Do You Love Me? [Podcast]

John 21; Revelation 2

The spiritual life tugs against the constant tide of complacency and self-reliance. “Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter?

Coming back to our first love remains our constant challenge, for there alone is life truly found.

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My Interview on He’s Alive Christian Satellite Network

Listen in as Melissa Flores of He’s Alive Radio talks with me about traveling in the Holy Land, understanding the Feast of Tabernacles, and how the Hebrew word for “tent” makes us laugh.

We also discuss my book, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.

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I’m a Recovering Hypocrite

A monastery atop the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem remains in critical need of repair. In fact, part of the roof sits in such shambles that a recent engineering report by an Israeli institute deemed it in danger of collapse. So why not repair it?

Because Christian sects in the church can’t get along—both claim ownership to the site.

These disputes are routine. In July, a fistfight broke out between the priests after an Egyptian monk moved his chair into the shade that belonged to the Ethiopians. In another recent incident, the groups came to blows after an Armenian “ejected” a Greek priest from worshiping too long near the tomb of Jesus.

Father Jerome Murphy O’Connor, a professor at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, has lived in Jerusalem over forty years and bemoaned the constant disharmony in the church:

One hopes for peace, but the ear is assailed by a cacophony of warring chants. One desires holiness, only to encounter a jealous possessiveness: the six groups of occupants—Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians—watch one another suspiciously for any infringement of rights (The Holy Land, p. 45).

In a recent interview, Father O’Connor commented on the quarrelling: “The whole spectacle is unedifying and totally un-Christian in nature.” He added, “I’m not hopeful—either for peace in the Middle East or for peace in the Holy Sepulchre.”

How ironic that the central shrine of Christendom demonstrates the need for the place it hallows. In other words, the site where Christ died still proves the need for Christ’s death—we need a Savior and our sin proves it.

It’s easy to wag our fingers at the holy war in the Holy Sepulchre. But we need to make sure we don’t display the same duplicity. Do our children hear us talk about Jesus’ love, but then see us obstinately stay in disharmony with other Christians? Do we with our tongues, as James pointed out, praise God but then also curse people in God’s image? “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:10).

Earlier this year when our tour group shuffled its way through the gaggle of pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, my daughter raised her camera to photograph the tomb of Jesus. “NO PICTURES!” a monk exploded. With reactions like this, I understand why the tension exists there. After this monk blasted my daughter, I wanted to walk over and pull his arms off.

And by that confession, I admit I contribute to the problem. We don’t have to travel to Jerusalem to see the gospel obscured behind walls of religious hypocrisy, do we? If we’re not careful, a watching world will see our hypocrisy and miss our Savior. Our lives should display an open door of authenticity for others to come to God, not a barrier they must evade.

I’m a recovering hypocrite. Maybe you are too. Perhaps we can start a support group for those in the Holy Sepulcher. We could meet on the roof.

UPDATES:
2 Clergymen Arrested after Brawl Between Monks

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What Do You Want from God? [Podcast]

If we’re honest, we want God to make our lives easier. Period.

But God loves us too much to leave us where we are; He wants holiness for us. Jesus showed that the road to glory leads through the cross–both for Him and for us.

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Hope . . . for What?

Every four years presidential hopefuls offer “hope” for the future that boils down to plain optimism. The elections reveal how our culture makes decisions: Go for image and emotion rather than substance and truth.

One candidate referred to “hope” as “God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; a belief in things not seen; a belief that there are better days ahead.” But on what basis is this hope built? Hope needs a basis of reality beyond wishful thinking. True hope finds its bedrock not what we want God to give us—but in what He has promised to give.

Like those in Jesus’ day, we long for heaven on earth here and now. We crave eternity’s blessings today, although has God expressly reserved them for tomorrow. Giving up on the hope of glory, we settle for trips to Disney World.

What has God promised? For starters, only God can “wipe away every . . . and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:4). Talk about hope! We struggle even to imagine such a state—a glory where we no longer toil and where our weary hope for paradise becomes a memory rather than today’s mere optimism.

Even though God requires that we put our hope in the next life, that doesn’t mean we stick our heads in the sand in this one. We have a responsibility to pray for our government and to impact our society for Christ. So we must vote. But our hopes are not in how the ballots tally. Life is all about God, remember, and not about us what He gives us.

So, our hope cannot rest in “better days ahead” promised by those who lack the power to give it. Let the brutal barrage of the political campaigns remind you of the futility of hope in this life—and the necessity of hope in heaven.

I like what George Palmer quipped shortly before he died: “I’m homesick for Heaven. It’s the hope of dying that has kept me alive this long.”

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Journey to Israel Video

Studying Bible lands has permanently marked my life and changed the way I understand the Scriptures. My experience is not unique.

I have videotaped a number of interviews with those who have both studied geography and also been to Israel. I hope this video encourages you personally to experience the Lands of the Bible for yourself . . . or at least to begin praying about the possibility. It’s worth it.

(If your RSS reader or email doesn’t show the video, click here)

No Shame On You [Podcast]

How God Deals with the Shameless and the Ashamed

No shame! The words describe two people: the shameless and the ashamed—those who flagrantly disobey God and those who feel the weight of His conviction. To each God has a different response. If you will turn to Him in spite of your shameful past, God has a promise:

In that day you will feel no shame because of all your deeds . . . I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. —Zeph. 3:11, 19

Let there be no shame on you—not because you are shameless—but because God has removed the sin.

Message from Zephaniah 3.