Sunday, November 30, 2008



Most of my adult life I have been practicing therapy-counseling people caught in every problem imaginable. When I first began speaking, it was on the university campus. I was the main speaker for many weekend retreats over a period of 6 or 7 years. The routine was always the same. I usually spoke 5 times during that retreat. On Friday night I always gave the same introductory message that set up the weekend for the other four messages I was slotted to present. Before delivering this message I asked the students and staff to take a 3x5 card and write out the three most important problems they wanted solved this weekend. They wrote them on the card, folded it and turned them in. I then read through the cards that night and prepared the next four messages to meet the needs they had expressed on the cards.

This introductory evening set up a constant stream of students and staff coming up to me to find counsel for whatever issues they were struggling with. Many retreats I was able to get only 4-5 hours sleep each night, because the need seemed so great. I realized through this early experience how people were desperately in need of help. What they were craving was to be able to talk with someone who was safe and who cared.

What I learned was that my counsel primarily consisted of listening to their problems and bringing a different perspective to the predicament. I was basically helping them discover more options to deal with what they thought was an impossible situation.

To be healthy, psychologically and spiritually, it's so important to have options. Those who are unhealthy find themselves running out of options. And, those who choose the route of suicide have run out of options altogether-ending it all seems like the only logical thing to do. Depression lingers in your life, when you feel you are out of hope and out of options-no light at the end of the tunnel!

When you're out of options, you will find yourself scrambling for security and inner satisfaction. When you run out of options, there is one option that is always available and that's what I want to share with you. Just thinking through a few people who ran out of options in biblical history, there are some interesting insights available to us.

In the Old Testament, Daniel certainly found himself out of options, when he was thrown into the lion's den. Jonah was a man faced with two distinct options-obey God's call to fulfill a mission or to disobey-to run alongside God or to run away from God. Well, as you know he made the wrong choice and ran away from God. Then he found himself in the belly of a great fish, marinating in its digestive juices. Now, that was a situation where Jonah was clearly out of options. Both Daniel and Jonah had one option open to them-turn to God. Daniel was persuaded to do this by the lions and Jonah was dramatically motivated into running back to God after running away by his experience in the fish.

In the New Testament, I think of the nobleman who came to Jesus to seek healing for his son. John records the story of the royal official, the nobleman, who had run out of options and believed Jesus possessed the only way for his son to live. Matthew and Mark share the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, living in a ceremonially unclean state for all that time. She had run out of options and fought the crowd, where she was not allowed to be due to her uncleanness, and was determined to get to Jesus, believing He was her only option to be healed.

The story of Jesus apprehending Paul with the bright light on his way to Damascus is an interesting scene. In this case, it isn't that Paul had run out of options. He thought he was on God's mission, persecuting the followers of Jesus. But Jesus in a spectacular encounter put Paul in a position that he had no other option than to respond in humility.

Here's the principle: When you're out of options, there is always one last option available to you. It's not a belief system. It's not the counsel of a good therapist. It's not some secret you need to know. It's a person-Jesus. Jesus is always available as your last option and would like to be your first option. I've noticed over the years that most people come to Jesus by the process of elimination-nothing else works!

When you're out of options, remember to turn to Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life available to you.

There's one more thing here. When you're out of options, it's too easy for you to be overcome with worry, hopelessness and depression. Remember this: WHEN YOU'RE DOWN TO NOTHING, IT MEANS THAT GOD IS UP TO SOMETHING. SEEK HIM WITH ALL YOU'VE GOT! WHEN YOU'RE OUT OF OPTIONS, MAKE JESUS YOUR NEXT BEST OPTION!

Thursday, November 27, 2008



According to James in his early writings there are three ways to handle your troubles. The first way is to refocus by rejoicing in the product God is working in you. God is using your trouble to purify you and make you stronger-refocusing on the end result rather than the problem itself is what's required here.

The second way to handle your troubles again involves refocusing. This time it is to refocus away from your problems and request the wisdom of God necessary to get you through this difficult time.

Now, the third way to handle your troubles once more requires refocusing. As in the first two you are to refocus away from your problems and on to something else. This time it is refocusing by reconsidering your position before God.

Let's tune in to what James says here: Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation-since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. (James 1:9-11)

There are two kinds of positions mentioned here-a person of high position and a person of a low position of humiliation. First, those who are believers in Jesus who find themselves in humble circumstances are to embrace their high position with the Lord Jesus. No matter how poor you are, if you are in relationship with Jesus, you have a high spiritual perspective on life. You see things from His perspective-the vantage point of the highest, richest position of all-a position where there are no impossibilities. He says to take pride in the fact that you have such a high position with Him. If you are poor, refocus on your spiritual riches.

Second, those believers who find themselves rich from an earthly perspective must take pride in their humiliation. Believers who have a lot of stuff are also well aware that they are managers of what God has given them and they know how easily these blessings of riches come and go. If you are rich and you know these riches are temporary and fleeting, refocus on your humility before God.

Trials are the great leveler of both rich & poor! Everyone experiences trouble, no matter your position in life. We all find our joy and satisfaction in relationship with the Lord Jesus.

There is a promise that underlies this principle. I call this one the promise of great expectations. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

God promises to stick with you and "perfect" or complete His work in your life until Jesus comes back. It's too easy to give up, due to impatience on our part. God is continually at work in you to develop and grow you up spiritually. Let me caution you. The Lord will do His work in His way and in His time.

So, to sum up the message of James regarding how to handle trials and troubles in your life, he suggests three appropriate responses. REFOCUS: 1. By rejoicing in the end product and not the problem itself. 2. By requesting wisdom from God in order to make your way through your struggles. 3. By reconsidering your position with Jesus-whether rich or poor.

Trials and troubles don't have to be bad things in your life. Don't waste these trials; allow God to use them to strengthen your faith. I saw this on a bumper sticker many years ago: Faith is like a kite-a contrary wind makes it go higher! So, the next time a problem pops up in your life, treat it as a friend and allow God to do His work in your life in His way and in His time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008



Erma Bombeck made a fascinating observation about Thanksgiving. She said, "Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not a coincidence." She may be on to something here.

Whatever the Thanksgiving season means to you, there is a most important direction for you to focus your thanks and that is to the God of gods. There is an interesting story where Jesus makes a point about being thankful.

The story is found in Luke 17:11-19: 11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"

NOTE that Jesus was on His way from Galilee to Jerusalem to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the world and He travels on the border of Samaria and Galilee. The Jews and Samaritans were arch enemies. They would have nothing to do with one another. The Jews viewed them as lesser than or half-breeds. They certainly would never view any Samaritan as a good or righteous person.

Jesus encounters 10 lepers along that border. And it's interesting to me that they didn't ask for Jesus to heal them. They asked of Him the same as they have been asking all others as they passed by. "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" "Jesus, just show us some pity and compassion and contribute to our needs the best you can."

14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. This is such a different healing experience. Jesus didn't touch them nor did He pronounce them healed, but gave them something to do. Go to your priests and show yourself to them. You see, the only one who could pronounce these lepers clean was the priest. This was the requirement of the Law. What's interesting is that this was not a common occurrence that lepers were healed. In fact, the Jewish leadership had taught them that only the Messiah would be able to heal lepers.

These lepers listened to Jesus and did what He said. And then it literally says, "In the act of going, they were cleansed of their leprosy." When you do what Jesus says to do, you, too, will experience a healing of your "leprosy". Now NOTE what happens.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him-and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

All of the lepers were cleansed or healed of their leprosy, yet only one came back to express his gratefulness. And, Jesus makes it clear that the only one who came back to give thanks was not a Jew, but a Samaritan.

NOTE something here: We live in the same way. Even though we experience His cleansing and healing in our lives, it's so easy to take it all for granted. Only one out of ten are thankful. I think this is about right!

But NOTE, the one who returns to be thankful is not only cleansed, but Jesus says, "Rise up and go; your faith has made you well." "Made you well" is the word for salvation. Your faith-your act of thankfulness-has saved you. All of the others were healed, but only this one was fully saved and made whole.

This reminds me of the passage in the first chapter of Romans. Paul says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools."

I think it comes down to this: GRATEFUL PEOPLE ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN FULLY ENJOY ALL THAT GOD HAS FOR THEM. So today, are you thankful? Be sure to say so. Tell God and tell others you love how thankful you really are, then look out for God's fullness and wholeness in your life!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008



According to James in his early writings there are three ways to handle your troubles. The first way is to refocus by rejoicing in the product God is working in you. God is using your trouble to purify you and make you stronger-refocusing on the end result rather than the problem itself is what's required here.

The second way to handle your troubles again involves refocusing. This time it is to refocus away from your problems and request the wisdom of God necessary to get you through this difficult time.

James says (James 1:5-8): If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God. There it is! He has just made it clear that if you encounter various trials and troubles with an attitude of joy, knowing that the testing of your faith will produce perseverance. And if you do this and allow your faith to be tested and purified by your troubles, then you will be lacking in nothing. However, if there is a lacking in your life, it will be a lack of wisdom. When you encounter various trials and troubles, the most common thing you lack at that time is the wisdom to know how to respond and what to do. You need the wisdom to know how to handle your trouble! So, go to the author of wisdom. Go straight to God and ask Him for wisdom. You are requesting His perspective on your problems from His vantage point, so that you are not limited to your own point of view, which is limited.

Next James says that God will answer your request by giving you the wisdom you are asking for. He says: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. Note God will give you the wisdom you need to handle your troubles and He will give it to you in a generous way. He will give you even more than you need to process the problems you are facing. And, He will give this wisdom to all who ask for it. This is one of the few times I've ever seen where God lets it be known specifically how He will answer your request. In the case of a wisdom request, you will get it.

James then offers an interesting condition: But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do.

The condition is that you must believe and not doubt, when you ask for this wisdom from God. When you ask, count on it; God will liberally give His wisdom to you! But if you doubt that He will do this for you, you can count on NOT receiving His wisdom. The result will then be that you will find yourself operating in a storm of instability and uncertainty. So, you can ask for wisdom and count on it, then you will receive it and by receiving it, you will have God's wisdom and actually have God on your side as you make your way through your troubles. Or, you can ask for wisdom and doubt you will receive it, then you will be left to make your way through your troubles all by yourself. In other words, if you ask for wisdom while doubting you'll get it, then you don't have a prayer to get through your trials and troubles.

There is an underlying promise for this principle. This one I call the promise of great escapes. It says: No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13)

This is an encouraging promise for us. There is no trial or trouble that you can encounter that has only happened to you. You know how it is when you are in the midst of a pile of trouble. Your most common thought is that you are the only one who has ever had to deal with such problems. This promise begins with making it clear that you are not alone in your problem. Others have already or are now going through the same thing.

Then it says that God will be faithful in not allowing any problem to overwhelm you to the point that you will be overcome by it. God will not allow you to face anything that you cannot get through. God will provide the way for you to escape it.

Now, note how you escape this trouble. God provides a way to escape it in such a way that you will be able to endure it-to go through it. This is not a supernatural bailout! He promises to get you through it! This is usually not what we pray for. We usually want to get out of the problem altogether. But God's promise is to give you a way of escape in order to get through it. The image here is like facing a mountain range. That mountain range is the problem or trial you are facing. God provides a mountain pass to get through it. This is why you are to ask for God's wisdom, so that you will be able to discover the mountain pass to get through it, no matter how tough or impossible it seems.

This second way James offers for us to handle our troubles is vital. Ask for God's wisdom to get through whatever you are facing and He will give you what you need. For years I've expressed this principle in a very simple way that has been helpful to so many. Take it for yourself. THE BEST WAY OUT IS THROUGH and God is committed to getting you through it. Just ask Him!

Monday, November 24, 2008



Faith works, when life doesn't! This week as we continue dealing with the stressed out world in which we're living, I want to walk through three ways to handle your troubles. Remember, it's not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens that counts. There are three ways to reframe your situation by refocusing on the right things.

We spend a lot of time studying and considering the teachings of Jesus. I just feel like you can't go wrong with this kind of emphasis. In addition to the five Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts-the earliest of the writings can prove to be most valuable and helpful in embracing the teachings and principles of Jesus as a lifestyle. James is one of these writings.

James begins his book talking about trials and how to handle them. He says: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

This is the first way to handle your troubles. Note that James starts with "consider it pure joy". when you face your trials. Talk about counter-intuitive! Consider it a joyful thing to experience all kinds of trials and problems? The reason? You must understand that these trials are a testing of your faith. He doesn't mean by this a test in order to trick you or to trip you up. It's a testing that is a refining of your faith-purifying and improving your faith. In other words, these trials have come into your life in order to make you stronger.

Now note that there is a goal for this testing of your faith. It is to produce in you perseverance. Perseverance is a strengthening of your faith-a certain resolve or a solid determination to hang on or hang in there. This kind of faith is strong enough to endure and handle anything that comes your way.

James goes on to say: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. This is the ultimate payoff! Your faith is strengthened by your troubles to the point that you are becoming more and more mature and complete, lacking in nothing!

You see, there are two responses to problems. You can focus on your problem or you can focus on the positive result that will be produced by your problems. If you focus on the problems, you will surely fall into deeper trouble. When you brood over your problems, you'll hatch despair. Instead of focusing on the trouble that has just dropped into your life, refocus on the product-what you are going to learn and get out of it.

There is an important insight here that could go unnoticed. He says consider it a joyful thing to encounter various trials. In order to refocus on the product rather than the problem, REFOCUS ON REJOICING over the problem and not spend your time and energy moaning and groaning over what has just happened to you. You don't get anywhere having a pity party and inviting others over or singing your latest "Woe is me" song. Refocus your mind and heart on what God is going to do to strengthen your faith during this trial to get ready for whatever comes next for you and for others around you.

There is a great promise that underlies this thinking. It's what I call the promise of great endings! It is: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) All things-no matter what things-God causes to work together with something else for good. This is not saying that whatever happens is good, but God will cause all things to work together with something else for your good and His glory.

Note the requirement here is "to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." I would restate this as "to all those who are interested in following God with their heart-who want to follow God's purpose for their lives." You can count on it. The God of gods-the Creator of the universe-is concerned enough to process all that happens to you in such a way that it works together with something else for your good.

Don't focus on your problems or your troubles. Wallowing around in your trials will only make things worse and make you bitter. In fact, you will discover that most of the things you fear never are as bad as you had imagined and most of the bad things that have come into your life can be processed in a healthy way. It's as if you have been mountain climbing over molehills all along. So, refocus on what God is doing in the midst of your trouble and even get excited about it. There is a great gift coming your way.

I continually remind myself that the Bible never says, "It has come to stay." Instead it says, "It has come to pass." So, whatever it is that you view as the biggest trouble in your life, THIS, TOO WILL PASS!

Sunday, November 23, 2008



The theme of being out of control continues! Fear appears when your future is out of control. Anger shows up when your present is out of control. And, guilt gnaws away at your gut when your past is out of control. All three of these render you paralyzed, damaged and ineffective. There is a fourth kind of paralysis-shame. Shame is the residue of having been seized by fear, anger and guilt. It manifests itself in a similar way to a low-grade infection-even a low-level depression. Shame is a tainting of your personness-a blight that leaves you feeling inadequate or feeling not good enough. With shame it's not that your past, present or future are out of control, but you are out of control; like a small boat being tossed about in a storm or a ping-pong ball that is driven by the wind and once in awhile experiences a hard hit.

There is a rule of survival in the harsh Australian Outback. If your vehicle breaks down in a remote area, stay with your vehicle. This is contrary to how you might initially want to react. I mean, you have no alarm system or phone whereby you can call for help. You are stopped in a very remote place where it might take several days before another human being happens to drive by. Many don't follow this survival rule and attempt to walk to a place where they might find help. Eventually, they are reported missing, a search locates their vehicle, but no one is there. The Coroner's investigation later confirms that vehicles are more easily located than walkers, there was more water in the vehicle than walkers can carry, and the extra exertion demanded of walking hastened the dehydration and sunstroke that led to death. They died because they tried to save themselves. This survival rule is so counter-intuitive that it's just too difficult to sit still and wait to be found-to trust that someone is on his way to rescue them.

This introduces a most foundational principle that defines most of our lives most of the time. This principle simply stated is: God is God and I am not! The tendency is for man to play God to some extent. "God, I can handle this one. I'll call you if I need anything." The most deceptive thought of all is that somehow we can live our lives without God and His empowerment. It's a self-centered belief that we can and must solve our problems, make our way out of our predicaments and save ourselves. It's the pride of believing that somehow we are in control, when just the opposite it true. Our past, present, and future are out of control with the result that we are personally out of control.

Jesus lived this way. He confessed: "By myself I can do nothing," (John 5:30). This principle of survival is not just a rule for the Outback; it's a principle for life. There is a story Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

Who is the winner here? The one who is full of himself (the Pharisee) and believes he can somehow perform well enough to save himself is the loser. Jesus says of the tax collector: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

The world says love yourself-save yourself, Jesus says deny yourself-lose yourself. Now, here is where the great exchange occurs! Jesus says: "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:25). He also says: "What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul?" The great exchange here is: you try to save your life and you will lose it, but if you lose your life for Jesus you will save it.

Remember the little boy in the midst of the hungry thousands. For the boy to offer the crowds his lunch would be a noble but futile gesture. So rather than give the first hundred people half a crumb each, he gave his lunch to Jesus. Making Jesus the central focus transformed the situation. Then, not only the boy, but thousands were being fed with something that moments before was totally inadequate by itself.

The secret is to hand everything over to Jesus and then wait for him to move. Give yourself to Jesus and he will give himself to you. Lose yourself in him and you will find yourself in Him-no longer restricted to human possibilities.

Just as the boy could not expect to be fed after giving away his lunch, so people cannot expect to thrive emotionally if they give away their self-esteem-unless they give it to Jesus. Then a miracle takes place.

One of the thoughts that helps to hold my focus together is found in Psalm 127. I repeat it to myself frequently. Check it out. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I desperately want God to be my builder and to watch out for my security. How about you?

Maybe the ultimate expression of the mystery of the great exchange between Jesus and you is: You get God and He gets you! Such a deal!

Friday, November 21, 2008



Out of control! Life just gets out of control no matter which way you turn. When your future is out of control, fear grips you. When your present is out of control, anger pops up. Today I want to discuss being out of control in the past. When your past is out of control, it's usually due to guilt.

Dealing with your past can be so destructive. Most tend to dwell on the past so much that it becomes impossible to move forward. Some spend so much time focusing on the past that they just can't see anything else. They are stuck there. It's like having a rear-view mirror that is larger than your windshield. You have to stick your head out of your window to see where you are going and that's dangerous!

What must happen is to take the past out of your future and put it back into the past where it belongs. But this, in itself, is not enough. You see, you might think you are burying your past, but when you bury it alive, your past will nag and haunt you, working toward your destruction. Somehow you have to do something to put your past to death, then your past will be under control.

One of the first things to do with your past is to identify its source. In II Corinthians 7:10, Paul compares two kinds of sorrow: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. One kind of sorrow that surfaces out of past mistakes is a sorrow that comes from God. This kind of sorrow is good in that it causes you to make changes, which is called repentance here. Sorrow that causes you to change is Godly sorrow and you will have no regrets. Note when you are moved to make changes, you are out of your past and are very much alive in the present. The other kind of sorrow brings about death and destruction. This is the kind of sorrow that rises up out of your past to condemn you and to spiral you down to your destruction.

The second thing to do with your past is to resolve it. There are three ways you might attempt here: FIRST-Sometimes you need to remove yourself from the annoying, toxic connections from your past. This is very necessary for those who are in the recovery process from chemical and relational addictions. You have to get some new playgrounds and playmates.

SECOND-Sometimes you need to let it go. Simply let it go. There are times when you can do nothing to resolve your past or to do so will stir up more trouble. The common illustration of this is when you have been wronged, maybe financially and you choose to spend an enormous amount of negative energy to correct this wrong. It just isn't worth it. Let it go!

THIRD-Sometimes you may need to seek the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness moves in two directions-either people you have hurt or people who have hurt you. When you have hurt others, it's important to solicit forgiveness. Make a list of people you have hurt. Write out what you want to say and be completely honest. Keep it simple and be specific, taking personal responsibility for what you have done. Then, you must be willing to face any and all consequences. By the way, when you solicit forgiveness, make your method of communication as personal as possible.

Jesus taught us to solicit forgiveness: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24) It's interesting to note that if don't solicit forgiveness, you can't work well for God.

When others have hurt you, it's vital to forgive them. This is the ultimate act of "letting go". Forgiving is not forgetting, excusing or tolerating another person's hurtful acts against you. Jesus taught how important it is to forgive: For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15) In other words, God will not work well for you.

There are 5 steps to forgiving those who have hurt you: 1. Remind yourself that they are only human. 2. Relinquish your right to get even, because you never will. 3. Be ready to hurt in order to heal-willing to take the pain without making anyone pay for it. 4. Pray for them and wish them well. 5. You may have to repeat the process. When you forgive, you don't do it for others, but for yourself! This will set you free from the paralysis of guilt that haunts you from your past and is the ultimate way to resolve your out-of-control past

Recently, I was given a terrific visual on how to handle a past that is out of control. After listening to a client emotionally rehearse how many people had victimized her over the years, the attorney cut her off and handed her client a porcelain frog. She said, "Take this as a reminder for your life. A frog cannot jump backwards-only forwards. Don't be quick to jump into your past and dig it up. Stay in the present and when you jump, jump forward."

When your past is out of control, make like a frog and jump forward!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008



When your future is out of control, you will have fear. When your present is out of control, you will have anger. People and circumstances just aren't doing what we want them to do and are out of control-the spouse or child who is out of control, the driver who just cut you off on the freeway, the water heater just blew up and your car has broken down-again!

In addition to the people and circumstances that are out of control, there is one more thing that continues to fuel anger in your mind. It might be called brain-chatter. Here is how it works. You can do the following: Expect the worse. Personalize everything. Live by the power of the "shoulds", shoulding yourself to death. Specialize in mind-reading games, thinking you know what's really going on. Take in criticism and block out compliments. See everything in terms of black and white. Compare, compare, compare. Over-generalize-always and never! Blame and attack. Insist that nothing be changed. You must always be right and never, ever wrong. Thinking this way is a guarantee to fuel your anger!

Anger occurs when you are frustrated with your present being out of control. And every time you try to control your life you are rejecting God's ability and willingness to control your world. There is a certain sense of surrender you must give in order to allow God to control your life.

Maybe the most important factor in surrendering the controls of your life in the present is the Spirit of Jesus Who now lives in all who are genuine followers of Jesus. Just to give you a sketch of what the Spirit of Jesus does in your life, check out the following:

(1) He is the seal of God in us (Ephesians 4:30). He is like an engagement ring that promises the fulfillment of marriage. The Holy Spirit's presence in our lives is our guarantee that God will continue to do His work in us until the return of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus-the presence of Jesus living inside us right now.

(2) He leads us to life. This work of the Holy Spirit is closely related to His sealing. Paul alludes to this work when he says, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). Through this work of perfecting us God intends to "conform us to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29). He's leading all believers to being like Jesus. In this work of leading us to life "the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).

(3) The Holy Spirit is our enabler (John 14:16,26). It's like spiritual adrenalin! There are times when His enablement is very clearly recognized for what it is, such as at the time of Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers permanently). This would be a special enablement of the Spirit.

Many people feel the need to label the experience (the second blessing, the baptism, the filling, slain in the Spirit, etc.), seek it again, propagate it as an experience for everyone, and hold it up as a prerequisite for spiritual maturity. This kind of experience can become so important ("I can't know God's fullness without it!") that people will do anything to get it. Just keep in mind that "all the fullness of God dwells in Jesus in bodily form" and the mission of the Spirit of Jesus is to glorify Him.

(4) He instills desires in us. In Galatians 5:16-17 Paul says: "But I say walk by that which is spirit (reborn spirit), and you will not carry out the desire of that which is flesh (old sin nature). For the flesh sets its desire against that which is spirit, and that which is spirit sets its desire against the flesh". The reborn spirit has spiritual desires in contrast to the desires of the flesh.

(5) He intercedes for us. The Spirit "helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26). He is our constant Helper in our finite efforts to relate to the infinite God of the universe.

(6) He illuminates the Word of God for us. The non-spiritual man (non-believer) "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are (only) spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things" (I Corinthians 2:14-15).

(7) He gives us wisdom. "But if any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). It's a wisdom "not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age" (I Corinthians 2:6). He will give us wisdom so that we can make wise decisions for His glory and our good.

(8) He works all things together for good. In the same context where the Spirit is said to be our prayer partner, one of the most popular promises of all is delivered: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). It's not that He'll work everything out to be good, but that He'll work everything (trials, tragedies, etc.) together with something else for good.

Once you surrender your will and the controls of your life over to the Spirit of Jesus one day at a time, then you have the possibility of turning your anger into a force for God and your good. Anger is a feeling that is neutral. You will have these feelings from time to time. There is nothing wrong with being angry.

There are two passages that offer great insights here. In Ephesians 4:26 it says: Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. In other words, don't let this natural emotional expression of anger fester into resentment. And then in James 1:20 there is a warning: For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.

A lot of what triggers the anger with people who seem out of control in our lives is the tendency for us to judge in a condemnatory way. It's that old problem of wanting to be right and straighten out the rest of the world according to our standards.

To this I want to share something I heard many years ago: There's so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it's very difficult to decide just which of us should reform the rest of us. I think what we must do is to get over ourselves and to turn the controls over to Jesus. And the only way I know to do this is to surrender to the Spirit of Jesus who lives within you.



Every day when you wake up, you are blasted with the message that there is something fearful out there that can harm you or bring on inevitable disaster for you and even the planet. I don't care what channel of news you watch; they are all the same. There is a feeding frenzy on the bad news and when the bad news begins to turn into good news, the news isn't worth covering any longer.

We just witnessed this with the fires here in southern California. When the fires are threatening, there is non-stop coverage to the point of layers of repetition. Or, if there is a slow day in the news-a day where nothing disastrous is imminent or a serial rapist is not on the loose or no asteroid is heading straight toward planet earth, then they still are bound to make something up and interview a man who once talked with a space alien.

Bad news is everywhere! When this stream of bad news is set before us, it is usually about something that is about to happen or could happen-in the future. This bad news always elicits fear. Fear occurs when your future is out of control. Remember years ago when we were in the gas crisis; the lines at the gas stations were amazing. Those who waited in line might have had gas in their tank, but they wanted to top it off. They were fearful that there would not be any gas tomorrow.

Fear is a horrible thing that can actually paralyze you and keep you from moving forward with your life. Fear of the future can also cause you to make bad or unwise choices. There are several common fears. There is the fear of missing out that we see demonstrated by Adam and Eve in the Garden. Moses feared being embarrassed when he was to go before the people of Israel and before Pharaoh. This was a sense of feeling inferior for sure. Paul probably suffered from the fear of being wrong and therefore lived a dogmatic life, attacking the people of the way who were walking to a different drumbeat. Fear is always about the consequences we feel we are going to face in the future. Those who fear the future are most likely to fumble the present!

By the way, have you noticed that many of your fears have nothing to do with you personally? Like when the fires are burning without any possibility of getting to you, it still generates fear. This is also true of the mighty hurricanes that rip through certain parts of our country or earthquakes anywhere in the world. Just like second-hand smoke; I call this second-hand fears. Whatever makes your future spin out of control, fear is the result. Fear turns out the lights in your life so that you are faced with darkness and doom in your future. Fear is the darkness where negatives are developed.

What's interesting is that you can't control the future. There is nothing you can do. It takes a certain amount of pride to think you can. So, what is the answer to this dilemma?

In the book of I John there is a great antidote given for fear-to actually cast it away from you. It says: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OR CASTS OUT FEAR FROM YOU! Perfect love is complete love. If we can experience this complete and full love, then fear will be cast away!

In this passage there are three kinds of love relationships referenced. FIRST-God loves you. This is the first step in casting out fear so that you don't have to experience its paralyzing hold on you. God loves you no matter what and He is not waiting for you to perform well enough to achieve acceptance with Him. This is the essence of the Good News of Jesus. Jesus came to communicate the love God has for us. You are to make the decision to receive God's unconditional love for you.

SECOND-You love God. You are to reciprocate God's love for you by responding to Him-actually focusing on God with a heart of gratitude and love for Him. Practically speaking, as you learn to follow Jesus, you show your love for Him by your obedience to Him-trusting Jesus with everything!

THIRD-You love others. You first receive God's love for you, then reciprocate this love back to Him and finally you are ready and freed up to release your love for one another.

Now think about this! If you are caught up in God's love for you, your love for God and then your love for one another, there is no room for fear. Therefore, fear has to go! When you are experiencing this kind of love in your life, you will find your faith muscle getting stronger and there will be no fear of your out-of-control future. You can turn your fears over to Jesus and let Him at the controls.

Try this on for size: When fear knocks at your door because your future is out of control, send faith over to answer it.

Monday, November 17, 2008



Yesterday I spoke of how important it is to hear and listen to the voice of Jesus, the Shepherd, rather than rely on a series of clichés or even your favorite passages of Scriptures by taking them out of context.

So, how do you hear the voice of Jesus? I want to offer 5 essentials to prepare you for hearing and listening to the voice of Jesus:

FIRST-Immerse yourself in the Scriptures. Read, reread and meditate on the Scriptures as you would a love letter, not a research paper. Always search for Jesus wherever you are reading, not getting sidetracked with anything else. Remember it's the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. This was the mistake the religious leaders who confronted Jesus made and He was continually correcting them. They were so wrapped up in Bible memory and organizing the Scriptures into doctrinal systems that they missed Jesus in the process.

It is fascinating to me to think about what the Scriptures were that were around when Jesus was working with His disciples. It was the Law or Torah, the Writings, which included the Proverbs and the Psalms and then the Prophets. When Jesus was confronted and tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus quoted Scripture to resist the evil one. He quoted verses out of Deuteronomy. Then we see Jesus walking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and He did something that blows me away. In Luke 24:27 it is recorded: He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Jesus walked them through the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms in order to open their minds about Himself.

Then Philip had a very special divine appointment with the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading the scroll of Isaiah in his chariot. In Acts 8:35 it says: Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. Philip used the Old Testament to teach this interested official about Jesus.

SECOND-Be aware of the Jesus themes throughout the Scriptures. In order to seek Jesus in the Scriptures, especially the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, look for the major themes about Jesus there. For instance, there is the theme of the glory or the Shekinah glory-the visible presence of God-throughout. Beginning with the presence of God in the Garden, the burning bush, the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day that led the children of Israel through the wilderness, the star of Bethlehem and then Jesus is the ultimate Shekinah glory-the visible presence of God-on earth. Check out the many times the Angel of the Lord or the Angel of Jehovah appeared in the Old Testament. Most think this was actually Jesus. The theme of the Messianic deliverer of those who are surrendered to be His people is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. The theme of the suffering Servant, the Son of Man and the Son of God is embodied in Jesus and clearly presented in the Gospels. Jesus was the uniquely born one-the holy one of Israel-born of a virgin by the Spirit of God.

Jesus fulfilled and gave meaning to every mark and letter of the Mosaic Law. Jesus fulfilled every longing of the heart of the Psalms-to dwell among us. And, Jesus also fulfilled the many Messianic prophecies. The Scriptures all speak of Jesus and find their culmination in Him, so look for those themes that find their way to Jesus.

THIRD-Count on His wisdom. If you are seeking to hear and listen to the voice of Jesus, ask for His wisdom as you live your life the best you can. In one of the early writings of the New Covenant-the book of James-there is a very insightful passage: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:5-8) I ask for wisdom every day and sometimes many times a day and I count on it as I make decisions, wanting to hear the voice of Jesus as I move through the day.

FOURTH-Be sure to seek Jesus within the context of a few. One of the most important ways for you to hear the voice of Jesus is to operate within a supportive community. It's learning to practice the "one anothers" in the name of Jesus. Remember, it's when two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus that Jesus will show up and make His presence known. When this happens, you will recognize and hear His voice.

FIFTH-Discipline yourself to listen when you pray. When you pray, don't just do all of the talking and asking; take the time to listen for an answer. This seems so simple, yet it is very difficult to do. It takes some painful discipline to sit quietly and listen.

You will find these 5 essentials to be most helpful as you seek to hear the voice of Jesus in times like these.

There is one more thing that seems vital in hearing and listening to the voice of Jesus. It may be the most critical dimension of all! In John 6, Jesus was asked: "What must we do to do the work of God?" Jesus answers this most simply with: "The work of God is this: TRUST THE ONE GOD HAS SENT." Or, simply put: learn to trust Jesus with everything-your security, your family, your business, your future-everything! When you have the courage to trust Jesus with everything, believe me, you will hear and listen to what He has to say. This is the ultimate expression Jesus is looking for as you learn to respond to His most revolutionary words ever: FOLLOW ME! I think Jesus is saying to each of us: "Can you hear me now?

Sunday, November 16, 2008



The world is in a funk and the spirit of depression is in the air. It's everywhere! I sense it no matter where I go-parties, dinners, at religious gatherings, breakfasts, coffees, riding on the airplane, at the car wash, in the neighborhood and at family events. The depression of the day is financial, yet to most people this is not the worst problem. The worldwide financial crisis is horrendous and affects all of us, but it serves to reveal even deeper and more menacing problems and stressors.

So, where do you turn in times like these? What is it that you can hang on to, when you find yourself saying, "Why?", "Why me?" or "Why Now?" How do you obtain a sense of guidance?

You can turn to clichés, yet moral maxims are confusing. One of my favorite teachers, Bruxy Cavey, started me thinking on how fickle modern clichés actually are: · Better safe than sorry OR nothing ventured, nothing gained. · Absence makes the heart grow fonder OR out of sight, out of mind. · Look before you leap OR he who hesitates is lost. · If at first you don't succeed, try, try again OR don't beat your head against a brick wall. · Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today OR don't cross that bridge until you come to it. · You're never too old to learn OR you can't teach an old dog a new trick. · Many hands make light work OR too many cooks spoil the broth. · The early bird gets the first worm OR all good things come to those who wait. · Birds of a feather flock together OR opposites attract. · The pen is mightier than the sword OR actions speak louder than words. · Some things need to be untied and not cut OR others need to be cut and not untied.

Clichés and moral maxims are only descriptive, not necessarily prescriptive or guides for life. You can use these clichés to excuse or rationalize anything you want to do.

So, what about turning to the Bible? Not necessarily. The Bible gives specific guidance to a specific people in a specific context and is not an instruction for you to apply literally for you in a different situation. Not just flipping open the Bible. It's not a matter of click, drag and drop it into your situation today. To take a "proof-text" or your favorite Scriptural promise and to count on this for your guidance from the Lord may not be the best thing to do. There's something more to be learned here. There is a better way to obtain guidance.

If your approach to guidance is to use what we call "proof-texts" to find your guidance, you may find the wrong guidance, not fatal or maybe not hurtful, but not precisely appropriate-what God intended. For instance, early in the Gospel of Luke Jesus tells His disciples not to worry about carrying their wallet or packing their clothes or planning for what they might eat. If you tried to apply this as a disciple of Jesus today, you won't get very far-to anywhere. Later on in Luke Jesus tells the disciples to pick up their wallets and clothes.

Or, when Jesus said the Holy Spirit would come to His disciples and bring all things to their remembrance, this is not for us to apply today. He was speaking to them in a specific context at a specific time, so that they could write down the words He spoke.

The Jabez prayer has some terrific insights in it, yet to pray it as a spiritual charm or to specifically apply it to you right now, today, just may not be what the Lord has in mind. Apply the principles, but don't claim them as your promise from God.

Or, take the popular passage used by Christians to pose a challenge to our country: If My people who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. This is not for the USA or any other nation today, but was specifically given to Israel in a particular context. Again, there are some good application principles here, but it is not there for us to hang on to for specific guidance to our situation so that God will do with us the same thing He did with Israel.

In Jeremiah 31 we have an insight into the difference in the way God works with people today versus the way He did in the past. Listen to it: "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. This is essentially the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant God has made with mankind. Principally, God is spirit and must be worshipped and related to in spirit and in truth.

You can turn to the written code of Scripture, but there is a whole new way that is not like the rules set up in the Old Covenant. It is a new covenant that is not written down, but operates inside out from your minds and hearts. Instead of the Law of Moses, today we are to live under the law of Christ.

The Ten Commandments have become most highly regarded out of the Old Covenant. All are good, but Jesus transformed them. Remember when Jesus was asked to state the greatest commandment? It didn't come out of even the big 10 and He couldn't give just one. You see, obtaining guidance when your back's against the wall will not come out of a written code, but is relational with Jesus.

You see, the "word" became flesh; the "word" did not become a book or more words or a system of beliefs or doctrines. Our guidance comes in relationship with a person-Jesus.

Paul had a strong opinion about this when he shared his experience with the Philippians (3:4-14). He said: If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

So, where can you get the guidance you really need from the Lord? This guidance can only be found in your relationship with Jesus. You know Him and know what He wants. We would rather have a good Bible verse or rule to follow, but Jesus doesn't want it this way. Jesus reveals this kind of dynamic when He says, "My sheep hear and know my voice." So, are you getting to know Jesus better and better? And, are you listening to His voice? Why would Jesus say this is true, if it weren't? Why does Jesus refuse to give a code or a passage from the Law when asked to present the greatest of all the commandments. It's because He was giving to us all the relational answer we need to hear-"Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself."

GUIDANCE. Take the word GUIDANCE and you have the answer. It's G-U-I-DANCE. Or maybe you could say it this way: G-God, U and I DANCE. GOD, YOU AND I DANCE TOGETHER in a personal relationship with Him through Jesus and Jesus will guide our lives.

Thursday, November 06, 2008



Matthew 5:13-16

Now that Jesus has described what it means to be a happy, blessed and fulfilled follower, He uses two dynamic terms to position us in this world-salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

NOTE Jesus says, "You ARE the salt of the earth!" It's not that you might be or you could be, but you ARE. Salt was used as a preservative to counteract the decay in meat. In order for the salt to be effective it must be out of the salt-shaker and applied to the meat. Salt is the invisible presence of God. It must be sensed! You're the salt in the world around you-the invisible presence of God among those you touch. Just by your presence there ought to be a preserving of purity, honesty and fairness.

NOTE that salt represents the inner quality-the being of the equation. Therefore, salt is the best tag to place on the first four beatitudes-poor in spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. These snapshots are all about being, not doing. They describe your relationship with the Lord.

A saltless disciple is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. Jesus uses the term tasteless. The original Greek word is MORAINO, which means to be foolish, to play the fool, insipid, dull, flat or deficient-literally to be a MORON.

In Rabbinic literature salt is associated with wisdom-a foolish disciple has no impact on his world. In a sense salt is a warning against being good for nothing. Also, salt adds flavor to things. Jesus is to life what salt is to food. Jesus and the Kingdom lend flavor to life to be a difference-maker. The world is changed by flavoring it with your salt-like presence. It's like a thermostat; you set the temperature.

It was Saint Francis who said, "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words." This is precisely what it means to be salt. You are the salt of the earth.

Now for the second image-light. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

NOTE again Jesus says, "You ARE the light of the world!" Salt has a powerful invisible nature to it; light has more of the visible presence of God. Salt must be sensed-light must be seen! Light counteracts the darkness.

The visible presence of God consists of the energy of salt and the expression of light-IT MUST BE ATTRACTIVE AND AUTHENTIC! The core of this light can be found in loving your neighbor as yourself.

We are beyond the point where mere talk-no matter how sound-can make an impression. Demonstration is required. We must live what we talk, even in places where we cannot talk what we live. We stand again at Mt. Carmel (I K 18:20-40). THE TEST IS REALITY-AUTHENTICITY-THE GENUINE!

Whereas salt was a warning against being good for nothing, light is used to show us how to be good for something. It is the outer or doing side of these two images used by Jesus. Light is the best tag to be placed on the second four snapshots-merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker and rejoicing in persecution.

You ARE the salt of the earth and the light of the world; you are the invisible and visible presence of God on planet earth. Don't become tasteless as salt and don't dim out or cover up your light! Allow Jesus to be sensed and seen in you.

More than twenty years ago E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist writer and missionary to India, was asked to name the number-one problem in the church. His quick reply was `Irrelevance.' Not that the church was inherently irrelevant, but that followers of Jesus were failing to show in concrete ways and to tell in cogent understandable terms how the Jesus is relevant to all of life in the twentieth century.

So, how can this be done? Salt and Light.



Matthew 5:1-12

Today I want to put a further emphasis on your personal application of the 8 snapshots or beatitudes. Remember how the two lists of four each come together and interact? View them in four pairs:




4-HUNGER & THIRST for Righteousness-REJOICE IN PERSECUTION for Righteousness

NOTE within each pairing that it works in two directions: FIRST-You cannot be merciful to others, if you do not have a right evaluation of yourself before God (poor in spirit). Therefore, if you are having difficulty showing mercy to others in your world, then go back to working on being poor in spirit-working on your pride issues, seeing God for who He is and you as His creation.

SECOND-You cannot be pure in heart toward others, if you are not into mourning over the things that keep you from God. Therefore, if you find yourself having difficulty with being loyal, supportive, loving and empowering to others, then go back to the mourning process. It is too easy to see and point out the sins of others without recognizing our own sinfulness.

THIRD-You cannot be a peacemaker toward others, if you are not into meekness. Therefore, if you find yourself stirring things up and causing trouble rather than settling things down and solving problems, then go back to check out your meekness meter. Do you find your ultimate approval and confidence in Him? Do you enjoy a quiet, controlled confidence in your heart that needs not react, but can make peace in your relationships that flows out of the peace in your heart?

FOURTH-You cannot have a proper perspective on persecution from others, if you are not into hungering and thirsting after Jesus (the Righteous One). Therefore, if you find that you are being blown out with stress and irritation by people saying things against you falsely, criticizing your decisions, and continually chipping away at your joy, then you must get back into the process of hungering and thirsting after Jesus. Then you will be free to rejoice and be glad when persecuted or opposed in your righteous efforts. This is truly JESUS PLUS NOTHING. Nothing else matters when you are hungering and thirsting to walk, love and think like Jesus! [Be careful that you are not rejoicing in being persecuted for just being obnoxious. You may deserve this kind of persecution in that case. Remember that the reason for this sort of verbal persecution is that you are beginning to be like Jesus.]

You can spend a lifetime in the beatitudes and every time you come back to them you will find yourself deeply affected by Jesus in the process. I struggle with doing things my way for Jesus, UNTIL I face up to these 8 qualities of walking with Jesus. These are revolutionary! These are the principles and insights that turn me inside out and free me up to walk with Jesus, walk with others who are walking with Jesus and wait on Jesus to lead out in my life.

NOTE ONE MORE THING: The reason why we push hard to focus on the simplicity of Jesus and the Kingdom is three-fold:

FIRST-Jesus and the Kingdom is the primary theme presented in the Gospels and Acts. Why would you want to try any other theme or teaching until you get the basics of Jesus?

SECOND-All other themes detract from Jesus and the Kingdom. In a very real sense, all other themes are just add-ons. At this point the add-ons become the primary theme of life.

THIRD-All detractions are sourced by the Evil One and will inevitably lead you astray from Jesus. This is found in II Corinthians 11:3: But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. That's what we must strive for-the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus.

As we continue through the simple and pure teachings of Jesus throughout the gospel of Matthew, make it your goal to do and say what Jesus does and says. It's actually just that simple.



Matthew 5:10-12

We come now to the last snapshot. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The discipline is REJOICE IN PERSECUTION. To rejoice in persecution is to develop the big picture on all troubles-especially the stresses that others bring upon you. Life is full of stress and distress. Many of life's stresses are circumstantial. I recently read: "You know it's a bad day when the sun comes up in the West, when you jump out of bed and miss the floor or when the bird singing outside your window is a buzzard or when you put both contact lenses in the same eye or when your pet rock snaps at you. When the blind date turns out to be your ex-wife or when your income tax refund check bounces. When you put your bra on backwards and it fits better or when Suicide Prevention puts you on hold." Those are circumstances that spell trouble.

NOTE the reason for persecution. It's that same word we saw earlier-righteousness. As you hunger and thirst for righteousness-being like Jesus (allowing Him to live His life through you)-you will make people uncomfortable and they will pick away at you.

ALSO note the kinds of persecution mentioned here. It's insults, falsely saying all kinds of evil against you because of the Jesus and Kingdom lifestyle you are embracing. And when you note who it is who is doing the persecuting in the New Testament against the early followers of Jesus, you will quickly find that this kind of persecution comes from other religious people who are jealous and threatened.

When Jesus, the Righteous One, came to explain the love of God to mankind, His simple message was to present Himself and the gospel of the Kingdom. It didn't contain a system of do's and don'ts that normal religious groups do, so this made the religious people of the day uncomfortable enough to persecute Him terribly to the point of putting Him to death-to silence this simple one. If you are simply walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Jesus to lead out in your life, you will face the same kind of criticism and backlash. Your simple faith will make others very uncomfortable-especially those who believe they have it all together, bolstered by their many theological and religious props. However, for those who are discontent, hurting, burdened down by all of the religiosities in the world, you will be a welcome sight-a bright light of hope.

The pre-requisite necessary for you to rejoice in persecution is to refocus your heart. Your passion for filling up the hole in your soul with simply Jesus-for genuine satisfaction and fulfillment in Him-can set you up as a primary target for an onslaught of verbal persecution. When you begin to experience a sense of inner satisfaction and some level of fulfillment, you will find the jealousy and envy of others waiting to cut you down to their size-or lower!

Rejoice in persecution is the attitude that is necessary to stand up against this verbal barrage. The attitude is to take a bigger view of it all. Those who are verbally attacking you are hurting deeply within themselves. What is most encouraging is that they have noticed something about you. You are growing up. You are beginning to find a personal satisfaction that sets you apart. Your response must be to redouble your efforts in refocusing your heart even more. You'll need it to truly rejoice in the midst of this kind of persecution. Keep on hungering and thirsting for that inner, spiritual satisfaction for your soul by walking with Jesus and walking with others. Then rejoice in persecution. This will drive your detractors nuts. Enjoy it.

NOTE what is promised for those who rejoice in persecution. Jesus says, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." We saw that at the very beginning with Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The first snapshot and the last-poor in spirit and being persecuted for being like Jesus. It's like all 8 beatitudes are wrapped up in a package-all describing what a citizen of the Kingdom looks like. What a picture it is!

These 8 disciplines or attitudes are taken directly from the first seminar that Jesus gave on the hillside of the Sea of Galilee. They all begin with "Blessed" which means to be congratulated or to be filled with happiness. Take on these attitudes and make them your primary disciplines of life. Meditate on them and discover the great depth within them. They offer you the ingredients that will produce the most valuable and powerful emotional riches you could ever experience.

Note that every one of these beatitudes is different from your natural instincts. When you follow Jesus, you are walking to the beat of a different drummer. I have spent most of my life meditating and referring back to these 8 dynamics. Make them yours. Go back to them often. Maybe even memorize them and ask God to emblazon them on your soul.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who rejoice in the midst of persecution.

Now that is a very different lifestyle-the Kingdom lifestyle, all unveiled by the King-Jesus. In a very real sense, these 8 snapshots make up a collage of Jesus Himself. So, to embrace these for yourself is to embrace Jesus and His Kingdom personally. Don't hesitate on this. There are many treasures and secrets of the Kingdom that will enable you to make the rest of your life, the best of your life.



Matthew 5:9

We are continuing through the 8 snapshots Jesus offers concerning what a Kingdom dweller looks like. We have come to the seventh snapshot or beatitude. It is: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

The discipline is RESTORE PEACE. To restore peace is to develop peace within your sphere of influence wherever possible. To be a peacemaker requires that you make peace where there is no peace. Search for trouble, distress, brokenness and those who are living in pieces. You don't have to look too far. Listen to those around you. There is a great void out there-a great need to be understood. In fact, you probably won't have to search, just listen and be aware. This is a strategic discipline that carries with it the dynamic message of the Gospel (Good News). This is Jesus-peace where there is no peace.

In order to restore peace you must see the other person's strengths. This proves that you are listening and truly understand. Seek answers for what's best for this person. Do what you can do to promote peace-making-love, trust, and forgiveness. The world around you is in such desperate need of experiencing inner peace. When I even casually mention forgiveness in a seminar session, I notice the light-bulbs switching on throughout the audience. People are in great need for healing-for knowing inner peace.

The story is told in Spain of a father and his teenage son who had a relationship that had become strained. So the son ran away from home. His father, however, began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last ditch effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read: "Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father."

The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office over 800 "Pacos" showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. Believe me, there are massive amounts of Pacos out there looking for peace!

NOTE that being a peacemaker emerges out of the beatitude of meekness. So, how can you best restore peace in the world around you? The pre-requisite is to renew your confidence-develop the attitude of meekness. Remember that meekness is a quiet, controlled inner strength. You don't have a chance to be a peacemaker without that quiet, controlled inner strength. You see, without that attitude of meekness you have the tendency to be a reactor to people and things rather than be proactive, which is what restoring peace requires. Meekness is the inner strength that allows you to be a peacemaker. Restore peace and make people whole or remove yourself from this responsibility and leave the people around you in pieces. So, choose to restore peace.

Well, are you a peacemaker or do you stir things up when you enter into the conversation? It isn't noble to stir it up and say, "Boy, did I tell them the truth and they were ticked!" You get no medals or pats on the back from Jesus with that routine. Anyone can stir it up; it takes a person walking, thinking and loving like Jesus to be a peacemaker.

ALSO NOTE the peacemaker will be called a son of God. This is what God does. He brings peace to the world at great cost to Himself. When you are a peacemaker, you are like your Father in heaven.

I like the simple prayer that says: "Dear Lord, as in the world I toil and through this world I flit. I pray make me a drop of oil and not a piece of grit!" Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.



Matthew 5:8

The first 4 snapshots are about your heart before God: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

The second 4 snapshots are about your heart relationship before God as you relate to others. The first one of these is: Blessed are the merciful and they will be shown mercy. Remember, being merciful emerges out of being poor in spirit.

Now today we come to the sixth snapshot or beatitude. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

On the surface being "pure in heart" doesn't appear to have much to do with others. But when you check it out as this term is used throughout the Scriptures, it's clear that "pure in heart" is about being loyal, honest and trustworthy as a friend. In the Proverbs it says "the king's friend is pure in heart." Pure in heart is one who can be counted on at all times-a safe person to have on your team.

The discipline for "pure in heart" is RELATE AS A FRIEND. To relate as a friend is to develop relationships where there is trust and love! Where there is trust and love, there is affirmation. Don't relate to others as friends for their approval. You don't want to give anyone that much power. You only seek approval from your Creator-your Higher Power. With friends, you must seek affirmation.

The discipline here is to determine not to be a Lone Ranger in living your life. You need friends around you and you must be the one who has this discipline as an initiative for your own life. You must be first in relating to another, not waiting for others to befriend you. But note how it must emerge out of your mourning over that which keeps you from God. Friendship begins in your heart!

The pre-requisite for relate as a friend is reframe your weaknesses! In other words, if you are going to be a safe friend, you will be helped by being sensitive to that which keeps you from God-by mourning. If you want to be more effective relating as a friend, you must check out how well you reframe your weaknesses. How is the mourning going? You can't be a good friend unless you have a lifestyle of being sensitive to your own weaknesses.

There are two critical cautions at this point: First, don't relate to another who is not into some sort of mourning. If you try to be a friend to a person who isn't sensitive to his weaknesses and therefore in denial, you may be in big trouble. Solomon warned that if you relate to a fool, you will end up living as a fool, too.

When a person hasn't reckoned with his/her weaknesses, he tends to want to point out yours in a condemnatory fashion.

Second, don't relate to another person without reframing your weaknesses. I have played the part of a fool on too many occasions. I've allowed people to use me to gain credibility that they lacked, allowed people to use me to pay for their own guilt by pointing out my failures, allowed wreckage to remain at the side of life's road, and allowed my naiveté to bring condemnation down upon me.

Without proper mourning you waste your sorrows and troubles, because without proper mourning there is no comfort and joy-satisfaction. And, without that satisfaction, you will find it very difficult to relate as a friend.

Everyone is in desperate need of the dynamic of friendship. Without a friendship you die. Life flows through it and death reigns without it.

How are you doing in developing this discipline? Make sure to live your life with trusted and loving friends. A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you've forgotten the words. But there's one more dynamic I'd like to suggest. Turn your friends into "walking partners" as you walk your walk with Jesus. Learn to discuss and do things in the name of Jesus and in the spirit of His Kingdom in that relationship. This will deepen any friendship into a life partnership as you learn to do life together.

ONE MORE THING: The pure in heart are given a special reward for taking care of the heart. They will see God. Whatever else that means, it's clear that God puts a high premium on your heart. Want to see God, then allow Him to own your heart. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.