Posts Tagged With: redemption

Turning Point at Tabgha — A Redemption Story

In Mark 16 we read,

The angel said to the women, “But go, tell His disciples — and Peter…”

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, kudos to Peter for allowing Mark to include this rather inglorious detail about this darkest hour of Peter’s storied life. If the trajectory of Peter’s faith journey was filled with ups and downs, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, here Peter hits rock bottom.

What was the significance of the angel’s words to the women,

“But go, tell His disciples — and Peter…”?

More than you and I could ever imagine. An epic story of falling and rising, regret and redemption.

You want to see redemption in real time, here it is. A story of hope and promise that you will not want to miss.

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 Worst of the Worst of the Worst

slide_2The Apostle John turned out to be quite the lyricist. One could almost sing some of his melodious verses. In fact, many of us have.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, John wasn’t a scholar, not by any stretch of imagination. Quite unlike the Apostle Paul, for example.

John engaged in virtually no complex doctrinal discussions involving the nuances of theology, the kinds of stuff in which Paul reveled.

John’s Greek is so simplistic that 1 John is invariably the first book every 1st-year Greek student translates.

John was a passionate soul, one who wrote far more emotionally than he did academically.

Consequently, John had the uncanny ability to relate to us all on such a visceral level that you get the sense that he understood exactly what it’s like to be us — fragile, fearful, human.

When their paths first crossed, Jesus met a rather unremarkable, uneducated fisherman from the provincial little town of Bethsaida. Yet, by the time Jesus got done with him, John became a prolific author (with one Gospel, three letters, and his magnum opus, the majestic book of Revelation to his literary credit).

John was the only one of the twelve who stayed with Jesus on that fateful day of the crucifixion. So devoted was he to Jesus, that with one of His last, dying breaths, Jesus committed the care of His dearly beloved mom, Mary, to John.

It was John who went from being known as a “Son of Thunder” for his uncontrollable temper, to the “Apostle whom Jesus loved,” as John so referred to himself because he could not get over that fact that Jesus saw in him someone who could be loved.

Among his other glistening credentials, John was for a time the pastor of little family of faith in Ephesus. John was arrested, charged with being a leader of a Christ-following community, sentenced, and subsequently banished to penal colony on island of Patmos.

Separated he now was — by the Aegean Sea — from the people he so loved, his modest little flock in Ephesus. Which explains why, when John was allowed to see the splendors of Heaven, the very first description he wrote was so curiously cryptic to us, but not to him. Just a fragment of a verse that spoke volumes to John: “There was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).

Anyway, John was eventually released from Patmos. He then apparently became reunited with several people from his former congregation in Ephesus.

Much to John’s delight, many of his former flock had continued in his absence to follow Christ faithfully, and to raise their children to follow Christ. This brought John such enormous joy, as you can imagine, that he wrote this in 2 John:

“How happy I was to meet some of your children and to find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.”

“To find them living according to the truth.” Nothing brings more joy to a parent’s heart than that.

Likewise, there is nothing that brings to a parent more grief and heartache than to watch his or her child reject the truth they so love, and the God whom they so cherish.

That same anguish of soul floods the heart of every spouse whose husband or wife rejects truth, the family’s faith, the one true God. Just as it does anyone who watches helplessly as a beloved friend, relative, whomever, reject the truth.

The gallons of tears shed. The many sleepless nights spent worrying, agonizing, questioning, praying.

Our unnerving lament, written in a minor key, that invariably results from the knowledge that the thing we hold most dear they ridicule with contemptuous disdain.

The ever-present, nagging thought that perhaps if I had only said more, or said less; tried harder, or didn’t try so hard; or hadn’t

succumbed to my own weaknesses and hypocrisies. Maybe then I could have successfully passed onto my children a godly heritage one generation to the next.

And then, of course, there are those self-righteous parents whose own children are thriving in the faith. And they never seem to let you forget that you failed where they succeeded, causing us yet all the more guilt, shame, heartache, and heartbreak.

Just ask the mother of Zacchaeus.

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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From Crash and Burn to Rise and Shine (An Epic Tale of Gracious-Filled Redemption)

roosterIt was without a doubt the absolute worst day of Peter’s long and storied and challenging life. As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, we’re talking about one particular Saturday — the day after the crucifixion.

The day after Peter had denied Jesus three times before Jesus’ accusers. The Saturday before the very first Easter Sunday.

And since for the precious and beloved people at Safe Haven, I happened to give this message on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Thus, we would do well to consider exactly what was going on and why during that singularly fateful day.

A very dark day in otherwise dazzling life of Peter.

You talk about an epic fail, a spectacular fall from grace, a stunningly unpredictable turn of events, and crash and burn of mind-numbing proportions… Here’s a quick thumbnail of how Peter’s not-so-Good-Friday developed, leading up to his Horribly-Bad-Saturday before Easter.

A day Peter no doubt spent cowering in a corner…

  • Disgusted by the arrest of his rabbi;
  • Devastated by execution of his hero, mentor, friend;
  • Demoralized by the death of his dream of freedom from the oppressions of Romans;

A man whose faith was now in a free-fall. If there was any faith left in the man to fall.

The week leading up to Peter’s Not-So-Good-Friday and Horribly-Bad-Saturday began the Sunday before, Palm Sunday, with the event we commonly call the Triumphal Entry.

Jerusalem swelled to overflowing by the multiplied thousands upon thousands of pilgrims streaming into the Holy City in preparation for Passover. Every person in the place was there in commemoration of the Israelites’ deliverance from four hundred grueling years of oppression by the Egyptians, AND in feverish anticipation of what they hoped and prayed was their imminent deliverance from the brutal, barbaric, and oh.so.bloody occupation by the Romans.

Messianic fervor was always at its highest in the week leading up to Passover. You can understand why. Freedom was in the air.

But in this podcast, I don’t want you merely to understand why. I want you to feel 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 as you listen.

And PLEASE “Share” a link to this podcast with a loved one or friend.

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TWO Parables for the Modest Price (FREE!!!) of One

3513335103_8a78b62373You are in for a Thanksgiving treat! One PODCAST consisting of two precious parables.

Why these two parables don’t get more attention, I’ll never know. For contained within them are two of the most blessed truths of our faith.

The two parables of which I speak: The Parable of the Buried Treasure, and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. Two parables that, despite their similarities, reveal two totally distinct but equally precious truths.

If you need a jolt of overwhelming encouragement, you need look no further.

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

God bless you as you listen. And PLEASE share a link to this podcast with your friends. Enjoy!!!

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Paintings, My Friends. It’s All About the Paintings. (And Oh What a Painter God is!!!)

woman-paintingIn this PODCAST, so many, many questions will be answered.

How do we know there is a God?

Why does the Bible say that all people are without excuse?

How did people in the Old Testament get “saved”?

What about people who have never heard of Jesus before?

Just to name a few!!!

Open your ears. Open your eyes. Most importantly, open your heart. You will be amazed at all that you are about to learn!!!

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.

HAPPY LISTENING!!!

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Jesus Heals a Mother’s Broken Heart

Jes_Calls_Levi_7-27While I am away speaking at one of my all-time favorite places on the planet (Hartland Christian Camp), here in this Encore PODCAST is some much-needed hope for every brokenhearted mom. Not to mention every brokenhearted dad.

This hope comes courtesy of a man named Levi, though you’d never know it by reading his account of Jesus’ life and ministry.

While there is scant little detail in the Bible regarding this remarkable man (Levi is mentioned by name a grand total of only 5 times), scratch beneath the surface and we could write a book about him.

Levi deserves our focused attention, and we will be all the richer for having had this discussion.

A polarizing figure, Levi was. They either loved him or hated him. Or to put an even finer point to that: The religious hated him; Jesus loved him.

And in loving him as Jesus did, Levi becomes a living, breathing canvas on which the heart of Jesus is painted in vivid colors and bold relief.

Please Note: Depending upon your web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for the podcast to begin to play.
HAPPY LISTENING!

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The Apostle Peter’s Startling Story (a First-Person Rendition)

TabghaIt’s my absolute favorite spot in all of Israel.

Which, given my love for the land and its people, is quite a remarkable statement.

In this PODCAST, you will hear where it is, and why it is.

Here’s a clue: It’s the Apostle Peter’s favorite spot too.

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

HAPPY LISTENING, and please “Share” this podcast with your family and friends.

 

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Church Discipline: “Protecting the Purity of the Church” — Oh, Really? (Spiritual Abuse, Part 3)

How did we get it so wrong?

And what has the church, and so many of the “Christians” who attend them, become in the process?

stern-churchWe ended our discussion in the previous blog post by making the observation that Matthew 18 is the “go-to” passage when it comes to judging others “holding others accountable.” It has become fashionable today in our evangelical church to suggest that it is a noble thing to hold others accountable, even to the point of remove sinning members from their local churches, all based on Matthew 18.

A noble thing because every time leaders begin the “process of Matthew 18” on a “sinning” church member, they can then make the bold (and sometimes boastful) claim that they are “protecting the purity of the body,” especially when they kick the sinners out.

Doesn’t that sound noble? “Protecting the purity of the body.” Would someone please tell me what that means? I mean, that’s like doctors protecting the health of a hospital by kicking the sick people out. And BTW how’s that for leaders “lording it over” the people? Deciding who’s in and who’s out?

What in God’s name have we become?

Would someone tell me please what local church is in fact pure? It’s the old story. If you find a local church that is indeed pure, please don’t join it. If you do, there goes its purity. “There’s sin in the church,” someone will cry. Yes! You bet there is sin in the church. There was sin in every church that I have ever attended. Know why? Precisely because I was attending it, not to mention everyone else who attended it! Who do we think we are? Paragons of virtue? Pictures of purity?

If Matthew 18 was meant by Jesus to be the process of confronting sinners about their sins, perhaps even to the point of kicking some sinners out of church, where do we start?

May I humbly suggest that this is a common misinterpretation and gross misapplication of Matthew 18 that completely ignores the fact that — Are you ready? — when Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 18, the church wasn’t even in existence yet. Oops.

Ekklesia, translated “church” in Matthew 18, is a general term that means “community.” In our context, for want of a better word, in a “religious” context, an ekklesia refers to a person’s family of faith. A loving redemptive family of faith that gathers together to worship God.

It might just interest you to note that in the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the word that Jesus used in Matthew 18, ekklesia, occurs 80 times. Jesus’ use of that word was anything but new, novel, or unique.

Ironically, ekklesia does not biblically refer to nonprofit corporations with by-laws, budgets, buildings, business meetings; personnel, payrolls, politics, power-plays, and all of the resultant problems there-to. Ekklesias, as Jesus invoked the term, were never meant to be run like clubs with crosses on them.

Trust me. Neither Jesus nor His disciples were thinking about tax-exempt religious institutions where a person’s membership can, and sometimes should, be revoked. SMH <sigh>

The 3 interpretive keys that unlock this Matthew 18 passage are its context, the word “sins,” and Jesus quoting of Deuteronomy 19:16.

Listen to what Matthew 18 actually says (not what we have been taught is says, not what we want it to say) in its context, sandwiched as it is in between Jesus saying this:

If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? Matthew 18:12

This clearly refers to someone who is tragically teetering on the precipice of losing his or her faith. How do I know that? Because right before that, Jesus warns “anyone (who) causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble…”

We’re talking here about someone whose faith is faltering. Do you really think that Jesus was instructing leaders of churches that at the time did not exist to identify those whose faith is faltering, start a process of Matthew 18 on them, and if need be, kick them out of church? I could cry!

And then this (the other half of the sandwich) immediately following the “Church (that doesn’t even exist) Discipline” part of Matthew 18:

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22)

Now watch! Matthew 18 is NOT a “Church Discipline” passage. Nor is it a let’s-hold-sinners accountable passage. Matthew 18 is a redemption passage, a restoration passage. An all-about-leaving-the ninety-nine-sheep-and-going-after-the-one-whose-faith-is-faltering passage. Not to kick that sinning brother or sister out of their family of faith, their ekklesia. They have already left it.

Matthew 18 is all about bringing that precious little lamb back into the fold.

Don’t believe me? Then read it, IN CONTEXT, Matthew18:15-17:

Moreover if your brother sins against you…

Sins: a clear violation of a biblical absolute. In this context, a clear violation of Torah Law. We are not talking here about a violation of someone else’s personal preferences. This has NOTHING to do with someone not approving of someone else’s music preferences, body art, piercings, or any other of the myriad of things for which people get judged nowadays.

Now watch! If the context of this passage, and the character of Jesus means anything, this is clearly, to use Jesus’ own words, a sheep that wanders away from their faith situation, where a beloved member of a faith family wanders away from their faith-family and is in danger of losing his or her faith.

Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.

No gossip here, which is indeed a sin, one of the worst in fact, one that causes division to the unity of any church and untold damage to the subject of the gossip, but one for which anyone is rarely kicked out of church. Hmmm…

LOOK, Matthew 18 is clearly a Galatians 6 situation:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens.

No judging here; no “lording it over” here, no (remember the word from our previous blog post?) krino here!

This is clearly a James 5:19 situation:

My friends, if any followers have wandered away from the truth, you should try to (What? Confront them, and if need be, kick them out of their faith family?) lead them back.

Similarly, Matthew18:15,

If that person listens, you have won back a follower.

Do you see it? This is clearly referring to a wanderer who returns home to his or her ekklesia, their loving, redeeming, forgiving faith-family.

But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’

Here Jesus quoted the Torah, Deuteronomy 19:15. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, was teaching Jews about what to do when someone in their faith-family wanders away from the teachings of the Torah.

Matthew 18 has nothing to do with Christian Church Discipline, specifically when and how to start process to kick someone out of the institution that we have come to call a church. Again I will respectfully remind you that at time Jesus said this, there were no churches.

Jesus took what was already the practice, established at the very beginnings of the history of Israel, quoted from Deuteronomy, the Torah, that dealt with those who wandered away from Torah teaching. And Jesus carefully/purposefully/mercifully inserted it between two passages about restoration, redemption, and forgiveness.

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the Ekklesia.

IOW, to again invoke Jesus’ words, his or her family of faith who will then go looking for their wandering little lamb.

Now here’s the kick-them-out-of-the-church part:

But if he refuses even to hear the church (Ekklesia), let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Striking, isn’t it, that Jesus did NOT say to kick him out of the church! The clear implication, as determined by the context of the passage, is that this wondering little lamb has already left it!

What does this mean, Matthew 18:17 (CEV)?

Anyone who refuses to listen to the church must be treated like an unbeliever or a tax collector.

QUESTION: How did Jesus treat unbelievers and tax collectors? Are you ready for an “Ah-ha” moment of monumental significance? Jesus ATE with them. Jesus loved them. Jesus pursued them. Jesus sought to lovingly return them to fold.

For crying out loud, Matthew who wrote Matthew 18 was a tax collector! What if Jesus had kicked Matthew out of his ekklesia? No! Jesus pursued him! Jesus left the 99 sheep and went after the one who wandered away.

And Jesus told us do same!

How did Jesus treat a member of a family of faith who wandered away? Judge him? Kick him out of family? Hear Jesus’ own answer, Jesus’ own selfie of what this looks like: An all-to-familiar story, the story of the so-called Prodigal Son, someone who did indeed lose his faith and left his family:

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him (looking, praying, hoping, expecting his return!), was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Umm, excuse me. But that doesn’t sound like judging, krinoing, kicking him out of the family to me. This son had already left the family!!! That’s the point! It’s all about coming home!

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned (same word as Matthew 18) against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

I am no longer worthy to be in your family. How should an ekklesia act toward its wandering family members who abandon their faith to choose a lifestyle of sin? Krino them? Kick them out of the church? Shun them?

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

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Now, I need to ask, Is there ever a time to remove someone from a family of faith? Yes. Paul did. Once. Coincidentally, in my 40 years of ministry, I have been involved in what was clearly a remove someone from the church process only once. (And BTW, the church blinked, didn’t remove him, subsequently split, and is today a dying ministry, a church whose lampstand God has extinguished. But I digress…)

Again, this only happened in my 40 years of ministry once!

In all of his 13 letters, Paul called for what we typically call “Church Discipline” only once.

Remember the story? 1 Corinthians 5? A guy involved in ongoing, public, present-tense sins so extreme that Paul described them as something that even pagans don’t do. Yet, the church ethos was such that this scandalous individual felt comfortable in his scandalous behavior, even to the point where the church bragged about how progressive they had become!

Corinth as a faith-community had become an uber-sinful ekklesia. And isn’t it fascinating that Paul rebuked the church, not the individual. Once in 13 letters did Paul call for the removal of a sinning member. And even then Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians for the church to restore this repentant sinner to his ekklesia.

Back to the rule, not the exception to the rule. What we have come to call “Church Discipline” I would prefer to call an Ekklesian Celebration of Restoration.

Yes, indeed! Matthew 18 is in every sense of the words a Celebration of Restoration.

So how did we get to this place of judging others? “Holding others accountable”? Even to the point of considering it a noble practice to kick others out of their churches? Why has it become fashionable to krino others to their everlasting hurt and destruction? You’ll discover the answer in tomorrow’s post. And the answer will amaze you.

But in case you can’t wait, you can hear it all explained by clicking on this podcast player:

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Why, Oh Why, Have We Done This to You???

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a compelling, truthful, tell-it-like-it-is, brutally honest video worth?

As a guy who has been in church leadership for over 40 years, trust me when I say how sincerely sorry I am that so many have done so much damage to so many of you. We were wrong. Dead wrong. And for that I humbly apologize.

This video says it so much better than I ever could precisely why the Safe Haven was born.

PLEASE share this link with all of your friends. The message of this video needs to be heard far and wide!

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On the Outside Looking In

dogEver feel like you are on the outside, looking in? You don’t need to.

I am SO excited about this PODCAST. Excited because so much is about to become so clear as we look at this together.

If you took the entire Sermon on the Mount, and boiled it all down to one singular soundbite, the over-arching theme, its one takeaway…

It would be Matthew 5:20, “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

OK. But… What in the world did Jesus mean by that?

We are about to find out. 

And I promise you this. When we do find out, we will be so incredibly encouraged.

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

HAPPY LISTENING!!!

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