Posts Tagged With: faith

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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Turning Point at Tabgha — A Redemption Story

In Mark 16 we read,

The angel said to the women, “But go, tell His disciples — and Peter…”

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, kudos to Peter for allowing Mark to include this rather inglorious detail about this darkest hour of Peter’s storied life. If the trajectory of Peter’s faith journey was filled with ups and downs, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, here Peter hits rock bottom.

What was the significance of the angel’s words to the women,

“But go, tell His disciples — and Peter…”?

More than you and I could ever imagine. An epic story of falling and rising, regret and redemption.

You want to see redemption in real time, here it is. A story of hope and promise that you will not want to miss.

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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From Crash and Burn to Rise and Shine (An Epic Tale of Gracious-Filled Redemption)

roosterIt was without a doubt the absolute worst day of Peter’s long and storied and challenging life. As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, we’re talking about one particular Saturday — the day after the crucifixion.

The day after Peter had denied Jesus three times before Jesus’ accusers. The Saturday before the very first Easter Sunday.

And since for the precious and beloved people at Safe Haven, I happened to give this message on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Thus, we would do well to consider exactly what was going on and why during that singularly fateful day.

A very dark day in otherwise dazzling life of Peter.

You talk about an epic fail, a spectacular fall from grace, a stunningly unpredictable turn of events, and crash and burn of mind-numbing proportions… Here’s a quick thumbnail of how Peter’s not-so-Good-Friday developed, leading up to his Horribly-Bad-Saturday before Easter.

A day Peter no doubt spent cowering in a corner…

  • Disgusted by the arrest of his rabbi;
  • Devastated by execution of his hero, mentor, friend;
  • Demoralized by the death of his dream of freedom from the oppressions of Romans;

A man whose faith was now in a free-fall. If there was any faith left in the man to fall.

The week leading up to Peter’s Not-So-Good-Friday and Horribly-Bad-Saturday began the Sunday before, Palm Sunday, with the event we commonly call the Triumphal Entry.

Jerusalem swelled to overflowing by the multiplied thousands upon thousands of pilgrims streaming into the Holy City in preparation for Passover. Every person in the place was there in commemoration of the Israelites’ deliverance from four hundred grueling years of oppression by the Egyptians, AND in feverish anticipation of what they hoped and prayed was their imminent deliverance from the brutal, barbaric, and oh.so.bloody occupation by the Romans.

Messianic fervor was always at its highest in the week leading up to Passover. You can understand why. Freedom was in the air.

But in this podcast, I don’t want you merely to understand why. I want you to feel why.

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.

And PLEASE “Share” a link to this podcast with a loved one or friend.

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What DOES the Bible Truly Teach about Healing Today?

facebook-depressionThe day before yesterday, I read a recently released report out of University of Missouri on the subject of Facebook Depression.

Well, as you will hear in this PODCAST, I really didn’t need to read a report about that. I know all-too-well what happens in my own rather sizable soul when I scan my FB newsfeed.

Sometimes I just can’t help but to feel so deeply and compassionately and sadly for many of the challenges so many of my friends are going through, especially as they relate to their issues of health.

I, like so many of you, just want to wave a magical wand and fix everything. But I can’t. Of course, as the cliché goes, I do know Someone (capital “S”) who Can.Fix.Everything.

But what happens when He doesn’t?

Perhaps amplifying my FB depression, this was the week for “I don’t know if I believe in God anymore” messages. Messages sent to me by a few of my friends, unsolicited on my part, each message unrelated to the others, in which their faith is floundering, seriously so. This precisely because they have things broken in lives, significantly so. Yet despite their cries and pleas to the Almighty Who — as that name for God so powerfully suggests — has the power to fix it all. But He didn’t. He doesn’t.

Now what?

What does a person do when, in their moment of greatest need, it appears that God is either…

1. Silent/indifferent/deaf to their pleas, or worse…

2. Appears to be powerless to fix it all?

And so, in the lives of some of my friends, faced with a seemingly silent/indifferent and/or powerless God, their faith in God is in a free-fall.

I say all of that so that you know that I take this podcast’s passage in Matthew 10 Ever.So.Seriously. Tonight’s discussion hits me Ever.So.Personally. And so I will endeavor to bring to this discussion Ever.So.Compassionately the understanding of what it’s like to have one’s faith collapse.

Because it’s simply a fact that, despite the title of the runaway bestseller that just celebrated its 30th anniversary with a rerelease of a 30th Anniversary Edition — the book entitled He Is There and He Is Not Silent — for many of my friends, just when they needed Him the most, from all outward appearances God was NOT there and He was deafeningly silent.

Why so silent?

It all comes down to what you will hear 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.

If it is a blessing to you, PLEASE share a link to this podcast with your friends.

HAPPY LISTENING.

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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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Our Firm Foundation

foundationThe scene could not have been more chaotic. Crowds clamoring for Jesus’ blood. The blood-thirsty mobs hurling their false accusations at Jesus as they tried to convince the Romans that this man needed to die. The Roman soldiers salivating at the prospect of torturing yet another helpless victim.

And through it all, once the mayhem ended, once the maelstrom calmed down, the echoes of one question continued to reverberate against the city’s walls and over her cobblestone streets. You can read this singularly significant question in John’s account of Jesus’ execution.

Pilate, the Roman governor who held Jesus’ fate in his blood-stained hands, looked Jesus right in the eye and inquired of Him a three-word question that, in a haunting sort of way, continues to resound in our day.

Jesus had just said to Pilate, “What I say is true.” Pilate then sneered and cynically asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

In this PODCAST, we will discover the answer together.

And that answer IS the FIRM foundation of our faith!

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

May God richly bless you as you listen.

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