Friday, August 31, 2007



Before beginning this new series I want to share a new way to enjoy the ACTS 29 DAILY studies. We have packaged all 19 daily nuggets of the Letter to the Philippians into one CD. In this format, you can use it in your car for a short encouragement in your day or download the entire CD into your mp3 player or iPod. To order this CD with 19 dailies (nearly 90 minutes), write to the address below, request PHILIPPIANS and send any donation to EMBERS FELLOWSHIP.

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For the next 28 days (7 days a week) I want to move back through the book of Acts. I suggest that you read the full chapter from whatever version each day and I will comment on a paragraph that seems to stand out to me out of that chapter. PASS IT ON TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

Don't be distracted away from this dynamic book of Acts. In a very real sense it's the 5th Gospel, specifically a continuation of the Gospel of Luke. I've always heard of Acts being a transitional book, but I see it differently in this season of my life. You've probably heard Acts called the "Acts of the Apostles", but I find it helpful to refer to Acts as the "Acts of Jesus." You see, although Jesus ascended into heaven, He is still quite active in our lives individually and as we gather in fellowship with one another. We grossly miss the point of the experience of walking with Jesus, if we don't see it this way.

Today in ACTS 1 check out verses 6-8:
6So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

First NOTE their question. It's a little like "Jesus, are you going to unfold life and the world the way we've been taught and believed?" I've spent entirely too much time trying to figure out how God is going to unfold the world and bring it to some glorious conclusion. I've used the "signs of the times" to stir up people's interests and have been quite successful doing it. However, Jesus seems to relieve us of that knowledge or responsibility to know these things and points us to something far more important and strategic.

And He uses a big "BUT" to refocus our attention toward the most important things-the power of the Holy Spirit is to come upon Jesus' disciples and the disciples are to be Jesus' witnesses. FIRST, the power of the Spirit is to come upon Jesus' disciples. The way Jesus will remain active and powerful among His disciples is for the Spirit to do His work in us and among us. And, because the Spirit takes up permanent residence in those who believe, Jesus will have the opportunity to touch so many more lives than He could have. They were looking for political or organizational power. What Jesus wanted them to possess was a new kind of power-the transformational power of His Spirit for the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world. Jesus said that we would do greater works than He did and this is how it's done-with Spirit power!

SECOND, the disciples are to be witnesses of Jesus. We are not to be witnesses of a denomination or a cultural bent of Christianity. We are not told here to be witnesses of Bible doctrine or creeds or of the many teaching gurus. Literally Jesus says He wants His disciples to be "witnesses of Me" or My witnesses. The purpose for the power is to bear witness of Jesus, not Jesus plus anything, but JESUS PLUS NOTHING.

A question arises here. Why is it that we disciples are to bear witness of Jesus? It's because Jesus is all that is needed and nothing more. Jesus is the Good News in a bad news world. Jesus is the Gospel! The meaning of Jesus' name says it all. "God Saves!" Is there anything you can add to your witness to improve upon Him? No, there is nothing more to be said. It's all about Jesus!

Now NOTE the strategy for bearing witness of Jesus. We are to bear witness of Jesus to the remotest part of the earth. Also, NOTE that this witnessing has an order to it. You begin right where you live-IN JERUSALEM. Then be sure to witness of Jesus in your surrounding area. Now watch this--and in Samaria. Samaria is the place where you might not be invited, because they are not "your kind". in fact, the Jews believed the Samaritans were half-breeds and they didn't get along at all. Yet Jesus made it clear that this was a strategic part of the plan for bearing witness, even to the Samaritans. Then, Jesus' disciples are to bear witness of Him to the remotest part of the world. This begs the question, "Who or what is the object of your witness?" Is it Jesus or is it Jesus plus something else?


Thursday, August 30, 2007



Now, this is the last day of the month and during the month of September we are going to make our way through the book of the Acts of Jesus. We will begin in the morning for 28 days straight to match up with the first 28 days of September.

This week I have been working my way through five essentials that will assist us in de-Christianizing Jesus in order to get to our final destination of JESUS WITHOUT BORDERS. · The 1st essential was the Preeminence of Jesus. · The 2nd essential is the Presence of the Kingdom. · The 3rd essential is the Power of the Few. · The 4th essential is the Practice of Persuasion Over Propaganda. · The 5th essential is the Peaceful Simplicity of Jesus Plus Nothing.

Paul said, "I'm afraid as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness that your minds might be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." This is at the heart of the de-Christianization of Jesus. We seem to be terminal in our tendency to heap up lots of add-ons to our faith. But it's the add-ons that bury Jesus and our personal relationship with Him.

This has been a tendency since the beginning of time. Remember the incident of the golden calf? After being treated to a series of miracles from God Himself, they became very impatient with Moses taking so long to meet with Jehovah. So, they took their own gold and melted it down to sculpt a visible image of their god. That must have been an interesting pledge drive!

We aren't much different today. We want to add-on as many tangibles as we can. It seems to make us more comfortable. Give me a list of activities to check off or create an atmosphere with music and crosses and altars and smoke, so that I can almost touch God. Jesus was relentless in bringing everyone back to a personal relationship with Him. In each of His I AM statements it was clear that He was making it all about Him and how we respond to Him-Jesus plus nothing.

This is why Jesus went to great lengths teaching His disciples that we are like branches connected to the vine. And without the life-flowing nourishment from this vine there is no fruitfulness. Or as He said, "Without Me you can do nothing."

Nowhere is this principle of JESUS PLUS NOTHING violated more than in the way Christians believe they own Jesus. This could either be a 6th essential or a sub-essential under this one. I call it the Perforation of Christianity's Ownership of Jesus. Jesus isn't limited to the Western Christian culture. Jesus is not exclusive about who He will relate to. He will work with any culture-religious or non-religious. And, the Jesus movement continues to be breaking out in the most amazing places.

If you have been hanging out with us, you know what I am talking about as we work with the Buddhists, Moslems, Hindus, Jews, Animists and even the non-religious. Sometimes I feel a bit alone as I share these stories of how people from a variety of cultural backgrounds are learning to follow Jesus and Jesus is transforming their lives. Yet these people aren't Christians.

My heart was thrilled this week when I read the website of Dr. Ralph Winter. Dr. Winter is the Founder of the US Center for World Missions. He is one of the great men within Christianity who has a heart for the many cultures of the world. I've always appreciated his leadership and his openness to learn.

Check out what he reports: The Largest New Factor in Mission Strategy in the 21st Century is the following: "Churchless Christianity," is the title of a book compiled by a Bible-believing Missouri-Synod Lutheran missionary and theology professor. Thus, when I speak of C hurchless Christianity I am referring to that book. The book contains the results of a scientific survey of the largest city in Southern India, Madras it was called, and today Chennai. It gives the evidence that masses of Hindus have a high regard for Jesus Christ, and about 25% of that city of millions of people have given up their idols and are daily Bible-reading followers of Christ. The surprise is that the majority of these followers of Christ study the Bible and worship at the home level, continue to associate within the Hindu social sphere, and do not routinely associate with the somewhat "western" Christian churches. That is why the book is entitled Churchless Christianity.

In my perspective it would be more accurate to speak of "Christianity-less churches." Why? Because we are talking about fervent, Bible-believers who at least meet in "house churches," in that they do not normally meet in existing "Christian churches." This fact is itself very reminiscent of the New Testament worshipping households, such as that of Cornelius, Lydia, Crispus. Moreover, this is not a tiny, isolated phenomenon. We are talking about millions of believers who neither call themselves Christians and nor are called Christians by their Hindu neighbors.

This subject which I have labeled the "Churchless Christianity Factor" is, however, little recognized. I myself have long been unaware of it. It is so little understood that we may need to describe it more fully before commenting on it from a viewpoint of mission strategy-that is, what we can or cannot do about it.

The mission strategy from Jesus' viewpoint is I AM. That's all that mattered to Jesus in relating to the cultures He encountered. He wasn't concerned about changing their cultures. No one from a non-Christian culture should have to convert from their own cultures in order to become a Christian. He wasn't concerned about any set of beliefs to be endorsed. He was only concerned about how each person related to Him-the I AM. After a faith encounter with Him, Jesus never stopped them to make sure they signed up for Judaism 101 or a Christian discipleship class. He never endorsed an add-on. It was the peaceful simplicity of Jesus plus nothing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007



REMEMBER! Beginning this Saturday, September 1st we will be going through the Book of Acts for 28 straight days. So, on Saturday, the 1st, we will begin with the 1st chapter of Acts.

I am working my way through five essentials that will assist us in de-Christianizing Jesus in order to get to our final destination of JESUS WITHOUT BORDERS. The 1st essential was the Preeminence of Jesus. The 2nd essential is the Presence of the Kingdom. The 3rd essential is the Power of the Few. The 4th is the Practice of Persuasion Over Propaganda.

There are two primary approaches to communication of any kind-persuasion and propaganda. Persuasion is moving people to action with proper reflection, so that the audience embraces it personally. Propaganda is moving people to action without proper reflection, just to get people to think, do and say whatever the propaganda calls for.

Propaganda is the basis for much of the political communication in our world today. Facts and fairness of information are not part of the process. Propaganda tweaks the facts to fit the premise being pushed. Propaganda speaks deductively, telling people what they want them to know. Thinking is not promoted within the propaganda process.

Persuasion is inductive and people-oriented. Persuasion grapples with the needs of the audience and walks them through a process of thinking the options through to find solutions.

In I Thessalonians 2 there is a powerful illustration of how persuasion works. There are three appeals when the act of persuasion is in action-ethical appeal, emotional appeal and logical appeal. Ethical appeal answers the question: "Can I trust you?" Emotional appeal answers the question: "Do you care for me?" Logical appeal answers the question: "Do you know what you are talking about?" NOTE how these three questions are answered by Paul, Silas and Timothy with the Thessalonians.

CAN I TRUST YOU? 1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed-God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from any human being, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our prerogatives. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you.

DO YOU CARE FOR ME? Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT? 13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.

When they received the word of God, they accepted it not as a human word (just another religious experience or teaching), but as it actually is-THE WORD OF GOD-which is at work in you who believe. Because Paul, Silas and Timothy incorporated ethical and emotional appeals, those who heard from them fully accepted and welcomed the word of God as the real, authentic, and active word of God. Now, that's pure persuasion!

The de-Christianization factor here is based in the fact that persuasion's goal is to fully invest in another's life appealing to them to examine Jesus and embrace that relationship uniquely and personally. Persuasion only wants to stick to the message with great credibility, compassion and common sense . Propaganda is mostly interested in controlling the thinking of others. Persuasion is inductive with a desire to get you to think for yourself. Propaganda is deductive with a desire to get you to think as they do. Persuasion assists you in developing the truth. Propaganda wants to dump the truth on you-their truth. Persuasion attracts. Propaganda promotes.

The practice of persuasion over propaganda goes a long way in de-Christianizing Jesus. You see, persuasion is people-centered and propaganda is content-centered. So when you are into propaganda, you are most comfortable with a content-centered approach that sells others on your set of beliefs-your content. When you are into persuasion, you are totally into people and therefore a personal relationship with Jesus makes more sense. Christianity tends to be mostly about doctrinal issues and a set of beliefs to buy into. Jesus is all about relationship. This is why we use the terminology that we use-JESUS PLUS NOTHING.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



REMEMBER! Beginning this Saturday, September 1st we will be going through the Book of Acts for 28 straight days. So, on Saturday, the 1st, we will begin with the 1st chapter of Acts.

I am working my way through five essentials that will assist us in de-Christianizing Jesus in order to get to our final destination of JESUS WITHOUT BORDERS. The 1st essential was the Preeminence of Jesus. The 2nd essential is the Presence of the Kingdom. The 3rd essential is the Power of the Few.

The primary example of the "power of the few" is found in Jesus' method of operation. Instead of using "Madison Avenue" marketing methods, Jesus launched His movement with a few-just three to be exact-Peter, James and John. He then selected nine more, then He sent out 72 in a 2 by 2 formation. Although Jesus spoke to large groups from time to time, He mostly hung out with a few at a time.

Jesus obviously believed the "few" were more powerful than the masses. Why is this? A long-time friend and mentor, Dr. Ed Neteland, used to say that he envisioned the concept like a rocket ship. In order to achieve blast off the power must all be put in a very small space.

Jesus not only practiced this principle faithfully, but He instructed His disciples to do the same. He sent them out in small groupings. And, even after the resurrection, we see the disciples of Jesus practicing this same principle.

The classic example is the threesome that walked into Thessalonica for about 3 and a half weeks. Their relationship was a powerful little fellowship of followers of Jesus, so powerful that the impact spread throughout Asia Minor. We miss the fact that all three men wrote the letters to the Thessalonians. We always think Paul did the writing, because most translations put that ascription at the beginning of the books. And, those notes and headings throughout the many translations are not Scripture, but man's interpretations and many times miss the real point of the passage.

Not only did Jesus use the power of the few most effectively and His disciples followed His example, but today it is so important that we catch the picture. This essential can be most helpful in getting our minds off of the massive shows and demonstrations of Christianity and focus on the life transforming dynamic of hanging out with a few in the name of Jesus. Jesus promised that He would show up whenever two or three gather together in His name.

I've spent so much energy producing the best possible communication to the masses. However I always knew that there are some universal principles at play in that sort of dynamic. Only 5 % really get it-a given message, 15% think they get it and 80% remain somewhere in the fog with no idea what was said. Oh, they will remember an illustration or two or a joke or two, but miss the essential point of the message. Now that I am into the power of the few, I am discovering that the few really, genuinely get it and embrace it for themselves. You see, when someone really gets what it means to walk with Jesus in His Kingdom presence, the message becomes contagious. To me, the power of the few is very effective in de-Christianizing Jesus and is a must for all who are serious about following Jesus.

Monday, August 27, 2007



Don't forget. Beginning this Saturday, September 1st we will be going through the Book of Acts for 28 straight days. This is always a revolutionary adventure. So, on Saturday, the 1st, we will begin with the 1st chapter of Acts.

I am working my way through five essentials that will assist us in de-Christianizing Jesus in order to get to our final destination of JESUS WITHOUT BORDERS. The 1st essential was the Preeminence of Jesus. The 2nd essential is the Presence of the Kingdom.

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. There are, at least, 5 ways that we tend to reduce the Kingdom. FIRST-It is MYSTICAL. If it's mystical, then it is very difficult to explain and understand definitively. It's sort of other-worldly. SECOND-It's HEAVENLY. This is a lot like the first. If the Kingdom is heavenly, then it has little, if any, application on earth. THIRD-It's 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's 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's a SOCIAL CONCERN. To many feeding the poor and doing charitable deeds among the needy of our world is where the Kingdom is.

All of these are a little bit true. However, what has been missed or ignored is that Jesus makes it very clear that the Kingdom is here. In Jesus' first message He says, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

Then, after emerging successfully from the 40 day experience in the desert where He was tempted by the Devil, Matthew records: From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

When Jesus sent the twelve disciples out for their first mission He said, "As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.'"

Jesus carried this same theme of the Kingdom beyond His disciples. According to Luke 17:20-21, Jesus was addressing His remarks to the Pharisees: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst." Another way of saying this is, "The Kingdom of God is in you or among you all." I think what Jesus is saying is that He has brought the Kingdom-the presence of God to earth. You see, where the King is, there is the Kingdom.

In another segment where Jesus was closing out His "Sermon on the Mount" He speaks of what it takes to enter the Kingdom: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Then Jesus further explains what He means by doing the will of His father in the next few verses: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Jesus didn't quote others as the rabbis did, but spoke from His own heart and mind. He is the King and introducing the Kingdom to the world. And, the presence of the Kingdom was obvious when He spoke with such authority.

The presence of the Kingdom means the presence of the King right here right now. This is so powerful. By obedience to the words of Jesus we are doing the will of the Father and we are building our lives on the solid rock of the King and His Kingdom. So, it's not about Christianity; it's about Jesus and His Kingdom being among us right here today!

Sunday, August 26, 2007



Before getting into today’s daily, I want to give you an advance notice that beginning the 1st of September we will be going through the Book of Acts for 28 straight days. This is always a revolutionary adventure. So, this Saturday is the 1st and therefore we will discuss chapter 1 of the Book of Acts.

For the last several days I’ve been examining the Christianization of Jesus. This week I want to set forth five basic essentials of what it takes to de-Christianize Jesus, so that we can get to our destination of JESUS WITHOUT BORDERS.

The first essential is the PREEMINENCE OF JESUS. Let’s begin with John 1 and Colossians 1. Within these two chapters you will find powerful references to the preeminence of Jesus.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only [Son], who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Colossians 1:15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.

When Napoleon was exiled to the island of St Helena, he had plenty of time to think. This is what he wrote: There is something about Jesus Christ I cannot understand. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have all founded great empires, but on what did these creations of our genius rest? Upon force. But Jesus founded his on love. This very day millions would die for him. I have inspired multitudes with enthusiastic devotion. They would die for me. But to do it, it was necessary that I should be present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them I lit up the flame of devotion in their hearts. But Jesus Christ by some mysterious influence, even through the lapse of eighteen centuries, so draws the hearts of men towards him that thousands at a word would rush through fire and flood for him, not counting their lives dear to themselves.

Then, there is a writing called the INCOMPARABLE CHRIST:
More than nineteen hundred years ago there was a man born contrary to the laws of life. This man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He received no formal education and never possessed wealth or wide-spread influence.

He never traveled extensively. He only once crossed the boundary of the country in which He lived. But this man's life has changed the course of history.

In infancy He startled a king; in childhood he puzzled doctors; in man hood He ruled the course of nature, walked upon the waves, and hushed the sea to sleep. He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His services.

He never wrote a book. Yet His life has inspired more books than any other man. He never wrote a song. Yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all songwriters combined. He never founded a college. But all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students. He never marshaled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun. Yet no leader ever had more rebels surrender to Him without a shot fired.

He never practiced psychiatry. Yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near. Though time has spread nineteen hundred years between the people of this generation and His birth, He still lives. His enemies could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him.

Today, Jesus still stands at the highest pinnacle of all humanity. I’m fascinated that one of the best known of the Hindu culture, Mahatma Ghandi, was so adored by his people and he was called Christ-like. I’m amazed that the best known Buddhist, the Dalai Lama, said that he was unworthy of tying the shoes of Jesus. I know Moslem leaders who follow Jesus and call Jesus Lord. He is not limited to Christianity and this is why He must be de-Christianized. Jesus is the most irresistible person of all! He must have first place in everything all the time. This is what I mean by the preeminence of Jesus.

Thursday, August 23, 2007



Back in the 80’s I had the privilege of being the pastor of a growing church. The passion that empowered my heart was all about reaching two kinds of people—those who have been turned off and those who have never been turned on to what it means to know Jesus. I spent countless hours thinking and praying about how to touch the target audiences God had placed on my heart.

Now you know that praying is not just talking to God, but also listening. I know this is true, but tend to forget it from time to time and do all of the talking without waiting for any answers. But when I did take the time to listen, I was given a most clear answer from the Lord. This answer inspired me and my teaching perspective in such a way that we experienced an unusual phenomenon. As the church grew, the growth pattern was very different from any church I had ever known. Sixty percent of the people were coming out of a non-churched background. In other words, we weren’t simply transferring members from one church to another because of a better show. We were actually speaking to people who had already been turned off and away from any form of religion and religiosity.

You know what the answer was that God gave to me? “In order to communicate most effectively to the most people in Orange County, it was necessary for me to separate myself and Jesus from Christianity.” People had already rejected any form of Christianity. This is why they weren’t in church. In fact, in a 10 mile radius around our church facility, 86% of the people didn’t attend church. Well, except on Easter, then only 75% weren’t in church. They didn’t want anything that smelled like church or religiosity. They had rejected this approach to life, primarily because it proved to be irrelevant to them or because they sensed a disingenuous dimension that can be easily communicated through producing the big show each week.

This approach was certainly effective and over the past few years I’ve come to realize all over again that it really isn’t about Christianity; it’s about Jesus. And, anything, even Christianity can get in the way of knowing Jesus and making Him known. We see this clearer today as we work with other religious cultures. It’s simply Jesus for all who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

Last week I was sent a letter of resignation from Christianity that spells out the dilemma clearly:

Dear Christianity,

Today I announce my official resignation as a member of your society. I am sure that in your earliest attempts to draw men to yourself your intentions were well. The problem is that overtime men have become more drawn to you instead of the Jesus to which you speak. Men have taken you and made you something that no longer works for me. For the past thirty years I have followed your ways, believed your “truths” and pretended that everything was ok. The reality is that all is not well and you have not helped. Matter of fact, you are the source of much of my problems.

In you I have had to pretend to be someone that I am not on the inside. I never felt like I measured up to what you wanted. It always seemed as though everyone else had you figured out. I on the other hand have only found myself bankrupt in your lofty expectations. Legalism followed up with rules of dos and don’ts has been the steady diet that you have fed me. I have neither found the freedom nor the abundant life that your scriptures claim to give.

With you I have never:
• Experienced an abundant full life
• Had an overwhelming sense of peace and joy
• Felt like I was good enough for God
• Felt like I truly experienced a personal relationship with Jesus
• Been drawn to pray. You forced me to pray out of obligation
• You never solved the inner core problems of my heart
• You never helped me not to sin. You only told me to stop my sinful behavior
• Most of all you have left me disillusioned to the truth of life

So today I am leaving you. You and I will never again join company to partner in life. Today I declare that I am officially free from your grasps. I will no longer call myself a Christian. When others ask what religion I am I will tell them how I was raised in your system but have left you to follow something much more exciting and fulfilling. The person of Jesus. You have distorted the truth of Jesus and made Him someone He was never meant to be. I resent you for that.

Free from your grasps, I am now able to become a student and follower of the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that it is here that I will find hope, peace, joy and an abundant sense of life. It is here that I believe Jesus will meet me to help fix my deepest despair. It is here that I will find what it really means to walk with Jesus. I am sure that my new journey will bring me to deal with the resentment that I harbor against you. However for now, I celebrate in the freedom of not being bound by the chains of your religious organization.


Stephen M. Johnson
Follower of Jesus!

Please don’t take this wrongly. There is nothing wrong with being a Christian, but don’t let your Christianity come between you and Jesus. The Christianization of Jesus has kept more people out of the Kingdom than most anything else. You see, Jesus trumps everything and everyone else! Jesus wasn’t a Christian. He never encouraged anyone to become a Christian. Jesus isn’t owned by Christianity. He’ll work with anyone. He is the way, the truth and the life for anyone who is interested!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007



One of the last commands Jesus left with His followers is to MAKE DISCIPLES. Paul speaks to Timothy about finding faithful men and women to teach and train them in such a way that they will do the same thing with a few others. Jesus in His prayer to the Father in John 17 makes it clear that He had finished the work He had come to do. And, that work was to invest His life in a few to make them faithful disciples or followers.

As I see it, the myth of discipleship rests on two misunderstandings about what Jesus intended in the making of disciples. And, these misunderstandings continue to Christianize Jesus in such a way that genuine discipleship isn’t the norm, but is quite rare.

FIRST—The misunderstanding of who is to be discipled is prevalent. Since most Christians hang out in their holy huddles, the only possible people to be discipled are other Christians. Now, don’t get me wrong here. Christians need to be discipled, but I believe Jesus’ original intent was that we are to focus on non-Christians to disciple. Because of this misunderstanding, Christians tend to only talk to themselves.

SECOND—The first misunderstanding is amplified by the second. The second misunderstanding has to do with the orderly process of making disciples.

In Matthew 28 Jesus states the command—MAKE DISCIPLES, then He sets forth how to do this with three participles. So, it reads like this:
1. Make disciples by going. I see this happening as you orbit around your world of family, friends and acquaintances. You make contact with people around you by listening, caring, being helpful and loving them, not by preaching to them or debating with them. What you’ll find is that there are many more people out there who have a spiritual bent toward the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom—especially when they discover you aren’t selling some sort of religious involvement or have an agenda to push.

2. Make disciples by baptizing. You are to identify those who are interested—those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. To me this is the best second step of making disciples. Instead of taking people through a class or study before baptism, I am seeing this kind of identification happening much earlier. I see this in our trips to Israel. I invite those who are interested in following Jesus to be identified with Him by baptism. This seems to be much closer to the early scene with the first disciples of Jesus. This practice of identifying a believer who is leaning in with some kind of identification seems to be very appropriate.

3. Make disciples by teaching. The third step in making a disciple is to teach them to observe everything Jesus taught—to follow His teachings and principles.

NOW NOTE how making disciples is normally done today!
FIRST—We teach them and teach them and teach them, until we convince those who are interested in Jesus that it’s all about a set of beliefs and what you know. The “personal” relationship is subtly neglected in the process.

SECOND—After lots of teaching, we invite them to come and be baptized. This is normally more than identifying a person as a follower of Jesus; it’s more about being baptized or identified as a new member of a local big “C” Church—and by this the new member must buy into a certain set of beliefs and practices and traditions.

THIRD—Now, after being extensively taught the beliefs and traditions of the local big “C” Church and being officially identified as a member, then the “going” is introduced. But what are they going to do? To teach their beliefs and traditions or to introduce Jesus to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see?

It’s all back-assward! This is why much of the “going” today has a minimal effect upon the culture visited. Churches may be established and membership built, but the powerful dynamic of a Jesus movement doesn’t break out as we see in the book of Acts.

By the way, when the “going” step has as its goal to genuinely help the people with their greatest needs—feeding them, caring for orphans and widows, giving hope to the disenfranchised, digging wells, building homes, this is precisely what Jesus intended. To go out taking His love and His peace to those in need of the good news of the Kingdom stirs up the spiritual interest in the source of this love and this peace and good will.

I heard this approach a few years ago defined as SOUP, SOAP AND SALVATION. This is the way. Demonstrate the love of Jesus for those in need in other cultures and they will be attracted to Him. Jesus is all about attraction and not promotion! So, why not make disciples Jesus’ way? The Christianized Jesus can easily be just one more message of propaganda from the West. But the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom is more than enough to transform anyone in any culture—forever!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007



Conversion comes from the idea of turning around—changing the direction of your life. A synonym of conversion is repentance. Conversion is not a myth; it’s a must for anyone who has a heart to walk with God. The myth is that man can convert another. You don’t have the power to convert anyone, including yourself. Only God can convert a person. In fact, I’m convinced that conversion or repentance is a gift from God. Check out these words written to Timothy: Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (II Timothy 2:25-26).

NOTE that there is hope that God will grant or give people repentance or conversion. It’s a gift from God, not a man-made project. Yet we seem to be bent on converting all who are not Christian into Christianity.

There are two levels of this “conversion” effort. The FIRST is within the Western Christian culture. This emerges through the channel of what has become known as “Christian” causes.
It’s so much easier to busy ourselves with causes, but these ‘good’ causes get in the way of the ‘best’—God-given conversion and repentance of the hearts of men and women. Bob Briner’s book, SEVEN NOBLE CAUSES THAT KEEP CHRISTIANS FROM CHANGING THE WORLD, is right on target!

NOTE the seven causes he chose:
1. Squabbling over prayer in public schools!
2. Making Jesus a right winger!
3. Thwarting the homosexual agenda!
4. Fighting other Christians over doctrinal purity!
5. Shutting down the abortion clinics!
6. Cleaning up television!
7. Fighting for family values!

None of these noble causes matter as much as people being granted repentance or conversion from God. Yet these noble causes continue to produce a great offence in such a way that Jesus and His transforming power are set aside for something lesser. By focusing on fighting for these causes, you may win a battle or two, but you will lose the war of turning people on to Jesus.

The SECOND level of man-made conversion occurs outside the Western Christian culture. This is normally found in the activity of “Christian missionaries” throughout the world. Christians go throughout the world in an attempt to convert non-Christians everywhere to become Christians. This is not God granting repentance or conversion, but men who are bent on converting the “natives”. Think of it! Well-meaning Christians go out and believe that they can convert people into becoming Christians. Remember, this is only a work that God can grant to a person. How haughty to think that anyone, no matter how faithful, can “convert” someone else!

So many Christian missionaries around the world are doing missionary work the hard way. They are persecuted, churches are destroyed, Christians are thrown into jail and most all are terrorized by the people they are trying to convert.

You see, no missionary or pastor or evangelist will ever bring about conversion. Only God can perform this act on a person’s heart. This is one of the keys to how Jesus became so Christianized. Offering Christianity as the answer and conversion to Christianity the process will forever meet vehement resistance. There will be some converts made by this approach, but the overall result of these conversion tactics are too offensive. I think this is one of the major reasons for non-Christian cultures hating the West so much.

The only answer to the myth of conversion is to present the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. It’s not about making or producing or converting more people to Christianity. This is a debate about a set of beliefs and causes, at best. The only answer is a Person. His name is Jesus.

Monday, August 20, 2007



Before entering fully into this myth I want to define “church” once more as I did several days ago. Jesus and His disciples used the term “church” in a small “c” way like a gathering or council or assembly of Jesus’ followers that is really an organism consisting mostly of participators and not a big “C” Church that out of necessity becomes an organization consisting mostly of spectators.

Model of Jesus. Jesus never encouraged His followers to plant or build churches. In fact, He never criticized the big “C” Church—the Synagogue—of the day. He never even suggested that His followers should start new synagogues or churches. However, He did encourage His followers to gather together in fellowship with one another. Jesus said, “I will build My church”, so what does He want from you and me? It seems we are to be the church, not to plant one or build one or run one.

Model of the early disciples—No one had as his vocation to plant a church to spread the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom, yet small gatherings of followers of Jesus popped up as Jesus transformed their lives and brought them together in love for Him and one another.

There definitely was a planting in the early days with Jesus, but it wasn’t planting churches. The planting that was going on was the planting of the seed of the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom. Planting was done with all those who were interested—who had ears to hear and eyes to see. NOTE there was a clear warning regarding being caught up with one leader over another—a warning to not wrap your experience with Jesus around men.

Check out what Paul said regarding this very thing in I Corinthians 3 and 4: 4For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? 5What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

Building your faith around certain gifted teachers or leaders is building on the wrong foundation. It’s like building a monument to men rather than being caught up in a Jesus movement. It’s important that when you are planting seeds of the good news of Jesus and the Gospel, pray that a Jesus movement might break out.

When you find yourself in a church-building setting, pray that a Jesus movement might break out. When sitting in a small group bible study, pray that a Jesus movement might break out. You see, the most important thing for all of us is to wait on Jesus to lead out and follow Him. Always look around you and see where God is working and go there!

I think we’ve spent too much time building big “C” Churches without practicing being the little “c” church of Jesus wherever we gather together with other followers. This may be over dinner or at the coffee shop or in a small group. In fact, you might find that the best church you went to this week was your time of discussion and fellowship you enjoyed with a few in the courtyard of the big “C” Church. We’ve spent too much time, money and energy building Churches and missing out on the Kingdom of God in our midst—the very presence of the King. Remember, Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in His name, He will show up.”

Don’t build a monument to anyone or anything. Catch up with the Jesus movement. Jesus isn’t looking for anyone to start it or lead it. It’s been going on for quite some time. Jesus is looking for followers!

Churches don’t need to be planted or built. Churches of Jesus’ followers need to be practiced and Jesus Himself will show up!



We’re Just Talking To Ourselves.

There is a nasty rumor that seems to permeate Christianity and has been placed upon anyone who dares to follow Jesus. The rumor is that being religious requires that you remain in your holy huddle of safety and from time to time do sneak attacks, seeking to capture others and bring them back into the holy huddle where people can become just like you and your group.

Many who claim to be followers of Jesus learn to talk funny. It’s almost a language all its own. I call it Christianese. When we speak in this code lingo, we leave a lot of people outside looking in.

We act as if we are in a club with a secret handshake, our own special music and our family terminology. The problem is that when we talk funny, we end up only talking to those who can speak the language. In essence when you use Christianese, you will find that you’re just talking to yourselves.

By Christianese I mean more than just using certain lingo. There is another dimension of Christianese and that is the need to sell others that you are right. By the way, when you are right, all others are wrong. This kind of thinking leads to debating over the most ridiculous things. When you are into Christianese, you are looking for things to debate—creation, prophecy, and other doctrinal beliefs. All sets of beliefs are secondary to the primary focus upon Jesus.

One more dimension of Christianese is the sense that being a Western cultural Christian is the only way to God. We see this demonstrated in our missions approach. We introduce Western cultural Christian songs in every culture of the world as if they will identify with these as we have, but in their language. Why do we feel that the song “Amazing Grace” is something the new culture needs to have in their culture? Why not challenge them to use their own musical themes to write new songs that are more appropriate to the culture? It’s so easy to think that our way is the right way for everyone and it is not!

Those who are caught up in Christianese tend to overuse the term Christian. In fact, it’s easy to think that “Christ” is Jesus’ last name. It’s not a last name, but a title. Jesus is the Messiah or the Christ, so it is literally Jesus, the Christ.

Christians believe that Jesus was either the founder of Christianity or that Christians somehow own Jesus. What we must keep in perspective is that Jesus never was a Christian nor does He want to become one. Jesus never even used the term and yet we have people throughout the world being persecuted for being Christians and performing “Christian” activities that Jesus never did or would have done. This is what my son-in-law calls, “Doing missionary work the hard way.”

Jesus is so much greater than Western cultural Christianity that people are being persecuted for. What’s interesting to me is that I don’t know anyone today who is being persecuted for being a follower of Jesus. In fact, I am personally working with Buddhists, Hindu, Moslem, Jewish and Christians who are followers of Jesus, yet are totally accepted within their religious and cultural communities.

The problem with Christianity and the Christianizing of Jesus is that it tends to miss the simplicity and purity of simply Jesus and moves people into BEING RELIGIOUS. Jesus is not religious. He is relational and must find personal connection with each person in each culture and religious persuasion. Christianese denies this possibility.

Here’s the bottom-line: We tend to talk to ourselves and judge the world, when we ought to be judging ourselves and talking to the world in their language, culture and religious background. So, stop speaking Christianese, but speak real, live, down-to-earth language about real life. To speak in Christianese will limit your communication. To speak in terms of Jesus will prove to be the most attractive communication you’ve ever used.

Friday, August 17, 2007



There are two ways to view Jesus and your spiritual life. One is DEIFICATION and the other is INCARNATION. You have a choice to go the way of deification or the way of incarnation.

Deification is man becoming God. The way of deification is to believe that Jesus was born a human and became God over time. It's almost as if He realized more and more that if He continued to walk the walk of perfection, He must be the chosen one to become God.

This same line of thinking has application in our lives. If we believe that we can become better and better and achieve some sort of level of righteousness on our own, then we are caught up in the process of "deification". Some forms of Christianity have excelled in this with elevating certain teachers or even certain experiences as more spiritual than others. What happens is believers are divided into first-class citizens vs second-class citizens in the Kingdom. We are naturally set up for this kind of thinking as we elevate our pastors, our teachers, evangelists and our authors.

Incarnation is God becoming man. The way of incarnation is to believe that Jesus was God taking on flesh to become man in order to establish a personal relationship between man and God. Jesus knew who He was and what His mission was. He was God-made-flesh.

This same line of thinking also has application in our lives. In a sense, we are to become Jesus-to allow Him to become alive and powerful in and through us-to take on His person-to flesh Him out. By walking, thinking, loving and talking like Jesus we are fleshing Him out in our lives as we encounter those He brings to us.

Here's how I see it. There are two primary miracles that we must embrace: The Greatest Miracle is the incarnation of Jesus-the Word became flesh-God, born as man. Jesus replaces the OT dwelling place of God. NOTE this in Matthew 1:23: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us").

Jesus came to do four things: FIRST-To reveal God. No one has seen God and Jesus made Him known through Jesus.

SECOND-To be sacrificed-to permanently take away the need to pay for what we do wrong or what we do right.

THIRD-To demonstrate God's love as Jesus was full of grace and truth. If there was ever a man who was God in the flesh, He would act and talk like Jesus.

FOURTH-To redeem us. Mortals can participate in the miracle by being apprehended by Jesus and rescued from our own shallowness and self-absorption.

The 2nd Greatest Miracle is that you can be born of God, taking on His flesh through Jesus. Jesus even says that we will be able to do greater things than He did. Jesus is multiplied through those who have ears to hear and eyes to see-serious followers of Jesus.

Jesus marked the world and you are to be the touch of God on earth-the salt and light.

Jesus moved to a different drummer and you are to be separated from the herd of the world by your genuine love for the world around you.

Jesus made a point of reaching out to the needy and you are to be lovers-especially to those who are ignored by the world-the broken, the outcast, the bruised, damaged and disenfranchised.

Jesus motivated the most extensive movement ever out of His weakness and you are to be a fellowship of prodigal lovers or wounded healers.

The bottom-line is being religious misses the point. Jesus doesn't want us to demonstrate for Him through our religiosity, He wants us to demonstrate Him as we walk like He walked and talk like He talked.

Thursday, August 16, 2007



In the Christianization of Jesus there is another huge myth-the myth of being religious. This myth is filled with several sub-myths. Many years ago Fritz Ridenour wrote a book with a classic title, "How To Be A Christian Without Being Religious" on the book of Romans. Even though I wouldn't use that same terminology today, I loved the title and it speaks volumes of truth.

Being religious can really get in the way of simply following Jesus. The basic problem is that being religious will usually be in the name of a given religion or religious entity or church. That's just not good enough. All we as followers of Jesus must be operating under one banner and no other-in the name of Jesus.

Let me illustrate how important the name of Jesus is with the calling of Paul. Paul had a role in life-to persecute the followers of the Way. The Way believed Jesus was the promised Messiah. Paul was a believer in the Messiah and he was looking for the Messiah, the Christ. In a sense, you could call him a Christian-a follower of the Christ, the Messiah. So, since he wasn't buying into the Messiahship of Jesus, he did all he could do to stop the efforts of the Way-the followers of Jesus. He saw this as his role in life and played it very well. In fact, he felt he was quite righteous about what he was doing. BUT JESUS APPREHENDED HIM. When Jesus comes into your life, He takes you out of your role or false-self and brings about a spirit of authenticity to you and your lifestyle. You can't cover up and play a role, when Jesus is leading out.

NOTE the words God spoke to Ananias about Paul. This is significant: "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear MY NAME before the GENTILES, KINGS, and the SONS OF ISRAEL, for I will show him how much he must suffer for MY NAME'S sake."

Four things stand out here to me: FIRST-It's all about the NAME OF JESUS. This was most important to the Lord-that Paul bear the NAME OF JESUS. This is what is most important for us today! We are not commanded to spread Christianity or any other religious system nor church membership, but only and primarily the NAME OF JESUS.

SECOND-Who was the target of Paul's ministry to be? NOTE it was the Gentiles, kings and the sons of Israel. It is not what is normally taught that Peter was the apostle to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles. There was a much larger picture going on here where Paul was to take the name of Jesus to the world.

THIRD-The transformation of Paul, the persecutor of the people of Jesus, into Paul, the preacher of Jesus, was very dramatic and obvious. After spending several days with the disciples of Jesus who were in Damascus, he began to proclaim the NAME OF JESUS in the synagogues. Even more than proclaiming Jesus, Paul was confidently proving that Jesus was the Messiah. The people were shocked!

FOURTH-A personal encounter with Jesus will change all that you are and all that you do, even if you are a "Christian".

I believe Jesus apprehended my life nearly 5 years ago as a long-time Christian, seminary graduate and pastor. I had always loved Jesus and taught about Him in the ministry opportunities that were laid out for me. But this time there is a difference:

· Instead of being intent on teaching it properly and effectively, I am more intent on obeying Jesus. · Instead of doing, doing, doing as well as I can do, I am into being, being, being who Jesus has made me to be. · Instead of building the church of Jesus, I am disciplining myself to be the church of Jesus. · Instead of playing a role or wearing the mask that befits a religious position, I am bent on being real and authentic.

· Instead of trying to reach the masses with another "powerful" message, I am now more interested in investing my time with a few. · Instead of exercising my life over what "my" purpose is, I am exercising myself toward loving God with all my heart and loving my neighbors as myself. · Instead of deceiving myself into thinking I have some "messianic" touch to help people, I introduce them to the only one who can change their lives-JESUS. · Instead of just going to church, I am now practicing being the church in every gathering of believers in His name.

· Instead of frantically trying to change the world by Wednesday noon, I now understand that the call of Jesus on my life is a call into His rest. · Instead of making disciples out of Christians, I see that the best potential disciples are made out of non-Christians. · Instead of hanging out with the religious crowd, I am hanging out with revolutionaries.

· Instead of doing life as the Lone Ranger, I am now doing life with a few others. · Instead of counting the variety of churches in the world, I now see there is only one church-the church of Jesus-and it pops up in every culture of the world. · Instead of doing things my way for Jesus, I am now waiting on Jesus to lead out with His orders and opportunities-to do things His way in His time.

I see the lesson here of Paul's encounter with Jesus in this way: When Jesus apprehends you on your way to becoming a righteous Christian, He will transform you into becoming a stubborn follower of Him in order to lift up His NAME.

NOTE that Paul was caught up in doctrinal issues about the Messiah (the Christ), but was not connected to the Person of the Messiah. This is the same problem we encounter today. We spend so much time in doing the "right things" and miss the right Person-Jesus. That is what religion is all about.

But here's the bottom-line that you will continue to see more and more clearly as you walk with Jesus, walk with others and wait on Jesus to lead out: Your relationship with Jesus-walking with Jesus-is the most important relationship of all. You see, I count on those I'm walking with to be working on their relationship with Jesus and they are counting on me for the same thing. Without a relationship with Jesus there is no power or dynamic in walking with others. And, without Jesus there is no need to wait for Jesus to lead out. Being religious will always be empty and unfruitful. Being in relationship with Jesus is the only way to be fulfilled and fruitful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007



Before continuing on with the "Myth of Religion vs. Relationship" I want clarify and expand on something I said yesterday. I referenced how amazed and shocked we have become at what we've been simply accepting as the "truth" throughout the years without question or any further thinking about it.

I mentioned that we have been so bent on "going to heaven" that we may be missing the point that the Creator-God wants to get down here and dwell among us. There is something about continuing with what He created here on the earth that He finds special. He is even planning on creating a new heaven and new earth, so that He can dwell down here among us.

Another one of the Christian "rumors" that has been taught falsely is about Paul. I've heard all my life that "Saul was his Jewish name before he became a Christian and Paul was his Christian name." It's just not true. If that were true, then Paul ought to be called Paul throughout the rest of the book of Acts. But he is not. Saul and Paul are used interchangeably throughout. I think this devilish little mis-truth is one of many little ways to keep us off message. Saul was the Jewish way of saying Paul and Paul was his Roman name. Paul (Saul) was still Jewish, after bowing his heart to Jesus. Jesus doesn't change your cultural background, when He enters your life. He transforms you inside out with all your cultural quirks and nooks and crannies.

One more quick "Christian rumor" of the many that we are discovering is that Paul is the author of I Thessalonians. Because it is written in by the translator/editor of a given publication (King James, NIV, etc.), everyone believes that Paul is the author. But that is not what the Scriptures say. It is clear in the very first verse of the letter that Paul, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy were the authors. This seems a little picky until you realize that these three men in fellowship with one another had amazing results in this city. The attraction was not the mighty giftedness of one man, Paul, but it was the power of Jesus showing up among the three men as they walked together in the name of Jesus. He always promises to show up. That's a revolutionary message for us today. Instead of operating as "Lone Rangers", be careful to walk with a few. Where two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, He will show up in their midst.

The result of these "Christian rumors" is to be practicing a man-made twisting of what was intended in the first place. This distracts us into putting our emphases and focus on a series of "add-ons" that really don't matter. As Paul says, "I'm afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, that your minds may be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (II Corinthians 11). The best way to avoid these man-made add-ons is to focus on simply Jesus.

Christianity as well as many other religions have become man-made religious systems stocked with do's and don'ts. Within the religious system of Christianity every flavor of Christianity has its set of beliefs that distinguish one from the other. Unfortunately, it's difficult for Christians to see that their religious systems have become like the early, 1st century Jewish religious system with layer upon layer of man-made beliefs that make one more right than the other. And, each belief system has a built-in fear, anger and guilt that accompanies it. The fear comes in all sizes-"Am I ready?" "Have I done all the right things in order to get into heaven?" "Have I believed the right things?" "Am I missing something crucial?" "Do I need to know more?"

The anger emerges from people who are not doing the right things that you have come to believe they must do to be right before God. You may not be doing them perfectly either, but it's so much easier to point out others flaws and sins than to face up to your own. This is why you'll note a preacher or bible teacher who seems to always be slamming certain sins harder than others is then is caught committing those very sins. Many times the truth of the matter is they suffer from not facing that particular sin in their own lives and are filled with anger at the wrong person. So, ministers who vehemently preach against prostitutes are caught with a prostitute. Or, a leader who angrily stands against the homosexual movement is discovered to secretly be homosexual.

The guilt manifests itself in the knowledge that you know you are not good enough to make it to heaven or to face up to the God of gods or even keep your own commandments and standards. You know all too well your short-comings and spend much of your time covering them up, rationalizing them away and comparing your performance with others. This underlying guilt leaves an unsettled feeling that you are inadequate in your gut and fuels even more fears of whether or not you are right with God.

Do you see the deadly cycle? I FEAR that I may not make it to heaven and will surely end up in hell. Instead of dealing with my deepest fears of inadequacy, I look for a "sacrificial lamb" who has been caught or who is worse than I am. Then I can spew out my ANGER against them and their failures, somehow believing if I keep taking a stand against these things that are part of me I will in some way atone for my sins by pointing out theirs and punishing them. However, this anger swirls inside you progressively making you sicker and more empty in your own soul. There comes a time when your anger is so ugly that you cannot stand your own behavior and this makes you feel a heavy load of GUILT. With this guilt, now I know my fears are justified regarding ever getting into heaven!

FEAR-ANGER-GUILT. This deadly religious trinity then leaves an indelible residue on your person-on your soul. That residue is SHAME.

Continuing down this religious track, shame sets you up for religious leaders to talk down to you and to offer more and more lists and sets of beliefs for you to embrace in order to get cleaned up enough to be ready to face your Creator. Now, take this cycle of religious insanity based in a man-made religiosity and think in terms of exporting it. Call it anything you want and try to convert the world to your cultural way of thinking. You are still only offering to exchange your cultural, religious system for theirs.

The reality for us to embrace is that Jesus isn't interested in limiting Himself to any specific religious system. In fact, He offers freedom from the deadly religious cycles that entangle us when He says, "All who are weakened and burdened down come unto Me and I will give you rest." The good news is that Jesus came to release us from all negative, stressful, religious cycles and give us rest from it all. He is adamant that we are to follow Him, doing the will of the Father. With Jesus, it's not a religious matter, but a very personal one. He is the unique and irresistible I AM and He wants us to personally relate, trust and follow Him. It's truly Jesus plus nothing.