Monthly Archives: June 2013

THIS Should Make Your Day. (It Sure Made Mine!)

I almost broke out laughing, the other night at The Safe Haven. I mean, right in the middle of my message.

As a part of my weekly sermon preparation, I pray diligently for God to touch the hearts of the precious people who are a part of the Safe Haven family — literally (as in those who attend) and virtually (as in those who listen to the podcast). 

But last Saturday night, it was almost as if I was sitting in one of the comfy padded chairs listening to someone else speak. It was my voice alright, but it was like I was a listener rather than the speaker. Weird. But the thing of it was this: My voice was saying EXACTLY what I needed to hear. (I don’t know why I find that to be ironically bemusing, but I do.)

Boiling it all down to one succinct and simple soundbite, what I “heard” that night was this: God forgives sins.

Or more to the point (if you’ll permit a little self-indulgent narcissism here): God forgives MY sins. ALL of my sins.

Now, I know that you already know that. But before you write that off as another nice-sounding “tell me something I don’t already know” kind of pious platitude, just think about that for just a moment longer. God forgives sins. Or to put it another way, you and I are forgiven. We are forgiven of everything. Everything. 

462px-Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_-_The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Detail_Father_Son

Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son

Don’t take my word for that. Take God’s Word for that:

“You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love” (Nehemiah 9:17).

Psalm 32:1-2, “Our God, you bless everyone whose sins you forgive and wipe away. You bless them by saying, ‘You told me your sins, without trying to hide them, and now I forgive you.'”

“If you kept record of our sins, no one could last long. But you forgive us, and so we will worship you” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Daniel 9:9, “But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.”

Micah 7:18, “Our God, no one is like you… You freely forgive our sin and guilt.”

And then this, my favorite! God Himself says, “I — yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again” (Isaiah 43:25).

Trouble is, God will never think of our sins again, but so many of our “friends” surely do — non-Christian and Christian alike. It’s almost as if they love to remind us that they do still think of them: with furrowed brows when look at us; or patronizing tones in their voices when they speak to us; or the gossip that they spread to others about us; or the unkind things they say about us. Reminding anyone and everyone — lest they forget and give us a pass for our past indiscretions– that we are flawed.

Which shouldn’t surprise us in the least, given the fact that one of the names of Satan is “the accuser of our brothers and sisters” (Revelation 12:10). He NEVER lets us forget. And he delights in using those around us, often even those closest to us, to rub our noses in our past failures.

But the devil and his unwitting minions notwithstanding (because it really doesn’t matter what he or they say to us, or about us), God says — HEAR IT NOW — the three most beautiful words in the English language: I FORGIVE YOU!!!

Meaning this: We are forgiven! We don’t need to wallow around in the pigpens of our past filth. We don’t need to be spiritually paralyzed any longer by the shameful memories of things we have done. We no longer need to carry around on our sagging shoulders the dead-weight of our guilt. We no longer need to feel ashamed of our past poor choices. 

We are now free. Free from all of that.

We are now free to do exactly what the Apostle Paul did: “My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done” (Philippians 3:13-14).

And just what is it that “Christ Jesus has done” for us? Say it with me: Forgiven us. Forgiven us of everything.

So let those around us — non-Christian as well as Christian — say whatever they want about us. They can gossip about us to their hearts’ content. They can ever-so-subtly frown whenever our names are mentioned in their hearing. They can look so sorrowful as they feel the need to spread whatever hurtful things they so desire. They can paint however an unflattering picture of us they care to draw. Their opinions don’t matter. Their words mean nothing. Only God’s Word means anything. And what does God’s Word say about you and me? Hear it for yourself:

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?… Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one — for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” (Romans 8:31,33-35,37).

Or to put it much more simply than all of that: “We are forgiven!”

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A (Grand)Father’s Love

My Precious Little Nora

My Precious Little Nora

Less is more, so the saying goes. 

So in honor of this time-tested truism, I’ll make this short and sweet.

I love my granddaughters — all three of them. My life has never been the same since Callie, Nora, and Maggie entered this world. I love them in ways that they cannot even begin to understand at their very young ages.

 

So it was that I was doting on little Nora this past week when I had an epiphany:

We are created in God’s image, yes? That being the case, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that when God looks down on me, He feels the exact same emotions, feelings, inner glow, unconditional commitment, unqualified love — whatever you want to call it — for me that I feel for, in this case, little Nora.

And just as neither Callie, Nora, or Maggie can even begin to understand this (grand)father’s love for them, so you and I cannot even begin to understand God’s love for us.

But understand it or not, it is there. It is real. It is undeniable. It is unbreakable.

There isn’t much in this troubled world of ours that you and I can count on. But one thing’s for sure: My three granddaughters can count on my love for them — a love that will last forever. A love that will last forever No.Matter.What!

And in the exact same way, you and I can count on God’s matchless love for us. A love that will last forever. A love that will last forever No.Matter.What!

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When Illness Strikes: Developing a Doctrine of Disease

Jesus and sickI cannot think of a more personal topic of discussion. One that hits every single one of us right where we live.

Because the undeniable fact is this: Every one of us gets sick. Every one of us has friends or loved ones who get sick.

There isn’t a person reading this blog post who hasn’t prayed for someone who was/is sick. We have begged God for healing. We have pleaded with Him to have mercy on ourselves or on others whose bodies are debilitated by some disease.

Sometimes God answers yes. Other times, it’s as if He doesn’t hear us at all.

What should we make of this? What do we believe about disease and healing? What should be our attitude when we, or someone whom we love, gets sick? How should we pray for them, or for ourselves, when illness strikes?

It’s time for us to have this Most.Important.Discussion, courtesy of a truly remarkable individual who himself was horrifically sick. His attitude, his example, and his prayer have much to teach us.

Meet him by clicking HERE in yet another Jesus in High Definition podcast.

Please note that depending upon your web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for the podcast to play.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for engaging in this discussion. Please feel free to leave your comments!

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It’s Students Like These…

…Who are the Hope of America!

I cannot say enough about these High School students. As a part of their training for their summer’s missions trip, every one of them gave up their Friday night and Saturday morning to attend my latest Walk Thru the Bible Live Event. There they learned — chronological order — 77 people, places, and events of the Old Testament.

WalkThruWE HAD A BLAST!!!

I am so proud of every one of them. This morning, in front of their entire church congregation, they will recite these 77 people, places, and events in under 3 minutes.

Not a bad return for an investment of 6 hours.

It’s students like these who restore my faith in the future of this great country of ours.

So to each of these students I offer my heartfelt “Thank you.” Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for loving God and loving His Word as much as you do. Thank you for giving up a part of your summer vacation to help some hurting people whom you will meet on your missions trip. Thank you for being the light to this darkened world of ours.

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“Don’t Just Do Something…

…Stand there.”

What a profound piece of sage advice.

In the interests of full disclosure, I did not come up with that on my own. It came to me this morning courtesy of my virtual friend, Rabbi David Wolpe. I say “virtual” because though I have never met him personally, I admire him from afar. So much so that I listen regularly to his podcast.

And as I listened to one of his podcasts this morning, I had an epiphany.

He was relating to his congregation at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles that he recently returned from a trip to Israel on which he was accompanied by over 400 Jews from the LA area. When they arrived in Jerusalem, his group was wisely told, “While you are here in Jerusalem, don’t just do something. Stand there.”

Meaning this: Resist the natural urge to visit as many places as you can squeeze into every moment of every day while you’re here. Do not become overly preoccupied with shopping, taking in as many of the religious/historical sites as you can, snapping as many pictures as is possible, and on, and on it goes. Just stand there, and allow the miracle of the moment to work its wonder in your life. Take into your soul the well-worn stones upon which you are standing. Absorb the meaning of these stones to your ancestors, and soak into your mind and heart what these stones mean to you. And most importantly, what these stones mean to God.

Stones where God chose to touch the earth.

Now I am happy to report that in my fifteen previous trips to Israel — and I fully anticipate the same will be said of my 16th next March — I have been oh-so-careful, obsessively so, to do just that. To “Don’t just do something; stand there.”

I have my ritual, from which I rarely depart. On my first night in Jerusalem, I walk down to the Western (Wailing) Wall. I look upon its stones. I gaze into the eyes of the scores of people gathered there. I contemplate their often wrinkled faces, gnarled hands, and tear-drenched eyes. Their emotions become my own emotions. Their prayers for the peace of Jerusalem and the coming of Messiah become my prayers.

In short, I stand there.

I stand there and contemplate all that has happened there throughout the thousands of years since Abraham first led his son Isaac up to the top of Mount Moriah, now enclosed by that wall, forming the western boundary of what is called today the Temple Mount.

Western Wall

Western Wall

On my second night, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre I go, built over the actual place where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead. I cannot even begin to put into words the sensations I feel when I enter that church, gaze upon that hill contained within its enormous environs, and just stand there.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Night three usually takes me to Ben Yehuda Street in downtown Jerusalem. I walk the cobblestone street from top to bottom (Ben Yehuda Street is a kind of walking mall), find an out-of-the-way table, and rather than “stand there,” I sit there. I sit there to watch and listen. Usually a younger crowd fills the street, bringing with it their music, energy, and excitement. I wonder what their lives are like, what challenges they face, what heartaches they carry, what electrifies their lives. And then I pray for God’s grace and peace to flood their lives.

Ben Yehuda Street

Ben Yehuda Street

There is so much to be said about “Don’t just do something;  stand (sit) there.”

On the fourth night, I try (usually successfully) to visit the home of a local family — perfect strangers who take a huge risk when they open their apartment and their hearts to someone like me. I’ll tell you what… By the end of the evening, we are no longer strangers. A bond has been built. I have taken them into my heart. I hope that they have taken me into theirs. The reason for this? The entire time that I am a guest in their home, I don’t just do something; I stand (sit) there.

I am so wealthy for having had those experiences. Not in a monetary way. Something far more valuable. A richness of my soul.

But here’s the epiphany that I had this morning: I don’t have to go Israel to heed such wise words. I can heed them here.

Ironically, that was the theme of my PODCAST last week at The Safe Haven. We noted then how Jesus took time out from just doing something in order to stand there. To be alone. To contemplate. To meditate. To pray. And how often He chose to “don’t just do something; stand there.” How ironic that though that was the focus of my own message, yet I didn’t exactly connect the dots to my own life and experiences until the good rabbi gave me a slightly different perspective. Thank you, Rabbi Wolpe!

So no, I don’t have to be in the Holy Land to heed the wise words of “my” rabbi. And neither do you. 

We can choose right here and right now to “don’t just do something; stand there.” Why? Because God’s presence is as much here as it is over there. God’s glory is reflected in His bountiful and beautiful creation as much here as it is over there. God can hear my prayers as easily here as He can over there.

And what’s true for me is equally true for you.

I think that God was onto something when He inspired the pen of the psalmist to write, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). 

Or to put it another way, if you think about it, Psalm 46:10 was God’s way to essentially say, “Don’t just do something; stand there.”

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Come with Me to Israel, March 18-29, 2014

DSCN4733 2I LIVE to take people just like you to Israel.

Know why? Because after leading 15 study tours, I know without a doubt that this trip will change your life forever.

  • You will never read the Bible the same way again.
  • You will never hear a sermon, lesson, Bible study or devotional series the same way again.
  • The Bible will become visual to you, so that every time you read it or hear it read or taught, you will “see” it in your mind’s eye.
  • Your faith will be anchored in the very stones on which Jesus walked.
  • Your love for Jesus will grow exponentially as you read what Jesus taught where He taught it.
  • Your understanding of the culture back then will enhance your understanding of the Bible now.
  • Your knowledge of the culture now will put today’s headlines into their proper perspective.
  • You will literally walk where Jesus walked, and actually touch the stones that Jesus touched!

You will get ALL of this, and so much more.

Cost from Portland, OR is $3874, which includes all Tips, Taxes, Fuel Surcharges as of 5/1/2013.

(PLEASE NOTE that if you would like to FLY OUT OF A DIFFERENT CITY, we can arrange your flight and adjust the cost accordingly. Our layover is in Newark, NJ. We will meet you there for our nonstop flight to Tel Aviv. Just be sure to indicate on your Registration Form the city from which you will depart.)

Click on the links below to get all of the information you will need.

Click HERE to see the Day-by-Day itinerary!

Click HERE to see the Terms and Conditions

Click HERE for your Registration Form

Ready to light a fire under your faith? Then come with me to Israel in March. And trust me: You will return a different person than when you left. 

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