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Bible Insights

God Speaks to Job…and to Us

When God Speaks, We Must be Ready to Listen

Job’s friends come to comfort him. At least that’s how it appears, but in actuality they’re not much help. Their words assault Job and his character. In exasperation Job goes on a sarcastic rant against his so-called friends and then becomes poetic as he contemplates God’s power.

He ends this part of his discourse by saying, “Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14).

Job uses thunder to imply God. That’s a powerful metaphor.

Today, we have a scientific explanation for thunder. And even though we comprehend thunder in an intellectual way, it still produces an all-inspiring sound that gets our attention.

Imagine how the ancient world viewed thunder: booming, terrifying, powerful, unseen. It might be as close as they can come to comprehending God. Yet even this falls short, far short.

Like thunder, God is both powerful and unseen. Who can understand that? Also, like thunder, God can have a booming loudness. And he can be terrifying, too.

Yet in contrast, God can also be a still small voice, a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12). Which is it?

Both.

God Speaks to Job

Job is in the midst of unimaginable turmoil, of unbearable pain. Everything has been taken from him, except for his breath and his faith—and both of those are tenuous.

He seeks God for answers. He desires to hear God talk and explain what has been happening. He likely wants to hear the booming voice of God to assure him who’s in control and that there’s a purpose in all he has gone through.

In addition, if God spoke in a loud booming voice, not only would Job hear, but so would his unhelpful friends. God would put them in their place, or so Job hopes.

And, later, when God does speak to Job, it’s out of the storm (Job 38:1). And what accompanies a storm? Thunder, loud, booming, terrifying—both God and the storm.

When God speaks, are we listening? Click To Tweet

God Speaks to Elijah

When Elijah has his moment of doubt, he also waits for God to speak. First there’s a wind. Then an earthquake. And finally a fire. But God isn’t in those things. God isn’t loud, booming, or terrifying. Instead he is a gentle whisper. And when God’s whisper comes, Elijah is ready to listen (1 Kings 19:11-13).

God Speaks to Us

God can speak to us in many ways. Sometimes it’s loud and other times it’s soft. Maybe God speaks to us through nature, or friends, or circumstances. Through it all, God speaks to us.

The question is, are we listening?

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Job 25-28, and today’s post is on Job 26:14.]

Discover more about Job in Peter’s book I Hope in Him: 40 Insights about Moving from Despair to Deliverance through the Life of Job. In it, we compare the text of Job to a modern screenplay.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Though David Says That God Is “My Refuge,” I Doubt David Feels It

When it Comes to God, Should We “Fake it Till We Make It?”

Psalm 142 is a prayer of lament. David’s hiding in a cave, likely fearing for his life. He feels alone with no one walking alongside him or having any concern for him. He cries out that he has no refuge, no protective shelter, no safe place.

Even though it seems his hideout in his cave provides a refuge, it’s a physical safety. Perhaps he also seeks a spiritual refuge. He feels he has none.

In his despair, he cries out to God. He writes, “I say, ‘you are my refuge,’”

Note that he doesn’t proclaim that God is “my refuge.” How could he do that when he just said he has no refuge? He merely says that he said it, not that he confidently believes that God is “my refuge.”

Push Through the Doubt

This reminds me of the phrase, “Fake it, till you make it.” I’m not sure how I feel about this adage when it comes to God and spiritual matters, or when it comes to anything, for that matter. But it seems that’s what David does.

Though he says God is my refuge, he doesn’t believe it. Not at that moment. But he prays it anyway. He’s pushing through his doubt, hoping to reemerge to find confidence in God again.

David isn’t being disingenuous in his prayer. He’s being honest—bluntly honest—as honest as he can be in that moment. He’s struggling to reach out to God amid despair and overwhelming opposition.

My Refuge

Intellectually, David may know that God is “my refuge,” but emotionally he’s not feeling it. Physically he’s not seeing it. Yet spiritually he pushes through. He cries out to God, saying words in faith that he can’t yet put his confidence in.

When we’re struggling, hurting, or afraid, may we follow David’s example. Click To Tweet

But he knows he’ll get there. He knows that his weak prayer will move him from human doubt to godly confidence. And God, I suspect, patiently waits for David to get there, for David to get to a point where he moves from going through the motions to a place of faith.

So David can boldly proclaim, “You are my refuge!” (Psalm 142:4-5, NIV).

When we’re struggling, hurting, or afraid, may we follow David’s example.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 140-144, and today’s post is on Psalm 142:4-5.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

How to Deal with the Faith Versus Doubt Problem

Struggling with Doubt Isn’t a Sin, But We Must Avoid Letting Doubt Squash Our Faith

I once listened as a friend wrestled with the issue of faith versus doubt. She groaned in anguish over her struggle to believe with full faith, dismayed over the arrows of doubt that assaulted her. I blurted out, “Faith without doubt isn’t faith. It’s a sure thing.”

I said this without thinking, and I’m still pondering it today. I hope it came from God, but I’m not sure. I think it’s profound, but maybe it isn’t. Yes,

Jesus affirms that great power results when we have faith without doubt. It’s a faith that can actually move mountains (Matthew 21:21). But does anyone have that kind of faith?

However, I suspect that to have faith without doubt isn’t a command. Instead it’s something to strive for, a goal to pursue even though we may never reach it. As a result we’re left to contemplate the faith versus doubt problem.

If we follow Jesus, we have the power to overcome our doubt through faith. Click To Tweet

What the Bible Says about Faith Versus Doubt

The word faith appears hundreds of times in the Bible, most prominently in Psalms (74 times), followed by Romans (40 times) and Hebrews (39 times). In Hebrews we read that “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).

The chapter goes on to talk about the great faith of people in the Old Testament. Nowhere in the whole chapter does the issue of doubt come up. And surely some of these patriarchs did have a tinge of doubt assaulting their faith. Yet they moved forward in faith anyway.

Interestingly the word doubt only appears fourteen times in the Bible, with the book of Matthew taking the lead (3 times). In it Jesus criticizes his disciples for their lack of faith and for their doubt (Matthew 14:31). Later he tells Thomas to stop doubting and to believe (John 20:27).

I don’t view doubt as a sin, but I do see doubt that keeps us from acting in faith as disobedience. Ideally God would like us to have a faith with no doubt, but I don’t think it particularly bothers him when we struggle in the faith versus doubt department.

If our faith wins out over doubt, we’re good. However, we must avoid doubt that squashes faith, causing us to cower in fear instead of acting in boldness.

As long as we’re human, I suspect we’ll struggle with faith versus doubt. But if we follow Jesus, we’ll have the power to overcome our doubt through faith.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Can an Actionless Faith Save You?

Can an Actionless Faith Save You?

There are some people who try to earn their way into heaven. They do good and obey God’s commands—at least most of them anyway. They work hard their entire life to get God’s attention. Surely when their time comes, God will throw open the doors to heaven.

With a wide smile and a gracious gesture he will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” But he could say, “Go away, I don’t know you.” They’re really not sure. They hope they’ve been good enough, but doubt lingers.

Others laugh at this approach. They say you can’t earn your way into heaven. Eternal life is a gift, given in grace and received by faith. They say a little prayer and figure it’s all good. They have their get-out-of-hell card.

Since heaven is a present, they continue living a life unchanged. They set God aside and live for themselves.

Is faith alone enough to save them? Maybe it is and maybe it’s not. James writes that it’s through our actions—that is, our good deeds—that we confirm our faith.

We are saved by God’s grace through faith, andthen we prove it by showing his love to others. Click To Tweet

Yes, we are saved by God’s grace through our faith, but then we prove it by showing his love to others through our actions. We need to have faith and then we need to do good deeds. Both are required.

[Matthew 25:19-23, Matthew 25:12, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:1-2, James 2:14-17]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Demonstrate Our Faith by What We Do

I enjoy the writing and teaching of James. His words offer concise, practical teaching about being a follower of Jesus.

James talks about the great faith of Abraham, exemplified by his willingness to kill his son Isaac in obedience to God. (Spoiler alert: It was only a test. God didn’t actually make Abraham follow through with it. See Genesis 22:1-18.)

Anyone can say they have faith, but their actions prove it. Without a tangible demonstration, the existence of faith remains in doubt. Faith is not cerebral or an introspective endeavor. In truth, our actions speak louder than words.

Faith produces activity, action that shows obedience to God and love towards others. James concludes by writing that faith-prompted action is true righteousness, that is “right living.”

We live right when we express our faith by our actions. As such, our actions speak louder than words.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is James 1-3 and today’s post is on James 2:21-24.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

How to Hear from God

For most of my life I was taught that God speaks to us through the Bible, and we speak to him through prayer. Together, these two one-way communication channels can result in a dialogue of sorts. While this is correct, it’s only part of the story.

I more recently learned that God can also speak directly to us. This may be in the form of audible words—not that I’ve personally experienced them—God’s voice is more often unmistakable words planted into our minds. When I asked a trusted friend for help, he gave me this advice.

  1. Block out a half hour to an hour.
  2. Remove all distractions.
  3. Have a pen and pad of paper ready.
  4. Ask God a question and write it on the top of the page.
  5. Write down everything that comes to mind.
God can also speak directly to us. Click To Tweet

I followed these five steps, and after thirty minutes I had several pages of notes and clarity on my question. What I didn’t have clarity on was if this insight was my own, came from God, or was a combination of the two.

A few weeks later, I tried again. After quieting my own thoughts and shoving them aside, this time I’m quite sure God spoke to me. His words came quicker and the session was shorter. After a few more attempts, I learned what God’s voice is like and how to distinguish his from mine.

Now I regularly talk with God this way, sometimes as a part of prayers or Bible reading, but most often not. We cover everything from major decisions to the trivial.

This is, no doubt, hard to comprehend to those who have never done this or been taught it. Me sharing my experience will certainly not convince anyone, but your own experience can. Give these five steps a sincere effort.

It may take a while, require patience, or necessitate some trial and error. But stick with it and you will one day hear from God.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What Do You Expect When You Pray?

When some people pray, they pray expecting God will answer their prayers and good things will happen.

When other people pray, they pray expecting there’s only an outside chance God will come through; bad things are bound to happen.

When you pray do you expect God to say “yes” or expect him to say “no?”

If we pray expecting God to grant our requests, there will be times when we are disappointed.

However, if we pray with little expectation of God granting our requests, there will only be a few times when we are surprised. We must pray in faith and without doubting.

I tend to be in the first group—expecting the best from God—and not in the latter group—expecting little from him. I see God as kind, loving, and benevolent, wanting to give me good things—all I need to do is ask. When I pray, I almost always expect God to say “yes.”

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What Does an “Unspoken Request” Really Mean?

At a church I recently visited, members shared prayer requests as part of the service. One lady raised her hand and simply said she had an “unspoken request.”

Though I’ve not heard that phrase in a long time, it was a common utterance at a church I once attended. It was almost always said by women, and it always puzzled me. What exactly was behind such a statement?

In considering how it was said, with the body language and tone of voice behind it—ranging from emotional turmoil to smug self-satisfaction—I formulated several possible interpretations:

  • I am too embarrassed to say this aloud.
  • My need is too shameful to mention.
  • I really have nothing to share, but want to call attention to myself.
  • I want to be mysterious and garner unwarranted sympathy.
  • My request is not appropriate to share in a large group or in mixed company.
  • I cannot put the pain in my heart into words.

I think at one time or another, each of these were a correct understanding of the motivation for the person who uttered this ambiguous phrase.

As for the lady who said it most recently, there was definitely a deep emotional pain behind it. I doubt if she could have said much more. In this case I was glad to pray for her—even compelled to do so.

More importantly, when we can’t form the words to express the turmoil within, God is able to understand our groan of a prayer anyway. With him, there is no such thing as an unspoken request.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

How Can We Hear From God?

A good friend was all excited. He had something he couldn’t wait to share.

“God revealed something to me,” he announced. “I’ve not yet found it in the Bible, but I know it’s there somewhere.”

I completely missed what God had revealed to him because I was so taken aback contemplating his statement.

I have no doubt he heard from God—and I trust he heard correctly—but his assertion that he would find it in the Bible perplexed me.

God can also speak words to us through his spirit, not in written words, but in oral words, or perhaps whispered words, words he implants into our mind. Click To Tweet

Growing up I was taught that God speaks to us through the Bible and we speak to him in prayer. That’s correct, but it’s only part of a greater truth. God can also speak words to us through his spirit, not in written words, but in oral words, or perhaps whispered words, words he implants into our mind.

Another wise friend told me if what we think we heard from God doesn’t line up with the Bible, then what we thought we heard wasn’t really from him. In addition to scripture, we can also run our revelations by trusted friends and those in authority over us.

If everything lines up, then we can be quite sure we heard from God.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Gideon Doubts God

Ultimately, Gideon, the Judge, obeys God and realizes a great victory, but he first needs a lot of confirmation to deal with his doubts:

Gideon first asks for a sign that the angel had really spoken God’s words. God acquiesces; when the angel touches his staff to the food Gideon prepared, it miraculously ignites and is burnt up.

Gideon questions God’s promise of victory and gives God a test to perform. He places a fleece (a wooly mass) on the ground and asks that only the fleece have dew on it in the morning. God lovingly does what Gideon asks.

Gideon second-guesses his first test. He gives God another test, but desires the opposite outcome. God patiently complies and in the morning the ground has dew and the fleece is dry.

Although Gideon does not voice any more doubts, they still exist. So God offers a final confirmation. God tells Gideon to sneak up to the enemy camp, where Gideon overhears two soldiers talking about a dream one had about Gideon’s forthcoming victory.

Encouraged, Gideon goes forth with his 300 men—and God’s help— routs 135,000.

It is not wrong to have doubts—and God is generally patient with us when we do—but ultimately we need to obey and do what we are told—even when it doesn’t make sense.

[Judges 6:17&21, Judges 6:36-38, Judges 6:39-40, Judges 7:10&13-14, Judges 8:10-11]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.