Does God Speak Audibly to People Today Like He is Portrayed Doing in Bible Times?

In this second blog post that’s part 2 after a review I did of Bill Hybel’s The Power of a Whisper, I clarified some the title. The part 1 blog title was, “Does God Speak?” When I read it again, I thought, of course He does. He speaks anytime He wants, and has throughout time.

Foster Bible Pictures 0060-1 Moses Sees a Fire...

Foster Bible Pictures 0060-1 Moses Sees a Fire Burning in a Bush (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The clarified question is, “Does God continue to speak audibly to people today like He is portrayed doing in the Bible?”

First, let’s review how God speaks in Bible times:

  1. Through messengers called Angels (to many)
  2. Through donkeys (to Balaam)
  3. Like a friend (to Moses)
  4. Through tablets (10 Commandments)
  5. By burning stuff (burning bush, pillar of fire showing presence, burning up wet sacrifices – Elijah)
  6. Through dreams (Joseph, Daniel, kings, prophets)
  7. Whispers (Elijah)
  8. By tricks or tests of God (Gideon – was his fleece test appropriate as a test of God?)
  9. Direct voice (to Moses, many prophets)
  10. Prophets themselves as messengers
  11. Through incarnate Son Jesus
  12. Through written texts of Law, Prophets, Gospels, Letters, and Apocalypse
  13. Through the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire causing Apostles to speak intelligible languages spoken in first century world
  14. Through blinding light and vision of the Son (to Saul later named Paul)
  15. Through visions called Apocalypses (to Daniel, John)
  16. Apostles thought God speaks by casting lots or drawing straws for decisions

Have I left some examples out? I’m sure I have. Comment and write your examples from Scripture, citing who and the situation. Continue reading

Garnett is doing Alpha

At Garnett we’ve been considering doing Alpha for about two years. We’re launching an Alpha course September 22! The Alpha course covers the basics of Christianity. It answers questions like the following:

  • Who is Jesus?
  • Why did he die?
  • How can we have faith?
  • Why and How should I read the Bible?
  • Who is the Holy Spirit and how can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?
  • How can I resist evil?
  • Does God heal today?
  • Why is the church important as well as my own faith?
  • How can I make the most of the rest of my life?

The Alpha course usually lasts about ten weeks, with a one or two retreat in the middle. Each week, guests gather for about two hours. They often share something to eat or coffee, sing a few songs, listen to a talk on how Christianity approaches the question at hand, then gather into small groups for discussion. The talks each week act as a springboard for small group discussions.

Alpha is a worldwide phenomenon. It’s found in over 169 countries. It’s run in tens of thousands of schools, prisons, homes and churches of all denominations. It’s given more than 19.6 million people the opportunity to explore the meaning of life. Perhaps it’s just what you need.

 Source: Alpha

 

By Greg Taylor Posted in God

Steadfast Through Every Change

I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase that Leonard Allen spoke to me over coffee at Pour Jons. When talking about the unchanging nature of God Leonard suggested the phrase, “Steadfast through every change.”

Because, God does change His mind. He changes his strategies. He changes His heart. He is moved. In Christ, He is vulnerable, changing according to the actions of those around Him. But He is steadfast in every change.

I looked up the phrase because I wondered if there is a hymn or poem or Scripture text that uses this exact phrase. I understand that Steadfast is the English translation of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words for the concept of God’s love that never fails. It’s often paired with “love” so that in Lamentations Jeremiah speaks of God’s “Steadfast Love” and in English we sing a song that’s beautifully tied to my faith growing up as a boy: Continue reading

Does God Speak? Part 1

Cover of "The Power of a Whisper: Hearing...

Cover via Amazon

I want to tell you about a book that changed, affirmed, and challenged my hearing the voice of God. The book is called The Power of a Whisper and in this post I want to review and encourage you to read it. I include some portions of the review I wrote for a national magazine a couple of years ago when it came out.

The Power of a Whisper

Bill Hybels with Ashley Wiersma. Zondervan 2010, Hardcover (272p) ISBN 978-0-310-32074-6

Megachurch pastor Bill Hybels describes his life as a fifty-year whisper-fueled odyssey. The book is about learning to hear the “communicating God” [50] direct a person’s life. He waited nearly four decades to write this book because of the controversy the subject often breeds when people claim they’ve heard a message from God. [16]

In contrast to those making brash declarations about hearing God speak, Hybels points readers to the Holy Spirit‘s subtle “Wind Words,” saying the problem is not God’s silence but whether we have ears like young Samuel in the Hebrew Bible, who listened intently for the night-time whisper of God. Thus the operative question the preach-author asks is, “If you have anything to tell me, I’m very eager to hear it.” [96] Continue reading

7 Words We Say to God (and each other)

Derek Webb wrote a new song in which he expresses that over his musical career he’s tried to say three basic things:  “I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I love you.” I brought these together with words Anne LaMott (great memoirist and novelist) and Nicky Gumbel (Alpha.org) say we can express to God. I then stayed in one Bible text and sewed these together with powerful words from 1 John.

  1. I was wrong. We have a hard time saying we’re wrong, much like the tough time the Fonz had years ago, illustrated in the featured image. I agree with Wade Hodges who said he’s wrong ten percent of the time. And that’s not the problem. The problem is, he doesn’t know which ten percent. God doesn’t expect perfection. He expects an admission that we are much less than perfect. Check out what John says:  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NIV)
  2. I’m Sorry. There’s a line from the old movie, “Love Story” that really seemed to stick for some people. “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” What? Not in any loving relationship I’ve ever been in. Some people say sorry too much. Some don’t say it enough. In some areas of our work and life we are even afraid to say it. I heard this TED Radio Hour piece about making mistakes, and there’s a powerful piece about a doctor who is saying we need a new medical culture where we are not afraid to admit mistakes. Saying “I’m sorry” to God is what we call repentance. It’s sorrow for what you’ve done that moves you to turn around, go toward God. Here’s what John says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)
  3. I love you. There’s this silly old yarn where a wife asks her husband why he never says, “I love you.” He replies, “Darlin’, I tol’ you I loved ya when I mar’d ya, and if that changes, I’ll let you know.” Funny, huh? Well, what about us and God. How long has it been since you told God, “I love you”? Since we got “married” to Him in our conversion experience? Do you regularly express to God that you love Him? Here’s what John says about the love God has for us, and He made us for a reciprocal relationship. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 NIV)  Continue reading

New Book: Lay Down Your Guns

LDYG CoverReleased in October 2013

Read Excerpt

Order from Amazon

Book Description

In Honduras’ “wild west” mountain jungles, Amanda Madrid found her calling as a medical doctor to poor farmers.

When Amanda’s father rejects her dream to be a doctor, eighteen- year-old Amanda strikes out alone and enters medical school in Tegucigalpa.

Her work as a medical officer, public health consultant, and director of an international holistic Christian ministry called Predisan could have resulted in prestigious luxury for her. Instead these experiences led Dr. Madrid to the mountains on horseback and prepared her for the biggest challenge of her life.

When illegal drug trafficking and murders lead to closing medical clinics, Dr. Madrid goes toe to toe with cartel mercenaries, the unarmed doctor in her signature red high heels against men in combat boots armed with AK-47s.

This is the story about the life of a Honduran doctor heartbroken about the many killings and bad medicine of cartels. Can the same kind of love and prayer she gives her patients also cause these violent men to lay down their guns?

Read Excerpt

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By Greg Taylor Posted in God

Try to leave out what readers skip

Elmore Leonard, who died recently at age 87, gave this advice to young writers: “Try to leave out the parts that people skip.” Leonard is author of crime novels, including many that were made into movies like “Get Shorty.”

Great AP article about Elmore Leonard

By Greg Taylor Posted in God

A Prayer About the Arrogant

Psalm 73 marks the end of David‘s prayers and beginning of the worship leader, Asaph‘s in Book 3 of the Psalms.

The psalm moves from God’s goodness to Israel, to the psalmist losing his grip on reality, to a diatribe prayer about the arrogant culture in which he lives, to God’s faithfulness, ending with this beautiful line, “But as for me, it is good to be near God . . .”

What stood out initially to me in this psalm was the section about the arrogant that sounds a lot like me. It sounds like many in the first world.

My wife and I have a code that we don’t post on Facebook when people talk about certain things, but we say it to one another, and perhaps we ought to actually post it at times (we’ll get unfriended if we do, but may be for the best!). The thing we often say when someone is gripping publicly about some superficial thing like service at a restaurant, is “FWP.”

“FWP” — What’s that?

First World Problem. So, you had to wait for 30 minutes ON YOUR BUTT, while someone brings you food, and you are complaining about it? The salsa wasn’t as good as always, your coke was flat, the waitress wasn’t perky enough. These are first world problems. Half of the world goes hungry. You ought to be guilt tripped about that. Maybe we need to just start unfriending or hiding people who use social media to complain. As Steven Furtick says, paraphrased, “As Christians, we have a responsibility to be happy.” I’m sure Furtick said it somehow more colorfully than that.

So, if you get the urge to post something to complain that you think might be a first world problem, go read Psalm 73:3-12.

Elmore Leonard: how to write

Shiraz Socialist

Elmore Leonard died today, aged 87.

The New York Times obit is here.

If you’ve never read his stuff, start with Get Shorty and/or Rum Punch (both filmed, Rum Punch as Jackie Brown).

Here he is on his famous (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) ‘Ten Rules of writing’:

Here are the ‘Ten Rules’:

  •  Never open a book with weather.
  •  Avoid prologues.
  •  Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  •  Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  •  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  •  Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  •  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  •  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  •  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  •  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

He added: “My most important rule is one that…

View original post 29 more words

By Greg Taylor Posted in God

Seattle Theft Victim Skips Cops, Calls Alleged Thief’s Mother – ABC News

Seattle Theft Victim Skips Cops, Calls Alleged Thief’s Mother – ABC News.

I read a fuller story about this in the newspaper. I was impressed that this neighbor chose to be a citizen who did not simply freak out and call 911, nor did she impose her will on the parents of the teenager, but she chose to take her own action, risking her own reputation with neighbors to be associated with someone who broke into their cars. For her imagination and creativity, Eliza Webb, 29, is to be commended.

Is the hand of God upon you? Study, Observe, Teach

Of Ezra Scripture says “the hand of God was upon him.”

Ezra did three basic things with the law of the Lord.

  1. Study
  2. Observe
  3. Teach

Ezra devoted himself to studying Holy Scripture. He was “well-versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given.”

Ezra also observed the law. We ought not teach until we observe.

Finally, Ezra taught. One who studies cannot help but share. One who shares must reflect upon, speak out of, and show forth from observance, what he or she is teaching.

The hand of God was upon Ezra. When the hand of God is upon us, we can’t help but study, observe, and teach what God is showing us. Is God’s hand upon you?

Some weep and some rejoice

There’s a great story in Ezra about when the second temple foundation was laid. Half the exile returnees rejoiced and half wept. No one could distinguish the sound of weeping from the laughing (Ezra 3:11-13).

What do we make of this story. The exiles had come back from Persia with a calling to build the temple that even Cyrus the King of Persia was behind and thought commissioned by God Himself. God seems to have one intent, though it seems He directs His people differently over time, to build, not to build. The intent seems to be that God wants to be present with His people, and He’ll do whatever it takes to do that, whether it means building the temple or tearing it down.

Weeping. Laughing. Building. Tearing down. Sometimes we can’t tell the difference. What was happening was that God’s people were together and you couldn’t tell laughing from weeping.

In churches, synagogues, and mosques, sometimes you can’t tell the difference between crying and laughing. People come seeking God together and inevitably people are either suffering or rejoicing, or maybe some of both. What’s important? Seeking God. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics, Backsliders: seek God. Seek how He has revealed Himself.

I believe God has revealed himself in three major ways through time. As Creator with authority over the universe. As Savior calling us to his Lordship. As Spirit inviting us into His life. Whoever you are, wherever you are from, whatever you have done, whatever religion you have grown up in, seek God. I believe this is how God has revealed himself over time. I don’t limit God to this but this is how historic Christianity sees God revealed. Orthodox Christianity shortens this revelation to the word, “Trinity.”

What’s going on in Egypt?

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пирамиды Гизы на изображении. Español: Las Pirámides de Guiza (Egipto). Français : Les Pyramides de Gizeh (Egypte). Català: Les Piràmides de Giza, a Egipte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s going on in Egypt today? Egypt is the most ancient society known to our world that still survives as a nation state with the same name and location. It pre-dates even Israel. The Old and New Testaments mention Egypt nearly 700 times. That’s a lot. Imagine being Egyptian and hearing things like this in the prophecy of Isaiah, and these are just from one chapter, Isaiah 19.

  1. The Lord will make Himself known to the Egyptians.
  2. The will acknowledge the Lord, worshiping, sacrificing, making vows and keeping them.
  3. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague and heal them.
  4. They will turn to the Lord, and He will respond to their pleas and heal them.
  5. Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.
  6. Israel, Egypt, and Assyria will be a blessing on the earth.
  7. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

These texts have forever changed the way I view the politics of our American government favoring Israel and Christians who think God has some favored nation status on Israel. God favored humanity, and He told Israel through Moses that it was not because of their righteousness that God picked them (Deuteronomy 9:6).

To read phrases like, “Egypt my people” and “Assyria my handiwork” reframes our politics, our notions of how God favors. He can favor, but he doesn’t have to exclude. I think the politics of the Middle East espoused by many Evangelical Christians over the years have been exclusionary for no good reason, in a way that unfairly views Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims. God seeks Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists to be His people, and He is drawing all people to himself, and He wants all people “to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

 

Reading the Times

For a long time I’ve been a “reader of the Times.” Yes, I read the NY Times occasionally, but I’m talking about another reading of the times. There’s a manner of speaking that we “read the times” by staying aware of the news and what God is doing in the world. I do that occasionally, too. But I’m talking about another way of reading the times.

The kind of reading the times I’m talking about is that I use the date as a guide for Bible reading, using the number to correspond and direct my reading. In this way I respond to the invitation of God to listen to His voice through the Word daily and regularly in a way that keeps me moving through His story over and over.

There are hundreds of methods of Bible reading, but this one I keep coming back to. It goes something like this:

Today is August 15.

I divide the Psalms by 30 days to read five psalms a day. Lots of people do this, it’s nothing new, but doing it, memorizing, reflecting, praying these Scriptures is tried and true and the most ancient of spiritual practices of Israel and the church. It’s a tried and true method, but it’s only true when tried.

I try to read an Old Testament book daily and a New Testament book daily. There are 39 OT books and 27 NT books, so basically I use the day to pick a book.

So on August 15, I would read Psalms 71-75, Ezra, and 1 Timothy. I don’t worry if I missed yesterday, because yesterday’s book will come around again next month and the month after that.

You may wonder if I read straight through the Chronicles, running my eyes over all the name lists. No. I skim those and read for the story, stopping at places, making notes, enjoying a prayer of David or a song of Moses.

This kind of reading has nothing and everything to do with the reading I do for preaching. It has nothing and everything to do with the way I live my life. It has nothing and everything to do with what’s going to happen in my day. It has nothing and everything to do with what happened in Egypt yesterday. It has nothing and everything to do with politics. It has nothing and everything to do with how I treat my neighbor. This kind of reading has nothing and everything to do with how I relate to my wife and children, my co-workers.

When I read these books tied to a date, the only thing that matters is that I’m reading Holy Scripture and Holy Scripture when read, matters. It doesn’t have to be crammed into relevance in my life. What I learn when I read Holy Scripture is that my life is not what matters, and that my life truly matters.

In reading Holy Scripture, I learn that my life is consumed in the life of God. I learn that God’s story must become my story, that my story is a drop in the ocean. I learn that I am a bucket (I use this to mean vessel but it’s a little easier for us to picture today) that may contain God but realizes containing God is impossible, that God exists and is experienced outside of me infinitely, and I am learning to enjoy that, to desire to get my bucket in the ocean to float, sink, be surrounded by God and not “merely” inviting Him into my life. God invites me into His life.

God invites you into His life. Repeatedly, He said, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Then in Christ incarnate He came to make that invitation personal to a bunch of fishermen. Come, follow me.