Tuesday, November 30, 2010



Matthew 5:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010



Matthew 4:12-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010



The third revolutionary habit is WAITING ON JESUS to lead out with orders and opportunities. Waiting on Jesus is not inactivity. Waiting on Jesus is being active and attentive in the following ways:

FIRST-As you wait there is the action of readying yourself. Your responsibility is not to be in charge, but to be ready for the King's orders.

SECOND-As you wait there is the action of relating to Jesus and to others-the first two habits. Your responsibility is to continue these relationships within your support team-the "one anothers" in your life. It's the doing of life together, not sitting around and explaining it.

THIRD-As you wait there is the action of resting. Your responsibility is to be anxious for nothing, but to rest in your relationship with Jesus and with others. Now, keep in mind that Jesus may not have direct orders for you today. Don't be in a hurry to the point of being stressed. Following Jesus is all about rest. Jesus calls His disciples into His rest-confident, peaceful, everything-is-going-to-be-OK rest.

FOURTH-As you wait there is the action of resisting. Your responsibility is to resist all distractions, temptations, and detours that you have stirred up for yourself or that come from the enemy of the King. This resisting is a vital discipline of the for the disciple of Jesus and the Kingdom.

We are not to wait on Jesus for us to do His will. It's just understood that we are to do that. Neither are we waiting to be responsive to Him or to do what He would do.

However, we ARE waiting for Jesus to show up in our lives. We ARE waiting for Jesus to give us answers to our heart's cry-an impression, a peace, a desire or a thought. We ARE to wait to bring restoration to those God brings us. We ARE to wait for God to bring people into our lives for us to walk with in fellowship and support.

WAITING ON JESUS TO LEAD OUT is demonstrating a ruthless trust in Him to come through on our behalf with opportunities and orders for us to follow.

Isaiah 40 is brought to mind regarding who God is and waiting on Him--12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales? 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor, has informed Him? 14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding? 15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales.

21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23 He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. 25 To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?'' says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable,. 29 He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. 30 Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, 31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Then I am drawn to Acts 1 where Jesus gave orders to wait in Jerusalem for next steps! Jesus spent 40 days with the disciples, just hanging out with them and He spent that time teaching them about the Kingdom. "He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.'" In essence, the disciples were still hung up on the physical, political motif of the Kingdom and Jesus is expanding on His former words to them that He has already brought the Kingdom. Now, they must wait for the permanent, abiding presence of God through His Spirit to empower their Kingdom living.

The same is true for us today. We are to pray for Jesus to lead out and we are to follow Him. So we are praying and waiting for Jesus to lead the way.

Think of it this way: #1-Jesus is calling you today. All requires of you is to be interested, believe in Him and follow in His steps. #2-Jesus believes those He calls are good enough. In other words, He believes you can do it. #3-Jesus believes you can be like Him-to perpetuate His His lifestyle in you. #4-Jesus empowers you by His presence as 2-3 of us gather together in His name.

It's all about the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus and following Him. Three habits. Walking with Jesus. Walking with others. Waiting on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities.



There are three revolutionary habits in learning how to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus. Yesterday we referenced the first one-WALKING WITH JESUS. Today, we examine the second one-WALKING WITH OTHERS.

As always, Jesus is our example of this habit. When He began His ministry, He chose three to come alongside Him-to be with Him. He continued to spend most of His time with these three. This small group expanded to 12, then the 72 and then the 120. In fact, at one point there are up to 500 who were fairly close disciples of Jesus. I'm sure most everyone who followed Jesus felt close to Him, yet He walked most of His time with a few.

The disciples were sent most of the time in teams of two. Sometimes there were more, but you just don't see them traveling or living alone.

WALKING WITH OTHERS provides a level of personal support that we all need. There are, at least, four benefits: FIRST-Strength to do whatever may come in life. There's something about knowing you are not alone that empowers whatever you try to do. Without others in your life you are weakened and at your lowest.

SECOND-Encouragement is easily drained, yet within a few trusted friends you will find yourself fueled by the others who are doing life with you. Without others you can easily become discouraged and distracted.

THIRD-A learning dynamic presents itself within a smaller setting. When you are walking with others, it's so much easier to get it-your seeing and hearing seem to be better. Without others it seems difficult to have ears to hear and eyes to see, so you just don't "get it".

FOURTH-Finally and most importantly, walking with others is a sure place where Jesus will show up. Without others you tend to forget how real and present Jesus is.

The experience of the early followers of Jesus is recorded in Acts 2: So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The results of gathering together in the name of Jesus were many: 1. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; 2. and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 3. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; 4. and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Radically valuing people over possessions! 5. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, 6. and breaking bread from house to house, 7. they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 8. praising God and 8. having favor with all the people. 9. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:41-47

WALKING WITH OTHERS is one of those disciplines of life that produces great results for you and those with whom you are walking. Jesus said, "I will build my church"; what He is looking for is for His followers to BE THE CHURCH. This is the Kingdom way of living your life fully.

Living fully requires that you walk with Jesus. When you walk with Jesus, you are the walking solution to people's needs everywhere. And, the only way to faithfully walk with Jesus is to WALK TOGETHER!

Here's the action plan: 1. DO walking with Jesus 2. DO walking with others a. Pray for Jesus to bring someone into your life/mind. b. Be open to whomever He brings to you. c. Hang out together and look for Jesus to show up.

You know, I can hear my voice echoing these three habits back to me when I say them. I have said them over and over before as many of you know. But this is an easy-say and hard-to-do situation. So I ask you, are you walking with Jesus and are you walking with others? That's the test whether or not you've heard these three habits enough yet.



As a Jesus revolutionary it's vital to embrace three basic habits. It has been said that to develop a habit, you must do it for 3 weeks. If you do it everyday for 6 weeks, you'll own it as a part of your person and character.

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

I heard it another way: "A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time. Now your heart is blocked by grass."

The first habit in the Jesus revolution is WALKING WITH JESUS. As a friend of mine said, "It's like the announcement that is made on every flight. 'Put your oxygen mask on first and then help those around you.'" Walking with Jesus is just like that. You must put on your oxygen mask-your personal relationship with Jesus. That's what comes first-always.

Walking with Jesus is being aware of His constant presence in your life. It's being with Him, hanging out with Him and in a constant dependence on His strength and His lead. In a very real sense, walking with Jesus is learning to count on Him in your everyday life.

Walking with Jesus is in response to God's great love for you. Oswald Chambers said, "No love of the natural heart is safe unless the human heart has been satisfied by God first." Embrace God's love for you and respond to it by practicing walking with Jesus at your side every day.

The there are five cautions in walking with Jesus. FIRST-Don't walk ahead of Him. SECOND-Don't walk away from Him. THIRD-Don't walk out of step with Him. FOURTH-Don't walk too far behind Him. WALK WITH JESUS EVERY DAY.

Here are three steps that will help you walk with Jesus. I. Breathe in. This means take in some Scripture, especially from the words of Jesus, Himself. II. Breathe out. This means talking to Jesus about your desires-your heart. III. Hold your breath. This means to take note of your relationship long enough to take the time to listen.

In simple terms, DO WHAT HE SAYS. No matter what He says to do and say, you just do it. I heard it in a funny way several years ago: "If you pray for a Cadillac and God sends a jackass, ride it." It's signing off as king of your kingdom and making Jesus the King of all Kings. This reminds me of the bumper sticker that says: "Want to hear God laugh? Tell Him your plans." To walk with Jesus is to be willing to let Him call the plays of your life.

You know, what Jesus wants more than anything else is a personal relationship with you. And, once Jesus resides in your heart of hearts by simply walking together, you will find yourself living a revolutionary life. The revolutionary life that Jesus offers is completely satisfying to you and most attractive to everyone else. It's like a light. It's like a fountain.

Monday, November 22, 2010



Many years ago four couples gathered together to see if we could come into agreement with one another around the life and teachings of Jesus that we were learning. We didn't know where to begin in our relationship, so we brainstormed the primary things we felt we could agree upon.

In our day of praying, eating, studying and enjoying our fellowship together we determined there were, at least, six agreements we could make together. As we discussed these agreements, we decided the best way to experience these agreements as commitments was to covenant to pray them back to God and see what happens. In a sense, we were asking God to respond to the prayers of our hearts and lead out. We were ready and willing to follow wherever Jesus might lead.

As I began to unpack the six agreements of the covenant, they seemed to naturally and easily unfold into an acrostic. I admit that I have always used acrostics and other memory devices to teach and to remember important things. So, in this case the six agreements seemed to emerge into the acrostic, E-M-B-E-R-S. Here they are as we have been discussing over the past six days:

· E-Embrace the life and teachings of Jesus as a lifestyle. · M-Mentor and encourage one another. · B-Believe that God raises up leaders. · E-Encourage the youth of our world. · R-Restore those God brings your way. · S-Serve everyone, everywhere.

We began to call it the Embers Covenant. It was a collection of agreements that we could hold as true and viable. These agreements weren't magical or super-spiritual, but they were very powerful and satisfying to each of us. We wanted to not only enter into these six agreements; we wanted to make these agreements covenants-promises to one another. Since those early days together nearly eight years ago, these are the fellowship agreements that have kept us together and moving.

We began praying these six agreements of the Embers Covenant back to God. We committed to pray for certain periods of time together. Our first few times to pray the Embers Covenant we decided to pray for a period of 45 days. We called it the 45 Day Prayer Covenant and things began to happen.

As we prayed these agreements we communicated with one another each day to report what was happening. Wow! Every day someone reported what we called a "Jesus sighting" and we were all encouraged and empowered by the experience. We were each praying that we would have the wisdom and courage to embrace the life and teachings of Jesus as a lifestyle, to mentor and encourage one another, to believe God raises up leaders, to encourage the youth of our world, to restore those God brought our way and to serve everyone, everywhere.

We each had a very real sense of following Jesus and encouraging others to do the same. What was most surprising to us was that as we prayed for God to bring hurting people our way for us to help-the addicted, abused, broken and the poor-people began to show up nearly every day! This became so exciting to us and strangely enough, this was the beginning of what we experienced as the Jesus movement in our midst.

This motivated us not to promote Jesus and what we were learning about following Him, but we determined to pray and allow Jesus to attract people to us. It was amazing who showed up and asked us for help or who showed up and asked what we were doing together. We were truly operating under the principle of attraction, not promotion. This was the most refreshing experience to me, since I had spent my entire life being a promoter of ideas, books, tapes, seminar/workshops, buying property and building buildings. Now, to pray together with a few who were in agreement in the name of Jesus and wait on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities; this was the thrill of my life!

We then found out how to mold the 45 Day Prayer Covenant into a more flexible way of doing life together with others. When someone brought us a problem, we quickly suggested two things. First-We don't have the answer to your problem; Jesus does. Second-Since Jesus has the answers, then we invited that person to enter into a 15 Day or 30 Day Prayer Covenant with us. The result every time was that Jesus showed up in a powerful way and the answers were clear! It was just further proof to me that prayer doesn't need proof; it needs practice!

Try it out. Gather a few followers of Jesus together with you and enter into the Embers Covenant with one another. Then, fill in the details of your requests in each agreement area and pray them together with your little group. Prayer is simply about being in agreement together about whatever you are requesting in the name of Jesus. Jesus promises to show up when two or three gather in the name of Jesus. Now, if you knew Jesus was going to show up somewhere, wouldn't you go there as quickly as possible? Gather a little group of two or three or more and make these agreements together; enjoy the presence and power of Jesus in your life ASAP.

Sunday, November 21, 2010



Once you have committed to the first five agreements, you are ready to step into action-authentic action. There is a fundamental principle that is completed in the sixth agreement. The sixth universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to SERVE EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE.

There are three occasions when Jesus talks about the most important commandment ever given to man. What's interesting is Jesus is unable to give just one commandment, but consistently shares two as equally important. Let's examine each instance. Matthew records the first: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'" (Matthew 22:36-40)

Jesus sums up with an astounding observation about these two commandments: "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." You just don't get any better than this. Jesus is saying these two inseparable commandments are the foundation-the underpinning-of the entire Law and the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets amount to the whole truth God has given. It's all about loving God and loving your neighbor!

Mark records the second instance: "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." (Mark 12:29-34)

Note the summary response Jesus makes in this instance: When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." In other words, if you embrace these two commandments, you are practicing the very things that bring you near to the presence of God-the Kingdom of God!

Luke records the third instance: And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Luke 10:25-28)

So, if you get into loving God and loving your neighbor, you are at the core of all God's truth and you are near to the Kingdom of God. Now, Jesus adds one more observation: And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." This time Jesus says if you embrace these two commandments, you will know what it means to really live!

In all of these teachings Jesus presents His most basic truth. There are two directions a follower of Jesus comes to understand. The first is vertical-to love God with all of your heart. The second is horizontal-to love your neighbor as yourself.

Here's the way it works. You cannot have one without the other. John wrote some terrific thoughts on this in his little letter called I John. He wrote: Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. And then he said: Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. We love because he first loved us. If we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars. For if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen. And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love one another.

Once Jesus has transformed your heart, you will know your next move automatically. Your love focus will be on God through Jesus first and then you will have a whole new desire to love others. It's the natural context for your life and that context is in relationship to others.

Two things automatically overflow out of your relationship with God's love. FIRST-you will tend to radiate that love that is within you. A new sense of peace, joy and hope and a new heart of love for others will emanate from you. You won't have to do anything to get this sense of radiation; it's the evidence of being transformed inside out. This is a personal thing and only you may know it.

SECOND-you will tend to resonate with others. This is the horizontal or social dimension of being transformed by the love of God. To radiate will be an internal experience; to resonate is an external expression of your heart. To resonate will require that you make some decisions. There are only two kinds of pains in life-the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. You get to choose which pain to endure.

When I was in total control of my life without following Jesus, I used to think resonating the love of God to others took a technique or some unique methodology. But now that I am simply following Jesus and allowing Him to lead out with His orders and His opportunities, I have found that resonating God's love is so much easier than I had ever imagined. It all happens in the context of serving people-serving everyone, everywhere. Now this kind of service isn't directed by your agenda, but by theirs.

So, here's how it works best. To serve everyone, everywhere, simply ask the question, "What can I do to help?" If you practice asking this question and mean it, you will be activated immediately. At the moment you get an answer from anyone, anywhere, you will find yourself serving everyone, everywhere! Think it over!

Thursday, November 18, 2010



The fifth universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to RESTORE THOSE GOD BRINGS YOUR WAY. Four scenes in the life of Jesus come to mind as I've been considering this agreement we can make together.

The first is in Luke. This is at the core of Jesus' mission to the world. As soon as Jesus returns from the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil, He announces what His mission really is: Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. (Luke 4:14-22)

Jesus' primary mission was that of restoration-good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for all who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. This restoration was all about good news for those who were snagged and entrapped with the bad news situations of life.

The second scene in the life of Jesus that speaks to the restoration of people is when Jesus called Matthew, also known as Levi: Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 5:13-17)

The first scene Jesus announced His primary mission of Messianic restoration. Here Jesus offers a primary and specific invitation to Matthew with the two most revolutionary words ever: FOLLOW ME! And, note who Jesus partied with at Matthew's house. It was the sinners, the non-religious and other tax collectors. He uses this party to make it clear that Jesus came for those who need His restoration touch-the sick-those who are sick and know it. He did not come to restore those who have it all together or who think they do.

In the third scene Jesus expands this primary invitation to everyone, when He says: "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." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Who is Jesus referring to, when He says, "all you who are weary and burdened?" I think it's clear in the context that Jesus is speaking of all who are being exhausted by religion and religiosity-by the continual push toward more and better performance. People love religion, but their religious system exhausts them. He invites all who are worn out by it all to come directly to Him and He will give rest, even rest for your souls. Only two things for us to do: Connect with Jesus (take my yoke upon you) and learn from me (hear my words and practice them). There is nothing better to offer another person than rest-a safe place to just stop the merry-go-round. That's restoration! People all around you are looking for it.

The fourth scene in the life of Jesus is back to when Jesus prays to the Father in John 17. He prays about His followers: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." (John 17:16-19)

Jesus has already made it clear in this prayer that He finished the work the Father sent Him to accomplish. That work was to take those the Father sent Him-about 12 men-and teach them to know God and to know eternal life.

Jesus sanctified (set Himself apart) by the truth, so that His disciples would also be set apart in this Kingdom truth-the only truth that can set someone free!

His work was to connect these men into a unified relationship of oneness that they would have the same connection Jesus and the Father had. In fact, He says: "Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." In that same prayer Jesus says, "I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

Can you imagine anything greater than this-to be loved by the Father in the same way He loved Jesus and that God's love may be in you and that Jesus and His love may be in you. Now that's restoration! As followers of Jesus you are being sent forth to do the same work Jesus did-to restore all those God brought to Him. Now it's your turn. Who has God brought into your life? Make it your practice to speak restoration into them-restoration that offers good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for all who are oppressed, forgiveness, peace, joy, rest for their souls and the very personal and powerful love of God. Restore all those God brings your way!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010



The fourth universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to ENCOURAGE THE YOUTH OF OUR WORLD. As usual Jesus not only teaches transformational principles, but He practices what He teaches. Jesus is the teaching! Jesus was around 30 years old, when he launched the movement and he launched it with a group of teenagers. His early followers were just teens with one exception, Peter, who was probably in his early twenties.

Jesus placed a high value on youth-children-and if we're going to do our best to follow Him, then we must also value children in the same way. There are, at least, four dimensions to the way Jesus values children.

FIRST-Jesus made it clear that no one will enter the Kingdom of heaven unless he becomes like a little child. Matthew reports that Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) Mark also reports that Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:15) Luke repeats Jesus' words from Mark: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Note that each of the Gospels were in agreement on this and verifies Jesus' thinking about children.

SECOND-Jesus even told an older, Jewish scholar by the name of Nicodemus that he needed to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. He says in John 3:5: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." He goes on to say: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." I believe Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that as a highly educated adult he was unable to enter the Kingdom, unless he became like a little child all over again-to be born again. Nicodemus knew too much that had become like blinders so he was unable to see clearly and freshly as a little child.

THIRD-Jesus valued children so much that he used them as an illustration for those who are the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Matthew records an interesting scene around the question, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?" At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child, whom he placed among them. And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes a humble place-becoming like this child-is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:1-4)

FOURTH-Jesus identifies Himself personally with the children. Matthew continues with: "And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones-those who believe in me-to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:5-6) Note that if you receive a child in the name of Jesus, it's the same as welcoming Jesus Himself. And, then notice the warning to those who dare to cause a little child to stumble or go away from the things of Jesus. It's a serious thing to hurt a child in any way.

So, what is it about a child that is so important? Why is there such an emphasis in Jesus' teachings on valuing children? There are a lot of reasons that come to mind for me.

As a child, you know you don't know everything. You're open to learning; you're like wet cement. It's important to watch Jesus carefully and mimic what you see and hear.

As a child you want to learn all you can about this new life of following Jesus. Children just naturally imitate those who are important to them.

To be a child you may have to unlearn a lot of things so that you can relearn what Jesus wants you to know. You must be open and honest; there's a certain degree of innocence about being child-like. There's also a natural desire to depend upon and trust Jesus.

To be a child you will have to relearn the ABC's all over again. This time the ABC's are the building blocks of following Jesus.

To be a child you will have to relearn the simplicity of following Jesus. A child sees things simply and purely. This is the concern that Paul expressed for the followers of Jesus who were gathering in Corinth. He said: "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (II Corinthians 11:3)

So, always be careful to encourage the youth-the children-in our world and begin with the little child in you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010



Over the years I have not been very successful in picking leaders. It seems most of the leaders I have chosen on my own have had a built-in fizzle to them. The third universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to BELIEVE THAT GOD RAISES UP LEADERS. God has a habit of preparing and raising up the best kinds of leaders for special tasks.

When God needed a leader to show the way for the people of Israel to break free from the bondage of Egypt, he chose a goat and sheep herder out on the back side of the desert. Moses had a unique resume that included a forty-year stint in the palace of the Pharaoh, killing an Egyptian in a fight, and then another forty years working in the fields for his father-in-law. And, he didn't want to be the leader of anything and was filled with excuses.

Joseph, the next to youngest son of Jacob, was nearly murdered by his jealous brothers who then sold him into slavery. He ended up in Egypt. After having his reputation destroyed by another's lie and being wrongly imprisoned for years, Joseph proved himself invaluable to Pharaoh. He became the number two man in Egypt's government. God used Joseph to save thousands of people during a great famine. That number included his own family, the budding Israelite nation. He was the reason his father's family moved to Egypt, setting the stage for the great Exodus centuries later.

When the people of Israel were being oppressed by the Midianites, God chose a young, insignificant man by the name of Gideon. Listen in on how he was chosen: The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak tree, where Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." (Judges 6:11-15) God delights in taking the weakest and making him mighty!

God chose a prostitute by the name of Rahab to play a significant role in hiding the spies. After the destruction of Jericho, she ended up in the godly lineage of Jesus, the Messiah.

God is very capable of choosing just the right person for the right task, no matter their background or giftedness or knowledge. This is why Jesus teaches the disciples this primary principle: Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matthew 9:35-38)

God chose the most aggressive enemy of the Jesus movement, Saul, to be used as a powerful leader of the movement: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight." "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:1-19)

God also chose the uneducated and ordinary to be the most powerful leaders of the Jesus movement. Check it out: When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. (Acts 4:13-14)

God continually prepares and chooses the most unlikely people to raise up to become leaders in His movement. He takes unlikely people and gives them unusual power to perform unbelievable things in the name of Jesus. Only God can do this, therefore we must ask God to raise up the leaders He believes necessary for His movement. And, do you know what this means? God may even be preparing and choosing you to do something significant for Him. So, pray for God to raise up the leaders we need in the Jesus movement and don't be surprised if you find that you have been praying for yourself.

Monday, November 15, 2010



MENTOR AND ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER The second universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to MENTOR AND ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER.

We tend to operate alone in life. This is due to many factors. Three come to mind. (1) Being self-absorbed. This is a narcissistic way of living life in the smallest package ever-being all wrapped up in yourself. When it's all about you, you are limiting not only others around you, but yourself. (2) Being controlling. This is such a natural tendency due to our deep insecurities; we want to be in control. What's so ironic is that when you are in control, you are limited to only what you can do. (3) Rugged individualism. "If it's going to be, then it's up to me!" Operating alone is the most weakened position of all. True strength comes in relationship-in community.

You know what is puzzling to me? It's that when people are hurting or lonely or in great need, they withdraw from others. Safe relationships with others is precisely what they need, yet they run from them.

Walking together with a few others is actually practicing living in the presence of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is wherever the King is and as you are walking with Jesus, the King, He wants you to hear His words and practice them. We walk between two kingdoms-man's kingdom and God's kingdom. When you walk together, you are able to remind one another of how to live out these principles of Jesus in your daily life.

Jesus' Kingdom principles are revolutionary and counter most of the ways we think and live today. Here are just a few Jesus taught: The internal takes precedence over the external. You learn to die in order to live. You learn to lose in order to find. Little is much in God's Kingdom. You learn to give in order to receive. You learn to mourn in order to celebrate. You learn what it means to hunger spiritually in order to find satisfaction. You learn serving is the best leadership. You learn to forgive and you will be forgiven. You learn that individuals are more important than the multiplied masses. You learn to bless when you are cursed. You learn how to eliminate all of your enemies just by loving them.

Jesus practiced walking with a few. He chose three men to be with Him and then added a few more. He sent His disciples out two by two. He was careful to urge them to walk together. He even went so far as to say where two or three are gathered in His name, He will show up!

The early disciples practiced four things when they gathered together: They studied the teachings of Jesus. They enjoyed fellowship and sharing with one another. They ate together and they prayed together. As you look inside their gatherings and relationships you find them befriending one another, bolstering one another, being there for one another, believing for one another and bearing up one another.

I've been sharing 6 steps for walking together that seem to help zero in on what it is that we can do together. FIRST-OBSERVE the God of gods in action all around you. Don't miss out on noticing what God is doing in your world. SECOND-OPEN yourself up to His presence in your life and the possibility of being utilized in what God is doing. THIRD-OFFER your body to Him. I get this from Romans 12:1: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is true worship. On the basis of what God has done for you, offer your body back to Him to be used in such a way as to make a positive difference in the world. FOURTH-OVERHAUL your mind. Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. Don't allow yourself to be fit into the mold of this earthly kingdom, but allow your mind to be transformed into the Kingdom of God principles.

The next two go together nicely. FIFTH-OBTAIN a servant's heart. Romans 12:3: For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For mentoring and encouraging others to function most effectively, it's a must that you don't approach these relationships with a haughty attitude. Humility always works! SIXTH-OPERATE in a small group. Romans 12:4-8: For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. All of the prior steps come into reality when you learn to operate within the power of the few.

In order to mentor and encourage one another you need to live substantially. Living substantially requires that you walk with Jesus. When you walk with Jesus, you are the walking solution to people's needs everywhere. The only way to walk with Jesus is to walk together with a few. You can shine your lights together, sponsor love for one another, support blessing in the midst of being insulted and share your stories-your experience, strength and hope you have found in Jesus. Mentor and encourage one another!