Tag Archives: Wisdom

Making Great Decisions

This is Ortberg on the 8th June 2014, transcript is here.

We make 70 decisions a day, 25,000 a year and 1.7million in a life time.  Decisions and the wisdom to make them are one of the most vital things in our life.

Begins with the story of Solomon, and wisdom being the thing that we ask for the most.

I really loved the use of James 1:5 – if any of you lacks wisdom then ask God – that God is in the business of not resolving circumstances with easy answers, of sending us postcards, of creating unthinking clones; God is not in the circumstance generating business as much as he is in the character generating business.

Uses the story of Elijah in 1 Kings to talk about the dangers of making decisions when you are fatigued (although not sure that quite fits with the passage, as Elijah doesn’t make any decisions, and doesn’t do what God ends up asking him).

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Two great tests

Proverbs 3:9-10

From Ultimate Training Camp, 23rd Jan 2005

There is an introduction on wisdom and a quotation from Agatha Christie, that Miss Marple is a woman of great wisdom.

On the adjunct of suffering and prosperity of Proverbs, that these are the two great tests of the Christian life.  To borrow an illustration from CS Lewis, they are like going down into your basement to discover if there are rats in your basement.  These two reveal to us what is going on in our hearts.

27 mins-

Quote on a woman who had known famous people before they were famous:

“I pity celebrities, no I really do.  Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Barbara Streisand were once perfectly pleasant human beings.  But now their wrath is awful.

I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you, he grants you your deepest wish and then giggles merrily when you realise you want to kill yourself.

You see, Sly, Bruce and Barbara, wanted fame.  They worked, they pushed.  And the morning after they became famous they wanted to take an overdose.  Because that giant thing they were striving for, that thing that was going to make everything okay, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness, happened.  And they were still them.  The disillusionment turned them howling and miserable.”

32 mins – I am messed up but I am still loved.  When I am messed up I can remind myself of the affirmation of the gospel.  When I am doing well I can remind myself of the humility of the gospel.

39 mins – suffering and adversity will make you into something great.  C.S. Lewis – to say to God, “Don’t let anything bad happen to me” is really another way of saying “Don’t love me.”

Also in there a really disturbing article from Jonathan Rauch called “Seeing round corners” from Atlantic Monthly, about the way that mobs behave in despicable ways because they fear no consequence from their action.  This is here: http://www.theatlantic.com/past/issues/2002/04/rauch.htm

Talks about idolatry being revealed when a relationship breaks up and if we react in such a way that this is the end of all meaning and life, then this shows that this person had become your idol.

Always with Keller there is the hope we find in the gospel which as ever is the way through the conundrums of life, the twin pressures, the gospel always provides for us another way.

Rescuing Stodgy Words

In the wittily profound Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis, the master demon Screwtape writes to his apprentice demon Wormwood that one of the important departments of hell is the Philological Arm.  “Our Father Below” has a team of skilled grammarians who diligently work away at eroding and then ruining words.  They have a special interest in working on the words that the Christian community uses in its conversation and witness.  We can observe in our contemporary world how they have done a pretty good job on “repent” by introducing cartoon figures of bent-over men carrying sandwich-board posters on city street corners, and on the word “saved” by squeezing it into a password that gets you into heaven, and by reducing “making love” to sexual intercourse.

“Prudent” and the cluster of wisdom words that surround it are too vital to be consigned to wallflower usage.  But they do need refurbishing.  Jesus manages to get words alive and kicking again, not by sending us to a dictionary and tracing their origin, but by putting them in a story where we can’t miss the robust nature that bursts out in surprised response to Jesus.

Stop doing dumb things

Stop doing dumb things – look at the book of proverbs – December 2nd 2012

Looks back at that stupid thing, that you used to say at primary school.  If someone said “I really love this hot dog”, then everyone would say “Well if you love it so much, why don’t you marry it.”

Invites everyone to say to each other first of all “Welcome to the school for fools.”


The thing that Israel loved is proverbs.

Wisdom is the dispute between two women – wisdom and folly.  Wisdom showed up in different places:

1. Wise attitudes

2. Wise initiatives

3. Wise sexuality

4. Wise financially

5. Wise humility

6. Wise Commitment – trust in the Lord with all your heart

Jesus is wisdom personified, and one day, because we love wisdom so much, we are going to marry it.


Sanctuary and Classroom



At the conclusion of the seminar we joined the entire seminary in the chapel to hold a memorial service for a respected teacher who had died suddenly of a heart attack.  The worship leader read the text: Psalm 91.  The appropriateness of the text was apparent: The text interpreted the occasion, and the occasion interpreted the text.  Afterward, some of the students who had been in the seminar, in a mood of anti-academia, spoke to me in praise of the chapel service and in criticism of the apparent uselessness and sterility of our classroom exercise.  In no way, they said, did our analysis of Psalm 91 compare with the immediacy and clarity of the reading in worship.  There was truth to what they said; there is light upon the page in the sanctuary that seldom comes in the classroom.  Nevertheless, I reminded the students that we did not just hum the psalm in the chapel, we had attended to words, to a message from the psalmist for a particular occasion.  We talked in the hallway at length about what that message was and listened to comments by students who were in the chapel but not in the seminar.  Before long two observations were made: First, while all in the chapel were moved by the appropriateness of the text, probably none present quite grasped the meaning and power of Psalm 91 as did those who had carefully studied it; and second, classroom and sanctuary should and do serve each other in the service of God. – Page 18

The Bible Jesus Read


Next year country

Key Words Hope Future Prophecy
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 187
Quote Kathleen Norris, who lives in the farm country of South Dakota, speaks of “next-year-country,” a landscape farmers know well; next year the rains will come, next year hail won’t fall, next year winter will hold off a few weeks. Yet, continues Norris, she doesn’t know a single farmer who uses the idea of “next year” as an excuse not to get out and do the work needed now.


On apocalypticists

Key Words Apocaplypse Prophecy Future
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 187
Quote From Hans King:The apocalypticists asked about the kingdom of God, the absolute future, in the light of the present situation of man and the world. That is why they were so concerned about the exact date of its arrival. Jesus takes the very opposite line: he asks about the present situation of man and the world in the light of the imminent advent of God’s future kingdom. That’s why he is not concerned about the time or manner of the arrival of God’s kingdom.


Wisdom, wealth and might

Key Words Wisdom Money Knowledge Might Power
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 189
Quote According to Abraham Heschel, ancient society cherished three things above all else: wisdom, wealth and might. (Has anything changed since then?) The Hebrew prophets blasted all three of these values, any of which could become idols. None provides the kind of foundation a society needs; only trust in the living God can do that. The moral view of history differs markedly from the newspaper view, which tends to focus on fame and power – tokens of the very wisdom, wealth and might that the prophets denounced.


Joy beyond the walls

Key Words Joy Happiness Glad
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 194
Quote The prophects call us to a vision of a deeper, underlying reality, to “joy beyond the walls of the world, more poignant than grief” (Tolkien’s phrase). By giving a glimpse of the future, and of the cosmic present, they make it possible for us to believe in a just God after all.


Interupting ourselves

Key Words Prayer Worship Praise
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 127
Quote From Eugene Peterson, Leap Over A WallWorship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God. Worship is the time and place that we assign for deliberate attentiveness to God- not because he s confined to time and place, but because our self-importance is so insidiously relentless that if we don t deliberately interrupt ourselves regularly, we have no chance of attending to him at all at other times and in other places.

The Road Less Travelled

A full life

Key Words Suffering Pain Risk Gain Life
Source The road less travelled
Author M Scott Peck
Page 133
Quote If a person is not willing to risk pain then that person must do without many things:having children, getting married, the ecstasy of sex, the hope of ambition, friendship – all that makes life alive, meaningful and significant. Move out to grow in any dimension and pain as well as joy will be your reward. A full life will be full of pain. But the only alternative is not to live fully or not to live at all.

The essence of life is change, a panoply of growth and decay. Elect life and growth and you elect change and the prospect of death

References Life in its fullness (John 10:10)


I Love my family

Key Words Love Care Concern
Source The Road Less Travelled
Author M Scott Peck
Page 119
Quote Says that love is not a feeling, it is an act of will directed at the wellbeing of its object.

Thus even though an alcoholic may say “I love my family”, the fact that this is causing them hurt clearly shows that this is not an act of love


Judicious love

Key Words Love Judgement Struggle Pain
Source The Road Less Travelled
Author M Scott Peck
Page 111
Quote Love is not simply giving; it is judicious giving and judicious withholding as well. It is judicious praising and judicious criticizing. It is judicious arguing, struggling, confronting, urging, pushing and pulling inaddition to comforting. It is leadership. The word “judicious” means requiring judgment, and judgment requires more than instinct; it requires thoughtful and often painful decision-making.


Love is not self-sacrifice

Key Words Love Self-sacrifice Doormat
Source The Road Less Travelled
Author M Scott Peck
Page 111
Quote Tells story of minister who’s family are all having breakdowns because he is doing things for them all the time. In the end he had to stand up to them
References Eye for eye (Matthew 5:38-48)


American War Brides

Key Words Love Projection
Source The Road Less Travelled
Author M Scott Peck
Page 109
Quote Tells story of American soldiers who married brides when they couldn’t speak English.

Once the women learned to talk to the men they no longer wanted to be married to them, because they didn’t love them, they loved the image that had been projected onto them.


Owning Before giving up

Key Words Love Sacrifice Possession Ownership
Source The Road Less Travelled
Author M Scott Peck
Page 97
Quote Talks about insight of most mystics that we must own something before we can give it away. It reminds of a similary thing that Covey talks about in “7 Habits”

Augustine and Happiness


According to Augustine, our cheif godo must both stretch and satisfy us.  It stretches us if it is better than we are; it satisfies us if it is something we can be confident we will not lose involuntarily, lest our happiness be undermined by worrying about its loss.  Such a good is spiritually helpful by stretching us in ways that draw us closer to fuliflling our God-given end – actually improving and even perfecting us. (page 32)

“For the better and more widely God is proclaimed, the fervently he is loved and esteemed.  And when this comes about, the human race cannot but advance surely and steadfastly toward the life of perfect happiness” (page 32)

He [Augustine] distinguishes proper from improper self-love and urges his readers not to fear talking about proper and improper self-hatred either.  The sermon is a precis of his teaching on self-love, which is an important component of his ethics. (page 38)

Beginning with the Catholic Way of Live, love began replacing wisdom as the way to God and happiness in God.  Augustine’s great twist on philosophical outlook was to identify the triune God as the truth and wisdom that the philosophers sought, and to say that the way to God is through love rather than insight alone.  Well-ordered love enables one to dwell in the fineness of things, their rightness and goodness, their beauty and excellence. (page 41)

But when I love you, what do I love?  It is not physical beauty or temporal glory or the brightness of light so dear to earthly eyes, or the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, or the gentle odour of flowers and ointments and perfumes, or manna or honey, or limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God.  Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God –  a light, voice, odour, food, embrace of my inner[ness], where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food that no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God. (page 41-42)


We cannot love what we are unacquainted with; but we do object to being unhappy, and that implies another state in which we would be happy.  (page 43)

Although all people say they want to be happy, not all really do: some lack the strength of character needed to admit that God alone is the only true and lasting happiness. (page 43)

Perhaps only individuals emotionally strong enough to risk change and engage self-criticism can be open enough to new ways to make their way to a happy life. (page 43)

Asking whether happiness lies in virtue or in material goods suggests that happiness is an object, whereas the Confessions present it as a form of knowledge of God stored in memory. (page 46)

The Stoics maintain that living virtuously is living happily, and they seem to think that that is relatively easy to do.  It is for them a matter of knowing and willing.  But Augustine has a deeper grasp of human psychology: happiness is spiritual growth, and it does advance through powers of the soul; but four cardinal virtues, while perhaps necessary, are insufficient.  Without love, that is, the ability to love well – or, rather, to love God well – the divided soul will never heal. (page 46)

The crucial point is that the Stoics recognise only the ignorant soul and not the divided soul. (page 47)

A good will that aspires to God can bring a person near to complete happiness, but Augustine holds tenaciously to the view that life is so challenging that true happiness eludes us. (page 47)

Augustine concludes thatit is altogether impossible for one to be genuinely happy unless that happiness is invested in wanting to remain alive in some sense.  That requires faith in the immortality of the soul; here is Augustine’s eschatology at full tilt.

Only by way of something that not every everybody wants – sharing in the immortality of God – can we proceed toward something that everybody does want, namely happiness.  For “many despair of ever being immortal, though no one can be happy without this.  By failing to believe that they could be immortal, they fail to live so that they can be.  So faith [in immortality] is necessary if we are to obtain happiness… of body and soul.” (page 49)

The happy life promies to us in contemplation of eternal things, that is, God, “the best and happiest spirit of all”.  Recognising the manifold divine attributes that are the divine life, he contains them within twelve: eternal, immortal, incorruptible, unchangeable, living, wise, powerful, beautiful, just, good happy and spirit. (page 49)

Catching the verve of the divine life is essential for grasping the soteriological import of Augustine’s moral psychology and is the foundation of the constructive proposal offered here. (page 49)

The journey into God is a helaing journey into self, for each step deeper into God heals and strengthens love.  In this journey, love of material goods loses its power as one is healed in, by and for the love of God, which is at the same time, perfect self-love. (page 50)

The point is not finally that Stoicism does not work because it cultivates false bravery, but that it trusts in reason rather than in the mercy of God, which inspres hope.  (page 54)

For Augustine, happiness is the spiritual benefit of knowing, loving, and enjoying God, and loving self and others in pursuit of that goal.  It is being at rest in God, as he so famously said: “our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This sentence is a window into the therapeutic soteriology he develops in the moral psychology of the second half of De Trinitate.  It is a soteriology of ascent of sorts, but it is perhaps more accurately described as a soteriology of penetration.  He calls his readers to penetrate God and themselves until they recover the unbroken image of God that they seek to return to, because God has created them for that exalted identity and the beautiful life that expresses it. (page 57)

Augustine’s belief in a therapeutic soteriology that heals the broken image of God in us holds promise.  It has not been often discussed, though it deserves to be heard.  So I will voice to it here. (page 58)

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Augustine’s doctrine of happiness is that it heals the soul.  It is a christologically grounded eschatological theory of happiness that is salvific.  To be healed is to be happy.  If we cannot be happy in this life, it is because we cannot be fully healed here – not that we cannot be healed here at all.  The soul’s rest in God is its healing.  Augustine experienced that rest and was inebriated by it.  Yet he was unable to luxuriate in it continually and thus he hoped for the time when he would be able to do so. (page 61)

Adam’s Return – Part 5 – Your LIfe Is Not About You



On Paul- this one-man show turned a Jewish sect into a worldwide religion.  He allowed his small life to be used by the greater life, and that is finally all that matters.  Your life is not about you.  It is about God and about allowing your life to “be done unto you”, which is Mary’s prayer at the beginning and Jesus’s prayer at the end.  Which probably makes it the only prayer worth saying:


That is what the saints know and we don’t

That is why we don’t really understand the saints.

That is why masters cannot teach many people.

This is why there are not many masters.

Most people think their lives are about them.

And they aren’t. (page 66)

LIghtouse and Battleship

The captain then called out to the signal man “Signal that shiip. We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees”

Back came a signal “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees”

The captain said “Send, I am a captain, change course 20 degrees”

“I am a seamen second class” came the reply, “You had better change course 20 degrees”

By that time the captain was furious. He spat out “Send, Change course 20 degrees, I am a battleship”

Back came the flashing light “Change course 20 degrees, I am a lighthouse”