Welcome back Bible study friends! I’m glad to see you here for week 2 of our time together reading Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God. Some quick notes before we begin this week:
Thanks so much to all who shared in last week’s discussion. I learned so much from you!
Some of you were still getting the book as of the end of last week. I want to reassure you that there is time for catching up and no need to feel overwhelmed. These posts of mine will fall at the beginning of each section. That means you can start the week’s reading on Monday morning and post comments whenever you feel ready (or as you feel ready) all week long. You can also easily go back to old posts by clicking here: Online Bible Study.
The comments can be short! You don’t have to answer every question and certainly not all at once unless you want to. If you only have time to write a sentence or two, that’s perfectly fine.
Here goes week two!
My family used to have several Magic Eye books, each page filled with bright colors and wavy lines. If you stared long enough and in just the right way (they say don’t cross your eyes, but I usually did), then a 3-D image would pop off the page for you to see.
I occasionally managed to manipulate my eyes and the book and see the hidden pictures. What I’ve never been able to do, though, is stare at a close-up photograph of an object and decipher the whole image from just a tiny piece. (Like the pictures along the side).
In the same way, most of us can see the amazing, gloriously evident work of God in our lives. When He’s big, awesome, miraculous, life-changing and writing words on hearts in neon, we notice. We see the “Magic Eye” pictures of God.
But it’s much harder when we look close-up at the images of life to determine the big picture view. What exactly are we looking at? A cornflake? A spider web? A temptation? God’s will? A trial? A blessing?
We can’t tell because we can’t walk far enough away from our daily lives to scan the entirety of the picture—past, present, future—and see the true image that God sees.
Oh, how simple this faith-walk would be if the magic pictures always popped off the page for us, if the 3-D image of God’s plan was ever before us, magnificent, amazing and clear. This is what we so often ask for. We look for signs and wish for physical manifestations of our Mighty God.
Priscilla Shirer says:
We want God to show us His will in a tangible way–a sensational way . . . What we want is for God to speak today the same we He spoke in Old Testament times. It seemed much easier to discern God’s voice back then (p. 45).
While God is ever-creative and able to speak to us in any way He chooses, since the time of Christ’s ascension:
the primary way God has spoken to His people has been through the person of the Holy Spirit, who confirms God’s written Word and applies it to our life. The Holy Spirit and the Bible go hand in hand (p. 50).
We so often overlook the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit living in us! Do we truly understand what it must have been like not to have God with us and in us all the time, whenever and wherever we went?
In the Old Testament, people traveled to a physical building where God’s Spirit dwelt and the Holy Spirit “only came to specific people at a specific time in order to achieve a specific task. When that task was accomplished (or when those people sinned or rebelled), the Holy Spirit withdrew” (p.49).
We feel jealous of those who saw God intermittently. Sure it was unmistakable and flashy, but it was not ever-present. Wouldn’t those same people be jealous of us, having the very Spirit of God with us at all times, guiding and directing us in our moment-to-moment lives?
Even when we cannot see the big picture, we can trust that the Spirit within us does and He’s leading us in the way we need to go. There’s power in the presence of God if only we learn to listen.
(I’ll post the answers to the pictures at the bottom of the page.)
Walking Through the Book:
Chapter 3: A Marvelous Voice
On pages 48-50, she walks us through primary ways God has spoken over time:
- Old Testament: The person of a prophet confirmed usually through a visible sign.
- The time of Christ: The person of His Son confirmed through miracles.
- After Christ’s ascension: The person of the Holy Spirit confirmed through God’s written Word, the Bible.
That’s not to say God cannot or does not ever use miraculous means to speak to us today. As she notes, though, “if God chooses to speak in miraculous ways today, these ways do not lay the foundation for us to hear from Him. Rather they just provide confirmation of the messages we receive through the Holy Spirit’s leading and the guidelines of Scripture” (p.51).
We must always go back to God’s Word as our touchstone of truth.
Chapter 4: A Guiding Voice
Because we fellow-Bible study participants aren’t all from the same denomination, we might disagree about some issues, like how and when we experience the Holy Spirit. Let’s not get distracted by that discussion because on the foundational, salvation-dependent doctrinal issues we have agreement.
Here’s what we do know: the Holy Spirit within us allows us to hear God’s voice and understand His truth more clearly (p. 57).
She also notes that “our human conscience is not the voice of God. It isn’t infallible” (p. 59). Our moral guidelines and consciences can be deceived and deformed.
Over time, though, as we transform into being more Christ-like, there is an agreement between our conscience and the Holy Spirit (p. 67). Eventually our conscience becomes a method our “control tower” uses to direct our “pilot” as we make decisions. “He is steering us into God’s will” (p. 61).
This transformation by the renewing of our minds is gradual. “So, as you listen to your Spirit-led conscience, we must always confirm what we hear” and as she notes, He will graciously confirm it (p. 62-63).
The guidelines she gives us for discerning God’s voice (p. 63):
- Look for the MESSAGE of the Spirit.
- Search the MODEL of Scripture for guidance.
- Live in the MODE of prayer.
- Submit to the MINISTRY of Eli (counsel of a mature believer).
- Expect the MERCY of confirmation.
- Can you give an example from your own life or in Scripture when God graciously confirmed His word?
- Do you have “Eli’s” in your life—mature believers who give Godly counsel? How did you choose them and in what ways have they helped you?
- Have you ever been confused by what God is doing in the here and now only to have Him reveal the big picture much later on?
- What are some of your favorite quotes/Scriptures/passages from chapters 3 and 4 that you’d like to talk about?
What were those close-up pictures above? Some of you may be better at this than me and have been able to guess–a pinwheel and a flyswatter.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King