Posts Tagged With: Peter

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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Keeping It Kosher

Peter didn’t write much.

No surprise here. As you will hear in this week’s PODCAST, the hyperactive-apostle could not sit still long enough to put pen to parchment.

There is one of the four Gospels credited to Peter—but even that he could not write himself. Peter employed Mark to record his recollections. And no surprise that in reading what could-well be entitled, The Gospel According to Peter as Told to Mark, the one word that jumps out at us in Peter’s fast-paced, out-of-breath memoir is the adverb “immediately.” (Mark uses it 42 times).

All of which is to say that on the rare occasions when Peter did park himself at a desk to inscribe his insights (only twice—1 and 2 Peter!), we should sit up and take notice.

Case in point: 1 Peter 3:15.

“If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.”

Words, BTW, that define for us a biblical approach to personal evangelism—AKA witnessing, soul-winning, sharing your faith.

When they ask, we explain.

A principle that Peter learned, and learned well, here in Acts 10. The asker—Cornelius. Explainer—Peter.

Problem was—and it’s a HUGE problem indeed—Cornelius was an unclean Gentile centurion living in the unclean pagan city-capital city of Roman occupation of Peter’s land. This was for Peter One.Huge.Problem on multiple spiritually-threatening, faith-testing levels.

In order to understand, I need to put you into Peter’s sandals. And in order to put you into Peter’s sandals, I need to alert you to what has historically been the Greatest.Single.Threat to Judaism, and BTW, to us.

Now, allow me to lay out dots, and then connect these dots.

This entire discussion centers around one divine injunction, repeated several times in the Torah.

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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You Want Me to Go WHERE? You Want Me to Do WHAT?

I want you to imagine for a moment this scenario. (As you will hear in this PODCAST, a potentially familiar biblical story to you.)

That being said, see if you can guess the name of its principle player.

His people were ravaged by a barbarically blood-thirsty Empire, the armies of which decimated his land, desecrated his holy places, and butchered his people.

His hatred for these pagan barbarians flamed in his guts with the white-hot fury of volcanic rage. A smoldering-just-beneath-the-surface-anger that could have understandably erupted into a deadly confrontation at the slightest provocation.

But God is a God of mercy, isn’t he?

So He asked this man to set aside his prejudices, to extinguish the fiery rage that blazed within him. And in the face of the mountain of abuses he and his people suffered at the hands of these hedonistic heathens, these merciless marauders, to travel into the very power-center of this occupying power in order to share with the people there the Good News of God’s redemptive love.

The notion that he would engage these interlopers on any level was utterly repugnant to him. Not to mention his absolute inability even to entertain the slightest possibility that some such as these might spend an eternity with him in Heaven.

He didn’t want God to save them; He wanted God to obliterate them.

So down to the seaport city of Joppa he went (that’s your clue to this mystery man’s identity) where he confronted a personal crisis of faith unlike he had ever experienced before.

Does he walk away in rebellion against God? Does he get into a boat and sail away, in direct defiance of God’s revealed will?

Or does he submit himself to the task to which God called him, knowing full-well that in doing so he may-well place himself squarely in the crosshairs of his sworn enemy?

To whom am I referring? Who was this singularly-selected servant of God, forced to face such a potentially life-threatening, history-altering choice?

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 Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet.”

Her Hebrew name was Tabitha.

And as you will hear in this PODCAST, Dorcas was her Greek name.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Well, she may have had nothing to do with Romeo and Juliet. But fact is, Tabitha by any other name, AKA Dorcas, would still be as sweet, kind, and beautiful. For both Tabitha and Dorcas both mean “Gazelle.” Distinctly beautiful names each, both of which speak to the inner beauty and kindness and sweetness that radiated from this singularly special woman.

So special that Luke singled her out in order specifically to tell her exemplary story. As did Peter, who at news of her untimely demise literally—at a moment’s notice—dropped everything in order to be at her bedside within hours of her passing.

  • What was it about this woman that would cause the lead apostle to rush to her side upon hearing sad news?
  • What was it about this woman that brought life in the prominent seaside town of Joppa to come to a screeching halt at the moment of her death?
  • What was it about this woman that so profoundly challenges each of us today to ask ourselves one profoundly challenging question, the answer to which is so stunningly simple?

Are you ready to meet Tabitha, the graceful gazelle?

I believe the best way to proceed is simply to read to you her story as recounted/recorded by Luke, inserting clarifying commentary along the way. This in order to add the colors and contours that Luke’s original readers would have enjoyed that we

might otherwise miss.

Trust me. As you meet her, you will never view your life the same way again.

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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“Who is Winning the Shephelah?”

Rose of Sharon

I need to read Acts 9:35 to you its context.

As you are about to learn in this PODCAST, there is so much more here than meets the eye. At least that meets our eyes.

Acts 9:35 is a truly remarkable statement for original readers of the book of Acts. It will soon be truly remarkable for us. For this one verse exposes the underlying reality in the spiritual climate of the Land that you and I might easily miss. As well as the ongoing spiritual battle for our souls that is being waged every minute of every day in our lives today.

A truly remarkable verse.

So hear it as I begin at verse 32.

“Meanwhile, Peter traveled from place to place, and he came down to visit the believers in the town of Lydda. There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!’ And he was healed instantly.”

Now verse 35, 

“Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon saw Aeneas walking around, and they turned to the Lord.”

Anything jaw-dropping strike you about those words? Are we missing anything here? I’ll give you a hint: Yes! We are missing a ton! All of which has to do with these two telling locations: One a town—Lydda; the other a region—Sharon.

Foreign to us; all-too-familiar to the people of that land at that time.

It’s the old story: We cannot understand the biblical play if we don’t understand the stage on which the play is performed.

So in this podcast, I’ll take you on a fascinating tour of the stage.

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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My Story

You’ve perhaps heard the old line, “Things aren’t always as they appear to be.”

Well, as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, sometimes things are exactly as they appear to be.

Case in point, Peter’s exposé of Simon the Samaritan Sorcerer.

Kudos to Peter. The apostle properly diagnosed the terminal condition of Simon’s tortured soul with pinpoint accuracy.

A diagnosis that, were I to be honest with you, hits me way too close to home. For as much as I am ashamed to admit it to you, I have battled this very demon too.

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 FIRST of Some Pretty Amazing Firsts

If this doesn’t send shivers up your spine, I don’t know what will.

In this PODCAST, you are about to hear an absolutely amazing story about a most-remarkable individual, whom we barely met last week—Simon the Samaritan Sorcerer.

A man, BTW, whose eternal destiny—when all is said and done—remains a question mark, shrouded in mystery.

For of Simon we read,

“Then Simon himself believed and was baptized” (Acts 8:13).

So far, so good!

But then we read a mere 8 short verses later,

“But Peter replied… ‘Your heart is not right with God.’”

Uh oh.

Simon the Samaritan Sorcerer—A living, breathing contradiction—as we might expect from someone trafficking on dark side.

There is so much to this story that it is hard to know where to begin. So we will start with this…

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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