Sunday, January 20, 2008

Matthew 6:5-8


5 ``When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 ``But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 ``And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 ``So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

The 2nd righteous act is PRAYING. Praying, just as giving, is a righteous act meant to be between you and God. The Pharisees loved to make a show out of it.

NOTE what they did. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues. This is interesting. Isn't it OK to stand and pray in the synagogue (church)? Not when it is a SHOW for someone else. Several years ago, I had to ask one of our pastors not to pray inside the church facility, because it became such a spectacle. Can you imagine asking a pastor to please refrain from praying in church? I even have difficulty with public prayers. It's so easy to drift off into preaching to the people and not really talking to the God of gods.

They love to stand and pray on the street corners so that they may be seen. To me, this is even more offensive! And note that those who pray in this way have already received their reward in full and its not from God. Some believe that if you pray out in the streets or other public arenas that it becomes a wonderful testimony to the non-believers. Jesus is against this kind of prayer that is prayed as a public testimony. Prayer is a righteous act before God. It's the principle of private focus!

They love to pray using meaningless repetition and many words, believing that they will be heard better by God. Literally, Jesus says don't get into repeating meaningless phrases. Don't say "bata bata bata bata" over and over thinking this will be pleasing to God.

Do you know anyone who prays in one or more of these three forbidden ways? Jesus is not impressed!

Jesus teaches, when you pray. Go into your inner room. Find a spot where you heard from God before, privately and away from all people and distractions, and close the door, talking only to your Father who is in secret.

Instead of using many meaningless words, try spending half of your time set aside for listening. Why? Because your Father knows what you need before you even ask.

The righteous act of praying is to be: 1-Only to your Father. 2-Without showing off in front of others. 3-In a private place. 4-Listening as well as talking to your Father.

At your next time of prayer try speaking only half the time and listening the other half. I'm learning (slowly, but surely) that Jesus wants me to shut up and resign from working for Him in an advisory capacity and listen to what He has for me. This has proven to be revolutionary!

Matthew 6:1-4


1 ``Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. "

Earlier Jesus says that His you are to let your light shine in such a way so that the world may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven. Here Jesus warns of practicing your righteousnesses before men to be noticed by them. So, what is the difference between "good works" and "practicing righteousness?" "Good works" seem to be your lifestyle-allowing your light to be seen. "Practicing righteousness" seems to be actions that are only to be between you and God. He illustrates these righteous acts with giving, praying and fasting.

NOTE that if your motive is to practice these acts in order to be seen, then you will not receive any reward from your Father. We'll see this more specifically set forth in each of the acts.

2 ``So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 ``But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

The scribes and Pharisees practiced their giving in order to be noticed by men. When they went to the Temple, they gave their coins into receptacles called "trumpets". You can imagine how much noise they could make with the coins to "trumpet" attention to themselves for others to see how holy they were in their giving. Also, they made a show of it as they gave to those in need in the streets. It was a show to seek honor from men. Jesus points out that when you give in this manner, the applause and honor you stir up from those who are impressed by your giving will be the only reward you will get for that act of giving. So, maybe you should have taped it, because that's all there is!

Jesus then offers His advice on giving: 1-As much as is possible do your giving in secret. 2-Your secret giving will be noticed by the only One that matters-God, Himself. 3-Giving in secret will bring about a special reward from God.

Have you ever given money, a pledge, a gift in kind or some measure of your time that you really wanted others to notice? I've been there-done that, and is it empty! Then, I became the recipient of someone's giving to me when I really needed it and had no idea where it came from. Wow! It was if God, Himself, knew exactly what my needs were and supplied the answer to those needs through an anonymous, secret giver. Now, I can say that the most important giving I have ever done or do today is when it is a secret between the Lord and me. By the way, this will enhance your special relationship with Jesus, too.

Listen to the spirit of Jesus nudging at your heart. What are you hearing regarding your giving? Where can you give in secret in a special partnership with God? Now, give and hush!

Matthew 5:43-48


43 ``You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 44 ``But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 ``For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 ``If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 ``Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We now come to the last of the 6 comparisons Jesus uses to demonstrate His teaching versus that of the scribes and Pharisees-love your enemies! To "love your neighbor" was understood in their teaching. Loving your neighbor in the way neighbor was defined in their teachings was incomplete. Jesus enhances this teaching by taking it another level deeper. His point is that to love your enemies and even pray for those who persecute you is to act as a child of God, the Father. To be a son of God is to take on His character.

The last line of Jesus' teaching is that "you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" may be one of the most misquoted and misunderstood teachings of Jesus. He is not saying that we are to be into perfection. That just isn't going to work. There is no way! What Jesus is saying is to be full and complete in your love.

God causes the sun to rise on evil and good. God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Loving a person who loves you isn't anything special. Even the tax collectors do that. Greeting only your brothers isn't anything special. Even the non-believer Gentiles do that.

So, be full and complete in your act of loving as your Father fully and completely loves everyone-evil and good, righteous and unrighteous. Love everyone, everywhere you go, in every encounter. Demonstrate the full and complete love of Jesus. This is the Gospel-the Good News. This is Jesus, so be Jesus to everyone!

Matthew 5:38-42


38 ``You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' 39 ``But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 ``If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 ``Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 ``Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

WOW! Now this is a tough one! Jesus now turns to His way of dealing with RETALIATION. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in Judaism. Ask most people and they will say that this has something to do with “retaliation in the Old Testament” versus “love and forgiveness in the New Testament.” This isn’t true. Judaism never interpreted it in this way. An “eye for an eye” had to do with providing for limited liability in matters of legal compensation. Jesus is teaching to go beyond the minimum required of you when you are wronged!

They were laws for civil courts to apply, but the scribes and Pharisees interpreted these statements to justify personal retribution and retaliation against their enemies. They used them to take matters into their own hands—REVENGE. However, the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ both teach that vengeance was to be left up to God.

Jesus taught two things here: 1. Do not resist an evil person. Not only should you not take vengeance into your own hands, but don’t even oppose the evil person when the evil is being done.

2. Respond to evil by doing good. · Turn the other cheek… · Give more to the person suing you than what was asked… · Respond to government oppression by offering to do more than what is demanded… · Respond to those who ask for help by giving them what they ask…

NOTE in each case the principle is the same. We are not to resist the person who would mistreat us or who would try to deprive us of our possessions. Instead, respond in a positive manner to demonstrate the love of Jesus toward them by freely giving them more than they were hoping to gain by force, oppression or manipulation.

Joseph did this in forgiving his brothers and helping them later in life.

David spared the life of Saul, who was out to kill him.

Jesus, Himself is the primary example.

Stephen while he was being stoned.

Early believers who gladly received martyrdom and the plundering of their goods.

Paul teaches that we are to scoot over and leave room for the wrath of God on those who are doing us evil, to overcome evil with good.

I see this principle that is so contrary to “human nature” as one of the ultimate ways to fully trust Jesus to come through on our behalf. Maybe if we had the courage to actually have this kind of response, then Jesus might demonstrate Himself among us in a mighty and supernatural way. The next time you are mistreated in some way, take the challenge and look for ways to overcome evil with good. Then your “righteousness” will exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.

It’s like Jesus is saying, when a person attacks you externally, go deeper and respond to them from the heart with love (internally). If a person slaps you on the cheek, you know that this person must really be in a world of hurt to do that to you. The inner aching in his heart is much worse than a bruise on the cheek. So, hit me again if you must. But I’m going to show you the love of Jesus that you so greatly lack by my response to you!

Jesus Is The Point of The Scriptures


I've been thinking lately about how easy it is to become side-tracked with the vastness of the Scriptures and miss the point of it all. That point which the Scriptures present is simply Jesus. Luke, the author of two of the five Gospels, notes how central Jesus is to the Scriptures.

Luke references Jesus, Himself, using the Scriptures to explain His central role. After the resurrection, Jesus joins a couple of disciples walking along the road and He begins with Moses and all the Prophets to explain what the Scriptures have to say about Him.

When Paul was in the synagogue in Thessalonica, note what he said. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah," he said.

In the next chapter of Acts (18) we find Apollos was in the practice of proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. Also when Philip met up with the Ethiopian eunuch, he began with the prophet Isaiah and explained to him the good news about Jesus.

The primary role of the Gospels was to take a teaching strand out of the ancient teachings of the prophets about the Messiah and pull that thread through to a fuller explanation. For instance, Matthew picked up on the teaching that the Messiah will take on the role of the King. Mark pulled through the thread that the Messiah would be the Servant. Luke picked up the teaching as the Son of Man and John presented Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God.

The Scriptures were not written to build a great religious or a theological system. The Scriptures were written to teach us and lead us to Jesus. And, this is the most frequent mistake Christians make. Too many Christians actually worship the Bible. This is what the Jewish leadership was doing in the 1st century and Jesus called them on it. Listen to this: You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Salvation and eternal life is not a religious thing nor even a theological understanding; it's a personal thing. The person? His name is Jesus.

Gratefulness From A Wild Man


In Mark 5 Jesus encounters a frightening man who had a wild reputation around the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. I'm sure this man was the subject of many campfires, especially with the kids. Let's check out what happened in this encounter:

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God's name don't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many."

Well, Jesus cast the many demons out of this man and into a herd of about 2000 pigs. The pigs ran off a sharp cliff into the sea and died. (I normally point out that this is the first mention of "deviled ham" in the Bible, but I won't.) The demonized man was completely freed from all of his oppression and evil shackles that made him seem out of his mind. Note what happens next.

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man-and told about the pigs as well.

This man who had been harassed and controlled by the demonic world had experienced a total transformation-inside out! He was scary before-out of control, shackled, rags for clothes, roamed in and out of tombs, kept hurting himself, yelled with pain and anxiety and was basically homeless.

Then Jesus apprehended him through this encounter. The transformation speaks for itself when he is described as "sitting there, dressed and in his right mind." He was so grateful for this "Jesus make-over" that he wanted to follow along beside him the rest of his life. Note what happens.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.

NOTE what Jesus tells him. He said, "Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, how he has had mercy on you." So the man went to his people, telling his story of transformation through Jesus throughout all of the region of Decapolis. Now, the text says, "And all the people were amazed.

I think the application for us is that one of the best ways to show your gratefulness is to go home to your people-family and friends-and share your story of transformation with them. You don't have to preach, just go home and share what's happening in your life through your encounters with Jesus.

Now, there may be one problem here. If you aren't experiencing Jesus, then you may not have anything to share. So, first go to Jesus and ask Him to touch your life in a fresh way.

Gratfulness of a Prostitute


In Luke 7:36-50 a fascinating scene occurs between a very religious man by the name of Simon and an unrighteous prostitute who is anonymous. Let's take a look at it: When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-that she is a sinner."

Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." 
"Tell me, teacher," he said. "Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

The contrast here is clear. On the one hand, you have a self-righteous Pharisee who sees no great need that he has before God and therefore it doesn't occur to him that he ought to feel grateful to God. Then on the other hand, you have a sinful woman, a known prostitute in the village, who is passionately attending to Jesus out of a deep feeling of gratitude.

The central idea here is forgiveness. Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and he also came to give His life as a ransom for many. In every one of the four Gospels you will find this same sort of scene where Jesus is forgiving those who are broken and in need.

In this particular scene this prostitute breaks open a very expensive jar of perfume and worships Jesus' feet with it. Jesus takes the opportunity to make His primary, life-changing point-people are in desperate need of forgiveness. And, Jesus came to reach out to the broken, hurting, poor and spiritually bankrupt within society. But there is more to this story than just another broken person restored. This story revolves around her appreciation of being forgiven. It's important to note that both characters in the parable Jesus shares are forgiven of their debts-one more than the other. Those who are forgiven little have little appreciation and gratefulness.

Since she was forgiven of much, she had this great need to thank Jesus in any way she could. She was indeed grateful while Simon, the man who had it all together, was not filled with gratitude, because he had not experienced this same level of forgiveness. In fact, Simon was too good, too righteous to see his need for Jesus and therefore had no reason to adore Him and thank Him.

Now, notice something here. Yesterday, we discussed the 10 lepers-pitiful outcasts of society-who were healed of their leprosy, but only one was grateful enough to thank Jesus for his healing. Today we are working with a prostitute who is unusually grateful for the transformation in her life because of Jesus.

Do you see the theme developing? Jesus is the great physician who is seeking out sick people-those who don't have it together. He is not looking for those who believe they are all together. In fact, that is where Jesus finds the most opposition

So, I don't know about you, but when I think of Jesus' approach all I can say is "Over here Jesus, I am a crippled man who is in need of you." Once I came to this understanding and stance, I find myself filled with gratefulness through and through. How about you?

Gratefulness In The Life of Jesus--10 Lepers


During this week I want to pursue a study on those who were grateful to Jesus in the Gospels. In each case we'll see something special being taught about us. Let's begin with the story of the ten lepers. It is found in Luke 2:11-19.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him-and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

So, here are 10 men who were suffering from leprosy. They reached out to Jesus, asking Him to have pity on them. Jesus promptly healed all 10 of them. Now this must have been an amazing thing to be ostracized with this horrible disease and then be totally healed from it. In fact, by tradition the Jewish leadership taught that when the Messiah comes, He will be able to heal the lepers. Now, Jesus, the Messiah not only heals one, but 10 at one time.

The shock to Jesus about this entire matter was that only 1 out of 10 bothered to come back to Jesus and thank Him. Only 1! He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked Him. But there is a further shock to this story that I believe Jesus wanted to magnify a bit. This man who was healed of leprosy and returned to give thanks to Jesus was not a Jew. He was a Samaritan-a much maligned and disregarded people at that time.

There are two things here I want to emphasize: FIRST-This grateful man is maybe the only non-Christian (Samaritan) out of the group of 10. Jesus receives anyone who will respond to Him.

SECOND-This grateful man was not made whole by being healed of his leprosy. He was made whole by his faith in Jesus. His heart was bent toward Jesus.

So, what I make of this for us is: 1. Jesus is responsive to those who are grateful. 2. Jesus is just as approachable for the non-Christian as He is the Christian. 3. Jesus is looking for a heart that is bent toward Him. He's looking for someone who might be interested.

How is your heart toward Jesus? Are you grateful to Him for what He has done on your behalf or are you in too much of a hurry to say, "Thank you!"

Two Primary Themes


What are the themes being pushed in your church, local fellowship or your favorite media preacher? · Evangelism and reaching the world? · Prayer in schools? · Moral depravity of our society? · The 2nd Coming of Christ? · Worship? · Prayer? · Bible Study?

In the book of The Acts of Jesus there are two constant themes that under-gird all that is going on as the new fellowship around Jesus is launched into action. I find this emphasis by Jesus and His disciples to be most important for us today. To ignore these two themes may be short-circuiting spiritual life in the US church today. The two primary themes are the kingdom of God and the person of Jesus. Check out these three passages in Acts:

FIRST-In the opening chapter of The Acts of Jesus we are told about what Jesus taught the disciples in the 40 day intensive He had with them before He ascended into heaven. In Acts 1:3 we read: After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive (That's the person of Jesus). He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God (and here is the kingdom).

SECOND-Philip spoke to the Samaritans about these same two themes: But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God (That's the kingdom) and the name of Jesus Christ (and the person of Jesus), they were baptized, both men and women.

THIRD-Then finally in the last chapter of Acts we see Paul hosting the many visitors who came to be with him. He was very careful to teach these same two messages. Listen to this: They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God (Kingdom), and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus (Person of Jesus).

Then, a few verses later Paul is described in this way: He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ-with all boldness and without hindrance!

Have you noticed how many themes, challenges, urgings and pleadings we receive from our churches and studies in a given week? If we tried to apply even most of it, we wouldn't be able to do so. There's just too much! This is why I like the simplicity of the two themes Jesus and His disciples held together.

Maybe if we put our emphases upon simply the person of Jesus and the kingdom of God, just maybe we might experience the same things as the early church. Maybe focusing in this way is what we are desperately longing for. Maybe this is all we really need-Jesus and His kingdom. Maybe this is why Jesus made such a big deal about it when He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else you're concerned about will be provided." JESUS AND HIS KINGDOM.

Misconceptions of Paul & His Mission


There are 4 misconceptions with respect to Paul: The first is the MISCONCEPTION OF HIS NAME. As a child growing up under the teachings of Christianity I learned along with most everyone else that Saul, the Jew, was converted over to become a Christian and now has the name of Paul. So, Saul was the Jewish name and Paul his Christian name. This is completely false.

There are two evidences that reveal the truth about his name: FIRST-Saul was his Hebrew (Jewish) name and Paul was his Greek name (to the gentiles). So, with this in mind you will see that Saul and Paul are interchangeable. S

SECOND-Saul, not Paul, is used several times after Jesus apprehended Saul on the road to Damascus. It is not a Christian conversion. If there is any sort of conversion, it is a personal transformation through Jesus. So, Saul, Paul, a Christian (a follower of the Christ) is now a follower of Jesus as the Christ.

The second is the MISCONCEPTION OF HIS CONVERSION. What was the core of Paul's belief? Why was he so triggered by the followers of Jesus to the point of putting so much energy into stopping them? The core of his beliefs was the hope of the Messiah, Who would someday come and bring deliverance to His people. The followers of Jesus just didn't fit into the "accepted" way of the Messiah Paul was looking for. In other words, Paul was looking for and protecting the purity of the coming of the Messiah. Or even more to the point, Paul was a devoted follower of the Messiah, the Christ. Paul could be called a Christian.

Now, as a Christian, Jesus apprehended his life on the road to Damascus. Jesus is still actively apprehending people's lives today-non-Christians AND Christians.

The third is the MISCONCEPTION OF HIS MESSAGE. When Saul-Paul was blinded, he was sent to Ananias in Damascus to get relief. Ananias was given by God what Paul should say and do. But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel-(Acts 9:15). Paul's message that he was to proclaim was very, very simple. He was to proclaim the name of Jesus.

The fourth is the MISCONCEPTION OF HIS MISSION. In the same verse Paul is given a specific mission-to proclaim the name of Jesus to three groupings of people. The three groups are the gentiles, their kings and the house of Israel. Paul was not just to speak to the gentiles as is normally taught.

Normally Peter is viewed as the one who speaks to the Jews and Paul is the one who speaks to the gentiles. However Peter is led by God to speak to the non-believer gentiles in Acts 10 and Paul continually speaks to a group of the believing Jews.

These are four common illustrations of how Paul and his mission are grossly misunderstood. Once you understand who Paul was and how Jesus came into his understanding, then it is much easier to make sense out of how Jesus works today. Paul doesn't want to be a Christian. He tried that and found it lacking. Then he met Jesus. Jesus apprehended him on the road to Damascus.

Here's the question: "Have you allowed Jesus, Himself, to apprehend your life?"

When Jesus Shows Up


Jesus shows up "where two or three come together in His name."

When Jesus shows up no one is the same again. · The dead are brought back to life. · The blind see. · The lame walk. · The deaf hear. · The mute talk. · Enemies and rivals become friends. · Women's status is elevated. · The poor are made rich. · The rich realize their poverty. · The lost are found. · The weak finds strength. · The strong are made aware of weakness.

No transformation is more vivid than what happened to the early disciples. They were weak-willed and timid, then found inner strength and courage. The usual reason given for this dramatic life-change is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

The resurrection is no doubt paramount, however I see their transformation coming from something else. Jesus spent 40 days with the disciples, where He spoke to them about the kingdom of God. Check out what Peter shared regarding that time, when he spoke to those gathered in the house of Cornelius: "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

I think the real transformation took place during the time spent with Jesus, eating and drinking and discussing principles of the kingdom of God. And, this is the same today. When two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, He will show up and make a significant difference in all who see Him.

In E. Stanley Jones' book, Christ On the Indian Road, he shares this same principle of Jesus within the Indian culture. He says, "Jesus does not stand before the blind and the leper and the poor and the sinner and discourse philosophically on why they are in such condition, but lays His hands of sympathy upon them and heals them through his servants; and more-he puts his gentle but condemning finger upon the conscience of the hale and hearty Pharisee in the crowd and asks why he has allowed all this."

Jones goes on to say, "Christ is confronting men everywhere. He has got hold of us. A Hindu lawyer of fine ability gave an address to which I listened on the topic, 'The Inescapable Christ.' He said: "We have not been able to escape him. There was a time when our hearts were bitter and sore against him, but he is melting them by his own winsomeness. Jesus is slowly but surely entering all men in India-all men.'"

"How is it possible to limit or demarcate the lines of the Kingdom any more? He steps beyond them, and shocked and frightened like the Pharisees of other days we stand and wonder how far he will go in his warm sympathy and understanding. He eats with publicans and sinners and with the Hindu, too. No wonder H. G. Wells in summing up the influence of Jesus upon human history in his Outline of History exclaims, 'The Galilean has been too great for our small hearts.'"

Now, here's my point. If Jesus brings positive transformation in every life He encounters, then doesn't it make sense for us to introduce everyone we can to this Jesus? You see, when Jesus shows up, no one is ever the same again!

Healing In The Name of Jesus


There is a great story of healing in chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Acts. Let's take a look at it.

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer-at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: "People of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest's family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?"

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is "'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved."

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name."

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Which is right in God's eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

NOTE the ingredients of a healing in the name of Jesus. FIRST-When God sets out to heal someone, he will use ordinary, uneducated people to work through. SECOND-When God sets out to heal someone, the one who is healed many times is looking for other solutions to his problem. The lame man was hoping for money. THIRD-When God sets out to heal someone, there will be lots of opposition from the religious leadership. FOURTH-When God sets out to heal someone, other ordinary people will be amazed. There is a ripple effect of faith that emerges from such an event. FIFTH-When God sets out to heal someone, nothing can stop it. When God opens a door, no one can shut it. SIXTH-When God sets out to heal someone, He will always heal in His special name-His unique and powerful name.

His name is Jesus.

In The Name of Jesus


There is a great worship song that goes, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that name." What is there about that name that is so important?

In order to get this in perspective we must go way back to nearly 3500 years ago when Moses was being sent by God to face the people of Israel. Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you" (Exodus 3:13-14).

From the beginning God's name is very important. His name is I AM WHO I AM. This means that God exists and always has existed. It is spelled in the Hebrew language by four letters without any vowels. It is YHWH. Some ancient rabbis have described the name of God as like taking a breath. It is Yah-weh. And every breath you take is like saying His name. His name is revered so highly by the Jewish people that they wouldn't even pronounce it. Instead they would use the word for "lord" in its place. Even today, most Jews will not spell out the word, God. They usually write it with a hyphen, G-d.

When we come to the time of Jesus, there is a lot of emphasis placed upon the name of Jesus. In the first few verses of John it says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only.

Later in John Jesus says, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." What is it about this Jesus that is so attractive? Well, in Acts 4:12 it says, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved." There is something about that name.

Remember when the Lord spoke to Ananias about what he was to tell Paul, who had just been apprehended by Jesus on the road to Damascus. He said, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.

When Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17, He makes an interesting reference about the name of God, "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.

So what is the name of God that was given to Jesus? It is Jesus or "Yeshua" in the Hebrew. NOTE what this means. It is a combination of YE, short for Yahweh, and SHUA which means saves. So, the name is YAHWEH SAVES-Yeshua. It's a combination of the name of God given to Moses and the Messianic name given to God in the flesh-Jesus-God saves!

Even more specific is that Jesus makes several claims to being the I AM. When Jesus announced to His disciples He would be leaving, Thomas said, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

There is something about that name. The name of Jesus sets Him apart from all others, everywhere. As a Buddhist friend of mine said, "Jesus trumps everything and everyone else!"

This is why Peter and John were able to give the healing touch to the lame man in Jerusalem. It was all in the name of Jesus. This is why when two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, He shows up in supernatural ways. This is why we are to pray in the name of Jesus and He responds to our heart's cries.

In the name of Jesus. There is something special about that name. JESUS.

The Primary Work of God


When Jesus spent His last few hours with His disciples, He gave them some of the most important principles ever given. One of the visuals Jesus used to describe His relationship with His disciples is a vine and a branch. Jesus posed Himself as the vine and His disciples as branches that are so connected to the vine that they draw their very life from this relationship. The purpose of this relationship is to bear fruit.

Check out Jesus' words: Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Jesus gives one command here-to remain in Him as a branch remains in a vine. To remain in Jesus is to abide in Him. This might sound like a passive thing to do, but abiding in Jesus is a very active work. It is work to keep your focus on this relationship.

But what is this work? Jesus had an encounter that might clarify this a bit: Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

So what is the primary work that God wants man to do? TO BELIEVE JESUS. TO TRUST JESUS! To trust Jesus is to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus-to follow Him. This is work. Have you ever tried it? This is why I instruct people to share with others: "I am doing the toughest thing I've ever tried to do. I'm trying to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus." Believe me, this is the greatest work you will ever do in your life!

God Has Already Done It!


Most all religious systems are about doing more or doing and not doing certain things in order to be acceptable to God. Then with some you can achieve certain levels of acceptability after death if certain conditions are met.

But with Jesus, it's completely the opposite. With Jesus all that makes you acceptable to God has already been done. There's nothing you could do to earn this acceptance-nothing. Instead of do, do, do, Jesus says, "It's already done!" Jesus took on flesh to suffer and die in order to turn the doing into done. Now, all there is to do is accept what He has done and respond to it.

Check out the message of the letter to the church of Jesus in Ephesus. There are 6 chapters and it lays out very neatly. The first 3 chapters set forth what God has done for us. · He has redeemed us · He calls us saints · He has given us the same power that resurrected Jesus · He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing · He has already seated us in heavenly places

Then, one of my favorite passages says: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Paul's prayer expresses the same richness: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

So, the first 3 chapters present much of what God has done for us. Then, the last 3 chapters give us 33 things to do. Here's the way I see it. Look what the Lord has done and is doing in you. NOW ACT LIKE IT! HIS WORK IN MY LIFE ALWAYS REQUIRES MY RESPONSE. SO, don't try to do it yourself. God has already done it. What He wants from you is to respond to Him and His work!