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Break Open the Sky: Saving Our Faith from a Culture of Fear Paperback – May 23, 2017
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“We live in a brave new world where terrorism, racism, and bigotry drive an engine of fear in our society and within our churches. Bauman tackles these topics head-on, compelling us by God’s love and exciting us by his grace to reject fear, embrace risk, and rediscover faith to care for people in the shadows. Break Open the Sky is a much-needed and valuable work that speaks to our current landscape in a fresh, new way.”
—Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Endowed Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism, Wheaton College
"I think I can say that it is one of the best books I've read this year, a study of global pressures, social concern, and why fear seems to grip us in ways that aren't helpful or faithful. Formerly the director of World Relief, Stephan and his wife have travelled all over the world and the stories here are from brave folks on every continent. This is incisive in its examination of why we are too often unwilling to follow God's call into the world of need, offering service and faithfulness, and he inspires us gently to care more, understand more, give more of ourselves to be present to the pain and the joy of it all. It ends up being—it doesn't say this until the end and you then see it—a study of the Beatitudes. What a great book about how to live well in our fearful, complicated, even dangerous times."
“Rarely do I read something with such deep spiritual analysis, profound insight, and poetic storytelling as Stephan Bauman’s new book Break Open the Sky. For those who think they already know the good news of Christ but still long for more, this short, honest, and beautifully written book is what you have been waiting for. Break Open the Sky is a timeless contribution to Christian and human spirituality.”
—Ken Wytsma, president of Kilns College, founder of The Justice Conference, and the author of The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith
“A journey not for the faint of heart, Break Open the Sky is an invitation to live out an authentic faith in the midst of fear…, an invitation to hope!”
—Tom Lin, president and CEO of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
“Humanitarian Stephan Bauman has witnessed love conquering fears, but he has also seen fear stymie faith’s best intentions. His lessons from his life of global service can help us shed our fears and reawaken our commitments to that ‘sociological impossibility,’ the global Christian community.”
—David Neff, former editor in chief of Christianity Today (retired)
“In uncertain and anxious times, Break Open the Sky is a critically important book for those who want not just to survive but to thrive. It is for those who want to find joy and power and impact in any season, especially the challenging ones. This is must reading for anyone who wants to go deeper into God and deeper into the real world we live in. This book couldn’t be more timely.”
—Rev. Bill Haley, executive director of Coracle
“In the tumultuous days we are living in, when fear seems to be overtaking the hearts of so many, Stephan Bauman’s Break Open the Sky comes like a torch in the darkness. This book amplifies the very good news of an upside-down kingdom and is a clarion call to live out a faith that is honest, gritty, and beautiful.”
—Rob Morris, president and cofounder of Love146
“Stephan has been an eyewitness to real fear factors that have disrupted lives and derailed nations. With this book Stephan delivers a rich treasure trove of personalities and stories accumulated in his journey through this globe’s minefield of violence, disaster, and disregard. This book is an entertaining and thought-provoking travel guide offering a way to joy in the midst of insecurity.”
—Steve Haas, catalyst, World Vision
“Stephan Bauman’s artistry with words puts a new lens on old truths and a new way to view the events of our day that leave me feeling encouraged and courageous. This book is a must read for individuals, small groups, and university classes who truly want to live as God’s peculiar people—fearless when the world says to be fearful, seeing abundance when the world cleaves to its storehouses of wealth, seeing ‘the other’ as the ones who Jesus calls us to reach out to, especially now.”
—Dr. Beth Birmingham, senior director of Leadership and Staff Development, Compassion International; Associate Faculty, Eastern University
“Stephan Bauman is a unique mix of visionary, poet, strategist, and pastoral leader. Break Open the Sky is a book of hope in a world gripped by a culture of fear. Hope is out there. It may be messy and raw, but it’s glorious. Life isn’t about living with an absence of fear; it’s about taking the risk to love anyway. Stephan points to a deeper understanding of the nature of God, one that he’s witnessed firsthand in countless stories from around the world.”
—Mark and Vickie Reddy, The Justice Conference
“Break Open the Sky is not just a title …. It breaks open your heart, mind and soul with a hunger to pursue more. Packed with conviction and examples of real faith in the most desperate places in the world, wrapped with a depth of love that Jesus longs to see in all His people. A word desperately needed in these times!”
—Jo Anne Lyon, Ambassador, General Superintendent, Emerita, The Wesleyan Church
About the Author
Stephan Bauman is the author of Seeking Refuge and Possible and the former president of World Relief, a church-based international relief and development agency that reaches more than five million vulnerable people a year. An ordained minister, he holds degrees from John Hopkins University, Wheaton College, and the University of Wisconsin. Stephan and his wife, Belinda, and their two sons live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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Stephan Bauman does an excellent job of covering areas in our lives that keep us almost in a perpetual state of fear. One, in particular, is the desperate need to avoid suffering. Do Christian's pain and loneliness with more grace and dignity than the average person? It's difficult to understand the purpose of it, we're afraid of it. I know I harbor a fear of losing my loved ones. Despite knowing that most are saved, I still don't want to live a life without them. I can't even begin to imagine what others throughout the world go through. It's difficult to enough to lose someone to an illness, but what about injustice?
Are we willing to take risks, to live boldly in Christ? Do we answer His calling with "Yes, Lord, but..." Do the "what ifs" get in the way of what we can accomplish with God? Bauman notes that part of the problem is our fear of failure. I don't know about you, but I hate failing. When I lead music on Sunday mornings and I mess up the song, inside I chastise myself (and will continue to do so for the rest of the day). In another instance, I've wanted to help an organization for abused women and children, but am I good enough? Will I actually be able to help and give them what they need? Or will they roll their eyes are my attempt? That fear has caused me to stall on volunteering.
"I fixate on my mistakes and internalize rejection (real or perceived) and sometimes shame too, while others - God included - see an entirely different reality." -Break Open the Sky, Bauman
Fear also gripped me when I was pushed to join a juvenile hall Christmas party. I grew up obeying rules, getting an "A" in most classes in school. I wasn't abused. I had a loving family. I got a job, I saved up and bought a car. My life was ordinary. It still is.
So how can I possibly connect with kids that have gone through so much? What could I bring to them that they'd actually want or need? There was a fear of failing to show them Christ's love. Fear of failing to play the music well enough or looking like a fool why singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Or, worse yet, showing that love only to be rejected. Praying for courage, I've gone to this event for the last three years and will continue to do so as long as I can. And it always surprises me. They enjoy the silliness of Rudolph and get teary-eyed with Silent Night. And most of all, they crave love. So whenever I think "Who am I to fill this need?" I stop myself. Because I'm merely a vessel and my sole purpose is to bring God's love to them.
Bauman has it right. We need to be bold, to push aside our fears, so that Christ's love can shine brightly for those in need. When our fears get in the way, it dims that light or snuffs it. It may even distort it. That fear can prevent me from getting to know amazing people. How do I manage each year? I take a breath and jump feet first. Pray. Ignore my doubts, my inner voice. As Nike's slogan says, "Just do it".
In a world full of suffering, Break Open The Sky shows us how we can live boldly for Christ. This book would make for a great personal read to help with spiritual growth, but also could lend itself well to a Bible study. Stephen Bauman offers a lot of great insight, scriptures to back up his points and additional resources to further the thought. I highly recommend this read for those that crave to do more for this world in Christ's name. I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
How would it change our lives if we humbly accepted suffering as an expected reality in our walk of faith as we uphold and champion justice - rather than trying to explain or justify suffering, embrace and learn from it in humility and patience and love? Bauman argues that "meek" is not weak; Jesus came in meekness. He did not validate suffering, he protested against it, and he pitched his tent alongside those who experienced it. Bauman writes, "When you take risk by doing the right thing you will face criticism. Risk and persecution go hand in hand." He challenges us to reject fear and rediscover bold faith, to talk less and live more. "What if we were to get serious about becoming poor in spirit, thirsty for righteousness and justice, impassioned for peacemaking, and absolutely merciful?"
This quote from Break Open the Sky sums up the heart of the message well, "...if you persevere, the hard times will forge in you a new faith, a bold faith, an indispensable faith, strong enough to course correct a church or a community or even a nation. Rest assured, an ocean of grace awaits any who dare to dip a toe." I loved this book because it echoes the same devout and courageous message of faith of our grandparents, yet with complete relevance in today's world - even on the cutting edge of justice and culture. A definite "must read"!
Both Bible, and Christians elsewhere can teach so much on meekness, peacemaking, being poor in spirit, faith, truth, and love. This book is not self-help guide #67,873 to become better people. It hopes to rediscover God's plan with mankind to shine His light, provide hope and shelter, make His Kingdom visible on Earth. Christian life should be divine and dusty, uncertain, and adventurous again. Bauman shares a lot from his experience on Mercy Ships and mission field trips throughout the world. He knows the theologians and thinkers he's quoting, and really appeals to fellow believers that find their lives locked up in this very cage of fear that shouldn't be there. Let's break open the sky, and disrupt the culture of fear!