Posted tagged ‘hearing the voice of God’

Impersonating Familiar Voices

August 2, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       August 2, 2017

                               

When I was a young boy growing up in the Bluegrass State our family had a Sunday night routine of going to the Sunday evening service at Central Baptist Church in Winchester, coming home and having mom or dad pop some popcorn, and then sitting in front of the Philco and watching The Ed Sullivan Show. I was always hoping for certain guests on the program like Jackie Vernon or Topo Gigio. Sometime during the evening I’d do my Ed Sullivan impersonation and say “Tonight we’ve got a really big “shhooowww”!”, and I would say “show” like the host was known for pronouncing the word. My Ed Sullivan impersonation was my best act during those days. Once in a while I’d pretend to be Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy, or John Wayne, complete with his familiar strut, but Mr. Sullivan was my go-to.

In later years I impersonated my aunts and uncles, grandparents, and even my mom, but Ed Sullivan was the trailblazer for me. My parents would express their amazement, real or pretend, at how close to the real thing I sounded. I practiced saying “Topo Gigio” frequently, perfecting my modulation and inflection.

BUT I could never quite be Ed Sullivan! Of course, in the later years when he was still doing his show he looked like death warmed over, but it wasn’t his appearance that I was after. It was his voice. I thought it was cool to sound like him.

We seem to do that with the voice of God, also! There’s a tendency to want to make something sound like it’s of God and from God. People are often impressed by prophetic voices with the right rhythm to them. They get carried away by the utterances rather than the truth!

Unlike Ed Sullivan, it seems much easier for people to be fooled by the impersonation of the Holy than some other celebrity. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become so distant from Him that we are easily suckered into a scheme that goes amiss!

Or maybe it’s because we’re so starved for a word from the Lord that we’ll believe anything! And so churches are led down a promising pathway…and hope-depraved people are given a word of potential, egotistic pastors continually hear God’s leadings that no one else can hear, and shallow believers are helpless to discern what is of God and what isn’t!

The impersonation of the things of God and the action verbs of God leave us with a church that becomes cynical towards God.

“Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!” We’ve been fooled by the impersonations of God too many times, and a number of people have decided they will never be fooled again…even by the real voice!

Knowing That Voice!

September 19, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            September 19, 2016

                          

     My wife Carol still shakes her head in disbelief as she retells the story to people. It happened about twenty years ago now in the midst of a restaurant in Tempe, Arizona called Rustler’s Roost. Our family, along with Carol’s mom and dad were enjoying a nice dinner in the midst of the establishment. As we sat there sipping our Pepsi’s and munching on the pre-meal bread I heard a voice, a woman’s voice, coming from a few tables over from us.

I looked at Carol and said, “That’s Sue Burt!”

She gave me a confused look and asked, “Sue Burt?”

“Cyndi Martin’s step-sister from Arlington Heights.”

“How do you know it’s Sue Burt?”

“I’d recognize that voice anywhere!” Sue Burt’s step-father was Dr. James Payson Martin, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, a church where I served as Youth Director during my next year of seminary in 1978-1979.

It was now 1998!

“Bill, are you sure? You aren’t even looking at her.”

“Absolutely!”

Without delay Carol got up and walked over to the table where “the voice” was coming from and asked the young woman, now about 35 years old, if her name was Sue Burt. She was greeted with a confused look attached to an affirmative nod. Carol explained to her that I had heard her voice. I walked over and we reconnected for a few minutes after a twenty year gap.

Sue had a voice that was distinctive, unmistakable, just like a few other voices that we can easily recognize…Pee Wee Herman…Mister Rogers…our family physician. When a voice becomes known to you it isn’t easily forgotten. When a voice speaks into your life you remember it.

I find this is increasingly true for followers of Jesus. When we know the voice because our life has listened to it for a long, long time we recognize when the voice is speaking to us. In a culture of a lot of noise- or perhaps multiple voices- hearing the “true” voice is essential for a person’s spiritual journey. The thing is lack of intimacy with “the Voice’ creates a high level of voice-guessing. That is, God becomes the voice of personal agendas clothed in spiritual jargon. “God told me so!” gets used a lot to cover up self-centeredness or people on power trips.

Churches are prone to listen to the ten spies rather than to the “Joshua and Caleb’s”. People also tend to listen to the loudest voice rather than the whisper of the Spirit. The one who has the deepest intimacy with the real Voice often gets drowned out by the turned up volume of others. Spiritually mature voices are seldom loud. Wisdom and discernment don’t emerge out of turned up volume.

But when a person or a church truly…undoubtedly…unmistakably…undeniably hears the voice of God, the whisper of the Spirit, and the leading of the love of Jesus something that can only be explained as being of God is about to happen!