3 Ways to Hear God Speak

Have you ever heard God speak? 

If you ask this question, you’ll get a variety of answers. 

“I hear God speak all the time.” 

“I’ve never heard God speak.” 

“Sometimes I think I hear God speak, but I’m not sure.” 

“God speaks to special people, like Billy Graham, but he’s too busy to speak to ordinary people.” 

One morning recently I was struggling. Unexpected circumstances had pulled the rug out from under us, and a thousand thoughts were whirling through my head. 

“Lord, I need a word from you,” I prayed. 

Every morning I read The One Year Bible, so I opened it to the reading for the day. I began by reading 2 Samuel 22. The final words of the chapter were, “(God) is the tower of salvation to his king, and shows mercy to his anointed, to David and his descendants forevermore.” 

I know this passage was originally written about Israel’s King David, but my husband’s name is also David. Through this ancient passage, God reminded me that he would show mercy to my husband and my family. That God would send such a specific passage, with my husband’s name in it, was very sweet and comforting to me. 

On the way to church, I checked my email. My friend Heather, who had no idea what was going on in our lives, sent me an encouraging note, which she ended with a Scripture reference, Romans 15:1-13. I looked up the verses, and verses 4, 12, and 13 stood out: 

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. . . . Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him." May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 

And when we reached church and settled into our Sunday school class, our teacher stood before the group and wrote four big letters on a dry erase board: H – O – P—E. 

Do you think God answered my prayer? And what do you think his message to me was? 

This series of events is a classic example of a few of the ways God speaks to his children. 

One of the most common ways he speaks is through his Word. When I opened my Bible that morning, I heard a personal and powerful word from the Lord. 

God also speaks through his people. My friend who sent the email had no idea our family was struggling; she simply obeyed what God told her to do—send Lori an encouraging email and share this Scripture passage with her. 

God also speaks through preaching and teaching. My Sunday school teacher presented material that someone had written and published years ago, but God used it (and her) to remind me to have hope, even when circumstances say otherwise. 

I began this post by sharing several responses to the question, “Have you ever heard God speak?” My recent experience demonstrated three ways God has spoken to me. 

I realize, however, that if I hadn’t positioned myself to hear him, I might have missed his voice. If I hadn’t read my Bible that morning, I wouldn’t have read the Scripture that used my husband’s name. If I hadn’t cultivated friendships with godly believers, I wouldn’t have received my friend’s encouraging email. If I hadn’t gone to church, I would have missed the HOPE-filled message from my Sunday school teacher. 

Our family experienced an unexpected challenge, but we were not unprepared. Because we had built spiritual disciplines into our lives, we were positioned to be able to hear God when he spoke. The reassurance we received bolstered our faith, calmed our fears, and reminded us that he is fully in control. And that, my friends, is what the Christian life is all about.

Have you ever heard God speak? How does he usually speak to you? Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you're reading by email, click here to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom of the post, share your thoughts.

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4 Things I Learned from the Flu

This year our country has experienced the worst flu season in more than a decade. Hundreds of thousands of people have suffered through the fever, cough, headache, and muscle pain that characterize this sometimes-deadly disease. Only in this week (Week 19 of the official flu season) have numbers of flu cases finally dropped below the national baseline. 

If you are one of its victims, I extend my deepest sympathy. From my sickbed. 

This has been a bad winter for our family. We’ve been sick a lot, but this eight-day grand finale case of the flu has reminded me of a few life principles. 

1. We are frail creatures. 
Any health and strength we possess is a gift from God. Without him to give us the breath in our lungs, we are undone. 

2. Our bodies are amazing creations. 
Once my doctor ruled out any infection, he pronounced, “Take Motrin and Tylenol for the pain, rest, and within a week or two, you’ll feel as good as new.” 

Whaaaat?! That’s it? Lie there and do nothing? But then I realized that his words were an official vote of confidence attesting to our body’s ability to heal itself. Even medical intervention wouldn’t work without the intricate systems that allow our bodies to kill germs, repair cells, and restore health. 

3. We need each other. 
If it wasn’t for the kind ministrations of my sweet husband who fetched endless glasses of ginger ale; washed countless loads of sheets, towels, and pajamas; and endured my pathetic whimpering, I wouldn’t have survived. 

Compassionate friends and family brought me chicken soup, vegetable soup, and tomato soup. One loaned me her diffuser and selected just the right oils to sweeten the atmosphere in my home. Several overrode my foolish independence and sent meals anyway. Thank you. 

4. Choosing gratitude, even in the midst of suffering, has healing effects. 
One morning in the shower, I lost it. Five days of over 102 degree fever and a non-stop ice pick headache had pushed me to my limit. I sniffled and whimpered for a few minutes as the water poured down my back, but then gratitude trickled in. 

I’m so glad I don’t have a cough along with the headache. That would really be unbearable. I’m thankful I have an understanding boss that isn’t going to fire me for missing work. And friends and family have been so kind to care for me. Where would I be without them? 

By the time I wobbled my way out of the shower, nothing had changed about my situation, but I felt much more encouraged. Instead of grumbly, I felt grateful. 

Yesterday was my first fever-free day, so I think I’m going to live. To all of you who have helped care for a sick family member or friend this winter, God bless you. As you’ve done it unto the least of us, you’ve done it unto Jesus. And he and I are mighty grateful. 

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you . . . sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'” (Mat. 25:37, 39).

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When You're in the Storm

Prayer is a lonely business.

Especially those middle of the night prayers, when the world is asleep, and we are awake. Our hearts grow faint when darkness looms loud and the sky seems an impenetrable ceiling.

Satan, that deceiver of the brethren, whispers softly, so as not to awaken those resting peacefully nearby. He might as well shout it from the housetops; it’s already ringing loudly in our ears—

Why bother?

What’s the use? 

How long will you continue to pray?

Sometimes he’s the snake in the garden. Did God really say . . . 

Other times he’s a ventriloquist, using Job’s wife as his puppet. Curse God and die.

Our ears fill with tears, reservoirs for the streams that leak from our eyes unchecked into salty puddles. We lie there, frightened, paralyzed by what if’s and the worst possible scenario, some of which has already come true. Our minds defeat us before we breathe our first prayer, and we gasp our pleas to an almighty God whom we’ve rendered powerless by our lack of faith.

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6-8).

“. . . but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it” (Mat. 14:24).

And the waves threaten to drown us, and the sea rages around us, and the sky is inky black.

Yet it was in that fourth watch of the night—the most profound of darkness—that Jesus came to them, walking on the lake, because even mustard seed faith is enough to summon the Lord of the seas.

"Take courage!” he calls, “It is I. Don't be afraid." 

"Lord, if it's you," Peter (and we) reply, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said. 

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

And our fledgling faith steps falter, and we sink flailing into the sea.

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" 

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

If you’re weeping in the darkness and drowning in the sea today, take comfort. The wind and the waves obey our Lord’s command. Satan is a defeated foe who trembles at his name. And the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:16).

Pray on, dear friend, and rest in the knowledge that there’s no safer place than in the eye of the storm if Jesus is in the boat with you.

“Christianity,” a wise pastor once said, “is less about you holding on to God, and more about him holding on to you.”

"When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord" (Jonah 2:7-9).

What storm are you facing today? If you’ll leave your name in the comment box, I’d like to pray for you.

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How an Unbeliever's Words Grew My Faith

“I’m so worried,” I said to my classmates. “I don’t know how I’m going to pay for school next year. My scholarship has run out. I don’t have money for tuition, let alone uniforms and instruments.” 

Spring semester was coming to a close in my first year of dental hygiene school. It had been a good year. I had done well in class, despite having to study harder than I’d ever studied in my life. I’d passed the dreaded Head and Neck Anatomy class, the “weeder” course deemed most likely to eliminate marginal students. With the most difficult courses behind me, I was poised to enter the clinical part of my training in the fall. 

Except, with no second-year scholarship and no way to pay my tuition, I wondered aloud if I was going to have to drop out. Then one of my classmates spoke from the back of the lunch room where we had gathered. 

“You say you believe God provided for you to be here. Don’t you think he can provide what you need to finish?” 

Her words hung there for a moment in the now-silent lunch room. Like mechanical dolls, every head turned in my direction, waiting for my response. Shame coursed through my body, and a red flush crept up my neck. This non-Christian had demonstrated more faith in God than I had. 

My Christian classmates smiled gently. My non-Christian classmates, the ones with whom I’d eagerly shared stories of how God was working in my life, waited for my response. 

“You’re absolutely right,” I said. "He can."

The conversation turned to other matters, and as quickly as I could, I left the room. Standing alone in the bathroom, tears pricked my eyes and conviction pierced my heart. 

“I’m sorry, Lord,” I whispered. “I didn’t trust you. You had to use an unbeliever to remind me of what I should have known.” 

I remembered that shameful day recently when I read the account of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9. The Israelites had conquered kingdom after kingdom as they made their way into the Promised Land. Pagan nations who had rejected God and chose instead to worship false idols and defile the land with their depravity fell, one by one. 

As six nations banded together in a feeble attempt to defend themselves, the citizens of Gibeon took a different approach. “If what we’ve heard about the God of the Israelites is true,” they said, “we have no hope of defending ourselves.” 

Instead of allying themselves with the other nations, they cooked up a sneaky plot. They disguised themselves as travelers from a faraway nation. Arriving in the Israelites camp wearing worn clothes and shoes and carrying moldy bread and old wine skins, they convinced them that they were distant neighbors. The Israelites agreed to a truce, promising that no harm would come to them. This verse from Joshua 9:14 explains why the Gibeonites were able to deceive them: 

“. . . but they did not ask counsel of the Lord.” 

Like my college classmate, the Gibeonites showed more faith in God and his plans and purposes than the Israelites did. And I, like the Israelites, had evaluated my present situation and come to a conclusion without talking to God about it. 

Thankfully, unlike the situation with the Gibeonites, I hadn’t gone so far in my independent thinking that there was no way back. 

“Lord,” I prayed, “please forgive me for my lack of faith. You’ve been faithful to provide for me so far, and I trust you to provide for me in the future. If you want me to continue my studies, please provide the money I need.” 

Later that week I met with my academic adviser. When I explained the situation, she helped me fill out an application for financial aid. Because I had lost my scholarship, I now qualified for additional assistance. 

When the award check arrived, I had enough money to pay tuition, books, uniforms, and instruments. 

Guess who was the first person I shared the good news with? Yup, my thought-provoking, faith-inspiring non-Christian classmate. 

“Thank you for reminding me of what I already knew,” I said with a hug, “that where God guides, he always provides.” 

Now it’s your turn. Has God ever used a non-believer to grow your faith? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment in the box below. If you’re reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.

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A Surpring Reason Why You Can't Skip Your Quiet TIme

I might not have noticed the repeated words if I had been reading my Bible instead of listening to it. 

Sometimes when I’m short on time, I multitask by walking and listening to the Bible. I’m committed to reading the Bible through in a year, which takes approximately 15 minutes a day. I read a portion of the Old Testament, a portion of the New, and snippets from Psalms and Proverbs. 

When my schedule is tight, I struggle with the desire to read the Bible and the desire to take a walk. I solved the dilemma the day I discovered the audio option on Bible Gateway. It’s a free app for phone or iPad. I open the app, select the section of Scripture I want to listen to, and voila’! Max McLean’s rich voice fills my ears with God’s Word. 

Recently, I stuffed my headphones into my ears, dialed up the eighth chapter of Joshua on my iPhone, and took a walk. “Now the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed;’” McLean read in his rich baritone. 

Here’s the context: Joshua was preparing to lead the children of Israel into battle against Ai for the second time. The first time, you may remember, the Israelites suffered a profound defeat. One of their soldiers, Achan, had sinned by taking forbidden items from the spoils, and God had removed his hand of blessing from the army. It’s not surprising, then, that Joshua needed some extra encouragement before he headed back into the fray. 

Do not be afraid or be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land,” the Lord said. 

“Do not be afraid or dismayed.” These words rang in my ears.

Half a mile and two chapters later, McLean read Joshua 10:25. This time, Joshua was speaking to the children of Israel as they prepared to conquer the remainder of the Promised Land.

“Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed;” 

When I heard the same words, repeated with passion and conviction, my ears perked up. When God repeats himself, it’s important. 

God told Joshua not to be afraid or dismayed, then Joshua told the Israelites not to be afraid or dismayed. Joshua received encouragement from the Lord, then he shared it with the people around him. 

I realized I can do the same thing Joshua did. And so can you. 

When we read God’s Word, God speaks to us. His Word encourages us, challenges us, inspires us, and gives us hope and direction. When we share what we read with others, we encourage them, challenge them, inspire them, and give them hope and direction. 

God pours his Word into us, and then it flows through us to others. 

Jesus promised, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38). 

When we understand this, it gives extra meaning to our times of Bible reading. And extra motivation not to skip it. It’s bad if I miss a word from the Lord. It’s really bad if I miss a word from the Lord that I’m supposed to share with someone else. 

Every day I need wisdom, hope, and direction. And every day I encounter others who need wisdom, hope, and direction. God provides this through his Word, and then he gives us the privilege of sharing it with others. 

I encourage you, the next time you read God’s Word, pay attention. God has something for you, and, perhaps, something for you to share. Don’t miss it.