Need a serious pep talk about how much God loves you? Pastor and author Rich Stevenson urges us to embrace God's boundless love and hear his words of affirmation for us in this slim book, A VOICE FROM HOME: The Words You Long to Hear From Your Father.
Christ, says Stevenson, heard the audible voice of God three times when he was on earth; the first affirming him as a beloved child, the second affirming him as chosen, and the third time promising to glorify his name through him. What did the words mean to Jesus? What do they mean for us? Writes Stevenson: "These words are meant for us! In fact, I believe that they are the words we long to hear. They will change us and challenge us. Ultimately, they have the power to transform us, but only if we will really hear them spoken to us."
Reading A VOICE FROM HOME is like listening to a comfortable sermon by a friendly pastor with just a touch of charismatic flavor. There's good Bible storytelling (Jesus' baptism, the prodigal son, the night in the garden with the disciples, the fiery furnace) with some expository thoughts, a few pertinent contemporary illustrations to go with each one from the author's own life, and application. (If Stevenson moves into something he deems difficult, he exhorts the reader, "stay with me!")
Stevenson astutely observes that many readers will have trouble relating to God as father, since their earthly fathers were abusive, cold, or unloving. "Perhaps you, like so many others, have damaged emotions because you have experienced alienation instead of acceptance, aggression instead of affection, and affliction instead of affirmation," he writes. "But God offers you a far better love. This love is not based on what you've done or failed to do. It comes from another place. It's a Voice from Home. These words are for you: You are My daughter; you are My son. I love you. I am pleased with you."
Then Stevenson gives the kicker. We don't have to understand why God offers us this gift. "Don't ask why. Just let them sink deep into your spirit." He follows these words later with another litany of affirmation: "You are blessed. You are chosen. You are loved. You are adopted as His child. You are redeemed. You are forgiven. You are the recipient of His lavish love. You can stand in this promised land."
Stevenson also shows the importance of dying to self, which we learn as we are transformed by the Holy Spirit. This transformation helps us choose for God rather than for self. When we know who we are in Christ and surrender to self, we are ready to receive the riches of God's glory.
Nice touches of humor are sprinkled throughout the book. (In one passage, he confesses he's emotional; "I can remember as a kid getting a little weepy watching The Brady Bunch episode when Jan inadvertently turned her hair green.") The sources Stevenson draws from to flesh out his points are strong, with passages selected from spiritual giants such as Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner, Max Lucado, A.W. Tozer, Saint Patrick, and Thomas Merton.
A short set of chapter-by-chapter questions for discussion at the end of the book makes it suitable for small group studies as well as personal study. New Christians, or those who need a reminder of God's love for them but don't want anything too difficult or time-consuming, will find encouragement for moving forward in the spiritual life through Stevenson's slender book.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on September 20, 2005