2014 could turn out like most other years... a few highs, a few lows… nothing earth-shattering for most of us. Or it could be a year when all hell breaks loose in the economy and there’s a major terrorist attack or some other life-changing event that becomes a wake-up call for the United States and the world.
If that were to happen, I wonder if we’d even see it coming. Because depending on what news sources we use—conservative, progressive, “impartial”, or a conspiracy theory tabloid site—we can pretty much find the news and perspectives that we want to hear. That concerns me greatly, because we’ve essentially become a culture of multiple realities. And most of these realities aren’t telling the complete story.
If something outrageous happens that should get our attention, chances are it’s going to get lost in the noise, be written off as partisan propaganda, or not taken seriously because of who reported it. That’s how fragmented everything has become.
The church isn’t much different. Tribalism rules the day. That’s not a totally bad thing—like-minded people can accomplish a lot for the Kingdom together. But the downside is that we can become unbalanced and miss something important if there’s no one there to challenge us and keep us out of our doctrinal complacency.
The fact is, it’s comfortable finding churches, pastors, books, and blogs that reinforce the opinions we already have. So that’s what we do. But in our zeal to keep the heretics at bay, we’re probably squelching more than a few prophets along the way. It happens. Paul said something to Timothy about people who will “collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered. (2 Timothy 4:3)” Are we guilty of doing that?
How does God speak in this type of environment? How does truth get recognized?
What is the Spirit saying to the churches? How can we hear God more clearly? What major events are going to go down in 2014 that will be opportunities for us to be salt and light?
I’m making it my business to hear God better this year. That means taking Bible study to another level. It means making prayer a bigger priority. It means listening more and talking less when I pray. And it means learning to pray more effectively.
I heard someone say once that prayer is a spiritual technology. If that’s true, how many of us have hit a prayer plateau because we’re using the spiritual equivalent of a 1970’s rotary phone when we could be using a Samsung Galaxy S4? (Speaking of technology, I’m finding that on most days I have to get away from computers, tablets, and smartphones for few minutes if I’m going to get a word from God. Apparently God isn’t too keen on texting.)
Finally there’s fasting—a discipline I like to think of as the nuclear weapon of prayer. I don’t enjoy fasting at all, but I can’t get away from the fact that whenever I fast, stuff happens. Fasting brings breakthrough, and it helps me tune in to God’s voice in a way that prayer alone doesn’t. I strongly believe that in the spiritual climate the church is facing right now, especially in the west, our effectiveness at spreading the gospel and making real disciples is going to be directly proportional to the amount of fasting we’re doing. So if we’re not encouraging fasting in our congregations and teaching believers how to fast, we need to start immediately.
Hearing God’s voice is dangerous, because we become accountable for what we hear. But I believe not hearing his voice is even more dangerous. So I’m going to tune in more this year.
What are you going to do to hear God’s voice better in 2014?