Posts Tagged With: hope

The God of the Surprise

We may not know his name.

But as you will hear in this PODCAST, we surely know his story. As did some 5000 men plus countless women and children, whose lives—after hearing this man’s story—would never be the same again.

This one story—the first of fourteen separate and specific miracles recorded in the book of Acts—exemplifies why I sometimes refer to God as “The God of the surprise.”

Both then and now, God can and will—when we least expect it—apply His divine touch to our circumstances that seem to us to be impossible.

Trust me, to this man who had been lame from birth for now more than forty years (Acts 4:22), his tragic circumstance was definition of impossible. Yet, as Jesus once declared to His watching and wondering disciples (this in Matthew 19),

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

He is, and ever shall be, “The God of the surprise.”

Here’s the point. A grand and glorious point indeed: Within the boundaries of God’s perfect will, there is no such thing as a hopeless situation.

Once God enters picture,

“Hope always burns eternal.”

If we learn nothing else from this man, learn this: God can and will insert Himself into our most impossible-seeming situations any time He wants to.

For over forty years, this desperate man had no idea that this day would ever come. But come, it did! In God’s perfect timing, for God’s eternal purposes—including the eternal salvation of literally thousands of people.

Such is our hope! Our hope that with God there is ALWAYS hope. A glorious theme echoed throughout the entire Bible.

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 Most Important Person of Whom You Have (Perhaps) Never Heard

His name was Matthias.

I wouldn’t blame you a bit if you had no recollection of this selfless servant of Christ.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, Matthias is mentioned only twice in the NT, both times here in Acts 1 (verses 23 and 26).

At first blush, Matthias may appear to be just a footnote in the ever-developing drama of redemption. But I can assure you that he is anything but.

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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The Third Day

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 referenced what he called the single most important event of human history.

And it all centers upon that one-telling-three-word-phrase, “the third day.”

Quite a statement that: “I passed on to you what was most important.”

Most: πρῶτος, a superlative in Greek. A word that means the best, the chief, the first and foremost of all. Meaning that Paul went over and above to point out in the most emphatic way possible that nothing that he could ever, or would ever write would eclipse this one statement in its importance:

“I passed on to you the best—the chief, the first and foremost in importance—fact of all time: Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”

A most-important, and most-specific chronology — not to be overlooked.

In this case, the chronology is the 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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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 Worst of the Worst of the Worst

slide_2The Apostle John turned out to be quite the lyricist. One could almost sing some of his melodious verses. In fact, many of us have.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, John wasn’t a scholar, not by any stretch of imagination. Quite unlike the Apostle Paul, for example.

John engaged in virtually no complex doctrinal discussions involving the nuances of theology, the kinds of stuff in which Paul reveled.

John’s Greek is so simplistic that 1 John is invariably the first book every 1st-year Greek student translates.

John was a passionate soul, one who wrote far more emotionally than he did academically.

Consequently, John had the uncanny ability to relate to us all on such a visceral level that you get the sense that he understood exactly what it’s like to be us — fragile, fearful, human.

When their paths first crossed, Jesus met a rather unremarkable, uneducated fisherman from the provincial little town of Bethsaida. Yet, by the time Jesus got done with him, John became a prolific author (with one Gospel, three letters, and his magnum opus, the majestic book of Revelation to his literary credit).

John was the only one of the twelve who stayed with Jesus on that fateful day of the crucifixion. So devoted was he to Jesus, that with one of His last, dying breaths, Jesus committed the care of His dearly beloved mom, Mary, to John.

It was John who went from being known as a “Son of Thunder” for his uncontrollable temper, to the “Apostle whom Jesus loved,” as John so referred to himself because he could not get over that fact that Jesus saw in him someone who could be loved.

Among his other glistening credentials, John was for a time the pastor of little family of faith in Ephesus. John was arrested, charged with being a leader of a Christ-following community, sentenced, and subsequently banished to penal colony on island of Patmos.

Separated he now was — by the Aegean Sea — from the people he so loved, his modest little flock in Ephesus. Which explains why, when John was allowed to see the splendors of Heaven, the very first description he wrote was so curiously cryptic to us, but not to him. Just a fragment of a verse that spoke volumes to John: “There was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).

Anyway, John was eventually released from Patmos. He then apparently became reunited with several people from his former congregation in Ephesus.

Much to John’s delight, many of his former flock had continued in his absence to follow Christ faithfully, and to raise their children to follow Christ. This brought John such enormous joy, as you can imagine, that he wrote this in 2 John:

“How happy I was to meet some of your children and to find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.”

“To find them living according to the truth.” Nothing brings more joy to a parent’s heart than that.

Likewise, there is nothing that brings to a parent more grief and heartache than to watch his or her child reject the truth they so love, and the God whom they so cherish.

That same anguish of soul floods the heart of every spouse whose husband or wife rejects truth, the family’s faith, the one true God. Just as it does anyone who watches helplessly as a beloved friend, relative, whomever, reject the truth.

The gallons of tears shed. The many sleepless nights spent worrying, agonizing, questioning, praying.

Our unnerving lament, written in a minor key, that invariably results from the knowledge that the thing we hold most dear they ridicule with contemptuous disdain.

The ever-present, nagging thought that perhaps if I had only said more, or said less; tried harder, or didn’t try so hard; or hadn’t

succumbed to my own weaknesses and hypocrisies. Maybe then I could have successfully passed onto my children a godly heritage one generation to the next.

And then, of course, there are those self-righteous parents whose own children are thriving in the faith. And they never seem to let you forget that you failed where they succeeded, causing us yet all the more guilt, shame, heartache, and heartbreak.

Just ask the mother of Zacchaeus.

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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Are You Ready for This?

12670675_951510388303967_267994124484357321_nIt’s called in our culture a “sea-change,” an idiom first introduced by Shakespeare in his play, The Tempest.

A cultural cliché that refers to “a substantial or significant transformation.” A sea-change.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, here in Luke 12, we are about to witness a sea-change. A substantial or significant transformation in the focus of Jesus’ ministry and message. 

Jesus’ words were for the disciples sadly stunning. For them, these words represented the death of a dream.

Yet, for us today, they embody the birth of a dream, our most glorious dream, our greatest hope.

Something to which the New Testament refers as “our blessed hope.”

The hope that we treasure. The promise of God that represents the only semblance of common sense that remains in this otherwise outrageously, absurdly nonsensical world of ours.

Spoiler Alert: You are in for copious amounts of encouragement.

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.

(Photo courtesy of Dan Sayda Photography, “The Colors of the Golan Heights”)

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Heavenly Chutzpah

determination-687x324It’s been a tough week for our country. Riots at political rallies. An increasingly course discourse. Much angst in the world.

And I know you are feeling it.

Well, consider this PODCAST to be a bright and beautiful shot of much-needed adrenaline to your system, some refreshing encouragement from Jesus’ heart to yours.

Let’s begin our discussion with this: It is one of the most precious, and quite frankly priceless privileges in the entire Bible. I am referring to the one verse that concludes the fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews. One glorious verse that speaks volumes, both to the original readers of this verse, and to us as well.

But before I read it to you, I must first set this scene: As its title suggests — Hebrews — this book was written to Jewish believers in Jesus. These precious people lost everything when they become committed Christ-followers. Unlike the letters of Paul, written to local gatherings of believers in a given city — Rome, Corinth, Philippi — this letter was written to Jewish (Hebrew) believers struggling everywhere throughout the Roman Empire because, due to relentless persecution, they were scattered, far and wide.

We get only the barest of glimpses into their desperate circumstances from cryptic statements such as these:

“Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever” (Hebrews 10).

Or this in Hebrews 13:

“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”

No one was exempt. Not even someone as faithful as young Pastor Timothy, protege of the Apostle Paul, of whom we read in Hebrews 13:

“I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you.”

For the first generation of Jewish Christ-followers, times were tough, their circumstances dire. So in order to encourage them, the writer of this great book made to them (and to us!) this precious promise:

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

Emphasis upon that shockingly bold word “boldly.”

Trust me. That thud you just heard was sound of their jaws dropping and hitting the floor as the original readers scanned those words into their suffering souls, for reasons that you will soon hear.

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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Jesus Heals a Mother’s Broken Heart

Jes_Calls_Levi_7-27While I am away speaking at one of my all-time favorite places on the planet (Hartland Christian Camp), here in this Encore PODCAST is some much-needed hope for every brokenhearted mom. Not to mention every brokenhearted dad.

This hope comes courtesy of a man named Levi, though you’d never know it by reading his account of Jesus’ life and ministry.

While there is scant little detail in the Bible regarding this remarkable man (Levi is mentioned by name a grand total of only 5 times), scratch beneath the surface and we could write a book about him.

Levi deserves our focused attention, and we will be all the richer for having had this discussion.

A polarizing figure, Levi was. They either loved him or hated him. Or to put an even finer point to that: The religious hated him; Jesus loved him.

And in loving him as Jesus did, Levi becomes a living, breathing canvas on which the heart of Jesus is painted in vivid colors and bold relief.

Please Note: Depending upon your web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for the podcast to begin to play.
HAPPY LISTENING!

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