Tag Archives: God’s voice

“What do you see?”  If you read through the prophets, you find God asking the prophets this question many times.  I think it is still an important question today, one we need to ask God.  “Father, what do you see?  Jesus, what do you see?  Holy Spirit, what do you see?  What do you see when you look at me?”

I think that for many of us, our own sinfulness fills our vision, and we are pretty sure it fills God's vision also (or would if we dared go into His presence).  Like the Israelites, we'd rather not hear His voice or come too near Him, because we think it pretty likely there would be some yelling and hitting if we did.  We hope we're not so bad that we would be killed, but our hungry hearts, which long for the love of the Father and Lover and Counselor, are so filled with a sense of shame that we dare not risk entering His presence.

Several years ago, I had an exchange with God regarding the Father's image of us.  At the time, I was having one of those 1:00 a.m. experiences when you are exhausted and irritable and still have a lot of work in front of you.  I found myself very angry with Joshua about something.  I don't even remember what it was.  I was trying hard to keep from yelling at him, but my anger was building.  Suddenly, I remembered the passage about temptation, where God promises to provide a way out.  With desperate hope, I prayed for God to provide the way out so I wouldn't yell at Joshua.  Then, I found myself yelling at him anyway.

I was crushed.  I had tried as hard as I could.  I had asked for help.  Yet I had still failed.  I turned back to God and prayed again, “Where was the way out?  I couldn't find it.”  Instantly, I had a picture of God with His back to me.   I felt hurt and asked, “Why would you turn your back to me when I needed you?”  Immediately, I received two things:  an understanding and a worded answer.  The understanding was that my Father was choosing not to see something that would tarnish His image of me.  God knows who I am, and He knows that it is no longer I who sin, but sin which is at work in me.  He chooses to see me as I am, not as I do.  The words were “I can't take away your sin yet, because the reason you don't want to sin is that you are afraid of me.  I can't take away your sin until you understand my grace.”  Both the words and the understanding came with a sense of deep love and tenderness that I can't replicate in writing.

“The reason you don't want to sin is because you are afraid of me.”  As soon as He said it, I knew it was true.  I was afraid of God's anger.  I was afraid of what God might do in His anger.  I clearly deserved and needed punishment.  How else could I learn to be good?  About a year later, God would ask me whether punishment was working, and I had to answer that, no, I was so terrified of punishment that I couldn't move.  He then asked why I insisted that He punish me.  I thought that was a strange response.  However, at this point, I couldn't see that punishment wasn't working, and I couldn't think of any method except punishment to get me to obey.

“I can't take away your sin until you understand my grace.”  In my mind, grace meant another chance, specifically, another chance to run the gauntlet.  I had to try to get through the tests without falling down, but if I did, I could try again.  Unfortunately, each successive attempt found me starting with greater injuries than the time before, so I fell sooner.  To be honest, I didn't find grace a very hopeful concept.  I knew that a second chance at running the gauntlet shouldn't be the definition of grace, but grace didn't seem very powerful and motivating.  I felt pretty sure I could prove that even before the just judge:  those times I wasn't punished and did the same thing again, those people who weren't punished and kept doing wrong, those times I let wrongs go and was hurt again by the same people.  In my mind, grace needed force and punishment to help it achieve its intended purpose, yet God indicated that my perspective on grace was wrong.

I longed to be perfect and sinless, but God said that couldn't happen until I understood His grace.  So I prayed again, “Then, please, teach me your grace!”  I also began to meditate on this exchange.  The understanding that God cherishes His vision of me as a beautiful image was comforting and life-giving.  I had a pretty poor image of myself.  His statement about my being afraid of Him led me to confess to Him a few months later that I didn't really love Him but was serving Him out of fear.  It was troubling that I wasn't fulfilling the most important command, but was only trying to act as if I were.  His statement that He couldn't take away my sin until I understood His grace kept me seeking to understand grace.  Nearly four years later, I have come to understand that at least part of what God was trying to teach me is that grace is not removal, grace is supply.   Fear has to do with punishment and removes strength from us, but grace has to do with love and gives to us strength, power, and even authority.  We need strength to fight the battle, so we must put aside fear, guilt, worry.  I have also come to see that what Christ did on the cross was bigger and more powerful than anything I imagined.

We need to know that God chooses not to see the sin at work in us, but has placed it behind His back on Christ's shoulders at the cross.  When He looks at us, He does not see failures and sinners, but rather, He sees favored, beloved, pleasing sons and daughters.  In John Jesus says that God the Father loves us even as He loves Jesus, not less than, not differently from, but just as.  We also need to ask God to give us a true understanding of grace and the immensity of its power and authority and effectiveness.

Now, I need to tell you, shortly after I had this experience, I was sharing with a woman I highly respected, and she told me she didn't think that the experience was from God.  I've been reluctant to share this story on the blog for fear of the same thing happening, but this past week, two things happened that have nudged me to share.  Firstly, my oldest daughter, Alitzah, drew a two-sided picture based on a conversation she had had with God.  On one side of the paper, she drew God smiling down at people enjoying creation; on the other, she drew God with His back to someone sinning. Secondly, I ran across a verse.  In Isaiah 38:17, Hezekiah says, "for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back."   I felt it was time to share.

God smiles Alitzah-24Feb-2014-God_turns_his_back

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Over the years since I began conversing with God, I have had many doubts.  Are these conversations real?  Is God really talking with me?  Am I crazy?  One thought which could not take hold was that I was talking with evil spirits.  The voice I was hearing was a voice of love, and my heart responded to that love.  My love language is communication.  A God who both listens and talks with me won my heart.

This past summer, I stopped hearing God.  I do not say God stopped speaking, but I stopped hearing.  It was devastating.  Just as a tree grows in response to light, I had grown amazingly in response to God's love and His giving of Himself to me in communication.  Though I wasn't hearing His voice, I had the understanding that God was allowing my fears to grow so I could see them for the lies they were and reject them.  I knew I had been holding onto both faith and doubt.  I had to make a decision.  The picture I had was of a garden with small weeds continuing to steal nutrition from the true vegetables.  With God's help, I was plucking up the weeds before they could grow big, but they always snapped off and left the roots behind.  God wanted to remove the roots.

A few years back, God asked me what doubt is.  I didn't know.  Was doubt the same as unbelief?  With the help of my husband and BibleWorks software, I hunted for the answer.  I learned something interesting.  The Greek word for doubt basically means to sit in judgment listening to the evidence on both sides of an argument.  It means you haven't decided yet which is true.  You're considering.  The writer George MacDonald considered doubt an important part of our Spiritual development.  Without the process of doubt, we could never reach the truth.  Jesus brought doubt with Him.  Can the law really save you?  You say you keep the law, but if you break it in your heart, you are breaking the law.  If you break just one bit of the law you are breaking the whole of the law.  Can the law really save you?  If no one had doubted and considered Jesus' questions, no one could have come to faith in Him.

Doubt is important to our Spiritual development, but the purpose of doubt must be accomplished.  We must make a decision.  What do we believe?  We cannot keep endlessly listening to arguments.  We must make a decision, a firm decision.  God told me, we have to shut the door behind us and begin to walk down the path we've chosen.  He assured me, even if I made the wrong decision, He could lead me to a turn around place.  I thought about how often when driving we have to go the wrong direction for a time in order to get to the right place.  God told me to start walking, and He would go with me.  So I decided to walk down the path with God and talk with Him.  While we walked, He invited me to ask Him any questions and tell Him why I continued to doubt.

We walked and talked together for two years.  God more than answered every objection I had for Him.  Then He rested His case.  It was time for me to make a decision.  I had to choose whether I would believe what He said or what I had always understood in the past.  I knew what I wanted to chose.  God's words and His presence are beautiful.  What I couldn't figure out was what to do with the doubt I still had.  I tried to wrestle with it and make it go away.  It wouldn't go.  I agonized.  I waited.  I accused God of not helping me.

Finally I asked God one more question.  What do I do with the doubt?  Instantly, I was standing in front of my Grandfather's barn.  A vision like this was a new experience for me, but I knew it was God.  Um, why am I here?  "Climb up into the hayloft."  I climbed into the hayloft.  It was filled with golden light and hay and haydust.  I waited a minute; then um, what do I do here?  "Lay down and rest."  I lay down.  I waited a minute; then um, why am I in the hayloft?  I don't get it.  Instantly, I was in front of the barn again.  I saw the barn -- hayloft above, barn floor below.  The hayloft was dusty, but clean.  The barn floor was nasty.  You really want galoshes/gum boots to walk there.  As I looked, I heard, "You stay in the hayloft.  I will deal with the barn floor."  I realized that I had been mucking about on the barn floor of my doubts.  I was trying to rid myself of the filth of my doubts and was only getting more mired.  My place is to dwell on my faith and to nurture it by resting in God's light, in His life-giving presence.  The only decision I need to make is to continue to listen to and to respond to His voice, to continue to walk in His presence, to focus on what is true rather than on all the doubts the world would throw at me.

Over the years as I have conversed with God, I have many times had others say they longed for that kind of communication with God.  I have said that God loves to communicate with His children including them.  Several times, I have been asked, But what if you don't believe He communicates with you?  I haven't known what to answer.  These are people whom I love.  I want them to have what I have.  I'm a woman.  I love community gab sessions.  My conversations tend to be heavily spiked with God talk rather than gossip, but that's because gossip is boring and old hand.  It may be a new person, but the news is old.  The things I'm hearing are NEWS.  I love talking them over with others.  I have longed to answer their question but haven't known how.  The answer is that the question is wrong.  Instead of looking at ourselves and at the sin and unbelief at work within us, we need to look at God, the Good Father, who is love.  Love communicates.  All we can do is think on these things.  If we long to communicate with God, then that longing is something we inherited from Him.  He promised that His sheep hear His voice.  Our longing for Him tells us we are His sheep.  Don't be afraid to listen to the voice of love that is already speaking to you.

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About five or six years ago, I began praying daily for unity in the church.  I longed for unity.  Disunity is incredibly painful.  I also saw that divisions in the church made the work of the church range between tremendously inefficient and completely ineffective.

As I prayed, I searched the Scriptures to discern what God promised regarding unity and whether unity was something we should expect now, or only in Heaven.   There were so many Scriptures which made my heart ache with longing.  Psalm 86:11 and Ezekiel 11:19 expressed my longing for a united heart.  How I wanted to stop fighting myself to make myself do what was right!  How I wished to have one heart with the people of God!  Jeremiah 3:22 expressed my longing to be cured from backsliding.  How often had I thought I had conquered sin only to find it back again!  Jeremiah 31:31-34 filled me with longing for the new covenant we won't break.  I longed for Isaiah 59:21 with God promising that His word and His Spirit would not depart even from my children and my children's children.

In the New Testament, I searched Jesus' last prayer, from John 17.  Jesus prays twice that we would be one so that the world may know.  As I read this, I wondered, does this mean that unity is something Christ expects to happen here on earth while we are still in the world?  If unity is not going to happen until after the world can no longer repent, what would be God's purpose in having unity be a demonstration of truth to the world?  Would He do it only to prove the world wrong before its condemnation, or does God intended this to be a final witness calling the world to truth before judgment?

As I read Ephesians 4, I saw that Paul says that the church was given apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers until.  I had never before noticed the word until in that verse.  That means that something different will come afterward.  After the until comes the whole body attaining the unity of the faith and maturing into adulthood.  As I meditated on this verse, I realized that every prayer for the church focused on good leadership.  I wondered what would change if we focused our prayers upon the maturation of the whole body.

However, as I searched the Scriptures, I also found many passages that talked about people falling away from the faith, about people not maturing as they should, about fighting in the Church.  I wanted to believe the Scriptures of hope, but what was I to do with the other Scriptures?  I know our tendency is to consider the verses of hope as only figurative or for after our death, but is that right?  We can't throw out any passages.  If the Bible is literal, both must be literal.  If the Bible is figurative, why are only the messages of hope figurative?  How would physical death change our character?

As I meditated these questions, I saw that repeatedly through Scripture, God had placed a mountain of blessing and a mountain of curses before His people.  The Old Testament reminds me of a "choose your own adventure" book.  If you go this way, this will happen.  If you go that way, that will happen.  I wondered whether there was a circumstance where a prophecy could still be true even if it didn't happen.  Certainly Jonah and Nineveh showed that.  Could prophecies that seemed contradictory be equally true, but only one be fulfilled?  I wanted to hope so, but I wasn't sure I did.

As I was reading Scripture, I was struck by Moses' prayer for the Israelites in Exodus 33-34.  God tells Moses that He will not go with the Israelites anymore because He might kill them on the way.  Moses begins to pray, Who will go with us? remember that we are your people.  God answers, My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.  Moses then says, If your presence doesn't go with us, don't let us go.   (I thought, Didn't God just say yes?)  God promises again to go with them.  Moses asks, show me your glory.  God passes His glory before Moses declaring His name.  Afterward, Moses asks God one more time to go with them, though God has already said yes twice.  This time, having heard God declare His name, His character, Moses believes God's promise to go with Israel.  The promise is consistent with who God is.

As I meditated on this passage, I felt God was asking me, 'You keep praying for unity.  You have searched the Scriptures and seen my promises of unity, yet you still keep asking.  Why don't you believe me?'  This wasn't a time when I heard words, but rather a nagging idea.  Jesus often told the Israelites, If you don't believe Moses and the prophets, you won't believe me, even though I do great signs and wonders.

I felt as though God were saying to me, "Stop praying for unity in the church, and tell me why you think it is impossible.  What is the tree?  Why don't you think I am a Father who will lead you to obey me through love, rather than drive you to obey me through fear?  Who do you say I am?"  We can't believe God's promises unless we know they fit His character, so both questions, "Why don't you believe these Scripture promises?" and "Who do you say I am?" were really a single question.

As I said at the beginning, I am not writing this blog chronologically.  All these questions which were one question came Spring/Summer 2011.  I spent the next two years dialoging with God about my reasons for unbelief.  My hope is that the God who is faithful and just has received this dialog as confession and will forgive and cleanse.

Psalms 86:11 (ESV)
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

Ezekiel 11:19  (ESV)
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

Jeremiah 3:22  (NIV)
“Return, faithless people;
I will cure you of backsliding.”
“Yes, we will come to you,
for you are the Lord our God.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV)
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord, ’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Isaiah 59:21  (ESV)
“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord:  “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

John 17:20-23  (ESV)
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Ephesians 4:1-16 (ESV)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Exodus 34:5-9 (ESV)
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff- necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

One day probably five years ago, my daughter came to me with a request.  I don't even remember what the request was, but it was a life changing incident in my relationship with God.  You see, I spoke to my daughter.  She asked me for something, and I answered with words.  I don't remember what I answered.  Did I say yes or no?  Did I give a vague maybe?  Did I say "in a minute"?  I don't know, but my daughter knew and understood what I said.

I don't remember what I answered, because it was not my response that was life changing, but rather the fact that I used words to answer her.  I can't imagine not using my voice to answer her without the image of a stern, hard face popping up in my mind.  Parents do not simply hand or deny their children the things for which they ask.  We actually verbally answer, because we are in relationship with them.  In that moment, I saw clearly that God is a FATHER.

Always before, I had looked to the result of my prayer as my answer.  For example, if I prayed for God to heal someone, if they became better, I took that as a yes.  If they didn't get better, the answer was obviously either wait or no.  It was a discouraging way to pray.  I was never actually certain what the answer was.  Even if the person became better, I wasn't sure that was God saying yes.  Maybe the person would have gotten better anyway.  If the person stayed sick, I didn't know whether the answer was wait or no, unless they died, of course.

At the time I had my revelation that God has a voice, I had just begun reading a book by Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer.  In the book, he reminded his readers that God always answers prayer.  When I read this, I was still thinking of the result as the answer, but when I heard my daughter ask me something and myself answering verbally, I knew that a result is not an answer.  A verbal response is an answer.  God is not a vending machine.  A vending machine dispenses results.  God is a father.  He relates with us, and relationship requires words and communication.

The image I had of God was of a loan officer reviewing my application and stamping approved or denied.  I didn't expect God Himself to answer me.  I just waited to see whether I received my check.  I wanted to qualify for my loans, so I did whatever I could to make the loan officer approve my application.  On my application, I might stress my righteousness, my neediness, my sinfulness, my good motivations, whatever I thought He was looking for.  And I got everyone I could to submit letters of reference – their prayers.  Then I waited.  It was an anxious time.  When I got my check (or not), I wasn't sure what it was about my application that made Him say yes (or no), so I didn't know how to do better the next time.

Well, when my daughter had a request, I used my voice and answered her, and in that instant, I knew God, The FATHER, must have a voice and answer our requests vocally.  I started to ask Him not to answer my requests only with actions, but first to answer vocally.  I must admit, I have had some interesting vocal answers.  God is quite humorous.  From believing and experiencing that God vocally answers prayers, I was able to grow to believe that I could converse with my Father.