Posts Tagged With: John

A Sin Unto Death

Acts 5:1(NLT)—“But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.” Hmmm…

Just try to imagine for a second this otherwise unimaginable scenario, as related in this PODCAST:

A highly-respected individual walks into the cozy confines of Safe Haven, only to drop dead on the spot.

Some time later, his unsuspecting wife walks in, and she too keels over, stone-cold dead.

That is exactly what happened here in Acts 5, one of the most mysterious and misunderstood narratives in all of the Bible.

For starters: That word “But,” δ—as in “But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property”—is ominous in the extreme.

In the technical grammar of the passage, δ is an adversative particle, signaling something that could be translated: “On the other hand”; or, “Contrary to what you just read”; or, “By way of a startling, scandalous, and jaw-dropping contrast”…

Alerted by that pesky particle, I can tell you that we are about to hear a strange story, a sobering saga, a troubling tale that sounds totally out of character as far as God is concerned.

Or is it?

A head-turning happening that prompts us to ask three questions:

1. Why did this happen?

2. Could this happen today?

3. What does it all mean for us?

Since context is everything, let me begin by first giving you the backstory.

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God bless you richly as you listen.

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On Trial!

Let me take you back to Tuesday of Jesus’ final week.

On that Tuesday, as you will hear in this PODCAST, Jesus made a most-remarkable promise to His disciples, and by extension, to us.

Allow me to remind you of what happened in Luke 21:

“Some of his disciples began talking about the majestic stonework of the Temple and the memorial decorations on the walls. But Jesus said, ‘The time is coming when all these things will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!’”

Now listen to His promise: 

“But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!”

At the time, the disciples had no idea what Jesus meant by all of that. Now, here, in Acts 4, just 8-ten or so weeks later, they suddenly knew exactly what Jesus meant by all of that.

For first time in the now-nearly two thousand year history of Church, an earsplitting thunderclap of persecution now sounded throughout the Holy City, Jerusalem. So true to Jesus’ prediction made in Luke 21, Peter and John were unceremoniously dragged into prison, and held in there there overnight.

The next morning they were hauled before the highest levels of their religious hierarchy to stand trial.

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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It’s So Sad-You-See (as in the Sadducess). It really is.

As you are about to hear in this new PODCAST, a new day dawned upon these first committed Christ-followers.

If that metaphor of a new day seemingly overstates the case, then at least we can say that a dark cloud now-shadowed the sun for these first committed Christ-followers. Not quite on the level of our eclipse; but portentous just the same. An ominous bellwether that signaled for these early believers a change in the temperature of Holy City.

For the first eight-12 weeks following Crucifixion and Resurrection, these early believers were able to bask in the glow of their newfound faith unmolested.

Not any more.

Persecution was about to break out for first time in the now-2000 year history of Church. Relatively mild at first. No one died. No one was beaten. It was limited to Peter and John.

But as you will hear, it did involve intimidation, incarceration, and threats of greater reprisals if the apostles refused to cease and desist as far as their preaching in Jesus’ name was concerned.

Refuse they did.

This was a harbinger of things to come. A dark cloud heralding a storm. A storm that continues to rage unabated to our day. Not here in America so much. But certainly in many parts of our troubled world, where committed Christ-followers today attend gatherings at great risk of life-threatening peril to themselves and their families.

As is becoming increasing clear in our ongoing study of Peter in HD, we stand in awe at the strength and resilience of these very first believers—our ancestors in faith, to whom we owe so much, and who have SO MUCH to teach us. As they will do here in this week’s study.

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God bless you richly as you listen.

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One Little Word That Makes ALL the Difference

Ironies abound, in the four verses I just read to you. A full compliment of ten ironies by my count. Ten!

The most soul-stirring and hope-producing irony being this—the takeaway of this PODCAST:

“Your most influential, inspirational, impactful life-message—greatest chapter of your story—will come not out of your successes, but out of your failures.”

To invoke Jesus’ masterful metaphor — “You ARE the light of the world.”

That being true, your brightest beacon of light will shine forth from the depths of your darkest hour.

And no, I am not referring to the failure of the thousands who gathered at the Temple on this day in Acts 3 to hear Peter indict them for their greatest failure, as stunning as that failure certainly was.

There is buried within the syllables of this story an even greater failure.

An absolutely epic fail, one that hinges on exactly one word—one word about which I will tell you as you get into this podcast. A failure that underscores the blessed reality that…

“Your most influential, inspirational, impactful life-message—greatest chapter of your story—will come not out of your successes, but out of your failures.”

Call it the backdoor blessing of this amazing story. A God-blessed reality that stands in stark contrast to the what was without a doubt the weirdest experience I have ever had when speaking in a seminary chapel…

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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Let There be No Doubt”

“Let There be No Doubt.”

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, If you were going to compose a title for this, only the second sermon Peter ever preached, you could not do much better than this: “Let There be No Doubt.”

By the time Peter draws this homiletic masterpiece to its rousing conclusion, there will be no doubt in the minds of his hearers.

  • No doubt about who Jesus is.
  • No doubt about who they are.
  • No doubt about what they have done.
  • And no doubt about what they now need to do.

“Let There be No Doubt.” A sermon made all the more remarkable given who preached it: an uneducated fisherman who just weeks before had denied, disowned, and so completely denounced Jesus that he quit as a disciple and returned to fishing.

A man who wept bitter/angry tears in the wake of his profound disappointment and deep disillusionment as he watched in horror as Jesus was led away in chains, to be killed as a common criminal by the very people—the barbaric, interloping, country-occupying, universally-hated Romans—whom Peter thought Jesus had come finally to vanquish completely, to expel from the land permanently, and to send sailing back to Italy disgracefully.

To channel Peter’s own words (2 Peter 2), no doubt written with his own dismal failure in mind, Peter had become

“A dog that had returned to its vomit, a washed pig who had returned to the mud.”

Yet in spite of all of that, Jesus met Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where they had shared so many precious memories together. And there, Jesus graciously gave Peter a second chance.

  • Yes. Peter! Who had recently pompously proclaimed (in John 13) “I am ready to die for you.”
  • Yes. Peter! Who then proceeded on that same night to completely collapse under the gaze of a servant girl.
  • Yes. Peter! Who for a second time was asked by Jesus to “Follow Me,” this time with the caveat that if Peter said “Yes” to that offer, it would cost him his life.
  • Now, barely two months later, here in Acts 3. Yes. Peter! Who now would make good on Jesus’ offer by literally putting his life on line as he stood before thousands, and thundered in the Temple courts for all to hear these extraordinary words…

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 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 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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Jesus’ Leadership Manifesto (An Encore Podcast)

While I am away speaking at a Junior High/Middle School Camp at a place near and dear to my heart–Hartland Christian Camp–may I welcome to the Upper Room, and Jesus’ farewell address to His beloved disciples.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, as we break the seal on this, Jesus’ final night before the crucifixion, I do so with something of a lump in my throat and the pinkish hue of embarrassment upon my otherwise rosy cheeks. This because this particular portion of the grand story of Jesus’ life and ministry hits me most personally. And if, as they say, “Confession is good for the soul,” then I make my confession to you, my beloved little Safe Haven family, tonight.

There is embedded within this most amazing scene, Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, a timeless lesson that, if only I could turn back the hands of the clock and the passage of time, I would have taken to heart way back when I was just starting out in my ministry.

This pointed and practical warning is as timely today as it was that night in that Upper Room when Jesus gave it to His disciples.

A timeless truth that has come to define my life and, more to the point, my ministry today. A living lesson of which you are the beneficiaries.

As we detailed last week, this so-called “Last Supper” was a modified Passover seder. I say modified because as we learned last week, the word seder means “order.” As in a carefully choreographed, specifically scripted order to the meal.

Yet, at certain significant points along the way, Jesus purposefully departed from that thousands-year-old order and added to that script.

Just as Jesus did here, in John 13, at the very beginning of their meal together.

It was certainly customary — very much a part of the script — for the host (Jesus) to wash His hands ceremonially as meal began. But why did He then wash His disciples’ feet?

Especially given that every other departure that Jesus made from the seder script expanded or enhanced the significance of their celebration of Passover, especially in light of His coming death as ultimate Passover Lamb.

Every departure, except for this one: Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.

A beautiful gesture, to be sure. The quintessential picture of loving humility and servanthood. So much so that foot washing in some Christian traditions even today, has been elevated to a sacrament or ordinance equal to that of Communion and Baptism.

You talk about, Paint the picture, Rabbi? How about Jesus kneeling as a slave to wash His disciples’ feet (including Judas’ feet) as a three-dimensional, high definition picture of this? (The this to be explained in the remainder of this Podcast.)

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 Rip Heard ‘Round the World

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-11-21-04-amThink of it. As you will hear in this PODCAST

Promptly at 3 PM…

Exactly at That.Very.Moment when Jesus breathed His last…

Precisely to the second when Jesus exclaimed, “It is finished. Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit”…

This happened:

“Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Do you have any idea what that means? It will take the remainder of this discussion for us even to begin to understand What.That.Means.

Why did God tear the veil?

It was obviously God who ripped it. No human hand could possibly tear it. That veil was an elaborately woven fabric that stood 60 feet high, equal in height to a seven-story building. No one could tear that curtain. Only God could tear that curtain.

Which only amplifies the question, 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 richly as you listen.

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Of Slugs and Kings

creationNot to be clichéd! But if the words, “Mission Accomplished” ever meant anything to anyone in any situation, they absolutely apply here in John 17.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, this is the moment, courtesy of John, now forever frozen in time.

The singular moment toward which all of human history, going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, had been slowly but steadily building.

The seminal moment from which the remainder of human history, down to our present day, has been rapidly descending.

The consequential moment when Jesus could literally look up to Heaven and finally acknowledge,

“I brought glory to You here on earth by completing the work You gave me to do.”

Such mystery, such majesty, in these few words.

Indeed, a Mission — the Mission — Accomplished!

That mission that Jesus Himself defined when He said in referring to Himself,

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10).

Which, as you are about to learn, means far more than pulling people out of Hell. Indeed, infinitely more!

When the biblical writers, as well as Jesus, use the words “save” or “saved,” it means far more than whether we are going to Heaven or Hell when we die. Sadly, most of our Gospel-presentations focus almost exclusively on that locational / destinational dynamic.

However, a most compelling fact emerges from the first few words of Jesus’ prayer here in John 17.

As we are about to learn, if one’s view of his or her salvation centers primarily upon the notion that salvation is basically a “Get Out of Hell Free” card, we miss so much precious truth. So.Much.More than our finite minds can even begin fully to appreciate.

But try to appreciate it, we must.

So in an effort to appreciate it, let me take you on a bit of a journey, far back in time, to a faraway place, in order to show you where and why this journey originally began. All the way back to what is arguably the single most important verse in all of the 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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