The Rip Heard ‘Round the World

Think of it. As you will hear in this encore PODCAST

(An encore because I am speaking at one of my all-time favorite places in the world, Hartland Christian Camp)…

Promptly at 3 PM…

Exactly at That.Very.Moment when Jesus breathed His last…

Precisely to the second when Jesus exclaimed, “It is finished. Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit”…

This happened:

“Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Do you have any idea what that means? It will take the remainder of this discussion for us even to begin to understand What.That.Means.

Why did God tear the veil?

It was obviously God who ripped it. No human hand could possibly tear it. That veil was an elaborately woven fabric that stood 60 feet high, equal in height to a seven-story building. No one could tear that curtain. Only God could tear that curtain.

Which only amplifies the question, Why?

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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“Weight-ing” on the Lord

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, the time has come for us to have a sensible discussion about an issue that has been grossly misunderstood, and consequently grievously mis-taught, in far too many Christian settings. All of this causing so much harm spiritually, mentally, and emotionally to so many.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Oh, my dear friends, get ready to be set free!

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The PRESERVATION of the Saints

As you are about to hear this PODCAST, it was a night that Peter would never, ever forget.

Nor should we.

For embedded within the events of this night is a blessedly-enduring word of hope and assurance. Hope and assurance for you. Hope and assurance for me. And certainly hope and assurance for someone or someones whom you and I deeply love.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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“And Just When You Thought All Was Lost…”

“And just when you thought all was lost…”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, after his customary-yet-warm greeting, Peter could have begun his first foray into his rather short-lived, two-letter, dual-epistle-writing career with these words:

“And just when you thought all was lost…”

Because for Peter’s original readers, All.Was.Lost!

For these now-“scattered abroad exiles” had just been forcibly removed from their homes, had their lives permanently disrupted, and their families dramatically displaced.

Many-if-not-most of them were barely holding on, more surviving than thriving. Precious people precariously perched on the precipice of the abyss of uncertainty, just trying to make it through yet-another threatening day.

All of that to say that Peter could have begun this First Epistle of Peter with the words,

“And just when you thought all was lost…”

Because that was how they felt.

Just.Like.Some.of.Us.

Our challenges may not actually be as dire as theirs. But it sure feels that way some days, doesn’t it? Like we’re just barely hanging on? Like we’re more surviving than thriving? Like we’re maybe one step away from giving up?

“And just when you thought all was lost…”

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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A Word About Women (Courtesy of Jesus)–A Timely and Sadly-Necessary Theological Correction

OK, dear friends. In this encore PODCAST (while I am away speaking), we are about to leap off of the high dive into the shark-infested waters of what has become today an unnecessarily emotionally-charged, needlessly controversial issue among many of our so-called evangelical/fundamental churches.

One that has done immeasurable damage to the precious women in far too many congregations.

It absolutely sickens me to think how so many of us men have depreciated the value of women in the work of God.

And as you will hear ever-so loudly and clearly, it sickens Jesus too.

Who would have thought that women, specifically the role of women within the work of God on this earth, would become a hotbed of controversy? But it has.

And just in case you are wondering here at the “get-go” whether or not I am a complimentarian or an egalitarian on this issue. I am neither. Oh how I hate labels. Words that mean different things to different people (usually inaccurately so) with little or no nuance. Words that carry so much baggage.

That said, I have but one agenda: To let the Bible speak for itself with minimal commentary from me. All to make this one undeniable point as loud and clear, crystal clear as we can:

God has dramatically used, presently uses, and will continue to use women to further His purposes on this planet. Both inside and outside of local churches.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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God, bless You!

Image courtesy of Sabbath Truth

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, Peter begins his first lovely little letter literally with a literary explosion. It’s as if he has so much that he wants to say so quickly, that the syllables come pouring out of him like a waterfall of words.

Believe it or not, verse 3 all the way to verse 12 is one long and winding and wondrously scenic sentence. You heard that right. A grand total of 315 words (in the NLT), all of which form one single sentence. Only the first part of which we will discuss now, with so much more rich and glorious truth to follow in the coming weeks.

There is an life-altering, soul-stirring insight embedded in verse 3 that we would do well to consider. Since verses 1 & 2 serve as Peter’s greeting, the letter itself actually begins with Verse 3.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A rather remarkable statement given dire circumstances in which Peter’s original readers were living. We’ve already detailed them for you in the previous two podcasts. I’ll simply remind you that due to circumstances beyond their control—an empire-wide persecution at the bloody hands the infamously ruthless Nero—these were precious people—committed Christ-followers each, each our ancestors in faith—who had literally lost everything.

Even to the point of potentially losing their freedom and even their lives.

Theirs were the darkest of clouds with no silver linings.

A very fragile people living on the precipice with no safety net, clinging to their lives lived under the capricious actions of an unpredictable madman.

So if you were Peter, someone who fully understood and appreciated their seemingly insurmountable challenges—fears, insecurities, uncertainties—why would you begin your letter to them with the words,

“Blessed be the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

Does that not sound like a typically empty Christian cliché?

What prompted Peter to write with such audacity as to command his readers—including us—to bless God:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Even in the absolute worst of circumstances?

Obviously, Peter’s words, “Bless be the God,” did not come out of a vacuum. Fact is, there is a long and rich history to these words, and the life-altering, soul-stirring insight embedded within them.

Peter’s opening line was anything but a cutesy little Christian cliché. Not to his original readers. After hearing this podcast, not to us.

Although this does raise one intriguing question:

Bless God?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

I thought God blesses us.

How in the world do you and I bless God?

The answer to that question will change your life.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Safe and Secure

Image courtesy of mudpreacher.org

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, all you need to know about the precious people to whom Peter wrote is summarized in three telling terms. One phrase, really.

One phrase that so accurately described them.

One phrase that so accurately describes each of us.

κ-λεκ-τος παρ-επι-δ-μοις διασ-πορς—literally, “elect foreigners in the diaspora.”

Now why in the world would Peter begin his first letter with this carefully crafted first phrase?

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect foreigners in the diaspora.”

Because the one question looming in minds of Peter’s distressed audience was this:

Has God abandoned us?

Not to get too personal with you, and at the risk of invading your private space, I cannot help but to wonder if you have ever asked of yourself that exact same question:

Has God abandoned me?

And Peter wanted them—and us—and you!—to know that as he penned this epistle, that same question was looming large in his own mind and his own soul.

Peter knew his audience.

Peter knew them.

Peter knows us.

Peter knows you!

Peter feels our pain.

Peter asks our questions.

Peter understands our doubts.

Peter feels our fears.

Peter can relate.

Peter “gets” it.

Peter “gets” us.

And I, for one, am profoundly grateful that he does.

And in “getting” us, he will assure us in this podcast that NO!!! God has NOT abandoned you. He has NOT turned His back on you. He will NEVER stop loving you. He will NEVER leave you. He will not now or EVER forsake you.

In a word, we are SECURE in His omnipotent hand.

Aren’t you glad?

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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“We Must Never Forget…”

What perfect timing!!! This PODCAST coming not a moment too soon!

Last week you might remember, I referenced the fact that so many of our precious Safe Haven family—You, not to put too fine a point on it—are going through profoundly challenging and difficult times.

Well guess what? In God’s perfect timing, that just happens to be the theme of 1 Peter.

“God’s Sustaining Strength Through Our (Your!) Sustained Sufferings.”

Be it physical, mental, emotional, relational, or spiritual—I know that many of us come stumbling into Safe Haven on a Saturday night, or click the link to this podcast—some of us feeling as though we are teetering on the breaking point.

Here is what I want you to hear: So did Peter’s original readers. This is a letter written specifically to them/to us/to you!

Get this: In the five short chapters that make up this beloved little letter, Peter will reference the suffering of his readers (including you!) 16 times.

“God’s Sustaining Strength Through Our (Your!) Sustained Sufferings.”

By way of this podcast, welcome to Peter’s world.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Questions–Then and Now

The Theater in Caesarea

Did you know that Adolph Hitler survived at least six—SIX!—assassination attempts?

As you will hear in this PODCAST, these six assassination attempts occurred in 1921, 1938, 1939, two in 1943, and the final attempt on July 20, 1944.

Get this: Any one of which, if successful, would have either prevented World War II—as well as the wholesale slaughter of six million of our precious Jewish friends—or brought both the war and the Holocaust to a screeching halt.

The older I get, the more questions I have.

As but two examples:

First: Why did God allow each of these six assassination attempts to fail?

I’m not now going to debate the ethics or lack thereof of political assassination in a time of war. Whether or not as Committed Christ-Followers we should support or condemn such actions is way beyond the scope of tonight’s discussion.

I’m simply asking: Would not our world have been a better place if just 1 of those attempts had succeeded?

What possible purpose could have been served by God allowing the likes of Hitler to live and to continue to torment the human race?

The failure of the final attempt on Hitler’s life is to me especially curious given the facts that A) Just 9 months and 10 days later—on April 30, 1945—Hitler killed himself in his bunker in Berlin.

And B) Tried and executed as a conspirator to that final, failed attempt on Hitler’s life? A man of far greater and more positive influence than I could ever hope to have, a man—to quote Hebrews—“of whom our world is not worthy.” I’m talking about the German pastor, theologian, and prolific writer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A precious, priceless servant of the Lord summarily executed by hanging a mere three weeks before Hitler bit into a cyanide tablet and shot himself in the head.

Had Hitler killed himself just three weeks earlier, would not Bonhoeffer’s life had been spared? Could not Bonhoeffer have then continued—perhaps for many, many years—to instruct and inspire the lives of countless Christ-followers the world over with his positive influence?

Why did God spare the life of a servant of Hell named Adolph Hitler just long enough to cost the life of a servant of Heaven named Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

God does not owe an explanation. But He does allow me to ask the question. So ask it, I will and I do.

That’s my first question.

My second question is this: Why did God allow a King named Herod Agrippa—a Jew who sold his soul and sold out his own people to the Romans in a cynical quest for power, position, and popularity—to live just long enough to destroy countless lives of Jewish Christ-followers in Jerusalem, as well as kill someone as stellar as the Apostle James?

James–brother to the Apostle John. Member of Apostolic trio—Jesus’ inner circle—Peter, James, and John? A man—to quote Hebrews—“of whom our world is not worthy.”

God does not owe an explanation. But He does allow me to ask the question. So ask it, I will and I do.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Mending a Mother’s Broken Heart

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, last week as I was rushing at the end to complete on time our discussion of Peter’s release from prison—an effort at which I failed miserably, BTW—we mentioned-in-passing two noteworthy individuals, each of whom deserve far more than passing-mention.

Mary, a generous homeowner and gracious hostess who opened her home for going on-fourteen years by the time of this story to the earliest, first generation followers of Jesus, our ancestors in the faith.

Mary also happened to be the aunt to our old friend Barnabas, and a very close and personal friend of our even older friend, Peter.

And then there is Mary’s son and Barnabas’ cousin (Colossians 4:10)—as well as Peter’s protege—John Mark.

With glistening credentials such as these, they both do indeed deserve our special attention. Especially given the fact that immediately upon his miraculous release from prison, instinctively Peter made his very first stop to announce his release at Mary’s home.

Even more especially given that this is Mother’s Day weekend.

For this is in every sense of the word this is a Mother’s tale.

Specifically, how God in His matchless, infinite, and eternal grace melted and mended a mother’s broken heart.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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