Tuesday, July 31, 2007



Yesterday I began breaking down a long document I wrote on the subject of CHRISTIANITY ISN'T THE WAY; JESUS IS! Please understand there is no intent on my part to bash Christianity or Churches. My intent is to put both Christianity and Churches in their rightful place and that is under the pre-eminence of Jesus. As I mentioned yesterday, Jesus only mentioned the term "church" twice and that was intended as "church" with a little c. I think the problem is that we have made the "church", which literally means a gathering, city council or synagogue, into a big C Church as if it has some measure of prominence or authority. It is clear to me that Jesus trumps everything else! So, bear with me as we make our way through the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament writers.

My concern is that we must stick to the teachings and principles of Jesus without depending upon a set of beliefs or a theological system that man has built around Jesus. I know how those systems are constructed by well-meaning people, but it is simply a haughty thing to believe that you can arrive at the total truth on the Creator-God and be the only one or one of a few that is right. I believe Jesus never was a Christian and doesn't want to be.

The problem I sense with making Christianity the answer or making the ultimate goal for a person to become a Christian is the following:

We are using and promoting terms (Christian and Christianity) that are NOT even used by Jesus. Worse, we have transformed these terms into sacred goals for not only our lives, but the entire world. By doing this we set it up for people to hate Christians and Christianity, even lumping it altogether with the West. Therefore so many do not hear the Good News. So many miss the most attractive person ever-Jesus.

Many people use the term "Christianity" and mean by it a personal relationship with Jesus. However, words must be chosen well in order to communicate most clearly. So, consider these five observations:

FIRST-Making Christianity the primary way to God implies all other cultural religions are wrong and Christianity is right. It's as if Christianity or Christians own Jesus. Jesus is not exclusive, but all-inclusive.

SECOND-Making Christianity the primary way to God implies and requires that Christians must convert the world. Obviously, this requires a vast array of evangelistic campaigns, exporting Christian music and Christian doctrine, which is really a brand of Christianity from the West, with the intent of changing the audience to a more western culture. The turn-off level is great and very offensive to many who don't want to reject their culture in order to come to Jesus. The truth is that only Jesus through His Spirit is able to bring about spiritual transformation. This is not a cultural transformation, but a heart transformation.

THIRD-Making Christianity the primary way to God brings with it a narrow view of God-Jesus and the Kingdom. God and Jesus are limited as being from the West. It's a negation of God's full creation of every culture, nation and tribe and thereby diminishing the cultural richness of the Creator-God.

FOURTH-Making Christianity the primary way to God reduces Jesus and the Kingdom to a religious system, competing for the hearts and minds of men and women everywhere. Christianity is another religious system on par with the religions of the world. Jesus and the Kingdom are not!

Christianity as another religious system acting as if it is the only way to God or the right way to God stirs up negative reactions and attitudes from the non-Christian world, criticism from the media and persecution of the Christian "missionaries" and their activities around the world. This attitude and teaching that Christianity is right and all others are wrong merges quite well with the smug attitude of the West believing we are always right and better than most everyone else.

E. Stanley Jones' approach in the Indian culture was marked by his meeting with Mahatma Ghandi. Ghandi had just returned from his work in South Africa. He asked Ghandi how he might make the Good News more effective in the nation of India. Without skipping a beat, Ghandi offered two suggestions to Jones. First, "If you Christians would practice the teachings and principles of Jesus, that would go a long way in communicating your faith." Second, "If you would study our culture and religion, then you will find we aren't all that bad and reprehensible." Jones found these to be profound enough to make them the cornerstone of his approach to not only the Indian culture, but the cultures of the world. E. Stanley Jones proved to be one of the most effective communicators of Jesus and the Kingdom ever!

FIFTH-Making Christianity the primary way to God rejects the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus is for the entire world. Jesus never urged anyone to become a Christian or to join a Synagogue or Church. His only concern seems to be the person's heart of faith and the subsequent act of whether or not the person becomes a follower of Jesus.

Tomorrow's study we will examine passage after passage where these five observations are illustrated. Let me close with a small section out of the message Paul delivered to the religious world of Athens. Remember, he stroked them for being highly religious, he didn't quote any Scripture to them, he quoted from a local poet a piece that had been written in the worship of Zeus and he didn't mention Jesus' name. The result? There were some who believed.

Check out what he said about the Creator-God's work in every culture of the world: Acts 16:26-27-From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

God created all nations that they might from within their culture seek God and reach out and touch him, because God is not far from any one of us. NOTE God can be reached, touched and found by people from other nations. There is no mention of a missionary in shorts and tennis shoes showing up someday. We don't have time to wait for that to happen. The Creator-God, Himself will make Himself known to those who seek Him. I don't know of any more exciting news than this ever!

Monday, July 30, 2007



Recently I wrote a document expressing some new insights regarding the use of the terms Christian or Christianity. In some circles this is being widely accepted. Or, maybe I should say where it has been read so far the response has been very positive. The problem is that it is a large document and many who receive it have a difficult time consuming it all in one sitting. So, the rest of the week, I want to break this document down into bite-sized segments, hoping to communicate what I believe is most revolutionary.

You see, Christianity isn't the way; Jesus is! Let me try to explain the journey I have been on and see if it resonates with you.

I've spent most of my life seeking to understand how to relate to the non-churched, non-Christian world. My books and speaking platforms have all had a crossover flavor to them and I finally ended up at the peak of professional speaking opportunities on the largest platforms in addition to pastoring one of the early mega-churches.

During that season of my life I came to the conclusion that only Jesus could transform our lives. 1. NOT Churchianity 2. NOT Christianity 3. NOT conversion methods 4. ONLY JESUS

I came to the conclusion that in order to reach the non-churched world I would have to separate myself from mainstream churches and Christianity. So, I did that to a certain degree, but I still had to take up offerings to keep the church and its staff alive. When your livelihood depends to some degree what your constituency thinks and wants, then you aren't as free as you could be to teach what I would call the true truth.

In the second season of my life Jesus apprehended my heart in a fresh way and poised me toward taking this same JESUS PLUS NOTHING message beyond the "secular", non-churched world into the 7 major cultures of the world.

So, now my focus and perpendicular learning curve have taken me to a simple understanding of Jesus and the Kingdom. I've spent so much time and energy unlearning a lot of my theological premises I received at graduate seminary while a student and professor. It's been a fresh look at Jesus and His message of the good news of the Kingdom. He only mentions "church" twice, yet we are all about building and uplifting the church. His message was not the church, but all about the Kingdom.

In this journey now we are working with the 7 primary cultures of the world-Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, Jewish, Animist, Christian and Atheist/Agnostic. We don't present Christianity to them, but Jesus. We teach them to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus as the early disciples did. It took a while for the disciples to become believers. However, it's important to note that being a believer is not enough-the demons believe, false prophets/teachers of Matthew 7 are believers and we are believers. So, what's the difference? Jesus says, "Only those who do the will of my Father will enter the Kingdom." So "hear my words and practice them".

We are working with the Tibetan youth in northern India. What is so amazing is that these young Buddhists are followers of Jesus. It's just like hanging out with the early disciples while Jesus is out for the evening. The first 8 of these young men, going through a mentoring process centered around the teachings and principles of Jesus, have been awarded the title of "Ambassadors to the Poor in the Spirit of Jesus of Nazareth" by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government. All of the work in the House of Peace (mentoring house) is done under the supervision of the Tibetan authorities. Each young person is chosen by government officials to enter the House of Peace. It is mind-blowing! We are seeing the same results with the other cultures using the same process. You see, Jesus trumps everything else. Not Christianity, but Jesus!

Sunday, July 29, 2007



Matthew 24:14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven are used interchangeably. Even though Jesus teaches so little on the church (mentions it twice), He spends lots of time teaching about the Kingdom. Today the Kingdom concept has escaped our notice, even though Jesus places so much emphasis on it.

It's not that the Kingdom has been rejected, but reduced. In general we reduce the Kingdom of God to our particular flavor of the faith we have embraced. There's a sense that what we have embraced is the right way and therefore we must carry our particular form of faith and system of beliefs to the rest of the world. The Kingdom is so much greater than the particular faith or system you have embraced. Jesus is referring to the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of the Catholics or protestants or the Moslems or the Buddhists.

There are, at least, 5 specific ways that we tend to reduce the Kingdom. FIRST-It is reduced to the MYSTICAL. If it's mystical, then it is very difficult to explain and understand definitively. It's sort of other-worldly. SECOND-It is reduced to the HEAVENLY. This is a lot like the first. If the Kingdom is heavenly, then it has little, if any, application on earth. THIRD-It is reduced to the future-APOCALYPTIC. This means it isn't for today, but is relegated to a time in the future when Jesus will set up His Kingdom on earth. FOURTH-It is reduced by being EQUATED TO THE CHURCH. Many see the Kingdom as the local church and therefore it's limited to whether it's a good and healthy church or not. FIFTH-It is reduced to a SOCIAL CONCERN. To many feeding the poor and doing charitable deeds among the needy of our world is where the Kingdom is.

There is a little bit of each of these dimensions that is true, but the Kingdom cannot be defined by any one of them alone. The way Jesus teaches it, the Kingdom is greater than anything that has ever existed on earth. Jesus makes it clear that the Kingdom is near, here and among us right now, yet there seems to be a time in the future when the Kingdom will be fully experienced on earth.

Jesus and the Kingdom offer the only possible solution to transforming the culture. There are three things about Jesus that are most attractive and most effective in changing any society:

FIRST-CHARACTER. There is no one who ever lived who has ever surpassed the character standard that Jesus set. He set the bar so high that He is revered in every culture of the world. It was said of Ghandi, "He was the most Christlike who ever lived." Think of that. Ghandi, Hindu leader, had great character and was recognized by the Hindu people that his character was so outstanding that it was to be compared with Jesus. Jesus raises the highest bar ever on the planet with respect to character. No one surpasses Him!

SECOND-FULFILLMENT AND MEANING. If you follow the teachings and principles of Jesus, you will know fulfillment and meaning in your life. Who isn't able to gain something positive out of the principle of forgiveness or loving your enemies or giving rather than receiving? Religious and cultural leaders from all over the world continually use the principles of Jesus to write their books and teach their seminars. There is nothing that surpasses them!

THIRD-GOD. If God were to take on human flesh and live among us on this earth, He would most certainly say the things that Jesus said and do the things that Jesus did. If you follow the teachings and principles of Jesus, along the way you will find the God of the universe.

NOW, take these same three characteristics of Jesus and apply them to the Kingdom-where the King is.

FIRST-CHARACTER. The Kingdom is the only moral authority with any kind of power to change society. The Church is not capable of it. The Church changes from time to time. Sometimes it is effective and sometimes it's not. Leaders are morally good and leaders become morally flawed. So, at any given time, the Church will not be able to deliver a moral authority to the community. The Kingdom is constant. It's power and effectiveness depend upon its leader-Jesus. Therefore living in the Kingdom and inviting others to share in it is the only solution to transforming a broken culture.

SECOND-FULFILLMENT AND MEANING. Jesus is the ultimate standard and the Kingdom is the lifestyle of living this out in society. The lifestyle of Kingdom living is where ultimate fulfillment and meaning reside. They are the laws of the universe. You cannot break the laws of the Kingdom, but they can break you. For instance, one of the laws of the Kingdom is to forgive those who have hurt you. If you refuse to live out this Kingdom principle, you will pay dearly for it. You will be bound by your lack of forgiveness. You will be eaten up with this unforgiving heart. By breaking the principle, you are broken. When living within the Kingdom, you are safe and free and most fulfilled.

THIRD-GOD. Where better to discover a personal relationship with the God of gods than where He lives in His Kingdom.


The Kingdom is the only thing Jesus calls the gospel-the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom. When you are more conversant with the Kingdom, you will come to know that this is not only the good news; it is the BEST NEWS ever!

Thursday, July 26, 2007



Matthew 5:3-12-Matthew 23:13-33

Rather than make our way through each of the woes of Jesus in the 23rd chapter of Matthew, I want to briefly compare the 8 beatitudes and the 8 woes. Both were taught by Jesus-the beatitudes were given as a picture of what a blessed follower of the Kingdom was to look like and the woes are a description of the religious leaders who were living just the opposite of the Kingdom principles.

Beatitude #1 is "Blessed are the poor in spirit" which opens up the Kingdom to the poor. Woe #1 is against the leaders who have shut the poor out of the Kingdom: 13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

Beatitude #2 is "Blessed are those who mourn" for they will be comforted. Woe #2 is against the leaders who distressed the mourners rather than comforting them: 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore, you will receive greater condemnation.

Beatitude #3 is "Blessed are the meek" for they will inherit the earth. Woe #3 is against the leaders who were not meek, but pompous fanatics who encompass the earth with their show: 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves."

Beatitude #4 is "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" for complete satisfaction. Woe #4 is against the leaders who make up a false righteousness by trickery: 16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `Whoever, swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever, swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, `Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.' 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering ? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

Beatitude #5 is "Blessed are the merciful" for they will receive mercy. Woe #5 is against the leaders for omitting mercy altogether for things of lesser importance: 23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

Beatitude #6 is "Blessed are the pure in heart". Woe #6 is against the leaders who were spotless on the outside and without purity on the inside: 25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

Beatitude #7 is "Blessed are the peacemakers". Woe #7 is against the leaders who are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness: 27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Beatitude #8 is "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness". Woe #8 is against the leaders because of their actions of being the persecutors against Kingdom people: 29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, `If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? 

I don't know about you, but the beatitudes, which form the manifesto for the Kingdom of God, seem to be far away from my life so much of the time. And, the woes against the religiosity, pompousness, majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors, looking good on the outside while being empty and dirty on the inside seem a little too close to me and how easy it is for me to fall into that non-Kingdom lifestyle.

This all just hits too close to home. We are the only message of Jesus and the Kingdom most people have today. They will either see and feel this message clearly or they will have a poor caricature of it through us. So, are you a clear light that attracts others or do you stand as a hindrance to the good news message of all time?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007



Matthew 23:16-22

We are making our way through Jesus' strong admonishment upon the religious leaders of His day. What's interesting is that the same tendencies can be applied to leaders today. In verses 13-15 we saw that the legalism of the Pharisees actually served to shut others out of the Kingdom. Jesus continues to distinguish His Kingdom thinking with the natural practice of religious leaders with another woe.

16 "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `Whoever, swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever, swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' 17 "You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 "And, `Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.' 19 "You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering ? 20 "Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 "And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 "And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it."

We have already seen that in matters of oaths the Jewish legalists were masters of evasion (Matthew 5:33-37). The general principle of evasion was this. To the Jew an oath was absolutely binding, so long as it was a binding oath. A binding oath was an oath which definitely and without equivocation employed the name of God; such an oath must be kept, no matter what the cost. Any other oath might be legitimately broken. The idea was that, if God's name was actually used, then God was introduced as a partner into the transaction, and to break the oath was not only to break faith with men but to insult God." 

Jesus is saying, "You have brought evasion to such a fine art that it is possible to regard an oath by the Temple as not binding, while an oath by the gold of the Temple is binding; and an oath by the altar as not binding, while an oath by the gift on the altar is binding." The whole idea of treating oaths in this way, the whole conception of a kind of technique of evasion, is born out of deceitfulness. The truly spiritual man will never make a promise with the deliberate intention of evading it; he will never, as he makes it, provide himself with a series of escape routes, which he may use if he finds his promise hard to keep. 

For Jesus your oath is bound in two ways. God hears every word we speak and God sees every intention of our hearts.

This was legalism at its best! Legalism lurks around every corner with all of its man-made distortions. It's so tempting for us all and easy to slip into at most every level. Life is not that complicated.

So, what is required for salvation? JESUS. And, what is required for holy living? JESUS. JESUS PLUS NOTHING.

ONE MORE THING: NOTE that Jesus calls the accepted religious leaders of the day two names-fools and blind guides. They were fools because they were spending most of their time and energies on worthless matters. They were called blind guides because, being positioned as guides they were not able to guide anyone. They were blind! They had no ability to see the way of the Kingdom for themselves and therefore no way to lead the people who looked to them as their guides. They were leading the people, but not toward the simplicity of Jesus and the Kingdom. I ask you. Do you see this same thing happening today? I just wonder what names Jesus has for our leadership today?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007



Matthew 23:13-15

13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore, you will receive greater condemnation.

15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves."

Here Jesus directs a series of seven woes against the Scribes and Pharisees. Each one begins with "Woe to you!" The word connotes anger and sorrow. The word hypocrite occurs here several times. In the Greek, the word 'hupokrites' had to do with a dialogue on stage, which described an actor. Later, the word had a negative connotation which meant a pretender, one who acts a part, one who wears a mask to cover his true feelings, one who puts on an external show while inwardly his thoughts and feelings are very different. To Jesus the Scribes and Pharisees were men who were acting a part.

Their whole idea of religion consisted in outward observances, the wearing of elaborate phylacteries and tassels, the meticulous observance of the rules and regulations of the Law. But in their hearts there was bitterness and envy and pride and arrogance. To Jesus these Scribes and Pharisees were men who, under a mask of elaborate godliness, concealed hearts in which the most godless feelings and emotions held sway.

There is even an earlier understanding of 'hupokrites' and that is to by hyper-critical. This is precisely what these religious leaders were all about. When people tried to find entry into the Kingdom the Pharisees presented them with these hypercritical rules and regulations, which was as good as shutting the door in their faces.

Jesus accused these Pharisees of being missionaries of evil. The sin of the Pharisees was that they were not really seeking to lead men to God, they were seeking to lead them to Pharisaism. This is the same as being more concerned about getting people into church rather than being into a personal relationship with God.

The greatest of all heresies is the sinful conviction that any Church or people has a monopoly on God or of His truth, or that any Church is the only gateway to God's Kingdom. We must come to grips with the fact that Christianity doesn't own Jesus! Jesus is God's Messiah to the entire world-to every culture and to every people group.

ONE MORE THING: Jesus says the person who travels the earth to proselytize and convert others to become just like them in all of their hypocritical mode are worthy of hell. Now, remember this has nothing to do with some location of a burning fire later. He is saying that people like this who do these things are worthy of being thrown on the burning trash heap of Gehenna. Gehenna or the Valley of Hinnom is translated as hell. They have proven to be worthless trash.

All God is looking for is a person who is interested and leaning in with a heart bent toward God. This genuine hearted person has no need to proselytize the world or to make people act like him. BUT, he has the desire to be and do all that Jesus has said to be and to do. And, that in itself is contagious. Jesus uses this authenticity to spread around the world like a virus. It's a genuine movement of followers of Jesus!

Monday, July 23, 2007



Matthew 23:1-12

In the 23rd chapter of Matthew Jesus zeroes in on the pompous leadership of the Pharisees. I want to move through this chapter to get a feel for what displeased Jesus most about the religious of His day. These attitudes and actions pose the greatest threat to living out the Kingdom lifestyle of Jesus.

In this first section Jesus sort of introduces who He is going to discuss: The scribes and the Pharisees. 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling, to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Remember that Jesus grew up in the Pharisaical culture of Judaism. He knew it well and is here beginning to point out the distortions.

NOTE He says to do what these teachers say, but do not practice what they do. The Pharisees did three things that were a constant distortion of following the Christ.

1-They made religion a burden upon everyone! Their whole outlook on religion had one fundamental effect. It made it a thing of thousands upon thousands of rules and regulations; and therefore it made it an intolerable burden.

2-They made religion into a show! The religion of the Pharisees became almost inevitably a religion of ostentation. If religion consists in obeying countless rules and regulations, it becomes easy for a man to see to it that everyone is aware how well he fulfills the regulations and how perfect is his piety. Jesus selects certain actions and customs in which the Pharisees showed their ostentation.

3-They elevated one above another! They lifted up the "holy" ones who performed this externalism best. They graded totally on the curve. They loved the position and title of Rabbi.

However in the Kingdom Jesus makes it clear not to call anyone Rabbi or Teacher or leader. This is a tough word for those of us who have worked and trained to become the "leader" or the "teacher"-to serve in a position in the church.

Some take this to an extreme and glory in leaderless movements. God has never moved among His people without leadership. Here's the difference as I see it.

FIRST-A leader God raises up is usually an ordinary, uneducated person. He picks out a Gideon, the small boy with a lunch bag, the poor, young virgin to serve as the mother of the Messiah, the common stone-cutter to serve as the Messiah's earthly father, ordinary fishermen to launch a global movement, or the speaking donkey. And, in the weakness and brokenness of these chosen ones God does amazing things.

SECOND-A leader God raises up is equipped by God Himself to lead, no matter his giftedness.

THIRD-A leader God raises up doesn't think in terms of exalting himself, but views himself as a servant of God who is called by God to serve all who God brings his way.

FOURTH-A leader God raises up is a learner from all who are in fellowship together. He knows the Lord is in the process of teaching him lots through the others who are walking together.

FIFTH-A leader God raises up goes into gatherings with others expecting Jesus to show up and minister in a meaningful way among those gathered.

SIXTH-A leader God raises up is not all wound up with his own vision and mission, but waits and listens for Jesus to lead out with His opportunities and orders.

SEVENTH-A leader God raises up hangs on to the bottom-line theme of Jesus about humility and exaltation. Jesus' classic statement, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." is in the context of His teaching on leadership.

So, humble yourself and be exalted by God Himself or exalt yourself and be humbled by God Himself! YOU CHOOSE!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007



Matthew 22:1-10

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4"Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'

5"But they paid no attention and went off-one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The events of this parable are completely in accordance with normal Jewish customs. When the invitations to a great feast, like a wedding feast, were sent out, the time was not stated. And, when everything was ready the servants were sent out with a final summons to tell the guests to come. So then, the king in this parable sent out his invitations long ago, but it was not till everything was prepared that the final summons was issued-and insultingly refused. This parable has two meanings.

FIRST-It has a purely local meaning. Its local meaning was a driving home of what had already been said in the Parable of the Wicked Vine-Growers; once again it was an accusation of the Jewish leadership. The invited guests who when the time came refused to come, stand for the Jewish leadership. Ages ago they had been invited by God to be his chosen people; yet when God's son came into the world, and they were invited to follow Him they contemptuously refused. The result was that the invitation of God went out direct to the highways and the byways; and the people in the highways and the byways stand for the sinners and the Gentiles, who never expected an invitation into the Kingdom.

SECOND-This parable also has much to say on a much wider scale. One of the surprising things indicated here is that God's invitation is an invitation to joy and not gloom. I see three reminders:

It reminds us that the things which make men deaf to the invitation of Christ are not necessarily bad in themselves. One man went to his estate; the other to his business. These weren't bad things, but normal things. However, when the good gets in the way of the best, then you have a problem.

It also reminds us that the appeal of Christ is not so much to consider how we will be punished as it is to see what we will miss, if we do not take his way of things.

Finally, it reminds us that in the last analysis God's invitation is the invitation of grace. Those who were gathered in from the highways and the byways had no claim on the king and they could never by any stretch of imagination have expected an invitation to the wedding feast, much less could they ever have deserved it. It came to them from nothing other than the wide-armed, open-hearted, generous hospitality of the king. It was grace which offered the invitation and grace which gathered men in.

The only way anyone will get into the Kingdom is by the grace of God-unmerited favor from God, Himself!



Matthew 21:28-46

28"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 29" 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. 31"Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered.

Jesus sets up two kinds of people: FIRST-The person who initially says that he will not, but then jumps in and works in the vineyard. Although the verbal response was negative, but the ultimate effect was that this person actually was a doer. NOTE this is the sinner, the non-religious.

SECOND-The person who initially says that he will yet does not go to work in the vineyard. This person quickly agrees to going along with the request of the father, but doesn't actually become a doer. NOTE this is the religious, the ones who you would expect to go to work in the vineyard.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Jesus identifies the tax collectors and the prostitutes with the ones who initially aren't "naturally" with the Kingdom of God. Yet, because of their follow-through in actually doing the work of the father, they are getting into the Kingdom ahead of those you might think should be there already.

These same pseudo-righteous people are identified with tenants who were managing the landowner's land. See how He does this: 33"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35"The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said.

38"But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40"Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" 41"He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."

42Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."

45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

This parable tracks with the history of the Jewish reaction to God's blessings. The owner of the vineyard is God who gave His blessings for the Jewish people to manage. Yet every representative He sent to them, they turned on them, persecuted and some they even killed. These were the Judges and Prophets.

Then God, the owner, sent His own Son. They did the same thing to Him, too. Then, as the story goes, the owner went to the field to throw out the tenants and kill them. And after this, He gave the vineyard to others. In other words, this parable tells the entire history of the children of Israel in relationship to their God-Jehovah.

NOTE that the difference between the two types of people comes down to who will follow-through and produce fruit. The ultimate proof of whether something is of God or not is the fruitfulness. The proof is in the fruit! Now, one more thing. Remember what you must do to produce fruit? Abide or remain in the vine or hang on to Jesus. He will produce fruit in and through us. So, we are to be faithful and He will make us fruitful. That's the Kingdom way.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007



Matthew 20:20-28

20 Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21 "What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." 22 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" "We can," they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father."

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

John Calvin calls ambition, "a concealed flame." It exists in each of us, striving for acclaim, power, position, and attention. The concealed flame of ambition can be easily fueled when losing sight of the cross for visions of personal glory. If those closest to Christ fell prey to ambition, then we too must guard against its grip on our lives.

In my experience it is not just ambition that is the problem. The most extensive problem seems to be an optical one-THE BIG "I". So far in recent days in Matthew we've seen a man whose wealth had become his god and therefore came between him and following Jesus. We now see 2 brothers desiring certain positions in the kingdom-on the right and on the left. When it's all about ME, then it just isn't about JESUS.

Without a doubt the greatest disappointment to me has been watching men and women be more concerned about themselves and their conveniences than about spreading the movement of Jesus and His kingdom. There is more interest in a certain musical bent, the dazzle of a beautiful facility, the promotion of another program, the crowd, all giving a false sense of spirituality to spectating rather than participating! My heart continues to be broken by good people who want to sit in comfortable positions such as James and John-good people with a twisted perspective on what's most important.

Jesus makes it absolutely clear that we are here, not to be served, but to serve. We are not here to seek a position in the Kingdom that allows us to be passive observers. To be great in the kingdom is to find your position as a servant-that's a participator, not a spectator! So, are you in the stands watching or on the field in the action?



Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus goes into His typical formula of "the kingdom is like" to introduce this parable. Let's examine it to see what the Kingdom is like: 1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 "About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went.

"He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'

7 " 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. 
"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.' 8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his supervisor, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'

9 "The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'

13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Nobody was cheated. No one was underpaid. In fact, some were overpaid. The complaint of the early workers offered no evidence of wrongdoing. Their complaint was based in jealousy and envy.

The landowner had the right to "overpay" the late workers. He said "whatever is right you will receive." He determined what was right, not based on ordinary human accounting, but grace. His overpayment of the late workers was his choice and nobody could argue he didn't have that right.

There are two basic points to this parable that come to mind. FIRST-What counts in the kingdom of God is not seniority or years of service, but a diligent heart.

SECOND-All people, no matter when they come into the Kingdom, are equally valuable to God.

NOTE that Jesus bookends this passage in an interesting way. In the last verse of Matthew 19 Jesus says, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." Then, at the end of this section Jesus says, "So the last will be first and the first will be last."

In the Kingdom all moves to the beat of a different drummer and that drummer is Jesus. There are no positions or comparisons to be made in the Kingdom. Living in the Kingdom is all about your relationship with the King and doing what He calls you to do. He will reward you with His grace and acceptance. It's none of your business how He relates to others. You must focus on your personal relationship with Jesus as you wait for Him to lead out with orders and opportunities. He may call you into service all day or at the last minute. But when Jesus calls, be sure to DO WHAT HE SAYS to do.

Sunday, July 08, 2007



Matthew 19:16-26

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" 17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments." 18 "Which ones?" he inquired. Jesus replied, " 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.' 20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" 21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?" 26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

In this well known story we find a man who was so right, yet he was so wrong. He came to the right person. He asked the right questions: "What good things should I do that I may have eternal life?" and "What do I still lack?" He then heard the right answers from Jesus. Finally, he took what he heard from Jesus and made the wrong decision. And, he went away very sorrowful.

Jesus explains to His disciples two things: FIRST-It is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

SECOND-It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a media. It's an impossibility.

There seem to be 3 problems with being rich, which we all are in this country: FIRST-Riches place you in a position of being absorbed by your riches. Riches don't satisfy at the gut level.

SECOND-Along with riches comes a preoccupation with them. This leads to a certain self-absorption.

THIRD-Riches has an empty, even deceitful lure in your experience. They promise much and deliver very little. They can easily disappear, rust or be stolen. Riches have a tendency to deceive you into thinking you have no need for anything.

FOURTH-Riches contain a foolish pride. Riches tends to promote a sense of arrogance and pride. If you find yourself blinded by this self-absorbed pride, your tendency is to not listen to the needy calls of the poor.

It's important to note that not all who are rich are guilty of these things. However, it's also important to note that there were many godly people in the Scriptures who were also very rich-Job, Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Barnabas, Philemon and Lydia.

NOTE the key to this passage is: With human beings it is impossible to experience the great grace and empowerment offered in order to enter the Kingdom. In fact, it's impossible to change on your own. The only genuine transformation comes from God, Himself. God majors in the impossible.

Tell me, are you facing some impossibilities in your life right now? God delights in working through these impossibilities. As a matter of fact, if God doesn't do His impossible work in your life, then there is no life to talk about. The rich man made the wrong decision and walked away from Jesus. If you want your heart to be transformed, then don't walk away, but draw closer to the only one who can change you inside out. Jesus.

Thursday, July 05, 2007



Matthew 18:21-35

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. We are always looking for a loophole, especially on forgiveness. But in the Kingdom forgiveness is infinite.

23"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

NOTE the "Kingdom of heaven is like" sets up the story of the king who settled his accounts with his servants. One particular servant is singled out who was in need of great help.

28"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. 29"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' 30"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. How soon he forgot his desperate situation.

32"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

Jesus is describing what it's like in Kingdom living as opposed to living like the world's kingdom. What do you see is most important here? I think it's two-fold:

FIRST-The King or Master we serve is very gracious as He works with us.

SECOND-If you are going to reflect the King and live the Kingdom lifestyle, you must be gracious-full of grace and mercy on people. This is such a part of the human condition to forget how much trouble we were once in and found grace. And, then we find ourselves in a blessed position and look down on others who are in need.

This is the pinnacle of self-absorption. You know where I see this and it makes me sick is when a person treats servants, yard-workers, housecleaners-the so called "little" people as if they are lesser than. When a person denigrates another, it says nothing of the littleness of the person being denigrated. However, it says tons about the person doing the denigrating.

I've learned something over the years that is helpful to me here: FIRST-Realize your own weaknesses, inadequacies and short-comings.

SECOND-Recognize everyone, no matter their station in life as your peer.

THIRD-Honor that person by eating their food, accepting their hospitality and joining them for one of their interests.

Jesus made it clear in His teachings that we are to give and do good to those who cannot repay us. That is the genuine love of God. So, how are you doing? Do you only hang out with those who are cool and in your "class" or are you touching the lives of those who are supposed to be "beneath" you?

This may be one of the primary tests of what it means to embrace Jesus and His Kingdom as a lifestyle. Think it over!