It’s all in the story

IMG_1924.JPGWe’ve been thinking about how to share the good news about Jesus with people via story telling. When I say story telling you probably immediately think fiction, or make believe or fairy-tales or something like that.

But what we’ve been working on is how to share the true stories of the Bible about God and his great plan of salvation in Jesus Christ in a way that engages with people from cultures more given to learning via oral methods. We might find that strange to hear, because generally we may be given to learning more via printed text and analysis [at least I know I am].

I’m currently working on preparing the stories of Luke 7:11-17 and Luke 24:1-35. These two stories are about Jesus and his power over death. The first is about Jesus and his power to speak to a dead boy in a funeral procession and to raise the boy to life again. The second is all about the account of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Both these stories are great snapshots of Jesus’ power and promise to those who would trust in him.

I’ve really enjoyed practicing the stories on my kids as we walk to and from daycare. The other day we were stopped at a light and I was telling the story of Thomas and his disbelief from John 20 and a cyclist pulled up besides us and listened in too. Lots of people don’t actually know any true stories about Jesus and we’re hoping that as they hear about Jesus in these stories from the Bible they’d be keen to think more about him and their response to him.

After we tell the story we might ask a few questions to get people thinking like…

  1. What did you like about the story?
  2. What do we learn about people?
  3. What do we learn about God?
  4. Did you have any questions about the story?
  5. What’s something you’d like to think more about?
  6. Who could you tell this story to this week?

Later this month we’ll actually head down to St Paul’s Cathedral (pictured above) in Melbourne city to share these stories and others (all captured in the stained-glass windows of the cathedral) with tourists, passers-by and any one who is willing to listen to us for a minute or two. Why not pray for us right now?

— Chris

Animism: Angels and Demons

FullSizeRender.jpgI can’t remember experiencing a demonic attack. I’ve heard stories, but have always responded with a degree of skepticism. I’m certain of the Bible’s teaching that there are evil forces at work in the world. The forces of Satan are opposed to the kingship and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. But spirits and demons have not been at the forefront of my Christian thinking or experience.

Today’s class was about animism: the belief that natural phenomena have souls or spirits. Think the spirit of a mountain or the lingering ghost of a dead relative. This worldview draws no distinction between the physical and the spiritual, because spirits are believed to influence every aspect of life. Whether you want to have a baby or just get to work safely, you need the spirits on your side. This probably sounds a bit strange to you, but it is an overwhelmingly universal worldview, impacting Africa, Asia, Latin America and beyond. It expresses itself in various indigenous religions, and forms of Islam, Buddhism and even Christianity.

Animism is fear based. People fear illness and death, so they try to keep the spirits happy. Life is lived trying to achieve power over the spirits, in order to get the life that I want. A world of witchdoctors, diviners and curses is a life of daily uncertainty and terror.

How will Christians respond to these beliefs? We certainly can’t ignore them! Nor should we fall into a form of Christian animism, believing that powerful people or spirits have authority over us. In our fear we need not seek a special formula for dealing with evil.

What does God say? In his word he reveals himself as the creator and sustainer of all things. So we know that angels and demons are created beings. We know that God is not distant from our daily lives, but works in all things for the good of those who are called according to his purpose…to be conformed to the image of his Son.

And this Son is of course Jesus Christ. The gospels describe Jesus as the one who heals the sick and demon possessed. Colossians describes him as the one who disarms the powers and authorities, publically humiliating them through his death on the cross. Ephesians reveals the risen Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, both present and future.

As we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there will be times when we are afraid. The devil prowls like a lion, waiting to devour us. Yet we fix our eyes on Jesus, the one who is victorious over every evil spirit, every sinful inclination and even death itself. Let faith in him drive out every fear.

— Stef

Our Foolish Message

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 & 2 Cor 4:7-18
This morning’s devotion reminded our enthusiastic group of missionaries-in-training of a confronting Christian truth…The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

No matter where you go in the world, the message of the cross will be considered stupid. Sinful mankind will always resist the crazy gospel of Jesus, who lived and died, rose and ascended for our rescue. We may be tempted to leave out the offensive bits or add in our own flavours to make it more palatable. May we never forget that the gospel is the power of God!

So what is the appropriate vessel for this maligned message? The treasure is contained in jars of clay. Ministry anywhere in the world will be experienced in weakness and hardship. Those who hold the precious, but seemingy foolish, message of the gospel will be crushed, persecuted and struck down; but not destroyed.

I was warned not to seek impressive, worldly wisdom. I was reminded that although many will malign the Word of God, some will be saved. I was encouraged that although we follow our Master’s footsteps through suffering, we ultimately follow Him into eternal glory. 

So do not be fooled by shiny, happy people who preach a glossy gospel. And do not dismiss a jar of clay who awkwardly shares with you a servant Saviour. Let’s not get caught up in looking wise in the world’s eyes; let us only share the treasure we have.

— Stef

Settling in online?

lightstock_169190_medium_chris_.jpgAfter our first week of classes we are settling in quite well to life in Melbourne.

It’s been much cooler here than in Sydney. I’ve noticed the almost constant feed of comments about the overwhelming heat being experienced by our northern homeland. It’s been an interesting experience to see the world of my past life online and to feel separate and distanced. We know all the places that people are speaking about and yet they feel so far away.

It’s not really been hot at all in Melbourne and it’s been quite a strange feeling to be living in a different location to many from our Facebook community. It made me think how much more it will feel strange to be removed by time, space, language and customs once we are on location (wherever that me be). We’ll have to think about how we engage in the social media world in a way that ensures we don’t live with our bodies and vocations in one place and our minds and hearts in another.

Any one got any tips or go to resources… let me know?

— Chris

Faith not sight


This week we’ve been hearing a bit from Hebrews 11. I am always amazed at the interpretation the writer offers of what Abraham was thinking as he obeyed God’s word in Genesis 22. God instructed Abraham to offer his son, the one promised to bring about a great people and children as numerous as the stars. God instructs Abraham to,

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to  the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2

Abraham had 2 options…

  1. Disbelief, distrust and disobedience.
  2. Belief, trust and obedience.

Abraham goes the second way — realising that God’s promise is certain enough that even now he’s been given this directive that might seem directly opposite to the promise, God will be able even to raise Isaac from the dead!!

17   By faith  Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said,  “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Hebrews 11:17-19 [ESV]

Amazing example of what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. You only can trust the trustworthy. And God proves his credentials time and time again.