Posts Tagged With: pray

Dramatic Words of a Dying Man

crosses1“Jesus said…”

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, the fact of the matter is this: Jesus said seven statements, this as His life was literally dripping out of Him drop by precious drop. Each one of the seven — when considered separately — tells a most-dramatic tale. All of the seven — when considered collectively — give us an unparalleled insight into the heart of Jesus.

It was, after all, Jesus who much earlier in His ministry said this:

“For whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Matthew 12).

On yet another occasion, Luke 6, Jesus said,

“What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

So if we want to know what is in Jesus’ heart, we need look no further than what Jesus said. His words.

And as we are about to learn, what Jesus said from the cross, in the closing moments of His storied life, reveals perhaps most clearly of all exactly what was in His sizable heart. What a beautiful heart His was and is.

So join me now at the foot of the cross as we hear for ourselves the final words of Jesus as His innocent and holy life comes to a violently calamitous close.

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’ One Worry Concerning YOU (and Me)

john17-24On this Thursday night of Jesus’ final week, mere hours before the crucifixion, Jesus was worried about His disciples.

And as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, He was worried for a very good reason.

I don’t know if you have ever associated the word worry with Jesus, but as you will hear, in this case, at this time, in this place, that word worry is most appropriate.

Don’t worry (pun intended). I’m not trying to get all psychoanalytical on you. I am not fluent in psychobabble. And I’m not about to subject Jesus to a psychoanalysis.

But let us not overlook the fact that this is one of those rare glimpses into Jesus’ mind and heart on this — the single most traumatic night of His storied life.

What we see is a most-endearing picture of Jesus in all of His humanness on full display before disciples. I say endearing because the fact of the matter is this:

Jesus is equally worried about you. And that for the exact same Very.Good.Reason.

So what did Jesus do in response to His loving concern, His worry, His anxiety about His disciples? His loving concern, His worry, His anxiety about you?

Here’s a hint: What He did was AMAZING!

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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7 Benedictions of God’s Blessing to You: A Transcript

i-am-sermon-series-headerIn last week’s PODCAST, we noted that John recorded in his Gospel the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus. Each one was Jesus’ declaration of His deity. Each one became the basis of a benediction, a prayer of God’s blessing to you. Each one was enormously encouraging to every one who heard them. Each one is a prayer that you can pray on behalf of someone you love.

Here are the seven benedictions that I offered in that podcast, seven prayers of God’s blessing in your life, from my heart to yours.

One: John 6:35, Jesus said, “I Am the bread of life.”

May the Lord’s abiding presence remind you every minute of every day that He, the Creator and Master of the Universe, longs to break bread with you, yearns to have a relationship with you, pursues you in order to establish a bond of love with you that is both unbreakable and unconditional. Especially during those times when you feel so abandoned and alone, so helpless and hopeless, may you know and may you feel that you are never alone. May the bread of life bring His assurance to your life that He will never abandon you. May He ever give you His help to you when you feel so helpless, and His hope to you whenever you feel so hopeless. For Jesus said, “I Am the bread of life.”

Two: John 8:12, Jesus said, “I Am the light of the world.”

May the blazing light of God’s glorious presence dispel the darkness that sometimes enshrouds your soul. May the light of the Lord ignite a fire in your own soul, a passion in your spirit to draw ever closer to His light. May the warmth of His loving light flood your heart with His soul-calming peace. And may His tender love story, the Holy Bible, written in His own words ever be His lamp unto your feet and His light unto your path. For Jesus said, “I Am the light of the world.”

Three: John 10:7, Jesus said, “I Am the door of the sheep.”

May the Lord shield you with His protective presence. May no fear, nor uncertainty, nor problem, nor pressure, nor disappointment, nor discouragement ever enter Your life apart from His unshakable promise to turn every evil into your good and His glory. May He stand guard over you as He cradles you in His warm embrace. May you rest secure in the knowledge that He is and ever shall be your defender and protector. For Jesus said, “I Am the door of the sheep.”

Four: John 10:11, Jesus said, “I Am the good shepherd.”

May the Lord’s caring presence lead you to the greenest of lush pastures and the calmest of clear waters. May He faithfully meet your every need both as He guides you through lands of abundance and wastelands of wilderness. May the rod of His correction keep you from straying from the straight path, and the staff of His guidance keep you walking along the narrow path. For Jesus said, “I Am the good shepherd.”

Five: John 11:25, Jesus said, “I Am the resurrection and the life.”

May the Lord’s eternal presence dispel your every fear of the future. May the bright hope of Heaven cause you to keep your minds focused on things up there, rather than to be weighted down with all of the stuff that so easily distracts and disheartens you down here. May you ever rejoice that when Christ appears, then you too will appear with Him, and will be like Him, and will bask in the glow of His glory, forever! For Jesus said, “I Am the resurrection and the life.”

Six: John 14:6, Jesus said, “I Am the way, the truth, and the life.”

With so many voices clamoring for your attention and devotion, may the Lord’s truthful presence banish any and all confusion, distraction, error, and doubt from your minds and hearts. May the purity of His truth keep you from copying the behavior and and adopting the flawed values of this world. May the God of all truth transform you into a new person by correcting the way you think and purifying the way you live. May you rest in the reality that God’s will for you is and always shall be good and pleasing and perfect. For Jesus said, “I Am the way, the truth, and the life.”

And finally, Seven: John 15:5, Jesus said, “I Am the vine, you are the branches.”

May the Lord’s sustaining presence cause His divine beauty and grace to flow through you as He abides in you, and as you abide in Him. May you display to a world beset by boredom and emptiness the energy and enthusiasm that can only come to those who are en theo, in God, and who have God dwelling in them. May a glimpse of His glory radiate from within you. And may every person with whom you cross paths walk away from that encounter with the unmistakable sense that they have been in the presence of a man or woman of God. For Jesus said, “I Am the vine, you are the branches.” Amen.

 

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When “THIS Mountain” Moves

herodium-complex-balageTo be perfectly honest with you, the passage here in Matthew 21 is coming — for me,at least — at just the right time. And perhaps for you as well.

Given the current political climate in our beloved country, and the increasing despair that I have felt as the presidential primary season has now concluded, I so desperately need to hear my own message, courtesy of Jesus.

Jesus assured His disciples,

“Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, the irony of what Jesus said is so thick that you could cut it with the proverbial knife.

The irony being this: Jesus said those words to the disciples on the eve of His crucifixion in order to strengthen, to fortify their fragile faith. And frankly, to strengthen and to fortify ours.

Jesus knew that the events in their lives were about to spin seemingly out of control. The hopes they harbored in their hearts were about to be crushed into the ash heap of history. The Jesus movement in which they played a central role was about to careen into a wall and to explode into a thousand broken pieces.

The wave they had been riding had peaked on Sunday during the Triumphal Entry, and then again on Monday during the Cleansing of the Temple. But Jesus knew only too well on that Tuesday AM that by Thursday PM that same storm surge would dash them into the jagged rocks of reality.

So to bolster their soon-to-be faltering faith (and ours), Jesus made them (and us) this glorious promise:

“Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

The only problem with that promise? As many of us have come to experience during own crises of faith, It.Doesn’t.Always.Work.

If it did, none of our loved ones would ever die. (Who of us hasn’t prayed for God, in faith believing — to invoke Jesus’ formula — to heal someone near/dear to us, only to watch them whither away to nothing?)

Our kids would never disappoint us, if that promise worked. (What parent hasn’t prayed diligently for their children, in faith believing, Amen, only to stand by and watch helplessly and at times hopelessly as one or more of our kids go sideways?)

If that promise did indeed work, we would always get the jobs we want, have the perfect marriages for which we pray, have enough money at end of each month.

Fact is, myriads of books been written and purchased and read about that promise. Countless sermons been preached and listened to and heeded. All to affirm the fact that if we pray in faith believing and do not doubt, we will receive whatever things we ask. We CAN move mountains by our prayers, we are told. The mountain of sickness, the mountain of debt, the mountain of broken relationships, the mountain of wayward children.

Over the years, I’ve heard it all, read it all, a thousand times. To the point where I’m sick of hearing it. Because it just doesn’t work… Or does 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’s Way Out of Worry

1619375_10151957200015841_1701684413_nWhat you are about to read below is just a small but tantalizing taste of what you will hear in this PODCAST, my expanded paraphrase of that wonderful passage, Philippians 4:6-9.  

You can hear the podcast in its entirety by clicking on this podcast player:

Concerning your many personal problems, let me encourage you to do what I do. Over time (of which I have a lot, sitting here in this prison), I have actually trained myself not to worry about anything, but rather to pray about everything. I share with God everything – my joys and sorrows, my victories and my defeats, my thrills along with my spills, my hopes and fears, everything.

And every time I do, He answers my prayers. Not necessarily by giving me everything I want. No! No loving parent would do that – not an earthly father, nor certainly our Heavenly Father. Instead, He does something so much better. He floods my soul with His peace – the quiet contentment and calm assurance that everything is going to be OK.

I can’t explain it. It is in every sense of the word a miracle of God’s loving touch. But especially during those times when I would otherwise be freaking out, it’s like God whispers to me in His wee small voice, “Hey, I’m here. I know what you’re going through. I’m on top of it. I’ve got your back. I will fix this – in my own way and in my own time. So… relax.”

Yes, that’s it! By His grace, because of His grace, I have learned how to mentally and emotionally relax.

Let me teach you this one simple principle: When we worry about stuff, when we become anxious, when we do freak out, we are not dealing with realities. We are mentally inventing fantasies, most of which will never come to pass.

But even if our fears do come to pass, that’s the point, isn’t it? They come to pass. Our problems won’t last forever!

Far too often, we negatively worry about the things that we imagine might happen, instead of positively channeling our energies into dealing with what really happens. What a waste of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy!

So I offer to you this challenge: Develop the mental discipline to think only about those things which are true, that are real. As someone who loves you more than you could ever know, I beg of you to train yourself to think only those thoughts that bring honor to God, rather than thoughts that cause you to doubt God. Doubts about whether or not God is big enough or loving enough to handle your present trials. Trust me, He can handle them. And He will handle them.

Think only those thoughts that are wholesome, not worrisome. Try not to allow your mind to meander into places that will emotionally bring you down, rather than to lovely places that will spiritually build you up.

Mentally focus on the promises of God that will cause you to praise Him, rather than your unfounded fears that will only cause you to question Him.

If nothing else, try to follow my example. I have certainly had my share of struggles. You know about the personal pains that I have endured, and continue to endure. You know that I could make the argument that life has unfairly dealt me — an apostle — a losing hand. But you also know that I choose to regard my present circumstances, even in this prison, as though our good God is dealing me a winning hand. Because you know what? In the end, I will win! And so will you!

Oh, my dear Philippian friends, how I long for you to put into practice all of lessons that I have taught you, both when I was with you, and now as I write to you. All of the principles that you are watching me in real time apply to my own life. In short, how I long for you to learn how to luxuriate in God’s peace, just like I strive to do today, and every single day.

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Our Uncommon God

At the Safe Haven, we are having a glorious time working our way through the Lord’s Prayer, little by little, phrase by majestic phrase.

Think of the Lord’s Prayer as the Son of God teaching you and me how to pray to God. Amazing.

And it all starts with the enigmatic little phrase:

Hallowed be Your name.

Which means, as is commonly and correctly taught, to treat God’s name as holy.

But what exactly does that mean? To treat God’s name as holy? Not to cuss? Not to joke about God? What does treating God’s name as holy truly mean?

Let me approach it like this: It is THE bedrock declaration of the entire Bible, the foundation upon which our Judeo-Christian heritage rests. I am referring, of course, to Deuteronomy 6:4.

Our Jewish friends call it the Shema, which means “to hear.” The first word of this magnificent verse, Deuteronomy 6:4. As in “Hear O Israel…” As if God Himself is shouting, “HEAR THIS, my people. DON’T MISS THIS! LISTEN!!!”

Deuteronomy 6:4. An absolutely revolutionary statement proclaimed to a people — God’s people — living in a land polluted with (Are you ready?) polytheism, the worship of many gods.

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Deuteronomy 6:4 is the declaration of monotheism, our belief in one God: 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 

Now watch this: “Hallowed be Your Name” does indeed mean to treat God’s name as holy. As uncommon. A God unlike any other god. A different God. A God set apart, unique from every other god.

When the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, it was a land awash in gods, filled to overflowing with pagan gods. Gods of the rain, gods of the harvest, gods of the storms, gods of the sea, gods of fertility/prosperity.

Put them all together and you can basically divide these many gods into two categories: gods of nature; gods of the economy. Or to put that a little more crassly: gods of Health and gods of Wealth.

The pagans in the land (those who worshipped these gods) prayed constantly to these gods, begging them for two things: a problem-free life (no droughts, no diseases), and a prosperously-full life (bountiful harvests, robust herds of sheep or goats).

They prayed constantly to their nature gods for happiness and health. They prayed constantly to the economy gods for prosperity and wealth.

In short, they babbled off their prayers to their gods, begging them to send fewer problems and more money.

The point of which is this: Along came the one true God of the Bible. 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!

The one true God who is not the god of the sea, not the god of the rain, not the god of the harvest, not the god of fertility, not the god of prosperity, not the god of the storms, No!.

Our God, the God of the Bible, the God of the Israelites, the God of Jesus, OUR GOD created the Universe. He transcends the sea, rain, harvest, fertility, prosperity, and storms.

In fact, here’s a news bulletin for you. Our God sometimes sends the storms. 

God uses the sea, rain, harvest, fertility, prosperity (or lack thereof), storms — nature and the economy — to accomplish His purposes.

Now, here comes the key to this entire discussion. Are you ready? Because once you hear and embrace this, you will never view prayer the same way again.

The pagans of Jesus’ day prayed to their gods to make their lives more comfortable and prosperous. Did you get that? The pagans prayed to their gods to make their lives more comfortable and prosperous. Sound familiar? It should. Their “babbling” (Jesus’ word, not mine) sounded like this:

Gimme, gimme, gimme…

I want, I want, I want…

Please, please, please…

They even made bargains with their gods.

If you’ll do  this, then I’ll do this…

If you’ll give me this, then I’ll give you this…

You talk about treating gods as common!

Their gods to them were nothing more than good luck charms. Like a sanctified rabbit’s foot. Like genies in bottles whose sole purpose was to grant to them their wishes. Wishes for lives that were comfortable and prosperous, healthy and wealthy.

Now for the punchline to this entire discussion: 

We don’t treat our God that way.

We don’t treat our God as a common pagan god!

We do not worship God because we hope that He will give us a life that is comfortable and prosperous. We don’t beg God for stuff. We don’t make bargains with our God. We don’t try to manipulate Him, or to force His hand into giving us anything.

That’s what the pagans of Jesus’ day did. That’s what the pagans of our day do.

Do you see it? The people on the hillside that day sure should have seen it. Listen to what Jesus said:

Matthew 6:7-9 (NIV) — And when you pray, do not keep on BABBLING LIKE PAGANS, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

How do pagans pray? They babble on and on to their gods du jour to give them this and that… STUFF. Stuff that will make their lives comfortable and prosperous. Stuff that will make them healthy and wealthy. Stuff that will make them happy.

We don’t. We don’t pray to God to get stuff. We worship God for one, and only one reason: Because He is God.

We don’t have to tell God our needs; He knows our needs. He has already promised to meet our needs.

We don’t beg God to still the storms; God promises to go with us through life’s storms.

We don’t treat our God as a common pagan god to give us stuff — only to get ticked off and bitter, only to have our faith falter or fail — when He doesn’t give us our stuff.

We are not like spoiled children constantly nagging their parents for stuff. 

You heard what Jesus said:

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

We don’t even have to ask.

We don’t pray to God to get stuff, stuff that will make us happy, healthy, or wealthy.

We pray for one reason and only one reason: Because He is God. The very fact that we are allowed access into His presence is enough.

Did you read that carefully? It bears repeating:

The very fact that we are allowed access into His presence is enough.  

Or at least it ought to be.

We don’t beg our God to solve all our problems or still all our storms; we trust God to use our problems and our storms for our good and His glory.

Do you see it? We don’t treat God as a common good luck charm — with a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude.

When we shut the door and are alone with God, what’s the first thing we pray? The very first thing we pray?

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

May I keep Your name holy.

May I treat You today, O God, as utterly uncommon. 

Want to hear more? Click HERE.

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On the Worst Night of Their Lives…

The other night at the Safe Haven, during our series — Jesus in High Definition — we had a heart-to-heart. A heart-to-heart discussion about misinformed expectations. 

The premise of the talk was this: Too many of us mistakenly expect that we are entitled to a trouble-free life. We have been taught — Haven’t we? — that when the storms of life threaten to capsize our faith, Jesus will still all of our storms. When we cry out to Him in desperation, Jesus will answer all of our prayers. When we cast all of our cares upon Him, Jesus will fix all of our problems.

Oh, I know that we would not necessarily voice that expectation aloud. But when our lives crash, when something horrible happens, when the storms of life continue to blow our lives apart, how many of us have our faith shaken to the core, or perhaps even collapse completely, as if God let us down?

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When we pray earnestly for something — when we ask, believe, and DON’T receive — when our prayers remains unanswered, how many of us become angry at God, resentful that He seemingly turned a deaf ear to our prayers? Or if He heard us, just didn’t care enough to answer?

So as a part of our discussion, I shared with my precious Safe Haven family my extended paraphrase of John 16, a majestic chapter in which Jesus huddled with His men in the Upper Room in order to prepare them for the single worst 24 hours of their lives.

What He said to them is equally applicable to us. 

If you would like to hear the entire podcast, you can do so by clicking HERE.

This of this paraphrase as a part of The New Testament in High Definition

Please let me know what you think.

We need to have a talk.

Because I fear that with what’s about to happen, your faith may falter and you might fall away.

Some really, really bad things are about to happen. And I don’t want you to be caught off-guard.

After tonight, you men and your families will be hunted and harassed by misguided individuals who will actually believe that they are serving God by harming you. They will hunt you and harm you with a religious fervor, just like they are about to hunt and harm me.

I am telling you all of this now so that when these bad things happen to you (and they will!), you will remember that I warned you that your lives would be like this.

The time of my return to my Father has come.

I know that my death will fill you with grief unimaginable and inexpressible. For that, I am so sorry. You’re going to have to trust me when I say that what is about to happen is for the best. I cannot explain to you tonight the reasons why; I can only assure you that it is for the best.

But know this: I will not leave you alone to face your pain alone. As soon as I return home to Heaven I will send to you the Holy Spirit who will be with you every hour of every day. He will never leave you.

He will be to you a constant companion, your counselor, helper, and advocate. He will pray for you, give you strength to endure the challenge, and walk right beside you every step of your journey. 

Please don’t ever forget that you are never alone, even, and especially, when you feel all alone.

I have so much more to tell you, but you’re just not yet ready to hear it all. At least not yet.

But what you do need to know tonight is this: My time is growing short. In a little while, I will be put to death. You will feel like your world has come to an end. You are about to feel completely abandoned and all alone, as if I have left you forever.

My enemies will celebrate my death as though it is their victory and your defeat. But hear this: My death is their defeat and your victory. Your victory because you will see me again. My death will not last forever. And neither will yours.

Night may be closing in on you, but the brightest mornings always follow the darkest nights.

Your sorrow will turn into joy. Your nightmare will turn in to your dream come true.  

But not yet.

You first will have to endure the darkness of this difficult night, this very stormy season.

You are like a beloved mother-to-be who suffers the temporary pains of a difficult labor. But when her child is born, her anguish gives way to pure joy. So great is her joy that it completely obliterates even the memory of her momentary pain.

And so I promise you that just like that mom, your present pain will give way to unspeakable joy, a joy that no one can or will ever take away from you.

When that day comes, all your questions will be answered. All your confusion will be resolved. All your doubts will be erased, when that day comes. 

But for now know this. God the Father loves you. He loves you with a love that will last forever. A love that you embraced when you embraced me.

From now on, you will pray in my name. That is, you will pray remembering who I Am, and remembering what I taught. 

When you pray in my name — remembering who I Am, and remembering what I taught — God will hear everything you say, even when it doesn’t feel like He does. Even when it is hard to believe that He does. Your prayers in my name will never fall of deaf ears.

OK, so the bottom line is this: In this troubled world of ours, you are going to suffer. You are going to suffer greatly. That is a universal fact of life. And ironically, being my followers may result in you suffering even more. 

This world can be a cruel place. Believe me, I know. But you can be sure of this: I have overcome this world. And so shall you.

So while I will not solve all of your problems or take all of your pain away, I offer you tonight something so much better. I offer to be with you in your problems, to be with you in your pain. I will carry them with you. We will carry your problems and pain together.

In short, I offer to you my peace. My peace. That most beautiful of all human experiences. True, genuine, lasting peace. This is why I now ask you to pray in my name, so that you will never forget who I Am and what I taught. And by remembering who I Am and what I taught, your soul will be flooded with my peace.

My peace will sustain you. My peace that will comfort you. My peace that will assure you that everything that seems out of control is well within my control. My peace that will carry you all the way to a glorious and victorious end.

The same promises Jesus made to them, He makes to us. Both His promises of pain, and of His peace.

 

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God, Why Won’t You Answer My Prayers?

hombre llorando 2Why? 

It is THE question that haunts each and every one of us.

Why?

Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Why do bad things happen to us? Why did God let this happen? Why doesn’t God just fix this?

In this PODCAST, you WILL discover the answer.

Please note that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

Thank you for listening. And please “Share” this podcast with your friends.

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Why are They Leaving the Church in Droves?

leaving-the-churchIn this week’s PODCAST, believe it or not, Jesus answers THE question that has haunted church/ministry leaders for years:

Why are they leaving the church in droves?

Jesus’ answer will surprise you, even though the answer is so obvious that it is staring us right in the face.

And yet, with all of the blogs and books devoted to answering this question (and IMHO missing the point completely), with the gallons of ink that has been spilled on reams of dead-tree paper, how do we miss such an obvious answer?

Fact is, in His Sermon on the Mount, in His run-up to what we commonly call The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus definitively answers this singularly significant question:

Why are they leaving the church in droves?

Yes! His answer WILL surprise you.

Please note that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, the podcast may take up to 60 seconds to begin to play.

HAPPY LISTENING

And if this podcast is a blessing to you, please SHARE the link to this podcast with your friends.

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