Posts Tagged With: grace

The “Gracious” Holy Spirit

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, The Apostle Paul made an astonishing statement to the committed-Christ-Followers living in Rome.

In other words, to those living in the belly of the beast.

  • Rome. The capital of an Empire that redefined hedonism, paganism, unbridled moral perversion.
  • Rome. The city that literally drank itself into daily stupor on cheap wine and human blood.
  • Rome. The city of the Colosseum and Gladiator.
  • Rome. The city where human life held zero value.
  • Rome. The city of which Paul wrote in Romans 1, “They invent new ways of sinning… They are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse, they approve and applaud others who practice them.”
  • Rome. The epitome of a religiously/politically lethal environment for every follower of Jesus.
  • Rome. Where Peter would eventually be crucified.
  • Rome. Where Paul himself would be beheaded.

So to encourage these embattled believers living right there as residence of this ancient sin-city, Paul wrote this amazing statement in his letter to the Roman believers,

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

In a city where everyone was against these beleaguered believers in Jesus, Paul assured them that God would never be against them. God would never be against then because God was for them.

Guess what? He is for you too!

A blessedly-beautiful three-in-one proposition.

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 Day in the Life of the (First) Early Church

These were exhilarating times indeed for that original company of committed Christ-followers.

In this PODCAST, and in the upcoming weeks, it will be our privilege to relive these salad days of the first ekklesia—in Jerusalem—as we join in a virtual sense these first precious believers, our ancestors in the faith.

Last week, we looked at the four foundational dynamics that characterized this first early church. Foundational for them; foundational for us. You will remember that we considered each of these in some detail—that marvelous biblical blueprint for every local church, both then and now! The elegant simplicity and sincerity of which was breathtaking for us to behold.

Now, we will consider a day in the life of these very first committed Christ-followers. The precious and precarious first hours of this first church’s delicate-if-exuberant infancy.

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 Day Unlike Any Other

It is time for us to celebrate.

That’s the tone with which I want to share this PODCAST with you tonight. A tone of celebration.

A celebration of a day unlike any other.

A day that began so ordinarily; but one that ended so spectacularly, in the Holy City, on the southern steps of the Holy Temple Mount.

So many miles from this place (McMinnville); so many years from this year (2017).

Yet this was a day—the effects of which are so clearly manifested in the fact that you would not be listening to this podcast right now if this glorious day had not occurred.

We’re talking, of course, about the Day of Pentecost, in or around AD 33. Which would make this the 1,984th Pentecost weekend since the Dispensation of God’s Glorious Grace began so wondrously nearly two millennia ago.

Jesus, in Matthew 16, made this awe-inspiring declaration to jaw-dropping effect as far as His disciples were concerned (Verse 18),

“I will build my ekklesia” (Jesus’ brand new, yet-to-be-born, worldwide family of faith), “and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

Jesus began to build His ekklesia here in Acts 2, on this dazzling Day of Pentecost. Yes! On this Day of Pentecost, Jesus’ ekklesia was born! 1,984 years later, the powers of hell have yet to conquer it. In fact, as you are about to hear, despite every effort of the Evil One to silence it, the witness of Christ around the world is more powerful today than it has ever been!

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 Minor Prophet with a MAJOR Message

Welcome to Peter’s first-ever sermon.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, this fisherman-turned-preacher’s initial foray into the world of sermonizing is memorable in extreme.

And whether you realize it or not, Peter’s first sermon out of the gate is all about… Grasshoppers. As in locusts. Lots and lots of locusts.

A plague of locusts. A past-plague of locusts. A coming plague of locusts. And a future (even future for us) plague of locusts. See it there in Acts 2:14-16?

Listen as I read it to you, and see if you can hear ominous chomps of locusts:

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel.”

See any locusts in that? No? Well, then, keep listening. Because as you are about to hear, it is vital that we do.

His name is Joel. He is one of so-called 12 “Minor Prophets.” But make no mistake about this: Joel may have been a “Minor Prophet.” But there was absolutely nothing minor about his message.

Let me ever-so-briefly remind you of structure of the Old Testament…

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 Glorious Gift of Tongues

It is one of the great ironies of Christian life.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, the Holy Spirit came to this earth in Jesus’ absence in part to bring a supernatural unity to committed Christ-followers throughout the world.

For example, we read in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

That phrase “the unity of the Spirit” notwithstanding, Christians throughout the world have arguably divided more over the gifts of Holy Spirit than any other single issue. Divisions that, quite frankly, have turned spiritually toxic.

There are those who will tell you and me with some measure of intensity that if you do not speak in tongues, you are at the least not filled with the Spirit; and at the worst, not a Christian at all.

There are those who will tell you and me with some measure of intensity that if you do speak in tongues, you are believing a false Gospel and consequently going to Hell.

So as we enter this discussion, I will give to you my promise, and make to you my plea.

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 Fox in the Henhouse

Jerusalem-4There is No.Clearer.Picture in all of the Bible of the heart of God towards sinners — I’m talking the hardest of hardhearted sinners — than this one right here in Luke 13.

A Scriptural snapshot that will go a long way to defining your biblical view of God and your biblical understanding of Jesus, both as a man and as God.

If you think of the Bible as a picture book, Luke paints for us a portrait of Jesus that is, quite frankly, irresistible, and most refreshing to my soul. It will be to yours as well. Guaranteed.

One that comes to us, ironically enough, thanks to a small cadre of good Pharisees. Yes! Heard me right. Good Pharisees.

The Pharisees as a group, as we have discussed in weeks gone by, and as you therefore understand, were historically among Jesus’ chief tormentors. That being said, there were in the minority some good Pharisees.

  • Nicodemus comes to mind as a good Pharisee, one who lovingly cared for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.
  • In Mark 12, Jesus told a good Pharisee that he was “not far from the Kingdom of God.”
  • In Acts 15, reference is made to a number of good Pharisees who were committed Christ-followers.
  • And here in Luke 13, we find a small group of good Pharisees who traveled likely from Galilee to Perea to warn Jesus about the murderous intentions of Antipas.

This, my dear friends, is quite a gripping story.

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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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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THE Definitive Word on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

divorceWhile I am away speaking at one of my all-time favorite places on Earth (Hartland Christian Camp), the topic of this encore PODCAST is one of those subjects that touches us all, deeply and profoundly.

The ripples of any divorce, every divorce spread their concentric circles far and wide.

Which compels us to take a sober look at exactly what Jesus DID SAY HERE in Matthew 5:31-32, as well as — and perhaps especially — what Jesus DID NOT SAY HERE.

Because once again, this is one of those passages which, when lifted out of its context — both Scriptural and Cultural — is so often and so tragically made to say something other than what Jesus intended for it to say. Heaping truck loads of unnecessary grief and guilt upon poor precious people who are just trying by God’s grace to rebuild their broken lives.

Trust me! Over the years, having dealt up close and personal with many, many people, I have heard some of the most atrocious applications of this passage. This to the point where emotionally and spiritually fragile individuals, whose lives have just been rocked by their own tragic divorces, now have whatever fragments they have left of their broken lives crushed by well-meaning, but grossly misinformed, Christians errantly and judgmentally spouting this passage. And then in fine Pharisee-esque style, walk away from them, leaving untold wreckage in their wakes.

Not here. Not in this PODCAST. No way!

Jesus doesn’t do that.

Please note 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, PLEASE, PLEASE share this podcast with your friends.

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In a Word… “Irresistible.”

Someone near and dear to my heart shared with me something from his heart that, to be honest, broke my heart.

He admitted to me,

“If all I had to go by were many of the Christians I have known — the things they have said, the way they have said them, the way my family and I have been treated by those in the ‘church,’ especially when we needed them the most — I never would have become one.”

Ouch! That was painful to hear. But you know what? Upon sober reflection, I understand exactly why he said what he said.

He wasn’t the first to say it. He most certainly won’t be the last. 

I heard in his words an eerily-familiar echo. An echo of something the famous Gandhi once said. 

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Let’s say it together: “Ouch.”

It was this very sentiment that compelled me fourteen months ago — after experiencing what you could appropriately call a crisis of faith — to begin at the beginning. Laying aside everything that I thought I knew about Jesus — all that I had heard preached in “church” over all these years, all that I see lived out in so many “Christians” — and starting over with no preconceived ideas whatsoever about who I thought Jesus was/is.

With my fragile and faltering faith literally hanging in the balance, I dove headfirst into the four Gospels with but one singular goal in mind: 

To discover who Jesus REALLY is.

By harmonizing Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and moving ever so slowly and deliberately through the life of Jesus from before His birth to after His resurrection, I was and am desperate to cut through all the haze, filter out all the noise, and see Jesus as He really is.

The dear people at the Safe Haven have joined me in this journey that we have called, Jesus in High Definition. And for each of these dear people walking this road with me, I am profoundly grateful. (By the way, you are more than welcome to join us on this journey. You can even start way back at the beginning. You’ll find each of our studies — free downloads each — by clicking HERE.)

Well, fourteen months later, we are halfway through the Sermon on the Mount. Want to know what I have discovered thus far?

Jesus isn’t anything like I’ve been taught that He is. Jesus isn’t anything like I’ve been shown that He is.

In a word, the Jesus who is emerging from the pages of the Gospels is irresistible.

jesushug

Gandhi had it right when he said so simply and yet profoundly,

“I like your Jesus.”

Well, with all due respect to Mr. Gandhi, may I amplify that just a bit? Fact is, “I LOVE my Jesus.” 

Not the Jesus I hear about in church, a picture that is far-too-often distorted.

Certainly not the Jesus of church history. You know, the Jesus of the Crusades, Inquisition, or Holocaust. The Jesus of the Gospels was NEVER a part of any of that.

Not the Jesus I hear pontificated about by politicians who invoke His matchless name to pander to the so-called “Christian right” (whatever that is) to win votes. (People looking to the talking heads at Fox News, or any other news, to see modern-day reflections of Jesus are looking in the wrong place!)

Not the Jesus I see when so many of His “followers” treat others unkindly, harshly, rudely, critically, uncharitably, insensitively, impatiently, judgmentally, with unnecessary cruelty. With an “I’m-better-than-you” arrogance. With a “You’re here to serve me” attitude. Quick to complain when inconvenienced. With an unwillingness ever to be wronged, a refusal ever to turn the other cheek. You know… an empty “fruit-of-the-Spirit” basket.

Jesus was NEVER.ANY.OF.THOSE.THINGS. Ever!

Yes, I LOVE my Jesus. The irresistible Jesus. The Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus whom I get to introduce each week to the precious people at Safe Haven.

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