Heard

(Final post in a 5-part series collaboration)

In the first four posts of this series, my guests have shared how they hear from God. Here’s a recap with a link to their post:

Dawn: worship, prayer, personal devotions, preaching, meditation, relationships

Bob: putting God first, asking Him to speak, aligning priorities, talking about him with others

Erin: peace from God after season of prayer, Spirit conviction, through others

Aaron: vision from within (words, peace), scripture

Before I answer the question, I believe it’s helpful to answer another question: What might be keeping me from hearing God’s voice? I believe that can be answered with this word-Noise. God is always present and available, but it’s quite possible he can’t be heard over all the other noise. And if I’m honest with myself, all that noise is entirely within my control.

“If I’m moving at an insane pace and there is no room in my life for quiet, I will miss God’s voice.” –Lance Witt, Replenish

So if I earnestly want to hear from God, I have to control the noise. And what that most likely means is tuning it out. Tuning out:

  • Distractions like social media
  • Voices contrary to godly dialogue (in my own head, lies from the enemy, subtleties in media/entertainment, misguided thinking or content from well-meaning people)
  • By slowing down
  • By scheduling quiet

Once I’ve handled the noise, then I’m ready to tune in to hear from God. Dawn, Bob, Erin, and Aaron have told us how they tune in. Here are five ways I tune in:

  1. Community. As an introvert, a community of one sounds fine to me. But I’ve learned that I rob myself and tune out the voice of God when I resist being in community. So my community consists of small groups from church, routine meet ups with like-minded men, being coached, and engaging in Sunday services by expecting to receive a personal message from God to me.
  2. Journaling. I’m not legalistic about it, but often journaling is a helpful exercise during or after reading scripture. When a thought or challenge surfaces that needs some exploring, that’s what guides how I approach my journal entry. Sometimes it looks like a paraphrase of what I read, putting into my own words or applying it to a current situation. Sometimes it ends up being a written prayer. Sometimes it’s bullet points. Sometimes it’s an outline for future teaching use. If you haven’t tried it and would like some direction, I suggest reading The Divine Mentor by  Wayne Cordeiro. Journaling has the potential of opening up an avenue of conversation that otherwise may not happen.
  3. Prayer. In order to hear from God, prayer should be viewed as an ongoing dialogue, a two-way conversation.  You might say a paraphrase of “pray without ceasing” would be “never hang up the phone.”
  4. Asking and Expecting. Similar to dinner conversation or an email thread, the dialogue of prayer should include more than input from one party. For my part of the conversation, I try to include questions that require an answer only God could give, such as:
    • “How did I do with that interaction with my coworker today?”
    • “What are you trying to say to me through that verse that just came to mind?”
    • “What encouraging words do you want me to share with the grocery cashier?” Ask the question and wait for the answer. He’ll answer the email when it’s time. Or it may wait until the next meal. That’s part of recognizing his sovereignty.  But it’s up to my end of the conversation to ask the question.
  5. Responding. Since all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is little doubt that he speaks to us. I have found that one of the best ways to tune in is to simply respond when he speaks. Much like a child who has been called to dinner or given any other direction from their parent, a respectful, “Heard,” helps both parties know they are connected.  And a “Thank you” can’t hurt either.

So what’s your answer? How do you hear from God? A DJ on thejoyfm Tuesday said he got a message from God through feeding his fish. One thing is true-God’s ability to be heard is unlimited. We five writers would like to hear how God is heard by you.

Three Things I’m Thankful For

This quote I read last night leads me to three things I’m thankful for today:

Maybe part of the reason we have such a hard time with no is that we aren’t still long enough to discover the yes. Think about it. This would be a great exercise on a personal retreat. Ask yourself, “What is the higher Yes in my life that will become the filter through which I make decisions?” Write it down and declare it to those around you.

So this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for:

  • Higher Yeses – These come from God’s purpose for our lives. Living in them brings him glory.
  • Uniqueness – We all have unique higher yeses, also from God. Accepting and owning ours and encouraging others to do the same brings him glory.
  • Being Seen and Heard – I’m often reminded that God sees and hears us through Hagar and Ishmael’s story in Genesis 16. In our decision making, in our stillness, in our wandering, in our pain, in our blessing-in all of life, his seeing and hearing us reveals his glory.

May his glory be known by our choosing higher yeses, owning our uniqueness, and pursuing being seen and heard by him.

Known

One of my favorite songs right now is entitled “Known” by Tauren Wells.

It has a message that our culture needs: grace, identity, acceptance, faithfulness, and forgiveness, particularly from God.

I’ve recruited a few guest bloggers (Rick Howell, David Goodman, and Frank & Shelby Welch) for a collaboration based on this song. We will share how in 2019 God has shown he knows us. These will post on Wednesdays during December.

You got a story about being known by God this year? Feel free to share. If not on this platform, maybe share it this week in a personal conversation. It could be your answer to “What are you thankful for?”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Upcoming Group Coaching Program

Just finished this book and excited about developing a coaching group around it.


Edging closer to a new year and decade, we can challenge ourselves about personal growth in order for God to do all he desires in our lives. My working name for the group coaching program is this: Going After The Better and The Deeper: My 2020 “I Can” Plan. The program will last four weeks meeting on Wednesdays starting January 8.

Of course, you can start your work now by getting a copy of the book. To whet your appetite of what your coaching may address, here are a few quotes:

  • One reality you must come to terms with is that your mind is not always telling you the truth.
  • Accepting reality is like a reset button for rebooting your computer.
  • You are never without options. That is the nature of God’s creation.
  • We are all control freaks, to an extent. God has always encouraged his people to take risks in order to grow, change, and live the lives of faith that will produce good fruit.
  • The accurate meaning of failure is that it is a learning experience.
  • Whenever you encounter a closed door, God knows what he is doing. Trust him; he is for you.

Official registration for the group will come later. To get in now, send an email to john@firstbradenton.com.

Heard

(Post #4 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Aaron Pilant (bio below)

When I was preparing to get married twenty years ago, I remember some very important advice that the marriage counselor gave us both.  He said that communication is the key to any successful relationship.  He went on to say that if we could learn to communicate well with each other, our marriage would be a success.  No problem.  I like to talk.  She likes to talk.  Done.  Twenty years later, I have learned that communicating is not just talking, but being heard as well.  I have also learned that communication is not always verbal.  Actually, most communication is non-verbal.  The communication you are reading right now…non-verbal.

I am a Christian who committed his life to Christ at the age of thirteen.  My “salvation” experience occurred when I was alone in my bedroom late at night.  I had been struggling with this decision for some time.  I was wrestling back and forth.  That night was different though.  I remember being in bed trying to sleep, but I was unable to stop thinking about God and my relationship to Him.  I was raised in church.  My parents dragged me and my siblings to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  I participated in church clubs and activities, but secretly I was battling in my inner heart and mind.  I knew how to give my life to Christ by surrendering to Him, but for some reason I resisted.  That night in June, I was back wrestling within again.  This night was different, though.  This night, I felt that I could no longer put this decision off.  There was a sense of urgency within me.  This is where I first remember hearing from God.

I think it’s important to know, I have never audibly heard God’s voice.  I have never seen writing in the sky.  What I heard was within.  I was given a vision of my reality apart from God.  Then I heard within myself, “Why are you waiting, Why are resisting me?”  The vision was unpleasant.  The question burned within my mind, my heart, my soul.  I finally yielded that there was no good reason.  I then poured my heart out to God asking Him to forgive me of my sin and stubbornness.  I then committed to following Him as my Lord.

So from that day I have worked diligently and sometimes not so diligently to hear God in my life.  I will say this-there are times when I can’t hear God.  But there are many times where I hear God speaking to me in my heart.  Every time I hear from God, it is within.  Sometimes it is words.  Sometimes it is peace.  Sometimes it is just a feeling.  I am usually able to determine that it is God when the communication that I am receiving is far from what I would naturally want to do or like to do.  They are always in line with His word and often confirmed through scripture being brought to my mind.

I want to conclude by saying God doesn’t always speak to me when I want him to…or speak to me in the way I want Him to.  There have been many occasions when I have pleaded God for answers and none came.  I have spent hours, days, weeks, and months waiting.  I do get frustrated when waiting for these answers.  Funny, though, I am soon reminded of Isaiah 40:31 or a verse very similar.  I think, though, there are very good reasons for the lack of answers at times.  I know that when the answers are not readily available I spend more time talking with Him, calling out to Him, pleading with Him, crying to Him.  I wonder if the reason that answers are not always so available is because God wants to spend more time with me.  Or probably more accurate, He knows I need more time with Him.  I have often been told that life is not about the destination but the journey.  I believe that our walk with God is the same.  If you can’t or don’t hear Him, He doesn’t want you to give up.  He wants you to spend more time with Him until He knows you are ready to hear what He has for you.  God speaks to us all.  We just need to learn to listen.


Blogger Bio:  Aaron Pilant married Erin Pilant nearly 20 years ago. They have a 16-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. Their very favorite thing to do as a family is go to Disney World, and they do it often.

A Memorable Human Encounter

Once in a while we’re fortunate to have a memorable human encounter. When it happens, I believe we should share it. I had one yesterday.

Actually, several dozen people were present, but I suspect few of them would classify it memorable. We all got to hear a few words from a local leader in sports and education. He shared some life principles as part of a community gathering at our church. His words were well said and presented. He knew what he wanted to say, he said it, and no more. He represented himself and his position honorably.

His words weren’t necessarily his. The majority of what he shared retold what he remembered learning from his grandfather, a Baptist minister. He recalled them with fondness and admiration acknowledging they started the journey he is continuing himself and now works to pass along to students and athletes under his leadership. Everyone listening had a human encounter.

But mine was memorable, not because of what he said but because of what he didn’t say. Until last night, he and I had only communicated through email and voicemail where I extended the invitation to him to come speak and then our prepping for it. In them and through all he shared with me privately and publically last night, not once did he mention his title, his success, his credentials, his history, or his current victories. Only since last night through the wonders of the Internet have I learned there is plenty he could have mentioned. His lack of being about himself was refreshing and honestly unexpected. That shows character. That reveals humility. That deserves memory.


Thank God for this servant leader, Coach Shakir. I’m grateful for this encounter. I pray God blesses his future encounters to continue to be memorable for all the right reasons.

Heard

(Post #3 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Erin Pilant (bio below)

Nearly 16 years ago, my husband and I had to make, what we would call, a major life decision. In our three short years of marriage, we had had a couple of decisions to make; but in my book, this was by far the biggest.

I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. This was where I worked, where I got married, where our son was born. This was the place where we were going to raise our family and where we were going to grow old. My husband was a youth pastor of a small, country church. We had seen many students trust in Jesus and grow into leaders within the student ministry; we had formed close relationships with them. We loved this little church and it’s people; but God was changing our hearts, and we didn’t understand why. He had other plans for us, but we didn’t know it yet.

An opportunity was presented to us. A church in Independence, Missouri, where my husband was born and raised, was looking for a youth pastor. There were too many “coincidences” for us to ignore this, what we thought could be God literally moving in our lives. This was the first time I begged God to give me peace about something…about anything. This would be such a huge life shift for us. I couldn’t imagine living somewhere other than Florida. No longer being a few minutes away from my parents. Leaving my job of 7 1/2 years. My mind was on overload. So I begged God for peace, the kind of peace described in Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I was very nervous, and I needed His help.

I cannot tell you where I was, or what I was doing, or even how long it took. But like a wave flooding over me, He gave me the peace I had been asking for. Suddenly, I had full confidence that God was going to take care of us and that He would lead us to the right decision. In every step, He guided us and gave me peace, a peace that transcended all understanding. My soul, my heart and my mind, they were all at rest.

God answering my prayers for peace was a big moment in my Christian life. No, not all life decisions end up where I thought or even where I wanted, but God showed me that He really does desire to give us what we need. My desire was to hear from Him, and He gave me exactly what I needed. Our move to Independence, Missouri, ended up not being a difficult one at all. I knew we were right where God wanted us.

It’s important to know that God speaks to me in several different ways. The Holy Spirit convicts me often. He speaks to me through others, like my pastor. And sometimes I just have a nudge in my heart or the pit of my stomach. However, peace is what I continually ask God for.

How do I hear from God? He gives me peace-His peace. My heart hears His whispers of comfort…in small decisions and in the big, life-changing decisions…in the moments when I need clarity and I’m searching for the next step. I ask God for only the peace that comes from Him through being in His Word, continually drawing closer to Him, and being in prayer. He gives me peace to see that my heart and mind are ready for the next step.


Blogger Bio:  Erin Pilant married Aaron Pilant nearly 20 years ago. They have a 16-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. Their very favorite thing to do as a family is go to Disney World, and they do it often.
Erin is a Marketing Director of Chick-fil-A Cortez Plaza (941-727-7313) and for 8 years has been making people fall in love with the brand, one Chicken Sandwich at a time.
When Erin isn’t at Chick-fil-A, Disney or at Church, you can find her watching a new movie or an old classic and spending time with friends and family.

🐄eat more chicken

Hey Leader…Get Some Help

A copy of this Carey Nieuwhof book was given to me recently. Just finished reading it. Worthwhile.

I want to pass along one paragraph that may be one of the most helpful practices in the book. In chapter five entitled “Don’t Quit,” Nieuwhof lists five practices that have helped him, the founding pastor of a multi-site church near Toronto, persevere. The second practice reads:

2. Get some help. A decade ago I sat down with a counselor for the first time. Jim helped me get through some key issues, and he helped my wife, Toni, and me navigate some of the pitfalls common to couples when one is called into ministry. I’ve seen a few counselors over the last decade during different seasons and am quite sure I wouldn’t be in ministry today if it weren’t for their influence in my life. When I’ve been tempted to quit moments before a key breakthrough, my wife, prayer, wise words from others, and the help of a counselor made all the difference. I really believe God uses other people to speak to us. Interestingly enough, I don’t know of a single influential ministry leader who’s made it over the long haul who hasn’t been through some form of formal or informal counseling. My only question is why I didn’t go sooner.

Leader, consider the practice of your colleague. Get some help.

The 7-year-old & The 77-year-old

Many believers claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a favorite verse. Rarely have I heard anyone share the next two verses along with it. There’s more to claim.

You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

Wednesday morning I shared verse 13 with a lady in my office. It came to my mind while I listened to her explain how she has been drawn to God by attending our church since moving to Bradenton. At the age of 77, she is seeking God with all her heart for the first time in her life. And God is keeping His promise.

Yesterday God showed himself to a 7-year-old. The nurse at her school inquired if we could help this little second grader with some new shoes. She has tremendous health issues, so her family struggles to meet basic needs. When we showed up with a pair of shoes for her, unbeknownst to us we were showing her God listens. She loves pink. And we had brought a pair that looked like these:


God cares about your details.

God listens to your calls.

God sees all hearts, the 7-year-old whose heart is suffering and the 77-year-old whose heart is searching.

Call. Come. Pray. Seek. Search. With All Your Heart.

Heard

(Post #2 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Bob Morrissey (bio below)

On March 19, 1995, I had just arrived home after serving with my dad on the church Sunday school bus. I was 14 years old, and the events of that morning were not on my mind; and shockingly enough, neither was the lunch my mom had prepared for our family. I was interested in what was on NBC. My mom told me to stay at the kitchen table, even though my eyes kept drifting toward the opening above the kitchen sink which looked toward the TV in the living room. Finally my dad interrupted with permission for me to leave the table and to watch Michael Jordan as he was returning from his first retirement from the NBA. I remember nothing of church that day. But I do remember that game.

I didn’t know what Jordan would do in the game, but I knew I could see him if my mom would just let me turn on the TV. How did I know he was playing? Why was it so important that I watched the game?

51ZnEYVcMvL._SL500_AC_SS350_

Because:

  1. I saw so many commercials of him with Nike, Wheaties, Gatorade, and McDonalds.
  2. I had two glass-framed posters of him hanging in my room.
  3. I had watched 5 years of him playing previously.
  4. I pretended to be him in my driveway.
  5. I wished that I owned a pair of Jordan shoes.
  6. I knew all of his stats.
  7. I collected as many basketball cards of him as I could. (Which I still have!!!)

I didn’t miss seeing his first game back because He was on my mind.

It reminds me of Matthew 6:21 which says, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” I had invested so much time and money into him I could not help but to ignore everything else going on that day.

I do not want to just hear from God when I read the Bible or when I hear a sermon. I want to know everything I possibly can about what He is doing every moment. I think I often do not hear His voice because He is not on my mind, because He is not more important to me than my church, my wife, my kids, or what I have to accomplish that day.

When I hear from God throughout the day it’s because:

  1. I put Him first early in the day. – Psalm 63:1
  2. I’m asking Him to speak to me. – Matthew 7:7-8
  3. I’ve made His priority my priority. – Colossians 3:1
  4. I’m talking about Him to others. – Matthew 28:18-20

Doing these things is taking my treasure, my time, and focusing it on Him. When I do this my heart follows, and I can’t help but hear Him all throughout the day. These four things cause greater anticipation to hear Him and be in His presence, therefore I seldom miss His voice when He chooses to speak.

What could you do to create anticipation in your own life to hear God speak to you?


Blogger Bio:  Bob Morrissey grew up in a Christian home. From an early age he knew that God had called him to ministry. He started The Church at Clawson where he is the founding/lead pastor. He enjoys bringing truth from God’s Word and making it practical and relevant to our everyday lives. He met his wife Cindy while attending college. They have three sons: Bobby (15), Tyler (13), and Jaydon (10). Bob and Cindy love to go out and get a good steak, hit up the local ice cream store, watch The Blacklist, or re-watch Star Wars. They love taking their kids to the park and watching them in their sports leagues. Bob loves playing and watching sports. His favorite Detroit teams are the Tigers and Lions.