Posts Tagged With: blessing

Mary, Did You Know…?

May I ask you a personal question?

As you will hear in this PODCAST, the exact same question that I asked of a couple of hundred of the best high school students you’d ever want to meet. Here’s my question:

Do you want to live your life in the midst of God’s blessing?

If your answer to that question is “Yes,” THIS is what God’s blessing means; THIS is what a God-blessed life looks like.

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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So Why are We So Surprised?

Paul wrote to the believers in Rome,

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity” (Romans 12:2 JBP).

Never was the need for Paul’s plea more evident than in what you are about to hear here in this PODCAST.

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 Just When You Thought All Was Lost…”

“And just when you thought all was lost…”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, after his customary-yet-warm greeting, Peter could have begun his first foray into his rather short-lived, two-letter, dual-epistle-writing career with these words:

“And just when you thought all was lost…”

Because for Peter’s original readers, All.Was.Lost!

For these now-“scattered abroad exiles” had just been forcibly removed from their homes, had their lives permanently disrupted, and their families dramatically displaced.

Many-if-not-most of them were barely holding on, more surviving than thriving. Precious people precariously perched on the precipice of the abyss of uncertainty, just trying to make it through yet-another threatening day.

All of that to say that Peter could have begun this First Epistle of Peter with the words,

“And just when you thought all was lost…”

Because that was how they felt.

Just.Like.Some.of.Us.

Our challenges may not actually be as dire as theirs. But it sure feels that way some days, doesn’t it? Like we’re just barely hanging on? Like we’re more surviving than thriving? Like we’re maybe one step away from giving up?

“And just when you thought all was lost…”

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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God, bless You!

Image courtesy of Sabbath Truth

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, Peter begins his first lovely little letter literally with a literary explosion. It’s as if he has so much that he wants to say so quickly, that the syllables come pouring out of him like a waterfall of words.

Believe it or not, verse 3 all the way to verse 12 is one long and winding and wondrously scenic sentence. You heard that right. A grand total of 315 words (in the NLT), all of which form one single sentence. Only the first part of which we will discuss now, with so much more rich and glorious truth to follow in the coming weeks.

There is an life-altering, soul-stirring insight embedded in verse 3 that we would do well to consider. Since verses 1 & 2 serve as Peter’s greeting, the letter itself actually begins with Verse 3.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A rather remarkable statement given dire circumstances in which Peter’s original readers were living. We’ve already detailed them for you in the previous two podcasts. I’ll simply remind you that due to circumstances beyond their control—an empire-wide persecution at the bloody hands the infamously ruthless Nero—these were precious people—committed Christ-followers each, each our ancestors in faith—who had literally lost everything.

Even to the point of potentially losing their freedom and even their lives.

Theirs were the darkest of clouds with no silver linings.

A very fragile people living on the precipice with no safety net, clinging to their lives lived under the capricious actions of an unpredictable madman.

So if you were Peter, someone who fully understood and appreciated their seemingly insurmountable challenges—fears, insecurities, uncertainties—why would you begin your letter to them with the words,

“Blessed be the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

Does that not sound like a typically empty Christian cliché?

What prompted Peter to write with such audacity as to command his readers—including us—to bless God:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Even in the absolute worst of circumstances?

Obviously, Peter’s words, “Bless be the God,” did not come out of a vacuum. Fact is, there is a long and rich history to these words, and the life-altering, soul-stirring insight embedded within them.

Peter’s opening line was anything but a cutesy little Christian cliché. Not to his original readers. After hearing this podcast, not to us.

Although this does raise one intriguing question:

Bless God?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

I thought God blesses us.

How in the world do you and I bless God?

The answer to that question will change your life.

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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One Little Word That Makes ALL the Difference

Ironies abound, in the four verses I just read to you. A full compliment of ten ironies by my count. Ten!

The most soul-stirring and hope-producing irony being this—the takeaway of this PODCAST:

“Your most influential, inspirational, impactful life-message—greatest chapter of your story—will come not out of your successes, but out of your failures.”

To invoke Jesus’ masterful metaphor — “You ARE the light of the world.”

That being true, your brightest beacon of light will shine forth from the depths of your darkest hour.

And no, I am not referring to the failure of the thousands who gathered at the Temple on this day in Acts 3 to hear Peter indict them for their greatest failure, as stunning as that failure certainly was.

There is buried within the syllables of this story an even greater failure.

An absolutely epic fail, one that hinges on exactly one word—one word about which I will tell you as you get into this podcast. A failure that underscores the blessed reality that…

“Your most influential, inspirational, impactful life-message—greatest chapter of your story—will come not out of your successes, but out of your failures.”

Call it the backdoor blessing of this amazing story. A God-blessed reality that stands in stark contrast to the what was without a doubt the weirdest experience I have ever had when speaking in a seminary chapel…

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 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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