Posts Tagged With: Herod

Questions–Then and Now

The Theater in Caesarea

Did you know that Adolph Hitler survived at least six—SIX!—assassination attempts?

As you will hear in this PODCAST, these six assassination attempts occurred in 1921, 1938, 1939, two in 1943, and the final attempt on July 20, 1944.

Get this: Any one of which, if successful, would have either prevented World War II—as well as the wholesale slaughter of six million of our precious Jewish friends—or brought both the war and the Holocaust to a screeching halt.

The older I get, the more questions I have.

As but two examples:

First: Why did God allow each of these six assassination attempts to fail?

I’m not now going to debate the ethics or lack thereof of political assassination in a time of war. Whether or not as Committed Christ-Followers we should support or condemn such actions is way beyond the scope of tonight’s discussion.

I’m simply asking: Would not our world have been a better place if just 1 of those attempts had succeeded?

What possible purpose could have been served by God allowing the likes of Hitler to live and to continue to torment the human race?

The failure of the final attempt on Hitler’s life is to me especially curious given the facts that A) Just 9 months and 10 days later—on April 30, 1945—Hitler killed himself in his bunker in Berlin.

And B) Tried and executed as a conspirator to that final, failed attempt on Hitler’s life? A man of far greater and more positive influence than I could ever hope to have, a man—to quote Hebrews—“of whom our world is not worthy.” I’m talking about the German pastor, theologian, and prolific writer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A precious, priceless servant of the Lord summarily executed by hanging a mere three weeks before Hitler bit into a cyanide tablet and shot himself in the head.

Had Hitler killed himself just three weeks earlier, would not Bonhoeffer’s life had been spared? Could not Bonhoeffer have then continued—perhaps for many, many years—to instruct and inspire the lives of countless Christ-followers the world over with his positive influence?

Why did God spare the life of a servant of Hell named Adolph Hitler just long enough to cost the life of a servant of Heaven named Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

God does not owe an explanation. But He does allow me to ask the question. So ask it, I will and I do.

That’s my first question.

My second question is this: Why did God allow a King named Herod Agrippa—a Jew who sold his soul and sold out his own people to the Romans in a cynical quest for power, position, and popularity—to live just long enough to destroy countless lives of Jewish Christ-followers in Jerusalem, as well as kill someone as stellar as the Apostle James?

James–brother to the Apostle John. Member of Apostolic trio—Jesus’ inner circle—Peter, James, and John? A man—to quote Hebrews—“of whom our world is not worthy.”

God does not owe an explanation. But He does allow me to ask the question. So ask it, I will and I do.

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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Jailbreak!

The (Infamous) Antonia Fortress

When we last left our old and dear friend, Peter, he was in Jerusalem, languishing in a Roman prison cell, awaiting what he thought was his certain execution.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, Peter had been held in that prison for up to eight long, arduous days—the week of Passover.

So to help you feel this story—if I may put it that way—I need you to think back to one week ago.

It was exactly one week ago when we—in Peter in HD Podcast #51—met the notorious-King Herod Agrippa.

And I need you to consider two compelling/colliding realities now coming into play as far as Peter’s state-of-mind-and-heart while in prison was concerned.

My dear friends, SO MUCH for us to talk about (please forgive that dangling preposition).

And 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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“About That Time…”

Acts 12 begins with this poignant—or pregnant with meaning—phrase, Κατ᾽ἐκ-ε-νον δ τν και-ρν,

“About that time…”

Words that, as you will hear in this PODCAST, could just as well have been translated,

“At the same time…”

“In the meantime…”

Or,

“Meanwhile…”

  • Meaning that while our old friend from last week, the Prophet Agabus, was in beautiful downtown Antioch 300 miles to the North, warning of a coming famine to Jerusalem and Judea in the South…
  • Meaning that while the predominantly non-Jewish believers in Jesus were taking up a love offering to help to alleviate mass starvation and woeful suffering among their Jewish brothers and sisters in Jesus in Jerusalem and throughout Judea…
  • Meaning that while this gloriously beautiful unity of all of these first-generation Christ-followers was being realized throughout Israel and beyond…

Κατ᾽ἐκ-ε-νον δ τν και-ρν, “In the meantime,” much was going on in Holy City of Jerusalem itself—gut-wrenching, faith-challenging, life-altering events that rocked the world of these early believers. Profound challenges that had nothing to do with Agabus’ future famine about which they didn’t yet know.

Our passage tonight—a modest four verses in total—goes to the very heart of the #1 longing of every human heart—including our own.

As well as the #1 question that has plagued the human race since time immemorial, including us.

Four short verses that describe what was going in lives of early believers particularly, and the residents of Jerusalem generally.

“About that time…”

All of this, ALL of this, so insightful for us, today, in our time.

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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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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A Jesus Who “Gets It”; A Jesus Who “Gets” You!

a-lonely-place-to-prayThis may sound strange to you, as you will hear on this PODCAST.

But if I kicked a bottle and a genie popped out, offering to grant me but one wish, any idea what I’d wish for? I’d wish for the ability to point my finger at anyone, anywhere, at any time, and become that person for 10 minutes.

On the surface of things, an odd request, I know. But if you think about it, for me it makes perfect sense.

When people share with me their stories, invariably I feel an acute longing to become that person — for 10 minutes — so that I can truly understand what it’s really like to be them.

Just imagine if we each possessed that power. If we did, and become that person for just 10 minutes, we would completely understand. We would understand why they do the things they do; why they say the things they say; why they make the choices that they make; why they act the way they act. All would become so crystal clear.

And in knowing the whys behind people’s words, actions, and attitudes, just think of how revolutionizing such knowledge would be. We would be so much more understanding, so much more forgiving, so much more compassionate, so much more loving.

We would “get it.” And others would “get” us.

I mean, if you could just be me for 10 minutes, you would finally understand why I am certifiably neurotic.

Well, Jesus didn’t have a bottle; He didn’t need one. Jesus never met a genie; there are no magical genies to meet. Jesus wasn’t granted one wish. Wishes were irrelevant to Him. But Jesus did exactly what I would wish I could do. And He did so for much, much longer than 10 minutes.

As a baby, laying in a manger, in beautiful downtown Bethlehem, Jesus became one of us.

Jesus experienced every human emotion, felt every human need, faced every human temptation, and lived every possible kind of human suffering.

He understands exactly what it is like to be you, and what it is like to be me.

This picture of an understanding Jesus is painted ever so clearly in this story. After hearing it, you will never view Jesus the same way again:

A Jesus who “gets it.”

A Jesus who “gets” 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.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

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The Apostle Peter’s Startling Story (a First-Person Rendition)

TabghaIt’s my absolute favorite spot in all of Israel.

Which, given my love for the land and its people, is quite a remarkable statement.

In this PODCAST, you will hear where it is, and why it is.

Here’s a clue: It’s the Apostle Peter’s favorite spot too.

Please remember that depending upon your connection speed and web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

HAPPY LISTENING, and please “Share” this podcast with your family and friends.

 

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Mary, Did You Know???

mangerMary’s was NOT an easy life. 

Consequently, she is a woman whom I greatly admire. As should we all.

Just imagine what it must have been like to walk in her sandals, or to ride on her donkey.

At the time of the angelic visitation announcing her miraculous pregnancy, Mary was assured that her baby was the vital part of God’s plan of salvation. Not only for her, but for the whole world.

Yet we know that very late in her pregnancy, Joseph and Mary were forced to make the arduous journey from Nazareth-Bethlehem,60 miles as the crow flies. A harrowing 3 to 5 day journey under the best of conditions into what was for all intents and purposes a different country far removed from Nazareth geographically, culturally, and demographically. More like 5 to 7 days considering Mary’s condition, walking or on camelback, through treacherous terrain, exposed to the elements and the ever-present threat of bandits, all to register for yet another Roman tax.

This poor couple living, as we learn a little later in the Gospel accounts, barely above the poverty line, having even what little they had plundered by their corrupted government officials.

Mothers, think back to what it was like when you gave birth to your firstborn child – the fears, the insecurities, the feelings of inadequacy. Now imagine that when you did give birth, it was not in the clinical cleanliness of a hospital room or birthing center. Imagine you were in a cave, dark and alone, unsanitary to the extreme, no nurse, doctor, or midwife to help you, and you are all of 13 or 15 years old, in what was essentially a foreign country, away from your family, with only your fiancé to help you.

Add to all of that the political climate of the world Mary was living in – a world of crushing oppression and a brutal and barbaric military occupation. One that would soon force the holy family to flee to Egypt in the wake of Herod’s maniacal and murderous attempt to kill the baby Jesus in His crib.

Mary was completely obedient to and submissive to the will of God for her life, whatever that might be. She stepped out in obedience to God, and yet everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Which begs this question:

Why do we expect that if we are indeed obedient to the will of God, everything should go right for us, go good for us? That our obedience buys us a trouble-free existence?

Mary would beg to differ. So would Abraham.

As the OT begins, Abraham obediently followed God’s call to leave his country, his extended family, his friends, and his home, everything to travel to a Promised Land that he had never even seen before.

While en route, his beloved dad died. No sooner had he settled in that land, a severe famine hit the land and down to Egypt he was forced to go. Welcome to the Holy Land, Abraham.

Abraham did everything right, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It happened to Abraham.

And as the NT begins, the exact same thing happened to Mary. 

Maybe, just maybe, it has happened to us. Or will happen to us. Unexpected, uninvited, and unwanted trials and tribulations may well be proof-positive that you and I are right smack dab in the middle of God’s will. Unexpected, uninvited, and unwanted trials and tribulations may well be the precursors to God’s richest blessings.

So don’t despair, no matter how rough your road. God never abandoned Abraham; He surely never abandoned Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. And we can be sure that He will never abandon us.

The pathway to God’s blessing is often strewn with boulders. Speed-bumps abound. But as we learn from this Christmas story, with Mother Mary showing us the way, God’s blessings always win out in the end.

Just one of the snapshots of Christmas from last Saturday night’s Safe Haven Christmas celebration. The podcast of the full five of these snapshots can be heard by clicking HERE.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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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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