Posts Tagged With: Upper Room

The Glorious Gift of Tongues

It is one of the great ironies of Christian life.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, the Holy Spirit came to this earth in Jesus’ absence in part to bring a supernatural unity to committed Christ-followers throughout the world.

For example, we read in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

That phrase “the unity of the Spirit” notwithstanding, Christians throughout the world have arguably divided more over the gifts of Holy Spirit than any other single issue. Divisions that, quite frankly, have turned spiritually toxic.

There are those who will tell you and me with some measure of intensity that if you do not speak in tongues, you are at the least not filled with the Spirit; and at the worst, not a Christian at all.

There are those who will tell you and me with some measure of intensity that if you do speak in tongues, you are believing a false Gospel and consequently going to Hell.

So as we enter this discussion, I will give to you my promise, and make to you my plea.

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 Important Person of Whom You Have (Perhaps) Never Heard

His name was Matthias.

I wouldn’t blame you a bit if you had no recollection of this selfless servant of Christ.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, Matthias is mentioned only twice in the NT, both times here in Acts 1 (verses 23 and 26).

At first blush, Matthias may appear to be just a footnote in the ever-developing drama of redemption. But I can assure you that he is anything but.

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.

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 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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A Steady Hand on the Wheel (of YOUR Life)

jesus-sailorIt was an epic one-two punch to the gut. Jesus’ gut, not to put too fine a point on it.

A brutal betrayal coupled with a devastating denial by two of Jesus’ handpicked and beloved disciples.

In this PODCAST, I am referring of course to Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s three-time denial.

If there is a silver lining to these increasingly billowing clouds, it is this: There is a clear pattern emerging here in John 13. A pattern that tells quite a tale, striking subtext to the entire crucifixion story.

A pattern that should illuminate for you a bright, blazing beacon of hope to light your way during your darkest hours and most difficult days.

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’ Leadership Manifesto

45615Welcome to the Upper Room, and Jesus’ farewell address to His beloved disciples.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, as we break the seal on this, Jesus’ final night before the crucifixion, I do so with something of a lump in my throat and the pinkish hue of embarrassment upon my otherwise rosy cheeks.

This because this particular portion of the grand story of Jesus’ life and ministry hits me most personally. And if, as they say, “Confession is good for the soul,” then I make my confession to you, my beloved little Safe Haven family, tonight.

There is embedded within this most amazing scene, Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, a timeless lesson that, if only I could turn back the hands of the clock and the passage of time, I would have taken to heart way back when I was just starting out in my ministry.

This pointed and practical warning is as timely today as it was that night in that Upper Room when Jesus gave it to His disciples.

A timeless truth that has come to define my life and, more to the point, my ministry today. A living lesson of which you are the beneficiaries.

As we detailed last week, this so-called “Last Supper” was a modified Passover seder. I say modified because as we learned last week, the word seder means “order.” As in a carefully choreographed, specifically scripted order to the meal.

Yet, at certain significant points along the way, Jesus purposefully departed from that thousands-year-old order and added to that script.

Just as Jesus did here, in John 13, at the very beginning of their meal together.

It was certainly customary — very much a part of the script — for the host (Jesus) to wash His hands ceremonially as meal began. But why did He then wash His disciples’ feet?

Especially given that every other departure that Jesus made from the seder script expanded or enhanced the significance of their celebration of Passover, especially in light of His coming death as ultimate Passover Lamb.

Every departure, except for this one: Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.

A beautiful gesture, to be sure. The quintessential picture of loving humility and servanthood. So much so that foot washing in some Christian traditions even today, has been elevated to a sacrament or ordinance equal to that of Communion and Baptism.

You talk about, Paint the picture, Rabbi? How about Jesus kneeling as a slave to wash His disciples’ feet (including Judas’ feet) as a three-dimensional, high definition picture of this? (The this to be explained in the remainder of this Podcast.)

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 Passover Plot

leonardo_da_vinci_-_last_supper_copy_-_wga12732Welcome to the Thursday of Jesus’ final week. As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, with these words, we are less than twenty-four hours from the crucifixion. Words wherein Jesus could just as well have said to Peter and John,

“Go and prepare my final Passover meal together, so that we can eat it together.”

Jesus will on this Thursday evening celebrate with His disciples THE singular observance on the Jewish calendar, from time of Moses (Exodus 12) even to today. Indeed, as Rabbi Joseph Telushkin so succinctly stated in his classic work, Jewish Literacy,

“Passover is the most widely observed Jewish holiday.”

But here’s the thing: Overshadowing this entire discussion tonight is this raw reality around which I cannot begin to wrap my mind: The centerpiece of Passover, of Jesus’ final Passover — the Passover lamb — has throughout redemptive history pictured one and only one person: Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That person, Jesus, whose sacrifice in less than twenty-four hours would pay the penalty for the sin of world.

What emotions must have flooded Jesus’ mind, heart, and spirit… 

  • As He led this His final Passover seder?
  • As He Himself partook of the Passover lamb that symbolized everything that would happen to Him that very night into the very next day?
  • The lamb that symbolized Jesus as the lamb of God?
  • The blood that would symbolize His shed blood?
  • The entire Passover story retold and in a sense
  • reenacted in that Upper Room that celebrated the Israelites freedom from slavery to the Egyptians?
  • That now symbolized our freedom from our slavery to sin, and from the punishment we all deserve?
    That punishment paid for by Jesus who is what Paul called “our Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7)?

All of this, and so much more, flooded like a tsunami of emotions Jesus sizable heart on this, the day Jesus told Peter and John,

“Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together.”

Preparing for this Passover meal, and every annual Passover meal, was and is #NoSmallThing. Given the enormity of the symbolism of every single aspect of a Passover celebration, preparation required effort and deliberation.

For our many Jewish friends, Jesus’ words to Peter and John, “Go and prepare the Passover meal,” involved much that we might easily miss. Consequently, in order to understand what took place in that Upper Room on this Thursday evening, we’ve got to hear Jesus’ words, “Go and prepare,” as Peter and John heard them.

So let me start with this…

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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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“The Bible Made Me Do It!” (Spiritual Abuse, Part 4)

The deafeningly loud question that now demands an answer is,

Why our propensity to do what Jesus expressly told us not to do? Namely, “Do not judge others”?

The cause, believe it or not, lies in our faulty 4-point theology:

1. We tell people, Just pray a “Jesus Prayer,” or what is sometimes called “the Sinner’s Prayer,”and you’re in.

When we ask someone to tell us their testimony, what are we asking? When/where did you pray the “sinner’s prayer”? We have come to believe that becoming a Christian is all about “asking Jesus into your heart.” IOW, praying a Jesus prayer.

2. We then give them a birthday (You know how Jesus described our new relationship with Him as “being born again”?) a new-birth birthday present: a Bible. Which I’ll remind is called (in Hebrews 4) “a double-edged sword.”

Now that’s quite a metaphor, as you’ll see in mere moments. A double-edged sword.

3. We then teach them that they are competent to use it.

We buttress this claim of competency with verses like John 16:13, which is so typically yanked out of its context and twisted to mean something totally different than the biblical writer intended for it to mean:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

There it is, we tell our newly-born convert. Just pick up your Bible and read it. And as you read it, the Holy Spirit will personally teach you what the Bible says, what the Bible means, how the Bible should be applied not only to our lives, but to the lives of everyone around us.

I mean, this gets downright frightening! Because we put this doubled-edged sword into the hands of babes whose only claim to fame is that they prayed a prayer.

What, do tell, is the context of John 16:13? The basis of the claim of competency of brand new baby Christians to wield their swords? Listen to what Jesus actually said IN CONTEXT:

There is so much more I want to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you (Who’s the you? Who was in the Upper Room with Jesus when He said this?) into all the truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you what is yet to come.

Not to get too theological on you here. But John 16:13 is NOT what we call an Illumination verse. John 16:13 is a Revelation verse. This passage that has nothing to do with the faulty notion that you and I just pick up our Bibles and read them. And the Holy Spirit will personally teach us what the Bible says, what it means, and how it should be applied not only to our lives, but to the lives of everyone around us.

If it did, why do we need teachers? Why listen to sermons? Why read commentaries? Why study the languages–vocabulary/grammar? Why understand the culture? Why learn the geography? Why learn the history? Why learn archaeology?

John 16:13 has nothing to do with us. Jesus made this promise to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion. This verse has everything to do with the apostles writing the New Testament!

OK, so, pray a prayer and you’re in. Here’s your double-edged sword. You are competent to use it.

4. We then teach them — if you can imagine this — we teach them that the highest virtue of Christian living is to take their Bibles — their double-edged swords, lethal weapons, placed in the hands of these, what Peter called in 1 Peter 2:2, “newborn babies” — and to wield these swords at each other.

How? By “Holding.People.Accountable.” Like some self-appointed judge or Krino.)

 

Krinos who just LOVE to spot something not quite kosher in your life or mine, wag a finger of judgment at us, spew a memory verse or two, and then smugly walk away thinking that sure did serve Jesus today by taking a stand for His truth.

***And We Wonder Why So Many Sincere Christ-Followers Get Devastated By “Christians” In Church???***

We say that Christians are notorious for shooting their wounded, Yes? I’d suggest that — to use the biblical metaphor — “Christians,” not Christ-followers (You know by now how often I make that subtle-yet-significant distinction) — “Christians” are notorious for stabbing, slashing, and decapitating their wounded.

jesusdo“Christians” do that. Christ-followers don’t. Why? Because by definition, Christ-followers follow Jesus. They seek to put into practice what Jesus said. They seek to do what Jesus did. And what Jesus said, and what Jesus did was this:

Do not judge others.

“Christians” judge others. They make a sport of judging others. Christ-followers do not.

So one final question to consider: How should you and I respond to those “Christians” who do judge others? We’ll answer that question tomorrow. And the answer to that question will astound you.

But just in case you cannot wait that long, you can hear the entire discussion by clicking here:

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On the Worst Night of Their Lives…

The other night at the Safe Haven, during our series — Jesus in High Definition — we had a heart-to-heart. A heart-to-heart discussion about misinformed expectations. 

The premise of the talk was this: Too many of us mistakenly expect that we are entitled to a trouble-free life. We have been taught — Haven’t we? — that when the storms of life threaten to capsize our faith, Jesus will still all of our storms. When we cry out to Him in desperation, Jesus will answer all of our prayers. When we cast all of our cares upon Him, Jesus will fix all of our problems.

Oh, I know that we would not necessarily voice that expectation aloud. But when our lives crash, when something horrible happens, when the storms of life continue to blow our lives apart, how many of us have our faith shaken to the core, or perhaps even collapse completely, as if God let us down?

AskBelieveReceive

When we pray earnestly for something — when we ask, believe, and DON’T receive — when our prayers remains unanswered, how many of us become angry at God, resentful that He seemingly turned a deaf ear to our prayers? Or if He heard us, just didn’t care enough to answer?

So as a part of our discussion, I shared with my precious Safe Haven family my extended paraphrase of John 16, a majestic chapter in which Jesus huddled with His men in the Upper Room in order to prepare them for the single worst 24 hours of their lives.

What He said to them is equally applicable to us. 

If you would like to hear the entire podcast, you can do so by clicking HERE.

This of this paraphrase as a part of The New Testament in High Definition

Please let me know what you think.

We need to have a talk.

Because I fear that with what’s about to happen, your faith may falter and you might fall away.

Some really, really bad things are about to happen. And I don’t want you to be caught off-guard.

After tonight, you men and your families will be hunted and harassed by misguided individuals who will actually believe that they are serving God by harming you. They will hunt you and harm you with a religious fervor, just like they are about to hunt and harm me.

I am telling you all of this now so that when these bad things happen to you (and they will!), you will remember that I warned you that your lives would be like this.

The time of my return to my Father has come.

I know that my death will fill you with grief unimaginable and inexpressible. For that, I am so sorry. You’re going to have to trust me when I say that what is about to happen is for the best. I cannot explain to you tonight the reasons why; I can only assure you that it is for the best.

But know this: I will not leave you alone to face your pain alone. As soon as I return home to Heaven I will send to you the Holy Spirit who will be with you every hour of every day. He will never leave you.

He will be to you a constant companion, your counselor, helper, and advocate. He will pray for you, give you strength to endure the challenge, and walk right beside you every step of your journey. 

Please don’t ever forget that you are never alone, even, and especially, when you feel all alone.

I have so much more to tell you, but you’re just not yet ready to hear it all. At least not yet.

But what you do need to know tonight is this: My time is growing short. In a little while, I will be put to death. You will feel like your world has come to an end. You are about to feel completely abandoned and all alone, as if I have left you forever.

My enemies will celebrate my death as though it is their victory and your defeat. But hear this: My death is their defeat and your victory. Your victory because you will see me again. My death will not last forever. And neither will yours.

Night may be closing in on you, but the brightest mornings always follow the darkest nights.

Your sorrow will turn into joy. Your nightmare will turn in to your dream come true.  

But not yet.

You first will have to endure the darkness of this difficult night, this very stormy season.

You are like a beloved mother-to-be who suffers the temporary pains of a difficult labor. But when her child is born, her anguish gives way to pure joy. So great is her joy that it completely obliterates even the memory of her momentary pain.

And so I promise you that just like that mom, your present pain will give way to unspeakable joy, a joy that no one can or will ever take away from you.

When that day comes, all your questions will be answered. All your confusion will be resolved. All your doubts will be erased, when that day comes. 

But for now know this. God the Father loves you. He loves you with a love that will last forever. A love that you embraced when you embraced me.

From now on, you will pray in my name. That is, you will pray remembering who I Am, and remembering what I taught. 

When you pray in my name — remembering who I Am, and remembering what I taught — God will hear everything you say, even when it doesn’t feel like He does. Even when it is hard to believe that He does. Your prayers in my name will never fall of deaf ears.

OK, so the bottom line is this: In this troubled world of ours, you are going to suffer. You are going to suffer greatly. That is a universal fact of life. And ironically, being my followers may result in you suffering even more. 

This world can be a cruel place. Believe me, I know. But you can be sure of this: I have overcome this world. And so shall you.

So while I will not solve all of your problems or take all of your pain away, I offer you tonight something so much better. I offer to be with you in your problems, to be with you in your pain. I will carry them with you. We will carry your problems and pain together.

In short, I offer to you my peace. My peace. That most beautiful of all human experiences. True, genuine, lasting peace. This is why I now ask you to pray in my name, so that you will never forget who I Am and what I taught. And by remembering who I Am and what I taught, your soul will be flooded with my peace.

My peace will sustain you. My peace that will comfort you. My peace that will assure you that everything that seems out of control is well within my control. My peace that will carry you all the way to a glorious and victorious end.

The same promises Jesus made to them, He makes to us. Both His promises of pain, and of His peace.

 

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