Posts Tagged With: crisis of faith

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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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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Jesus’ One Worry Concerning YOU (and Me)

john17-24On this Thursday night of Jesus’ final week, mere hours before the crucifixion, Jesus was worried about His disciples.

And as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, He was worried for a very good reason.

I don’t know if you have ever associated the word worry with Jesus, but as you will hear, in this case, at this time, in this place, that word worry is most appropriate.

Don’t worry (pun intended). I’m not trying to get all psychoanalytical on you. I am not fluent in psychobabble. And I’m not about to subject Jesus to a psychoanalysis.

But let us not overlook the fact that this is one of those rare glimpses into Jesus’ mind and heart on this — the single most traumatic night of His storied life.

What we see is a most-endearing picture of Jesus in all of His humanness on full display before disciples. I say endearing because the fact of the matter is this:

Jesus is equally worried about you. And that for the exact same Very.Good.Reason.

So what did Jesus do in response to His loving concern, His worry, His anxiety about His disciples? His loving concern, His worry, His anxiety about you?

Here’s a hint: What He did was AMAZING!

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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On the Worst Night of Their Lives…

The other night at the Safe Haven, during our series — Jesus in High Definition — we had a heart-to-heart. A heart-to-heart discussion about misinformed expectations. 

The premise of the talk was this: Too many of us mistakenly expect that we are entitled to a trouble-free life. We have been taught — Haven’t we? — that when the storms of life threaten to capsize our faith, Jesus will still all of our storms. When we cry out to Him in desperation, Jesus will answer all of our prayers. When we cast all of our cares upon Him, Jesus will fix all of our problems.

Oh, I know that we would not necessarily voice that expectation aloud. But when our lives crash, when something horrible happens, when the storms of life continue to blow our lives apart, how many of us have our faith shaken to the core, or perhaps even collapse completely, as if God let us down?

AskBelieveReceive

When we pray earnestly for something — when we ask, believe, and DON’T receive — when our prayers remains unanswered, how many of us become angry at God, resentful that He seemingly turned a deaf ear to our prayers? Or if He heard us, just didn’t care enough to answer?

So as a part of our discussion, I shared with my precious Safe Haven family my extended paraphrase of John 16, a majestic chapter in which Jesus huddled with His men in the Upper Room in order to prepare them for the single worst 24 hours of their lives.

What He said to them is equally applicable to us. 

If you would like to hear the entire podcast, you can do so by clicking HERE.

This of this paraphrase as a part of The New Testament in High Definition

Please let me know what you think.

We need to have a talk.

Because I fear that with what’s about to happen, your faith may falter and you might fall away.

Some really, really bad things are about to happen. And I don’t want you to be caught off-guard.

After tonight, you men and your families will be hunted and harassed by misguided individuals who will actually believe that they are serving God by harming you. They will hunt you and harm you with a religious fervor, just like they are about to hunt and harm me.

I am telling you all of this now so that when these bad things happen to you (and they will!), you will remember that I warned you that your lives would be like this.

The time of my return to my Father has come.

I know that my death will fill you with grief unimaginable and inexpressible. For that, I am so sorry. You’re going to have to trust me when I say that what is about to happen is for the best. I cannot explain to you tonight the reasons why; I can only assure you that it is for the best.

But know this: I will not leave you alone to face your pain alone. As soon as I return home to Heaven I will send to you the Holy Spirit who will be with you every hour of every day. He will never leave you.

He will be to you a constant companion, your counselor, helper, and advocate. He will pray for you, give you strength to endure the challenge, and walk right beside you every step of your journey. 

Please don’t ever forget that you are never alone, even, and especially, when you feel all alone.

I have so much more to tell you, but you’re just not yet ready to hear it all. At least not yet.

But what you do need to know tonight is this: My time is growing short. In a little while, I will be put to death. You will feel like your world has come to an end. You are about to feel completely abandoned and all alone, as if I have left you forever.

My enemies will celebrate my death as though it is their victory and your defeat. But hear this: My death is their defeat and your victory. Your victory because you will see me again. My death will not last forever. And neither will yours.

Night may be closing in on you, but the brightest mornings always follow the darkest nights.

Your sorrow will turn into joy. Your nightmare will turn in to your dream come true.  

But not yet.

You first will have to endure the darkness of this difficult night, this very stormy season.

You are like a beloved mother-to-be who suffers the temporary pains of a difficult labor. But when her child is born, her anguish gives way to pure joy. So great is her joy that it completely obliterates even the memory of her momentary pain.

And so I promise you that just like that mom, your present pain will give way to unspeakable joy, a joy that no one can or will ever take away from you.

When that day comes, all your questions will be answered. All your confusion will be resolved. All your doubts will be erased, when that day comes. 

But for now know this. God the Father loves you. He loves you with a love that will last forever. A love that you embraced when you embraced me.

From now on, you will pray in my name. That is, you will pray remembering who I Am, and remembering what I taught. 

When you pray in my name — remembering who I Am, and remembering what I taught — God will hear everything you say, even when it doesn’t feel like He does. Even when it is hard to believe that He does. Your prayers in my name will never fall of deaf ears.

OK, so the bottom line is this: In this troubled world of ours, you are going to suffer. You are going to suffer greatly. That is a universal fact of life. And ironically, being my followers may result in you suffering even more. 

This world can be a cruel place. Believe me, I know. But you can be sure of this: I have overcome this world. And so shall you.

So while I will not solve all of your problems or take all of your pain away, I offer you tonight something so much better. I offer to be with you in your problems, to be with you in your pain. I will carry them with you. We will carry your problems and pain together.

In short, I offer to you my peace. My peace. That most beautiful of all human experiences. True, genuine, lasting peace. This is why I now ask you to pray in my name, so that you will never forget who I Am and what I taught. And by remembering who I Am and what I taught, your soul will be flooded with my peace.

My peace will sustain you. My peace that will comfort you. My peace that will assure you that everything that seems out of control is well within my control. My peace that will carry you all the way to a glorious and victorious end.

The same promises Jesus made to them, He makes to us. Both His promises of pain, and of His peace.

 

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