Online Bible Study: Week 2, Chapters 3 and 4

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 Thoughts

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.

Your Thoughts:

  • 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

21 thoughts on “Online Bible Study: Week 2, Chapters 3 and 4

  1. Heather C. King says:

    Local Virginia ladies, I just got a message from the owner of the Heaven & Earth bookstore in Hayes, VA. She’s found out about our study because several of you were requesting the book at her store. She has so graciously ordered 2 more copies of the book and will have them in by tomorrow (Tuesday)! If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, this could be the answer for you!!

  2. Marie Auker says:

    My favorite thing from this week’s reading is on p. 54. “Ask the Lord to remove any barriers or preconceived ideas about how God communicates, so that you can really start to discern His voice.” I know I’ve often had preconceived ideas or teachings from growing up or someone else. Then you will be reading the Bible, and find out that those ideas can be lies, warped, or just a little bit off.

    • Heather C. King says:

      That’s a great quote from this section. In her last study that we did (One in a Million), she talked about how we all have a box in which we put our ideas about God. We pick them up from everywhere. Our upbringing, friends, church, denomination, culture, experiences, testimonies of others, etc. They are everything we believe about what God is like and how He works.

      The problem isn’t that we have a box. We’ve all got one. The problem is that we dare to put a lid on the box and say, “This is how God is. Period. End of story.”

      I love, though, how you brought it back to what Scripture reveals to us because that really has to be the bottom line. I agree with you completely. What does the Bible say about who God is, how He speaks, what He does . . .? If it doesn’t fit the notions we’ve developed, then we need to change our notions!

  3. linda meredith says:

    My Eli’s are often much younger folks who are much more mature in their faith than I am at my tender age of 65+! thank God for those that the Holy Spirit guides me to to help open my eyes! AND I really need to practice listening skills-in all aspects of my life!

  4. Peg Poole says:

    I agree that Satan can distract us from our quiet times, like several of you said in previous posts. I also think that he can cause us to doubt what God has to say to us. This is where I struggle because I tend to lack self-confidence. It’s why I need God’s confirmation not once, but continually, and it’s why confirmation through scripture is also essential to me.

    I used to think that it should be easy to know when I was on the right path with God. Of course, if I was in alignment with God’s will, everything would go smoothly, right? No road blocks; no speed bumps. But Satan tries to convince me that those speed bumps are God’s way of telling me I’m on the wrong course. I find myself questioning the motives for the paths I choose. Is it me that wants the promotion or the extra letters after my name, or is it God’s way of placing me where I can best glorify Him?

    So, I must rely on confirmation. One way God has given me confirmation is through self-assurance, or perhaps a feeling of inner peace. I feel I am in alignment with scripture; I am not troubled over my decision; I am excited! When I am on a path that satisfies God, I find that each day brings increasing enthusiasm.

    Here, I have to bring up our adoption of Emily. Quite honestly, adoption had not even been a consideration for me, and then one day, it was in my heart. I was able to come up with so many reasons why we shouldn’t. My husband would likely say no, the cost was enormous and we didn’t have the money, we had to travel to China. Even after we made our decision, the speed bumps kept on coming (some days, in droves). It would have been so easy to be fed up and say, “God’s closing the doors to this opportunity.” Except that the confirmation was there! With confirmation comes a certain level of determination; praise God!

    A quote that I found in Chapter 4 to be very reassuring to me was, “Trust that the Holy Spirit’s guiding voice will lead you into His will.”

    P.S. I, too, was going to comment on which discipline of faith that I struggle with, but I got too busy…

    • Heather C. King says:

      Thanks, Peg, for reminding us that being in God’s will doesn’t always mean things are going to be easy. I love your testimony of how even when difficulties with Emily’s adoption occurred, you could go back to what God had confirmed for you. That’s the great thing about having that confirmation. It can serve as a reminder when things get tough.

    • Heather C. King says:

      Peggy, your comments ministered to me even more as the week went on. When I stopped medical transcription in the spring, I knew and had it confirmed that it was what God wanted me to do. It was radical obedience. Since then, we’ve had so many unexpected house repairs and car repairs. It just seems like we’re walking on eggshells and breaking every one of them. It would be so easy to give up, but I’ve been reminded today that “the speed bumps kept on coming” for you with Emily’s adoption. But you pressed on because you knew you were doing God’s will, even though it wasn’t easy. I’m reminded also how Satan uses these attacks to try to divert us from obeying God, making us give up before God’s intended blessing. Thank you for reminding me that it may not be God closing the doors and instead might be Satan trying to keep us from going through them.

  5. Heather K. Pantano says:

    One of my favorite passages is: Your spirit is the essence of who you are and allows you to have contact with the spiritual realm. It is this part of us that longs for a connection with a higher spiritual being. ……the human spirit was made for the Holy Spirit’s presence. It is your human spirit that received the Holy Spirit when you became a believer. When He comes in, “the old life is gone. A new life has begun.” Now you human spirit is no longer separated from God but is born again and regenerated. You can connect with the one true God.

    This really caught my attention because it made it so,so personal to me. One of my weaknesses that Satan is constantly attacking are my emotions and feelings, I mistakenly rely on them and feed them too often. Knowing that God is there and “feeling” God’s presence are two different things. I want to physically feel his presence and get frustrated when I don’t. I give in to emotions that seem more real to me in my weak moments. I have always thought of the Holy Spirit as a guiding voice within me but I have not fully connected with that idea that we are “joined”, spirit to Spirit. It was an ephiphany to me reading this passage and illuminated the fact that I need to focus on that inner Holy Spirit and allow it to replace and conquer the feelings I give into so often. God Bless!

  6. Andrea Dixon Anderson says:

    ~What are some of your favorite quotes/Scriptures/passages from chapters 3 and 4 that you’d like to talk about?

    I had quite a few favorite passages, actually I think half this section was highlighted and then copied into my journal. These two really stuck with me. “We must be willing to put aside our preconceived notions about how God speaks so that we can hear the Spirit’s voice.” (p51) I must admit the whole “hearing God’s voice” was a hard concept for me to accept when we first starting coming to church. While I’ve prayed my whole life, the hearing part was for crazy people. Those that “heard God’s voice” and did terrible things. Or those that “heard God’s voice” when they wanted to do what they wanted to do anyway, and then used God’s voice as their excuse to do it. (if that makes sense) I’ve had to put away a lot of preconceived notions to open my heart and ears to really listen and hear. It’s been a process, but I’m getting there.

    The second passage is “Believers, tuck this truth deep into a corner of your heart: God has already given you everything pertaining to life and godliness (2PEter 1:3) God doesn’t give the Holy Spirit in installment plans or on layaway. You have all of Him right now! (p57) I just love this image. I have an image of a set of french doors wide open with light pouring through them.

    ~Can you give an example from your own life or in Scripture when God graciously confirmed His word?

    God’s confirmation of His word, once again, comes back to Baby M. The timing still astounds me. Hearing “the child you are waiting for isn’t a waiting child, they’ll need you soon.” in my head over and over. It may be the only testimony I have to tell at this point, but it’s so amazing!

    ~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?

    I’m waiting for a reveal. The situation with my nieces will be resolved at some point. I’m always prepared for the middle of the night call to go get them. My names are on social services list all over the state, just in case. I’m not sure what God is doing and it’s very confusing and sad, but there’s a plan. I’m anxious to see what it is!

    As for my Eli’s. It’s pretty much everyone I’ve met at Newington, especially the Bible Study ladies. Tidbits that have stuck with me are from Robin Atkins, quite a bit. She always has something fun jotted down to share. One of my favorite bits of advice was when I was dealing with a family issue and she pointed to the scripture to show me the verse Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” It was very helpful at the time! I also follow quite a few blogs with wonderful advice and guidance.

    • Heather C. King says:

      Thanks so much for sharing, Andrea. I love your posts! Your testimony of how God confirmed that it was the right time to reopen your home for foster care is just so powerful. It gives me goosebumps to think about it!

    • Michelle Betts Girard says:

      I only meant to go back and read this weeks since I was gone. i wasn’t going to comment but when I read this:

      “I must admit the whole “hearing God’s voice” was a hard concept for me to accept when we first starting coming to church. While I’ve prayed my whole life, the hearing part was for crazy people.”

      I had to comment. EXACTLY! That is what I deal with. I realize that I put up roadblocks like crazy that keep me from hearing God’s voice. Mostly because only “crazy” people actually hear God speak. When I hear someone say “God told me…” I have this war of emotions that swing back and forth between Envy and Cynicism.

  7. vickie mason says:

    I appreciate the input from everyone. I’m at a point right now where I’m trying to discern some changes and direction in my life. Though I’m not commenting much right now, I am “listening”. Thanks everyone.

  8. Marie Auker says:

    Just wanted to say I’ll miss ya’ll while I’m at the Outer Banks next week. Can’t wait to have quiet time walking down the shore, listening to the waves! God often speaks to me when I’m outside. I’ve already read chapter 5, so if I don’t take my book with me, I’ll catch up quickly. Wait until you read chapter 5, it’s awesome!

  9. Janis Hedgepeth says:

    I have to admit that placing an emphasis on the Holy Spirit has not always happened in my walk. It’s part of the spiritual warfare I fight, being aware of His Presence as an equal member of the Trinity. As often is the case with me, I know what’s right in my head. It’s getting the heart in sync with the head knowledge that many times escapes me. I pray for the Holy Spirit to equip me for each day’s challenges, but allowing complete control is sometimes difficult.
    I do believe that I have reached a point in my life where the Holy Spirit’s bidding and my consience are working together leading me to know when I’m doing the right thing or not. I also have experienced peace when facing decisions and believe that this is God’s way of revealing His will to me. Is this naive?
    I liked the quote from Philip Yancey at the beginning of Chapter 4 in which he reveals the various ways that the Lord speaks to him: sometimes nature, sometimes God’s Word, and sometimes the Spirit speaking. “I cannot control the voice of God or how it comes. I can only control my ‘ears’—-my readiness to listen and quickness to respond.” I pray for those ‘ears’ and listening and responding. I believe responding is essential.

  10. Shannon Burris says:

    I must say that I loved these two chapters! I think that like many I too want that “burning bush” to know that God is speaking to me. I had never looked at the fact that when Jesus ascended to the Father that the Holy Spirit came to dwell within believers and allows us to commune individually with the Father. What a gift we have been given! I like how she says that this is the “most spectacular way God has ever spoken to His people”. Wow! How loved we are!

    In Chapter 4 I got a lot from her discussion of how the Holy Spirit transforms our conscience. This too is something that I had never really examined in myself but must say that I can now truly see! I am not the same person that I was. My conscience is different and led by the Holy Spirit even if I don’t always listen.

    • Heather C. King says:

      Shannon, I really appreciated how you connected the gift God has given us in the Holy Spirit with how this shows how loved we are. I never thought about it that way before. Thanks!

  11. Karen Barnhill says:

    I hear that still small voice and wonder if it is me and what I am thinking or God. The discussion of the Holy Spirit working on our conscience gave me hope that may I do hear God at times.

    • Heather C. King says:

      You are so right that it is sometimes difficult to discern whether we are hearing God’s voice or just coming up with things on our own. Later, she writes, “He externally repeats a message He has given you internally” (p. 86). I loved that thought because the confirmations He gives to us help us recognize, “Oh, that was God talking!” Then, the next time it happens, we are better able to recognize it as God’s voice from the beginning.

  12. Terri Harmon says:

    I have not read Chapters 3 and 4 yet and am a little behind in my reading. After reading everyone elses post I am more anxious to get into reading the book. This past year I took a 36 week Disciple 1 class at our church that went from Genesis to Revelation. It really opened my eyes to how God works in mysterious ways. I learned that if you believe in God and pray and are always helping people that God will always be there for you through the Holy Spirit. That is part of my problem, sometimes I get so busy in my daily life that I don’t always take the time to pray and mediate or even listen to GOD. That is why it is always good to for me to be in some sort of Bible study because it helps me focus on the word and listen to GOD.

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