January 13, 2012

Hearing God's Voice

Would all free thinkers please raise your hand.

Isn’t free thinking great? Isn't it liberating to indulge in daydreams and analysis, memories and learning? We have free reign to navigate the uncharted waters of our minds at will. A lot of fun takes place up there, doesn’t it? I love free thinking, I live there.

God has been merciful lately to interrupt my thoughts with one-liners which have gotten my attention. His announcements have been commanding and the frequency has intensified. I hope that I am on the cusp of a new spiritual gift and I’m trying hard to develop this new skill which to date appears mostly unpredictably. It is a shame that it has taken me this long in my spiritual walk, let’s say more than two decades, to actually consider that I may not have been too good at hearing His voice before. How could I have been mistaken about this? There are several reasons why I remained ignorant.

First, I have God’s Word in my hand and engraved on my heart. Many scriptures have been imprinted on my soul. It is easy to presume that the Bible is all of God’s voice that we are ever going to hear. If we meditate on scripture and blend them with our thoughts on a regular basis, it’s easy to concede that God is active in our minds.

Second, I send up alot of outgoing prayers. I do a lot of talking to Him, up there in the realm of my thinking. I’m always acknowledging His presence. He is welcome up there in my mind. I sure talk to Him enough.

Third, I have been blessed with some pretty riveting messages from God in past years. I have heard some unmistakable, unforgettable messages from Him which I can count on one hand. I would equate these moments to God’s thundering voice from the clouds at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 9:7). No one is going to mistake that voice.

Given that I meditate on the scriptures, pray outgoing prayers, and have been introduced to His thundering voice in the past, I built up a solid expectation that God would make Himself known to the degree that He wants to be known.

Now I am learning that He actually desires more.

Let’s not forget that God spoke to Elijah in a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Have you paused to consider whether you are familiar with that voice? Have you cared enough to ask why you have never grown acquainted with it before? I did not covet encounters with His still, small voice until recently when I started hearing it. It has stirred a hunger for more.

When you embrace that God actually wants to speak to you, you first must understand that it is in your free thinking space where you will hear Him. You have to liberate your mind to free associate during prayer. You also need some benchmarks to measure what you think you are receiving in order to confirm that it was in fact the Holy Spirit speaking, and not your own wishes or worse, the devil’s suggestion. This blog is my personal encounter with this process. For a tactical manual on being led by the Holy Spirit, I highly recommend Henry Blackaby’s book, “Experiencing God.”

Here is an example of what I am implementing. Last night I prayed, “Lord, please help me develop the skill of hearing you, of recognizing your voice, of knowing that it is you and then grant me the conviction to carry out your will as passionately as I would had you written it out for me.”

I prayed this earnestly and continued with the sentiment as long as my yearning remained. I opened my mind to free associate and my thoughts drifted. The thought arrived,
Quit Acting Without Asking”.

Why do I think this was God voice?

First, because it was foreign to my train of thought. I was sending an outgoing prayer for discernment and the returning thought was incongruous with the theme on my mind. It was something I couldn’t have created because my mind wasn’t there.

Second, because the words came with understanding. As soon as I heard His four chosen words, I knew exactly what He meant. This statement was consistent with a specific Bible verse buried in the book of Joshua which I had read a couple of weeks prior.

Joshua 9:14-15 reads, “Then the men of Israel took some of their [the Gibeonites] provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.”

But God had a different will for the Gibeonites. Had Joshua paused to ask before acting, God would not have allowed a treaty to be put in place between the Israelites and the Gibeonites. We know this because Joshua 9:24 tells us, “So they [the Gibeonites] answered Joshua and said, “Because your servants were clearly told that the Lord your God commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; therefore we were very much afraid for our lives because of you, and have done this thing.”

In the treaty which he made with the Gibeonites, Joshua used good human judgment to preserve peace and save lives, but he exercised poor spiritual judgment. It was God’s will to purge those people from the earth and give more land, plunder and power to the Israelites. How could Joshua have known better unless He first consulted God?

When I read this passage, I noticed Joshua's negligence but I did not take the lesson personally. How many times have I stepped outside of God's will by relying on good human judgment without consulting the Lord? His announcement to me, “Quit acting without asking”, came with the interpretation that I will indeed hear Him more regularly if I pause before acting to consult Him on my next action.

The third reason I believe this was God’s voice was because the words were edifying. They were positive words of correction to my character and discipline. They were consistent with scripture and will make me a more faithful servant if I obey.

Fourth, the statement was in the second person, like someone was speaking to me, not me conjuring thoughts in first person from myself.

Fifth, because it was succinct. God is a man of a few words. He gets His point across with brevity because His words are laden with power.

This is just one example of many dialogues I am having with Him. I am finding that God has feedback for me on just about everything; what to eat, how much money to donate, what to do when I have free time on my hands. I suspect that I may not successfully maintain control over my free thinking space to block out all interferences and always hear Him uninterrupted, but I can concentrate on practicing it and hope that the habit becomes more automatic.

When God has a whisper for me, I recognize one of these four patterns are present:

Confidence – There is a peace which accompanies His message so obedience feels natural.

Conviction – There is an insecurity which warns me that He has NOT ordained the act I am considering.

Readiness – He has prepared me in advance through a prior message or teaching which got my attention. I recognize the new scenario builds on what I have learned.

Words – I flat out receive the succinct, direct words which pierce my awareness and are foreign to my natural feelings but consistent with scripture and edifying to my faith walk.

Do I think I am sinning when I neglect to ask Him before I choose Diet Coke over Pepsi? No. But I think He enjoys helping me discern my best self which would not be obvious to me otherwise. It is a lot easier to be your best self when God is telling you exactly what would please Him in the moment. The thrill of hearing from Him breeds the desire to obey. It truly is a thrill and it excites me to share this process with you.

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