Years ago some American missionaries stayed in our home. They told us about an animated evangelist they saw try to communicate to a Russian audience—through a less-than-animated translator.
The evangelist began, “Okay folks, tonight I want you to tell the Holy Spirit something! I want you to say, ‘Yeeessss!’” (pronounced with three syllables).
But instead of translating the passionate “Yeeessss!” the interpreter flatly translated, “Da.” And when the evangelist hollered, “Now, give God a hand!” the interpreter translated the words literally—and the audience stared at one another in confusion. (“Give Him what?”)
The words were translated, sure, but their meaning failed to connect.
Jesus, on the other hand, was a perfect translator. Here’s how.
I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.
As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.
Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”
Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?
Then it struck me. We do the same with God.
The annual holiday Yom Kippur begins always reminds me of a surprising conversation I had in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. A Jewish woman approached me and engaged me in a talk.
She somehow knew my affiliation with a radio ministry and told me we needed to broadcast to the nations God’s way to be saved. I told her that was, in fact, our passion.
She smiled and shook her head no.
Then she shared with me a list of things all Gentiles need to do in order for God to accept them. I recognized some of the standards as being from the Ten Commandments, and I told her so. Again, she smiled and shook her head.
“Those commandments are for the Jews,” she said.
“Do you keep them?” I asked.
Where God places us is no accident. Throughout biblical history, the land of Israel sat in an amazingly strategic position as the only intercontinental land bridge between the superpowers of the ancient world.
The most important international highway of the Fertile Crescent ran the length of the land of Israel.
Some call this international highway the Via Maris, or the “Way of the Sea.”
Any nation coming to or from Egypt, or traveling from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Aqaba, had to go through Israel. For many years, Israel remained the crossroads for international imperialism, war, and trade.
It’s hard to believe at first, but this highway offers a practical principle for our daily lives.
It’s all about influence.
If you ever go to Tel Aviv, be sure and stroll down the beautiful seaside boardwalk to ancient Joppa. I try to do it every time I’m there. Wooden statues of Napoleon and some Egyptian ruins suggest significant history occurred here.
But very little remains visible to speak of Joppa’s significance. History tells a different story.
Only a few fishing boats float in Joppa’s modest harbor today, hardly representative of its significant past.
Beyond goods and trade, Joppa greatest export was something else.
It was God’s compassion.
Local schoolchildren ate their lunches across the olive grove from my wife and me.
Like the kids, we came on a field trip to explore ancient Shiloh. Although our lunch was hardly a feast, it reminded me of the reasons the young nation of Israel initially came to this site. They came to worship at the annual feasts before the Tabernacle at Shiloh.
Ask most Americans where Shiloh is, and you’ll likely get a blank stare.
- Historians may point to a Civil War battle in Hardin County, Tennessee.
- Music buffs may start singing the chorus to a Neil Diamond song.
But question someone who knows his or her Bible, and Shiloh means something far more significant.
Life gets fueled on dreams. Without big dreams or a purpose, we wither and die. As Christians, we have more to do than get up, work hard, and come home for a few hours of television . . . only to rise and begin again.
If that’s all we do, we will wake up at age 65 and realize life has amounted to a stack of paychecks and a few laughs.
God wants more for us than that.
I hold as my single claim to fame the day I danced for the judges at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. But I’ll be honest: I never intended to dance.
(Photo: There are at least 2 reasons why serving God can be unfulfilling.)
I auditioned as a guitar player, yet when the judges called me back the next day, they asked me to dance as well! Oh dear.
End of audition. I immediately lost the job.
Why? They misplaced me.