God-Stories–A Powerful Weapon Against Satan

How About A New Story?

My teenage friends and I rolled our eyes as the elderly gentleman rose from his accustomed side front pew. As usual, he half turned to face the congregation, leaned his left hand on the back of the pew in front of him, as he always did, and began his testimony . . . again. We had all heard his conversion story from sixty years ago so many Sundays, we could have recited it for him.

I wanted to ask him, “Hasn’t God done anything for you recently?” but I had been a Christian only a few years, and now, I was learning how to be a well-behaved member of our small evangelical church.

True, some members of the congregation did stand and tell of recent answers to prayer, but for the most part, “giving your testimony” meant telling the story of how you came to repent of your sin and turn to God for forgiveness for the first time.

We do need to tell the story of our spiritual rebirth, but we need to realize that this birth starts a whole new life, filled with other God-stories—answers to prayers, amazing coincidences, needs He met, healings and special guidance. Our lives as believers should be overflowing with stories that bear witness to others of God’s work in and through us.

People Listen and so do Spirits
But not just to people. Spiritual beings are also listening. Angels give praise to God along with us as we tell our God-stories. The “other side” is listening too. Satan and his evil spirits hate hearing about God’s power in our lives. When we tell what God has done for us, Satan will do anything to shut us up. Why? Because our God-stories are weapons: powerful Satan defeating weapons.

How They Overcame Satan
Check out the scene in Revelation 12:11 which describes a large number of Jesus-followers who overcame Satan. How did they do this? By telling everyone about what God had done for them, through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. They were powerful witnesses against Satan and for God. They made God look so good, and Satan look so bad that he killed them. Yes, they were martyrs. That is why the word “martyr” comes from the Greek word that means “witness.”

Our testimonies, our God-stories of God’s actions in our lives are powerful Satan conquering weapons. What a pity that we don’t hear them regularly in church! No, not the same old story every Sunday, but new God-honouring, Satan crushing stories.

We who are followers of Jesus need to tell our God-stories to each other for encouragement, and to those who are not yet believers to let them know God can and does act in people’s lives.

A Fifteen-Year-Old Photo

Six of our Grandkds Telling Stories Over a Cup of Tea

Six of our Grandkids Telling Stories Over Cups of Tea

Fifteen years ago they were little kids telling stories. Now they are telling even more stories. Our youngest grandson is now seventeen; the five granddaughters range in age from nineteen to twenty-two years old. Each of them can tell a dozen stories of what they experienced while overseas on mission service trips. They have all been to Mexico and Brazil. Some have been to Guatemala, some to Pakistan, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. Some have lived for months in Australia. One worked on a Mercy ship for three months serving countries on Africa’s east coast—God-stories galore. And they have many more stories of God’s dealings in their everyday lives

Whenever I speak in public, I tell plenty of personal God-stories—what God has done for me, through me, or sometimes in spite of me. As I greet people at the door afterward, they often say, “Thank you for telling those stories. Isn’t God wonderful?” I smile and imagine Satan’s groan of pain.

What has God done in your life this past week? Have you told anyone yet? The angels are waiting to compose a song of praise about it. Satan hopes you’ll just keep quiet.

God’s Problem and His Solution

The Problem
God had a problem. Having created human beings to multiply throughout the habitable areas of the earth, He now wanted to communicate with them. But, although they were all created on the same basic pattern, every one of them was a unique person. Their bodies, personalities, emotional makeups and cultural environments made them all different from each other.

How could He tell them about Himself, His expectations of them and His love for them? Clear logical statements would speak to some types of people but would turn off other groups. Lists of do’s and don’ts would be understood by some, but would be rejected by others.

God’s Solution
In His divine wisdom He gave mankind the Bible, a Book that is packed with stories of real people. Stories are the universal language: they speak to everyone. Narratives telling the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of situations are informative. But when they are told in a story form that has a Beginning in which someone has a problem, a Middle describing their struggles, and an End telling of the solution, they will captivate any audience.

Some preachers and teachers try to make the Bible what it is not. It is not a handy-dandy Manual for Life. The books of Proverbs and James come the closest, but even these are mainly a collection of miscellaneous observations and pieces of advice. Although there are many clear commands and explicit instruction for certain situations, the Bible is not the Help tab on Life’s computer. We cannot click it and expect a drop menu of prompts to follow for specific directions in every possible situation. Instead, God gave us a Book of stories about people, their successes, their failures, their loves and their hates. As we see ourselves in these situations, we can learn from them.

The Psychology
The best speakers and writers do not use stories to illustrate a point already made. They use the stories to carry the point. They tell a story and let hearers come to their own conclusion. There are psychologically sound reasons for doing this. People tend to mentally argue against points made by speakers, pastors, or teachers. People tend to reject plainly stated advertisements, advice, and even moral lessons. But people never argue against conclusions they have come to by themselves—conclusions they have come to by listening to a story. Check out Jesus—the master story-teller—and His parables for examples.

Grandpa's Stories

Grandpa’s Stories

A Story
A dozen years ago, when our eight grandchildren were still in grade school, I published two 50,000-word story books and gave them each a set. They were filled with stories that I had written for them during several years of Sunday afternoon story-letters to the grandkids. By the way, the heroes and heroines of these stories bear an uncanny resemblance to my grandchildren. As they read the stories, our grandchildren soaked up solid biblical concepts such as the value of relationships, initiative, work, honesty, teamwork, having fun, and eating ice cream.

We not only learn from other people’s stories; we can tell our own. Everyone has a story. All of us, especially if we are followers of Jesus, can think back to things He did for us, problems He helped us solve, prayers He answered, and troubles He guided us through. I call these experiences God-stories, since we start with a problem and God provides the solution in the end.

I continue to teach and lead workshops for people who want to learn how to write their own God-stories to leave as a legacy for the children and grandchildren—a solidly biblical thing to do.

Another Story
I phoned our daughter one day, many years ago, and our four-year-old granddaughter answered.
“Hi Savannah,” I said, “this is grandpa.”
There was a period of silence as she wondered which of her two grandpas she was talking to, then she asked,
“Are you the Grandpa who tells us stories?”

Yes! Oh yes!
“The Grandpa who tells us stories” has been my sub-title ever since.

Here’s hoping that you too will be remembered for the God-stories you tell.

The Survey, The Problem, A Solution, and an Ad

First Some Boring Numbers
I just completed another Wycliffe Associates promotional banquet speaking tour. Here are some numbers: 5 weeks, 6 states, 24 cities, 5,600 kilometres/3,500 miles. We started in North Dakota on the border of Minnesota, an hour’s drive south of the Manitoba border, then traveled south into Iowa and south-west to Colorado, 30 kilometres/20 miles from New Mexico, and as far west as 40 kilometres/25 miles from Utah.

The Reason I Bored You with These Statistics
Every night after I speak, I offer my books for purchase by guests as they leave. And every night people happily buy whole sets of the three printed books and the two ebooks. Very nice. Good for them. Good for me.

But what bothers me is that in city after city, along the entire route, many hundreds of people shake my hand and say,
“Your stories are so inspiring! Thank you so much for coming!” but when I invite them to buy my books with even more inspiring stories, they give me any number of reasons why they won’t.

Favorite Reason for Not Reading
A frequent one is “I am just so busy, I just don’t have time to read.”
I sometimes joke with them, “Buy my books and for only $10 more, I’ll pray ten times a day for ten days and ask God to give you time to read them.”

Others, especially older folk, mention poor eyesight, or extreme light sensitivity that makes reading difficult. Some tell me they love to learn by listening, but just can’t get anything from reading. A few confess they loved reading as a child but learned to hate it during their school years.

By far the most popular reason given is, “Sorry, I have too many books on my shelves already. I just can’t buy any more.”

A Suggestion That Will Work
I know what they mean. My wife and I, too, used to have many books on many shelves. But a few years ago, we asked ourselves, “Are we readers or librarians?”

We decided that we were readers and that books existed to be read and enjoyed, not just to sit on shelves and gather dust.

We started by pulling out books we had read and probably wouldn’t read again. We also culled books we had once thought we might like to read, but which had been sitting there for a long time and we probably were not going to read.

Two Out for One In

Two Out for One In

We are still working at it. Our current policy is, for every book we acquire we give away two books. This “two books out the door for each one coming in” is an excellent downsizing measure. Not only that, it keep us opening and reading books we really do want to read.

And have you noticed, when you open a book, it tends to open you?

***This is the end of my column***
Now here is the advertisement.

Just In Case You Got Inspired to Buy Books
My second ebook will be published this summer.

The Why and How of Bible Translation: What Every Christian Should Know, but few do . . . very few. In this ebook you will

  • Discover why in some instances Mark and Luke did not quote Jesus exactly as Matthew did, and why today’s translators need to follow their example.
  • Find out why it is sometimes essential for translators to clearly state explicitly in the target language what is merely implied in the Greek text.
  • Read why support for Bible translation would skyrocket among Christians if linguistics was taught as widely as biology, chemistry or physics.

Here are the links to my books—three printed collections of 52 easy-to-read, true-life stories, the kind of inspiring books you definitely will read. Order them through these links, and while waiting for them to arrive, make some room on your shelves by giving away some other books.

A Poke in the Ribs: http://www.thewordman.ca/jacks-books/a-poke-in-the-ribs.html
A Kick in the Pants:
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A Bonk on the Head:
http://www.thewordman.ca/jacks-books/a-bonk-on-the-head.html
A Tickle in the Funny Bone: my first ebook, read it on your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad, tablet, laptop, or computer. Download it as many times as you want in whatever format you need. Yes, it is funny. It needs to be to counteract all those physically abusive titles of the print books.
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Thoughts on My 75th Birthday

Please excuse last week’s double mail out. Computer problems. It won’t happen again. I hope.

I am publishing this week’s post a few days early to coincide with my birth date, March 19

Thoughts on My 75th Birthday 

It is nice to know that at 75 years old, I have learned pretty well everything. Now if only I could remember any of it . . .

I do remember pondering my age at another occasion. On March 19, 1966 I sat on my bunk at Wycliffe’s jungle survival training base in southern Mexico and wrote the following in my diary: “Jo reminded me after breakfast that today I became 28 years old. Good grief! I’m getting ancient! The life expectancy at birth for men in this area is 33. Only five years to go.”

By the grace of God I lived longer than that. Much longer. Many times, however, my life could have been cut short. I was a passenger in two head-on car collisions that totally wrecked all four cars but from which I emerged with only a few cuts and bruises. I survived three industrial accidents: one a cave-in, one where a car ran over the manhole from which I was emerging, and another involving an unexpected dynamite explosion. A freak accident with a water-loaded 16 foot awning nearly broke my neck. I could have avoided the last one, but I was in a hurry and wasn’t thinking.

So why did God keep me alive? I often wonder about that. He continues to help me make good choices. When the Holy Spirit pointed out my sinfulness and that Jesus would save me if I wanted Him to, God helped me to say Yes! This led directly to giving my whole life over to Him to use in whatever way He thought best. I chose to attend Bible school, where I looked for a life partner who also had dedicated her life to God. God led me to choose Jo and to my great joy, she said, Yes.

After that came raising a family, a wide variety of Christian service experience, missionary training, and nearly 25 years in Brazil as Bible translators for the Canela people. This was followed by a decade of leadership in Wycliffe, and now by a continuing ministry of speaking at events in hundreds of cities around the world, and writing nearly a thousand articles, columns, and stories published on line, in magazines or books.

All this is obviously God’s doing and no credit to me.

I dropped out of high school after repeatedly failing algebra. I was expelled from Bible school for behaviour that was outside of school standards. I failed jungle survival training camp and Wycliffe accepted me into membership only after two years of probation. While Jo got all A’s, my grades were so poor I had to take remedial linguistic courses. For several years, I did not consistently show Jo that I loved her the way I should have. In my forties, after years of severe testing, I lost my faith in God’s power, wisdom and love and was restored only after six months of intensive weekly counseling. Even now, I need to be accountable to another person to keep me living in the way I know I ought to live.

Chocolate-Coffee Icecream Cake. Now Everyone's Favorite

Chocolate-Coffee Icecream Cake. Now Everyone’s Favorite

So what’s next? The average age at which my parents and grandparents died was just short of 90. So, if I follow in their genetic footsteps, and my guardian angel does not retire, I may still have another 15 years left on this earth. Currently my goals for these final years are to unreservedly love “the wife of my youth,” our wonderful daughters, our incredible grandchildren and all our extended family. This, of course, means being together with them often.

I have been working for years on a more long-term project—writing and organizing a legacy of diaries, memories, stories, photographs, slides and videos. These record not only our family history, but the God-stories—the times when God moved in our families, preserving, guiding, healing, answering prayer, and in many ways showing that He is alive and actively at work.

As long as I am physically and mentally capable, I want to keep on giving story-filled speeches and writing story-based articles. I cannot think of any retirement activity that would be more satisfying than this.

75 = 21+54I do have one question. What are the legal privileges of turning 75? You know, at 16 you can drive, at 17 join the army, at 18 drink alcohol, vote and get married, (hopefully not in that order). At 60, 65 and 70 pensions and RIFFs kick in, but the only thing that happened at 75 is that my travel medical insurance expired. Where’s the benefit in that?

The Powerful Weapon the Church Is Neglecting

My friends and I rolled our eyes as the elderly elder stood up from his accustomed side front pew. As usual, he half turned to face the congregation, leaned his left hand on the pew, as he always did, and began his testimony . . . again. It was the well-rehearsed story of his conversion from sixty years ago. We had all heard it so many Sundays during “testimony time” most of us teens could have recited it for him.

I wanted to interrupt him to ask, “Hasn’t God done anything for you recently?” but I had been a Christian only a few years and now, during my late teens, I was learning how to be a well-behaved member of our small evangelical church.

True, some members of the congregation did stand and tell of recent answers to prayer, but for the most part, “giving your testimony” meant telling the story of how you came to repent of your sin and turn to God for forgiveness.

Now there is nothing wrong with telling the story of how God rescued us from our former lifestyle and set us on the path of right living. What we need to realize, however, is that our conversion is only the beginning of a whole life filled with actions of God—answers to prayers, amazing co-incidences, healings and special guidance. Our post-conversion lives should be overflowing with stories that bear witness to God’s work in and through us. When we tell those personal experiences—those God-stories— we are witnessing to the world even to the whole universe that God is alive and powerful and that He is in control.

Satan hates hearing about God’s power in our lives. When, like a witness in court, we tell what God has done for us personally, Satan will do anything to shut us up. Why? Because our God-stories are weapons: powerful Satan defeating weapons.

Check out the scene in Revelation 12:11. Here are a huge number of Jesus-followers who overcame Satan by telling everyone about what God had done for them personally, through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. They were powerful witnesses against Satan and for God they made God look so good and Satan look so bad that multitudes of other people abandoned Satan and turned to God. They just wouldn’t shut up, so Satan had to kill them. Yes, they were martyrs. In fact, the word martyr comes from the Greek word that means witness.

Our testimonies, our God-stories of God’s actions in our lives are powerful Satan conquering weapons. What a pity that we don’t hear them regularly in church! No, not the same old story over and over again every Sunday, but new God-honouring, Satan crushing stories.

Sharing Our Stories Over a Cup of Tea

Sharing Our Stories Over a Cup of Tea
(Courtesy of our youngest grandkids 11 years ago)

We who are followers of Jesus need to tell our stories every time we have the opportunity, to each other for encouragement, and to those who are not yet believers to let them know God can and does act in people’s lives.

Whenever I speak in public I tell plenty of personal God-stories—what God has done for me, through me, or sometimes in spite of me. As I greet people at the door afterwards, they often say, “Thank you for telling those stories. Isn’t God wonderful?” I can just hear Satan’s groan of pain.

What has God done in your life this past week? Have you told anyone yet?

Homo Narrans, Story-Telling Man

As I sorted through some papers, I came upon a thank you card from a group that had invited me to speak five times at a retreat last year. I remembered that I had done much research reading to present 15 major themes.

“Thank you,” the card said, “for all your stories that will help us grow.”

Hmm, not a word about any of the 15 themes I had worked so hard to develop and present. I remembered telling a couple of personal experience anecdotes to illustrate each theme.

Jack the Story Teller with his Indonesian interpreters

We love stories. Our lives are full of them. We enjoy telling them, and listening to other people spin yarns, often responding with a similar tale from our own experience. It is through listening to their personal stories that we get to know other people. It is through remembering and telling our stories we gain a deeper understanding into ourselves.

We human beings are called homo sapiens, “Thinking Man,” to set us apart from other species. It is not our opposable thumb that makes us different from animals, all the great apes have them, nor the ability to remember, elephants do that, or the ability to communicate information through sound waves, dolphins and whales do that too.

We, on the other hand, live through complex experiences, we think about them and then  we share these experiences with others. We tell them our stories. People are story generators, we live stories and we listen to stories and we tell stories. Some authors and poets argue that home sapiens could more properly be called homo narrans, Story-Telling Man.

We can even make up stories that haven’t happened and tell them to entertain, to inspire, and to teach. We day dream, imagine, and envision things and situations that don’t exist and work to turn them into reality. Others are inspired when they hear our story.

A Yiddish question: “Why did God create people?” Answer: “Because He loves stories.” God made us in His image. Just as He loves stories, so we love them. Jesus told parables throughout His teaching ministry. Prophets told stories to warn people away from sin, or like Jonah, lived their stories. The whole Bible is a vast collection of interrelated narratives, making a complete story of God and his relationship to mankind.

We often tell the story of our conversion. We testify how God drew us to Himself, led us to repent, and filled us with new life. We call these stories testimonies. Testimonies have the power to defeat Satan. Revelation 12:11 tells the future story of the final fall of Satan and judgement on him. The passage describes the martyrs who defeated him,

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”

The power to overcome Satan lay in two things, the fact that Jesus died to pay the penalty of sin, and the fact that the martyrs told the story of how Jesus had saved them from sin. Isn’t it significant that the sacrificial death of God’s Son is mentioned in the same sentence as people telling the story of what this sacrifice meant to them? When we tell others the stories of what God has done for us, we defeat Satan.

Wow! Talk about powerful!

So, how about it? Beyond your conversion story, do any of you have a list of God stories you tell? Stories of what God has done for you, your family, and your situation?

Tell me about them.