Hearing from God – Notes from Rick Atchley’s lessons at #pbl13

Of the classes I attended at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures this year, the ones most beneficial to my personal walk were those taught by Rick Atchley on Hearing from God. Here are my notes from those classes – there will be more to write about this topic later.


Rick Atchley – Hearing from God pt. 1

  • Rick says it’s not his responsibility to hear God for us – he’d like to help us hear God for ourselves.

I. Central to God’s uniqueness is His spokenness (not simply His righteousness or holiness).

  • God is a REVEALING God. This is different from other deities in other religions.
  • Speechless idols” – the Bible highlights speech as a key difference between the real God and false gods.
  • God created us to speak and to hear – this tells us about the type of relationship He wants to have with us.
  • We have traditionally been taught that since the canon of scripture was complete God has given us the silent treatment.
  • We have grown up in a church culture that says if you are a pray-er you are heard, but if you hear you are a weirdo.

II. Hearing God’s voice is normal discipleship. We have been created to hear from God. 

  • Hearing Gods voice doesn’t make you a superstar – it makes you a normal Christian.
  • The Bible is the word of God. The first and best way to improve your hearing is to memorize/study scripture. Don’t expect God to open His mouth if you’ve closed His book. If your Bible isn’t open, it’s like your phone is turned off. But God has a voice – not just a pen.
  • The Bible is the word of God, BUT the Bible is not the COMPLETE word of God.
  • Big difference in knowing a book and knowing the author of a book. God’s voice may contradict your interpretation of scripture.

III. Seven ways we can hear from God in addition to scripture – God speaks through …

    • God reveals his nature through nature.
    • One voice, many mouthpieces.
    • Fellow brothers and sisters often tell each other exactly what they need to hear (“it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”).
    • If you’re not plugged in with other believers I’m not too impressed with your ability to speak for God.
    • God uses trials and sufferings to get our attention.
    • It’s a mistake to assume every time we go through a trial Satan is at work.
    • Never commanded to seek God’s mind through this means.
    • The absence of dreams and visions in the Bible were a sign of Gods judgment (1 Samuel – “not many heard the word of the LORD” – not many had visions).
    • In the western world we have allowed rationalism to silence the voice of the HS. What we refer to as abnormal or weird should be normal.
  • We should not choose deafness because the possibility of abuse by some is present.
  • Do we assume that those without a Bible cant be led by God? The Bible is  completely the Word of God, but it is not the complete Word of God.

IV. Why do you not hear from God?

  1. You don’t expect to.
  2. You haven’t been taught to.
    • Lambs must be taught to recognize the shepherds voice – we have not been teaching our lambs to hear.
  3. You do not want to.
    • A mute God lessens the possibility that your own agenda will be changed.

V. Most important thing is the choice to listen – listening is intentional.

  • Many today have no intention or expectation to hear from the living God.
  • When does God get your undivided attention? There may be too much ambient noise around you for you to hear.

VI. God wants us to hear Him in order to know Him – not just to know about him.

  • Hearing is just the means – knowing Him is the telos. Hearing God will not make you. weird – it will make you incredibly happy
  • Rick ended Lesson 1 with this video:



  • Point: to be able to hear what your Creator made you to hear is not weird – it’s wonderful!


Rick Atchley – Hearing from God pt. 2

  • Anyone who says to learn from God you must listen to them only, you should be suspicious.
  • Not important how much influence or approval you have – what’s important is hearing and obeying the word of God.

I. If you’re not hearing from God, it could be because of …

  1. An arrogant mind (James 1).
    • If the heart is humble God can pour truth into it.
    • Jesus was a great listener.
  2. A disobedient spirit.
    • Isaiah 59.
    • Unaddressed, unconfessed sin disrupts communication from God.
    • People tend to expect God to give them clarity on areas that aren’t clear when they being disobedient in areas that the Bible makes very clear.
  3. A flippant will.
    • God doesn’t speak to be heard, He speaks to be obeyed.
    • The Hebrew word Shema not only means hear – it also means obey.
    • For God’s people, to hear from God should be synonymous with obeying Him.

II. “But there’s more than one voice competing for my attention and obedience…”

  • You have to choose what voice you’ll listen to. Satan is a liar. This is why it’s so important to get in the word and be so saturated in it that Satan’s voice is drowned out.
  • You will also hear the voice of self. Bible says much about self deception.
  • A human conscience can be a good thing, but it’s not the voice of God. The Bible says our conscience can be corrupted. Have you ever convinced yourself that your will is Gods will?
  • Angels can deceive
  • Never dismiss as a coincidence when you’re somewhere and scripture pops into your mind, because Satan never gives you scripture (not sure about that – he quoted scripture in tempting Jesus).

III. Other ways to recognize the voice of the Lord:

  1. The voice of the Lord will cheer my spirit.
    • The voice of The Lord never speaks to discourage – only to encourage (not sure about this – many of the prophetic books are full of discouraging words. God’s point was to encourage people to repent, but holding a mirror up to yourself when you’re at your worst can certainly be described as discouraging).
  2. The voice of the Lord will change my character.
    • Learn the difference between the CONVICTING voice of the Lord and the CONDEMNING voice of the enemy.
    • God will call us to repent, but He will never attack our worth in doing so.
    • If you stood before God today, what expression would be on His face? Most would say disappointment, but is that right?
  3. The voice of The Lord will challenge my comfort zone.
    • The voice of self will opt for comfort and security while those following the voice of The Lord will risk.
    • The voice of The Lord never says “chill!”


Rick Atchley – Hearing from God pt. 3

  • When we’re talking about hearing from God we’re talking about hearing the voice that’s already inside followers of Christ (Holy Spirit).

I. How do you handle people who hear from God for you?

  • When someone gives you unsolicited advice with the opening line, “God told me,” you must get your hearing tested.
  • Bible says, “do not treat prophecies with contempt” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).
  • What is prophecy? Divine confirmation of words that will build up the church – “a specific message for a particular situation that comes from God through a person in understandable language to benefit someone else” (Rick does not believe the role of OT prophet is still a function of anyone in the contemporary church, but does believe prophets in the sense of Ephesians 4:11 are present today though he did not get into a detailed description of precise differences).
  • Everyone who prophecies speaks tome for their strengthening, understanding, and comfort. This is a privilege of living in the last days (Acts 2).
  • Rick does not believe in modern day revelation that adds to scripture – he does believe prophecy is used for exhortation. Whether you call it prophecy or not,  the church has always embraced this.
  • Why would Paul have to tell a church not to scoff at prophecy? Because “God told me” is the ultimate trump card. The third of the Ten Commandments (prohibition against using the Lord’s name in vain) isn’t about cussing – it’s about using God’s name to baptize your own agenda. We’ve all seen people do this – we’ve seen people claim an authority that was proven illegitimate
  • Because some individuals have gone to their extreme in their abuse of prophecy, some churches have gone to the other extreme in their prohibition of prophecy.
  • You don’t correct abuse by commanding disuse – but by teaching proper use.
  • Don’t be offended when one asks to test what you say. Test it – lots of stuff in scripture is hard to understand and interpret. What makes us think prophecy will be any different? That means prophecy must always be delivered humbly

 II. How can I tell if a prophecy is from God or not?  Conduct a hearing test:

  1. Does it line up with the scriptures?
  2. Does it lift up The Lord Jesus Christ? There’s more than one voice out there seeking your attention – we live in a spiritual society where lots of people are claiming authority.
  3. Does is hold up the gospel of grace?
  4. Does it show up in the speaker’s life? The bible never exalts giftedness over character.
  5. Does it build up the body of Christ? The primary purpose of prophecy is not to reveal mysteries (like on TBN), but to disciple men. It does not tear down – it builds up.
    • Just because you received a word from The Lord doesn’t mean your supposed to share it. Most of the time if its a person you may simply need to pray for them.
    • God will never give you a word that can’t be delivered in love.
    • We must be able to live with silence. This is not necessarily a sign of a lack of love on God’s part.
    • Many of God’s servants have gone years without hearing the voice of The Lord.

III. If I’m going through an extended period of hearing nothing from God, there are five questions I should ask: 

  1. Am I expecting to hear from God?
    • You don’t listen for someone you don’t expect to speak.
  2. Am I too distracted to hear from God?
    • God may have been calling, only the line on your end has been busy.
    • Could be we’re so wealthy and have so many toys and we’re so distracted by noise (Internet, tv, etc.) that we don’t hear?
    • Is this why people in the third world claim to hear so much more often?
  3. Am I living in habitual sin?
  4. Am I wanting to hear God for His purposes or mine?
    • Can’t be for our own selves – we must want God Himself.
    • Often we want direction from God more than we want connection with God.
  5. Am I willing to wait for his voice?
    • God always speaks, but often not in our time.
    • God may wait because we’re not ready to hear what he had to say – maybe you’re not in a place to hear what you need to hear.
    • Why did Mary and Martha have to wait on Jesus to heal Lazarus? Waiting was better.
    • Are you willing to wait if it means God will get more glory in the end?
    • Sometimes God waits to give a word to us so that He can do a work in us.
  • It’s good just to be with God, whether He’s speaking or not. Just because we hear nothing doesn’t mean nothing is happening.



If you’d like to listen to all three of Rick’s lessons from the 2013 Pepperdine Bible Lectures plus many more, they are available for free through iTunes U. Give them a listen yourself.


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