Posts Tagged With: doubt

To Dream the Impossible Dream (HT #becauseofRHE)

As you will hear in the PODCAST, I do have a dream.

A modest dream. Yet modest though it may be, an increasingly illusive-if-not-impossible dream.

Won’t you please help my dream to come true?

Ironically, your response to this message will either nudge my dream to its fulfillment, or cast my dream upon the ash heap of impossible dreams. (No pressure!)

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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“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”

In honor of this Christmas season now officially upon us, let’s go back to the beginning.

In this PODCAST, you will hear from the one, the prediction of whose birth shattered 400 years of a deafening silence and started the Christmas ball rolling—our old and dearly beloved friend, John the Baptizer.

This is his compelling story, as told in his own voice.

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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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

To 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)

Believe 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)

When 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)

While 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

Welcome 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.

 

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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