Monthly Archives: January 2014

Breaking News

My beloved little Safe Haven family is really going through it right now. In a word, we are being broken.

To focus that just a bit, let me say that I am amazed at the significant struggles and overwhelming challenges that some of our precious people are experiencing — painful loses; seemingly senseless disappointments; literally excruciating physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges that defy explanation. Storm clouds are billowing. I cannot help but to imagine the reasons why.

In talking to each of these individuals on multiple occasions, they are understandably wrestling with it all, yet all the while demonstrating a firm-if-sometimes-faltering faith in God’s good plans that leaves me in awe.

I know, I know, I know that God never breaks His people without some amazing purposes behind His breaking. Some of our dear Safe Haven family members are being broken — No doubt about that! — but to what good purposes only time will tell. (Emphasis upon that hope-filled word, “will.”) The stories are just now unfolding. Stories that will be told. Stories of God’s abiding grace and peace. Stories of God’s sustaining strength and power. Stories of how God will profoundly touch the world through the profound pain of my friends. Stories that will illustrate the unbreakable law of nature: We can’t enjoy a shimmering rainbow without some falling rain.

rainbow

I also know that as God breaks my friends individually, He is also breaking Safe Haven collectively. He is breaking us as we share in these burdens together. A safe haven indeed — an unpretentious cadre of committed Christ-followers who desperately love Him and relentlessly love each other despite the unexpected trials and tribulations that life throws our way. It will be amazing, in the days and weeks ahead, to see not only what purposes lie behind God breaking certain individuals, but what purposes lie behind His breaking our family as a whole.

In the mean time, I have the unspeakable privilege of walking through these storms with some pretty special people whom I love with all my heart. It’s times like these that I am so incredibly thankful that God gave me the priceless privilege of being their pastor. But more than that, to be their friend.

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On the Worst Night of Their Lives…

The other night at the Safe Haven, during our series — Jesus in High Definition — we had a heart-to-heart. A heart-to-heart discussion about misinformed expectations. 

The premise of the talk was this: Too many of us mistakenly expect that we are entitled to a trouble-free life. We have been taught — Haven’t we? — that when the storms of life threaten to capsize our faith, Jesus will still all of our storms. When we cry out to Him in desperation, Jesus will answer all of our prayers. When we cast all of our cares upon Him, Jesus will fix all of our problems.

Oh, I know that we would not necessarily voice that expectation aloud. But when our lives crash, when something horrible happens, when the storms of life continue to blow our lives apart, how many of us have our faith shaken to the core, or perhaps even collapse completely, as if God let us down?

AskBelieveReceive

When we pray earnestly for something — when we ask, believe, and DON’T receive — when our prayers remains unanswered, how many of us become angry at God, resentful that He seemingly turned a deaf ear to our prayers? Or if He heard us, just didn’t care enough to answer?

So as a part of our discussion, I shared with my precious Safe Haven family my extended paraphrase of John 16, a majestic chapter in which Jesus huddled with His men in the Upper Room in order to prepare them for the single worst 24 hours of their lives.

What He said to them is equally applicable to us. 

If you would like to hear the entire podcast, you can do so by clicking HERE.

This of this paraphrase as a part of The New Testament in High Definition

Please let me know what you think.

We need to have a talk.

Because I fear that with what’s about to happen, your faith may falter and you might fall away.

Some really, really bad things are about to happen. And I don’t want you to be caught off-guard.

After tonight, you men and your families will be hunted and harassed by misguided individuals who will actually believe that they are serving God by harming you. They will hunt you and harm you with a religious fervor, just like they are about to hunt and harm me.

I am telling you all of this now so that when these bad things happen to you (and they will!), you will remember that I warned you that your lives would be like this.

The time of my return to my Father has come.

I know that my death will fill you with grief unimaginable and inexpressible. For that, I am so sorry. You’re going to have to trust me when I say that what is about to happen is for the best. I cannot explain to you tonight the reasons why; I can only assure you that it is for the best.

But know this: I will not leave you alone to face your pain alone. As soon as I return home to Heaven I will send to you the Holy Spirit who will be with you every hour of every day. He will never leave you.

He will be to you a constant companion, your counselor, helper, and advocate. He will pray for you, give you strength to endure the challenge, and walk right beside you every step of your journey. 

Please don’t ever forget that you are never alone, even, and especially, when you feel all alone.

I have so much more to tell you, but you’re just not yet ready to hear it all. At least not yet.

But what you do need to know tonight is this: My time is growing short. In a little while, I will be put to death. You will feel like your world has come to an end. You are about to feel completely abandoned and all alone, as if I have left you forever.

My enemies will celebrate my death as though it is their victory and your defeat. But hear this: My death is their defeat and your victory. Your victory because you will see me again. My death will not last forever. And neither will yours.

Night may be closing in on you, but the brightest mornings always follow the darkest nights.

Your sorrow will turn into joy. Your nightmare will turn in to your dream come true.  

But not yet.

You first will have to endure the darkness of this difficult night, this very stormy season.

You are like a beloved mother-to-be who suffers the temporary pains of a difficult labor. But when her child is born, her anguish gives way to pure joy. So great is her joy that it completely obliterates even the memory of her momentary pain.

And so I promise you that just like that mom, your present pain will give way to unspeakable joy, a joy that no one can or will ever take away from you.

When that day comes, all your questions will be answered. All your confusion will be resolved. All your doubts will be erased, when that day comes. 

But for now know this. God the Father loves you. He loves you with a love that will last forever. A love that you embraced when you embraced me.

From now on, you will pray in my name. That is, you will pray remembering who I Am, and remembering what I taught. 

When you pray in my name — remembering who I Am, and remembering what I taught — God will hear everything you say, even when it doesn’t feel like He does. Even when it is hard to believe that He does. Your prayers in my name will never fall of deaf ears.

OK, so the bottom line is this: In this troubled world of ours, you are going to suffer. You are going to suffer greatly. That is a universal fact of life. And ironically, being my followers may result in you suffering even more. 

This world can be a cruel place. Believe me, I know. But you can be sure of this: I have overcome this world. And so shall you.

So while I will not solve all of your problems or take all of your pain away, I offer you tonight something so much better. I offer to be with you in your problems, to be with you in your pain. I will carry them with you. We will carry your problems and pain together.

In short, I offer to you my peace. My peace. That most beautiful of all human experiences. True, genuine, lasting peace. This is why I now ask you to pray in my name, so that you will never forget who I Am and what I taught. And by remembering who I Am and what I taught, your soul will be flooded with my peace.

My peace will sustain you. My peace that will comfort you. My peace that will assure you that everything that seems out of control is well within my control. My peace that will carry you all the way to a glorious and victorious end.

The same promises Jesus made to them, He makes to us. Both His promises of pain, and of His peace.

 

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God, Why Won’t You Answer My Prayers?

hombre llorando 2Why? 

It is THE question that haunts each and every one of us.

Why?

Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Why do bad things happen to us? Why did God let this happen? Why doesn’t God just fix this?

In this PODCAST, you WILL discover the answer.

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

Thank you for listening. And please “Share” this podcast with your friends.

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Why are They Leaving the Church in Droves?

leaving-the-churchIn this week’s PODCAST, believe it or not, Jesus answers THE question that has haunted church/ministry leaders for years:

Why are they leaving the church in droves?

Jesus’ answer will surprise you, even though the answer is so obvious that it is staring us right in the face.

And yet, with all of the blogs and books devoted to answering this question (and IMHO missing the point completely), with the gallons of ink that has been spilled on reams of dead-tree paper, how do we miss such an obvious answer?

Fact is, in His Sermon on the Mount, in His run-up to what we commonly call The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus definitively answers this singularly significant question:

Why are they leaving the church in droves?

Yes! His answer WILL surprise you.

Please note that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, the podcast may take up to 60 seconds to begin to play.

HAPPY LISTENING

And if this podcast is a blessing to you, please SHARE the link to this podcast with your friends.

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In a Word… “Irresistible.”

Someone near and dear to my heart shared with me something from his heart that, to be honest, broke my heart.

He admitted to me,

“If all I had to go by were many of the Christians I have known — the things they have said, the way they have said them, the way my family and I have been treated by those in the ‘church,’ especially when we needed them the most — I never would have become one.”

Ouch! That was painful to hear. But you know what? Upon sober reflection, I understand exactly why he said what he said.

He wasn’t the first to say it. He most certainly won’t be the last. 

I heard in his words an eerily-familiar echo. An echo of something the famous Gandhi once said. 

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Let’s say it together: “Ouch.”

It was this very sentiment that compelled me fourteen months ago — after experiencing what you could appropriately call a crisis of faith — to begin at the beginning. Laying aside everything that I thought I knew about Jesus — all that I had heard preached in “church” over all these years, all that I see lived out in so many “Christians” — and starting over with no preconceived ideas whatsoever about who I thought Jesus was/is.

With my fragile and faltering faith literally hanging in the balance, I dove headfirst into the four Gospels with but one singular goal in mind: 

To discover who Jesus REALLY is.

By harmonizing Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and moving ever so slowly and deliberately through the life of Jesus from before His birth to after His resurrection, I was and am desperate to cut through all the haze, filter out all the noise, and see Jesus as He really is.

The dear people at the Safe Haven have joined me in this journey that we have called, Jesus in High Definition. And for each of these dear people walking this road with me, I am profoundly grateful. (By the way, you are more than welcome to join us on this journey. You can even start way back at the beginning. You’ll find each of our studies — free downloads each — by clicking HERE.)

Well, fourteen months later, we are halfway through the Sermon on the Mount. Want to know what I have discovered thus far?

Jesus isn’t anything like I’ve been taught that He is. Jesus isn’t anything like I’ve been shown that He is.

In a word, the Jesus who is emerging from the pages of the Gospels is irresistible.

jesushug

Gandhi had it right when he said so simply and yet profoundly,

“I like your Jesus.”

Well, with all due respect to Mr. Gandhi, may I amplify that just a bit? Fact is, “I LOVE my Jesus.” 

Not the Jesus I hear about in church, a picture that is far-too-often distorted.

Certainly not the Jesus of church history. You know, the Jesus of the Crusades, Inquisition, or Holocaust. The Jesus of the Gospels was NEVER a part of any of that.

Not the Jesus I hear pontificated about by politicians who invoke His matchless name to pander to the so-called “Christian right” (whatever that is) to win votes. (People looking to the talking heads at Fox News, or any other news, to see modern-day reflections of Jesus are looking in the wrong place!)

Not the Jesus I see when so many of His “followers” treat others unkindly, harshly, rudely, critically, uncharitably, insensitively, impatiently, judgmentally, with unnecessary cruelty. With an “I’m-better-than-you” arrogance. With a “You’re here to serve me” attitude. Quick to complain when inconvenienced. With an unwillingness ever to be wronged, a refusal ever to turn the other cheek. You know… an empty “fruit-of-the-Spirit” basket.

Jesus was NEVER.ANY.OF.THOSE.THINGS. Ever!

Yes, I LOVE my Jesus. The irresistible Jesus. The Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus whom I get to introduce each week to the precious people at Safe Haven.

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Money Matters

Reading the remarkable responses on the faces of the precious people at Safe Haven on Saturday night, I can fairly predict with pinpoint accuracy that in this PODCAST, you are about to hear a message about money like you’ve NEVER heard one before.

And that’s a good thing. A very good thing.

Online GreetingIn the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus invoked one word — abundantly familiar to His listeners; utterly foreign to us — which has profound implications for our lives today.

I’ll be right upfront with you. I believe that as a whole, our contemporary Christian culture in America has a woefully underdeveloped and (if I may say so) faulty theology of money, especially as it relates to the local church. 

In my never-ending effort to approach Jesus’ teachings with absolutely no preconceived conclusions about what He taught, I must tell you that what Jesus said in His day is for us in our day revolutionary.

We cannot change our contemporary Christian culture — the way we “do” ministry in America; the way we pay for ministry in America — but we can surely change our personal practices when it comes to how we, and to whom we, give our money.

Let the conversation begin.

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

HAPPY LISTENING, and please “Share” this link — deweybertolini.com — to this podcast/blog with your friends.

God bless!

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