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Friday, September 25, 2015

He Was Imprisoned 14 Times

On April 5, 1796, a young Norwegian had a life-altering encounter with God one day while walking behind a plow, singing a hymn. Hans Nielsen Hauge was so overwhelmed, he couldn't describe the joy. He began telling others about the resurrected Lord, preaching and teaching all over Norway, and a spiritual awakening ensued.

Hauge had the evangelistic fervor of Wesley, combined with the business acumen of a Moravian−on steroids. He knitted gloves and socks has he traveled on foot, giving them to the poor as he went. He started businesses all over Norway, creating jobs in fishing industries, brick yards, shipping operations, salt mines and paper mills. 

The "Haugians" who followed him founded factories and industrial projects throughout Norway in the 19th Century. This may have something to do with the fact that out of 187 nations in the 2014 United Nations Human Development Index, Norway ranks #1. Frances Sejersted, former president of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, once remarked, "The Hauge movement was a major contributing factor for developing democracy in Norway."

Hauge did not remain silent when it came to sharing the Truths of God’s Word, even when it got him into trouble with the Norwegian State Church. He was imprisoned 14 times for violating the Konventikkel Ordinance, which forbade preaching outside the Church of Norway. He spent 9 years in confinement, including one stint without seeing sunlight for nearly 4 years. Yet in spite of the resistance he met from Church leaders, Hauge encouraged his "Society of Friends" to remain in the state Church, because he believed the Church was the foundation of the nation.

On February 27, 1809, civil authorities released Hauge for six months during a five-year sentence so he could establish salt mines for the same government that imprisoned him! During that six months, Hague established no less than five salt mines. 

Hauge wrote 33 books over 18 years. It is estimated that 100,000 Norwegians read one or more of his books when only about 900,000 in the entire country were literate. To say Hauge had a profound influence upon the spiritual and economic life of Norway is an understatement. He had a wholistic understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and saw it as Good News for more than the soul. 

Hauge had no "sacred-secular divide," and all of Norway received the benefit. Every school child should know about him, in both public and private settings.

For more, click here.

Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771-1824), has been called the "Apostle of Norway." 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Something More Than Personal

Statue of John Wesley at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky. (Photo by Adam Davenport. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.)

"[It is] impossible to tell from a typical sermon whether the preacher [is] a follower of Confucius, Muhammad, or Jesus Christ.”

Sir William Blackstone, the famous 18th Century English jurist, made this observation after visiting the church of every major clergyman in London. Chuck Stetson, in his 2007 foreword to William Wilberforce’s A Practical View of Real Christianity, says Blackstone "did not hear a single discourse which had more Christianity in it than the writings of Cicero.”

It wasn't just British society that was in trouble. The church was, too.
But in 1739, John Wesley, his heart having been “strangely warmed” by the Holy Spirit, began to preach a different message in open-air meetings. It was during this period, in 1786, that William Wilberforce experienced his own personal spiritual awakening, which he called his “great change.”

I wonder if William Wilberforce’s "great change" would have occurred at all, apart from the spiritual awakening  in which John Wesley played such a significant role. It was Wilberforce's personal "great change" that drove him to abolish the slave trade, and "reform the manners" of the British.

When it comes to evangelism and social reform, it is not a matter of "either-or," but "both-and." Yes, a personal relationship with Christ is at the heart of real Christianity. Without this, Christianity is a dead religion. But Christianity is something more than personal.

When we live out our faith in the context of our whole lives, including our work lives, we will affect the surrounding culture. The history of ancient Rome bears this out. Athenagoras described the early Christians of Rome to Marcus Aurelius this way:

"With us...you will find unlettered people, tradesmen and old women, who though unable to express in words the advantages of our teaching, demonstrate by acts the value of their principles. For they do not rehearse speeches, but evidence good deeds. When struck they do not strike back; when robbed, they do not sue; to those who ask, they give, and they love their neighbors as themselves." [Athenagoras, in A Plea Regarding Christians.]

These tradesmen and grandmothers "demonstrated by acts the value of their principles." The outcome, over time, was a different Rome. This, too, is the legacy of Wesley and Wilberforce: the personal affecting the public.

As followers of Christ, we can make a difference, for individuals and for nations, if we "demonstrate by acts the value of our principles." 

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Friday, September 11, 2015

On The Anniversary Of 9-11

William Wilberforce (1759-1833), member of the British Parliament.

In the time of William Wilberforce, 25% of the single women in London were prostitutes. Liquor flowed so plentifully that it became known as the “Gin Age.”

Chuck Stetson, in his Foreword to a 2007 reprint of Wilberforce’s work, A Practical View of Real Christianity, writes that “gambling was a national obsession and ruined thousands,” and, “daylight fornication [was practiced] on the village green.” Stetson also writes of “auctioning one’s wife at a cattle market,” and “executions, known as Hanging Shows” attracted huge crowds.

He goes on: “…murder, general lawlessness, thieves and highwaymen were so prevalent that Horace Walpole warned, ‘One is forced to travel, even at noon, as if one were going to battle.’” In addition, false signals were lit at night on the seashore to lure ships into rocks where the shipwrecks were plundered, with no regard for drowning sailors.

Merry Olde England?

William Wilberforce was one of those followers of Christ who, like the New York fire fighters on 9-11, headed into the problem rather than away from it. It is appropriate on the anniversary of 9-11 to consider the life and influence of Wilberforce.

As a member of the British Parliament, Wilberforce was active in politics when converted to Christianity in his 20s. At first, he thought about leaving politics and going into “the ministry.” But John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote the words to Amazing Grace, persuaded Wilberforce that a strong follower of Christ was needed in Parliament. Thank God for Newton’s advice.

Wilberforce is most famous for his tireless efforts to abolish the slave trade. This was a goal that took him twenty years to accomplish. But Wilberforce had a second stated mission in life: “the reformation of manners.”

Wilberforce was not talking about British table manners. He was referring to British culture. The culture described above. And this might be another reason Newton urged Wilberforce to use his influence as a follower of Christ in Parliament.

But there is more to the story of the reformation of Merry Olde England. God raised up another man whose name begins with a W: John Wesley.

Wilberforce and Wesley go hand-in-glove. I'll tell you why next week.

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Critical Issues

When September arrives, summer is past. This means my blogging break is over, and it's time to get back to writing!

This is my 7th season of blogging, which means I'm going to do things a bit differently this year. I can't really call it a "sabbatical," but instead of coming up with a new post every week, I'm going to send out some of the better posts from the past 6 years. This will  allow me to put some creative energies into making "Scribble Scribes."

The first Scribble Scribe I did was a few years ago, and I haven't done one since. They take time to create, but are worth the effort. I'd like to create a new Scribble Scribe every couple of months this year, and post them on my blog as they get done. 

Below is one I did a while back, called Critical Issues (if the video does not play, click here: https://youtu.be/v9ux8UeqYFM).

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