Posts Tagged ‘Seeing and hearing’

My Vision Revisied

05/28/2015 2 comments

I was meditating on my financial situation and felt I need to share publically what I heard.

First, I will give a background so you will understand my heart. For many years I have refused to promote myself and my ministry. I thought that would be self-serving. I firmly believe that when Father guides, he provides. That has proven to be the case for me through my whole life. For example, Father prompted me to finish the Dissertation for the PhD and not to seek employment until it was done. It took me about 18 months to finish. Even though I started with only about two hundred dollars, all my financial needs were taken care of without my asking anyone for help. We had our fourth child during that period. The Doctor was paid in the fifth month and the Hospital bill was paid before we went. People didn’t even know I was unemployed.

Various leaders in my life have told me I need to promote myself if I want others to support me. My response is always the same, “I can’t do that.” The reason is not that I am unable; I cannot bring myself to self-promotion without losing my sense of integrity. Others may have permission form Father to do that; I do not. As a result, I have lived ‘hand-to-mouth’ as long as I remember. I am ok with that, but I have a vision beyond what is presently coming in to On Word Ministries. I firmly believe the vision is from God.

My Father has provided for every ministry trip I have made to train leaders in developing nations. Sometimes that provision came from others; sometimes I had enough to do it on my own. That is evidence that the vision is from God as far as I can see. I have hesitated to ask for funds for my personal livelihood as a missionary based in the States. I know that all of you have your own needs. So I have not asked even though the leaders who are close to me have encouraged me to ask. “You have not because you ask not,” they say. I know that is biblical, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Why?

This is what brought me to the meditation I mentioned above. “If the vision is from God,” I ask myself, “then why are finances so tight? Father has provided for my needs without my asking even when I was unemployed. What is different here and now?” As I was in the presence of Father with these questions, the following came to me:

“People don’t give to needs, they give to vision.” I remembered this statement which I have heard from leaders who are very successful in raising funds, and I believe it’s true. But I sensed there was something else. So I waited. “This is not about what I need; it’s not even about what I do in training leaders in other countries. It’s about vision.” However, I have made my vision very clear on Facebook and on my blog. Working with Nation 2 Nation Christian University and with Harvest Preparation International gives me an opportunity to do what I’m called, commissioned and sent to do. So what’s missing?

This is what I heard, “People give to what they believe in. They give to what they feel is worthwhile.” There are two things here: the belief system and the feelings. The belief system is in the head, the feelings are in the heart. People will say they believe in the vision, but if they don’t feel connected, they don’t give. If what I believe resonates with what others believe, their heart will feel what my heart feels. This brought me to a personal challenge: “What do I really believe? What do I really feel?”

I believe that the living and active Word of God will change the social and political atmosphere when it is spoken by the Spirit. I have over 50 years’ experience speaking the Word and changing the lives of young people on college campuses. I believe this world-changing Word which the Father has given me will begin to do for nations what it has done for students. I believe this Word will continue to influence nations through the video recordings long after I have passed over to the other side of reality.

That’s what I believe and that’s what I feel. I believe it and feel it so strongly that I have been willing to go on several short-term mission trips at my own expense even when that left me short in my personal ‘bottom line.’ I have a passion to see leaders in developing nations receive the training they need but can’t afford. I will continue to do what I do because I believe what I believe and have a passion to see it happen.

Our website is being updated to reflect this passion. It will be up and running as soon as we get it built. Meanwhile, feel free to visit the website and listen to the free teachings available on the ‘listen to Fount’ tab. We are serious about keeping it free.

Looking forward,
Fount Shults
President and Founder: On Word Ministries


Seeing and Hearing 13: Hearing the Shepherd’s Voice

03/16/2012 1 comment

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers…. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn. 10:4, 5, 27)

In the early 70’s a group of young people invited me to speak to them on hearing the Shepherd’s voice. At that time I was still a novice at hearing from him. Sometimes I thought I was hearing and it later became obvious I was listening to a stranger’s voice. I agreed to teach the group but was very insecure in my own ability to hear.

I went to the text above and became even more insecure. “If I am a sheep, why do I listen to the stranger’s voice?” I asked myself. “Perhaps I’m not even a sheep!” My insecurities were increasing as I meditated on these verses. I realized I had been allowing words from the stranger’s voice form and frame my life (see blog #4 of this series).

Then I noticed he said, “I know them, and they follow me.” I remembered the statement in the Sermon on the Mount, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). He knows those who hear his voice and follow, but he doesn’t know those who cast out demons and prophesy in his name but do not do the will of his Father. (I understand that to mean hear and respond to his voice. See blog #12). Wow! Now I really need help.

I had deceived myself into thinking I understood his will because I had learned to read the Hebrew and Greek Bible (see blog #8). The revelation of the function of the human spirit in hearing God had not yet come to me (see blog #5). I had been trying to live by every word written in the biblical text without hearing the word that was presently proceeding from his mouth (Lk. 4:4, see blog #11).

The secrets of the kingdom have always been available to those who have hearing ears (see blog #7). I realized that I would never have access to the secrets of the kingdom if I don’t learn to hear his voice. The desire to bring a good teaching to the young people was no longer the thing driving me. I wanted to know for myself. Serious prayer time followed.

As my insecurities and self-condemnation mounted, I heard the shepherd say to me, “Read the text again.” So I did. But it still said the same thing. “Read it again,” he responded. After a few times I suddenly noticed what it did NOT say. It did not say, “My little lambs hear my voice.” The little lambs play around with one another and pay little attention to the shepherd. One becomes a sheep when he arrives at a level of maturity where hearing the shepherd’s voice is normal.

Every shepherd has a goad (a staff with a hook and a barb on the end). When the lambs are beginning to lag behind, the shepherd grabs their hind-leg with the goad. They soon learn that they must respond his voice to avoid the pain. “I’m still a lamb,” I said to myself. “I am in the process of learning to hear his voice,” I sighed with relief.

“The goad has been in my hind-leg quite a bit lately. My Shepherd loves me enough to get my attention,” I thought. So the presence of the goad in our life indicates we are still learning – we are not yet perfect. The goad encourages us to move to the next level of maturity.

Through this process over the next few years I learned he wanted to be my friend, not just my Lord Master. He wanted to do the work of ministry with me. He didn’t want me to do it FOR him; he wanted to do it WITH me (see blog #12). Friends do things together. He is our friend and enjoys working together with us to accomplish Father’s will on earth as in heaven.

The work of ministry is different with each of us. We find our place in ministry as we hear and respond to his voice. For some, ministry is in the market place or in the work force. For others, it is at home raising children or in the Mall talking to people. We are all called to ministry. Listen to his voice for the call each day.

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Fount Shults
On Word Ministries

Seeing and Hearing 12: Together as Friends

02/24/2012 2 comments

We leave the context of the parable of the seed and the soil to bring our point home. We’ve been talking about an intimate relationship with Father, one that involves seeing and hearing. Now we look to Jesus as our example. Observe how he lived his life watching and listening in the Father’s presence. As we look at him, let’s remember we are called to follow him and do as he did. He is the way to the Father (Jn. 14:6).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees [blepo, to see with the eyes] the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves [phileo] the Son and shows [deiknuo, to show, expose to the eyes] him all that he himself is doing” (Jn. 5:19-20).

“You are my friends [philos] if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know [eido, to perceive with the eyes] what his master is doing; but I have called you friends [philos], for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:14-15).

What do you see?  As Christians we should see what our Friend is showing us. In the Gospel of John we should never understand the word ‘command’ in legalistic terms. A servant only does what he’s told to do (hearing). He does not know what his master is doing because he doesn’t get the full picture (seeing). He hears commands, but he doesn’t see, he doesn’t get it. He simply performs the task.

Friends do things together. Jesus said to Philip, “…the Father who dwells in me does his works” (Jn. 14:10). Father and Son are friends and do the work together. One is not a friend if his master doesn’t show him what he’s doing or if the master shows but he doesn’t see. He may be a very good servant, but he is not a friend. Masters command; servants go and do without the master’s presence. Father shows; sons see and join the Father in his work.

The word ‘command’ in the Gospel of John is related to what Father is showing the Son and what the Son is showing us. Obeying the command is simply allowing your life activity to be influenced by what he is showing you. The Son does only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father shows him he receives as a commission, as a command. It’s as though the Father says, “I am showing you what I am doing because I want you to do it with me.”

Thirty to forty years ago it became popular to wear a wrist-band with WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) written on it. The idea is great, but it doesn’t get at the heart of the issue. It leaves us with the responsibility to figure out what he would do “if he were here.” He is here, and he is doing something. He wants us to see what he is doing and join him in his project. The wrist-band should have read WIJD (What Is Jesus Doing?)

Friends do things together. In biblical friendship there is a leader and there is a follower. Jesus lived his life as a human being with his Father/Friend as his leader. The Father showed the Son what he was doing and the Son did what he saw Father doing. He called us to live in the same way. He shows us what Father is doing and we’re invited to join the Father and the Son in the action we see in the Spirit. This is the highest level of disciples.

There is a word contained in the visions God gives. What you see is his call and commission for you to join him as a friend and do it together with him. If you don’t see him doing, you can’t do with him; you can only fulfill legalistic demands. You’re a servant, not a friend if you don’t see. Even so, you are still called to be a friend. He wants us to look to him, see what he is doing and do it with him rather than simply obeying commands.

You may remember the experience I shared in a previous blog where I saw myself preparing for the day before I got out of bed. This reminds us of the fact that everything we ‘see’ does not necessarily come from God. For example, sometimes we ‘see’ lustfully, desiring to have something another has. Sometimes we think we ‘see’ God healing someone and pray for them, but they don’t get healed.

Here’s the question, “How can I know when it is Jesus showing me what the Father is doing?” Our answer to this question brings us back to the issue of hearing. Jesus said his sheep hear his voice. We may apply this to our dilemma: we must be able to discern whose voice accompanies the seeing we experience. There is a word contained in the vision, and there is a voice connected to the word. The voice that comes with lustful seeing is not his voice. The voice that comes with spiritual seeing is his voice.

We have arrived at a crucial junction. Am I still a sheep if I don’t hear his voice? This will be the topic of our next blog.

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Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
On Word Ministries

Seeing and Hearing 11: Cleansed by Word

“I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (Jn. 15:1-3)

We usually think “clean” means cleansed from sin. Sometimes it does. But in this text the word for prune and the word for clean are from the same root. “You are clean” means “You have been pruned.” Washing removes impurities. Pruning cuts back what has already produced fruit, not impurities. It is an act that prepares a branch to produce more fruit. It is not dealing with past sin but with future potential. If the branch is not pruned it will become unfruitful.

God has dealt with sin once for all at the cross. He no longer deals with your sin; his focus is on developing in us the fullness of what he created us to be. That fullness only comes by an intimate relationship with himself and his Son through the Holy Spirit. Our Father wants to partner with us to produce more fruit for his kingdom. Jesus died to deal with our past; he was raised to make a way to a future with his Father (Jn. 14:6). From our position in the Vine (Jesus) we produce fruit for Father here and now. Producing fruit is not about heaven; it’s about a fruitful relationship here and now.

The instrument of pruning for more fruit is the living, spoken word. Whether there is a cutting away of a dead branch or a pruning of a fruitful branch depends on how the “branch” hears the word that is spoken. If I am impressed with fruit I produced yesterday, I may be in danger of refusing to hear the pruning word. By refusing the new word I fail to bear more fruit. That’s why after the parable of the sower Jesus warned the disciples to take care how they hear (Lk. 8:18).

The spoken word is also what produces fruit.

Jesus continued, “If you abide in me [the vine], and my words [rhemata] abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (Jn. 15:8). This is clearly not about “heaven some day.” Rhema refers to a spoken word. To abide in a spoken word means to live your life in positive response to that word. Bearing fruit and proving yourself to be a disciple are related to the way you hear and respond to the word he is speaking to you today.

In my 40 years of teaching on college campuses I never applied for a job. Each time I changed jobs it was because Father spoke a word to me, “You have done what brought you here to do; now I have a new assignment for you.” Each time it was a rhema to me. Someone would then call me and invite me to come. That would confirm the direction for me. I also received invitations at times when Father was not speaking to me about leaving. I refused several upgrades because I didn’t hear a word from Father. This is what it means to allow his rhemata to abide in you.

Rhema is from the root rheo which means to flow (like water in a river). In English, rheostat controls the flow of electricity in a circuit. In a vine there is sap flowing through the branches. That flow produces fruit. Apart from this sap the branch can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). The word picture in this text implies that the spoken word, flowing from his mouth, is what causes the branch to bear fruit.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhema) that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Lk. 4:4). The word presently proceeding from his mouth is the word by which we can live. What he is saying is always in the flow of what he is doing. If we want to flow with him we must get in the flow of the proceeding word.

Now let’s look at the vine. Imagine me drawing a picture of a vine on a chalk board. Where is the vine? All you see is the branches. Jesus did not say, “I am the stock (or the root) and you are the branches.” The branches are the vine, the vine is the branches. Jesus is not producing fruit for his Father in this world apart from the branches. He is in the individual branches which are connected to him and to one another. Branches that are not connected do not produce fruit.

There is a difference between being attached and being connected. A dead branch is still attached to the vine but it doesn’t receive the flow of the proceeding word. It is dead-wood on the vine. A branch that is connected receives the life-flow of the proceeding word and produces fruit. It’s all about the way we hear and respond to what he is saying to us today.

“Take care how you hear.”

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Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
On Word Ministries:

Seeing and Hearing 10: How and What you Hear

01/20/2012 1 comment

“Take care how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18)

In Matthew Jesus warned, “Take care what you hear,” but in Luke he said, “Take care how you hear.” The first concerns the content of the message and the second concerns the way you listen to the message. Our focus has been back and forth between the two, but in reality the two are essentially the same. How you are hearing is related to whether you are listening to your own voice or the actual message. What you are hearing is not the true message if you are listening to yourself rather than the speaker.

“Seriously consider how you hear” means take responsibility for the condition of your heart and ears. The condition of your ear is connected to the condition of your heart. A hard heart will shut out any word that threatens your previous understanding. A cluttered heart will choke out the word and keep it from bearing fruit.

We can see this clearly in Acts 2. There were two responses of the crowd that gathered when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples. One group asked, “What does this mean?” The other group scoffed, “These men are drunk.” The first were hearing properly; they knew there was a message in the events that were unfolding before them. The second were listening to their inner critical response to the same events. They were blinded by their prejudices and not get [see] the message.

Those who are convinced of their righteousness have no desire to hear anything different. If they acknowledge the reality of the events, they will have to admit they’ve been wrong. After I was impacted deeply by the Holy Spirit I shared with a friend. His response surprised me. He said, “If I agree with you, I will have to admit I have been wrong all these years.” I have had many reject the testimony, but no one stated so clearly what was really going on inside. He was unwilling to change his position.

Another implication of seeing what you hear is this: our duty is not so much to talk to people about our Father, but to show them by a life that unfolds from the action of the Holy Spirit. Peter did not preach until after the Holy Spirit had moved. His sermon was simply explaining what had happened. The message cannot be spoken effectively apart from the movement of the Holy Spirit (see I Cor. 12:3). Even for Jesus this was true: “the power of the Lord was with him to heal” (Lk. 5:17).

Most of the crowd rejected the message. These who rejected it were probably the same ones who had accused the disciples of being drunk. I believe the three thousand that asked, “What must we do?” were the same ones who had asked, “What does this mean?” Those with a critical spirit do not hear the message; they only hear words they can easily discount.

These two groups were hearing the same words, but they were not hearing the same message. The ‘how’ of their listening was affecting the ‘what’ of their hearing.

We often speak of the ‘tone of voice’ to imply an attitude behind what is audible. There is a heart attitude, or a “spirit,” that is carried by the tone in the voice. Perhaps we also need a phrase to indicate the ‘tone of hearing.’ You can listen with an attitude. The burden to speak is on the speaker, but the burden to hear is on the listener. Listening to God means paying attention to his heart attitude toward the situation we are facing and what we are thinking about doing. Our heart attitude is exposed by the way we listen.

When we confuse our own heart attitude with his voice, we are listening to ourselves, not to him. We are often vain enough to think God agrees with our prejudices. If what you’re thinking is not loving, compassionate and encouraging, it is probably from your own heart. When we speak or act from that platform, we are walking according to the flesh. We are not doing what we see Father doing.

Our Father sent Jesus to free us from our prejudices. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8:22). To abide in a word means to allow that word to influence the way you live, the way you relate to others. To know the truth means to experience the reality of which the word speaks.

The Jews in John 8 were unwilling to admit they didn’t already have truth (they were prejudice). They also denied they were in bondage. They remained in bondage because they were only listening to themselves. Many in our world today are in bondage because of their unwillingness to allow their ideas to be challenged. Jesus said Isaiah was talking about those people when he wrote:

“For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn again, and I should heal them.” (Isa. 6)

Notice the connection of eyes, ears and heart in this passage. The parable of the sower and the seed is all about those three and how they relate to the success of the word-seed in a person’s life. My friend above did not want to change; even in the face of evidence. He wanted to maintain his prejudice. His ears were dull of hearing anything that did not agree with what he already believed. As a result, he failed to experience (know) the truth of the availability of the Holy Spirit in his life.

Perhaps now you can see the importance of the exercises I have suggested – paying attention to what is happening in your imagination while you are reading or listening. If you will make a habit of this, it will position you to experience truth and find ever increasing freedom in your life.

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Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
On Word Ministries

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.

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Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
On Word Ministries

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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

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