His Words Bring Revelation

I am reading the book of Proverbs. It has been a while since I visited this book of the Bible. And, this trip through (a chapter a day so read through the whole book in a month) I am reading The Passion Translation. It is speaking volumes to me.

Of course, this is what we want when we read God’s Word. We want God the Holy Spirit, the Author of the Word, to speak directly to us personally. We want His word to enter our lives at the heart level and not just the head level. There are many people – believers and non-believers – who have read and even know a lot of the Bible. But, it has not changed their lives, their values, their morals, their perspective on life. It has become to them simply more information to process. But, God says that His Word is a sharp two-edged sword touching deep into the heart (spirit) and soul).

Hebrews 4:12 “For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, like a two-mouthed sword. It will penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet!”

This means that God speaks His Word, then we, in agreement, also speak His Word as we apply it in our lives making it real and practical. This double speaking is the “two-edged” or, in this version, “two-mouthed” sword. The soul and spirit are the immaterial parts of every person that makes us who we are, joint and bone marrow are the physical aspects of our existence. All of this combined forms our humanity – and who we really are as individuals. God’s Word has the ability to uncover our hidden aspects (often hidden from ourselves) and make them known. 

As God speaks and we come into agreement with His Word to us we call this revelation. At issue is “are we listening?” Often, we read the Word out of a sense of obligation or because we have a daily discipline. We read a portion each day so we can get through the Bible in a year or some other timeframe (as if that is a valid goal). We read it so we know the stories and the ideas and principles it contains. All good, I suppose. But, really, we should be reading it as part of our on-going conversation with the Living God whose Word it is. We should be reading it in such a way that we are allowing the Holy Spirit who inspired the Word, to speak through the Word to us personally. It is not a task to complete so we can say we read the whole Bible this year. It is one of a number of  vehicles through which God can speak.

When we give God space in our reading of the Bible to speak to us, believe me you will hear Him. He will speak directly through the words that you are reading or simply use those words to show you something else that is on His heart to share with you. This is what having a personal and intimate relationship with the Living God is all about – hearing Him speak.

The book of Provers spoke to me the other evening as I read before heading to bed…

Proverbs 2:6 “Wisdom is a gift from a generous God, and every word He speaks is full of revelation and becomes a fountain of understanding within you.”

Proverbs 2:10 “When wisdom wins your heart and revelation breaks in, true pleasure enters your soul.”

We are looking for “revelation” when we read the Word and when we pray the Word. This revelation is a gift from a very generous God. This revelation is there because He wants to speak to us and thus build a more intimate and dynamic daily relationship with us. He wants it so much that He literally gave to you “the Spirit of revelation” when you were born again.

Ephesians 1:17 “I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelations to know (discover) Him through your deepening intimacy with Him.”

This is God’s gift to you – revelation of this thoughts and His heart. Don’t settle for anything less. 

Holy Spirit Directed Bible Reading

I am reading through The Passion Translation of the New Testament and Psalms. I am in the gospel according to John. I am enjoying the read as it is a new version for me and because the new ways some things are stated keeps me on my toes. Often when we read the same version for years – which I do, and before you ask it is the ESV, English Standard Version – the words become so familiar to us that they no longer really register in our heads or our hearts. So, a new version jars the senses and keep your attention in many ways. And, allows the Holy Spirit a fresh opportunity to speak directly to you personally.

The Passion Translation is only available, so far, in book form as the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Solomon. If you have it electronically it also includes the prophet Isaiah. I have both a book form and the electronic form (Olive Tree Bible Program). It comes with many footnotes explaining the various versions of the verse or sentence determined by the meaning of the original language and the words used. It is well translated and seriously well researched. But, I digress.

As I was reading the Holy Spirit showed me several new insights that I had never noticed before. 

The first one is in John 6:5-9. “As Jesus sat down, he looked out and saw the massive crowd of people scrambling up the hill, for they wanted to be near him. So he turned to Philip and said, “Where will we buy enough food to feed all these people?” Now Jesus already knew what he was about to do, but he said this to stretch Philip’s faith. Philip answered, “Well, I suppose if we were to give everyone only a snack, it would cost thousands of dollars to buy enough food!” But just then, Andrew, Peter’s brother, spoke up and said, “Look! Here’s a young person with five barley loaves and two small fish . . . but how far would that go with this huge crowd?”

Jesus asks Philip a question to help stretch his faith. Jesus’ question was, “Where can we get enough food to feed all these people?” Philip did not answer His question. He answered a question that was not asked: “How will we pay for enough food to feed this crowd of 5,000 people.” It seems that Jesus was testing Philip to see if he would look to God (Jesus) to supply all that was needed and not consider or be limited by their meagre resources as a ministry team. 

Maybe not a great revelation for you. But, it spoke volumes to me about listening to what Jesus is really asking you. And, don’t be limited in your thinking and in your faith by what you can see and what you have. We walk by faith, a stretching and growing faith, and not by natural sight.

The second one was after Jesus preached a rather difficult sermon and the multitude left because they were offended and only the 12 disciples remained (John 6:60-69). Jesus went from feeding the five thousand to offending the five thousand. And, it didn’t bother Him. Jesus knew that they were only following Him because of the miracles that were happening (see John 6:2, 6:14, 6:26) and not because of who He was. So, He expresses a little of who He is and what it will take to sincerely follow Him and not follow the miracles, signs, and wonders … and they left by the thousands. 

Today, Christians run from special speaker to special speaker, conference to conference, bandwagon to bandwagon looking for miracles, signs, and wonders. They are following the miraculous instead of the Lord. And, thus they are missing out on the depth of personal relationship the Lord wants to have with them because their eyes are not on Him but on what He does. So, we have the same issue today as Jesus faced in His day. It renewed my commitment to keep my eyes of Jesus and only on Him, deepening my intimacy with Him. 

Just some simple insights from my late night Bible reading the other evening. 

So, ask the Holy Spirit who inspired the words you are reading to “lead you into all truth” and you will begin to see things that you missed in the past. And, using a different translation can help the Holy Spirit draw your attention to what He wants you to see and grab hold of. 

Growing a Heart of Love

When we were born again the Holy Spirit poured God’s love into our hearts. (Romans 5:5) As we follow Jesus because of His love for us we see how His love can touch and change the lives of other people we know and meet as we share His love with them in so many ways. 

I have discovered that the longer I walk with Jesus and follow Him the less I focus on this love and simply take it for granted. I have also discovered that spreading that love to others who do not know Him becomes less and less of a priority as I begin to take His love for granted and life continues on as before. So then I find myself needing to “grow a heart of love” towards the lost once again. In other words, going back to the basics of the faith – loving people enough to tell them the Good News of salvation through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

To being regrowing a heart of love for those who are lost, broken, and wandering far from God, we can pray that God will give us a heart like Jesus’ heart towards those who are still living on the borderlands of faith. Pray for God’s love to fill our hearts to overflowing.

But be warned: this prayer is dangerous.

It’s risky to pray this because when we ask God to give us His heart, we know that this is one prayer He is always willing to answer. His love will help us feel on a new and deeper level. Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). God loves people with absolute desperation. If we have even a small fraction of God’s heart for people, tears will flow, compassion will grow, and hearts will break. We will never be the same.

Another way we can grow our heart for those who are spiritually disconnected is to study the life of Jesus. As we discover how the Saviour related to those who were deep in sin and spiritually lost, we can gain a vision for connecting with others that will shape our hearts and our lifestyle choices. Jesus talked with and let His heart be touched by an adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), a dishonest businessman (Luke 19:1-9), “sinners” (Matthew 9:9-12), and a broken woman (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus’ example and his love for people, even the ‘tough people,’ can inform our priorities and help reshape our hearts into ones that look a lot like His.

One additional way we can grow a heart for people on the borderlands of faith is to notice and connect with people who are far from God. Jesus had a way of seeing the sick, stopping for the broken, making space for children, touching those who had leprosy, and connecting in an authentic way with people many others in the religious community avoided. 

We can develop a discipline of noticing and making space for those who are spiritually disconnected and often marginalized even by Christians. As you spend time with these people, God will grow new love within you.

As we prepare the soil of our hearts for the work of outreach, it is critical that love rules the day. Love brought God from Heaven. Love put Jesus on the cross. Love offered salvation to you and me. And love will drive us to our knees in prayer and then into the world searching for those who are still lost. When we love God and our hearts are captured by His love, we are compelled to reach out to those who are still far from Jesus. 

EVERYONE HAS A STORY – Part Four

In review, we have previously looked at the following points regarding telling your story about what Jesus has done and is doing in your life…

1> Ask for permission and don’t be pushy.                                                                                    2> Use ordinary language.                                                                                                                  3> Start briefly and share more as it becomes appropriate.                                                        4> Highlight God’s presence and power

5> Clearly present the before-and-after pictures

6> Share the source of life transformation

7> Let the joy shine through

8> COMMUNICATE WITH HUMILITY

A testimony is not a bludgeon we use to pound people into submission. It is a witness to what God is doing in our lives and a gift for others to enjoy. We need to be careful that our testimony does not come across as a speech in which we tell people that we are right and they are wrong, or point out how good we are now and how bad everyone else is who does not know Jesus. Rather, a testimony is a humble declaration that God is moving in our lives and that we are grateful for what He is doing.

9> REMEMBER WE HAVE MANY TESTIMONIES

Be careful not to get locked into one testimony. Don’t just memorize a scrip and robotically deliver the same words with the same inflection every time you tell your story. Instead, listen to the people around you and discover where they are in life. When you share a testimony, make sure it is relevant for them.

For example, if you are talking with someone who is dealing with loneliness and you have experienced God’s presence in a way that has strengthened you when you have felt alone, share that testimony. But if you are conversing with a spiritual seeker who is wondering if God provides for our needs and takes care of His people, you might tell a very different story – a different part of your testimony. As you walk with Jesus, you will have more and more stories about how a relationship with God transforms various areas of your life.

People love to hear stories, and that’s all a testimony is. In the course of most days you will have opportunities to share organically about the difference your faith in Jesus is making in your life. Pray for these opportunities, notice when the door is open, and then share your stories in a natural way. 

The Holy Spirit will infuse what you share with power. Remember, your part is not to change lives or even to have all the answers. But you can talk about the ways God is moving in your life. Your stories might be just what another person needs to hear.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY – Part Three

This is the third in this series of blogs regarding giving your personal testimony. Previous blogs had commented on the following points regarding giving a part of your Jesus story…

1> Ask for permission and don’t be pushy.                                                                 2> Use ordinary language.                                                                                              3> Start briefly and share more as it becomes appropriate.                                  4> Highlight God’s presence and power

5> CLEARLY PRESENT THE BEFORE AND AFTER PICTURES

When giving your testimony work to present a contrast between who you were and who you are now. In other words, gently state the difference encountering Jesus has made in your life. For example:

  • From hate-filled and self-centered relationships to loving and caring relationships
  • From a life without purpose and direction to a life of deep meaning and clear direction
  • From fear of death to confidence in this life and hope for eternity

Though such a pattern isn’t mandatory for every testimony, it does help people see the difference Jesus can make in a life. If you have experienced a transforming work of God, let it become the focus of one of your testimonies. Here are a few more examples:

  • From loneliness to a sense of belonging (to God and His family, the Church)
  • From anxiety to peace
  • From financial irresponsibility and fear to hard work and financial stability
  • From selfishness to generosity
  • From addiction and enslavement to freedom from addictions

The list of options is as diverse as our life experiences.

6> SHARE THE SOURCE OF LIFE TRANSFORMATION

As we share the story of our life transformation, it is critical that we articulate that Jesus is the source of the change. We could not have brought it about on our own. We don’t want our lost friends and family members to think that the transformation in our lives is the result of going to church or hanging out with a nice new group of people or even getting ‘religious.’ The only power that can changes from the inside out is the work of Jesus. His death on the cross, in our place, and His resurrection in glory are the reason we are becoming new people. We should be careful to express this as we share our stories. 

7> LET JOY SHINE THROUGH

Joy is a universal language. If we talk about God’s work in our lives, the amazing changes we are experiencing, and the relationship we have with Jesus, but do so without joy, we will send the wrong message. Knowing the Father, walking with Jesus, and being filled with the Holy Spirit should bring a flow of joy that is visible and contagious.

This is not to say that we should paste on a fake smile and blurt, “Praise the Lord,” at the end of every sentence. It means the joy of the Lord is evident in our lives, even in the tough times. When the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is growing in our lives, people will see it. Joy is always part of our story, because we know Jesus, the Author of joy. 

EVERYONE HAS A STORY – Part Two

We are looking at the fact that everyone has a story to tell. You have a testimony. In fact, you have a number of testimonies because God is at work in your life on a daily basis. Last time we saw:

1> ASK FOR PERMISSION AND DON’T BE PUSHY.                                                   2> USE ORDINARY LANGUAGE

Let’s continue and look at two more points briefly…

3> START BRIEFLY AND SHARE MORE AS IT BECOMES APPROPRIATE

A short testimony is almost always better than a long one. Rather than telling your life story, try sharing just one experience with God or one event that led you to faith. Then you can always ask, “Could I share a little more about my relationship with Jesus?”

This question gives listeners a natural opportunity to enter into the conversation or to let you know that they have heard enough for now. If it looks like a conversation is winding down, make sure they know the door is open to talk at any time. 

In his book “Just Walk Across the Room,” Bill Hybels encourages believers to develop the discipline of sharing a brief testimony. He suggests trying to share your story in one hundred words of less. It’s doable!

When the door is open to share a testimony, do it with clarity and boldness, but keep it brief. It could lead to questions and deeper discussion. But be careful not to launch into a fifteen-minute story that feels and sounds like a sermon.

4> HIGHLIGHT GOD’S PRESENCE AND POWER

As you tell your story, make sure God is central. A testimony in not so much about us as it is about the presence and power of the God who is alive in us. One way people will see God in this world is through His power manifested in us.

Some Christians may warn you not to tell “strange and fanciful stories” that will freak people out. I agree. But if God has moved in your life in a powerful way, don’t be shy to talk about it. Has Jesus brought you healing? Have you been delivered from an addiction or bad habit? Has the Holy Spirit given you a clear leading? All of these stories can be part of your testimony. People want to know if this God you say is real has power to move in this world. If you have seen His power, tell the story.

Testimonies are about declaring that the presence of Jesus is real. As Christians, we are not playing religion or just going to church events. We have met the living God, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and Jesus is our closest friend. We can talk with confidence about how we experience the presence of God in our lives, in the hard times and in the good times. 

When people hear us affirm God’s power and presence, they know we are serious about our faith. They might not agree with us, but they can’t deny our personal faith is authentic. 

EVERYONE HAS A STORY – Part One

Christians don’t have just one story or testimony; we have many. Our testimonies are stories of God’s power and presence in our lives. Every new day brings fresh stories of God’s goodness and grace. 

Years ago I read Rebecca Pippert’s book “Out of the Saltshaker” on witnessing to others about Jesus. She wrote, “Every Christian has a personal story to tell … God has called you to be a very specific, very special person, and your story, your life, is a testimony to God’s goodness, his grace, his forgiveness. So share who you are with people. Let them know you have struggles, but that God has made a difference.”

In the Scriptures, we read about a woman at the well whom Jesus spoke to about salvation. So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’”   (John 4:28-29)

Your story can be a changed relationship where Jesus has brought forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing between you and an important person in your life. It can be about finding a new purpose in life and that life is not ‘live…die…end of story. It can be how you overcame, with God’s help, living in fear and are now walking in faith and freedom. 

Followers of Jesus don’t have one testimony; we have many. Because God is active and working in our lives, we have new stories to tell every day. These stories, or testimonies, recount how God is present and powerful. Every time God works in your life; every time He moves in your circumstances and situation; every time He shows you a new truth and gives you a new understanding – you have another testimony or story to tell. God moves, works, and transforms lives and, as He does, you have more to share about His presence and power in your life. So, your story should always be fresh and current.

In some situations your testimony will be a recounting of how you first became a follower of Jesus. At other times it will be a story about how God is at work in your life today. No matter what kind of testimony your share, there are a number of things you need to remember.

1> ASK FOR PERMISSION AND DON’T BE PUSHY

If you have a sense that the door is open to share a testimony, first ask for permission. “Would you mind if I told you a little about a way God has changed my life?” Or, “I’d like to tell you how I first came to have a relationship with Jesus. Would that be alright with you?” 

We honour people and show them respect when we allow them to tell us whether they are ready to enter into this new level of conversation.

2> USE ORDINARY LANGUAGE

The longer we follow Jesus and the more time we spend with other Christians, the more sensitive we need to be about our language when we tell our story of faith. We can’t and shouldn’t assume nonbelievers will know what we mean when we refer to sin, redemption, grace, or dozens of other wonderful words. These terms, and others like them, are rich and helpful when believers are talking together. But when we share a testimony with those who are not born again, it is best to assume that others won’t know these terms and to use plain language. 

New Blog Series!

New series of Blogs on the New Testament Church examining what they experienced as believers. A good opportunity to have a look at what we call the Christian Church and compare to the original. Then, determine to respond to Gods shaking all the religious and traditional junk from our corporate and individual lives so we can regain what has been lost and more

Go to www.ralphhoweministries.comand click on the blogs (right hand site of the home page). You can also sign up and subscribe and receive them daily in your email inbox.

QUESTIONS FROM A BIBLE SCHOOL STUDENT ON LEADERSHIP

1. What is the greatest leadership challenge you face in your current role?

Introducing the Church that Jesus is building based on apostles and prophets to churches that man has built based on pastors and the pastoral model of simply being inner focused and caring for the sheep and ignoring the lost.

2. What is the easiest group for you lead and why?

Churches and networks that recognize the importance of and openly welcome the ministry of an apostle and are hungry to adjust their corporate life to fit the biblical model of the church as set out in Pauls writings and the Book of Acts.

3. What is the most difficult group for you to lead and why?

Those who are ministering regularly but are totally out of touch with the culture and society that they say they want to reach for Jesus. These are the ones who do not work to understand the way young people are thinking and their world perspective and simply minister out of their own out of touch cocoon isolated from reality.

4. Do you have a mentor? What have you learned from him about leadership?

Yes I do. I have learned more of what not to do as a leader as I have walked with him in his own local situation and as he has travelled with me overseas.

5. Are you mentoring someone else? What is the the most important thing you have tried to communicate to him or her about leadership?

I mentor a substantial number of young people in various countries and cultures. The most important thing I communicate with all of them is that their leadership rises or falls according to their character. Thus they need to focus on and work on their character.

6. What is the greatest leadership success and what did you learn from it?

To be faithful to what God has called me to be and then to do with Him and not to be controlled by peoples expectations, demands, or needs.

7. What is your greatest failure as a leader and what did you learn from it?

I failed to recognize a power struggle that arose within the staff of my local church and, as a result, I lost a key staff member and about half of the members of my church. I learned to be in better touch with those on my team – both on a personal and professional level and not be afraid to make the hard decisions such as firing a team member who does not share the vision.

8. How does your own relationship with God factor in to your ability to lead effectively?

The foundation of everything I do with the Holy Spirit is my personal relationship with God found only in and through Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the cross for me. When the relationship is current and strong I am an effective and grace-filled leader. So, my relationship with Jesus is my focus and not the ministry.

9. What is your greatest tool in leadership? What are your strengths a leader?

Listening to what is really being said is my greatest tool in leadership. Along with listening I have learned how to accept people for who they are and where they are at and never to judge, criticize, or reject a person simply because they believe differently than I do or live a lifestyle that I think is not right or appropriate.

10. What is the difference between popularity and being a true leader?

You can be powerful as a leader walking in the anointing of the call on your life or you can be popular. Powerful or popular – you cant be both at the same time.

11. What is the role of silence in your leadership model? How do you use silence to lead effectively?

Silence comes from having a deep assurance of Gods love and a confidence that He has called me to do what I am doing. And, silence allows me to really listen with the heart and thus lead more effectively.

12. How would you say your personality has affected your leadership ability in positive and negative aspects?

I am an extreme introvert and it has had some negative effects in my ministry over the years. It can come across as distant and uncaring. So, I have had to work to “get over myself” and be much more extroverted than I am comfortable with at times so I can relate properly with others and so that they will know that I am engaged in the conversation and relationship and that I really do care about them.

Investing In The Younger Generation

I have been working with young people the last few days as I minister in Western Canada. God is truly moving among young people whose hearts are open to Him and hungry for more. Here, as elsewhere, many young lives have been touched by God’s Holy Spirit and the youth are excited and seriously embracing what God is doing in their personal lives as well as in the region in which they live and the people they relate to.

There is life. There is enthusiasm. There is commitment. There is hunger. There is a willingness to give sacrificially. And, many are totally sold out and willing to go anywhere and do anything that the Lord wants from them. It is refreshing to be working with and relating to them. It is so good to have a small part to play in their growth, development, and equipping.

Young people have a lot of knowledge. They are reading their bibles, they listen intently to teachings – both in person as well as on the internet – taking notes in their personal journals. They apply what they are learning and wrap it into the fibre of their lives immediately after hearing and learning something new. This is good because you really only believe what you apply and live. And, they are believing and applying rapidly.

What young people are often missing is wisdom. And, that wisdom is needed to bring balance into their lives and to help them to not make the same mistakes that older generations have made. Otherwise, they will simply reinvent the wheel. To gain the wisdom that they need, young people need mentors. They need older, more seasoned veterans of the Kingdom to come along of them. They need leaders and mature disciples of Jesus to relate to them, to walk with them, share life with them, to accept them for who they are, and teach them the “unforced rhythms of grace” that are found when yoked with Jesus in the work of His Kingdom.

But, often the older and wiser believers are too busy to help or even, at times, to notice the younger believers. This is sad because often the things that occupy our time are really simply more religious activity which is often unfruitful and of no benefit to the expansion of the Kingdom. It is time for the the wiser, older believers to invest their time in the younger generation and to stop wasting time and energy on often unproductive busyness that is not resulting in the lost being saved. It is time to be focused on “go into all your world and make disciples.” And, in everyone’s world there are younger believers needing discipling and mentoring. It is time to invest your time wisely in those younger than you who are in need of your life wisdom.

It is always exciting to be with young people who are passionate for Jesus and the cause of the Kingdom. There is such life when people are on fire for Jesus and we will share in that life and enthusiasm as we come along side and offer the younger generation an understanding heart and a helping hand.
Who are you investing in?