Hearing God – Highlights

Over the past two weeks, we’ve turned our attention to the general question, “How can I get better at hearing and responding to God’s voice?”  Our focus has been on the hearing portion of that question, since for many people, just hearing God’s voice to begin with can be both intimidating and confusing.

Here’s a brief summary of the ideas we’ve considered:

Now, the truth is that while hearing God’s voice is simple enough that children can be taught to do it, it can also be a complex issue with many “what if’s” and an incredibly wide variety of ways that God can to us.  There are a ton of great books available that consider these and even more issues, written by great pastors and theologians like Charles Stanley, Dallas Willard, Mark Batterson, John Ortberg, and others.  Since my blog is intended to be devotional – brief, thought-provoking, and practical, I won’t be going nearly as deep into some of these subjects as I would if I were writing a book exploring the issue.  (Who knows, though – some of these ideas may eventually end up in book form, explored in greater depth!)

Beginning Wednesday, I want to approach the next question on the list you sent me – “How I make time for Jesus every day when there are so many demands on me?”  This question is actually a summary of several related questions, including questions about just what kind of a continual, listening walk we can achieve in God’s presence in this world where we face a constant struggle with issues like the flesh and the world.  Is there a way to enjoy constant communion with God without living in a cave or a monastery?

But today, I want to leave you with a couple of suggested resources.  These 3 books have probably been the most helpful resources to me in practically walking me through growing in hearing God’s voice (apart from the Bible, of course!)  There are many others that I could also recommend, but for me, these were the best.  If you want to explore this idea of hearing God, I would offer these as great resources to consider purchasing and working through (please note that the links are all for Amazon Kindle editions):

  • 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice by Mark Virkler – I referenced this in Friday’s blog.  This is a great book that examines what Scripture teaches, what science is discovering about being still and quiet, and deals with some common objections and issues that arise when we want to hear God’s voice.  It’s packed full of simple, practical exercises and testimonies of people who have tried this.
  • Walking with God:  Talk to Him.  Hear from Him.  Really.  by John Eldredge – Eldredge is one of my favorite authors of all-time.  This is a great book that shares many of his personal experiences of how God has spoken to him, along with insights on how to experience God doing the same for you.  There’s also a workbook that can be purchased to walk you through deeper exploration of his ideas.
  • Questions for Jesus by Tony Stoltzfus – a great workbook that guides you through conversational prayer with Jesus.  Each exercise (and there are fifty-two of them) walk you through a brief Scripture passage, a meditation on the passage, and several sample questions to ask Jesus and to journal answers to as you hear Jesus respond.  This is a great way to begin training yourself to listen to God, using Scripture as the foundation.

I hope these resources and links are helpful to you on your journey.  I’m looking forward to exploring our next question together beginning on Wednesday!  By the way, if you have questions about this subject or any of the links/posts reference above, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment/question on this blog post at www.donwhunter.com.  I will definitely respond!


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.

Hearing God’s Whisper

This week, we’re focusing in on the two primary ways that God speaks to us – through His written Word (the Bible), which we looked at on Wednesday; and by His Holy Spirit, which we are going to consider today.  The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity; He is One with the Father and the Son, and yet also a separate and distinct Person; and He comes to fill and indwell each person who places his/her faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  So if you’re reading this and you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living within you.  And you have the ability to hear Him speak to you – if you’re willing to invest the time to learn to listen to Him.

Early in 2004, I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life.  I was under a great deal of pressure, dealing with stress and conflict, questioning my own leadership and my call to ministry.  I wanted to leave my church.  A number of people in the church wanted me to leave too!  But God wouldn’t let me.  (I wasn’t happy with Him about that.  In my mind, leaving would solve things.  But He wanted to transform me, and He had a work He wanted to do in our church as well.)  I put up a good front for everyone – I felt it was important that I keep our church moving forward, and I felt it was my responsibility as a leader to be strong for everyone else.  Inside, though, I felt like I was dying.

An old friend invited me to join him at a Pastor’s Conference in Toronto.  I went, knowing that I needed a fresh encounter with God, but not knowing what to expect.

b7chtihtyiq4q3lzxsh0

I was not disappointed.  In three days’ time, I met God in a number of different ways, and left refreshed.  One of the ways that I encountered God was through a picture that I saw in my mind.  It was during a time of “soaking” – waiting on God, listening to hear if He would say anything to me, my heart desperate for something…anything.  I wasn’t sleeping; I didn’t have a vision of heaven or hear angels sing, but in my mind’s eye, I saw my heart.  It looked like a wood stove, its door open, the inside cold and cheerless, containing no fire – only cold, gray ashes.  As I watched, I saw two hands reaching in.  They were holding fire, and they placed the fire within the stove.  When the hands pulled away, the fire remained in the stove – in my heart.  I knew immediately that Jesus was re-stoking the fire in my heart.  At that moment, I didn’t feel anything different other than some peace.  I still had problems at home; I was still stressed; I was still full of questions and doubts and fears – but I knew God had spoken to me, and I knew He would give me whatever I needed to get through that time.

God doesn’t always speak in such dramatic images; but He can.  In fact, He often speaks to us inwardly.  He whispers to us as a part of our flow of spontaneous thoughts.  After all, He has promised to renew our minds, and to give us the mind of Christ.

One of the most valuable resources I have ever found to help me personally in learning and growing in this practice is 4 Keys to Hearing God by Mark & Patti Virkler.  I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to go deeper in learning this skill.  They teach these 4 basic steps:

  • Quiet yourself – be still in God’s Presence.  Put some soft worship music on in the background, if that helps you to focus on God.
  • Open the eyes of your heart – ask God to speak to you, and pay attention to any ideas, thoughts, or pictures that cross your mind.
  • Listen to the flow of spontaneous thoughts that comes.  Ask God questions, simple questions, as you would if you were having a conversation with Him – because that’s what you’re doing.  “God, are saying…?”  “God, what do you want to tell me about your love for me?”  “God, I think you are saying…is that really you?”
  • Write it down.  Journal the conversation you are having with God.  You’ll find that often, as you write it down, the conversation will develop and flow.

As you do this, remember that God will never tell you to do anything that contradicts anything in His Word; and He will never violate His character.  If you think you hear God telling you to sin, or to hurt yourself or someone else, it’s not the voice of God.   If feel guilt, that’s not from God.  God convicts us – points out to us where we are wrong – but He does so to correct us, not to shame us.

Why not try it today and tomorrow, and see what God might say to you?  Begin with a simple question each day:  perhaps something like, “God, what is something you enjoy about me?” or “God, what do you want to say to me today?”


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.

This WILL Work!

One way that we can always hear God’s voice is through His Word, the Bible.  66 books written by 40 different authors over the space of about 1500 years, yet with one central story – God’s unconditional love for all people everywhere, resulting in His unrelenting pursuit of relationship with every one of us.  God’s written Word is the standard by which we can judge anything that we hear to determine if it truly is God’s voice or not, because God will not tell us to do anything that contradicts His Word.  God cannot lie – to do so would be against His very nature.  (By the way, if you’re reading this and have questions about the authenticity of the Bible, email me – a short blog post isn’t the place to get into a long discourse or discussion on this, but there is an amazing amount of historical and archaeological evidence that supports the Bible.  I’d be happy to either share it with you or point you in the direction of some great resources on this subject.)

2_timothy_3_16

When I began attending the University of Pittsburgh ( a very long time ago, if you’re wondering), I was hungry to learn about some specific things – computer science, statistics, and applying those disciplines to sports, for example – but I was also hungry, on a personal level, to know more about God and to have a better understanding of the Bible.  I found a reading plan that took me through 10 chapters of the Bible a day – basically, the equivalent of reading through the Bible almost 4 times in a year.  It was an amazing, life-changing time for me – I learned things and saw things in the Bible that I had never seen before.  But I also found that as I learned to know God better through His Word, I learned to hear His voice more clearly.  I found that He spoke through what I was reading and made it personal.  And I’ve learned that He does the same for anyone who spends time reading His Word.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to ask you to read 10 chapters of the Bible today!  But I am going to introduce you (or re-introduce, for some of you) to an ancient and simple practice that is designed to get you into God’s Word and to help you hear Him speak to you through His Word:  Lectio Divine.

Lectio Divina is Latin for “Divine Reading.”  The practice is very simple:

  • Select a short passage of Scripture – just a couple of verses.  Then follow these 4 simple steps:
    • Lectio – Read the passage until a word or phrase stands out that speaks to you.  (Passages from the Psalms or the gospels are great places to begin!)
    • Meditatio – Meditate on the word or phrase that God has pointed out to you.  Now ask Him what He wants to say about it to you.  Listen quietly for a few moments, and write down what you sense God saying.
    • Oratio – Pray the word or phrase back to God, according to what seems appropriate for your situation.  For example, thank Him for what He has shown you; or, ask Him for the gift you’ve discovered to be multiplied in your life; or, claim the promise over yourself and your family; or, ask Him to show you more about what you’ve read.
    • Contemplatio – Contemplate – remain with the word/phrase you’ve found, sitting and listening more to anything else God may want to say to you.

And that’s it!  Simple, isn’t it?  But it’s a great way for anyone, no matter how familiar or unfamiliar they are with God’s Word, to spend 10 minutes a day with God and His Word, practicing hearing Him.

Hear are a few brief passages for you to use if you’d like to try this for the rest of the week:

  • Today:  Psalm 16:7-8
  • Thursday:  Psalm 46:1-3
  • Friday:  Psalm 62:5-7
  • Saturday:  John 10:9-11

Give it a try!  And let me know – what is God saying to you this week?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.

“God Told Me…”

One of the issues that will always come up when people talk about hearing God’s voice is, “how do I know that it’s God’s voice that I’m really hearing?”  That’s a valid question.  Sometimes, behind that question are other considerations, such as “would God really speak to ME?”; “how do I know I’m not just imagining this or making it up”; or even, “I don’t want everyone to think I’m crazy!”  Most of us have had the experience at some time or another in our lives of someone we know claiming, “God told me…” and using it to justify something unreasonable or even selfish.  Most of us can identify with Lily Tomlin, who once wondered, “Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying but when God talks to us, we’re schizophrenic?”  (And I don’t quote that to minimize mental illness in any way.  Obviously, mental health is a serious issue.)

god-told-me

My personal experience has been that when someone is quick to say, “God told me to…” then often, they are justifying something that they shouldn’t do.  But when someone is convinced deeply but reluctant to admit “I think this is what God wants me to do” then for the most part, they are humbly actually doing something that God has spoken to them.  It’s not a hard and fast rule; just my observation.

As I was growing up, I saw this demonstrated to me time and time again by my parents.  My brother Dave and I grew up as “PK’s” – preacher’s kids – a wonderful and horrible thing!  It meant that there were times when we ended up moving to a different church in a new community because our parents sensed God’s directing and calling to do that.  Dave and I weren’t always excited about leaving friends and familiar places, but looking back, I can see from the fruit in the churches that my parents served as well as the fruit in our own lives, that my parents WERE hearing from God.

If you’re reading this, you probably want to hear God; you probably don’t want to be deceived or misled; you really do want to hear God and you don’t want to be crazy about it; you want to be sure it’s actually God you’re hearing, and not just your own thoughts; and you’ve probably struggled with this issue of hearing God.  So let’s go for it this week.  Today, let me share with you a few foundational facts that I’ve learned over the years that have helped me to grow in hearing God’s voice.  Then on Wednesday and Friday, I’m going to walk you through two very simple but powerful ways of hearing God.

Some important truths:

  • God loves you
  • God is smarter than you – He knows things you don’t know – and He wants to share them with you.
  • God wants you to grow, God wants the best for you, and God doesn’t want you to be deceived.
  • God is God, and He can speak in any way He wants – including through donkeys.  (Remember Balaam in the Old Testament????)  But most of the time, God speaks through two primary sources – His Word, and His Holy Spirit.
  • You can absolutely hear God speak to you.  He created you with that capacity!  In fact, the primary thing you were created for was to have a relationship with Him, with everything else – your roles, your gifts, your talents and abilities, your relationships, your dreams and goals – flowing out of that relationship!

Now let me re-phrase those and personalize them for you:

  • God loves me!
  • God is smarter than me – He knows things I don’t know – and He wants to share them with me!
  • God wants me to grow, God wants the best for me, and God doesn’t want me to be deceived.
  • God is God, and He can speak to me in any way that He wants.  Most of the time, God will speak to me through two primary sources – His Word, and His Holy Spirit.
  • I can absolutely hear God speak to me.  He created me with that capacity!  In fact, the primary thing for which I was created was to have a relationship with Him!

My suggestion is that you take five minutes, go somewhere where you can be uninterrupted, and read the five statements above out loud to yourself five times.

Do the same tomorrow, and then again Wednesday morning when you first get up.  Then on Wednesday, we’ll talk about the first simple but powerful tool that all of us can use to help us hear God.


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.

Hearing God’s Voice: Simplify!

Hearing God’s voice requires paying attention, as I mentioned in my last post.  I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “requires” I start to wonder where grace comes into the picture.  But this is one of the paradoxes of hearing God’s voice – it can require effort, in that there are certain specific things that we can do to position ourselves better to hear God.  On the other hand, though, hearing God’s voice is something that should come naturally to us, without effort – Jesus made this clear when He said, “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27, NASB).

start-by-listening

One of the most pressure-filled and difficult times in my life was in 1996, when Jewel and I decided to resign from our church in Brandon, Florida.  We knew God was calling us to something different; we just weren’t sure what, or where, or how.  We thought that maybe we were supposed to plant a Vineyard church, or at least be on staff at a Vineyard church.  The problem?  I resigned without knowing anything.  We had 6 weeks worth of severance pay from our church, no place to live, no plan as far as where to plug in, and no clue as to what this should all look like.  Needless to say, I was desperate to hear God’s voice so I could provide for my family and so I could make sure we ended up in the right place.  (Desperation can be a good thing in our pursuit of God; but it can also introduce fear and panic and a lot of other things that aren’t healthy or helpful.)  The pressure was enormous, and I certainly did everything I possibly could to hear God’s voice!

Looking back, I would have done things a lot differently – like hearing God more clearly before I resigned, waiting on the Lord more patiently, and several other things.  We ended up in the right place, eventually, but we went through some very difficult times financially, spiritually, and emotionally because we moved in the way that we did and when we did.  I helped create an atmosphere where we were trying to force hearing God’s voice.

As I was thinking about this post, I was reminded of the prophet Samuel’s first encounter with God.  Samuel was sleeping, and he heard a voice.  After mistaking the voice for his mentor Eli’s voice three times, he finally responded to the voice, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

I think we can make hearing God’s voice too complicated.  Sometimes it’s as simple as, like a child, declaring our heart’s intent to listen, and then listening.

I know, I know.  Sometimes it’s very difficult to hear God’s voice.  And we’ll get into that in future posts.  But sometimes, we’re just trying too hard.

Sometimes, we need to stop running around, trying this method and doing that program and reading this book and asking that person for a word from the Lord.

Sometimes, we just need to be like a child.  Like Samuel.  And we just need to listen.

God loves us.  He is always speaking, and He wants us to hear Him.

Jesus promised that His sheep WOULD hear His voice.

Let me re-phrase those sentences:

God loves YOU.  He is always speaking to YOU, and He wants YOU to hear Him.

Jesus promised that as His sheep, YOU WOULD hear His voice.

Stop striving.  Simply listen, child-like in your faith that He will speak.

Try it sometime today.  Take some time to be quiet, some time to be uninterrupted.  Close your eyes.  (If you fall asleep, that’s okay!  It didn’t stop God from speaking to Samuel!)  Ask God a question, if you like.  Something simple; something that you’re not stressed about.  And then tell Him that you’re listening.

What is He saying to you?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.

To Hear God’s Voice

Before I can grow in hearing and obeying God’s voice, I first have to begin to hear God’s voice.  Sounds simplistic, but it is true.  However, that doesn’t solve anything for us.  There are some difficulties involved in hearing God’s voice.

I will never forget a devotional message that I once heard Dr. David Rambo, former president of the C&MA, share with a group of pastors in Colorado Springs.  We were there as newly-licensed workers with the C&MA, eager to learn and to dive into our ministries.  We were filled with ideas and dreams about how we were going to change the world by first changing our churches.

But Dr. Rambo challenged us to begin by changing ourselves.  That morning, he told us that the primary responsibility of any pastor, and in fact, any follower of Jesus, was to know God – not to serve Him.  And then he said something like this – “It is a very difficult proposition to get to know someone who is invisible.”  Quite true!  And this is an important point when it comes to hearing God – it’s not quite as simple as sitting down with a friend across a table and having a conversation with them.

Or is it?

As I think about hearing God, it occurs to me that God is a Person, even if He is a divine Person.  And because He is a Person, I hear Him in some of the same ways as I hear other people.  Just not all the same ways, because obviously, my relationship with Him is different from my relationship with anyone else.

But here’s the one major similarity between hearing God and hearing anyone else – in order to hear, I have to listen.

“C’mon, Hunter!  You’re wasting our time with this one!  We all know that!” you think as you read this.

But DO we all know that?

I have a problem with listening.  I don’t like to admit it, but I do.  I find that there are times when Jewel talks to me about something, then asks me what I think, and I’m just sitting there fumbling for words:  “Uhhhhh…..”  Because I wasn’t really listening.  I had let my mind wander; I had jumped on the first thing she had said and had let my mind race ahead, assuming what was going to come next and missing what she actually thought and said; I had heard something somewhere in what she was saying and let my mind chase off on a rabbit trail from that point.  Or something she said triggered something that I had to tell her, and in my need to get my words out, I hadn’t listened to her well.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have times that we don’t listen well.  We live in such a busy, distracting world – we have so much going on in our lives; we know so many people; we have so many things that we need to deal with and handle; and our phones are constantly notifying us of appointments, tasks, sports scores, the latest news, the latest Facebook comments, or our friends’ tweets.  It creates an atmosphere where we are easily distracted and often so focused on being heard that we can end up not hearing well, no matter how good our intentions may be.

So here’s our starting point when it comes to hearing God – we have to listen.  In Psalm 46:10, God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Before we deal with the issues like “how do I know I’m really hearing from God” and “how do I hear Him better” and several practical ways that we can hear God speak, we must begin with just learning to sit still and listen.  (By the way, this is a great exercise to do with your spouse – just sit with him or her, ask them what they’d like to say, and just listen for a few moments – no interrupting, no looking at the clock or your phone, just listen.)

Will you try this today – First, get somewhere quiet by yourself.  (If you can’t find a closet or a basement or an attic, try sitting in your car!)  Set a timer for 5 minutes, and then don’t put your phone down and don’t pick it up again until it goes off.  Pray, “Father, I love you, and I’m just going to sit here and listen.  What do you want to say to me?”  And then just listen.

Don’t worry if your mind gets distracted, or your thoughts wander.  The truth is that hearing God takes time, self-discipline, and practice.  But every one of us can do it!  Just try it today.  And again tomorrow.  And on Thursday, we’ll take another step!

Moving Forward

Last week, I asked you to share some questions you might have about following Jesus, and I shared some of the questions that I received in response.  Over the weekend, I took all the questions, and as I thought through them, I realized that they could be boiled down to just five basic questions:

  • How do I grow in hearing and responding to God’s voice?
  • How I make time for Jesus every day when there are so many demands on me?
  • How do spiritual gifts work, and why do they work the way they do?
  • How do I recover from a dry, difficult, suffering, or broken season?
  • How do I go on when I feel like God is absent or has abandoned me?

These are powerful and complex questions.  And as I said, these are summaries – under each of the five, there were several “sub-questions” that fit within those categories.

So this will be our journey over the next several weeks – to unpack each of the five questions above, and under each of those larger questions, to unpack the related questions.

As I looked the list over and considered it, I felt like the first question, which refers to hearing and responding to God’s voice, is the obvious place to begin.  Let me explain why, using the other questions to clarify.

The next question on the list, regarding making time for Jesus, is obviously an important one.  Some people might argue that this is a more important issue to resolve than the issue of how to hear God’s voice.  And I suppose, depending on your motivation, background, and even personality, that may prove to be true.  But on the other hand, I think that if we cannot hear God’s voice, then we don’t really have a reason to make time to spend with Him.  Oh, we can do it because we know it’s the right thing to do, and we should do it, but the Pharisees proved time and time again that when we do something out of duty rather than out of the heart, then we can end up hardening our hearts.  So to me, I think it’s important that we all know how to hear God’s voice, and what kind of practices we need to build into our lives, before we understand how to make time for those activities.  I think that if we know beyond any doubt that when we spend time with God we are going to hear Him speak to us personally, then finding ways to make time to spend with Him takes on a whole new level of importance and even urgency.

Regarding spiritual gifts, I do not want you to be uninformed.  (Okay, I stole that from Paul.  1 Corinthians 12:1.  I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t mind, since I gave him credit.)  Spiritual gifts are so important to our growth and development as part of the body of Christ; they are also the essential tools that God gives us to participate in building up others, and by extension, building up the whole body of Christ.  But having spiritual gifts and trying to use them without hearing the voice of God can get us into trouble.  Some of the gifts are absolutely dependent upon hearing from God because their very nature means that they are relaying a message from God:  prophecy, teaching, tongues, words of wisdom and words of knowledge, interpretation of tongues, and discerning of spirits, for example.  But I think hearing from God is vital for every gift.  For example, consider mercy.  You or I can choose to show anyone mercy, to be compassionate and actively demonstrate that compassion to anybody.  But where mercy as a spiritual gift takes wings, so to speak, is where you or I actually hear God saying, “Now.  This person.  Serve her.  Minister to Him.  Do this to help them.”  And so, I believe we operate in spiritual gifts much more effectively when we are hearing from God.

Recovering from dry, difficult, and even broken seasons will be a huge area to cover.  There are never easy answers when it comes to suffering; and recovering from times of suffering can be actually be dangerous if we have become angry with God and don’t handle that anger or other emotions well.  But if we are hearing from God, we are going to receive assurance from Him, wisdom from Him, encouragement from Him, and even specific words from Him that speak to us in our time of recovery.

Finally, what about those times when we feel like God is far from us, or has abandoned us?  Well, we’re going to see, for example, that David learned that when God felt far from him, there were ways that he could work through that feeling of distance and discover joy even in those circumstances.  David was a master of hearing God – and one of the reasons that he was able to endure so much and then achieve so much was because he learned to hear God’s voice, and he learned to press in and hear even when it seemed God was far from him.  I believe that the same can be true for us.

So right now, Scrivener (my word-processing software) is screaming at me that I’m up to 883 words in this post, which is a couple hundred words more than what you’re “supposed” to write.  But I wanted to take the time to explain where we’re headed with these devotionals.

My next post will dive in to beginning to look at how we can hear and obey God’s voice.  For today, let me leave you with this blessing and these words of encouragement:

May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

All these blessings, and many, many more, are already yours in Christ Jesus!

(Note:  If you wish to subscribe and receive these devotionals in your email, click here

The Biggest Question

Why, God?  Why did this happen?

How is this going to work out, God, because I’m scared and worried and I just don’t know?

When, God?  When are you going to come through?  How much longer do I have to wait?  When will my prayers be answered?

So many questions – so many things we wish we could talk to God about, face-to-face.  Earlier this week, I shared a number of questions that many of you shared that you have.  And we’re going to walk through those over the next several weeks.

questions

But before we dig down into those questions, I think that’s there one basic question that every person has, down deep inside.  It’s one of those questions that we would all probably say we know the answer to; of course we do, the answer is obvious; but late at night, when you’re staring at the ceiling trying to make sense of life, there’s a nagging voice that asks, “are you sure?”

Are you sure that God is really good, and that you can trust Him to do what’s best for you?

That’s the original question, you know.  It’s the question that the serpent was asking in the garden.  It’s what he was driving at when he asked Eve, “Did God REALLY say…”

The implication was that God wasn’t really good, wasn’t really to be trusted, was in fact holding out on Adam and Eve, keeping wonderful things hidden from them.

Really, that’s what all our questions and doubts and fears come back to.  Is God really good, good enough that I can trust Him with everything?  Good enough that I can trust that He’s not holding out on me?

If we can’t settle the question of God’s goodness, then we will never fully be able to settle the other questions that we may have for and about God.  Deep questions; hard questions.  Questions that stretch us and make us uncomfortable.

Questions like this:  how can a loving God send people to hell?  How can God allow terrorism and starvation and poverty and plagues and war and abuse and suffering and cancer?  If you have a brain and have walked with Jesus for any length of time, you’ve struggled with questions like those.

Here’s the thing – if you don’t believe deeply in your core being that God is good, then no matter what answer the Holy Spirit may reveal to you, no matter what answer you may find in God’s Word, no matter what answer someone else might help you to discover through counseling or conversation or some other expression of wisdom, then you’ll never trust the answer.  And you’ll never truly trust God.

God is good.

I could spend time quoting Scripture, reminding you of the blessings we enjoy, the beauty of creation, the wonder of humankind’s abilities and potential, the mysteries of the universe – but the simplest way to see God’s goodness is to watch Him in action.

Look at Jesus.

Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15, NIV), or, as the NLT puts it, “the visible image of the invisible God.”  He is also the “exact representation” of the Father’s being, according to Hebrews 1:3.  So when you see Jesus, you see the Father.

Now let’s explore that a little further.  When you think of Jesus, what do you think of, other than goodness?  Think of how Jesus treated people.  He loved his enemies and prayed for them after they had crucified Him.  He healed the sick.  He showed compassion to those who were suffering.  He loved the unlovely, comforted the hurting, fed the hungry, lifted up the downtrodden.  In every way possible, Jesus demonstrated His love and concern for others, caring for them and helping them.  Jesus was – and is – good.

And that’s exactly how our Father is.  He is absolutely good.  He is better than we think He is, as Bill Johnson states.

And as we begin to look at the questions that naturally arise from trying to follow Jesus in this broken world, we need to remind ourselves that before we consider any answer, before we ponder any possibilities, one fact is absolutely certain – that God is good.  Everything else will flow from that truth.

If God is good, then everything He does is good.

What do you think?  I’d be interested in hearing from you!

Following Jesus

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Matthew 4:19 (NIV)

Ah, if it were only that easy.

That’s the elephant in the room for Christians.  It’s not that easy.  In fact, sometimes it’s very difficult.

There’s also the “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24) side of it.  That’s the hard side of it.

Life is hard, and it’s not always easy to understand why things happen the way that they happen.  Following Jesus is hard.  Despite what we sometimes hear in Christian circles, following Jesus isn’t an automatic guarantee to a safe, prosperous life.

Following Jesus is a call to dying to ourselves.  It can be a call to walk into some very difficult or dangerous situations.  It can mean letting go of everything that we think is most important to us.

And it can mean living with the tension of some very difficult unanswered questions.

Yesterday, I asked you to email some of the questions you struggle with.  There was a pretty wide variety of questions, and I’m still receiving more.  Here are some of them:

  • How do I get better at hearing and responding to the voice of God?
  • Why are some spiritual gifts more visible than others?  Why do we not have them all equally if we’re empowered by the same Spirit?
  • How do I return to the faith I walked in and the passion I once enjoyed?
  • How do we handle our time to spend with the Lord when there are so many other things and people looking for attention?
  • Why, when I want so badly to know His will, does He not answer?
  • Why are there times when I feel Jesus has left me behind and I feel I am alone, and forgotten?
  • Why is it that in a season of trying or trying to better your future, He seems absent?
  • Is it too much to hope to achieve a continual walk in His presence this side of heaven?

These are great questions!  My plan is that over the next several weeks, we’ll address all of these, and more.  Walking with Jesus feels like it shouldn’t be complicated – “follow me.”  And perhaps it IS simple – uncomplicated – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is easy.

Before we dive in to these and many other things that impact our lives, let me just encourage you with this thought today:  God is FOR you!

No matter what questions you’re struggling with right now; no matter what doubts you may be wrestling through; no matter how you feel, no matter what season you are walking through in your life, no matter even how you feel about your Father – God is FOR you.

This is an important part of the Good News:  “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32, NIV)

So as you wonder “why” and “how” and “what if” and all those other questions that seem so big and overwhelming, remember – God is for you.  In fact, God did not even spare His own Son in His efforts for you.

That fact doesn’t answer every question.  But it DOES give us a foundation of assurance that, no matter the answers to our questions, God has good things waiting for us.

In fact, I would suggest this – no matter what, or how much, you are struggling with right now – you and I still have many blessings that we can point to in our lives, including the one that God is for us.

Why don’t you take a minute right now and thank Him that He is for you?  And then in my next email, we’ll start to walk through our questions, together.