Does God speak to you? One of the greatest joys of the Christian life is hearing the voice of God. He may be telling me what to do, which way to go. He may be revealing new insights about Himself or others. Sometimes I just hear a quiet “I love you,” and those are the words I cherish the most.
One challenge in listening to God is that He so rarely speaks audibly. Rather, it’s that “still, small voice” inside of us, whispering to our spirit. We have to still ourselves to hear Him. And while God is perfect at making Himself known, we don’t always hear perfectly what He has to say. Sometimes, we simply get it all wrong.
I just read a book that has transformed the way I read the Bible. I think you should read it too.
As a white, North American woman, I have cultural biases—and most of the time I’m not even aware of them. I have a certain way of thinking about time—as a series of consecutive events. I live in a society that places a strong emphasis on individuality. We value efficiency, not procrastination, and leaders over followers. Other cultures view these (and other) things quite differently.
“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.”
We all recognize Jeremiah 29:11. We use it to cheer those going through a difficult time. We offer it to new graduates as a sign that their future is bright. When our own circumstances seem bleak, we repeat it to ourselves. God wants me to prosper. This is just a temporary setback.
The problem is, we take this oh-so-encouraging verse out of context and apply it incorrectly. I don’t want to rain on your parade, but misapplying Scripture is never a good idea. When things don’t pan out the way we think they should, we blame God. I know people who have even abandoned their faith altogether because they had expectations that God failed to meet.
Is outrage a Christian value? Maybe it depends on what we’re outraged about. In the current political climate, it seems the entire nation is outraged—or at least a very vocal portion. I’ve seen post after post urging us to “stay outraged” until things go our way. But is outrage a good thing? When is outrage appropriate?
It depends on what we mean by outrage. So that we’re all on the same page, let’s see how the dictionary defines it:
- An act of wanton cruelty or violence; any gross violation of law or decency.
- Anything that strongly offends, insults, or affronts the feelings.
- A powerful feeling of resentment or anger aroused by something perceived as an injury, insult, or injustice.
Synonyms include: indignation, fury, anger, rage, disapproval, wrath, and resentment.
- “No, I haven’t prayed about this—it isn’t that important, after all.”
- “I don’t want to bother God.”
- “I’m sure God has more important things to take care of than my little problem.”
Have you ever heard someone say any of these things? Have you?
As finite human beings, it is difficult for us to conceive of an all-powerful, omniscient God. We get overwhelmed—people constantly make demands on us, our calendars are full, and we just don’t have the time or energy to deal with every little issue that comes up. Moreover, when we’re so swamped ourselves, we have a hard time caring about the minutia of other peoples’ lives. Let them deal with their own problems—we have enough of our own.
It’s a difficult situation. Vast numbers of refugees are fleeing war and terrorism, risking their lives in open boats, trudging across Europe, seeking safety. In response, many nations are stretching their own resources to accommodate them, allowing them into the country, scrambling to provide food, clothing, and shelter. Pictures of adorable but frightened children, held by exhausted mothers, fill the news. How can we not help them?
On the other hand, hidden in that mass of desperate humanity are radical Muslims with their guns and bombs, seeking to destroy us.
We are a culture of action. We’re eager to get started, to accomplish something. And to a great extent, we are valued according to what we achieve. How much money do we make? What awards have we won? What discoveries have we made?
When we meet someone new, we ask “What do you do?” If we have a need, the standard advice is to “don’t just sit there—do something!” We applaud a man of action and disparage a couch potato. We tell ourselves that life is too short to wait. Continue reading