Author Archives: deweybertolini

“A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet.”

Her Hebrew name was Tabitha.

And as you will hear in this PODCAST, Dorcas was her Greek name.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Well, she may have had nothing to do with Romeo and Juliet. But fact is, Tabitha by any other name, AKA Dorcas, would still be as sweet, kind, and beautiful. For both Tabitha and Dorcas both mean “Gazelle.” Distinctly beautiful names each, both of which speak to the inner beauty and kindness and sweetness that radiated from this singularly special woman.

So special that Luke singled her out in order specifically to tell her exemplary story. As did Peter, who at news of her untimely demise literally—at a moment’s notice—dropped everything in order to be at her bedside within hours of her passing.

  • What was it about this woman that would cause the lead apostle to rush to her side upon hearing sad news?
  • What was it about this woman that brought life in the prominent seaside town of Joppa to come to a screeching halt at the moment of her death?
  • What was it about this woman that so profoundly challenges each of us today to ask ourselves one profoundly challenging question, the answer to which is so stunningly simple?

Are you ready to meet Tabitha, the graceful gazelle?

I believe the best way to proceed is simply to read to you her story as recounted/recorded by Luke, inserting clarifying commentary along the way. This in order to add the colors and contours that Luke’s original readers would have enjoyed that we

might otherwise miss.

Trust me. As you meet her, you will never view your life the same way again.

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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“Who is Winning the Shephelah?”

Rose of Sharon

I need to read Acts 9:35 to you its context.

As you are about to learn in this PODCAST, there is so much more here than meets the eye. At least that meets our eyes.

Acts 9:35 is a truly remarkable statement for original readers of the book of Acts. It will soon be truly remarkable for us. For this one verse exposes the underlying reality in the spiritual climate of the Land that you and I might easily miss. As well as the ongoing spiritual battle for our souls that is being waged every minute of every day in our lives today.

A truly remarkable verse.

So hear it as I begin at verse 32.

“Meanwhile, Peter traveled from place to place, and he came down to visit the believers in the town of Lydda. There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!’ And he was healed instantly.”

Now verse 35, 

“Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon saw Aeneas walking around, and they turned to the Lord.”

Anything jaw-dropping strike you about those words? Are we missing anything here? I’ll give you a hint: Yes! We are missing a ton! All of which has to do with these two telling locations: One a town—Lydda; the other a region—Sharon.

Foreign to us; all-too-familiar to the people of that land at that time.

It’s the old story: We cannot understand the biblical play if we don’t understand the stage on which the play is performed.

So in this podcast, I’ll take you on a fascinating tour of the stage.

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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On the Road Again

The Treasury in Petra

It had to be a rather rude awakening to be sure—Paul’s initial introduction to the unenviable life of an apostle.

As we will learn in this PODCAST, there is much—much more than we could possibly imagine—behind Paul’s otherwise enigmatic statement in 1 Corinthians 4:9, a rare moment of personal reflection (and dare-I-say exasperation and frustration) in the writings of this most-prolific apostle:

“I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike.”

Well, here in Acts 9, the Apostle to us Gentiles endured quite the humiliating spectacle indeed.

It was hardly the homecoming our new friend, the Apostle Paul, had anticipated as he entered archway in the main gate leading to Straight Street in Damascus.

Was his heart all a-flutter? Mine would have been.

After a three-year absence from its legendary landscape, his formal training as an apostle now complete. I have to believe that Saul-now-Paul had much upon which he would have liked to reflect.

  • Perhaps a quiet, private, personal rendezvous with the spot on the road where he first met Jesus?
  • Maybe a knock on the door of Judas’ house, where he was graciously housed for three days as a man-struck-blind?
  • How about cup of Turkish coffee with Ananias, the man tasked with, and understandably fearful of, being first follower of Jesus to approach just-converted Saul?
  • Possibly some visits to the synagogues where he first preached, “Jesus is indeed the Son of God”?

Paul’s heart had to be pitter-pattering with excited anticipation as he once-again approached the storied city.

But alas. A happy homecoming wasn’t in cards that fate dealt this soon-to-be-suffering servant of Jesus.

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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Saul Goes to Seminary

Do you know what I love about Bible?

Well, truth be told, there are a lot of things that I love about the Bible. Far too many to tell in this PODCAST.

But certainly residing at or near the top of my rather lengthy list is this: The window the biblical writers open to the growth and maturity of its principle players.

Case in point: The Apostle Paul.

Paul did not emerge from his road to Damascus encounter with Jesus a wholly-mature believer. Nor did Paul burst on the scene armed with a fully-formed theology that would become the capstone of his prolific writings. Paul had to grow in his faith as a committed Christ-follower just like the rest of us.

I love that!

Paul moved from a measurably primitive understanding of Jesus to a remarkably profound comprehension of who Jesus was and is and all that Jesus did and accomplished. This growth, this development, this maturity takes place right before our wondering eyes ever to behold in all of its spiritual splendor.

In short, Paul was a person in process, just like us! A process well-documented in the New Testament that as we are about to learn slowly-but-surely took place over many, many years.

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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“All for the Want of a Nail”

I believe that I can say this without equivocation. See if by the end of this PODCAST, you agree with me.

My unequivocal observation? He is the single-most important person in the New Testament of whom you have never heard.

There is an overarching theme to this discussion, born out of this story. One that relates directly to something that Jesus said.

You talk about Paint the picture, Rabbi. This story here in Acts 9 paints THIS amazing picture.

Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” That was in Matthew 19.

So important is this principle that Jesus repeated it in the very next chapter:

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

Whatever did Jesus mean? More to the point: What does this look like? Paint the picture, Rabbi.

Fortunately for us, Jesus is about to paint this picture—as beautiful a picture as you’d ever want to see—courtesy of Saul here in Acts 9, as illustrated so wonderfully in the lives of two otherwise anonymous individuals.

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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Saul, the Man Who Had It (And Lost It) All

You talk about a rising rockstar.

You are about to meet him in this PODCAST, up close and personal: Saul of Tarsus. Disciple of the renowned Rabbi Gamaliel. One of the Jerusalem-based Pharisees. Soon to become a voting-member of Israel’s Supreme Court—the Sanhedrin.

This was a guy whose career-path was rocketing skyward in an ever-ascending trajectory to greatness.

In terms of his religious tradition, passed on to him by his Pharisee-father, Saul was a guy who had it all—

  • A rapidly-increasing influence.
  • A growing respect among his peers.
  • Certainly the pride of his parents.
  • The possibility of fortune to go along with his ever-expanding fame.
  • And, of course, to his way of thinking, the super-abundant approval of God, along with all of God’s bountiful blessings that Saul though he deserved, and that allowed Saul to justify to himself his murderous rage.

Indeed, Saul had it all.

And consequently, Saul had it all to lose.

And lose it, he did. In the blink of an eye, literally.

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 Remarkable Man to Whom was Passed the Torch of Torah

Hate is a horrible thing.

Hate unbridled and unchecked is a murderous thing.

Hate in name of God is terrifying and terrorizing thing.

And as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, hate in the name of God is indeed a terrorizing thing because such religious hatred is actually viewed by the hater as a righteous thing.

Just ask a certain Pharisee—emphasis upon that lofty religious title, Pharisee, since it goes to the very heart of this story—named Saul. Yes! Saul was a Pharisee.

On the night before He was executed, as Jesus and His now-eleven disciples were slinking through the dark alleys of Jerusalem, literally one step ahead of His betraying-disciple Judas, the Temple guards, and the Roman cohort that Judas was leading to arrest and ultimately to crucify Jesus, Jesus made this chilling statement which should have given His disciples pause, assuming that in that desperate hour they had presence of mind to pause.

It’s found in John 16:2, where Jesus said this:

“The time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.”

A prediction, a prophecy that has historically come to pass in our day—the bitter result of religious extremism—far too many times to count. Bloodshed in the name of God. Be that blood shed at the hands of the Christian Crusaders, Muslim suicide bombers, or a now-ranking member of Sanhedrin—keep that label in mind; it too goes to heart of this story—Saul.

From where did Saul’s unbridled fury, his murderous hatred for Jesus and all things Jesus-related come?

Tonight, we will consider together much of what is often overlooked in any discussion about Saul-to-become-Paul’s background.

All of which will expose the degree to which God went when preparing His “Apostle to the Gentiles.”

Indeed, Paul will write in wonder in Galatians 2:8,

“For by God’s power I was made an apostle to the Gentiles.”

That power was clearly at work in Paul’s/Saul’s past. And as you are about to hear, that power was equally at work in Saul’s present here in Acts 9.

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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Predestination: A Cause for Separation or Celebration?

Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus made some absolutely amazing statements, as only He could do!

As you will hear in this PODCAST, Jesus was able to pack into just a few words the most deeply profound theological truths, the implications of which have taken the most incisive theological minds centuries to unpack.

Case in point: This otherwise obscure little gem buried deep within the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, AKA “The Feeding of the 5000.”

Jesus said in John 6:44,

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me.”

An absolutely remarkable statement that underscores our gloriously precious theological proposition known as Divine Election, along with its sister doctrine of Sovereign Predestination—sadly, with all of its attendant questions and endless theological wranglings, divisions, and separations that these blessed concepts unnecessarily generate.

Trust me, courtesy of Philip and an unnamed Ethiopian Eunuch, this is a cause NOT of confusion, but of cerebration!

For as you are about to hear, this eunuch’s story is your story.

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 THIS Shall be a Sign Unto You…”

It has become THE iconic image of Christmas: a Manger scene.

  • So readily recognizable that its image graces the fronts of so many of our Christmas cards.
  • So singularly significant that churches throughout country often display what they call a Living Nativity.
  • So emotionally effusive that the mere suggestion of placing a Manger Scene on the steps of a City Hall can stir up a cauldron of contention.
  • So famously familiar that many-a-home have a Manger Scene proudly/prominently displayed on a table or mantle.

And as you will hear in this PODCAST, so iconic that hand-carved Manger Scenes are far-and-away the #1 hot seller when I take people to my favorite olive wood shop in Bethlehem.

A Manger Scene.

Even though everything about it is absolutely wrong.

No knock on the artisans who hand-craft these treasured keepsakes. But you see, it’s all about a picture. An iconic picture.

Manger Scenes paint pictures in wood.

Luke painted a picture in words. And Luke’s picture, when properly understood, is SO MUCH MORE POWERFUL than any hand-crafted manger scene could ever hope to be.

It is simply an undeniable fact, an inconvenient truth, that from Luke’s quill and parchment to our wooden manger scenes today, so much has been lost!

And we are the poorer for it.

But not anymore. Not after hearing this podcast.

Merry Christmas, from my heart to yours.

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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“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night…”

The Christmas story is without a doubt #QuiteAStory.

A familiar story. A profound story. An oft-repeated story.

So familiar is this story that I really do not need to comment on it.

Or do I?

As you will hear in this PODCAST, the principal parts of the story are well-known. The principal players in this biblical drama are names everyone has heard — Mary, Joseph, Jesus.

Yet, with all of that familiarity, there is one little tidbit of information — one word, really — that absolutely jumps off the page at me.

  • One word that puts the entire Christmas story into its proper perspective.
  • One word that goes straight to the heart of who Jesus was, who God is, what the Gospel is all about.
  • One word that goes straight to the heart of who we are.

One word…

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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