Monday, May 4, 2015

How does God communicate with us?

 The divine designer, the architect, the crafter of the human soul is indeed present and interactive within the matrix of reality we call Earth.  He is present, he is at work.  Yet we cannot see him.  Theologians call this the "hiddenness of God."  But why is he hidden?  Atheists might say "how convenient!"  The key issue is choice.  We all have choice, free will, decisions we must make in life.  If God was visible, if he spoke with an audible voice, performed miracles before our eyes day in and day out, there would be no choice.  Choice is a mystery.  We have no frame of reference to understand what "no choice" would feel like.  

“God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know he's there and yet hiding his presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free.” –J.P. Moreland

Yet God is not the deist-god that starts the machine going and then walks away.  Why would he after all?  Do you often create things and then detach entirely from them?  No, any good parent who has children cares for them as they grow up.   

So how does God communicate with us?  How does he interact in the world?  

I've found that God communicates in innumerable ways.  Every time I notice one way that God communicates, he changes it up.  A new method appears.  It's fascinating actually.  God is diverse, incredibly so.  But these are some of the ways I've notice him tapping me on the shoulder.

I communicate to God in prayer.  It's often in prayer that he communicates back with me.  God communicates to us in our thoughts.  Yet very often the reply comes when studying his word.  Sometimes I'll go on and play audio Bibles as I rest.  Then I lay down, close my eyes, and listen.  And reflect.  

Perhaps the most powerful way that God communicates with us is through the books of the Bible.  Sifting through the scriptures is powerful.  

Yet God will often speak to me through another person.  This happens a great deal during Bible studies and support groups.  Very often the topic of discussion at a given study or group will be exactly what I was troubled with before my arrival.

God sometimes speaks through dreams.  There have been more than a few times that dreams have touched me deeply, and upon waking I considered things differently in my life.  But I usually have to read between the lines, to notice where God is leading me.  Sometimes it's like he's herding me in a certain direction.  The dreams don't come out as an angel commanding me to do something.  No, it's more like.. I dream of fears I have, and then I'm prompted to confront them.  I dream of longings, desires, and the dreams bring those recollections to my attention.  Or I dream of epic struggles, and later I find myself inspired.  

God speaks to us, to me, through pain as well.  During the stale, daily moments of my life, playing videogames, watching movies, bumming about campus, I'm often not moved to do much.  But in pain, in the sorrow of the soul... well, it stirs everything up.

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain  

Further, God speaks to me in the natural world.  He speaks to me in a magnificent sunset.  He speaks to me in a star filled night sky.  And often when I pray when standing outside, the wind begins to blow, signifying the presence of God's messengers (Psalm 104:4). 
God also speaks to me through my emotions, and my inner thoughts, but I'm skeptical of those inner thoughts and emotions, because the heart of man is fallen, and often troubled.  I've struggled with depression, and self-security issues for many years, so many times my own thoughts accuse me and trigger guilt.  Yet at times I do feel the unspeakable presence of God.  

God speaks through world events.  The plans of the world, and moving of his might are revealed in the troubled history of humanity.  His actions in history are clearly visible.  To this very day the nation of Israel which God raised up dwells in the land of Jerusalem.  All-be-it, amid a tense truce.  

God has spoken to me the most clearly though, through his mercy.  He spoke to me most clearly when he opened my eyes to the gospel of John, and John's witness to the life of Jesus Christ.  Belief was gifted to me, upon a call for help.  That was a moment I will never forget.  Yet it was also my job to erect an altar there, so I would never forget what the Lord had done.  It was my job to work with the Spirit, and begin to confront the sins in my life.  It was my job to begin praying, studying the word, and interacting with the ideas and concepts of the Christian worldview.  And so I have.

In a few days I'll be graduating from Liberty University, with an Associates of Interdisciplinary Studies and a Bachelors degree in Religion.  I'm looking forward to that a great deal.  It's been a tough journey thus far, and I expect it to get still more difficult as time continues to pass.  Please pray for me, that I'm able to handle the burden of officership in the Salvation Army (which I'm currently pursuing).  A ministry internship in the Salvation Army is the next step, and I'll find out in a few weeks if that's happening, and where I might be moving to.  It's somewhat nerve-wracking. 

Yet God comforts me many times.  Other times he allows me to suffer, perhaps to teach me something, or to build my reliance upon him.  

God's interaction is hard to gage.  God has appeared to people, like Saul on the Damascus road.  Sometimes he will lead us out of the wilderness, other times he will lead us into the wilderness.  His angel may travel with us the entire trip, and other times only half the trip.  At times he will break the chains of those imprisoned, and at other times he will allow the imprisonment to continue.  For one person he may deliver them from death, others he allows to be martyred.  The scriptures say, "How unsearchable are his ways."  And that is certainly true.  

God does not promise to protect us from pain and suffering.  He does promise to be with us during those sufferings.  He doesn't promise to protect us from death, but he does promise, that if we trust in his son Jesus Christ, we will have a future beyond the grave. 

God communicates to each of us in different ways.  But there are two universal communications: The Bible and prayer.  Test any other communications against the word of God.  The Bible can be trusted, despite the skepticism of the culture.  The Bible has stood the test of inquiry, and it has stood the test of historicity and it has stood the test of it's value as a document of sacred truths.  

God loves us.  I can't even begin to imagine how much he loves us, or what he is really like.  Comprehending a being outside space-time, is only the beginning of the ocean of the depth of God's power and complexity and perfection.  Yet he loves us.  He loves us as a father, as a mother would, as a family loves.  Trust in him.  Meditate on his word.  Stretch out your thoughts to comprehend his communications.  Strive for connection to him, past all the selfishness and self seeking ways, strive to walk the journey with the Father, day in and day out, until the last day.  May we all be found faithful before Christ Jesus on that last day. Amen.