I feel like I’m entering the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
Until recently I misunderstood maturity in Christ this way:
MY MISUNDERSTANDING OF BIBLICAL MATURITY:
The slow process of mastering biblical principles to become increasingly independent—less dependent on God’s specific guidance (just as a maturing child grows less reliant on their parents).
This perspective leads to understanding discipleship as the transfer of and obedience to principles drawn from the Bible. This is a slower process than typically results in movements.
What I came to see in God’s word—as I focused on Jesus and listening to Him—is that God has a very different perspective on maturity, available immediately to the newest believer. That is:
A MODEL OF BIBLICAL MATURITY I FIND MORE BIBLICAL
Jesus did and said nothing but what He saw and heard His Father doing (John 5:19-21,30,43; 7:16-18,28-29; 8:26,28-29,38,40,42,47; 10:37-38; 12:49-50; 14:10-11,23-24; 15:10,15). The form of maturity Jesus calls us to is “Him living in and loving through us as we fix our eyes on Him” (Galatians 2:20, Hebrews 12:2). This starts with listening to Jesus, being known by Him and following Him (John 10:27).
This perspective leads to understanding discipleship as the process of leading others to listen to and follow Jesus.
My sheep listen to Me and follow Me (John 10:27)
Nine years ago a friend took me to India to meet a network of movement leaders. I wrote up what I saw in Mission Frontiers. One principle I recorded, but failed to apply personally at the time, is:
Obedience Begins with Listening: Tarry daily with God as before the king of highest authority—until He releases you. Wait for guidance and power, then obey in faith. Resist the urge to rush into self-assigned activity, or to ask God to bless plans made solely on the basis of available resources.
One couple I stayed with in India nine years ago then came and stayed with my family and me this past March (2019). They shared with us and a few friends about the unique complexities of India. That evening Anuroop also pointed us to John 10:27 (hearing and following Jesus), and over the coming weeks God showed me that:
- I had been focused on identifying and promoting Biblical principles of multiplication that lead to movements.
- Yet I had overlooked “hearing and following Jesus” as a universal element in the diverse movements multiplying around the world.
- And I had personally been relying much more on my own reasoning and analytical abilities than on hearing Jesus.
Somewhere along the way Jackie also asked me a simple question which pushed me further toward really listening to Jesus:
If you are really hearing from God, why are you always so overextended?
God Guides (when we listen)
Then this past summer (2019) R and S Smith stayed with us and shared the key role that learning to listen to God had played in their transition
– from nearly a decade of fruitlessness faithfulness in India
– to a miracle that unlocked tremendous fruitfulness (23,000 groups and counting).
These Smiths shared a little booklet with with us that led me to begin a daily practice of listening to God and writing down the thoughts I felt were from Him. Sample a portion of this booklet.
Looking, Listening and Writing
As I shared what God was doing in my life through this simple practice of listening to God and recording what He tells me, we were introduced to Mark Virkler’s 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice (evident in Habakkuk 2:1–2 and elsewhere in Scripture). For me the missing keys were:
– focusing on Jesus (Heb 12:2)
– trusting that the flow of thoughts was from Jesus long enough to write them out for testing.
Applying this led me into a much richer daily experience of God’s presence, love and guidance.
And one thing that has fueled my faith that these thoughts are from God rather than me is the unexpected correction I have received regarding many things, perhaps most fundamentally:
– from focusing on doing all I can for Him,
– to focusing on Him, listening to Him and responding to His initiative.
Through this practice of writing out the flow of thoughts to my heart as I focused on Jesus, I began experiencing new levels of peace and joy. I also began seeing more things working out on their own, with less strain and effort on my part. I even recorded God saying to me:
By prioritizing your service of Me ahead of your intimacy with Me, you made your service of Me into an idol. This put Me in an awkward position. If I had poured out My full blessing on your service, you would have withdrawn ever further from Me into service for Me.
Before you can bear much multiplying fruit, you must fix the eyes of your heart on Me rather than on your service for Me. Let Me lead you to increasingly rest and abide in Me. Then I will bear abiding fruit through you in ways that deepen rather than distract from our intimacy.
I have found Mark quite generous with his materials:
– Chapter One of Mark’s 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice is available for free
– The first of Mark’s ten one-hour video lessons on hearing God’s voice is also available for free.
Mark has also given me permission to share a 50%-off coupon with mission leaders and those on donor support (that’s $100 savings on this course). Email me (RobbyQButler@gmail.com) or Message me (360 420-5634) for this code, if you like.
Leading others to hear God’s voice
As I shared what God was doing in my life through Mark Virkler’s material, I was re-introduced to Jamie and Donna Winship, who have been directly involved in several Jesus movements. Jamie’s material on listening and identity incorporates Mark’s concepts and appears even richer, more concentrated and more directly relevant to blessing all ethne and multiplying laborers where they are still lacking. (Jamie told me that he and Donna went through Mark’s on-line course.)
Through Jamie’s material I learned how much better it is
– to lead others into hearing God speak to them,
– than to tell others what I think God wants them to hear.
Another way to summarize this is:
– Allow God to lead others to Scripture
– rather than using Scripture to lead them to God.
(Remaining open to either, of course.)
If you enjoyed the glimpse above, you will likely also enjoy this hour-long video, in which Jamie describes how he learned to hear God’s voice. (As Jamie listened to God, God gave him supernatural effectiveness as a New York city policeman. This led the CIA to recruit Jamie to diffuse terrorist threats abroad.) In this video, Jamie tells how listening to God led Jamie in birthing a movement through four men who forced Jamie into a car with the intent of killing him.
Jamie and Donna have now participated with God in transforming a number of cities around the world by drawing local leaders into hearing God’s voice. For the past three years they have been pursuing a similar transformation here in Seattle to demonstrate that this can work here as well. They started with the Seattle police force (24/7 presence in the city) and the public school system. Already God has given them favor and influence in both spheres.
One important thing the Winships have learned is how—without the use of religious language—to rapidly lead non-believers into directly hearing God’s voice (in as little as 15 minutes), adapting the following outline of questions as the Holy Spirit leads:
– What is your dominant negative emotion?
– Describe the fear behind that emotion. What does it look like? How does it affect you?
– What is the belief behind that fear?
– When did you first embrace that belief? What did you experience and how did it make you feel?
– What lie might be contained within that belief?
– Now imagine that perfect love is with you in that first experience? What does perfect love show you or tell you?
When a person is honest, you will usually find one pair of core lies they share with most of humanity:
– It all depends on me.
– I am not good enough.
When a person hears the Truth speak directly to them to correct those lies, they are often transformed.
Last week I adapted this approach to lead a man I met in a coffee shop into hearing God speak to him about this crumbling marriage. Here is another 13 minute clip from Knowing Rediscovered which inspired my interaction with this young man.
Growing with others in Hearing and Following Jesus
I am exploring how those of us drawn to hearing and following Jesus can learn from and assist one another through a weekly hour or two via Zoom or other video chat. If this interests you, email (RobbyQButler@gmail.com) or message me (360 420-5634).
I’ll leave you with this, adapted from something sent to me by a friend:
Every day Jesus comes, knocks on my heart’s door and says, “Can I spend the day with you? There’s nothing I’d like more!”
And so we spend the day together. We don’t talk a lot. He just enjoys being with me, although I don’t deserve it. And even though I keep leaving Him out of parts of my day, He doesn’t leave in a huff. Instead He looks forward to when I’ll include Him again.
Worst case scenario, He lets me go off on my own but gives me another chance by knocking on my door again the next morning. When I do include Him, it makes Him so happy, He grins from ear to ear.
As we spend time together He invites me to join Him increasingly in the exciting things He is doing and wanting to do—not asking me to run off and do for Him—but including me in His grand, global purpose to bless all the families of earth, starting with my own household.Mark 3:14: “He appointed twelve that they might be with him … .”
P.S. Further Experiences
In late December Jackie and I talked with Jamie Winship by phone. Jamie and Donna accepted an invitation to lead a group of us in hearing from God. On January 14th they brought their friend Norris Williams along and led more than a dozen of us in experiencing God set us free from our deepest fears and hear from Him regarding our unique identities in Him.
As I had already been sharing some of what I was learning from Jamie’s videos with Raymond—a ministry leader in Uganda, he invited me to come share this material with his leaders on February 1st. I told Raymond it was very unlikely I would come, but I would pray about it.
I asked Jamie if he was interested in coming to Uganda and he suggested I ask Norris, who travels to Africa regularly. Less than two weeks later Norris and I arrived in Uganda for 10 days with very little scheduled. However God literally filled every day with divine appointments as He led us to leaders of existing and future movements we hadn’t yet been aware of. I was privileged to watch Norris lead many of these leaders into the life-changing experience of hearing God speak to them directly about their identity and His love for them—setting them free from their deepest fears and showing them how to lead others into this same experience. (Over the past 17 years, Norris has been coaching a movement across the Middle East that has grown to hundreds of thousands of Ms loving and following Jesus.)