How Can I Hear God?

24464_artwork_12bddbb2d50a965d946bfdaaf4a1d785Hello. This is Mark’s wife Shell with an introduction to this teaching.

I have often told Mark he needs to tell people the reason he hears from God so quickly. He takes an hour each day sitting in stillness and silence with God. Sometimes he won’t hear or sense anything for days, but he still shows up.

In his message on Faith Comes From Hearing, Mark shares some of experiences. You can also watch this sermon on his Youtube channel – https://youtu.be/Ssczr8cOiIg

FAITH COMES FROM HEARING

“…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ”. Romans 10:17

Let’s break this verse down:

“Hearing the message” means literally to perceive sound. It refers to the sense of hearing. Faith comes when we “hear” something, just like hearing a voice. This means that faith does not come from us trying to create it. Faith is the result of an experience of hearing. What we “hear” comes to us somewhat like sound. It is either in words or some other sound that means something specific to us, e.g. like the sound of an ambulance siren. And what we hear is through the word of Christ.

This tells us two things. The first is that Faith has a personal source – it comes from Christ/God/The Holy Spirit. Real faith cannot be produced from any source but God. The second thing this phrase tells us is that faith comes from the “word” of God. The Greek word used here which is translated as word, is “rhema”. It comes from a root work that means “to say” or “to speak”. It translates as follows; “that which is or has been uttered by the living voice – “an utterance”. It also means “any sound produced by the voice”, and “having a definite meaning”. This tells us that we should expect this word from God to come in words most of the time. It is like any spoken message. It is discernable.

How should we expect these faith producing messages to come?

  1. Through the Holy Spirit as we read the Bible. [we call this revelation] God speaks to us through His Holy Spirit as we read His written word. Most of us have had this experience one time or another, hopefully often. You are reading the Bible and suddenly a verse or phrase “jumps out at you”. It is like the bible is speaking directly to you in your present circumstances. It is like you are hearing that verse or phrase for the first time. It has great impact upon you. You believe it! It is producing faith to believe what it is saying to you. How many of us have had this experience? Was it helpful? Would you like it to happen more often? How do we increase these experiences? We make a habit of reading the bible every day.
  2. Through the voice of the Holy Spirit as He uses the Bible to bring the message. [again, we call this revelation] This experience is a little different. It doesn’t start with reading the bible, it starts with listening to the Holy Spirit. It works this way; you are pouring your heart out to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit because you need to hear from Him. You could go to your Bible search program and type in a word that describes your condition, e.g. fear, sickness, depression, uncertainty, hopefulness, etc. but you have not done that yet. You are just pouring out your heart to God. Suddenly, a scripture address comes to you. You look it up and it “jumps out at you”. You experience what we just described – it speaks from God to you, and it produces faith.

Some years ago, my father was suffering from dementia. He was experiencing bouts of paranoia and delusions. He believed people were out to take his money. He called me daily to phone his lawyers and have them start law suites against people that had done him no harm. Ten minutes after hanging up the phone he would call again, and we would go through it all over again.  It was a terrible number of years for all of us but especially for me because I had to manage his affairs while his dementia was undermining them.

After doing this for several years I acquired a genuine fear of putting Shelley through the same kind of experience when I get older. I was telling God how much I did not want to do this to her, and I was asking for a sudden death that did not involve some sort of slow, withering, exhausting death that would make Shell’s life miserable. He interrupted my request with a scripture address. It was not a scripture that I was familiar with. It was Psalm 16:10. I turned to it and this is what it said, “…nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” Ever since He said that, I have had faith that my death will not be a burden to Shell.

Check out Part 2 for the final point and an encouraging example

What does it mean to be “in the Holy Spirit?”

Some time ago Mark got stuck on the harmless little phrase “in the Spirit” as it appears in the lives of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament. They seemed to throw the term around without ever defining it. To them it seemed self-explanatory. So, he decided to look up all the places where the term is found and do a word-study on the word “in.” We know, it sounds pointless, studying the word “in”, but what he found surprised him and gave us an understanding of the Holy Spirit that brought clarity both to our own experiences and to our understanding of scripture. Let’s take a closer look.

The phrase, “in the Holy Spirit” appears several times in the New Testament. Here are most of those verses that refer to someone being or doing something in the Holy Spirit:

1] Luke 10:21: Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.”

2] Jude 1:20: “… pray in the Holy Spirit.”

3] Rev. 1:10: “On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit and I heard behind me a loud voice …” 

4] Rom. 14:17: “… the Kingdom of God is about peace righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

5] John 4:23: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In each of these passages something is happening; rejoicing, prayer, a vision, the experience of peace, the experience of knowing our righteousness and finally worship. Something is happening through people and to people and it is somehow “in” the Holy Spirit.

The key to what “in the Holy Spirit” means lies in the word “in.”  In each verse we’ve listed, the same Greek word for “in “is used. Here is how this word may be translated; “in, on, at, near, by, before, among, with, within, and into.”

Here are the three definitions that best describe an activity or experience happening “in” the Holy Spirit;

  1. a marker of a state or condition e.g. “in torment”,
  2. a marker of close personal association, e.g. “one with”, “in union with” “joined closely to”
  3. a marker of the means by which one event makes another event possible, e.g. “by means of” or “through.”

If we put all these definitions together we get this definition of the phrase “in the Holy Spirit”: “a state or condition of close personal association or union or joining with the Holy Spirit by which another state or condition, event or activity, is made possible.”

By way of example, what is made possible in John 4:23-24 is worship. What this means is that worship “in the Holy Spirit” is a condition or state which happens to us through the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we can make happen. It comes about by union with or joining closely to the Holy Spirit. It is a different state or condition from that which we were in before we entered into “worship in the Holy Spirit.”

The same thing is happening to Jesus when He was filled with joy in the Holy Spirit. It means that something happened to him through the Holy Spirit which was different from what He was experiencing before the Holy Spirit brought the joy. Similarly, praying in the Holy Spirit is a different state from what may be prayed apart from the Holy Spirit.

When we are “in the Spirit” we are moved from one state of being to another which result in a union with Him which is not theoretical but experiential.

In all these events, there is an increase in the “personal closeness or association” with the Holy Spirit. There is an increase in intimacy and an increase in communication between us and Him. And finally, He [by His power] makes something happen which could not happen without His intervention [with spiritual power].

We really are carried away in the godly sense of the word. We are moved from one state of being to another which result in a union with Him, which is not theoretical, but experiential. And finally, some activity or experience is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit which could not have been possible without His power. In every case such an experience leaves us with a greater understanding of the nature of God, not because we read it or heard it in a sermon, but because we experienced it/Him.

Check back for the next blog post for Mark’s first such experience of his spiritual gift of teaching.

Share your story with us

Many of you who follow this blog have your own blog sites. Mark and Bob have filled a book with their stories of walking with a Supernatural God.

Now we want to hear from you.

Here is Mark’s story again from Chapter 2: Reluctantly Supernatural

Reluctantly supernatural. That about sums me up.

Have you ever been in a church meeting where things get sort of out of control? I don’t mean the usual out of control which involves a 25-minute introduction to taking the offering or a 40-minute altar call. I mean the kind of meeting where weird stuff is happening and someone is telling you “We’re having a visitation of the Holy Spirit!!” You look around at the people falling to the floor, laughing uncontrollably, crying without shame, groaning and convulsing and you wonder,

“How much of this is real?”

That’s me doing the wondering. I suppose that would be OK if I was just a spectator, but often I am the one running the meeting. I am the one responsible for all this. I just can’t help wondering, “How much of this is real?” I know much of it is, because I’ve been the guy experiencing one or all of those strange things at one time or another, but I also know human nature.

Here is a sad truth; people will do almost anything to belong.

An older pastor friend of mine was telling me about a meeting at his church in which almost everyone he prayed for “fell under the power of the Holy Spirit.” I was impressed until he said, “Most of them were “courtesy falls.’” I asked him what he meant by that and he said, “You know, the person just wants to please you, so they do what they think you want them to do.” All very well intentioned, but it makes it almost impossible for me to avoid the question, “how much of this is real?”

I came by this skepticism honestly. I was raised by a lawyer. Usually that would ensure the high-water mark of skepticism, but it gets worse. My father was a child during the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit that came out of Azusa Street at the turn of the last century. He was a boy as the movement was cresting. He was in some of those truly power-filled meetings in which the weird and wonderful were common place.

Sadly, he was also in the meetings after the wave had broken on the beach and started to retreat. He watched as “courtesy falls” became the norm and people acted out a human version of what was once Holy Spirit empowered activity. He listened to one too many prophecies that never came to pass and his fine mind began to reject these meetings as little more than nostalgia.

This was the environment in which I was raised – with a skepticism about anything supernatural. All this is to say, I was raised with a religion without power. I had a built-in aversion to the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Not knowing why, I bought the party line that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased when the Canon of Scripture was closed. And that theology made perfect sense to me because I certainly wasn’t seeing any of these gifts in our church and, so they must have passed away. After all, if they are not happening among a great group of Christians like us, where else would they occur? What a wonderful recipe for ignorance.

For more, read Chapter 2.

Be sure to send us your thoughts and questions.

Examining How We Hear God’s Voice

aaLast post we shared a video about How to Hear the Voice of God. There are so many ways He speaks to us that it is important to share our stories with one another.

We want to take a moment to analyze how the dream and fortune cookie worked together to bring about life-changing faith.

There was nothing obviously supernatural about the dream itself. It could have been nothing more than Mark’s subconscious wishing that he had more influence. This would be a fair interpretation given his disillusionment with his ministry.
Even though he took the dream as from God and believed that God had spoken to him regarding its meaning, he was little more than encouraged. This is a sad admission because he readily admits that hearing God’s thoughts of encouragement in his mind should have been enough to get him back in the saddle, but it was not. It was just a measure of encouragement.

Had the dream not occurred and he not “heard” God’s thoughts in his mind, the fortune cookie experience would have been insignificant. He would have thought, “That is a nice thought, I wish it were true.” What made the fortune cookie experience so powerful for him was the juxtaposition of it following the dream and the fact that the two messages were word for word. Neither the dream nor the fortune cookie encounter was a supernatural event in itself, but taken together they were conclusively supernatural to him and in their effect.
What we believe happened was that two events, sharing a common message, could not be dismissed as mere co-incidence. The timing of the dream and the fortune cookie defies coincidence. Something beyond natural chance was occurring – something “super” natural was happening. This brush with the supernatural presence of God in Mark’s life produced a supernatural gift of faith that he still draws from two years later.
Because faith comes by hearing God’s words [and because prophecy is a supernatural gift], prophecy gives us what we need, beyond our natural abilities, to believe in God’s goodness to us. If we are correct in our belief that from time to time all of us need supernatural help to believe in God’s promises to us, then prophecy is truly for everyone.

We would love to hear your comments and questions either on this website or
https://www.facebook.com/reluctantlysupernatural/

How Does God Speak to Us?

This is the first part in a practical guide to hearing from God.

One of the ways we hear God’s voice is through His immediate word to us, which is also revelation because it is a work of the Holy Spirit. It has the same effect of revealing His truth to our minds and our lives, but it comes directly rather than through Scripture. It is always consistent with what Scripture teaches us, but it is not dependent upon Scripture for its delivery. When the message comes through another person, we call this the gift of prophecy. How we recognize His voice to us, for ourselves and for others is the subject for another time. For now, we need to understand the power of prophecy and its importance to our lives.

When a true prophetic word is spoken, it is a word of Christ that is coming through an authorized representative. It has the authority and power of God delivered with it! It has the power to engender faith in the hearer, which faith brings the power to fulfill the prophetic word. One prophetic word can produce the kind of faith that perseveres no matter what the enemy throws at you. Here is an interesting example:

A number of years ago the denomination Mark was a part of did a survey of all their church plants – both those that succeeded and those that failed. They tested for a variety of factors believed to be important to a successful church plant.

These included adequate startup funding, level of theological education of the pastor, training for the startup leadership team, demographic studies of the proposed region, etc. One of the questions asked was; “Did you hear God tell you to do this church plant?”
As it turns out, approximately 90% of those who succeeded “heard” God tell them to do the plant. Conversely, approximately 90% of those who failed said they did not “hear” God tell them to do the plant. All of the other factors were inconclusive.

Hearing God imparts faith and prophecy speaks for God. Here is another example of 8 words from God changing the course of a person’s life. The life changed was Mark’s.

Mark describes:

God used a dream and an unusual means (a fortune cookie) to renew my life by giving me a gift of faith that does not need continual positive feedback in order to carry on. The real change is that now I am believing for much more!

In the interests of maintaining peace with our anticipated critics let us say this about fortune cookies: We do not believe fortune cookies are a valid means of discerning God’s will for our lives. The fact that God used a fortune cookie to confirm His previous message must not be taken as some sort of divine endorsement of seeking direction from such means.

Check back on the next blog post for more discussion

 

You never know who you are influencing

Hi Mark,

You don’t know me, though we met a couple times about twenty five years ago. I was probably eight or nine years old at the time. You were serving at with the Vineyard church in Calgary and came to do a weekend workshop in my small town in northern Alberta. My parents attended and I was there off and on.
My older brother recorded your sermons on cassette tapes. Back then I didn’t pay much attention, while I was a Christian, as a child understands it, I would have rather been playing with my friends then listening to a grown up talk.
Those tapes sat on the table at the back of the church for years afterward. I don’t think anything anyone really knew what they were.
The seminar was on ‘Relationship’ and how it defines Christians and Christianity. I grew up Anglican and religion to me was mostly about participation in the liturgy.
Going through the motions and following the rules.
One day when I was about thirteen, for some reason, after looking at them for years, I took those tapes home. I began listening. It was the first time I can remember thinking God might be something more than an abstract untouchable being. I knew he loved me and all the typical rhetoric that comes from church, but it never really sunk in that you might be able to know him.
There was a tape that talked about meditating on and just thinking about the Lord’s prayer, line by line, absorbing how significant each is and why it was said. I had never thought about how deep simple words could go. I was confirmed a year later.
Fast forward two decades. One failed marriage, and a lot of life experience later. The marriage fell apart after my wife had three affairs. Not the best time in my life. I’ve never had a crisis of faith or even really stopped attending church, but I felt empty. I felt disconnected.
Nothing seemed to make sense. I went searching again.
The pastor at my church was very good. He helped me understand grace in way I hadn’t thought about before. I had moved on to a Christian Reform church. My life started to recover. I needed more. Fortunately by now, the internet was a thing. I listened to many speakers, Ravi and Driscoll, Chan and Stanley. They were good for the intellectual arguments I had inside me, yet I was missing the relationship. This is when I googled you.
I found your website archive, picked one, and soon a familiar voice came through. God opened my head and my heart, and I absorbed it like a sponge. I downloaded some of them and listen to them in my car. I turn them on when I’ve had bad day at work, or need to something for my soul to digest. Thanks for that.
I’m not an emotional guy. I work in engineering, I’m intensely pragmatic and not at all touchy-feely, but I wanted you to know, if you read this, that if we never meet again, the impact you’ve had on my life, through the decades, across a continent.
Your ministry is worth it.
Your words are valued.
I hope one day you get the ‘well done good and faithful servant’ you desire. Thank you Mark.
Tim

 

Twilight Trek

Have you wanted to see God use you in supernatural ministry? Have you wanted to see the power of God displayed in our current culture? Have you wanted to see the kind of working of the Holy Spirit that the church in the book of Acts experienced? Then you’ll need to take a journey into the “Twilight”, in other words, be willing to step out into the unknown and trust God to meet you there. In this video we look at the biblical account of how 4 men saw the power of God change their lives and the lives of a whole city by taking a walk in the “Twilight”.

 

Opening Your Mind to Open Your Ears

hh-animals-deer-4In my last blog post I mentioned that we have a cultural communication bias against hearing God’s “voice”.

Our culture shouts at us and God whispers.

It is not simply that the subtlety of God’s communication occurs because He speaks softly, it is also the ways that He speaks softly.

He does not always speak in perfect sentences when He drops a through into our minds.

  • Sometimes He speaks through riddles.
  • He may begin a message with a strange question.
  • He may not even use a thought at all. He may use a mental image appearing in our mind’s eye.
  • Or perhaps a powerful emotion rising up unbidden.
  • Or perhaps a Bible reference to a book, chapter and verse.
  • Or even through a physical sensation arising without apparent cause.
  • And of course, through a dream.

Sounds rather complicated doesn’t it?

Thankfully, recognizing God’s voice is simplified when we know what to look for. Let’s look at some of the ways God communicates with us in more detail.

  1. Mental images

Many times, I have been praying for someone and my well-crafted, intelligent and very literary prayer was interrupted by some strange unbidden mental image appearing in my mind. In the beginning I dismissed these random images as the probable result of indigestion.

At some point someone told me that God communicates this way and that I should pay attention to these mental pictures and find out if they might be from God. I did, and they were. These mental images were the beginning of my prophetic ministry. Of course, not every random mental image that comes to us during prayer is from God, but the only way to find out is to share it and find out if it means anything to the person receiving the prayer. Risky business.

  1. Random Thoughts

Have you ever had the experience of praying for someone and a random thought about them comes to your mind? Perhaps it is a thought about their mental or spiritual condition e.g. unforgiveness, fear, anger, sorrow, anxiety, joy, peace, etc. Perhaps it is someone’s name. I was praying for an older lady who came forward for prayer for her arthritis. The name “Frank” came to my mind very clearly. I asked her who Frank was and she said it was her brother who died by being hit by a train. It turned out she had never forgiven God for the death of her brother. Bitterness was her spiritual condition – arthritis was merely it’s physical effect.

  1. Unbidden Emotions

God can communicate to us about someone by allowing us to feel what they are feeling. It is a strange thing to be in a group of people and suddenly experience a powerful negative emotion which has no connection to the state of your own life – happy one minute and feeling deep sadness the next. We usually dismiss this kind of negative experience as soon as possible, maybe even attributing it to Satan. But what if it is God trying to get our attention to pray for someone? And if it is Him, what do we do with it? Risky business.

  1. Unbidden Bible Verses

Have you had the experience of thinking of someone and then having a Bible verse come to your mind? Most of us have. What did you do with that verse? Did you;

  1. Ignore it?
  2. Pray it for them? Or
  3. Phone them to give them the verse?

Notice the increasing degree of risk from 1. – 3. Risky business.

  1. Unbidden physical sensations

What could a sudden pain or unusual physical sensation have to do with a communication from God? Probably nothing most of the time, but what if God is trying to tell you who to pray for? Just as God can share someone’s emotional state with us to facilitate prayer for them, so can He share their physical state. I have had the experience, and witnessed others have the experience, of sharing a sudden specific pain in a meeting, announce it and have someone healed of that specific pain or condition.

A friend of mine used to attend a street church frequented by lots of homeless people. He entered the meeting late and the only seat available was near the front, beside a homeless guy. My friend was a neatness and hygiene freak. When he sat down he noticed the smell coming from his homeless neighbor. It was overwhelmingly bad. He decided to leave but before he stood up to leave God told him [with a very clear thought in his mind] not to leave. He tried to stay but the smell was making him sick. He cried out to God, “Do something, I’m going to be sick!!” Immediately, a wonderful strong scent of flowers overcame him! He could smell nothing but the flowers. He looked around to see who had just brought flowers into the room, but no one had. He said he had never smelt anything like that wonderful smell. It lasted the whole time he was in the meeting. More wonderful still was the love that overcame him for the homeless man he was sitting beside.

The list goes on, but this blog is already too long. If you are intrigued with the subject of the varied ways God speaks to us, then Reluctantly Supernatural in an Age of Reason might be the book for you. Give it a read and join the discussion with a blog post or question of your own.

In the meantime, go out and take some risks listening for God’s momentary guidance in your life! Risky business…