Translating God by Shawn Bolz is a book that places God’s love front and centre of the prophetic gifts. Find out how in this Translating God book review.
One of my goals this year is to catch up on my reading, by (finally) finishing the pile of books sitting on my bedside cabinet. One of those books is Translating God: Hearing God’s Voice for Yourself and the World Around You by Shawn Bolz.
Translating God book cover images copyright Shawn Bolz/Bolz Ministries
I’ll say up front that I went in with one set of expectations, and came out with something else. But Shawn’s book is a thoughtful reflection on the gift of prophecy and its use (and abuse) in the modern day church.
What shines through is an infectious love for people, that doesn’t hold back from encouraging prophetic growth with character.
Shawn has many years of experience in the gift of prophecy, including words of knowledge. I found his book Translating God, to be honest and upfront about the joys, trials and pitfalls of growing in the prophetic.
And along the way, I was encouraged and amazed once again by the wonder of God’s love.
Translating God Book Review: A Personal History
I’ve had a somewhat mixed upbringing in my Christian life when it comes to the ways of the Holy Spirit.
I became a Christian in the late 80s, at a time when much of the UK national church – and indeed, the nation itself – was in upheaval. The media continually proclaimed that “thousands of people” were leaving the church, while the reality was that some churches were thriving.
On the one hand, the mainstream denominations were struggling, both in numbers and with their image. On the other, smaller scale independent groups and house churches had come to prominence from the 1970s, onwards.
At the time, I knew nothing of this: I hadn’t been brought up in the faith and knew very little about the church. I came into it via a sudden overnight conversion, courtesy of the great evangelist Billy Graham.
Translating God Book Review: My First Church
The first church I joined was also in its own kind of crisis. They had no pastor after the previous leader stepped down, and it took several years before they found a replacement.
Teaching on the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts tended to be limited to specific times and places (such as Pentecost Sunday), or when certain visiting speakers came.
Somehow, my friends and I managed to learn how to use the gifts of the Spirit. But it was fairly sporadic, with occasionally mixed results.
I muddled through and learnt to “Translate God” with the gift of prophecy, but I had no accountability. I had no mentor, save the Lord himself (I praise him for his grace and patience with me!)
Translating God Book Review: A National History
There was also a wider issue.
We were fighting against a counter-culture amongst our peers that meant it wasn’t “cool” to be a Christian anymore. As I learnt more about the wider church, I eventually realised that it was a reaction to previous excesses in spiritual gifts, particularly those of healing and prophecy.
This was caused by something I was never a party to, but which brought many growing pains to me and others:
The reality was that some people in the 80s church were badly hurt by mis-application of the spiritual gifts, along with poor teaching about the gifts themselves, and the character required to master them.
The result was that some sections of the wider church were now fearful of the spiritual gifts. They did everything they could to quash those people who operated in them, in the name of “holiness” and restoring “order” to the church.
Reading between the lines, my understanding is that something similar happened in the USA.
It is only in the past few years that the church has begun to wake up to the fact that these gifts are just that: gifts from God.
We should not “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, but embrace what we have been given. We simply need to find better, safer ways to operate.
Translating God Book Review: Who is Shawn Bolz?
And that’s where people like Shawn Bolz come in.
By all accounts, Shawn is a very gifted individual. He is an author, TV host and minister. He pastors Expression58 Christian Ministries, which focuses on the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, California.
Shawn is also an international speaker and has gained a reputation for amazing accuracy in his prophetic gifts and words of knowledge.
Translating God Book Review: What I Liked
Translating God is simply and clearly written
Aside from a couple of places, where I didn’t quite follow Shawn’s thinking, I enjoyed his simplicity and directness.
He explains what the gift of prophecy is, and isn’t, in clear language, that encourages and motivates.
My misunderstandings may just be cultural differences:
Shawn is writing primarily for the American church and culture, while I am firmly entrenched in my own. To be fair, some other books are much more US-centric than this.
However, there is plenty here to take hold of, regardless of your nationality or denomination. The dangers of poorly timed or badly executed prophecy are the same, wherever you live.
Shawn tackles these topics well but gives plenty of encouragement to grow in your gift.
Translating God shares many good examples, without going overboard
One thing I have to admit I find annoying in some books is the over propensity for “real world” examples.
Yes, we need examples to help us understand a point. But certain books I have read, have so many of them, that I start to lose track. I end up questioning what the original message actually was.
Translating God manages to avoid all that. Shawn shares stories that are directly relevant and give testament to his expertise (and occasional heartaches) on the subject at hand.
Translating God Book Review: What I Didn’t Like
Translating God is not quite what I expected
I thought the book would be all about the practicalities of understanding what God says.
While it does contain some information on that topic, much of the content seems to look at prophecy from a wider perspective of the US- and world church- culture.
Shawn often takes a step back and thinks about how we encourage prophecy in the church, and people to grow in the gift.
However, it’s still a great book I would heartily recommend.
Translating God Book Review: 3 Things I Learned
As I mentioned, I went in expecting one thing and came out with something else entirely.
But what I ended up with was refreshing and thought-provoking. Several times, Shawn surprised me with a different take on things, which challenged my thinking in several key areas.
Here are three things I learned from Translating God:
1. Operating in the gift of prophecy requires a lot of love
Shawn demonstrates his love for people extremely well in this book.
More than that, he successfully impressed upon me my need for God’s love for those same people, if I am to prophesy to them.
He also places a strong emphasis on our relationship with God.
Without a deep relationship with God, we can lose sight of his love for people. Prophetic words can then devolve into an unhealthy, sometimes damaging experience, both for the prophet and the receiver.
Shawn shows we don’t need to fear this but take every opportunity to grow in our love relationship with the Lord.
This is something I whole-heartedly agree with and actively encourage in the 4 Steps Prophecy School.
2. Our personal feelings may override what God is actually saying
Whether we have a gift of prophecy or not, we all have our own hopes and fears for the future.
Sometimes, we can end up projecting our thoughts onto others. We end up speaking forth those same hopes and fears over them, instead of sharing what God thinks about that person or situation.
For those of us who practice the gift of prophecy, it is therefore important to:
- Seek God’s heart and mind for people
- Be honest with ourselves about our own emotional state
- Track our own prophetic effectiveness through seeking feedback
- Have the right accountability in place
3. Prophecy is a step past discernment
This one thought in Translating God triggered a lot of “aha!” moments for me. It helped to steer me in the right direction, in more than one conversation since.
The idea goes like this:
- Many prophetic people have a gift of discernment but don’t always know what to do with it.
- Those who operate in this gift often see negative things in the world around them. Sometimes, they see these things in other people.
- These negative things may be bad attitudes, areas of sin, or even dark spiritual forces operating in people’s lives.
The problem with all this negativity is that it can make those who see it depressive, critical, or even judgmental.
Shawn argues that we need to step past discernment and into prophecy:
We need to take what God shows us and ask him what he wants us to do with it. That is where discernment leaves off and prophecy begins.
God can give us a fresh revelation of his heart and desires for that person or situation, and flood them with his love. Through the application of his love, the Lord brings transformation and true healing.
Translating God Book Review Summary
Who It’s For
Anyone wanting to develop their gift of prophecy.
- Simple prose and clear message of God’s love
- Well illustrated with real-life examples
- Honest about the joys and pitfalls of the gift of prophecy
- A little US-centric (if you’re not from the US!)
- If you’re looking for a complete “how to” tutorial on prophecy, you won’t find it here
- A great thought provoker to help you grow your gift
You can get a copy here.