Posts Tagged With: love

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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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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Jesus on Trial (Part 2)

blp398239His name is Pilate, as in Pontius Pilate — P-i-l-a-t-e, not p-i-l-o-t — even though Pilate did manage to fly himself right into middle of a maelstrom of religious and political corruption and compromise with devastating consequences.

In this PODCAST, as we now approach Jesus’ impending crucifixion, the greatest irony of this entire sad saga is that the whole thing is motivated by one thing: self-interest.

As we learned in last week’s podcast, on the Jewish side of things, the entire motivation behind the High Priest Caiaphas and the 70-member Sanhedrin in wanting to kill Jesus was the realization that He posed an existential threat to their power, position, prestige, and possessions, all of them paid for with their obscene wealth and ill-gotten gains — the chief thieves, these religious leaders were, in a den of thieves. Which is what, on their watch, the Temple, The House, God’s House, “My Father’s House” (as Jesus called it), had become.

As we will learn this week, on Roman side of things, the spineless Pilate will collapse like the house of cards that he was because he feared losing his title and power as the Roman Governor of the province of Judea. All of this while killing a man who was utterly, totally, completely and absolutely selfless. Somoen who had not one strand of the DNA of self-interest woven anywhere in the fabric of His sizable soul.

We’re talking their willingness to murder a gentle, peaceable, innocent man — not to mention their Messiah — if that’s what it took to maintain their coveted positions.

Make no mistake about this — Pilate KNEW that Jesus was absolutely innocent, and yet sentenced Him to die anyway, in the most unimaginably barbaric, brazenly humiliating, excruciatingly torturous death ever devised by man.

You talk about Jesus looking out over a vast multitude of precious people with overwhelming compassion in His heart, while lamenting that they were like sheep without a shepherd? Well, these were their shepherds.

Shepherds both religious (Caiphas) and political (Pilate). Unprincipled men who unconscionably used and abused their helpless little lambs for their own personal gain.

Just like they do today. Religiously and Politically. It is today as it was then.

Well, last week we met their religious shepherds.

The time has now come for us to meet their political shepherds. Most specifically, Pontius Pilate, the man who has lived long in infamy as the man who caved to political pressure and who, against own convictions, sentenced Jesus to death.

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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His Eye is on the Sparrow

sparrows3So many things are going to become So.Very.Clear in this week’s PODCAST.

You are about to hear something of…

  • The precision of the Bible;
  • What theologians call the “inerrancy” of the Bible;
  • How the precious truths of the Bible sometime hinge on just one word;
  • The relevance of the Bible;
  • How a cultural reality from the time and place of Jesus speaks to us in real time, to our very real circumstances, even today.

Most importantly: You will hear in unmistakable terms about the care and compassion of the God of the Bible, as Jesus paints the most poignant picture of just how much our gentle Jesus loves and cares about you.

We truly are in for a treat this week, courtesy of Jesus.

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 Church Discipline

The Lost Sheep A U SoordI was away this week, sharing a precious memorial service for my dearly beloved mom with my family. Consequently, I have selected one of the MOST IMPORTANT podcasts that we have recorded in our Jesus in HD series.

In this Encore PODCAST, as we continue in our chronological study of the life and ministry of Jesus, we come to Matthew 18:15-17 — one of the most seriously significant passages in all of the New Testament, the so-called “Church Discipline” passage.

Church Discipline, a teaching in many local churches that really rose into prominence in the late 1970’s and became quite the trend.

I can remember attending church leadership conferences back then and hearing pastors — I’ll use word “boast.” — of the fact that they recently removed individuals from their congregations, thereby “preserving the purity of their churches.” Others would then oooh and ahhh at the boldness of these pastors in confronting the sin in his church and taking decisive action in order to preserve the purity of his church by the process of Church Discipline as outline by Jesus here in Matthew 18.

Today, one of this nation’s leading Church Discipline proponents insists that church discipline, as outlined in Matthew 18, is one of the marks of a healthy church. He writes this on his website, clearly articulating the prevailing view of Church Discipline, and indeed includes this as one of his main talking points as he addresses pastors’ conferences throughout the country, encouraging them to do the same:

“Church discipline is the act of correcting sin in the life of the body, including the possible final step of excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin.”

Consequently, it has become standard practice to “exclude” or remove or excommunicate (you choose the term) unrepentant sinners from their local churches. This notion of Church Discipline is certainly included in many if not most of our evangelical churches’ bylaws.

Well, in light of the above definition — More importantly, in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 — I must ask, Is that really what Jesus taught to His disciples and to us?

Let’s discover the answer 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 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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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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What Does It Feel Like to be God? (Here’s His SURPRISING Answer)

SongOfSolomon6.3We are, as you well know, engaged in a fascinating election cycle — one that I have been following with great interest.

Last week, one prominent commentator told of the time when, shortly after the swearing-in of a relatively recent President, he asked him,

“What does it feel like to be President?”

His answer, in case you are interested, was this:

“I suddenly realized that everything I say will profoundly affect something somewhere in the world.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, that question, “What does it feel like to be President?” piqued my curiosity. Truth be told, there have been times when I have curiously wondered how God would respond if we were to ask Him,

“What does it feel like to be God?”

The thing is, God has already answered that question.

God has told us exactly what it feels like to be God.

Fact is, His answer might honestly surprise you. Surprise you in a profoundly emotional way. It sure does me!

Now, in considering His answer that question, “What does it feel like to be God?” we have to start with this.

Jesus said this in John 4:24, “God is spirit.” God is, in that sense, ineffable. Meaning, inexpressible, indescribable, like nothing we’ve ever known before.

As God Himself said to Isaiah, in chapter 55,

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

God is, by His own definition, utterly incomprehensible. So in an effort to help us relate to Him at least on some level, God chose to describe Himself to us using word pictures. Very meaningful word pictures.

Remember how I’ve told you Bible is picture book? Remember how I’ve told you that after stating a proposition, a good rabbi will always paint the picture?

For instance, the biblical writer states the proposition, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He then follows this proposition by painting word pictures which describe what God’s love looks like.

So through the quills of the biblical writers, God was forever providing Scriptural snapshots what He is like, of which there are several throughout pages of Bible.

The Lord is my shepherd, He shelters us under His wings, He is our rock, mountain, fortress. So, so many.

The technical term for these portraits is anthropomorphisms, morphe (form), anthropos (human, man) — God describing Himself in forms, images, pictures we humans can understand.

OK, now watch this: Of all of the pictures that God painted (anthropomorphisms each), there are basically two iconic images of God in the Bible. As if to say,

Of all of the pictures that I have drawn of Myself for you, there are two predominant portraits of Me that I want you never to forget. Shepherd, Bird, Rock, Mountain, Fortress, so many others — these are great, accurate, and most helpful. But if you are going to remember only two, and forever cherish these two in your hearts, these are the two I want you never to forget: One in the Old Testament, and one in the New Testament.

If you think about it, God chose the two most intimate, precious, personal, and cherished of all human relationships.

You are in for quite a treat, and a stunning surprise as you listen.

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 Beginning of the End Game

 

Baltimore, MD - 6/15/13 - Local artist Anna Pasqualucci demonstrates how to paint a lighthouse and sunset scene during the screen painting workshop.  Normally Pasqualucci paints with exterior house paints, but for the short workshop students used acrylic paint. Erin Kirkland/Baltimore Sun

Luke 10:1 (NKJV) reads,

“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.”

In light of that verse, I want to float a theory.

My theory is this: Jesus did nothing arbitrarily or randomly.

In other words, there was a particular purpose behind everything that Jesus did.

Including His sending of the 70.

So if my theory holds, that Jesus did not send out the 70 randomly or arbitrarily, we are face with two most-intriguing questions:

1. Why in the world did Jesus send out 70?

2. What does it mean to us today?

And as you will soon hear in this PODCAST, it means everything to us today.

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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