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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Jailbreak!

The (Infamous) Antonia Fortress

When we last left our old and dear friend, Peter, he was in Jerusalem, languishing in a Roman prison cell, awaiting what he thought was his certain execution.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, Peter had been held in that prison for up to eight long, arduous days—the week of Passover.

So to help you feel this story—if I may put it that way—I need you to think back to one week ago.

It was exactly one week ago when we—in Peter in HD Podcast #51—met the notorious-King Herod Agrippa.

And I need you to consider two compelling/colliding realities now coming into play as far as Peter’s state-of-mind-and-heart while in prison was concerned.

My dear friends, SO MUCH for us to talk about (please forgive that dangling preposition).

And 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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“About That Time…”

Acts 12 begins with this poignant—or pregnant with meaning—phrase, Κατ᾽ἐκ-ε-νον δ τν και-ρν,

“About that time…”

Words that, as you will hear in this PODCAST, could just as well have been translated,

“At the same time…”

“In the meantime…”

Or,

“Meanwhile…”

  • Meaning that while our old friend from last week, the Prophet Agabus, was in beautiful downtown Antioch 300 miles to the North, warning of a coming famine to Jerusalem and Judea in the South…
  • Meaning that while the predominantly non-Jewish believers in Jesus were taking up a love offering to help to alleviate mass starvation and woeful suffering among their Jewish brothers and sisters in Jesus in Jerusalem and throughout Judea…
  • Meaning that while this gloriously beautiful unity of all of these first-generation Christ-followers was being realized throughout Israel and beyond…

Κατ᾽ἐκ-ε-νον δ τν και-ρν, “In the meantime,” much was going on in Holy City of Jerusalem itself—gut-wrenching, faith-challenging, life-altering events that rocked the world of these early believers. Profound challenges that had nothing to do with Agabus’ future famine about which they didn’t yet know.

Our passage tonight—a modest four verses in total—goes to the very heart of the #1 longing of every human heart—including our own.

As well as the #1 question that has plagued the human race since time immemorial, including us.

Four short verses that describe what was going in lives of early believers particularly, and the residents of Jerusalem generally.

“About that time…”

All of this, ALL of this, so insightful for us, today, in our time.

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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Love Offering

On its surface, storyline in these final verses of Acts 11 is really pretty simple.

And as you will hear in this PODCAST, this story is as heartwarming as it is simple.

This story is also—and so importantly—equally trend-setting. So much will be set in motion that affects how we do things (or ought to do things) even today!

So.Much.Here, my friends, to give you and me pause to ponder, to think, to process.

Trust me. You are in for a rich and rewarding excursion into the depths of God’s Holy Word.

So get ready for your personal edification to take an exciting and exponential leap forward.

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 Ragamuffin Christian

The year is circa AD 44.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, a tectonic shift began to rumble through the region approximately 300 miles due North of Jerusalem.

A movement of God’s Spirit that ignited a gloriously-spectacular conflagration that began to combust in Antioch, that has since swept the world-over, kindling a flame of God’s glory that today burns brightly even in your own soul.

A blaze that should give each of us an overwhelming, soul-sustaining sense of hope.

Is it not amazing that this story focuses upon such an influential hub of activity known as Antioch—then in Syria, today in Turkey? Why amazing?

Oh, my friends, you are about to hear an amazing story indeed.

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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Divide and Conquer

Spoiler Alert: As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, one of the disadvantages of words on a page is that we cannot hear tone; we do not see body language nor facial expression.

In this message, I am attempting tonight to place myself in Peter’s sandals, sit myself at Luke’s writing table, and to teach tonight’s passage—one of most important in NT—in the tone and with the emotions with which Peter confronted a potentially explosive situation; with which Luke recorded this nearly-catastrophic confrontation.

I do not think it a stretch that Peter was caught completely off guard, taken totally aback, disheartened and likely exasperated by the severe reaction he received upon his return to his beloved Jerusalem.

So on the one hand, I speak to you from a broken heart, as I believe Peter’s was broken too.

On other hand, this story in Acts 11 has a glorious ending; and so shall we! God will bring beauty for these ashes! As He always does. As He ALWAYS does.

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 (Not-So) Silent Saturday

It is one of the most enigmatic statements in all of Scripture.

Ironically, as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, this mysterious statement follows one of the clearest, most-unambiguous and glorious proclamations in all of Holy Writ.

Two statements: one perplexing, one perfectly understandable, both written by our old friend Peter.

Timely statements each, given that the Easter season is upon us.

Two statements that beg us to answer two compelling questions:

1. Where did Jesus go during the hours between Friday night and Sunday morning?

2. What did Jesus do during those hours between His crucifixion and resurrection?

My friends, you are about to hear an amazing story seldom talked about precisely because it is so enigmatic—“difficult to interpret or understand; mysterious.”

Words that, when understood properly, bless our lives immeasurably.

You are in for an Easter treat.

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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Keeping It Kosher

Peter didn’t write much.

No surprise here. As you will hear in this week’s PODCAST, the hyperactive-apostle could not sit still long enough to put pen to parchment.

There is one of the four Gospels credited to Peter—but even that he could not write himself. Peter employed Mark to record his recollections. And no surprise that in reading what could-well be entitled, The Gospel According to Peter as Told to Mark, the one word that jumps out at us in Peter’s fast-paced, out-of-breath memoir is the adverb “immediately.” (Mark uses it 42 times).

All of which is to say that on the rare occasions when Peter did park himself at a desk to inscribe his insights (only twice—1 and 2 Peter!), we should sit up and take notice.

Case in point: 1 Peter 3:15.

“If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.”

Words, BTW, that define for us a biblical approach to personal evangelism—AKA witnessing, soul-winning, sharing your faith.

When they ask, we explain.

A principle that Peter learned, and learned well, here in Acts 10. The asker—Cornelius. Explainer—Peter.

Problem was—and it’s a HUGE problem indeed—Cornelius was an unclean Gentile centurion living in the unclean pagan city-capital city of Roman occupation of Peter’s land. This was for Peter One.Huge.Problem on multiple spiritually-threatening, faith-testing levels.

In order to understand, I need to put you into Peter’s sandals. And in order to put you into Peter’s sandals, I need to alert you to what has historically been the Greatest.Single.Threat to Judaism, and BTW, to us.

Now, allow me to lay out dots, and then connect these dots.

This entire discussion centers around one divine injunction, repeated several times in the Torah.

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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“Seeker-Sensitive”? (Or Not!)

Embedded deep within the pages of the Old Testament we find one of God’s most precious promises.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, this bright ray of hope-filled sunshine was written to Jewish exiles in Babylon who were at the time experiencing their darkest hour.

It was written by the weeping prophet Jeremiah, who himself desperately needed a stabilizing reassurance from God that He had not, did not, and would not ever, no matter what, abandon His people.

Even though they had dramatically abandoned Him.

This unbreakable promise is found in Jeremiah 29:13, and is as true today as it was then, as true for us as it was them.

Hear it in the NIV, words worthy of memorization:

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

What’s the key word? Seek. בָּקַשׁ ḇâqaš. A rather intensive word that means “to seek or pursue earnestly.”

This word goes way beyond idle curiosity or a casual pursuit. Bâqaš speaks of a wholehearted desire.

Bâqaš The exact same word David used in Psalm 40:16,

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who—Listen!!!—long, long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’”

This is the very same image that Jesus invoked in the Sermon on the Mount when He said,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

This is Hebrews 11:6, that reads, “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently (earnestly, sincerely) seek Him.”

I can assure you—and as you are about to see—one Cornelius, a centurion from Caesarea, was in every sense of the word a diligent, earnest, sincere seeker.

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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You Want Me to Go WHERE? You Want Me to Do WHAT?

I want you to imagine for a moment this scenario. (As you will hear in this PODCAST, a potentially familiar biblical story to you.)

That being said, see if you can guess the name of its principle player.

His people were ravaged by a barbarically blood-thirsty Empire, the armies of which decimated his land, desecrated his holy places, and butchered his people.

His hatred for these pagan barbarians flamed in his guts with the white-hot fury of volcanic rage. A smoldering-just-beneath-the-surface-anger that could have understandably erupted into a deadly confrontation at the slightest provocation.

But God is a God of mercy, isn’t he?

So He asked this man to set aside his prejudices, to extinguish the fiery rage that blazed within him. And in the face of the mountain of abuses he and his people suffered at the hands of these hedonistic heathens, these merciless marauders, to travel into the very power-center of this occupying power in order to share with the people there the Good News of God’s redemptive love.

The notion that he would engage these interlopers on any level was utterly repugnant to him. Not to mention his absolute inability even to entertain the slightest possibility that some such as these might spend an eternity with him in Heaven.

He didn’t want God to save them; He wanted God to obliterate them.

So down to the seaport city of Joppa he went (that’s your clue to this mystery man’s identity) where he confronted a personal crisis of faith unlike he had ever experienced before.

Does he walk away in rebellion against God? Does he get into a boat and sail away, in direct defiance of God’s revealed will?

Or does he submit himself to the task to which God called him, knowing full-well that in doing so he may-well place himself squarely in the crosshairs of his sworn enemy?

To whom am I referring? Who was this singularly-selected servant of God, forced to face such a potentially life-threatening, history-altering choice?

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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