Thursday, December 22, 2011

How Does God Speak to Us? 33 Ways

How does God speak to us? This is a list of ways God can speak to us, an enumeration of the multiple contexts God’s message may be conveyed to us. We open up all the vents of our soul to hear God speaking to us. This list is only a beginning, for God can choose to speak to us any way God wants! As needed, God will confirm God’s speaking through a combination of various multiple means or increasing unfolding. There are also boundaries or parameters, so we do not go astray.

1. Verbal Communication - an internal, inaudible message through a word or words spoken through the still, small voice of God, or perhaps, on occasion, the audible voice of God. This communication could be a specific Scripture, a statement, a question, a command. The “still small voice” in 1 Kings 19:12 can also be translated “the sound of gentle stillness” or “a gentle whisper;” the Hebrew is literally “a voice, a small whisper.”

2. Mental Pictures - inner picture-images or symbols, or messages as parables; a picture flashed across the inner screen of our mind.

3. Encounter - a phenomenal experience with God without words, but leaving an overwhelming message or strong impression.

4. Vision - a series of pictorial messages or visual images, literal or symbolic, while awake. These may require some additional reflective and prayerful interpretation.

5. Dream - a series of pictorial messages or visual images, literal or symbolic, while asleep. There are two formats of dreams -- dreams arising from the subconscious mind that God uses to convey a message, and dreams that are directly heaven-sent from God. Dreams may require some additional reflective and prayerful interpretation.

6. Intellectual Reasoning - cognitive, mental processing and evaluating of data leading to clear conclusions like connecting pieces of a puzzle.

7. Imagination - inner images or concepts creatively conceived or formed through guided imagery.

8. Intuition - knowing spontaneously the right thing to do or say.

9. Conscience - knowing right from wrong. See Romans 2:15; 9:1.

10. Thoughts - ideas or principles, words or pictures that grow with increasing awareness, clarity, unfolding, intensity, conviction, or volume in the mind.

11. Emotions - a gut-level feeling, desire, impulse, impression, arresting concern, or insistent nudge.

12. Memory - the remembrance of an event, thought or Scripture previously learned. See John 2:22; 14:26.

13. Common Sense - the ordinary use of rational, good judgment through experience and logical thinking.

14. Observation - a quickening of insight when observing or reflecting on people, art or inanimate objects. For Scriptural examples of listening to God by observing inanimate objects, see Jeremiah and the potter’s wheel in Jeremiah 18:1-10, Amos and the plumb line in Amos 7:7-8, Saul and Samuel’s torn cloak in 1 Samuel 15:27-28.

15. Liturgy - a ritual ceremony or observance that emphasizes or drives home a certain reality or truth.

16. Nature - the silent shouting of God’s creation, or inner messages that occur through ordinary created objects such as a flower or a tree. See Psalm 19:1-4.

17. Circumstances - confirming situations and events that all seem to point in the same direction often combined with a profound sense of inner peace. See Colossians 3:15.

18. Signs and Wonders - external, more dramatic, supernatural and visible demonstrations of God’s love and power to help, heal, care or deliver.

19. Pain - physical suffering serving as God’s megaphone to gain our attention or teach some lesson.

20. Angels - messengers from God.

21. Theophany - a visible manifestation of God bringing a message. See Exodus 3:1-6.

22. Tongues and Interpretation - a spontaneous message from God in an unlearned language with interpretation in order to speak incisively to a situation, or bring immediate and profound comfort and peace to a person in distress.

23. Word of Wisdom - an appropriate, instantaneous insight for a particular occasion, to make a right decision, to discern good from evil, or to resolve, help or heal a particular situation or need.

24. Word of Knowledge - a fragment of knowledge or disclosure of truth implanted by God -- not learned through the mind -- about a particular person or situation for a specific purpose.

25. Prophecy - a timely message or utterance through an individual from God to strengthen, encourage or comfort that person or that group of people at that particular time. See 1 Corinthians 14:3.

26. Music - meditative or worshipful music that brings stillness, a sense of God’s presence, or a spirit of praise.

27. Bible - the holy, super-slow, spiritual reading and application of the Scriptures, and can include using the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. This is sometimes described as “reading with the mind in the heart.” The written revelation of God’s Word is combined together with the way the Holy Spirit quickens particular portions as a direct word in a present circumstance.

28. Meditation - memorization, repetition and prayerful rumination of Scripture texts.

29. Devotional Classics - a holy, super-slow reading of spiritual writings.

30. Journaling - writing down times of communion or conversations with God.

31. Soul Friends - spiritual guides, godly friends or spouses who provide spiritual direction and counsel.

32. Collective Voice - the united voice and decision made by a group of believers.

33. Preaching and Teaching - public presentation of the Word of God and applied by the Holy Spirit to the individual.

What are the top three ways God frequently uses to speak to you? Which one is a current area of spiritual growth?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Qualities God Shares with People -- #1 Personal

If those are qualities unique to God, what about these qualities God shares with people? Let’s focus on four primary aspects.

The first quality God shares with people is that
God is personal, rather than impersonal.

When Moses encountered God in Exodus 3:14 -- "God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

When God announces his name to Moses, God shows that he exists as a person. Even responding to a question reveals personality. The living God speaks!

God possesses personal traits like self-consciousness, intellect, will, and self-determination. He thinks, feels, chooses, and enjoys relationships with other personal beings like us. God is personal, rather than impersonal.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Qualitites Unique to God - #3 Infinite

The third quality unique to God is infinite.

God is infinite, exceeding all limits – space, time, knowledge & wisdom, power, constant.

God is unlimited in relation to
space. He’s omnipresent. He is always everywhere. There is no place where he is not. 1 Kings 8:27 declares, “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.” God created space and is not limited by it.

God is unlimited in relation to
time. He’s eternal. Psalm 90:2 says, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Time doesn’t even apply to God – God is timeless. He created time and lives outside time. He is simultaneously in the past, present, and future – sees all events at once – and yet is aware of the succession of moments occurring within time. He exists without end or interruption.

God is unlimited in relation to
knowledge and wisdom. He’s omniscient. He knows everything and how to apply it. Psalm 147:5 says, “His understanding has no limit.” He knows all the facts about everything. He knows every possibility from every direction. He knows all the details of the universe, and how to apply them perfectly in our lives to accomplish his plan.

God is unlimited in relation to
power. He’s omnipotent. He can do anything. The angel told Mary in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.” He can fully carry out all he intends to do. He is in control of me and you – he is sovereign.

But God also has built-in limitations. He cannot do anything that would be contrary to his very nature. He cannot, for example, sin or do wrong or lie or fail or break one of his promises.

Plus, in all these qualities, God is
constant – he does not and cannot change or develop or diminish. Hebrews 1:12 says about God, “You remain the same.” Of course, the Bible illustrates how God changes his mind in response to prayer. But to suggest that he can change or develop or diminish in his very nature is to suggest that he was previously less than he is now.

So what? Let’s put it all together. Since God is universally alive, there’s no place in time or space he cannot be. He cannot be taken by surprise. He is always and everywhere, accessible in our time of need, fully applying his infinite wisdom and power toward his plan and our good. Whatever our circumstances, we can always trust him to be consistent to do what’s right. Whatever our challenges, our problems, our fears, he knows and provides a solution fitting for our need. He is the ultimate and only fully trustworthy One. God is God and there is no one else like God.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Qualitites Unique to God - #2 Life

The second quality unique to God is LIFE!

God is alive, the very source of life. Jesus announced: "The Father has life in himself" (John 5:26).

As the source of life, God did not derive his life from anything or anyone else. No other life source exists. He is it! He has always been alive, which is in contrast to all created beings. Rather, he began life, and gave it to all created beings.

Furthermore, the continuation of his life doesn’t depend on anything else outside himself, because he is the eternal source of all life. He doesn’t even need to will his own existence – he simply is! God is alive, the very source of life.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Qualities Unique to God - #1 Spirit

What about these Qualities Unique to God? Let’s focus on three primary aspects.

God is spirit, not physical substance. Jesus said in John 4:24, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

This means that God is immaterial and invisible. As spirit, he preexisted everything physical, and he created everything physical. As spirit, God is indestructible and immeasurable. As spirit, he is unlimited by time or space.

Even when the Bible refers to the "eyes" or "hands" of God, this is just figurative language to help us comprehend God’s actions. God sees, yes, but he does not have physical eyes like we do. God does things, yes, but he does not have physical hands like we do. God is spirit, not physical substance.

This quality makes God unique.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Qualities that are True About God

What are the basic characteristics of God? What can we say about God’s being? Where do we even begin?

The attributes of God are qualities that are true about God. The attributes are God are organized in different ways. Though this might not resolve all the issues, the paradigm that has been most helpful to me is this. I like to think of:

Qualities unique to God – qualities that describe what God’s unique character is like. God is Triune, self-existent, self-sufficient, transcendent, immutable, infinite, eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign.

Qualities God shares with people – qualities that describe what God’s common character is like. God is personal, good, loving, patient, merciful, gracious, faithful, holy, righteous, just, truthful, wise.
So, on one hand, God has attributes quite unlike anything else in the universe. God is God, and there is no one like him. God is bigger than big!

Yet, on the other hand, many of God’s characteristics are shared in some degree with us human beings. We are created in his image, which makes it possible for us to understand some aspects of what he is like, except God has all these qualities in perfection!

Plus, God maintains all these qualities perfectly and in balance. Most of us find we can be loving or angry, forgiving or jealous, compassionate or holy – but not both at once. God is under no such limitations.

For example, God’s unlimited power and personal love are never in conflict with each other. His love and his wrath are not in opposition to each other. Specifically, in his compassion, God loves the sinner. In his holiness, God hates the sin. And in his justice, he must punish the sin.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How do you define God?

A little boy was found by his mother with pencil and paper, making a sketch. When asked what he was doing, he answered promptly, and with considerable pride: "I am drawing a picture of God."

"But, grasped the shocked mother, "you cannot do that. No one has seen God. No one knows how God looks."

"Well," the little boy replied confidently, "when I get through, they will."

The topic of God seems so simple, and yet it may be one of the hardest to talk about. Volumes could be said. Theological explanations can get us bogged down. We can talk about concepts that don’t connect with our real lives. If someone asked you to describe God, where would you begin?

The kind of struggle we face in describing God was illustrated among the Presbyterians when they were debating how to define God in their Westminster Confession of Faith. The debate was intense and so frustrating, they could not agree. Finally someone suggested that they pray, and a man prayed beginning with his address to God:

"There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty."

He we on to make his request for God’s help. After his prayer, he sat down, and they said, "What did he just say? Let’s write that down! That’s our confession of faith about God!" They later added supporting Scripture. They had their definition of God and is included in their Westminister Confession of Faith (1646).

A shorter definition is found in the Nicene Creed written centuries before, "We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible." ~ Nicene Creed (325 A.D.)

Where would you begin to define God?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recommended Systematic Theology Books

Okay, let me answer this question: What more popular systematic theology books have I found especially useful recently as a pastor/preacher for insights and for communication?

Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, "Bruce & Stan’s Guide to God: A User-Friendly Approach" (Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, 1997). High school level, but strong on communication.

Rick Cornish, "5 Minute Theologian: Maximum Truth in Minimum Time" (Colorado Springs, Co.: NavPress, 2004). Excellent definitions and summaries.

Bruce Demarest and Keith J. Matthews, eds., "Dictionary of Everyday Theology and Culture" (Colorado Springs, Co.: Navpress, 2010). Very good at answering "so what?"

Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears, "Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe" (Wheaton, Il.: Crossway, 2010). Good Reformed presentation; weak on the Holy Spirit and end times.

Don Thorsen, "An Exploration of Christian Theology" (Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008). Excellent non-Reformed presentation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"31 Days of Drawing Near to God" by Ruth Meyers

Ruth and Warren Meyers have been especially known for their 31-day collections on praise, prayer, and encouragement. While not as strong as these other three, Ruth describes heartfelt devotional comments in 31 Days of Drawing Near to God, which climax with prayers at the end of every chapter and moves the heart nearer to God.

Her use of multiple Bible translations, memorable quotes, and meaningful personal stories make this book spiritually uplifting. For 31 days, I echoed her prayers that ascended like incense before God.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Soar: Are You Ready to Accept God's Power?" by Kenny Luck

With personal stories and wit, Kenny Luck, president of Every Man Ministries and men's pastor at Saddleback Church, invites men into a powerful journey with the Holy Spirit. Where do you begin?

Using the acronym SOAR . . .

Say "yes" and always "yes" to the Holy Spirit.

Open doors inside to the Spirit's transformative work.

Actively pursue and partner with the Spirit in your everday life.

Release the power of the Spirit to make your maximum impact for God in this world.

Throughout his book, Kenny talks to men, their issues, their concerns, their struggles. In heartfelt language and motivating prayers, encountering the Holy Spirit becomes real, personal, and powerful.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Five Daily Prayers -- Prayer Number Five

Prayer Number 5. Use me for your glory.

I live for God’s pleasure, seeking to please God in all respects.

I was created for doing good works. I aim to be zealous in doing good for God and for others. Faith without action is dead. I want to be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, and serving the Lord by serving others. My ultimate goal is doing everything for God, so God gets the attention and the credit. Whatever I do, I do as unto the Lord, using the gifts he has given, to extend his kingdom in large and mundane ways, in service for my King. I want God to use me.

These five prayers have shaped my prayer life. More accurately speaking, I might not pray these prayers seven days a week. But I do find my heart often returning to these familiar prayer thoughts and themes with such regularity that they often become daily.

Listen to your own heart. What prayer habits have you established? What anchors in prayer have you developed? What themes dominate your prayer life? Let us together be people of prayer.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Five Daily Prayers -- Prayer Number Four

Daily Prayer Number 4. Lead and guide me today.

As the new day stands before me, I need God’s guidance. I need direction in organizing my to-do list and in responding to needs that arise. People, projects, conversations, opportunities, assignments, communications, the planned, the unexpected. I seek God’s staff of leadership to direct me.

God guides me with his eye upon me. He guides me with his peace. God will work out his work through my work. My plans committed to God will be reached. When I get to the end of the day, I can be assured that I have accomplished everything God wanted me to accomplish. For regular days, I seek to follow God’s agenda for my life that day. For difficult days, I remind myself that God will bring nothing into my life except by his love and sovereignty. I seek God’s guidance.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Five Daily Prayers -- Prayer Number Three

Daily Prayer Number 3: Fill me with your Holy Spirit.

With sin and self out of the way, I need the fullness of Jesus to breathe new life into me. Daily cleansing, daily dying, daily infilling.

Apart from Jesus I can do no thing. I need to be continuously filled with God’s Holy Spirit. I take time to pray this, to linger in God’s presence, to receive fresh anointing. I ask to be filled. With confidence I know I am going to be filled. By faith receiving, I am now being filled. With gratefulness, I thank God for filling me. I receive God’s infilling for today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Five Daily Prayers -- Prayer Number Two

Daily Prayer Number 2: I die to myself, Lord.

Not only do I need forgiveness, I need to take a fresh trip to the cross and die out to my self-centered nature – stubbornness, waywardness, selfishness. I want what I want, when I want it. It’s my way. My heart is deceitful, and I can deceive myself. The good I want to do, I don’t do. The bad I don’t want to do, I do. It’s something more than specific sins I struggle with. It’s me. It’s my sin nature. I need to bend my will to God’s will and yield to others.

Even Jesus prayed, “Not my will but yours be done in me.” I can ask God to search my heart, to deliver me from hurtful ways, to drain every wrongful attitude, desire, thought, or motivation from me. I die daily.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Five Daily Prayers -- Prayer Number One

Five prayers have shaped my daily prayer life probably for the past three decades. Five thoughts or themes frequently dominate my first or last thoughts in prayer. And when I’m in a hurry, these five things might be my only prayers!

What are these five daily prayers before God?

Prayer Number 1: Cleanse me by the blood of Jesus.

I know I need regular cleansing from sin – things I’ve done, or left undone, or things compared with God’s holiness I have fallen short of unintentionally. I need God’s forgiveness.

My prayers will not be answered if I have sin in my life. God cannot look at my sin with favor or approval. I can only stand before a holy God when I’m clean on the inside. Sin crushes my whole being; forgiveness releases my whole being. Praise God, the blood of Jesus cleanses me from every sin. I keep short accounts with God. I pray my spirit clean.