Sunday 21 August - how to hear God in prophesy, whisper, and dreams (Rev Richard Apperley)

How to hear God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  24:46
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Logos / Rhema

Two greek words in NT to describe the word of God - logos and rhema.
LOGOS - refers to God’s living Word in Jesus, and God’s written word in the bible. This is what we’ve been looking at so far in our ‘how to hear God’ series - last week Shirley did a brilliant job working through hearing God in the bible, and in particular through the practice of lectio devina.
The most famous example of ‘logos’ in the Bible is John 1: in the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word WAS God.
Another example is in Luke’s Gospel: But Jesus answered them ‘my mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it”
RHEMA - refers to God’s spoken word, living and alive today, in prophecy. In the New Testament this often refers to the words that Jesus spoke. For example in John, Jesus says “the words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” And from Matthew’s gospel “and Peter remembered the words of Jesus -’ before the rooster crows, you will deny my three times’.
Both LOGOS and RHEMA are vitally important for us.
Today begin exploring rhema, God’s living, spoken word - seeking to understand, receive and handle this gift in our own lives today.


In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that prophesy is a gift to build up the church and fellow believers, and is a gift we should earnestly desire
we can all hear from God, though some people do have a particular spiritual gifting
Pete Greig - The primary focus of prophecy is others, and the primary purpose of prophecy is their strengthening, encouraging, comfort and edification.
I would add that God does also speak directly to us, for us. And this is often the easiest place to start. I often find myself asking God now “what do you want me to do about this?” - usually it will be something that affects others, but occasionally it will be something specifically for me.


Invite feedback
spoken word
words of others
It took me a long time to learn how to hear from God - and it’s something I still have to work hard at! It wasn’t until I joined my first 3DM huddle that I learned to embed the idea of regularly asking ‘what is God saying to me, and what am I going to do about it?’.
I find it really hard to describe how I know when God speaks to me. Hopefully this won’t make me sound completely crazy, but invariably when I hear from God it feels.... purple. And to be honest I don’t know how to describe it any better than that - I don’t SEE a colour, but it feels purple. Thankfully I know that I’m not alone in this experience! Still, we can never fully know whether what we perceive is God speaking - or if we’re getting the right end of the stick. This is why we need to carefully explore it in prayer, and testing and weighing it with other people.
I’d love to go in to depth about some of the ways I’ve heard from God, but I’m conscious that I could be talking for a while! If you’re interested then I’d love to share some of these with you over a coffee sometime.
Over the years I’ve heard God
through other people (in one case this was answered some 19 years later!), through images (leading to the Prayer Ambulance),
through a dream (just the once that I’m aware of - I hardly ever remember my dreams! This one came to fruition 15 years later)
through visual images (one of these lead to the birth of the prayer ambulance)
through knowledge or understanding - this is my most common way, and in some ways the hardest to unpack and test.
This feels like exposing a deep part of myself, but I thought it might be useful to share one story with you in a bit more detail.
In April 2018 our family were up at Ratana for the Diocesan Leaders Family Camp - I was there primarily as the supportive husband to look after Edie and Nate. I genuinely loved my time there - the worship and teaching were phenomenal. But, if I’m honest I was there feeling more than a little resentful - I was in a stage of my life where I was wrestling with the need to have ordained clergy, and the formalised structure of the church. So here I was, surrounded by priests that I struggled to see the point of. God sure has a sense of humour.
At the end of worship I had the most remarkable encounter with God, that left me shaking and in tears. In a split second I knew that God was calling me to explore ordination. I cannot for the life of my explain how I knew this, I just did with every fibre of my being. I was in a state of shock, so didn’t immediately tell anyone about it. But when I did, rather frustratingly, noone else seem to be surprised about it at all. So, I put myself forward for the rigorous process of ordination discernment, where many others tested this call on my life. And, well, here I am.


When we hear from God we never get a complete answer - we are still looking through the mirror dimly, but one day we will see clearly. We also don’t hear regularly - as Pete Greig puts it “it would be thoroughly unhealthy and weirdly intense if it was a daily display of signs and wonders.” Instead, we get signposts on our journey - pointers in the right direction, and the occasional u-turn. And often we’re given things that are to encourage us, but aren’t for now - sometimes we need to be patient and wait.


Our God speaks. Constantly. After Jesus was baptised he went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan - when he was offered food he replied “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Two interesting things here - word / rhema and ‘comes from’ / ekporeuomeno - continually coming out from.
Pete Grieg says “Most of the time we miss the voice of God not because it’s too strange, but because it’s too familiar. He sounds like a song on the radio, a fleeting thought, the old man next door. The God of the universe is rarely weird.... he impregnates the natural with the supernatural and makes the mundane holy. Again and again he comes to us, as one mystic puts it, disguised as our own life.”
I’m going to take a quick break from my sermon, and give you a little mental test. I’m going to play a short video - your task is to count how many times the team in white pass the ball to each other.
Who counted 16 passes? Great!
OK then, who saw the gorilla? For people who haven’t seen or heard about a video like this before, about half miss the gorilla. If you knew about the gorilla, you probably saw it. But did you notice the curtain changing colour, or the player on the black team leaving the game? Let’s rewind.....
OK, that experiment was a bit silly. But it makes the point that when we’re so focussed on the task at hand, we can so easily miss the things that are right in front of us. We can miss God talking to us in the chatter of our mind, the spreadsheets we need to balance, and even in the sermons we need to write.
We need to make time to pause. We need to make spaces in our day to ask God questions. We need to build a rhythm of listening and acting.


I’m going to quickly teach you on the of the 3DM tools that has most radically change my life - the kairos circle. This will be a quick version of it, but it’s something that we will come back to. In essence, the kairos circle helps us to identify what God is saying to us, and then working out what we’re going to do about it.
Firstly, two more greek words (five greek words today, aren’t you lucky?!) - there are several greek words that we translate in English as time - chronos is the one we find most familiar - meaning sequential time, the kind of time you find on a clock. Another is kairos, meaning an event or opportunity - this is where the eternal God breaks into your circumstances. It’s the grace filled moment when God speaks.
When this happens there are six steps you can take to help you process this:
Observe. When this kairos moment occurs, stop. Think about what has happened
Reflect. How are we feeling? What might this mean?
Discuss. Talk to others about it!
Plan. Now we’ve come some way to working out what God might be saying, what are we going to do about it?
Account - this is where the rubber hits the road. Being accountable to others is the most powerful way to transform our lives - share your plan with someone else that you trust.
Act. Get on with it and do it!
Sometimes this will be a quick process, but sometimes it’s one that takes a while.... you might have to pause on one step for quite some time!
There are copies of this on the table in the foyer if you’d like to take one with you after the service.
This is a process that is best done with others, particularly when it comes to processing prophetic words or images. It is possible to do this by yourself as well, and that’s what I’m going to encourage you to do now - simplifying it down to four steps: Observe, reflect, plan, and act.
So stop and think - what has stood out to you today? It might be from the sermon, words from a reading or a song, or the gift that Jesus appeared at your front door with. What is God saying to you - and what are you going to do about it?
We’ll spend a few minutes in silence now to give you space to observe, reflect, and plan how you will act in response. Let me pray as we enter silence....
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