As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. 24 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— 25 you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,

‘Why were the nations so angry?
Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
26 The kings of the earth prepared for battle;
the rulers gathered together
against the Lord
and against his Messiah.’

27 “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. 28 But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. 29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. 30 Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” – Acts 3:23-30

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Imposing Dark Clouds | Galveston, TX | July 2019

Sometimes you just need to share the burdens of life and faithful witness. I can recall a time when that was the case. It was early on in my ministry and I had experienced an extremely unkind and hurtful treatment. I went to a wise older pastor and told my story. His comment, “Well, next time tell them, ‘You can let Jesus back on the throne now.'” I wish I had had that in my quiver prior to that experience!

Sometimes we need to let people know just how far off base they are; how improperly they have assumed the judgment seat of God. It is never fitting for someone to render judgment against another repentant brother or sister in Christ. It’s not proper for us to assume the place of God’s rule and reign. That is reserved for the King of kings. We don’t even get to take a place on Jesus’ right or left hand. Those places are reserved for the ones designated by the Father (cf, Matthew 21:23).

We must, however, be careful how we treat those who accuse us. While it may feel good in the moment to tell someone to let God back on his throne, it is a better witness to endure unjust suffering as a witness to Christ. This is something Peter not only preached (cf. 1 Peter 2:19) he also experienced such unjust suffering. Perhaps that moment when I failed to have a sharp retort to those who treated me so unkindly, I shared in Christ’s suffering (cf. 1 Peter 4:13).

There are those who deny Jesus his proper place in their hearts. Let that not be said of us! We confess with joy and delight, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” and entrust ourselves to his providential care and ultimate justice.

As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. 24 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— 25 you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,

‘Why were the nations so angry?
Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
26 The kings of the earth prepared for battle;
the rulers gathered together
against the Lord
and against his Messiah.’

27 “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. 28 But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. 29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. 30 Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” – Acts 3:23-30

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Yellow Canna | St. Maarten | May 2019

It was a cool autumn day when my dad called me on the phone. “David,” he said, “come get a cash box and go out to the motel. We’re going to have to take it back. I need you to run it because no one is there.” We had sold the motel my mom and dad had built and taken back a large second mortgage to do so. The new “owner” wasn’t paying us or the bank. We were going to be back in the motel business.

Somehow I got into the motel office – cash box in hand. When the current owner’s wife showed up she wanted to know what I was doing there. “Who sent you? Get out!” I called my dad. My dad called the attorney. The attorney called me. “You need to leave,” he said. I did as I was told. I wasn’t in charge. For the moment she was in charge. That would soon change, for the law would hold sway.

Peter and John were not in charge, nor did they pretend to be. The Jewish leaders, on the other hand, were all about being in charge. They ordered Peter and John not to speak anymore of Jesus and the resurrection. The response of Peter and John, however, did not align with the self-assumed in-chargeness of the Jewish leaders.

They turned to the One who really was in charge: the Sovereign Lord. People may rage against God. People may press their own agenda. But in the end it will serve God’s agenda. His will will be done. No matter who may conspire against him.

We know this because of the most obvious display of rebellion against God – the crucifixion of God’s one and only Son – proved to further the cause of God. The grand story of God is the story of the redemption of the world. The grand story of God is unfolding against the backdrop of willful rebellion, waywardness, and futile plans.

Jesus did die – a horrible death. But his death was only part of the story. He rose again. He commissioned his disciples to proclaim his salvation to the ends of the earth. Nothing was going to stop that from happening.

Jesus is Lord. He rules at the right hand of God on high. One day he will come again and judge the living and the dead. On that day we will cry out in delight and joy, “My Lord and my God.” Those who reject Jesus will cry out too: “My Lord and my God,” in solemn recognition of that truth, but in utter sadness and despair. For Jesus is in charge – from beginning to end – and one day, every knee shall bow.

As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. 24 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— 25 you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,

‘Why were the nations so angry?
Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
26 The kings of the earth prepared for battle;
the rulers gathered together
against the Lord
and against his Messiah.’

27 “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. 28 But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. 29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. 30 Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” – Acts 3:23-30

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Orange Hybiscus | St. Maarten | May 2019

Perhaps you recall Dan Rather’s final news broadcast. He ended it with a brief commentary on his approach to newscasting and then offered a final word: Courage. I believe he was referring to the need he perceived to continue to report the news that was unfavorable to a particular President, for which he got fired. It seems he had misreported some details in that regard.

This isn’t about Dan Rather, or a particular President. This is about courage. Where it comes from. Why we need it. How we exercise it. What we might expect if we do engage it in service to the truth of Jesus.

Courage is not something we gin up on our own, although there is a willfulness and deep-from-within aspect to courageous stances and actions. Courage is something that we gain based on deep convictions about what is good, true, and worthy of our risking. “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” So says Dorothy Bernard, the silent film actress. C. S. Lewis puts it well. He says,

Courage is not simply one of the virtues , but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

Perhaps it should not surprise me that after they were arrested, threatened, and released, Peter and John return to this disciples with renewed enthusiasm, and deeper commitment (courage) to continue to speak in Jesus’ name to continue to bring more people to faith in Jesus.

This is literally fear that has said its prayers. They prayed for boldness. They prayed for vindication from God. They prayed for the truth of Jesus to be made known through miraculous signs and wonders. They weren’t going back.

There are times we must simply stand on truth, conviction and righteousness. There are times when we must stand up to threats. There are times when the bully needs to be faced-down. When those times come, pray. Ask God for boldness, courage, grace, and clarity.

It would be a bad thing to bluster about things that are not true. It is even worse to cower in the face of challenge to things that are true and worthy of bold witness. Give me boldness, O God!

Today I want simply to share an email I received from a member of St. John following my message last Sunday about hospitality. That message was based on this text:

One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat.

She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.”

One day Elisha returned to Shunem, and he went up to this upper room to rest. He said to his servant Gehazi, “Tell the woman from Shunem I want to speak to her.” When she appeared, Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tell her, ‘We appreciate the kind concern you have shown us. What can we do for you? Can we put in a good word for you to the king or to the commander of the army?’”

“No,” she replied, “my family takes good care of me.”

Later Elisha asked Gehazi, “What can we do for her?”

Gehazi replied, “She doesn’t have a son, and her husband is an old man.”

“Call her back again,” Elisha told him. When the woman returned, Elisha said to her as she stood in the doorway, “Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!”

“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.”

But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said. – 2 Kings 4:8-17 [NLT]

Pink Bouquet | St. Maarten | May 2019

Pastor Bahn, 

Greetings.  I first want to say thank you for the message on Sunday.  We have been struggling with a decision and after God spoke to us through you, we quickly realized we had our answer.

We have been going back and forth to open up our home again to try and foster another child.  Adopting an older child has presented struggles within ourselves that we weren’t expecting.  The biggest struggle we have is trying to connect to someone who is from a different culture, being a pre-teen, and one with a life full of heartbreak and confusion for an 11 year old.  We have struggled if we want to open up our home to foster a younger child, and have prayed that God gives us guidance on the decision.  Wanting a much younger child to meet our personal needs seems kinda selfish.  Is it the plan we want for ourselves or is it what God is calling us to do?  So we prayed for an answer.  

You asked what we can do do benefit others and open up our life to other people?  You mentioned there are people in need, people that are lacking, yearning for something in their lives.  You had our attention.  You asked if we have opened up our home to someone?  Yes…we have.  Is there any preparation we have to do to open up our home again?  Very little….the preparation has already been done.  Being there to show love to others?  Yes…it’s not about us, but it’s about us fulfilling our God given purpose in life.  Then you asked is there a guest in your future that will bring the blessing of God to you?  Absolutely!  Right after you asked that question, I turned to my Stephanie and said, well, looks like we are going to have another guest in our home.  We had our answer!

The next day (Monday) we informed our agency to re-activate our license.  

Best Regards,

– Chris

Wow! Sometimes God speaks, and sometimes God’s people listen. Thanks be to God!

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. – Acts 4:13-22

Five Petals |St. Maarten| May 2019

The World and Everything in it podcast reported on Monday morning, July 8, that

Sheffield University expelled a devout Christian for a post he made on Facebook.

The student, Felix Ngole, responded to a question put to him on Facebook about sexual ethics. He expressed the Biblical view that homosexuality is a sin, quoting Leviticus. 

An anonymous complaint about that led the university to decide Ngole wasn’t fit to practice social work. That’s what he was studying to become. A social worker. The school said he couldn’t do social work and also hold Christian views.

Ngole sued for violations of his speech and religious rights. He lost. But last week, he won on appeal. (Click here for the full transcript)

Perhaps those who expelled Ngole had also expelled those Muslim students who quoted certain parts of the Koran. Maybe the expelled someone who engaged in misogyny. It could be that this was an even-handed action. It seems, however, not to have been the case. It seems this was directed at this Christian man because he was standing for his firmly-held religious beliefs. Those beliefs just didn’t coincide with popular mores or political correctness.

We take our religious freedoms for granted. We assume that we can express our faith without fear of retribution or government interference. When we are not allowed to do so, we howl and cry foul! That does not stop governments and authorities from trying to silence our witness. The message of Jesus does undercut the ways of the world. The truth of the Gospel hacks away at the false gods of greed, power-mongering, and self-centered pride. These will all conspire to silence our witness.

It is difficult not to be cowered into a corner of silence in the face of these intimidations. And while we don’t need to be belligerent, we do need to say, “I will obey God not man if the choice comes to that. I wonder where I have set aside that line of demarcation in favor of the praise of man. Search me, O God, and show me so that I can show myself faithful to the truth you have revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ my Lord!

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. – Acts 4:13-22

Courageous Bloom | Florida Everglades | May 2019

Let’s shut this down! That was surely the intent and concerted effort of the Jewish leaders over against these Jesus followers who were healing and proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

As I consider why they might have had those thoughts, two ideas emerge. First of all, they may have been sincerely concerned about what appeared to them as false teaching. They were uncomfortable because their understanding and deeply held beliefs were not just being challenged; they were being undercut. They believed they were doing the right thing by opposing these who in their minds were false teachers.

It might have been, also, that they were pretty well situated in life and saw that this new teaching upset their place of security and success. They were threatened by this new teaching for they would lose influence, status, and standing if their system was shown to be invalid.

So how do we make certain that some new teaching or insight isn’t actually of God, and worthy of our embrace? How do we know whether truths we have long held are actually to be defended? What if God is doing something new? How do we stay calm, cool, and correctable while holding fast to the truths we confess?

Part of the answer lies in the manner in which they treated Peter and John. They couldn’t do it in public. They feared the people. The resorted to private sessions of the ruling council. They did this outside the view of the common folks. It seems likely that they were worried more about self-preservation than about truth.

If I am to be humble, yet bold in my confession of faith, I must hold those two attributes in dynamic tension. There is a paradox here that we all need to embrace. We hold to the truth of Scripture firmly, but regularly check our motives and our understanding of Scripture to see if what we hold to be true is true. We remain constantly confident and correctable. A challenge to be sure, but part of our calling as followers of Jesus.

While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000.

The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,

‘The stone that you builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.’

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves. – Acts 4:1-15

Happy Independence Day! I’ll watch the 1996 movie on July 4. It’s an annual tradition. I will also post various quotes on FB as I watch the movie. “I have got to get me one of these!”

It’s a lot of fun!

As we celebrate this day in our nation’s history, we do well to remember the greater gift of life and salvation delivered for all time and all people in Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

There can be many opinions about what freedom looks like in any nation on earth. We can be very proud of our country, and patriotic in our celebrations. But the greatest fireworks display on earth pales to the celebration and joy that will come to those who believe in Jesus.

Some will confer among themselves as to what to do with his claims, yet he reigns above all powers and authorities in heaven and on earth. Some will discard him as inconsequential disruptive, or unremarkable. But he is the chief cornerstone. Jesus is the only source of true freedom – eternal and pure.