Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

I have just written this article for the upcoming May edition of Wycliffe News, the prayer magazine featuring Wycliffe members from Ireland. One of our former members, Gareth Dalzell, worked with Sam Mubbala in Uganda.
Sam Mubbala, Gwere Bible translator

Sam Mubbala, Gwere Bible translator

Note: Gwere or Lugwere are names for the language spoken by the Bagwere people of Uganda

In March this year, the Gwere team joined three other Ugandan teams to remember and to celebrate what God had done for their projects over the years. It was a significant milestone after waiting so long to have God’s word in their heart languages.

Our story starts in 1971 when a missionary teacher at a secondary school in Uganda asked a student called Sam Mubbala if he would like to translate some Bible passages into the Gwere language. Sam, then just 17, had no idea what translation was all about, but said yes. That seed grew into a dream that has survived closed doors, frustrations, disappointments, war and tyranny.

As Sam began to translate the Gospel of Mark into his language, he realised that the message he was translating had the power to save him. God translated Sam through his Word before Sam finished translating it! He gradually came to understand how important it was to translate the Scriptures so that other Bagwere people could have the same experience.

Idi Amin became President in 1971 and his reign of terror meant expatriate Christians had to leave Uganda. Sam was isolated from outside help. He completed the draft of Mark’s Gospel but could find no one to publish it. Later Sam met an organisation interested in translation in minority languages – Wycliffe Bible Translators. Things were looking up! He was asked to help with a survey of six languages, including Gwere, which confirmed a definite translation need.

It was encouraging to learn more about the translation process but Sam soon realized that his draft translation of Mark was far too literal to be understood – another disappointment. Over the years, Sam came up against obstacle after obstacle – a dream with no prospect of becoming reality.
In 2001, Sam began an MA in Translation Studies at Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology (NEGST). After two tough years, he graduated, soon became the translation project leader and was joined by Richard Ngozi, another NEGST graduate in 2004. Together they started translating fulltime in January 2005.

In the 2004 edition of Wycliffe UK Words for Life magazine, readers responded to this prayer request:
Please pray that there will be no more dead ends and that at last Sam’s dream will become a reality – that Bagwere people would come to know God through his word in the language that speaks to their hearts.
Over the years those prayers have been answered.

Fast forward to the March 2015 celebration mentioned at the start: One speaker recalled God’s instructions in Joshua 4 to set up twelve memorial stones to remind them what God had done. These four Ugandan language teams decided to do something similar to commemorate the completion of the draft New Testament translations. As one translator from each language lifted up a memorial stone bearing the name of his language, the smiles on their faces reflected their joy of celebration, their sense of accomplishment, their anticipation of imminent publication.

The four language memorial stones

The four language memorial stones

Currently, the translators are going through a long process of detailed checks to ensure accuracy, consistency and naturalness in the language. Then they will work with a typesetter to prepare the text for publication.

Please pray for patience and stamina for Sam and the others, as well as God’s protection for them and their families during this important work. As we give thanks to God for enabling these people to receive God’s word in their language, please pray that God will prepare hearts to receive it and to be transformed.

Text adapted from Wycliffe UK Words for Life 2004 Issue 3 and TheTask.net November 2006 and March 2015

Read more at http://www.thetask.net/gwere/his-undying-dream and http://www.thetask.net/uganda/remember-and-celebrate

Read Full Post »

I was at a funeral this morning of a man in his eighties who had been a lifetime Boys Brigade man – and of course we sang the BB Hymn.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

I guess the situation in Mali with a military coup and the resulting political crisis, compounded by the loss of the north to a combination of rebel forces, might just constitute one of those “storms of life” for my Wycliffe colleagues  who have been evacuated from the country.

So where am I going with this? Before going to the funeral, I read a post from Mali colleague and Branch Director Tim Tillinghast’s blog Tim’s Sabbatical Journey and Beyond in which he reflects on the situation in which he and his colleagues found themselves recently.

I have never been in a crisis situation like this having left Côte d’Ivoire some years before the trouble there, but Tim has experienced several crises in several different ways…

This is not my first time to be in the “insecurity pressure cooker” having seen and even helped evacuate my colleagues out of Côte d’Ivoire on three separate occasions (2002, 2003, 2004).

As a third-grader, I lived through a week in Lebanon when fighter planes were flying overhead and we had to stay inside. Then in Yemen there were 2 different occasions when the President was assassinated and there was more staying inside. I remember it being tense and uncertain, and also the fact that we had no school.

These past few weeks have been different, the first time in the midst of the situation myself as an adult. In the past, I have been on the outside helping to get others out before and there is intense pressure and then a relief when they are all out.

This time I was on the inside, coordinating with my team, making decisions and trying to get everything in order for those we leave behind, trying to manage resources in the face of an economic embargo, and trying to pack up my own stuff.

The coup coincided with Mali’s approaching spiritual retreat and branch conference which had to be cancelled, but they did spend more time than anticipated in prayer and worship and mutual encouragement.

  In the midst of curfews and troubled times, our normal Bible studies and church times and meeting places were disrupted. However, we managed to come together spontaneously for prayer and worship and sharing of scripture where we could. Perhaps it was the uncertainty of the situation, the rawness of our emotions in the midst of harried preparations, or the stripping away of unimportant things, but these were times when the prayers were intense and heartfelt, the worship glorious, with the Word of God ministering simply and profoundly without explanation needed.

Tim refers specifically to a new song written by Mali’s resident, but soon to be evacuated, ethnomusicologist Rob Baker which everyone found very relevant and helpful. Read the words and hear Rob singing the song on his own blog here.

It seems that Priscilla Owens wrote the words for the Will your anchor hold back in 1882 while Rob Baker wrote In a world gone mad we look to you in March 2012.

However as I sang the older hymn in the funeral service, I thought perhaps Rob has produced the 21st century equivalent.

Read Full Post »

Recently I got a new laptop and it’s great. But there are a few teething problems… like I’ve forgotten some passwords and can’t get into my TweetDeck… which is where I normally keep in touch with some interesting blogs – like PreachersA-Z!

Although TweetDeck is still playing hard to get, I caught up with Richard Littledale again on the blogosphere the other day and was delighted to read about his Biblefresh efforts in Teddington Baptist… like the Bible Marathon. I loved the concept of building a Bible tower – with Bibles – and the Biblefresh Dragons’ Den – see All-age Bible special

And then there was the Bible Marathon

When I was a little boy, pushing my toy car round the imaginary  motorway under the sofa I reckoned I made a pretty impressive engine sound – at least to my young ears. Taking the car outside, though, it was a different story. Out there, in the big wide world, the sound was tinny, overwhelmed and slightly pathetic.

As yesterday’s Bible Marathon got under way, reading the opening chapters of Genesis to a largely empty street, I was aware of the same feelings all over again. As a preacher I am accustomed to reading out the Word of God in a purpose built environment, with suitable amplification, before an audience who have expressed their interest in it by turning up. Out there, in the street, things could not be more different.

On the whole, readers found it to be a positive experience. Many of those reading … had to overcome their fears in order to do so.  Most felt it was a privilege to read out the often private Word of God in the public space. Like a new Christian voicing their belief for the first time, it deepened the sense of conviction by saying it out loud.  For those who were supporting the readers it felt good to hear the word out on the street too. Not only that, but it connected the Bible together by doing it all in one 12-hour session. Mid- morning I heard Ezekiel’s description of the trees in the temple with their leaves for the healing of the nations. Shortly before 8pm I heard it all over again – this time from Revelation.

I’ve got myself involved in something similar in Belfast. While attending the Down and Dromore Diocesan Synod on Tuesday. There is a brief report on the Diocesan website and if you follow the link and look hard at the photos on Flickr, you might just spot me.

I got talking to Richard, manager of The Good Book Shop , which is to be found in the Church of Ireland Church House onDonegall Street in Belfast.

Anyway The Good Book Shop is marking the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the King James Bible with KJB@4 – and guess who is down to read the last four chapters of John’s Gospel at 4pm on 31 October 2011?


Read Full Post »

The book of Acts is full of dramatic, exciting stories. Last Sunday 19 June 2011, I preached at my church and below is most of what I said… plus a few added visuals.

The reason many people in Ireland have been reading GodActs together is because 2011 is the Biblefresh year recognising the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the King James Bible. GodActs is the PCI Board of Mission in Ireland’s contribution to the Biblefresh year. Do you see the Biblefresh logo on the cover of the booklet?

The King James Bible is the all time best selling book in the English language. Did you know that it is also the most stolen book in history?

This morning my title is Acts 29.  But what is the Book of Acts all about?

Some Bibles entitle it the Acts of the Apostles – and it does tell the stories of what the apostles and disciples did after Jesus finished his earthly life.

Other people say that a better title would be the Acts of the Holy Spirit – and that’s an excellent title too because it was only after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost that the apostles and disciples were empowered to do what they did.

So what is Acts all about?

  1. Acts is full of stimulating stories!

There’s Pentecost when the disciples experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and began preaching to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world for the festival. And everyone heard them in their own heart language.

Then there is the story of how Peter and John going to the Temple healed a man crippled from birth – a great story. The people who witnessed it were filled with wonder and amazement!

And what about Philip and the Ethiopian Chancellor of the Exchequer? That’s one of my favourites because he was the first African Christian… well, as far as we know.

And Saul’s conversion. The man, who hated the Christians and was cruelly hunting them down, became a Christian himself in a remarkable encounter with Jesus.

And then all the exciting adventures as Paul and his companions went on missionary journeys around the Mediterranean world.

Great stuff! Acts is full of the stories we remember from Sunday school.

Let’s ask the question again – so what is Acts all about?

  1. Acts is full of tough stuff!

After healing the crippled man, Peter and John were arrested and thrown in prison.

Stephen was stoned to death and became the first Christian martyr.

There was persecution and many of the Christians fled for their lives from Jerusalem.

James the brother of John was executed by King Herod.

Again Peter was imprisoned.

And what about Paul? Remember how the Lord told Ananias that he would show Paul how much he would suffer for the Lord’s name. And he did. Imprisoned, flogged, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked and eventually executed in Rome. Paul gives a horrific list of what happened to him in 2 Corinthians 11.

Do we gloss over all this tough stuff as we read Acts? Do we focus on the exciting stories and edit out the suffering that Christians experienced – both then and now?

So… let’s ask the question a third time – so what is Acts all about?

  1. Acts is about the growth of the Christian church!

That’s the core of Acts.

Remember the cover of GodActs? Those circles radiating out from Jerusalem…

Acts tells us how God used a relatively small group of Christians as they obediently carried out Jesus’ instructions in Acts 1:8

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Rome and Ethiopia might not be the ends of the earth for us, but they were close enough in the first century AD.

Here’s the question for the final time – so what is Acts all about?

  1. It’s part of the big story of the whole Bible!

One of my favourite stories written by Luke isn’t in the book of Acts at all. It’s Luke 24 8 the story of the resurrected Jesus meeting two disciples, Cleopas and his friend (his wife?) on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t recognise Jesus as he talked to them…

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” v27

Jesus was saying that what we know as the Old Testament was all about him. It was all about how he would come to earth as the Messiah, but not in the way the Jews had expected. It explained that he would suffer and die and rise again to life on the third day.

Cleopas and his friend were overjoyed as they realised that it was Jesus – and then he disappeared. But they said…

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” v32

So what did they do? As it was getting dark, they hurried 7 miles back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples their story about meeting Jesus.

Many people throughout the UK and Ireland saw the Wycliffe presentation of the drama From Eden to Eternity performed by the Saltmine Theatre Company last March.

Here’s Paul’s conversion scene in the show…

Saul's meets jesus on the road to Damascus

Saul's meets Jesus on the road to Damascus

Those of you who saw FE2E might remember Paul’s words towards the end of the presentation?

“Salvation comes by Jesus Christ through grace. I preached his Word and helped his church to the last of my strength and the end of my life.”

And that is exactly what Paul did!

The last two verses of Acts 28 say…

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house [in Rome] and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Like Cleopas, Paul told people his story of how Jesus changed his life …and so did many others that we have never heard of.  As they travelled around they told people about God’s love for Israel and about how, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, they too could be brought into God’s family.

And the people that Paul told about Jesus told others, who told others, who told others …

Not that it was easy to be a Christian; sometimes the young church had to meet in secret, in caves and hidden places. When things were at their worst, Christians were thrown to the lions for public entertainment.

Satan roared, but the Church grew. Quietly, one by one, people told their friends and family about the good news of Jesus – and the people they told, told others who told others who told others…

And so the church grew – the Church that had been persecuted by the Roman Empire outgrew and outlasted the most powerful political force the world had ever seen.  It wasn’t all plain sailing, with power and influence, came corruption and arrogance. But even at the worst of times, there were still those who kept their eyes on Jesus and what he had done and who told others about him… people like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther and William Tyndale.

The Church has done great things down through the years; there are amazing buildings, stories of great heroism and some truly remarkable people. But the strength of the Christian faith has always been the thousands, millions of individual Christians who don’t find their way into the history books.

People who told their story about Jesus in word and action.

Many many people quietly and unobtrusively followed in the footsteps of the first Christians and told people about Jesus and those people told others, who told others, who told others – who told you and me!

For the last few sentences, I’ve been talking about Acts 29 – the chapter that isn’t in the Bible; the chapter that began when New Testament history ended; the chapter that isn’t finished yet; the chapter we live in today.

Finally back to Acts 1:8 again…

 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The first disciples heard these words from Jesus at a time when their lives had been turned upside down and inside out. Jesus had been arrested, crucified, came to life again, spent time with them. They were looking forward to amazing things happening as the Kingdom of God was restored to Israel!

But Jesus turned their lives upside down once again. He spoke these well known words – and disappeared via a cloud into the sky.

As we have seen in reading through Acts, they obeyed. In Acts 2 they were filled with the Holy Spirit – and began their mission… the roller coaster journey that is the Book of Acts.

And what about us? This same exciting roller coaster journey with Jesus awaits us – as a church, as individual Christians. How are we responding to Jesus’ words up there on the screen?

Acts 1:8  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Read Full Post »

U2 sing of surrender to God as giving in to ‘vision over visibility’. This is what Paul is recalling here in Acts 22 as he speaks to a Jewish faith stuck in their visibility. Paul literally surrendered to a vision on the Damascus Road.

GodActs Day 21: Paul – a bigot healed of his hatred! –  Acts 21:37-22:21

Saul of Tarsus was perhaps the most unlikely convert to Christianity. faced with a Jewish lynch mob and arrested by Roman soldiers, he speaks calmly to the crowd in Aramaic – which encouraged them to listen.. at least for while.

I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. Acts 22:3b

As he tells his conversion story (the third time that it appears in Acts) he is saying – but I changed. I met Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ – and so can you!

What is crucial to note is that in that moment when Jesus’ new vision smashes to pieces Paul’s visibility, he didn’t say, “Lord this needs new thinking” but “Lord, What shall I do?” Christian faith is active. It is about moving in the impetus of a God active in the world.

When we start to live in God’s actions it changes our horizons. The Jews with whom Paul was debating with were stuck in the visibility of safe, same and status quo. God had moved on. The Jews seem to have forgotten that God had called them to be a blessing to the nations. Paul fulfils such a vocation as he befriends Gentiles but the Jews press charges. In their siege mentality they have become exclusive and bigoted. Paul’s vision has been transformed and he sees God’s mission to the entire world; he leaves Jerusalem for the last time, sent to reach the very Gentiles he had once hated.

God’s vision overrides Paul’s visibility. Moving not on the momentum of an old spent religion, he finds a new impetus of God sending him to those he could never have imagined loving and serving.

To read more of GodActs, go to

Read Full Post »

Mary Gardner in Israel

Our Wycliffe colleague Mary Gardner hit the media headlines not for her life’s work as a Bible translator in Togo, but for the manner of her death – tragically killed, an innocent victim of a bomb in Jerusalem. As Wycliffe UK Director Eddie Arthur wrote in his blog Out of the Public Eye

Bible translators are often unsung heroes. Even the Ifé New Testament that Mary worked on for so long does not have her name recorded in it anywhere. Bible translators are the opposite of media celebrities. There is no fame and fortune, just years of quiet, dedicated service so that other people can have the privilege of hearing God speak there own language. If there is any glory involved, it goes to God, not to the translator.

And yet when I Googled Mary Gardner this evening, I was directed to an amazing list of articles ranging from the Aberdeen Press and Journal to BBCNews to The Guardian, The Telegraph and the Jerusalem Post which has a very detailed article. There is also a post on the Wycliffe UK blog.

The Jerusalem Post article quotes Mary…

She once told an audience that she had left teaching for translation after God had put into her heart “a longing that other people should have the same access to the scriptures and to the Bible that I enjoyed.

I can identify with that!

I first met Mary Gardner in the south of France in 1987. Mary, Paul Shaddick, Peter Kirk and Ruth and me with two small children were all at STEP Wycliffe’s Summer Training in Europe Programme, camping in the Cevennes and exploring the possibility of joining Wycliffe Bible Translators. We all joined.

Mary language learning with two Khmu refugee girls

Mary and Claire Gray with Ruth and me in the background

STEP meal time

In 1989 Mary went to Togo to be a Bible translator with the Ife language group; we went to Cote d’Ivoire to teach missionary children and eventually Paul Shaddick joined us in Cote d’Ivore as a translator while Peter Kirk joined Eurasia Group.

During these past days, we have been remembering Mary and her family and friends in Scotland and in Togo. We are deeply sad at the atrocity of her death, but we rejoice that through her life and work in Togo, the Ife people have God’s Word in their heart language.

Read Full Post »

While I was enjoying myself walking in the Mourne Mountains yesterday, people who were our guests at From Eden to Eternity at Stormont, were working!

Bishop Harold Miller & PCI Moderator Norman Hamilton

St Patrick had clearly ‘turned the stone’ for the Down and Dromore pilgrims making their annual journey from Saul Church to Down Cathedral on a sunny 17th March. The diocesan celebrations involve people from all backgrounds and denominations but this year the ranks of walkers were swollen with specially invited cross-community groups and leaders. This was in keeping with the chosen theme of “Shared Past: Shared Future, “which seemed particularly apt against the backdrop of controversy surrounding the civic parade in Downpatrick which, thankfully, passed off without event.

Read more about the St Patrick’s Day events at Saul and Down Cathedral on the Diocese of Down and Dromore website.

The guest speaker in Down Cathedral was The Right Revd Norman Hamilton, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church and a passionate exponent of churches taking their place in society for the benefit of the whole community.


Read Full Post »

According to Christianity Today yesterday…

Mark D. Roberts is one brave evangelical. After rolling his eyes upon hearing of a new iPhone app that prepares users for the Rite of Penance, the Texas-based pastor decided to try Confession: A Roman Catholic App for $1.99, and lived to write about it.

Mark was impressed…

“I was chastened,” admitted Roberts, who believes confession is “one of the most often disobeyed commands in the whole Bible.” While using the app is certainly not requisite, he said, if it “helps some Christians examine their lives and confess their sins, either to the Lord alone or to another in God’s presence, then I can see benefit.”

And Christianity Today comments…

We believe the confession app generally points Christians of all stripes in a helpful direction. For one, it asks them to turn inward to examine broken patterns of thinking and feeling, thus preventing a rote faith that relies solely on priests to deal with sin. The app also chastens the believer who thinks he’s on his merry way to sanctification. As the iPhone is ever before the user, helping him manage e-mail and to-do lists and travel routes, so those pesky but piercing questions are ever before him, hopefully inciting the same sorrow over sin as the psalmist’s (Psalm 51:3). And, as good evangelicals, we welcome most any new technology that could introduce a generation to Christ and spur believers’ growth in him.

Read Full Post »

Top 10 unanswerable questions…

Ask Jeeves “Top Ten Unanswerable Questions”  – see yesterday’s blog – has been picked up by BBC website.

“What is the meaning of life?”, “Is there a God?” and even “Do blondes have more fun?” – these are apparently the world’s trickiest questions.

Interesting that the post starts with two eternally significant questions before going on to blondes, but then spends most of the rest of it discussing why the mystery of whether Tony Soprano did or didn’t die…

Read Full Post »

Saved by an Atheist

I get a daily e-mail from Christianity Today Direct. Often it seems just too American to me, but occasionally I find an article that sparks my interest. Such a one written by Rob Moll arrived last Wednesday.

I became a Christian again during my last year of college. After years of wrestling with God and doubting his existence, I had an intense, spiritual epiphany that seemed to change my life instantly. The following day, though it sounds hokey to say so, the grass looked greener, the sky bluer. Ordering coffee that day from a complete stranger, I nearly burst into tears. This is another child of God! I thought to myself. What a shame I’m handing her cash instead of praising God with her.

That moment was unlike any I’ve ever since experienced. Suddenly, and without words, I knew that God had said to me, I AM. Nothing more, just I AM. With those words, God told me that he cared enough about me to reveal just this little bit about himself. I AM. It answered none of my questions and gave no explanation for God’s five-year absence in my life. But those words were enough. I could say with Peter, “You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

There were a number of people through whom God worked before that revelation. Yet the biggest influence on my spiritual journey was the novels and philosophy of Albert Camus, a French existentialist of the 1940s and ’50s—and an atheist. C. S. Lewis warned, “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” Camus should have been safe territory for me, but as I like to say now, I was saved by an atheist.

Several other comments and quotations grabbed my attention:

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists,” said G. K. Chesterton.

CS Lewis, once an atheist, describes his old tutor with respect that he might not have accorded the New Atheists:

Introducing one of his tutors, Kirkpatrick, in Surprised by Joy, Lewis calls him an atheist, but hastens to qualify the description: “He was a ‘Rationalist’ of the old, high and dry nineteenth-century type. For Atheism has come down in the world since those days.” In his science fiction novel That Hideous Strength, Lewis developed a character based on Kirkpatrick and included him among a small group working to save the world from evil. Maybe Lewis simply harbored fondness for his teacher, but I suspect he saw some spiritual hope in the old man’s atheism.

And finally Rob discusses the very unhelpful response of youth pastors to young minds struggling and wrestling with valid questions:

Atheism is a creature of Christianity. My turn away from God came at a time when I had questions about my faith. My pastors and youth group leaders, rather than hearing out my questions, prescribed more intense devotions, more fervent prayers, and further exclamations of biblical truth. My friends who wandered from the faith faced similar prescriptions. Our questions were heard first and foremost as a desire to flout the rules and to sin without compunction.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: