Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Man Who Crucified Jesus

Good-Friday-proces_1386504bHe is the forgotten figure in the Crucifixion-Resurrection drama. A remarkable man who came to a most-remarkable conclusion.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, I am referring to the Roman officer who actually crucified Jesus.

At the conclusion of the crucifixion, this Roman officer — who had literally just killed Christ — made this stunning statement:

“This man truly was the Son of God!”

Now, I have to ask these questions:

  • How in the world did he come to this conclusion? This Roman? This executioner? This worshipper of many gods? This witness to, and participant in, more crucifixions than he could count?
  • What was it about this crucifixion that set it apart from all the others over which he, as a commander of 100 elite Roman troops, presided?
  • What pushed him over the line from a polytheist to a monotheist? A worshiper of Caesar as god into a worshiper of Jesus as God?
  • And what was it exactly that convinced him beyond the shadow of any doubt that the man he had just executed was in fact Almighty God?

I am profoundly grateful to professors Schmidt, Vanderlaan, Gundry, along with author Lloyd C. Douglas who wrote a wonderfully insightful historical novel, The Robe, for gently nudging my thinking in the direction to ask and now answer these intriguing questions.

Questions about what-in-the-world convinced this Roman Officer to conclude that the man he just crucified was not just a god, but as he exclaimed,

“This man truly was the Son of God!”

What did he see that we, not being Roman, might miss?

In order to answer these questions, I need to take you on a little trip, back in time many centuries, and to the East many thousands of miles, to Rome itself. There, we will attend the grandest, gaudiest, and most glorious of spectacular events. All to answer the question, What caused this elite Roman military officer to conclude that the man he just executed was indeed “the Son of God”?

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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What Does It Feel Like to be God? (Here’s His SURPRISING Answer)

SongOfSolomon6.3We are, as you well know, engaged in a fascinating election cycle — one that I have been following with great interest.

Last week, one prominent commentator told of the time when, shortly after the swearing-in of a relatively recent President, he asked him,

“What does it feel like to be President?”

His answer, in case you are interested, was this:

“I suddenly realized that everything I say will profoundly affect something somewhere in the world.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, that question, “What does it feel like to be President?” piqued my curiosity. Truth be told, there have been times when I have curiously wondered how God would respond if we were to ask Him,

“What does it feel like to be God?”

The thing is, God has already answered that question.

God has told us exactly what it feels like to be God.

Fact is, His answer might honestly surprise you. Surprise you in a profoundly emotional way. It sure does me!

Now, in considering His answer that question, “What does it feel like to be God?” we have to start with this.

Jesus said this in John 4:24, “God is spirit.” God is, in that sense, ineffable. Meaning, inexpressible, indescribable, like nothing we’ve ever known before.

As God Himself said to Isaiah, in chapter 55,

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

God is, by His own definition, utterly incomprehensible. So in an effort to help us relate to Him at least on some level, God chose to describe Himself to us using word pictures. Very meaningful word pictures.

Remember how I’ve told you Bible is picture book? Remember how I’ve told you that after stating a proposition, a good rabbi will always paint the picture?

For instance, the biblical writer states the proposition, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He then follows this proposition by painting word pictures which describe what God’s love looks like.

So through the quills of the biblical writers, God was forever providing Scriptural snapshots what He is like, of which there are several throughout pages of Bible.

The Lord is my shepherd, He shelters us under His wings, He is our rock, mountain, fortress. So, so many.

The technical term for these portraits is anthropomorphisms, morphe (form), anthropos (human, man) — God describing Himself in forms, images, pictures we humans can understand.

OK, now watch this: Of all of the pictures that God painted (anthropomorphisms each), there are basically two iconic images of God in the Bible. As if to say,

Of all of the pictures that I have drawn of Myself for you, there are two predominant portraits of Me that I want you never to forget. Shepherd, Bird, Rock, Mountain, Fortress, so many others — these are great, accurate, and most helpful. But if you are going to remember only two, and forever cherish these two in your hearts, these are the two I want you never to forget: One in the Old Testament, and one in the New Testament.

If you think about it, God chose the two most intimate, precious, personal, and cherished of all human relationships.

You are in for quite a treat, and a stunning surprise as you listen.

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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Heavenly Chutzpah

determination-687x324It’s been a tough week for our country. Riots at political rallies. An increasingly course discourse. Much angst in the world.

And I know you are feeling it.

Well, consider this PODCAST to be a bright and beautiful shot of much-needed adrenaline to your system, some refreshing encouragement from Jesus’ heart to yours.

Let’s begin our discussion with this: It is one of the most precious, and quite frankly priceless privileges in the entire Bible. I am referring to the one verse that concludes the fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews. One glorious verse that speaks volumes, both to the original readers of this verse, and to us as well.

But before I read it to you, I must first set this scene: As its title suggests — Hebrews — this book was written to Jewish believers in Jesus. These precious people lost everything when they become committed Christ-followers. Unlike the letters of Paul, written to local gatherings of believers in a given city — Rome, Corinth, Philippi — this letter was written to Jewish (Hebrew) believers struggling everywhere throughout the Roman Empire because, due to relentless persecution, they were scattered, far and wide.

We get only the barest of glimpses into their desperate circumstances from cryptic statements such as these:

“Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever” (Hebrews 10).

Or this in Hebrews 13:

“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”

No one was exempt. Not even someone as faithful as young Pastor Timothy, protege of the Apostle Paul, of whom we read in Hebrews 13:

“I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you.”

For the first generation of Jewish Christ-followers, times were tough, their circumstances dire. So in order to encourage them, the writer of this great book made to them (and to us!) this precious promise:

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

Emphasis upon that shockingly bold word “boldly.”

Trust me. That thud you just heard was sound of their jaws dropping and hitting the floor as the original readers scanned those words into their suffering souls, for reasons that you will soon hear.

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 Most Profound Principle of Prayer I Have Ever Learned

a-prayer-for-youThis week, I have been reading a fascinating book of historical fiction entitled, The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, in the book Douglas records a conversation between Marcellus, son of a Roman Senator who has fallen out of favor with Emperor Tiberias, and Marcellus’ slave, Demetrius.

The conversation goes like this:

‘Demetrius’—Marcellus swept the sky with an all-inclusive arm—’do you ever believe in the gods?’

‘If it is my master’s wish, I do,’ replied Demetrius, perfunctorily.

‘No, no,’ said Marcellus, testily, ‘be honest. Never mind what I believe. Tell me what you think about the gods. Do you ever pray to them?’

‘When I was a small boy, sir,’ complied Demetrius, ‘my mother taught us to invoke the gods. She was quite religious. There was a pretty statue of Priapus in our flower garden. I can still remember my mother kneeling there, on a fine spring day, with a little trowel in one hand and a basket of plants in the other. She believed that Priapus made things grow…. And my mother prayed to Athene every morning when my brothers and I followed the teacher into our schoolroom.’ He was silent for a while; and then, prodded by an encouraging nod from Marcellus, he continued: ‘My father offered libations to the gods on their feast-days, but I think that was to please my mother.’

‘This is most interesting—and touching, too,’ observed Marcellus. ‘But you haven’t quite answered my question, Demetrius. Do you believe in the gods—now?’

‘No, sir.’

‘Do you mean that you don’t believe they render any service to men? Or do you doubt that the gods exist, at all?’

‘I think it better for the mind, sir, to disbelieve in their existence. The last time I prayed—it was on the day that our home was broken up. As my father was led away in chains, I knelt by my mother and we prayed to Zeus—the Father of gods and men—to protect his life. But Zeus either did not hear us; or, hearing us, had no power to aid us; or, having power to aid us, refused to do so. It is better, I think, to believe that he did not hear us than to believe that he was unable or unwilling to give aid. … That afternoon my mother went away—upon her own invitation—because she could bear no more sorrow…. I have not prayed to the gods since that day, sir. I have cursed and reviled them, on occasions; but with very little hope that they might resent my blasphemies. Cursing the gods is foolish and futile, I think.’

Well, you could reason, of course Zeus did not hear Demetrius’ prayers. There was no Zeus to hear him.

And of course, you could also argue, there was no answer to his prayer because there was no Zeus who promised Demetrius what Jesus promised to us:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Yet, how many of us have had a crisis of faith equal to that of Demetrius precisely because we prayed to our God in a time of crisis, in Jesus’ name, the same Jesus who did indeed make to us this promise:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened…”

…and yet, nothing happened.

What exactly did Jesus mean by those words, His prayer promise to us?

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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