Posts Tagged With: Scripture

Your God-Given Prayer Language

As you will hear in this PODCAST, I stand in awe of our ancestors in the faith, the very first community of Christ-followers ever to walk this planet.

By way of introduction, do you remember when, so very long ago, we studied the Sermon on the Mount?

Let me remind you that Jesus introduced His signature sermon with 8 pronouncements of God’s blessing—We call them the Beatitudes. The most enigmatic of the 8 being Beatitude #3 that goes like this:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

You are about to see in full color, in High Definition, exactly what meek looks like, courtesy of our earliest brothers and sisters in the faith.

Before we get to that, there is one additional Beatitude to which I want to direct your attention. It happens to be Beatitude #8, the last of Jesus’ pronouncements of God’s blessing. It reads:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10).

Did you know that the words persecute/persecution/persecuted occur in the Bible a combined 142 times? In the minds of the biblical writers, it was a foregone conclusion that they and all of God’s people would be persecuted for our faith.

Jesus certainly understood this, He being the ultimate example of someone who was continuously hounded, hunted, and finally executed—persecuted—for His faith.

Persecution, Jesus repeatedly reminded His disciples, was the price tag for becoming one of His followers.

Perscute—to pursue in a hostile manner, to harass, to trouble, to molest, to mistreat.

Well, Jesus’ many warnings were now coming true for these very first committed Christ-followers. Indeed, what we are about to learn here in Acts 4 was only the beginning.

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

God bless you richly as you listen.

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A 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.

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God bless you richly as you listen.

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A Life-Changing Approach to THE Life-Giving Book

bible-SunlightThe Bible is THE one and only Life-Giving Book. But how to approach it?

In this PODCAST, you will be given the answer to that question! Courtesy of Jesus, we will learn how to read it! With all of its 66 books, printed in minuscule font, with no pictures, strange names, weird customs, unfamiliar geography, violent history, where do we even start? What’s the first step?

More to the point, what is our connection to this great book?

My friends, the answer to that question is startlingly simple. Hear my approach to the Bible, one that has literally revolutionized by understanding of and love for God’s Word.

It may just revolutionize yours as well.

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.

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A Written Record That You Can Trust! (A Throwback Thursday Podcast)

5236450-holy-bible-open-to-the-gospel-according-to-saint-luke-against-a-white-background-Stock-PhotoWelcome to the 2nd installment of Jesus in High Definition.

In this PODCAST, we go back in the archives, almost to the very beginning of this study. Here you will learn some amazing facts about the Bible, how we got it, and why we can trust it.

While on its surface, Luke 1:1-4 may not seem like a remarkable introduction to this “greatest story ever told,” I can assure you that Luke’s little lead-in contains several nuggets of pure gold. You are in for some surprises as we formally kick-off our chronological study of the life of Jesus.

I am DELIGHTED that you are making this journey of discovery with the rest of us. I can tell you that now that we are well-over two years into it, the picture of Jesus that emerges each week is nothing short of REVOLUTIONARY.

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A Marvelous Way to Live!

Unhappy ChristmasFor many of us, this enigmatic passage, that we explain in this PODCAST, is coming at Just.The.Right.Time, given that Christmas is right around the corner.

I have talked to too many people already this month who have admitted to me that in one way or the other, despite what the carol says, Christmas is not “the most wonderful time of the year.” 

This because, among other things, they are dreading having to get together with certain family members or “friends” who are, to put this as delicately as possible, difficult to deal with. Difficult to be with. Difficult to spend time with. 

EGR-types of people. EGR? Ever hear of those?

Extra-Grace-Required-types of people.

Do you know anyone like that?

So this passage is indeed coming at just the right time.

At the same time, ironically, it’s an impossible passage. Impossible in that no one, NO ONE, can possibly take the words of this passage, as they appear here at face value, and apply them to our lives.

No one can. Because if we did, then it would mean that… say, for example… if someone likes your car better than theirs, according to this passage they only need to ask you for your car, and you would have to toss them the keys.

Or if they like your house better than their house or apartment, and ask you for your house, you would have to hand over the deed to them.

Or if someone jumps you in a parking lot and starts to pummel you, according to this passage you could not defend yourself. You just have to lay there and let them beat you to a bloody pulp.

Is that really what Jesus meant to suggest here in Matthew 5:38-42?

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

OK, let me be honest with you. Taken at face value, there are some serious issues with this passage. A problematic passage to say the least.

First, because if we truly live this out…

Don’t resist an evil person… Give to him who asks you…

…If we (as the clichés go) turn the other cheek, go the extra mile…

If we do indeed let people knock us around, or give anyone anything of ours that they want, even more than they want, anytime they want it, then what we’re saying is that we are biblically obligated to passively submit to anyone’s abuses, everyone’s abuses, any where, at any time.

Can you even begin to imagine what the implications of that would be? Just try to imagine what would happen if word got out about those Christians over there, that you can take from them anything you want, anytime you want it. Money. Possessions. Property. It’s yours for the asking.

Is that really what Jesus was preaching here in Matthew 5:38-42?

Second, if that was indeed what Jesus was preaching here.. 

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. 

…Then we have a clearcut contradiction of Scripture. Because James (Jesus’ brother) just as clearly wrote, 

Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

And Peter added his voice to James when he wrote…

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him (1 Peter 5:8-9).

And finally, just to add one more tantalizing layer of complication to this already complicated passage, not only is there an apparent contradiction between what Jesus preached and what James and Peter wrote, but we also have an apparent contradiction between Jesus’ own words and Jesus’ own actions

Let me phrase this as a question: Did Jesus practice what He preached…

But I tell you not to resist an evil person.

…when Jesus did this to some evil people?

Jesus took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins. Jesus said to the people who had been selling doves, “Get those doves out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace” (John 2:15-16).

Hmmm. Sounds a little like resistance to me…

OK, so what’s going on here?

One are just one CLICK away from finding out. Just in time for Christmas!

A truly marvelous way to live.

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HAPPY LISTENING, from my heart to yours.

And if it is indeed a blessing, PLEASE “Like” this blog, and PLEASE “Share” the link to this podcast with your family and friends.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage — What Did Jesus Really Say?

divorceThe topic of this PODCAST is one of those subjects that touches us all, deeply and profoundly. The ripples of any divorce, every divorce spread their concentric circles far and wide.

Which compels us to take a sober look at exactly what Jesus DID SAY HERE in Matthew 5:31-32, as well as — and perhaps especially — what Jesus DID NOT SAY HERE.

Because once again, this is one of those passages which, when lifted out of its context — both Scriptural and Cultural — is so often and so tragically made to say something other than what Jesus intended for it to say. Heaping truck loads of unnecessary grief and guilt upon poor precious people who are just trying by God’s grace to rebuild their broken lives.

Trust me! Over the years, having dealt up close and personal with many, many people, I have heard some of the most atrocious applications of this passage. This to the point where emotionally and spiritually fragile individuals, whose lives have just been rocked by their own tragic divorces, now have whatever fragments they have left of their broken lives crushed by well-meaning, but grossly misinformed, Christians errantly and judgmentally spouting this passage. And then in fine Pharisee-esque style, they walk away from them, leaving untold wreckage in their wakes.

Not here. Not in this PODCAST. No way!

Jesus doesn’t do that.

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God bless you as you listen.

And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE share this podcast with your friends.

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Our Firm Foundation

foundationThe scene could not have been more chaotic. Crowds clamoring for Jesus’ blood. The blood-thirsty mobs hurling their false accusations at Jesus as they tried to convince the Romans that this man needed to die. The Roman soldiers salivating at the prospect of torturing yet another helpless victim.

And through it all, once the mayhem ended, once the maelstrom calmed down, the echoes of one question continued to reverberate against the city’s walls and over her cobblestone streets. You can read this singularly significant question in John’s account of Jesus’ execution.

Pilate, the Roman governor who held Jesus’ fate in his blood-stained hands, looked Jesus right in the eye and inquired of Him a three-word question that, in a haunting sort of way, continues to resound in our day.

Jesus had just said to Pilate, “What I say is true.” Pilate then sneered and cynically asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

In this PODCAST, we will discover the answer together.

And that answer IS the FIRM foundation of our faith!

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May God richly bless you as you listen.

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When the “T” in LGBT Hits Our Own Homes

“How do I as a parent begin to explain to my teenagers that their older cousin whom they’ve looked up to all their lives has decided that he may have been born a boy, but he feels more like a girl? That he is now taking female hormones, beginning to dress as a female, and is looking at legally changing his name from that of a guy to a girl? That he is now living with his lesbian girlfriend? I am at such a loss here. I didn’t see this coming AT ALL. So many questions… How do I still love my nephew, but not approve of his choices? Do we have holiday dinners as usual? Do I choose as a parent that he isn’t a good influence on my kids and therefore can no longer have them around each other? I am so lost here.”

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It’s not just campers at Christian camps who ask questions; adults ask them too, daily. Questions that come to me via email, snail mail, and social media of all sorts. Questions that they would ask God if given the opportunity and with the assurance that He would give them an honest answer.

As I’ve made clear, repeatedly and emphatically, I am not God. I hesitate to speak for God. To the best of my ability, I can only attempt to offer an answer from the Word of God. And I do so with fear and trembling in my passionate pursuit of respecting the Truth and getting the answer right.

Now, having offered all of those disclaimers, I’ll give it a shot, answering these questions exactly as I would as if we were at camp together.

Believe it or not, you have just been handed a golden opportunity to share a teachable moment with your children. As teenagers, they are old enough to be told the unvarnished truth about their cousin, and about your personal struggles with his lifestyle choices. Your struggles mentally and emotionally are what they are, and are perfectly legitimate. It’s OK for them to see you struggle.

As you let them into your soul, they will see as never before in real time, right before their eyes, how you as a committed Christ-follower, as a parent, as an uncle or aunt, are attempting to respond biblically to this new information about your nephew.

Without in any way minimizing your shock, pain, and confusion, let me ask you to consider a couple of questions as you try to process all of this new information. (Trust me, I am processing this right along with you. So if my thoughts seem to be developing as I write this, they are!) 

  • Would you be asking the same questions — about holidays, contact with their cousins, etc. — if your nephew was heterosexual and living with his girlfriend? Or living at home but sleeping with his girlfriend? Or was into Internet porn?
  • What if instead of something sexual, you discovered that he has cheated on tests at school? Or gossips? Or abuses alcohol? Or uses illegal drugs? Or has been caught telling lies? Or is disrespectful to his parents? Or acts or talks proudly or arrogantly? Or has anger-management issues? Or uses profanity? Or was married and subsequently divorced? 

What I am getting at is this: Is the fact that his behavior falls in the category homosexuality or lesbianism the thing that drives your discomfort, and generates these questions? 

I find it intriguing that God explicitly states,

There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family (Proverbs 6:16-19).

I cite this passage to suggest that if we are consistent, then we would be asking all of your same questions about any family member (or friend) involved in any of the issues that God explicitly states that He hates — including the telling of lies, or having proud-looking eyes!

Point is, we all do things that God hates. This being the case, how should we be treated with regard to holiday meals or contact with teenage family members?

“Consistency, thou art a rare jewel.” Thus my question, asked in all sincerity, is this: How do we respond with consistency when we are talking about LGBT issues?

I will not presume to tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I would do. 

I, too, have a nephew whom I love and respect. If he were to confide to me some lifestyle choices with which I personally disagree, it would make absolutely no difference in how I treated him, or how I would respond to him. 

Because you know what? It’s not up to me to agree or disagree with his or anyone else’s lifestyle. Who am I to sit in judgment of another’s lifestyle choices? (And in the interests of full disclosure, truth be told, I, too, have made some choices with which I disagree! No one, including me — especially me — can claim a monopoly on perfection.)

Did not Jesus say to us, “Do not judge others”? Yes, He did — Matthew 7:1. Did not Jesus say to us, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (the her being a woman caught in the act of adultery)? Yes, He did — John 8:7.

There is one (and only one) exception to my it-would-make-absolutely-no-difference statement: If anyone in my life, be it family or friend, was a clear and present danger to my family, that would be a game-changer. By clear and present danger I mean this: It’s one thing for someone to use illegal drugs; it’s quite another to entice my children into using drugs. It’s one thing to be sexually active outside of marriage; it’s quite another thing to display predatory sexual behavior toward my children. It’s one thing to have anger-management issues; it’s quite another thing to threaten bodily harm to my children.

See the difference?

Back on point, my nephew is not accountable to me for his choices. How he chooses to live his life is between him and God. My love for him is unconditional. I cannot think of anything that would change that. His lifestyle is, quite frankly, none of my business. 

So were I to receive the exact same bombshell revelation that you just received, I would be surprised, shocked, taken aback. But at the end of the day, in terms of my relationship with and love for my nephew, it would change nothing.

That’s where I currently sit on this issue (emphasis upon the word “currently”). But as I continue to process this, I would LOVE to hear from you. Tell me what you think (respectfully, please). We can certainly agree or disagree and remain friends. These are not easy questions. There are no easy answers. I am open to hearing your take on this subject.

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