God is impossibly slow.
Ask anyone who’s ever received a promise from God and they’ll tell you… He is rubber-band-stretching, nails-scraping-on-the-chalkboard, agonising slow.
Think of Abraham, who journeyed twenty years through plaguing doubt and fear waiting for his natural-born son. Or Joseph, who rode a roller-coaster journey of contradictions for over fifteen years before his promotion into leadership. And of course, the Jews who waited through centuries of false starts for their Messiah to arrive. Christmas – the time when promises were fulfilled – took a lot longer than expected. Then when it did finally come, it looked a lot different than imagined.
There’s a pattern here.
I still remember the first time I received a significant promise from God. He spoke of things he had planned for me. Blessings he had carefully chosen and prepared. Gifts that would fill my heart with joy.
So I waited, and I waited. Eyes peeled, wondering, expecting… like the child counting down the days to see what lay beneath the tree.
Today? Tomorrow? Next week?
It’s now twenty years later and we’re still not fully there yet. “Christmas” has taken a lot longer than I expected.
There’s empathy now with the grey-haired Simeon and the prophetess Anna, who lingered day after day in the temple, longing to see the Christ manifest (Luke 2:25-38). There’s understanding of the old-time prophets who “searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances” for the prophecies to be fulfilled (1 Peter 1:10,11). There’s appreciation for Mary who “treasured the things God had spoken in her heart” and wondered how they would unfold (Luke 2:19).
One of the reasons we struggle to hear God speak is that we don’t recognise it when he does. God may well have spoken, but we haven’t noticed it.
It appears that this is not a new problem: “Why do you complain to him that he responds to no one’s words?” the ancients asked – “For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it.” (Job 33:13-15)
The issue is not that God is mute. By his very nature, the God of the Bible is a communicator. It’s us that has the problem. We are the ones who don’t notice his messages. One of the key reasons for this is our lack of awareness as to how he communicates. Primarily God speaks via his Holy Spirit who has been given to us as the ongoing voice of Jesus in our lives (John 14:6, Acts 2:16,17). In this post, we’ll talk about are three ways God speaks.
A Masterful Communicator
As any good speaker knows, communication is never one dimensional. In our everyday interactions, we use a whole raft of cues to get our message across. The words we say, the tone of our voice and the expressions on our face all play a role in sending information. Indeed the recently developed science of body language tells us that communication is far more subtle and complex than we had ever realised.
I’m just back from my Spring European tour, this trip spending most of my time in Germany with a day or two in Prague, Switzerland and Rome. One of the joys of visiting Europe every year is learning new things about about the stories and events that have shaped our world. Here’s eight things I learnt on my latest trip, plus a video clip with some of the ministry highlights (watch here)!
1. Relations between Protestants and Catholics have not always been as peaceful as they are today. During the Reformation period in the Czech Republic, conflict was partly resolved by one religious group throwing the other out of the window from a very tall tower. There’s even a term for it: “defenestration”.
So today if you go to a party in the Czech Republic you may be warned not to stand near the window! (Photo: The Old Square in Prague where the first defenestration occurred in 1419. 21 council leaders were thrown from the window of the tower opposite.)
2. God can use anything to lead someone to him – even an American Indian rain-dance.
It was a privilege to meet the pastor of ICF Prague who shared his testimony with us. How does a person find God when they live in a country under communist control, they don’t know any Christians and Bibles are forbidden? Daniel Skokan shared his fascinating testimony with us as well as some of the challenges of building a church in one of the most atheistic countries of the world.
It’s been 15 years since the terrorist attacks on the United States on the morning of September 11, 2001. This story – perhaps one you haven’t heard – reminds us that even on our worst days, generosity has the power to open up our world.
It was Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001 and the passengers of Delta Flight 15 were told they would be diverting from Atlanta because of a simple instrument problem. Their new destination was to be Gander, a small town in Newfoundland Canada. As 52 other aircraft joined them one by one on the tarmac, there was no denying the fact that the captain had lied to keep them calm. While the world reeled with the images of tumbling office towers, the frightened passengers huddled overnight in the cabin wondering what would happen next.
Caring for the Plane People
The next day all 10,500 disoriented passengers disembarked and 10,400 unsuspecting townspeople lurched into action. Within hours volunteers of all ages gathered to care for the ‘plane people’ as they came to be called. Buses arrived in convoy to ferry the passengers to their temporary homes. High schools, meeting halls and lodges were converted to mass lodging areas. Food was prepared by the residents, local restaurants provided free meals and bakeries worked tirelessly to provide enough fresh bread. Every need was thoughtfully considered and meticulously provided for; medical attention for the sick and pregnant, entry to the laundromats for fresh clothes; even day-excursions on cruises across the lake or hikes in the forest.
God’s words have the power to transform lives. Jesus said they are “spirit and they are life” (John 6:63) and that we can’t live without them (Matthew 4:4). Here’s a testimony from our online community that shows how God’s words bring grace and hope to the darkest of circumstances:
I looked around the room and thought I was going crazy. I had heard God’s voice. Was I imagining it?
A few years ago* I went into hiding from my ex-husband who had been threatening to kill my three children and I. My father revealed my location to my him after I denied him contact with our disabled son (who he had been beating). I asked God if he was really there since I couldn’t do it anymore and I needed his help.
The dispute with my father led him to get me charged with attempted arson. Within 17 hours of being taken from my children by the police, I found myself in a women’s correctional facility. I had lost everything – my children, my job, my study – and was about to lose my house. I had not done what my father claimed but he chose to betray me anyway. I was broken. I couldn’t believe what had happened or where I was. Anyone who knows me is astounded by what happened to me – it was surreal. At the time I also developed a medical condition – a form of PTSD – where I struggled to walk and would lose the ability to stand. This occurred most days and I would have to drag my legs around or use a wheelchair.