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I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

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I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

God Speaks - Bible - Part 5

Welcome to the latest part of a series that I'm calling "God Speaks..."
Over these nine entries, I want to look at some of the ways that God speaks to us (it's not an exhaustive list of course - I'm sure others can add to it!). Because He does speak.  All the time.
Because God is real, because He loves us and because He is good - He speaks.
Usually, it's us (mere people!) that fail to listen or maybe fail to understand that it was God speaking to us.
I want to share from my own life, as practical examples, some of the ways God has spoken to me.  In all, I want to briefly look at these nine ways that we hear from God:

Dreams (click here to read this section)
Visions & Pictures (click here to read this section)
Through Others (click here to read this section) 
Angels (click here to read this section)
Bible
Words
Small Still Voice
Burning Bush
Audible Voice

Personally, I've experienced six out of these nine ways listed - and as we go through the series, I'll make these clear how that happened.  So, here we go with the next part!

Part 5 - Bible

It's not just enough to say that the Bible is the word of God and therefore speaks to us.  Of course it does.  For me, that goes without saying.  But I'm saying more than that, which I'll get to in a moment.  
As a book, the Bible is fascinating, if you really give it the time to fully look into it.  True, for the beginner, it does seem like a challenge to even start to read - where to start? Many think, like with any novel, and start at the front - that's logical, and I certainly have done that.  Genesis and even Exodus are actually great story accounts covering huge periods of time - but by the time you get to the book of 1 Chronicles, you will almost certainly stop, if reading it like a book.  
One book.  And of course, in some ways, it is that - but it's also a collection of many books.
If you were reading it for the first time, I'd say to actually start much later on, in the New Testament, which is the smaller, second half of the book.  Read John's gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are the four gospels, and make up the first four books of the NT.  The book of John looks at the life and death of Jesus, the central character to the whole Bible.  And once you understand that, the Old Testament (OT) makes a lot more sense.  Yes, it's a whole collection of a lot of different books - but they all tell the same story - that soon, someone is coming!  Of course, we understand who that was from this side of history, but in the time these OT books were written (the last one was still 400 years before Jesus was born), they didn't know when it was about to happen.
Let me lay another thing to bed, which often gets said about the Bible, usually from people that haven't read it, or certainly understood it.  Having read the book cover to cover several times, and certain parts much more, the book holds together as a whole - it does not contradict itself, it is perfectly understandable, which is how it's meant to read. As a whole, it does communicate the same overall story - that a loving God, who loves us more than we can imagine, had to give his son to die for us, because nothing we could ever do could deal with the separation that existed between us and God - which the Bibles calls sin (which is an archery term for 'missing the mark').  If you fired an arrow, and it didn't hit the target, you'd shout 'sin' to notify people that you'd missed the mark.
When we do things that hurt others (not to mention hurting God) we sin - even when it doesn't hurt others, only ourselves, it is still sin.  God's plan for us is so amazing, that when we do what (only) our own hearts want, we miss the mark.
Anyway, back on to the subject.  What I meant by the above was that as a book the Bible is so much more than just ink on paper (or letters on a screen if you are reading your Bible on a tablet!)  Because it's inspired by God, it has the power to speak to us.

So how has it spoken to me?

I said I wanted to go beyond the basic fact that the Bible speaks to us in general.  One thing I don't go in for (though of course there are always stories where this worked!) is what I'd call 'Bible lottery' - this is where you say to God "OK, I need you to speak to me now, so I'm going to open up my Bible and see what you have for me" and then you just open it up, and point your finger randomly on a verse and take that as His answer.  I will literally now do this with my Bible, and then copy in the verse that it gives me (it will be funny if this turns out to be a really encouraging and timely word!)  Here goes;

Solomon went up to the bronze altar before the Lord in the tent of meeting and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.

The above verse was from 2 Chronicles 1:6 and was literally where I pointed to once I'd opened, without looking, onto that page.  Unless I was really praying about how many offerings I should make (in which case, I think this would have been quite a challenging word!!) it really isn't much help.

What has helped, and has happened so much more frequently, is to regularly read the word of God, working through whole books, and therefore reading one or two chapters a day.  Within the normal, daily reading, it's been amazing how often the verses I've just happened to get up to for that day are exactly what I needed to hear.....more than just coincidence when it happens time and time again.  Is it that God knew, on that particular day in my life, that I'd get up to that particular chapter, and therefore inspired it to be written in such a way....

The other way (and combined with hearing God speak in another way - words - which is the subject of the next entry) where I've heard from God, is through getting a certain verse suddenly 'appear' in my mind.  This could be in a number of ways (everyone of us is different!).  Maybe some numbers appear, or the whole reference.  In my most bizarre example, it was a general sense - I had the book Luke and the numbers 1 and 3.  Now, this happened when I was in my late teens - still living at home, in the suburbs of London.  While not the city centre, it certainly is not the countryside.  Wildlife, while not completely invisible, is lets say, quite rare.  I had been praying about how and when God wanted to work with me.  About where I was headed.  I'd had words and desires about healing, and stepping forward in things.  God had spoken to me through others about the nations.  So I was seeking God on this particular evening (it wasn't late), worshiping with some music playing, when I felt the Luke reference and the numbers.  I turned to Luke 13 (which seemed to make sense) and started reading.  I kept reading - and later on, this is exactly as it happened....
When I got to verse 31 (those two numbers again!), whilst reading in my head, outside there was a noise.  And as the words of that verse were going through my head, my brain was obviously processing what it was hearing.  As I finished verse 31, about to start verse 32, my mind caught up and told me that the noise outside was a fox. Instantly, I read this in the following verse:

He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’

It was the encouragement I needed for that moment.  What was funny, and totally without my choosing, was whilst playing hockey in England, for my Cheshire based team, my two shirt numbers were first 13, then 31....It's as if God was reminding me of what He'd spoken to me that day, as I made the move to Manchester, and ahead of future moves overseas.

A few years before that, I also found great encouragement as I was just starting to process the call to the Russian speaking world, with that map of Asia that appeared before my eyes, when reading the book written for me....As a Tim (which is short for Timothy) the book 2 Timothy I always take to be To Timothy.  Paul starts the letter:

To Timothy, my dear son.

I like that truth!  It was particular gripping when later in chapter 1 it said:

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me

Here I was, processing that same calling, reading that the people God had called me to for salvation, again were listed here as having deserted God!  I identify a lot with 'young' Timothy, and though not as young now as I once was, always took encouragement from Paul's letters to that young leader.

So, how has the Bible spoken to you?  Maybe you are new to it - I encourage you, to talk with someone about it, maybe read it with someone from time to time that can explain what is coming up.  If you are stuck with where to start, read John, or read Luke and then Acts.  Both those two books were written by a doctor named Luke, and give an account firstly of the life of Jesus, and then following his resurrection, the life of the early church.  It's a fascinating adventure story - but better than that, it's true!  And years later, it's as true and helpful today as it's ever been!

Thanks for reading - this series will continue next with how God speaks through Words.

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