Posts Tagged With: blessing

A Dazzling Day of Astonishing Amazement

“For more than forty years.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, five simple words, easily missed if we hastily read the account as recorded for us by Dr. Luke.

Five astonishing words that unlock this entire episode in the life of the first early church in Jerusalem.

“For more than forty years.”

For more than forty years, everywhere this man went someone had to carry him.

For more than forty years this man never knew the simple pleasure of standing on his own two feet.

For more than forty years this man knew nothing of the joys of going for a walk, let alone a jog.

For more than forty years he could never once kick a soccer ball, hit a baseball, throw a football, or run through the waves as they lapped upon the shore of the Mediterranean.

For more than forty years this man never knew a healthy day—never knew for even a minute what it would be like to have two legs that weren’t as limp as dishrags.

For more than forty years this man had in his legs no feeling, no movement, no sensations of any kind.

For more than forty years this man could go up to the Temple courts to beg, but never into Temple to worship since he was prohibited from doing so in Leviticus 21.

For more than forty years this man knew nothing but the prospect of yet another day spent stretching out his arms, reaching out his hands, and begging for alms.

For more than forty years he was forced to endure being ignored, refused, looked down upon, and judged as a sinner.

Such was the life of one man for more than forty years.

This poor beggar, bereft of health, robbed of any hope of self-respect, devoid of any semblance of a life.

Until this day when Peter and John showed up.

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 Minor Prophet with a MAJOR Message

Welcome to Peter’s first-ever sermon.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, this fisherman-turned-preacher’s initial foray into the world of sermonizing is memorable in extreme.

And whether you realize it or not, Peter’s first sermon out of the gate is all about… Grasshoppers. As in locusts. Lots and lots of locusts.

A plague of locusts. A past-plague of locusts. A coming plague of locusts. And a future (even future for us) plague of locusts. See it there in Acts 2:14-16?

Listen as I read it to you, and see if you can hear ominous chomps of locusts:

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel.”

See any locusts in that? No? Well, then, keep listening. Because as you are about to hear, it is vital that we do.

His name is Joel. He is one of so-called 12 “Minor Prophets.” But make no mistake about this: Joel may have been a “Minor Prophet.” But there was absolutely nothing minor about his message.

Let me ever-so-briefly remind you of structure of the Old Testament…

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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Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine (and ALWAYS will be!)

unnamed-2Get yourself ready for a massive dose of encouragement.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, it’s amazing to me how a couple of significant storylines are coming full circle with Jesus’ words John 15.

Specifically, last week we saw how Jesus’ assertion, “I am the vine,” is final of Jesus’ seven “I Am” statements recorded in the Gospel of John.

Now, for this discussion, here’s a Bible Trivia Question for you:

What was the very first parable that Jesus taught as recorded in the Gospels?

I’ll give you a couple of hints:

1. It’s found in Mark 2.

2. It’s a parable about a new day coming, the Messianic Age dawning, a day that began in Bethlehem, a day filled with bright hopes and blazing anticipation.

A part of that first parable goes like this: Jesus said,

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

New wine, symbolic of a new day, a great day, a beautiful day, a day of God’s bountiful blessing. A day of God’s abundant blessings of which you, and all of God’s people, are now the recipients.

How appropriate then that Jesus’ teaching ministry was bookended by two parables, both of which centering upon that singular Scriptural image: the fruit of the vine.

That first parable coming, in Mark 2, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This final parable, here in John 15, that Jesus began with the word,

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

As you are about to hear, that metaphor, the fruit of the vine, was not chosen arbitrarily. It is loaded with copious amounts of Scriptural significance that speaks directly to your life today.

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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7 Benedictions of God’s Blessing to You: A Transcript

i-am-sermon-series-headerIn last week’s PODCAST, we noted that John recorded in his Gospel the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus. Each one was Jesus’ declaration of His deity. Each one became the basis of a benediction, a prayer of God’s blessing to you. Each one was enormously encouraging to every one who heard them. Each one is a prayer that you can pray on behalf of someone you love.

Here are the seven benedictions that I offered in that podcast, seven prayers of God’s blessing in your life, from my heart to yours.

One: John 6:35, Jesus said, “I Am the bread of life.”

May the Lord’s abiding presence remind you every minute of every day that He, the Creator and Master of the Universe, longs to break bread with you, yearns to have a relationship with you, pursues you in order to establish a bond of love with you that is both unbreakable and unconditional. Especially during those times when you feel so abandoned and alone, so helpless and hopeless, may you know and may you feel that you are never alone. May the bread of life bring His assurance to your life that He will never abandon you. May He ever give you His help to you when you feel so helpless, and His hope to you whenever you feel so hopeless. For Jesus said, “I Am the bread of life.”

Two: John 8:12, Jesus said, “I Am the light of the world.”

May the blazing light of God’s glorious presence dispel the darkness that sometimes enshrouds your soul. May the light of the Lord ignite a fire in your own soul, a passion in your spirit to draw ever closer to His light. May the warmth of His loving light flood your heart with His soul-calming peace. And may His tender love story, the Holy Bible, written in His own words ever be His lamp unto your feet and His light unto your path. For Jesus said, “I Am the light of the world.”

Three: John 10:7, Jesus said, “I Am the door of the sheep.”

May the Lord shield you with His protective presence. May no fear, nor uncertainty, nor problem, nor pressure, nor disappointment, nor discouragement ever enter Your life apart from His unshakable promise to turn every evil into your good and His glory. May He stand guard over you as He cradles you in His warm embrace. May you rest secure in the knowledge that He is and ever shall be your defender and protector. For Jesus said, “I Am the door of the sheep.”

Four: John 10:11, Jesus said, “I Am the good shepherd.”

May the Lord’s caring presence lead you to the greenest of lush pastures and the calmest of clear waters. May He faithfully meet your every need both as He guides you through lands of abundance and wastelands of wilderness. May the rod of His correction keep you from straying from the straight path, and the staff of His guidance keep you walking along the narrow path. For Jesus said, “I Am the good shepherd.”

Five: John 11:25, Jesus said, “I Am the resurrection and the life.”

May the Lord’s eternal presence dispel your every fear of the future. May the bright hope of Heaven cause you to keep your minds focused on things up there, rather than to be weighted down with all of the stuff that so easily distracts and disheartens you down here. May you ever rejoice that when Christ appears, then you too will appear with Him, and will be like Him, and will bask in the glow of His glory, forever! For Jesus said, “I Am the resurrection and the life.”

Six: John 14:6, Jesus said, “I Am the way, the truth, and the life.”

With so many voices clamoring for your attention and devotion, may the Lord’s truthful presence banish any and all confusion, distraction, error, and doubt from your minds and hearts. May the purity of His truth keep you from copying the behavior and and adopting the flawed values of this world. May the God of all truth transform you into a new person by correcting the way you think and purifying the way you live. May you rest in the reality that God’s will for you is and always shall be good and pleasing and perfect. For Jesus said, “I Am the way, the truth, and the life.”

And finally, Seven: John 15:5, Jesus said, “I Am the vine, you are the branches.”

May the Lord’s sustaining presence cause His divine beauty and grace to flow through you as He abides in you, and as you abide in Him. May you display to a world beset by boredom and emptiness the energy and enthusiasm that can only come to those who are en theo, in God, and who have God dwelling in them. May a glimpse of His glory radiate from within you. And may every person with whom you cross paths walk away from that encounter with the unmistakable sense that they have been in the presence of a man or woman of God. For Jesus said, “I Am the vine, you are the branches.” Amen.

 

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When “THIS Mountain” Moves

herodium-complex-balageTo be perfectly honest with you, the passage here in Matthew 21 is coming — for me,at least — at just the right time. And perhaps for you as well.

Given the current political climate in our beloved country, and the increasing despair that I have felt as the presidential primary season has now concluded, I so desperately need to hear my own message, courtesy of Jesus.

Jesus assured His disciples,

“Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, the irony of what Jesus said is so thick that you could cut it with the proverbial knife.

The irony being this: Jesus said those words to the disciples on the eve of His crucifixion in order to strengthen, to fortify their fragile faith. And frankly, to strengthen and to fortify ours.

Jesus knew that the events in their lives were about to spin seemingly out of control. The hopes they harbored in their hearts were about to be crushed into the ash heap of history. The Jesus movement in which they played a central role was about to careen into a wall and to explode into a thousand broken pieces.

The wave they had been riding had peaked on Sunday during the Triumphal Entry, and then again on Monday during the Cleansing of the Temple. But Jesus knew only too well on that Tuesday AM that by Thursday PM that same storm surge would dash them into the jagged rocks of reality.

So to bolster their soon-to-be faltering faith (and ours), Jesus made them (and us) this glorious promise:

“Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

The only problem with that promise? As many of us have come to experience during own crises of faith, It.Doesn’t.Always.Work.

If it did, none of our loved ones would ever die. (Who of us hasn’t prayed for God, in faith believing — to invoke Jesus’ formula — to heal someone near/dear to us, only to watch them whither away to nothing?)

Our kids would never disappoint us, if that promise worked. (What parent hasn’t prayed diligently for their children, in faith believing, Amen, only to stand by and watch helplessly and at times hopelessly as one or more of our kids go sideways?)

If that promise did indeed work, we would always get the jobs we want, have the perfect marriages for which we pray, have enough money at end of each month.

Fact is, myriads of books been written and purchased and read about that promise. Countless sermons been preached and listened to and heeded. All to affirm the fact that if we pray in faith believing and do not doubt, we will receive whatever things we ask. We CAN move mountains by our prayers, we are told. The mountain of sickness, the mountain of debt, the mountain of broken relationships, the mountain of wayward children.

Over the years, I’ve heard it all, read it all, a thousand times. To the point where I’m sick of hearing it. Because it just doesn’t work… Or does it?

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 Gold Standard of Dynamic Christian Living

gold-bars-1As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, there is IMHO a no more beautiful blessing in all of the Bible than the one we are going to discuss here.

I honestly cannot put into words how excited I am for you to listen in.

As you are about to hear, Jesus perfectly defined the Gold Standard for dynamic Christian living. Not only that, but He also gave to each of us the highest calling, the loftiest privilege, the grandest purpose statement for our lives. One that makes getting up in the morning so worth it.

Be encouraged as you listen. Take Jesus’ words to heart. Experience His blessing. And then get ready to share that blessing with the world.

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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Demystifying Church Discipline

images2In this week’s PODCAST, as we continue in our chronological study of the life and ministry of Jesus, we come to 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 church bylaws.

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

Let’s find out together.

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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Swimming in a Sea of Tranquility

lake_tranquility-1920x1200In this PODCAST, we will discover together an amazing privilege that is ours, especially given tormented world in which we live.

We have been given a unique gift of God’s blessing that Jesus Himself empowers us to bestow on His behalf to others.

Just so you know, this is the kind of person I long to be.

This blessing and privilege defines a pretty amazing purpose statement for our lives.

This is HUGE!

There are so many troubled people in this tortured world of ours. In case you hadn’t noticed, this world has become a #Very.Scary.Place. There seems to be a fog of uncertainty that leaves many of us reeling from feelings of unease in our world today — on a global level, as well as on a personal one. It seems to so many as if the world spinning out of control, as if their world is spinning out of control. To the point where God’s peace is the polar-opposite of what people experience in their self-medicated souls.

Something that is as unsettlingly true in our day as it was in Jesus’ day. Believe me: Life was tough then too.

So in this passage, a very gentle Jesus, who sees people then and now as harassed, helpless, confused, fearful, insecure, fragile… Precious people whom Jesus describes as vulnerable sheep without a loving, caring shepherd.

To people just like them, He then and He now offers the blessing of His peace: the calm contentment that in a world spinning increasingly out of control, Jesus is and ever shall be very much in control.

The most amazing aspect of this is the fact that — as you are about to hear — Jesus gave us, gave YOU, the ability to confer His peace on those so desperately in need of, and craving, His peace.

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.

May God bless YOU with His peace as you listen.

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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.

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

God bless!

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Mary, Did You Know???

mangerMary’s was NOT an easy life. 

Consequently, she is a woman whom I greatly admire. As should we all.

Just imagine what it must have been like to walk in her sandals, or to ride on her donkey.

At the time of the angelic visitation announcing her miraculous pregnancy, Mary was assured that her baby was the vital part of God’s plan of salvation. Not only for her, but for the whole world.

Yet we know that very late in her pregnancy, Joseph and Mary were forced to make the arduous journey from Nazareth-Bethlehem,60 miles as the crow flies. A harrowing 3 to 5 day journey under the best of conditions into what was for all intents and purposes a different country far removed from Nazareth geographically, culturally, and demographically. More like 5 to 7 days considering Mary’s condition, walking or on camelback, through treacherous terrain, exposed to the elements and the ever-present threat of bandits, all to register for yet another Roman tax.

This poor couple living, as we learn a little later in the Gospel accounts, barely above the poverty line, having even what little they had plundered by their corrupted government officials.

Mothers, think back to what it was like when you gave birth to your firstborn child – the fears, the insecurities, the feelings of inadequacy. Now imagine that when you did give birth, it was not in the clinical cleanliness of a hospital room or birthing center. Imagine you were in a cave, dark and alone, unsanitary to the extreme, no nurse, doctor, or midwife to help you, and you are all of 13 or 15 years old, in what was essentially a foreign country, away from your family, with only your fiancé to help you.

Add to all of that the political climate of the world Mary was living in – a world of crushing oppression and a brutal and barbaric military occupation. One that would soon force the holy family to flee to Egypt in the wake of Herod’s maniacal and murderous attempt to kill the baby Jesus in His crib.

Mary was completely obedient to and submissive to the will of God for her life, whatever that might be. She stepped out in obedience to God, and yet everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Which begs this question:

Why do we expect that if we are indeed obedient to the will of God, everything should go right for us, go good for us? That our obedience buys us a trouble-free existence?

Mary would beg to differ. So would Abraham.

As the OT begins, Abraham obediently followed God’s call to leave his country, his extended family, his friends, and his home, everything to travel to a Promised Land that he had never even seen before.

While en route, his beloved dad died. No sooner had he settled in that land, a severe famine hit the land and down to Egypt he was forced to go. Welcome to the Holy Land, Abraham.

Abraham did everything right, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It happened to Abraham.

And as the NT begins, the exact same thing happened to Mary. 

Maybe, just maybe, it has happened to us. Or will happen to us. Unexpected, uninvited, and unwanted trials and tribulations may well be proof-positive that you and I are right smack dab in the middle of God’s will. Unexpected, uninvited, and unwanted trials and tribulations may well be the precursors to God’s richest blessings.

So don’t despair, no matter how rough your road. God never abandoned Abraham; He surely never abandoned Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. And we can be sure that He will never abandon us.

The pathway to God’s blessing is often strewn with boulders. Speed-bumps abound. But as we learn from this Christmas story, with Mother Mary showing us the way, God’s blessings always win out in the end.

Just one of the snapshots of Christmas from last Saturday night’s Safe Haven Christmas celebration. The podcast of the full five of these snapshots can be heard by clicking HERE.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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