Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Sharing the Stories That Truly Matter

Deborah: “And then the Pharisees and the teachers of sharia came in and brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and they put her before them, and they said . . .”

Leslie Basham: Can telling stories help spread the good news about Jesus? This woman says, “Yes!”

Deborah: I asked this one woman. “Do you think you might tell that story to some of the refugees in the camp?”

She said, “Absolutely not! I’m going to tell that story to everyone I know."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, for Monday, July 30, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, depending on where you live, there’s a good chance that from time to time and maybe even frequently you see people at a grocery store or in an airport. They’re dressed differently than you are. They perhaps look different. They may have a different accent than you’re accustomed to. And you realize these are people from a Muslim background. They may be born here in the United States, maybe having come from another country.

I think sometimes we can feel it’s just awkward to know how to strike up a conversation with a woman who may be out of a Muslim background. Would you feel intimidated to even share the gospel with a Muslim co-worker or neighbor?

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably not an expert on the Qur’an, and you’re thinking, I don’t know what objections or arguments they might bring up. I’m not even really sure of what all they believe.

And then when you think about all of the conflict, strife in the world, it can even make it seem harder to talk and interact on a personal level.

Now, we know that every person in the world, no matter what their ethnic or religious background, needs Jesus. And it turns out one really effective way to share Jesus with Muslims is by using a method that you’ve probably experienced yourself many times. And it’s a method you can use to speak to Muslims or anyone else for that matter about the gospel.

Our guest today is going to be sharing that method, and Carrie Gaul, who is my long-time friend and colleague here at Revive Our Hearts, is here to introduce you to our guest. So, welcome, Carrie.

Carrie Gaul: Thank you, Nancy. It’s an honor to be here. This is an area that’s become very dear to my heart, so I’m eager for us to hear from my friend Deborah, who’s become such an inspiration to me and an encouragement in helping to love and reach out to those in the Muslim world.

Nancy: You’ve heard Deborah speak, and recently you had a chance to interview her. So I’m going to step back and let you introduce Deborah to our listeners.

Carrie: Deborah is actually not her real name. For security reasons, we have changed that. But Deborah first heard you [Nancy] in 1995 when you spoke at a staff conference for another ministry, CRU—Campus Crusade for Christ as it was known then.

Nancy (at Cru conference): Proud people focus on the failures of others, but broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Deborah: I was so struck by what she was saying.

Carrie: Deborah was serving on staff with CRU. Personally, she was in the middle of a lot of trials. Her son was fighting leukemia. Her marriage was breaking up. And her mother had slipped into a coma.

Deborah: My world just seemed to be falling apart.

Carrie: Nancy’s message on brokenness hit Deborah between the eyes.

Nancy (at CRU conference): Proud people are self-righteous. They have a critical, fault-finding spirit. They look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope. They look down on others, but broken people are compassionate.

Carrie: Deborah still remembers something Nancy said as she retold the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Nancy (at CRU conference): Let’s have a party. Let’s celebrate.

I think, however, we’re not as familiar with the latter half of the story. There was another brother, the elder brother. Scripture tells us in the 25th verse of Luke 15 that the older son meanwhile was out in the field. He was the good boy. He out there doing what he was supposed to do, being faithful, working hard. He’d never been wayward. He’d never been rebellious—outwardly. He was faithful and hard working.

Deborah: Then I realized, I think at that time that there was that that was within me that identified with the older brother, the one who had stayed. I think, perhaps, this self-righteousness of, “I have done so much” . . . I’d been a Bible teacher for many years, and I remember thinking that I really was like the older brother. And, frankly, I was shocked.

Carrie: You’d never seen yourself in that light?

Deborah: No. I had come to know Him on my knees next to my mother by my bed in Germany at eleven years old. I had loved the Lord since then. I never realized how I had sort of this thought: “I’ve done this for You, so You should be paying me back. You should be doing something for me.” And now all of my life is falling apart.

Carrie: She says it was a turning point for her.

Deborah: That started a whole other journey. And I hope in some ways that it’s still a journey, that He’s still continuing to work in me that work He first began. Because He promised in Philippians 1 that He would complete the work He started. So I’m counting on Him because my heart is often caught up in emotions, protectiveness, pride, worry, a lot of things that shouldn’t be there—performance. Now you have to move on and see who your identity is in Him.

Carrie: Deborah’s new journey led her to Eastern Asia for her first missions trip. God provided the money she needed in an amazing way. She was looking forward to doing what she loved, systematic teaching of the Bible.

Here’s how she explained it in a Life Action chapel service.

Deborah: I loved homiletics. I loved organizing Scripture and figuring out how to communicate it. So it was the first thing that God just sort of opened the door to go to the underground church. I started there and then realized that it was far too literate an approach.

Carrie: In some parts of the world, it’s illegal to meet with others to learn from the Bible or even to own a Bible. But Deborah had faith that God’s Word is powerful enough to overcome obstacles that she could not.

Deborah: I had no desire to tear down barriers, but I see God through His Word making barriers porous. His Word transforms. He has stopped me from teaching the Bible. Even though that was my comfort zone and my passion, He stopped me in my tracks and turned me to a complete oral transmission of everything. And what I mean by that is I’m a storyteller.

“This man had a young daughter who was twelve years old and was at the point of death.”

“And the Lord God said to him, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of My people. And I have heard their cries because of the slave drivers. And I’m concerned.’”

Carrie: Deborah changes the noun "story" into a verb and calls what she does . . .

Deborah: Story-ing, or you can call it Oral Inductive Bible Study. But it is done, at least in the way God has led me to work, is learning the accounts in Scripture where God reveals who He is by what He does. It’s where God is allowed to show Himself for who He is and reveal His character without me as a Western woman trying to communicate it. They discover it on their own.

"And so this is where the story begins that I’d like to tell you this morning."

Carrie: Deborah demonstrated this story-ing for us in a recent chapel time. Usually she recites the complete story first without interruption, then works back through it by asking questions of her audience. In the interest of time today on Revive Our Hearts, we’re condensing that process.

Deborah (in chapel): "So as Jesus was going on His way, the crowd was pressing against Him. There was a woman there in the crowd."

In order for them to experience the story, I always ask them to step into the story and to be there. So I’ll often ask questions: What do you think the weather was like? Just to stimulate the imagination. And you’re there. You’re there. So, put yourself there. This is a real story with real people.

“And she had been bleeding for twelve years.”

Now, I told this story to a group of Muslim women. They were very poor. They had come to this house to get food, to be fed. And so I remember I just thought, I have to ask. I just stopped, and I said, “Please forgive me. I don’t understand all of your culture, but if a woman is bleeding, is she considered unclean? And if she’s unclean, if she touches a man, is he considered unclean?”

And there began this discussion, and I just sat there, and there was this bam, bam, bam, bam. I mean, it was pretty heated, perhaps is the best word. So I just went on with the story. All of a suddent, there's eye contact.

“She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors. And she had spent all she had.”

And so I stopped and asked them, “What do you think she looked like? I mean, really, her physical . . . what do you think she looked like?” And I just listen to these women.

“And instead of getting better, she grew worse.”

And you know what’s happening. They’re putting themselves in her place. So I’m hearing what they think they would look like.

And then, what do you think her life had been like? What do you think she was experiencing as going through this? Where do you think she was living? She had spent all that she had. And what do you think . . . what was her life like?

And this one woman on my right said, “I think she was suicidal.”

Now, I have told that story in different contexts all over the world. That is the only time I’ve ever had anyone say, “I believe she was suicidal.” And, you see, what she just did? I don’t know if it was someone close to her or whether it was herself that has attempted or even considered it, but suicide is somewhere in her world view.

Suicide is on her mind because she put herself into the story.

“When she heard it was Isa, she came up behind Him in the crowd, and she touched the hem of His garment.”

And, may I say, that she entered into His story.

“If I could just touch His clothing, I’ll be healed.”

And He was then free to enter into hers. And now it’s like, “Whoa, whoa, wait a minute here! Now we’re in this story. She has just touched Him, and then you know what happened. Yes?”

“And immediately she felt in her body the bleeding stop and that she was freed from her suffering.”

And as her touch of faith healed her, perhaps this young woman in that basement knew that with her touch of faith, He could heal her as well.

And, you see, I never taught that. I would not have known to teach that. As I said, I’ve never thought of her being suicidal.

That’s what is so powerful about this.

“Now, at once Jesus felt the power go out of Him, and turning in the crowd, He asked, ‘Who touched Me?’”

And now there is like this physical leaning in of these women in the circle. It’s like, “Whoa! She is now going to be condemned. She will be stoned. What will happen to her?”

“The disciples said, ‘Master, You asked who touched You? Don’t You see all these people pressing around?’ But He continued to look, to see who had touched Him. And the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at His feet.”

Where do you see the crowd right now? That’s how they were in this little room.

“Fell at His feet trembling with fear, and told Him the whole truth.”

Well, yes, trembling with fear. These women knew why she was trembling with fear.

“And He said to her—(do you know what the next word is?)—‘Daughter.’”

And there was like a tsunami in the room as they pulled back because you know, I believe, within Islam, family is everything. It’s everything. That’s why they will come after you if you choose to leave Islam, because you betray the family. Family is everything.

And here’s this woman who has touched Him, made Him unclean, and He turns around and pulls her into the most intimate relationship—daughter. There was this reaction in the room.

“Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

And I finished the story. There was no more time to ask any more questions. And the prayer, the evening prayer started behind us from the mosque. And so that was it. That was it. They got up and went.

You tell the story. You learn it word for word. (That’s my context. It’s not always that way with some.) Word for word. And then you work through it inductively: observation, interpretation, application. And then you tell the story again. And you allow them to see Him face to face.

I love to teach His Word, but it’s like I’m teaching you about Him. But when I story, I get out of the way, and you see Him face to face. I’m not even there. Whether it is God in the Old Testament or Jesus the Son of God in the gospels. They’re visualizing the story. You’re visualizing the story. They meet Him face to face. That’s when He enters into their story.

And He never fails to show up, and He never fails to reveal Himself to people who are willing to listen to just a story. And they begin to see hope. They begin to understand.

Carrie: Deborah says that story-ing is an art form but with a definite spiritual dimension.

Deborah: It’s important to be sensitive and intuitive and to be prayed up, because I know there are times when you need to teach and preach, but I think, many times, what I’ve discovered in the Islamic context is that they are not going to listen to you if you start talking at them, because they’re just going to start talking at you, and it becomes a verbal debate.

There’s no comparing books, prophets. Nothing. When someone wants to begin to debate with me, I totally shut it down. I say, “I’m so sorry. I’m just a storyteller. I will not compare books. I will not compare prophets. Would you just like to hear a story?”

I’m just a storyteller because I know what God’s Word has done in my life. We have to let God’s Word go free and let the Holy Spirit work.

It’s a slower process. You are out of control. You cannot control what they may necessarily get, but what I see also, too, is that the more marginalized a people group is, the more receptive they are to this approach of story-ing because the marginalized have not been asked their opinion about anything important for maybe their whole lives.

Carrie: Yes. They so often don’t have a voice or don’t believe they have a voice.

Deborah: Yes. And they have come to believe they don’t have an opinion either.

I was in a place, and I started with the Luke 5 story, the great catch of fish. And my first question out, I asked something, and one of the women said—and this is verbatim— “Wait. Are you asking us to think?”

And I said, “Yes.”

She said, “We can’t do that. We have to ask what to think.”

Carrie: So interesting. Recently, I heard that in Islam, "Don’t think; don’t feel" is really the message that comes across. And when I heard that, I thought, That’s not just Islam.

That’s so often what’s woven in, wrongly so. Jesus teaches us to think. Jesus teaches us to feel, and to feel deeply. God is a God of deep emotions. So when we silence those truths within us in a very real way, it’s the voice of the enemy, not the voice of God, that’s speaking.

Deborah: Yes. It isn’t just a one-time encounter. You story. And then you story again. And then you story again. As I’ve said, it’s self-discovery. But I also want to make this point: It is self-correcting.

Carrie: Yes.

Deborah: In one particular location there were high school children, and they were asked what they thought of God—this was in the Far East—what they thought of God from Genesis chapter 1. And they said, “We don’t like Him.”

I was, like, “Whoa! Why don’t you like God?”

“Well, because every time after He made something, He said, 'Well, that was great. That was good. I’m so good.'”

Carrie: They saw God as being arrogant in their culture.

Deborah: And to the one I was training, I said, “Go back.”

She said, “We can’t do this. We can’t do this. They don’t like God.”

I'm like, “It’s all right. Just tell the next story, and the next story, and the next story.”

And by the time she worked her way to Moses, when she asked them about Moses being in the wilderness: “What do you think is happening to this man?” She said that slowly, over the weeks, they had started to change their opinion of God without ever really expressing it. And when she asked them in that story, “What do you think this God is doing with this man Moses?”

Now, these students, young adults, do not know any of the Bible. They have no Bible background at all, and they said, “Well, we know God is good. We know that He has a plan. We know that He cares for Moses because He rescued him. And so what we think is that God is going to find a way, and He’s going to let Moses go back and do what He really wanted him to do in the first place.”

Now, this was huge! They did not know the rest of the story, but over the weeks, they had seen that God was good. He had a plan. He was going to take care of Moses.

Carrie: It’s really that you’ve been talking today often about the structuring of truths and the deconstruction of that which isn’t true of the things that we believe about God.

Deborah: Yes.

Carrie: I think often, even sometimes as moms with our children, we so desperately want them to come to know Jesus and to love Him and to follow in His ways, that we sometimes see it almost as a formula: Believe this and then do this and then do this. Instead of, as I’ve heard you so often describing, as you tell the stories of Scripture, they’re falling in love with Jesus one story at a time. And as we fall in love with Jesus, we come to follow Him. We come to obey Him.

Deborah: Yes. That’s what Jesus Himself said, “If you love Me, you will obey Me.”

Often in my own life, when I’m having difficulty with obedience, because I tend to be performance oriented—hence we go back to the prodigal son, the older brother—the performance is that it’s not that I don’t have to try more. The problem is I don’t love Him more. It’s not working harder.

I’m learning slowly that obedience, instant obedience—not delayed obedience, which is disobedience—comes from a heart that loves. Obedience is founded in love. So when I’m having trouble with obedience, I have to look at where the love is. I have to go back and look Him in the face again.

To bring others slowly along with the stories of what He has done for this one and that one and that group and this one, and “What do you see in Him? What do you see in His heart? What kind of a Man is this?” They slowly see this His character developing.

Carrie: The truth about God is objective. We don’t determine what Jesus is like, but Deborah points out that our perceptions of Him do develop over time as we’re exposed to His Word and as the Holy Spirit illumines the Word to us.

She says honing in on the truth about God in the Old and New Testament is similar to a figure eight pattern.

Deborah: You come out to one side—if you lay it sideways—with a story in the Old Testament. And they bring the truth of what they discovered back to center point. Then you tell a story about Jesus, and they bring the truth about His character. Yes, He was forgiving. They bring it back to the center point. Then you tell a story in the Old Testament, and you continue this process.

And what happens is that figure eight grows smaller and smaller and smaller because what they’re saying about God is the very same thing they’re noticing about Jesus. God is forgiving. Jesus is forgiving. God is loving. Jesus is loving. God was so patient. Jesus is patient. And what happens is those two come together.

You never have to say who He is. They know. They see. “He’s God, isn’t He?”

“Yes, He is.”

And so, being patient, loving, and listening—above all, listening—when you ask the questions, and then you let them explore. And, yes, they may have wrong answers. I’ve had people who said (like the one group), “We don’t like God. He’s arrogant.”

Well, you want to correct that. You can’t let that go for another week, but yes, you can. Yes, you can. Let it go. And when I get some off-the-wall sort of answer, I always affirm it—not that it’s correct—but I affirm them being willing to tell me what they think. “Thank you for telling me that, because that helps me know how you think. It helps me know where you are.”

I think mothers who are working with children, I think working with teenagers, youth leaders, I think working cross-culturally, particularly with the cross-cultural opportunities we have in our own country without ever getting on the plane, is listening.

It isn’t about you, the storyteller. Get out of the way. You ask the questions. Let them experience Him. And then you listen because they’re going to be telling you about themselves, and that is a treasure you do not want to drop. Don’t drop it. Don’t drop it.

Let your children think. Let them think. Let them self-discover. Let them do it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit because He will lead them to the truth without fail.

Carrie: Amen.

Nancy: Well, our friend Carrie Gaul has been talking with a woman that we’ve been calling Deborah. We’re protecting her identity for security reasons. But she’s been showing us how walls can come down and hearts can open up when you just tell a story.

I think there’s something we can all learn from her example, even if we’re not working in the Middle East. As we interact with the people God has put around us, we can share stories from God’s Word and out of our own lives.

And stories are going to be a big part of the upcoming True Woman ’18 conference. The theme is, “The Truth That Sets Us Free.” You’ll hear solid Bible teaching as speakers faithfully take us to God’s Word. But interspersed with those speakers, you’ll also experience powerful stories from women who have come to find freedom in Christ. And you’ll get to see the drama group Acts of Renewal. They’ll be taking the various themes in the conference and acting out stories that will speak deeply to our hearts.

Is there someone you know who needs to discover freedom from an area of bondage or someone who just needs to savor the truth more deeply? Then I want to encourage you to be a part of True Woman ’18.

Now, the conference in Indianapolis is sold out. But you don’t have to miss any of it. You can participate by means of a special livestream experience that we’re designing just for you. And I want to encourage you to invite some other women to watch this livestream with you.

The conference is September 27–29. And all you’ll need is an Internet connection and then something large enough to watch it with your group. To sign up for the True Woman ’18 livestream, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, tomorrow we’ll hear more from Deborah. If you’re wondering where in the world God wants you to serve Him, she says it needs to start with surrender on your part.

Deborah: Someone told me quite a while ago, “Put your ‘yes’ on the altar, and let God put it on the map.”

Nancy: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to equip you to share the gospel with others. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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