Posts Tagged With: fear

A Fury Unleashed

“The apostles (rejoiced that) God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, a most-interesting word, “disgrace.” Both the NKJV and the NASB translate it “worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.” In the ESV? “Worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus.

It’s a word that means to render infamous through insult, innuendo, and/or intimidation; to strip someone of their honor and dignity; to sully one’s name and reputation.

This is the exact same pattern that we saw with Jesus—a gradual escalation of opposition against Him, that we are now seeing intensify against the Apostles.

In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested, imprisoned, warned, and threatened.

Here in Acts 5, all twelve Apostles were arrested, imprisoned, and flogged. They were publicly disgraced, purposefully stripped of their honor as well as their skin, insulted, rendered infamous, their reputations sullied before the watching world.

It should therefore come as no surprise that come Acts 7, the situation will have escalated to the point to where Stephen will be stoned to death.

So what happened now to cause this next step in the escalation of opposition and intimidation? Fact is, it’s really quite a story! One that give to us a heartwarming insight into the thinking and feelings of this first generation of committed Christ-followers. A window both into their world and into their souls.

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 Sin Unto Death

Acts 5:1(NLT)—“But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.” Hmmm…

Just try to imagine for a second this otherwise unimaginable scenario, as related in this PODCAST:

A highly-respected individual walks into the cozy confines of Safe Haven, only to drop dead on the spot.

Some time later, his unsuspecting wife walks in, and she too keels over, stone-cold dead.

That is exactly what happened here in Acts 5, one of the most mysterious and misunderstood narratives in all of the Bible.

For starters: That word “But,” δ—as in “But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property”—is ominous in the extreme.

In the technical grammar of the passage, δ is an adversative particle, signaling something that could be translated: “On the other hand”; or, “Contrary to what you just read”; or, “By way of a startling, scandalous, and jaw-dropping contrast”…

Alerted by that pesky particle, I can tell you that we are about to hear a strange story, a sobering saga, a troubling tale that sounds totally out of character as far as God is concerned.

Or is it?

A head-turning happening that prompts us to ask three questions:

1. Why did this happen?

2. Could this happen today?

3. What does it all mean for us?

Since context is everything, let me begin by first giving you the backstory.

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, Why Won’t You Answer My Prayer? (An Encore Podcast)

prayerKey word for this PODCAST? Expectations.

There is nothing more toxic to our faith than when we base our faith on misinformed expectations. More precisely, holding God to expectations that He never intended for us to form; expectations God never committed Himself to fulfill.

They say that “confession is good for the soul.” OK, here’s my confession to you: Every week, when I open the Bible and begin to teach, I keenly, keenly feel my inadequacy. That’s not a me-trying-to-sound-humble statement; that’s a me-being-brutally-honest statement. A true statement, an honest admission, because I know that each and every person who listens to my voice and hears my words is experiencing their own challenges, asking their own questions, working through their own difficulties.

Consequently, there is so much that I would like to tell you, but literally so little time. How much can we accomplish in less than an hour together each week?

I am certainly not alone in my frustration. I take great comfort that Jesus felt it too, keenly so. Which is precisely what He told His disciples in one of the landmark chapters in all of the Bible. Yet, ironically, it’s a chapter that is so often overlooked as to its significance and importance.

If I were to ask you to tell me your favorite chapter in the Bible, or the one that brings you the greatest level of comfort, I doubt you’d say John 16. But for me, without a doubt, I’d say John 16. And it’s in this chapter that Jesus expressed my same exact frustration.

There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.

The scene was the Upper Room. The night was His last night before the crucifixion. Jesus knew what the next 24 hours would be like. Consequently, Jesus had to recalibrate His disciples’ expectations. And so on this night, Jesus huddled with His disciples at what should have been the singular celebration of the year: a Passover Seder.

A beautiful night that would soon turn ugly.

These men had left everything to follow Jesus. They had literally put their lives on the line to become committed Christ-followers.

Jesus had warned them repeatedly that this night was coming — the night of His betrayal and arrest.

But you know, it’s amazing to me what we hear, and what we don’t allow ourselves to hear.

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Alone, But NEVER Alone!

sparrowsSo here’s my question:

If you were Jesus, and you wanted to convey the idea in a way that no one could possibly miss,

That you loved someone…

That you cared about someone more than they could ever even begin to imagine…

That you would be there for that person No.Matter.What…

That in their loneliest moments, when they felt totally abandoned and isolated and detached from everyone, that you were still there for them; that you would ALWAYS be there for them…

That your love and care and kindness towards that person would never change…

That you feel their isolation more than they know…

And that you will be loyal to that person, never to abandon them, never to turn away from them…

But that you are there and will be there now and forever…

If you were Jesus, how would you convey that? What words would you use? What picture would you draw?

In this PODCAST, you will find out. And in finding out, you may never view Jesus in the same way again.

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.

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“Why? God, Please Tell Me, Why?”

Why did You let my father molest/rape me?  (He went to prison for  this, was tried and convicted.)  I just want to know why?  I am in pain.

rejectionAs stated in my previous post, from time to time (at a rate of one or two per week) I am going to answer questions that I received from Junior High/Middle School students last month at camp. I asked them to write down for me the one question they would ask God if given the chance.

I will answer each question as if I am speaking directly to them…

I know you are in pain. Pain that I cannot even begin to imagine.

Let me start by stating right up front that “Why?” questions are the most difficult questions to answer. We don’t always know the reasons why.

Oh sure, I could tell you that we live on a fallen planet where bad people do really bad things to good and precious people like you. That this is all the result of Adam and Eve’s sin. That it’s ultimately the devil’s fault. And while there is some truth to each of those statements, you deserve better than a trio of trite clichés, none of which is an adequate explanation for the pain you carry every single day.

What I can tell you is this: Jesus was born into an equally pain-filled world. Within months of His birth, a very bad man by the name of Herod wanted desperately to kill Him. Herod thought of Himself as the “King of the Jews.” So when the Wise Men showed up asking for the whereabouts of the authentic “King of the Jews,” Herod exploded. He ordered every baby boy in Bethlehem two years of age and under to be mercilessly slaughtered. Herod’s murderous rampage caused the streets of Bethlehem to flow with the blood of these innocent toddlers.  The anguished wails of their moms and dads, brothers and sisters, echoed throughout the town.

Like you, a part of me cries out to God the single most painful question you or I could ever ask: Why? Why did so many innocent children have to die such a horribly bloody death? Why did innocent moms and dads have to watch helplessly as their government slaughtered their children? Why didn’t God stop the slaughter? Why did God let Herod get away with it?

Well, nowhere in the story (Matthew 2:16-18) does the Bible answer that hauntingly elusive question, “Why?” But it does answer an equally important question — perhaps an even more important question — “Where?” As in, “Where were You, God, when this senseless slaughter was taking place?”

The answer? (Read this slowly, and allow the power of this answer to sink into your soul.) Jesus was right there in the middle of the horror.

Remember that He was the object of the hate. He was the target of the murderous thugs who rode into Bethlehem that night. He was the focus of the frightful rage that erupted into the slaying of all those little kids. He was right in the middle, sharing and feeling the pain of every baby boy who died in His place. He cried bitter tears as He heard the gut-wrenching cries of all those mommys and daddys who lost their children because of Him. He was right there in the middle of it all.

Thankfully, through the intervention of an angel, Jesus didn’t die that night. But the day did come when Jesus died an even more horrific death at the hands of these same Romans. On that dark day, Jesus died for you, Jesus died for me, and Jesus died for every baby boy in Bethlehem who had died for Him on that infamous night. Yes, every single baby butchered that night was greeted in Heaven that night by the waiting and welcoming hands of God.

Good  ALWAYS wins; evil ALWAYS loses. Always.

OK, so now watch this: Where was God during that entire time that you were being horribly molested by your dad? Right there beside you. Sharing your pain. Feeling your fear. Cradling you in His arms while you cried. And promising that what your dad intended for evil, God will use for your good. And for the good of many, many people.

One of my Old Testament heroes is named Joseph. His brothers tried to murder him. At the last minute, they changed their plan and sold him as a slave. He was purchased by an Egyptian and forced to live in a foreign country, away from all of his family and friends. He was falsely accused of rape and wrongly imprisoned. He suffered unimaginably as he rotted away in an Egyptian dungeon for nearly 13 years for a crime he did not commit. 

“Why?” Why did God let that happen? Why did God let the brothers get away with that? Why didn’t God stop them?

We don’t know why. But we do know where. Where was God during those years of imprisonment? Right in the dungeon with Joseph. 

After 13 years, Joseph was miraculously released from his cell (just as you were finally released from your prison of molestation and rape). Even better, God then used Joseph to save His people from the ravages of a famine that hit their land. And when Joseph faced his brothers who had sold him as a slave, he said something that I hope you will memorize. Words that changed my life; words that can change yours as well. Because what was true of Joseph is true of you. Joseph said to his brothers: 

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people (Genesis 50:20, New Living Translation).

Your dad tried to harm you. But God will now transform your pain-filled heart and violated body into the beautiful and radiant person that you are now becoming. God is so good at that. He takes the ashes of the wrongs that we suffer and transforms them into something breathtakingly beautiful to behold. A whole new YOU!

Just think of all the young women you will be able to help and heal someday because of your story. Think of how God allowed you to survive the darkest of nights so that His sunshine of this new day can sparkle through you to others. Think of how His power spared you from a situation that could have been so much worse. Think of the radiant diamond that you have become after being crushed so many, many times.

The very fact that you could come to a Christian camp and be given the opportunity to ask of God that one most important question — Why? — proves where God was while that was happening. Right there with you.

He is with you now.

And I promise you that the very thing your dad did to harm you is the very thing that God will now use to bring SO MUCH GOOD to so many, many people. Yes, the day will come — sooner rather than later — when you will be able to pray,

God, I would never want to go through that again. But I thank You for allowing me to go through it once.

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