This is a long introduction, but I need to provide a bit of background before I get around to my main point. If you know me, you know I like to read. I come by it honestly—my mom was a librarian, and I was indoctrinated at an early age. I don’t watch TV, I rarely go to movies, but I read several books a week. In high school, I exhausted the entire Orange County (California) library system, reading every single science fiction and fantasy book they owned. Heinlein, Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Niven, Arthur C. Clark, LeGuin… the list is long and I’ve enjoyed them all.
Usually I like to finish reading a book before I recommend it to someone else. Today I’m making an exception. I’ve read enough of Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere, by Samuel C. Williamson, to know that I didn’t want to wait another moment to recommend it. This is a book I can recommend to every believer—and perhaps even you who doubt God’s existence.
I’ve written about this topic before; see Did You Say Something? from July, 2013 for one such post. I don’t intend to rehash what I wrote then, as I doubt I could express my thoughts much better now. This book, however, surpasses my little post in all ways. Of course, he gets to use an entire book to do so.
For years, the church in Europe has been in decline. We speak of rising secularism, and the evidence is everywhere. Soaring cathedrals stand empty, with the buildings for sale. The German Spiegel Online reports:
Dwindling church attendance and dire financial straits are forcing the Catholic and Protestant Churches in Germany to sell off church buildings en masse. Some are demolished, while others are turned into restaurants or indoor rock climbing centers.
A cathedral in the Netherlands has been turned into a skateboard park. Others are becoming mosques.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly known as Zaire) might be the poorest country in the world. It’s a place of both abundant natural resources and abject misery. Located in the heart of Africa, the DRC is surrounded by ten other nations, including Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, and Rwanda. Africa’s second-largest country (by land area), it’s home to 80 million people.
The DRC should be a prosperous nation, with its flowing rivers (and their ability to generate hydroelectric power), fertile soil, and rich mineral resources. It is not.
Consider someone whose life is filled with incredible hardship. Danger and disease. Sacrifice. Doubt. And yet amazing faith. Grace. Intense joy.
I’m not usually big on biographies. Many of the ones I’ve tried to read have seemed to muddle along, the story filled with inconsequential details the author just couldn’t bear to leave out. But I make an exception for Christian biographies, especially those of cross-cultural missionaries. People who obey God’s call rarely live boring lives!
Redemption. Forgiveness. Love. Grace and mercy. With heady themes like this, you might get the impression that Embrace Me is a difficult and demanding story to read. You’d be wrong. Intense, yes. Emotional, absolutely. But author Lisa Samson’s easy style and authentic dialog make reading this book enjoyable, not laborious. In many ways it reminded me of The Shack, another work of fiction used to convey Biblical truth.
As I mentioned last week, a sermon at church has me thinking a lot about the doctrine of the rapture. Whenever any church controversy arises, my first response is to see what God has to say about it. I started by rereading Revelation, specifically noticing the many references to believers living in the time of the Great Tribulation. There were many—see Revelation 6:11, 7:3, 7:9-15, 11:1-12, 12:17, 14:12-13, and 20:4-6. I also looked for verses about God taking the church out of the world before or during the tribulation. I couldn’t find any.
Our pastor said something the other day that really shocked me. We were in the middle of a sermon series on the book of Mark and we had reached chapter 13, about the second coming of Christ. As usual, Brady’s excellent sermon focused on the Biblical text. But before he began, he mentioned his personal position on the rapture—He doesn’t believe in it.
I was astonished. The vast majority of evangelical Christians side with authors Jim Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, and their Left Behind series, and believe that at any moment the faithful here on earth will be suddenly caught up to heaven. I’ve always felt like a bit of an apostate, since I’m not so sure I agree. I usually tell people who ask that I’m preparing to to still be here during the hard times to come, but I’d be more than happy to be excused.
If you’ve paid much attention to advertising, you’re familiar with the old “bait and switch” tactic. You know the scheme—the ad in the paper features a hot used car for a ridiculous price, but when you show up to buy it, you learn that it was “just sold”—but here’s another one, only a bit beat up and for a lot more money than you’d planned to spend. Would you like to go for a test drive?
How easily are you offended?
Are you like the students at the University of Missouri (and other universities) who demanded an “offense-free zone”—a place on campus where their tender sensibilities are protected? Or can you handle a bit of mud coming your way?
Everyone is so concerned about avoiding offense, that political correctness has reached new heights. In the land of the free, we’ve lost the freedom to have a differing opinion.