Wednesday, December 31, 2014

After Jesus was Born.

Dear Friends and Family,
Here is the story of what happened after the 'Birth of Jesus' from Matthew 2.

1) Watch and Listen to the Story. Then 2) Read the Commentary (below). 

This story contrasts Herod, the king appointed by Rome, and Jesus, the king anointed by God. After Jesus’ birth, Magi came to Jerusalem in search of the ‘one who had been born king of the Jews’. It was Jesus, not Herod, who was ‘born king of the Jews’. Herod was a descendant of Esau (not Jacob) and he was no ‘shepherd to Israel’. News of ‘one born king of the Jews’ disturbed Herod for it meant that Herod had a genuine rival.

Herod knew the Christ would be ‘born king of the Jews’, but didn’t know where the Christ was to be born. The chief priests and the teachers of the law knew where the Christ was to be born, but they didn’t know he had already been born. The Magi knew that the ‘king of the Jews’ had been born, but they needed the scripture to know where he was born.

Herod called the Magi to find out when to the star had appeared and sent them to Bethlehem to find the child. Herod claimed to want to worship the Christ but he really wanted him dead. Herod had killed his wife and three sons whom he suspected of plotting his overthrow. He was so threatened by the Christ-child that he would kill all the boys two years old and under born in and around Bethlehem in order to eliminate his rival.  

The star led the Magi to the Christ-child who they bowed before in worship. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with costly gifts. Afterwards, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. So they avoided Herod to protect the child aligning themselves with the ‘one born king of the Jews’. Then God sent an angel to warn Joseph to escape to Egypt for Herod was seeking to kill the child.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus flee to Egypt and become refugees in exile. Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 which refers to Israel’s Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 4:22). Yet, Matthew applies this to Jesus; who re-enacts and completes Israel’s story. Then Matthew says the slaughter of Bethlehem’s children fulfills Jeremiah 31:15. Jeremiah 31 is about God renewing His covenant and restoring His people but it will not come without much weeping and sorrow.

Jesus is a threat to those seeking to build their own empires at the expense of others. Consequently, the shadow of death followed Jesus all his life. But Jesus didn’t come into this fallen world to live a life of ease. Through his suffering and his sin atoning death he would bring God's 'New Exodus' and accomplish God's salvation. The 'Magi' make it clear that Jesus is Israel's Messiah and the Lord of all the earth (Psalm 72:8,11; Isaiah 11:9-10).

Have a 'Great New Year (2015)',
Jay, Laura, Clara, Katherine and Lauren Stoms



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas (2014)!

Dear Friends and Family,
Here is the story of the 'Birth of Jesus' from Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-7, and Matt. 1:18-25.

1) Watch and Listen to the Story (link above). Then 2) Read the Commentary (below).  

God’s people were in their land but living under Roman rule. They were waiting for God’s King to come and restore God’s reign. God revealed His plan by sending an angel to the Virgin Mary who was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of David. The angel said the ‘Holy Spirit’ would enable Mary to conceive so that her child would be the ‘Son of God’. Mary’s child would reign on David’s throne and rule over God’s people forever. Mary’s response was, “I’m the Lord’s servant, ‘let it be to me as you say’.

Joseph planned to break the relationship until an angel told him in a dream that Mary’s pregnancy was from God’s Spirit. Mary would have a son and they were to name him Jesus for he would save God’s people from their sins. In His own timing and way God was working out His plan through the faithfulness of ordinary people like Mary and Joseph!
Merry Christmas from South Africa.

The Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, seemed to be in charge for he issued a decree and everyone returned to their hometowns.  God was working so that Joseph, a descendant of David, would go to the very place the Messiah was to be born, Bethlehem. There Mary gave birth to a son, who they named Jesus as the angel had said. All this was to fulfil the words of the Prophet Isaiah—a virgin will give birth to a son, and he will be called, “God with us”. God had sent His Son to forgive His people and restore His presence among His people.

God was working out His plan despite the evil intent of Rome and its powerful Emperor.  Augustus had turned Rome from a republic to empire and many thought of him as the ‘Lord and Saviour’ of the world.  He even declared his dead adoptive father, Julius Caesar, to be divine making Augustus the ‘son of divine Julius.’ While Augustus probably never heard of Jesus within a few centuries the Roman Emperor and the Empire would become Christian. Today the Roman Empire is long gone, but the Empire of King Jesus, despite opposition, continues its methodical worldwide expansion 

Merry Christmas (2014),
Jay, Laura, Clara, Katherine and Lauren Stoms

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Malawi ‘School of Storying’!

Dear Friends and Family,
In SA with Drs. Davidson & Phoebe Chifungo.
Christmas greetings from South Africa. While we were in the states a Malawian friend and I participated in a one week intensive ‘School of Storying’ in Orlando. Recently, our friends from ‘Storyrunners’ have asked us to make arrangements to hold a School of Storying in Malawi.  We plan to reproduce the ‘Bible Storytelling’ method we learned.  The goal would be to empower a team of 18 Malawians to produce a set of 42 Biblically accurate and orally reproducible stories from the Bible in their own “heart language’.

The story set we hope to pass on to our Malawian friends tells the Biblical Story from ‘Creation to New Creation’ that is fulfilled in Jesus. The training includes a series of checks that are designed to ensure that when the stories are crafted in ‘Chichewa’ they are true to the Bible. The story set and the training can help Malawians communicate the gospel in the  context of the Biblical story in a way that ‘oral learners’ can understand.

‘Storyrunners’ ( has asked us to tentatively plan a five (5) week training in Malawi this coming June/July 2015. We have been struggling to acquire all the information we need to adequately plan this event. We need to know what options we have for venues, accommodations and food so that ‘Storyrunners’ can make plans to hold this training in 2015.

Please pray that we can get all the information and that plans come together in a timely way. We firmly believe that this training will help strengthen the Church in Malawi. We are excited about the potential of this training and about the opportunity to reconnect with our Malawian friends and churches. The long-term goal of the Malawian ‘School of Storying’ is to see the training being led entirely by indigenous leadership. Your ongoing prayers and partnership with us in the gospel is deeply appreciated.

Zikomo Kwambiri (thanks very much),
The STOMS' Family, Jay, Laura, Clara, Katherine and Lauren.
Merry Christmas, Krisi Masi Yabwino (Chichewa),
Geseende Kersfees (Afrikaans),  
Ndikunqwenelela iKrismesi emnandi (Xhosa) 

Prayer Requests:
1) For Laura as she home-schools our girls in a small space in our University flat.
2) Pray that we fit in well in our local church, Christ Church Stellenbosch. Also pray that our girls are able to make new friends here in South Africa.
3) That Christ Church would develop a vision for ministry to International students.
4) That other International students would join us as we seek to disciple others and as we learn and discuss the stories of the Bible.
5) That we can organize a 'School of Storying' in Malawi for June/July 2015.
6) Pray that we can pick up three new partnering churches.

7) For a vehicle and for longer term accommodations for our family  in Stellenbosch.