Posts Tagged With: prison

The Mysterious Member of the Trinity (Part 1)

4498a57b106ad907c282c57889fc2dc5Welcome to the Upper Room Discourse.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, we are now standing on the precipice of Jesus’ passion — Judas’ betrayal, Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ incarceration, His trials, His Crucifixion, climaxing of course in His glorious Resurrection.

What should have been a night primarily of celebration  — of the Passover, and all of its rich meaning — quickly morphed into an evening of last-minute and desperate instruction. Jesus had to prepare His men for the tumultuous and turbulent events of the coming hours, culminating in the crucifixion, the tipping point of redemptive history, after which human history would never be the same again.

As you might suspect, Jesus in the so-called Upper Room Discourse (You’ll understand why I say “so-called” as you listen.), Jesus hit on the themes most important to Him.

There are three principle themes in the Upper Room Discourse. The first of which we will discuss now and next week. The remaining two we’ll dissect and discuss in the coming weeks.

The discussion of tonight’s theme — the Ministry of the Holy Spirit — was so immediately practical for them and for their spiritual survival; so equally vitally necessary for us and our spiritual survival.

A theme triggered by this sad-but-certain reality (John15:18):

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose U to come out of world, so it hates you.”

Now listen: I am not given to pessimism. I am, however, very much attuned to realism. What I am about to tell you in this podcast is very real, so real that this will hardly come as a shock to you. Yeah verily, in the deepest darkest recesses of your mind and heart, you know this to be true.

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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“Why? God, Please Tell Me, Why?”

Why did You let my father molest/rape me?  (He went to prison for  this, was tried and convicted.)  I just want to know why?  I am in pain.

rejectionAs stated in my previous post, from time to time (at a rate of one or two per week) I am going to answer questions that I received from Junior High/Middle School students last month at camp. I asked them to write down for me the one question they would ask God if given the chance.

I will answer each question as if I am speaking directly to them…

I know you are in pain. Pain that I cannot even begin to imagine.

Let me start by stating right up front that “Why?” questions are the most difficult questions to answer. We don’t always know the reasons why.

Oh sure, I could tell you that we live on a fallen planet where bad people do really bad things to good and precious people like you. That this is all the result of Adam and Eve’s sin. That it’s ultimately the devil’s fault. And while there is some truth to each of those statements, you deserve better than a trio of trite clichés, none of which is an adequate explanation for the pain you carry every single day.

What I can tell you is this: Jesus was born into an equally pain-filled world. Within months of His birth, a very bad man by the name of Herod wanted desperately to kill Him. Herod thought of Himself as the “King of the Jews.” So when the Wise Men showed up asking for the whereabouts of the authentic “King of the Jews,” Herod exploded. He ordered every baby boy in Bethlehem two years of age and under to be mercilessly slaughtered. Herod’s murderous rampage caused the streets of Bethlehem to flow with the blood of these innocent toddlers.  The anguished wails of their moms and dads, brothers and sisters, echoed throughout the town.

Like you, a part of me cries out to God the single most painful question you or I could ever ask: Why? Why did so many innocent children have to die such a horribly bloody death? Why did innocent moms and dads have to watch helplessly as their government slaughtered their children? Why didn’t God stop the slaughter? Why did God let Herod get away with it?

Well, nowhere in the story (Matthew 2:16-18) does the Bible answer that hauntingly elusive question, “Why?” But it does answer an equally important question — perhaps an even more important question — “Where?” As in, “Where were You, God, when this senseless slaughter was taking place?”

The answer? (Read this slowly, and allow the power of this answer to sink into your soul.) Jesus was right there in the middle of the horror.

Remember that He was the object of the hate. He was the target of the murderous thugs who rode into Bethlehem that night. He was the focus of the frightful rage that erupted into the slaying of all those little kids. He was right in the middle, sharing and feeling the pain of every baby boy who died in His place. He cried bitter tears as He heard the gut-wrenching cries of all those mommys and daddys who lost their children because of Him. He was right there in the middle of it all.

Thankfully, through the intervention of an angel, Jesus didn’t die that night. But the day did come when Jesus died an even more horrific death at the hands of these same Romans. On that dark day, Jesus died for you, Jesus died for me, and Jesus died for every baby boy in Bethlehem who had died for Him on that infamous night. Yes, every single baby butchered that night was greeted in Heaven that night by the waiting and welcoming hands of God.

Good  ALWAYS wins; evil ALWAYS loses. Always.

OK, so now watch this: Where was God during that entire time that you were being horribly molested by your dad? Right there beside you. Sharing your pain. Feeling your fear. Cradling you in His arms while you cried. And promising that what your dad intended for evil, God will use for your good. And for the good of many, many people.

One of my Old Testament heroes is named Joseph. His brothers tried to murder him. At the last minute, they changed their plan and sold him as a slave. He was purchased by an Egyptian and forced to live in a foreign country, away from all of his family and friends. He was falsely accused of rape and wrongly imprisoned. He suffered unimaginably as he rotted away in an Egyptian dungeon for nearly 13 years for a crime he did not commit. 

“Why?” Why did God let that happen? Why did God let the brothers get away with that? Why didn’t God stop them?

We don’t know why. But we do know where. Where was God during those years of imprisonment? Right in the dungeon with Joseph. 

After 13 years, Joseph was miraculously released from his cell (just as you were finally released from your prison of molestation and rape). Even better, God then used Joseph to save His people from the ravages of a famine that hit their land. And when Joseph faced his brothers who had sold him as a slave, he said something that I hope you will memorize. Words that changed my life; words that can change yours as well. Because what was true of Joseph is true of you. Joseph said to his brothers: 

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people (Genesis 50:20, New Living Translation).

Your dad tried to harm you. But God will now transform your pain-filled heart and violated body into the beautiful and radiant person that you are now becoming. God is so good at that. He takes the ashes of the wrongs that we suffer and transforms them into something breathtakingly beautiful to behold. A whole new YOU!

Just think of all the young women you will be able to help and heal someday because of your story. Think of how God allowed you to survive the darkest of nights so that His sunshine of this new day can sparkle through you to others. Think of how His power spared you from a situation that could have been so much worse. Think of the radiant diamond that you have become after being crushed so many, many times.

The very fact that you could come to a Christian camp and be given the opportunity to ask of God that one most important question — Why? — proves where God was while that was happening. Right there with you.

He is with you now.

And I promise you that the very thing your dad did to harm you is the very thing that God will now use to bring SO MUCH GOOD to so many, many people. Yes, the day will come — sooner rather than later — when you will be able to pray,

God, I would never want to go through that again. But I thank You for allowing me to go through it once.

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