I'm reading a book by Tri Robinson right now, and I'm loving all the stories of how God has spoken to him over the years. This is something I've loved about our Vineyard family, that we are quite open to seeing God speaking to us through the situations of life. In the book he was relaying the story of how he came to Jesus, having seen this slide and song presentation about Psalm 42 and then heading into the desert to a significant spiritual place for him. There, crying out for God to reveal if Jesus is really God's Son, a deer walked right up and started at him just like in a recurring slide from the presentation.*
In one of the courses I teach I deal with how we interpret such experiences. It is a bit technical, meant to get at how we can resist the urge to narrow the meaning we derive from such experiences. I love how such experiences can be opened up to grow with us and to help us to grow with them. God's voice is often the voice that has the most potential to challenge and grow us. The reason I think it is important to spend time looking at such experiences academically is because they are such a huge part of my own formation. I look for God in the experiences of life, and more often than not I see and hear God this way.
We run a prophetic workshop through our church, both in our own groups and at other churches that have invited us to come share. The basic premise is that God is speaking to us all, in ways we are uniquely attuned to hear. The problem is that we are not encouraged to recognize or go looking for (listening for) the voice of God. But scripture is full of stories of people who hear and respond to God's voice - a voice that is expressed in a diversity of ways and always full of rich meaning. So in our course we get people to share some of the ways they've heard God speak and how it has shaped their lives. Those are always profound moments.
For myself I've been hearing God speak, in various ways, since before I even came to Christ. In fact it was the voice of God that saved my teenage life, one I had been bound and determined to waste away on drugs. As a teen I was out using some pretty nasty chemicals when I heard a voice tell me to go home. I said no to the voice, blacked out and awoke to discover I was halfway home with the drugs in my hands. God said, "go home and live or go back and die." It was very clear, but it needed to be. After a bit of hesitation I threw the drugs away and went home to have another God story begin - perhaps another post. That experience, which happened about two years before I came back to Christ, convinced me that God did speak if we could learn to listen. I think of my whole Christian life as one of learning to listen.
There have been lots of other ways that God has spoken to me over the years. Found imagery, such as when I was raising the chalice and bread in a wedding I was performing - and just then a fish jumped (it was outdoors by a lake) superimposed from one element to the other and all I could think was, "this is God's provision for this couple." To scriptures leaping off the page to encourage me at times when I needed it most. For example, once when I was a young Pentecostal preacher an older man challenged me because I had no education. It shook me, but I felt led to read 1 Timothy 4 when I went to prayer that evening, and again God spoke to me encouraging me to be faithful with the gifts I had and trust that God would open the doors for the training and education I needed when the time was right.
I don't know about you, but I love these stories. I love that they happened to me. But I love hearing what and how they happened for others. We are blessed with being part of a movement that values hearing God's voice today. So in the spirit of that, what are your stories of God's speaking to you? How have you heard God and how has God's voice transformed you, encouraged you at the right moment, or even challenged the way you believed? Sharing these stories is important for us as a Vineyard. It keeps that expectation and tradition alive. It reminds us that we are a movement that values the voice of the Holy Spirit. I'd love to hear some of your stories.
Frank Emanuel - one of Freedom!
* You can read about it in Tri's excellent book Saving God's Green Earth (2006, Ampelon: pages 40-41).