How Do You Hear From God?

I think one of the biggest questions, challenges, concerns, or struggles people have when it comes to their faith, or any type of spiritual beliefs in general, has to do with hearing from God. If you ask someone of faith they will tell you that God has certainly had a hand in their lives, or that they can see God’s leading.
And yes, we’re able to pray directly to Him, we don’t have to go through an intermediary like a pastor or priest which makes it a lot more comfortable and encourages us to do it more often.

But let’s face it, saying prayers to God is not often the same as sitting down to have coffee with someone and having an actual conversation where there’s listening and speaking on both sides of the table. I say that it is rarely like that because throughout spiritual history there have been people who have spoken directly with God like Enoch, Samuel, Solomon, Jonah, and Saul/Paul from the Bible. And then there are people from more recent history who also had a close relationship and heard from God like Smith Wigglesworth, Mother Teresa, and Billy Graham, just to name a few of the more well-known people.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with God guiding us through means other than words, I will always take that over nothing at all, but there’s something so much more personal, powerful, intimate and real about hearing actual words. It’s kind of like how you can connect with someone on social media and message back and forth, but unless you meet them in person or talk on the phone/skype, you’re not really positive they’re a real person or who they say they are.

I don’t think it’s impossible to actually talk with/hear from God, and since God is all powerful He’s certainly able to talk with anyone (or everyone) at any time. But most of us don’t take the time to develop the relationship with Him that would encourage Him to speak directly to us in that way (although He certainly can speak to you that way to get your attention as He did Paul/Saul who He didn’t have a relationship with).  And while He could speak to us all with words, it might make Him seem less divine or people would feel like they’re more equal with Him, which wouldn’t be a good thing.

So what do you do if you want to hear (more) from God? Read your Bible, make time to pray and talk with God on a very regular basis, and be open to His leading and the changes of your plans. God may choose to speak words through someone else that you need to hear, He may make your path obvious in another way, He may touch your heart with an impression or direction, and He may speak to you directly with words. I believe God speaks today, and He wants to speak to each of us, it’s a question of whether we are truly listening or not.

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Work and Rest

There’s a set of seemingly conflicting messages about Labor Day, which was yesterday: the importance of work and the importance of taking breaks. Even just in the first chapter of the Bible we see God working incredibly hard to create the universe and all the parts of it including the planets, the lights and the animals, followed by God doing something interesting, and that’s resting. The creation story continues in Genesis 2 and 3 with God creating humans and then takes a break at the end of the day to hang out with them.

If there’s anyone who knows what a hard day looks like, it’s God who has to be on top of what is going on in every corner of the world. He has to keep things creating and growing, listen to all the requests and prayers, care for each person, create miracles and sometimes destruction. I can’t imagine what it takes to create a planet, let alone a leaf on a tree.

As much as God knows how to work, He also knows how to rest. He wasn’t shy about taking the seventh day to rest or taking time to hang out with Adam and Eve in the garden. I don’t think the creation story would have been negatively impacted if God rested at the end of each day of creation, rather than waiting until the seventh day, but there is value in the statement of God finishing His work before He rested.

Rest is important because it gives us time to get perspective, to reflect on what we’ve done and make sure that we’re going in the best direction, as well as give our bodies and minds time to renew themselves, since we’re not designed to be on the go and making physical demands of them 24/7. But I think it’s significant that God worked much more than He rested, especially initially, as it’s a statement about the importance of work and making sure that you get it done.

So this week as we enter a new work week in a new month, I encourage you to find a happy medium between working hard, getting all the work done, doing your work well, and taking time to rest, rejuvenate and reconnect with the important people in your life.

Whispers from God

I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot, and especially about the relationship that we have with God. With each verse in the Bible I read I’m reminded of how incredible He is and how little we really understand Him. Yes, we can simplify it and wrap it in a nice package and say God is love, grace, forgiveness and salvation, but the list of characteristics could extend indefinitely, and each of us would come up with a different list of who God is to them.

The Bible gives us an in-depth look into the lives of dozens of people in different life situations and stages of their relationship with God, one of which is Elijah. Elijah was a prophet in the Old Testament, who connected God and people of all walks of life from kings to single mothers. He didn’t die of anything traditional, instead God took him away when it was his time (2 Kings 2). During his ministry he did everything from raising the dead, and calling down fire to defeat false prophets in an epic showdown.

One of the special things about the Bible is that it doesn’t just show the stories of people, it shows personal interactions between people and God. Elijah experienced a rather special supernatural event and communication from God while he was taking a bit of a sabbatical. He was feeling discouraged as many of us do, especially as we see the world moving around us and some of the terrible things that go on. During that time of rest and prayer God stopped by to speak with him and find out what he was doing, because it looked an awful lot like Elijah was doing more hiding than renewing (which he admitted he was).

So God decides to put on a bit of a show for Elijah, and sends a windstorm, earthquake and fire his way. 1 Kings 19 makes it clear that although God sent those natural events his way, God wasn’t actually in them. 1 Kings 19:12b says “And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” And in that whisper God’s presence arrived and spoke with Elijah, reassuring and encouraging him and sending him back to the mission field.

God made a point during this interaction with Elijah to show that He was more than capable of showing up in big and powerful ways, but that what was most needed, and He was capable of doing, was showing up in a still small voice. The same is true for our lives, God can show up in big and powerful ways, but He can also show up in the moments of quiet. I think God tends to show up in the moments we’re able to be quiet and pause more often because the world we live in is focused on the big and the bold (think number of likes on social media, going viral, being a celebrity etc.), so rather than attempt to compete with that or try to one-up everyone else trying to be on top, He chooses to show up in the moments we intentionally make time for Him.

I encourage you to make time regularly in your schedule to stop and spend time with God. Maybe that means going to a church that’s open for quiet prayer during the day and making that your lunch break, or starting a time of meditation after you put the kids to bed, or using the time that you spend alone in your car to talk with God (not ideal, but better than nothing). The more you make time for God, the healthier your relationship will be and the more you’ll hear from Him through prompts, peace and maybe even words.

A Faith Journey

When He left, Jesus gave the command to take the Good News into all the world. His time on earth showed that some people needed to rethink their idea of who was welcome into the kingdom, because Jesus did a really good job of turning them on their heads by eating with tax people, caring for those who were ill, and talking with those who had multiple husbands. God made sure the message got reinforced and shared after Jesus went back to heaven with Peter’s vision of the animals in the sheet (Acts 10-11) representing the welcoming of any nation who fears God and does right.

So it’s not a huge leap to get to the idea that anyone could get into heaven, as long as they’ve been forgiven of their sins, have a relationship with God and believe in Him. Which is why we should first and foremost be open and willing to tell whomever God puts in our path about the love that He has shown us, about how He has supported us, and how He cares for us. We should do the very best we can with each and every opportunity that God sends us, give them the care, respect and opportunity that each of us would want.

But there’s two other sides to this, neither are as hopeful. The first is the fact that you individually can’t save everyone. Even someone with the reach of a Billy Graham, Kirk Cameron, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, or Steven Furtick can’t save everyone, it’s why we are all called by the Great Commission. Sometimes we have to choose to save the one or two people that we can. The lesson applies to other areas of our lives; we should do our best and let God handle the rest. God knows the potential of that one person you may bring to God, you can only do your part.

The third side is a story that is seen in 3 of the 4 gospels (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9 and 10) and in Acts as well. It’s the recommendation of Jesus to shake the dust off your feet when you’re not welcomed in a home or town that you’re traveling through or bringing God’s message of peace to. Basically it’s suggesting to leave them to whatever fate they may have. Maybe that means years from now something will change, maybe it doesn’t, but according to these stories, it’s not our job to be overly concerned or focused on their future. Of course we can pray for them, but each person is ultimately responsible for their own future.

So this week I encourage you to walk with faith.  Do the best you can, live a life that honors God, share your faith and don’t let the negative take you down with it.

Thoughts on Violence, Peace and Healing

Again in the past days and week we’re struggling with three shootings and people killed and injured. It’s still in early days to know the reasons behind shootings and if there was a specific target (and we rarely get the full story), but regardless of why it’s heartbreaking and hurtful to think about.

When it comes to topics of faith we talk a lot about peace and love, but what I really wanted to talk about today was the fact that there is another side to this. Ephesians 4:25-28a, 31 says: “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing….Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

These verses talk about the very real fact that we deal with anger, bitterness, and rage. Few if any people are truly immune to the darker emotions of life. Experiencing them from time to time doesn’t mean that we’re evil, it just means we’re human. The choice we have to make is how we deal with those emotions: do we respond to them by killing others or going to workout at the gym or talking through them with a counselor? Two of those are healthy ways of dealing with those emotions, the other isn’t.

God is the God of healing among many other things. He can heal our world, our hearts, our minds, our relationships and our emotions. But we have to be willing to let that happen and we have to invest in making that healing happening by avoiding our triggers, learning to take breaks before things escalate, doing what we know is good for us, and spending time with people who are good for us. This week I encourage you to pray for healing for our world, for people to continue to step up and admit the struggles they’ve faced and how they’ve gotten help for it or that they need help, and for everyone to be open and sensitive to the fact that what they see is likely only a small part of what’s going on in a person’s life. This is both an individual and a community battle, we can’t get it done alone but we have to start with ourselves.

This is an excerpt of my weekly devotional, learn more and subscribe here

What To Do With Today

Each moment of our lives we’re given both the opportunity and the challenge to accept what’s in our past, live in the moment and work towards the future. Some of us choose to only live in the moments, others of us are stuck in the past, and some of us only see the future. It’s healthiest if we can balance all 3 of those, that we fix our mistakes from the past (whether the past is just 10 minutes ago or 10 years ago), seeing life for what it is in the moment, and take smart actions that would build a good future for us and those we care about. Living in the past, present and future means that you’re not just focused on your life, but the lives of those around you as well.

Since there are only so many hours in a day and so many days in our lives, we have to sometimes make tough decisions about the things we do “today” and what we put off into the future. There are some things that I don’t think we should ever put off until tomorrow, like telling someone you love them and praying. Sometimes asking for forgiveness or apologizing should be done that day, while other times it should be put off until things cool down.

In my weekly devotional this past week I talked about how we have the opportunity with each day to start fresh, to have a clean slate, to get a new lease on life. God is a past-present-future God. He’s been with us through everything that happened in our pasts, and He’ll go with us through whatever our future holds (and Jeremiah 29 reminds us that He promises us a future). But one of the biggest gifts He gives us is His presence in the here and now. He can give us the insights, peace, patience, endurance, and words we need to navigate whatever each day brings, including helping us to know what needs to be taken care of today and what can keep until tomorrow.

One of the notable points of Jesus’ ministry on earth was His willingness to stop and care for someone who needed Him. He put off whatever plans He had to help them, to listen to them and to heal them. A few examples are the woman at the well, Zaccheus, Lazarus and a demon-possessed man, Jesus met them on His way to wherever He was going and stopped to make time for them.

I’m not saying that we should be stopping for everyone or everything we come across in a day, but encouraging us to follow the example that Jesus set and taking care of what’s truly important each day. It’s why we need to know our priorities and make sure they’re taken care of. Are you taking care of what’s truly important in your day or just going with what’s easy, creating regrets and wasted opportunities? I encourage you to remember the gift that we have with each day, and each moment of your life.

Be Who God Made You To Be

You’re probably familiar with David from the Old Testament. He’s really famous because he defeated Goliath, became king and had a special relationship with God. There are over 900 references to his name in the Bible, and there’s only one David, so that makes him a really popular guy. David’s life is one that in many ways mirrors our own because he’s got highs and lows, he tries to follow the path God has him on, he tries to be someone others can respect, he has a family, and he makes mistakes.

The verse I want to take a look at today comes from early in his story, during the time that he defeats Goliath. I Samuel 17:39 says: “David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.” (NIV)

The context of this verse is that David was brought into Saul’s tent because he questioned why no one was defeating Goliath, Saul said that he was more than welcome to go fight Goliath and gave him a bunch of armor and weapons to do so. As our verse says, David passed on the armor and weapons and went back to his tried-and-true method of stones and sling. He went onto the battlefield and swung the sling, struck Goliath in the forehead and Goliath was dead.

This verse caught my attention this week because it was such a powerful reminder of how wise David was and why God chose him to work through in such a big way. Sometimes what we need are the extra resources like the armor and weapons that were offered to David. Sometimes we take them because we think that’s the right thing to do, when in fact we should just be relying on what works for us and what God has gifted us with.

God wants you to be confident in the person that He made you to be. He didn’t create you to be someone else or to try to be someone else. We all should be learning and growing on a daily basis, but that means becoming a better person, a better version of ourselves, not someone we’re not.

This week I encourage you to work on trusting yourself, trusting God and fully using the tools, resources, blessings and gifts that He’s given you. What difference can you make in the world just by being you?