Is it God or my imagination?

While reading through my Bible, I see places - many places - where God speaks to people: Adam, Moses, Abraham, Samuel, David, Paul and many more. In some cases, he was downright chatty, and there were some fascinating conversations between men and God.

And as I read, I think, "What's so special about these guys, that God talked to them? Were they better than I am?" I just can't see a fundamental difference between us. What sets them apart was that God in most cases called them to some exceptional task for him. They were not in some way intrinsically superior.

So does God speak in a similar manner to us today? Can God speak to us today? More to the point, does God speak to me today? As I read and pray and think, I can find no reason, either biblical or logical, that God would speak then but not now.

So I concluded that I might be missing out on something I considered important. And I did not like it.

As a result, I began paying closer attention as I read my Bible and as I prayed, listening for the voice of God speaking to me.

And I have heard him. He has spoken to me. I think.

Here's a problem: The Bible doesn't record instances of Moses or Abraham or Paul struggling with understanding whether they were hearing God or their own wishful thinking. Perhaps they did have that problem, but we don't know.

I certainly have it. What's the voice of God and what's my own wishful thinking? I don't always know. But, very often, subsequent events make the difference clear.

I recall a time when I thought God was telling me to resign my job. I had a mid-management position in a hospital and a family to support, with two kids in high school. Quitting made no sense. Nevertheless, over a couple weeks I had this consistent sense that I was to quit.

I prayed a lot. I sought the insights of others. And in the end, I never had a clear certainty that I had heard God. I thought so, but there was always some doubt.

Part of my problem was that I - perhaps like you - didn't want to act on something and find out too late it was a big mistake. But, truth be told, I think there is a greater danger than making a mistake while trying honestly to obey God. I believe the worse "mistake" is to do nothing - out of fear of making a mistake.

Inaction indicates a lack of trust in God. We would like it better, we think, but in fact God will not likely appear to us in a burning bush. Nor - I hope I'm not presuming too much here - will God send us a hand-delivered, notarized statement of his will for us.

A further complication is the presence of an opponent, one who is delighted when we are frozen and inactive because of fear. One who delights in muddying up the waters.

So I think there will nearly always be questions and a measure of uncertainty. But the little yapping dog kinds of questions are easily addressed, and the uncertainty is magnified by our own imaginations. However there is another matter, more important: the Big Question. The Big Question is, when there is doubt, who gets the benefit? God? Do we trust him and move according to what we think he is saying? Or do we trust someone else more?

Now, I'm well aware that "God told me" is perhaps the most widely abused statement on earth. People often use it to justify their own wishes or actions. But I'm not talking about that. What I'm referring to assumes both submission to the Bible and a good measure of integrity.

Given those two conditions, it's imperative that we act and not sit, fearful of a mistake. God seeks those who will be completely committed to him, who will act boldly when he speaks, either in writing or through his Spirit. Or, perish the thought, even through someone else, just like you and me.

Act! Don't be afraid! We serve a God who loves us, who wants us to know him in increasing measure and to be bold and tenacious in carrying out his purpose in the world. And he is very tolerant of honest mistakes.

And, by the way, I did resign. I decided to act in what I thought was God's direction.

I spent the next nine or ten months unemployed, in a pit of depression, and wondering if I had made a huge blunder. And then, without warning, I was asked to move over 1,000 miles to serve in leadership of a Christian school. I did, and God richly blessed me there. Looking back, everyone involved agreed that I had heard God.

Now, I think he told me some months ago that I would be moving back to Colorado. Hmm....

7 Comments

I reckon God, if you like, is talking to us all the time...........just we aren't always listening. I say "if you like" because herein lies a BIG thing when it comes to considering GOD, or the God word. Now I consider myself Christian but have grown over the years .....hope so anyway! and my perception of 'God' for me has changed .....The word God is used as a shorthand for something 'unknowable' , something so BIG we can't even utter the name......But we are human so we need a way/name to discuss this force that is the Greatest .....So that's cool but who or what we consider this God to be has a huge bearing on what we listen to, and consider
listening to, in regards to God, or 'God'. For me, it is not a 'big daddy (cop?)' in the sky but I wonder whether this is how some/many others approach God....I am sure there are as many approaches to God as there are people in the world, but I reckon that knowing who 'God' is and the nature thereof is the most important thing when it comes to seeking this most marvellous of marvellous guidances.

Stop, stop and listen............within. That's where 'God' is. Oh and , simple it is and I could be accused of being cliched.....but it is true. GOD is LOVE. STOP

I think you're right, that God is speaking to us a lot more than we know, because we don't listen.

And I agree that God is so 'big' that he is unknowable. He is utterly "other" from us and our experience. I agree except for one thing: He went to great lengths to reveal himself to us, precisely because he wants not only to be known by us, but to be in an intimate, conversational relationship with us. That's the main point of the Bible, after all.

As we compute right from wrong we contemplate many things. The reasons to step out of our norms as opposed to the reasons to stay safe in our comfort zones. The reason we contemplate change, like quiting a job, is because we are testing the waters of our decision. Is the water warm enough to jump in or am I so far into despair that even the pain of cold water will serve its purpose. We hesitate making changes because even though our circustances a horrific, at times, we don't know any other way to be. It's kind of like the infamous "battered wife syndrome." A battered wife knows she doesn't like being abused, but if that way of life is the only life she's ever known she will stick to it. She will rationalize to herself that she is being a hero in some sort of way. She will convince herself she suffers for love or to keep her family together. Therefore, perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Change or no change seems scary in the horizon, but she has come to know and tolerate the abuse. The abuse is a familiar pain she has come to know all to well. As opposed to the aniexty or culture shock she will go through to re-program her way of thinking and re-raise herself to come to know and understand another way of life all over again.

It is especially hard to make change the older we get in years. The shock of learning that our way of thinking has been so distorted for years (sometimes even decades)is disappointing and devestating. It is never fun to dissappoint ourselves. It is soooo not fun it is down right depressing.

Many people have commented here about the 'bigness' of G-d, that He
is so vast that we cannot know Him. . . .to which Jesus of Nazareth put
the lie. Since no one has the faintest idea of what the word 'big' means
when it comes to describing G-d, you might better consider the word
'fast' which is much more appropriate and true to reality. . .try 'fast' as
in the 'speed of light' fast!!. To use the common phrase, 'wrap your
brain,' if you can, around that fact.

In the Gospel of Matthew, he describes G-d as the entity that ". .
.knows what you need BEFORE you ask Him." How can you know
something BEFORE it happens? Very simple, the ancient prophets did it
all the time, and Jesus himself foretold many things happening long
before they occurred. Jesus said he was the 'Light of the World.' There is
nothing we know of that travels faster than the waves and particles that
make up visible light. That is not 'big' or 'vast' by any definition but right
there in front of you- on your skin, in your eye." . .closer than the
beating of your own heart."

When Jesus(G-d) was called 'Emmanuel' it was the ancient Jewish word
that meant ' G-d is with us.' Literally - in our bodies, our minds, hearts
in every single cell that lives,(and dies) in our body. "The Kingdom of
G-d is within you. . . . ."

But here is the Ultimate rub. . .the material scientists, who do not
acknowledge the existence of G-d, have categorically told us that light,
which is composed of waves and particles, is a material phenomena, in
no way associated with soul, intelligence, or consciousness. They have
not the slightest concept that light is a LIVING entity, conscious and
intelligent and, . . . .KNOWS about you because it is travelling at a speed
we humans cannot comprehend or conceive except with the help of
special machines. When Jesus KNEW". . .what was in their hearts," it was
because He Himself was 'moving' at the speed of light and was
omniscient about everything and everyone about Him.

The reason Jesus is 'perfect' is because his Father in heaven is 'perfect'
(without error) and that is why we can trust what Jesus says when He
says to us, "Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."

TRUST is the supreme act of faith in believing, beyond all material
evidence, that the fastest entity in the universe KNOWS us, LOVES us,
and will do everything possible(and impossible) to help us, PROVIDING
THAT, we let go of all our preconceptions, prejudices, opinions of
people, and consciously will to surrender to his awesome power. These
are the only words we can use to describe our hope in Him, because all
the rest is up to Him, and we cannot know the outcome beforehand.

And so when you say". . . ..In Jesus name. . . ." It is the most powerful
tool and, as the song says, " You just call out my name, and you know
wherever I am, I'll come running, you've got a friend. . .winter, spring,
summer. . . . ." You know the rest.

+In His Name, the Name above all other names, . . .forever.+

Okay, so i read your story, and there was one thing that stood out. "I can see no reason...why God would speak then and not now." There's a very good reason: Back then, they didn't have the full Bible. Now, we do. But, I do believe that God does speak to us through the Holy Spirit. But He talks in a "still, small voice," as -was it First or Second Kings?- said. So, we need to spend time in God's Word and actually pay attention.
Also, I read Roger Hamilton's comment, and the last part bugged me greatly. "Stop, stop and listen...within. That's where 'God' is." Unless he was talking about the Holy Spirit, and he may very well be, then I disagree w/ his comment. God is not 'within' us unless we have the Holy Spirit, whom we receive when we accept God's gift of salvation.
Furthermore, is it just me, or was Martin Cosentino saying God is light? Light IS just waves and particles. God isn't "light." If you read Genesis, He spoke light into being on the first day of Creation. God is outside of creation. He never had a beginning -unlike light-. Also, if you can see and understand light w/ special machines, then light is not God. When Jesus said that He was the light of the World, He was talking about He was shining in the darkness of sin. He was good -light- whereas the darkness represented sin. It was an expression.
Think about it. God is without a beginning, without and end. He is eternal and unchangeable. He is not affected by the shackles of time or space. He created all of that. So doesn't it make sense that a Being powerful enough to make the world by just SPEAKING -Genesis 1- would know all about us without having to fly about at the speed of light? The real question we should be asking is, "WHY would God want to know us?"
Then again, Martin, I could just be misreading your comment, and if so I apologize.

Thanks for your comments, Michelle.

I agree to a point with your concern about God speaking. It's true that we have the "complete" scriptures. And it's also true that God can and does speak through the Holy Spirit, though that's not a consideration for most Christians. But those in the early years of the church considered that their Bible was complete, as well, and they also considered that God could and did speak to them.

Having the Bible we do, however, doesn't preclude God speaking to us in any way he chooses. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that God would henceforth only write letters, and not talk to us. The important question, I think, is not whether God speaks. He does. The issue is how do we recognize his voice and hear him reliably?

The objection of our having the complete Bible is one from tradition, and not from scripture.

Hm, you have a good point, Larry. A really good point. And, I know that the Bible does not say, "You must have all of these books," but it does talk about God's statutes and commandments, which are written in His Word. Also, I think that God would want us to have the Bible, seeing as it has been preserved for years despite groups of people hating it and trying to destroy it. Think of the Reformation, and how people hated those who translated the Scriptures!
Now, I know that the Bible isn't the only way that God speaks to us, and I'm sorry if my comment sounded like that. And I do know that the Bible doesn't say that God would "only write letters." So, your question is "How do we hear God, and hear Him reliably."
Your question makes a lot of sense. I am a younger Christian and an even younger person, and I definitely don't have all the answers. But, I do know of a great website: http:www.wayoflife.org. There's a section there where you can ask Bro. Cloud --he's a really good preacher grounded in the Bible-- a question, and I think that would be a terrific question to ask him.
There are some times, when I have a question, that a verse pops out of the Bible at me, or sometimes an older Christian --as in more mature in the faith-- gives me advice that answers my question. I think that's one of the ways God talks. Sorry if my answer wasn't all that great, and I'll look a little more into this issue. You've given me some good things to think about. That's the awesome thing about the Christian faith: You keep learning as you grow. If I learn anything more, I'll comment, if you're not tired of my comments. :) I really think that you should check out the website. Bro. Cloud is a busy man, so he might not be able to answer your question, but there are a ton of good articles there that might shed some light.
I'll ask my Pastor your question, too.

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  • Michelle said:
       Hm, you have a good point, Larry. A really good point. And, I know t...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Thanks for your comments, Michelle. I agree to a point with your con...
  • Michelle said:
       Okay, so i read your story, and there was one thing that stood out. ...
  • Martin Cosentino said:
      Many people have commented here about the 'bigness' of G-d, that He i...
  • Rebecca said:
      As we compute right from wrong we contemplate many things. The reason...
  • Larry Baden said:
      I think you're right, that God is speaking to us a lot more than we kn...
  • Roger Hamilton said:
      I reckon God, if you like, is talking to us all the time...........jus...

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