“For God does speak–now one way, now another–though man may not perceive it” (Job 33:14).
Humanity was created to be in a relationship with God; not God as a simple supplement, nor God as mere miracle worker. God created us to know him personally, as a father with a child, friend to friend, and even (breathtakingly intimate) as a husband with a wife.
At the beginning of time, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the cool of the garden. That’s what we were made for.
When humanity disobeyed God, we didn’t just break a rule, we broke a relationship, exactly—exactly!—like when a spouse commits adultery. And that broken connection with God shattered our rapport with him. The root of all relationships is communication and we lost our ability to hear God.
Oswald Chambers said, “If you are not sensitive enough to detect His voice, you will quench it, and your spiritual life will be impaired.” Failure to hear God harms our wellbeing!
At immeasurable cost—the cost of the cross—God entered into history and acted to save us. But save us for what? Just to be good little boys and girls? No! The God of the universe saved us to restore our relationship with him. And that means communication…
“…So that we might know him” (Phil. 3:10).
My book Hearing God in Conversation was released early by Amazon last week (surprising my publisher). I wrote it to help reconnect us with the creator, to embrace his repair of our impairment; to hear his voice in our daily lives, to grow in intimacy with the One who loves us.
And to rediscover a conversational relationship with God.
When I was ten years old, bell-bottoms flooded the fashion world like a tsunami. They were everywhere, but my mother wouldn’t let me wear them. Her lame excuse was something like, “You shouldn’t be a slave to fads.” (I think she just disliked them.)
Children always tell their parents that they are the only kid at school without an “X”: a cell phone, an iPad, or a personal condo in the Cayman Islands. Well, I checked. I was literally the only kid in my class without bell-bottoms, except for the one girl who wore a dress.
One day an older boy at school stopped me and asked why I wasn’t wearing bells. To a ten-year old boy, the only thing worse than being wretchedly uncool was to miserably admit, “My mom said I can’t.” So I just stood there, head down, conflicted and dejected.
As the older boy stared at me, wonder washed over his face, and he exclaimed, I know what you’re doing, you’re sticking it to the man, aren’t you? You’re sticking it to the man!
I had no idea what “sticking it to the man” meant, but I sensed a ray of sunshine pierce my storm. Not wanting to lie, I simply smiled. Sort of knowingly.
Three or four years later, bell-bottoms had the fashion-appeal of last week’s lukewarm latte.
The clouds peal with thunder, that the house of God will be established throughout the world; and yet these frogs sit in their marsh and croak, “We are the only true Christians.” (Augustine)
Like silly past fashions, many stupid, past actions of Christians are embarrassing for us today:
The marginalization of women
The coercion of the crusades
The ill treatment of Galileo, Joan of Arc, John Wycliffe, and more
The hysteria (and brutality) of the Salem witch trials
The dehumanization and cruelty of the slave trade
If we examine our own personal Christian histories honestly, we will also find embarrassing excesses in some of the mistakes of our own spiritual influences.
As a kid, I was involved with Basic Youth Conflicts (now its leader has resigned amidst scandal). I was involved in the early Charismatic renewal (but now many of its leaders are obsessed with the spectacular over the gospel). I was involved in an excellent, influential Christian community (but many accused us of being elitist).
Hundreds of Christian movements have helped millions of believers. Yet many—maybe even most—of these movements grew imbalanced over time, exuding a sense of elitism, a touch of arrogance, a croaking, “We are the only true Christians.”
Do you love the Christian movement (or circles) that you are now involved in? How do we protect them from becoming just another embarrassing haircut from our yearbooks?
Last week I slumped at my gate in an airport. Bored. Twenty-five more minutes until boarding, and I felt the tedium of the wait. How could I kill time? I tried Sudoku, then reading email, then Solitaire, but boredom and the noisy terminal distracted me.
I checked out noise-canceling headphones in a gadget store, but I couldn’t choose. I sagged back in line. Only twenty more minutes of monotony. My watch seemed to run backwards.
Two old women behind me discussed the evils of the internet. I yawned. Heard it all before.
Then one woman said, “The biggest problem with the internet is that it kills curiosity. We used to search for answers; now we just find information. The joy of the quest is dead.”
I sat up. My own curiosity was sparked and I began to wonder. I liked it. I recently read this,
Digital technologies are severing the link between effort and mental exploration … By making it easier for us to find answers, the Web threatens habits of deeper inquiry.*
Curiosity killed the cat. And soul-less (satisfaction starved) information is killing our curiosity.
My recent anniversary trip to Italy got me thinking about the foibles of famous figures. Despite their brilliance in art and thinking, many historical figures succumbed to the biases and shortcomings of their culture.
Aristotle is considered one of the most influential thinkers of all time. Yet he is accused of being Elitist. He wrote, “It is clear, that some men are by nature free, and others are by nature slaves; and for these latter, slavery is both expedient and right” (Politics). My professor defending him, saying, “Aristotle couldn’t escape his cultural moment.”
Shakespeare is widely considered the most brilliant English writer ever. Yet my English professor—who loved Shakespeare—considered him sexist. She pardoned him however (in part) saying, “He was brilliant, but also just a man of his time.”
Aristotle and Shakespeare were exceptional. Very few thinkers match their brilliance. We still read their works hundreds and thousands of years later. If they—with all their brilliance—were unable to escape their cultural moments, what chance do we have?
What do we believe today that will look absolutely stupid in a few short years?
I wonder sometimes if the greatest problem facing the modern church is a lack of wonder.
When we were kids, all kinds of experiences brought wonder. Our first trip to the zoo filled us with wonder. The stick-figured, long-necked giraffe was fantastic; the bloated barrel-shaped hippopotamus was delightful (even the name hippopotamus was enchanting); and the shuffling, tuxedo-clad penguin was wonderful.
As teenagers, we became jaded; we lost our wonder. We’d already been to the zoo. “Big deal!” We’d already learned to ride a bike. “Who cares!”