God's answers have always been other than expected (at least by me). I used to think it was all in the Bible - but the very first question from that is "which Bible?". I'm not talking about the various English versions available, from translations to paraphrases, or even the Latin versions. If I could read Te Reo, I would still interpret a Te Reo Bible with my Western mind. It turns out that's quite different from the way Maori see it. A speaker explains some of the differences between Maori and pakeha thinking. And the way Maori see it tends to be much closer to the Hebrew way of seeing things.

English Bibles are written with a Greek mindset - which is the way the Romans thought and the way pakeha think today. The gospel as we tend to understand it owes more to Plato than to Jesus.

Most of us don't expect God to answer direct questions with direct answers, but not for the reason I expected. God started off talking with people but eventually, people said they didn't want this anymore - they'd prefer He spoke with one person who'd pass it on - the start of the Jewish religion. Eventually, Jesus came and after His resurrection people talked with Him as they had while He was on earth with them. Having failed to learn from history people eventually fell back into religion's ways and relied on "professionals".

Since I rediscovered the freedom we actually have to talk with God, His answers certainly haven't been the direct answers I expected. They have been more in line with His original expectation that we use our talents and abilities to make the most of our physical and social environments - even though they're not as perfect as they once were. If God gave us direct answers we'd end up doing everything as He said, or we run from Him and try our own way. God wants us to explore things for ourselves - to make decisions for ourselves. That's why so often his answers are filled with questions. He does not want us to be his robots.

That's not to say He doesn't want to be involved. When I was learning to hear Him, I thought I heard Him say one day to reverse the order of my walk. Now that made no sense to me so I dismissed the thought. I got to the first place and found the door woiuldn't open - the power in the building was off. I continued with the rest of my walk and once in the car felt I should drive down to the first building. After just having learned NOT to ignore thoughts that may come from Him, on arriving there the power was on and when I pressed the button, the door opened. Cynics would either say "coincidence" or it's a "trivial" example. Maybe - but it's the only time that happened in well over a decade.

Sometimes I hear other people talk of something God has said to them. Often that's specific to them, but if it's more general then I weigh it up - particularly if the person concerned has a proven track record. Even then I sometimes think "that can't be right". That's only been the case (of people I trust) a small number of times. Once I emailed the person concerned and we had a discussion that explained things more fully. Another time I pondered it and still didn't understand how it could be. Some weeks later God showed me exactly how it could be. When we think God has spoken, we need to be very careful we heard right. In particular, we didn't interpret it according to our preconceptions.

Now I am very slow to react against most things I think are not right. That doesn't apply to things God has clearly shown or things that He clearly dislikes. Common examples are racism (in NZ often against Maori) and sexual exploitation. As with everything, there can always be things we might regard as offending those issues but we don't appreciate the full story. For example, some Islamic restrictions on women's dress can seem primitive to us - but our lack of standards in that area can also lead to problems. If anyone reading this thinks men should just control themselves that's a whole separate subject.

There's also an old saying about keeping our mouth shut to retain at least an appearance of wisdom. Some years ago there was a considerable hue and cry over a sportsman doing something very silly. God took me to an example of Jesus facing a similar issue. From that, I could appreciate there were no winners in this situation, but a big issue was the many people who failed to acknowledge their own capability to mess things up.

So the first issue is to expect to hear God speak to us. And the second is to weigh up what we hear so we don't rush onto something we only partly understand. There are probably more issues to come, but that's all for now.