In this podcast, I’m going to share with you from the story of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha whom Jesus raised from the dead. There’s something remarkable in this story beyond the obvious. Check out these verses in the Gospel of John, chapter 11,
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
I checked a few versions to see if that little work “so” was consistently translated. It is. Jesus loved them, so He stayed away. Would we not think that love demanded the opposite response? But he had something greater in mind. I’m sure Lazarus didn’t enjoy being ill and dying from his sickness. Certainly his family would not have wanted to go through the grief. Both sisters even say to Jesus basically, “You could have prevented this.” John doesn’t give us the emotion behind these words, but the question comes through, “Where were you?” “Why didn’t you come in time?”
We have numerous accounts of people who have supposedly died and come back. What happened to them is between them and God. I will not presume, unless their accounts are in clear conflict with the Bible, to criticize their claims. I wonder if there is significance in the fact that we don’t have such accounts from the people who were resurrected throughout the Bible. We’re given prophetic visions from various sources, but nothing from these who presumably got a glimpse of Heaven, or Paradise, for themselves. Why? Because the focus remains on Jesus. The Bible isn’t about Heaven, it’s about Jesus. What makes Heaven great is that Jesus is there. All of that to say that even though we have nothing from Lazarus himself, I suspect that his perspective was radically different coming out of that grave than it was on the way in.
Jesus waited, so that the blessing in the end was far greater for those involved than it would have been if He came right away. He loved, so He stayed. He gets the glory, and everyone around Him benefits from it.
Sometimes it seems that God has forgotten us. The Psalms are full of such feelings. But we know that He said that he is always with us. We may wonder if He really loves us, but sometimes love does things we don’t expect. Sometimes, love waits. Listen and be encouraged!
I preached this after the 2014 midterm elections. If I had only known what was coming, I don’t know what I would have said. Still the message remains truth, and though I believe in a God of mercy, I also believe in a God of justice, and I wonder how long He will allow us to continue.
Thank God for the freedoms we enjoy in this nation. Our Constitution has provided for the best government man can devise, but therein lies the problem. Man devised it. I believe that God was with us, but as long as we run things, we will mess them up. We’ve done just that.
How then can I say that it starts with us? By “us” I mean the people of God. We often quote from 2 Chronicles 7:14. We should always use caution and look at the context when we single out bits of scripture. This one was written to the nation of Israel. It is a message from God to King Solomon after he has built and dedicated Yahweh’s temple in Jerusalem. I think we should read verse 13 whenever we read verse 14. God is speaking to a nation that will fall away and entered a period of judgment. The pattern has already been repeating itself since the time the people of Israel left Egypt. And so it goes with us.
This is a message to Israel, but the truth is transcendent. We too are His people who are called by His name. I believe that we are entering a time of judgment shortly if it has not already begun. In that day, He does not call upon those who do not know Him to humble themselves and pray. How can they? He calls upon His people, called by His name, to humble themselves and pray, turning from their wicked ways.
It is the church who must repent. It is the church who must speak the truth. It is the church who must remember the God who saved us, a God of love, yes, but also a God of justice. We sing of His love and mercy. We ask His help in time of trouble. Yet we do not obey Him, and we wonder why He doesn’t answer. We lament the problems of our country and of the world, but how can it be anything but dark if we are not lighting it up?
I preached this when we had a number of people who had just come to the Lord or rededicated their lives. I wanted to provide a primer on what to expect and what to do next. I remember the excitement of that day. If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for some time, this might only serve as a reminder, but I hope you’ll also share it with other new believers that you encounter.
In this podcast, I share with you from James 3:1-12. I don’t want to be overly dramatic. We’re so used to hearing exaggerated speech these days that I think most of us tune it out. And in a world full of violence, to equate mere words with flying bullets seems like just more over-the-top hyperbole trying and failing by its very nature to make the point. Yet if more of us took the same care with our words as we would with a loaded gun, much pain and suffering could be avoided. We all bear the wounds. Time can heal them, but they always leave scars. As you can never put the bullet back into the gun once it has been fired, you can never recall a word once spoken.
If you don’t have time for a listen, This blog post gives a little more background for the message. Though the delivery could use some polish, I consider it one of the most important things I have shared in my short time as a part time preacher.
A few years ago my pastor spoke from the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, prompting us to examine the soil of our own hearts to see whether it is ready to receive God’s word. I was inspired to build on his foundation when I gave the message the following week. Or to retain the farming metaphor, water what he planted. 🙂
What if you come to the conclusion that your ground is not good? You might be wondering if it is possible to change. Depending on the motivation and the subject matter, the world tends to give us one of two messages. Either we’re born that way and we cannot change, or all the changing is up to us. Neither message is the whole truth. Consider Jeremiah 4:3 in light of Jesus’ parable, and listen as we explore how God changes hearts.
In Revelation 2:1-7. Jesus is speaking to the church at Ephesus. He has several good things to say about it, but then one bad thing that cancels out all the rest. I bet if we went to that church, we would think it was a pretty good one. They believed in pure doctrine and wouldn’t tolerate false teachers. Its members worked hard and kept their faith in the face of persecution. If it were here today, it would probably have a good preacher who stayed true to the Bible and lots of ministry opportunities.
But Jesus didn’t seem to think so. For all the good things, He had one thing against them, and it was so serious that He would not allow them to remain a church unless they repented. They left their first love. He says, “remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.” (2:5) All of those things that Jesus Himself said were good about that church didn’t matter, because they forgot the reason for their existence, to be the bride of Christ.
It doesn’t matter how big our churches grow. It doesn’t matter how nice our buildings look. It doesn’t matter how many good things we do. It doesn’t matter if we are doing good things that no one else is doing. It only matters if He is our first love and everything we do is motivated by that love. He did say, “”If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Notice that the love comes first. When we do what we do out of love, we can build great churches! Listen as we take a closer look at the Ephesian church and what Jesus had to say to it.
The inspiration for this originally appeared in this blog post. It involves a tough piece of Old Testament law that’s kind of hard for those of us with disabilities to swallow.
Any man from Aaron the priest’s offspring in whom is a physical defect shall not come near to present offerings made by fire to Yahweh; a physical defect is in him; he shall not come near to present his God’s food. (Leviticus 21:21 Lexham English Bible)
How is one who has a disability to deal with this law? It’s hard not to take exception to it, and many have. Even a devout believer may feel hurt by it. I confess that I have. Even though I am aware that this was a regulation specifically for the priesthood, meant to emphasize the necessity of perfection we cannot obtain, it stings. Combine that with a lifetime of always having in the back of my mind that somehow if I could only have enough faith or find some missing piece I could be healed and you have a toxic concoction of perceived inadequacy and failure.
Snippets of scripture taken from their context are usually not properly applied. This one is no different. Taken outside of the regulations for the priesthood it seems harsh indeed. Yet there’s another little bit of text from the New Testament that really spoke to me recently and took out some of the sting of the Levitical stricture.
And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. (Matthew 21:14 NASB)
It’s almost an aside. Nothing much is made of it. Jesus just did that sort of thing everywhere He went. But in the context of the law and who He is, you can find the whole of the Gospel story right there. Our sins, our defects if you will, keep us from approaching a holy God. Anything less than perfection dies in the presence of His holiness. At that time only the high priest could come into the Holy of Holies once a year to offer the blood of the sacrifice. If he hadn’t done everything just so, if he was impure in any way, he would die. He had bells on his robe and a rope tied around his ankle so that if he died while in there he could be dragged out without anyone else having to go in.
Now look at this situation again. Yahweh in the person of Jesus has come out of the Holy of Holies and is with the common people in the temple. Those who could not be in the presence of Yahweh whether they were of Aaron’s line or not were coming to Him, and He was healing them. We could not go to Him, but He came to us and removed that which prevented us. Thus he would do for all of humankind not long after this episode as he died on that cross and rose again in the event we celebrate every year.
We are all defective, but our perfection comes through Him. Maybe you have felt unacceptable. I hope you’ll listen and let the Healer do His work on you.
In this podcast I talk about King David. I don’t know, but I think he’s probably the best known Bible character besides Jesus Himself. From childhood we hear about how he killed Goliath. He is called a man after God’s own heart. He becomes the king of Israel and God promises him that His kingdom will last forever. Yet his record is not without blemish. We also know the story of Bathsheba. He was a warrior, prophet, singer-songwriter, musician, shepherd, and king. I think anyone alive today trying to claim “most interesting man in the world” faces some stiff competition from King David. His bio reads like an adventure novel. But what makes David so important is not the life he lived. It is that God chose him to fulfill the promises He made to Israel. Our theme is drawn from 2 Samuel 7:8-16. King David pre-figures Jesus for us in some very special ways.
In this podcast, I talk about Saul. He doesn’t exactly fit the deliverer pattern I’ve been following for this series. One of the commentators I read called him a type of the antichrist instead of a type of christ. Saul was Israel’s first king. He was appointed for them by God at their request, even though their request was a rejection of His kingship over their nation. He tells us so in 1 Samuel 8:4-9. What was wrong with their request? Why would God grant it? What was the result? There are so many lessons we can learn here.
In this podcast, I continue a series of lessons I’ve been working on over the past couple of years that show us how the stories of many of our Old Testament heroes point to Jesus. I am going to talk about Samuel. I struggled a little with how to present his story in light of the overall theme. Though he did preside over a defeat of the Philistines after the nation repented in the pattern of the judges who came before, that is not how most would remember him. If you grew up in Sunday school, you probably learned how he came to the temple as a young boy and heard the call of the Lord, first thinking it was Eli the priest. As long as you stop before the actual message, where the children’s story typically does, it’s a cute story. It is found in 1 Samuel 3:1-10. I think it illustrates Samuel’s defining virtue. He learned to hear the voice of God and to speak what God told him.
Are we listening for the voice of God? Are we willing to obey? Are we willing to share the message He gives us, even if it isn’t pleasant?