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Posts Tagged ‘The Story everybody needs’

 

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Today is Pentecost Sunday… read all about it in Acts chapter 2

A few days ago Wycliffe Canada colleague Jack Popjes posted The story of Pentecost in Two Contrasting Versions. I’m pretty sure he won’t mind me re-posting on Pentecost Sunday…

Why Stories from Different Cultures Are So Similar
I grew up listening to Dutch folktales, read voraciously in English during my early years in Canada, enjoyed Brazilian stories in Portuguese, studied Canela legends, and know all the Middle Eastern Bible stories by heart. I wondered why stories from these five different cultures seem to have similar plots and structure.

An anthropologist, Levi-Strauss, taught me that these timeless stories hang together because they all follow certain rules. Elements in each major tale relate to each other, both in the way they are similar and in the way they contrast. What’s more, one element in each pair is often positive, while the other may be negative, just as health contrasts with disease, and clean contrasts with dirty.

The Moses and Joshua Example
Here, for instance are how the stories of Moses and Joshua are similar: Both were chosen by God. Both led Israel. Both performed miracles. Both accomplished their tasks.

Here are the contrasts: One was old: one was young. One was a shepherd: the other a trained warrior. One led them out of bondage: the other led them into freedom. One was highly educated in Egypt’s royal court: the other was an ignorant slave.

Around the world, all enduring stories are structured similarly because they all reflect the greatest story of them all; the timeless tale of God, His creation, human sin and God’s redemption.

Now The Two Stories of Pentecost
Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, in Old Testament times was simply a harvest festival. Eventually, this turned into more of a remembrance of the time Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai. And of course, for the Christian Church, we remember that it was on the first Pentecost after Christ rose from the dead, that God sent the Holy Spirit to the Church.

So, doing a quick study of these two major stories, here, in list form, are some similarities and contrasts:
Jewish Observance of Pentecost: Receiving of the Law.

  1. God’s servant Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Law
  2. This happened 50 days after their escape from Egypt (10 days of travel plus 40 days on Mount Sinai)
  3. Moses found the people feasting and playing before the golden calf
  4. Moses ordered the Levites to draw their swords and execute the idolaters
  5. As a result, 3,000 people lost their lives

Christian Observance of Pentecost: Receiving of the Holy Spirit

  1. God’s Holy Spirit came down from heaven with Power.
  2. This happened 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead (40 days of seeing Jesus alive plus 10 days of waiting in Jerusalem)
  3. The Holy Spirit found the disciples fasting and praying before God
  4. God ordered Peter to use the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and preach to the crowds
  5. As a result, 3,000 people received eternal life.

The apostle Paul may well have had this contrast in mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church, “The letter of the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life” 2 Corinthians 3:6.

Try This Yourself
Pick a pair of characters like king Saul and king David. Or the prophet Jonah and the apostle Paul. Check out the amazing similarities and contrasts in their stories.

Wycliffe Canada colleague Jack Popjes is a prolific story teller. One of his stories inspired me to research which resulted The Irishman’s Prayer and The Irishman Who Prayed

Keep writing the stories, Jack!

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 Bosnian Bible

I can’t read this!

If you’re reading this and understand it, please let me know.

About 12 or 13 years ago, I helped some people to make contacts with colleagues in Wycliffe Bible Translators. These people, in N. Ireland and Bosnia, set out on a dream. Read the story of the fulfilment of that dream in my blog here and find out why we have a copy in our Belfast office.

My blog prompted a series of requests from people around the world eager to obtain copies of the Bosnian Bible for themselves or for friends.  I forwarded the requests to my Bosnian friend Redzo Trako, a pastor who had studied at Belfast Bible College and who prayed and campaigned for the translation. Redzo helped people get the copies they wanted.

I often wondered what happened. Recently Redzo sent me some feedback of how God’s word in Bosnian was speaking to Bosnian hearts.

Sharon wrote this on my blog:

Sharon 6 Sep 2015

Please, John, i am not sure i am doing this correctly, but i too am trying to get some friends a Bible in Bosnian. Thank you.

Redzo sent me this feedback email from Sharon dated Sunday, May 08, 2016

From: Sharon
Subject: Re: Bosnian Bible

Dear Mr Trako,

I am needing another Bosnian Bible.  I did not write before about how the other two you sent me were received but here is the story.

One lady is middle aged.  When i gave her the Bible she nearly cried she held it close and looked it all over.  She does not say much about it but has said that she reads it sporadically – she will read and read and read until her eyes are too tired to read any more and then won’t read for a while and then read again like this.  She is a believer, she loves the LORD.

The other family i gave one to gave it to a cousin who moved to another city.  This family’s husband has been reading the Bible in English and he has told the Genesis story to his children.
His mother only speaks Bosnian and does not read.  This morning i tried to give her an app i use on my phone to listen to the Bible but it did not have the audio version in any of her languages.

I just came from her house and she asked me to get her the Bosnian Bible and her daughter in law will read it to her!!!!  I am so excited how God is getting the Bible to this family.

Can you please send me another copy?

In Him, Sharon

I have to confess, that although I can’t read it, I do know the meaning of the words at the top of this post – because the copy of the Bosnian Bible that we have in the Wycliffe Bible Translators office in Belfast, N. Ireland came with an English translation of the introduction.

The Bible in the Bosnian language

The Bible in the Bosnian language

Here’s what the last sentence says…

It is our prayer that God Almighty would speak through the pages of this translation and bless everyone who reads it, whatever religion they belong to.

I never thought as I work for Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland interacting with people enquiring about being involved with our work, that my blog would facilitate Bible distribution

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dukawa

Studying the Bible in a language you’re not very familiar with complicates understanding and could compromise the message. The Dukawa people of Nigeria tried to use the Scriptures in the “trade” language,* Hausa. But though Hausa was the language of the marketplace, it wasn’t the language of their home or their heart. Now God’s Word is being translated into their own Dukawa language, and many are surprised to find out what it really means.One man, a pastor for eight years, said, “I have recently compared my understanding of the Hausa Bible with the Dukawa translation, and I now realize that I misunderstood what the Hausa Bible was saying almost all of the time.”

I’ve visited countries where the church has been established for over a hundred years. I’ve met people who simply don’t understand the language that the Bible is preached from. I’ve met pastors who struggle to communicate with their congregation because they don’t really understand heart issues in the language spoken by most of them and vice versa.

We went to church for many years, but it wasn’t until we saw the Jesus film in our own language that we understood that Jesus died for our sins. We always thought he died because he did something wrong.

These are extracts from an article by Wycliffe USA colleague Bob Creson called: What Does It Really Mean? Please read some more of it.

This story is so honest – and it’s so important that Christians read it and understand why Wycliffe’s vision is…

By the year 2025, together with partners worldwide, we aim to see a Bible translation programme started for every language that needs one.

 

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Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate.

Earlier this month I posted Room or no room at the inn or no inn… in Bethlehem.  It was a borrowing from Alan Wilson who had beaten me to it this year. Then just a few days ago, I came across Kezia’s post Alternative Nativity which is a poignant mix of Scripture words and contemporary photos.

Here are some extracts from Luke’s Gospel (The Message) and recent photographs that Kezia has put together to focus our thoughts as we approach Christmas and on into Christmas Day and beyond. I hope you will go on to read Kezia’s full post.

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for.

So Joseph went to Bethlehem. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was obviously pregnant by this time.

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But there was no room for them in the inn. While they were there, the time came for her baby to be born; and Mary gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger.

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These are not the cosy images of a school nativity play or Sunday School or even perhaps what might happen in our churches this Christmas.

But then the words of Luke’s Gospel and Matthew’s Gospel have nothing cosy about them either. Perhaps we should acknowledge that current events can help us de-sanitize our Christmas story this year and give us a real insight into the risky and radical arrival of how God the Father translated himself from divine into human in the person of God the Son.

This year, may we all meet the boy who became the man who was crucified and resurrected for you and me.

Thanks to Kezia for permission to re-post. Why not return to the link at the top and read her whole post.

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No, it’s not a Sixties pop group.

Simeon

Simeon by Rembrandt

It’s my final blog in the Simeon Series.

Earlier this month, I was booked to speak at Drumglass Parish Bible Study at St Elizabeth’s Moygashel. I checked out their website and found this.

On 8th December we have the first of our visiting speakers when John Hamilton of Wycliffe Bible Translators will be telling us of the work of the mission that he works for. John has always been an entertaining and provocative speaker, and we look forward to hearing him again. Please come and join us if you are free. The offertory will be given to him for his work.

Three thoughts sprung to mind: 1. Always good as a speaker to get unexpected encouragement 2. Hope they weren’t disappointed and 3. The offering cheque arrived in the office and very generous it was too!

But why am I twittering on about Drumglass Parish? Well, the thoughts and stories contained in the Simeon Series were tried out on the good folks of Drumglass – and I thank them for their attention and some great questions afterwards.

And so to Simeon and The Five Silhouettes: you see recently I too have been identifying with Simeon, a man who had to wait.

The Five Silhouettes

The Five Silhouettes

Let me explain… the last time someone from Ireland north or south applied to become a Wycliffe member was in the autumn of 2012. For 3 years no one was asking about joining Wycliffe. Why not, I thought. Were my colleagues and I not doing the right things, saying the right things, speaking in the right churches, putting the right message on social media or in our local publications?

On 1 June 2015 we moved to a new office. We put a map of the world on the wall with photos of all our Irish members. Then we had an idea. We all thought of it at the same time. Why not start praying every day for new members? How many should we pray for?

We sensed that God had prompted us to decide on five – the five silhouettes! And guess what? In October we had two people asking to start the application process. We were delighted! We’re praying them – three more to join them!

So… me and Simeon..? Five years is not that long compared to the Kimyal man, the Ndali man, not to mention Bai Laurent the Kouya man who hasn’t appeared in this series – but it’s still very exciting when we see God answering our prayers.

Are you reading this in Ireland? Could you be silhouette 3, 4 or 5? Contact us at Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland. Are you elsewhere in the world? Find your local Wycliffe organisation on Wycliffe Global Alliance website. You can be part of Bible translation helping to relieve Bible Poverty so that there will be no more Simeons out there.

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Some thoughts on Simeon, a minor but very significant character in the Christmas story.

Simeon

Simeon by Rembrandt

But first, let’s refresh our memory of Luke’s Simeon.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation,which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles,    and the glory of your people Israel.

The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

Luke 2:25-35  NIV

And that’s all that the Bible tells us about Simeon: a man who had heard God’s promise and had waited (presumably for quite some time) to see the Messiah face to face. He held Jesus in his arms, he prayed to God and he prophesied. The context suggests that he probably died soon after, but we don’t know that.

Simeon is an intriguing participant in the early life of Jesus – but wouldn’t it be great to know more about him? So I did some Googling and found this in Simeon’s Wikipedia entry.

According to a tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Simeon had been one of the seventy-two translators of the Septuagint. As he hesitated over the translation of Isaiah 7:14 (LXX: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive…”) and was going to correct it to γυνή (woman), an angel appeared to him and told him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ born of a virgin. This would make him well over two hundred years old at the time of the meeting described in Luke, and therefore miraculously long-lived.

Now that’s intriguing too, but not very credible.

Next up in the Simeon Series… some stories of people who identified with Simeon many years later…

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Alf

… and we prick our ears in the expectation of a good story! Whether it’s a comedian’s one-liner, a juicy bit of gossip, a fairy tale, the wicked humour of Roald Dahl or one of Jesus’ New Testament parables – stories have a unique power.

My good friend Alfred Thompson recently published a good story about stories and in particular the power of stories. It was an article in the April edition of The Presbyterian Herald, the main magazine of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Alf hooks us with his opening story…

A famous pianist was giving a concert. In the front row a six or seven-year-old boy was sitting with his parents. And he was bored. So at the interval when his parents were distracted, the boy climbed onto the stage, sat at the piano and started banging on the keys, which made a terrible noise. Everyone stopped talking and turned to look at him, but the boy didn’t notice as he was having a great time just banging away.

The pianist heard the noise and came out from the wings and walked over behind the boy. When the boy became aware of the pianist standing behind him he stopped his banging and froze. But instead of giving off, the pianist leant over the boy’s shoulder and whispered ‘keep playing, keep playing.’ The boy hesitated. So the pianist whispered again ‘keep playing.’

So the boy shrugged his shoulders and started having fun banging away again. But this time the pianist stretched his arms around the boy and began to play on the keys that were out of the boy’s reach. After a moment the audience began to hear what was happening… somehow the pianist was weaving a melody in and around the noise of the boy’s banging.

Alf tells us that he heard the story as a teenager, and comments…

… this story about the boy and the pianist has always stayed with me and it has helped me to “keep playing” and to keep believing that God is at work in my life, playing the keys that are out of my reach.

What a super image of the mystery that God wants us to be part of his mission to his world. The omnipotent God wants to use us, his flawed but redeemed creation, in his big story.

You can access Alf’s article and the rest of the April Herald here

I think I might come back to Alf’s article for further inspiration quite soon…

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