Posts Tagged With: prayer

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’ Unanswered Prayer

christian-denominationsJesus’ final words here at the tail-end of the Upper Room Discourse connect directly with Jesus’ opening words at the very beginning of the Upper Room Discourse.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, Jesus began His parting words to His disciples with this promise:

“When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

That is the beginning of John 14.

Jesus added one last exclamation point to it all with this parting prayer:

“Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am.”

This at the end of John 17.

Jesus’ heartfelt emotion in this moment cannot be overstated.

These are the heartsick words of a smitten bride-groom about to leave His newly-betrothed bride. His bride with whom He is very much in love. His bride from whom He must now depart in order to — in the words of John 14 — return to His Father’s house to prepare the place where He and bride will dwell together forever.

It was back in Podcast #20, at the wedding at Cana, when I first clued you in that when Jesus, in John 14, promised to return to His followers, Jesus painted that promise in the portrait of a Jewish wedding. From the disciples’ point of view, in less than 24 hours, their bridegroom would indeed depart to His Father’s house in order to prepare a place for them.

You need to feel it, keenly so, that the dark cloud casting a dreary shadow over entire majestic Upper Room Discourse and Jesus’ glorious High Priestly Prayer is specter of Jesus’ immanent departure.

This is in every sense of the words high drama and intense — very human — emotion. On a couple of most-significant levels.

We are about to gaze directly into Jesus’ sizable soul. And what we are about to discover there is Jesus’ eager anticipation of a bridegroom (that will be fulfilled), coupled with His expression of an expectation that His newly-betrothed bride will historically, dramatically, and devastatingly fail to fulfill.

An unconscionable departure from what is clearly the plan, purpose, and will of God, for which the entire world is now paying a very high price. You talk about a clash/collision of contradictory emotions! Welcome to the world of Jesus.

Yes, this climax, this high water mark of this Upper Room Discourse is very much the very definition of high drama.

Now, just to give you a heads-up as to where we’re going tonight.

What you are about to see, in living color, in HD, in real time, is this:

  • When your prayers seemingly go unanswered…
  • When you cry out to God to fix a problem, heal a disease, restore a relationship knowing that such a fix/healing/restoration would meet with God’s approval, but your cries seem to fall on deaf ears…
  • When your faith faces a devastatingly deep disappointment, an unnecessary and totally avoidable set of circumstances, what should be an easily fixable situation into which God for whatever reason does not intervene and does not fix…
  • Know this: Jesus experienced, and continues to experience, all of that, His own disappointment to a degree that we cannot begin to fathom.
  • A devastating disappointment that breaks His heart even to this day. One that breaks His heart — Hear this — His own prayers about this very situation notwithstanding.

To be blunt: a singularly-important part of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer has yet to be answered, this after 2000 years and counting.

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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A Now-Complete Picture

f84ebecea6ca62be43b0d3614d5d3fe8Oh how I love a good irony. That being said, how ironic in terms of timing is it that in this PODCAST, on this our fourth anniversary together as a Safe Haven family, we come to Jesus’ statement here in John 15, in the Upper Room Discourse, when He said to His men (and to us!), “I am the vine, you are the branches”?

The irony to which I refer lies in fact that this statement completes John’s portrait of Jesus. 

You talk about Jesus in High Definition. How about seven layers of definition, skillfully painted on the canvas of John’s Gospel, that leaves us with no doubt as to the true character of Jesus as the God-man.

Understand that from start to finish, John had but one goal in mind, one purpose to his writing, one theme, one image that he sought to paint in this his artful masterpiece of his master. One the he painted in such beautifully breathtaking detail.

A portrait of Jesus to which John alerted us in the very first verse of his glorious gospel. Right out of the gate, John stated his theme, clearly and unambiguously when he wrote,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

If Matthew wrote to establish Jesus as the King, Mark painted the portrait of Jesus as a servant. If Luke left us no doubt that Jesus was fully human, John balanced books by showing us Jesus is God.

That is how John began his gospel; listen now to how he concluded it:

“In his disciples’ presence Jesus performed many other miracles which are not written down in this book. But these have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through your faith in him you may have life.”

John’s theme? Jesus is God.

Now, in order to demonstrate to his readers that Jesus is God, out of the abundance of miracles that Jesus performed, John handpicked the ones that he chose to record in his gospel. By doing so, he carefully crafted his narrative: Jesus is God.

Now here’s the thing: In the same way, and for same reason, that John handpicked several of Jesus’ miracles, he also purposely selected several of Jesus’ sayings.

Seven of Jesus’ many sayings, to be precise. A complete compliment of exactly seven. Each one of these seven prefaced with the two telling words,

“I Am.”

As you are about to hear, a singularly and startlingly specific phrase. “I Am.” The significance of which was not lost on John. Nor will it be lost upon you.

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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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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So Near, and Yet So Far

rich-young-ruler-3You could call this story an epic “Opportunity Lost.”

You talk about a guy presented with a once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity, an opportunity that he squandered. An opportunity that he squandered Badly.And.Sadly.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, this is an offer rarely made, and shockingly dismissed.

A young man who burst on the scene like a blazing comet streaking overhead, only to flame out and fall out of the sky to come crashing and burning to earth.

What a story!

One thing’s for sure. Jesus never took a class on Personal Evangelism, witnessing, soul winning, or whatever you want to call it. Because, to be honest, Jesus Broke.Every.Rule of personal evangelism in this very personal encounter.

Here you have what we call in our contemporary Christian culture a seeker coming to Jesus to ask Him one question. THE question. The single most important question.

A softball question that any one of us could answer.

His question?

“What should I do to inherit eternal life?”

This young man asked Jesus exactly the right question, to which Jesus gave him exactly the wrong answer!

Or did He?

Don’t fault me for asking that. Jesus’ own disciples thought that Jesus gave him the wrong answer. Check it out: The disciples were “astounded and astonished” when they heard Jesus’ answer.

All this guy needed to do, all that Jesus needed to tell him to do, was to pray a “Jesus, come into my heart” prayer, right? Yet, by the time Jesus got done with him? The young man walked away.

In the words of the noted Lutheran New Testament scholar, R.C.H. Lenski,

“Picture him: an exemplary young man in early manhood, fine and clean morally as the phrase now goes… wealthy… with a strong religious bent… a pillar (in the community)… Where is the church that would not give him a prominent place?… Yet all this is in the eyes of Jesus… worthless.”

Yeah verily, I will add, so worthless that Jesus offended him. Lost him. Drove him away.

Know why?

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 Most Profound Principle of Prayer I Have Ever Learned

a-prayer-for-youThis week, I have been reading a fascinating book of historical fiction entitled, The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, in the book Douglas records a conversation between Marcellus, son of a Roman Senator who has fallen out of favor with Emperor Tiberias, and Marcellus’ slave, Demetrius.

The conversation goes like this:

‘Demetrius’—Marcellus swept the sky with an all-inclusive arm—’do you ever believe in the gods?’

‘If it is my master’s wish, I do,’ replied Demetrius, perfunctorily.

‘No, no,’ said Marcellus, testily, ‘be honest. Never mind what I believe. Tell me what you think about the gods. Do you ever pray to them?’

‘When I was a small boy, sir,’ complied Demetrius, ‘my mother taught us to invoke the gods. She was quite religious. There was a pretty statue of Priapus in our flower garden. I can still remember my mother kneeling there, on a fine spring day, with a little trowel in one hand and a basket of plants in the other. She believed that Priapus made things grow…. And my mother prayed to Athene every morning when my brothers and I followed the teacher into our schoolroom.’ He was silent for a while; and then, prodded by an encouraging nod from Marcellus, he continued: ‘My father offered libations to the gods on their feast-days, but I think that was to please my mother.’

‘This is most interesting—and touching, too,’ observed Marcellus. ‘But you haven’t quite answered my question, Demetrius. Do you believe in the gods—now?’

‘No, sir.’

‘Do you mean that you don’t believe they render any service to men? Or do you doubt that the gods exist, at all?’

‘I think it better for the mind, sir, to disbelieve in their existence. The last time I prayed—it was on the day that our home was broken up. As my father was led away in chains, I knelt by my mother and we prayed to Zeus—the Father of gods and men—to protect his life. But Zeus either did not hear us; or, hearing us, had no power to aid us; or, having power to aid us, refused to do so. It is better, I think, to believe that he did not hear us than to believe that he was unable or unwilling to give aid. … That afternoon my mother went away—upon her own invitation—because she could bear no more sorrow…. I have not prayed to the gods since that day, sir. I have cursed and reviled them, on occasions; but with very little hope that they might resent my blasphemies. Cursing the gods is foolish and futile, I think.’

Well, you could reason, of course Zeus did not hear Demetrius’ prayers. There was no Zeus to hear him.

And of course, you could also argue, there was no answer to his prayer because there was no Zeus who promised Demetrius what Jesus promised to us:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Yet, how many of us have had a crisis of faith equal to that of Demetrius precisely because we prayed to our God in a time of crisis, in Jesus’ name, the same Jesus who did indeed make to us this promise:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened…”

…and yet, nothing happened.

What exactly did Jesus mean by those words, His prayer promise to us?

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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A Sparkling New Message from a Frail Old Man

Simeon-Christ-ChildHe is truly an unsung hero of the Christmas Story.

Ironically enough, as you will learn in this Christmas-themed PODCAST, his name means “one who listens.”

Are you ready to listen?

Having read the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus, I have no doubt that you have heard of him. But I would be very much surprised if you knew much about him.

THAT is about to change.

Ready to view the coming of Christ through a slightly different lens? My Yuletide gift to you, in a little more than 30 minutes.

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

If it is a blessing to you, PLEASE share a link to this podcast with your family and friends.

God bless you as you listen. And have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.

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