What does God sound like? How do I Know it’s Him?
Stories of God talking to his people abound throughout the Bible, but we usually only get the highlights. We read; “God said; ‘Go to Egypt’”, and then; “Mary and Joseph left for Egypt.” We’re not told how God spoke, how they knew it was him or how they decided to act on what they’d heard.
In God Conversations, international speaker and pastor Tania Harris invites you into her own journey learning to hear God’s voice. Share the doubts, fears, and wonder as she navigates her conversations with God in light of his communication with the ancients. Part memoir, part teaching, this unique and creative collection of stories will help you to recognise God’s voice when he speaks and to see what happens when we listen.
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Praise for God Conversations:
“How do you know it’s God? This book will show you.” (David Crafts, Hillsong Sydney)
Tania has woven theology, biblical stories and her personal journey together to show us how God speaks. (Melinda Dwight, Alpha Australia)
Read it and buckle up! (Björn Schäfer, ICF Switzerland)
You’ll find yourself saying, ‘I can do this too.’ (John Steele, New Life Churches, New Zealand)
I confess I was concerned when I first heard William P. Young’s book The Shack was being made into a movie. The book managed to wade through a minefield of theological themes with such literary skill and sensitivity, I feared putting characters like Sarayu the Holy Spirit, Jesus the carpenter and an African American woman as God on the screen might be a recipe for cliched, syrupy mess. The film however was a pleasant surprise. In The Shack, director Stuart Hazeldine has created a tasteful and thoughtful reflection on the toughest theological question of all.
How could a loving, powerful God stand by in the face of evil such that a 6-year old child is brutally murdered? This is the question of The Shack – and one that is not far from every one of us. The story takes us back to the scene of the crime – an abandoned shack in the bush – where the central character Mack wrestles with the pain and confusion of his daughter’s death. It’s here that he meets with the embodied members of the Trinity and asks the questions that have wrecked havoc on his life, finding peace and resolution in their answers.
Fans of Young’s work will be pleased to know the movie remains faithful to the book with only a few minor departures – notably in the opening scenes. These provide a more comprehensive version of 6-year-old Missy’s disappearance and sets up the emotional context to carry the intense exchanges that follow.
A good friend of mine regularly talks about what the universe is telling her. She sees cues in her circumstances and interactions that work together to point her in the right direction. I’ve often said that I could substitute the word ‘God’ with the word ‘universe’ and we would sound the same! We both acknowledge that there are forces in the unseen realm that work together to guide us along the right path.
My friend forms a growing category of people today who call themselves spiritual, but not religious. While those in the modern world appear to be ‘losing their religion’, statistics show that they are not losing their spirituality.1 Contemporary spirituality is an eclectic mix of beliefs that don’t rely on any fixed text as their source. The focus is on experience that is practiced and owned personally rather than collectively. The ‘spiritual’ are often intuitive, philosophical, seekers of wisdom and strive to make a difference in the world. Sometimes they believe in God, but they’re more likely to talk about the universe.2
History tells us that people have always been spiritual. In ancient times, nearly everyone held a belief in the power of spiritual forces. Back then, those forces took on unique personas and were usually associated with natural phenomena. So for example, there was Zeus – the Greek god of the storm, Ra – the Egyptian god of the sun, and Baal and Asherah – the Mesopotamian gods of fertility. People looked to natural and circumstantial signs in the ‘universe’ to understand the workings of the gods in their lives. Today of course, those identities are no longer revered, but we still seek to read and interpret the signs the universe may be sending us.
Back in the first century, it wasn’t normal for men and women to be friends. They didn’t meet for coffee in morning tea breaks or discuss current affairs over the water-cooler. They didn’t sit next to each other in the synagogues and swap ideas about their theology. They certainly didn’t discuss their spiritual lives by the village well.
That’s why the actions and behaviours of Jesus with the Samaritan woman were so radical. Even his disciples couldn’t fathom his socialising with a woman, let alone one with such a scandalous reputation (John 4:27). Somehow Jesus managed to interact with the opposite sex in a healthy way, even being alone with them in a public setting.
Jesus shows us that it is possible to engage meaningfully with our female and male counterparts. In the radically new equality of the kingdom he inaugurated, it’s not surprising. It’s when men and women relate together that they are seen to fully represent the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28).
The question is how.
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It can be difficult to recognise the sound of God’s voice. How do we know it’s him? How do we discern God’s voice among the many we hear?
The answer is simple: get to know Jesus.
When we know someone’s character and personality, we are in a better position to recognise their voice. One of the reasons we struggle to recognise the sound of God’s voice is because we don’t always have a clear picture of what he is like. We see this problem all the way through biblical history. The Israelites constantly confused the nature of God with other gods in the ancient Near East pantheon. Back then people believed in many gods, but these gods were more like super-sized humans. They were capricious, ruthless and moody, dishing out punishment whenever their demands weren’t met. They required sacrifices for obeisance and fought with one another for control.
So in the Old Testament particularly, we see God’s constant calls to his people to understand who he was (eg. Isaiah 45:5-6, Psalm 115:5-6). He wasn’t like the other gods who were satisfied with sacrifices without a subsequent change in behaviour (Psalm 50:7-10). He wasn’t bound by geography and his presence was assured of far beyond the walls of a temple building. His nature was loving and merciful and he desired true relationship rather than a set of fear-driven rituals. Unfortunately the Israelites rarely understood him.