You may or may not know this, but our church has a church softball team. And we love it. We play Monday nights and we get very into it. We have uniforms, we practice, and we really like it. And you know what, nothing that unites a church together like beating the pants off other churches.
Dogs Eating Seed Shells
Honestly we’re not the best team, but we like to go out and play the game, and we bring the family out, and so the kids are out there playing, people bring their pets. Jordan and I bring our dogs. – And so this past Monday, we were in the car with the dogs, driving home after the game, and I like to eat sunflower seeds, so I had this cup of sunflower seed shells, and one of my dogs loves to eat all my sunflower seed shells. She likes to wait for to spit them out, then she eats them. It seems that she likes the one that are pre-moistened.
So anyway, after like 10 minutes of this, my wife says to the dog “Haven’t you had enough shells?!” And the dog looks up and then puts her head back down and continues to eat the shells. And so my wife looked at each other and said ‘that dog totally disregarded what you just said!!”
And thus began a conversation on how much dogs really understand the human language.
We neither of us knew, so I looked it up online. And here’s what I found:
The average dog, with training, can grow to understand around 165 words. The average American vocabulary is approx 10,000 words. 1.5%
Which means your dog probably has the potential of understanding 1.5% of what you’re saying.
My dogs, I think they understand probably 5 words. Their names, treat, no, off, walk, come.
For fun : dog w/ largest vocabulary :
Just for fun, the dog with the largest vocabulary in a dog named ‘Chaser’
Chaser is a Border Collie – who’s a girl. (Pic)
Chaser can identify and retrieve 1,022 toys by their name. They work with her 4 to 5 hours a day, every day, for the last 3 years. Yes, the owner is retired.
Is anyone else feeling like their dogs are the stupidest dogs on the planet? My dog can’t tell the different between food and poop. Or perhaps worse, they CAN and just don’t care.
Hearing God’s voice.
This morning what I want to do is to talk to about Hearing God’s voice.
And I know that when I say that, there’s instantly lots of different opinions on hearing God’s voice.
And the exist along a spectrum.
1. Clear as day / all day / every day.
And one one far side you have people who, if you were to ask them, hear God speaking to them clear as day, all day, every day.
God tells them to order beef or chicken on their burrito.
2. Think : 1st group – screw loose.
And on the other far side of the line, you have people who think the first group of people have a screw loose in their head.
And then most of us, likely exist somewhere in between those two.
I am completely aware that this is one of the things that when misused and abused can really turn people away from the Christian faith.
Some of the most horrible acts in the history of the world have been backed by ‘God Told Me to do this.’
Examples: 9/11 / Holocaust / Andrea Yates in 2001 – Drowned 5 children – bathtub.
Why? B/C God told her to do it.
So what I’m NOT saying is that we all need to learn add more firepower to our statements by telling us that God told us.
But I AM saying that to completely abandon the idea of God speaking to us personally is a complete and horrible overreaction.
The balance of course is this: Lets open ourselves up to hearing the voice of God and being led by the spirit in a way that’s not manipulative, and not self-serving, and maybe most of all, not spooky.
Dog’s don’t understand much
So most dog’s don’t understand much of what you say. That’s just a fact.
And I was thinking about that kind of as an analogy for how I hear God.
Even when I’m walking in good decernment, I’m picking out a handful of words.
I believe that God is a communicative God and that he’s WANTING to speak and IS speaking. So I think the problem is in the hearing.
Here’s something that’s interesting about dogs. Is that even though they’re only able to understand a small percentage of the words we say, they’re much more in tune with the TONE of their masters voice.
Mean things / Sweet Tone
If you want to experiment with this, go home and talk to your dog in a really sweet tone and just say horrible things ‘Nobody likes you, you fat walrus. You’re the worst dog in the world, you’re like a cat, only dumber. I hate you, I hate you, hate you, hate you.’
They’ll love every minute of it.
Nice things / harsh tone — Pee.
Conversely you can say really nice things in a harsh tone and they’ll pee all over the place.
Dogs hear the tone of our voices even more than the words. Whether we’re kind, and warm.
And I think there’s something about coming to learn and recognize the TONE of God’s voice.
What does God SOUND like?
Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, (John 10:22)
and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. (John 10:23)
The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24)
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, (John 10:25)
but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. (John 10:26)
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)
So Jesus says MY sheep hear MY voice.
So you could say it like this: “Followers of Christ DO hear God’s voice.”
Even if you don’t know it, let me tell you, you DO hear the voice of God.
But here’s the issue: You hear a lot of voices.
And I don’t just mean those of you who forgot to take your medication.
We all hear our own voice. We hear our friends voices, we hear our employers voice, we hear our parents voices (even if – long since passed, I believe the voice of our parents has a way of really sticking around), and then for the Christian, we believe there’s the voice of the accuser or the devil. & We hear God’s voice.
And all of those voices are floating around in your head all the time.
Challenge : discern between.
And so challenge then becomes learning to discern between these different voices.
And if young people were to come up to someone who’s followed God for a long time and ask ‘How can you tell the difference between God’s voice and just an idea that you had.
And they will look at you with a horrified look on their face because they weren’t expecting you to ask them that.
The truth is, that for a lot of them, they don’t know. They don’t know how they know, they just know.
I feel like they’ve learned the FEEL of it.
Deli – 1 3/4lb – roast beef. – PERFECT.
Sometimes I’m so amazed when I go to the deli and I’ll ask for like 1 and 3/4 pounds of roast beef. And so they cut the meat, but it on the scale, and it’s PERFECT. Within 1/100th of a pound. And you’re thinking ‘what kind of voodoo is this?!’
But the truth is, they couldn’t tell ya. They’ve just been doing it for a long time.
And if you were to ask them to teach you how to feel 1.75 pounds of roast beef, they would look at you with a blank stare.
And I think it’s the same way when it comes to hearing God’s voice. I think people have learned to recognize the TONE of God’s voice.
Dr. Ricky Moore – Pastor / theologian – Tennesse. One time a friend of mine was telling him something he felt like God was telling him and Dr Moore said: “That sounds like something he would say.’ And something about that phrase has always stuck with me.
We’re all going to be in this lifelong process of learning how to discern.
I love it in the books of acts when the apostles say ‘It SEEMED good to the Holy Spirit and to us’. SEEMED GOOD.
That’s one thing I really respect about our pastors. Marshall will say ‘I feel like God is saying…’
So we’re always in that process.
But I think if we could get some basic signposts of what God’s voice sounds like.
So what I want to do this morning, it to give 3 signposts that have helped me when it comes to discerning the voice of God.
1. The Voice of God is tender.
That’s one of the most defining characteristics of the voice of God.
God is OFTEN gentle, but maybe not ALWAYS gentle. Sometimes it’s a still small voice, sometimes it’s the roaring thunder. But I do believe that he’s always tender.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1)
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, (Psalm 23:2)
he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6)
And I think the voice of God has a way of penetrating our heart in a way that really hits the tender part of our heart. And it can be incredibly challenging but at the same time…
It’s not condemning
Jesus didn’t come in to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world.
It’s not shaming
Hearing God’s voice doesn’t leave you ashamed.
Addendum: God never speaks to you about someone else in a way that shames them. God’s not in the shaming business.
God will speak to you in a way that will expose your heart, God will speak to you in a way that will expose uncomfortable things, but God only exposes things for the sake of bringing healing and wholeness.
It’s always pointing towards redemption. – And shame is heading in the opposite direction from redemption.
I think that God’s voice is heavy but light.
That he can say that most unbelievably challenging things, but in a way that’s still full of hope, and beauty, and redemption.
Chris Green – pastor Tulsa
Chris Green is a pastor in Tulsa – Has a son named Clive who was I don’t know, maybe 9 or 10. And Chris was working on his computer and his son came in and was wanting to play and Chris sent his son away in a way that felt harsh and short, and he immediately felt bad so he went after his son and apologized. And his son turned around, looked at his dad and said ‘That’s ok dad, you’ve been my dad for a long time. I know you’d never want to hurt me.’
In the same way, sometimes the voice of God can come in a corrective way, but never in a destructive way.
So when you’re praying, or reading your bible, or just going about your life and you feel that tenderness, that voice that has access to the deepest part of your heart yet deals with you so tenderly, I think it’s appropriate to ask ‘Is God saying something to me here?’
2. The Voice of God is playful.
You can see this all throughout scripture.
And I think once you kinda get that in your head, you start interpreting passages in a very different way.
I actually find this to be true in a LOT of the Old Testament.
Book of Job
I love it personally, it’s very odd. I’ve preached on it.
Of course the book of job doesn’t have a LOT of God talking, you have a lot of job talking, you have a lot of jobs friends talking.
It’s not till the end of the book that God finally starts talking, and of course this is all in the form of poetry.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: (Job 38:1)
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? (Job 38:2)
Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. (Job 38:3)
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. (Job 38:4)
Who determined its measurements—surely you know! (Job 38:5a)
So I think you CAN read this in a way that sounds super aggressive, but keep this in mind: God really likes Job.
And even at the end of the book of Job where Job gets some gentle rebuke, don’t forget that God compliments Job for his honesty.
And I think if you can read these scriptures right, you can see that a lot of this is the playfulness of God.
“Let me ask you some questions big man, if you know all the answers.”
Can’t you see how playful that is?
And if you have any doubts when it comes to the playfulness of God, let me win the argument with one word: Jesus.
CONSTANTLY playful. / Divine mischief.
Jesus is CONSTANTLY playful.
When I read the gospels, I think there’s always this sense of Divine mischief happening.
Ex: Luke 24
Ex: Luke 24 (My favorite post-resurrection story of Jesus)
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:13)
They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. (Luke 24:14)
(The torture and death of Jesus)
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; (Luke 24:15)
but they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:16)
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. (Luke 24:17)
One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18)
(Haven’t you checked the news? Haven’t you looked at Facebook? Get ready for this…)
“What things?” he asked. (Luke 24:19a)
3 days ago – tortured / killed / buried! SKIP – v28
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. (Luke 24:28)
(“AS IF” – I love that. He knows he needs to go inside, but he pretends that he’s continuing to walk, waiting for them to invite him in. It’s so playful.)
But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. (Luke 24:29)
(“Oh wait… You want me to stay??? Well, alright.”)
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. (Luke 24:30)
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:31)
(As soon as they recognize him. He goes full ‘David Copperfield’ and POOF, disappears. Jesus PUNKED the disciples. You really think Jesus isn’t having a good time here?! He’s clearly enjoying himself.)
So for me, one of the ways that I’m able to recognize when it’s God speaking to me is that God is playful.
There’s a playfulness to it.
In – best way possible. B/C the God who created all, and is IN all, the maker of the heavens and the earth, amazingly, doesn’t take me too seriously. In the best way possible.
Sometimes for me, when something’s going bad at work or someone’s hurt my feelings, and I’m just bugged. I just sit down, fold my arms, and I feel like I sense God just looking at me with his eyebrows raised saying ‘Yeah… Whenever you’re ready…’ And I say ‘I’m not ready! I need 30 more minutes to pout!’ – Even when I get all immature and weird, I think God still has this playfulness that reminds me not to take myself too seriously.
This is coming from a guy who’s prayer life used to 90% asking for forgiveness for stuff. I think sometimes God is like, “Yeah I get it! All is forgiveness. Now can you just relax a little bit and just BE with me?
This is a big piece of how I understand that interesting story in Genesis where Jacob wrestles with the angel all night. – And it’s not super clear if he’s wrestling with an angel or with God himself.
So here’s the question: If God sends an angel to wrestle with you or God comes and wrestles with you himself, do you think the point is trying to beat you at wrestling?
I would say it’s doubtful.
I’m gonna say that if you were in a wrestling match with God and he wanted to beat you, well I think that wouldn’t even take a whole mila-second.
But think about this: What is it like for you to wrestle with your kids?
Is the point for you to BEAT them? You come and slam them with a clothesline. Suplex. Jump off the top rope with a flying elbow.
My daughter Grace is too young to wrestle, but soon! So let’s imagine she’s 5, I’ll still be able to beat her! Right? How old will I be 40? Yeah hopefully.
But the point isn’t to win, the point is to play.
I want to encourage you: Learn to hear that playfulness in the voice of God.
3. The Voice of God is ‘other’.
If that sounds ambiguous, it’s b/c it is.
And if you’ve been thinking this message is just entirely too safe and I haven’t gotten myself into trouble yet, here’s where that all turns around.
I think the voice of God, often times, is the voice you don’t know how to put your finger on.
You don’t know what box to put it in.
It’s like : “Oh, that’s different.”
I hadn’t thought of THAT!
That’s not how anybody else talks.
I can’t tell you how often in my own life, I have everything narrowed down to path A or path B.
I just think how often is it that Jesus doesn’t always respond with an answer but instead answers with a better question to ask.
People were always asking Jesus questions, and very rarely does he actually ANSWER the question.
He responds, but he rejects the premise of the question, and asks a different question, and then walks away.
His voice is ‘other’. He doesn’t always say what you’re expecting him to say.
One of the ways this shows up in my life is this: God doesn’t take up your side in an argument. And that’s really disappointing. B/C often times I want God to come in and validate the way I see the world already. Don’t you?
Don’t you want him to just say “Yes son, she’s horrible. She doesn’t understand you. You were right about her all along. You’re so smart.” Almost never is that what God does.
I love this little verse in Joshua 5:13-14
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you with us or with our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13)
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (Joshua 5:14a)
I love that! “Are you with us or with them?” “Neither.”
“There’s only 2 sides, you have to pick one!” – “No, no I don’t.”
“But surely you think it’s THIS or THAT…” – “Ehh… Not really.”
“God, clearly you adhere to this politics of THIS party or THAT one.” – “Nope, I can do whatever I want.”
God clearly you have to think our church is right and their church is stupid.
I’ve noticed that for me, I’m think ‘God pick A or B.’ – And then God comes and shows me option C that I hadn’t even thought of yet.
I’ve seen this happen all the times in relationships.
When I go to God wanting him to validate my opinion of someone, he almost never does.
I DO believe that God is FOR US (like Paul says) but we can’t ever twist that to mean, “God is for us, and thus, against them.”
That’s not how that works.
That’s not what we’re saying when we say that.
God is “for them” too.
Be VERY suspicious – voice – head – Always agrees.
So be VERY suspicious of the voice in your head that says “You’re right son. You’re so wise. Why didn’t I think of that?” Probably not God.
Author (Anne Lammott)
An author I really like says:
‘It’s safe to assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.’
B/C I think there’s something that God wants to do that is always to speak from the perspective of something that is entirely ‘other’.
- It’s different.
- It’s from a higher perspective.
- It’s not something you’d think of.
I think that’s ONE of the ways that you can recognize the voice of God is that most of the other voices in my hear have a way of saying the most predictable stuff.
My own logic that’s always agreeing with me.
My own inner critic who’s always criticizing me.
My own inner fear – ‘It’s all gonna crash and burn!’
No, God’s voice is ‘other’, it comes from somewhere else.
A new perspective.
But again, there’s a tenderness to it, so even when it’s challenging, it’s not condemning.
God is speaking to you. And so, the ‘art’ is the art of hearing. And discerning. And one of the ways you can do that is by learning the tone of God’s voice.
God’s voice is tender. Even when correcting, God doesn’t speak to condemn, and God doesn’t speak to shame. God speaks to heal, and to bring redemption.
God’s voice is playful. Even when you are, he’s not up in heaven, freaked out about the world is going. No, God’s voice is like a breath of fresh air, reminding us not to take our own worries so seriously, and instead to relax into a simple trust in a loving Father.
God’s voice is ‘other’. Sometimes it’s the voice you can’t quite put your finger on. It defies categories and labels. It’s wisdom that comes from elsewhere. From a higher perspective. He sees options you don’t see. Where you see a dead end, he sees an opportunity for a new beginning.
God is speaking and God is here. And he desires to communicate with his children. So stop, listen, discern, and follow.
Maybe give God just a moment to speak. Let me ask you a question: – Where in the last week have you sensed the tenderness or God?
- Where in the last week have you sensed the playfulness or God?
- Where in the last week have you sensed the otherness or God?
Where – last week – sensed :
- Tenderness or God?