Hearing God

Hearing God in the Abundance of His Methods

Most believers long for—desperately long for—God’s voice, but most of us experience silence. Scripture says, “God speaks in many and diverse ways, but nobody notices” (Job 33:14). We miss his voice because he’s not a paint-by-number God. He speaks in ways we don’t expect.   Well-meaning people often mislead us when they describe their conversations with God. Their...

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An Unearthly Delight

Sometimes I hear God best in surprises. Seemingly unrelated circumstances suddenly unite, and their merger stirs something in my heart. Like a succession of waves on a beach, one last surge dissolves my sandcastles.   This last month I talked with: A despairing man whose ministry seems stagnant, and all his work seem fruitless; Another man who keeps a tally in the front of his Bible of all...

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Sharing Our Victories or Our Struggles?

Sharing Our Victories or Our Struggles?

Many years ago, I met with a Christian leader who had influenced me in my youth. As we talked, he offered to give me input on a recent sermon series I had preached. A month later, he shared a few positive comments, and then he added this critique: “I think you share your weaknesses too much. People need to hear our victories more than our struggles.”   I think he is mistaken. The...

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Hearing God When Seeking Guidance

My wife and I spent the last two and a half years selling our house. Now we have a buyer who will let us stay in our house a few extra months, so we have time to continue our search for a new home. Which is not going well.   Before even looking for our next house, my wife and I prayed, brainstormed our ideas onto a whiteboard, and we easily, and mutually, agreed on three priorities: layout,...

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Surprised by Ignorance

During my sophomore year at university, I met a freshman new to college life. His dad was a business-exec in a wealthy suburban neighborhood; my dad was the pastor of a poor church in a dodgy Detroit neighborhood. He studied performance violin; I studied physics.   His dad frequently traveled; my dad never missed family dinner. His older sisters taught him boys were naughty, and to flee...

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It’s Only Stupid If

I recently heard a popular Christian speaker tell of a “rich spiritual exercise” he began practicing in secret. A friend of his encouraged him for years to try it, and for years he resisted. Finally, he gave it a shot. And he loves it.   The friend who introduced him to the spiritual practice is an Eastern Guru, and the exercises themselves are born out of Eastern Mysticism. At first,...

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Christian Meditation

In February 1978, I sensed God call me to spend a summer volunteering on a kibbutz in Israel (a communal farm that provides room and board for six days of work). I asked friends to help me discern if I heard God correctly. Some were pretty sure it was from God, and others were certain it wasn’t. After deliberation, I decided to go, but not until April.   The deadline to register as a...

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Do We Practice Godless Faith?

I recently met an elder who was whose faith brought him great distress. Three years ago, his small but growing church received tithes that exceeded two hundred thousand dollars, for the first time ever. But this is the rest of the story.   After seeking God, the pastor, elders, and deacons collectively felt led to invest in their youth. In faith, they unanimously decided to increase their...

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When “Good” Christians Do Bad Things

When “Good” Christians Do Bad Things

I hate the presidential election season, the rhetoric, emotional responses, hushed conversations, and mud-slinging candidates. I especially hate those damned, political phone polls! Don’t worry, this is not about the election. It’s about when good Christians do bad things.   And yet, weeks after the elections, the rhetoric is still meteoric and the mudslinging has not abated. Friends of...

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Living a Staged Life

A year ago, my wife and I decided to sell the farmhouse we’ve lived in for twenty-five years. While we were excited about moving into the next chapter of our life, the grown kids were less enthusiastic: our daughter’s next blog was entitled, Don’t Buy This House.   Nevertheless, we followed all the commonsense guidelines for home-sales: We decluttered our closets, removed beds and...

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Circumstantial Evidence

A pastor-friend of mine once went through a series of disappointments. His favor with his followers faltered, his once fruitful ministry began to fail, and many of his former friends became his biggest opponents. And that was before events really got bad.   My friend was well known. If I told you his name, you’d probably recognize it. And his meteoric fall from favor was not due to any...

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Twin Motivations

Twin Motivations

I once had a client whose business-gifting outshined the stars of the Harvard Business Review. Yet she scorched everything she touched. Relationships went rancid, projects were poisoned by punitive criticism, and her management style left associates embittered.   We met for lunch a couple times a year for much of the 90’s. Over time, my opinion of her zigzagged from initial awe, to...

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The Starving Lion

A business owner I barely knew once phoned to see if we could meet. He was an aggressive entrepreneur, a roaring lion among his peers. Yet on the phone, he seemed different, hesitant, a bit humbler, perhaps broken. He certainly choked up a few times in our short conversation.   We met the following Friday, which happened to be his fortieth birthday. He appeared vulnerable and exhausted, and...

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Relationship or Religion?

My best friend in the world, from ages eight to eighteen (except for three long months), was Mark Maxam. Inseparable companions, we walked to school together, slept over on weekends, jumped off church roofs together, and shared every conceivable secret.   We also wrestled. One day, when I was ten, Mark put me in a scissor-lock that I couldn’t break. So, I bit him. He released me with the...

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The Riddle of the Psalms

The Riddle of the Psalms

For the last forty years, my prayer time has started with the Psalms. And for forty years they have alternately given me hope and then pulled that rug of hope from beneath me. They make great promises, but when I pray them with honest self-reflection, the promises fade away.   Look at the hopeful assurances offered: Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. (Ps. 27:3) The...

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Beware of Smiling Crocodiles

I recently met with a three friends to discuss a Saturday event we were hosting. I thought a previous decision was a spiritual mistake, and I pleaded that we reconsider. Not only did I plead, I urged and pushed, and then I rammed my point home with a metaphorical baseball bat.   My counsel, intensity, and insistence backed them into a corner. And it all backfired. I’ve always pictured my...

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The First Time I Ever Heard God

The First Time I Ever Heard God

I was ten years old the first time I heard God speak. It was autumn, a new school year had just begun, and a new fad was spreading among my adolescent classmates. Cussing.   I was raised in a conservative Christian church where Sunday school teachers taught us the Ten Commandments. The teachers were vague about adultery, and I wasn’t concerned. They were also unclear about coveting, and I...

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Three Keys to The Seven Steps that Reveal The Five Secrets of Success

I recently feel a need for action, practically (selling our house, helping a ministry I support, promoting my book) and humanly (a friend in divorce proceedings and other friends with health or financial woes). A season of doing has descended on me.   But where should I best invest myself? There is no shortage of advice. Recently, resources I used to like for their insights have transformed...

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Why Don’t We Hear God’s Voice?

Why Don’t We Hear God’s Voice?

Humanity was designed to hear God. It’s in our DNA. So why is his voice so rare? Scripture says, “God speaks in many and diverse ways, but nobody notices (Job 33:14). We miss his voice because he’s not a paint-by-number God. He speaks in ways we don’t expect.   We often hear well-meaning people describe conversations with God in ways that mislead. Their exchanges with God sound like...

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The Fires of Waiting

The Fires of Waiting

I’ve always disliked waiting. As a kid, Christmas Eve was torture. Being on hold with Comcast feels endless (the same sappy song repeating every ninety seconds). Last August Kregel Publications offered to publish my book on Hearing God, but their schedule meant it’s release would be delayed ten interminable months.   I think God is teaching me to wait. On him. Of all God’s lessons,...

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When God Seems Silent

Of all the ways God speaks, the one I like least (and fear most) is his silence. The absence of his voice seems to come at the moments I most desperately long for a word. In those moments, his silence feels like God at his cruelest.   We cry out to God, we promise to do exactly as he says, and we get silence. It hardly seems fair. Paradoxically, God often speaks the loudest in his silence....

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Navigating The Mountain of Biblical Authority

Navigating The Mountain of Biblical Authority

My daughter’s boyfriend, Matt, works in the High-Tech Performance Apparel industry. (I always thought the height of high-tech apparel was the Converse high-top.) He’s an avid sportsman and a NOLS leader trained in Alaskan sea kayaking, mountaineering, and glacier-navigation.   Matt recently described two kinds of people who buy performance gear and apparel. Some buy because they use...

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The Hope of Our Suffering

The Hope of Our Suffering

As a college student, I wanted to spend a summer abroad, but money was so tight that Raman noodles were my Sunday treat. I found a communal farm in Israel (sort of like modern WWOOFING) that provided room and board plus ten dollars a month (and a daily pack of cigarettes!) for simple, manual labor. I signed up.   I talked with a few people who had “volunteered” in the past. They said...

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Hearing God in Scripture

Hearing God in Scripture

When I was twelve, my parents taught me to read a chapter of Proverbs a day. Proverbs has thirty-one chapters, so the day of the month determined which chapter to read. (Some months, of course, have fewer than thirty-one days, and I just skipped those last chapters without guilt.)   After ten months of Proverbs, I finally—dare I say it?—got bored. So on a whim, I decided to read...

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Hearing God in our Emptiness

Hearing God in our Emptiness

The angriest emails I’ve ever received were responses to my articles about self-love and self-esteem. And yet . . . yet I remain convinced that the greatest obstacle to hearing God lies in precisely our self-love and self-esteem.   Most of us unconsciously believe that God speaks only to those who are mature and pure. To cover our inadequacies, we jury-rig our hearts with positive...

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Seeing God Through His Metaphors

Seeing God Through His Metaphors

A friend once told me of a dark moment in his life, a time when he felt alone, frightened, and falling apart. He described his interior life like this: “I was an engine without oil.”   My friend instinctively took a common but abstract experience—loneliness—and brought it to life by painting a picture of his pain. He imagined his life as a movie screen and he projected onto himself...

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What is the Sound of God’s Voice When We Sin?

What is the Sound of God’s Voice When We Sin?

I once told a friend of a recurring temptation of mine. Over the next month, he shared my secret with a dozen other friends, spicing up the tale with the fib that I had yielded to the temptation—even though I hadn’t. His betrayal shocked me. I skipped several lunch and dinner appointments, unsure who had heard and what they thought.   His disclosure also angered me. I obsessed over his...

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Hearing God in Suffering: How to Live a Dying Life

I had a high school friend whose life overflowed with compassion. The rest of us were obsessed with college-prep, extra-curricular activities, and jobs. But he, like a lion, could sniff out a wounded schoolmate from a thousand yards. And like a lamb, he sat with them in their grief.   One day we heard a lecture on handling pain. Most of the class was indifferent—bored even—but my friend...

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Hearing God to See Him

Hearing God to See Him

Thirty-three years ago I took a woman to a Gilbert and Sullivan play as a first date. Before the evening of our get-together, I had a collection of facts about her: she was a farmer’s daughter, she was a Social Worker, and she was cute. After the evening of our get-together, I told my parents that I had just met the woman I would marry.   What happened during those few, short hours? I had...

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