Sunday, January 29, 2017

Does God Speak? (And Am I Ready For That?)

The Senior Pastor of The Church of Divine Guidance has declared 2017 as the year of Prayer at CDG.  The Sunday morning Adult Bible Study starting the year with a a study using the book "Prayer Begins With Relationship", by Cynthia Hyle Bezek, a study in the Breakthrough Prayer:  Studies for Small Groups series.  These are the notes for this study.  

God is talkative and wants to engage us in two-way communication.


Over the past few weeks we have talked about what it means to be in a personal relationship with God.  We’ve talked about the aspects of a personal relationship that becomes a friendship as being a unique connection between two people who know one another through  firsthand experience.  People who interact, talk, and share life with one another.  

When two people become friends their relationship includes things like;

Doing things together
Asking for advice and input
Giving gifts
Covering each other’s backs
Enjoying each other
Trusting each other
Challenging and debating
Sharing secrets
Laughing together
Caring for one another’s children and grandchildren
Pleasing each other
Offering hospitality
Doing favors
Sharing conversation

We talked about the interactions that God had with Abraham when He told him what He was going to do to Sodom and  Gomorrah at Genesis Chapter 18 we saw:

  1. Offering hospitality
  2. Sharing conversation
  3. Trusting each other
  4. Sharing secrets
  5. Challenging and debating

How He talked to Moses as with a friend in Exodus 33:7-17  and in verse 11 it actually said The LORD spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend…..

Then Jesus telling His disciples in:

John 15:15 (KJV)15  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
We admitted  relating to God as friend is a tough concept for most of us.  After all how can we be friends with the King of kings, Creator of the universe, a holy and sinless God?  But we are invited to be and are called God’s friends though our faith in and relationship with Jesus.  Jesus even calls us brothers.

Hebrews 2:11-12 (HCSB)11  For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers,12  saying: I will proclaim Your name to My brothers; I will sing hymns to You in the congregation.

Let’s not get it twisted our friendship with God is not a friendship of equals.  He will always remain in His rightful place of honor and authority.  That never changes, no matter how close or intimate we become with Him.  A proper respect of God is part of being His friend.

Psalm 25:14 (HCSB)14  The secret counsel of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He reveals His covenant to them.

God has a very high view of friendship.  To Him, friendship means being willing to lay down your life for the one you love.

John 15:13 (HCSB)13  No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.

This is the kind of love that He calls us to, not a disposable, easy-come-easy-go friendship between “pals”.  

If everything was a one way communication, or no communication at all, how do you think that relationship would be affected?

  • Offering hospitality
  • Sharing conversation
  • Trusting each other
  • Sharing secrets
  • Challenging and debating

Which of those don’t require two-way communication?

The point is that like any other relationship, friendship with God requires good two-way communication.  We know that He listens when we talk to Him.  We’ve talked, the last two weeks about the fact that we need to stop faking it and tell God just how we feel.  When we become convinced that God is really our friend we really know how He feels about us and the we can talk to Him about anything.  

Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We shouldn’t try to hide our emotions because if we do our prayers become formal following a pattern and are not really us.   We have positive emotions like;

  • Love
  • Compassion
  • Joy

Then there are negative emotions;

  • Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Fear
  • Insecurity
  • Shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Inadequacy
  • Emptiness
  • Rejection
  • Unworthy
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Jealousy
  • Inferiority
  • Grief
  • Hopelessness
  • Condemnation

Last week we talked about “head” and “heart” beliefs.   Head beliefs are what we say we believe, and heart beliefs are the perceptions that actually shape our feelings and reactions to circumstances and our relationship with God.  

For example you may believe in your head that God will protect you and provide for you and not let any real harm come to you.  But when the doctor says,”we need to do a second test just to rule out cancer”, or when you lose a job, or face foreclosure, that belief of protection may not be the one you operate on.  A misperception about God may take over and shake you whether you say it or not.  You may operate on the belief that God is really allowing you to suffer to develop something in your character, or He’s disciplining you for something.  

These heart beliefs may come from anywhere like a negative experience with a boss, a parent, or even a church leader.  Those heart beliefs are usually not entirely wrong but twisted just enough to create a barrier to approaching God as He really is.  

Being Honest With God - Sheila Walsh, from 5 Minutes with Jesus
"I am angry!” she said to me.
It was a strange way to start a conversation, but her emotions seemed to overwhelm her.
I had just finished teaching, and I was signing a book for someone when this woman stepped between us. Asking her to wait just a second, I finished signing the book and handed it back to the now very concerned recipient.
“Let’s walk for a bit,” I suggested to my unhappy new friend. When we were finally alone, I quietly asked her, “What happened to you?”
For half a second I thought she might slap me, but as I watched, the ice in her eyes melted from anger into intense pain. She fell into my arms, and rivers of tears streamed down her face.
“I’ve buried two sons,” she said when she could speak. “Every time I hear you talk about your boy, it’s like a knife in my heart.”
We talked for a long time that night. At one point I asked her if she had let God see her rage, and she seemed horrified by the suggestion.
“I can’t talk to God like that!” she said.
“Don’t you think He already knows?” I asked, holding her tight. “He knows — and He loves you. He knows — and He wants you to trust Him enough to tell Him the whole truth about what you’re feeling.”
Have you ever done that? Have you ever simply gotten alone with God and let Him have it all, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly — whatever it is you’re thinking and feeling? Doing so will change your life. Trust me; I speak from experience! But it took me years to open up to God. I’d lived much of my life filled with shame, with the profound sense that no matter what I did, I would never be good enough for God or for anyone else. Clinging to that falsehood, I kept a wall around my heart so that no one could hurt me. The wall kept me safe, but it also kept me lonely. One night when I was alone in a hospital, alone in the dark, I spoke out loud to God everything I felt. It wasn’t pretty... but I wasn’t struck by lightning.
Instead I actually felt closer to Him than ever before. Truth does that.
Truth destroys walls.
Are you willing to take that risk today? Will you fall at the feet of Jesus, tell Him the whole truth about what you’re thinking and feeling, and then let Him love you back to life?
He loves you.

Five Minutes in the Word

The Lord is close to all who call on Him, yes, to all who call on Him in truth. — Psalm 145:18
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. — John 8:32
Send out Your light and Your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You live. — Psalm 43:3
Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven. — Psalm 85:10–11
The time is coming — indeed it’s here now — when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. — John 4:23

God Communicates With You

These past four weeks have been discussions about the fact that prayer is a dynamic relationship.  Now I want us to talk about prayer that is conversational.  What we want to learn and understand is that God does talk to us and wants our relationship to involve two-way communication.  

How does God communicate with us outside scripture?

Most of us haven’t experienced two-way conversation with Him.  If we can receive direct communication from God then the relationship with Him becomes most real and tangible.

When you think of God communicating with you, what do you feel comfortable with?  Uncomfortable?
We are going to look at some scripture and I want us to identify what is communication from God to His people or from His people to God

Psalm 27:8 (NLT)  My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.”  From God

Psalm 85:8 (NLT)  I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways. From God

Isaiah 55:1-3 (NLT)1  “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free!2  Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.3  “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. From God

Jeremiah 33:3 (NLT) Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.  From the People and From God

Habakkuk 2:1 (NLT)  I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint. From the people

John 10:27 (NLT)  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. Other

Romans 8:16 (NLT)  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. From Both

James 1:5-6 (NLT)5  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.6  But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. From Both

What are some of the benefits of hearing from God?

God speaks peace to you - Even in times of trouble - Psalm 85:8 (HCSB)8  I will listen to what God will say; surely the LORD will declare peace to His people, His godly ones, and not let them go back to foolish ways.

You will receive your needs -  Isaiah 55:1-2 (HCSB)1  “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!2  Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.

That He will do what He promises - Isaiah 55:3 (HCSB)  Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David.

He will answer your questions - Jeremiah 33:3 (HCSB) Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.

You know that He hears you - John 10:27 (HCSB)  My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.

We know that we are His children - Romans 8:16-17 (HCSB)16  The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children,17  and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

He will give wisdom - James 1:5-6 (HCSB)5  Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.6  But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

What are some other benefits from hearing from God personally?

What do we have to do to invite God to talk personally to us according to those scriptures?

Come to Him - Psalm 27:8 (HCSB) My heart says ⌊this⌋ about You, “You are to seek My face.” LORD, I will seek Your face.; Isaiah 55:1 (HCSB)  “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!

Listen to Him - Isaiah 55:3 (HCSB)  Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David.; John 10:27 (HCSB)  My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.

Ask Him to talk to you - Jeremiah 33:3 (HCSB) Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.; James 1:5-6 (HCSB)5  Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.k6  But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

Here’s an antidote from Cynthia the writer of the book.  

A little background.  Cynthia, her husband and son relocated across the country from their original home where they had both lived all their lives.  They moved away from their family and friends.  Within the first year in their new place her husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  She prayed that God would heal her husband and for wisdom to make the medical decisions they had to make.  She went through all these things we’ve talked about these last few weeks. She learned to stop faking, to open up and tell God how she felt, and she realized that God was her friend.  With that as background she continued to struggle with her husband’s illness and a friend asked he she was hearing from God.  She answered yes, which is what most of us would say if we were asked the same question.  But listen to the friend’s follow up question.  “How often do you hear from God, would you say?”  She, like most of us couldn’t answer right away so she guessed, “I’d say I hear from Him about 25 percent of the time when I ask Him something”

The friend’s answer was “I feel sorry for you!”  Then he then assured her that God had much to say to her in the middle of her painful situation if she would only take time to listen.  WOW!!!  

She then asked herself some questions that I want us to ask ourselves.

  • Was the God of the universe really willing to speak personally into my life circumstances

  • How would I know if it was really God speaking and not my wishful thinking?

  • What if God asked me to do something I didn’t want to do?

  • What if the enemy hijacked the conversation?

  • Do I have time for a two-way conversation with God?

  • Wouldn’t I experience God’s love and presence more if He were to talk to me?

If after asking yourself these questions it became obvious God really wanted and was willing to talk to you then you would find time, make the effort, take the risk, and invite Him to talk to your person-to-person.  

The question then becomes how does God speak directly and personally to you?

It may not be as dramatic as when He talked to Moses from the burning bush, or when He spoke to me audibly.  Those are rare and dramatic which are great and exciting but wouldn’t you want Him to speak to you everyday?

We talked about some of the ways God can talk to you when we studied God’s will and how He we could know His will for us.   

1. Prayer. In order for God to speak to us, we need to be in his presence listening for his voice. As we spend time in prayer, we may sense God's leading in our lives.

2. His word. God speaks to us through his written word as we study and meditate upon his holy scripture.

3. Circumstances. Many times God will cause doors to open, or others to close. If we are walking in obedience to him, we have to assume that events in our life are ordered by God. They don't just happen by chance.

4. Our heart. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will minister to our spirit and reveal God's plan for us. We will have an assurance deep in our heart. We will feel God's voice guiding us.

5. Others. God can use other believers to bring us his direction. Sometimes we will be singing a song in church, or we will be reading a Christian book, or hear the Pastor's message, or one of our friends will say something that will show us God's will. God can reveal his direction to us through any of these five ways. But even when he does, it's sometimes difficult to discern that what we sense or feel is truly God's plan for our lives so we need Him to confirm His direction the same way He revealed it to us

In other words: one or two more things will confirm God's direction for you. When you see this confirmation, then you will know it's time to step out in faith.

Think about how wonderful it would be if instead of just sending up a one-way prayer you were able to engage God in a two-way conversation.  Now it won't happen overnight because we may still have some “heart” beliefs about God really wanting to personally talk to us.  But we need to continue to invite God to teach us to listen.    Tell God that you want to hear from Him and Him alone and no one else - not even your own thoughts then trust that He will.  It may be a good idea to record what He gives you.  Is it a scripture, a picture, a thought, a memory, whatever.

Then if you sense that He did give you something, even if it’s vague respond to it by continuing to talk to Him about it.  Remember what we said about Him confirming what He says you.  

Here are some prayers that may help.  Remember what I said last week about practice, practice, practice.  

  • “God, I kind of doubt You would speak to me.  But if I’m wrong, would You please show me?  I don’t want to miss out if this is something You have for me.”

  • “God, I thought You only spoke to people in Bible times.  I really don't think You would speak personally now, but I’m willing to have You show me otherwise.  If You really do speak today, would You help me to see it from Your Word as well as from any other source You use to reveal it to me?”

  • “I’m ready, God.  I want to hear from You personally.  Please teach me how to hear and know Your voice.  Speak, Lord, I am listening”

  • Here’s my prayer  “God, I heard you speak to me in an audible voice once will I ever hear it again?  If not I want to be able to block out all the noise and be sure that I’m hearing directly from you.  Show me how.

Bible Study Audio