Wednesday, March 31, 2010



As we proceed through chapter 8 of Luke we come to verse 26 where Jesus encounters the wild man from the land of the Gerasenes on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demonized man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demonized man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

We've looked at this story recently and it always speaks to me of transformation. There are four phases in genuine transformation that comes through Jesus:

FIRST-You have to be in real trouble. Maybe you aren't as bad off as this man, but everyone of us has a desperation factor from time to time. Just last night we were discussing with some friends how amazing denial is within a family. Well, this man was not in denial about his alienation and there was no family member left to cover up for him. He was just too far gone.

SECOND-Jesus must intervene within your desperation.

THIRD-Just about everything is transformed from the inside out. In this case the demonized man was sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind. His insanity was turned into sanity. In his insanity he was repulsive; and now he is attractive.

FOURTH-Because of the demonized man's story, his entire village heard the good news of Jesus. He couldn't get enough of hanging out with Jesus and begged to be able to go on the road with Him. Jesus sent him right back to his people.

Now, note something here. This transformed man didn't go to his people and condemn them. He didn't go to them and try to straighten out their belief system. He simply and persuasively told all who would listen about what Jesus had done for him.

This must be our focus, too. We must be about sharing what Jesus has done on our behalf. It's not the program; it's the person of Jesus that matters most. Let me ask you something. What has Jesus done for you lately? Are you able to identify the Jesus factor in your life? Can you see yourself sharing this with another friend? Then think and pray about going back home and wait for the opportunities to do so. Remember, God sets up the appointments. All you have to do is SHOW UP.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010



The next story in the life of Jesus doesn't necessarily follow after the last. But here is a great scene in the training of His disciples.

One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!"

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."

What an illustration! NOTE the logical progression of this training session.

FIRST-Jesus gave the directions to cross over to the other side of the lake. It was Jesus' idea. The disciples were not wandering off by themselves.

SECOND-Trouble showed up for the disciples, even though they were following Jesus' directions. You don't have to pray for nor look for problems. Problems will be provided.

THIRD-The trouble got worse before any assistance came. This is a normal occurrence. Sometimes like in surgery, you must hurt deeply in order to heal.

FOURTH-Jesus seemed to not care about their plight. Here He was sleeping. Don't you feel like Jesus might be asleep or away from time to time. No, He's still very attentive.

FIFTH-Jesus showed up at just the right time. The timing of God is the most amazing thing of all about this spiritual journey. I can think of so many times that Jesus was late from my viewpoint, but perfectly on time from His viewpoint. There are many times that I can look back and thank God for not doing it in my way. Did I say many? Most of the time.

SIXTH-When Jesus showed up, He rebuked the storm and it responded to His words. His presence with them was a sure guarantee that everything was going to be alright. Whenever He wants, He can speak the word and calm the situation.

SEVENTH-Jesus then rebukes the disciples by saying, "Where is your faith?" NOTE the disciples are still working on their faith. They aren't there yet. They haven't arrived. In this case Jesus is not saying where is your great faith, but simply where is your faith?

The primary principle to me is WHEN JESUS IS RIDING ALONG ON YOUR JOURNEY, YOU NEVER HAVE TO BE UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES BUT LIVING ABOVE THE CIRCUMSTANCES. Jesus will always get you through whatever comes upon you and He does it by lifting you up to a higher perspective to get the big picture. Even the greatest problems and trials look a lot smaller from that vantage point.

SO, where is YOUR faith? Your faith can be simply to continue on your spiritual journey with Jesus, believing that He will get you through whatever the storm may be and therefore no matter what, everything is going to be OK.

Monday, March 29, 2010



The clear theme of the parable of the soils is hearing or being fully receptive to the Word of God, and it seems that this theme stretches from 8:1 where Jesus is traveling from village to village "proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God" to 8:21 where Jesus says that his true family are those who hear God's Word and do it (8:21).

In the first paragraph here (16-18) Jesus gives the illustration of a lamp: "No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light." If you are going to light a lamp, then you place it at the highest point in the room in order to shine the light as wide and far as possible. Jesus' statement is almost funny-and he probably smiled when he said it. If you're going to light a lamp, you do it for illumination, not to hide or conceal it. If that were your purpose, you wouldn't light it at all.

Jesus then gives the purpose for using the lamp properly: "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open."

In the previous paragraph Jesus tells His disciples that He is revealing to them the secrets of the kingdom. The light of revelation, the previously unknown mystery, has been lit by the coming of Jesus and His proclamation of the good news of the kingdom. Jesus then lit up the disciples by giving them the secrets of the kingdom. Now, it is time for these secrets to be made known everywhere THROUGH THEM. The "lamp" revealing the good news of the kingdom has now been lit, and must not be extinguished until the mission is complete.

Jesus continues: "Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Those who have will be given more; as for those who do not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them."

NOTE, because you have been given the secrets of the kingdom to reveal these secrets to the world for them to hear, you must be careful how you listen. Again, this entire chapter is about hearing-being the good soil that is receptive to the seed of the kingdom knowledge. Then Jesus inserts a warning that those who are listening intently so that they have receptive hearts will be given more understanding of the kingdom and those who are not listening well will lose what understanding they have.

It's all about hearing-having ears to hear. In the parable of the sower there were 6 uses of the word "hear" or "hearing". James, the brother of Jesus, wrote "Don't be hearers of the word only who delude themselves, but be doers of the word." What he means by "hearing" properly is to act upon what you hear. Practice what you hear from Jesus.

Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you."

He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."

Hearing God's word and putting it into practice is the message that must be indelibly tattooed upon our minds. So, here Jesus makes a clear, yet difficult comparison regarding His mother and brothers who have shown up to visit Him. He says, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." Jesus is talking Kingdom talk. He isn't anti mother and brothers, but is demonstrating that in the kingdom your real family members are those who hear God's word and practice it.

I return to Jesus' earlier words, "Be careful how you listen", because Jesus will give much more to those who have ears to hear. Are you listening?



In chapter 8 verse 4 we come to a familiar scene where Jesus introduces the parable of the sower: While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown." When he said this, he called out, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, "'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'

"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.

FIRST-UNRECEPTIVE SOIL-Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

SECOND-INSINCERE SOIL-Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

THIRD-DISTRACTED-The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

FOURTH-GOOD SOIL-PRODUCTIVE-But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

1-Jesus is the sower of the seed. In Matthew's version of this teaching (Matt. 13:37) Jesus says that the Son of Man is the sower. When Jesus was physically on the earth, His words were pitched out to those who listened to Him. Today, Jesus is still sowing the seed as we introduce the person of Jesus to others through our lives and through our own stories.

2-The seed is the word of God. What the word of God meant to Jesus was the "Good News of the Kingdom of God." This is what His primary message was as He taught throughout the villages and synagogues. Therefore, the word of God is the active presence of God in us in the form of a seed.

3-This word of the kingdom of God has tremendous spiritual power within us to be productive-to be fruitful. It was able to produce amazing levels of fruit.

4-Its effect on you is determined by your response to it. It's all a matter of responsiveness. NOTE that you are not responsible to bring forth the fruit, but the power of the seed will produce the fruit if planted in the good soil.

In the past few years I've come to realize that these soils are dynamic in our lives. I have been each of these soils at one time or another. So, I must concern myself with having ears to hear the word in order to be receptive as good soil. This also answers what I see with people who all of a sudden "get it", yet they have been around this sowing for years.

Now, here is what blows my mind about this teaching. Jesus is saying that if you have ears to hear, are receptive to the Good News of the kingdom, be sincere about it with a single-minded focus, then you will be very fruitful. He uses 30, 60 and 100 fold in fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is basically the spiritual growth and maturity in your own life and the effects of your life on others around you. He begins with 30 fold. To be 30 fold is three times that of a normal crop. So, this means that the lowest level of fruitfulness will be outstanding. Then, He goes on to say you may enjoy multiples of that, even to the point of 60 and 100 fold. That's incredible-beyond belief!

So, which soil are you right now? Since you are reading or listening to this daily instruction, I'm going to eliminate that one for you. That leaves, the insincere, the distracted and the good soil. So, where are you when you measure your receptivity to the seed Jesus is sowing in your life right now?

Saturday, March 13, 2010



As we open up chapter 8 of Luke we come to an interesting inside look at how Jesus traveled and who went with Him. After the notable dinner party at Simon's home the night before, Jesus set out on a field trip. Let's look at it:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

There are three observations I want to make here: FIRST-Those who went with Jesus on this field trip. They went from one village to another with a fairly large group. First of all, the twelve were with Him. This is certainly what you would expect. The others who went along are interesting.

There was Mary Magdalene. She was from the little village of Magdala on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Magdala was known for its dried fish industry and rabbis of that time were quite critical of the immorality of its inhabitants. Mary was a troubled woman, demonized by seven demons that harassed her. Jesus was instrumental in freeing her from these demonic pests.

She was either a widow or a single woman and must have been from a wealthy family. She traveled with His party throughout Galilee, and was with Him in Jerusalem at His crucifixion and resurrection. She was one of those who followed Jesus because her life had been so remarkably changed by His healing power.

Then there were other interesting women, the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household, Susanna and many others.

SECOND-The message Jesus and the group were proclaiming. Specifically, Jesus was, as was His custom, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. As we will continue to see, the kingdom is one of Jesus' primary themes He wanted to make clear to those who were interested.

THIRD-NOTE the role of these women. They were the financial underwriters for the trip. What's interesting is that women were key to the financing of the early church of Jesus. Usually they were successful businesswomen who had a heart for investing in Jesus' ministry.

This story speaks to me as to what I continually see Jesus doing. Where we have a tendency to put an emphasis on all of our differences, Jesus unites people from several ends of society-a woman troubled with demons, a woman married to an execute in Herod's court and Susanna and many others, not to mention the twelve who were made up of a political zealot, several fishermen and a tax collector.

Here's the principle you will note everywhere you go: JESUS UNITES AND EVERYONE ELSE DIVIDES. Jesus is so irresistible that He resonates with people from every culture. I've had more fun lately interacting with Catholics, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, non-Christians, agnostics and atheists just in the past few weeks. Our conversation has nothing to do with religion, but has everything to do with a relationship with Jesus. No one is threatened by Jesus. Why? Because Jesus unites and everyone else divides.

Jesus is still leading field trips today. I urge you to join one with Jesus and His friends.



Here in this last story of Luke 7 we come to a scene that simply begs to be read, because it takes little commentary to understand what is happening. Check it out:

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-that she is a sinner." Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said.

"Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

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

I love this story. Through this openly recognized, sinful woman Jesus illustrates His message most clearly.

There in the home of one of the Pharisees Jesus is being treated to dinner. In the Pharisee's home, you just know that he is looking for the opportunity to impress Jesus with his religious purity and righteousness. Most likely, others knew of this special dinner meeting with Jesus and there was somewhat of an anticipation, if not a tenseness about the evening they were to spend together.

But at this most holy performance, a party crasher has just appeared in the house, definitely not on the official invitation list. But this wasn't a socialite barging into this party, this was a woman-of-the-night kind of woman-a sinner in most every respect.

NOTE the following observations: 1. The pure Pharisee is upstaged by the impure woman. The Pharisee was the host and expected to be seen as the prominent focus of attention. Yet this unrighteous, sinful woman took center stage and became the focus of attention for the evening.

2. Not only her presence at the dinner party was offensive, but her touching and washing the feet of Jesus with such extravagant perfume certainly posed a great offence. It was unlawful to be in the presence of such a woman, let alone have contact with her. Yet, Jesus allowed her to express herself.

3. The performing Pharisee was out performed by this sinful woman. The Pharisee embodied the performance mentality of keeping the Law and the traditions. But the sinful woman's performance was in the spirit of gratefulness and servanthood.

4. Jesus affirmed what was at the core of this woman's masterful performance. It was her faith that set her performance apart. She performed alright-even more than the Pharisee-and her performance was an overflow of her faith and devotion to Jesus.

This scene in the life of Jesus is about people who need forgiveness and know it. It's about people who receive forgiveness and are grateful for it. It's also about people who need forgiveness and don't know it. It's about religious people who absolutely, totally miss the point!

Jesus demonstrates that God wants a personal relationship with people, no matter what they have done or haven't done. Life isn't a checklist for following a religious system of do's and don'ts, even if it is a good religious system. It's all about a relationship of faith (personal trust) and forgiveness (personal acceptance of God's grace).

The woman is totally acceptable to Jesus and completely unacceptable to the Pharisee. Jesus more freely accepts the sinner, the broken one, and stands a distance away from the self-righteous Pharisee. So, which are you? The person who is in need of forgiveness and knows it and is grateful when it is received? Or, the person who needs forgiveness and doesn't know it, therefore missing the point of Jesus' message altogether?



Just after Jesus raises the dead boy to life, John hears about what is happening. It was confusing to John. On the one hand, the people were saying, "He is a prophet." But on the other hand, "Certainly God has come to help us." Typically a prophet had a word from God to challenge the people. He was filled with truth, but little grace. Yet Jesus was referred to as a messenger from God who came with grace. This was a strange twist to John's ears and understanding. Look what happens:

John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' "

John had already baptized Jesus, believing there was something special about Jesus and now from jail is wanting further verification. In a sense, John was becoming more and more discouraged as he sat in jail and was hoping for more clarity and overt action from the Messiah. The way Jesus answers this question is to first demonstrate exactly what the Messiah was to do.

At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me."

After performing these Messianic acts, Jesus sends John's disciples back with a quote from the prophet, Isaiah, who is speaking about the Messiah who was to come. In other words, Jesus' answer to John was basically, "I am the One."

After John's messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: " 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."

Here's an interesting comparison. Jesus compliments John as being the greatest one born of woman ever. Then immediately Jesus says, "Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." What in the world is Jesus saying? Simply this. John played a major role in preparing the way for the Messiah, yet he was only the preparer. As the kingdom of God is ushered in, those who will enjoy the kingdom are at a whole different level, to the point that the least one in the kingdom of God will be greater than John.

(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) John indeed prepared the way for the Messiah.

Jesus went on to say, "To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: " 'We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.'

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved right by all her children."

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees and the experts in the law were acting like children who wouldn't play when invited. They were fickle. When John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, they accused him of being demonic. Then when Jesus came eating and drinking, they said He was a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. No matter who God sent to them, they weren't buying it due to their powerful positioning and pride.

Then Jesus makes a powerful statement. He says, "But wisdom is proved right by all her children." I think what Jesus is saying here is that God's wisdom and God's truth will be proved out by the followers of Jesus-by the followers of Jesus practicing this lifestyle. This is why practicing the principles and teachings of Jesus is so vital. The only way to prove that Jesus' way is the right way of God is to practice it. And, the only way to practice His teachings and principles is to have an experiential encounter with Jesus personally. God's way for living life most fully is not to know something, but to know someone. It is not a performance, but a person. Again, the kingdom of God doesn't need proof; it only needs practice.



Immediately after the healing of the centurion's servant Jesus has another appointment in the village of Nain: Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out-the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."

This is an interesting scene in the life of Jesus. We see Him moved with compassion for this mother who was a widow. She had obviously experienced lots of grief already, losing her husband and now her only son. This gives more insight into how Jesus cares for those who are in pain, even our pain. It's one thing to say "God cares", but that seems still a bit removed from our reality. But when you say that "Jesus cares", there is something about the God-Man, Jesus, that assures you that He really does. Jesus is easier to relate to. This is why Jesus came to earth-God in the flesh-so that we can more easily relate.

NOTE what Jesus does as He moves into action: Then he went up and touched the wooden frame they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Talk about a gift for this grieving woman. She was given back her dead son-alive and healthy. It's interesting to me that Jesus doesn't touch the boy, but the coffin-like framework they were using to carry him. In the story before Jesus healed the centurion's servant without seeing him or touching him and here He brings a boy back to life using a similar method. The power of Jesus' word is awesome. This is very relevant to us today and this is why Jesus is so concerned that we hear His words and practice them. When I see Jesus work in this way, I am compelled to listen to His word more carefully and follow Him.

Those in the village of Nain are overwhelmed and shocked by what they saw. NOTE the response of the people: They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

There are four basic responses here: FIRST-They were filled with awe. They were shocked. What they saw Jesus do disrupted their spiritual and life paradigms. This is what Jesus always does. When Jesus is introduced, He changes everybody's thinking; He breaks down your boxes and bursts your bubbles. This is what I love about following Jesus. When I used to argue about or defend my "Christian" beliefs, it always led to disagreement and was disturbing to the relationship. But saying that, "I'm doing the most difficult thing I've ever tried to do. I'm trying to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus." This doesn't lead to arguments or debate, but refocuses and transforms the conversation to a whole new level.

SECOND-They praised God. This is a typical response. When something happens that is good and seemingly supernatural, the normal response is to say, "Thank God." Also, the contrary is true, when things go bad, people tend to blame God.

THIRD-They perceive Jesus as a great prophet. This is a very good response. Obviously, they know this Jesus is not just another rabbi, but maybe a prophet or someone with supernatural connections. I mean, He just did something that is impossible to do. He raised a young man from the dead.

FOURTH-They perceive that God has come to help them. So, we have moved from amazement to acknowledgement that what Jesus just did is a work of God-something only God can do. NOTE the progression in their responses. They did not see Jesus as God right from the beginning. Many "Christians" would have difficulty with this progression. It's going in the right direction, but too many believe that a person has to have a climactic experience that settles it once and for all. But that is not reality.

People grow in their responses to Jesus. Check out how it was with Jesus' early disciples. We tend to hold them up as something special and having it all together, but these men were in the process of growing in their trust in Jesus. They were not believers throughout the Gospels. They were not "born-again" Christians. But they were learning, step by step, field trip by field trip, experience by experience. They were being discipled to follow Jesus by Jesus Himself. There was nothing instant or climactic about it. It was a long-term process.

They grew up in the Jewish tradition and religion. But now they are simply following Jesus. Jesus apprehended their lives and once that happened, they were on a spiritual journey that would not only change their lives, but would change the world.

Now, let me ask you something. Has Jesus apprehended your life yet? He is waiting to do so. He will do anything He has to do to in order to get you in alignment with Him. You see, there are 3 vital things Jesus can bring to you.

1. He is the best measure of character you'll ever know and can transform your character in the process. There is no one ever with this sort of character.

2. He is the only one who can bring you the greatest personal fulfillment in your life. If you fashion your life to be like Jesus, you will know genuine fulfillment, inner peace and joy.

3. He is the only one who can bring God to you. If God ever did take on flesh and become man, then Jesus must be the one.

So, have you invited or allowed Jesus to apprehend your life? He apprehended the disciples' lives and they were used to turn the world upside down. He apprehended Paul's life when Paul was a Christian (a fanatic follower of the Christ) who persecuted those who were into Jesus, and transformed him into one who would bear witness to the name of Jesus to the house of Israel, the gentiles and the kings of the gentiles.

When Jesus apprehends your life, He will do great things in and through you, too. So let Him!



In the 7th chapter of Luke we come to the story of the Centurion's encounter with Jesus: When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

NOTE first that the centurion is a Roman soldier who was stationed at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Here in Capernaum he has heard a lot about Jesus and maybe even heard Him speak or seen Him do His miracles in the area.

The second thing I note about him is that the centurion was a good man who had endeared himself to the Jewish community because of his love for the nation of Israel and by building the synagogue in Capernaum. Every time I have been to Capernaum I think of this encounter, because of the foundation of the synagogue he built is still there.

Thirdly, the centurion didn't feel worthy to come to Jesus himself nor did he feel worthy to have Jesus make a house call. As a military man he respected Jesus' power to work through His servants to get things done-even miracles. What's so interesting to me is that he believed that Jesus was the only way his servant had any chance of living and he believed that all Jesus needed to do was to give the order and his servant would be healed.

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

The fourth observation regarding this encounter is the man's faith. His faith really stood out to Jesus and He said, "I have not found such great faith, even among the Jewish people." You see, this soldier was an outsider in most every way. He was a gentile and not Jewish. He didn't grow up under the teachings of any rabbi and certainly didn't have a working knowledge with the Scriptures.

Although I will make this point in several upcoming passages, it is so important to realize what's really going on here. The Jews were the chosen people alright, but they weren't chosen to be the exclusive people who would come into a relationship with the God of gods. They were to practice such a dynamic and authentic relationship with God so that they would serve as lights to the world. Jesus didn't come for the Jews, but came for the entire world. He came to reach out and touch every nation and tribe. The Jewish people were to be conduits for such a touch.

However, the Jews then and the Christians today seem to be missing the point. Jesus is all inclusive. He came for everyone. The Jews then and the Christians today believe they "own" the word of God, that they are right and the rest of the world sits in darkness and are wrong. I think this is why Jesus sprinkles these scenes throughout His teaching in order to make the point as clear as He can make it. For today, the principle is CHRISTIANS DON'T OWN JESUS. He is for every cultural and religious background. He is universally the Son of God and is irresistible as He is lifted up within any and all cultures of the world.

NOTE Jesus doesn't make the centurion join Judaism or become a member of the synagogue. He isn't interested in "converting" him out of his Roman culture and religious system, but to commend his faith and trust in Jesus. Jesus is interested in "converting" or transforming his heart through the centurion's encounter with Jesus personally.

It's not about certain propositions or doctrines to believe. It is totally and completely and only about a person. His name is Jesus.



In Luke 6 and verse 43 Jesus continues teaching His disciples. In this section Jesus is referring to good trees and bad trees that bear fruit: "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in their heart, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart. For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

NOTE that Jesus' point is that all fruitfulness-whether good or bad-comes from what's at the core of the heart. Whatever comes out of the mouth is an overflow of your heart. That means that whatever is in your heart will come out and show itself. So, pay attention to your heart.

Next Jesus moves into an interesting new thought for His disciples. Jesus is saying, "Since the heart is most important to the fruitfulness that will flow out of your life, let me point out how to work on your heart."

He starts with this statement: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" That's the key to your heart. It's all about DOING WHAT JESUS SAYS. Apparently, He has certain people in mind who have been talking a good game, but have no follow-through. They want to be known as good trees, but their fruitfulness betrays what's really in their hearts. The bad fruit they are displaying is a neglect or a refusal to do what Jesus says to do.

He continues with: "As for those who come to me and hear my words and put them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But those who hear my words and do not put them into practice are like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

Jesus sets forth two simple options. Either come and hear Jesus' words and put them into practice or choose not to put them into practice. They are simple, yet dramatically different.

Practicing what Jesus says to do is the pivotal point. If you practice what Jesus says, you are like a man who builds a house and digs down deep to so that he has a firm foundation. If you don't practice what Jesus says to do, you are like a man who builds a house on the ground without any foundation at all.

NOTE that both houses face the same storms of rain, flooding and winds. Just because you follow Jesus doesn't mean you will be hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar to keep you from all trouble. No, the trouble will come, but with a foundation, you are unshakable. Without a foundation you are facing sure collapse and complete destruction.

Now, get this point. Practicing what Jesus says to do is simply following Jesus. There are 3 very important observations here: FIRST-Following Jesus is more than calling Him "Lord." Talk is cheap.

SECOND-Following Jesus is more than coming to Jesus. It's more than attending church.

THIRD-Following Jesus is more than just listening to Jesus. It's more than showing up at a Bible study, even if it's every week.

In other words, Jesus is not nearly as interested in you talking a good game or in your church attendance or even in your study of the Bible as much as He is that you are following Him and doing what He says to do. That's the performance He wants!

So, where are you performing? Good, religious talk? A faithful church-goer? A regular at a small group Bible study? Or, are you focused on doing what Jesus says?



In the next two verses Jesus teaches His disciples two negatives and two positives: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

The 2 negative commands are (1) Do not judge and (2) Do not condemn. Jesus isn't throwing out the need for discernment in order to make judgment calls or personal life decisions. He is not speaking of this kind of judgment (discernment). He is referring to judgment that condemns and sentences a person, when that right only belongs to God, Himself.

The 2 positive commands are (1) Forgive and (2) Give. This goes right along with the preceding section where Jesus urges His disciples to love their enemies. Instead of condemning and judging them; forgive and give to them. It's an attitude.

Now NOTE something else here. In each case there is a return on investment. On the negative side, if you judge and condemn another, you will be judged and condemned in the same way. This works in everyday life. If you are critical of a person's parenting style, you will likely be judged on your parenting style. So, watch out how you judge another. First, you don't have the right to condemn and sentence anyone and you will, most likely, stir that person up to come right back at you.

On the positive side, if you give and forgive, there will be certain consequences come right back at you. If you forgive, you will be forgiven. If you give, it will be given to you. This is not the principle of Karma, but it is a reciprocal principle of life. When you forgive someone, you will receive and experience forgiveness in the very act. If you give to someone, you will receive back in the very act of giving. Don't misunderstand. Your enemies you forgive and give to will not forgive you or give something to you. It's the Most High God Who will forgive and give to you, His children. Jesus then turns their attention to a parable: He also told them this parable: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? Students are not above their teacher, but all who are fully trained will be like their teacher.

It's as if he were saying, listen carefully and don't think you know it all. If you want to be able to judge and discern accurately you need to be fully trained by me and undergo a spiritual change of heart. This is why it's so important to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus-to be trained by Him.

As you are being trained, you must learn to see more clearly. Jesus uses a humorous illustration here: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say, 'Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person's eye.

To sum up this section: 1. Jesus prohibits His disciples to condemn anyone.

2. Jesus promotes doing something positive toward others-to give them some slack-to forgive them and give to them.

3. Jesus wants His disciples to be fully trained by Him.

4. Jesus shows His disciples that the whole issue of discernment and making judgment calls about others requires that they see more clearly.

And, what is needed to see clearly? We as His disciples must always look at ourselves first and deal with the logs hanging out of our eyes. Then, we will be able to see more clearly how to help another remove a speck from his eye. It's not just the ability to see more clearly how to help others with their problems. There is another factor at play here. If you take care to deal with your own problems, you will have a greater compassion to deal with others-even your enemies. You will have what it takes to forgive and give to them, because you have either done the same thing or worse yourself.

You know the drill: IF NOT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD, I could be in the same mess with the same eyes full of specks. Personal transformation through Jesus is the only way to change the world around you. But note that it all begins with you!



In Luke 6:27-36 Jesus gives a revolutionary plan for killing off all of your enemies. Let's check it out: "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Now this is kingdom of heaven talk in a revolutionary way! If you only love those who love you, what's so great about that? Absolutely nothing! Or if you do good to those who are good to you? Big deal! Then He speaks of lending money. This moves from preaching to meddling real quick. If you lend someone money, expecting to get it all back? Big deal! There is nothing so hot or different about that.

So Jesus gives three dimensions of kingdom living with respect to your enemies-those who are against you in some way. First-love your enemy. Second-do good to your enemy. Third-lend money to your enemy without expecting to get anything back.

In the prior paragraph He gives what may be used as the practical steps for loving, doing good and lending to your enemy.

Step #1-Do good to those who hate you. You see, Jesus is not talking about having sweet, ooey-gooey feelings for your enemies, but acting out your love-do good to them.

Step #2-Bless those who curse you. Instead of a curse for a curse, give them a blessing. A blessing is speaking well of them, giving them a gift or praising them for something in them.

Step #3-Pray for those who mistreat you. Now, Jesus takes it to the highest level-pray for them. Pray for them? My natural tendency is to pray against them. Jesus says, "Pray for them."

Then Jesus offers one of the most quoted illustrations. He says that when a person slaps you on the cheek, turn your cheek so your enemy may slap the other. Wow! This is not just revolutionary, but sure suicide!

What Jesus is setting forth here is the difference between living in the kingdom of man, which is full of retaliation and getting even, and the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God. Jesus ushered in the kingdom and taught the good news of the kingdom everywhere He went. According to Jesus, living by the kingdom principles is not only revolutionary, but it is the best, most rewarding way to live-both here and now and for all eternity. This is why Jesus says your reward will be great and you will be considered children of the Most High God.

But wait a minute. Turn your cheek to be slapped again? Are you kidding? Think about this. The kingdom of man is all about the physical-the external. The kingdom of heaven is all about the spiritual-the internal. You are to take another external slap in order to heal this person on the inside. You see, this person who slapped you (did something against you) must be hurting very deeply on the inside. So, what's a little bruise on your cheek (or on your self) matter compared to the bruising that is in his heart. And, the Most High God will be on your side working through you.

Don't get hung up on the literal slapping on the cheek, but see it as an affront to you. He is not condoning staying in a physically abusive situation in your family. But the revolutionary principle is found in the last line of this paragraph: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's the golden rule, quoted by nearly all religions and recognized as the most fundamental way of living ever. This is at the foundation of what Jesus is saying when He says to love your enemies. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This revolutionary kingdom principle doesn't need further explanation or proof that it works. We can all bring up impossible situations where there is no way this will work. Your mind has probably been flooded with all sorts of "exceptions" to what Jesus is saying. But here's the problem. All of your exceptions are theoretical, not realities until you actually practice the principle. You see, Jesus and His principles need no further defense. Jesus and His principles require action. Don't just tell people about Jesus; be Jesus to those you love and especially to those who don't love you. Love your enemies. Try it out and watch Jesus begin to work in them and, more powerfully, within you.




In the 6th chapter of Luke, beginning with verse 17, we again see Jesus surrounded by people from all around the region:

He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

NOTE this mini-seminar of Jesus is not on the mount as in Matthew 5-7, but on the plain. There is wide spectrum of people from all over the coastal region to the west and all the way from Judea and Jerusalem. Jesus continually taught those who would listen about the kingdom. He's at it again here with the teaching and the touching of the kingdom. Jesus didn't just talk a good game; He practiced it.

Also NOTE that Jesus uses four metaphors in this message-poverty, hunger, weeping and personal rejection. Let's look at them.

Looking at his disciples, he said: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets."

"But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets."

Jesus is not exalting poverty, but illustrating a person who senses his or her need for something. He uses this with all four illustrations here-poor, hungry, weeping, rejected. In each case Jesus is describing a person who senses his need for God. Those who are poor are those who own and embrace the kingdom of God. Those who are hungry know real satisfaction. Those who weep have a laughter of joy in their hearts that sustains them. Those who are hated and rejected, feeling on the outside, can stop right now and rejoice.

Those who live life in the invisible kingdom of God are vitally aware of their need for God. Those who are rich tend to believe they have no need for God or anyone. Those who are well fed don't sense a need for God's feeding. Those who laugh will be weeping and mourning when they understand that they have missed the real thing-the real life-the kingdom of God.

In addition to sensing your need for God, Jesus is stressing that there are two kingdoms. You are living between two kingdoms now that the kingdom of God is here and accessible to you on earth. This fits with what Jesus told the religious leadership. He said that He came as a physician seeking to help those who are sick, not the healthy.

So, Jesus uses these four metaphors to speak of spiritual poverty, hunger, weeping and rejection. And He carefully points out the blessings for those who sense their need for God:

FIRST-You own the kingdom of heaven. SECOND-You have an indescribable satisfaction. THIRD-You have a laughter in your heart. FOURTH-You can rejoice in the midst of being hated, rejected and excluded from man's kingdoms.

Why? Because you are living life in a different sphere-the sphere that you were created to live in. You see, you were created to live your life according to the kingdom of heaven. It makes sense to live life this way. It's natural or better yet, it's supernaturally natural.

This is why I've said for years that in order to turn the world upside down, you must turn man rightside up. And, Jesus through His kingdom is the only way to that kind of personal transformation. Here we are again, back to the two most important issues in the universe-the person of Jesus and His program, the kingdom of God. A friend of mine appropriately calls it "The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person."



Out of all of the disciples or followers of Jesus at the time, Jesus chooses 12 to fill the role of apostles. Before choosing these men, Jesus thoroughly prepares Himself to make these choices. We get a glimpse of this scene in Luke 6:12-16.

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

After praying all night, Jesus chose 12 men out of the group of the many followers. He chose them to fill a certain role-to be apostles. An apostle literally means to be one who is sent. Jesus wanted a few-the 12-to serve as "sent ones" who would go out to spread the Good News of Jesus and the Kingdom. In my opinion, we don't have the "office" of apostle any longer. However, we do have today those who serve as apostles, those who are sent into new areas to introduce Jesus and the Kingdom there.

NOTE what Jesus did before selecting the 12. He prayed all night. Have you ever wondered what praying all night might be like? Do you think Jesus did all of the talking? My first thoughts have always been that I wouldn't be able to last, because my requests would run out. I've done lots of thinking about this and have come to realize through several of my friends that there are two dimensions to prayer. Naturally, there is the asking where you do all of the talking. This is legitimate and encouraged everywhere in the Scripture. This is by far the most common understanding and practice throughout the world.

However, there is a second dimension to praying that is not understood and commonly practiced. This is to listen! That's right, listen. After you have expressed your heart and desires before the Lord, it's important to spend some time quietly before God in order to hear from God. So, God has heard from you and then He wants you to hear Him.

Think of it this way. Suppose you go to your father and ask several questions, then as soon as you have finished expressing your question or questions, you split. "See you later, dad." Now, what's missing here? Well, you are asking questions and not waiting around for the answers. This is precisely what we do with God. We ask and plead and beg and ask some more, but we don't take the time wait for the answers. Then, after praying in this way, we wonder where God is and what He wants from us. You see, He really wants to give you His wisdom and His perspective on the matters you have brought before Him. He would love to give you some answers to your questions.

When I first prepared a message on prayer years ago, I discovered a great saying about prayer that has stuck with me. It is simply, "PRAYER DOESN'T NEED PROOF; IT NEEDS PRACTICE." Now, that says it all. It's so easy to cuss and discuss all we know and all our experiences with prayer. We can do so much that we end up in what is called analysis paralysis. Prayer is the missing link in our lives that without it, we can miss all that God is trying to say to us. If we only ask God for things and don't wait around to hear the answers, it's no wonder we're confused about God. It's no wonder we tend to doubt that He cares. It's no wonder we tend to think that God is too silent in our lives. It's no wonder we wonder if God is really there at all. If all you do is talk, you'll never hear His voice.

Thursday, March 11, 2010



In Luke chapter 6 we come to a segment where there is a conflict over the issue of keeping the Sabbath. In addition to fraternizing with sinners as Jesus often did, the breaking of the Sabbath was a major sensitivity to the religious leadership of the time.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, "Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

You see, the Pharisees being a hypercritical bunch taught that you can't even rub the wheat kernels in your hand or you are working and threshing the grain.

Jesus answered them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions." Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

The point here is that when David and his men were hungry, the need of their hunger superseded the law of what to do with the consecrated bread. Then, Jesus points out that He, Himself, is the Lord of the Sabbath, so He can do anything on this day.

Right after this, Jesus went into the synagogue and was teaching there. He spotted a man who needed His help. I think Jesus saw this as a perfect opportunity to make His point further. It's like Jesus went out of His way to heal a man on the Sabbath. Check out what happens here:

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up and stand in front of everyone." So he got up and stood there.

Jesus really sets up this miracle, so that everyone will see it and get the point. I'm sure it was clear that Jesus was going to disregard the Sabbath laws in order to heal this man.

Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?" He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Jesus wasn't opposed to keeping the Sabbath. What He was opposed to was making the Sabbath so prominent that it became the new God that threatened the vitality of a relationship with Him. In another Gospel Jesus said that "man was not made for the Sabbath to serve it, but the Sabbath was made for man" to enjoy and get a rest from the stresses of life.

Sabbath is for man to enjoy. Before finishing up on this paragraph, I want to clarify what keeping Sabbath might entail. Here are a few reflections on the proper view of Sabbath:


This last reflection is exactly where Jesus was from the beginning. He invited all who wanted to follow Him to come apart for awhile and just be with Him. This is just as vital today. Jesus is still calling men and women to come and just be with Him.

There's a great statement that has caught the theme of keeping the Sabbath: It is "COME APART FOR AWHILE OR YOU'LL JUST COME APART." Since Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, then He can make it all work best without any legalistic system of do's and don'ts for you to perform. So, think about it. COME APART FOR AWHILE OR YOU'LL JUST COME APART.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010



In the last section of Luke chapter 5 we come to an interesting encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees. After Jesus called Levi to follow Him and Levi's response was to have a party, the Pharisees and scribes are very upset and offended. So, they pitch out a criticism to Jesus about the behavior of His disciples:

They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." Jesus answered, "Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."

The implication of the criticism was, "Your disciples are not as spiritual as John's disciples or our disciples." There is indeed a fasting theme throughout the Scriptures. You must remember that the Pharisees of Jesus' day were called hypocrites, but it is best to understand that word to mean hyper-critical. They were hyper about everything, including fasting. Fasting was a practice, but the Pharisees took it to a new level with a super-spiritual pride attached. They fasted twice a week--Mondays and Thursdays.

NOTE Jesus answers with a word picture: "Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?" Jesus fashions Himself as the bridegroom and this bridegroom is ushering in the Kingdom of God. And, while He is here, there is to be celebration. There will be a time when the bridegroom (Jesus) will be taken away and then fasting will be appropriate.

Then Jesus takes this opportunity to do some teaching and shares a parable with them. The point He wants to make is that His teaching and His disciples cannot and must not fit into the mold of the traditions of the Pharisees and scribes. He first uses the metaphor of patching a garment:

He told them this parable: "No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. If they do, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old."

NOTE the contrast between the new and the old. To try to somehow attach the new of what Jesus is teaching to the old traditions will not work. It will be destructive. The new garment will tear and it won't match. He then uses a second example--pouring new wine into old wineskins:

And people do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And none of you, after drinking old wine, wants the new, for you say, 'The old is better.' " Jesus is referring to the fermentation process of wine. New wine will ferment and burst an old wineskin. Again, He contrasts the old and the new. His point is that you can't attach the new to the old or you'll ruin both the new wine and the old wineskin.

Jesus (the new) has come with a radical message of the good news of God. He especially appeals to those who don't have it together--the broken, oppressed, sick and the poor. His entire appeal was about the internal factors of the Kingdom (the heart). That's the new. The old was embodied by the list of do's and don'ts of the Pharisees which had an external focus and much of that was for show.

There is a curious statement made by Jesus that might throw you. He says, "None of you after drinking old wine, wants the new, for you say, 'The old is better.'" What is He saying, "The old is better"? I think he's pointing something out that is in human nature. Change is so difficult. It's always easier to go with the familiar, the convenient, the comfortable--the old wine--rather than to step out into being led by Jesus through His Spirit. One has the visible security of a list of do's and don'ts and the other has only the invisible security of walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Jesus to lead out. One way is an easy check-list of performance for all to see with all sorts of measurables that can be seen. The other is an invisible lifestyle that can only be measured by God, because it's a matter of the heart.

Jesus didn't come to abolish the old, but to make it full and meaningful. What are the old boxes and structures of your life that lean toward the comfortable and the convenient? Break down those boxes and burst your bubbles, so that you can enjoy the new that Jesus has come to give you. It's not a time for fasting, because Jesus is here. It's time to party!