Several years ago, I was crying out for a greater expression of God’s power in my life. I was seeking Him in prayer regularly to see the kind of Holy Spirit demonstrations recorded in Scripture. I was hungry to see the effectiveness of the Gospel in ways described in the stories of the New Testament: the preaching of the word accompanied by signs, wonders, and miracles. Unfortunately, like many of us, I was downright cowardly when opportunities arose to share my faith and pray for others.
During this time, I went to a conference in Houston where they were teaching on the gifts of the Spirit. The testimonies of God’s power in the nations took my faith to a new level. We were visiting with some local friends, and when they heard what I was learning, they invited me to come with them to share and pray for a Muslim friend. After visiting with him, I saw a group of guys playing basketball on the court of the apartment complex. I suddenly felt the Holy Spirit’s clear prompting to share the Gospel with them. I was terrified and unsure about exactly what to do. But, as in simple obedience, I started to walk in their direction, supernatural boldness came over me.
All I knew to do was stop their game and shout at them to come over to me. I told them plainly, “I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to interrupt your basketball game and to be willing to look crazy in front of you for the sake of your souls.” None of them walked away, and as I shared the Gospel over the next few minutes, the Holy Spirit anointed it. At the end of sharing, I asked the young men who wanted to commit their lives to Jesus, and all of them raised their hands! I said if that was true then they needed to call out to Jesus right there on the spot to save them. We all held hands, and they began confessing their sins out loud, saying things like, “Jesus, I have been living wrong; forgive me.” After this, they dedicated their lives to God in prayer, and I prayed the Holy Spirit would come and fill them. One of the guys was so overtaken by God’s presence as we prayed that he couldn’t stand and dropped right down onto the ground.
This story paints a picture of what could be normal in our lives and what was normal in the early church. The first disciples boldly took the Gospel message to the known world through prayer, proclamation, and the power of the Holy Spirit. We see all three in Acts 4:29, which is a prayer for God’s power on the proclamation of the Gospel. In this passage, they cry out, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30 NKJV). Over and over again, we see this same pattern from the Gospels throughout the book of Acts: Prayer, Proclamation, and Power. When we begin in prayer, and with boldness, open our mouths to share, God will be faithful to stretch out His hand in power. Begin to cry out today that God would give you unusual opportunities to share the Gospel, and you will see His power on display!
We were created to live in open-hearted relationships with God and one another. In the body of Christ, we have the opportunity to reveal to the world the unity through diversity that can occur cross-generationally when all ages turn their hearts to one another. Malachi 4 prophesies of a coming day when the hearts of the fathers will be turned to the children and the hearts of the children will be turned towards the fathers. To the degree that we seek to enter into that reality now is the degree to which we can access the rich blessings of God through generational inheritance.
Our relationships in spiritual family are meant to be a reflection or echo of the validation we are receiving directly from our Father in heaven. Relationships in spiritual family are not intended to be the primary source. Only after we have turned our hearts to the Father can we receive in a healthy way from the community around us. As we receive affirmation from our heavenly Father, it delivers us from the neediness of the approval of men so that He can actually send us people in our lives to affirm what’s true. Only then can we receive from each other in community. What does it take to live with hearts turned towards one another in spiritual community? Here are three principles to living with a turned heart.
First, we must choose to open our hearts in vulnerability, even to those who have rejected us. A turned heart means that we are open and vulnerable to see one another and exchange in love. In his letter to the wayward Corinthian church, Paul appeals for this kind of open-heartedness in 2 Corinthians 6:11. “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.”. We can only let our hearts be written on and read by others when they are open and vulnerable. Some of us need to open our hearts wide in forgiveness towards our natural mothers or fathers. Some of us need to open our hearts wide to our spiritual mothers or fathers who didn’t meet our expectations. A closed heart hinders the blessing and generational gifts of God that He wants to give through both spiritual and natural relationships
Secondly, having a turned heart requires intentional pursuit. We must value who God says we are enough to pursue others, regardless of their response. If a person takes the initiative to pursue courageously, the recipient of pursuit can support by being prepared to receive and respond. In the story of Elijah and Elisha, Elijah initiated and pursued Elisha as a spiritual father. Elisha refused to leave Elijah three times (perhaps) because of his love and loyalty as a spiritual son.
Thirdly, as you have an open vulnerable heart and as you intentionally pursue the people around you, the result is often a whole lot of pain. It’s risky to love with an open heart because you don’t know how your pursuit will be received. It’s possible that because of a person’s woundedness or brokenness, they cannot receive your pursuit. A lot more people are likely going to reject you than accept you. And that hurts. But here’s what’s important to remember in the midst of it: there’s a pain that comes from sinfulness, a pain that comes from brokenness. There’s a pain that comes from oppression, and there’s a pain you have to live with that comes from godliness. The pain that comes from godliness is worth having.
We need to repent for having an emotional prosperity gospel. Many of us believe that if we follow God, we will only experience positive and comfortable emotions. We, therefore, feel let down when honest living of the faith produces betrayal, rejection, and hurt. As we try to obey God and deny our flesh, sometimes the result is a screaming internal pain. As we come against our fears, insecurities, and the things that hinder the flow of love in our lives, it’s not always going to feel good. Sometimes we have to say it’s worth the pain.
God, help us live with open-hearted, vulnerable pursuit of each other in spiritual family. Cleanse our hearts and come near to us as our Comforter as we suffer pain for the sake of godliness. Unite us across generations and help us turn our hearts to one another, that you would release your blessing upon us, in Jesus’ name.
A few questions for reflection:
- is there a relationship of a father or mother (natural and/or spiritual), or with God the Father, that I must seek vulnerability and forgiveness with? If so, what am I doing to seek reconciliation?
- What are some things I could courageously do to pursue fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters in my spiritual family?
- What. are some truths of who God is and the Word that I have to comfort me and give me an un-offendable heart when pain enters my life through relationships?