Monthly Archives: May 2013


March 17th 2013 – Transcript is here


Begins by talking about the amount of stuff that we have (and later the realisation is that the thing that we consume eventually consumes us) and the whole storage industry (and a nice link with the man who built barns because he didn’t have enough room for his stuff).

There is also some meditation on keystone habits – habits that can have a transformative effect on us – like food journalling being one example.  The keystone habit of the early Christians was generosity.  They were not known for what they believe, but for their generosity.  The biggest worry that John Ortberg has about his congregation is not that they have the wrong doctrine, but that they are consumed with the love of money.

We will say things that money is not important, but that is a lie that we tell ourselves.  Look at our gameshows, they betray the real things that we value.  Nobody has a gameshow called “What wants to have a good character” or “What wants to develop more deep friendships.”

Final points are:

1. Generosity is how I learn the best stuff in life isn’t stuff.

2. Generosity creates radical humility before God

3. Generosity strikes at our keystone sin – the first sin was the sin of consumption

4. Generosity is God’s keystone habit

Finishes with a reverse offering where everyone is given a dollar bill with the legend on it “In God we Trust”

Professional Loneliness


A few years ago, when I was chaplain of the Holland-American line, I was standing on the bridge of a huge Dutch ocean liner which was trying to find its way through a thick fog into the port of Rotterdam.  The fog was so thick, in fact, that the steersman could not even see the bow of the ship.  The captain, carefully listning to a radar station operator who was explaining his position between other ships, walked nervously up and down the bridge and shouted his orders to the steersman.  When he suddenly stumbled over me, he blurted out: “God damn it, Father, get out of my way.”  But when I was ready to run away, filled with feelings of incompetence and guilt, he came back and said: “Why don’t you just stay around. This might be the only time that I need you.”

There was a time, not too long ago, when we felt like captains running our own ships with a great sense of power and self-confidence.  Now we are standing in the way.  This is our lonely position: We are powerless, on the side, liked maybe by a few crew members who swab the decks and goof off to drink a beer with us, but not taken very seriously when the weather is fine.  (page 87)

Being ready…


The Messiah, the story tells us, is sitting among the poor, binding his wounds one at a a time, waiting for the moment when he will be needed.  So it is too with the minister.  Since it is his task to make visible the first vestiges of liberation for others, he must bind his own wounds carefully in anticipation of the moment when he will be needed.  He is called to be the wounded healer, the one who must look after his own wounds but at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others.

Experience of the Spirit


How did D.L. Moody feel and act when the Spirit of God come upon him to transform his life and ministry?


‘I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit.  Well one day, in the city of New York – oh, what a day! – I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name.  Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years.  I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to say His hand.  I went preaching again.  The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted.  I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give ma all the world – it would be as the small dust of the balance.’


And what was the experience of the great Charles Finney when the power of theHoly Ghost came upon him?


‘I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghosst without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me body and soul.  No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart, I wept aloud with joy and love.’  (page 120-121)

Gospel According to Les Mis

The hardening of Valjean “From year to year his soul had dried away… his eye had never shed a tear.” is then met with grace.  He is a victim but he is not only a victim.  No one is only ever a victim.  And inside him is the hate that he has chosen. He is irremediably miserable, he himself cannot be cured.

The grace comes through the Bishop, M. Bienvenue, who gives his life to the poor and exemplifies the law of substitutionary love.  Valjean says, “Do you know who I am?”.  “Yes, I know your name” says the bishop, your name is brother.

The key scene of the movie is the one where Valjean steals the silver, and the when he is caught, the Bishop gives him more.  “Do not forget that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man?” – Grace is sneaky, finding inside of you promises that you did not know that you had made.

The key scene for Valjean is the one where he realises what the bishop has given him, he realises that he has become a wretch and he breaks down and he cries, and these are the first tears that he has shed in 19 years.  Ortberg makes the link with Newton – that saved a wretch like me.

Javert wants to live by the law, but he has forgotten the true law, to love one’s neighbour.  He cannot bear the burden of law, he hunts down grace but it will always elude him, its injustice terrify and haunt him, until grace also pardons him.  Then he too, like Valjean, sees grace, like an owl blinded by the sun, but he cannot cope and he takes his own life.

Meanwhile, Valjean lives his own life of love, but he hides from Caussette and Marius, until towards the end of his life they find him.  They end with the story of love “to love another person is to see the grace of God” (and Ortberg makes the link with Jacob and Esau).  The story ends with hope, with the hope that cannot be dimmed, They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord.  Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see. It is the music of a people who are climbing towards the light.  For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies.

The Divide Of The Cross

Thus it is clear that baptism is no mere question of a cup of water, nor even a baptistry of water.  It is something far greater, relating as it does to both the death and the resurrection of the Lord, and having in view two worlds.  Anyone who has seen men turn to Christ in a pagan country knows what tremendous issues are raised by baptism. (page 79)

In China a woman lost her husband but, becoming deranged by her loss, she flatly refused to have him buried. Day after day for  a fortnight he lay in the house. ‘No’, she said, ‘he is not dead’; I talk with him every night. ‘She was unwilling to have him buried because, poor woman, she did not believe him to be dead.  When are we willing to bury our dear ones? Only when we are absolutely sure that they have passed away.  While there is the tiniest hope that they are alive, we will never bury them.  So when will I ask for baptism?  When I see that God’s way is perfect and that I deserved to die, and when I truly believe that God has already crucified me. Once I am fully persuaded that, before God, I am quite dead, then I apply for baptism.  I say ‘Praise God, I am dead! Lord, You have slain me; now get me buried!” (page 81)

A couple of minutes later I asked, ‘Can you tell me where the sugar is now, and where the tea?’ No’ he said, ‘you have put them together and the one has become lost in the other, they cannot now be separated.’  It was a simple illustration, but it helped him to see the intimacy and the finality of our union with Christ in death.  It is God that has put us there, and Goi’s acts cannot be reversed. (page 82)

Reckoning and Knowing

What does reckoning mean?  ‘Reckoning’ in Greek means doing accounts, book-keeping.  Accounting is the only thing in the world we human beings can do correctly.  An artist paints a landscape.  Can he do it with perfect accuracy?  Can the historian vouch for the absolute accuracy of any record, or the map-maker for the perfect correctness of any map?  They can make, at best, fair approximations.  Even in everyday speech, when we try to tell some incident with the best intention to be honest and truthful, we cannot speak with complete accuracy.  It is mostly a case of exaggeration or under-statement, of one word too much or too little.  What then can a man do that is utterly reliable?  Arithmetic! There is no scope for error there.  One chair plus one chair equals two chairs.  (page 57)

All temptation is primarily too look within to take our eyes off the Lord and to take account of appearances.  Faith is always meeting a mountain, a mountain of evidence that seems to contradict God’s word, a mountain of apparent contradiction in the realm of tangible fact – of failures indeed, as well as in the realm of feeling and suggestion – and either faith or the mountains has to go.  They cannot both stand. (page 68)

We are familiar with the words of the Lord Jesus, “Abide in me, and I in your” (John 15:4).  Let us consider them for a moment.  First they remind us once again that we have never to struggle to get into Christ.  We are not told to get there, for we are there. (page 69)