Hearing God Small Group Curriculum

Featuring Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and John Ortberg

Learning to hear God's voice is about becoming comfortable in a continuing conversation rather than turning God into an ATM for advice or using the Bible as a crystal ball. This small group curriculum is designed to help us learn how to live in a conversational relationship with God.  Join Dallas, John Ortberg, and Richard Foster on a glorious adventure.

There are six sessions in this series. Each teaching video is approximately 30 minutes, followed by a break for group discussion, and then a 10-minute bonus session with more teaching from Dallas. We hope you will gather a group of friends to watch the series together and discuss the ways you are learning to hear God.

View the Promotional Video. These sessions were filmed March 15-18, 2011 at picturesque Camp St. Malo, CO.

Resources

1: You Were Created for Intimate Friendship with God

Join Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, and Richard Foster as they delve into developing an intimate friendship with God. Discover how feelings of loneliness can actually guide us toward a fulfilling relationship with the divine, where we become active participants in a mutual journey of love and creativity.

2: What Hearing God is Not

Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, and Richard Foster discuss true and false perceptions of divine communication. Learn about the dangers of misusing "God told me," the importance of viewing God correctly to understand ourselves, and the pitfalls of trying to control how we receive divine messages. Discover the significant role of responsibility in our relationship with God and why ethical transformation is key to genuine divine interaction. 

3: Trinitarian Fellowship

Plumb the profound depths of Trinitarian Fellowship with John Ortberg, Richard Foster, and Dallas Willard. Uncover how eternal joy and mutual submission within the Trinity serve as a model for our relationships, and learn how everyday tasks can become avenues to experiencing God’s presence. 

4: The Still Small Voice

When we seek guidance from God, the answers aren't always obvious. In this session, Dallas shares some biblical methods that can help us recognize God's voice amidst life's noise. Discover how to find clarity and confidently pursue His will, as you learn to discern the subtle yet profound ways God communicates with us. 

5: Hearing God in the Context of the Kingdom of God

Dallas Willard and John Ortberg guide us through the transformative journey of recognizing and responding to the voice of God in the minutiae of daily life. Explore how tuning into divine whispers can profoundly shape our everyday decisions and interactions while infusing us with the peace and purpose of God. 

6: Hearing God as Life

This session outlines how God has been with us throughout the entire history of the world, and how He has initiated a relationship with all of humanity. When we accept His offer for relationship, the relationship becomes a conversation that leads to communion that leads to union with God. Communion grows into union when you share a life. 

 

 

You Were Created for Intimate Friendship with God

Highlights:

  • Intimate Friendship with God: John Ortberg discusses the profound loneliness that people often experience and contrasts this with the concept of being a "friend of God". He suggests that our loneliness might actually be a signal pointing us toward a deeper relationship with God, emphasizing that Jesus, though often alone, was never lonely.
  • Process of Spiritual Transformation: Dallas explores how spiritual transformation involves more than just following rules; it's about engaging in a conversational relationship with God. He highlights that God desires intimacy with us, as shown through biblical narratives like God walking in the garden of Eden and his interactions with Cain.
  • God's Nature and Our Response: Dallas delves into the theological concept of the Trinity to describe God’s fundamental nature as a community of love. He emphasizes the importance of our response to God's invitation, which should not be consumeristic but participative, engaging in a relationship of mutual creativity and support.
  • Learning to Communicate with God: John Ortberg introduces Frank Laubach, highlighting his dedication to constant conversation with God despite personal tragedies. Ortberg reflects on the practical implications of being a friend of God and how it transcends the fear of judgment after death.
  • Practical Guidance in Conversational Relationship: Dallas explains how God's fellowship is designed to be conversational, where both speaking and listening are crucial. He references Frank Laubach’s practice of continual dialogue with God, illustrating how such practice can lead to significant spiritual insights and societal contributions.
  • Empowerment through Intimate Relationship: Dallas describes the empowerment that comes from a mature relationship with God, where we are led not by command but by mutual understanding and respect. He emphasizes that true individuality and creativity are outcomes of this deep, conversational relationship with God.

What Hearing God is Not

Highlights:

  • Misuse of Divine Communication: John Ortberg discusses the frequent misuse of the phrase "God told me" in Christian settings, highlighting how it can foster fear and skepticism about divine communication. This misuse often leads individuals to dismiss the possibility that God would speak to them, especially if they feel they lack spiritual maturity or importance.
  • Establishing Right Views of God: Dallas emphasizes the critical link between understanding God correctly and understanding oneself. He argues that most human troubles stem from incorrect views of God, which then distort self-perception and hinder the ability to form a proper relationship with God.
  • Pitfalls of Controlling Divine Interaction: Dallas also warns against the desire to control divine communication, which he identifies as a significant barrier in the relationship with God. He discusses the tendency to prioritize certain forms of divine communication over others, which can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings within the Christian community.
  • Role of Responsibility in Hearing God: Dallas discusses the importance of responsibility and initiative in the relationship with God, using the Parable of the Talents to illustrate how God expects us to actively engage and invest our gifts rather than passively waiting for commands.
  • Bible Roulette and Its Dangers: Expanding on the dangers of misusing scripture for divine guidance, Dallas explains "Bible roulette," where individuals randomly select Bible verses for direction. He critiques this practice as it often leads to misinterpretations and misguided actions, despite occasional divine tolerance of such methods.
  • Ethical Transformation in Divine Communication: The talk concludes with a focus on the ethical transformation that should accompany genuine divine communication. True interaction with God involves a natural, ethical transformation that aligns with the principles of the Kingdom of God, contrasting sharply with superficial or superstitious approaches to hearing God.

Trinitarian Fellowship

Highlights:

  • Eternal Community in the Trinity: John Ortberg introduces the concept of eternal community within the Trinity, emphasizing the joy, mutual submission, and delightful servitude present in this relationship. He connects this divine fellowship to human relationships, suggesting that our best moments with loved ones only hint at the profound community offered through the Trinity.
  • God's Guidance and Autonomy: Dallas Willard discusses the importance of autonomy in spiritual development, referencing E. Stanley Jones' views on God's guidance. He highlights that God guides but does not override, encouraging personal growth and spontaneous character development rather than dictation of every action.
  • Trinitarian Model of Life: Expounding further, Dallas speaks about the Trinitarian relationship as a model for our spiritual lives, emphasizing that before creation, the Trinity existed in a dynamic of mutual enjoyment and love. This pre-creation activity models the depth and reality of relational and personal experiences that are spiritual rather than material.
  • Shared Experiences and Intimacy with God: Dallas elaborates on intimacy with God through shared experiences, suggesting that the non-verbal, interactive learning seen in a mother-child relationship mirrors our spiritual interactions with God. This intimacy grows as we explore and share more of our lives with God.
  • Brother Lawrence’s Practice of Presence: John Ortberg and Richard Foster discuss Brother Lawrence's humble, yet profound spiritual practice of finding God’s presence in everyday activities. Ortberg finds inspiration in Brother Lawrence's approach to practicing the presence of God, which transformed mundane tasks into spiritual experiences.
  • Inclusion in Trinitarian Life Through Ordinary Work: Dallas concludes by emphasizing the incorporation of our daily work into the Trinitarian life, suggesting that our ordinary activities can manifest the presence of God. This integration builds a spiritual substance that enriches every interaction, drawing from the communal and loving nature of the Trinity.

The Still Small Voice

Highlights:

  • Understanding the "Still Small Voice": Richard Foster starts by discussing the biblical imagery of God's voice as a "still small voice," contrasting it with grandiose displays like earthquakes and fires. This sets the stage for exploring how we can discern this subtle form of communication from God amidst louder distractions.
  • Practical Ways God Speaks: Dallas emphasizes the varied and often understated ways in which God communicates with individuals. He clarifies that while God’s messages might come through different means, they often appear less dramatic but are richer in content, challenging the common belief that more dramatic messages carry deeper meanings.
  • "Three Lights" of Guidance: In his exploration of discernment, Dallas discusses the "three lights"—circumstances, impressions of the Spirit, and biblical passages. He warns against relying solely on these for divine guidance, stressing the importance of recognizing God's voice beyond these elements.
  • Identifying God’s Voice: Dallas further elaborates on recognizing the unique 'tone' and 'weight' of God’s voice. He describes it as distinct from human reasoning or subconscious thoughts, offering a deeper sense of authority and peace that helps differentiate it from other internal voices.
  • Role of Scripture and Experience in Hearing God: Dallas touches on the central role of the Bible in discerning God's voice, mentioning that a significant portion of divine communication is received during reflective study of scripture. He also highlights the importance of personal experience in recognizing and understanding God's guidance.
  • Coping with Modern Distractions: Towards the end of the discussion, John Ortberg and Richard Foster address the modern challenge of constant distraction and its impact on spiritual life. They discuss the need for solitude and silence to foster a deeper awareness of God’s voice, illustrating how contemporary lifestyles can hinder spiritual conversations with God.
     

The book Richard Foster reads from during the discussion with John and Dallas is Thomas Kelly's "A Testament of Devotion." We highly recommend the book, and this edition even includes an Introduction written by Richard.

Hearing God in the Context of the Kingdom of God

Highlights:

  • Spiritual Listening: Richard Foster opens the discussion by emphasizing the importance of the context in which we hear God, notably within the life of the kingdom of God characterized by worship, praise, and community. He underlines that this framework of spirituality is not solitary but deeply embedded in communal practices and a life surrounded by God’s presence.
  • Role of Sleep in Spiritual Life: Dallas converses with John Ortberg about sleep, portraying it as a social phenomenon deeply intertwined with our spiritual and emotional states. Dallas elaborates on how the quality of our sleep reflects our ability to relinquish worldly concerns and trust in God, thus offering a unique perspective on how our nightly rest relates to our spiritual well-being.
  • Divine Communication Through the Mundane: Expanding on the idea of hearing God, Dallas ties in everyday experiences, like the difficulty of sleep, to larger spiritual truths. He discusses how challenges in letting go of daily stresses can open avenues to engage more profoundly with God's presence, thereby turning sleeplessness into a spiritual dialogue of trust and surrender.
  • Integration of God’s Kingdom in Daily Life: The dialogue shifts towards understanding the kingdom of God not just as a distant reality but as an integral part of everyday existence. Dallas stresses that recognizing God’s ongoing work in the mundane enriches our understanding of being enveloped by His kingdom continually.
  • Practical Spirituality and Disciplines: Dallas discusses how spiritual disciplines should not be seen merely as tasks but as tools to foster a deeper relationship with God. This segment underscores the importance of integrating spiritual practices into the fabric of daily life, aiming for a transformation that aligns more closely with God’s kingdom.
  • Reassurance and Safety in God’s Kingdom: Closing the conversation, Dallas brings a comforting reminder of the safety within God’s kingdom, irrespective of worldly turmoil. This reassurance is pivotal for believers as it anchors them in the stability and peace of God's eternal sovereignty, encouraging a life free from fear and rich in divine dialogue.

    To learn more about Julian of Norwich, we recommend her book, "Revelations of Divine Love" The book John Ortberg referenced is Frederick Dale Bruner's "The Holy Spirit - Shy Member of the Trinity" 

Hearing God as Life

Highlights:

  • The Abundant Life: Richard Foster opens the talk by emphasizing the abundance of life that Jesus promises. He discusses how Jesus, the "bread of life," intends for his followers to experience life both in the here and now and eternally, framing the concept of hearing God within the larger context of living a life filled with divine presence and guidance.
  • Historical Context of Divine Guidance: In a dialogue with Dallas Willard, Foster recalls a teaching session from 40 years ago where Dallas outlined God's purpose in history as creating a loving community centered around Himself. This community concept is not just theoretical; it is intended to impact how believers live daily, understanding their part in God’s broad historical narrative.
  • Biblical Unity and Responsibility: Dallas discusses the concept of the "with God life" as the unifying theme of the Bible. He highlights how the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation are meant to guide believers in understanding their significant role and responsibility in stewardship and relationship with God.
  • Role of the Spiritual Community: Dallas explains the evolution of God's relationship with humanity, from individuals to families to nations. This progression illustrates God's plan to be intimately involved in the human condition without overpowering it, culminating in the formation of a community where God is actively present and revered.
  • Presence of God Throughout History: Expounding on the historical interaction between God and humanity, Dallas discusses how the tabernacle and later the temple served as focal points for God’s presence. Despite the shifts in how this presence was perceived and experienced, the goal was always to overcome the spiritual distance between God and man, a theme reiterated throughout the scriptures.
  • Embodiment of God in Jesus: In closing, the conversation focuses on Jesus as the ultimate manifestation of the "with God life." John Ortberg and Dallas talk about how Jesus, as the Shekinah in person, embodies the physical and spiritual presence of God, bridging the gap between the divine and the mundane, which is continually reflected in the lives of believers throughout history and into the present day.

     

The Bonhoeffer books that Richard said were so helpful for him are The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together. The George Fox book that was discussed around the table is The Journal of George Fox.