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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“YOU are the Salt of the Earth.”

I cannot think of a more beautiful tribute to committed Christ-followers everywhere—including YOU—than Jesus’ words here in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth.”

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, Jesus, ever the master of the metaphor, came up with a doozie with this one.

“You are the salt of the earth.”

I am excited about this for a couple of compelling reasons:

1. The rich and rewarding meaning of this metaphor, which we will get to in a moment.

2. “You are the salt of the earth” provides us with a wonderfully enriching teachable moment, one where I get to take you behind the scenes, as it were, and demonstrate for you in real time how we arrive at the proper interpretation of a passage—this passage in Matthew 5—and from there how to make an appropriate application of a passage—any passage—to our lives today.

So you’re getting a two-for-the-price-of-one in this podcast — What the passage means, and how we arrive at its meaning.

Because truth be told, one of the reasons the Church in America is, IMHO, sadly diminishing its influence in our world today is precisely because of a misunderstanding and misapplication of this beautiful verse, “You are the salt of the earth.”

So we have a lot going on here in this Jesus in HD Encore Podcast—an encore because I am currently leading a Study Tour in Israel, returning to Peter in HD next week.

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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Demystifying Church Discipline

In this week’s PODCAST, we engage in a most important discussion that flows directly out of Matthew 18:15-17 — one of the most important passages in all of the New Testament, the so-called “Church Discipline” passage.

Church Discipline, a teaching in many local churches that really rose into prominence in the late 1970’s and became quite the trend.

I can remember attending church leadership conferences back then and hearing pastors — I’ll use word “boast” — of the fact that they recently removed an individual or individuals from their churches, thereby “preserving the purity of their churches.” Others would then oooh and ahhh at the boldness of the pastor in confronting the sin in his church and taking decisive action in order to preserve the purity of his church by the process of Church Discipline as outline by Jesus here in Matthew 18.

Today, one of this nation’s leading Church Discipline proponents insists that church discipline, as outlined in Matthew 18, is one of the marks of a healthy church. He writes this on his website, clearly articulating the prevailing view of Church Discipline, and indeed includes this as one of his main talking points as he addresses pastors’ conferences throughout the country, encouraging them to do the same:

“Church discipline is the act of correcting sin in the life of the body, including the possible final step of excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin.”

Consequently, it has become (and in many places still is) standard practice to remove or “exclude” or excommunicate (you choose the term) unrepentant sinners from their local churches. Or if not standard practice, this notion of Church Discipline is certainly included in most of our churches’ bylaws.

Well, in light of the above definition — More importantly, in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 — I must ask, Is that really what Jesus taught to His disciples and to us?

Let’s find out together in this Encore Podcast, an encore because I am presently leading a Study Tour in Israel.

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 as you listen.

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“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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