I’m just back from my Spring European tour, this trip spending most of my time in Germany with a day or two in Prague, Switzerland and Rome. One of the joys of visiting Europe every year is learning new things about about the stories and events that have shaped our world. Here’s eight things I learnt on my latest trip, plus a video clip with some of the ministry highlights (watch here)!
1. Relations between Protestants and Catholics have not always been as peaceful as they are today. During the Reformation period in the Czech Republic, conflict was partly resolved by one religious group throwing the other out of the window from a very tall tower. There’s even a term for it: “defenestration”.
So today if you go to a party in the Czech Republic you may be warned not to stand near the window! (Photo: The Old Square in Prague where the first defenestration occurred in 1419. 21 council leaders were thrown from the window of the tower opposite.)
2. God can use anything to lead someone to him – even an American Indian rain-dance.
It was a privilege to meet the pastor of ICF Prague who shared his testimony with us. How does a person find God when they live in a country under communist control, they don’t know any Christians and Bibles are forbidden? Daniel Skokan shared his fascinating testimony with us as well as some of the challenges of building a church in one of the most atheistic countries of the world.
It’s been 15 years since the terrorist attacks on the United States on the morning of September 11, 2001. This story – perhaps one you haven’t heard – reminds us that even on our worst days, generosity has the power to open up our world.
It was Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001 and the passengers of Delta Flight 15 were told they would be diverting from Atlanta because of a simple instrument problem. Their new destination was to be Gander, a small town in Newfoundland Canada. As 52 other aircraft joined them one by one on the tarmac, there was no denying the fact that the captain had lied to keep them calm. While the world reeled with the images of tumbling office towers, the frightened passengers huddled overnight in the cabin wondering what would happen next.
Caring for the Plane People
The next day all 10,500 disoriented passengers disembarked and 10,400 unsuspecting townspeople lurched into action. Within hours volunteers of all ages gathered to care for the ‘plane people’ as they came to be called. Buses arrived in convoy to ferry the passengers to their temporary homes. High schools, meeting halls and lodges were converted to mass lodging areas. Food was prepared by the residents, local restaurants provided free meals and bakeries worked tirelessly to provide enough fresh bread. Every need was thoughtfully considered and meticulously provided for; medical attention for the sick and pregnant, entry to the laundromats for fresh clothes; even day-excursions on cruises across the lake or hikes in the forest.
God’s words have the power to transform lives. Jesus said they are “spirit and they are life” (John 6:63) and that we can’t live without them (Matthew 4:4). Here’s a testimony from our online community that shows how God’s words bring grace and hope to the darkest of circumstances:
I looked around the room and thought I was going crazy. I had heard God’s voice. Was I imagining it?
A few years ago* I went into hiding from my ex-husband who had been threatening to kill my three children and I. My father revealed my location to my him after I denied him contact with our disabled son (who he had been beating). I asked God if he was really there since I couldn’t do it anymore and I needed his help.
The dispute with my father led him to get me charged with attempted arson. Within 17 hours of being taken from my children by the police, I found myself in a women’s correctional facility. I had lost everything – my children, my job, my study – and was about to lose my house. I had not done what my father claimed but he chose to betray me anyway. I was broken. I couldn’t believe what had happened or where I was. Anyone who knows me is astounded by what happened to me – it was surreal. At the time I also developed a medical condition – a form of PTSD – where I struggled to walk and would lose the ability to stand. This occurred most days and I would have to drag my legs around or use a wheelchair.
Some of you have heard the story of how God led me into ministry at a time when I didn’t believe women should be in ministry! As you can imagine it was a interesting journey. Then God asked me to take what I had learned and pass it onto others, and so the ministry of God Conversations for Women was born.
Today I’m very excited to announce the launch of a new teaching resource: God Conversations for Women! In this 4-part CD teaching series we explore God’s heart for the 21st C woman in detail. We talk about the tough questions: why Jesus’ ideals of gender equality didn’t gain traction, the impact of the feminism movement, why some churches today still refuse to ordain women and what gender equality has to do with child marriage and gendercide.
1. Unlikely – My story of how a woman who doesn’t believe in female pastors ends up becoming one – and how God helped me work through the theological issues of my head, as well as the identity issues of my heart.
2. What the Bible Says about Women (and Men) This is a chunky message that aims to bring clarity to a complex and often controversial topic. We may believe in gender equality but why do some place limits of women and what about those unusual verses in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians that seem to contradict God’s heart?
I’ve always wanted to hear the audible voice of God. I imagined it booming forth, sending tremors through my body and swallowing me up in a mystical cloud, leaving me with no doubt where it came from. In fact, when I first started learning to hear God’s voice, this is what I expected. But sadly the booming voice never came. Yes, I’ve heard the voice of God many times, but it has never come out loud.
Perhaps you’ve had the same expectation – and perhaps with the same outcome. Part of the reason we expect God to speak out loud is due to the assumptions we bring to the Biblical accounts. We read; “And God said…” and we liken it to a friend talking with us across the table. But a closer look at Scripture reveals this to be a misplaced understanding. Hearing God’s voice should be understood more as a spiritual experience than a physical one.
A Spiritual Voice
When Jesus preached his sermons, he often closed with the line; “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (eg. Mark 4:9,23, Luke 8:8). The reason Jesus spoke in parables was to differentiate between those who had open hearts and those who didn’t. This should indicate to us that hearing God’s message wasn’t primarily a physical experience – after all, his audiences heard his words, yet many still wandered away. As Jesus said; “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Matthew 13:13, see also Ezekiel 12:2). Unlike these, we are exhorted to see with the “eyes of our hearts” (Ephesians 1:18) – the emphasis is on our spiritual eyes and ears, not our natural ones.