Who is this Pentecostal God, sneaking around, putting words into people’s mouths, into their ears, wooing them to places they may or may not want to go?*
Okay, so! I work at a charismatic-Christian publishing house which means that at work, I’m immersed in literature about getting closer to God, speaking in tongues, and, above all, hearing God’s voice.
I always assumed the latter was a metaphor. I never thought the expression stretched any further to a literal sense. God doesn’t actually speak to you, right?
But many of the writers that I have been exposed to testify to hearing God’s words strung into coherent sentences, making a point, having an emphasis like how, you know, human beings talk.
So I emailed a pastor I met back in Massachusetts. As in I literally asked him: Do you believe God speaks to us? His response was:
“No and sorta. One of the key tenants of the reformation was sola scriptura. The scriptures alone (not the church or an individual) have the ability to ‘bind the conscience’ of a believer. I do think that there are ways in which God speaks, leads, and guides.
I think there are gifts of discernment and understanding that God gives to his people, but there is a fine line between faithful use and misuse.
This is large category in which it is important not to limit God’s sovereignty, but also not to disregard what he has said about his self-disclosure.”
This pastor leads a Presbyterian church and Presbyterians’ understanding of theology is similar to the Christian Reformed Church which is my background. Growing up, the gifts (like prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc.) were never discussed. Nor was the idea of ‘having a conversation’ with God.
So what happens to the Pentecostal God when the Presbyterians and Reformed Christians get a hold of Him?
A few weeks later, I’m emailing an author for work and he expresses how grateful he is to be in correspondence with me (even though, dude, it’s my job). The author includes at the bottom of the email what he calls, “a word just for you.” It says:
“It is always good to seek out counsel. You can learn much from other saints and fellowship, but never allow this to take the part that is rightfully mine–to direct your steps. Trust me to guide you, and give Me the time and opportunity to do it. Rest in Me. I shall bring to pass My perfect will in your life as you believe and live in faith. Move forward in courage, but always allow Me to walk ahead.”
I squint my eyes and tilt my head. Is this a Bible verse?
I forward the words to a few friends (#shareworthy) and one speculates that it’s a prophecy. Another considers it a “word of knowledge.” My fellow co-blogger, Savvy, points out that it’s too vague to be “knowledge,” more like encouragement.
“How do I know if it’s legit?” I ask my friend.
“Pray about it,” she says, “and see if God is either confirming it or if He indicates ‘Yeah, Rachel, this ain’t Me.'”
The problem is, I’m not even sure if God speaks in that way.
Also, this word cautioned me from putting my absolute trust in the counsel of other Christians.
Come to think of it, it was the author who articulated this ‘word.’ Why should I trust him?
In fact, this word is warning me from believing words such as itself.
BASICALLY, IT’S A SELF-DESTRUCTIVE “PROPHECY”!
At the same time, it is a good word. It doesn’t take me long to realize that.
While I battle inside my head if this is God speaking to me or if God even speaks in that way, I can at least appreciate the word’s point. Don’t replace God with Christian leaders.
As I’m immersed in the charismatic-Christian subculture while also investigating my Reformed roots, I can bear in mind that it’s the same God, guiding both the Presbyterian pastor whom I sought counsel and the charismatic author who emailed me this word.
I can absorb all the wisdom from Christian friends and leaders but the voice of reason who ultimately guides my steps—because I do believe He at least guides—is God Himself.
But also, seriously, do you guys believe God speaks to us?
*Rice, Joshua. “Miss Ruby.” Evangel Magazine. N.p., 03 May 2017. Web. 17 June 2017. <http://www.evangelmagazine.com/2017/04/miss-ruby/>.