How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Normal People

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How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Normal People

How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Normal People

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Greig has once again produced an engaging book on an important element of Christian discipleship, drawing on sources from across the denominational/theological/historical spectrum. The section on Lectio was particularly helpful, indeed I started to read this because of the parallel "Lectio Course" which we studied as a church group throughout Lent. One of the many problems with this view is that it disregards the fact that people can, and do, misunderstand and misapply the Bible just as much as any other means of divine communication. It also ignores the fact that the Bible itself teaches us to expect God to speak in ways outside of the Bible! Dispensationalism only really makes sense in the absence of miracles, which leads me to the third problem I had with hearing from God… 3. EXPERIENTIAL Each one of us has been born with an extraordinary superpower: an innate ability to hear the voice of God. Discerning God’s voice is one of the most astounding yet confusing things a human being can ever learn to do. Astounding because, well, what could be more amazing? With four words – “Let there be light” – (just two in Hebrew) God created more than 100 billion galaxies (Genesis 1:3). “The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born” (Psalm 33:6, NLT). What on earth might happen if he were to speak a few words to me?

So we have a God who communicates. So that would be a very short book. If the book was the fact that God speaks, it’s just, he does. The issue is psychology. The issue is each of us is wired differently. So how do we receive what God is saying? And sometimes our problem is either that we are expecting to hear God the way someone else does and we’re just wired differently. Or we are expecting to hear God the way he spoke to us in the past, but he’s speaking to us in a new way in our new context. This matters because we often confuse theology with psychology. The fact that God speaks is a matter of theology. It’s about God’s nature. In Genesis 1, he creates the universe by his word, and in John 1 we are introduced to Jesus as the Word of God. Our God is the great communicator. But the way in which we hear him speak is a matter not of theology but of psychology. It’s about how our neural pathways have learned to receive and process data, and this varies from person to person. But if this is starting to sound a bit onerous, please don’t worry. As usual, Jesus keeps the whole thing refreshingly earthy, relational and simple: “My sheep listen to my voice”, he says. “I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).So, yeah, it’s about reading slowly. It’s about reverence for the text. It’s about using your imagination. It’s about turning the Bible from being a picture frame to a window frame. Okay? So too often we look at the Bible like a picture that you study and analyze. It’s fixed. It’s there in the picture frame. But what if instead we treat the Bible like a window frame? So through the Bible, we kind of open the window and look out on the world. There is no aspect of God’s creation through which he cannot and does not speak. We must learn to discern the voice of God in the whole of life, not just in religious contexts. We must learn to listen more carefully to those people our culture ignores, because God speaks most consistently from the margins – through children, through the poor, through those who suffer. Pete Greig: Yeah, it is one of the expressions Jesus uses more than any other. And so it was like his catchphrase. And it’s crazy when you think that in Jesus’ time he could be walking through your town, like being Jesus Christ, like speaking things that no one had ever heard, doing miracles. And some people were probably just too busy at work to bother to come out in the streets. Pete Greig: Yes. But I don’t think I’ve always recognized the voice of God. Right? This is less about theology than psychology. See, the theology is open and shut. God speaks. Like Genesis 1: He speaks, boom, creation happens. John 1: God comes as Jesus, the Living Word.

Pete Greig: And yet that’s what we love about Jesus. Right? He was ordinary and yet extraordinary. He was humble. He didn’t force himself on people. So if we’re going to learn to hear him, we need to begin to think that his voice might sound a lot like our thoughts. It might sound like a Bible verse. It might be one of those pictures that comes into your head and you think, “Is that just me, or could it be God?” In his signature refreshing style, Pete offers just these things to anyone seeking to turn what can sometimes feel like a monologue into a genuine conversation with God. He explores the story of Christ’s playful, poignant conversation with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and, as ever, draws deeply from the insights of a wide range of Christian traditions. So it’s a book with a broad audience – he unites the evangelical emphasis on hearing God in the Bible, the charismatic commitment to hearing God in the prophetic, and the ancient art of lectio divina (among other practices and traditions). There’s something about Pete’s thorough grasp of the life of the Church down through history and across the globe that allows this book to transcend what we might deem to be the Christian tribalism of our day. Christin Thieme: Yeah. I love that analogy that you give of the window frame and the picture frame, moving beyond seeing Scripture just objectively, but how do you receive it personally and make it that conversation? So there’s lots of really practical tools in the book, and that is a great one to start with. One of my main takeaways is this: if I were stranded on a deserted island and all I had was a Bible, that really would be sufficient. However, there are so many other ways that God can speak to us, and I want to grow in my desire for those. I don’t want to miss out on all the creative ways God talks to me. John Mark Comer points out in the forward of this book, that Pete and the book have been able to bridge, or gone beyond the boundaries of the “Christian tribalism of our day – charismatic/noncharismatic/Reformed/Weslyan/Angelican/Anabaptist/conservative/progressive/etc, etc.” I’d agree with that comment from Comer, and I agree with Comer that Pete – through this book - is deeply rooting us in “something far more ancient.” This book certainly covers the need for deepened spiritual formation, how to hear God, and it empowers the reader with practices and disciplines that will create a “real, conversational relationship with God.”

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We also hear his voice through the discipline of prayer, which is of course a two-way communication. Greig introduces the reader to the ancient approach known as lectio divina; harnessing the power of imagination and meditation. The four main steps of lectio divina, the author made highly popular in ‘ How to Pray’, by using the simple acronym, P.R.A.Y: Pause, Read ( lectio), Reflect (meditation), Ask ( oratio) and Yield (contemplation). So there’s the Bible. And then they say, “Our hearts burned within us as he spoke to us on the road.” So there’s those times where you just sense God speaking. Maybe it’s a still small voice. And so there’s a whole bunch of ways God clearly speaks in this story. And here it is! After Pete’s fantastic introduction to some of the core aspects of his teaching on prayer, this new book explores the flip-side of how to pray: How to Hear God. It’s a pressing and perplexing question. When life falls apart and we need God’s comfort; in moments of cultural turmoil when we need God’s clarity; facing formidable decisions when we need God’s guidance – nothing could possibly matter more than learning to discern God’s authentic voice. What’s more, nothing could be more susceptible to delusion, deception and downright abuse, so finding someone who can point us in the right direction with wisdom, honesty and compassion, is crucial. In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul lists various expressions of prophecy including words of knowledge (in which God shows us things about other people that we had no other way of knowing), words of wisdom (in which God gives us great insight), etc. Elsewhere in Scripture we see God speaking very regularly through dreams and visions.

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