can be both strengthen and involved in service and ministry to others. Paul understood this encouragement that comes through gifts when he wrote to the believes in the capital of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome. He writes, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12). 

The Lord gave to His church at least nine different supernatural spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

These gifts are deposited in a believer when he or she is Baptized in the Holy Spirit (see: Acts 1:5, 8 and Acts 2:1-4)

The first detail we notice about these gifts is that they come from the Holy Spirit. Each of these gifts is supernatural in nature. And, they function in our lives better when we are in good, solid “fellowship” with the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

The word “fellowship means:

    • To socially interact with
    • The partner with
    • To participate with

These gifts allow us to see, know, and do things what we are naturally incapable of accomplishing on our own. God gives us these abilities or gifts that we would have no way of achieving with our natural abilities. For example, although every Christian should be able to pray for healing for those who are ill, some individuals have the healing touch of God flowing through them. This is the supernatural gift of healing. If we use these spiritual gifts in God’s way and in His power, not only will we benefit but others will as well. 

As we are working with the topic “Hearing the Voice of God” we will look directly at the three key gifts by which God communicates with us and allows us to minister to others.

A Word of Wisdom is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to know something about a person or a situation that you could not have known if God had not revealed it to you. This gift always deals with information about the person’s future. Jesus flowed in this gift when speaking of Peter’s future and the way he would die as seen in John 21:18-19)

A Word of Knowledge is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to know something about a person or a situation that you could not have known if God had not revealed it to you. This gift always deals with information about the person’s past or present. Jesus flowed in this gift when speaking to the woman at the well in John, chapter 4. He knew about the woman’s past 5 husbands and the fact that she was presently living with a man she was not married to.

The Discerning of Spirits is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to see into the spirit realm and see light and darkness, angels and demons, good and even, as well as the thoughts and intentions of people’s hearts. Jesus used this gift in Matthew 9:4 and Matthew 24:1-2.

God also uses the other information gifts to minister to people … Speaking in (public) tongues, Interpretation of (public) tongues, and prophecy. And, He touches lives with His power gifts: Gifts of Healings, Special faith, and the Working of Miracles. However, the key gifts used to speak to us and to others are a Word Of Wisdom, a Word of Knowledge, and the Discerning of Spirits.

One other gift that He uses to communicate with us is the gift of prophecy. He uses this gift to speak to corporate groups such as a family, a city, a region, a country. 

We will look at prophecy next time.

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Seventeen

God uses visions and dreams to proclaim and reveal His loving guidance to us.

Throughout the Bible, God sometimes spoke to His people through visions and dreams. They had the various purposes of directing, consoling, confirming, clarifying, instructing, warning, or encouraging God’s people. The Bible reveals that visions and dreams are an important part of the Latter Day outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “And in the last days it shall be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17)

Down through the ages, including the church today, God gives people visions and dreams that clarify their calling or deepen their faith, while giving them a deep assurance from the Lord. Because visions and dreams can be symbolic and thus misinterpreted, many in Western Christianity do not take their visions or dreams seriously. 

Just because visions and dreams have caused confusion for some in the Body of Christ today does not mean we should dismiss them. We see countless examples in both the Old and New Testaments of people receiving guidance from God through visions and dreams. The Bible tells us that God still speaks through visions and dreams and we must be aware of these “whispers in our ears.”

Job 33:14-17 NLT “For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings. He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride.”

Visions and dreams from the Lord give us important information that should not be ignored.

How can we discern and recognize God’s voice in visions and dreams? First of all, it is important for Christians to be rooted and grounded in the Bible and evaluate every supernatural experience by the Word. We want to be confident that visions and dreams are given for the purpose of guidance or protection, that they glorify our Lord Jesus Christ and are in line with the truths of Scripture.

In addition, we need to be in communication with other believers in our local church so we can receive spiritual discernment for our visions and dreams. Consequently, if you have a dram that you believe is God is using to speak to you but you don’t understand it, look for someone who is more mature in the Lord and ask for their advice.

Paul the apostle was speaking of his own experience when he revealed to his fellow believers an amazing vision the Lord gave to him.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4 “I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.”

Some believe the Lord gave Paul this vision of heaven that could not be described adequately in human language to strengthen him for his special mission and the exceptional suffering he would endure.

Unlike dreams which occur during our sleep, visions are experiences of intense imagery, sound, and feeling occurring during the waking state. There are at least two kinds of visions. One is often referred to as an open vision, which happens when our eyes are open, but you see only the spirit realm instead of your natural surroundings. This is the kind of vision Paul had when he had the vision of heaven. He was so caught up in the vision, he was unaware of his natural surroundings. It almost seemed to him as if he was in heaven itself; it was so real.

These open visions are external views that are like watching a movie. As with dreams, God may or may not give you the interpretation. Never presume to know the meaning. Always allow God to reveal it.

Another kind of vision you can experience is when you see things “in the spirit.” This is a type of impression that the Lord places in your mind and spirit. This is often referred to as a closed vision. These impressions or pictures in your mind are a type of vision the Lord can give to you.

There have been times when I was looking at someone, but in my spirit, I was seeing something concerning that person that my natural eyes did not perceive. Sometimes, the Lord may want us to reveal that information to the person, and other times the information was revealed so that we can pray specifically for the individual and we do not need to share what we saw.

Visions are definitely used by God, but we must be cautious and use wisdom and test the spirits as the Bible instructs us to.

1 John 4:1-3 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

Let me encourage you to always examine both the messenger and the message of a vision. There is a counterfeit for everything, but if you walk in awe of His greatness and power and stay in fellowship with fellow believers, you will know the difference. 

When God speaks to us through visions, we are awake. When He speaks to us through dreams, they occur while we are asleep. While our body is at rest, our spirit and mind are quite active. We are “thinking” while sleeping. That’s why we can wake up with a song on our lips or wake up with feelings of anger.

Dreams are one of the valid ways God can speak to us, but this is also an area in which people can easily get off balance. Most people dream nightly, and their dreams are not all spiritual dreams. Did you ever wake up from a dream and wonder about its meaning, purpose, and origin? Sometimes it seems so vivid and real but you are not sure if it was the pizza speaking from a late night snack or if God is trying to speak to you.

The Bible has valued the content of dreams for divine revelation down through the ages. Sometimes they were dreams of warning or consolation or guidance. In the Old Testament, God spoke to Joseph in a dream, and Joseph interpreted dreams for Pharaoh, as well as for Pharaoh’s servants with whom he was in prison (Genesis, Chapters 40 and 41). The Lord spoke to Jospeh, the step-father of Jesus, through a dream, telling him to marry Mary, go to Egypt and then to Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew, Chapters 1 and 2). Another time, God warned the wise men to go home a different way in a dream. 

These dreams had a specific purpose and the message was clear. Those who received the dreams acted in obedience to God. Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape the infanticide ordered by King Herod (Matthew 2:19-23). The wise men went home on a different route, thus avoiding Herod.

Sometimes dreams are a confirmation of what the Lord has already spoken to the person.

God sometimes gives dreams to people to console them in life’s difficulties. The mother of the early church father, Augustine, was distressed over her then pre-Christian son’s immoral lifestyle and begged God for his salvation. The Holy Spirit gave her a dream that showed her worshipping in heaven and to her great joy, there beside her was her son Augustine. She accepted the dream as a promise that Augustine would come to faith in Jesus, which of course he did later.

God promised that we would receive dreams in these last days. For most people they are not daily occurrences, although it seems that there are some people who are more prone to opening their spiritual eyes and receiving visions and dreams from the Lord than others.

So how can we tell if it is God’s voice in a dream, the enemy’s voice in a dream, or the voice of eating dinner too late in the evening. Some dreams are straightforward and clear. We know that they are revealed to clarify something, instruct us, or warn or encourage us in our lives. Some dreams are given to us from the Lord only to alert us to pray and intercede.

We must use caution, however, if dreams confuse us. We should not leap to false conclusions about dream meanings if they are not clear. Some dreams are abstract and cannot be interpreted concretely. 

If a dream troubles you, you should discuss it with a trusted mentor or pastor who may be able to give you further insights. There are times when Satan will try to deceive us or cause fear through a dream. If a dream contradicts Scripture, it is clearly not of God. 

Dreams from God are given to us when God chooses. Simply put, God will speak to us in dreams to reveal Himself to us in a personal way, and the dreams will confirm Scripture, not contradict it.

Some believers write their dreams down to see if they come to pass. If you are prone to dreams, may I suggest that you maintain a “dream log” placed near your bed so that when awakening in the morning, you can record what you remember. Most of us tend to let a dream escape us if we do not write it down.

Once it is recalled and written, we can then begin to pray over it. Counsel with a trusted friend spiritual overseer, and await its fulfillment. Often these written journals become needed words of encouragement sometime in the future, and often you many come across someone who reminds you of the dream and suddenly realize it may be a word of encouragement to them.

In conclusion, I encourage you to use discernment, wisdom, and balance in hearing God through visions and dreams If it is God speaking to you, you will have confirmation in your heart and from others that the Lord is truly speaking to you or trying to show you something. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Sixteen

God speaks to us through His character. God’s basic character is love and so He speaks to us and responds to us from within His loving and compassionate character.

How we see the character of God affects our relationship with Him. Since God will never tell us to do anything that is outside His character, we must get to know the very nature of God so we can be sure we are truly hearing from Him. We must understand His compassionate nature and how He longs for our intimacy and trust.

One of the most familiar verse in the Bible states, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). God’s nature is revealed in this revelation of God as the Lover of humankind. God is love (1 John 4:7-8) and He loves us. We are precious in His sight and He yearns for us. He wants to reveal Himself to us. He is passionately pursuing us!  

The familiar scripture verse goes on to say that God so loved the world that “He gave…” He not only wants us to be lovers of people as He is, He wants us to be givers. He wants us to act like He does — to live by His character. For example, He always tells the truth. He sets the example for us to do the same and be truthful people, true to our word.

The Bible tells us that God “…make known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” (Psalm 103:7 NKJV). Because Moses was in relationship with the Lord, he had learned to know the character of the Lord; however, the children of Israel only saw the things that God did because they did not have a personal relationship with Him. The saw His actions – the what God did – without knowing the ‘why’ behind the actions. When we get to know God and develop a love relationship with Him, we will know what God wants us to do and why He wants us to do it. He will “make known” His ways to us and we will hear His voice clearly.

So, God reveals His character through His love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 offers us a description of what love is. When we substitute the word “God” for “love” in these verses, we get an accurate picture of God’s character. 

Love (God) is patient and kind; love (God) does not envy or boast; it (He) is not arrogant or rude. It (He) does not insist on its own way; it (He) is not irritable or resentful; it (He) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love (God) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love (God) never fails.

Another version reads (substituting God for the word ‘love’):

“God is patient, God is kind, God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud, God is not rude, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs, God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres, God never fails.”

God’s love is revealed so that mankind can be liberated. The Scriptures tell us the Lord is one “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies…” (Psalm 103:3-4 NKJV). This is who our God is! This is His basic character. He is a God who is forgiving and a God of healing who wants to redeem our lives from destruction. 

What does it mean for God to redeem us?

The word ‘redeem’ means ‘to buy back.’ I’ve heard the story of a young boy, who after spending many hours constructing a little boat, took it to the lake to sail. With a long string attached to the boat, the boy was having a great time as the boat floated and bobbed. Suddenly, the string tore. In an instant, he lost his prized possession and could only watch as the boat headed down stream where it eventually exited into the river. He thought it was gone forever.

Several years later, this lad entered a pawn shop in a town downstream from where he grew up. He spotted the boat that he had built years before. The young man approached the storekeeper and said, “This is my boat. My initials are carved on the bottom.”

The owner said, “Well, I’m sorry, but someone brought that boat into my store and I bought it from him. You’ll ned to pay me for it.” The young man immediately paid the shopkeeper so he could buy back his cherished boat.

This is a picture of what God did for us. God made you and me. As we went our own way, He loved us so much He redeemed us and bought us back again at great cost – the cost of His Son’s life.

When you responded to God’s offer of reconciliation that is possible because of Jesus’ death on the cross, a marvellous transformation occurred. You became a brand new person. You are a new creation in Christ. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!” And, you now have the supernatural ability to actually hear the voice of God (John 10:3-4)

An elephant becoming a butterfly would be no greater miracle! Yes, there is an indescribable miracle that happens inside of us as we live by faith in Jesus. Faith is believing and trusting in God and God alone. It’s not a matter of “turning over a new leaf” or just changing some of our old ways of doing things. No, a miracle has happened inside. We know by faith in the Word of God that we are new creations in Jesus Christ. Christianity is walking by faith, not by sight! We know we can hear God speak to us because Christ now lives in us (Galatians 2:20).

One of the basic markers of God’s voice is that Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God (John 1:1). We know we are hearing God’s voice when we compare what we are hearing with the character, words, spirit and acts of Christ. The resurrection of Jesus – the fact that He is alive –  is central to hearing from God. Because He is alive He still speaks to us today. The Holy Spirit speaks to our born again spirit and we can know His voice and accurately hear what He is speaking to us. 

Hebrews 1:2 asserts that God has spoken through His Son. If we want to hear from God, we will follow Jesus and observe His words. We know we are hearing God’s voice when it matches the character and words of Jesus. Listen to Him!

Sometimes we feel we cannot hear from God because we are not righteous enough. There is sin in our currently life situation. But the truth is that Jesus has made us righteous by faith in Him. When God looks at us He sees Jesus first!

In the Chinese language, the word for “righteousness” is the combination of two pictures. On top is the figure of a lamb; directly beneath is that of a person. What a perfect image of the righteousness that Christ alone provides! Whenever the Father looks at you, He first sees the perfect Lamb of God, ‘hiding’ you. Certainly God is aware of any sin in our lives, but that isn’t what He’s primarily aware of in any believer. What He sees first and foremost is the beauty of His Son enveloping us.

No matter where you are in your spiritual journey with Christ, God sees the beauty of Jesus in you. 

You can have a full life! Christ wants to give us a full, abundant life, and He tells us so when He says, “I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).

The word ‘life’ is translated from the Greek word “Zoe” which means the very nature of God and source of life. The abundant life, then, is life filled with the very nature of God inside of us. This life is abundant in quantity and quality — overflowing life. That is the kind of life that God has prepared for us as His children. 

As we learn to walk and talk with God over the years, we get to know His heart, His character, and His ways. If we are committed to following His character and His ways, He can give us a greater liberty because we become “one with Him.” As our spirit becomes filled with His Spirit, and our desires begin to merge with His, we walk in His ways. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one (John 10:30) and “I do nothing win my own but speak just what the Father has taught Me” (John 8:28). Jesus was one with His Father and was given freedom by His Father on the earth. He knew His heavenly Father so well that He modeled His Father’s character and only did what He saw His Father doing. 

The Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 20:4, 37:4). This means He puts His desires into our hearts as we follow Him. This means He slowly changes our desires to come into line with His plan and purpose for our life – His desires for us. This means God speaks to us by slowly adjusting the desires of our hearts even when we are not aware that He is doing so. 

Let’s hear Him speak to us by what He reveals through His character that extends to each of us His unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness and righteousness. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Fifteen

God can and does speak to us through His Church. God’s assignments are usually too big for you to accomplish on your own so you need the help and input of others.

With this in mind, He provides other believers with whom you can have regular fellowship who can also help you hear from God. Although we live in a large global planet that links us with others halfway around the world with the click of an internet connection, communication alone does not give us the authentic fellowship we need with other people. What people are looking for today are real relationships that offer genuine connection with others that gives them a real sense of being understood and loved. We can find this bona fide fellowship and connection in the church — the body of Christ where a community of believers interact to encourage each other to hear from God.

The Bible says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13). It is extremely difficult to live the Christian life alone. Believers need to fellowship together and encourage one another daily. We also need other believers to enable us to hear God more frequently and more accurately. 

The church is not a building or a meeting or a program. The church of Jesus Christ is simply people. As believers, we are the church. The word ‘church’ literally means called out ones. The church then, is a group of people who have been called out of spiritual darkness into the light of God’s Kingdom.

When we come to Christ, we are immediately a part of the universal church of Christ which includes every believer who has ever named the Name of Christ from every nation of the world. Jesus talked about His universal church in the gospels. “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gats of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

But the word ‘church’ also refers to the local church — the local body of Christ, Within God’s universal church family are local churches in each community which provide the support and love each believer needs. Whether you are a part of a local community church, a megachurch, or a small house church, the Lord wants to speak to you through the leadership there and through fellow believers.

Every believer needs a “support system” to survive. We get that support system from being committed to other believers in a local church and having regular fellowship with them. We are part of a spiritual family — a family of the redeemed. This spiritual family gives us a place to grow and learn from other believers how to live our Christian lives. We need this input from others. God will often speak through these members.

Sometimes, through disillusionment, disappointment, or spiritual pride, believers find themselves uninvolved in a local church.This leaves them very vulnerable. The Bible tells us that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The local church is often “the way out” the Lord has prepared for His people during an onslaught of the devil. When we fellowship with other believers, we realize that we are not alone in the temptations that we face. We receive spiritual protection, strength, and oversight from the spiritual leaders the Lord has placed in our lives. The Lord’s plan is to use the local church to protect us, help us grow, and equip us to be all that we can be in Jesus Christ.

D.L. Moody, an evangelist from the late 1800’s, was used of the Lord to lead a million people to Christ. Many times when he preached, he had a choir that included singers from many churches in the community in which he was preaching. A lady came to him one day and said, “Mr. Moody, I would like to sing in your choir.” When Moody asked her which local church she represented, she said, “I am involved in the universal church.”

Moody said to her, “Then find the pastor of the universal church and sing in his choir.” In other words, Moody was concerned about this lady’s lack of involvement in a local church. He recognized the need to be committed to a local church for spiritual protection and accountability. Though the church is not perfect, God designed the church to be a blessing to believers. The church might have a few spots and wrinkles, but she is still engaged to the bridegroom and He is committed to make her beautiful.

Spiritual leaders as well as other believers in the local church are there to exhort you, comfort you, and uphold you in prayer. God places spiritual leaders in our lives who are accountable to God and to other spiritual leaders to watch out for us. 

Hebrews 13:7, 17 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith … Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Spiritual leaders in our lives give us spiritual protection, and we need to follow their example as they place their faith in Jesus Christ. We should remember them, receive the Word of God from them, obey them, be submissive to them, and do all that we can so their responsibility is joyful and not a burden. God often uses them as His mouthpiece to speak to us. The Bible tells us that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). Lions prey on strays, those who are isolated from the herd. That’s why we need church leaders — to protect us and encourage us. The Lord has called us to recognize and honour those He has placed in our lives as spiritual leaders.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”

I spend much of my time travelling locally, nationally, and internationally and I have been blesses over and over again by the spiritual leaders that the Lord has placed in my life.

I am grateful to the Lord for using spiritual leaders  in my life to speak to me again and again over the past years because I know I cannot do it on my own.

Because you cannot accomplish all you want on your own, God will be faithful to speak to you through the believers and spiritual leaders He has placed in your life in the local church. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Fourteen

Another way that God speaks to us is through natural things. Creation shouts out God’s glory continuously, completely, and clearly.

I love it when I am in Kazakhstan, especially in the southern part of the nation. There I live right in a major valley surrounded by magnificent mountains. My view every morning when I get up are these mountain peaks standing majestically waiting to greet the rising sun. In the mountains (I have been to the top several times) I experience God’s majesty in the breathtaking views across a valley to the snow-capped peaks in the distance. God speaks to me through the nature that He has created. 

The Bible confirms that God reveals Himself through nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands …” 

Psalm 29:3-9 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

In nature, we discover a nonstop manifestation of God. Nature sends a clear signal that everyone can receive.

God told Abraham to look at the stars to get a vision of his future family. The vast starry sky symbolized the countless ancestors that God promised He would give Abraham (Genesis 15:5).

From the beginning of creation, God has shown what His eternal power and character are like by all He has made (Romans 1:20). Even those who are not living in the will of God can perceive right from wrong and instinctively know that God exists because nature itself testifies of His existence. That’s why people cannot claim ignorance of God as an excuse for refusing to honour Him. Atheists will some day stand before the Lord and realize that God spoke through His handiwork and they ignored this revelation in nature (Romans 1:21).

It was through the very intricate design of God’s handiwork — a child — that God spoke to the American writer, Whittaker Chambers, when he was still an atheist. He was observing his infant daughter and was struck by the fact that such an exquisite creature was not an accident or a freak of nature. He recalls in his autobiography:

“I was sitting in our apartment … my daughter was in her high chair. I was watching her eat. She was the most miraculous thing that had ever happened in my life … My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear — those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: “No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature. They could have been created only by immense design.” The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind … I did not then know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.”

God revealed Himself clearly in the design of a child. Mr. Chambers could not ignore God’s voice speaking to him.

While on this earth, Jesus often used natural things to teach spiritual lessons so we could more clearly understand how God communicated with mankind. Jesus told us to consider the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28) and the ravens of the air (Luke 12:24). Meditating on how God adorns the fields and provides for the birds will remind us that if He cares so completely for nature, He cares even more deeply for mankind whom He made in His own image.

In the parable of the farmer and the seed, Jesus used a natural phenomenon like a seed sprouting and growing to teach us the spiritual truth that when the message of the Gospel is sown in our hearts, it produces growth and fruitfulness spontaneously (Mark 4:26-29).

The Pharisees pretended they wanted to see evidence that Jesus was the Messiah by asking Him to show them a great demonstration in the skies (Matthew 16:2-3). Although Jesus could have caused lightening to strike at their feet or thunder to roll, He chose not to show a natural sign to speak to them because their hearts were wicked and obstinate. They would not have believed anyway.

Another time, Jesus told a parable of a budding fig tree, giving proof that summer is near, to speak symbolically of the proof that one day Israel would return to the Promised Land and form a sovereign state once again (Matthew 24:32-33). Again, God was speaking to mankind through a natural sign to make it easier to understand.

Many times God revealed His presence in the form of a cloud. A cloud led God’s people out of Egypt as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). A cloud settled down on the tabernacle, filling it with God’s glory (Exodus 40:34-35). The same thing happened when Solomon finished building the temple ( 1 Kings 8:11-13). The cloud symbolized the glory of God’s majesty and presence that filled the temple.  God was speaking His blessing as He took up residence in the temple. 

Through the observation of life situations and natural phenomena, the Lord often speaks a lesson or insight. Learning to observe and listen for God to speak through nature is a very fruitful way to learn from God. 

Along with the many other ways God speaks, look for God to speak through His creation to send a clear signal to you that He cares and that He is in control.