Tag Archives: Covetousness


4th October 2013

Good thoughts on envy – how dangerous it is from the book of Proverbs (chapter 4 although can’t find the reference).

This is the silent sin which creeps up on us.

Definition – unhappiness when God blesses someone else

Think about 1. God’s blessing is not limited

2. God has more to give you

3. God rejoices in inequality (controversial and needs to be nuanced)

Think of biblical stories – Cain and Abel or David, Saul (we want to be David, we fear we are Saul, we must cast ourselves as Jonathan)



The Shack

When I think of The Shack, I think of Simon Stylites up his pole for 37 years thinking of God, I think of the Church spending three hundred years thinking about the Trinity; it dares to spend time with God and to boldly enter into his presence as Paul urged the Ephesians.

Sure its lines don’t live up to God (outside of scripture, which exactly would? – I want to ask Chuck Colson) but it forces us to consider the all consuming grace of God.  Some of the scenes, like when Mack has to forgive his daughter’s killer, are truly wonderful. Or when Mack has to consider his blame of God (page 161) for Missy’s death and is forced to enter the place of judgement himself.  I loved the insight that it is difficult to live with this gracious God (page 196) rather than the God who is the taskmaster or the failure.  I love the phrase “Mack, God is especially fond of you”

The Shack stands as the place where we construct all the rubbish of the world, it also stands as the wooden structure where the child died and we are offered healing.

I find its easy dismissal of religion, politics and economics as triple terrors (since their absence is not an option, we are offered either good or bad versions of these things) too simple, a recipe for tea party politics, laissez-faire economics and consumerist religion.

I think what I love about the Shack most is that it dares to be outrageous, it dares to venture, and I think that this is true to the grace of the New Testament.

Slipping Away Unannounced

Gathering things

Key Words Forgiveness
Source The Kite Runner
Quote The last thought had brought no sting with it. …I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.

Louis Zamperini – lessons from prison


3. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, God heals wounds.

Talks about if anyone is in Christ, he is a new Creation (2 Corinthians 5).


4. Forgiveness is not just therapeutic or relief for the forgiver.  It is a loving, humble, repentant quest for reconciliation.

Talks about the experiences of Louis going, as a result of the challenge from World Vision founder Bob Pierce, to go to Japan and preach in Sugamo prison, of how a man called Jimmie Sasaki and many others believed.  Louie didn’t hold back on the details of his time in prison, because forgiveness had to be real.  At the end, many men raised their hands to receive Christ.


5. God is still in the business of bringing redemption out of evil

Louie was once asked, “Did anything good come out of 2 and a half years in prison.”  Yes, he said, it prepared me for 53 years of married life.


But the story of Louie is one of God using him abundantly through all that he suffered.  Romans 8 – God works all things together for good, and the brining back of someone in Matthew 18.


Where have we decided to actually bear a grudge against someone, to bear them ill will.  I am going to put them in the category of someone I don’t love.


Are we going to say, “God I want to surrender my unforgiving spirit, I am going to confess my heart to you now.”

On Anger


Then talks about Christian anger “Be angry and do not sin”


That actually there are certain times when it is right to be angry.  Often Christians use language to pretend that they are not angry – they say that they are upset, or that they depressed, or that they are worried; but really they are angry.  We cannot just sublimate our anger.


In fact, says Keller, there is no such thing as a bad emotion, just a misdirected emotion.  Sometimes it is right to be angry, because Jesus was angry; like the way that he healed in his anger.


Talks about the way that Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath in his anger, and makes the link with the way that Martin Luther King talked about being angry in the correct way.


In fact sometimes it is good to be angry, and it is not good to be not angry.


But we face two dangers, we must not clam up and we must not blow up.  This is what is about bitterness, and rage, and clamour and slander.  The first two are internal conditions, the second two are external.


Has a good illustration about a Christian father blowing up at his kids, because they are preventing him watch Monday night football.  When he initially blows up, he actually then moves to clamming up and neither are good.  He has to identify what is wrong here (his children are fighting and lying and this is going to cause them big problems in later life) and attack the problem; not out of his defence of the wrong thing, but his defence of the right thing and attacking the wrong thing.  This is hard, but the choice is between that and disobedience which is impossible.


Then tells the remarkable story about the Christian faith coming to Korea and the way that the martyrdom of one individual enabled the faith of an entire nation.


Talks about going being simultaneously angry with us and yet never bitter (unlike us, in our anger we wish harm to the other person) God simultaneously all the time is angry with people and yet never wishes them to perish.


Tells the story of a woman who met with RC Sproul who could never feel the forgiveness of God even though she confessed her sin, because she had never confessed her pride – round about 37 mins very good

Nothing Like Youth

Thinking and beauty

Key Words Thought Think Dreams Art Beauty Doing Activity Meditation
Source Oscar Wilde
Author 92
Page Ellmann, Richard
Quote Society often forgives the criminal. It never forgives the dreamer. The beautiful sterile emotions that art excites in us are hateful in its eyes and so completely are people dominated by the tyranny of this dreadful social ideal that they are always coming shamelessly up to one at Private View and other places that are open to the general public and saying in a loud stentorian voice “What are you doing?” whereas “What are you thinking?” is the only question that any single civilised being should ever be allowed to whisper to another


Contradiction and doctrine

Key Words Contradiction Dialectic Argument Discussion Dogma
Source Oscar Wilde
Author Ellmann, Richard
Page 95
Quote As a result, Wilde writes his works out of a debate between doctrines rather than out of doctrine.

Only God Forgives


Response number one is lower my doctrine of inspiration for a few days.   Tempting, but the coward’s way out.  That said there will be something on arguing with God, alla Abrahm in Genesis 18.

But another thing might be that the Old Testament is a world where transgression can’t go anywhere.  It can be temporarily dealt with in sacrifices (taking Romans 3 and Hebrews) but it can’t actually go anywhere, can’t be reversed, can’t be nullified, can’t be reduced or minimised.  Sin is there, and the agents of detoxification are nowhere.

Part of the Old Testament I think is about tempering human urges to over-reaction (“an eye for an eye” instead of “death for an eye”), but part of it is holding up to us the bleakness of a world where no one can forgive, where sin cannot be done away with in grace (being careful not to over-reach into Marcionism here).

I have just done a word search on forgiveness, and just made the remarkable discovery that nowhere in the Old Testament do humans forgive.  There are two occasions when it is asked for – of Joseph from his brothers in Genesis 50; and Abigail of David in 1 Samuel 25:28.

Thus it is utterly remarkable when Jesus forgives the sin of the disabled man in Mark 2, and utterly new when in the Lord’s prayer and the Sermon on the Mount Jesus urges us to forgive one another.  We enter a radically new world where somehow hurt done to us can done away without recourse to further hurt, that evil words visited upon us can somehow be removed by something we do, there is something remarkably new in the call to genuinely forgive.  Something that was not possible, it seems, when the father was dealing with his errant son.

Three Words – Mercy, Love, Sin

Three Words

The Prophets

For the last few weeks we have been lashed by the fierce words of the Jewish Prophets.

Amos with his plumb-line, demanding that society be just

That the crooked parts be removed

The straight parts kept

Isaiah, a braver man than me, turning to his own congregation and saying

“Hear this leaders of Gomorrah, you people of Sodom”

A statement with all the sting of someone today saying

“Hear this leaders of Belsen, you people of Auschwitz”

And then three weeks with Jeremiah

Who is told his mission is to break down and to destroy

And then that people had gone off after other gods,

And then last week, the image of the potter with the clay

And the pot that will be thrown away if it is not true.

And so these words have stung us

For the injustice in the world

In our society

Within our selves.

Psalm 51

Now what Psalm 51 urges us to do is stop,

And deal with this pain in the presence of God.

So that it is not a pain the poisons us

Breaks us

Removes us from God.

And I want to say that this morning, what the Psalm tells us to do

In the presence of God, is to hold three words together.

The first and the third words are English words

The middle word is a Hebrew word

Have Mercy

“Have Mercy on me God, says the psalmist”


Mercy in the Hebrew is a womb word.

It is a mother word, it is the about the primal bond

The earthed, physical yearning, bond that a Mother has for a child.

I don’t know if you have ever spoken to a mother who has watched a child go through the justice system.

Or perhaps you have been that mother.

And there is the pain that a mother has to go through

A pain borne of love

A pain that is determined to humanise this child

Whom others label as delinquent, a thug, an animal

This mother looks across from the gallery to the dock and says “This is my son”

“This is my daughter”

The mother notices the cuffs on their child’s hands

Hands that she first held

Hands that once were free

And there is in her a longing that these hands be free once again

A determination that these hands bear kindness rather than cruelty.

The word for that maternal yearning is Hebrew

And it is mercy that God has for each one of us.


The middle word is often translated “steadfast love”.

The best illustration I can give this morning, comes from the Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, who wrote of his experiences in the book “Night”

In the book, he tells of the brutality of Auschwitz, his first night there

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.

Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.

Much of the book is about the relationship that Elie has to be with his Father, Schlomo, his determination to be near his Father (Elie is 16 when these things happen) and how Elie becomes the one who gives care, and how his care for his Father threatens his own survival, and this determination to be with his Father, and his resentment at this bondage that they have to each other.

As the war starts to go against the Germans, the inmates are moved from camp, they have to March 50 miles in the snow to a station at place called Gleiwitz, on the march the men are driven on by guards who have orders to shoot anyone who cannot keep up.  Elie sticks close to his Father, but another man Rabbi Eliahou towards the end of the March asks if anyone has seen his son, they had been together for three years “always near for each other, for suffering, for blows, for the ration of bread, for prayer”, but on the march they have been sepearated.  Elie had spotted what had happened, as Rabbi Eliahou and old man had marched and begun to limp, his son had deliberately gone quicker ahead, letting the distance between them grow; Elie prayed a prayer

“almost despite myself , a prayer rose in my heart, to that God in whom I no longer believed.  My God, Lord of the Universe, give me strength never to do what Rabbi Eliahou’s son has done.”

It is that determination to be loyal,

Despite the pain, in the darkest night

To be close,

Determination that I will not let you go;

That is God’s love

That is Hesed.

And it is the second word brought into this Psalm.


Have mercy Oh God, according to your steadfast love

According to your abundant mercy

Blot out my transgressions

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity

And cleanse me from my sin

The third word is an ugly little word “Sin”

In the Hebrew the one word is actually “my sin”

It is the personal ownership of that which defaces us

Which twists us within

Which distorts our relationships

Which uglifies humanity.

The lash of these prophets, of Amos, of Isaiah, of Jeremiah

Takes us out of our denial.

Denial is in all of us

We are good at concocting stories where the pain that we bear, is the fault of others.

I once shared a flat with a guy who had lost three jobs, they were part time jobs, in the space of a month.  And I could see from the outside the behaviours that were causing this.  But Steve sat down with me one day and said “I have sat down, and thought about these situations, and I can honestly say none of this was my fault”.

Another person, who has repeated forms of behaviour which abort success, whose life is marked by incompleteness – jobs left, qualifications failed in their final year, mobile phones constantly changed – there is always something disturbing about people who frequently change their mobile number; and they will always tell the story of those idiots who never got the funding right, those liars who said they would look out for me but never followed through on their promises.

I heard recently of an occupational health doctor addressing a gathering of stressed out ministers, and telling them that their overwork, their inability to take holidays, their tendency to be consumed by the crises which engulfed them, saying to them “this overwork is your doing, you are responsible for the hours that you are working, your decision making is causing your lack of physical exercise” and the ministers screaming back at the occupational health doctor, “its not our fault, you don’t understand, it’s the job that we do”

We deny.

And most of the time we can get away with our self-denial, because we can hide our sins better than others.

But the psalmist demands an owning up to the selfishness, the arrogance, the self-righteous superiority complex, the greed, the lack of love, the determination to live a life which consults with God but is not yet broken to submit to God.

And the psalmist says you have to own this

“My transgressions”

“My Iniquity”

“My Sin”

Sin not owned is denial

Sin owned, but nothing else beside is paralysing guilt

But the psalmist says

Sin, Love, Mercy

You bring these together,

And God deals with the sin.

I still hold that this moment, is the bedrock of Christian discipleship

Is the heart of what the Good News of Jesus Christ

That in the imagination of God,

Love, mercy, sin are held together,

And in the cross of Jesus,

The sin is broken.

John Calvin used to say be aghast at those who denied their sin

Because it was in understanding the depth of our sin

That we grasped the immeasurable richness of the love and mercy of God.

And these words are held together in our life as Christians.

And in the gospel the sin is broken

Undone by the love and mercy

And we taste freedom.

That moment of trust is such a big moment

And there are moments when we must wrestle

To put the sin

The mercy

The Hesed together

Have mercy o God according to your steadfast Hesed

According to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.


A big time for me of this happening

Was in India when I was there 15 years ago.

I was with my friend Jacob at Sunday morning service of the Church of South India

In this Church called Nedumangadu, a Church with about 400 people in it.

Now this was a time of crisis in my faith.

Not the kind of crisis I have been through lately, the “Is God there crisis”

But the “Does God love me crisis”.

I had felt very unworthy of God

There had been a lot of sin, not too much love and mercy

And certainly no freedom.

But I had been doing that thing that the psalmist does

Trying to hold them together, but feeling nothing.

Just weight, heaviness, confinement.

For weeks I had been doing this, but felt nothing.

Anyway, at this service in Nedumangadu, they had a deal that since I was the celebrity white person (there are not too many white people in Nedumangadu, rural India, although I did once have the most bizarre experience of walking into a muddy hut and three Italian teenagers came out one of the rooms – I think they were there with some kind of Catholic mission)

Anyway, I am the celebrity white kid, the kind of inverse of what Tyronne might be feeling this morning.

And I am out the front,

Feeling an utter fraud,

The service goes on for about an hour and a half,

Which is hard going because I understand about 5% of it

And then we have communion

Now Church of South India is kind of Anglican, so there is a bit of kneeling in the Communion service

Except for the folk at the front, for whom there is a lot of kneeling

So I have to kneel, this is about 15 minutes, it is what the forces call a stress position.

I am praying there,

Spiritually fearful


And to make it all worse, I have killer cramp in my thighs

And then this moment, when in feeling a fraud,

I remember the verse I had read that morning from Colossians

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your mind because of your evil behaviour “ I knew about that part, the “my sin” part

“But now”  and there was something about those words “but now”, something that allowed me in that moment, very personally, know these words were for me

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight”

The “But now”, was the moment that Hesed and mercy were held

And in the death of Jesus, had done away with “my sin”

That is the Good News.

At the heart of our living which is public, political, prophetic

Lies this intimate moment

Which often must be wrestled for

Where Mercy, Hesed and “My sin” are held

And the “My sin” part is done away with

So that we might be free,


Jesus Driven Ministry


Persecuted for Christ

Key Words Persecution
Source Jesus Driven Ministry
Author Fernando, Ajith
Page 40
Quote The great Indian preacher Sadhu Sundar Singh was disowned and poisoned by his Sikh family when he became a Christian. Some time later he was preaching close to his family home, and he decided to visit his father. Sundar Singh reports what happened: “At first my father refused to see me, or to let me in, because by becoming a Christian, I had dishonored the family. But after a little while he came out and said, ‘Very well, you can stay here tonight; but you must get out early in the morning. Don’t show me your face again.'” Singh says, “I remained silent, and that night he made me sit at a distance that I might not pollute them or their vessels, and then he brought me food, and gave me water to drink by pouring it into my hands from a vessel held high above, as one does who gives drink to an outcaste.”He related, “My father, who used to love me so much, now hated me as if I was an untouchable.” It was very hard to bear. “When I saw this treatment, I could not restrain the tears flowing from my eyes.” At that time he experienced what I believe was the fullness of the Spirit. He says, “In spite of all this, my heart was filled with inexpressible peace. I thanked him for this treatment also… and respectfully I said, ‘goodbye,’ and went away. In the fields I thanked God and then slept under a tree, and in the morning continued on my way.” Many years later Sundar Singh’s father also became a Christian.
References Blessed are the persecuted (Matthew 5)


Biggest problems

Key Words Humility
Source Jesus Driven Ministry
Author Fernando, Ajith
Page 14
Quote D.L. Moody is reported to have had more trouble with D.L.Moody than with any other person he had ever met.


Secrets of a long life

Key Words Conscience Forgiveness Sin
Source Jesus Driven Ministry
Author Fernando, Ajith
Page 35
Quote After retiring from running his orphanages, George Mueller (1805-1898) launched into an itinerant evangelistic ministry at the age of seventy and continued until he was eighty-seven years old. During those seventeen years he traveled 200,000 miles, ministered in forty-two countries, and preached to about three million people.These figures are amazing, considering that this was before the time of airplanes and sound systems.

Someone asked Mueller the secret of his long life. He gave three reasons. 1 The second was the joy he felt in God and his work. The third was the refreshment he received from the Scriptures and the constant recuperative power they exercised upon his being. The first reason is pertinent to this discussion “the exercising of himself to have always a conscience void of offence both toward God and toward men.”7 He was alluding to Paul’s statement to Felix (Acts 24:16). The word (asked) translated “exercise” (KJV) or “take pains” (ESV) means “to apply oneself with commitment to some activity.”8 This practice is something we do with great dedication. It is a huge bur¬den to go through life with unsettled spiritual business. The burden of guilt drains us of our energies and leaves us debilitated and devoid of the fullness of the Spirit.


Prayer when under attack

Key Words Conflict Anointing Strength Prayer
Source Jesus Driven Ministry
Author Fernando, Ajith
Page 39
Quote When we are under attack, we really need the wisdom and boldness that comes from the Spirit. This is why in such situations it is vitally important to wait upon the Lord for his direction and strength. Usually our first reaction when we face a problem is to get busy trying to solve it. Often we go to prayer only after all the other things we tried did not work.
The biggest crisis I have faced in ministry came a few years ago when some of the staff were upset with certain decisions. They felt that I, as their leader, had betrayed them. I experienced some deep hurts as I listened to their anger. During this time God taught me a principle that I found extremely!, helpful: In a time of crisis, before we meet hostile people, we must first meet God. Our ministry is primarily not a reaction to the anger and rejection of people. It springs from God’s acceptance of us as his valued servants and from the filling by the Spirit to meet the challenges that we face.
Sometimes during this crisis, I would just stay in my room alone for hours: thinking, praying, and reading his Word, conscious that I was in the presence of God. I would then go to meet the people in the strength of that time with God. I believe it helped me respond to their anger in the Spirit rather than in the flesh. In this way I trust that, without contributing to the prob¬lem, I became an agent of healing. Jacob’s all-night encounter with God, when he heard that his brother Esau was coming to meet him with a large army, is a good example of this principle (Gen. 32:22-32). We note that he went to that mountain as a fearful man, but he left the following morning with a rich blessing from God to face the challenge before him.
References Wrestling with God (Genesis 32)


Dying to George Mueller

Key Words Death Sacrifice
Source Jesus Driven Ministry
Author Fernando, Ajith
Page 82
Quote George Mueller, when asked for the secret of his service for God, said, There was a day when I died, utterly died: died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will died to the world, its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.”


God’s work in God’s way

Key Words Supply Sustenance Providence
Source Jesus Driven Ministry
Author Fernando, Ajith
Page 86
Quote From Hudson TaylorGod’s work done in God’s way wil never lack God’s supplies.


God’s Advocates – Stanley Hauerwas

Both quotes are from an interview with Stanley Hauerwas and one of his associates.

Heroes and saints

Key Words Discipleship Forgiveness
Source Gods Advocates
Source Author Shortt, Rupert
Location 180
Quote “The hero is in many ways the model we look up to in contemporary society – even though we want to be very democratic and egalitarian about heroes and say we can all be heroes spontaneously. We all feel it’s our job in our generation to make the story come out right, which means stories are told with the heroes at the centre of them and the stories are told to laud the virtues of the hero – for if the hero failed, all would be lost. By contrast, a saint can fail in a way that the hero can’t, because the failure of a saint reveals the forgiveness and the new possibilities made in God, and the saint is just a small character in a story that’s always fundamentally about God.”

Scarcity and abundance

Key Words Scarcity Generosity Ethics Grace
Source Gods Advocates
Source Author Shortt, Rupert
Location 183
Quote The word is gift (for how we should think of human existence). You only know what it means for us to exist in relationship to God’s existence when you recognise that our existence is gift: it’s not necessity. God didn’t have to make us. He chose to have us as his creatures. It’s all grace. One of the ways to think about it is that Christianity is ongoing training to help us accept our lives as gifts. It s a very hard thing to accept our lives as gifts, because we somehow want to have control over them, and there can never be control when your life is gift.

Life as gift –
The interesting issue is not “Does God exist, but do We?” Its all of life experienced as gift. And to take the example of how Stanley writes about the time-consuming and distracting practice of bringing up children: God gives us time to do the things he really wants us to do.

Nieburhian ethics as moral man and immoral society –
the ethics that dominated twentieth century though in this area is actually about shortage. There’s not enough – not enough life, not enough resources, not enough wisdom, not enough goodness, there’s not enough revelation – fundamentally there’s not enough God. Whereas for Stanley, there’s too much God.

The problem is, either our imaginations develop resistances because we want to be our own creators – we sin – or our imaginations simply aren’t big enough to take in everything is of God. The things that we need, really need, are things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness … It doesn’t matter how many resources we’ve got, if we haven’t got these things, we can’t actually use those resources abundantly. Well, the Holy Spirit gives us those things abundantly but many discussions of ethics are written as if there were no Holy Spirit and no Church.