Thank you for the comments and encouragements regarding the Hard Questions I've been working through in the last year. Instead of replying to comments and keeping the dialogue in the comment section of that post, I am going to dialogue it out a little more here in another post (maybe a few; we'll see).
First, let me start by saying that I wasn't sure what to think of the articles I read by Stand To Reason. I'm the kind of person that reads things at face value. I'm a sucker. I'm completely naive on some things. If you want to find a gullable person to believe your latest prank, come find me. I don't like sarcasm for that reason. I am too often the brunt of the joke because I want to believe people.
Therefore, when I read things, I usually take them for what they are. I'm not the skeptical reader. I don't begin to analyze things right away and immediately let my hairs get bristled. So, when I read the articles, the arguments seemed to be reasonable. There was Scripture to back it up. The author was logical.
Most importantly, I think the enemy was at work.
I say that last line because the articles made me question something I had recently spent a great deal of time teaching. That teaching time encouraged me and many others. It had me thinking about other opportunities to teach. I think the enemy didn't like that and used the open window of opportunity to throw more doubt my say.
I'm not someone who thinks there is a devil around every corner. I don't think every bad thing that happens to us is orchestrate by our enemy. However, I do believe we ignore the unseen kingdom way too often. We don't utilize the power we've been given or claim the victory that is ours.
To answer some of my questions:
My friend Lisa made some great comments about God leading people throughout Scripture. She cited the biblical examples of the 12 disciples, the apostle Paul, the prophet Elisha, David, Moses, and Joseph (OT) who were all called specifically by God to do a task and go to a specific place and leave where they were living.
My friend, D, referred to 2 Peter 1:10 --a Scripture that's often been quoted in relation to a specific task/job (aka: calling). That's exactly what I've wrestled with throughout the last several years. If we read the Scripture in context, he is clearly talking about our election as saints and our calling to be followers of Christ. I think we have to be careful not to take Scriptures out of context to meet a need we have or to say what we want to hear.
My friend Deanna and I have been corresponding further about this issue. A few things she pointed out (also via her dad, who is a good friend of ours as well) is the fact that the articles use a lot of what Scriptures don't say to make a point. You can't really make a point about something by pointing out what's not there. In any court of law, you must prove things beyond a reasonable doubt by providing concrete evidence. You will never convict someone of a crime by just showing what evidence is not in existence. Great point!
Scripture doesn't say for us to do A then B then C and we'll get D...the voice of God. But, it is full of examples of personal relationships, as my friend Summur pointed out in her comment. George, Deanna's dad, pointed out the principle of "first mention" in Scripture. I've learned about that from Beth Moore studies I've done in the past. Basically, that principle says that the way we learn about something is by looking at the first time it's mentioned in Scripture. That usually tells us its meaning. In the case of our relationship with God, we go back to the garden in Genesis. God created man to have a personal, interactive relationship with Him. It was tainted by the fall. Jesus redeemed that and through Him, we can have that relationship with our Father again.
Right now, I think I'm at the point of looking most specifically at the issue of accountability.
I can't say that reading these articles and having these overarching questions in my mind has shaken my firm belief that God has spoken to me and led me personally throughout the last two decades of my life. I know God. I know Him personally. It would take a lot more blog posts to try and articulate how I know it. But, I know it. And, throughout the last year, I haven't stopped believing it.
I think what I've been most concerned about is when someone invokes "God told me...", it puts up a wall that immediately eliminates our ability to hold one another accountable. It's like the trump card.
Maybe that's what my issue is after all.
It has become so commonplace in the church to talk about God's leading of us personally that we've stopped being accountable to one another with our actions. Where is the balance?