Have you noticed that God does a lot of talking at Christmas time? The first God-conversation with Mary was the one that started it all (Luke 1:26-33). But then God spoke a second time – to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-21), then a third time to the wise men (Matthew 2:12) and a fourth (Matthew 2:19-21) and fifth time to Joseph (Matthew 2:22). He also spoke to Elizabeth, Anna and Simeon. God speaks repeatedly throughout the Christmas story.
But what if the people hadn’t listened? What if they hadn’t followed? What if Joseph had merely written his dream off as the spicy pizza (or lentils), if the wise men dismissed their dream as a paranoid nightmare or if Mary had rejected the words of the angel?
Because people heard God speak and because they did what he said, our Christmas cards show Jesus alive in Mary’s arms and we sing songs heralding his birth. Christmas pans out the way it was supposed to.
In this podcast, we talk about the five conversations of Christmas and how they shaped the event we celebrate every December. That first Christmas was unique, but God’s pattern of working hasn’t changed. He still speaks to initiate his plan. He still looks for willing people to receive his promise and carry it by faith. He still speaks to see protect his word and he still speaks to announce the time when it will come to pass. The God who spoke then is still speaking today. What is God talking to you about this Christmas?
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.
This is how the blurb of my new book God Conversations reads. When I first read Bible stories about God speaking I thought, it sounds so easy for them – when the reality felt so different. That’s why I set out to write my book. I wanted to show more than the highlights. I wanted to show what really happens behind the scenes when we hear God’s voice.
In this podcast, we talk about how my book on hearing God’s voice is different from others:
It’s all about the stories
For one, it’s all about the stories. The goal is to show you how God speaks rather than tell you. You’ll notice there’s no list of things for you to do; there’s no five steps for you to follow. This was a deliberate style choice.
Have you noticed most of the Bible is stories? Most of Jesus’ teaching is stories. Stories turn principles from black and white to colour. They fill in the abstract and ground truth in reality. So the book is more show than tell – although there is telling involved too. From the feedback I’ve received, people relate most to the stories. They say; “I never thought I could hear from God, but now I realise I always have.”
A few years ago on an Australian reality talent show, a young man expressed his dream to be a famous singer. The emcee told of his dedication in preparing for this moment. His mother spoke of his deep passion and commitment. When the man took to the stage, the audience applauded in great anticipation.
In spite of the lead up, the performance was awful. This young man had plenty of zeal, but absolutely no talent. One judge known for his honest feedback didn’t hold back: “Your dream will never happen. No amount of hard work will make you a good singer. You will never be on the stage.”
It was a brutal moment, but it was also an act of grace. This man’s dream was completely misplaced. It wasn’t based on who he was or how God designed him to be. He was believing a fantasy and without the reality check provided by the judges, was headed towards even greater disappointment.
When We Grow Up?
What are we going to be when we grow up? It’s a question we usually ask children, but it’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. God has a purpose for each one of us, but it’s not a product of wishful thinking or misplaced illusions. God’s dream for our lives will match who we are and how we’re made. We’re going to love what God has for us!
What would Jesus say to a terrorist? Just this week we’ve received news here in Australia of another terrorist plot. Our nation remains on high alert after police uncovered plans to allegedly bring down a commercial airline with a bomb or toxic gas.
It’s difficult not to feel helpless every time we hear those kinds of reports. Most of us are not politicians, international diplomats or war strategists. How are we to respond to the constant threat of terrorism we receive across the world today?
Today’s podcast looks at the ‘Jesus way’ to approach terrorism. What would Jesus say to a terrorist? In order to answer that question, we’re going to take a look at what he’s already said. This is not the first time the world has been threatened by terrorism. History has been here before – with the early church facing similar questions to what we do today. In their case the enemy wasn’t ISIS, but the Roman empire – a force that was actually far stronger and just as brutal. Some people in the church had already been martyred for holding to their faith.
It’s in this context that God speaks back and shows clearly how his people should respond. His answer is found in our Scriptures in the book known as Revelation. It’s incredibly creative (there’s lambs, blood-dipped robes and a wedding feast) and, as often the case with God, entirely different to what we’d expect.
How do we get better at hearing God’s voice? The answer doesn’t lie in a formula or a set of rules: “Follow these 3 steps, take time out or spend 15 minutes with God each day.”
Hearing God’s voice happens in the context of relationship, so if we want to get better at it, it’s the state of our relationship that becomes the focus. This week on God Conversations with Tania Harris we’re talking about how to get better at hearing God’s voice. It’s one of the most important questions to ask because it lies at the heart of knowing God.
We’ll get better at hearing God’s voice by applying the same principles that we use to grow communication in our human relationships. In the podcast, we look at three different principles that apply:
1. Make a commitment to improve your communication
Learning to hear God’s voice is a process that develops with time and practise. We learn to recognise his voice.
The prophet Samuel was a man who knew how to hear God’s voice. He was the expert. The Bible says of him that not one of his words fell to the ground – they all came to pass (1 Samuel 3:19). In fact Samuel became the prototype for all prophets to come. But he wasn’t always as good as hearing God’s voice. The first time he heard it, he thought it his mentor calling. He heard the voice three times and still he didn’t get it right! (1 Samuel 3:1-15).