Posts Tagged With: Paul

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.

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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.

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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.

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God bless you richly as you listen.

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On the Road Again

The Treasury in Petra

It had to be a rather rude awakening to be sure—Paul’s initial introduction to the unenviable life of an apostle.

As we will learn in this PODCAST, there is much—much more than we could possibly imagine—behind Paul’s otherwise enigmatic statement in 1 Corinthians 4:9, a rare moment of personal reflection (and dare-I-say exasperation and frustration) in the writings of this most-prolific apostle:

“I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike.”

Well, here in Acts 9, the Apostle to us Gentiles endured quite the humiliating spectacle indeed.

It was hardly the homecoming our new friend, the Apostle Paul, had anticipated as he entered archway in the main gate leading to Straight Street in Damascus.

Was his heart all a-flutter? Mine would have been.

After a three-year absence from its legendary landscape, his formal training as an apostle now complete. I have to believe that Saul-now-Paul had much upon which he would have liked to reflect.

  • Perhaps a quiet, private, personal rendezvous with the spot on the road where he first met Jesus?
  • Maybe a knock on the door of Judas’ house, where he was graciously housed for three days as a man-struck-blind?
  • How about cup of Turkish coffee with Ananias, the man tasked with, and understandably fearful of, being first follower of Jesus to approach just-converted Saul?
  • Possibly some visits to the synagogues where he first preached, “Jesus is indeed the Son of God”?

Paul’s heart had to be pitter-pattering with excited anticipation as he once-again approached the storied city.

But alas. A happy homecoming wasn’t in cards that fate dealt this soon-to-be-suffering servant of Jesus.

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God bless you richly as you listen.

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Saul Goes to Seminary

Do you know what I love about Bible?

Well, truth be told, there are a lot of things that I love about the Bible. Far too many to tell in this PODCAST.

But certainly residing at or near the top of my rather lengthy list is this: The window the biblical writers open to the growth and maturity of its principle players.

Case in point: The Apostle Paul.

Paul did not emerge from his road to Damascus encounter with Jesus a wholly-mature believer. Nor did Paul burst on the scene armed with a fully-formed theology that would become the capstone of his prolific writings. Paul had to grow in his faith as a committed Christ-follower just like the rest of us.

I love that!

Paul moved from a measurably primitive understanding of Jesus to a remarkably profound comprehension of who Jesus was and is and all that Jesus did and accomplished. This growth, this development, this maturity takes place right before our wondering eyes ever to behold in all of its spiritual splendor.

In short, Paul was a person in process, just like us! A process well-documented in the New Testament that as we are about to learn slowly-but-surely took place over many, many years.

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God bless you richly as you listen.

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“All for the Want of a Nail”

I believe that I can say this without equivocation. See if by the end of this PODCAST, you agree with me.

My unequivocal observation? He is the single-most important person in the New Testament of whom you have never heard.

There is an overarching theme to this discussion, born out of this story. One that relates directly to something that Jesus said.

You talk about Paint the picture, Rabbi. This story here in Acts 9 paints THIS amazing picture.

Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” That was in Matthew 19.

So important is this principle that Jesus repeated it in the very next chapter:

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

Whatever did Jesus mean? More to the point: What does this look like? Paint the picture, Rabbi.

Fortunately for us, Jesus is about to paint this picture—as beautiful a picture as you’d ever want to see—courtesy of Saul here in Acts 9, as illustrated so wonderfully in the lives of two otherwise anonymous individuals.

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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Saul, the Man Who Had It (And Lost It) All

You talk about a rising rockstar.

You are about to meet him in this PODCAST, up close and personal: Saul of Tarsus. Disciple of the renowned Rabbi Gamaliel. One of the Jerusalem-based Pharisees. Soon to become a voting-member of Israel’s Supreme Court—the Sanhedrin.

This was a guy whose career-path was rocketing skyward in an ever-ascending trajectory to greatness.

In terms of his religious tradition, passed on to him by his Pharisee-father, Saul was a guy who had it all—

  • A rapidly-increasing influence.
  • A growing respect among his peers.
  • Certainly the pride of his parents.
  • The possibility of fortune to go along with his ever-expanding fame.
  • And, of course, to his way of thinking, the super-abundant approval of God, along with all of God’s bountiful blessings that Saul though he deserved, and that allowed Saul to justify to himself his murderous rage.

Indeed, Saul had it all.

And consequently, Saul had it all to lose.

And lose it, he did. In the blink of an eye, literally.

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 Remarkable Man to Whom was Passed the Torch of Torah

Hate is a horrible thing.

Hate unbridled and unchecked is a murderous thing.

Hate in name of God is terrifying and terrorizing thing.

And as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, hate in the name of God is indeed a terrorizing thing because such religious hatred is actually viewed by the hater as a righteous thing.

Just ask a certain Pharisee—emphasis upon that lofty religious title, Pharisee, since it goes to the very heart of this story—named Saul. Yes! Saul was a Pharisee.

On the night before He was executed, as Jesus and His now-eleven disciples were slinking through the dark alleys of Jerusalem, literally one step ahead of His betraying-disciple Judas, the Temple guards, and the Roman cohort that Judas was leading to arrest and ultimately to crucify Jesus, Jesus made this chilling statement which should have given His disciples pause, assuming that in that desperate hour they had presence of mind to pause.

It’s found in John 16:2, where Jesus said this:

“The time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.”

A prediction, a prophecy that has historically come to pass in our day—the bitter result of religious extremism—far too many times to count. Bloodshed in the name of God. Be that blood shed at the hands of the Christian Crusaders, Muslim suicide bombers, or a now-ranking member of Sanhedrin—keep that label in mind; it too goes to heart of this story—Saul.

From where did Saul’s unbridled fury, his murderous hatred for Jesus and all things Jesus-related come?

Tonight, we will consider together much of what is often overlooked in any discussion about Saul-to-become-Paul’s background.

All of which will expose the degree to which God went when preparing His “Apostle to the Gentiles.”

Indeed, Paul will write in wonder in Galatians 2:8,

“For by God’s power I was made an apostle to the Gentiles.”

That power was clearly at work in Paul’s/Saul’s past. And as you are about to hear, that power was equally at work in Saul’s present here in Acts 9.

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 Man Who Bore the Stigmata

YOU are poetry personified.

A living, breathing, warm-blooded, lyrically beautiful poem.

Want proof? Here’s proof:

His name is Saul of Tarsus.

To us, he will forever be memorialized as the celebrated Apostle Paul. Though, as you will hear in this PODCAST, he would reject out of hand that lofty adjective “celebrated.”

We celebrate Paul because we owe to him more than we could ever hope to repay. For starters, thirteen epistles preserved as New Testament Scripture. Which, when taken together, form 23% of NT.

It is true that our old friend Luke was actually the more prolific of the two—Luke wrote slightly more of the New Testament in terms of word count, 27%. (And BTW, in case you are interested, the Apostle John gets the bronze medal—John’s Gospel, 3 epistles, Revelation combine for 20% of the New Testament.)

It is to Luke we owe a huge debt of gratitude for his compelling biography of Jesus and his gripping history of the ancestors in our faith, in whose glow we bask each week as we study this great book of Acts.

But it is really Paul who more than any other biblical writer lays for us theological foundation for our faith.

So while we do indeed, and for good reason, celebrate the vaunted apostle, he would describe himself as the least—λχιστος (a superlative, “less than the least”)—of all the apostles (1 Cor. 15:9). And Eph 3:8, “less than the least of all God’s people.”

This was not false modesty on Paul’s part. Not at all. This was a guy who was abundantly self-aware. He knew the roots from which he sprang. He knew that his very first mention in the New Testament places him at scene of, and makes him complicit in, the stoning of Stephen. Not Paul’s finest hour by any stretch.

Paul understood that all that he was was do solely and singularly to God’s amazing grace. The chorus of which he sung regularly and repeatedly.

So much for us to learn and know and appreciate and to emulate in this marvelous man. Let’s meet him now.

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 Sermon for the Ages (Not mine, but Stephen’s!)

It was a sermon for the ages.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, it was originally preached by a layman. He had no formal training in advanced biblical studies. There is no mention of any degrees. No diploma hung on his office wall, if he had an office. We have no indication that he had studied under a leading rabbi, such as Saul studied under Gamaliel.

His only claim to fame? Stephen was (Acts 6:3) “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom”; (6:8) “a man full of God’s grace and power.” And that was certainly enough!

Stephen was a humble, unassuming man, selected by Hellenistic, Greek-speaking Jewish believers in Jesus to be one of “The Seven,” chosen to care for their neglected widows.

Through circumstances not of his choosing, Stephen was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, hauled violently before the Sanhedrin, and forced to testify on his behalf.

But instead, Stephen chose to testify on Jesus’ behalf.

And oh what a testimony it was. You talk about power.

Stephen embodied God’s power as he took the High Court on an exciting excursion through Old Testament history.

And in so doing, provided for us a most-significant warning. One that you and I desperately need to hear.

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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