Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Hearing" God? Really?

I freely confess that I check the Amazon site daily for Kindle freebies.  In fact, in all of my time in owning a Kindle I've only paid a grand total of .99 for my collection.  (It was for volume one of H. Orton Wiley's Christian Theology.)  Every other title is a writer/publisher promotional limited-time offer freebie.

If I have to pay for a book then I want a hard copy in my hands.  Freebies, however, I'll gladly take electronically.  Beggars can't be choosers.

Searching the Kindle freebie section is a mixed bag.  Big-name publishers occasionally bless the unwashed masses with a *good* book.  Many in the freebie section, however, are self-published.  Consequently, several of the free offers wouldn't have seen the light of day if an established publisher was the only route.  Short, grammatically dubious books hit the wifi all the time.  Not to say they have no merit but let the buyer beware.

Apparently Christians really want to hear the voice of God because that style of book keeps cropping up in the freebie section.  People are downloading them and bump the titles up into the top 100 list.  It gives me pause.

Why do we need books on how to hear the voice of God?

Yes, I know that anecdotal books can be intriguing, even downright fascinating.  Yes, we need to be reminded that God is heard in his Bible, impressions of the heart and circumstances.  However, what I'm getting at is that it is so unlike how people heard God in recorded biblical history.

For example, when God first revealed himself, prophetically speaking, to young Samuel, he spoke in words.  While the young man mistakenly thought that it was Eli calling him, it just took one short lesson to get the boy to listen to Yahweh communicate in sentences.  Samuel heard God audibly (or at least he thought it was audible but they were words, nonetheless).

We preachers (yes, myself included) have butchered one Old Testament passage beyond recognition.  How many sermons have exhorted us to listen for the "still small voice" of God  by recounting Elijah's experience at Mount Sinai?  There's a problem.  God spoke not in an impression to the despondent prophet but in a voice.  It may have been still and quiet compared to the natural disasters Yahweh displayed before he began speaking—but he did, in fact, begin speaking.  Words, sentences and paragraphs!  Elijah had a back-and-forth conversation with Yahweh!

When the Father spoke to Jesus once while some wrongly said it thundered (while others said an angel spoke) at least they heard physical sound.  Nothing about an impression of the heart.  God can get noisy when he wants to be.

In another post I wrote of a friend's very real encounter with the voice of God during an intense weekend of lay ministry that you can read here.  (I shamelessly beg you to read it.  It's thrilling!)  Again, he heard words.  Two different times.  The first time he thought they were spoken by a human.  He followed up on the first and it opened a floodgate of seekers.  He followed up on the second and people got saved.  And he didn't need anyone to teach him how to hear the Holy Spirit.

Francis Schaeffer claimed to have heard God's voice.  Uncle Bud Robinson and Asbury professor T. M. Anderson claimed to both hear and see Jesus.  Even John Wesley speculated on hearing angelic music with the death of the saints.  Whether audible or not it sure wasn't a still small sound in the heart.

If God talks to you, if he uses words, sentences and paragraphs to speak to you, you won't need a book to teach you how to hear him.

Read the Bible.  Be open to your heart impressions.  Be mindful of your circumstances.  I am, by no means, belittling and despising the usual avenues of learning God's will.  But let's be careful when we try to teach others how to hear God's voice.  Sometimes we hear him speak.  Other times we "hear" him "speak."  Let's be clear about the two.