Monday, March 30, 2009

Philippians 2:5-11


5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So, what is this attitude that was in Jesus that we are to have in us? Jesus didn't flaunt His deity-His equality with God. So, we must not flaunt anything we have going for us in comparison with others.

Jesus emptied Himself-voluntarily laid down the supernatural attributes and powers. Jesus could pick up these supernatural powers and did from time to time as needed. So, although we have no supernatural attributes to lay down, maybe this flows out of the "flaunting" and means for us to not assert ourselves over others.

Jesus took on the role of a bond-servant-being made in the likeness of men. This is where Jesus was God available! So, we, too, must be "God-available" to people around us in that we are Jesus to them-the only form of Jesus they may ever encounter. Jesus became obedient to the point of death-even the most shameful death. So, we must focus and discipline our lives to be obedient to what God has for us each day and for the long-haul. This obedience is what I refer to when I say that following Jesus is the most difficult thing I've ever done. This is why I feel I must be stubborn about embracing the teachings and principles of Jesus as a lifestyle, not just in a verbal sense, but in a vital sense!

When Jesus embraced this attitude, GOD HIGHLY EXALTED HIM. He was given a name above every name-a name when spoken will cause every knee in the universe to bow before Him and someday every tongue will confess that Jesus, the Messiah, is the Lord God. This is why we do things "in the name of Jesus" and pray "in the name of Jesus." There is so much power in His name.

On the Saturday before Easter I had the privilege of using the name of Jesus and experienced this power. I was invited to speak before an assembly of primarily Buddhists and Muslims. Every other religious faith and culture was represented as well. It was an even hosted by the Dalai Lama and Imam Khorisani to promote peace and compassion among the different peoples. After hearing a variety of speakers from everywhere speak, I was brought up at the very last of a 2 hour session. When I said, "I bring you greetings in the name of Jesus", I sensed a clarity and power overshadowed that room of about 750 people. Many others reflected to me that same feeling came over them-Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian. IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

There is one other thing about this ATTITUDE that I want to mention. All of this is another way of saying to us to take on humility. I heard from a brother yesterday a poignant definition of humility that I want to share with you today. Humility is believing all that God says about Himself and all that God says about you, and pride slips in the moment we don't believe these two things.

Philippians 2:1-4


This chapter starts out with 4 conditional phrases which are assuming that the answer is true: 1Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, (and there certainly is) if there is any consolation of love, (and there certainly is) if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, (and there certainly is) if any affection and compassion, (and there is) 2make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

The oneness of community and fellowship together is what is called for here. This is what the real Lord's prayer is all about in John 17, that they may be one!

Then we see the things that destroy this oneness in Christ: 3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

I've been doing lots of evaluation of why we followers of Jesus are so ineffective in penetrating the culture. After speaking in front of the international event hosted by the Dalai Lama (Buddhist) and Imam Khorisani (Muslim) for the purpose of finding peace among a variety of cultures and faiths, I am fascinated with how to lift Jesus up most effectively. I am amazed at how often I've been hearing the same things from people, that Christianity has become highly offensive, yet Jesus is not! Yesterday I spoke with an agnostic who has been turned off by organized religion, yet he was drawn to what I had to say about Jesus.

Maybe Christianity has lost the attractiveness of the oneness spoken of here. Maybe the offensiveness stems from selfishness and empty conceit. One area of conceit that smells funny is the thinking that Christianity owns Jesus. Jesus and His Kingdom are too big for that box!

Jesus stands apart from all others in that He walked the talk. The gospel or good news is Jesus. Jesus transforms those who give themselves to Him inside out and sets them free from all worldly systems. That transformation has a lot to do with setting you free from self-centeredness and the big EGO (Edging God Out), so that you are free to love anyone and everyone with an unconditional love. This is the ultimate purpose of our relationship with Jesus, that we learn to love God with all your heart, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus just doesn't want to be entangled with religiosity or as a founder of any religious system. He doesn't want to merely be something VERBAL, but He wants to be VITAL in your life. When a Hindu principal of a college in India heard Jesus presented in this way, he said, "Jesus has stood four times in history before the door of India and has knocked. The first time he appeared in the early days he stood in company with a trader. He knocked. We looked out and saw him and liked him, but we didn't like his company, so we shut the door. Later he appeared with a diplomat on one side and a soldier on the other, and knocked. We looked out and said, 'We like you, but we don't like your company.' Again we shut the door. The third time was when he appeared as the uplifter of the outcastes. We liked him better in this role, but we weren't sure of what was behind it. Was this the religious side of imperialism? Are they conquering us through religion? Again we shut the door. And now he appears before our doors, as we've heard tonight, as the disentangled Christ. To this disentangled Christ we say: 'Come in. Our doors are open to you.'"

When we practice the oneness of fellowship, compassion and spirit in Jesus and put away our self-centeredness, ego and empty conceit, we are able to present Jesus most attractively as the disentangled Christ.

Philippians 1:21-30


21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Paul is torn between dying and being with Christ and living and bringing Christ to the fellowship of believers still fighting the good fight. He sees himself staying here for the progress and joy of the faith. This entire first chapter is about ministering to "others" and giving himself to that end to encourage their walk with Jesus and with one another.

27Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28in no way alarmed by your opponents-which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

I am fascinated with the use of the term "gospel," urging those in Philippi to walk worthy of the good news (gospel) of Christ. He goes on to give some direction as to how to conduct their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel:

1. Stand firm together in one spirit 2. Strive together for the faith of the gospel 3. Stop being alarmed by what others say 4. Simply believe in Jesus and also be ready to suffer for His sake.

So, what is the gospel? I think it is simpler than how we might normally articulate it. The gospel is Jesus! Jesus truly was the word that became flesh and dwelled among us. I've been reading through the life of a most unique follower of Jesus, E. Stanley Jones. He says, "Everything Jesus taught was a fact within Himself. He didn't bring the good news: He was the good news! The gospel lies in His person. Philosophies point to truths; Jesus said, 'I am the truth!' Moralists point to the way; Jesus said, 'I am the way!' Religions point to the life; Jesus said, 'I am the life!' Philosophies and moralisms, however good they may be, are powerless to change character and life. They may influence character and life marginally, but cannot change them." Everyone else is into making people better; Jesus makes them different. Religions try to produce reformation; Jesus is into personal transformation.

"When you take hold of Jesus, you take hold of God. Jesus is not a third something or someone that comes between you and God-JESUS IS GOD AVAILABLE!" And the believers in Philippi were urged to walk in a manner worthy of Jesus-to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus.

This is also for you and me today, too. I am stubbornly working on this in my spiritual journey. How is it going with you?

Philippians 1:12-20


We come to an interesting passage in this first chapter of Philippians. There are three great insights into what happens as we live in the Kingdom of Jesus. First-Our negative circumstances result in spreading the gospel.

12Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

Paul believes that his bad situation of being held in prison is turning out to be a tool in spreading the gospel further in two ways. One is that the whole Roman guard and everyone else have heard the reason for Paul's imprisonment. It's because of his stubborn stand for Jesus as the Messiah. They would never have heard the gospel, unless Paul had been imprisoned and caused all of the gossip and talk. Second, most of the brothers and sisters have been encouraged to speak the word of God more boldly and they have been moved to trust in the Lord because of this imprisonment.

Second-We must learn to rejoice that Jesus is being lifted up, no matter who does it and no matter their motives.

15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

Even when others preach Christ with bad motives, even from envy and strife, selfish ambition, or even if it is all a show, lifting someone's ego, we ought to rejoice that Jesus, the Messiah, is being proclaimed. Now that is a tough order. All of this is to say that the person is not that important, but only Jesus. Note that this must apply to anyone who lifts Jesus up, whether we agree with them, their culture or their theology or not. How does this feel? Last week I heard a Buddhist lift Jesus up. What does he know about "my" Jesus? Then I spoke with two Muslim Imams who expressed their enthusiasm about the power and teachings of Jesus. Who do they think they are? This has stretched me beyond anything I've ever experienced! Remember that the Lord was willing for the rocks to cry out, if everyone were to have kept quiet. Or even more vivid is the picture of God speaking through a donkey. This is at the core of what we have come to know as JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

Third-We must live with a confidence that everything is going to be OK.

19for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Note where the confidence comes from. Through the prayers of fellow believers through the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Then note the reason that the confidence hangs on that Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die!


Philippians 1:1-11


Philippians is one of the many epistles that follow the five Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. Epistles are not the apostles wives, but letters written to the followers of Jesus in various cities to encourage and exhort them in their walk. The book of Philippians is one of the few actual letters written to the believers. It isn't a treatise or theological study, but a personal letter from Paul and Timothy. It's also interesting to note that it is not just Paul alone who wrote it, but with Timothy. Note how many books in the epistles mention more than one author. We seem to miss that point too often. Jesus started this dynamic of doing things together-two by two-and how powerful it can be, even promising to be in the midst of two or three who come together in His name to do anything.

1Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Note the term "saints". This is literally "holy ones" and it refers to the believers, but especially denoting that they are those who are separated unto God for His mission. There was never an understanding in the New Testament that there was a group of believers that were not on a mission for God, just spectators, but all were to be participators!

3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

This is a wonderful letter displaying our important it is to be focused on the "others" in your life-those other believers you are encouraging and bringing along in the faith-those you are walking with to this end. These believers were always in Paul's prayers and these were prayers of joy because of their participation in the gospel.

6For 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. 7For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Here is one of the 3 promises mentioned yesterday. The prayers for these other believers were prayers of confidence that God was at work in them and that He would keep working in their hearts until Jesus returns. Note they were in his heart. Paul was imprisoned while writing this letter with Timothy's help. Although there are differing views as to where he was-Caesarea by the Sea or Rome, I believe this letter was written when Paul was in prison (actually house-arrest in Rome.) What makes this interesting is that he is overflowing with this letter of joy and love while he, himself, is locked up!

9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, Note the prayer is that their love will abound more and more and that it will abound in the full, experiential knowledge of Jesus and one another and, that their love might abound in discernment-the ability to decipher right and wrong, wise and foolish.

10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Note the purpose of the prayer is "so that you may approve the things that are excellent". This literally means that they might TEST OUT you would a metal for its genuineness. Don't waste time with the things that don't matter, but test out everything in order to be walk more faithfully with Jesus and with one another until Jesus comes back.

QUESTION: Who are the others in your life and are you keeping them in your prayers? It is simply to easy to live your life ALL ABOUT YOU with a self-centeredness that ultimately becomes destructive to you. As a follower of Jesus, you are meant to be different from the world's ways. You are separated unto the Lord for His mission and His mission is for you to love Him and His people. WHEN YOU ARE ALL WRAPPED UP IN YOURSELF, YOU MAKE A VERY SMALL PACKAGE!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009



This week I have been working my way through five essentials that will assist us in de-Christianizing Jesus in order to get to our final destination of lifting Jesus up to where He belongs.

· The 1st essential was the Preeminence of Jesus. · The 2nd essential is the Presence of the Kingdom. · The 3rd essential is the Power of the Few. · The 4th essential is the Practice of Persuasion Over Propaganda. · The 5th essential is the Peaceful Simplicity of Jesus Plus Nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Winter has now come to see that this is the Jesus strategy, since writing this newsletter. And, this is precisely what I've been seeing in our experience.

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



I am working my way through five essentials that will assist us in de-Christianizing Jesus in order to get to our final destination of lifting Jesus up where He belongs. The 1st essential was the Preeminence of Jesus. The 2nd essential is the Presence of the Kingdom. The 3rd essential is the Power of the Few. The 4th is the Practice of Persuasion Over Propaganda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The de-Christianization factor here is based in the fact that persuasion's goal is to fully invest in another's life appealing to them to examine Jesus and embrace that relationship uniquely and personally. Persuasion only wants to stick to the message with great credibility, compassion and common sense. Propaganda is mostly interested in controlling the thinking of others. Persuasion is inductive with a desire to get you to think for yourself. This is why we want to introduce people to Jesus-to advance the conversation of Jesus. He will handle everything else in a person's life.

Propaganda is deductive with a desire to get you to think as they do. Persuasion assists you in developing the truth. Propaganda wants to dump the truth on you-their truth. Persuasion attracts. Propaganda promotes.

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



I am working my way through five essentials that will assist us in de-Christianizing Jesus in order to get to our final destination of lifting Jesus up to where He belongs. The 1st essential was the Preeminence of Jesus. The 2nd essential is the Presence of the Kingdom. The 3rd essential is the Power of the Few.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The power of the few is what we have always sought within the organized church when we promote "small groups" of any kind. But even a small group may not get the results that we're talking about in the "power of the few". The real dynamic of the "power of the few" is genuine fellowship-participation in one another's lives in such a way so as to develop a personal support system. This support system becomes so strengthening that it serves as your inner security system. I am stronger as I live my life in relationship with other brothers and sisters.

For instance, this last weekend I had the assignment of speaking to about 400 high school and college students from all over the world. Since teens are not my normal audience, I was very concerned as to whether or not I could resonate with them. The small group we walk with agreed to pray for me. I went to this event in San Diego last Sunday, but I didn't go alone or just with my wife, I went with great strength from the fellowship standing with me with a prayerful concern and enjoyed a terrific response from these teens.

Now, whether we are talking about events such as these or simply moving through our day, we all need the powerful, interactive, relational support of other followers of Jesus in our lives. THE POWER OF THE FEW. You see, Jesus said that where two or three are gathered together, He will show up. The power of the few is the dwelling place of the presence of Jesus, Himself. Now, if you were convinced that Jesus was going to show up some place, wouldn't you go and make yourself available to see Him? This is why you will want to do whatever you can to participate in the power of the few. Either make the commitment to participate with a few and enjoy the power of Jesus in your life, loved ones and livelihood or ignore the power of the few and lose what you have.

Sunday, March 22, 2009



I am working my way through five essentials that will assist us in de-Christianizing Jesus in order to get to our final destination of lifting Jesus up where He belongs in our world. The 1st essential was the Preeminence of Jesus. The 2nd essential is the Presence of the Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven are used interchangeably. Even though Jesus teaches so little on the church (mentions it twice), He spends lots of time teaching about the Kingdom. Today the Kingdom concept has escaped our notice, even though Jesus places so much emphasis on it. It's not that the Kingdom has been rejected, but reduced. There are, at least, 5 ways that we tend to reduce the Kingdom. FIRST-It is MYSTICAL. If it's mystical, then it is very difficult to explain and understand definitively. It's sort of other-worldly. SECOND-It's HEAVENLY. This is a lot like the first. If the Kingdom is heavenly, then it has little, if any, application on earth. THIRD-It's APOCALYPTIC. This means it isn't for today, but is relegated to a time in the future when Jesus will set up His Kingdom on earth. FOURTH-It's EQUATED TO THE CHURCH. Many see the Kingdom as the local church and therefore it's limited to whether it's a good and healthy church or not. FIFTH-It's a SOCIAL CONCERN. To many feeding the poor and doing charitable deeds among the needy of our world is where the Kingdom is.

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

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

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

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

On several occasions Jesus gives clear requirements for entering the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God. We will go through each of these next week. I suppose "entering the Kingdom" is most often considered as "getting into heaven", however the point I want to make here is that when Jesus spoke of entering the Kingdom, He seems to be saying you can enter it right now! So, you might say "heaven" (if that's what you call it) begins as soon as you enter it here. Or, "eternal life" begins at the point of entering the Kingdom.

Since Jesus is the King, His teachings and very presence brought the Kingdom to earth for us right then when He showed up with this Kingdom message. The primary action of the 8 parables about the Kingdom in Matthew 13 is the sowing of the seed and the seed is identified as the "message or word of the Kingdom". That's the good news message right here, right now. Those parables were describing what the invisible form of the Kingdom after Jesus had been rejected by the Jewish leadership would be-what it would look like from here on out.

Once you embrace the fact that the presence of the Kingdom is right here, right now, you can begin disciplining yourself to live in the Kingdom right here, right now. You embrace the Kingdom lifestyle by living out the teachings and principles of the King and His Kingdom. Jesus calls it following Him or doing the will of the Father or hearing His words and practicing them.

In other words, you can live in the Kingdom today, right now. When you embrace the Kingdom lifestyle, you will find yourself going against the grain and the natural flow of the world. Don't forget that the world system Jesus spoke so often about included the religious leadership of the day. You will find yourself caught up in the flow of the movement of the Kingdom of God or better yet, you will be caught up in the 21st Century Jesus movement. It's a revolutionary movement and Jesus is the one who leads it. So, see where Jesus is at work and get in there. See what Jesus does and says and then go mimic Him. You see, no matter your circumstances, you can practice the presence of the Kingdom and enjoy the presence of King-Jesus-right here on planet earth, right now.



This week I want to move through 5 essentials that are necessary for us to enjoy a relationship with Jesus and to embrace the Kingdom lifestyle Jesus presents.

Once we have completed these essentials, then I want to offer some recent thoughts I have on Jesus and the Kingdom, like how to follow Jesus and enter into the Kingdom right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 20, 2009



Yesterday I shared a few concerns on preconceived ideas and how they can easily get in the way of hearing and seeing Jesus clearly. Preconceived ideas tend to become a set of "doctrines." The problem with "doctrines" is that they tend to be man-made and not God-made.

You see, depending upon your upbringing, religiously, or where you have received your spiritual teaching, you will have embraced a certain set of beliefs. Surely there is nothing wrong with this in itself. The problem comes when you are taught or believe that your set of teachings is the only right set of teachings to be believed. In other words, you are right and all others are wrong or, at least, not quite right. This is what is known as "doctrine"-a certain set of teachings. The word "doctrine" is a set of beliefs or teachings. Now, here is the problem! What makes your doctrinal position or belief system the right one? What makes you right and others wrong? Can it be that you and what you have been taught are the only ones in the world who have it right? I call this the WE-FOUR-AND-NO-MORE way of thinking. We know and you don't!

When I had the privilege of serving as a faculty member of a highly respected graduate seminary, I had an interesting experience that is applicable here. I was the main speaker for a local church family retreat over the weekend. At a question and answer session at the retreat I was asked a question by one of the Board members of the seminary. I answered the question with, "I don't know, but I will look into that further."

On Tuesday I found a note on my desk from the chairman of the department that he wanted to see me ASAP. He referenced the retreat and then said, "I understand that Dr. so-and-so asked a question and that your response was to say that 'I don't know'." I agreed with what had happened and then he leaned across the desk and said, "A man who graduates from this school knows!" When he asked me why I answered that way, I said, "Because I didn't know." Wow! I went away from that experience feeling that it was my calling to know and that was the most important thing of all. The truth is I didn't know and no one can know everything all the time.

Since our tendency is to want to be right and want everyone else to buy into our way of seeing things, this feeds into our way of thinking about the teachings of Jesus. There are only a few things that really matter with respect to our relationship with the Lord. Where we disagree is about what does really matter.

I have struggled with this for years! In my youth I was taught that the only Bible to use-the only one that was truly inspired-was the King James version. The thinking was, "If it was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for us." It doesn't matter that it was first translated 1600 years after Jesus!

Then there is the constant division over prophecy. Some believe Jesus is coming again just prior to a seven-year period of tribulation. This is called the pre-tribulation rapture theory. Others believe Jesus will be returning in the middle of the seven-year tribulation-the mid-tribulation rapture theory. And then many more believe Jesus will not return until the end of the seven-year tribulation period, known as a post-tribulation rapture theory. People actually fight over these differing teachings. Early on I came to a new position. I believe in the pre-tribulation return, UNTIL the seven-year tribulation here on earth begins and Jesus hasn't returned yet. Then I move immediately to the mid-tribulation return of Jesus. Then after 3 ½ years into the tribulation (just after mid-night), if Jesus hasn't shown up yet, I change my belief system to the post-tribulation return of Jesus. I call it the pan-tribulation rapture theory of the return of Jesus. It will all pan out in the end anyway, no matter what I believe!

Here's the truth! Jesus doesn't even know the time of His return, so why should I think that I could have the prophetic plan all figured out. Even worse, people teach this plan (as I have done most of my life) to others as the absolute way the end of time will occur and the timing of Jesus' second coming to earth.

This same kind of thinking that you can be absolutely right about God and His teachings permeates so many areas of Christianity. From the importance of baptism to the activity of demons to how to do church to the definition of the Kingdom to the articulation of the Gospel, there are so many divisive teachings that go against Jesus' prayer in John 17 that all who are followers of Jesus might walk through life in unity.

When groups teach a set of beliefs or doctrines as THE doctrines to believe and practice, you can count on it; there will be several of them that are man-made. Doctrines or a set of teachings can easily turn into cultic or cult-like teachings. There is a term used to describe people who are horribly in error. It is heresy or heretic! But do you know what the word actually means? It's used primarily in the book of Acts and is used of sects or cultic groups that have developed a set of beliefs or doctrines that are off track with the teachings of Jesus. Heresy denotes "a choosing, a choice", then, "that which is chosen." It's an opinion-a self-willed opinion. Peter warns: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies (or self-willed opinions-man-made doctrines) even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (II Peter 2:1)

Simply put, Jesus just wasn't into man-made "doctrines" and "opinions". He saw them as empty and destructive. He saw them as divisive and a subtle distraction away from walking the relational walk with Him and with one another. Instead of filling your mind with your many doctrines and self-willed opinions, just learn to hang out with Jesus and His people. The only doctrine worth fighting for and the only opinion that has merit to it is this-JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009



Tonight while hanging out with a few friends, one of my long-time friends shared a great insight from a passage out of Luke. He saw a fascinating contrast in the life of Jesus. The contrast can be found between the disciples who were following Jesus and a blind man in Jericho. This triggered some thoughts for me to share with you. Let's read it:

In Luke 18:31-43: Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again."

NOTE the response of the disciples who have been with Jesus more than all others: But the disciples understood none of these things and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

Jesus again shares His strategy with His closest followers about going to Jerusalem, dying and being resurrected on the third day. And they again didn't "get it."

Now, check the next thing that happens: As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he called out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus did an interesting thing here. He goes out of His way to meet the blind man who is causing such a stir. And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.

Why did Jesus ask a blind man what he wanted? I mean, if you're blind, then you obviously have a great need to see. I think Jesus asks him in order to verify what the blind man meant by what he called Jesus. He had said: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" By using this title was this blind man recognizing Jesus as God's Messiah who was able to make him see or was he just a needy man in need of help? When Jesus saw that the blind man was clear that he wanted Jesus to act as God's Messiah and heal his blindness, then Jesus said: "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." In other words, Jesus moved into His Messianic role and made the blind man see.

Now, here's the point my friend was making and what I want you to see. The contrast between the disciples' blindness about Jesus' role as God's Messiah and the blind man's ability to see Jesus as God's Messiah is astounding! The disciples have been around Jesus for a long time, yet still did not understand what Jesus was telling them He was going to do as God's Messiah. On the other hand, the blind man who had never seen Jesus ever, yet had only heard about this Jesus, sees clearly who Jesus is.

What is it that causes this kind of difference in responses? The problem here can be wrapped up in two words: preconceived ideas. The disciples were unable to understand; they were kept from seeing the truth, because of their preconceived ideas about Jesus and the Kingdom He was introducing to the world. It's preconceived ideas that usually get in the way of seeing Jesus clearly! Preconceived ideas are beliefs you carry that are not quite accurate. These beliefs normally come in the form of what we have packaged as doctrines. The problem with "doctrines" is that they tend to be man-made and not God-made.

And you know what? Just by saying that, many of you can easily become upset with me and believe that I have strayed off away from the scriptures or even worse, by some people's standards, you may believe I have gone away from the traditional doctrines of the faith and have moved into, God forbid, the emerging church. I was just attacked with that label by a godly bible teacher the other day, using the "emerging church" as a dirty word.

Let me summarize my thoughts by saying I am neither a follower of the traditional doctrines of the faith nor am I a follower of the emerging church. And, by the way, nor am I against either. I am a stubborn follower of Jesus and I want to know Him more than anything else. To defend your "theological position" in any camp is to fool around with PRECONCEIVED IDEAS and you will surely encounter difficulty having eyes to see and ears to hear Jesus. Can you see Jesus from where you are standing today?

We'll continue this discussion tomorrow.

Monday, March 16, 2009



There is an amazing Jesus revolution going on around the world! It's like Jesus is whispering the same message in those who have ears to hear all over the globe. It's one of the most encouraging movements I've ever seen. And, it's all around the irresistible person-Jesus-and the irreversible Kingdom-the Kingdom of God.

This revolution is being fueled by an increasing, inner longing that burns inside everyone. I think it's all about getting back to Eden. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence of God. They were all set-good jobs, lush place to live, great retirement benefits and a personal relationship with God. They were to fulfill three purposes: · REFLECT the image of the Creator-God-man and woman were the image of God! · REPRODUCE godly children and fill up the earth with them! · REIGN together against evil-to cultivate and guard the garden-co-rulers with the Creator!

Well, without laying more blame on the woman or the man, it's sufficient to note that they blew it-each in his/her own way. You see, they had only one prohibition that was set up by God. However you want to characterize that prohibition and the subsequent encounter with the serpent who lured them into breaking that universal law set up by their Creator, THEY BLEW IT. They blew it by not trusting their Creator-God and disobeying what He said.

What's interesting is that by breaking the law of God (disobeying Him) they not only broke the law, but the law broke them. They were kicked out of the Garden. There were three definitive consequences: 1. They lost the Kingdom where they were co-rulers with their Creator. 2. They lost the personal relationship with the Creator-God. 3. They lost the abiding presence of God's Spirit within them.

And ever since that great loss mankind has been desperately trying to recover. It seems that the hole in the soul of every man and woman can be attributed to those three losses-the Kingdom of God, the personal relationship with God and God's abiding presence through His Spirit. NOTE they didn't lose heaven, but gave up the Kingdom, personal relationship with God and His abiding presence on earth.

Since that epic rebellion against the Creator-God, men and women have become enslaved by the very things they were supposed to rule. · PLANTS have been used to produce a variety of drugs and alcohol to be abused with the end result of being addicted and controlled by them. · PASSIONS in mankind have easily become out of control to the point of wallowing in them to the point of living life lustily rather than living life passionately. · POSSESSIONS have easily taken a prominent place in our lives and we live under the deception that people, places and things can make us happy. All of these promise so much more than they can deliver!

Every religion, philosophy and politic is a noble attempt to fill up that hole in the soul: · To seek the Kingdom. · To seek to re-establish a personal relationship with the Creator. · To seek the abiding presence of God.

NOTE that most every religion is setting up a system and many times an obstacle course to make your way through in order to get out of here-to heaven, nirvana, eden, shangri-la, paradise or the promised land. I see every religious system as a well-meaning attempt with its desires and standards. Christians are trying to be the best Christians, Buddhists the best Buddhists, as are Hindus, Moslems, Jews, and Animists. Since God created all peoples and is holding them together, eternity has been placed in everyone's heart to grope for God. At the core of this groping is this deep ache from the hole in the soul. They are seeking the Kingdom, seeking that personal relationship with the Creator-God and seeking an abiding presence with God as in the beginning in the Garden of Eden.

But setting up ways to get out of here doesn't seem to be the way of God; it's the way of man. Nor is it God's way to set up a system of do's and don'ts to avoid going to hell. It's interesting to note that there was no system set up there in the Garden and no worship, but a relationship with the Creator-God, walking together in the Garden. This is why, after establishing a massive system of sacrifices and feasts, the Lord says through the prophets, "I want compassion rather than your sacrifices." God wants a relationship. I like the distinction made between religion and relationship. Religion is man's best attempt to avoid going to hell. Relationship says, "I've already been to hell and don't want to go back!" Religion is man's idea. A relationship is God's idea.

God has not given us a way to get out of here. That's not the direction! He's doing all that He can to get down here to dwell among us. So, this is what God has been up to ever since man lost the Kingdom, the personal relationship and abiding presence of God. Through the priests, the judges, the kings, and the prophets God wanted to dwell among those who would trust Him and those people would be a blessing to all the nations of the world. During that time the presence of God through His Spirit came upon individuals to empower them for a temporary task and then would depart.

After the prophets, there was a period of 400 silent years. It was at this point that Jesus was sent to earth. His mission was to reveal the GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM and by doing this to restore what mankind had lost-the Kingdom, the personal relationship and the abiding presence of God. So, Jesus announced the Kingdom, established the personal relationship and introduced the abiding presence of God for all to experience. He brought the Kingdom of God to earth, because He is the King. Wherever the King is, there is the Kingdom. He was the dwelling place of God on earth, fully indwelt with the Spirit of God. God had finally come down here to dwell among those who would trust Him.

Jesus did one more amazing thing. He re-introduced the Spirit of God as the abiding presence of God to permanently indwell people again as in the Garden. And, with this introduction it is again possible to enjoy a personal relationship with the Creator-God-to walk with Him in the Garden. So, the Kingdom, the abiding presence and the personal relationship with God are no longer longings and things hoped for, but they have become a reality in Jesus.

He came to turn the religious stress into REST. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." You can have all that was ever lost in the Garden. Jesus can fill up the hole in your soul.

The Jesus revolution is all about getting to know the irresistible Jesus and learning to live in the irreversible Kingdom of God. Jesus, the revolutionary came, launching a powerful Good News movement and its all about restoration and transformation. And as you get caught up in this movement, you will come to understand that the revolution is still on today in the lives of men and women in every corner of the world.