Course Introduction - Part 1:
How do we hear from God? How did those we read about in the Bible do it? Is it different for us today? Can anyone hear God's voice? Does God only speak through the Bible? Are there still prophets on the earth? Why can't I hear God speaking to me? Will I be deceived by my intuition? Do dreams mean something? Can visions be trusted?
These are some of the many questions people ask about this topic. The fact that there are so many questions - so much heat and so little light - about hearing God's voice surely indicates that it is an important topic. In fact, it is so crucially important that Satan has created a great fog of deception and unbelief around it, because he knows that when God's people truly hear from their Lord, then his influence is limited and time is short.
In this course we aim to give you an understanding of the answers to these questions. You will learn that it is possible to hear God's voice, to dream dreams, to see visions, to prophecy, and to see wonderful things take place as you obey what you see and hear. In fact, it is easy to hear God's voice - most, probably all of you, are already doing so, although you might not realise it.
You will learn that there are many other voices to hear, and how to discern which one is God, which is you, and which are from someone else. God so much wants us to hear him, and yet understands our fear and uncertainty, so he has made provision for us to test everything we hear. We can learn to be certain when we are hearing our Shepherd's voice!
There are many today who claim to hear God's voice, or the voices of gods, using occult and New Age methods. Does this mean we should stay away from trying to hear? No! God can protect us from false voices? In Hosea 4:6 God says, "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." What does he mean? The priests had failed to pass on the word of the Lord to the people. In our day, people are again failing to receive the word of the Lord. This is not because pastors are not preaching it, nor teachers teaching it (though that might be true), but because each of us, as priests (see 1 Peter 2:5,9) are not hearing it for ourselves, and encouraging others with what we hear. Luke 12:12; John 14:26; Hebrews 8:11 and 1 John 2:27 paint an exciting picture of the Holy Spirit teaching each believer what is necessary.
We will learn what it means for Jesus and John to be described as "in the Spirit" (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1; Revelation 1:10), and how we too must walk in the Spirit.
But knowledge about something is useless if we can't put it into practice. We prefer to teach the way Jesus did - using an apprenticeship model:
- We do it and you watch.
- Then you do it while we watch.
- We then discuss what happened and try again until you are successful.
- Then you go away and do it on your own.
- You come back and report how you got on.
- Finally, you go and live it. Because it has now become yours, you can also teach others.
As I (Mal) look back at my growth in this area of listening to God, I realise that this is how God taught me. As well, he used people who often adopted this model (sometimes without knowing it). I would watch their actions, not just listen to their words, and this gave me the impetus to persevere until I could do it too. If they could hear God, then so could I!
This was not a quick process. In fact, it took about 25 years for me to get anywhere at all - because of the ignorance and fear endemic in the conservative evangelical church culture in which I grew up. But I look back now and see God's hand on me all the way. He knew who he was shaping me to be, and those who one day I would be able to help as a result of my particular journey.
There are many people I could point to who helped me in this journey, but let me mention just a few. I do this because it is important for you also to similarly try to understand where God has taken you, who he has used, and how. These are clues to the uniquely important ministry God has for you.
Long before I even knew God, there was Tom Webb, a volunteer at the Williamstown Council Youth Centre. While teaching me how to build model planes, and on trips to Moorabbin airport to watch the planes and to go flying, he so modelled the love and acceptance of Jesus to me, without ever mentioning his name, that I knew if I grew up to be like anyone I would want it to be Tom. I didn't realise then that this would mean becoming more like Jesus.
Decades later there was another Tom - Tom Marshall, whose fatherly manner, graciousness, and insight into the ways of God and his Kingdom, went far towards helping to set me Living in the Freedom of the Spirit, Tonbridge, Kent: Sovereign World, 2002. [Was Free Indeed!]. Tom's seminars were revelatory, but it was his book by that name that first gave my logic and knowledge loving intellect a sure foundation on which to build an understanding of the functioning of my spirit and the more intuitive aspects of being a child of God.
Course Introduction - Part 2:
In the areas of practical listening for ministry I would have to mention some of the leaders of the prayer ministry movement, who threw me in at the deep end of ministering to others. Among them is Alison Hocking, whose discernment gifts and compassion with authority often amaze me.
For sheer excitement at the possibilities of obeying what one hears, Dane Yarbrough would be hard to bypass. His demonstrations at the Vineyard Conferences in Melbourne in 1993 and 1994 were spectacular, to say the least. Through that time God both humbled me (I really needed it) by using me as Dane's guinea pig, and at the same time gave me spiritual authority that sometimes startled me in its effects.
Then there is Dr. Charles Kraft. When Chuck came to Melbourne first and I saw how he carried out deliverance ministry - his careful protection of the person's dignity, and his unwillingness to send anyone away without being certain that the demons had really gone - he impressed me greatly. I read Defeating Dark Angels: Breaking Demonic Oppression in the Believer's Life and knew I had to try it out. God put me in just such a position within a week. In later years, travelling around Victoria with Chuck and Meg as he presented seminars for us, and sitting in on ministry sessions, I discovered just what God could achieve with a humble but courageous servant.
Chuck once said that the reason he asked demons questions and commanded them to tell the truth was because it was the only way he could get the information he needed, since he didn't have any high powered discernment gifts. Well, I believe he heard clearly enough from God to be able to pioneer what is probably the most effective and reproducible method of dealing with demons while doing inner healing ministry. And he has enough courage and peace in his spirit to be able to weather the often quite vicious public attacks from those who disagree with how he does it.
There are many other people, of course. Some I never met, like Mark and Patti Virkler whose book Dialogue With God gave me the opening into two-way conversation with God. I still thrill when I remember the first time, while journalling, that I heard God say my name, and I then KNEW that my name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life!
Why do I mention people like Chuck Kraft in a course about hearing God's voice? Because, whether you are doing deliverance, or prayer ministry, or spiritual warfare, or pastoring a church, or praying for your friends, or cooking meals for street people, or teaching children how to be useful members of society, or raising a family, studying at school, or going about your daily tasks - it is all about hearing God's voice and obeying it faithfully. Our other courses, on Intimacy with God, Intercession, Real Spiritual Warfare and Prayer Counselling, run by Beth Tephillah Ministries and Roaring Mouse Counselling, are just specific applications of this principle: being a Christian is to be one who knows their name is written in that Book, and therefore has confidence to live in God's presence to be a blessing in the world!
Now that we're thinking about books, there are many books that have been, and continue to be, helpful in this journey, apart from the Bible.
The Bible is our primary tool, both for learning to listen and for testing what we hear, but God did not stop speaking once the canon of Scripture (whichever one you accept) was closed. If he had, then this course would have no reason to exist. Many Christians believe he has stopped speaking apart from the Bible, and many more act as if he has. But God still speaks to men and women and tells them to write down what they hear so others can learn from him through them. I won't list all the books we have found useful here, but will mention them as the course progresses, and give you a bibliography towards the end.
But remember this: you do not know something because you have read it. You know it when you can do it yourself. The disciples knew that sickness could be healed and demons evicted, and even that the dead could be raised to life, because they had watched Jesus do these things - as well as stilling storms, producing coins from a fish's mouth, changing water into wine, multiplying food, and walking on water. But they didn't know how to begin to do these things until Jesus sent them out on mission and they came back full of excitement and wonder at what had happened!
So many Christians know much about many things, but they haven't all made these things their own by experiencing the joy of carrying them out.
In a similar way, many know God in the same way that they know Napoleon, or Princess Diana, but they don't actually know God in the sense of personally interacting with his presence. God cannot be met in the pages of the Bible, any more than in the pages of a women's magazine like the Australian Womens Weekly. God is met in person, and talked with (not just to) in person. Our prayer is that through this course such an experience will either begin, or be enriched, in your life.
Who is this course for? It is for all Christians who know they need to learn more about listening to and obeying God. Now, let me say something (with my tongue only partly in my cheek) to those who might already be mature in prophetic ministry. If you are able to hear God's voice clearly then you will only be here because he told you to come, unless you are being disobedient, which would say something about that maturity. So, either way, God wants you to learn more. The more I thought I knew the harder God had to hit me over the head to get any more in. But he did hit me over the head, and it was a humbling experience which probably saved my life!