Posts Tagged ‘spiritual experience’

Approaches to Listening to God

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

There are many approaches in the church to listening to God. Three that have been part of my own church experience are:

  1. Traditional/Evangelical churches often equate hearing from God with reading the Bible, hearing powerful preaching, listening to authorities, or using some kind of democratic process to decide between alternative opinions. This is what I encountered in the Gospel Mission, Methodist and Baptist churches I have been a part of. There is an implication that God spoke in the Bible, and now we must apply what he once revealed, adapting it to our present circumstances.
  2. Some churches try to use spiritual gifts, but place much reliance on sometimes hit or miss guesswork. Some will speak and trust that God will make their words right, with little or no testing of their accuracy. Any testing tends to be left to the person speaking, especially if they have a track record, or to whether the hearer likes what is being said. I found this approach in my early experience of charismatic renewal.
  3. Some realize that God still speaks today as he did in Biblical times and determine to learn to listen. They use all means provided by God to test what is heard, not just so that they can know what he is saying, but to learn to recognize God’s voice by means of experience and experiment. Such hearing is both a personal and corporate. This has been my more recent experience among combined meetings of people from across a wide range of denominations, including some of those above. It is typical of true intercessors, healers and prophets in any branch of the church.

The first relies primarily on the human mind and on trust relationships between people. Our reasoning about the content of the Bible is the principal resource. God no longer needs to speak. The strongest opinion or the person with the greatest following can carry the decision. While the motivation is to allow God to be completely in control, the result is that the control is taken by people.

The second is similar to the first, relying partly on the mind, but also on emotions and the character of individuals. Whether or not what we hear is from God is left to how it makes us feel, or how someone else says it makes them feel. God is only in control as long as we like what he wants.

The third uses a balance of mind, emotions and spirit, and depends on a good relationship with God and with each other. This requires a balance between diligent study of scripture, the ability to be honest about our feelings, openness with each other, willingness to defer to each other, trust of God’s giving us the freedom to make mistakes, and an acceptance that God can still do today what he used to do in Biblical times. Here the issue is not about who is in control at all, but in each taking responsibility for their part of the mandate. A true cooperation between God and people becomes possible, which is in line with God’s intention in creating them.

Which one sounds most like a truly Christian approach?

An important way that I think the first approach comes undone is in its insistence that the Bible is the only authority for Christian practice, but at the same time dismissing much of what it teaches. By this I mean we tend to accept the propositions that the biblical writers make, but ignore the way they came to the things they say. For example, God spoke to the prophets, both Old and New Testament, but the instruction we are to receive from their books is not limited to what they say God said, but also their descriptions of how God said it to them. Surely we are meant to also learn to listen to God like a prophet does, not just listen to the prophet!

The second approach acknowledges this, but then ignores the fact that in his training of a prophet God was not at all interested in whether the prophet liked what God was saying. He was interested in obedience. People’s lives depended on a quick and faithful response to God’s word. Their feelings were irrelevant, as was their convenience. We forget that true joy comes from dwelling in God’s presence and acceptance, not in getting our own way. When our desires become the same as God’s desires we will get everything we ask.

This is not to say there are not dangers in the third approach. But life has no guarantees, except that it will end, at least on this earth. Safety too often equates to uselessness to be a good guide for living. Obedience and its accompanying fruitfulness is a far better measure of success.

I forget where I heard it but I remember someone using this illustration. Suppose that you are a soldier in a trench during a battle, and someone shouts “Duck!” Do you look around to get a second opinion, or do you first duck to avoid a possible bullet in the head, and then check to see whether you needed to or not?

Listening without Knowing

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

I just posted an article to Mal’s Meanderings which looks at the example of some of this world’s heroes, who often had no idea of the eventual ramifications of their selfless acts of courage. They just did it because it was right to do. In some cases such people have acted because they clearly heard the voice of God and obeyed. However, in many cases the work of God in the events is not so obvious. The person may not have even been a believer, or given a second thought to where the idea for what they did originated.

Some atheists will use the fact that even unbelievers often do good things as evidence against the existence, or at least the involvement, of God. This overlooks a very important truth: that God is able to speak into the heart of an unbeliever just as well as a believer!

If this was not true, there would be no believers, because we are all born in sin. For us to respond to the living God he must speak his call into our hearts. Some Calvinists would say he only calls those who respond, but I disagree with this. God calls all – some follow, and some refuse, but all hear. Some of those who hear do not realize consciously that they have been spoken to by God, but as hearing God is a function of the spirit, not the mind, this is not surprising if their minds and hearts are not in tune with each other. All are without excuse.

Over the last period of my life I have learned to hear God’s voice consciously, but that does not mean I did not hear him before. In fact, I now know that he has been speaking to me all of my life, and I have been responding, sometimes with a ‘Yes’ and sometimes with a ‘No’, but always responding. I see his hand in guiding and protecting me.

It is much better to be aware of it, because this brings great benefits:

  • Prayer is now a conversation, where before it was a monologue by me, delivered with no certainty of being heard. He has become my friend, not just Lord.
  • Now I can cooperate with what God is doing, without getting in the way. I have a part in his acts. When I act as he suggests things happen – sometimes miraculous things.
  • God can reveal secrets to me, where before it was more like commands and directives. I am learning and understanding things that I never knew existed before. And this is not because I have a sudden thirst to learn – I have always had that, as my scientific and academic career will testify.
  • Experiencing his presence feels good! Loneliness is dispelled by knowing his acceptance of me. I know I have been saved, am being saved, and will be saved. Before, I just hoped I was.

So much of my thinking has changed, and especially on this point of what salvation consists of. Salvation is not about going to heaven when I die. That’s a non-issue. Salvation is knowing the presence of God, being in his presence, and staying in his presence for ever! Heaven is the presence of God.

Tell him he’s dreaming!

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

I had an unusual experience the other day.

I was taking an exam as part of a course on relationships. The paper consisted of two sections. The first part contained a number of short answer questions, while the second required the writing of a short essay.

The exam was held in quite a large room with only artificial light, and there were about 40 candidates sitting. I did not know any of the other people sitting the exam.

I began the paper and handled the first section fairly well, taking about an hour. I was quite familiar with the material and it would have taken me less time except that the light was not particularly good and my eyesight is not great. As anyone who has poor sight knows, your eyes quickly become tired and you just want to close them. By the time I was ready to begin the essay I was already feeling quite tired.

At one point I suddenly woke up from a deep sleep and realised that I could hardly see. The light was down to a mere glimmer. I then realised that I had not even begun to write the essay part of the paper and I suppose I panicked a bit. I jumped up and groped through the greyness trying to find the light switch. When I found the switches I discovered that only one of the four was on. I turned on another switch and nothing happened. The next caused a computer sitting on a desk against the wall to come on, much to the surprise of someone working at that desk. By then I was beginning to get angry, especially as I then heard the examiner announce that the time for writing was finished. The fourth switch produced a small amount of light so I stormed back to my desk, muttering about the unfairness of it all.

I decided that I would write as much as I could before the papers were collected. I had not chosen a subject for the essay yet, so I decided that I would simply write out what had just occured. So, in fact, what you are now reading is the paper I produced for that exam. As I wrote I began to suspect that perhaps I was being manipulated. Perhaps all of the other students were in on the joke and I was being watched to see how I would react.

At that point the teacher went to the wall, turned a knob, and the room was flooded with light. I kept writing as long as I could and this is the point before I was forced to stop and my paper was collected.

Once the exam was over I began thinking about my reactions. Panic, anger, withdrawal (going to sleep?), feeling of injustice, paranoia, navel gazing! Then there was an intense feeling of relief – if it was a test of a different kind then I need not worry about the result of the written exam.

At that point I woke up and realised that it was all a dream – none of the above really happened! I knew I had to write the paper – I experienced myself writing it during the dream and the Lord enabled me to reproduce exactly what I had written here in this blog.

Once I realised that it was “only a dream” I was then rather mystified as to why it had happened. It seemed so real. I could still feel the emotions invoked by it.

So, my question to you, dear reader (assuming there is only one of you), is, having waded so far through this post, what was your response to finding out that it was all fiction? Perhaps you would like to post a comment in the blog (or in the linked Google group if that is where you are reading this).

Or, was it actually fiction? This was a real dream – I didn’t invent it. I believe it was a dream from God. In which case, the question you might like to answer is what is God trying to say to me?

Then, because I believe God wanted me to post this in the blog (I’m not really that mischeivous – at least not all the time), then what is God saying to YOU?

I await your responses with interest.

Ministry to Children

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

This morning Diana and I attended part of the Restoration Conference, where Sandra Rule of Sonrise Family Ministries was speaking about ministering to children. Sandra is always interesting to listen to, and I will share more later about her work, especially about her monthly visits to us at Beth Tephillah Ministry Centre. We and some of our staff are interning with her to learn the special skills needed to help children.

However, what particularly stood out today was the need to be totally reliant on listening to God’s voice when ministering to troubled kids and their families. Without the revelation gifts you can do little. Without Jesus you can do nothing!

Some other important points she made include the facts that children do not receive a junior Holy Spirit – he’s the full deal; the power of touch when it comes to blessing people; and the fact that Jesus wants to bless people whether they know him or not.

On the first one, it has been our experience, and Sandra mentioned it again today, that some children are being born filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb. They know Jesus at a very young age. We believe this will become more common as the generation who will bring in the Kingdom are born. Our task is to instruct them in how to live in the Spirit and to allow them to do it.

Step Out and Prophesy

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

We just had a seminar in Newport called Step Out and Prophesy with Lynn Moresi of Equiping 2 Serve. It was very similar to the teaching and exercises of our Hearing God’s Voice course, and was a great encouragement for people who had never believed that they could prophesy to step out and have a try. The teaching was good and well presented, and the exercises were fun to do. I recommend it to anyone.

The seminar served to provide a safe place for people to practice listening to God’s voice. However, I would have been happier if some instruction had been given about how to tell if it really is God’s voice that they were hearing. I later queried Lynn about this and she basically said that if we have asked for the Holy Spirit then we can trust that this is what God will give.

This is true, if it is the Holy Spirit we are asking for, but in this case we were asking to hear something. It is fine to expect this to happen in the safe envoronment of a seminar, but what happens when they go out into the world, expecting that every voice they hear is God’s. I suggested that as well as God’s voice, people can also hear their own thoughts (or even dissociate parts), demons, and other people’s spirits. Lynn is not at all happy with this last possibility, but anyone who is familiar with the experience of burden-bearing, or of intercession in general, will know it is a reality.

Still, with this one caveat I thoroughly recommend this seminar if you have an opportunity to do it.

Welcome to Listening 2 God blog

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

Hi and welcome to Listening 2 God blog.

This blog is intended to complement the listening2god.com website – a website for those who want together to learn more about hearing God’s voice, and how to recognise the voice of God among the many other voices claiming our attention.

Is it possible to hear God’s voice? Since God is a person, who desires intimacy with those who he calls his friends, then of course it is possible. In fact, I believe everybody hears God speaking.The real question is – is it possible to learn to reliably recognise God’s voice?

The answer is most definitely YES!

God is not human – God is Spirit. So we would expect that hearing God might be a bit different from hearing another person. But it is not that much different, because humans also are spiritual beings, made in the image of God, and created for communion, and therefore communication, with him. God has built numerous ways into the creation by which we hear him speak. Some of these are:

* Human conscience
* Awe of his created world
* Our spirit can respond to his Spirit
* He can ‘speak’ thoughts into our mind
* The witness of the Holy Spirit – e.g. inner peace
* He speaks through other people
* Spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, tongues, interpretation of

tongues, wisdom, knowledge, discernment of spirits
* Dreams and visions
* His written word, the Bible
* And the primary revelation of God – his Son Jesus Christ

In addition, God has provided ways for us to test and confirm whether what we are hearing is accurate and really from God. This is because His is not the only voice we might hear. We can, of course, hear our own thoughts, but it is also possible to hear the thoughts of others and of angels and evil spirits.

We have learned a number of effective ways for people to sharpen their spiritual hearing and discernment,

If you would like to learn more about how to hear God’s voice, and how to check what you hear, then visit the teaching section of the website, or contact us about a course in Hearing God’s Voice. We also run courses on Intercession and Spiritual Warefare, Prayer Ministry, Intimacy with God, and the Creative Spirit.