Posts Tagged With: Paul

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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“Weight-ing” on the Lord

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, the time has come for us to have a sensible discussion about an issue that has been grossly misunderstood, and consequently grievously mis-taught, in far too many Christian settings. All of this causing so much harm spiritually, mentally, and emotionally to so many.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Oh, my dear friends, get ready to be set free!

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, bless You!

Image courtesy of Sabbath Truth

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, Peter begins his first lovely little letter literally with a literary explosion. It’s as if he has so much that he wants to say so quickly, that the syllables come pouring out of him like a waterfall of words.

Believe it or not, verse 3 all the way to verse 12 is one long and winding and wondrously scenic sentence. You heard that right. A grand total of 315 words (in the NLT), all of which form one single sentence. Only the first part of which we will discuss now, with so much more rich and glorious truth to follow in the coming weeks.

There is an life-altering, soul-stirring insight embedded in verse 3 that we would do well to consider. Since verses 1 & 2 serve as Peter’s greeting, the letter itself actually begins with Verse 3.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A rather remarkable statement given dire circumstances in which Peter’s original readers were living. We’ve already detailed them for you in the previous two podcasts. I’ll simply remind you that due to circumstances beyond their control—an empire-wide persecution at the bloody hands the infamously ruthless Nero—these were precious people—committed Christ-followers each, each our ancestors in faith—who had literally lost everything.

Even to the point of potentially losing their freedom and even their lives.

Theirs were the darkest of clouds with no silver linings.

A very fragile people living on the precipice with no safety net, clinging to their lives lived under the capricious actions of an unpredictable madman.

So if you were Peter, someone who fully understood and appreciated their seemingly insurmountable challenges—fears, insecurities, uncertainties—why would you begin your letter to them with the words,

“Blessed be the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

Does that not sound like a typically empty Christian cliché?

What prompted Peter to write with such audacity as to command his readers—including us—to bless God:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Even in the absolute worst of circumstances?

Obviously, Peter’s words, “Bless be the God,” did not come out of a vacuum. Fact is, there is a long and rich history to these words, and the life-altering, soul-stirring insight embedded within them.

Peter’s opening line was anything but a cutesy little Christian cliché. Not to his original readers. After hearing this podcast, not to us.

Although this does raise one intriguing question:

Bless God?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

I thought God blesses us.

How in the world do you and I bless God?

The answer to that question will change your life.

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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Safe and Secure

Image courtesy of mudpreacher.org

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, all you need to know about the precious people to whom Peter wrote is summarized in three telling terms. One phrase, really.

One phrase that so accurately described them.

One phrase that so accurately describes each of us.

κ-λεκ-τος παρ-επι-δ-μοις διασ-πορς—literally, “elect foreigners in the diaspora.”

Now why in the world would Peter begin his first letter with this carefully crafted first phrase?

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect foreigners in the diaspora.”

Because the one question looming in minds of Peter’s distressed audience was this:

Has God abandoned us?

Not to get too personal with you, and at the risk of invading your private space, I cannot help but to wonder if you have ever asked of yourself that exact same question:

Has God abandoned me?

And Peter wanted them—and us—and you!—to know that as he penned this epistle, that same question was looming large in his own mind and his own soul.

Peter knew his audience.

Peter knew them.

Peter knows us.

Peter knows you!

Peter feels our pain.

Peter asks our questions.

Peter understands our doubts.

Peter feels our fears.

Peter can relate.

Peter “gets” it.

Peter “gets” us.

And I, for one, am profoundly grateful that he does.

And in “getting” us, he will assure us in this podcast that NO!!! God has NOT abandoned you. He has NOT turned His back on you. He will NEVER stop loving you. He will NEVER leave you. He will not now or EVER forsake you.

In a word, we are SECURE in His omnipotent hand.

Aren’t you glad?

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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Questions–Then and Now

The Theater in Caesarea

Did you know that Adolph Hitler survived at least six—SIX!—assassination attempts?

As you will hear in this PODCAST, these six assassination attempts occurred in 1921, 1938, 1939, two in 1943, and the final attempt on July 20, 1944.

Get this: Any one of which, if successful, would have either prevented World War II—as well as the wholesale slaughter of six million of our precious Jewish friends—or brought both the war and the Holocaust to a screeching halt.

The older I get, the more questions I have.

As but two examples:

First: Why did God allow each of these six assassination attempts to fail?

I’m not now going to debate the ethics or lack thereof of political assassination in a time of war. Whether or not as Committed Christ-Followers we should support or condemn such actions is way beyond the scope of tonight’s discussion.

I’m simply asking: Would not our world have been a better place if just 1 of those attempts had succeeded?

What possible purpose could have been served by God allowing the likes of Hitler to live and to continue to torment the human race?

The failure of the final attempt on Hitler’s life is to me especially curious given the facts that A) Just 9 months and 10 days later—on April 30, 1945—Hitler killed himself in his bunker in Berlin.

And B) Tried and executed as a conspirator to that final, failed attempt on Hitler’s life? A man of far greater and more positive influence than I could ever hope to have, a man—to quote Hebrews—“of whom our world is not worthy.” I’m talking about the German pastor, theologian, and prolific writer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A precious, priceless servant of the Lord summarily executed by hanging a mere three weeks before Hitler bit into a cyanide tablet and shot himself in the head.

Had Hitler killed himself just three weeks earlier, would not Bonhoeffer’s life had been spared? Could not Bonhoeffer have then continued—perhaps for many, many years—to instruct and inspire the lives of countless Christ-followers the world over with his positive influence?

Why did God spare the life of a servant of Hell named Adolph Hitler just long enough to cost the life of a servant of Heaven named Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

God does not owe an explanation. But He does allow me to ask the question. So ask it, I will and I do.

That’s my first question.

My second question is this: Why did God allow a King named Herod Agrippa—a Jew who sold his soul and sold out his own people to the Romans in a cynical quest for power, position, and popularity—to live just long enough to destroy countless lives of Jewish Christ-followers in Jerusalem, as well as kill someone as stellar as the Apostle James?

James–brother to the Apostle John. Member of Apostolic trio—Jesus’ inner circle—Peter, James, and John? A man—to quote Hebrews—“of whom our world is not worthy.”

God does not owe an explanation. But He does allow me to ask the question. So ask it, I will and I do.

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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Mending a Mother’s Broken Heart

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, last week as I was rushing at the end to complete on time our discussion of Peter’s release from prison—an effort at which I failed miserably, BTW—we mentioned-in-passing two noteworthy individuals, each of whom deserve far more than passing-mention.

Mary, a generous homeowner and gracious hostess who opened her home for going on-fourteen years by the time of this story to the earliest, first generation followers of Jesus, our ancestors in the faith.

Mary also happened to be the aunt to our old friend Barnabas, and a very close and personal friend of our even older friend, Peter.

And then there is Mary’s son and Barnabas’ cousin (Colossians 4:10)—as well as Peter’s protege—John Mark.

With glistening credentials such as these, they both do indeed deserve our special attention. Especially given the fact that immediately upon his miraculous release from prison, instinctively Peter made his very first stop to announce his release at Mary’s home.

Even more especially given that this is Mother’s Day weekend.

For this is in every sense of the word this is a Mother’s tale.

Specifically, how God in His matchless, infinite, and eternal grace melted and mended a mother’s broken heart.

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 Ragamuffin Christian

The year is circa AD 44.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, a tectonic shift began to rumble through the region approximately 300 miles due North of Jerusalem.

A movement of God’s Spirit that ignited a gloriously-spectacular conflagration that began to combust in Antioch, that has since swept the world-over, kindling a flame of God’s glory that today burns brightly even in your own soul.

A blaze that should give each of us an overwhelming, soul-sustaining sense of hope.

Is it not amazing that this story focuses upon such an influential hub of activity known as Antioch—then in Syria, today in Turkey? Why amazing?

Oh, my friends, you are about to hear an amazing story indeed.

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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Divide and Conquer

Spoiler Alert: As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, one of the disadvantages of words on a page is that we cannot hear tone; we do not see body language nor facial expression.

In this message, I am attempting tonight to place myself in Peter’s sandals, sit myself at Luke’s writing table, and to teach tonight’s passage—one of most important in NT—in the tone and with the emotions with which Peter confronted a potentially explosive situation; with which Luke recorded this nearly-catastrophic confrontation.

I do not think it a stretch that Peter was caught completely off guard, taken totally aback, disheartened and likely exasperated by the severe reaction he received upon his return to his beloved Jerusalem.

So on the one hand, I speak to you from a broken heart, as I believe Peter’s was broken too.

On other hand, this story in Acts 11 has a glorious ending; and so shall we! God will bring beauty for these ashes! As He always does. As He ALWAYS does.

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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“Seeker-Sensitive”? (Or Not!)

Embedded deep within the pages of the Old Testament we find one of God’s most precious promises.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, this bright ray of hope-filled sunshine was written to Jewish exiles in Babylon who were at the time experiencing their darkest hour.

It was written by the weeping prophet Jeremiah, who himself desperately needed a stabilizing reassurance from God that He had not, did not, and would not ever, no matter what, abandon His people.

Even though they had dramatically abandoned Him.

This unbreakable promise is found in Jeremiah 29:13, and is as true today as it was then, as true for us as it was them.

Hear it in the NIV, words worthy of memorization:

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

What’s the key word? Seek. בָּקַשׁ ḇâqaš. A rather intensive word that means “to seek or pursue earnestly.”

This word goes way beyond idle curiosity or a casual pursuit. Bâqaš speaks of a wholehearted desire.

Bâqaš The exact same word David used in Psalm 40:16,

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who—Listen!!!—long, long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’”

This is the very same image that Jesus invoked in the Sermon on the Mount when He said,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

This is Hebrews 11:6, that reads, “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently (earnestly, sincerely) seek Him.”

I can assure you—and as you are about to see—one Cornelius, a centurion from Caesarea, was in every sense of the word a diligent, earnest, sincere seeker.

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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