Sunday, June 7, 2015

Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?

Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? by Philip Yancey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love to read Philip Yancey. He always makes me think. This book was no exception. I highly recommend this book to everyone. I have lots of quotes to share. I trust they will challange you! Enjoy!

The Quakers have a saying: “An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.” To communicate to post-Christians, I must first listen to their stories for clues to how they view the world and how they view people like me.   ~Philip Yancey

… the issue is not whether I agree with someone but rather how I treat someone with whom I profoundly disagree. We Christians are called to use the “weapons of grace,” which means treating even our opponents with love and respect.    ~Philip Yancey

Often, it seems, we’re [Christians] perceived more as guilt dispensers than as grace dispensers.  ~Philip Yancey

God, help me to see others not as enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people. And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.  ~Henri Nouwen

… the core problem with Christians communicating faith: we do not always do so in love. That is an indispensable point to presenting faith in a grace-full way. ~Philip Yancey

Christians fail to communicate to others because we ignore basic principles in relationship. When we make condescending judgments or proclaim lofty words that don’t translate into action, or simply speak without first listening, we fail to love – and thus deter a thirsty world from Living Water. The good news about God’s grace goes unheard.  ~Philip Yancey

According to Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain. “The Hebrew [Old Testament] in one verse commands, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ but in no fewer than 36 places commands us to ‘love the stranger.’” He adds, “The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.”  ~Philip Yancey

Love has the power to win over the stranger. A news event in 1995 shocked both sides in the culture wars controversy. Norma Leah McCorvey, the “Jane Doe” of the famous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case of 1973, converted to Christ, got baptized, and joined the pro-life campaign. Most astoundingly, it was the director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue who influenced her. As she tells the story, the change occurred when that director stopped treating her like an antagonist. He apologized for publicly calling her “baby killer” and started spending time with her during her smoking breaks in the parking lot that, oddly enough, their offices shared. In time, McCorvey accepted an invitation to church from a seven-year-old girl, whose mother also worked at Operation Rescue. Pro-abortion forces had dismissed McCorvey – her dubious past of drug-dealing, alcohol, and promiscuity made bad public relations – but Christian leaders took the time to counsel her in the faith while keeping her out of the spotlight for some time.  In a command found in no other religion, Jesus bids us to show love not only to strangers and sinners but also to our outright adversaries.  ~Philip Yancey

The more we love, and the more unlikely people we love, the more we resemble God – who, after all, loves ornery creatures like us.  ~Philip Yancey

… learning humility is a prerequisite for grace.  ~Philip Yancey

Henri Nouwen says, “When we come to realize that … only God saves, then we are free to serve, then we can live truly humble lives.” Nouwen changed his approach from “selling pearls,” or peddling the good news, to “hunting for the treasure” already present in those he was called to love – a shift from dispensing religion to dispensing grace. It makes all the difference in the world whether I view my neighbor as a potential convert or as someone whom God already loves.  ~Philip Yancey

… the approach of admitting our errors, besides being most true to a gospel of grace, is also most effective at expressing who we are. Propaganda turns people off; humbly admitting mistakes disarms.  ~Philip Yancey

The uncommitted share many of our core values, but if we do not live out those values in a compelling way, we will not awaken a thirst for their ultimate Source.  ~Philip Yancey

… we need to reclaim the “goodnewness” of the gospel, and the best place to start is to rediscover the good news ourselves.  ~Philip Yancey

The Christian sees the world as a transitional home badly in need of rehab, and we are active agents in that project.  ~Philip Yancey

We respond to healing grace by giving it away.  ~Philip Yancey

An alcoholic friend once made this point by comparing church with AA, which had become for him a substitute church. “When I show up late to church, people turn and look at me. Some scowl, some smile a self-satisfied smile – See that person’s not as responsible as I am. In AA, if I show up late the meeting comes to a halt and everyone jumps up to greet me. They realize that my desperate need for them won out over my desperate need for alcohol.”  ~Philip Yancey

Ignatius of Loyola defined sin as refusing to believe that God wants my happiness and fulfillment. Human rebellion began in the Garden of Eden when said in effect, “Trust me. I know what is best for you.”  ~Philip Yancey

Unless we love natural goods – sex, alcohol, food, money, success, power – in the way God intended, we become their slaves, as any addict can attest.  ~Philip Yancey

Eugene Peterson points out that “the root meaning in Hebrew of salvation is to be broad, to become spacious, to enlarge. It carries the sense of deliverance from an existence that has become compressed, confined and cramped.” God wants to set free, to make it possible for us to live open and loving lives with God and our neighbors. “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free,” wrote the psalmist.  ~Philip Yancey

Perhaps the most powerful thing Christians can do to communicate to a skeptical world is to live fulfilled lives, exhibiting proof that Jesus’ way truly leads to a life most abundant and most thirst-satisfying.  ~Philip Yancey

I have come to think that the challenge confronting Christians is not that we do not believe what we say, though that can be a problem, but that what we say we believe does not seem to make any difference for either the church or the world. ~Stanley Hauerwas

I am convinced that if we lose kids to the culture of drugs and materialism, of violence and war, it’s because we don’t dare them, not because we don’t entertain them. It’s because we make the gospel too easy, not because we make it too difficult. Kids want to do something heroic with their lives, which is why they play video games and join the army. But what do they do with a church that teaches them to tiptoe through life so they can arrive safely at death?  ~Shane Claiborne

We should live in such a way that our lives wouldn’t make much sense if the gospel were not true.  ~Dorothy Day

Jesus once asked His disciples, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?” In that society, rife with slaves and servants, the question probably sounded rhetorical, if not ridiculous. No one envied a servant. Yet Jesus went on to say, “But I am among you as one who serves.” By serving others we follow Jesus, building up His kingdom step-by-step.   ~Philip Yancey

While discussing the growing antipathy toward Christians, a friend remarked to me, “There are three kinds of Christians that outsiders to the faith still respect: pilgrims, activists, and artists. The uncommitted will listen to them far sooner than to an evangelist or apologist.” Although nonbelievers do not oppose a spiritual search, they will listen only to those Christians who present themselves as fellow pilgrims on the way rather than as part of a superior class who has already arrived. Activists express their faith in the most persuasive way of all, by their deeds. And art succeeds when it speaks most authentically to the human condition when believers do so with skill, again the world takes note.   ~Philip Yancey

The church is, above all, a place to receive grace: it brings forgiven people together with the aim of equipping us to dispense grace to others.  ~Philip Yancey

“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” were the disciples’ last words to Jesus, and it was left to the angels to provide an indirect answer: “Why do you stand here looking into the shy?” Get moving – you’re the main actors now.   ~Philip Yancey

Again and again I tell God I need help, and God says, “Well isn’t that fabulous? Because I need help too. So you go get that old woman over there some water, and I’ll figure out what we’re going to do about your stuff.”   ~Anne Lamott

Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.  ~Eugene Peterson

Early in her career Mother Teresa of Calcutta was struck by Jesus’ words on the cross: “I thirst.” For her they came to symbolize not just physical thirst but God’s own thirst to draw humanity close. She made “I thirst” the motto for the Sisters of Charity, ordering those words to be displayed in every chapel of the society. “We carry in our body and soul the love of an infinite thirsty God,” she wrote one sister. “God thirsts. God thirsts for us and humanity thirsts for God.” God thirsts not out of need but out of desire, for God’s essence is love.  ~Philip Yancey

We lead our lives well when we love God with our whole being and when we love neighbors as we (properly) love ourselves.  ~Miroslav Volf

We, Jesus’ followers, are the agents assigned to carry out God’s will on earth. Too easily we expect God to do something for us when instead God wants to do it through us.  ~Philip Yancey

We preach sermons, write books on apologetics, conduct city-wide evangelistic campaigns. For those alienated from the church, that approach no longer has the same drawing power. And for the truly needy, words alone don’t satisfy; “A hungry person has no ears,” as one relief worker told me.  A skeptical world judges the truth of what we say by the proof of how we live.  ~Philip Yancey

The church works best not as a power center, rather as a countercultural community – in the world but not of it – that shows others how to live the most fulfilled and meaningful life on earth. In modern society that means rejecting the false gods of independence, success, and pleasure and replacing them with love for God and neighbor.  ~Philip Yancey

One Harlem preacher likens us to the pink plastic spoons at Baskin Robbins: we give the world a foretaste of what lies ahead, the vision of the Biblical prophets. In a world gone astray we should be activity demonstrating here and now God’s will for the planet.  ~Philip Yancey

Sacred music called the classical composers to their highest artistic achievements. Of his hundreds of works Beethoven wrote only two masses, yet he judged one of them, Missa Solemnis, his greatest composition. In their oratorios Handel and Mendelssohn served almost as evangelists, presenting the Biblical stories and themes in colorfully staged epics. Mozart and Haydn drifted toward religious themes mainly for economic reasons, as commissions for church events made it worthwhile. Even so, Mozart was so obsessed with the Requiem Mass he was striving to finish before his death that his doctor tried to take the manuscript away from him to enforce rest.  ~Philip Yancey

We cannot expect art always to uplift and inspire. In the words of Alan Paton, literature “will illuminate the road, but it will not lead the way with a lamp. It will expose the crevasse, but not provide the bridge. It will lance the boil, but not purify the blood. It cannot be expected to do more than this; and if we ask it to do more, we are asking too much.  ~Philip Yancey

We have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways but narrower viewpoints; we spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less; we have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, yet less time; we have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgment; more experts, yet more problems; we have more gadgets but less satisfaction; more medicine, yet less wellness; we take more vitamins but see fewer results. We drink too much; smoke too much; spend too recklessly; laugh too little; drive too fast; get too angry quickly; stay up too late; get up too tired; read too seldom; watch TV too much and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values; we fly in faster planes to arrive there quicker, to do less and return sooner; we sign more contracts only to realize fewer profits; we talk too much; love too seldom, and lie too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.  ~”The Paradox of Our Time” by Dr. Bob Moorehead

Faith is not simply a private matter, or something we practice once a week at church. Rather, it should have a contagious effect on the broader world. Jesus used these images to illustrate His kingdom.: a sprinkle of yeast causing the whole loaf to rise, a pinch of salt preserving a slab of meat, the smallest seed in the garden growing into a great tree in which birds of the air come to nest.   ~Philip Yancey

John Wesley taught that the gospel of Christ involved more than saving souls. It should have an impact on all of society, and his followers worked to accomplish just that. They were dispensing grace to the broader world, and in the process their spirit helped change a nation, saving it from the revolutionary chaos that had spread across Europe.  ~Philip Yancey

The reason we fear to go out after dark is not that we may be set upon by bands of evangelicals and forced to read the New Testament, but that we may be set upon by gangs of feral young people who have been taught that nothing is superior to their own needs or feelings.  ~David C. Stolinsky (Jewish medical educator)

In early 2014 Christianity Today published a cover story on a sociologist named Robert Woodberry, who had wondered why some countries take democracy so well while their next door neighbors wallow in corruption and bad government. Painstaking research led him to conclude that missionaries made the difference. They taught people to read, built hospitals, and gave a biblical foundation for basic human rights. He concluded, “Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations. ~Philip Yancey

Matthew Parris, a journalist and former member of parliament in the U.K., grew up in Africa. In 2008 he returned to his childhood home after forty-five years and wrote an article for The Times of London with the subtitle, “Missionaries, Not Aid Money, Are the Solution to Africa’s Biggest Problem – The Crushing Passivity of the People’s Mindset.”

He wrote, “Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can  - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing … .

The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, and engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open. …

What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

Alexander Tsiaras, a professor at the Yale Department of Medicine, entranced a sophisticated crowd at a TED conference with a video of the fetal stages from conception to birth. The video compresses nine months of growth and development into a nine-minute film.

A friend who is a physicist and also a committed Christian wondered whether celebrating creation can be a form of worship, even by those who do not acknowledge the Creator. He told of a conversion with someone who praised one of his books while admitting he could not recall the author’s name – totally unaware he was speaking to the author. “The praise was strangely more genuine for its inarticulate anonymity. I suspect, C.S. Lewis once speculated, that God may have more connection with honest atheists than many think.   ~Philip Yancey

As the quantum pioneer Erwin Schrodinger admitted, “The scientific picture of the world around me is very deficient. It gives me a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but is ghastly silent about all that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell a word about the sensation of red and blue, bitter and sweet, feelings of delight and sorrow. It knows nothing of beauty and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity.”  Another scientist expressed a similar thought: “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”   ~Philip Yancey

Long before He laid down earth’s foundation he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!)…

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.  ~The Message

Jesus represents a point of common ground an esteemed rabbi to the Jew, a god to the Hindu, an enlightened one to the Buddhist, a great prophet to the Muslim. Even to the New Age guru, Jesus is the pinnacle of God-consciousness. At the same time, Jesus is the divider. None but Christians see Him as a member of the Godhead on an exclusive mission to repair the broken world.  ~Philip Yancey

What would a church look like that created space for quietness, that bucked the celebrity trend and unplugged from noisy media, that actively resisted our consumer culture? What would worship look like if we directed it more toward God than toward our own amusement?  ~Philip Yancey

I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets – that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue – that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions – that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time – that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you – and I beg you to believe me – multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing  - less than nothing, a positive impediment – measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.  ~Malcolm Muggeridge, journalist and author

Why are we here? God wants us to flourish, and paradoxically we flourish best by obeying rather than rebelling, by giving more than receiving, by serving rather than being served. Six times in the Gospels Jesus iterated the deeper truth that we succeed not by acquiring more and more but by “losing” life through service to God and others. Centuries later the converted slave trader John Newton wrote in a hymn of the “solid joys and lasting treasure” that far exceed the fading “worldling’s pleasure.”

Jesus gave a vivid object lesson His last night with the disciples by washing their feet, like a servant. Parents know the self-giving principle by instinct as they pour their energies into their self-absorbed children. Volunteers in soup kitchens and hospices and mission projects learn this lesson by doing. What seems like sacrifice becomes instead a kind of nourishment because dispensing grace enriches the giver as well as the receiver.  ~Philip Yancey

According to Time magazine, “A research review published in BMC Public Health found that doing volunteer work – in such places as hospitals and soup kitchens that allow direct contact with the people you’ve helping  - may lower mortality rates by as much as 22% compared with those of nonvolunteers. Making such social connections increases life satisfaction and reduces depression and loneliness and in turn lowers the risk of hypertension, stroke, dementia and more.

If you read history you will find out that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.  ~C.S. Lewis

Christians have an important role to play in contending that no human life is “devoid of value.” We can do so through courageous protest, as happened in Germany, as well, as in compassionate care for the most vulnerable members of society, as Mother Teresa did. In both approaches theology – what one believes about God and human life – matters. The world desperately needs that good news.  ~Philip Yancey

Theology reminded me that, however diabolical the act, it did not turn the perpetrator into a demon. We had to distinguish between the deed and the perpetrator, between the sinner and the sin, to hate and condemn the sin while being filled with compassion for the sinner.  ~Bishop Desmond Tutu

Individuals and societies are not helpless victims of heredity. We have the power to change – not by looking “down” to nature but “up” to God, who consistently calls us forward to become the people we were designed to be. A confused world urgently needs a model of what that looks like. If Christians fail to provide that model, who will?  ~Philip Yancey

The shift in American society from admiring Christians to fearing and criticizing them provides an opportunity for self-reflection. How have we been presenting the message we believe in? Might there be a more grace-filled way?  ~Philip Yancey

Whoever desires to remain faithful to Jesus must communicate faith as he did, not by compelling assent but by presenting it as a true answer to basic thirst. Rather than looking back nostalgically on a time when Christians wielded more power, I suggest another approach: that we regard ourselves as subversives operating within the broader culture.  ~Philip Yancey

Our confused society badly needs a community of contrast, a counterculture of ordinary pilgrims who insist living a different way. Unlike popular culture, we will lavish attention on the least “deserving” in direct opposition to our celebrity culture’s emphasis on success, wealth, and beauty.  ~Philip Yancey

Christians are simply pilgrims who acknowledge their lostness and their desire for help in finding the way.  ~Philip Yancey

[In art] you are telling the reader or the listener or the viewer something he already knows but which he doesn’t quite know that he knows, so that in the action of communication he experiences a recognition, a feeling that he has been there before, a shock of recognition.  ~Walker Percy

Art involves an exchange between two parties: the creator and the receiver. C.S. Lewis explains the act of reading as “less concerned with altering our own opinions – though this of course is sometimes their effect  - than with entering fully into the opinions, and therefore also the attitudes, feelings, and total experience” of the author. While reading a good book I temporarily suspend my own life and enter an imaginative world created for me. Prior to that, the author has done almost the reverse: entering into the attitudes, feelings, and total experience of the reader. And here, I believe, is where Christians sometimes err in attempts to communicate faith: we fail to take into account the point of view of the other party.   ~Philip Yancey

God must love art because most of the Bible is expressed in the form of story or poetry.  ~Philip Yancey

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