Part 2 of Turning Points begins with Boniface taking the Gospel to Germany and extends through to the Cape Town Conference. Enjoy!
In an earlier post, I noted that at the opening of the Lausanne Conference in Cape Town, a video was shown of the history of the church and mission.
In Part 1 of Turning Points, the expansion of Christianity from the early Church to the taking of the Gospel to China is presented. Introduction to the Conference comprises the first 4 minutes of the video.
I often find Fareed Zakaria an insightful analyst. His recent article in TIME on ‘How to Restore the American Dream’ is well worth reading.
Not only does he present in understandable terms, the stunning growth in household debt (“household debt rose from $680 billion in 1974 to $14 trillion in 2008″), but also the deadly pincer movement (not his words!) of the American society’s demand for more government and less taxes!
Zakaria presents some case studies that suggest that perhaps there is real structural change occurring rather than a deep recession that will correct itself. The pincer movement (his words!) of technology and globalisation is squeezing “people who get paid a decent wage for skilled but routine work in manufacturing or services.”
Zakaria refers to David Autor, an MIT economist, who “is cautious and tentative, but it would seem that technology, followed by global competition, has played the largest role in making less valuable the routine tasks that once epitomized middle-class work.”
Is there a positive way forward? Zakaria has some suggestions – none of which are easy or painless!
The title of the second chapter of Bill Hybel’s The Power of a Whisper not only succinctly sums up the chapter, but reveals something extremely important for all of humanity to know about their Creator: “…God is a communicating God. Always has been, and always will be.”
Bill recalls the account of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. At Horeb, the LORD whispers to Elijah to stand on the mountain (v11). And then after a mighty wind, earthquake and fire (all of which, God “was not in”) we read that the LORD communicated with Elijah in a whisper (v12). Bill then gives this magnificent statement about God:
“He is all-powerful, yes. He is righteous and holy too. He is sovereign, He is majestic, He is magnificent, He is just. But what stunned Elijah in the side of that mountain – and what will stun you someday if it hasn’t already – is that the same God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-everything, yearns to be in relationship with us. The God of the Scriptures is irrepressibly communal, hopelessly familial, and His whispers are still ours to hear.”
What a wonderful summary! And don’t miss the super-important truth for us all: God yearns to be in relationship with us.
Bill Hybels then takes us on a biblical theology tour from Creation (Gen 1) all the way through to the Book of Revelation demonstrating that our God is a speaking God. The issue, rightly put forward by our author, isn’t whether or not God is speaking (through all of history and still today, God communicates); it is whether we will have ears to hear what He says.
That’s it. It is a very personal question. Am I listening to God? Are you listening to God?
Prison Fellowship, founded by Chuck Colson, has been, and continues to be, wonderfully used by the Lord to bring transformation in prisoners lives throughout the world, their families and indeed communities.
Deep Creek Anglican Church has had a long association with Prison Fellowship with members of our church undertaking key leadership roles in Prison Fellowship Victoria and in the South Pacific. Our young adults have also been active in PF Camps for Kids & Teens.
Chuck Colson has recently been interviewed by Kathryn Schultz of Slate, a magazine that has described his story as how “a Watergate crook became America’s greatest Christian conservative.”
The interview is well worth reading. Here are just as few responses that caught my attention:
If Watergate didn’t prompt your conversion, do you feel that your conversion affected how you handled Watergate?
Oh, yes. One day I did a show with Mike Wallace. This was when Watergate was absolutely at a fever pitch and the trials were going to begin and by this time I’d been indicted. He asked me how I could be a friend of Richard Nixon, given the things Nixon had said on the tapes. And I said, “Well, he’s my friend and I don’t turn my back on my friend.”
I got home that night and realized that there was no way I could be a good witness for Christ if I compromised on what I could say, or was not as fully honest as I could be. So I decided the best thing I could do was plead guilty. I sent my lawyers into the Watergate prosecutors to say I wouldn’t plea bargain, and that I had not done what they charged me with [conspiracy to cover up the Watergate burglary], but here was something I had done [obstruction of justice]—and if they wanted to charge me with that, I would plead guilty. And I did.
Christianity also preaches humility and an awareness of our human fallibility. Yet evangelicalism presupposes that you have access to the absolute truth about God. How do you square those two things?
I don’t think it’s hard to do at all. If you’re a Jew, you believe exactly what you’re taught, which is that you’re born of the covenant people. If you’re a Hindu, you believe exactly what Hindus teach about reincarnation, about karma and consciousness, about the idea that we are a dream in the mind of God. These are all truth claims. And I respect everybody’s right to make a truth claim.
My truth claim is that Jesus says, “No man comes to the Father but through me.” Therefore I want people to come to Christ because I want them to be forgiven of their sins. It is a truth claim, but it is not an exclusive truth claim, because what Jesus is saying is: Everybody is free to come. You don’t have to be born in to a certain heritage. You have to believe a certain thing. Everybody is free to come and be forgiven. That’s my truth claim.
What exactly does it mean to “respect” everyone’s truth claims, given that in the end you’re trying to get everyone to recognize your truth claim as the real one?
We can’t all be right. Ultimately I want everybody to find what I have found in life, I want to share it with people. But I also recognize that all religions have good things in them, and a lot of them share many common values. I believe moral teaching is universal, I believe we are made with a desire for certain goals and outcomes, that that’s just the way we’re wired. So Hindus have some very good values, Muslims do too. I don’t feel exclusive. I think a lot can be learned from different faiths.
In the end, you’ve got to decide for you, what is the right road to God? And Christians in that sense don’t have any wiggle room. We’re not given any leeway in that.
We have been thinking about God whispering into our lives. Here is a great story posted on the Jesus Creed. It wonderfully reveals the Father’s love for His children.
“Before we go out to the world we must come back to the Lord. If we want to change the world we must first change our own hearts and ways. As we take the words of the Gospel to the world we must also take with us words of confession to God, and before we get off our seats to seek the lost we need to get on our knees to seek the Lord.”
You can read the Christianity Today report here.
Bill Hybels begins with recollecting life as a seven year old at a Christian school. One day the teacher told the story of young Samuel and Eli (1 Sam 3). Billy was struck by the story. He asked his teacher: “Does God still speak to little boys?”
The teacher’s reply was beautiful: “Oh yes, Billy. He most certainly does. And if you learn to quiet yourself and listen, He even eill speak to you. I am sure of it.” The teacher followed up with a poem for Billy:
“Oh! Give me Samuel’s ear, An open ear, O Lord, Alive and quick to hear, Each whisper of Thy Word; Like him to answer to Thy call, And to obey Thee first of all.”
Bill Hybels then recalls how as a 17 year old, the Lord whispered the truths of Tit 3:5 into his heart and he committed his life to Jesus. Bill then shares his journey through to telling his young, pregnant wife “That I am hearing whispers form God about starting a church from scratch in a distant suburb.”
With Willow Creek consuming much of his time and energy, Bill reluctantly agreed to provide some leadership training for a group of pastors. At the conclusion, God whispered to him, “Serve pastors.” And so the Willow Creek Association was birthed. Some years later, while speaking in Lucerne, Switzerland again the Lord whispered to Bill, “Serve pastors beyond the borders of the United States.”
Responding to that “whisper in Lucern” has been costly – for Bill, his family and Willow Creek. Bill Hybels concludes this first chapter with this reflection:
“We only live once, and I much prefer the idea of standing before God one day, having done His bidding to the best of my understanding than to face Him knowing full well that I ignored His voice and sidestepped the tougher promptings I received.”
As I read Bill’s account, I was reminded of a very clear whisper in the mid 1990s. I had only been a follower of Jesus for about six years and was attending an Easter Convention. The preacher spoke from Luke 5:1-11. I thought the Lord whispered into my ear: “I want you to go into full-time ministry some time.” I was a keen Christian but this was a challenging whisper. Our youngest son, then four years old, required 24 hour care and nearly lived at the Children’s Hospital. I knew enough about church pastoring to know that this was no romp in the park. So I took a copy of the Convention message on cassette (remember them!), went to my favourite beach, listened to the message again and the whisper was unmistakeable. I climbed out of the car, and stood up to physically demonstrate I had heard the Lord and was willing to serve.
Many years went by. I often reflected on that whisper – in the business of corporate life, church commitments and great demands at home. Then came a time when it was clear that the Lord was providentially saying, “This is the time.”
The rest is a long story. But I know I heard that whisper many years before correctly. I’m where the Lord wants me. Has it been costly? Certainly. Perhaps some different costs to Bill Hybels but very real. As a family we are currently living through multiple and great trials of suffering, while seeking to be a caring and faithful shepherd to our church. But the costs do not diminish the thrill of God speaking into my life; of serving Him; of seeing the Holy Spirit’s transformation in many people’s lives, and of seeing God’s kingdom grow.
We return to Jesus Manifesto after a bit of a break. And chapter five is simply a magnificent chapter. Why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted in the words of this chapter to the place that is truly His – preeminence.
How do the authors, Sweet and Viola, get our attention focussed on Jesus? By firstly warning us to stay well clear of two frequently dug ditches ”on either side of the razor edge of truth.”
- Ditch #1: Theological rationalism. This ditch holds that at the heart of authentic Christianity is the correct belief system. What is the effect of digging this ditch? Jesus becomes subordinated to a human description. When being a Christian is staying in Ditch #1, then “we become insulated from the challenges posed by the reality of Jesus, which always exceeds our present descriptions of Him.”
- Ditch #2: Theological ethics. When you stay in this ditch, you are not following the living Christ but a set of moral principles that are attributed to Him.” Jesus simply becomes a means to an end.
To be a Christian is to have our life focussed on the main event – Jesus. The One in whom God’s truth and God’s way are embodied. Jesus’ teachings cannot be separated from His Person.
And because the fullness of God dwells in Jesus, there is ALWAYS more of Him to know and experience. You cannot constrain Jesus to a man developed systematic theology.
When we say “yes” to Jesus, “you are saying yes to a person, not to a proposition.”
So how do the authors describe Christianity?
“It is a passionate love for a way of living in the world that’s rooted in living by Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life.”
So what do we do with our theologies? Chuck them? No, they are to “flow organically from our loving relationship to Christ,…never to substitute for it.”
The authors finish this inspiring chapter with a call to all: “lay hold of the “real thing” – Jesus.” AMEN.
I’ve just started reading Bill Hybel’s recent book, The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God. Having the Guts to Respond. In the Introduction, Bill comments:
“…I’ve come to believe that hearing the quiet whisper of the transcendent God is one of the most extraordinary privileges in all of life – and potentially the most transforming dynamic in the Christian faith.”
That’s been exactly my own experience – especially in recent years. This experiential dynamic of being a follower of Jesus I find simply exhilarating. I have found that there are a number of prerequisites to hearing God clearly – and foremost is having my mind and heart saturated with the Word of God.
Bill concludes his introductory comments with this invitation:
“If you lower the ambient noise of your life and listen expectantly for those whispers of God, your ears will hear them. And when you follow their lead, your world will be rocked. Let’s get started.”
Join me as we journey through the ten chapters of The Power of a Whisper.