This week I'm featuring the first of two podcasts I was privileged to be a part of with Pastor Jeff Jackson and Bryon Mondok of Shepherd's Staff Mission Facilitators whom I've worked with for many years. Shepherd's Staff has also been and still is our agency for handling our missions support for many years.
I hope it's an encouragement to you and gives you some insight about orality—what it is—and biblical storying and how it became one of the ministry tools I gained in the process of doing ministry overseas and at home in the US.
Christian believers use a lot of terms and expressions foreign to nonbelievers. Even many who attend church regularly don't know the meaning of some of these terms.
A common one is born again. Believers will ask people, "Are you born again?" as if the person would know what they're talking about. Sometimes believers approach a person and tell them, "You need to be born again!" But unless it's explained, the term doesn't mean much to them.
Under the Mosaic Law even when Jesus walked the earth, Jewish men were expected to attend three feasts celebrated at the temple in Jerusalem—the Feasts of Passover (and Unleavened Bread), Pentecost (or Weeks), and Tabernacles (or Booths).
These were important as memorials of God's faithfulness to His people at pivotal points in their history. They were also events that held greater meaning and significance for the future of those who trust in the God of Israel—the Living God.
As with many events and miraculous signs in John's gospel, this event at the end of Chapter 2 was illustrative of the Lord's ministry on earth with eternal impact and significance.
People throughout the world are intrigued by illusions, magic tricks, and sleight-of-hand artists. It's not just because they're clever and entertaining but something inside us wants to see something supernatural.
When Jesus did miracles in the Bible, they weren't illusions or magic nor were they for entertainment. His miracles were bonafide supernatural events with a purpose.
It's been said, "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." On the other hand, we can also be preoccupied with the future. Whether it's economic or weather forecasts or the imaginings of science fiction, we want to know what's going to happen next.
We're locked into a time continuum of past, present, and future. The only way to be free from repeating history or preoccupation with the future is to know and trust in the One who is eternal, who holds the future in His hands.
Evangelism—it tends to polarize or paralyze us. Some people are turned off by gospel preachers and those who hand out gospel tracts, while others are drawn to it.
Many people are afraid of rejection when sharing their faith with others. Others may think they don't know enough to do it well or are afraid of questions they can't answer.
Each of us has various roles in life—within our family of origin and at various points in life. Some roles are temporary and some endure. John the Baptizer knew his role in life. He was the "voice in the desert" who preceded and proclaimed the coming of Israel's Messiah.
John knew and accepted that his important but limited role would end when the One whom he proclaimed arrived. But how would he know for sure who this person was?
What makes a person a prophet of God? Personality? Character? Their message? Those may be indicators but there's only one true requirement—a calling from God.
I know people who consider themselves prophets and people others claim are prophets. But my question is often—Is this God's calling or a title they've taken on for themselves or that's given them by others?
Generally, we all tend to not believe in what we can't see. Of course, this carries over to believing in God and the miraculous. Many will say it's not logical or rational to do so. And yet, we believe many things exist that are invisible to the naked eye and miraculous in nature—thoughts, atoms, and even feelings of love.
The reason it's not logical to believe in God is that it doesn't fit what we know in the natural world. This is our human dilemma. God is supernatural—He's above and beyond the natural realm. He will never fit within our limited logic. God's existence exceeds our capacity to know Him in a purely natural way.
When does life begin—at conception or birth? Before 1973, the obvious answer would be at conception but the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision changed that in America. That decision may have changed people's opinions but it didn't change basic biology.
In Asia, age is generally determined by conception and the lunar calendar. For centuries and centuries in the rest of the world and biologically, conception is seen as the beginning of life.
The opening verses of the Gospel of John are important and significant to me. Though I believed in the existence of God from my youth, I had a nebulous, vague sense of God.
Throughout my teen and college years, I wandered in the darkness of my ignorance and whatever the world around me had to offer. I write about this in more detail in my book, but the short of it is—I was lost in my own darkness.
Communicating the truth of God's Word can come in many different forms—conversation, tracts, Bible studies, preaching, biblical storying, blogs, and more. As mentioned last week, holding up a placard or sign with a Scripture reference isn't very useful.
The important thing is choosing a way that fits the person we're talking to and the situation at hand. Only using one approach or method forces people to fit into our grid, as if one-size-fits-all.
When we hear something over and over, we tune it out at some level. It becomes too familiar, or we tune it out because we don't want to hear it.
This is what children do with their parents. "Are you listening to what I'm telling you?" Um, that would be no! When we hear an ad or announcement repeated ad nauseam, we tune it out as a means of self-preservation.
Perhaps this is why people are indifferent to the good news of God's redemption. They either tune it out because it's redundant and repetitive, or they just don't want to hear it. Then again, it could be something quite different.
The book of Hebrews begins by reminding us of the importance and supremacy of Jesus as God's only Son. He's greater than the prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, the Old Covenant priesthood, and His grace is greater than the Law.
We're also reminded how Jesus' message and ministry was and is superior to the high priesthood of the Old Covenant—as an eternal High Priest like Melchizedek. Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant—relationship with God—and in His continuing ministry as our High Priest, He is personally involved in our faith and life as believers.