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I occasionally hear people recount some tragedy, or some terrible injustice, only to follow up with, "How could there be a God with all this evil in the world?" -- as if God should always intervene before bad things can happen.  While this is often recited by those who don't believe in God, or those who want to poke Him in the eye, it isn't too terribly difficult to understand if we are being intellectually honest.  Consider this: If we blame God for not stopping people from doing bad things, then shouldn't we expect the same for ourselves?  When we lie, steal, commit adultery, act out in anger or vengeance, commit any number of other sins, or act contrary to God's nature, are we expecting God to forcibly stop us from doing so?  More importantly, would we want Him to?  We may believe we aren’t as bad as other people, but to God, there is no difference between them and us.  (Romans 2:11)  So when we decry God for not stopping someone else, we are actually advocating for God to remove our freedom of choice as well.  I don't think any of us wants that, including God.  The bottom line is, God isn't responsible for the poor choices people make.  And actually, He does intervene, but the primary way He intervenes is to impress upon all of us to do what is right.  However, regrettably, not everyone listens, and many pay the price for it.  Choose to do what is right according to God's ways.  (Joshua 1:8, Galatians 5:22-23)  We may believe our actions are inconsequential, or that the ends justify the means, but there are many today who are behaving emotionally, immorally, even dogmatically, whom are causing far more damage to themselves and others than they realize.  Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (NIV) See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  ...  Now choose life...

I've spent a lot of time learning to discern God's voice from other voices.  In doing so, one thing I learned was just how monumentally important it is for us to not add to His word -- written or otherwise.  While many of us desire to hear God speak, or understand His word better, we must make every effort to avoid adding to it.  If we don't, when proven false, these additions will cause people harm.  Some will be left disappointed and disheartened.  Some will mistakenly wonder why God failed them.  And some will even become jaded or fall away.  I've seen it happen, and many will never return to God.  Don't allow it to happen to you, and be certain not to bring it upon others.  There are (at least) three major mistakes people make when discerning God's voice and direction -- learn to recognize and avoid them.  #1 - Taking Gods word to its logical conclusion: We may believe we can complete God's word, or deduce His next step, but we can't.  God doesn't follow our logic.  If He didn't make it known, leave it blank.  #2 - Finding similarities or correlations: God often builds upon His previous words.  However, for us to search for correlations to build upon His word is a mistake.  Instead, let God make His word known.  #3 - Deriving a word from circumstance: God's inspiration should come prior to thoughts, feelings, or circumstance.  If it doesn't, we may be doing it backwards.  Be certain you're hearing, not dictating.  Sometimes it's a fine line we have to walk, and we need to be very aware of ourselves and our thought processes.  Be sure assumptions don't taint God's word, and wait for proper confirmations from God.  Proverbs 30:5-6 (NIV) Every word of God is flawless ... Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

I was watching some news about the political and social environment we are living in today, and a thought came to mind.  "Sometimes, it's just easier to be hated."  This sounds unusual I'm sure, but my intent wasn't to endorse being offensive, or close-minded, or an outright jerk.  What I meant was... well, let me explain it this way.  You see, I've never been a person who sought to fit in at the cost of myself, my personhood, or what I knew to be right.  I've never been a people pleaser or a trend-chaser, and falling in line with oppressive, controlling, or judgmental crowds was never my style.  So, I've been an "outsider" fairly often throughout my life, and I'm okay with that.  However, there are those who want to fit in at almost any cost.  And to do so, sometimes they have to play the game.  So, they do what they are told to do, think what they are told to think, and go wherever the crowd leads them.  And if they don't, they are punished severely.  But, sometimes, it's just easier to be hated... and happy... and free.  Many are abandoning themselves just to fit in, and peer groups are often on the hunt for those who don't fall in line.  But, aren't you tired of having to perform, rather than being who you were made to be?  Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Galatians 5:1 (NIV) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

I was talking with an acquaintance a while back.  She had been trying to contact her son by phone that day, but was a bit frustrated that she was unable to do so.  She told me how her son often wouldn't answer the phone, and that he would never voluntarily call her.  So I prayed, and literally minutes later he called her.  Great, right?  Well...  When she picked up the phone, she immediately began complaining about how he never calls her, as well as a number of other things, even though he just called.  Surprised by her behavior I said to her, "Your son finally calls you, and now you're berating him?"  She laughed -- yes, laughed -- and said, "Yeah I know!" and continued on.  In getting to know this lady, it was obvious that her son's behavior was related to how she treated him.  But, unfortunately, this isn't an isolated incident.  I can't count the number of times I've seen children nitpicked or badgered by their own parents, only for the parent to mask their own ill behavior as discipline, or righteous correction.  The fact is, this is a form of abuse, and it can play a significant role in driving our children away -- not just away from us, but from God.  Then, when approached by those with smooth talk and flattery, many will remember how they were treated badly, and threatened to obey their parents "because of God."  (Ephesians 6:1-3)  Yet, oddly, these parents never seem to read just one passage further down the page.  Ephesians 6:4 (NLT) Fathers, (or parents) do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. ...  Children are not our property to do with as we please -- they belong to God.  We cannot treat them callously, thoughtlessly, or without restraint, without both child and parent reaping the consequences.

There's no denying it -- prejudice exists.  It doesn't matter who we are, or what group we belong to, someone, somewhere will have unreasonable, preconceived ideas about us.  This is unfortunate, but what's even more unfortunate is, a lot of people have been harmed by prejudice.  Sometimes understandably, other times... not so much.  When I was young, I went through some circumstances that led me to believe that any girls who giggled or laughed for no apparent reason must be laughing at me.  Sounds absurd, right?  Well, it was; but to me it was real.  I believed it, and it helped to make me miserable.  However, the truth of the matter was, I was hurt, and because of this, I allowed myself to lose sight of reality.  When we lose sight of reality, the things we are willing to believe are astounding.  They generally start small, but can soon balloon out of control if left unchecked.  It's for this reason that some believe there are more than two genders.  It's why some believe a child is a child only if it's wanted, otherwise it's just a blob of tissue.  It's why some see racism, sexism, homophobia, or whatever else, at every turn.  It's even why some Christians are convinced that those who believe differently than themselves aren't Christian, or that ministers who teach about tithing are greedy and only looking for a payday.  No, my fellow Christians, we too are not impervious to wayward thinking.  Yes, prejudice exists, and, at times, it can be damaging.  Nevertheless, don't allow it to lead you into a false reality, or cause you to respond with more prejudice.  The fact is, your own thinking can hold you in bondage far more effectively than any person can.  And if your thinking is based in a false reality, misery will be your lot in life.  Romans 8:31, Romans 12:2, Galatians 5:1


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