Posts Tagged With: gifts

Family Matters

There is a play-on-words in 1 Peter 1:22.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, an insightful play-on-words that we miss to our peril.

Coming as it does from Peter’s pen, I can assure you that this play-on-words is most-intentional. Pregnant with meaning poignantly personal to Peter, and to us as well.

This play-on-words is a bit of a pun—not humorous at all, but serious in the extreme—that goes straight to the heart of what it means to be committed-Christ-follower now, today, in our current Christian culture.

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’ve Got Talent. (You Really Do!)

CfR3IQgWIAAlttkSpoiler Alert: This PODCAST will not be paradigm-shifting. This podcast will be paradigm-shattering.

There is so much going on here in Jesus’ conclusion to His landmark End Times Olivet Discourse that I hardly know where to begin.

Last week, we saw that Jesus told a parable about ten bridesmaids, five who were wise and five who were foolish.

This week, we’ll note that He told a follow-up parable about three servants, two who were faithful and one who was unfaithful.

We are fast-winding down our study of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ End Times sermon that He gave to His disciples high atop the Mount of Olives.

We are soon to pivot from the Tuesday of Jesus’ final week, to the Thursday of His final week, with detailed discussions of His final Passover Seder with His disciples, Judas’ betrayal, the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, His subsequent confinement in Caiaphas’ house, plus Peter’s denial.

The countdown clock to Jesus’ crucifixion is ticking; the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry is fast-approaching.

But to get there, we must first consider Jesus’ words here. Specifically, who are the faithful servants, and who is the unfaithful servant? What distinguishes between the two — faithful versus unfaithful? And what does all of this have to do with our lives in the here and now today?

So with all of that, let me now walk you thru Jesus’ conclusion to His Olivet Discourse. A parable that I truly believe you will discover to be #Oh.So.Encouraging to 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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The First Noel

12390995_10153185910760841_423099692962636577_nIt is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and meaningful of our Christmas carols.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, its seven stanzas tell the complete story of Christmas, brilliantly combining both Matthew’s and Luke’s Nativity narratives.

The carol to which I refer? The First Noel.

The First Noel, the angel did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay. In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep, on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Chorus: Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star shining in the east beyond them far. And to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night.

And by the light of that same star three wise men came from country afar. To seek for a king was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went.

This star drew nigh to the northwest, o’er Bethlehem it took it rest. And there it did both stop and stay right over the place where Jesus lay.

Then did they know assuredly within that house the King did lay. They entered in then for to see, and found the Babe in poverty.

Then entered in those wise men three, fell reverently upon their knee, and offered there in His presence their gold, and myrrh, and frankincense.

Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord, that hath made heaven and earth of naught, and with his blood mankind hath bought.

Chorus: Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel.

Let’s talk about those Wise Men, mysterious Magi.

And the star, what it was and why they followed it.

And their gifts, and their amazing significance.

From all of us at the Safe Haven, to all of you, A Very Merry Christmas!ThreeWiseMenblueskyandstars

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The Safe Haven: A Place to Come Home

safehavenI had an epiphany last week. Though I must admit the circumstances are kind of embarrassing.

Embarrassing only because my brilliant burst of insight came as I was speaking at The Safe Haven. (Kind of like when years ago I asked my senior pastor why he was listening to a tape of one of his own messages. To which he replied, “I’m getting blessed.”)

Well, believe it or not, as I was in the midst of listening to myself even as I was giving the message, I got blessed. I received an epiphany.

We were explaining exactly what Jesus meant when He said in the Sermon on the Mount, 

But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! (Matthew 5:20 NLT)

Strong words that demand an explanation. (In case you’re curious, you can listen to the entire explanation by clicking on this PODCAST LINK.)

Naturally, Jesus presupposed that His listeners knew all too well what He meant by “the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees,” while we might not.

So, as I love to do (as you well-know if you ever listen to the podcast), I let Jesus explain His own reference in His own words. Turns out, He told a trilogy of stories in order to leave absolutely no ambiguity about who and what these “teachers of religious law and the Pharisees” were and are. (Cuz truth be told, Pharisees are not limited to the Jewish tradition of Jesus’ day; we have plenty of modern-day Pharisees haunting the hallowed halls of our churches in our day. But I digress.)

The third of this trio of stories that Jesus told — directed squarely at the Pharisees each — is the most familiar of the three. We typically refer to this story — inaccurately so — as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. But it’s not a story about the prodigal son at all. Oh sure, the prodigal son (the younger son, the one who represents so many of us in this tale of two sons) is featured quite prominently in the story. But the younger son is not the focus of the portrait that Jesus so eloquently paints. The younger son is the frame of the portrait; the focus of the portrait is the older son — the son who represents the “teachers of religious law and the Pharisees.” I know this because if you read the opening verses of Luke 15, wherein this story appears, you see quite clearly that Jesus told these stories to the Pharisees about the Pharisees.

Long story short, the younger son squanders his still-living father’s estate as he defiantly descends into the netherworld of lascivious living, heaping scorn and sorrow upon his family in the process.

The dad in the story never gives up on his son, even as it seems the son has forsaken his family forever. Dad’s out on the front porch, scanning the horizon in the hopes that one day, maybe, perhaps, his son will come home.

And come home he does.

Broken, repentant, sorrowful — his son just wants to come home.

homeAnd dad (the God-like-figure in the story) welcomes him home with open arms, a bear hug, a lavish display of gifts, and nary a word of rebuke. He pulls out all the stops and commences to throw his now-returned son one wingding of a party.

Which is where the rendering of this story usually stops, #MissingTheWholePoint!

Dad’s acceptance of the younger son causes the older son — the Pharisee-like-figure in the story, as in the people to whom Jesus told this story — to blow a gasket. He judges the younger son. He condemns the younger son. He compares his righteousness — his self-righteousness — to the younger son’s sinfulness. 

And that’s the point of the story.

And that’s the same point Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount.

The “righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of religious law” was a self-righteousness, a self-righteousness that Jesus abhors.

You see, fact of the matter is, repentant people just want to come home. God will ALWAYS welcome them home. 

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalm 51:17 NLT).

But many so-called “Christians” will.

Which goes to the heart of the story, and the heart of the Sermon on the Mount.

While self-righteous, Pharisee-like, judgmental church-goers live to wag an accusing finger at and spout out verses to those of us who are acutely aware of our imperfections, thereby making us feel so worthless, so beaten down, so spiritually exasperated, so religiously-wounded, so unaccepted and unacceptable…

…God constantly scans the horizon ALWAYS at the ready to give us the warm and sustained embrace of His acceptance, and a heartfelt “Welcome home,” to each of us who just want to come home.

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalm 51:17 NLT).

Which leads me to my epiphany: That’s exactly why we started The Safe Haven. 

The Safe Haven is an older-son, Pharisee-free zone where anyone can come at any time. People just like us who are acutely aware of our imperfections, who are broken and repentant, who just want to come home. Home to God. Home to His loving embrace. Home to His never-condemning, always-welcoming, unconditional acceptance. 

A place where people can come home no matter how distant they have traveled, how far they have fallen, or how epically they think they have failed. A family of the flawed. A place where anybody can come home anytime, from anywhere — NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

People ask me weekly, what is this Safe Haven thing you’ve started. And now, thanks to my mid-sermon epiphany, I finally know how to answer them.

The Safe Haven: A Place to Come Home.

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