11/15/08

Does God Speak To You?

Recently, I wrote a post venting some of my frustration about people who are always saying "God spoke to me and said..." At the time, I found it uncanny how many people I had heard say this. The thing is, people can rarely ever prove that God spoke, it's like, well, you just have to take their word for it. For instance, someone recently told a family member of mine: "I think the Lord is telling me to try to date so and so (another family member)." Clearly, this person was being manipulative. But then, I really think that there are legitimate instances where God speaks to people. So, I guess I'm wondering, are there any bloggers out there to whom God has spoken or speaks? If so, how does it happen and how do you know?

19 comments:

  1. Michael,
    I do think God speaks to people, and I think I've "heard" his voice a number of times over the course of my life, but it's been a while since it last happened (I've tried to describe the experience in a few posts, e.g. here). In short, God's voice has always seemed to me less like a source of information and more like a rather forceful and focused form of conscience, persistently (sometimes even uncomfortably) pointing toward or away from certain specific decisions. It's not always been there (in fact, ignoring it is a pretty sure way to make it disappear!), but when I have experienced it, it's unmistakable.

    I should say, however, that I consider the whole matter quite dangerous, on a variety of levels: It's dangerous to ignore God's voice when it's there, but it's just as dangerous to try to force it when it's not. If you try to manipulate it or use it as an excuse to stop thinking, it's likely to end badly, at least in my experience. On the other hand, I have no illusions that my own experience is normative; for all I know I'm the crazy one! ;) Or alternatively, all those others who hear God "all the time" maybe know something we don't?

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  2. I have often wondered what God sounded like when Bush said he told him to invade Iraq.

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  3. Mike,

    This is off-topic but I think you can help. I use delicious to bookmark my favorite sites and I am getting way too many tags. I think if I had a better taxonomy I could organize my sites better. Since we're in the religion field, I thought you could give me some ideas on how to organize my bookmarks.

    Thanks,

    Herbie

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  4. God just spoke to me and told me to leave a comment...

    I usually find the prayer language of these sorts of Christians very interesting: "I'm binding... I'm releasing... I'm lifting up... I'm just asking, etc, etc." A whole lotta "I" language and talking. To be honest it often seems to me that these persons are merely working out their own issues of power and control in the form of "prayer." I have also been in situations where people seized on prayer to gossip.

    Then you add to the mix their supposed ability to 'hear' from God what others can't, for example: A woman came to me while our church was searching for a pastor (she would be most indicative of the above traits). After church one Sunday morning she took me to the side and informed me that while she was praying God told her so and so was supposed to be our pastor. When she was finished I asked her: why didn't God tell him? Do you really want a pastor that can't hear from God? She stared at me for ten seconds and without saying a word turned around and walked away.

    There is much more to be said, but put all together it seems to me that persons of this sort have a prayer life and religion that is more similar in nature to the Secret, and getting the universe to do whatever YOU want, than orthodox Christianity.

    An interesting study came out last week "released by Temple University [it] found that people who feel close to a higher power and pray often are more likely to be depressed, while people who attend religious services and feel that their lives have purpose are less likely to be depressed."

    http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_10915494

    The worst form of this I have witnessed was a gentleman who became so addicted to hearing God's voice and not doing anything until he was led finally ended up sitting on the couch crapping himself because God didn't tell him to use the toilet--true story--and he lost a beautiful wife and family as finally they could not deal with his psychosis.

    And finally, I always wonder when some people begin to tell them what God said (especially in the Pentecostal circles I used to run in) why God spoke in King James English. You think the creator of heaven and earth, humans and language, could get with the times, and use a more modern dialect!

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  5. Ken,
    Thanks for sharing. But I'm still wondering just how. Your notion of a "source of information" is interesting but still, how did you hear it? Did you "feel" more than "hear"? What?

    Steph,
    I wonder if it sounded anything like the God the ancient Israelites said told them to invade places too? Does God sound angry, anxious, tired...I wonder too! Who knows?

    Herbie,
    I can help. I guess I'm wondering to what extent you want me to help? I tend to divide mine up into OT, IT, NT. Under those I do sub-folders like Heb or Grk or Aramaic, Theology, Books, Authors, Etc. I have an entirely separate folder for blogs, which I have not categorized. I have ordered them however, from the ones I read most to the ones I rarely ever read.

    Let me know what you're thinking and I'd be glad to give some input. BTW, my comments may not have even been in the ballpark of what you were thinking so, if I'm on the wrong page, forgive me. Either way, just let me know.

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  6. Scott,
    Those Pentacostals, they're always running in circles.

    I must say dude, I agree with everything you say here! Everything! I know people too, who, have used "God told me..." to quit their jobs and put their families beneath poverty level living (for no good reason other than "I'm just trying to be obedient).

    Seriously, nobody has yet to explain to me--and I ask everyone who says they hear God to tell me how--how this happens...nobody!

    And Steph raises a good point about GW and his "God speaking moment" that resulted in millions dead and trillions spent.

    I'm just fed up with it. Having studied prayer, I have come to a point where I realize that it was never intended to be something where I was asking for things for myself or for others but more of a thing where I'm trying to find out from God, His desires and wants and what pleases His heart, so that I can do it. But that's hard too. So, how do we hear God?

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  7. Why do so many who claim to hear from God always hear "I want you to..." Why not ever something simple?

    "I Am."

    "I love you."

    "I paid for it." [your sin]

    "Hush." [and then just his presence]

    Or - sometimes - "Don't."

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  8. Bill,
    That's a freakin' awesome point dude! Seriously, you raise a fine question here!

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  9. I reckon that God sounded suspiciously like Bush's own voice, probably not even stringing the instruction together coherently.

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  10. Hi there. My name is Ken H. A friend of mine, Mike, has you as a link on his "grasshoppersdreaming" blog. I like the way Ken Brown addressed this topic but I'd like to add a couple things from my own experience. I'm not even going to pretend to be at the level of Biblical studies that some of ya'll are but here goes...I can say that I have heard God speak to me. But when He speaks it is NEVER outside the parameters of what His Word says. For example: I was friends with a girl at college. I really wanted to date her and I was pretty sure that I wanted to eventually marry her! I finally got up the nerve to ask her out (I was basically afraid that if she said "no" that it would mess up our friendship; and I did not want to lose her friendship)and then I ended up wanting to ask her to marry me. My prayer was not, "Oh Lord, let her be THE One" but rather, "Lord, I sure would like to marry her if it would be OK with you" (we could start a two more topics here; "God's Will", and "How To Pray"). He said yes and she said yes! Now, how do I know I wasn't trying to impose MY will on God and just couching it as a prayer? First, you don't know that "for sure". Alls I can say is that, for me, the Holy Spirit (and no, I am not a Pentecostal. I grew up in a very traditional church.I do think though that many of us kinda make the Holy Spirit the forgotten part of the Trinity.)prompts me to do or not do certain things. If you're close to God He DOES speak to you. I mean why wouldn't He? He LOVES you. He WANTS to give you direction! Secondly, God had told me to end a perfectly good relationship about a year prior. I could not explain it. It made NO sense. I felt TERRIBLE breaking up with this girl and not being able to give her any other reason than, "God told me to break up with you" (BTW - that girl became a doctor. If I had stayed with her I could probably be sitting at home every day in my PJs swilling Mountain Dew and watching football:). There is actually a little more to the story than that but I have already been pretty long-winded on this point!

    God just "spoke' to me a few times in the last two weeks. I friend of mine from church was recently diagnosed with cancer and it did not look good. We prayed for her, even had a special service and the elders layed hands on her and anointed her with oil (I know, I know this could raise a whole other topic or topicS). Within a couple of weeks it looked like she would not be healed physically and I felt like I wanted to write a song for her husband and two teen sons. I can say unequivically that God spoke to me and gave me words for this song (Michael T. - Your'e a musician. Have you ever been "inprired"?) To me, inspiration is another way God speaks to us:) My friend died the other day and her funeral is Tuesday. I hope to be able to sing this song for her family and her church family (if I can keep from falling apart). Incidentally, this lady, 45 years old, faced death as CHEERFULLY as I have ever seen ANYONE face death. She and her husband and sons are shining example of how believers should face "crossing over".

    I guess what I am saying is that, using the Bible as a foundation, I pray prayers and I make decisions and my prayer life is a two way street; it is dynamic...

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  11. Hipperken,
    I'm glad you found this site and I'm very glad you commented and shared. Sorry to hear about the loss.

    BTW, this is a site for all people, not just scholars (or aspiring ones anyway).

    Regarding your thoughts on God speaking aligning with the "Word" (I take it that you mean the Bible here and not Jesus), I have questions about this. For instance, what if you have an experience that doesn't even occur in the Bible? Where is the alignment there?

    Or, what if you have an experience that's contrary to how it happened for someone in the Bible? I think of David, for instance, who led many wars (like Steph's comment about GW above). Could God really call you to kill another person? What if you don't want to?

    Or do you generalize things? For instance, if Jesus called people to sell all they have and give it to the poor, do you do that? Or do you generalize things like that? Does your life align with God's "word" in that way? Or does He just not speak about that or things like that?

    I could give many more examples and ask many more questions. I just question whether the ancient texts recalling people's ancient experiences should be "the" grounds for discerning if God is speaking to me today. I appreciate your willingness to share and I hope you'll reply to some of the stuff I've asked here. Just so you know, I'm asking genuine questions above. I'm not being harsh or sarcastic or whatever. I really do want to know how it is that people "know" they hear God.

    I must say, too, that I'm not sure that we can ever know "all" the way, as you suggested. Hope to hear from you soon.

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  12. Hey Michael,
    My comment got a bit long so I posted it to my blog instead, here.

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  13. Thanks, Mike. I wanted to see how you ordered your bookmarks and tags. You were in the right ball park. Maybe you can email me sometime with what you use if it's not too much trouble.

    Peace

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  14. t. Michael. Thank you so much for the welcome and for making me feel welcome! I am an amateur theologian ( but then again, aren't we all just amateurs:)but I muddle thru life the best I can! You didn't answer my question about whether you, as a musician, have ever been "inspired" and if you think that is a way God can speak to us:) There was a lot in my post and perhaps I inspired (tee hee)more questions than answers!

    Shoot, I don't know about your David question about killing people. Doubt that God would ask me to do that. Is war sometimes necessary? Sadly, yes. (by the way Steph, can you get me the quote where G.W. said that God told him to go to war with Iraq? I'm not saying he didn't say it. I just mighta missed it. And t. Mike "MILLIONS" dead? OK, enough of the political cra- er stuff)

    If God told me to sell everything I have and give it to the poor I would prolly struggle with that one. I do know of three families from my church (our church is only about 230 people)who were doing pretty well here in the states that "lost" a fair amount financially in order to be missionaries in Laos,Guatamala,and S. Africa. I wonder if God told them to do that or if they did it on their own? Honest question. (Honest answer, I know these people - God told them to do it). But get this: I think that sometimes God lets us decide. Yep, I think that sometimes we have choices laid out before us and He lets us decide. I compare it to a table spread with choice foods and I ask my Father what I can have and He says, "Take your pick". But sometimes He does ask us to do things that are very hard. I can choose to not do what He asks. Consequences? I do not get the reward of pleasing my Father. I do not get the reward of furthering His kingdom. I look at Moses. God asked Moses to lead His people out of Egypt what, 5 times!?! Pretty sure God coulda just picked someone else or just done it Himself without human assistance. Why did He keep badgering Moses? Don't know (nor do I HAVE to know. I don't gotta know everything!) The fact is, for whatever reason, God used Moses and Moses' name is known all over the world thousands of years later!

    For me, God's voice has been the "still, small voice". But sometimes He is speaking and we are not listening. Some ways that we are prevented from hearing: sin, being busy, talking so much that we don't leave enough silence for God to talk, we haven't "practiced the art of listening.

    t. Mike. Your'e a pastor yes? Do you consider yourself to have been "called" to the ministry? If yes, then I posit that you have heard God.

    And no, I do not see myself as generalizing when it comes to hearing God. I think He is fairly specific in what He asks me to do. Of course there are the "don't" generalizations such as "don't sin" and the "do" generalizations such as "love your wife". But to me those are no brainers.

    Let's not over complificate (a little Bush lingo there) this: If you are in a good relationship with God He WILL speak to you. Sometimes He may be just "nudging" you a certain way and other times He might use a megaphone:)

    Oh, and thanks for not being sarcastic! None of my answers or questions are sarcastic either! I tend toward sarcasm myself and I am trying to cut down (trying to cut down on the Mountain Dew too!). -peace bro

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  15. Ken,
    I read your post, I would still raise some of the questions to you that I did to hipperken in my first reply to him. Honestly, though, I appreciate you sharing your experiences very much.

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  16. Herbie,
    I'll try to email you soon.

    Hipperken,
    You're certainly right about music inspiring! Lately, I've been praying for God to give me songs / song ideas. They've been flowing; they "seem" inspired...

    I'll think on your comments here and perhaps respond tomorrow, for now, I must check out for the evening.

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  17. To be honest, Michael, I really don't have any conclusive answers to those questions. I would say that anyone who thinks they are hearing from God should consult with trusted family and friends, scripture, their local church, etc. (law enforcement, maybe?), before doing anything too rash. But in the end, there are plenty of complications involved in all of those, and it is not impossible that God just might ask you to do something that no one else thinks a good idea (after all, that pretty much sums up the lives of every one of the prophets and martyrs!), but that's just life--messy and uncertain.

    Still, I'm reminded of that saying by C.S. Lewis (paraphrasing from memory): Though countless men have mistaken their dreams for visions, no one mistakes a real vision for a mere dream.

    As for the objection (which is always raised in these discussions), "What if God told you to kill someone?" It certainly provides a valid caution on excessive focus on private revelation, but really seems to me a red herring. You might as well say: "what if reading the Bible makes you want to emulate Joshua?" All I can say is: if it does, you need more help than I can give you! ;)

    (On a side note, I'd recommend finding a copy of David Wilkerson's classic autobiography The Cross and the Switchblade. It's a quick and entertaining book that--when I read it a decade or so ago--resonated well with my experience. I don't recall if it offers any more answers, but it might clarify the issue a bit, and it's a good story anyway.)

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  18. Ken,
    There's certainly something to be said for God speaking. My issues, of course, revolve around how that happens and how to know if it is legitimately or illegitimately dubbed as "from God".

    Even when one consults all of the media you mentinoed (family, friends, scripture, etc.) there's still uncertainty that can abide or prevail. I just wonder if there is a "for sure" way to know if God spoke and if so, what it is. It is this that nobody has been able to really answer, except by telling of their own experiences, which, in the end, leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable.

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  19. I can't say I blame you for your discomfort, but I'm not sure there's any help for it. After all, even scripture offers only one rule for judging the truth of a prophet: whether his prophecies come true. But of course, by the time you find that out, it's too late! ;)

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