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Posts Tagged ‘Kingdom of God’

Ministry Report

02/28/2015 2 comments

MINISTRY IN HARLAN, INDIANA

Our ministry continues to expand. We taught at the School of the Word in Harlan, Indiana during the first three weeks of February and participated in the Leaders Alive International conference in the same city during the last week of February.

The majority of the leaders and lay leaders who came to the conference are from a Mennonite or Amish background. It is an honor to be part of the spiritual growth of these who are experiencing the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. Their hunger for the Word of God is obvious by their responses during the sharing time as well as the conversations during the breaks.

I saw the awesome work-ethic of these people transferred to the things of the kingdom of God. The memories of these times will become part of my life and teaching in the coming days.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Last summer we were part of a team that went to Santo Domingo to train leaders from all over the Dominican Republic. Our ministry was not yet known there, so the attendance was not as large as we expected (about 50 leaders with several locals). But there were some there who represented several other groups. They were “checking us out” to see if their people would receive benefit from our teachings.

There was a very positive response, and the leaders from other groups assured us that they would have their leadership at our next seminar. That seminar is scheduled for April 28 – May 1. Our expenses will include $500.00 for airfare, $100.00 for lodging and food and about $100.00 for travel etc.

NAIROBI, KENYA

Pastors and evangelists all over East Africa are presently enrolled in our N2N courses and working toward their Associates Degree. They are learning powerful principles for sharing their faith an advancing the kingdom of God. These pastors lead over 3,000 churches in Kenya and will take teach these principles to over a million believers.

 

Through our Community Development program they are also learning and teaching how to improve the health and environment of their people. They are learning how to grow their own vegetables, how to purify water, create fire bricks with waste as well as how to take care of their animals and farms. The Community Development program is already being used as an evangelistic tool because their unsaved neighbors are asking questions.

In December of this year we will have our first graduation ceremony for those who will have completed the requirements for the Associates Degree and a few who will have completed the requirements for the Bachelor’s Degree. We are expecting around 300 graduates.

THANK YOU

We are grateful to those of you who have held us up in prayer and supported us financially. We would not be able to do what we do without the support of the Body of Christ. After 40 years of teaching on college campus and training young people for the ministry, we are finally getting an opportunity to do what we trained others to do.

Thank you for your continued support.

Looking forward,

Fount Shults, President, On Word ministries www.onword.org

Academic Dean, Nation 2 Nation Christian University

www.n2ncu.org

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Growing and Outgrowing

08/16/2014 2 comments

One of my students asked me, “How do you come up with such deep insights?” He was obviously looking for a way to develop his own ability to interpret Scripture.

At first I tried to explain it to him in terms of the biblical languages, cultural studies, historical background and commentaries. But, even while giving this explanation, I realized that’s not really the way I receive insight. I’ve done all those things, but they’re not always fruitful. There’s something else. That student raised the question a number of years ago when I’d not yet raised it for myself. The answer had to wait for another level of maturity.

Through the years many students have testified to a level of life and ministry beyond academic information that comes across when I teach. So I‘ve known there’s something real happening when I open new vistas in the classroom. But I didn’t know what made the difference, and I didn’t even ask. The difference obviously has something to do with what Father God has done in me and how he gifted me. I know this much; it’s not about me.

Here’s how I understand it now:

When Jesus said we must leave father and mother to follow him, he wasn’t speaking of a geographical departure. Wise fathers and mothers give us boundaries, a fenced-in place to play safely, but then they send us into the world beyond the fence hoping we’ve learned what we’ll need to know to help us deal with life as it comes to us outside the fence. Children need the safety net of established boundaries while they’re growing.

Jesus was saying we must leave the fenced-in backyard of our parents’ house to follow him into a bigger world, the world of the kingdom of God. Children outgrow their need for their parent’s house. For me that also meant leaving the fenced-in backyard of my early religious training. As a child I was indoctrinated into a legalistic way of interpreting the Bible. In my youth, I needed the safety of the rules and the security of “certainty” in doctrinal matters.

Legalistic rules and confidence in our biased interpretations of particular Bible verses don’t apply in the kingdom of God. Jesus disregarded the Pharisee’s parochial interpretation of the Sabbath. The only thing that mattered to him was following the leading of Father God. We must leave outgrown concepts behind and embrace reality as it’s revealed to us by the Spirit each new day. The new will never contradict the Bible, but it often does contradict our group’s parochial interpretation of the Bible.

Truth never changes, but our understanding of truth does change – if we grow. When we learn something new, if it’s true, it was true before we learned it. But, if we take new insights seriously, the new truth will often force adjustments to other things we thought we knew. I once “knew” that our church was the only one who had the truth. That had to change when I discovered true believers in other denominations. Here I am 60 years later and some of my brethren still believe they’re the only ones.

My academic life began by adapting to the fenced-in backyard of my professors. They made room for creativity within the fence. That gave space for me to develop my own skills of analyzing and interpreting the data of Scripture, but it was all within the context of their doctrinal presuppositions. Having learned to analyze and interpret, however, I came to realize that no theological backyard is adequate to hold the fullness of God. I had outgrown the home of my theological fathers

If you can wrap your head around God, he’s no bigger than your head.

So we must work hard at seeking truth, but then we must rest in silence to receive Father’s call that comes from beyond our present theological backyard. We also need to hone our skills of expression so we can share new insights when they come. The problem is that many think the honing of the skills is the end of the process. They’ve developed skills to express what they learned in theological kindergarten. They only find new ways to say what they were taught in their church school. They don’t know they’re fenced-in.

So how do we get out of the mentality of the yard we grew up in? How do we come into the larger perspective of the kingdom of God?

Here’s what I do: I continually listen for Father’s voice calling from outside the fence I’m presently in. Realizing I’ve not yet learned everything there is to know, and knowing that I’ve not yet grasped the full meaning of what little I have learned, I am at rest in Father’s presence as I “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Col. 3:14). I don’t find truth; truth finds me while I’m resting within my fence, open to whatever Father may have for me outside my yard.

That’s also why I’m relaxed while I teach. I’ve learned to rest in the presence of Father and work in tandem with the Holy Spirit…at least sometimes. We must learn to work and rest at the same time. That’s how Jesus lived his life. He didn’t break the Sabbath when he healed. He was resting in his Father’s bosom as Father did his work (Jn. 14:10). Those of us who teach must learn to rest in Father’s bosom as HE brings HIS teaching to HIS people.

Fount Shults, President
On Word Ministries http://www.onword.org

PS. If you enjoy reading what we share here and on our Facebook page, you may help us keep these insights coming by contributing. Go to http://onword.org/listen_to_fount.htm or make checks payable to On Word Ministries, 106 Ashford Ct. Myrtle Beach, SC 29588.

Orphans and the Family Business

08/11/2012 1 comment

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3 ESV).

The ESV Bible has captured the idea of this text. A house has rooms, not mansions. But the word house can also mean household. We, the Church, are the household of God (Heb. 3:3-6; Eph. 2:19). It seems to me Jesus is speaking of the Father’s Family Business which operates out of his house. At age 12 Jesus was already about his Father’s Business (Luke 2:49). The word business in Luke is a form of the word for house.

So what are the many rooms in the house of the Family Business? A short answer would be that the rooms are for particular functions within the House. Father is in the business of saving, healing and training others in the ways of the kingdom of God. There is a room for each of us according to the function we are called and equipped for. He did not leave us as orphans; we have a place in his House.

Jesus went to prepare a place for each of us according to the nature he put in us when he knit us together in our mother’s womb. When a person receives the Lord, Jesus comes to bring them to himself and involve them in the Family Business. To function in that room we must be responsive to daily instructions from Father. Jesus lived his life doing only what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19). When he brings us to himself, we are in that place of intimacy (the bosom) where we can see what Father is doing and allow him to do the work through us. Your room is waiting for you.

We noticed in previous blogs that orphans are those who behave as though they don’t have a father. Many Christians never relate to the Father; they act like spiritual orphans. Some feel that there is no Father who is really there for them to help them and protect them. Some try to do the Family Business with no input from Father. Others act as though it is the responsibility of a select few to do the work. They have no real part in the Family Business. All three groups often criticize others who are doing the work.

Some orphans wear themselves out trying to do the work with no energy from the Holy Spirit. Some time ago I heard someone say that ministry drains them. Ministry actually energizes those who are doing what Father is doing and receiving his energy to do it. There is certainly a time to go to a quiet place to rest. Jesus went to a desert place often. He didn’t go away to avoid people; he went to be with his Father and receive more to give away the next day.

The place Jesus prepared for us is in the Father’s heart for the nations. Father loves the whole world. Those who are in the place Jesus prepared for them will overflow with Father’s love within the function (room) they were designed to fill. We are behaving like orphans if we are not involved in Father’s Family Business.

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Fount Shults
President and Founder
On Word Ministries
http://www.onword.org

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/

Seeing and Hearing 7: Active Response Required

“For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 13:12, Mk. 4:25 and Lk. 8:18).

The context of our last few blogs has been the parable of the sower and the seed. The seed is the word of the kingdom. The soil is our heart. We noticed our need to allow Father to dig out our ears so we can hear. We saw that hearing is a matter of heart-to-heart communion. Our human spirit is one with the Lord. Kingdom fruit is produced by intimacy with God, by receiving word-seed. The language of the spirit is imagery, like dreams and visions. All parables present an image. We need to “see” the word we hear. (More on that later.)

Now we move to the question of receiving more of the secrets of the kingdom, more word-seed so we can produce more kingdom fruit. The key to this question is in the statement that those who have nothing will lose what they do have. That sounds like double-talk until we consider the context. The “have-nots” are those who heard the word but fruit never appeared. They had nothing to show for what had been planted. We shouldn’t expect Father to sow more seed in unproductive soil.

To receive more seed, then, we must first produce fruit from what was planted earlier. When we hear a word from Father, we must do what he says. This was the point of Jesus’ story of the two who built a house, one on the sand and one on the solid rock. The storm struck both structures, but the only one that withstood the wind and rain was the one built on the rock (Matt. 7:24-27). The wise man heard the word and allowed it to influence his behavior while the foolish man did not act on what he heard.

James also encouraged his readers to be doers of the word, and not hearers only (Jas. 1:22). According to him the ones who do not act on what they hear are self-deceived. Many today are deceived into thinking they are spiritual simply because they can quote large portions of Scripture. If they are not being transformed in their ability to love others, they are deceived. They receive the word but it doesn’t penetrate their heart. It doesn’t grip their imagination and produce a transformation.

Jesus told the Pharisees to go learn what it means that God desires mercy, not sacrifice (Matt. 9:13). “Go learn what this means” is a rabbinical style that challenges disciples to go practice the precept and experience its meaning. Pharisees could have quoted many Bible verses on mercy, but they did not know by experience what it meant because they never showed mercy. In other words, they did not allow the word-seed to penetrate the soil of their heart and produce the fruit of mercy.

Some people think they can’t hear from God (receive a word-seed). Often the reason we fail to hear from God is because we didn’t act on a previous word. In our culture we are content to grasp the concepts and understand the message. However, we don’t know what the word really means until we act on it and experience the reality of which it speaks. The problem is not that he isn’t speaking; the problem is we’re not listening. If the word-seed doesn’t change our way of relating, it will rot in the soil of our heart even though you may remember the words. By not acting on the word, we lose what we have.

Paul said, “He who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8). Abba Father is continually speaking to his kids about the way they treat their family and friends. Yet the relational difficulties for Christians are the same as those of the world. In fact, sometimes men of the world have better relationships than many in the Church. That’s probably because some tend to hold a higher standard for others than they do for themselves. They try to pressure their spouse and kids to perform well so they will look good in the eyes of the community. The word-seed has not yet penetrated their heart.

So, if we want to receive an abundance of word-seed we must practice loving one another as Christ loves us. That is the implication of the parable of the sower. God is love, so Jesus is the Son of Love and the gospel is the message of love. To be conformed to the image of Christ is to become a son or daughter of love. The word of the kingdom is a word of love because the coming kingdom is a kingdom ruled by the law of love rather than by the love of law.

In previous blogs we suggested an exercise of paying attention to your mental and imaging activity while others are speaking or as you read the Bible. The purpose of those exercises was to bring us to an awareness of the movements in our heart (or spirit). We need to see what’s happening inside if we want to change. The word for repentance means to see things differently. If we have not changed, we have not learned. And we can’t change until we see in a new way.

Our next blog will focus on seeing. Meanwhile, continue to pay attention to the thoughts and images that “play around” as you listen and read. If you have not been doing the exercises, it’s not too late. The exercises are necessary for those who desire to make these teachings practical. The concepts will not be practical for those who do not practice the word they hear.

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Looking Forward,

Fount Shults
On Word Ministries
http://onword.org

Here’s a link to Mark Virkler’s Communion With God website:
http://www.cwgministries.org/

Seeing and Hearing 1: Introduction

11/03/2011 3 comments

From the parable of the sower and the seed we learn that the word of the kingdom produces kingdom reality for those who have ears to hear. Hearing ears allow the word to penetrate the heart, germinate and produce kingdom fruit. In the following blogs we will reflect on the relationship of seeing and hearing. This connection is often missed in discussions and commentaries.

All three accounts of this parable end with the challenge, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13:9, Mk. 4:9, and Lk. 8:8). This implies it is possible to have ears that do not hear. Without hearing ears the word can never enter the heart and produce fruit. Our first question is how one might develop hearing ears. I yearn for the word to enter my heart and produce a kingdom lifestyle.

In all three accounts Jesus says to the disciples, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God” (Matt. 13:11, Mk. 4:11 and Lk. 8:10). Our second question is how one qualifies to be given to know the secrets of the kingdom. I certainly want to be eligible to receive the secrets of the kingdom.

In all three accounts we read, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 13:12, Mk. 4:25 and Lk. 8:18). Our third question is how one qualifies to be given more. These blogs are for those who want more of that which produces kingdom living.

Mark (4:24) and Luke (8:18) have another statement, “Pay attention,” “Take heed” or “Take care.” That phrase is from the Greek word to see. Here is where we raise the fourth question of the relationship between seeing and hearing. Our fourth question is what does it mean to see what you are hearing?

If you want to find answers to these four questions and learn how to live life in the kingdom that is coming “on earth as in heaven,” simply enter your email address and click the ‘sign me up’ link above to the right.

Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
President and founder of On Word Ministries