Monday, March 17, 2008

Hearing God

At the Day of Prayer Saturday we encouraged folks to think about times they had encountered the Lord personally. We heard a variety of stories, starting, for many, with the encounter of conversion.
One of my most memorable encounters came when I was twenty years old and was in my 1957 Ford Fairlane heading as fast as possible for a dance hall and tavern eleven miles south of my home in West City next door to Benton, Illinois. West City was a notorious village where gambling, dance halls and booze dominated the economy and it had a history of violence and underage drinking.

Just south of my home on Route 37 while driving I experienced an encounter with God. I was just passing the Clabber Girl advertisements and headed into the Burma Shave signs when it happened. Not a very likely place or condition for God to break into my consciousness.

Many people talk about the importance of "Deciding to follow the Lord". I had decided a few years earlier to follow Lord Gary. My plans that night proved it. But God had another plan. He chose to interrupt my misery and false sense of importance and bring me back to following Him. I was drawn to faith in Christ at age ten but circumstances and teenage rebellion tempted me to "fun". Now God was reeling me back in.

The car filled up with a heavy, fog-like presence of the Spirit and I distinctly heard His voice. "Gary, choose this day whom you will serve." I was stunned but I knew it was the Lord. My shock came from hearing it so clearly while driving to a gambling and drinking party. That did not fit my theology.

I had been in churches and prayer meetings all my life. My Maternal Grandmother, Mom Taylor, went to house church meetings and often heard the Lord speak. I was around such people so I knew that God was not silent. So, when He spoke, I answered. "Lord, to whom else can I go? Only You have the words of life."

When God chased me down beside the Burma Shave signs it was the beginning of a great ride. It occurred fifty years ago this summer and I have been radically different ever since. Soon afterward I began hunting for a Christian wife and God supplied her. We have over 46 years of bliss together. God is good.

What is your story? Can you remember times when the Holy Spirit showed up in a dramatic or gentle manner? I will relate other times but I want to hear from you.

Gary Sweeten
Sweeten Life Systems
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, Ohio 45249
A lifetime of great relationships


paula clare said...

Hi Gary,
Great story...and it got me to know EVERY TIME God has "broken through" my consciousness it has been in THE most unlikely places! Very rarely is it in the church house...more often, I'm outside in and among His creation.

One such time was when I was teaching at Nature's Classroom at the Dubois Center in Dubois Illinois. I was teaching a class on journaling to a bunch of inner city junior highers...and I was talking to them about listening. And filtering sounds so they could really "hear" the sounds of nature and silence. While walking them through the process of listening with their HEARTS instead of their ears, a breeze blew and I heard God speak in the most quiet yet profound way...He just reminded me that He loved me. That's it. No great theological statement in a stained glass voice. Just..."I love you". Wow...

I immediately remembered the verses in 1 Kings 19:11-13

"The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

Two things strike me about that scripture: 1: All of the things we today consider "acts of God" were listed as NOT the presence/voice of God and 2: When the whisper came, Elijah recognized it immediately.

I'm certain if we will but "tune in" to the voice of God, He is more than glad to speak to us in a way that we can recognize and understand.

Do you have the notes from your meeting Saturday? Can you make them available on the blog here?

Blessings to you and all you do for His Kingdom!
paula clare

Gary Sweeten said...

I have hear several comments about times God broke in when folks were least expecting it. I was taught as a child that we had to "Pary through our sins and blocks in order for God to speak to us. I have found that to be wrong headed and contrary to God's normal interactions.

"God loved us while we were yet sinners..." WOW!! That is great stuff.