by Pastor Tim Burt
Learning to hear God’s voice. It is one of the most amazing and wonderfully repeated experiences in my life. To think that Almighty God could and would love, care for, and desire to speak us is mind-blowing! It’s a part of life too few people know or understand much less experience. And when I talk about God speaking to us, it’s not in the same experience that we communicate with each other. God speaks to us in a number of ways which we must learn to discern over time. And most of them happen, in some fashion, as an impression upon the heart.
I remember back to my very first experiences of God speaking to me. I was 24 years old at that time. I had started to attend this Bible teaching church that was totally different from the denominational experience I had grown up under. In my denominational church, it was more religious doings and readings. Since I had experienced it from the time I was a small child, it was all I knew and just accepted that this was as much of an experience with God as I would ever get. If I can be honest—not trying to be offensive to anyone, it just became this dead, repetitious effort to somehow please God that I always felt a failure at. It finally came to the place of me zoning out to pass the time—instead mentally thinking about other more exciting things. When the service was over, I had somehow fulfilled my religious obligation. It’s what I thought God had wanted.
In this Bible teaching church, it was radically different. I’d walk in the door and instead of a library quiet atmosphere, everyone was talking, smiling, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company—even in the sanctuary. When the service began, people were all singing lively songs that worshipped Jesus that were shown up on a screen rather than a hymnal. They were clapping and singing and many even raising their hands like you do when you want to ask a teacher a question. It was later that I discovered they were lifting their hands in praise to the Lord. This was all new to me.
When the Pastor got up to speak, he had on a shirt and tie or something more casual. There was no collar or robes. If it hadn’t been for the warm feeling of love in the place, I would have surely been shocked out of coming back because of how different it was.
When the Pastor got up to speak, he had everyone turn in their Bible. At the beginning I didn’t have one. I had never opened a Bible in all my religious life. We had never used one in church. I would have felt awkward except that the guy next to me figured out I didn’t have one and simply leaned toward me, opened his Bible, looked at me and smiled. He positioned it so that we could both read his, and pointed to the scripture the Pastor was quoting. That was such a relief because I wouldn’t have known how to turn to any place in the Bible. I finally acquired a Bible and attempted to read it—something that was initially quite a challenge.
Almost from the beginning there seemed to be this weird phenomena going on. It seemed like the Pastor must have had a spy camera on my life because he’d talk about things I had recently been thinking about or going through. I seriously thought He might be spying on me or having someone telling him about me. How did he know about me?
Of course the Pastor didn’t know anything about me. He didn’t even know who I was. It was simply the power of the Holy Spirit speaking through his Words to me. When people have their hearts focused on God, expecting to hear from God, there’s a presence of God and powerful things happen. The Words of the Bible come alive! God speaks to you through them! Although I didn’t know enough to describe it this way back then, the Lord was speaking to me through the Pastor and through His Word—the Bible. It couldn’t have been more real!
The Holy Spirit comes to live within each and every person who commits and gives their life to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is like a divine translator. When you are sitting in a church where the presence of God is present, the Holy Spirit will take what is being preached and speak to your heart regarding it. It’s often becomes like a private chat with Jesus. He, through the scriptures, speaks to areas of your life that are practical and relevant and so that you are challenged to become more Christ-like. The message is spoken to everyone present but the Holy Spirit takes what the Pastor is saying, and makes it personal to you and your life. He relates to your personality—to your needs, and within your ability to understand.
This is the job of the Holy Spirit as described by Jesus. John 14:16-17 TLB and John 16:13 NLT say, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize Him. But you do, because He lives with you now and later will be in you… When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth…”
The church is a vital part of how God speaks to and teaches you. God often speaks through a Pastor or minister of the gospel to minister those things that are imperative to your life, your spiritual growth, and your transformation! It’s one of many important ways we begin to learn and hear the voice of God. I assure you I understand that not all churches are created equal. But, attending one that is vibrant and teaches the Bible—God’s Word, is critical and worth seeking out. If you ask God to lead you to one, I promise He will. It’s God’s will for you to go to and have a good church no matter what anyone tells you! That is what Hebrews 10:25 NIV says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day (the day Jesus comes back) approaching.”
This is a warning from the author of Hebrews that as we draw closer to the second coming of Jesus Christ (and we are much closer,) it will be more critical to be in church with other like-minded believers.
You hear voices every day. Some play a more significant part in how your day and life plays out. Many are voices you should probably tune out. God’s voice is one you should desire to hear and esteem above them all. And as you learn to discern and hear God’s voice, it will be more exciting than you can describe! More on learning to discern His voice in your life next time…
Isaiah 50:4 NIV “…He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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