Posts Tagged With: trial

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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On Trial!

Let me take you back to Tuesday of Jesus’ final week.

On that Tuesday, as you will hear in this PODCAST, Jesus made a most-remarkable promise to His disciples, and by extension, to us.

Allow me to remind you of what happened in Luke 21:

“Some of his disciples began talking about the majestic stonework of the Temple and the memorial decorations on the walls. But Jesus said, ‘The time is coming when all these things will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!’”

Now listen to His promise: 

“But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!”

At the time, the disciples had no idea what Jesus meant by all of that. Now, here, in Acts 4, just 8-ten or so weeks later, they suddenly knew exactly what Jesus meant by all of that.

For first time in the now-nearly two thousand year history of Church, an earsplitting thunderclap of persecution now sounded throughout the Holy City, Jerusalem. So true to Jesus’ prediction made in Luke 21, Peter and John were unceremoniously dragged into prison, and held in there there overnight.

The next morning they were hauled before the highest levels of their religious hierarchy to stand trial.

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 on Trial (Part 2)

blp398239His name is Pilate, as in Pontius Pilate — P-i-l-a-t-e, not p-i-l-o-t — even though Pilate did manage to fly himself right into middle of a maelstrom of religious and political corruption and compromise with devastating consequences.

In this PODCAST, as we now approach Jesus’ impending crucifixion, the greatest irony of this entire sad saga is that the whole thing is motivated by one thing: self-interest.

As we learned in last week’s podcast, on the Jewish side of things, the entire motivation behind the High Priest Caiaphas and the 70-member Sanhedrin in wanting to kill Jesus was the realization that He posed an existential threat to their power, position, prestige, and possessions, all of them paid for with their obscene wealth and ill-gotten gains — the chief thieves, these religious leaders were, in a den of thieves. Which is what, on their watch, the Temple, The House, God’s House, “My Father’s House” (as Jesus called it), had become.

As we will learn this week, on Roman side of things, the spineless Pilate will collapse like the house of cards that he was because he feared losing his title and power as the Roman Governor of the province of Judea. All of this while killing a man who was utterly, totally, completely and absolutely selfless. Somoen who had not one strand of the DNA of self-interest woven anywhere in the fabric of His sizable soul.

We’re talking their willingness to murder a gentle, peaceable, innocent man — not to mention their Messiah — if that’s what it took to maintain their coveted positions.

Make no mistake about this — Pilate KNEW that Jesus was absolutely innocent, and yet sentenced Him to die anyway, in the most unimaginably barbaric, brazenly humiliating, excruciatingly torturous death ever devised by man.

You talk about Jesus looking out over a vast multitude of precious people with overwhelming compassion in His heart, while lamenting that they were like sheep without a shepherd? Well, these were their shepherds.

Shepherds both religious (Caiphas) and political (Pilate). Unprincipled men who unconscionably used and abused their helpless little lambs for their own personal gain.

Just like they do today. Religiously and Politically. It is today as it was then.

Well, last week we met their religious shepherds.

The time has now come for us to meet their political shepherds. Most specifically, Pontius Pilate, the man who has lived long in infamy as the man who caved to political pressure and who, against own convictions, sentenced Jesus to death.

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 on Trial

img_1855To say that after “they” — to quote the Apostle John — “bound Jesus and brought Him first to Annas,” Jesus’ life would never be the same again would be a gross understatement and wholly inaccurate.

Fact is, as you are about to hear in this PODCAST, only some 15 hours after this cohort of some six hundred elite Roman soldiers led Him away in chains, Jesus’ life would be over.

The Roman leader principally responsible for Jesus’ execution? The Procurator Pontius Pilate, whom we will meet up close and personal next week.

The Jewish leader principally responsible for Jesus’ execution, whom we will meet this week? The High Priest Joseph Caiaphas.

You read that right. At this point in time, Caiaphas was — Listen! — the highest ranking religious leader throughout all the land, over all the people.

As High Priest, Caiaphas was the only person alive permitted behind the veil in Temple into the Holy of Holies, and that on only one day of the year — Day of Atonement. The Holy of Holies, where God’s manifest presence — His Shekinah Glory — literally, visibly flamed and flashed… But.Not.Anymore.

Trust me. God moved out of His house long before Caiaphas ever donned the robe and put on the vestments of his high-but-now-highly corrupt, once-holy-but-now-utterly-unholy office.

Caiaphas, an unspeakably unscrupulous man about whom we know much historically. And one whom — in an odd sort of way — I almost feel like I know personally. I say this for two reasons.

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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Breaking News

My beloved little Safe Haven family is really going through it right now. In a word, we are being broken.

To focus that just a bit, let me say that I am amazed at the significant struggles and overwhelming challenges that some of our precious people are experiencing — painful loses; seemingly senseless disappointments; literally excruciating physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges that defy explanation. Storm clouds are billowing. I cannot help but to imagine the reasons why.

In talking to each of these individuals on multiple occasions, they are understandably wrestling with it all, yet all the while demonstrating a firm-if-sometimes-faltering faith in God’s good plans that leaves me in awe.

I know, I know, I know that God never breaks His people without some amazing purposes behind His breaking. Some of our dear Safe Haven family members are being broken — No doubt about that! — but to what good purposes only time will tell. (Emphasis upon that hope-filled word, “will.”) The stories are just now unfolding. Stories that will be told. Stories of God’s abiding grace and peace. Stories of God’s sustaining strength and power. Stories of how God will profoundly touch the world through the profound pain of my friends. Stories that will illustrate the unbreakable law of nature: We can’t enjoy a shimmering rainbow without some falling rain.

rainbow

I also know that as God breaks my friends individually, He is also breaking Safe Haven collectively. He is breaking us as we share in these burdens together. A safe haven indeed — an unpretentious cadre of committed Christ-followers who desperately love Him and relentlessly love each other despite the unexpected trials and tribulations that life throws our way. It will be amazing, in the days and weeks ahead, to see not only what purposes lie behind God breaking certain individuals, but what purposes lie behind His breaking our family as a whole.

In the mean time, I have the unspeakable privilege of walking through these storms with some pretty special people whom I love with all my heart. It’s times like these that I am so incredibly thankful that God gave me the priceless privilege of being their pastor. But more than that, to be their friend.

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