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Finding the Keys to Culture and to the Human Heart (part 1)

It’s amazing I get to meet with such wonderful people like yourselves. It’s always a great honor; I never take it lightly. It’s a privilege to be here, particularly among a group of people who love the Gospel and who believe in the Gospel – it has brought us together and we are committed to proclaiming it.
It’s precisely at the time in this country where the word “evangelical” is under threat, which I believe, is to what really constitutes a gospel people. I believe it always has to look like Jesus and I think it’s a critical time for us to be talking about evangelism and the Gospel – that these stand behind it. So it’s a privilege to be able to do that now.
It’s hard to know what to say at the end of a conference, which I believe has been amazing – I only arrived last night. What can I add that hasn’t already been said? So I thought I’d start off with a bit of a story which no one else can tell because it’s a very personal one.  But it’s one that will highlight something that has triggered in my life a serious search and research into a topic that I believe relates directly to the issue of evangelism in our time.
So about a year and a half ago, my dad passed away. Now we’d been living in America for about nine years. He’s not been well for a while. So you know dad goes in the hospital, you think: “Do I go back (to Australia)? Is it the last time?” Nonetheless, my brother called me and said, “Look, I do think this is the time – he’s not…he’s going.” And so we packed up and off we went back to Australia to be with him in his last time. And true enough he really wasn’t well. So we were there.
My dad…you cannot accuse him of being a believer in God. He didn’t believe in God. He was somewhat of a naughty kind of man. And, you know [he] is always kind of having “a go” at the “Christian thing.” He didn’t quite understand. He was a Jewish dad and he never understood how his two Jewish boys became these amazing kind of “believer types.”

He wasn’t a very thoughtful man, but he would dig around in pop culture to find things that make sense…as everyone will, right? Which I will make a point of, later.

In the 80s there was a guy called Erich von Däniken. Some of you might remember him, he wrote the book The Chariot of the Gods. It was like this cheesy thing about the aliens coming, and they got hold of some kind of animals and experimented and then created the human race. They would visit us from time to time – and the pyramids and all that. And for some reason that was dad’s schtick. So here we are and we’re visiting with him – my wife Debra was with me and my brother and they’re all believers – he’s asking about the rod and the staff in Psalm 23. And now I’m thinking I know what he meant by that. Because he believed the rod and the staff were things that the aliens gave to Moses that gave him superpowers so he could split the waters and stuff. He had this sort of theory now. But of course, all the other Christians in our group were thinking, “He’s asking about the Bible” and I’m thinking, “No, he’s not. He is putting the bird up at us – right on his deathbed!”
So I was a little angry with him on this – I thought “Really dad? Right at the end? Should you be taking pot shots at us?” Anyway, so one night we were having a meal together, and they phone from the hospital and said, “He’s dying. You should come in now.” So off we go, a very fraught moment. If you’ve been around a family member that is dying, it’s awful. I’ve seen both my parents go that way. Awful. Anyway, we’re all around the table and it’s a fraught moment. So I think, “Well you know he’s dying – he can’t say anything – let’s read some Bible to him. I spotted a Gideon Bible right next to the bin. So I got the Bible, but couldn’t read because I was too emotional. Deb said, “Well, he’s been asking about Psalm 23 the whole week, why don’t we read him Psalm 23?” And I said, “That’s a good idea.”
But we couldn’t read it, so we handed it off to my brother, and my brother begins to read. And I’m looking at my dad, as the Bible reading goes down the line. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…and your rod and staff will comfort me.” And literally on that verse – he dies. Literally. On that verse.
I’m thinking, “What does that possibly mean? How do we understand…how do I understand this thing?” And the fact that this has kind of been his “bugbear” verse all this time. And he goes into eternity with that ringing in his mind. I thought, “I’ve got to take this seriously.”
On reflection on that [whole experience], it was a rebuke to me because I believe that people are often giving us the keys to their life. And I believe that I was dismissive of dad like, “Don’t be stupid about the aliens and all that stuff…well that doesn’t make any sense. Who created the aliens? You still have to deal with the issue of ‘God.’” But actually I never really listened to him on that, I never really pursued it with him on his own terms. And for him it was important. For whatever reason, it was something that he did his research on – for whatever reason. I never really respected that. And the thing is that I felt like something of a rebuke – I’m not responsible for him in that regard. But I felt a rebuke to think that my dad was giving me the key to his heart and if I had pursued that, maybe, maybe that was his way to find God. And, I missed the opportunity.
And so, it really got to me – the idea that I should, now, pursue this idea of “keys to the human heart.”
I believe that people are, in so many ways which we do not recognize, giving us keys that say, “Here!”
It’s the same with the culture. The culture’s been giving us the keys all along, but we just stand and look at them because we are not attuned to them. And this is partly because our frequencies as Evangelicals, at this point in time, are tuned to 16th century issues.
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