Friday, February 23, 2007

(Last) Post #10: The Second thing we learn: Make Friends.

Last post!

SCROLL DOWN and read all the posts leading up to this one. But make sure you read the TEXT.

And the other thing you learn? What are you to do?

The final thing to learn is this: Make Friends.

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
Make friends with whatever you have to secure more ‘welcoming’, more 'embracing' in eternal homes.

The difficulty is the word ‘dishonest’. But I think his point is this: Dishonest Wealth is a way of talking about worldly wealth. It is compared to True Wealth in V11. True Wealth is riches that last forever. Where as the Worldly Wealth, will not be a part of the redemption of the world.

What do we mean by that?

Take this $20 (holds up $20)– Who knows where it’s been? The chances are very high that it has been in a world of deep rebellion and sin; that it has been involved in dishonesty. It is 'filthy lucre.' A cabbie gave this $20 to me last night. Who had it before him? I don’t know. The Mafia? Who knows? Its possible. Not probable, but possible. But who knows where it has been and what it has been used for.

But Jesus says -- use it. And everything else you have to "make friends now".

See, what could I do with this $20?

I could contribute to the budget of this church. That would be stunning as we establish churches in order to touch and transform lives. And this kind of support is commanded in scripture. You would free the council up to make choices for evangelism. Wouldn’t it be great to meet, in 'eternal dwellings', with the thousands and thousands of people who know Jesus because this church honored Christ for the next two hundred years, or two thousand years (should the Lord tarry)? Who will know Jesus, and embrace you in the age to come, because this church was planted 4 years ago, and you gave this Mafia-owned $20 to its cause? Good question.

I could take out to dinner my friend – I call him John for the sake of anonymity. John doesn’t believe. But I could use this previously Mafia-owned $20 and I invite him out. I wouldn't get a lot in Manhattan. Maybe breakfast. That’s good right? It establishes a relationship of generosity. Wouldn’t it be great to see John welcome me into heaven for my 'dishonest' $20?

I could give it to a world mission. I am astounded if you stack 10 of these $20 notes, you get $200 that could put a kid through private school in Tanzania for a year. Christ Church NYC are involved in giving scholarships to kids in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika in Africa. You might say – 'that’s a worthwhile investment, even if we never meet the kids that benefit'. But then you've missed the point: you will meet those kids at the redemption of the world.

So – will this $20 'pay off'? Maybe. It's a risk. But everything you do with your money is a risk. I presume in the economy of God, a kid who knows Jesus is worth that risk.

Imagine what you could, then, with $200? Or $2000? Or $2,000,000? OR $20,000,000.

There is more to be said about the complexity of this, but the principle stands:
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that
when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
Here endeth the lesson!

Thanks for you help, friends.

Any comments welcome.


SCROLL DOWN and read all the posts leading up to this one. But make sure you read the TEXT.

Do you know one possible reason that the underground church grew in China? And I’m not thinking persecution, which is the normal answer. One answer: Because of the communist government made it happen.

I have been told this (and I am looking for people who can comfirm this to be the case): That the communists knew groups were meeting and tolerated them. And monitored them. When a church grew to about 30, they said –

"Look, its OK that you meet, but you can’t have that many. It is potentially subversive."

So they were required to split in two. And therefore they grew and grew, splitting, and multiplying. And they knew each other, and kept each other accountable. I don’t know what this all means for us. We are more than 30 at Christ Church NYC. And we are more than 150 (See previous post).

I guess it will mean starting a new service. (For my non-NYC readers, we are planting a new congregation on April 1st).

Let’s get shrewd and keep thinking about our next congregation / church plant.

V9 (the second thing to learn) coming in a little while...

Post #8: Why GORE-TEX is more shrewd than the people of the Light.

SCROLL DOWN and read all the posts leading up to this one. But make sure you read the TEXT.

Have you read the Fifth chapter in The Tipping Point? The one with "The rule of 150". The book is a secular book. But the writer of Tipping Point asks the question – Why did John Wesley change the world is a way that George Whitfield didn't? Even though Whitfield was more famous in his day, and apparently a better preacher?

The answer, according to The Tipping Point, is this: he started smaller churches wherever he went. No more than 150 in one grouping. And then kept on 'planting'. 150, the book maintains, is a size that cultivates trust and community.

Armies know this. How do you get men to fight with each other and to trust each other? And to utilize gifts? Answer: Group them in groups of 100, and not many more. (They have centurions etc.)

Gore-tex – the coat manufacture takes this perspective. Every factory they have, (and there are 45 Plants worldwide) apparently has only 150 employees. They do this so that you do not have to have 'department heads'. Instead, you have relationships and trust. And do you know how they make sure it’s only 150? -- Make the car park fit only 150 cars! So then you are forced to start a new one factory. Shrewd.

Of course, not every company runs this way, nor necessarily needs to. That’s not The Tipping Point’s point. And I’m not saying that a church should only be 150. We at Christ Church NYC are a touch more than 150. But at least a book like this helps us here in Manhattan to ask the right questions. Not, 'are we big'? But 'is our size optimal for maturity and accountability and touching and transforming more lives for Christ?' What are we aiming for? And what is our 'car park' to make us plant more churches?

I am very keen for comments from readers on this one. Is OSO a reader?

But still...
… the people of the world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the people of the light.
An example of a shrewd church in coming in just a few hours... (When I'm back from IVCF [EU] at NYU. Pray for them will you? Great people. A few of them have joined Christ Church, and we are excited about their lives).

Post #8: Why HÄAGEN-DAZS is more shrewd than the people of the Light.

SCROLL DOWN and read all the posts leading up to this one. But make sure you read the TEXT.

Häagen-Dazs ice-cream (with its dubiously placed Umlaut): Do you know where it started? Scandinavia, right?


The Bronx.

Please -- do yourself a favor -- go the website and read the history. It looks like they are manufacturing hope down there.

Reuben Mattus had a "vision" for ice-cream. So he had a few flavors, called it something that sound Danish and traditional sounding. The two words are meaningless in any Scandinavian language. He marked the price as double his competitor. Your heard it – he doubled it. (Very smart) He got some fancy restaurants to name the ice-cream on the actual menu. This is not "Apple Pie and Ice-cream", its "Apple pie and Häagen-Dazs".

To this day, there is not a single Häagen-Dazs in Denmark or anywhere near Denmark.

Brilliant. Shrewd.

On a Wiki entry, I noticed that they went quickly to students. They realized that if you get the students eating Häagen-Dazs, you have a future eating Häagen-Dazs, and then you have the planet eating Häagen-Dazs.

So she specially opened up Häagen-Dazs restaurants in the Greenwich Village.

You get the students...You have a future...And then you have the planet.

The students!!
… the people of the world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the people of the light.

(To Australian readers, one of our areas at Christ Church NYC is to reach students).

Another example, soon.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Post #7: Why COKE is more shrewd than the People of the Light.

Hey -- is anyone reading? I can't tell. Just log on and say 'Yes'. Or email me jmoff / hotmail. There are 4 more posts to go (The sermon went for 30 minutes). Comments, questions, complaints are valued. Again, SCROLL DOWN and read all the posts leading up to this one. But make sure you read the TEXT first. To continue:

"I used to drive a Cab in Sydney. It got me through school and Seminary. I drove a man once, who was enormously busy on his cell phone in 1990. (Which I was impressed about – a cell in 1990). And when he had a break, I was making conversation, talking about Coca–Cola. As you do. And he listened to me patiently.

And as I came up one of the busiest streets in Sydney. I pointed up to this HUGE Billboard with the word Coke on it. And I said to him:

"Do you know that it’s Coke’s ambition to have the premier advertising spot in every major capital in the world?"

He says: "I know – I’m the marketing manger of Coke for the Pacific".

At which point, he talked and I listened. As I heard him speak, I couldn’t get over how motivated and excited he was. He was in for the thrill. The ride. And all for what?

Coke! Black Sugar water. That’s all it is friends. You students say how it gets you through exams. But it’s only Black Sugar Water.

You are people of the light – You have forgiveness and grace and hope for the redemption of the world. You have the ONLY way to God. They have black sugar water. But he is more motivated than I am.

Coke’s slogan now is: "Make Every Drop Count". How about: "Make every person count"?

I’m not saying that we need to be into marketing like they are. Or that we have empty slogans. But how passionate are we? Really? This guy is passionate about Coke, and we have The Hope.

… the people of the world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the people of the light.

Tomorrow: Häagen-Dazs ...

Post #6: The First thing we learn: Be Shrewd.

SCROLL DOWN and read all the posts leading up to this one. But make sure you read the TEXT first:

The first thing is you learn is this: We are not, and yet we need to get SHREWD. We have to face the truth. We have to own up to our failure to live shrewdly. That is, in light of the future: the coming day of wrath and redemption.

V8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
Here is where we get stuck.

The master in the story is not God. It’s tempting to say that because he’s rich, owns property, and calls people to account. The master in the story is not God. He’s just a master. He is an illustration leading to the main point.

What’s the main point? To practice dishonesty? No – you know that from Verses 10-13. We need to be faithful. Not dishonest. Faithful in a little, and therefore faithful in much.

So what’s the main point? The main point is: the manager is shrewd. He is astute. He has street smarts. And that’s being commended, not the dishonesty. The master hates the dishonesty, presumably, but he cannot help be see the genius in the approach.

The 'super' did three things: Look closely at V3-4
  • He stops and assesses the situation. "He said to himself..." V3
  • He owns up to crisis and the coming judgment – "Now that my master is taking the position away from me..." V3
  • And he decides to actually do something: "I have decided what to do..." V4
What is the alternative? To just keep going as though there will not be a crisis – no disjuncture between now and later? Just plow on? If you knew that the stock market was going to crash tomorrow. You’d do something today. That’s not rocket science. If you know that you have cancer, you act today.

You see, we know the future of planet. And yet we do not …
  • Stop to assess our lives;
  • Nor do we own up to the crisis to come;
  • Nor do we do something in light of the coming day of wrath and redemption.
We don’t gear for God’s eternal mission the way that secular people gear for their little visions.

I have four examples of how the people of the world know more than the children of light...


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Post #5: The Fourth Surprise ...

(First read the Introduction and the first surprise, the second surprise, the third surprise and the TEXT: Luke 16)

It is a crazy so far. And it's good to remember it is our good Lord Jesus telling this story! So the fourth surprise is the words Jesus places on lips of the rich man.

In the story, you expect there to be wrath and hell to pay. Some justice to be done. You do not expect him to get away with it (Like Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors). You expect him to cop it, like the story Jesus tells of the man who doesn’t forgive (Matthew 18).

But the master finds out about the scam – maybe the next day. And Jesus has him commend the super! Not condemn. Commend.

Look at V8 carefully:
And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly

Now, notice that the master commends him as shrewd, whereas Jesus, the narrator, identifies him as dishonest. That is an important distinction.

But in your mind's eye, you can see the rich man, next day, when he looks at the books, and figures it out.

"You sly fox."
"You cheeky monkey."
"You … You are brilliant."

"Seriously, no wonder I hired you in the first place."

And that’s it. That's the story. I always liked this story because it was surprising. It isn’t a Hallmark moment. Its not the kind of nice note you write to someone, just to lift up their spirits, or put on a poster to sell at some Christian bookshop.

But what do you learn from it?

Frederick Buechner said: "With parables and jokes both, if you've got to have them explained, don't bother." So I am inclined to let the story just sit, and you can make of it what you will. But I can’t. Because Jesus offers an interpretation.

One in V8.
The other in V9.

Two things to learn coming...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Post #4: The Third Surprise ...

(First read the Introduction and the first surprise, the second surprise and the TEXT: Luke 16)

The third surprise for us is that he manages to secure his financial future using absolutely nothing in his personal bank account. Brilliant. Serious genius.

This is Ocean’s 11, right?

He has a window, and so he puts his grey matter to use. And does what he’s been doing for years: He schemes (perhaps this point is not surprising?)

V3: "What will I do? ... Not strong enough to do manual labor... Too proud to beg"

V4: "I have decided what to do... So that when my master gives me the sack, I’ll have a people to pamper me. And put me up in their guest rooms. And let me stay for a year or two in their vacation homes."

You know the plan: He brings his master’s debtors in one by one. (There could have been more than 2. He could have done this all afternoon.)

Super: "How much do you owe?"
Debtor: "$1,000,000."
Super: "Here, sit down quickly take this legally binding document that I can still legally sign... mark it $500,000."

There’s a nervous second.
The debtor looks into the Super’s eyes.
The super nods.
The debtor marks it.

See, any more than a second, and the conscience begins to dictate your morals. And who wants that in a moment like this? Chances to reduce your debt like this come once in a lifetime.

You ever had this temptation? The restaurant has under-billed you. And you think to yourself, if I pay this quickly, and walk out of here quickly then I won’t have to think too much about it. But if you do have to think about it for too long, you’ll back down and tell the waiter.

You ever been tempted with that?
Yes, well, neither have I…

So the debtor has just 'made' $500,000. The Rich Man has just lost $500,000. And the super has got $500,000 of ‘currency’ in the debtor’s bank. Some chips in the game.

In the story, he does it again. V7. This time the amount is even larger.

You see what has happened? The super had nothing. Actually he has one thing: The ability to sign documents and he had that ability for only for a short time. And he’s shrewd enough to make it work in his favor.

For his savvy, he has people who 'owe him big time', and therefore guest cottages, basement living areas, and vacation homes all over the country.

The final surprise coming...


Post #3: The Second Surprise ...

(First read the Introduction and the first surprise, and the TEXT: Luke 16)

The 2nd surprise is that the rich man gives his economist a window for that manager to take advantage of him. Some of you know exactly what I mean by this. Some of you are bosses. If you are about to sack someone and you think that that person is then going to do any damage to your corporation, what do you do? You tell them to be out within the hour, and make no phone calls, and leave the computer right where it is.

Look at V2 – He summons him…

"What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer."
In the words of the immortal Trump: "You’re fired."

And yet he gives him this window of time. This small amount of time to go away and then come back and give him an account of his management...

What was our rich man thinking he was going to do? Maybe he was hoping he’d fess up and beg for mercy and pay back four times that amount. We’re about to hear about a man like this in the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19).
You know...I don't know. Maybe he thought that he was going to reform??
Our third surprise...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Post #2: The First Surprise ...

(First read the Introduction and the TEXT: Luke 16)

There are at least four surprises in the story.

The first is this: Because you know the gospel, you expect the crook to throw himself on his master’s mercy and find grace and forgiveness. Just like lots of stories in the gospels (and of Luke in particular). A classic example: the woman who wipes Jesus' feet with her tears. (Luke 7)

That’s what you expect. But instead the crook capitalizes on his master’s apparent stupidity. And then … he totally lucks out.

It’s like the synopsis of a Woody Allen film.

V1 –“Then Jesus said to the disciples, There was a rich man.”

He is very very rich. The sums he’s lends out are ENORMOUS.

The rich man has a ‘manager’ – literally in the Greek – he is the ‘economist’ – a ‘Supervisor’ of the household -- in charge of all his master’s affairs. He’s the ‘Super’ (For our US readers). But he’s been doing deals with the money and squandering the property that doesn’t belong to him. (V1).

He is Jeff Skilling from Enron.
He is Marc Rich with the US taxpayer.

So how do I know that we EXPECT the story to go the normal route of forgiveness and grace?

A similar phrase “squandered his property” V1 has been used in the parable just before this one. In that case to the Prodigal son, who squanders his father’s property, discovers he is in a bad way, and he says “What will I do?” And then he throws himself on the mercy of his father; who then embraces the prodigal.

But you’ve just read the story – It simply doesn’t end that way.

So the second surprise is...


Post #1: Unexpected and Surprising

Thanks for your help last week. Below (and this rest of the week) is what I came up with. There will be about 7 posts. That'll make them more bite-sized. Comments, questions, complaints are welcome.

First, read the TEXT: Luke 16


We don’t expect pastors and preachers to say unexpected things from their pulpits. And if they do, it’s often simply bombastic, or over the top, or heretical. (And they sometimes get a little media attention for it for their troubles.) But when someone says something unexpected and surprising that actually has some wit and clarity. Some real wisdom that has the potential to shape life: That’s what I call a golden moment.

Well...I have no such moment for you this morning.

But Jesus does (Luke 16).

This parable is a strange parable. Its very odd and hard to grasp. Rudolph Bultmann said that it was insoluble. I'd say: 'Hard to pin down'. But I think that it has a terrific punch line.

There are at least four surprises in the story.

Tomorrow, surprise Number 1...


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Jim Packer in the 80s, Rob Bell in the 00s?

Tell me the truth.

First, to understand this post, you must read THIS - It is Ben Witherington's post on Rob Bell's speaking tour. (You'll need a few minutes). Read the comments too.

Amongst lots of thoughts on reading that Blog, I have this one:

When we were at University, everyone I know read people like Stott, Packer, Carson and Wright and others like them to learn and explore difficult things from the Bible. If we needed to know what the Ancient Jewish traditions were, it was scholars we turned to -- people whose academic 'runs were on the board'. We 'listened' to them debate. And if we didn't read them, we talked and listed to those who had read and digested these guys. The scholars may not have been particularly creative writers or outstanding speakers. But they spoke the truth with some level of authority. They wrote the proverbial book on these subjects. And they showed all their 'working out' in endless footnotes and bibliographies.

Now, more and more people are turning to Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll and Brian McLaren and others to educate us about theology and 1st century Jewish history and how they relate to the interpretation of Scripture and culture.

I know that popular speakers have always made clear what the academics have said. We all went to Katoomba Conventions and loved it. We all had good pastors teaching us the Scriptures faithfully within community and in creative ways that we could understand.

But now its global.

At least three things have changed:
  • We are getting to be impatient readers -- They've all read Blue Like Jazz and Velvet Elvis, but try handing a student today John Stott's The Cross of Christ. Too much theology for some.
  • A distrust of authority -- Academics get it wrong all the time. If they can get it wrong, then it doesn't matter whether a person is proven to know their subject. Especially if they 'connect' with young people and 'connect' with culture.
  • The invention of iPod and iTunes, togther with the 2 minutes it takes to download any old junk.

Am I right? And have we taken a turn for the worse? And is there any hope?

I'm not sure. All I know is that Ben Witherington III sat waiting in a packed house ready to watch Rob Bell speak about the history of Judaism and its impact on Christianity.

Methinks it should have been the other way around.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Friday Night Video: Nathan Tasker

My good friend Nathan Tasker is the answer to many prayers. His songs and his music testify to the Truth in every excellent way. On my Ipod, half of my 'most played songs' are from the album "Must Be More". These songs lift my soul, and make me live beyond my soul.

Nathan and Cassie have just moved to the States, which is Australia's loss and America's gain. I highly recommend poking around his website: And for you to watch this new presentation:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Help me...

I'm preparing for a sermon on Sunday. And I'm looking for help. My hat is in my hand, and any nickels and dimes might be of assistance. Maybe this could be a collaborative effort?

Click on Luke 16:1-13 for my text: The so-called 'Parable of the Dishonest Manager'.

I get this bit:
V8: The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
But this bit is not clear:
V9: And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Every time I've read these verses, I feel like I'm trying to push a square peg through round hole. So can you answer maybe any one of the following questions for me?

  • What do these verses mean?
  • Is Jesus being serious??
  • How do these verses challenge the 'people of the light'?
  • Is there something obvious that I am missing? Maybe something in its historical context? Or in the original languages?
  • Have you preached on these verses? Or have access to someone who has?
  • What are the best commentaries on this? And the wildest applications?
  • Do you have any online resources? Solid MP3 sermons on this text that I can listen to on the subway?

Go on -- have a go.

"Feed the faith of the saints in Manhattan." says Justin, opening his cap for anything to feed on.

Friday, February 09, 2007

1961-2007 -- 45 years in NYC

Graeme Goldsworthy was a lecturer at Moore College in Sydney when I was a student there from 1995-1997. I made contact with him yesterday to show him This Post from an appreciative American Pastor in California.

Graeme kindly replied to my email. He let me know that he too spent some time in NYC. He was here in 1960-61 working as a minister out of a hostel kind of near where I currently live. Corner Bleeker and Mulberry St.

He sent me this Picture of the building he worked in 1960-61. And he ask me to see how it had changed in 45 years.

I went to NYU today, and walked past up Bleeker St. Here is the same site in 2007:

Click on the pics if you want to make them larger.

I notice seven things:

1. How cool is the difference between the two cars in front? Chevy to VW.
2. There must be a fire hydrant behind the two cars, and it has not been moved in 45 years. Hence the gap between the two cars and the next one.
3. The owners of the building have doubled the size of the building since 1961.
4. Notice the windows – the building has been turned, I think, into apartments.
5. The one way streets have not changed, nor the base of the lamp post.
6. Someone has planted trees since 1961.
7. Here is what I found most fascinating: That’s a subway stop on the right, on both pics. It is the entrance in 2007 to the Uptown 6 Local Train. It was, in 1961, called Lexington Ave IRT (which you can see if you look closely in Graeme's Pic) – but still the same train.

I love this kind of stuff.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tech Savvy

OK. So I'm standing in the kitchen, and Laurel's phone starts to ring. We all have Caller ID. I look to see who is calling.

The person calling: 'JUSTIN'.

This can't be right. My cell phone is sitting in its drawer. Maybe its been stolen.

I come out of the kitchen. And there is The Boy. Phone unlocked. Laurel's number found. Green button pressed. And Boy looking up cheekily at me.

How does this happen?

He's 2.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Link from Tubeo

(Click on Pic)

Craig Tubman -- your REFLECTION on this picture is spot on. (Save the year? You marked the pic as 2000). I think that it was a mere few weeks before wife and I were married in Atlanta.

Glorious times. Glorious God.

HERE is a good verse for you, CT, and for all those who served on that Houseparty.