Thanks, Heavenly Father, for John

“your Father knows that you need them. …Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:30-32).

Last Sunday I closed my sermon on Luke 12:22-34 with an illustration about God as our Father. It was taken from John Ortberg’s book ‘God is closer than you think‘ (p 15, 2005 edition). It began with John Ortberg conversing with a man who was sharing photos of his son as he flew in an airplane. Ortberg then commented about the man’s feelings for his son:

“One day away from his son is one too many. So he was rushing through the skies, taking a chariot through the clouds, implacably determined to be at home with his child. He didn’t simply want to love his son from a distance. He wanted to be with him.”

It was Ortberg’s next paragraph which really brought home the point:

“And then it hit me. I am the child on God’s screen saver. And so are you. The tiniest details of our lives never grow old to him. God himself is filled with wonder at our faltering steps and stammering words – not because we do them better than anyone else, but because he views them through the eyes of a loving Father. God shows our pictures to the angels until even the angels get a little tired of looking. And the story of the Bible is first of all God’s story – the story of a father rushing through the clouds to be at home with you. One day apart is one day too many.”

This is classic Ortberg. I was quite absorbed in finalising the sermon and it wasn’t until a bit later that I thought of the link with the title of my blog and podcast: ‘Riding on the clouds’. How could I not mention this quote in a post?! 

It also provides an opportunity for me to acknowledge here in my blog how much I have valued the preaching and teaching ministry of Pastor John Ortberg. I am ever thankful for the time back in 1999 when I heard John speak a word which was used by the Spirit to minister to me. That was about two months after my father died. I went out for a jog and listened to a tape by this guy, John Ortberg, whom I knew nothing about. It was a pivotal moment for me. As I said to John, decades later, when I wrote to him in August 2020: 

‘the Spirit touched my grieving heart in a powerful way that afternoon. It was an important and very significant moment for me and your words were key as they opened the Scriptures for me that day. I remain thankful to God for that word which so helped me that day.’

John’s preaching and many books have been a wonderful encouragement and resource for me in my own ministry. He also took the time to respond to my letter in a lovely handwritten card – it left me feeling that I had a new pen pal over in the States. I didn’t write back to him – he hardly needs an Aussie pen pal! But, thank you, John! The timing of that card was just right – you’re the real deal.

I do give thanks to the Lord for this brother who has served so faithfully in the ministry of the gospel. John helped me to reflect upon and deepen in the joy we have in the Lord, even as he drew me to this line of GCK on the Fatherhood of God:

“It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” GK Chesterton.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the work of faith, labour of love and steadfastness of hope of our brother, John.

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