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Today I want to continue to use the common lectionary to focus our attention on God’s word. One of the passages in this week’s scripture lessons comes from Psalms 29 in which the psalmist speaks of the voice of God. In those few verses, he describes God’s voice in some unique ways. He says it thunders over the waters, is powerful, and full of majesty. God’s voice breaks cedars and flashes forth flames of fire. His voice shakes the wilderness and causes oaks to whirl, stripping forests bare. And in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The Israelites at the base of Mount Sinai described God’s voice as the sound of fire and thunder. But Elijah heard God’s voice as a quiet whisper on the mountain. Samuel was awakened by God’s voice and thought it was his mentor, Eli, calling from another area of the tabernacle. Some at Jesus’ baptism heard a voice bellowing, “This is my son.” Others thought they heard thunder.
Whatever God’s voice might sound like, though, people have heard him. He speaks. He is alive. He was there before the world began because he spoke it into existence. He is alive now as many attest to his spirit active in molding lives and working toward the finality of his purposes for mankind and his creation. And he will be alive eternally. God is. Period. And his voice commands.
I like to read the creation story and think what it must have been like for the nothingness to first hear God speak. What would those words be like that could bring light into being and separate land and sea? What sounds would emanate from God that would change the chaos of a meaningless void into an ordered universe we cannot begin to explore or even begin to imagine its secrets as we peer into the depths of space.
Every once in a while stop and look up at the sky on a clear night just to reflect on the awesome power of a God who could speak that pantheon of planets and stars and galaxies into existence. For millennia, we were convinced the earth was the center of the universe. Our sun bent to our needs and traversed our sky. It moved, not us. Of course, the flat earth movement tries to tell us the same thing, but…
Galileo proved the flat earth theory wrong centuries ago and the Hubble telescope has shown us more than 32 billion galaxies spread across an expanding universe filled with stars and planets and moons and comets and all sorts of celestial bodies that are just mind boggling. And to think, God spoke and it came into being. His voice is all it took to change nothing into something. We sometimes think we are creative and can make stuff. And in truth, God did give us a creative capacity since we are created in his image. But there is one huge difference in our creativity and his. He didn’t have any raw materials. He created his own. That, we cannot do. We have learned the magic formula E=mc2, but that only converts material to energy and maybe someday energy to material. But it still starts with something. Something God created. God started with nothing.
So God’s voice, his powerful, majestic voice put into place all of the created universe. We are but an insignificant speck in the vastness of that universe. I read a few weeks ago that Voyager 2, one of long range space probes launched in 1977 made it into interstellar space, the area outside the magnetic shield of our sun. Voyager 1, also launched in 1977 passed through the heliosphere into interplanetary space in 2012. Traveling at nearly 35,000 miles per hour, it took these two probes 35 and 41 years, respectively, to reach beyond the influence of our sun’s protective gravity. That’s the size of our relatively small solar system in our medium sized galaxy. One of 32 billion galaxies that we know of in our universe.
We cannot begin to grasp the vastness of what God created when he spoke the stars into existence. How can we begin to understand the power and majesty of his voice? How can we not be in awe of his creative sovereignty? He is God and we are not. Just looking at the sky and recognizing his handiwork shows us who he is and should cause us to bow in adoration.
But too often, we look at the sky and listen to those who would try to explain away God with science. Don’t get me wrong. I like science. I was a chemistry major and biology minor. I’ve taught undergraduates biology. I love learning about new discoveries in the scientific world. I enjoy studying the solutions to problems that have plagued mankind for generations. I like science. But there is a limit to what science can teach and what they can wish away.
With all the knowledge and all the theory about creation and the beginnings of our universe and life on this planet, there is still one question science cannot answer without acknowledging God. Where did the raw material for the universe originate? God’s word gives the answer. God spoke and created the raw material out of nothing. Until science accepts that one premise, the rest cannot be explained. It’s like gravity. Until gravity is accepted as truth, the rest of the properties of physics cannot be explained. There are some facts that just are. We accept them. We believe them to be true even though there is no proof except circular arguments for them.
So what does the voice of God sound like today? I don’t know exactly. I can give you some personal thoughts from my own experiences when I think heard God’s voice. One was when I finally settled what I know was his call for me to preach. It was a late Sunday night in August while we were living in Marietta, GA. Carole and I had always been active in church, helping wherever we could. Part of the choir. Teaching classes. Helping in outreach activities. Just ‘doing’ as James tells us. But I had this nagging feeling that God wanted me to preach. I didn’t particularly want to because I’m a preacher’s kid. I thought I knew what it meant to pastor a church because I’d lived through that as part of the family for many years. My Army career was going well. I was working for the Army Surgeon General and could pick up the phone and call him if I had any trouble with the project I was on. He knew me on a first name basis other than “Lieutenant”, my real first name.
But I couldn’t get away from that feeling. Then came that Sunday night. The impression that came to me, and that was the voice. No words. No booming thunder. No angel on one shoulder and devil on the other competing with each other. Just this overwhelming impression that I could either obey the command God gave me to preach his word or I could go to hell. Obedience or disobedience. That was the choice I had to make that night. And I knew this was my last chance to make that choice. Could God forgive me if I had chosen not to pursue ministry? Yes. Would I have asked for forgiveness later? I don’t know. I don’t know what path I would have taken, but I know it would not have been the right path and life would have been very different and not as rewarding as it has been. So that first monumental moment for me was just that overwhelming knowledge that I had to make a choice.
A couple of years later, I struggled with the question of whether to stay in the Army or leave and accept the pastorate of a church in Georgia. The denominational leadership in the area offered me a church. Others recommended I stay in the Army until retirement so I didn’t have to worry about what costs as I grew older. Pastors just don’t make much for the most part. Few have great retirement plans. Many live in parsonages most of their career and so when they retire they have no nest egg to buy a home and lenders won’t lend a 70 year old with no income the money to buy a home. So there was wisdom in some of their argument. I was torn in my decision.
God’s voice came in the form of a friend. After much prayer, I had to visit a colleague as part of my Army duties. We were talking about recruiting some particular health professionals to fill some vacancies in a couple of our Army hospitals. Out of the blue, almost mid-sentence, he said, “Isn’t it great to be in the Army, move all over the world at government expense, and be able to minister to different congregations?” That was my answer. I was to stay in the Army. To this day, he didn’t remember saying those words. He didn’t remember the conversation. In fact, he didn’t even remember me coming that day because it was a surprise visit. I wasn’t on his appointment schedule. That day, God’s voice sounded an awful lot like my Christian friend’s.
Sometimes God’s voice looks, rather than sounds, like a scripture verse that just sticks in my head and I can’t get away from it. Sometimes God’s voice sounds like a friend. Sometimes God’s voice sounds like mine after I’ve studied and planned and done everything I can to decipher his will in a decision I need to make. Sometimes God’s voice sounds like my wife’s godly counsel. Sometimes God’s voice sounds like my pastor when he steps on my toes in a sermon. Sometimes God’s voice comes as a dream that solves a problem I haven’t been able to solve.
What does God’s voice sound like? I’m not sure we can pinpoint a sound. I am convinced, however, that God still speaks. His spirit is alive and resident in those who believe. His spirit touches our spirit and we can know his will. But the way we know it comes from also immersing ourselves in the words he inspired in his prophets centuries ago. God has not changed. Governments change. Economies change. Cultures change. But God does not change. He set everything in motion and called it good. Because he declared his creative acts good, he doesn’t need to change them. Nor does he need to change because he is the measuring stick against which all things are measured as good or bad.
So when we immerse ourselves in his word, when we follow his teachings, when we allow his spirit in us to direct our path and fill us with his goodness, we can know if we are pleasing him and making the right decisions. Sometimes he needs to hit us over the head to help us make that decision. It took me 10 years of questioning and debating and running away to finally get back to the truth that God desired me to preach. I could only answer yes if I was to please him.
Sometimes he needs to put boulders and mountains in our way to keep us from making the wrong choice. And sometimes we still push those boulders aside and pull out sticks of dynamite to blow away the mountains. He tries to keep us from destroying ourselves, but we just won’t listen and we pay the consequences. All those boulders fall back in place, sometimes on top of us.
But sometimes we face situations and God just lets us use that squiggly, gelatin like mass of neurons that make up our brain to make decisions. You see, I don’t think God cares if I eat yellow cake or chocolate cake. But I do think he cares if I steal one or the other. I don’t think he cares if I like my coffee black or with cream and sugar. But I do think he cares if I a race to Starbucks becomes more important than a race to my devotions.
God speaks. We just need to be ready to listen to his voice. Keep your ears open today. You just never know what he might say.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.