Are we all constantly searching for hints and premonitions of what’s to come in our lives? Writer Veronica Zundel explains that, while she thinks horoscopes are nonsense, she’s seen plenty of Christians use the Bible as though it’s their daily fortune cookie and that’s a shame because it has so much more to offer.
Are horoscopes dangerous? I read Bobbi Kumari’s Woman Alive article on the topic where she said they were a gateway to the occult, to spiritual realities that can take us away from God’s truth. But me, I’m a lot less worried. I do believe there is a power of evil in the world, but it is much weaker than the Spirit of Jesus, and if we are walking in the Spirit we are protected from other powers.
Personally I think astrology is not so much a challenge to our faith, but simply a load of unjustified nonsense. There is no scientific or theological basis for believing the stars have any influence on our fate. I occasionally glance at a newspaper horoscope in a café, but I forget what it said within moments, so I don’t think it’s having much effect on me! I certainly don’t think the zodiac influences our personalities: my late father and my late mother-in-law had the same birthday and you couldn’t think of two people more different. In fact it always amazes me that people find it impossible to believe in Jesus and yet believe such obvious codswallop!
I do believe there is a power of evil in the world, but it is much weaker than the Spirit of Jesus.
What about Bible reading notes though? You may wonder what’s led me there, but my immediate response to Bobbi’s post was to comment that a lot of people treat their daily Bible reading as if it were a horoscope – and I’m not excepting myself from this. Whether we’re following Bible notes, or reading the Bible sequentially in a certain time period, or using the Common Lectionary, we can approach what used to be called the “daily portion” a bit like a fortune cookie that will reveal some secret about our fate or even the coming day.
Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean that God doesn’t speak to us through the Bible. S/he does, and we should expect that, in general terms. The Bible, as Paul says to Timothy, is “useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16. Cumulatively, as we get to know the writings that the Holy Spirit inspired, it will shape our thinking and actions. But that doesn’t mean that each time we open it, we will find some coded message telling us what to do next. We’ve all heard the story of the man who put a pin in the Bible for guidance and found “Judas went and hanged himself”, so he stuck a pin in elsewhere and got “Go thou and do likewise!”
The Bible is neither an instruction manual, nor an almanac; it is a series of powerful stories and other writings that have been collected because of their wisdom and their relation to a particular people whom God chose to bring truth to the world. Yes, some days the words will leap off the page and have a very particular application to the individual reading them. In 1984, for instance, I was between jobs and looking for guidance. I happened to be reading Matthew 28, where the women discover the empty tomb of Jesus. An angel then appears and tells them that the risen Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee.
We can approach our daily Bible reading like a fortune cookie that will reveal some secret about our fate or even the coming day.
For some reason this conveyed to me a strong message that God was going to lead me back to somewhere very familiar, as he had led the disciples back to home turf to prepare them for ministry in his name. At first I thought I was going back to Scripture Union, where I had worked for a year. As it turned out, I was given back the beloved job I had lost four years before, at Third Way magazine, but in a more responsible post and working with someone for whom I had immense respect. I pretty much walked into the job!
But this sort of thing doesn’t happen every day – in fact I can only think of one or two examples in the forty years since then. Most days, when we read the Scriptures, we will be reminded of something we already know, or led into a new insight into God’s ways, rather than given a personal message. So don’t treat your daily Bible reading as a horoscope or a fortune cookie, because it’s something much, much better: a character builder, an encourager, words that will shape your spirit and life.