Guest Post: Hearing God’s Voice Is Not Complicated

prayer

God wants to guide you. Here are four ways He wants to speak.

by: J. Lee Grady

When I was in my 20’s I was praying about whether I should enroll in graduate school. Then one morning in my devotional time I came to Psalm 32:8 and it seemed to be flashing like a neon sign. The verse said: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go.

The Holy Spirit was emphasizing to me that God would teach me and that I didn’t need additional schooling. That’s not to say graduate school is wrong for everyone else; it was just not God’s plan for me at that time. And God used a Scripture to clearly show me what path I should take.

The Bible promises that God will guide us. But many Christians find it difficult to hear God’s voice. And in some churches we complicate things when we try to make guidance mystical or weird—as if you have to hear an audible voice from heaven about what color shirt to wear.

Years ago, I learned from author Henry Blackaby that there are four distinct ways we receive divine guidance:

1. You can hear God’s voice by reading the Bible.

Friends have sometimes complained to me: "I just never hear God speaking." Yet when I ask if they read the Bible regularly, they say they’re too busy!

God supernaturally inspired 40 authors over a period of 1,600 years to compile His love letter to us. After the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, many people were martyred because they translated it in a modern language. God went to a lot of trouble to compile the Bible for us. Yet today Bibles are collecting dust in the homes of people who are too busy to read God’s most direct message to Planet Earth!

God went to a lot of trouble to compile the Bible for us. Yet today Bibles are collecting dust in the homes of people who are too busy to read God’s most direct message to Planet Earth!

When you read Scripture with a prayerful heart, God can cause a verse to jump off the page as a direct message to you. British preacher Charles Spurgeon recognized this years ago when he wrote: When I have been in trouble, I have read the Bible until a text has seemed to stand out of the Book, and salute me, saying, ‘I was written specially for you.'”

Expect God to speak directly to you from Scripture.

2. You can hear God’s voice through the supernatural inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not an eerie presence that just hangs around. He lives in every born-again Christian, and He comforts us and actively speaks to us. He can do this in many ways: through dreams, visions, warnings, a sense of conviction, or—most often—through what we know as the "still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) of the Spirit.

I have had prophetic dreams and visions over the years, but the most common way the Spirit speaks to me is through a deep sense of inward knowing. I will never forget a time in 1985 when God spoke to me while I was driving my car in Florida. A message came to me, not audibly but in my spirit: “You will move to Washington, D.C.“. It seemed to come out of the blue, and I knew it did not originate with me. Four years later I was offered a job in the Washington, D.C., area and I worked there for three years. My time there proved to be an important step in my spiritual growth and career development.

The ability to hear the Spirit’s voice is developed over years as we grow in Christ. If you really want to hear Him, you should ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. As you allow more of the Spirit’s presence and power in your life, you will set aside your selfish agendas and sinful habits so God can communicate without any hindrance.

3. You can hear God’s voice through people.

God never intended for us to live in isolation. We are members of His body, the church, and you will hear God better when you are in fellowship with His people. God can speak to you through a pastor’s sermon, a friend’s wise counsel, a mother’s rebuke, a mentor’s phone call or a prophetic word given to you by one of God’s Spirit-filled servants.

God uses the gift of prophecy, but you should never chase after prophecies. I know Christians who will travel across the country to attend a prophetic conference to get a word from God, yet they have not read the Bible in months or sat still long enough to hear from God on their own. Never treat the holy gift of prophecy like fortune telling. When God needs to speak to you in an unusual way, He has faithful messengers who will deliver it to you at the exact time you need it.

4. You can hear God’s voice through circumstances.

Not everything that happens to you is God’s perfect will. But God is sovereign, and He has power over nature, over government leaders and over all the details of your life. He opens doors that no man can shut. If you have been praying about getting a job at one company, and suddenly you get an offer at a different company, this may be God’s sign that He has a better place for you to work.

My oldest daughter wanted to attend a college in Tennessee, and we were praying about her decision. Right after we prayed I got a call from the president of a college in Georgia. He was inviting me to speak at the school, but in our conversation, I learned that this school was willing to offer my daughter a scholarship.

She ended up enrolling in that school, meeting her future husband there and graduating four years later. She then got a job working for that school. God was totally involved in that phone call from Georgia!

As you seek to grow in your faith, ask God to tune your ears to His voice in a fresh way. Guidance is not complicated when you sincerely want to hear Him speak.

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The Cure for Being Judgmental

Finger-Pointing

 

Have you ever just felt “judgy”?

I’ll never forget a young woman coming up to me after a message, her freckled face beaming from ear to ear. She said: “Pastor AJ, God has been convicting me and helping me with my attitude—I’ve been feeling so “judgy” lately!”

Her heart for God made me smile along with her. “Judgy”… I had never heard that expression before. But I could totally relate to what she was referring to. Many times, I’ve caught myself with the same attitude.

What about you? Have you ever gotten all “judgy”? You know, that funky mood where you’re critical of everything and everyone? I call it being a “Mr. Crabby-pants”. Or you’re looking down your nose at somebody. Or maybe it’s a just particular person that bugs you, and you don’t know why.

What I have found is that being critical has a lot more to do with me than it does with the person I am judging. A critical spirit tells me everyone else needs fixing, when really it’s my crummy attitude that needs the fixing.

Bottom line: to be consistently uncomfortable with people is often a sign that I am uncomfortable with myself. We treat others as we treat ourselves. The more insecure you are, the more uneasy you feel around others, and the more harsh and negative your judgment towards them. 

In other words, show me a critical person, and I’ll show you an insecure person.

So what’s the antidote for being judgmental? 

Receive the love of God for yourself.

Personal revelation of our love and acceptance in Christ will drive out that icky insecurity! When you start to know—to really know, to have a personal knowledge of— God’s love and acceptance for you, you will become a more secure person. That’s just how it works. Love brings security.

Meditating on His acceptance of you brings a sense of safety to your soul. God’s affirmation is a massive anchor for our self-esteem; it becomes the foundation of our identity in Christ. In this way, love always brings a healthy, balanced view of self.

How do we receive His love? The more we understand and confess what His Word says about us, the more we allow God’s love to seep down into your soul. And the less “judgy” we will be.

I am loved… I am a child of God.

To believe what He says about us makes us able to live in our own skin. To be ourselves. To be. And to let others be. You can be a little easier on others. You can treat them how your Heavenly Father has treated you.  If God is okay with you, then you can be okay with yourself.

You are accepted, beloved… What’s the use in pulling other people down?

You are affirmed… Why any need to prove you’re better than someone else?

Here’s the truth: Critical people carry inner turmoil, and it’s simply spilling onto others. That’s what criticism is: an overflow… an overflow of inner judgement. An overflow of inner shame. An overflow of self-hatred and negativity. An overflow of inner fear (or what we call insecurity).

But God’s love quiets the storm and allows mercy to be given and received. Through Christ’s indescribable gift, the Father welcomes and accepts you! Through his great love, He gives you freedom and the room to grow. He gives you a chance! So now, you can give others a chance.

Be humble, accept His acceptance of you, and let God stay the Judge. He’s better at it anyways. You’ll start to be more comfortable with yourself, and a lot more comfortable with others!

Try it now. Say this out loud:

I am loved.

I am accepted.

I am not perfect.

I am something better: I’m wanted by God.

Why I’d Rather be Wanted than Needed

hands reaching out

As a college pastor in Gainesville, Florida, I once had the privilege of hosting a missionary, known as Uncle Charlie. This man was remarkable—he had comforted dying street children in his arms and washed the feet of real, modern-day lepers. Under communism in Vietnam, he had embraced the dangerous call to smuggle Bibles into the country for the underground church. In his latter days, he had built up a ministry to the street children of Ho Chi Min City—where he personally prepared and delivered peanut butter sandwiches to all his “kids”.

I’ll never forget how Uncle Charlie, now in his late 70’s and suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, pushed himself around slowly in his walker, and laid hands, and blessed us young people. I’ll also never forget when, in private, Charlie lamented to me about the arrogant attitude he sometimes noticed in ministers in the United States.

He leaned in: “AJ, always remember: God doesn’t need you. You need God.”

As the old preacher saying goes, amen or oh-my… I’ve meditated much on this statement over the years. Although it may sound harsh at first, I believe it’s actually extremely loving and has the power to set us free.

Let’s break down what he said… God does not need us. In other words, we’re not that big of a deal. We don’t impress God. God is not (and never will be) awestruck by our spiritual gifts, talents, skill-sets, religious effort, and/or achievements.

And to act like God needs us belies a considerable amount of self-importance.

This is not the attitude God wants us to have. Our loving Father knows this attitude is not good for us; He knows when we travel along the path of self-importance, we always end up in one of two places:

  1. ARROGANCE: I am awesome! God must be so impressed!
  2. DESPAIR: I stink. God must hate me!

You see, pride is a roller coaster. Really high. Or really low. We’re tossed to and fro… from “I’m amazing”, to “I suck”.

Back and forth we go. In the vicious cycle of self-reliance, there’s: 

1.I’m amazing; it’s time to judge everybody else!

2. Oh no, I’m terrible; I’m the worst person ever.

back to:

1. Yay, God is impressed with me! Everyone else really needs to get it together!

2. Oops, I screwed up. God must think I’m an idiot!

Ever felt trapped in this cycle?

Here’s good news: God doesn’t NEED you, but He does WANT you!

So many people today feel like they have to impress God. They are striving to win His approval through their performance and pretense—stuck on the roller coaster of religion. But God is not some secret admirer from afar; He’s not looking for you to impress Him. God invites you into a relationship with Himself, face to face. God wants intimate relationship—nothing more, nothing less. He’s an up-close and personal God. And He wants to love you.

He doesn’t simply need you. He’s not looking for an employee. He doesn’t want you out there performing for Him— He wants you close to Him.

Don’t you see? The merry-go-round of religion has too much relational distance for God’s taste. He’s an up-close and personal God. And He wants to love you. He’s that father who will not stop with a pat on the back— He’s coming in for a hug.

God’s not content with feeding your ego. He desires for you to put down the mask, and let Him feed your soul with affirmation and love.

Why would we seek to impress God when we can be loved by God?

Don’t short-change yourself!

God gave up His very own Son, so that you and I could be loved!  Jesus died, so we could be counted as sons and daughters. So we could know God as Father.

Don’t settle for the lonely and empty path of self-reliance and religion. Embrace the call to be a son or daughter. Be loved like a son or daughter. 

A Declaration of Independence

4th of July

Today, we celebrate America’s independence. We take time and remember that on this day, July 4th, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our founding fathers adopted the United States Declaration of Independence. With this beautifully-penned document, they declared themselves free from the control of Great Britain—what they saw as a tyrannical, oppressive outside force.

They wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I thank God for my country. I thank God for it’s unique forming as a nation. And I also rejoice in the fact that my nation celebrates an idea so close to God’s heart:

FREEDOM.

So while we enjoy the fireworks and hot dogs this year, let us also remember: liberty is God’s idea— it’s a commodity that flows from Heaven, and central to His wonderful message to all creation! Let’s remember that when God sent His Son to the earth, His mission was “to set the captives free”. (Luke 4:18) Isn’t that amazing? When God so loved the world (John 3:16), what did He do? He came to set it free. Love gives freedom.

What has God set you free from? What controlling and oppressive things has He defeated on your behalf? What tyranny has He broken off of your life?

What declaration of independence can you make today—because of God’s grace in your life?

For me, God has set me free in so many ways! (If you look at my writing and speaking, I’m basically rehashing over-and-over again all the different things God has set me free from.)

But I want to pick one for today. I want to declare my independence from: SHAME!

TODAY, I AM FREE FROM SHAME AND SELF-LOATHING!

When Jesus found me, I was overrun by the tyranny of self-hatred. Shame utterly perverted my perception of reality. Uncomfortable in my own skin, I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror. Deep self-loathing ruled my heart. I was self-conscience and so embarrassed of myself— and I didn’t even know why.

Obviously, this deep-seated shame kept me from doing anything great with my life. There’s no way I could step out. No way could I embrace risk. I couldn’t handle the criticism and failure that came with believing for big things. I just wanted to stay hidden. Play it safe… My soul was just too fragile. I couldn’t push off the negativity; it would just consume me—and reinforce all the negatives things I believed about myself.

Failure on the outside confirmed: “I was a failure”. Lack of support (or criticism) confirmed: “You see, there IS something wrong with you.”

I was bound. Bound from making a difference. Bound from making a change. I was not free… but Jesus came, and He gave me my independence!

I am free from my own opinion of myself.

Who am I to judge myself? If God is for me, who can be against me? 

I am free from my opinion. I am free from other people’s opinions. I am free from judgement. I am free from condemnation. I am free from pain. I am free from death. I am free from life. I am free from embarrassment. I am free from self-loathing. I am free from self-hatred. I am free.

His love has set me free.

IN JESUS NAME, I DECLARE MY INDEPENDENCE FROM SHAME!

What about you?

 

PRAYER:

Father, I thank you that you are a God of liberty.

I thank you for setting me free!

Because of Your grace, I declare my independence  from ________________

Jesus has set me free. I am free INDEED!

I say, “I’m independent of sin and shame. And dependent upon You.”

I will rejoice. I will remember all You have done.

You are my Vindicator, my Judge, and my Deliverer!

AMEN.