Years ago, my family and I served as missionaries in Siegen, Germany. Shortly after arriving, I was invited to participate with Prison Fellowship in a prison outreach several miles (okay, kilometers) from where I resided. When the big day finally arrived, I haply boarded a train to the city where I was to meet up with my contact. I was new to the European rail system and found it to be quite enjoyable. There was a lot of beautiful scenery to take in from my comfortable window seat. The lush, green countryside with sporadic glimpses of vintage German homes and farmhouses could fill a thousand postcards. There were other breathtaking sights that still have me high from the flashbacks. It was at least a solid hour before the conductor came by to check my ticket. I don’t know exactly what was said, he could have been speaking Icelandic for all I know, but his tone was extremely harsh. By the time the train slowed to its next stop, the conductor had me sailing out the door before I could ridicule his silly hat.
I had no clue as to where I was. There was no train station, just a bench in some desolate village where I saw very few signs of civilization. There I waited… and waited… and waited for any mode of transportation headed back to where I came from. I never did make it to the prison. I had the right ticket but was on the wrong train. Nevertheless, it was a comfortable train which offered a spectacular view. Yes, I had a wonderful time from the moment I boarded it. But it was the wrong train, headed the wrong direction. Ultimately, it left me stranded and off-track.
Many today are off-track spiritually. They are sincere people on a sincere mission to pursue God, but they have boarded the wrong train, just as I did. It is hard for them to realize this because the ride they are on seems so enjoyable. From where they sit, everything appears exceptionally beautiful. Though they may have the right ticket, they’re headed the wrong direction – one that may leave them stranded.
What is it that gets us off-track in our pursuit of God? Oftentimes it is false perceptions that are passed down to us by parents, preachers or paperbacks. The ideas we hear sound beautiful and they surely keep us comfortable, but are they truthful? I know they intend to be, but do they get us going in the right direction? Or, do they leave us stranded? Many today trust Christian novels to define God for them, which to me is stranger than fiction itself! I’m not suggesting that the true God doesn’t ever appear in literature. Indeed, I have found Him in such masterpieces as ‘Riven’ by Jerry Jenkins and ‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson. But there are many writers that unwittingly steer the reader off track. It’s important we understand where they are coming from and also the direction in which they are headed – and “New York Times Best Seller” shouldn’t be the validation we look for.
Let’s face it, there are countless books out there making claims about God, and not all are being sold as fiction. Even with non-fiction works, God oftentimes seems out of character. How can we know that what an author claims is really true? We must compare those claims with the claims God makes about Himself in His Word. It really is that simple.
Excerpt from ‘My City Was Gone’ by Terry Michaels
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