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Seeing and Hearing 9: Measured Attention to Voice

01/13/2012 1 comment

“Pay attention to [see] what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.” (Mk. 4:24)

The mention of “the measure” requires clarification.

The parable is about hearing the word of the kingdom in a way that will produce kingdom fruit. The “measure” apparently refers to the amount of serious attention we pay to (how well we see) what we hear. The measures indicated in the parable are reflected in the different qualities of the soil. The hardened soil of the path gives the word no positive attention. The rocky soil gives it some attention, but not enough to bring it to maturity. The soil infested with weeds gives more attention to the cares of this world than to the word-seed.

Our focus in this blog will be on the fact that Jesus said to pay attention to (see) what you hear. There is a voice connected to what you hear. It could be the voice of the old nature, the voice of the new nature (human spirit), or the voice of God. Jesus did not say to pay attention to what you read. Reading Scripture is a good thing, but we must learn to listen while we are reading.

We do hear a voice while we are reading. Sometimes we hear our own voice commenting on what we’re reading. Sometimes we hear the voice of Paul or Moses. Sometimes we hear the Holy Spirit while reading, especially if we know the author. We can hear the voice of God while reading Scripture if we’re intimately acquainted with him. But focus on our interpretations can filter out our Father’s voice.

When we speak of voice, we do not necessarily imply an audible voice. There is the voice of our conscience. There is also the voice of the internalized authority. For many years after my father died (I was 23) I heard his voice telling me I was incompetent and stupid. Those voices were obviously not audible. Voice simply implies that something is being communicated to those who hear. So the question is which voice is influencing you; which voice are you hearing?

Unfortunately, while reading Scripture many hear the voice of their favorite preacher or the voice of their denominational leaders rather than God’s voice. Many hear themselves congratulating themselves for a new insight they deem worthy. These voices are in the foreground for them; they are facing these voices and allowing them to influence their interpretation. They seldom listen to the voice behind them saying, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isa.30:21). The fact that the voice is behind them indicates they are walking away form the one speaking.

The measure of attention you give to any given voice determines how much influence it has in your daily life. If I am living for the approval of the crowds, I will hear their voice and behave in a way that (hopefully) will gain their favor. The word ‘hopefully’ indicates that the voice may be the internalized voice of the crowd; it’s what I think will please them. If I am living for the approval of some human authority, I will respond to their voice even if it goes against something I consider important. I have done that in the past.

So the voice we “hear” receives our measured attention. And the word-seed from that voice will produce fruit according to its kind. “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3:6). If we are living for the approval of man, responding to that voice will produce flesh activity. If we are living for our Father’s approval, his voice will produce fruit of the kingdom. This is why Jesus said we must pay attention to what we hear, which voice we are listening to, because the measure you give will be returned to you with increase. We choose flesh or spirit increase by giving attention to voices.

In my meditations on the returning prodigal, Invitation to Intimacy, I defined repentance as seeing things differently. The shift in the way we see things happens when we hear a voice that’s different from the one we’ve been listening to. The prodigal “came to himself” when he realized his father was a man who cared for others, even his servants. He had been listening to his own voice telling him otherwise. He was now hearing a voice speak a different message, and he paid attention to this new voice; he saw it.

Paul did not tell us we need to transform our way of thinking. He said, “…be transformed by the renewal of your minds” (Rom. 12:2). The passive voice indicates we are not the agents of that transformation. The agent is the word-seed that we choose to hear and give measured attention. The direction of our life shifts when we turn and hear the voice behind us saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” When that invitation comes, we will choose to walk differently if we really “hear” the word.

The purpose of the exercises we have suggested has been to help you identify the voices you normally give attention. We are really not ready to hear differently until we come to a crisis where it is obvious we’ve been listening to the wrong voices. In the pig-sty we are able to hear a new word from a different voice. But, why wait for the crisis? Have the courage to listen for a word that will contradict your flesh.

Our new exercise is this: begin to listen for the voice “behind you” and be willing to give measured attention to that voice. None of us are void of areas in our life where we need to be corrected. In this way we live life preparing ourselves for encounters with our Father and his loving embrace.

If you desire to be notified when a new blog is available, simply enter your email address above to the right. For access to all previous blogs go to http://www.cwgministries.org/

Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
On Word Ministries http://onword.org

For more on hearing God, go to http://www.cwgministries.org/

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Seeing and Hearing 8: Words and Images

12/30/2011 2 comments

“Pay attention to [see] what you hear.” (Mk. 4:24)

When Jesus explained the parable of the sower and the seed, he told the disciples to pay attention to what they were hearing. The Greek word translated “pay attention” is a word that simply means to see [blepo]. It means to see with the eyes, but it also means to understand. We do the same thing in English when someone explains something and we say, “I see what you mean.”

Our Western culture is well trained in the art of engaging ideas and concepts about spiritual realities and expressing those ideas with words. But we are deficient in the art of engaging the realities of which we speak. Most are content to have a mental grasp of the concepts so they can engage in conversations about God. Westerners often give wordy evidence of the fact that they don’t really know what they’re talking about. They don’t have any personal experience of divine realities.

Our culture is deceived into thinking we understand a matter if we understand the words. That’s why many churches have become theaters or lecture halls. The audience wants to be entertained or taught. Few desire to change, to be transformed into the image of Christ. Our people are like the multitudes that followed Jesus in the first century. They were satisfied to be part of the crowd, to be there when he taught and worked miracles. They forsook him when he didn’t do what they expected him to do.

The Hebrew culture used words, but they used words to create images. That’s why Hebrew is called a story-telling language. The majority of the Old Testament is stories. Even Psalms and Proverbs are full of events and relationships. The Hebrews did not have a theology as such; they had a history with God. They did not develop a theology until after the Babylonian exile. Even then their theology was tied to the stories as interpreted by the Rabies. In other words, they were still dealing with story-images.

The Early Church also focused on the story-images of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and their personal history with him. They did not develop a theology until the Church Fathers, including the Apostles, began to recognize and address problems in understanding the events of the life of Jesus. The problems of the Church began when the focus moved from the life, death, burial and resurrection to ideas and concepts about God. Talk about God is empty if there is no personal relationship with him in your own life history.

A personal anecdote will help move us forward. Lynda and I attended a concert featuring a violinist from Korea several years ago. The music stirred me to tears. There were no words, only the movement of the chord progressions and the melody carried by the violinist. Where did the deep emotions come from? The music had a message, but it was a message without verbal explanation. Though I was not aware of the images dancing around within, I was deeply affected. I didn’t understand the music; I simply enjoyed it.

A student of comparative religions was in Tokyo, Japan in 1958 where he attended one of the traditional dances of the Shinto religion. Trying to understand the message of the dance he asked the monk, “What is your theology?” The monk replied, “We don’t have a theology; we dance.” Their theology is in the dance, and they don’t try to understand the dance, they simply engage the imagery with the dancers. As with the music, so with the dance, one does not have to put it into words in order to experience it. Words can even cause you to miss the experience.

When we shift from story-images to philosophical propositions we run the risk of deceiving ourselves into thinking we understand. As a result, we have a mental grasp of a concept, but we fail to engage the reality available in the simple telling of the story. We have a relationship with an idea rather than with the person who died, was buried and raised from the dead. We fail to die with him in our personal experience because we are content with the doctrine of our position in him. We are left with a desire to live the resurrected life, but with no power to live it.

Since God is spirit, he can only be experienced through engaging the images of the story of his dealings with mankind. Jesus did not tell us to develop a theology; he told us preach the coming kingdom. Preaching produces images in the hearts of the people which gives them access to the events of the kingdom: healing, deliverance, provision and victory over the enemy. Those realities come to those who engage the images of the coming kingdom, not to those who develop talk about the kingdom.

Continue to engage the images that dance around within you while you are listening to or reading the gospel stories. Remember that you are invited to be a part of the story. You can experience the kingdom.

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Looking forward,
Fount Shults
On Word Ministries http://onword.org

Check out Mark Virkler http://www.cwgministries.org/

Make a Sound 11: Debriefing

10/24/2011 1 comment

The “Bible Out-Loud” event has come and gone. I had not asked people to report in but several reported Friday that they were ready to begin. (Then I lost the internet connection). I am in a place where internet is down most of the time so I have not been able to respond and check other posts. Lynda and I are in West Broylston, Mass in ministry during the day every day and most nights for two weekends and the week between.

It was my intention to post several times during the day Saturday to encourage and remind people of the event. I actually composed a post just before the internet connection went off again. Perhaps it is a good thing. If anyone actually did it, it is because they were prompted by our Father, not by me.

As I have time and as internet is available I will respond to whatever has been posted. Lynda and I read from Mark in the morning Saturday and later in the day with others from the Freedom Worship Center where we are ministering. We know that the results of the reading may not come until later. It is also possible that some will not connect the act of reading to the results when things begin to change.

I would like to take this time to commend those of you who participated in the “Bible Out-Loud” event. You have been a part of a new thing that has not yet broken through to the surface. It is like a seed sown in the soil. It is underground at this time. It will break forth as we continue to water it. We can water it by doing it again with others during the course of the coming year.

To my knowledge this is the first time this has ever been done in this way, that is, as an effort to promote unity and intimacy under the Word. Lynda and I actually felt a connection to others who were reading at the same time even though we did not know who they might be. It was like we were there ‘in spirit’ with those who were doing the same thing at the same time – but in a different location.

We may plan another “Bible Out-Loud” event about the same time next year about the same time. But we have plenty of time to think about that and discern if our Father is leading us to do that.

For now, we speak a hearty “thank you” to those of you who participated. May you all experience a new and improved level of intimacy with our Father.

Looking Forward,
Fount Shults

Make a Sound 10: Tone of Voice

The countdown for the “Bible Out-Loud” has begun. Japan just reported in and they are ready to start. They will be among the first since the International Date Line is just east of them. Some from New Zealand and Australia have agreed to participate but I have not yet heard from them.

We have recommended reading from the Gospels or the book of Acts since the theme is “Declaring His Mighty Deeds.” However, we have allowed each leader to choose the text to be read. Some may read a full Gospel while others may only read short portions. The main thing is to try to have an atmosphere of family reading and hearing the word.

One final word as the reading begins. Focus on the tone of voice.

As you read, listen for the voice of the Lord. As your human voice articulates the words, try to reflect Jesus’ tone of voice. Allow him to speak through the reading of his word. Some may hear a different tone of voice from others. That is okay because each person is in a different place with God. He may even be communicating something different to each individual present.

The tone of voice communicates meaning beyond the words. Sometimes the tone of voice can change the effect of the word. For example, Jesus said, “Woe to you scribes, Pharisees….” You can read those words with anger and judgment in your voice. But the word woe is a word of lamentation. The tone of voice should carry the grieving of the Father’s heart for those people. That tone totally changes the way one hears the words.

When it is your turn to listen to the reading, try to focus on the Holy Spirit’s tone rather than the tone of the reader. This is not a time to judge the reader. If their tone is different from what you hear, let it be. It’s a time of hearing from God and relating to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Use this time to increase unity and practice unconditional love.

Well, Japan may have already begun. The event is happening. Join the world in reading God’s word out-loud.

May the Lord bless the reading of his word and draw us all into a closer relationship.

Fount Shults

Make a Sound 9: Learning to Hear 2

10/19/2011 1 comment

The “Bible Out-Loud” event is this Saturday, October 22. Find a friend to read with you and let’s do this. People from at least 36 nations are on board with this event.

We have considered the significance of the human voice and the effect of sound waves on our environment. In our last blog we shifted the focus to our need to listen. We spoke of listening with our spirit by allowing Father to dig us an ear. In this blog we will take that thought one step farther.

Jesus said, “Take care then how you hear, for the to one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (Lk. 8:18). Notice the word HOW. This statement is in the context of Jesus explaining the parable of the sower and the seed. The seed is the word of proclamation that comes to the ear through the human voice. Remember Jesus was human as well as divine. The Pharisees heard Jesus’ words as the words of a man, not as the word of God.

There is a way of hearing the word that increases your ability to receive more word. That is a good thing. But there is also a way of hearing that will remove the word you think you have received. Most people assume that they have the word when they hear it or read it. However, many have even memorized Scriptures but only have it in their minds. The word that affects our life is the one that’s in our heart (Prov. 4:23).

Paul helps us here. He was thankful that the believers had received the word of God he (a man) had spoken to them. “You accepted it not as the word of man but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (I Thess. 2:13). Notice, Paul says the word does the work. When we hear the word of God as a word of man, we must work into our own lives apart from the Holy Spirit Helper. It will not be an effective word. It can at best be a word of man that brings legalistic bondage.

When we are listening to the reading while our own or another’s interpretation is in our mind, we are listening to the word of man rather than the word of God. Our interpretation may even be accurate and our thoughts may be good thoughts. But there is no power to work it into our lives if we don’t hear it as what it really is, the word of God.

“Take care HOW you hear.” The voices of a men or women will be articulating the word as they read. But that word will only change your life if you are hearing it as a word from our Father by the Holy Spirit. The word of God has the ability to transform you; the word of man does not. Our own thoughts about the word are not the word of God. The words in our mind are the words of man unless the Holy Spirit quickens those words.

Here we can simply repeat what we said in the last blog: listen with your spirit to the reading of God’s word.

http://www.readthebibleoutloud.org

Fount Shults

Make a Sound 8: Learning to Listen

We have considered the voice and the significance of sound for several weeks. The sound of heaven can be re-sounded here as we use our voice to proclaim the mighty acts of God. The atmosphere changes when his word goes forth. This week we will shift the emphasis from speaking to hearing, from the mouth to the ear. It is as important to hear the word of God as it is to speak it.

As small groups gather to read the Bible out-loud, some will be reading and others will be listening. The reader is voicing the words Scripture, and the words are carried by the movement of the spirit (breath) of the man or woman who reads. The Holy Spirit works with the human spirit to empower the words.

Faith comes by hearing the word of God. When Jesus spoke, he often followed up with the admonition, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” It is possible to be in the presence of the spoken word with ears that do not hear. What keeps the ear from hearing? What can we do to insure that the hearing causes faith to rise?

One thing that keeps the ear from hearing is the habit of assuming you already know what is going to be said. This habit causes much conflict in marriages. We are especially inclined to do this when the Bible is being read. We think we already know the stories and the statements. We are actually hearing our interpretation of the verses rather than the verses themselves.

A second thing that can keep us from hearing is analyzing the words as they come. Recently my friend and I read the Psalms out-loud together. It took us about five hours. In the first few Psalms I caught myself analyzing the verses rather than simply hearing. I realized I was so caught up in my analysis that I was missing the potential impact of the words that were issuing from my friends mouth.

I had ears, but I was not “hearing” anything other than my own thoughts about what was being read. I was listening to myself teach on choice verses in the Psalms and totally missing the rest of the reading. I had to repent and start listening.

So, what needs to happen for us to hear in a way that faith can rise up? David has an answerer for us. He realized sacrifices and offerings could never heal the breach between himself and God his sin with Bathsheba had caused. But he rejoiced that God had given him an open ear to hear the words of the prophet Nathan who spoke to him about his sin (Ps. 40:6). We need our Father to “dig us an ear.”

We are not able to process everything with our natural mind when someone is reading. Yet we can receive the benefit of the reading even though we are not able to consciously process what is being read. Our natural mind was not designed to receive the word of God. Receiving the word of God is a function of our spirit, or the heart.

We must learn to listen with our spirit. Paul prayed that the Ephesians might have the eyes of their hearts enlightened (Eph. 1:18). Just as we have spiritual eyes, so also we have spiritual ears. If we only see with our natural eyes, we will never receive a spirit of wisdom and of revelation. In like manner, if we only hear with our natural ears faith will never rise up in response to the word. To listen with your spirit means to quiet your natural mind and let the words soak in.

The Living Word of God is quite capable of interpreting itself once it soaks into your spirit. Training in the academic world built in me a structure of thinking that blocked the entrance of the Living Word because I thought I had to analyze it. I wanted to “rightly divide” the word. But one day the Living Word turned on me and began to divide me and lay me bare before our Father (Heb. 4:12).

It is a battle for me to listen with my spirit, but I win the battle more often than I lose it, especially now that I understand the principle. As we join to read the Bible out-loud on October 22, let us open ourselves to allow the word to transform us as it changes the atmosphere.

http://www.readthebibleoutloud.org

Looking Forward,
Fount Shults

Make a Sound 7: Call to Reconciliation

In the last few blogs we considered the effect of words, specifically words spoken in agreement with the Word of God. Our purpose is to prepare a people for a world-wide event of reading the Bible out-loud to one another in small groups. In this blog we will consider the need of good relationships. Other blogs are available on this site, and information on the event is at http://www.readthebibleoutloud.org

God’s Word created the heavens and the earth. The Holy Spirit hovered over God’s good creation to bring order out of chaos. The history of the world was moving from disorder to order. The words of the serpent, “Hath God said,” changed atmosphere of the world God created, and those words changed the direction of history when Eve acted on them. The direction of history began to move from life to death rather than from death to life.

The words spoken out-loud from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing,” restored the original direction of history. At that time God reconciled the world to himself, “not counting their sins against them” (II Cor. 5:19). Those who receive these words enter into a personal history that moves from death to life, from chaos to order. Those who reject these words of reconciliation remain on the road from life to death.

Man’s refusal to receive the word of reconciliation does not alter the heart of God. He is still reconciled to the world even though many in the world have not entered into a new life with him. Our refusal is not all-powerful; God’s offer stands in the face of man’s rebellion.

As we join Jesus in this act of forgiving others “out-loud,” our atmosphere and the direction of our relationships will change. But if we want others to admit they were wrong before we offer forgiveness, reconciliation cannot happen. In our unforgiveness we actually stand opposed to Jesus’ words from the cross. We are choosing to move from order to chaos in our relationship with others.

We can choose to move toward reconciliation even if others are refusing. Reconciliation can be in our heart even if the other is not responding to our forgiveness. That’s the way our Father is. He remains reconciled to a world that refuses to be reconciled with him.

What does this have to do with reading the Bible out-loud together? Our voice carries our spirit. If our spirit is wrong toward others while we read God’s Word, we cancel out the potential effect of the reading. It’s an astonishing truth that our words can make void the word of God (Mk. 7:13). The word remains valid, but we put ourselves outside its power to work in us and through us.

Our voice is a vehicle of our spirit. If we read with a spirit of resentment and bitterness, our resentment will go into the atmosphere with our words. Reading the Bible out-loud will affect the atmosphere positively only as we read with a spirit of reconciliation.

Let’s get our relationships right before we gather to read the Bible to one another. Honor, respect and affirmation is in order at all times, but especially now. Since we are “one spirit with him” (I Cor, 6:17), we can participate in the ACTS of God in our present world, but only if we join him in a spirit of reconciliation. To accomplish that, we must join him in his WORD of reconciliation.

The Holy Spirit will brood over our reading only as we cooperate with him in his agenda to reconcile all things to himself. To do that, we must read his Word out-loud in a spirit (attitude) of forgiveness and reconciliation.

http://www.readthebibleoutloud.org

Looking forward,
Fount Shults