12 April 2013 by Natasha Kim CM –
Philip Yancey spoke at Full Gospel Assembly K.L (FGAKL) recently about “Growing in Grace”. He is a well established American Christian Author and is one if the best-selling evangelical Christian authors, having sold 14 million books worldwide. Today, he is the editor-at-large for Christianity Today and a member of the editorial board of Books and Culture (a magazine affiliated with Christianity Today). In addition to that, he is also a well sought after speaker who travels the world. He now resides in Colorado which he claims would be the biggest state in the United States, if all the mountains were ironed down flat!
About His Past
Born in Atlanta, he grew up in the nearby suburbs. When he was only a year old, his father was afflicted with polio, where he was surviving on life support. One day, their Church members suggested that his father go off life support in faith that God would heal him. However, it didn’t work, as his father soon passed away.
Yancey’s negative experiences with the Church including this one caused him to lose his faith. He encountered racism and even though they taught about faith and love, he didn’t experience much of it. “I began my journey back mainly by encountering a world very different than I had been taught, an expansive world of beauty and goodness. Along the way I realized that God had been misrepresented to me. Cautiously, warily, I returned, circling around the faith to see if it might be true” he said.
Ever since he began his journey of discovering faith, he explored basic questions and the mysteries of Christian faith, taking millions of readers with him along the way. He shared, “I write books for myself,” I’m a pilgrim, recovering from a bad church upbringing, searching for a faith that makes its followers larger and not smaller. I feel overwhelming gratitude that I can make a living writing about the questions that most interest me. My books are a process of exploration and investigation of things I wonder about and worry about.”
During the course of his life, Yancey attended Bible College where he met his wife Janet. He also graduated with two degrees in Communications and English from Wheaton College and the University of Chicago. In 1971, he served as editor for eight years with a sister publication of Christianity Today. His experience includes writing for publications such as Readers Digest, Chicago Tribune Magazine, National Wildlife and many others.
Now, he spends about an hour each morning reading spiritually nourishing books. He meditates and prays as well which helps him “align” himself with God for the day. With that he explained that, “I tend to go back to the Bible as a model, because I don’t know a more honest book.”
In search for Answers
During the evening service, Yancey came on stage and what stood out to me the most was his hair! It was amazingly curly and afro-like. I’ve personally never seen hair like that on any other speaker I’ve set my eyes on.
Yancey started off by talking about prayer and said, “Surveys show that more people pray than believe in God…Prayer is kind of a natural thing, it’s something we want to do and yet very few people feel good about prayer.” Very few people are unsure about their prayer life thinking, “I should probably do it more often.” He went on to say that the best explanation about prayer that he’s heard is from an American author named Anne Lamott who distills prayer into “Help, Thanks, and Wow”. Prayers in fact aren’t very complicated.
“I write books about things I don’t know anything about. If I have an important question I write a book about it because this gives me a chance to study and research it.” he said honestly.
Now his friend whom he calls “Bud” runs a ministry called, “Make Hotels for the Homeless”. Bud had a program where he helped the homeless and taught them skills such as plumbing and more. “He would take these crews of formerly homeless people and take old buildings and rehab them.” he said. These crews were transforming buildings and making hotels for other homeless people!
In his quest to find answers Yancey asked Bud, “Have you ever seen an empirically, verifiable, undeniable, supernatural, miracle of God in response to your prayers?” Bud answered, “Well sure all the time! Haven’t you?”
Bud then started telling him about his recent experience in Chicago, where he rented a machine called the sand blaster (a machine that knocks off dirt from buildings) to rehab an old building that was covered with grime and soot. It was a strong machine which required Bud to wear protective gear. Problem was he didn’t know that the machine was defective and it was pumping carbon monoxide into his helmet. Unknowingly he inhaled that poison gas and passed out in a row of bushes.
At that time, Bud’s friend who was driving several hours away to a different state had a sense that Bud needed him. He called but no one answered of course because Bud was at the site lying unconscious. He prayed for Bud and kept passed the highway to Chicago, but that strong sense bothered him and finally decided to drive five more hours to get there. When he got there he got word on where Bud was working and found him, took him to the hospital and saved his life.
With that Bud said to Yancey, “Don’t you think that’s a miracle?” Yancey answered, “Yeah, but forgive me I’m a cynic. Let me ask you one question, why didn’t God pick on somebody closer?” Continuing his story he said Bud shot back with an irrefutable answer and said, “Maybe God spoke to hundreds of people that day but my friend was the only one listening, not eagerly listening, but he kept tuning in. My definition of prayer isn’t telling God what I want Him to do, my definition of prayer is tuning in to find out what God wants done, being accessible, being available to God.” Yancey then realised he got it all wrong.
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