Saturday, February 28, 2009



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.



Matthew 5:7

The first 4 snapshots or beatitudes are about your relationship before God. They are quite personal-poor in spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. The second 4 are internal qualities also before regarding our relationship with others. Each one extends out of another. Here is a visual of how this relationship works.

If you make two lists side by side with the first four on the left and the second four on the right, you will observe some fascinating things about the interrelationships within all eight snapshots.

NOTE the left side of the chart has to do with the first four and each is expressing what it means to be into BEING. The list on the right has to do with the second four and each of these is expressing what it means to be into DOING.

NOTE one more thing. Each of the being snapshots is the basis for the doing snapshots. In other words each of the DOING snapshots emerge out of the BEING ones. In order to understand merciful, it is helpful to define its source in poor in spirit. This is the same for each of the DOING snapshots that we are about to discuss.

Now, let's move on to the fifth snapshot or beatitude. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. The discipline here is #5 REACH OUT WITH COMPASSION. To reach out with compassion is to treat everyone with grace and mercy. This means to identify with other's needs or plight in life in a compassionate way. Insert yourself into their shoes as best you can. Search for how you might best assist them. Initiate a positive effect toward the people in the world around you. Remember, whatever energy you give out, you receive it back at that very moment. It's an interesting principle of life. When you give out something to another person, you receive it by the very act of giving it away. So, when you show mercy to someone, you feel this same mercy coming over you.

Reaching out with compassion is a source of healing for those you touch and for yourself, so that everyone gets better. Don't forget, this is not just an action toward another person; it's an attitude that is most natural and present within the Kingdom lifestyle.

There is no way you will be able to REACH OUT WITH COMPASSION or be merciful without the dimension of being poor in spirit-to REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY. Poor in spirit is a pre-requisite for being merciful to others.

Therefore, in order for you to be able to reach out with compassion you will do well to reaffirm your poverty. In other words, if you want to check out how you can reach out with compassion more effectively, start with reaffirming your poverty. Start with checking whether or not you are poor in spirit. This makes so much sense when you think about it. It's very difficult to show compassion to another person, when you are filled with pride and haughtiness. On the other hand, when you are a person who has a right evaluation of your self, God and others, you are freed up to be able to show genuine compassion to others. When you have received grace from God, it's much easier to give out mercy.

Is it difficult for you to show mercy to other people? Then check out being "poor in spirit." If you are understanding of your wickedness and wonder-your poverty before God-a right evaluation of yourself before God, then you are able to offer mercy to another. If you are so caught up in yourself, then you won't find it easy to extend mercy to another person at most any level.

So, beginning with a sincere acknowledgment of your desperate need for God, reach out to all those around you with sincere compassion. And, you will receive it right back in the process. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.



Matthew 5:6

As we make our way through the beatitudes which are really snapshots of what a Kingdom dweller looks like, we come now to the 4th. So far we have discussed:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This means to reaffirm your poverty-your need for God-to have a right evaluation of yourself before God-both the wickedness and the wonder parts.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. This means to reframe your weaknesses; it's mourning over whatever it is that keeps you from Jesus and the Kingdom lifestyle.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. This snapshot means renew your confidence-to develop a quiet, controlled strength that is not compelled to be reactionary.

What's interesting to me is that each of these first three snapshots speak of where you lack. After practicing these three disciplines, you are pretty much filleted. You are ready for anything that will fill you up. This is precisely what the 4th snapshot and correlating discipline will do. Check it out.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

NOTE the strong terms here-hunger and thirst, not simply desiring something or making it a high priority. This is desperation-the kind of desperation that has a full understanding of its need for God, a desperate kind of mourning and an attitude of meekness. At this point of desperation you are ready for hungering and thirsting for righteousness-for anything that is right and pure and good.

The discipline for hungering and thirsting for righteousness is REFOCUS YOUR HEART. To refocus your heart is to develop a passion for filling up the hole in your soul. Everybody is passionately seeking inner satisfaction. This fourth attitude or discipline is a kind of hungering and thirsting for what you want in your innermost being.

"Righteousness" is right living. It's walking consistently with God's standard. Jesus was the Righteous One Who walked most consistently with God's standard. In a very real sense, there is no other standard in the world. God's standard for living life is the only one you were created to follow. All other standards are not standards at all, but scattered attempts to live life without God. Many of these attempts are couched in what we know as RELIGION-religious systems of do's and don'ts to attain some level of approval by God-to reach some heavenly state and to avoid going to hell. Unfortunately, man's best attempts are like going to heaven on a six foot ladder. The problem with this method is that the ladder can only go up six feet.

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness has nothing to do with a religious system, whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish or even Christian. All of these religious persuasions are cultural in nature and each one can find its meaning and highest desires in the person of Jesus. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness rests in a personal relationship with the Righteous One-Jesus, Himself. This sort of relationship is not a plan for avoiding hell, but it says "I've been to hell and don't want to return." It's a relationship with Jesus-walking with Jesus every day-JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

NOTE what happens if you hunger and thirst this way-"for they who hunger and thirst for the Righteous One will be satisfied." The term "satisfied" is used to describe the fattening up of cattle-to fill them up so that they have no more wants. Do you want to find satisfaction in your soul? Then you must practice hungering and thirsting for Jesus everyday! It's the only possible way to this kind of serenity and satisfaction. This is what I mean by refocusing your heart!

It's only when sensing your emptiness revealed within the first three snapshots that you have access to spiritual fullness. These are the quiet cravings-the hungering and thirsting-for spiritual things, for the inner satisfaction of your soul! When you hunger and thirst for something, you want it and will do most anything to satisfy these desires. Hungering and thirsting is not simply making it a higher priority or something you feel you really ought to do, but to hunger and thirst as if this is a life-sustenance issue!

Refocus your heart! On every flight you are instructed to put on your oxygen mask before helping those children alongside you. Part of the refocusing of your heart is just that-putting on your oxygen mask every day-talking to Jesus, listening to Him and seeking to please Him with your life throughout the day. Maybe you need to ask the simple question: "Jesus, what do you have for me to do today?" Believe me, that simple question will refocus your heart.



Matthew 5:5

We have considered the first two snapshots of what a Kingdom dweller looks like-poor in spirit and mourning. Each one has an action step in the form of a personal discipline.

Discipline #1-REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY-3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. To be poor in spirit is to have a right evaluation of yourself before God. This right evaluation includes your wickedness which enables you to do almost anything, any time. You don't have to teach a child how to be selfish. This evaluation also includes your wonder which means that you are not as bad as you could be, since you were created in the image of the God of gods.

Discipline #2-REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES-4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. To mourn or reframe your weaknesses is to do something about that inner sense of wickedness and self-centeredness. I think this means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do.

Today we get to the third snapshot-5- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

The discipline of this one is RENEW YOUR CONFIDENCE. To renew your confidence means is to develop a quiet, controlled strength. Remember, the right evaluation of yourself before God included your wickedness and your wonder. Mourning relates more to the wickedness or weakness factor. And, now meekness relates to the wonder factor. The quiet, controlled confidence comes from your Creator. His mark of wonder is upon you.

Once you see clearly who you really are, you are ready for growth. Then, if you are able to mourn over that which keeps you from growing, you actually graduate through this pile of problems. Now, you can't remain under the pile of mourning; you must gain inner strength as you emerge from the pile.

If you just learn how to mourn and remain there, you will be content to wallow in your weaknesses. Many people seem to enjoy suffering like this. They find a new friend in depression or loss or a sickness. They find that people seem to care more for them when they're wallowing in a problem, so they take that problem on as their identity-sort of a badge of courage. Don't wallow in your sorrows. Mourn them. Recognize them. See them for what they are. And grow through it!

To renew your confidence is to focus on the product of what you can learn in the midst of your struggles. "Gentle" is the word for meekness. Meekness is not weakness. It's developing a quiet, controlled inner strength or confidence that can only come from God's inside operation on your life. This is why we continue to speak of transformation or regeneration. It's an inside job by Jesus, Himself in your life. You recognize your desperate need, you mourn over it, inviting the Lord to do His work in your life. He does His work in your heart and creates a wonderful inner confidence-an inner strength that empowers you to keep going and to start over, when necessary.

It's learning to grow for it-no matter how rough or how tough life can be. Again, I say, it's not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens to you that matters most. Renew your confidence and live your life-inside out and upside down-all in the rule or Kingdom of God.

The struggle here in renewing your confidence is to be diligent to find your inner strength in His work and not your own. Are you sensitive to God's transformation in your heart? Are you aware of His continued work every day in and through you? This is the reason why you can experience meekness in your heart while the rest of the world around you is shaky and falling apart.

NOTE ONE MORE THING: Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth. Whatever losses the person of meekness may seem to be experiencing here on this earth, Jesus gives an assurance that the meek will inherit it all. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.



Matthew 5:4

Remember, we started with "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The discipline for this Kingdom snapshot is to REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY-to have a right evaluation of yourself before God-your wickedness (making it possible to do almost anything, any time) and your wonder (you are not as bad as you could be, since you are created in the image of the God of gods).

Now, we come to the second beatitude: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Now wait a minute! Blessed are those who mourn? Are you kidding? How can mourning be a blessed experience or one that makes you happy? As you can easily see every one of these snapshots goes against what you might normally expect. Jesus and His Kingdom always move to the beat of a different drummer.

The second discipline emerges out of the first-REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES. To reframe your weaknesses is to deal with the wickedness factor in your life. I see that mourning means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. This discipline or attitude builds right on top of the first-reaffirm your poverty. Once you have a right evaluation of your self, God, and others, it is natural to be sensitive to anything that might pull you down or pull you away from being and doing what's right. It's mourning over that which keeps you from Jesus and His Kingdom.

This is a mourning process. Learn to mourn over your weaknesses. Weaknesses seem to be categorized in two ways. First, your inner vulnerabilities that make you prone to fall apart or to do foolish things. Second, the trials you face when you suffer loss or when you are in the midst of your various problems.

You reframe your weaknesses by mourning-genuine mourning. By the way, when you mourn, you must feel the pain. Moan and groan over it! Feel it! Don't deny your feelings about it! The pain is for real, so really feel it! If you mourn properly, you'll discover something of a surprise on the other end. You will find a sense of comfort and inner joy.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, you don't need to look for problems and troubles-either generated by you or delivered to you. They have already been scheduled for your endurance. One of the primary growth factors in life is developing your muscle of endurance. When you reframe your weaknesses, you set yourself up for greater growth. So, don't waste your sorrows, reframe them.

What is it that keeps you from walking with Jesus and living the Kingdom lifestyle? What keeps you drifting away from what you know you really want with respect to your faithfulness to Him? List it out and actually MOURN over it. There's something about identifying it and saying it that helps to push it out of your way.

NOTE one more thing within this snapshot. It says "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Focus on that second part-"for they will be comforted." You see, when you mourn over that which keeps you from God, Jesus says you will find an unusual comfort in the process. He will comfort you. This is what happened to the early disciples. Jesus was about to leave them. He told them that they were going to mourn over His departure. Then right away He said that He was going to send a comforter to them. He was going to send to them His Spirit to comfort them and encourage them.

So, try it out. Reframe your weaknesses so that you turn them into mourning. Then, you will be comforted by the Spirit of Jesus, Himself. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.



Matthew 5:1-6

Now we come to the most amazing seminar/workshop Jesus ever taught. Jesus has already begun to do wonderful things in healing and touching the lives of so many in His new ministry among them as the new Rabbi in town. He has already chosen a few men to follow in His dust-to be taught in His way. So now the question automatically arises: "Jesus, how does your teaching differ from all of the other Rabbis' teaching that we have grown up with? How does your teaching compare with what we've been taught?"

This is the question for everyone of us, no matter from which culture or religious background you were brought up. HOW DO THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS DIFFER FROM WHAT I'VE BEEN TAUGHT SO FAR? Jesus sets out to answer this underlying question among the people and it is recorded in Matthew 5-7. These are the most dynamic chapters in the New Testament and possibly the most revolutionary!

Jesus has been teaching the good news message of the Kingdom and is enjoying a wonderful response from the people. Now, when He sets out to answer how His teaching differs from all other teachings, Jesus paints a portrait of what a person of the Kingdom might look like. Jesus doesn't paint a broad brush swipe, but first offers 8 snapshots of a happy Kingdom dweller. In attempting to take each of the snapshots and flesh them out in our lives, I see each one of these snapshots as a discipline. There is no way for us to instantly be like Jesus or live out a Kingdom lifestyle. This requires a set of certain life disciplines that Jesus spells out here.

They have been called the Beatitudes. They are so outside the box that many theologians and ministers have relegated them to a later time in the future Kingdom, refusing to apply them to life today. But this is precisely the point of what Jesus is saying. These are Kingdom teachings and principles. And, we just saw where Jesus said that the Kingdom is near, later He will say the Kingdom is here and then He will say that the Kingdom is among you.

Jesus carefully describes each of these 8 dimensions with very few words. Each one begins with "happy" or "blessed" are you when you are this way or that. "You'll do well to be this way" is his point in every one or "The Kingdom citizen will be like this." However, He will turn your world and thinking inside out and upside down as you contemplate each one. The first 4 are all about our personal relationship with God on the inside. The second 4 extend the first 4 out into our relationships with others. It is truly a great pattern for first walking with Jesus and then walking with others. Over the next few days I want to take the 8 "beatitudes"-1 each day-and see if we can "catch" the essence of what Jesus is saying and own it for ourselves by embracing the discipline that is embedded there. Let's get started:

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. "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 filled.

It all begins right here-"Blessed are the poor in spirit". You are blessed if you have this quality of being poor in spirit. The term "poor in spirit" is a word that means that you must beg in order to live. You are that desperate! It's having a right evaluation of yourself before God. He's God and self-sufficient and I am not! In order to embrace each of these beatitudes it seems best to me to rearticulate each into a discipline or an action step. With "poor in spirit" I see the discipline as:

#1 REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY-Jesus is speaking to a massive group of people who have been taught by some of the most haughty men who have spent their lives outlining what it means to be right or righteous before God and that system is really a performance system of attempting some level of perfection. Jesus begins at the very opposite end of the spectrum. Righteousness begins when you understand your total need for God-your spiritual poverty!

To reaffirm your poverty means to have a right evaluation of yourself before self, God, and others. All of life begins right at this point. Possessing a right evaluation of yourself before self, God, and others is true humility-the exact opposite of the blindness of pride. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; it's universal among humans and it's devastating! Pride always seeks to be exalted, to be first and to be praised. (Don't misunderstand! There is a good sense that some people identify as pride as in self-confidence or self-satisfaction, but I believe it's helpful to call it just that-self-confidence or self-satisfaction.) Pride blinds you to the point that you don't see your self for who you are becoming, you position others in a crippled, weakened condition, and you begin to think that you may be God-the center of the universe!

Pride is not always blatant. It's an insidious cancer that skews your thinking, distances you from enjoying your relationships, and sets you up for a fall in whatever you do. [Some people get credit for being cheerful, when they are really just proud of their teeth!]

Reaffirming your poverty is the recognition of your spiritual bankruptcy. It's coming to grips with your humanity! I have brought upon myself the most devastation when I have violated this attitude. I used to believe I could jump over buildings (or anything in my way) in a single bound. I knew I could break through brick walls, no matter how thick. There was nothing much that I could not do or overcome!

But I want to confess to you that with this prideful attitude, I have enjoyed many successes, but I have endured many failures. A better way to say it is that on many occasions in my life I have failed miserably! Just to be able to recognize those failures is a freeing experience. The tendency is to reframe every one of those horrible experiences, blame someone or something else for what went wrong, and rid myself from those marks against me.

What I've learned is that it is through the pain of the miserable failures that I've grown the most. In the midst of that pain I have learned vital truths about me, God, and the others in my life.

We are all broken and spiritually bankrupt! One of our main addictions is that we are stuck on ourselves-our self-centeredness-the big "I" for everything to revolve around.

Start today to reaffirm your poverty. You are pretty bad off on the inside in need of supernatural empowerment, yet you are not as bad as you could be, since you were created by the God of gods and He doesn't make junk. So, there is a wickedness (the downside) and a wonder (the upside) about you. This is a right evaluation of yourself before God. Those who reaffirm their poverty before God are operating within the very presence of God and therefore they are practicing God's kingdom on earth and have the assurance that they are in possession of the kingdom of heaven.

NOTE ONE MORE THING: Those who are poor in spirit are the ones who will receive the kingdom of heaven. Only two of the 8 snapshots reference the Kingdom-the first and the last. The Kingdom belongs to those who know and admit their need for God. It all starts here. You see, it's only when you come to the end of yourself (poor in spirit) that you finally realize that God is enough. So, reaffirm your poverty without God and you will become richer than you ever imagined.



Matthew 4:12-25

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake.... From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

NOTE what Jesus began to preach to the people: "Repent or change your mind about what you're doing-wake up-for the Kingdom of heaven has come near." He begins His teaching ministry with the Kingdom. Later, at the end of His earthly ministry, we will visit Jesus again during the 40 days He spent with His disciples before ascending into heaven and there, too, it was all about the Kingdom.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus approached two sets of brothers-fishermen-and summoned them to follow Him. What is most important here is to understand what is really going on. This isn't one person walking up to another person and calling them to drop their nets and follow. The Jewish culture was a religious one and revolved around the teaching and leadership of the Rabbi's. Young boys were initially educated by the local Rabbi. As each student grew up he was always being evaluated by the Rabbi to determine how far along the student would go. Is this a good enough student to follow in the dust of the Rabbi or would this student be rejected from advancing into a higher education? When a Rabbi accepted a student, his parents were so proud. If rejected, then the student would be sent home to take on the profession of his father. This student's parents still accepted their young student, but this rejection meant a little lower level of society for their child.

These two sets of brothers had obviously been rejected by their Rabbi's and were therefore working in the trade of their fathers. Instead of playing on the first team-the varsity, those who were rejected by the Rabbi were in a kind of junior varsity position in life. When the new Rabbi, Jesus, came along and picked out these brothers to follow in His dust, this was an amazingly attractive opportunity. Note that James and John's father, Zebedee, doesn't seem to resist their decision to leave the family business. He was thrilled that a Rabbi had picked his kids!

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

NOTE that Jesus went all over, teaching in the local synagogues, proclaiming the "good news" of the Kingdom. His primary activity to demonstrate this "good news" of the Kingdom was to meet the various needs of the people-healing every disease and sickness among them.

ONE MORE THING HERE: The message of Jesus was the good news of the Kingdom. Those who were attracted to this message were attracted to the Kingdom. They weren't looking for a new Rabbi to come along and plant new synagogues in their villages. And, these new disciples of Jesus were following Jesus as the King and were thrilled with the message of the Kingdom.

I ask this question again: Why is it that our "gospel" (good news) message doesn't include the Kingdom at all? If we want to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus, then we must pay attention to Jesus-His message and His methodology. How could we ever think that our ways might be better and more effective than His? So, let's carefully and meaningfully respond to the two most revolutionary words in all of history-FOLLOW ME!



Over the past few years I have been experiencing a pronounced learning curve regarding Jesus. And, in the past 4-6 months my learning curve is no longer a curve, but it is perpendicular. I cannot believe the things I've overlooked in the teachings of Jesus throughout the years. The blinders that I have been wearing comes from being over-educated beyond my intelligence in Biblical studies. What I've come to realize is that what I've been educated to do is to make everything a little more complicated than it really is and then to tie it up in a nice little theological box.

Now, in the process of seeing Jesus more clearly, something very thrilling is emerging before my eyes and ears. Seeing Jesus clearly is one thing; understanding His teachings more clearly about the Kingdom is not only transformational, but truly revolutionary.

Now, I am becoming more and more fascinated with JESUS AND HIS KINGDOM. This combination is life-changing to those who dare to see and hear.

With this in mind I have decided to move through several of Jesus' teachings on the Kingdom within the gospel of Matthew. So, instead of moving through Matthew from start to finish, I want to dip into some of these teaching sections over the next month or so. The nature of the kingdom is simple. Your personal kingdom is all you have say over. Therefore, the Kingdom of God is all God has say over. When you encounter Jesus, you must sign off as king and submit to Jesus as the King of your kingdom, because He is the King of kings.

Before actually getting into Matthew, it's important to consider a couple of basic things about the Kingdom. FIRST-A cursory look at the theme of Jesus' teachings is about the Kingdom. Jesus mentions the "church" only twice, yet the gospels record 127 times where Jesus teaches the Kingdom.

SECOND-What is the two-dimensional message of Jesus, Phillip and Paul in the book of Acts? The message is the combination of Jesus and the Kingdom. In Acts 1 Jesus appears to His disciples for 40 days to give them certain proof of His resurrection and personness and He spent the time teaching them about the Kingdom. Phillip taught the combination of Jesus and the Kingdom to the Samaritans.

And, finally, Paul, when under house-arrest in Rome, spent his time and energy teaching those who came to visit him about one primary theme-Jesus and the Kingdom.

Once these things are observed, questions pop into my mind. Why is it that we are all about "church", when Jesus wasn't? Why do we preach the "church", when Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom? Why do we emphasize the "church" and minimize the Kingdom in our fellowships?

One of the primary answers to these questions is that playing "church" is what we've seen as an example of how to walk with Jesus. Even more concerning to me is that playing the "church" card gives a person a sense of being able to control a piece of spiritual life and lifestyle. You may control the "church", but you can never control the Kingdom of God.

Jesus and His Kingdom. Jesus leads you to His Kingdom and the Kingdom principles lead you to Jesus, the King. In fact, Jesus actually calls it the "gospel of the Kingdom."

If you're up to it, come along on this journey with me and allow the message of the gospel of the kingdom be planted as a seed deep down in your soul. If you have ears to hear and eyes to see, your life will be transformed-inside out and upside down. So come along. You'll never regret the journey!

Thursday, February 26, 2009



I am sure that many of you wondered if I had taken leave of my senses, when I embarked on this topic of the demonic over the last three weeks.

Someone might say: "Aren't the things called "demon-possession" in Jesus' time in the bible based in their ignorance of what was happening." For instance, epilepsy. Actually, this is a perfect illustration. Epilepsy is a real problem and doesn't have to be caused by the devil at all. However, there are cases where Jesus encountered a person with epilepsy that had its cause in the demonic. Note Jesus didn't cast the epilepsy out, but cast out the demons.

To say it isn't true, you must come to the conclusion that Jesus was ignorant about what was really happening. But that seems a bit illogical. Jesus seems to be convinced of the presence of evil in His world. In modern times I have seen the devil and his demons work in the lives of perfectly normal people. The effects are absolutely real and for the most part, real bad.

Some say Jesus was using the devil and his demons to communicate something else, maybe the truth of the effect of Muphy's Law to explain why things go wrong from time to time. Yet Jesus is clear about Adam and Eve in the Garden, about His own experience with evil in the wilderness. He warned Peter about the evil one who had requested personally to "sift Peter like wheat."

In 1983 Dr. M. Scott Peck wrote a ground-breaking book, PEOPLE OF THE LIFE: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. Dr. Peck was certainly the first popular and highly-accepted psychiatrist to write a popularized book on the subject of evil. This book gave lots of credibility to the truth of demonic activity in the lives of human beings. If you find it difficult to accept such a premise, this book goes a long way using scientific evidence to illustrate its reality.

I have seen lots of people who have become demonized at some level. Two psychiatrists in Orange County who are not believers in Jesus actually sought me out to ask me to help with cases of evil they were unable to understand. You see, there comes a point where there just isn't any other explanation of what is going on, when someone is overcome by evil and its effects.

How do you know when evil is doing its thing in your life? You can tell evil by its intent in your life. Whatever is out for your destruction is of the evil one. You can see this as you simply read the many illustrations in the Gospels where people are demonized. You just don't see any demonic behavior referenced where the person is made better, encouraged or empowered by the devil and his demons.

This can be experienced at the simplest levels. When you are depressed and thinking destructive thoughts about yourself and others, you can count on it there is a demonic participant in there somewhere. I'm not saying that the devil is the cause of everything like this. I am saying that there are many levels of problems that may come up against you-physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. No matter what the cause of your problem, you need to have an awareness of the spiritual warfare. When I don't know whether or not there is a demonic involvement, I still pray this way: "God, if this is of you, then I accept it. But Lord, if this is of the devil and his demons, then I don't want anything to do with it and resist this evil one in the power of the name of Jesus."

There is an interesting passage Paul wrote regarding depression and sorrow. I think it's interesting how you can decipher where this depression or sorrow is coming from. Paul says: For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (II Corinthians 7:10) Sorrow from God will move you toward repentance-move you toward making changes in your life. However, the depression or sorrow from the world system always moves you toward death and dying and your destruction.

Let me offer a few suggestions for you as we summarize how to handle yourself in the midst of the spiritual warfare-a summary of the battle plan. Four things are necessary.

FIRST-Go with God! The only thing you really have going for you is that God is on your side; He loves you unconditionally. He loves you just as you are. All acceptance and approval must come from your Creator-God. So, receive His acceptance and approval!

SECOND-Gear up for battle! Walking in relationship with God does not hermetically seal you up in a mayonnaise jar so that you are protected against the evil in this world. Be careful to renew your mind with the spiritual armor of God to fight this battle. All God guides you to do He will provide protection for you in the process.

THIRD-Grow with others! Don't allow yourself to get separated from your vital support system. You need the affirmation of others in your life to encourage you and hold you accountable to being all you want to be. Don't try traveling alone. You are as sick as your secrets.

FOURTH-Guard yourself and others! Remind yourself and others of the spiritual warfare. Be ready to resist the evil one and his demons that come up against you.

If you are careful to acknowledge the presence of God and the devil and his demons in the happenings of your life, this will give you the big picture of what's really going on in the real world. Have you ever noticed how those who seem to suffer the most have an unusual perspective on life. And, for the most part, there is a deep sense of what the spiritual warfare is all about.

Some of the world's greatest men and women have been saddled with disabilities and adversities but have managed to overcome them. Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in a prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan. Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington. Raise him in abject poverty, and you have an Abraham Lincoln. Subject him to bitter religious prejudice, and you have a Benjamin Disraeli. Strike him down with infantile paralysis, and he becomes a Franklin D. Roosevelt. Burn him so severely in a schoolhouse fire that the doctors say he will never walk again, and you have a Glenn Cunningham, who set a world's record in 1934 for running a mile in 4 minutes, 6.7 seconds. Deafen a genius composer, and you have a Ludwig van Beethoven. Have him or her born black in a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have a Booker T. Washington, a Harriet Tubman, a Marian Anderson, or a George Washington Carver. Make him the first child to survive in a poor Italian family of eighteen children, and you have an Enrico Caruso. Have him born of parents who survived a Nazi concentration camp, paralyze him from the waist down when he is four, and you have an incomparable concert violinist, Itzhak Perlman. Call him a slow learner, "retarded," and write him off as ineducable, and you have an Albert Einstein.

The devil and his demons do a lot of damage in our world, but only God through Jesus has the last word on the ultimate results. Walk with Jesus through whatever trials come your way. Walk with others who walk with Jesus for enormous support and then leave the results of your life to Him. Evil never wins out when Jesus is present, so don't leave home without Him-ever!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009



When the Lord is your Master, the world is your mission and you are a prime target for evil each and every day. Hang on to your relationship with Jesus and those who follow Him and your eyes will be exactly where they need to be in order to fight the fight most effectively!

In order to fight the battle for your soul and for the souls of others you will be required to be serious about your walk with Jesus and with others who are following Jesus. The call to follow Jesus is a call for selflessness. This call has to do first with your heart and then how you care for others. It's really a call for those who are willing to sign up to be revolutionaries.

To be a revolutionary you must learn to love. Based upon God's unconditional love for you, there are two tracks of love that Jesus makes clear are most important. What's interesting to me is that they are foundational to anyone's life and possibly the simplest approach to your life ever. There are three different occasions where Jesus teaches these two love tracks.

FIRST in Matthew 22:38-40 Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment of the Law is. Jesus answers: "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

In this first instance Jesus does not really answer the question. He doesn't give the questioner one commandment, but gives him two-love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind AND love your neighbor as yourself. NOTE what He says about these two love tracks of loving God and loving your neighbor. The entire Law and the Prophets are dependent upon these two.

SECOND in Mark 12:32-34 Jesus is again asked what is the foremost commandment. After answering, the scribe said to Jesus: "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

The scribe was right on! He even added to the two commandments. He said they are much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Note what Jesus said back to the scribe: When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

The THIRD instance is found in Luke 10:26-28-And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE."

So, first, the entire Law and the Prophets depend on loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Then, if you love God and love your neighbor as yourself, you can be assured that you are not far from the Kingdom of God. Finally, Jesus says if you love God and love your neighbor as yourself, then you will live! Note the progression is pretty dynamite!

So, a Jesus revolutionary is one who practices loving God and loving his neighbor. There is one thing that will keep you from committing yourself to being a revolutionary and practicing the two most important revolutionary principles of Jesus. This one thing is an addiction of sorts. It's the problem of sin.

Sin is basically missing the mark-falling short of God's standard. Sin is not living the Kingdom principles; it's not following Jesus. So, instead of being Jesus centered, it's being self-centered.

It's the condition of mankind-the universal dilemma of self-centeredness that has plagued men/women from the beginning. Sin is the 'something broken' that can't be fixed or corrected by all the success, effort, money, sex, power, or ability in the world. This brokenness or separation is experienced as a haunting and fearful sense of being separated and unworthy and expresses itself in feelings of fear, anger, shame, guilt, or pain. We search the world over for someone or something we can control that will take away these painful feelings of inadequacy and we will become strongly attached or even addicted to any person, substance, behavior, or goal that promises to relieve or blot out our pain and sense of alienation.

The only possibility of removing the condition of sin is Jesus. He is the only one who can transform your heart away from your natural self-centeredness and into the two love tracks: love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. The devil and his demons know this, so they are committed to keeping you off-focus and off-message with respect to Jesus. Whatever problems you encounter may not be caused by the devil and his demons, but you can be certain they are there voting against you in your struggle and piling on. This is why it takes a committed revolutionary.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009



There is a lot of talk and teaching about the coming antichrist. In the first of John's letters he says: Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. (I John 2:18-23)

The antichrist is to be the great counterfeit of Jesus the Christ and therefore the archenemy of Jesus. Whoever the antichrist is or when he might show up is not nearly as important to me as is the spirit of antichrist. John speaks of this later in the letter: And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (I John 4:3)

The spirit of antichrist has to do with a mood and attitude that pervades the Jesus movement today. You see, anti can mean "against", but it also has the meaning of "instead of" and therefore is more subtle and dangerous. I am convinced the most effective deception today is not that which is against Jesus, but that which is added on to Jesus in such a way so as to be instead of Jesus. The many "instead of Jesus" add-ons today seem harmless, but displace and replace the name and power of Jesus.

When Jesus warned about the false prophets, He described them as people who did all kinds of things in the name of Jesus yet were not really doing the will of the Father. Jesus said, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"

Note they called Jesus Lord, spoke in the name of Jesus, cast out demons in the name of Jesus and performed many miracles in Jesus' name. However, they will not enter the Kingdom of heaven, because they somehow did not do the will of the Father. We are given some idea what Jesus meant by doing the will of the Father in the next paragraph. Jesus says: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was its fall." (Matthew 7:24-27)

So, these false prophets and teachers weren't careful to follow Jesus and His teachings. Jesus says this is hearing His words and practicing them. I believe these were those who were part of the spirit of antichrist-the "instead of" Christ movement.

Jesus warned His disciples about both the Pharisees and the Herodians: And He was giving orders to them, saying, " Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." (Mark 8:15) Both the Pharisees and the Herodians were caught up in the "instead of" movement-piling up add-ons on top of the truth. The Pharisees were into the add-ons of list after list of laws. The Herodians were a political movement who added on the potential of being powerfully influential, which meant more to them than being truly righteous before God. The leaven of each group amounted to the add-ons.

We have our modern day Pharisees today who worship the Bible and hold people to the exact interpretation they have come up with. Your relationship with Jesus-the living Word of God-becomes secondary to whatever doctrine they might hold sacred. The Herodians are still here as well. They are the people today who believe we must get the entire nation to follow the Christian ways of doing things. Sadly, they believe you can legislate values and morality. For so many years, this movement has enjoyed the power-base to operate, yet the net result in our society is woefully falling short of what God might want. If anything, we are going backwards with respect to changing our culture for the Lord.

The spirit of antichrist is the problem-adding on to Jesus so much that the add-ons become the replacement of Jesus and His preeminence! Some see this spirit of antichrist as an intentionally evil movement. I don't see it this way at all. There are those who are propagating antichrist messages on purpose, but for the most part I believe it is well-intentioned. Jesus keeps slipping between the cracks and in reality, in many religious operations, Jesus has left the building. I don't believe many set out to leave Jesus out of their newsletters or messages, but it's just too easy to allow Jesus to be crowded out.

Paul gives a hint of this disposition of evil men and imposters. He says to Timothy: But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (II Timothy 3:13) NOTE they are deceiving and being deceived themselves! There are so many who just don't get it that Jesus wants and requires simply a relationship with Him. It is Jesus plus nothing-and nothing more. Nothing else matters! In the encounters of Jesus in the Gospels, nothing else mattered. It didn't matter enough to add on anything to the Roman official who had greater faith than had ever been expressed in all of Israel. Jesus didn't add anything on to the woman who was healed of her bleeding problem by just touching His robe. He didn't add on anything to the Syrophoenician woman. It has always been and is now a matter of your relationship with Jesus and that you learn to follow Him. That is enough!

The spirit of antichrist is definitely prevalent in the world today. It's just too easy to either replace Jesus with something good or to add on to Jesus and make Him something He is not. Evil rules when you are distracted or deceived into being dependent upon anything other than Jesus. That's the spirit of antichrist.


Monday, February 23, 2009



When it comes to understanding the spiritual warfare, there is so much confusion. It's such a "hot" topic, much like prophecy, therefore people spend so much time and energy cussing and discussing it. The excitement of the latest fulfillment of prophecy-the number of the anti-Christ, 666, the latest signs of the 2nd coming of Jesus, the alignment of powers in the end-times-can overrule most discussion topics. But even more stimulating than prophetic events and signs are the breathtaking stories of "demon-possession" and exorcism!

There is nothing more chilling than to hear an eyewitness account of a person who has become demonized. It's spooky, downright bloodcurdling at times. It's like the old E. F. Hutton illustration: "When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen!" When anyone breaks into sharing a demonic story, all other conversation stops. I've seen this numerous times. When I share any of the counseling stories of a demonized person, all attention is focused immediately. Whenever I share one of these stories in a message or lecture, the silence is deafening.

The issue is so forceful that it drives people into extreme positions. As I shared in the first podcast on this particular subject, confusion reigns when it comes to understanding this kind of war. There are usually two extremes in spiritual warfare: (1) Ignore it and it will go away and (2) when in doubt, cast it out. The problem with the first extreme is that the spiritual warfare doesn't depend on whether or not you believe it or know anything about it. There is an enemy of God out there who is also your enemy and he is out to destroy you in whatever ways he can. So, ignoring the reality of the spiritual warfare will prove to be certain destruction for you, even though you choose to be ignorant about it. The second extreme of "when in doubt, cast it out" will most certainly drive you crazy. If you believe everything bad or scary is caused by the devil, you will develop a real good case of paranoia and phobias. The devil doesn't cause everything that is bad or scary in your life. You are perfectly capable of screwing up your life without the devil's assistance.

At the end of the devil's temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Luke records a most interesting insight for us: When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. What is an "opportune" time? Basically, a more opportune time is when you would least expect it or when you are vulnerable. In the Anonymous community the word is that you are most vulnerable when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. The acrostic given to help you remember is HALT.

The HALT times in your life are good indicators for the most opportune time for the devil and his demons to attack. Other opportune times might be when you are the weakest, stressed out, or as in the life of David, when you have too much time on your hands. One kind of opportune time that seems a little surprising to most is when you have just experienced a spiritual victory or successful mission or being blessed. This is precisely when the devil and his demons find it most effective to move in to do their destructive work in your life.

Jesus gives us the best perspective on the extremes when dealing with the devil and his demons. In the 9th chapter of Luke's Gospel Jesus sent out His twelve disciples to heal and cast out demons. In the 10th chapter Luke records when Jesus sent out the 70 or 72 disciples. He sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where Jesus was about to go.

Their mission trip was highly successful. Let's listen in to what happened when they returned: The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." They were so excited about their victories over the demonic world. The stories they had to share were absolutely amazing! Their minds were definitely blown and they were filled with enthusiasm!

Jesus' response is interesting. He didn't criticize, but affirmed them: And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you." In other words, Jesus was saying, "You guys did a great job out there! I gave you the power to do your work. In fact, Jesus uses a triple negative to describe what kind of protection He gave them. He said, "I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions-any kind of danger-and over all the power of the enemy and nothing, no way, no how will be able to injure you."

Then, NOTE what Jesus said: "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." Here Jesus brings in the balance. FIRST-Don't get so excited over the demonic stories and activities, where in the name of Jesus you have power over them. That's an extreme and keeps you distracted and off-message. SECOND-BUT be excited about what is most important-that your names are recorded in heaven. Be excited about your supernatural and eternal relationship with the Lord. Get enthused about your personal relationship with Jesus! That's what's important!

Jesus was bringing them back into balance and focusing them away from the possible distraction. He was bringing them back on track. There is no doubt that the devil and his demons are out there and the spiritual warfare is for real, but keep your focus on Jesus, not the devil.

I like to say it in this way: When the Lord is your Master, the world is your mission and you are a prime target for evil each and every day. Hang on to your relationship with Jesus and those who follow Him and your eyes will be exactly where they need to be in order to fight the fight most effectively!

Sunday, February 22, 2009



As I have said earlier the spiritual warfare is really a battle for your soul-a battle for your mind. This is why Paul references "taking every thought against the Lord to the captive obedience of Jesus." It's also imaged by the flaming arrows or darts of the evil one that Paul discusses in Ephesians 6. These seem to be that same mind attack against your faith and they can only be defused or deflected by the piece of armor he calls the shield of faith.

John references this same battle for the mind in his smaller letters. In I John 2:14-I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Here the reason for their strength against the evil one is mentioned. He says they were strong enough to actually overcome the evil one. The secret is that the word of God abides in them. This is an important insight for us today. It's again making sure we are into the genuine message, heart and person of Jesus, so that we are better able to clearly see the counterfeit message of Jesus.

Later in the same letter John says: We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (I John 5:19-20) What a powerful reference to being in Jesus-in Him who is true-the true God and eternal life!

One of my favorite passages from Paul is found in the twelfth chapter of his letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome. It's here that I see a 6 step approach to living your life in the strength and empowerment of the true message of Jesus.

The first two steps are embedded in the first eleven chapters of Romans. FIRST-Observe what God has done for you. There is only one command in this section. He is diligently outlining what God has done for you. SECOND-Open yourself up to the Spirit of Jesus within. One of the primary themes throughout the Scriptures is for the Creator-God to come down here and dwell or make Himself at home among His people. Be aware of this in your own life.

THIRD-Offer your body to God for His mission (12:1). This is in verse 1: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. On the basis of what God has done for you (the mercies of God), now you are urged to present your body to God as a living sacrifice. He is no longer interested in dead beasts, but live bodies who are separated unto God for His special mission and calling on their lives.

The biggest problem with live bodies is that they are continually getting down from the altar of sacrifice-taking back their lives after offering them to God.

FOURTH-Overhaul your mind (12:2). And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Now he turns the discussion toward the mind. You might make the decision to offer your body to God for His mission and calling on your life, but what is going to allow you and empower you to hang in there and do it is what you do with your mind.

You have a choice. You can either be fit into the mold of the world system-its values and its thinking. That is what he means by "conformed." Or, you can be transformed-totally changed-by the renewing of your mind. He uses the word metamorphosis-a complete change. This kind of spiritual transformation will only come by overhauling your mind with the truth about who God says He is and the truth about who God says you are. And, by overhauling your mind-continually ruminating and meditating on what is true, you can put to the test what the best is for you.

FIFTH-Obtain a servant's heart (12:3). For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Here Paul says it is so important to have a right evaluation of yourself before God and man. Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. This kind of thinking naturally moves into the last step given here.

SIXTH-Operate in a small group (12:4-8). For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

You are not to operate alone, but within the support and relationship of others. We are all given different giftedness and strengths to be used to cultivate the oneness of walking together in one body-the body of Jesus. We need one another to function most effectively.

Practice these six steps and you'll be prepared to participate in the battle for your soul. This is how to be proactive. Ignore them and you will still be in the battle for your soul, but you will only be able to be reactionary. You choose! Be victorious or be victimized by the spiritual forces of darkness.