Posts Tagged With: pain

So Why are We So Surprised?

Paul wrote to the believers in Rome,

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity” (Romans 12:2 JBP).

Never was the need for Paul’s plea more evident than in what you are about to hear here in 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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“We Must Never Forget…”

What perfect timing!!! This PODCAST coming not a moment too soon!

Last week you might remember, I referenced the fact that so many of our precious Safe Haven family—You, not to put too fine a point on it—are going through profoundly challenging and difficult times.

Well guess what? In God’s perfect timing, that just happens to be the theme of 1 Peter.

“God’s Sustaining Strength Through Our (Your!) Sustained Sufferings.”

Be it physical, mental, emotional, relational, or spiritual—I know that many of us come stumbling into Safe Haven on a Saturday night, or click the link to this podcast—some of us feeling as though we are teetering on the breaking point.

Here is what I want you to hear: So did Peter’s original readers. This is a letter written specifically to them/to us/to you!

Get this: In the five short chapters that make up this beloved little letter, Peter will reference the suffering of his readers (including you!) 16 times.

“God’s Sustaining Strength Through Our (Your!) Sustained Sufferings.”

By way of this podcast, welcome to Peter’s world.

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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Your God-Given Prayer Language

As you will hear in this PODCAST, I stand in awe of our ancestors in the faith, the very first community of Christ-followers ever to walk this planet.

By way of introduction, do you remember when, so very long ago, we studied the Sermon on the Mount?

Let me remind you that Jesus introduced His signature sermon with 8 pronouncements of God’s blessing—We call them the Beatitudes. The most enigmatic of the 8 being Beatitude #3 that goes like this:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

You are about to see in full color, in High Definition, exactly what meek looks like, courtesy of our earliest brothers and sisters in the faith.

Before we get to that, there is one additional Beatitude to which I want to direct your attention. It happens to be Beatitude #8, the last of Jesus’ pronouncements of God’s blessing. It reads:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10).

Did you know that the words persecute/persecution/persecuted occur in the Bible a combined 142 times? In the minds of the biblical writers, it was a foregone conclusion that they and all of God’s people would be persecuted for our faith.

Jesus certainly understood this, He being the ultimate example of someone who was continuously hounded, hunted, and finally executed—persecuted—for His faith.

Persecution, Jesus repeatedly reminded His disciples, was the price tag for becoming one of His followers.

Perscute—to pursue in a hostile manner, to harass, to trouble, to molest, to mistreat.

Well, Jesus’ many warnings were now coming true for these very first committed Christ-followers. Indeed, what we are about to learn here in Acts 4 was only the beginning.

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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“Even Though He was One of the Twelve” (An Encore Podcast)

judas-pouch_200No matter how you cut it, this man was an enigma.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, this man — handpicked by Jesus and elevated to the rarified air of the apostles — repaid Jesus’ generosity by betraying Him to His executioners.

Is there any human emotion more painful than that of betrayal? 

Ever felt it? Betrayal?

That midnight darkness of the soul that enshrouds us like an impenetrable fog when we have dared to trust someone — with our deepest feelings, our most hidden secrets, as if we have just entrusted to the person our very hearts, perhaps our very lives — only to have him or her shatter our hearts and break our trust by their soul-crushing betrayal.

Jesus sure felt it. The pangs of betrayal. Boy, did He ever!

That moment frozen in time when for the first time you see with crystal-clarity that you have been played.

Well, for 3½ years Jesus had been played. 

Where did this man — Judas Iscariot — come from? What causes a man to make the fateful plunge from believer to betrayer? What do we really know about him?

You are about to find out.

But even more importantly, you are about to see the heart of Jesus in action as He responds in real time to this real threat posed by this very real con-man, the Apostle Judas Iscariot. 

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.

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Judas the Betrayer

judas-brought-again-the-thirty-pieces-of-silver-to-the-chief-priests-and-eldersIt’s getting real. Real fast.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, something in the last few days of Jesus’ final week triggered Judas to do the unthinkable.

You talk about someone selling their soul to the devil, literally or figuratively? Well, Judas did both. Judas sold his soul to the devil, literally and figuratively.

“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.”

Why here? Why now? Why this?

In order to answer these and additional questions, let’s meet Judas the Betrayer up close and personal.

A fitting title because the very first time we encounter this tragic individual, we are introduced to him with these telling words: “Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).”

How would you like that as your moniker?

Who was this guy? And what does it all mean for us today?

Allow me to set up this discussion in this way: It’s one of the most precious passages in all of the Bible. That is no exaggeration or overstatement. Yet, it gets relatively scant attention because in most of our English translations it’s rendered rather clumsily. The words of Hebrews 4:15-16 don’t exactly roll effortlessly off our tongues, with its double negatives and cultural references with which we might not be familiar. But since this is such a precious picture of exactly who Jesus is, and how Jesus relates to our lives, I’ll read it to you in the NKJV, and then paraphrase it for you so that you can hear it as original readers heard 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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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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Right-Stage Thinking in a Left-Stage World

more-wilderness-of-zin-neve-zoharYou are about to hear an amazing story about a remarkable man, AND about an encounter with Jesus that includes one of the most important and practical biblical principles that you will find anywhere in the pages of the Bible.

Quite a claim, I know. One that I will absolutely prove in this PODCAST.

A principle that I will be presumptuous enough to suggest that you and I need to hear, and of which we need to be reminded, perhaps often.

This is on the surface a story about a man born blind (which would be remarkable enough), but it is also a story about sheep, about a sheepfold, about the door of the sheepfold, about Jesus who identified Himself as the “door of the sheep,” and about life in the desert in which the sheep and shepherds in Israel lived and continue to live.

Before we get to the story itself, I need very briefly to remind you of something we talked about way back on February 2, 2013, nearly 3 years ago. When God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, He made a most remarkable statement:

I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Interesting phrase, “milk and honey.”

Honey (a jam made of figs and dates) refers to the land of the farmer, and the bounty of the fruit of the land that is grown by the farmers.

Milk refers to the land of the shepherd, and that which is produced by the flocks that are raised and cared for by the shepherds.

In Israel, both lands — milk and honey — come together in a breathtaking variety of geography and climate that (NOW GET THIS) puts into its proper perspective EXACTLY the kind of lives that we are living today. More specifically, HOW and WHY we think the way we do today.

We have SO MUCH to learn from this 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. Words worth waiting for, I assure you.

God bless you as you listen.

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Straight Talk About Spiritual Abuse — What it is, Why it happens, and What we can do to guard ourselves and our loved ones from it

Stop-spiritual-abuseSpiritual Abuse is a much-neglected, but all-too-common condition in our Christian circles. So let the conversation begin!

What Spiritual Abuse is, why it happens, and how we can guard ourselves and our friends from its devastation. I don’t often beg. But I am begging you now: PLEASE Listen, and then PLEASE “Share” this message with your friends.

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Breaking News

My beloved little Safe Haven family is really going through it right now. In a word, we are being broken.

To focus that just a bit, let me say that I am amazed at the significant struggles and overwhelming challenges that some of our precious people are experiencing — painful loses; seemingly senseless disappointments; literally excruciating physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges that defy explanation. Storm clouds are billowing. I cannot help but to imagine the reasons why.

In talking to each of these individuals on multiple occasions, they are understandably wrestling with it all, yet all the while demonstrating a firm-if-sometimes-faltering faith in God’s good plans that leaves me in awe.

I know, I know, I know that God never breaks His people without some amazing purposes behind His breaking. Some of our dear Safe Haven family members are being broken — No doubt about that! — but to what good purposes only time will tell. (Emphasis upon that hope-filled word, “will.”) The stories are just now unfolding. Stories that will be told. Stories of God’s abiding grace and peace. Stories of God’s sustaining strength and power. Stories of how God will profoundly touch the world through the profound pain of my friends. Stories that will illustrate the unbreakable law of nature: We can’t enjoy a shimmering rainbow without some falling rain.

rainbow

I also know that as God breaks my friends individually, He is also breaking Safe Haven collectively. He is breaking us as we share in these burdens together. A safe haven indeed — an unpretentious cadre of committed Christ-followers who desperately love Him and relentlessly love each other despite the unexpected trials and tribulations that life throws our way. It will be amazing, in the days and weeks ahead, to see not only what purposes lie behind God breaking certain individuals, but what purposes lie behind His breaking our family as a whole.

In the mean time, I have the unspeakable privilege of walking through these storms with some pretty special people whom I love with all my heart. It’s times like these that I am so incredibly thankful that God gave me the priceless privilege of being their pastor. But more than that, to be their friend.

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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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