Tag Archives: Conversion

Where Barbara Has Been Preaching

The last part of Barbara Brown Taylor’s marvellous book on preaching (the first part is really about vocation) is a selection of her sermons.

These are:

One step at a time – Mark 3:38-39 – It takes a lot of courage to be a human being

The Fourth Watch – Mark 6:48-50 – a discussion of Mark’s shorter story

I am who I am – John 8:25 – Talks about her own conversion experience, the world was different

The Tenth Leper – Luke 17 – The awkward man who came into the Church – we know where the nine are

Do Love – Luke 10:36-37

The opposite of rich – Mark 10:22-23 – The rich young man

The One to Watch – Mark 12:41-42 – On the widow’s mite

Knowing Glances – Matthew 25:37-38 – The parable of the sheep and the goats

The Voice Of The Shepherd – John 10:25-27

The Lost and Found Department – Luke 15:4-5

None of Us Is Home Yet – Matthew 6:26

The Prodigal Father – Luke 15:11-12

Surviving Eden – Genesis 3:6 – We got out of Eden, another story about Adam and Eve, making the most of the life that we have



Scripture and Joy

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord, but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished.  I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it. (George Muller, page 142)

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Unbroken – New life


Graham looked down out over his audience.  “Here tonight, there’s a drowning man, a drowning woman, a drowning man, a drowning boy, a drowning girl that is out lost in the sea of life.”  He told of hell and salvation, men saved and men lost, always coming back to the stooped figure drawing letters in the sand.  Louie grew more and more angry and more and more spooked.


“Every head bowed and every eye closed,“ said Graham, offering a traditional invitation to repentance, a declaration of faith, and absolution.  Louie grabbed Cynthia’s arm, stood up, and bulled his way from the tent.


Somewhere in the city, a siren began a low wail.  The sound, rising and falling slowly, carried through the tent, picked up by the microphone that was recording the sermon.


That night, Louie lay helpless as the belt whipped his head.  The body that hunched over him was that of the Bird.  The face was that of the devil. (page 374)


What God asks of men, said Graham is faith.  His invisibility is the truest test of faith.  To know who sees him, God makes himself unseen.


Louie pushed past the congregants in his row, charging for the exit.  His mind was tumbling.  He felt enraged, violent, on the edge of explosion.  He wanted to hit someone.


As he reached the aisle, he stopped.  Cynthia, the rows of bowed heads, the sawdust underfoot, the tent around him, all disappeared.  A memory long beaten back, the memory from which he had run the evening before, was upon him.


Louie was on the raft.  There was gentle Phil crumpled up before him, Mac’s breathing skeleton, endless ocean stretching away in every direction, the sun lying over them, the cunning bodies of the sharks, waiting, circling.  He was a body on a raft, dying of thirst.  He felt words whisper from his swollen lips.  It was a promise thrown to heaven, a promise he had not kept, a promise he had allowed himself to forget until just this instant.  If you will save me, I will serve you forever. And then, standing under a circus tent on a clear night in downtown Los Angeles, Louie felt rain falling.

How Long? Not Long


Truth crushed to earth will rise again.


How long?  Not Long!  Because no life can live forever.


How long?  Not long! Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.  Yet that scaffold sways the future and behind the dim unknown standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch over his own.


How long?  Not Long!  Because the arc of the mortal universe is long but bends towards justice.  (Martin Luther King Jr, July 29th)


Those with whom Jesus identifies himself are regarded by society as misfits.  And yet Jesus is that person who is hungry; Jesus is that woman who is confused and naked.  Wouldn’t it be extraordinary if we all discovered that?  The face of the world would be changed.  We would then no longer want to compete in going up the ladder to meet God in the light, in the sun and in beauty, to be honoured because of our theological knowledge.  Or if we did want knowledge, it would be because we believe that our knowledge and theology are important only so long as they are used to serve and honour the poor.  (from August 3rd, Jean Vanier)

Hero to Host

I was speaking to a friend yesterday who had been inspired by the model of leadership that saw the leader not as hero (a model that has been hugely discredited) but as host.  More on this here.

This is from Henri Nouwen (August 5th in Common Prayer)

“That is our vocation: to convert the enemy into a guest and to create the free and fearless space, where brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed and fully experienced.”

Billy Graham – Part 5


(page 155)

“The mightiest force in world” on prayer from Frank Laubach.


On support from Catholics (page 161)

Heartening to us also was the response of the Roman Catholic Church [during the Boston mission of 1950], remarkable especially in the light of the fact that the landmark decisions on ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council were still years away.  “BRAVO BILLY!” read the editorial headline in the Pilot the official newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese.  “We are ‘not amused’ by his critics, some unfortunately among the Protestant cloth…  If, as some people seem to think, the non-Catholic Christian congregations of New England are disintegrating, we are not such bigots as to rejoice therein.”


On speaking in Universities (page 165)

My appetite for many opportunities to speak in university settings had been sharpened.  I always felt the power of the Holy Spirit in these student meetings.  I didn’t claim to be an intellectual, nor did I have the academic training to answer every philosophical question that might be raised.  But I had come to realise that there was absolutely no need to apologise for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in academic settings.  The Gospel could more than hold its own.  It alone dealt with the deepest questions of the human mind.  It alone met the deepest yearnings of the human heart.  As someone once commented to me, the Gospel wasn’t so much examined and rejected on most university campuses as it was ignored.


On keeping going (page 166)

Then there was the question of my own stamina.  The Lord tells us to be anxious for nothing (see Philippians 4:6) but that’s always been a hard lesson for me to learn.


In MIT (page 168)

This has been an age in which we have humanised God and deified man, and we have worshipped at the throne of science.  We thought that science could bring about Utopia.  We must have a spiritual awakening similar to that which we had under Wesley and Whitefield.


Preparing for the London Crusade of 1954 (page 212)

Early 1954 gave me very little time at home in Montreat.  Ruth maintained in her counsel and advice to me that my studies should consist primarily of filling up spiritually; she believed, as I did, that God would give me the message and bring to remembrance in my preaching the things I had studied.  This was always the most effective preaching, we had discovered: preaching that came from the overflow of the heart and mind filled not only with the Spirit but with much reading.  Hence I picked each sermon topic carefully, read myself full, wrote myself empty, and read myself full again on the subject.


A couple of quotes from Iain Murray’s biography of “the Doctor”, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones.  I haven’t got a reference for the story of how the first person converted under his ministry in Wales was the Church secretary and the second person was his own wife.

Unworthy of my calling

Key Words Doubt Faith Prayer Call Vocation
Source D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Source Author Murray, Iain H.
Location 171-172
Quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote to E.T. Rees, his Church Secretary in 1927 (during his first year of full time ministry)

I find myself at times reviewing the whole of my faith and belief, delving at times into matters which I profoundly believe it is the very essence of faith not to examine, finding myself in many ways unworthy of my calling – indeed at times finding nothing whatsoever to recommend myself as a preacher of the gospel, and going on and on until I again reach the bedrock of the grace of God, which amazes me more and more.

Conversion at Christmas

Key Words Prophecy Conversion Evangelism
Source D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Source Author Murray, Iain H.
Location 194
Quote Tells the story of the time that Martyn Lloyd-Jones was staying with a prominent Christian family at Christmas. He was convicted by the sense that at 9pm he must ask them the question “Why did Christ come into the world?” This lead to much conversation and eventually the conversion of the Father, Wife, Son and two daughters.

C.T.Studd – The Biography – Part 1

Body near the wall

  Key Words Service Mission Battle
  Source C.T. Studd
  Source Author Grubb, Norman
  Location 6
  Quote From Alfred Buxton:

I myself owe an enormous debt to him. From him I learned that God’s ideal of a saint is not a man primarily concerned with his own sanctification; God’s saint is 50 per cent a soldier. So we and thousands more will continue to thank God for the soldier life he lived and the soldier death he died. A little time ago I sent him these lines, and how wonderfully they are fulfilled in his case:
“Let the victors when they come,
When the forts of folly fall
Find thy body near the wall.”

  References The armour of God (Ephesians 6)

No good at games

  Key Words Conversion Mission Evangelism
  Source C.T. Studd
  Source Author Grubb, Norman
  Location 18-19
  Quote Tells the story of Mr. W. a man that Studd and his teenage brothers considered a “milksop”. Unlike them he was not good at riding or sports, and yet it was him who won them for Christ.

Grubb concludes:

So the “milksop” who was no good at games, was really an expert at the greatest game of all – catching men for Christ, and he had hooked three shy fish, all members of the Eton XI, in one day.

  References Not the greatest (1 Corinthians 1)
Fishers of men (Luke 5)

Jesus is in the car

It was an occupied country.

Now there was still plenty of nationalist sentiment about

Plenty of hope that one day God would perform a new Exodus and free the people from their oppressor.

And the Pharisees were one of the groups that kept that hope alive.


But there were other folk who make compromises,

And one of these groups was the tax collectors.


These were people that had basically said “I value getting rich so much” that I would rather have that, than the respect of my family

Than see my nation be free

Than see the religious aspirations of my people come to something


I love money more than I love justice.


How do you think people in Israel felt about the tax collectors?


They became untouchables

Tax collectors were not allowed in the synagogue

They were not allowed to give evidence in court

No devout Israelite would eat with them

Talk with them

Touch them


Can you imagine the kind of words that people would have had for tax collectors.


No-one was considered further from God than a tax collector.


Romans hated them – grouped them with brothel keepers

Jews hated them – grouped them with robbers


The only people who would have spoken to tax collectors, would have been other tax collectors.


One of the jobs that tax collectors did was collect money on the roads.


Now the king at the time of Jesus was Herod (not Herod the Great who was in the Christmas story) but Herod antipas.


Herod Antipas took a notion for a big building program, he wanted to build a new XXX and the way that he collected money for this was that he collected road tolls.


What he did was he sold the job of tax collector to the highest bidder,

And then what the tax collector would do was inspect the goods that people took down a road

And make their own assessment of how much tax was due on the goods.


So to get the job of tax collector you already had to be wealthy

And the job involved intrusion, harassment, force, dishonesty and a disregard for others

What kind of people would normally be attracted to a job like that?


Now how do you think people felt towards the tax collectors that collected money on roads that people used to be able to walk down for free.

Being harassed by a corrupt individual.


Now what does Jesus do when he meets someone like that?


Call Of Matthew

9 Jesus left that place, and as he walked along, he saw a tax collector, named Matthew, sitting in his office. He said to him, “Follow me.”

Matthew got up and followed him.

10* While Jesus was having a meal in Matthew’s house,h many tax collectors and other outcasts came and joined Jesus and his disciples at the table.


Jesus calls Matthew.


This despised man, whose chief job skills were dishonesty, harassment and cold indifference to other people’s suffering.

He is the one that Jesus calls.


And then there is a great gathering of all the tax collectors (and you guess that Matthew must have made some connections here, and invited some of his friends along) and Jesus eats with the people, that everyone else says are miles away from God.

You have this meeting with the despised and the most perfect man that has ever lived.

And the despised people don’t feel too out of place.

This week there was survey to find out the most loved and most despised celebrities. It was disturbing to discover that the most loved celebrities were all men, and the most despised were almost all women (the exception being Simon Cowell who was on both lists).

So the most hated celebrities were Amy Winehouse, Victoria Beckham, Kerry Katona and Heather Mills. They would all have been at this party. And they would have been enjoying the company of the most perfect man that would ever have lived.

It is like a party with Jordan and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the pair of them get along

Or Katie Marsh and Mother Teresa

Or Paris Hilton and Desmond Tutu


The Great Commission

Now fast forward to our text for today, which is the very end of Matthew’s gospel. This is a famous passage, it’s called “The Great Commission”, Jesus commissioning his disciples to spread the gospel.


Now whether Matthew the tax collector is the same guy that wrote the gospel we cannot be sure.


But what we do know is that the same person who wrote about Jesus calling a tax collector

Was the same guy that ensured that his gospel ended with these words.


This climax of what Jesus has to say to his disciples, the final team talk before they go out on the pitch.


And what he says “From now on you make disciples.”


What kind of disciple does Jesus have in mind?


It is the folk that are cut off

As being hopeless, far from possibility of goodness

The people that it is fair game to criticise.

There is no one that you can say – you cannot become a disciple, because you are not he right type.


All Different Folk

But before we think that Church is only a place for recovering offenders, though have a look at the rest of some of the other parts of Matthew.


Matthew is the gospel that tells us that Jesus was visited by wealthy kings from far off lands – so wealthy foreigners can become disciples of Jesus.


And in the same chapter as the Matthew story, you have the guy lowered down by his friends and Jesus heals the man because of the faith of the friends – so folk who are good mates to folk who are unwell can become disciples of Jesus.


And in the same chapter as the Matthew story, you read of the synagogue ruler (called Jairus) who begs for Jesus to heal his daughter – so folk who put their family before their professional status can become disciples of Jesus.


And in the same chapter as the Matthew story, you read of the woman who has had haemorrhages for 12 years is healed because of her faith – so women with women’s troubles can become disciples of Jesus.


Do you get the picture here, there is no-one who seems to be outside the reach of becoming a disciple of Jesus.


Not just a church-goer

Not just a casual enquirer

Not just a “I don’t need to go to Church because I meet God on the golf course type”

Not just a nice person

But a disciple,


A full blown, every minute of the day modelling their life on Jesus disciple

A full blown, getting ready to enjoy paradise disciple

A full blown, loves the people that hate them disciple

A full blown, deals honestly at work disciple

A full blown, reads their Bible and tries to turn these words into a life disciple


All of them can be made disciples.


Being A Disciple Maker

And whose job is it to make these people disciples – yours and mine.


We get two jobs as a Christian – one be a disciple

Two – make disciples.


And your there thinking – but I am struggling with the whole disciple part

I am not there yet

I have questions about the Bible, and I am not sure about the Trinity

And I don’t why there is suffering in the world

There are major struggles in my personal life

The disciple part is difficult


I don’t do the disciple making

And Jesus says yes.


Look at the story in Matthew 28, look at verse 17

“They worshipped him, but some doubted”


And then verse 18 says


And then Jesus said to the ones who didn’t doubt “Go and make disciples”


No it doesn’t say that


And then Jesus, knowing the thoughts of the evil doubters sent them down the mountain and once they were out of earshot began to speak to the ones who were left.


No it doesn’t say that


Verse 18 says

“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”


All of us are disciple makers.


Best Disciple Makers

Actually there is a good reason why I actually think that the people who have just become disciples make the best disciple makers.


Just out interest, who here has been coming to Church for less than a year?

And who has been coming for less than three years?


Well actually you folks are the best disciple makers.


And hears the reason.


People who have been in the Church for a long time

Tend to know only people who are other Church go-ers.

As you get drawn into the Church, you get worse and worse at keeping contact with people who don’t go to Church.


It is a big problem in my life which I need to address.


Out of all my friends, two of them are not Church goers, which if you think about it is pretty disgraceful. That is a rebuke to me.

They are pretty useful friends it has to be said – one works for Microsoft and gets cheap software, and one is the lawyer and had what I thought was possibly the best job a lawyer could ever get which is as a lawyer for the Champions League (in fact only part time lawyer, the rest of the time he had to work organising the games), and I though that is the best job a lawyer could ever get. And then he went and topped it, his current job is now Head of Legal for Manchester United.


But those of you who are new into the Church,

You are best placed to be disciple makers.


UEFA Cup Final – Being a Christian Football Fan

Where were we all on Wednesday night?


Two jobs for the Christian football fan.

The first is to remember the joy.


Remember The Joy

I think that one of the most important jobs of a Christian football fan is to remember the joy. Football fans have a habit of going the other direction, remembering the pain.


Brazil have won the World Cup five times – 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.


But do you know the World Cup final that has put the biggest mark on the Brazilian consciousness, 1954 – when they lost the cup in the final on goal difference.


You’ve won the world cup 5 times, but you still focus on the time you lost

And I bet also on the Ronaldo final of France 1998.


Be a disciple maker

The other job of the Christian football fan is to be a disciple maker.


To find ways of introducing these guys,

Unlikely guys,

To not just being church-goers

Or nicer people

But actually full on disciples of Jesus.


You do that through friendship

You do that through the way you cope with hardship

You do that with your generosity

You do that by inviting them here – and if there is stuff about here that would put off your friends, then your job is to let me know – so that we as a Church can be a brilliantly welcoming place for outsiders. That’s something we need to work on.


Not to be forced or artificial


Neil Alexander is good at saving penalties and did you know that Jesus saves.


But to find ways that God will give you

Of inviting them to become disciples of Jesus.


This is big stuff here


The eternal destinies, the possibility for joy in this world

The possibility for life beyond death for your friends

Their becoming that for which they were made – being friends of God and having their sins forgiven

A huge part of that is how you are a disciple maker.


I want you to think of one friend now whom you would love to be a disciple of Jesus

They might be unlikely like Matthew

You may not have much contact with them.


But we are going to pray for them now,

That they would be a disciple.

Oh and remember…

You know that thing that happens at the end of a conversation,

When someone is just going out the door

Or just getting off the phone


There is often a crucial piece of information that they must not forget for the day to be a success.


You are going out the door and the voice from inside the door – remember the washing needs put out


Or as I wish had been said to me about a month ago when my Mum and Dad were coming over for a visit – Remember, your Mum and Dad are coming over this afternoon, and they are coming at four, and if you only remember at five then they will be stuck outside the house for an hour.


Or even – and remember, I do love you.


You know that crucial piece of information, that the person needs to know to do the thing that they need to do.


Well see if you can spot it here in verse 20, Jesus is commanding the disciples to be disciple makers

“and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


Did you spot it?


I am with you always.


You are going out there

And you have your doubts

And you are going to make disciples of all the nations

All the despised folk like Matthew

And the wealthy foreigners like the Wise Men

And the important professionals like Jairus

And the women with women’s troubles

And the guys who are good at being mates with


And you are going to make them disciples

Not just Church-goers

Not just nice people

But disciples of Jesus

And you are going to teach them to do everything I have commanded.


And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Pauline Jacobi

A 92 year old woman in Dyersburg, called Pauline Jacobi, illustrates.


She was shopping at her local Wal-mart, had put the shopping into the car, and had got into the car herself,


Only seconds later, a man got into the passenger seat next to her.


But she managed to protect herself not with a gun, nor with a pepper spray, but with something else.


The man said to her that he had a gun

And if she didn’t hand him her money he would shoot her.


The man told her this three times,

And each time she refused to hand over the money


Then she started to talk to the man.


She said, “Do you know that as quickly as you kill me I’ll go to heaven

But you’ll go to hell.


She told him to ask for forgiveness.


And then she said “Jesus is in this car”.

And he goes with me every where I go


And the guy looked around, and then tears started coming out his eyes.


Pauline Jacobi then spoke to the guy for 10 minutes.

The guy says “I think I’ll go home pray tonight”

“You don’t have to wait until tonight” says Pauline

You can just pray any time you want to.


Then Pauline Jacobi voluntarily gave the man all the money she had, $10,

And don’t you spend it on whisky

The man thanked her for the money, kissed her on the cheek, and walked away.


We are called to be disciples

And we are called to make disciples

And in this we have this remember from Jesus “Remember, I am with you always”

Which means that Jesus is in the car.



* 9:10,11: Luk 15:1,2.

h h9.10 in Matthew’s house; or in his ( that is,Jesus’) house.

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