Can I Know I’m Hearing God’s Voice?

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. Genesis 41:25

God gave Pharaoh two dreams that meant the same thing. Why did He do that? I suspect so that Pharaoh wouldn’t miss the message.

Has God been trying to speak to you about something? You’re stuck in inertia because you fear you’re reading into things. Perhaps it was a dream, but it was so allegorical that you lack the confidence to act upon it. Perhaps it was a word in prayer, but you wonder it if was just your own inner voice. Maybe it was a set of ‘coincidences’ that seemed too incredible not to be divine. These are the kinds of scenarios that lead you to ask, “Did I really hear God’s voice?” Until you know for sure, you dare not endeavor on something risky.

What I’ve come to realize is that God is for me, not against me. He wants me to get it right even more than I do. If I suspect He is speaking to me (and in a way that is outside my box), I ask Him for confirmation. I confess again that I am small and blind, unable to perceive spiritual things well. I ask Him to have mercy on my spiritual small-ness. I ask Him to treat me as He treated Moses. He made it His will so plain ~ When the cloud moves, move. When the cloud stops, stop.

I must say that most of the time, I experience a Father who confirms and confirms. More than just twice; sometimes three and four times. (And each in a different way.) Just as God gave Pharaoh two dreams, each bearing the same message, how much more will God lead a child whose heart is bent to covet His voice and respond with obedience!

I pray for each one who is discounting what You’ve spoken to them this morning. They are afraid. Repeat Your message, Lord, and confirm it in a way that is unmistakable to their tentative faith. Amen

Awkward Compliments

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Genesis 41:15-16

When Pharaoh told Joseph that he knew of his ability to interpret dreams, Joseph didn’t downplay it and say that he wasn’t worthy of such attention. Instead, He put God at the center of his answer.

False modesty plagues us. So does insecurity. These appear to be God-honoring when, in fact, they rob God of the glory due Him.  One of the biggest pitfalls of any platform person is succumbing to pride. Standing ovations, fan letters, and whispers of your name as you pass a group, all swell your sense of worth. In my experience, God gives believers with high visibility thorns in the flesh to counteract the temptation. He minimizes the risk of ministries being ruined by inflated egos.

Despite that, compliments are a part of life, and they can be very hard to know how to handle.

“You’re such a great teacher.”

“You hear the Lord and lead with great faith.”

“No one can organize an event quite like you!”

To simply say, ‘thank you’ can appear to mean, “I agree with you. I am this great.” Shouldn’t I shun praise?  If I were humble, shouldn’t I tell others that their observations about me are inflated or untrue? The problem is that when I do that, I miss the opportunity to tell them how great God is. When I say, “It’s not me; it’s God,” that’s not true. I am part of the equation, half of the collaboration. I embraced the gift, developed it and practiced using it, and then dedicated it to the glory of God.  Spiritual gifting is God working in and through me.

So, what is a good alternative? Let’s say that you teach a small group. It is being blessed and people are growing. One night after the meeting ends, someone comes to you and says, “You are such an anointed facilitator. I’ve never understood this much about Jesus before.” You can answer like this. “I’m so encouraged to hear you say this. Thank you. Please pray for me that I will always depend on Jesus as I teach.”

No matter where we excel, people should know that ‘we know’ the gift came from God. The grace to do it well is because of His faithfulness.

One final thing. You and I should be aware where we are gifted. If we fail to know, how can we be effective? If someone asked you to name three ways God has gifted you, and three things you do well, would it be wrong to answer with certainty, with no apology?  Yes.  You will be humble when you give God the glory for it.

I am confident today because of Your anointing. I’ve lived without it and there was no spiritual power. You are at the center of all I am, and I am nothing without you. Amen

Blaming God For Doing Nothing

After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled. Genesis 41:1,8

What are you waiting on God for today? Part of our spiritual experience is to pray for heaven to come down and then wonder why it doesn’t happen in a traceable way. Our relationship with God gets battered by questions of His goodness and love.

My soul, wait thou only upon God. Psalm 62:6 John Calvin translates this verse, “My soul, be silent before God.” Rest calm and undisturbed. Your enemies are round about thee, but rest, my soul, in God. Your enemies are mighty, but HE IS Almighty; your troubles are grievous, but he is greater than your troubles, and he shall deliver you from them. Let not your soul be agitated. The wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot rest: don’t be like them. Be calm: let not a wave ruffle your untroubled spirit. Cast thy burden on the Lord, and then sleep on his bosom.”    

Joseph sat in his prison cell for another two years after the cupbearer and baker broke their promise to bring his case before Pharaoh.  Did Joseph wonder why God didn’t override their forgetfulness and command them to speak the way He used Balaam’s donkey to speak?  We’ll never know, but we suspect it happened.

After long periods of waiting, I have come to understand that much about my waiting room had little to do with me. It was about God preparing people and situations for what was next, lining up the dominoes to fall in succession.  In Joseph’s case, it appears now that the two-year waiting period wasn’t about Joseph as much as it was about the ripening of times and seasons in Egypt. It was about Pharaoh entering a time of distress over his dreams.

I’m waiting in prayer today over some big things in my life. So are you. What if we could peel back the invisible curtain between heavenly realms and each of us? What if we could see God working in the lives of the people we love? I am convinced that we would see a very active Father, not a passive one. God is wooing, speaking, and arranging divine encounters for the ones we are praying for. He’s preparing the ground for them to encounter Him and know that He is God.

There’s nothing more painful as a parent than to be blamed for doing nothing when, in fact, you’ve been very active. You’ve sought advice, you’ve suffered sleepless nights, you’ve problem solved and rehearsed the obstacles until your head hurts. The one who blames you just doesn’t know.

When I blame God, I am a blind, ignorant child. He is ever proactive.

Passivity is not in your nature. I’ve been lied to. You are incessant as you work behind the scenes.  Revive my faith.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Inflicting a Lifesaving Wound

When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree.” Genesis 40:16-19

I am one from whom others often seek advice. Questions like, “Why am I like this?” “What do you think the problem is?” “Why am I stuck and not progressing?” “Have I done something wrong?” “Is God punishing me?” I love to take someone’s life puzzle and seek God’s help to make divine sense of the pieces, but having said that, the hardest thing for anyone with a gift of mercy is to give a difficult word. If a prophetic gift accompanies a mercy gift, obedience is a challenge. God gives insight that can be difficult to speak. Mercy wants to cushion the blow.

Joseph’s obedience was tested so many times on his rise to blessing. Two cellmates, both former servants to the royal court, shared two different dreams. Joseph happily told the first that he would be blessed and reinstated to his former position. Upon that good news, the other man shared his dream. Joseph found himself at a difficult juncture. There was no good news about the 2nd dream. This man would not be restored to honor; he would be hung. At that point, Joseph could have claimed ignorance, yet he gave the fateful interpretation.

God wants to count on me to speak the truth when the truth is unwanted, even if being honest threatens a relationship.  This is a struggle for me. I’d rather stay silent and just pray than speak up to inflict a potentially lifesaving wound. Infusions of holy boldness from the Holy Spirit are the only cure for timidity.

Make me Your prophet. Trembling but obedient. Amen

The Healer, The Lifter Of Our Head

Then Joseph said to the cupbearer, “This is its interpretation; the three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. Genesis 40:12-13

Have you ever been shamed? No matter the context, the experience is gut-wrenching. Your mind runs tapes of the accusations. Your face feels hot when you think about it.  Your body language turns inward.

Joseph told the cupbearer, the one who was falsely accused, that Pharaoh would lift his head in three days. The Hebrew idiom paints a beautiful picture. It is when the one shrunken in shame is restored to his position of power. It’s used other places in scripture that expand its beauty.

God speaks to His people and joyfully commands them to lift their heads. He has gone out to battle on their behalf and has come back victorious. Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:7

King David, betrayed by his son Absalom, on the run with just the clothes on his back, turns to God for vindication. He climbs the Mount of Olives, covers his head, weeps, and says, “You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3 As king, he could have formed an army, or at least a posse, to get back his throne but he abandoned all ideas of conniving, battling, and manipulating. He recognized that God was his rescuer.

Who has stripped you of your honor? Have you given up all hope of restoration? Perhaps you have even abandoned prayer.  If you’re a fighter, however, you may have vowed to take revenge. You intend to get back what you’ve lost no matter who must pay. Turning aside from God as your Redeemer, you’ve taken up your own cause.

David left the battle to God. So did Joseph. They did the thing that is the hardest for any of us ~ they waited on God to move. He always will. We just don’t know when. In the meantime, the waiting is never wasted. God draws near, comforts, teaches us what He suffered under the same circumstances, and pours out treasure upon treasure that is only found in the darkness. He is, and will be, the lifter of our heads.

Satan offered you a way out of waiting when he offered you the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship. Thank you for not caving. Everything would have been lost. So teach me to wait! Amen

What Kind Of Dream Did I Have?

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. Genesis 40:9-10

I know one thing for sure – God communicates far more often than I know. I was told growing up that God only speaks through scripture. Any other claim of sensing or hearing God was heresy. And yet, the same people who policed what constituted a genuine word from God were the first to say that God had spoken to them in the night and called them to Peru as missionaries. The contradiction was confusing.

I grew up Independent Baptist, and I attend a Southern Baptist Church. However, I am much more progressive in my quest to experience God. Over a decade ago, I asked God to open my senses to hear Him in ways I had previously been closed. That began a new chapter for me. While I am conservative, and careful to sift everything through the grid of scripture, I have had many dreams. I share them when God nudges me.

The cupbearer dreamed about vines, branches, blossoms, and clusters of grapes. Had he been hallucinating? Joseph never suggested that. Dreams are sometimes literal, sometimes allegorical, and when they are from God, they are powerful and life-shaping.

Are all dreams from God?  No. Satan also gives dreams. Dreams can also be quirky and full of silliness, quickly forgotten in the morning. Not all people dream, either. God speaks differently to each child, according to how He wired them. But for each of you who do dream, I share some thoughts.

–I keep a journal by my bed. When I wake up with details that are fresh, I get them down on paper.

–If the dream fades by the time I have the pen in my hand, I know it wasn’t significant.

–If the dream was from the enemy, I know it because it was tormenting. At that point, I ask God to wipe the effects of it from my heart and mind and protect the rest of my night from Satan’s interference.

–If the dream was from God, it was vivid, almost always in color, unforgettable, instructive, intriguing, and came with an urgency to pray and seek clarification.

During a period in my life when I was in counseling, I was in denial about a few of the people in my life and their true nature. God used dreams to show me what was hidden to me. Night after night, in my dreams, they acted out, and I began to see that their behavior in my dream was quite consistent (though exaggerated) with how they behaved in real life.

The bottom line is this ~ none of us want to miss God’s speaking to us. He reveals things far more than we know. The Holy Spirit will help us discover the many layers of our as we share them with trusted Spirit partners, or through Scripture, or through unexpected sources. And most importantly, if a dream is from God, it will be completely consistent with the whole context of scripture. As soon as a dream deviates, I let it go, or I will be deceived. The Word of God is always the plumb line for truth.

For each person who has been afraid of Your voice, give them courage. Instruct, comfort, and enlarge their experience of You. Amen