- Religion and Philosophy»
- Exploring Religious Options
Does God Speak to Us Personally?
Does God talk to us? How do we know it’s really God?
I become a little suspicious when I hear people say things like “The Lord told me….” to build a church on this street corner, that Mother will recover, that I will find a job, that I should ask you for money. I’ve heard many sermons in which a radio or TV or live preacher tells us that when the Lord tells us to do something we had better obey. “How did the Lord tell them?” I wonder.
Some people talk about that still small voice in our hearts. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” I often think I hear that voice, but I am not always certain I can discern God’s voice from my own desires or imagination, or worse, from the voice of a deceiver – okay I’ll say it – a demon. If I believe in God and angels, I cannot think of a reason not to believe in demons and there are plenty of verses in the Bible that indicate their existence.
One scripture passage I have found especially helpful is 1 John 4:1-3:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is not already in the world.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
When I pray for myself, my usual prayer is for protection from deception, especially self-deception. When I think I “hear” the still small voice, I say something like, “Dear Lord, let me not be deceived. If this message is of Jesus my Savior who died on the cross and rose again for the salvation of my sins, let me hear it. If the messenger is not of You Lord, make it depart.”
Usually the voice stays. But then, I am still not sure how to be absolutely certain it is not me or my imagination speaking. I don’t really want advice from myself. Even if I have a “higher self”, I want to know it is under the guidance of the true God. I don’t know enough about higher things to by my own guide. Most often, I feel pretty sure when I am hearing God’s voice. Something subtle clicks. If I am even partially sure or think maybe God in influencing my own thoughts, I figure I had better pay attention.
My Bible reading method
I think reading the Bible regularly helps to make us more receptive to the voice of God. It tills the soil, making the ground rich and fertile for spiritual growth. For the last two years or so, I have scheduled an early morning time for Bible reading and contemplation; I began with Genesis 1:1 and am now up to Deuteronomy 9. That will give you an idea of how slow I am going. No speed reading here, no competition, no deadlines. I take notes as I read, and frequently copy down long passages in my notebook, just because the slow meditative act of writing by hand helps me to absorb the words deeply. Because my systematic reading will be in the Old Testament for some time to come, I take some time to also read passages from the New Testment as well.
My mother passed away in May 2010 and while she was sick she was living with my sister and her husband Mike. When I went to their house to stay for a few days to spend time with Mom, I continued to do my morning Bible reading. Mike asked if I was copying down the Bible “like a monk.” Yes I suppose I am, except my purpose is not to write the words for a book but to write them on my soul. The words I have copied down frequently come to mind during the day as I go about my business. I know some people find my Bible study technique a little odd, but it works for me.
Each individual has a unique relationship with God
Which brings me to another point. We can share with each other how we communicate with God and how we believe he communicates with us. We can learn some new ways to deepen our relationship with Him. But our relationship with God is going to be as unique as we are. I suspect God does not have the exact same relationship with any two people: we hear from Him according to His unique plan for each of us.
I seem to receive the bulk of my divine guidance through books: primarily the Bible of course but other books as well. Time and time, year after year, I have found a particular book in my hand that speaks to me about the exact thing on my mind, something I needed to understand at a particular moment. I am not sure what leads me to select a certain book out of the many available but there is always that little click in my mind when I see or hear of or touch one I must read. I have browsed library shelves, browsed Amazon.com, run across references on web sites, and happened to pick one up at a book sale under a tent. I listen to many of my books on my iPod. For this past Christmas my husband gave me a Kindle, and that has opened new doors to my book selections. My conscious goal when choosing a book is to increase my understanding of reality and move a little closer to grasping the truth.
How books help me to grow spiritually
The Bible is my foundation for truth and the more I read it, the more truth I absorb. But my other books enhance my understanding of everything, including the Bible. When I speak of “understanding” and “absorbing” truth, I mean more than being aware of a set of facts, although I do like learning new facts. I also mean learning truth on a deeper level, letting it sink into my soul, in a sense, “becoming” truth. This is the way I experience reading. It is as if the Bible and other books, which I do believe God leads me to read, are nutrition for my soul. The word soul is used quite bit in many different contexts and means different things to different people. My working definition is that my mind is either the same thing as my soul, or the perhaps the thinking part of my soul’s anatomy. Also, I work on the assumption that the soul is the part of the human being that survives death, the self that is permanent.
Belief must be a choice
If you do not believe in God or that Jesus is the incarnation of God, this will probably not make a lot of sense to you. This hub is not to pressure you to believe – it is only to share my own experience. Belief must be your own choice if it is to be of any value. I was not a believer until I reached my early thirties. At that point, I happened to read a book called Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and that book held the key that made it possible for me to believe. I would only say, that if you believe you are an eternal being, or that you might be an eternal being, or even if you would like to believe you are an eternal being, it makes sense for you to study carefully the life and teachings of the one who claims to be the giver of eternal life and who, by his life, words, an actions, has materially and profoundly changed the world for the last 2000 and more years.
How does God speak to you?
I imagine these ideas will come off as weird to many people, but when it comes to discussing communication with God, it cannot be helped. By definition, our personal communication process with God is going to be beyond the ordinary verbal interchange. I believe it is valuable to acknowledge that such communication does happen and share experiences. Yours will be different from mine: it may share some of the characteristics or be completely different. Some people seem to hear from God through nature. I know a woman who believes God sends her messages through the appearance of certain kinds of birds at key moments in her life. And I believe her. But so that we are not deceived, we have the Bible as our anchor of truth and the method described in 1 John 4:1-3 by which to “test the spirits.” If you would like to share how you believe God speaks to you, I welcome your comments!