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This is a four part series to help us to learn how to hear from God. The best way to read through this is to start with the Introduction and then go through Part 1, Part 2 etc. until you are through Part 4.
You can get to the different sections by clicking the links to the right or just scrolling down to the bottom. Please feel free to post comments or questions or you can also send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of all HAVE FUN getting to know God! :)
Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went off with the noblemen from Moab. As he was going, though, God's anger flared. The angel of God stood in the road to block his way. Balaam was riding his donkey, accompanied by his two servants. When the donkey saw the angel blocking the road and brandishing a sword, she veered off the road into the ditch. Balaam beat the donkey and got her back on the road.
But as they were going through a vineyard, with a fence on either side, the donkey again saw God's angel blocking the way and veered into the fence, crushing Balaam's foot against the fence. Balaam hit her again.
God's angel blocked the way yet again—a very narrow passage this time; there was no getting through on the right or left. Seeing the angel, Balaam's donkey sat down under him. Balaam lost his temper; he beat the donkey with his stick.
Then God gave speech to the donkey. She said to Balaam: "What have I ever done to you that you have beat me these three times?"
Balaam said, "Because you've been playing games with me! If I had a sword I would have killed you by now."
The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you've ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?"
He said, "No."
Then God helped Balaam see what was going on: He saw God's angel blocking the way, brandishing a sword. Balaam fell to the ground, his face in the dirt.
God's angel said to him: "Why have you beaten your poor donkey these three times? I have come here to block your way because you're getting way ahead of yourself. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she hadn't, I would have killed you by this time, but not the donkey. I would have let her off."
See I wasn’t kidding, God used a donkey to talk to a guy! The thing is, God is God. That may sound obvious but being God, he can do what ever he wants. He can use anything, anytime, anywhere to talk to us. Sometimes I think he likes using something crazy like a donkey to talk to us just to get our attention.
Don’t ever put God in a box. Don’t ever try to limit how you are willing to hear from him. If you do, you risk missing out on some of the truly great experiences in life.
One of the ways that God talks to me is through circumstances. One of my constant struggles is that I am a doer. That is, I like to accomplish things. I like to get things done. Now that may not sound like a bad thing and sometimes it isn’t but sometimes, I get so caught up in doing stuff and getting stuff done that, like Balaam, I get out in front of God’s plans for me. I start forcing things to happen before it’s time.
Several years ago, God used circumstances to teach me about this problem. At that time, I was going through a season when I was really trying to push things, to make things happen. As usual, I kind of knew that I was doing it, but I was too caught up in it to see it as harmful or out of God’s will. Over a series of weeks, I started to notice a pattern. I began to notice that I kept literally opening doors on things I shouldn’t.
For example, I was at work and I needed my boss’ signature on something. His door was closed, but I was really focused on getting that signature, so I knocked and just walked in (NOT a good idea…ever). I walked in on my boss, the president of the company and my co-worker who was “being let go.”
Then a few days later, I was scheduled to be interviewed to be a deacon at my church. I went to the room where the interview was to take place and the door was closed and locked. It happened to be a room where I had been doing Prison Ministry, so I knew the combination to the lock box. So, I pop open the lock box and go barging into the room, only to barge in on another candidate’s interview. This kept happening, different situations for several weeks.
Then I went on a trip to Greece and it continued to happen there. We were at a museum, I was looking for the bathroom, opened a door into what I guess was a room where they repaired the exhibits…you have never heard people yell SO LOUD in your life! I have no idea what they were saying but I can tell you they were not happy! Then, we were on a boat visiting the islands off of the coast of Greece. I was looking for the bathroom again. I found it but the door was kind of sticking. “Huh, that’s weird.” I thought to myself and yanked it as hard as possible. It came flying open and there was this poor Asian woman, using the bathroom and scared to death by the huge crazy American woman who just broke the door down! I didn’t speak her language, she didn’t speak mine, so I couldn’t even really apologize.
Finally I realized that this was happening so frequently there must be something that I needed to learn from all of this, beyond just the obvious that I should stop going through doors that I shouldn't go through, and I began to pray. I have learned that something that happens once or twice can be a coincidence, but once it happens three times or more, God is often trying to get my attention.
As I began to pray and ask God what I was supposed to understand about this, he started to show me that this is what happens when I charge ahead of him. I end up in places at the wrong time, not getting to the thing I was trying to get to and sometimes, scaring the pants off of people.
For the rest of the trip, I felt like he told me that I was literally not to open any doors (unless it was to get out of a room that I was alone in). It sounds crazy, but I did it and I learned a lot from this exercise. In the end, I can’t say that I am completely changed. I still sometimes get caught up in doing and get out ahead of God’s will for my life. However, I am a lot quicker to realize it and when I do, I can picture the woman’s face from the bathroom on the boat, remember what I learned from the exercise of not opening any doors for a week and more quickly get back into God’s will for my life.
The Rule of Three:
I briefly mentioned the “Rule of three” above and we also saw it in the story about the donkey talking to Balaam. I don’t remember who first pointed this out to me but I have found it to be very true. When God is really trying to get my attention about something, he will usually bring it up in at least three different ways in pretty quick succession.
For example, recently my Pastor posted a short message on Facebook regarding God’s funding of ministry and that if God gave you the vision, he will provide the funding. Later that same day, I got an email from someone completely unconnected to my church that had the same message. The next day, I was talking to a friend on the phone and they started talking about the same thing. So, God has my attention…I am still waiting to see what this one means or how it plays out in my life, but he has my attention.
Exercise to hear God in the unexpected places:
Think about the last month. Identify any things that seemed to be repeatedly happening or brought to your attention (e.g. three or more times). Write them down and pray. Ask God to give you wisdom about them. Continue to think about it until you get your answer.
The point is, God can and will talk to us anytime, anywhere and using any means, if we will just pay attention. When we pay attention, when we hear him, when we do what he tells us to do, we get closer to him and our lives are better. Our lives become more fulfilling, more full of joy and make a bigger difference to the people around us.
Let’s start with prayer. What do you think of when I say prayer? Many people think of long, formal entreaties to God. Many people think you have to be a Priest or a Pastor to really know how to pray “right.” But, when I look at the Bible and see the prayers of people in the Bible, I don’t see that. I see people crying out to God. Sometimes, they are crying out in pain and asking for help. Sometimes they are crying out in fear, sometimes in joy. But really, they are just telling God what is on their minds. Let‘s look at some prayers from the Bible:
...God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, "Help! Murder! Police!" before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.
God, I'm not trying to rule the roost, I don't want to be king of the mountain. I haven't meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. I've kept my feet on the ground, I've cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother's arms, my soul is a baby content.
And those are both from the old testament, before Jesus redeemed us with his blood and gave us direct access to the Father. Now that we are covered in the blood, Jesus invites us to pray to God in his (Jesus) name: John 16:23-24"This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I've revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he'll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!”
There are a lot of different ways to look at prayer. I tend to think of prayer in three categories or types.
- Personal prayer time
- Praying the Word
- Praying in the Spirit.
Personal Prayer time-
My personal time prayer time is pretty much what you see at http://www.whatgodsaidtonight.blogspot.com/ . It is just my time telling God what is on my mind. Sometimes it is the things I think I need or want for me. Other times it is about the needs of other people. Sometimes it is just being thankful and praising and worshiping God. This personal time prayer is kind of an “anything goes” prayer time where I am just letting God know what is going on with me and then waiting to see what he has to say about it.
Prayer is our time to pour out our hearts to God. But, then, the really amazing thing is, prayer is a time for God to talk back to us. It is a conversation. When we pray, we can expect God to answer Isaiah 65:24 says, “I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!”
For me, “hearing God” during this type of prayer time is words that he puts in my head. I usually don’t hear him as an audible voice, but there are words, thoughts in my head that are not mine, that fill me with peace and line up with the Bible. Then, later, I see what ever it is that he has said apply to my life or come true in my life. This is especially true when he tells me to do something and I do it, that is when I really get to see God work. He said it, I do it and I get what he said I would get.
There are three key questions to measure or test whether what we think is God’s voice is really him or not.
- Does it agree or disagree with the Bible?
If it does not agree with the Bible, IT IS NOT GOD. God will NEVER contradict the Bible. If you are still learning the Bible (truthfully, we are all still learning the Bible) and you are not sure if it agrees or not, use the tools in “Part 1: The Bible…” to investigate and ask some of the people that you connected with in “Part 2: Pastors, Preachers and Ministers…” to help.
- Does it give you a feeling of peace, confidence, assurance?
If it does not, if it fills you with anxiety, doubt, fear, discomfort, it is probably not God. This is the easiest one to figure out on your own. Just ask yourself how you feel. Do you feel good or bad? It really is that simple. God only gives us good things. Sometimes he will tell me things I may not want to hear (e.g., when he told me I had to quit smoking after 20+ years of being a 1.5 pack a day smoker) but when he said it, I wasn’t afraid. I felt at peace even though I had no idea how I would do it at the time. Praise God I am now smoke free for over 7 years…but that is a testimony for another time…
- Does what he says become true in your life? Does what he said would happen actually happen? If you do something he has told you to do, do you get what he told you would have? God does not lie so if he said it, it will happen. This one can be tricky. There have been times when I thought that God had told me something but nothing happened right away so I thought I had missed it, that it wasn’t God. Then, years later, what he said comes through and I realize it was him, I just wasn’t patient enough. However, in general, look at what you believe he has said (this is where journaling your prayers and what God says to you really comes in handy) and look at what happens.
After time, you will begin to recognize his voice consistently.
Exercise to hear God in your personal prayer time:
Try journaling your personal prayer time and what you think God says to you in return at least once a week for one month. After one month, read back over what you have journaled and see if what he said is working in your life. You may also gain some other insights by reading over what you are praying about over time. If you like the experience, keep it up! If not, keep praying but feel free to drop the journaling part of it.
Praying the Word -
All this really means is finding the scriptures in the Bible that relate to your situation or the situation of the person you are praying for and speaking those promises out loud to yourself and to God. The hard part about this kind of prayer is that you need to know your Bible.
There are great tools that can help. Our good old websites at http://www.blueletterbible.org/ or http://www.biblegateway.com/ can be a big help. Also, June Newman Davis wrote a book called Scripture Keys that has just about every issue we could ever go through in it with the related scriptures. She has since made it available on line for free at http://wherepeacefulwaters.com/scriptures/scripture_keys.htm . There are a lot of other “scripture keys” type books that are good. Ask at your local Christian bookstore and they can help you find one that works for you. You may also find that your Bible has a good concordance in the back that helps you find the scriptures that relate to your situation.
The easy part of this kind of prayer is that you don’t ever have to wonder if God will hear or answer it. When you are praying the word, you can know without a shadow of a doubt that God will take care of it, because it is something he has already promised to us.
When I am praying for someone else, I am always careful to pray the word of God over their situation because I want to be sure that they get what they need. This is the best way I know to do that.
Exercise to pray the Word of God:
Using the websites http://www.blueletterbible.org/ or http://www.biblegateway.com/ or http://wherepeacefulwaters.com/scriptures/scripture_keys.htm or other tools (Scripture keys or your Bible’s concordance) find at least three scriptures that talk about the promises God has related to the following topics:
- Physical healing
- Your current biggest need
When you have the scriptures for #3, your biggest need, say the scriptures out loud. You may want to say, “God, it is written that…” There is power in speaking God’s word out loud so be sure to do this out loud. Keep those scriptures handy and every time you need to be reassured about what God has promised you, read them out loud again. Then, get ready to see God do something great in your life according to his promise!
Praying in the Spirit (speaking in tongues) -
Ok, now if you haven’t learned about this before, or even if you have but haven’t yet experienced it for yourself, you may be a little freaked out by this next section. That is ok, most people are at first, but try to keep an open mind and get through this, believe me, it is worth it!
Let’s look at some of what God has to say about praying in the Holy Spirit from the Bible:
Ephesians 6:18 “Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.”
Acts 2:4 Talking about the apostles who were praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit to come after Jesus had ascended to heaven, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
So praying/speaking in “tongues” (also called your “heavenly language” or “praying in the Spirit”) is Biblical. When someone is baptized in the Holy Spirit, one of the ways it comes out is they speak in a language that they do not know, sometimes a language that no one knows.
You will hear some people say that “tongues” are from the devil. I like what Bishop Leonard always says about that. He says that in all the time he spent hanging out in the bars, living like the devil before he was saved, he never once heard anyone speaking in tongues. He never even thought about it until he was saved!
What is this heavenly language? It is the Holy Spirit speaking through us. The great thing about this kind of prayer is that it is essentially the Holy Spirit praying for you. There is a lot of power in this kind of prayer.
I will pray in my heavenly language when I need encouragement and don’t know how else to pray. I pray in my heavenly language when I don’t know how to pray for someone else. I pray softly in my heavenly language when someone else is praying to lend support and God’s power to their prayer. Sometimes I just pray in the Spirit when I need strength. I ALWAYS feel better when I pray in the Spirit.
It will often feel weird at first. You may wonder. “How do I know whether I am really praying in the Spirit or whether I am just blabbering nonsense?” The best test of this I have heard is something Pastor Mark Leonard taught, the “red truck test.” When you are talking about one thing, it is almost impossible to think about something else without that something else coming out of your mouth eventually. For example, start talking about something, anything, and try to think about a red truck while you are talking but don‘t talk about the red truck…could you do it? I can’t. But, when you are praying in the Sprit, you can easily think about a red truck or anything else and continue to pray, because it isn’t you speaking. If you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and have your heavenly prayer language, give it a try…could you do it? Yep, me too!
If you have not received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and have never prayed in tongues, read the book of Acts. Pay careful attention to the following verses: Acts 1:4-5, 2:1:21, 19:9, 10:46 .
Then, when you are ready, just begin to pray and ask for God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Keep praying and worshiping. If you are not sure what to say, just say, “Hallelujah” or “Thank you Jesus” and keep saying it. After awhile, you will begin to feel something kind of bubbling up out of you…go with it even if it feels weird at first. Just let your mouth speak whatever comes out. Then just let it keep coming. You will likely feel a great release when this happens and you will feel the Spirit of God in you. A lot of people cry, especially the first time, because it is such a powerful experience.
Congratulations! You have just gotten closer to God and you now have a power in your life, in your prayers that you didn’t have before. You will begin to notice changes in the effectiveness of your prayers and in the effectiveness of your life.
Now, let’s talk about worship. Worship is a sacrifice. True worship will cost you something. There are a lot of ways to worship God. The most traditional way is through words or songs. The book of Psalms in the Bible is essentially songs of worship. Worship can be something you do alone with God or it can be something you do with other people (e.g., during a church service). But true worship is more than singing a song.
God tells us to worship him in spirit and in truth: John 4:23 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”
Now to tell you the truth, I am still figuring out what that means, but what I do know is that true worship requires that I sacrifice and give something of myself. When I sing in worship, I sing from my gut. I almost always have my eyes closed because I want to shut out everything except for me and God. I often end up on my knees or flat out on my face because I am giving my all to God and can’t really stand up anymore.
When I worship God with words, it is often like this post from the What God said tonight blog:
My prayer: Mighty God, awesome Father, teacher, healer, savior and redeemer. Everything I need. The Lord of creation who claims me as his own. The God of more than enough. He that owns the cattle on a thousand hills and who's streets are paved with gold. The one who loves me enough to die for me and even more, to be resurrected for me. I am here tonight God just to worship you.
I don't have an agenda tonight. You know my needs and wants before I do. I just want to recognize you and worship you. You are the peace that passes all understanding. You are the calmer of the storms. You are the one that makes me smile in the morning and sigh in contentment in the evening.
You are the reason I can love. You are the reason I am healed. You are the reason for my life. You make a way out of no way. You are the one who gives me my dreams, my aspirations and then you are the one who makes them possible.
You are the master of the time and the universe and everything. You are the one true answer to every question ever asked. You are my whole world. Nothing is possible without you and all things are possible with you. God, I remember all that you have done for me and praise you for always making a way. God, I am grateful for where I am today. God I am hopeful and trusting you for tomorrow. I adore you and my heart swells at the thought of you.
Here is what God said in response that night to my worship:
Wow daughter, that was beautiful! The fact that you are here and wanting to spend time with me is enough but to have you pour out your heart touches me in a way that is difficult to describe. David did that. He would, for no reason, just pour out his heart in love for me. That is why I said he was a man after my own heart. His love and worship reached out to my heart in a way that was truly phenomenal.
Worship is an interesting thing. Whatever you worship gets bigger in your life. One of the reasons that I tell you not to have any gods above me, to not worship false gods, is because I know that this happens. What ever you worship and pay attention to gets bigger in your life.
I want to be the biggest thing in your life. When I am the biggest thing, everything else is manageable. You don't worry so much about things turning out. You don't worry so much about food on the table, clothes on your back and a roof over your head. You trust me when I am big in your life. That's when we really get to do the fun stuff.
When you are focused on me, we can accomplish great things. Keep worshiping me daughter, not because I need it but because you need it. Keep making me first so you can see every dream realized.
You are so precious and I don't want to lose one moment with you. Don't waste your time on the things that don't matter. Focus on me and the things that matter. Focus on people, focus on love, focus on the purpose that I have put in you so you don't miss a moment with me. This week has great promise but you will need to focus. I love you daughter, tonight and always.
So, we worship God not just for his sake but for our own sake. Every time we worship him, he becomes bigger in our life and the rest of our problems issues, tests, and trials become smaller.
There is power in worship. I have known people who have experienced great miracles during worship, like the woman who was healed of a broken leg during worship, took off her temporary cast and started dancing! Or like the young man whose eyes were healed during worship. I have also heard about but have not personally witnessed yet, gems (e.g., diamonds, sapphires, emeralds) falling our of the ceiling during praise or just showing up in pockets or Bibles. There is power in true worship.
There are other ways to worship God. You can worship him with a financial offering, with service or with a gift of some other type. If it is a sacrifice in honor of him, it is worship.
Exercise to worship God with your words:
Write God a letter (or email :) ) telling him everything you love about him. If you are just getting to know him, it might be a short letter, but just make sure it is heartfelt and that you really pour yourself into it. Take your time and really think about what you love about him and then write it down. Save the letter. 30 days later, write another letter telling him what you love about him. Do this for at least 3 months, every 30 days. Then go back and read all three letters together and see how your relationship and appreciation of God has grown.
There are so many amazing worship singers, musicians and leaders, there is no way to include them all here, but here are some that really help me to connect with God.
In alphabetical order:
Todd Agnew: http://toddagnew.com/
Brad Braland: http://bradbraland.com/
Matt Maher: http://www.mattmahermusic.com/
Meredith Maudlin: http://www.meredithmauldin.com/
Peter Spencer: http://www.soundofpassion.com/
Will Strickland: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=501684518&ref=ts
Steve Swanson: http://www.fobworshipmin.org/
Jason Upton: http://www.jasonupton.net/site/
Kim Walker: http://www.myspace.com/kimwalker2
I also love the online radio station from Elijah List called Elijah Streams http://elijahstreams.com/ . They always seem to find amazing worship singers and musicians that no body else knows about yet.
Check them out and see what you think. But remember, worship isn’t about the musician, the singer or the song and it isn’t even about you. It is about God. True worship will take some work from you. It will take sacrifice but the benefits are immediate and lasting.
Exercise to increase your worship of God:
Try to find at least one way to worship God each day. At the end of each day, review the ways that you have worshipped him. If you can’t think of any, take some time and worship him before you go to bed. Worship him in words, in song, in some other sacrifice, but don’t let the day end without worshipping him.
To hear God, we need someone to preach to us, to teach us. Someone who has been there and done that. Preacher, Pastors, Ministers, whatever they are called in your church, have been given an assignment from God to teach us about him and how to live for him. There are A LOT of them and thank God for each and every one! But, much like different translations of the Bible, not every preacher, pastor, minister etc. will have the same level of impact on your life. Choosing who you listen to on a regular basis can be one of the most important decisions you make as a Christian.
There are some really practical things to consider when you are choosing who to listen to. The following are three key questions to ask yourself when deciding on who to learn from:
- Do they preach the word of God? If they do not back up what they preach with Bible, be very careful!
- Look at their life. Do they have the qualities, experiences etc. that you want in your life? You want to choose to listen to people who can take you where you want to go and people can only take you where they have already been.
- The connection factor. Sometimes you just connect with some people and others you don’t. That gut feeling, spiritual connection, soul connection, whatever it is, is real and it matters. Pay attention to it.
When I finally got serious about living my life for God, I was led to a GREAT church and an amazing Bishop who taught me how to live for God. The way I got there was one of those “coincidences” that you know has to be God.
I was at a really low point in my life. I was passively suicidal. I wasn’t ready to slit my wrists, but I lived with a constant thought that I would be better off dead. I drove home from work everyday on I-70 and I often thought, “Wouldn’t it be easy to just keep going straight when this interstate turns up ahead and drive off the overpass?” Day after day, nothing but gray depression.
Then one night, I turned on the tv and there was this blond preacher. I went to quickly change the channel because the last thing I wanted to hear was another preacher spout off about how I needed to send him all my money. But, just as I was getting ready to change the channel, he said something, and I wish I remembered now what it was, but I don’t. Whatever it was, it made me think, wait a minute, this guy has something to say. And he did have something to say.
He taught the Bible in a way I hadn’t seen before. He made it practical to my life. He gave me steps and skills to try out and when I did what he said, my life got better. Now as I learned more of the Bible, I began to understand that everything Bishop was teaching was directly out of the word of God (Yes to Key question #1) and that is why it worked; but at first, I just learned to trust what Bishop said because it worked.
After a couple of months of watching him on tv, he got to the end of the program where he would talk directly to the tv audience and he said, “TV can’t be your church. If you’re in the Denver area, get into HCC.” Well, that was pretty weird because I had made tv my church and I did live in the Denver area and it seemed like he was talking directly to me!
So the next Sunday, I drove to the church and sat in the parking lot. I didn’t even know if I was going to go in. But as I sat there, I watched all of these different people go in. Some were black, some were white, some were Hispanic, Korean, Japanese, all kinds of different people and they all had one thing in common, they were smiling! They were happy to be going to church. I had never seen that before. After awhile, I decided to go in.
From then on, I was hooked. I saw Bishop’s life, the things that he accomplished, the relationship he had/has with God and said, I want that too (Yes to Key question #2). Then finally, I just liked him, connected with him. Not something that I can explain, but at some kind of gut level, I understood him. (Yes to Key question #3). HCC remained my church for the next 12 years and was the home that taught me how to know God, hear God and live my life for God.
Throughout the years, I have found many other amazing preachers, pastors, ministers, evangelists, prophets and people without titles that have all taught me so much. Below are some of the people that really have helped me to know and hear God. There are many more that I don’t have listed but this is a place for you to start.
Take a look, apply the three questions to each person and see what you think. The main thing is, fill your life with people who can teach you about God and help you connect with him. You won’t be sorry!
In Alphabetical order:
- Pastor Darlene Bishop: http://www.darlenebishop.org/
- Evangelist Arthur Blessitt: http://www.blessitt.com/
- Bill and Marsha Burns: http://ft111.com/
- Evangelist Jesse Duplantis: http://www.jdm.org/jdmDefault.aspx
- Bishop TD Jakes: http://www.tdjakes.org/
- Pastor Bill Johnson: http://www.bjm.org/home.html
- Bishop Dennis Leonard: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bishop-Dennis-Leonard-Official-Site/297837263649
- Pastor Mark Leonard: http://pastormarkleonard.com/
- Dr. Joyce Meyers: http://www.joycemeyer.org/
- Pastor Perry Stone: http://www.voe.org/
- Pastor Joe Wood: http://reverbchurch.com/
In this first session we are going to identify some things that are common barriers to understanding the Bible and give you some tools and strategies to overcome those barriers. It is kind of long, but stick with it. Do what you can when you can and before you know it, you will be reading and understanding the Bible and God in a whole new way.
The first barrier for some people is not having a Bible. In many areas of the world, people who want a Bible can get one although it may take some creativity and investigation. In the US, we have Christian book stores all over that sell Bibles for $1.00, ministries that give them away for free regularly and a lot of options. If you don’t have a Bible and can’t afford one, check out these great websites that provide free Bibles:
Additionally, if you have a computer and an internet connection, you have any translation of the Bible that you could want any time you want. There are many free websites that provide multiple translations. Some of my favorite web sites are:
Both of these sites and others not only provide any translation you would want but they have great study tools that help you to understand the original words used, the places that are being talked about and see other people’s thoughts on what each verse means.
Barrier #2-The thees and thous:
Finding the translation of the Bible that makes sense to you is really important. My favorites are the Message translation and the New Living Translation because they are very readable and put the Bible in language that I understand and speak every day.
I know people, good, smart, wonderfully, Godly people who love the King James version with the “thees and thous” and if that is the translation that helps you understand and experience the word of God, that is fantastic!
There is no “right” or “wrong” translation. As long as it stays true to the original words and it makes sense to you, that is the right translation for you.
Let’s take a look at a verse in a couple different translations to see how the same verse can mean the same things but be put in different ways:
Proverbs 6:1-4 My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, [if] thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend. Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.
New Living Translation:
Proverbs 6:1-4 My child, if you co-sign a loan for a friend or guarantee the debt of someone you hardly know-- if you have trapped yourself by your agreement and are caught by what you said-- quick, get out of it if you possibly can! You have placed yourself at your friend's mercy. Now swallow your pride; go and beg to have your name erased. Don't put it off. Do it now! Don't rest until you do.
Dear friend, if you've gone into hock with your neighbor or locked yourself into a deal with a stranger, If you've impulsively promised the shirt off your back and now find yourself shivering out in the cold, Friend, don't waste a minute, get yourself out of that mess. You're in that man's clutches! Go, put on a long face; act desperate. Don't procrastinate— there's no time to lose. Run like a deer from the hunter, fly like a bird from the trapper.
It is the same message, but for me, the NLT and the Message versions make it easier for me to see how it applies to my life. So, spend some time on one of the free online Bible websites and experiment. Find the translation that allows you to see how the word of God applies to your life. You might find that you like more than one translation. For me, I have a “study” Bible that is in one translation, has a lot of study notes and gives a lot of the original Hebrew and Greek word meanings. I like this Bible for times that I am really trying to study and understand the origin of a particular verse or book. But, the Bible I read each night to get to know God better is my Message translation Bible.
Exercise for you to discover which translation works for you:
Look up the following verses in at least three different translations using one of the free online Bible websites (e.g. http://www.blueletterbible.org/ Or http://www.biblegateway.com/ ).
We are all busy. In this world of microwave dinners, autobahns, and high speed internet, we are doing more and doing it all faster. Finding time to add something to that schedule, especially every day, can be a big challenge. If you are like most Christians, you have great intentions to read and study the Bible everyday, but you just don’t seem to get around to it. You mean to do it, but there is always something else that seems to get in the way.
Identify a time during each day that you can consistently read the Bible. Commit to doing it for 7 days. At the end of 7 days, see how you did and evaluate any benefits you have experienced. Make changes if you need to. For example, if you tried doing it first thing in the morning but you typically forgot to do it, try a different time during the day like your lunch break.
- You are not allowed to beat yourself up or feel guilty if you miss a day.
- You are allowed to change the time of day if the first thing you chose is not working.
- You are allowed and encouraged to renew you commitment each day.
Barrier #4-The Bible just doesn’t make sense to me:
For some people, even when they get a translation that they understand, they still can’t understand the relevance of the Bible. One reason is that the Bible uses a lot of symbolism and parables (stories) to explain things. Depending on how your brain works, you will either really like this way of learning or you will just not get it.
Learning through the use of parables usually works really well for the right-brain artistic people but it can be more difficult for the left- brain logical, mathematical people like me. I found when I was first trying to get to know God and read the Bible, I would read a passage and I understood the words but couldn’t see how that was relevant to me. Then, a few days later I would be in church and Bishop would preach on the same passage and suddenly I could see how it applied to my life.
This happened time and again and it started to irritate me that I couldn’t apply the word of God for myself. It started to feel like a challenge. I am one of those people that if someone challenges me to do something or even worse, they tell me I can’t do something, I will move mountains to make sure I get it done. This started a several year quest for me.
What I did was I started asking and writing down the answers to the 6 “reporter” questions to each passage of the Bible that I read--Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Sometimes I would do it with a whole chapter, sometimes with just a couple of sentences depending on my time and where the natural break in the story was. I cannot tell you how this began to open my eyes to the word of God. As I started to really study each section and learn more about everything that went into it, the Bible came alive and I was able to start seeing the relevance to my life myself.
Exercises to help you understand the relevance of the Bible:
Exercise #1:Look up Exodus Chapter 16 verses 1-8. Read the versus and then answer the following questions:
- Who was involved?
- What happened?
- Where did it happen?
- When did it happen?
- How did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
Exercise #2: The next very straight forward approach is to ask yourself at the end of each passage, verse, chapter, “How does this apply to me?” In the words of Pastor Joe Wood, “So what, who cares, how does this apply to me?” God intended the Bible to be a help to us. He wants us to find the relevance in our own lives.
Try this: Look up John 11:45-57 and answer the following questions:
- Who do you identify with in the passage?
- Can you think of a similar situation in your life?
- What can you learn from the situation and outcome in the passage?
- What can you do differently in response to what you now know?
I bet there are other challenges that you will run into, but this will help take care of some of the big ones and hopefully help you find answers to any other barriers you run into. Remember, we are doing this to be closer to God, to hear from God and live the life that he wants for us. He has such an amazing future for each one of us.
You may be reading this blog because you first read the blog "What God said tonight" at www.whatgodsaidtonight.blogspot.com . What God said tonight is one example of how God can speak directly to us but there are many other ways that God speaks to us, including through the Bible, preachers, worship, circumstances and other ways that we will discover.
Before we get into how to hear God, we need to know why we should even care to hear from God. Learning to hear from God is important for many reasons. Maybe the greatest reason to hear from God is to have a relationship with him. Can you imagine having a relationship with someone who you never listen to, you only tell things to them. Imagine having a friend who never wanted to hear what you said and just constantly came to you to tell you what they needed or wanted. Maybe you have had friends like that. Those friendships don’t usually last very long. It is hard to have a relationship that is all one sided. When we learn to hear from God, we begin to have a relationship instead of a religion. We begin to know God for ourselves.
Through getting to know him, we learn how to live this life better. Who better to get advice from that the God of all creation? Who better to get answers from than the God that created every question and every answer ever? On this site you will:
- Develop a closer relationship with God through talking and listening to him
- Understand how God speaks to us
- Obtain resources to help you study the Bible and hear God
- Develop strategies and habits that enable you to hear God regularly
How are we going to accomplish all of this? Together. During this four part series, you will get some information but more importantly, you will get very practical tools to begin applying to your life and begin to know God in a very real and personal way. It is going to take a little work. Nothing great every comes too easy. Will you make the commitment to get closer to God? Let’s take this journey together. I promise you will never regret it!