Tag Archives: Service


John Ortberg, 15th September 2013, Transcript is here

Begins by talking about community- that if you have relationships then you are less likely to die in the next year (“Join our house groups otherwise you will die”) and you are more likely to catch cold (“Isolated people are snottier”).  This all comes from a man called Robert Putnam who wrote a book called “Bowling Alone”.

Talked about the first three verses of Genesis, and that already we see God, Spirit and Word – the inner ring at the heart of all social circles.  We must live in such circles of sufficiency.

Community is where we grow.  We can hypothetically believe in Love, but then we can meet real people and suddenly that becomes too difficult.

In community we learn acceptance of each other – it is not for nothing that the two dimensions of the cross point up and across.  This is brought out in Ephesians 2 and John Ortberg says that hear you can insert any kind of hostility instead of Jew and Gentile.

We serve in community.  Volunteering comes from the Latin to give up, and giving up is what God does on the cross.  He is the ultimate volunteer.

Then talks about the kind of community that we need to be – each of us serving and honouring our different gifts, and that is the community of God.

Community is where we are healed and make ourselves accountable to one another. The human is the only animal where we talk about ourselves being naked.  Every other animal does not need clothes.  But we need a place where we can be unveiled to one another.

We die in community

We are resurrected in community

Joy and Contentment

The contentment of the Christian Hedonist is not a Buddha-like serenity, unmoved by the hurts of others.  It is a profoundly dissatisfied contentment.  It is constantly hungry for more of the feast of God’s grace. (page 124)


We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair.  There are different kinds of reward.  There is the reward which has no natural connection with the thing you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things.  Money is not the natural reward of love, that is why we call a man mercenary if he married a woman for the sake of her money.  But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not a mercenary for desiring it.  A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love.  The proper reward is not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation. (page 126)

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I want my life back : Reclaim your marriage

John Ortberg with Rick Blackmon talking about marriage.

What is the hardest thing about marriage?

Difference.  Without a doubt.  We become more different the longer we are married.  The time we are least different is when we start out, but we become more different as time goes on.  Difference is gender, background, personality and values.

As difference happens, then so does conflict.  And Rick’s job is about repair.  If someone wants to avoid conflict, he tells them they have come to the wrong place, but if they want to repair, if they want to do good quality repair, then he can help.

Ortberg then talks about the presence of sin in a relationship.

Blackmon uses the acronym CRAFT to talk about relationships.  He says that the difference and learning to live with it is the biggest factor in a relationship.  You cannot have a relationship without difference, and possibly the time we are least different is when we get married, and we become more different as we get older.  In such times, difference will lead to conflict, and conflict can lead to good quality repair.

C – Conversation mode, stay out of the bird brain (the reactive core) and get into the cortex.  This often requires calming down and taking space.  These are the Proverbs references

R – Remember, remember the times of conflict and remember that you will not remember them in the same way.

A- Is about accepting difference, the Hilary Clinton thing I think is in here

F – Forgiveness – two kinds of sorry, Oops and Genuine sorry, good set of things here about things that we have to say sorry for because of bad intention (round about 23 minutes).

Then says we are good at saying sorry but not so good at forgiving.  Gets people to say “I forgive you to each other”

T – Transformation – that this is part of how we change

Dealing with Enemies


A Commentary by John Stott.

MATTHEW. 5:43-48. Active love (continued).

Words can also express our love, however, both words addressed to our enemies themselves and words addressed to God on their behalf. ‘Bless those who curse you.’ If they call down disaster and catastrophe upon our heads, expressing in words their wish for our downfall, we must retaliate by calling down heaven’s blessing upon them, declaring in words that we wish them nothing but good. Finally, we direct our words to God. Both evangelists record this command of Jesus: ‘Pray for those who persecute (or abuse)you.’ (Mt.5:44; Lk.6:28). Chrysostom saw this responsibility to pray for our enemies as ‘the highest summit of self-control’. Indeed, looking back over the requirements of these last two antitheses, he traces nine ascending steps, with intercession as the topmost one. First, we are not to take any evil initiative ourselves. Secondly, we are not to avenge another’s evil. Thirdly, we are to be quiet, and fourthly, to suffer wrongfully. Fifthly, we are to surrender to the evildoer even more than he demands. Sixthly, we are not to hate him, but (steps 7 and 8) to love him and to him good. As our ninth duty, we are ‘to entreat God Himself on his behalf’.
Modern commentators also have seen such intercession as the summit of Christian love. ‘This is the supreme command,’ wrote Bonhoeffer. ‘Through the medium of prayer we go to our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God.’ Moreover, if intercessory prayer is an expression of what love we have, it is a means to increase our love as well. It is impossible to pray for someone without loving him, and impossible to go on praying for him without discovering that our love for him grows and matures. We must not, therefore, wait before praying for our enemy until we feel some love for him in our heart. We must begin to pray for him before we are conscious of loving him, and we shall find our love break first into bud, then into blossom. Jesus seems to have prayed for his tormentors actually while the iron spikes were being driven through his hands and feet; indeed the imperfect tense suggests that he kept praying, kept repeating his entreaty ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Lk.23:34).


If the cruel torture of crucifixion could not silence our Lord’s prayer for his enemies, what pain, pride, prejudice or sloth could justify the silencing of ours?
I find I am quoting Bonhoeffer in this chapter more than any other commentator. I suppose the reason is that although he wrote his exposition before the outbreak of war, he could see where Nazism was leading, and we know to what fate his Christian testimony against it brought him in the end. He quoted a certain A.F.C.Villmar of 1880, but his words sound almost prophetic of Bonhoeffer’s own day: ‘This commandment, that we should love our enemies and forgo revenge, will grow even more urgent in the holy struggle which lies before us… The Christians will be hounded from place to place, subjected to physical assault, maltreatment and death of every kind. We are approaching an age of wide-spread persecution…Soon the time will come when we shall pray…It will be a prayer of earnest love for these very sons of perdition who stand around and gaze at us with eyes aflame with hatred, and who have perhaps already raised their hands to kill us… Yes, the Church which is really waiting for its Lord, and which discerns the signs of the times of decision, must fling itself with its utmost power and with the panoply of its holy life, into this prayer of love.’
Having indicated that our love for our enemies will express itself in deeds, words and prayers, Jesus goes on to declare that only then shall we prove conclusively whose sons we are, for only then shall we be exhibiting a love like the love of our heavenly Father’s. *For he makes his sun to rise (Notice in passing, to whom the sun belongs) on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust* (45). Divine love is indiscriminate love, shown equally to good men and to bad. The theologians (following Calvin) call this God’s ‘common grace’. It is not ‘saving grace’. enabling sinners to repent, believe and be saved; but grace shown to all mankind, the penitent and the impenitent, believers and unbelievers alike. This common grace of God is expressed, then, not in the gift of salvation but in the gifts of creation, and not least in the blessings of rain and sunshine, without which we could not eat and life on the planet could not continue. This, then, is to be the standard of Christian love. We are to love like God, not men.

Tomorrow: Matthew 5:43-48 Active love (continued).



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The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible Speaks Today © 1978 John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved

Tortured For Christ – Part 1


The 14 year old son who would not let his father confess, would not die a traitor – page 33


Saying to the communists “have you no pity” – they quoted Lenin saying that you have to break eggs to make an omelette – this is pure materialism – page 34


A priest who was forced to consecrate human excrement and give them as urine; when asked why he participated, replied “don’t judge me please, I have suffered more than Christ” – page 35


The pastor who used to take beatings instead of other prisoners – page 36


The bride taken on her wedding day, saying “I thank him that I am worthy to suffer for him.”” – page 36


Making the deal, that if we preach, you beat us – page 39


“I have seen beautiful things” – (how lovely on the mountains, Isaiah 52) – page 40


The Communist Reck who would say “I am God”; later he realised his true calling – page 40


This has a truth, you have been created to be a god like being – page 41


Tithing bread in prison – page 41


How his son, Mihai, became a Christian after seeing the persecution of his mother – page 44


How Mihai witnessed at school for standing up for the Bible – page 45


The Christian daughters who became prostitutes in order to protect their family.  Please do not judge says Wurmbrand – page 46


The Church that was told it could never have 36 members, only 35 – page 47


The value of Bibles cannot be understood by “an American or an English Christian who ‘swims’ in Bibles.” – page 48


Bringing the joys of Christ to communists who are so empty spiritually – page 50


The way that the angel meets Joshua and says “Nay” – these are not human responses; I am seated in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2) – page 50 (Joshua 5)


In solitary confinement, the Lord’s prayer was too much for us, we used to pray “Jesus, I love thee” – Romans 8, groans that words cannot express (page 53)


The minister who was beaten, and as some cursed the communists, he would say “Please don’t curse them” – page 53


Only love can change the communists – love which differs from the compliance exercised by many Christian leaders (page 55)


Need for strategic view in Missionary work, and to aim for the leaders – page 57


Wars can only be won by offensive strategy and strategy in mission – page 58


Why so many Christians had nicknames, and why people use secret signals – page 58


“A man really believes not what he recites in his cree, but only the things which he is ready to die for” – page 59


What encourages us to preach the Gospel in communist countries is that there those who become Christians are full of love and zeal.  I have never met one single lukewarm Russian Christian.  – page 65


God is “the Truth”.  The Bibles the “truth about the Truth.”  Theology is the “truth about the truth about the Truth”.  Fundamentalism is the “truth about the truth about the truth about the Truth”.  – page 66


Some tell me to “Preach the pure Gospel!”  This reminds me that the communist secret police also told me to preach Christ, but not to mention communism.  Is it really so, that those who are for what is called “a pure Gospel” are inspired by the same spirit as those of the communist secret police? (page 71-72)


My suffering consists first of all in the longing after the unspeakable beauties of the Underground Church, the church which fulfils the old Latin saying Nudis nudum Christi sequi (naked, follow the naked Christ). (page 73)


The suffering Church are like those who receive only cabbage with unmentionable filth when they ask for bread, yet continue to praise God (page 73)


“I suffer in the West more than I suffered in a communist jail, because now I see with my own eyes the western civilisation dying.” – page 73


On the defence of the individual and those who complain that Christ is not an intellectual – page 79-80


Ordained next to the tomb of a martyred bishop because the communist bishop would not ordain – page 81


In Russia no-one remembers the arguments for or against infant baptism or millennial controversies – page 83 (and more on arguments with the communists)


The professor being asked to drink the water he said he had turned into wine.  “This is the whole difference between you and Jesus.  He, with His wine, has given us joy for two thousand years, whereas you poison us with your wine.” – page 89


Elsewhere there is talk of Communist tracts which attacked the scriptures in doing so gave the Christians access to the Christians (do not know page)


Constantly the argument is that man is more than matter, that people are spiritual beings (page 90)


It is only when a train goes over a bridge that it proves its great strength (page 90)


There is something positive in the enormous amount of drunkenness in communist countries, it is about people seeking something beyond the material – page 91


Meeting a Russian captain who was getting drunk, sharing Christ and it turning out to be a former Orthodox priest who now regretted all that he had done for the communists – page 91


The soldier who turned up at a Church and held the gun to a ministers’ head.  When the minister refused to change the Russian said “It is true” and turned to Christ (page 93)


The Russian soldiers who said that those who did not abandon the faith would be shot at once, and when they were left with those who stayed, were delighted to share fellowship with true believers.  “We too are Christians, but we wished to have fellowship only with those who consider the truth worth dying for.” (page 93-94)


The parts of the communist Church – the underground pastors and leaders, the laypeople, the official clergy who have a parallel life running the underground Church – page 96-98


The remarkable street demonstrations of Churches in communist countries (page 101)

Evangelicalism and the Army

The British Armed forces have often been injudiciously ignored as agents in the spread of Evangelical revival, probably because of traditional unflattering stereotypes about military behaviour.  We need to see the army as like other institutions and communities in flux in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where uprooted individuals sought identity and frameworks for their lives amid confusion and danger: Evangelical principles were as likely to appeal to soldiers as to anyone else, perhaps more in view of their confrontations with violence and death.  Moreover, the British army’s and navy’s steady embrace of non-partisan patriotism chimed well with a general tendency in British Evangelicalism to keep away from politics unless absolutely necessary, while tending to patriotic conservatism.

(page 755)

Battles aren’t won by preachers

On meeting Tony Blair

On the way back, we talked about Militant.  I wanted to know what he thought about this Trotskyist sect that had infiltrated Labour.  I was representing the party in the legal case against them and, having studied them and their methods, I knew there was no dealing with them, other than by expelling them.  He didn’t agree, and I spotted the fundamental weakness in his position,: he was in love with his role as idealist, as standard-bearer, as the man of principle against the unprincipled careerist MPs.  He wouldn’t confront those who were actually preventing the idealism from ever being put into effect.  He was the preacher, not the general.  And battles aren’t won by preachers. (page 36-37)

Hope plunges us into the struggle

Commentary on the Psalm, New Interpreter’s Commentary, Page 722-723,

From Declaration of Faith, Presbyterian Church in the US, 1976


We know that we cannot bring in Gods kingdom.

But hope plunges s into the struggle

For victories over evil that are possible now in

The world, in the Church, and our individual lives


Hope gives us courage and energy

To contend against all opposition,

However invincible it may seem,

For the new world and the new humanity

That are surely coming.


Also in the commentary on Psalm 11,

“This trust is a confession to God’s ability to protect and a rejection of all self-help.”