Posts Tagged With: doubt

Let There be No Doubt”

“Let There be No Doubt.”

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, If you were going to compose a title for this, only the second sermon Peter ever preached, you could not do much better than this: “Let There be No Doubt.”

By the time Peter draws this homiletic masterpiece to its rousing conclusion, there will be no doubt in the minds of his hearers.

  • No doubt about who Jesus is.
  • No doubt about who they are.
  • No doubt about what they have done.
  • And no doubt about what they now need to do.

“Let There be No Doubt.” A sermon made all the more remarkable given who preached it: an uneducated fisherman who just weeks before had denied, disowned, and so completely denounced Jesus that he quit as a disciple and returned to fishing.

A man who wept bitter/angry tears in the wake of his profound disappointment and deep disillusionment as he watched in horror as Jesus was led away in chains, to be killed as a common criminal by the very people—the barbaric, interloping, country-occupying, universally-hated Romans—whom Peter thought Jesus had come finally to vanquish completely, to expel from the land permanently, and to send sailing back to Italy disgracefully.

To channel Peter’s own words (2 Peter 2), no doubt written with his own dismal failure in mind, Peter had become

“A dog that had returned to its vomit, a washed pig who had returned to the mud.”

Yet in spite of all of that, Jesus met Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where they had shared so many precious memories together. And there, Jesus graciously gave Peter a second chance.

  • Yes. Peter! Who had recently pompously proclaimed (in John 13) “I am ready to die for you.”
  • Yes. Peter! Who then proceeded on that same night to completely collapse under the gaze of a servant girl.
  • Yes. Peter! Who for a second time was asked by Jesus to “Follow Me,” this time with the caveat that if Peter said “Yes” to that offer, it would cost him his life.
  • Now, barely two months later, here in Acts 3. Yes. Peter! Who now would make good on Jesus’ offer by literally putting his life on line as he stood before thousands, and thundered in the Temple courts for all to hear these extraordinary words…

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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Proof Positive

It was proof undeniable.

A reality on the ground about which every person in that vast crowd on this most significant Day of Pentecost knew.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, Peter triumphantly trumpeted to that crowd, and to us,

“As you yourselves know.”

Boy, did they know.

How could they not have known?

Fact is, reports of this wonder-working man from Galilee had circulated far and wide throughout the whole of the Roman Empire. Eyewitness accounts of His “miracles, wonders, and signs” had spread to every corner of the Mediterranean world.

Fact is, if the people who had gathered in the Holy City on this Holy Day were honest with themselves and honest with the facts, they knew that what Peter’s voice boomed in Acts 2:36 was undeniably true:

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah.”

Yes, they knew. “For certain,” they knew!!!

Of course, the obvious questions are: Why did they know for certain? How could they have known for certain?

The answer to those questions is equally obvious, for them, and for you.

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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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 Wonder of It All (or if you prefer, Embracing Paradox)

cosmic-wonderBelieve it or not, there is in the Bible a grand total of (Are you ready?) 31,102 verses.

And, as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, of these 31,102 verses, the one verse that best summarizes the state of my relationship with God is this one verse here in Mark 9.

In all honesty, this is right where I live.

And, were the truth to be told, I’d be willing to wager that most of us live here too.

The words you are about to hear, uttered by the desperate dad in this story, could well be my words, my plea, my prayer…

…Every day in every situation.

And I rather suspect they could be yours as well.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed it may take up to 60 seconds for the podcast to begin to play.

God bless you as you listen.

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Jesus Perfect Answer to John’s (and Our’s?) Pivotal Question (An Encore Podcast)

john_the_baptist_in_prison_350When we last left our old friend, John the Baptizer, his faith was in a free-fall.

He was here last week, sort of, in my place (while I am away speaking at a High School Camp) to tell you his scintillating story in his own words. (If you have not heard that PODCAST, may I respectfully request that you listen? A story that I promise you, you will never forget.)

Think of it. John… The man whose coming was predicted by the prophets… Whose birth was foretold by an angel… Who identified and introduced Jesus to the world…

John the Baptizer didn’t believe in Jesus any more.

His situation was dire, languishing as he was in Antipas’ Dead-Sea-Side prison (on Eastern side of Dead Sea), his life literally dangling by a thread. The madman Antipas holding in his bloodstained hands the frayed ends of that thread…

Tormented, no doubt John was, by the unobstructed view he had of his boyhood home. directly across the Dead Sea on its Western shore, adopted and raised as John was by Essenes of Qumran…

John had to have THE answer to his doubt-fueled, double-edged question, and only Jesus was the only one who could provide the answer that he (and sometimes we) sought.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for your podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen!

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A Surprise Visit from a Dear Old Friend (A First-Person Rendition)

John the Baptist baptizing Jesus from the the Mormon ChannelWhile I am away speaking at a Middle School Camp on the East Coast, I have left you in wonderfully capable hands. Those of our old and dear friend, John the Baptizer.

John the Baptizer is, by his own admission, a walking contradiction. As you will hear in this PODCAST, he had a remarkable beginning, and yet a dismal crash and burn.

In a word, his faith in Jesus COLLAPSED, completely.

His is quite the story to tell. But as you will hear me say, it is John’s story to tell, not mine.

So, if you can employ a little sanctified imagination, I will do my best to be true to John’s story, and respectful of John’s memory, as I sort of try to “become” (if I can put it that way) John the Baptizer.

Please remember that depending upon your connection speed and web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for the podcast to begin to play.

God bless you as you listen.

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A Dramatic Detour in Jesus’ Road to Destiny

pleading_womanWelcome to one of the strangest stories — many would call this a troubling tale — in Jesus’ entire life and ministry.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, what happens here in Mark 7, and its parallel passage in Matthew 15, seems highly uncharacteristic of Jesus; uncharitable to a tragically needy-yet-remarkable mommy; and unnecessarily cold and calloused as far as a Jesus is concerned.

A Jesus, I will humbly remind you, who defined Himself as “gentle” in Matthew 11, and who described His mission as one “to seek and to save the lost in Luke 19.

As you read this story, at first blush anyway, Jesus was Anything.But.Gentle in the way He spoke to this panic-stricken mother who was understandably distraught over the condition of her daughter.

Tell you what: If His mission was to seek and to save the lost, you couldn’t find anyone more lost than this woman.

As we read this story together (it’s only 8 verses in Matthew’s account), you tell me if you find this encounter between Jesus and this mom at all unsettling or unnerving. Put yourself in the mom’s sandals for a second and imagine that Jesus is talking to you about your little girl.

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

A happy ending to be sure.

But what an insensitive, ungracious, uncaring way to get to that happy ending..

You talk about showing a little kindness (as we did last week), there was no kindness shown to this woman; no kindness of any kind was shown to her at all. Until the very end.

Jesus (apparently) ignored her (“Jesus did not answer a word.”), then (apparently) refused and rebuffed her (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”), then (apparently) belittled her (“It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”).

Curiously enough, that’s it as far as Jesus’ road trip up North into what is today Lebanon, what was then Phoenicia, was concerned.

This one strange story.

And as always, my friend, we have much to talk about.

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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Breaking News

My beloved little Safe Haven family is really going through it right now. In a word, we are being broken.

To focus that just a bit, let me say that I am amazed at the significant struggles and overwhelming challenges that some of our precious people are experiencing — painful loses; seemingly senseless disappointments; literally excruciating physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges that defy explanation. Storm clouds are billowing. I cannot help but to imagine the reasons why.

In talking to each of these individuals on multiple occasions, they are understandably wrestling with it all, yet all the while demonstrating a firm-if-sometimes-faltering faith in God’s good plans that leaves me in awe.

I know, I know, I know that God never breaks His people without some amazing purposes behind His breaking. Some of our dear Safe Haven family members are being broken — No doubt about that! — but to what good purposes only time will tell. (Emphasis upon that hope-filled word, “will.”) The stories are just now unfolding. Stories that will be told. Stories of God’s abiding grace and peace. Stories of God’s sustaining strength and power. Stories of how God will profoundly touch the world through the profound pain of my friends. Stories that will illustrate the unbreakable law of nature: We can’t enjoy a shimmering rainbow without some falling rain.

rainbow

I also know that as God breaks my friends individually, He is also breaking Safe Haven collectively. He is breaking us as we share in these burdens together. A safe haven indeed — an unpretentious cadre of committed Christ-followers who desperately love Him and relentlessly love each other despite the unexpected trials and tribulations that life throws our way. It will be amazing, in the days and weeks ahead, to see not only what purposes lie behind God breaking certain individuals, but what purposes lie behind His breaking our family as a whole.

In the mean time, I have the unspeakable privilege of walking through these storms with some pretty special people whom I love with all my heart. It’s times like these that I am so incredibly thankful that God gave me the priceless privilege of being their pastor. But more than that, to be their friend.

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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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