I once heard a story about a man who bought a mule. He had trouble getting the mule to do anything. When telling him to come, he would back away. When telling him to stay, he would start moving. The owner of the mule heard about a man in the next county who trained mules, and he called him up to ask for advice. The trainer said, “Bring him over here, and I will show you how to do it.” So the man took his mule over to the trainer, who told him to put the mule in a yard and wait a while. After some time, the trainer picked up a 2”X 4” and walked over to where the mule was standing quietly. He walked up to the mule and hit him over the head with the 2″ X 4″. The owner of the mule immediately protested, saying, “What are you doing? Are you trying to kill my mule?” “No,” said the trainer, “But you need to know the first thing in training a mule is you have to get their attention.”
Sometimes I think that is how it is with God and His people. He has to get our attention, and unfortunately, sometimes He has to hit us over the head with a 2″ x 4,” so to speak. (Just a little comment. When I first came to America, I told this story in a sermon. I talked about a 4″ X 2″, and the whole congregation laughed. I didn’t know why until I realized that in America, it was called a 2″X 4.” Whereas, in Australia, it was a 4″ X 2″)
Wouldn’t it be so much better if we all were so intent on listening for His voice that He would only need to whisper, and we would hear him? In this Langstaff Letter, let us look at “Hearing the Voice of the Lord.”
THE GOD WHO SPEAKS TO PEOPLE
The God of the Bible is a God who speaks to His people, going back to Adam in the Garden of Eden and right through all the Old Testament. Sometimes, it is directed to an individual like Abraham, and sometimes it is directed to a nation, spoken through one of the prophets like Isaiah. The God of history is a God who speaks.
Hebrews 1:1-2 (NKJV) declares, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” Jesus, in turn, told us, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth… He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13, NKJV).
The Father speaks, the Son speaks, the Holy Spirit speaks.
HOW GOD SPEAKS
Carl Anderson has been like a spiritual son to my wife Dorothy and myself. He still calls me “Papa” and Dorothy “Mama Dorothy.” He has written a wonderful book entitled “Love Speaks,” a clear, fresh, unique, and biblically-based presentation of how God speaks. He breaks it up into three main sections:
- Seven Very Common Ways the Lord Speaks.
- Seven Common Ways the Lord Speaks.
- Seven Uncommon Ways the Lord Speaks.
I am not going to go into all of this but instead suggest you get the book. However, I want to emphasize one way the Lord speaks and encourage you to be listening to His voice.
IMPRESSIONS FROM THE LORD
I am convinced that one of the regular ways God speaks to us is through what the Bible calls “the still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). This includes the thoughts, the ideas, and the impressions that come into our minds.
After all, Jesus said the sheep will know the voice of their Shepherd (John 10:4). We need to develop a capacity to recognize His voice. I am confident He speaks to us far more than we realize. What it takes is the practice of listening for His voice.
As I mentioned before, he often speaks to us with thoughts that come into our minds, ideas that we think of, impressions that reveal something that He wanted us to know. Let me give you an example or two.
THE GARAGE DOOR IS OPEN
It was Ash Wednesday, and I had been invited to speak at a Lutheran Church. It had been a long day, and as I drove home, I was feeling tired. I drove my car into the garage, did one small job of taking the rubbish to the curb, pressed the button to close the garage, and headed up the stairs from the basement. I only had two thoughts at this time – Raid the refrigerator and go to bed. I was not at all spiritually alive. I was not saying to myself, “Something good is going to happen to me.” I was tired and wanted to go to bed.
After raiding the refrigerator, I walked across the room towards the staircase that would take me up to the bedrooms when a thought, an impression, went through my mind: “The garage door is open.” Note, it was not an audible voice. I stopped dead in my tracks and started to think. I closed that door. I heard it go down behind me. But, I was hearing the words, “The garage door is open.” I stood there with a battle going on in my mind. My mind was saying, “You closed the door.” My spirit was saying, “It is open.” Back and forth it went until I decided I might as well go down and check it out.
I opened the inner door to the garage, and sure enough, the door was open. Yet, I knew I had closed it. I pressed the button again and waited to see what happened. The door came down and hit a box that I must have dislodged when taking out the garbage, and because of the safety mechanism on the garage door, it went back up.
I am not sure of all that the Lord was doing in this. He was undoubtedly protecting our property. He was saving us money on electricity on a cold winter night. However, above all, it gave me a marvelous illustration of hearing the voice of the Lord through thoughts and impressions in our minds.
THE HORSE IN THE BARN
One Monday night, my wife Dorothy and I had a small group meeting in our home. I was leading the meeting. At a point when we were gathered around to pray for a particular person’s situation, I was impressed to leave the room and go outside. Doing this, I felt an impression to walk down the driveway towards the horse yard and then to go into the barn where the grain was kept. The barn had two doors, one to the driveway and the other to the horse yard. When I opened the door, I discovered the door to the yard had been left open, and one of the horses had come in and was feeding himself. I quickly got him back into the yard and closed the door. You see, if he had eaten too much grain, he possibly would have died. Yet, here I was, following an impression from the Lord, strange as it was, leaving a meeting I was leading and going down to the barn.
That is how God can speak to you at times. That still small voice is sometimes just an impression.
THE NEED TO BE LISTENING
In the video series of his book “Love Speaks,” Carl Anderson uses the phrase “Keep Listening.” Remember the words of Jesus, “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4, NKJV).
Let me finish with a fascinating story I read recently with my wife, Dorothy. It was from a Guidepost book of daily devotion, a story by Tez Brooks:
“My friend Christopher shared with me that he used to be a dolphin trainer for an amusement park some thirty years ago. Recently, he returned to the park with his family. When the staff realized he used to work there, they gave him a backstage tour.
‘I was amazed at how different things are now,’ said Chris. ‘So many improvements and state-of-the-art equipment.’
Then he walked over to the new dolphin tank, and the guide described several of the mammals, calling them by name.
‘Many of these are the offspring of our oldest, most beloved matriarch, Bubbles.’
Chris’s jaw dropped, ‘Did you say “Bubbles”? I trained her!”
At the sound of his voice, Bubbles swam directly to Chris and began interacting with him, having recognized an old friend. For several minutes Chris and Bubbles enjoyed their unexpected reunion as the dolphin matriarch followed him around the perimeter of the tank.
‘That made my day,’ Chris said as he closed his story.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about Bubbles. She knew Chris’s voice and his face” (Guideposts 2021).
If a dolphin can recognize his trainer’s voice 30 years later, how much more should believers recognize the voice of their master every day.
God is a God who speaks, and we need to be a people who listen.
If you are interested in purchasing the book ‘Love Speaks’ by Carl Anderson, you can contact him at borntoblaze.com.
If you are interested in purchasing the devotional ‘All God’s Creatures 2021’, you can find information at guideposts.com.