After my first book came out, I had some interesting conversations with people about a chapter where I describe how one day, as I was driving down the street lamenting the state of my life, God said to me, I have more for you. I want you to want more for yourself. I have a husband for you, a family…everything you want. But you need to take Jesus seriously.
“What do you mean, God talked to you?” was a frequent reaction. Sometimes their eyes were wide in wonder, other times it was all furrowed brow. One woman came right out and blurted, “God’s not going to talk to me is He? Because that would freak me out…”
Fair enough. But this last response was unusual. Most of the people I spoke to—from grad students in Northeast cities to Catholic grandmothers in the Iowa suburbs—seemed to like the suggestion that God might speak to them. And the obvious next question was always, “How do you know it’s God?”
The truth is, I don’t, not exactly. Hearing from God is a mystery, not a science. Author Bill Johnson puts it well when he observes: “The walk of faith is to live according to the revelation we have received, in the midst of mysteries we can’t explain.” Here’s what I learned: Jesus promised that after he left earth to return to heaven, he’d send his Holy Spirit. “When the Spirit of truth comes,” He said, “he will guide you into all the truth…he will declare to you the things that are to come.” From the first time I heard this, it seemed like a helpful resource for making life decisions. So I decided to give it a go.
“Why doesn’t God speak to me?” one skeptical guy asked me at a book event. An image came to mind that helped me answer:
“My friend Denise doesn’t watch TV.” I said. “She likes that TV is there whenever she wants it, but for now, she doesn’t want to tune in. What if hearing from God is like that? What if God is available—we always have access—but it’s up to us whether or not we tune in? What if it’s as simple as turning on the TV and finding the right channel?”
Before Jesus died, we didn’t have this option; regular people didn’t hear from God. Instead, about once a generation, there was a super prophet (who was often super weird) who heard from God. Everyone else was flying blind. What’s interesting about this (or incredibly redundant, depending on your perspective) is that most of the once-in-a-generation conversations with God sounded pretty much the same:
God: My people are ignoring my laws, they’re headed for disaster. Tell them to repent.
Prophet: I told them; they ignored me.
God: Tell them again, with more emphasis. Mention the words “plague” and “famine” if you have to.
This would be followed by various plagues and/or famine, after which God’s people would repent, rededicate themselves to God, and watch as life turned good again. Until they forgot this whole ordeal (which usually took about a generation) and God had to tap another prophet to stand up and suggest (again) that blowing off God is a bad idea. The prophetic books will never be made into a movie; they’re just the same people, making the same mistakes, over and over and over again.
When Jesus died on the Cross, he broke us out of this cycle. He blazed a trail for us to approach God that hadn’t been possible since Adam and Eve ate that apple. If you think of heaven as a house, Jesus flung the door open and invited us all inside. And when you walk through those doors, you find that the whole tone of the conversation has changed.
At Greenhouse Mission, we avail ourselves of this opportunity. Each of us have found that hearing from God is strategic, encouraging, surprisingly personal, and…well, fun. If you think God might be speaking to you, or you’d like Him to, we’d love to help you make sense of that and figure out how to respond.
“Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,” the Bible suggests.
To which we say, let’s go.