Posts Tagged With: Jerusalem

Pivot-Point

I LOVE meeting new friends.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, we have the privilege of meeting yet-another. A standout individual. A stellar human being. Though given his humility, I am sure that he would not be comfortable with my characterization.

His name is Stephanos. Significantly, a Greek name. (As we learned last week, a not-so-trivial factoid.)

A man affectionately known to us as Stephen.

A name that means “crown.” In Stephen’s case, a well-deserved crown that he is no doubt wearing in Heaven as we speak.

A man who stood as—and at—pivot-point of history.

There haven’t been many of those throughout human history. But the event about which you will hear certainly rises to that level of an event after which our world, let alone our lives, would never be the same 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 richly as you listen.

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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 Dazzling Day of Astonishing Amazement

“For more than forty years.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, five simple words, easily missed if we hastily read the account as recorded for us by Dr. Luke.

Five astonishing words that unlock this entire episode in the life of the first early church in Jerusalem.

“For more than forty years.”

For more than forty years, everywhere this man went someone had to carry him.

For more than forty years this man never knew the simple pleasure of standing on his own two feet.

For more than forty years this man knew nothing of the joys of going for a walk, let alone a jog.

For more than forty years he could never once kick a soccer ball, hit a baseball, throw a football, or run through the waves as they lapped upon the shore of the Mediterranean.

For more than forty years this man never knew a healthy day—never knew for even a minute what it would be like to have two legs that weren’t as limp as dishrags.

For more than forty years this man had in his legs no feeling, no movement, no sensations of any kind.

For more than forty years this man could go up to the Temple courts to beg, but never into Temple to worship since he was prohibited from doing so in Leviticus 21.

For more than forty years this man knew nothing but the prospect of yet another day spent stretching out his arms, reaching out his hands, and begging for alms.

For more than forty years he was forced to endure being ignored, refused, looked down upon, and judged as a sinner.

Such was the life of one man for more than forty years.

This poor beggar, bereft of health, robbed of any hope of self-respect, devoid of any semblance of a life.

Until this day when Peter and John showed up.

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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Jesus Walks the Way of Sorrows

praetorium4It is called, appropriately enough, the Via Dolorosa, Latin for “The Way of Sorrows.”

For Jesus, it absolutely was a way of sorrows — every single excruciatingly painful step of it, from the Antonia Fortress (where Pilate sentenced Him), to Golgotha (where Jesus’ execution awaited Him).

In this PODCAST, we will walk that path together.

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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Gethsemane


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They say that “one picture is worth a thousand words.”

Sometimes, on rare occasions, one word is worth a thousand pictures. As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, this is one of those occasions.

In this case, that one word is “Gethsemane.”

As in the Garden of Gethsemane, that very garden to which John referred when he wrote,

“On the other side (of the Kidron Valley) there was a garden, and Jesus and his disciples went into it.” 

I would not be overstating the case to suggest that everything you and I need to understand about the Gospel is contained in that one word all-telling, “Gethsemane.”

Gethsemane, ironically a place of peaceful repose, first pops up on our radar in Matthew’s account of this anything-but-peace-filled night. He wrote with no explanation,

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’”

garden-2No explanation was needed, at least for Matthew’s original readers. All would have been abundantly familiar with the modest-sized cultivated enclosure nestled snuggly into the base of the Mount of Olives. A scenic/welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem in general and the Temple complex in particular.

Now, courtesy of this podcast, let me take you there.

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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Demystifying the End Times (Part 3)

Revelation-of-saint-john-devine-600x401Picture him there, a grizzled, stooped, aged apostle, marooned on an island of rock, confined to a cave.

See him in your mind’s eye, with quill to parchment, writing fast and furiously in a mad dash to record everything that he is now seeing and hearing.

Our old (and at the time of his writing Revelation) very old friend, the beloved apostle John.

Writing, as you will hear in this PODCAST, what sounds like fantastical tale in specific, yet an all-too-plausible scenario in the abstract. A story that brings to a climax the epic collision that has plagued this planet and every person who has ever trod its blood-soaked soil since the beginning of history.

The climax of the collision of good versus evil.

As we were so graphically reminded just last Thursday in the south of France.

Here in Revelation both good and evil are personified.

Here the wellsprings of good and evil are identified by name.

Here this human-history-long all-out war finally, mercifully coming to its end, thankfully with good as the victor, and evil as the loser.

When I mentioned a moment ago that this epic tale sounds fantastical in the specific, understand that we are talking about spirits, angels, demons, devil, Jesus. A unique combination of physical and spiritual forces fighting to the death that sounds like the kind of stuff ready-made for a Hollywood blockbuster.

I wouldn’t blame anyone for rolling their eyes and curving their lips into a smirk that says, You don’t really believe all of this, do you?

+ Just this week, I was listening online to a TED talk (Technology, Entertainment and Design), brings together elites, the intelligentsia of world, during which a TED talk presenter mercilessly mocked and ridiculed people of faith who believe in things like you will hear when I read to you from Revelation 16.

I will be the first to admit that what we are about to outline in this podcast indeed sounds fantastical — in the specific. But in the abstract, no one can deny that there is operating in our world today two distinct colliding forces: one for good, and one for evil.

About that, nobody laughs.

Whether its on the grand scale of someone in a van mowing down innocent pedestrians gathered in the south of France for a Bastille Day celebration. Or as modest as a child throwing a bit of a temper tantrum because he or she doesn’t get what they want.

Let the record show that a good many TED talks are devoted in one way or another to just that collision.

It is as though we are caught between two worlds: One of unbridled evil in which people do to people horrifically unimaginable things. While at the same time, others of us try our best each day to surrender to our better angels, as even TED Talk presenters will sometimes call them. And when they do indeed invoke that phrase, our better angels, no one in that elite audience of the world’s intelligentsia laughs. (I guess its OK to invoke the image of angels in the abstract, just not in the specific.)

Well, in this study, we will invoke the image of angels, good and evil, and a whole lot more, and will do so without laughing because this is deadly serious.

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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