November 28, 2007

November 28th, 2007

What a night last night! I went back to the small town, to the families on the hill. At first only men came. There were 5 of us, all men. This looks so different than most home Bible studies, because usually women and children are more interested. Often in this culture, religion is seen as a thing for women and kids. If a man, a head of the family, begins to seek after God, however, that's when you see real transformation take place within the family.

Well, the men arrived first. That was great. Some of the women came later. Two of them were not well, and stayed at home. Our story was from 2 Kings 22. It was the story of Josiah. He was a good king of Judah and sought to repair the temple. When the High Priest informed him that the Book of the Law was found and he heard it read to him. He cried, sought the Lord, and went about a great religious reform in the country, destroying all the idols and recommitting himself and all the people to keep God's covenant.

I told half of the story and some more people arrived, so I started again from the beginning. After telling the story, I asked the group to retell it. The first half was told without flaw, but the second half was a little confused. I stepped through the story with them and made sure everyone got it. We then began to talk about it.

I had really planed to focus the discussion on the need for God's word in our lives, but the Spirit moved in another direction. They could not stop talking about Josiah destroying all the idols, and even household gods. They discussed amongst themselves whether or not their home altars with saints on them would have been destroyed by Josiah and determined that they would have.

This group is anxious to hear about Jesus. I will tell the essential stories of Jesus, but I believe they are ready and anxious to hear, believe and repent. I won't need to take them through a very long series of stories of Jesus, like I did for the family in the big city.

Well, one other thought. The second podcast was released by Story4All. It is the continuation of my conversation with Bryan Thompson. You can listen to the interview here part 1 and here part 2. You can download a copy of the document on storying that we discuss here document.

November 27, 2007

November 27th, 2007

Last night was pretty rainy again. We went to the family in the big city and had a simple, but very effective storying session. I told the story from Acts 8, of Phillip and the Ethiopian. It only takes 3 minutes to tell. After I told the story, I asked the group to retell it. One person began, but didn't get far before she began abriviating the story and jumping around. I asked if anyone else could help.

When I saw that the story was not really heard, I told it again. This time, I asked them to tell the story together as a group. One person started and got to a point were she wasn't sure what was next, so another person gave the next portion of the story. He told a part and then passed the story to another. In the end, the entire group had told a part of the story. This was the first time I'd seen total group participation in telling the story. Usually one person or maybe two tell the story.

Our post story dialogue was quite rich. After it was over, I couldn't help but think about all the times in the past I used to tell only portions of a story or used a passage with a story just to get a theological point across. There's a difference in teaching the Bible and teaching theology. Now, I can see that clearly.

This couple is thinking about baptism and also thinking about what kind of church they want to be a part of. There are some traditional local churches nearby that they are thinking about visiting. I also suggested to them the idea of beginning a church in their own home and reaching out to their own family and friends who don't know Jesus. We'll see where it goes.

November 26, 2007

November 26th, 2007

Sunday, I preached the morning service again at one of the local churches here in the city. It was the second part of the life and ministry of Jesus. I told as single narrative these portions from John:

2:12 - 2:22
3:1 - 3:21
4:43 - 4:53
5:1 - 5:29
7:1 - 7:52
8:12 - 8:59
11:1 - 11:57

I think telling 30 minute stories is taking its toll on me, because it takes a long time to prepare even a 5 minute story, if you haven't told it before. Next week, I will tell the passion and resurrection story of Jesus and then I will take a break from these long sermon-length narratives.

I have had a number of great compliments from the church members. They've told me that they are learning very much and finally able to "see" Jesus. That is really what I had hoped for.

Tonight I will go to the family in the big city and tomorrow the families in the small town.

November 21, 2007

November 21st, 2007

Well, yesterday I returned to the families on the hill, in the small town. This time, even though it was raining again, nearly everyone was present. Every family was represented. After talking and learning of the recent happenings in the families (De is pregnant), I decided to tell a summary story of all the stories they've heard up to this point.

I had not planned or practiced this beforehand, but I was able to tell an abbreviated version of all the stories in order. It took only about 7 minutes. What was neat was seeing their expressions as I told the stories. There were looks of satisfaction when certain parts of stories were told. There was a lot of head shaking and smiles. Some even spoke with me at points, remembering the stories aloud.

After this review, I told the story from Numbers 13 and 14, when the people of Israel were about to enter the promised land. They sent 12 spies to see the land and its people. Only Joshua and Caleb gave favoring reports and the people rebelled against God. God punished them by not allowing them to go into the land until all the people who had seen his miracles in Egypt were dead (except the two faithful men).

This story was easily remembered and retold by the group. The key questions that led our discussion were these:
  • What did God want his people to do?
  • What did they do?
  • What do you think would have been different if they had chosen to act differently?
We also imagined ourselves there with the people and talked about what we would have done if we were there. All said they would go with Joshua and Caleb, but then after talking some, began to realize that it's easy to say that now, but that at the time, they probably would have agreed with the crowd. After this a few of them shared stories of when they knew what the right thing to do was and did it, and they were blessed.

I told them that God is going to test them one day, just like he did these people. They would have to have enough faith to obey and believe that God will bless them for it.

November 20, 2007

November 20th, 2007

Last night I returned to the family in the city. Instead of telling a new story, we had a discussion about some of the previous stories and talked about the things people did when they first repented and gave their lives to God. When our discussion was over we had talked extensively about baptism and church membership. I'll tell a baptism story next week.

I did encounter a problem with my method and something I will need to correct for future groups. This family did not remember the previous stories very well. Some stories were confused with others. I will need to do a better job reviewing the stories and providing opportunities along the way for the stories to be retold many times. I do feel like I am doing a better job of this in the small town.

I had the privilege of recording a podcast (Internet radio program) with Bryan Thompson yesterday. He is in Ireland and has a ministry called story4all. Here's a link to the program. Story4All Podcast program #81 It's about 20 minutes long.

November 19, 2007

November 19, 2007

Yesterday, I preached again at one of the traditional churches. I began the story of the life and ministry of Jesus. I told the scripture from his birth story through to the first time people tried to kill him, shortly after he began his ministry. Next Sunday, I will continue the story through the passion and resurrection. The passion story will be somewhat reduced, because I will save some of it for the story of Peter.

Last night, an interesting thing happened. I was asked to take my mother-in-law and my niece to another city to a church, where my niece was supposed to sing. We arrived in the city and were told that it was the wrong city, so we went to the "right" city. Still wrong. As it turned out we found a church that seemed like it could be the church we were looking for. After talking with the pastor, he said that he would be glad to have my niece sing in their service, since it would be impossible to find the other church before the service was over.

Well, my niece sang, and then the pastor surprised me. "And now, the word from the Lord," he said "will be given by our guest pastor..." He signaled for me to come up to the front and preach. There I was in blue jeans and an orange t-shirt. Well, one good thing about learning the Bible in oral form, is that you can pull a Bible narrative out of your head and heart at a moment's notice. I told the story from the end of the morning sermon. It was from Luke 4, when Jesus went back to his hometown and taught in the synagogue. I posed a question to the church after telling the story. Hearts were broken and there was much repentance. God moved.

Here's the question: "Why did these people who were praising Jesus try to kill him a few minutes later?" Go read the story and see if you can answer that. If you figure out the answer, ask yourself one more question. "Why do I love Jesus?"

November 14, 2007

November 14th, 2007

Last night I went back the small town to the families on the hill. It was raining pretty hard, and one family was not able to make it to the house where we met. I prepared and told the story from Leviticus 16, of the Day of Atonement and the scapegoat. This story gave a pretty good picture of the Tabernacle and the Old Testament sacrificial system.

I began by asking if anyone had heard of the expression "Bode Expiatôrio" or scapegoat. Several of them had good stories to tell about when someone got blamed or punished for someone else's action. I told them that this expression is from the Bible. This got them excited for the story, and so I told it.

After the story, I asked them to retell it. They got the basic idea of the story, but were unable to get some of the details right. I retold the story and then we began a discussion. These were some of the questions.
  • Could anyone go into the Holy of Holies to meet with God if he wanted to?
  • Why not? What would happen to someone who went in there?
  • Why do you think the high priest had to offer a sacrifice and do the other things that God commanded before he could go in?
  • What was the sacrifice made for the sins of the people of Israel?
  • Why were there 2 goats? What happened to each of them?
  • What did Aaron do with the blood of the sacrificed animal? Can you remember other stories where blood was used for something?
  • What happened to the scapegoat?
One interesting moment was when Lu ask me if all sacrifices involved blood and animals. I ask them to recount the stories they've heard and think about it. They recalled Cain and Able and told me that Cains offering of crops was rejected by God. As they talked about it, they began to key in on the idea of blood and life being given in all the sacrifices. One of them blurted out. OHH. Hey! We still use blood! Everyone looked at him, I sat quietly... waiting to see what he would say. "Haven't you ever heard the expression 'The blood of Jesus?'" he said.

I told them that they were starting to see something very interesting and very important, and that I would only tell one more story from the Old Testament, before I began the story of Jesus.

We prayed and ended for the night.

November 13, 2007

November 13th, 2007

Last night my wife and I went to the family in the big city. I was very unsure of where to go with the stories at this point, because the woman was showing a desire to believe and the man was demonstrating unbelief and rejection of the gospel message. I prepared the story of Acts 4:1-22, continuing the story that I had told the week before.

In this story, the chief priests, some of the very ones who condemned Jesus, arrested Peter and John for healing the lame man and saying it was by the power of the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth. This story put belief and disbelief face to face.

After telling the story and having them tell it back to me, I asked some questions. These were the key questions.
  • How had the crowd reacted to the healing of the lame man in the name of Jesus?
  • What was the reaction of the chief priests when they saw the healed man and were told that it was by the power of Jesus that he had been healed?
  • Why do you think the religious leaders did not believe in Jesus?
  • What do you understand that Peter was saying when he said that there is salvation in no one else, that God has given no other name in heaven or earth by which we may be saved?
  • Do you believe that?
What followed, I didn't expect. Both the man and the woman, who had not even sat together this time said that they believed. I led both of them to confess their sinfulness before God and receive Christ. I could see by the tears of the man that he had really been wrestling and resisting these past several weeks. He gave himself over to God and the change is already obvious.

God be praised.

November 11, 2007

November 11th, 2007

Today I began a sermon series in one of the traditional churches in the big city. I am telling the Bible as narrative. Today I told the entire life and ministry of John the Baptist as a single narrative. It took about 35 minutes. Here's the scripture references. (Sorry, it's in portuguese, but you can tell which scriptures I used anyway) Next week I will begin the life and ministry of Jesus.

Lucas 1:5-80
Mateus 3:1-12 / Marcos 1:1-8 / Lucas 3:1-20 / João 1:19-28
Mateus 3:13-17 / Marcos 1:9-11 / Lucas 3:21-22
João 1:29-34
Mateus 9:14-17 / Marcos 2:18 / Lucas 5:33-39 / João 3:22-4:4
Mateus 11:1-19 / Lucas 7:11-35 /
Mateus 14:1-12 / Marcos 6:14-29
João 10:40-42

November 7, 2007

November 7th, 2007

Yesterday I finally went back to the small town. I was well received after having missed 3 weeks. Two people weren't there, but arrived when we finished and promised to come next week. This turned out to be one of our shortest sessions to date. I told the story of when the Israelites encountered God at Mt Sinai and God descended in a black cloud and gave the 10 commandments. This was from Exodus 19 and 20.

The story took only about 6 minutes to tell the whole thing, but they were able to retell the story perfectly on the first try. This is exactly what I was hoping for. In the form of a story, the 10 commandments don't feel like a list of 10 things to do or not do. God never said "Number 1..." etc.

I had expected the discussion to be more about the 10 commandments, than the events of the story, but the story really captured us. Lu said that he'd have been scared of God too, if he'd seen God with thunder and lightning only 2 months after destroying Egypt.

It was surprising to me, but this group actually liked the idea of having Moses hear from God and speak to the people. They really related to the mediator role of Moses. Next week I will tell the story of the building of the Tabernacle and the setting apart of the Priests.

November 6, 2007

November 6th, 2007

Last night Loaise and I went to the family in the big city. It was a revealing night for sure. I told the story when Peter and John went to the temple to pray and cured a man who had been lame since birth. When the people saw that he had been cured they were amazed, and Peter told them that it was by faith in Jesus that he was cured. It's in Acts chapter 3.

These past few weeks, I've been telling a number of stories that illustrate salvation and repeat the theme that Christ suffered by the plan of God and was raised from the dead and that salvation comes through him to those who repent. This week, I felt it was time to call this couple to salvation. (The other families participating are believers, and are learning how to evangelize through telling the Bible narrative)

I simply asked these questions?
Do you believe that Jesus really lived and did these miracles and was crucified and really came back to life? Yes we do.

Do you believe that Jesus is really who he said he is, and who the apostles said he is, who Thomas said he was "Lord and God?" Her-- Yes! Him-- No!

So I asked the man what he believed. He said that he doesn't believe that there really is a God. He liked the stories, and felt them, but doesn't believe God exists.

This really surprised me. I had seen this man really wrestling with these stories, and really engaging the scripture. The woman has demonstrated her faith, but the man has turned and resisted. I ended the night with prayer that God would reveal himself as real to this man.


Two stories really come to my mind right now. First is Jesus and Thomas. Thomas doubted and so Jesus showed him the scars he needed to see. Thomas believed.

Second, the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man, who died and went to the place of torment, asked that Lazarus, who had also died, be sent to the rich man's brothers to warn them to repent. Abraham replied "If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead."

Pray for this man...