How Hearing God for Ourselves, Shatters Religion and Rules


In padded seats, I remember it well. A teacher standing over me, sharing with the classroom….

“Never just open the Bible and read. It’s dangerous.” He used Matthew 27:5 to justify his fear. “I mean, what if you open the Bible and read, ‘Then he went away and hanged himself’…

And someone went out and actually did it?”

At the time, the class laughed in admiration at the wit of this teacher.

Thirty years passed and I realize the unintentional error of this teaching.

The first time God spoke to me, it was on a bunk bed in the long cabin at Cedar Springs Camp. We had come from a chapel and the pastor/missionary had urged us to seek the voice of God…

Versus being idol recipients, trusting blindly what we receive.

file0001433080254Just the thoughts sounded wild and preposterous….The thought that me; a broken, shy, pathetic, dirty little girl could actually hear the voice of God?

The hope that I, could actually feel Him near, know Him for myself through His holy word…

I remember trembling at the thought of it.

Sitting in those wood benches, a roof and no walls, surrounded by sawdust all around…Wondering, daring, considering. Could it be true?

We were challenged that night, to ask God to speak to us, open our Bible’s and see if we would hear from Him for ourselves.

I opened to…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

It was exactly what I was needing. Just the thought that God actually had plans for ME? Why would he pick this forgotten child, when there were so many more wise, literate, and qualified?

And not harm me? I dared to believe it. In a world of pain and hurt and isolation and frustration. To think someone….God….was good and wouldn’t harm me?

His love suddenly overwhelmed me.

This morning, I teach my own daughter, who is about the same age as I was at Bible Camp, to not follow molded lessons, rules or religion….but to simply let her faith draw her towards Jesus.

If someone opens a passage that says to “hang themselves” and actually does it, then the problem is the reader, not the Holy Scripture. 

And we know, as we scan and study and read the Bible, we do it by grace, knowing what we read must never contradict the overall character of God; His loving-kindness and grace, goodness and long-suffering.

“To love Him out of and with all the heart and with all the understandingfile0001709738532(1) [with the faculty of quick apprehension and intelligence and keenness of discernment] and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33)

We read scripture with intelligence, love with every faculty, and prayerfully ask for discernment. We trust Him to speak to us as we come in weakness and humility, and let love, not law be the center of how we seek Him.

1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Has the Lord as great as delight in burst offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?”

We as human’s love our own rules, strict schedules, careful plans, because it keeps us in control.

But, what if we abandoned ourselves to His will, followed out of love, walked where He called because we knew He was good, not because we thought, it would get us somewhere or something we wanted?

“I desire and delight in dutiful, steadfast love and goodness, NOT knowledge or sacrifice” Hosea 6:6 tells us.

Yet, we tire ourselves, making up ways to read, learn about, and pursue Jesus….when all He wants is our love and willingness.

If we lack the passion to pursue, we ask Him for desire. If we struggle to believe, we ask Him for faith. If we have difficulty understanding, we ask Him for wisdom.

Everything is by Him, for Him, to Him, and through Him. We don’t have to do this walk alone.

What does the Lord delight….but for us to walk humbly with Him alone. (Mic. 6:6-8)

My little girl opens scripture and most morning, at age ten, she preaches to me without knowing it.

She hasn’t gone to Bible school. She isn’t some eloquent, well practiced evangelist. But, she loves Jesus innocently, and comes expecting God to speak to her, day in and day out….

That’s how I want to live. Don’t you?

Sacrifice is something we do out of duty. Obedience is something we do out of love.

file0001538949088He doesn’t desire or take delight in sacrifices and offerings, all of which are offered according to the law.

He wants us to run to Him, out of relationship….like the prodigal to His father.

What God wants is a radical pursuing, a laid down love, an unrestrained pursuit of the one who has our affection.

He wants our whole hearts, our pursuit with humble-hearts of desperation.

He wants to walk with us, talk with us, right now. He doesn’t need some careful sacrifice or ten-step Bible course first, to reach us.

What if we let go? What if we were that little girl in a bunk, broken, filthy, unseen, and yet just daring to think, the God of the Universe might turn His loving eyes towards me?

How might our religion change? How might our perception of God, and others and ourselves be softened and rearranged? How might our delight to please Him activate our hands to want to rush out and reach the nations?

Years have passed since I have been that little girl. I have grown up. And sometimes, I want laws and rules, and careful Bible study for my own ease and comfort….

But then, I remember my daughter and that little girl I once was in that bunk-bed , with the flashlight and Bible, at camp….

And I find my faith again.

I find my Savior, The One who changed me and radically transformed me, set me free, and delivered me into a woman who is decades later, still radically in love with Him.

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Jen Avellaneda

Jen is an adoptive, foster, & bio mom to trans-racial family. She speaks, writes, & passionately advocates for the orphan domestically & internationally with her husband of twenty-five years.
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