Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MYTH #5-Jesus is narrow and exclusive!


Whenever I share the message of Jesus plus nothing, most frequently I get an initial response-a quote from the mouth of Jesus: "I am the way, the truth and the life." This usually comes from a person who is friendly to me and is appealing to me from what is considered to be a foundational statement from Jesus, Himself. And by the way, I couldn't agree more.
The damage that comes from seeing Jesus as narrow and exclusive fuels the sense of "we are the only ones who are right and going to heaven" and the rest of the world is wrong and going to hell. In addition to this, viewing Jesus as narrow and exclusive in this prideful way and believing that our way of thinking and believing is the only way, truth and life as well, does something that Jesus abhors. Embracing this myth shuts the door of the Kingdom on everyone else who is not one of us and we have become the judge on the matter.

Granted this statement of Jesus seems to be quite narrow and exclusive, but it's only narrow and exclusive if Jesus lives within the limitations of a Christian box. Since I separate Jesus from Christianity, deny that Jesus is the founder of the Christian Church and reject the mission of Jesus as being to convert the world to Christianity, people believe I must be removing Jesus from being the way, the truth and the life.

This couldn't be further from the truth! It's not that Jesus is so narrow and exclusive; Jesus is more preeminent than we have ever dreamed and He is all-inclusive. He'll work with anyone!

In Jesus' first seminar in Matthew 5-7 He made a radical statement with respect His relationship with the Jewish Law and traditions. He said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

Literally, Jesus didn't come to abolish the Laws and traditions of the Jewish culture; He came to fill it full-to bring fullness to it. It's like the Jewish culture with its Law and traditions was like a glass-a form with some sort of structure to it. Then, Jesus came to fill up that form or glass to its fullest-to fill it full. Jesus came to bring ultimate meaning and fullness to the Jewish religious system. In other words, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for the Jewish dreams and yearnings.

In the same way, I am coming to believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for all cultural and religious systems and traditions. Jesus is the meaning and fullness everyone is looking for. Jesus fills up the various forms or glasses of every culture.

This may seem a little far-fetched for you to embrace at first, but give it some thought. We are finding the footprints of Jesus in every culture. Many years ago Don Richardson wrote a groundbreaking book Eternity In Their Hearts. His research demonstrated that the fingerprints of the Creator-God was found to be in many cultures. God is already there, because God placed "eternity in their hearts".

In the movie, "Fingerprints of God in Japan", the Creator-God of the Japanese people is clearly revealed. In the past the Japanese people were told that they had to reject their Japanese roots and culture in order to be converted to Western Christianity. However, it is now clear that the Creator-God of the Japanese people was known to be in the form of a tri-unity or Godhead. Their Creator-God had a Japanese name, not the Jewish name of Jehovah. When the Japanese watch this film, they weep with great joy. They don't have to reject their culture; God created them and is already present there.

This same understanding has happened among the Hawaiians, Polynesians, Buddhists, Hindus and Chinese. What's interesting is that in many of these cultures there are similar stories in their history-the flood, sacrifices for sins and many have a garden scene. In several of these cultures their ancient scriptures speak of a sacrifice for their sins that must be made by God, Himself. Where did these come from? These are the fingerprints of God in the many cultures of the world.

Jesus is the ultimate fullness of the many cultures of the world. Hey, that's not narrow and exclusive; that's universal and all-inclusive. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see. Our mission is not to plant mission stations in these cultures and teach them our favorite Western Christian hymns. Our tendency has been to introduce Jesus to a culture, stay there among them and orchestrate our Western Christian way of doing things. This methodology serves to bring the Jesus movement to a screeching halt in that culture.

Instead, our mission is to introduce Jesus to the cultures of the world and encourage them to respond with their unique, cultural customs. Most recently this was done in Hawaii and the church of Jesus is really growing there. Wherever this is done, the Jesus movement flourishes. Jesus is all-inclusive and wants to work with everyone.

Monday, January 30, 2012

MYTH #4-Jesus wants the entire world to be converted to Christianity


I grew up believing not only that Jesus wanted the entire world to be converted to Christianity; I also believed my responsibility before God was to make everyone in my reach a Christian. That's just the way it was.
It was worse than that with much of the Baptist community around me. They not only believed Jesus wanted the world to be Christian, but Baptist. I remember sitting in a church service in my college town where a Baptist missionary made the statement: "There is no Gospel witness in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio." This shocked me, because I knew my uncle was a pastor there and I also knew several others. When I approached the speaker, he said: "There is no Baptist witness there." I quickly protested that my uncle and several other pastors I knew there were Baptist. He then clarified it for me: "They are not General Association Baptists." Do you get it? If people weren't becoming Baptists, then they were not hearing the Gospel message! This is just taking this thinking to its logical extreme and it is nuts!

Think about this myth for a second! Can you really believe that this Middle Eastern message of the Good News of Jesus and the Kingdom is owned by Western Christians and that all others around the world must become Christian in order to have eternal life? How haughty we are?

The greatest damage here in this myth is that Christians take on the attitude that they are the only ones who are right and therefore the only ones who will receive salvation from God. The secondary damage from this myth is that missionary organizations actually stir up more persecution than might have been. When missionaries insist on the natives "converting" to Christianity and to denounce their culture, they have the wrong goal. Of course, members of non-Christian cultures are threatened by this approach and react badly. What's worse is that they miss out on Jesus! Jesus is not the issue in those encounters; cultural conversion is!

I'm convinced that much of the persecution on the mission field is unnecessary. We are finding that when you make Jesus the issue and not religious conversion, there is an amazingly positive reception to Jesus. It's the same reception Jesus had among the non-Jewish encounters He had. Jesus is for the entire world. Jesus never urged anyone to become a part of a Christian culture or to join a Synagogue or Church. His only concern seems to be the person's heart of faith and the subsequent act of whether or not the person becomes a follower of Jesus.

Jesus made it a habit of reaching out to people from all kinds of religious and cultural backgrounds. NOTE just a few illustrations of how the approach of Jesus and his disciples was all-inclusive:

FIRST-In John 4, Jesus encountered the woman at the well. She was a Samaritan with very different beliefs regarding the center of worship. He left her with her cultural beliefs intact, except that He trumped the center of worship by saying that someday the center of worship will not be in a given location, but in your heart. Jesus was not promoting a new religion or defending the status quo; He was offering a personal relationship with God in the heart. This personal relationship would transform both her religion and the Hebrew religion. When Jesus conversed with the Samaritan woman, He didn't make certain to warn her of her false beliefs and be sure to change the mountain where she worshipped. There was no renunciation of her false doctrines. It was all about her relationship with Him.

SECOND-In Mark 7, the Syrophoenician woman was a gentile from a godless culture. Her faith was evident in her persistent conversation with Jesus about her daughter. Jesus honored her faith, however He didn't pull her into a new religious system or study class, nor did He have her renounce her cultural upbringing. The presence of Jesus will change a person from the inside out to be like Jesus. God's presence will convict their hearts in His time of what needs to be changed in their personal and cultural ways; NOT US!

THIRD-In Mark 6-7, NOTE Jesus' trip to Gennesaret. Do you notice how many times the Gospel writers refer to going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee? Whenever they were on the Jewish side, they crossed over to the other side. Why? Jesus performed the same works among the gentile world. He never urged them to change their religious culture, but let them remain right where they grew up. However, they were drawn to Him.

FOURTH-In Matthew 8, NOTE the Roman Centurion. No doubt the Roman Centurion grew up with the Roman gods, yet Jesus does not speak to this at all. His concern was his faith. When Jesus declared the Roman official's faith as outstanding, even greater than He had seen among the house of Israel, Jesus didn't tell this man to make sure to repent and go renounce the many Roman deities or his faith would be for naught. Further in the scene in the healing of the Roman Centurion's servant, Jesus says: "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." Non-Jews or in our vernacular, non-Christians are going to be at the Kingdom feast. How can this be? It can only be through a personal relationship with Jesus.

FIFTH-In John 10, Jesus mentions "other sheep" that are His. Who are these other sheep? Could it be that they are from the various cultures of the world? Could they be those spoken of in Romans 2:14-15 and 1 John 4:7?

SIXTH-In Acts 15, the first followers of Jesus were all Jews. When the first gentiles (everyone else) came to Jesus, some religious Jews insisted that all followers of Jesus must become cultural Jews. The apostles clearly decided against this. All people could be followers of Jesus without changing their culture!

SEVENTH-In Acts 10, Peter's experience with the non-Jews is interesting and shocking to Peter. After Peter was supernaturally led to the house of Cornelius by a radical vision from God, he told them: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." Did you get that? God accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

EIGHTH-In Acts 17, Paul spoke in Athens: "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us." God made the nations-all nations; they were made by God in such a way so that all men might seek and find God.

NINTH-Also in Acts 17, when Paul spoke before the gentile audience in Athens, he didn't quote Scripture, didn't use Jesus' name at first, stroked them for their many idols of worship and proceeded to explain to them who this UNKNOWN GOD is that they commemorated. He didn't call for the renunciation of these "gods" and he used their "heathen" poems to explain what God is like (Acts 17:28), yet many believed in Jesus that day. What's that all about? I don't know many with this kind of approach.

TENTH-In Revelation 5:9, the reference is to every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Jesus came to reach all of these, not by exporting any given tribe, tongue, people or nation, but from within each of these faith in Jesus naturally emerges. Since the Creator-God is the source of all people, He has already marked all of these people groups. The word translated as "nations" is actually "ethnos" in the Greek. This is where we get the word "ethnic" from; in other words, there will be every cultural group who are followers of Jesus.

Anyone, anywhere can be a follower of Jesus-cultural Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Animists, Agnostics, Muslims, and even Christians can all be followers of Jesus. Christians have said for years that a cultural Jew doesn't have to renounce being Jewish in order to follow Jesus. Following Jesus makes a person's Jewishness more full and meaningful. I believe this translates into the many cultures of the world. Following Jesus brings out the fullness of any and all cultures. A cultural Buddhist can be a follower of Jesus. A cultural Muslim can be a follower of Jesus. It's just like a cultural Catholic can be a follower of Jesus without renouncing his cultural background or a cultural Baptist or a cultural Methodist. Anyone can be a follower of Jesus and still remain within his or her cultural background.

Jesus doesn't want the entire world to be Christian; Jesus wants the entire world to follow Him. This is why Jesus gives us His primary command to carry on His ministry to the world. He says, "Make disciples of all nations!" Make followers of Jesus in all nations; don't try to make them Christians! Introduce them to Jesus.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

MYTH #3-Jesus is the founder of the Christian Church


This myth may be one of the most difficult to accept as a myth, but hear me out on it. Open up your hearts and minds and let's examine why I call this a myth. Remember, we're trying to understand the teachings and principles of Jesus, not the teachings and principles of our religious instruction and backgrounds. If I were to hold on to my background understandings, I would still believe Jesus was a Baptist!
Many people in the USA and lots more in the cultures of the world believe the myth that Jesus founded Christianity and the Christian Church. It's as if this was His intent and His purpose. This identification is a man-made connection between Jesus and Christianity and the organized Christian Church. When the Christian Church became an organization, Christianity became Christendom. The organized Church provides lots of services for the consumer, but it wasn't what Jesus intended. In Jesus' time there already was an organized Church in existence-the Synagogue. He didn't speak against it, but only against its leadership.

The damage of believing the myth that Jesus founded Christianity or the organized Christian Church is three-fold: FIRST-The religion of Christianity tends to become a substitute for the personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus commonly is left out of the Christian, religious, expression of faith. When I spoke at the major Dalai Lama event, those who were set up to represent Christianity didn't even mention Jesus one time.

One of my hobbies is to read over Christian newsletters and prayer letters to see if Jesus made the editorial cut. It is amazing how many times Jesus is left out of their expression of what their ministry really is. Just recently a major article was published in a secular magazine about a visible and prominent Christian leader and his plan to change the world. Sadly, Jesus never made it into any part of the plan nor did Jesus even receive honorable mention.

SECOND-The organized Christian Church tends to become a substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus and with His people. This produces spectators and not participators. It's just too easy to check off Church attendance as one of the things you feel you must do. But as powerful as the Church experience might be through authentic worship and exceptional messages, the once-a-week "event" just isn't what Jesus intended. They already had this experience in the Synagogue. There's nothing wrong with it; it's just not what Jesus came to found.

THIRD-When you believe Jesus is the founder of Christianity or the organized Christian Church, you expect Jesus to be the author and architect of what is done in the name of Christianity and by the local organized Christian Church. Therefore, Jesus gets the blame for it all! He gets tied to the Crusades. He gets tied to pastoral moral failure. He gets tied to the raising of money and endless fundraisers.

Now to debunk this myth: Jesus was a founder, all right, but not of the organized Christian Church or the religion of Christianity. Check out these observations: 1. Jesus must be separated from Christianity and the organized Christian Church. Remember the bumper sticker and later the movie: "Lord, please save us from your followers." To link Jesus with the organized Church or the religious system of Christianity caricaturizes Jesus beyond recognition. And then the world criticizes Jesus and His movement on earth based upon the Church and the religious system. This is as absurd as judging Beethoven by how well the local Junior High School band plays his music.

2. I have come to believe Jesus is the unique Son of God. For me to believe this myth limits Jesus in most every way. He is to be preeminent above all things, peoples and religious systems. To keep Jesus in the position of being the founder of Christianity keeps Jesus in His holy box and unavailable to the rest of the world.

3. Jesus never intended to found or launch a highly organized Church with membership requirements and man-made labels. He founded and launched a movement-a dynamic, relational fellowship of followers of Jesus who love God and love their neighbors as themselves.

4. Jesus nor any of His disciples bashed the Synagogue of the day, which equates to the Church today. There was no thought or teaching on planting new Synagogues (Churches) to compete with the primary Synagogue in the city. This sets up the next observation:

5. The dynamic, relational movement Jesus launched was not about building an organization or a monument; He set in motion a movement that was loosely held together. This movement was not to take the place of the Synagogue nor is it to take the place of the organized Church today. However this movement is totally out of control-our control-and in the control of Jesus, the Head of His body.

It was to be a movement that orbited around the Synagogue (Church), the community and around the marketplace, demonstrating the love of Jesus to all. This movement doesn't have the privilege of gathering spectators together, because its all about participation in a fellowship, learning to love God and love one another. This movement is called the church (little c)-the gathering of the followers of Jesus into a fellowship. Jesus uses the term only three times, because His primary teaching was the Good News of the Kingdom. Big C Church was not taught nor was it in His mind or in the practice of the early disciples as they spread the message of Jesus and the Kingdom.

The book of Acts is sometimes called the Acts of the Apostles, but I think it's best to refer to it as the Acts of Jesus. The revolutionary movement of Jesus is still on today! The purpose of the movement is to do one of the most difficult things ever-to introduce Jesus to the world by demonstrating Jesus-walking, talking, thinking and loving like Jesus. You see, Jesus doesn't want you to demonstrate for Him, but to demonstrate Him and His love.

Jesus launched a revolutionary movement. Are you participating in this movement-the orbiting (little c) church movement Jesus founded-or are you still only playing spectator in a big C Church? You can do both and gain much out of your experience, but just don't miss out on the Jesus movement in your community right where you live! Jesus is already moving in the world around you. He's looking for you to join Him there!

ONE MORE THING: The Jesus movement that orbits around the organized Church and the community is not made up of Christians. The make-up of the Jesus movement is a vast variety of people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds. What holds this movement together is that each person, no matter his or her religious background, is a follower of Jesus.

Thursday, January 26, 2012



Before getting into this myth I want to make it clear that I am well aware that many of you reading/listening to this series may not be Christians or from a Christian cultural background. The reason I feel I must examine several of these Christian terms is that I want to separate them from Jesus. So many of these terms are like barnacles on a ship and must be removed. Or, they are add-ons to Jesus that dilute who He is and what He intended.
Most of my life I have bought into the importance of being a believer or more specifically, a believer in Jesus. For years I have emphasized the term "believer" over "Christian", thinking this was the best identity to use that separates a person from the religious form of Christianity. If you perform a quick overview of the five Gospels (Matthew-Mark-Luke-John-Acts), you will discover that with few exceptions John is the only one who uses the term "believe" extensively.
The damage that is done by relying on being a believer is subtle, but lethal.

FIRST-I have come to understand that this heavy emphasis upon being a "believer" is not sufficient to describe what Jesus wants from His disciples. Jesus demands more than this, as I'll demonstrate in a couple of minutes.

SECOND-Being a believer becomes a threshold experience-the very doorway into salvation-that Christians rely upon. After sharing a time of counseling a desperate man in the psych ward of a local hospital, I told this particular study group that it was so exciting to see this man's attitude of fear change into a sincere seeking for God. One of our group members quickly said, "So he became a believer?" In other words, "Did you close the spiritual deal and now this non-believer is a believer?" We seem to want this magical moment that a person becomes a believer and then all will be OK.

THIRD-Remembering the day you became a believer-your threshold experience of salvation-becomes a sure sign that your faith is genuine and not being able to nail down that date means that maybe you never actually have come into a salvation experience at all. This, too, can be a damaging experience. Recently, a pastor told one of his elders that if you can't identify that specific time of salvation faith in your life, then you are probably not a genuine believer. That night the elder interrogated his wife and she could not give him a specific day, but she felt she had come into a personal faith gradually. When the elder shared this experience with a group I was leading, he was really saddened by his discovery and it showed in his countenance.

Then I asked him, "When was Peter's specific day?" The elder sat there for quite some time and said, "I don't know." I said, "Troubling, isn't it?" "What about the other disciples? What was their specific day?" The elder saw what I was showing him and said, "So, my pastor was wrong."

The damage is done when we put such pressure on people to "make a decision" to be a believer in Jesus right now. This is why we ask people to come forward at altar calls and why we praise those who witness to the point that they have actually led someone to pray the sinner's prayer. It's all part of our instant approach to life. This wasn't the norm in the life and ministry of Jesus and it isn't the norm today!

FOURTH-To make "being a believer" so paramount, it is too easy to miss out on what happened with the early disciples and rely on man-made sound bites and clichés. Think about it! The early disciples were not "believers" in the sense that most think of it today. They were followers of Jesus and His teachings, but were a work in progress with respect to becoming believers. By the way, that process took them over three years!

To debunk this myth I want to offer some things to think about: FIRST-Demons are said to be believers. In James 2:19 it says: You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.

SECOND-The false teachers Jesus mentions are believers. In Matthew 7 Jesus refers to people who act like believers, but that's not good enough. Look at what Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Here was a group of people who spoke in the name of Jesus, cast out demons in the name of Jesus and performed many miracles in His name, yet Jesus didn't know them. He had no personal relationship with them.

THIRD-Many of you who are reading or listening to this daily see yourselves as believers, too. So, what's the difference? There must be more to it than just being a believer!

Jesus clarifies this. Jesus makes it clear that the only ones who will enter the Kingdom of heaven are those who do the will of the Father. And what does Jesus mean by this? In the next paragraph He illustrates what this means:
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Those who do the will of the Father are those who hear the words of Jesus and practice them! That's more than just being a "believer". Don't get caught up in the Christian clichés and sound bites of religiosity. Pray for ears to hear and eyes to see, then listen to what Jesus says and do it. Don't miss this! You must believe, but you must believe enough to follow Jesus and His teachings! Whether you are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Christian or agnostic, follow Jesus and enjoy the results!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The first myth is JESUS IS OWNED BY CHRISTIANITY. Now don't get nervous about this myth. I am not bashing being a Christian or the religious system of Christianity. I want to help you consider a very basic understanding that causes lots of misunderstanding both in this country and in nations around the world. Let's examine it.

The definition of this myth is two-fold. First, this popular myth believes that Jesus was a Christian-that Jesus would be comfortable with being called a Christian and identifying exclusively with Christianity. Second, there seems to be a sub-myth on this one-that Christ was Jesus' last name. Let's quickly deal with this sub-myth. Jesus Christ is better understood as Jesus, the Christ. Jesus is His name and the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, is His title.

The damage from this myth is many-fold. FIRST-Christians believe they have a corner on the market with respect to Jesus. The by-product of believing Jesus is owned by Christianity is religious, Pharisaical pride. This pride leads "Christians" to identify its culture as the right culture-the right way of life. This excludes all other cultures God created, other than the Christian culture, from following the path of God.

SECOND-If you desire to become a follower of Jesus, embracing this myth tends to distract you away from Jesus and the Kingdom. Instead of following Jesus, your focus can so easily become being a Christian or defending Christianity.

THIRD-Non-Christians believe Jesus is exclusively related to Christians and therefore they have no relationship with Him, even though Jesus is so attractive, irresistible and relevant to them.

FOURTH-Non-Christians identify Christianity with the disastrous and horrendous actions of its past-e.g. the Crusades against the Muslims and the persecution and killings of the Jews-all in the name of Christianity.

FIFTH-Non-Christians identify Christianity with the West and as they develop hate for the West, they develop hate for Christianity (and vice versa). When Christians attempt to convert people who are not Christians, they stir up such anger and hate-especially is this true in the non-Christian cultures of the world. Christians want Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and whoever else is before them to become Christians-to be converted away from their cultures into Western Christianity. As my son-in-law said, "This is doing missionary work the hard way!" Instead of converting people away from their cultures and into Christianity, why not introduce them to Jesus and let Him do His work in their hearts. Now that's true conversion!

In debunking this myth I want to share four observations: FIRST-Jesus never used the term "Christian". The term is found three times in the New Testament. The first is in Acts 11:26: and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. This seems to be a derisive comment by those in Antioch at this point. The second occurrence is in Acts 26:28: Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" The third time the term "Christian" is used is by Peter in I Peter 4:16: However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

When I use the argument that Jesus never used the term "Christian", I am saying that He had something so different in mind than to offer a label to be worn or an organization to join-all to be foisted upon the cultures of the world. If Jesus were trying to change people's cultural identification, He would have actually done so. When Jesus encountered a person from another culture with other gods and traditions, He was not concerned with "converting" them away from those backgrounds. He was primarily concerned with a person's relationship and trust in Him. Take the Roman official-the one Jesus said possessed more faith than any other person in all of Israel; Jesus didn't warn him to beware of the many Roman gods nor did He urge him to join the synagogue or any other organization.

SECOND-Jesus had a better term. Most Christians love to use the ID, "believer" or "born again". What's interesting is that with a couple of exceptions "believer", "believe" and "born again" are used only by John in his Gospel. John and all of the other Gospel writers-Matthew, Mark and Luke-use the same and most prominent terminology as they quote Jesus. All five Gospels are in agreement about the terms "follower" or "follow". This is Jesus' designation of those who are in relationship with Him-followers.

Without a doubt the best use of the term "Christian" is to be a "follower of the Christ". Used in this way following Jesus retains the power of a movement. However, most take Christianity as a religion, religious system of beliefs and an organization to be joined, which kills the movement by definition and practice.

THIRD-There is nothing wrong with being a Christian or even a Western Christian, if that's your cultural background. But there is something far better and that is to be a follower of Jesus. The largest spiritual movements in the world are happening among Animists in Africa, Buddhists and Hindus in Asia, Muslims and Jews in the Middle East, atheists and agnostics in China and even Christians in the USA. This movement numbers in the millions those who do not identify themselves with Christianity or Western Christianity, but sincerely and enthusiastically call themselves followers of Jesus. They love and worship Jesus!

How can this be? Because Jesus is more preeminent than we have let Him be. He is so much greater than any Christian can ever lift up and He must be lifted up. As He is lifted up Jesus will draw all men and women to Him, because He is the most attractive, the most irresistible and the most relevant ever. If the Creator-God were to ever take on flesh and become man, God would look like Jesus.

When Paul was in Athens (Acts 17:22-31), he stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you."
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations (cultures), that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by human design and skill. That divine being is Jesus and He must not be limited to the Christian box and culture. God set up all cultures in order for them to reach out for God and find Him."

No, Jesus is not owned by Christianity. He is the unique one, born of the Spirit of God! This Kingdom Manifesto of Jesus-the Good News-is for everyone. It is not exclusively for the Jews or the Christians. Jesus is all-inclusive. He is the ultimate answer for everyone everywhere. Jesus. Simply Jesus.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Now remember a myth is passed on so frequently that you blindly accept it as THE truth and it becomes a vital doctrine in your religious beliefs. Therefore it is, at best, a legend, a sort of spiritual fairy tale that has become a sacred belief for you and your community, yet it is really a well-intentioned falsehood or misunderstanding. For the most part, I don't think these myths we will examine were ever designed with evil purposes in mind. They have developed from one generation to another without questioning its veracity.

There is an old story that illustrates how myths originate and are passed on from generation to generation. It's about a family that always cut their turkey in half before they cooked it. This was certainly very odd by American tradition since everybody always served a whole baked turkey as the centerpiece for the Thanksgiving meal.

For many years this strange ritual went on until a child from the fourth generation decided he was going to find out why his family had such a very "strange" tradition. So he went up to his Momma and asked "why exactly do we cut the turkey across the middle whenever we cook one for Thanksgiving?"
Somewhat startled by such a sensible inquiry, the mother decided to ask her mom exactly the same question the youngest had put across: "Momma, Why 'do' we cut the turkey in half?"

Grandma for her part could only scratch her chin and reply, "to tell you the truth, I can't exactly tell why. All I know is that was how I saw my momma do it, and that's how I've done it all these years. Why don't we ask Great Grand Nanny!"

So they all huddled around the Matriarch as Grandma asked, Momma, why exactly do you always cut the thanksgiving turkey in half before you stick it in the oven?

Great Grandma sat her self up and with a look of disbelief she replied, "Did you never realize that our oven was never big enough to stick a whole turkey in? That's why I always had to cut those turkeys in two,"

Do you see how easily this happens? Now transfer this same understanding of myth development over to the world of spiritual things. Many times the myth emerges out of partial knowledge. You know there is nothing more dangerous than a person who has read only one book on a subject. From the basis of that book and that author opinions are formulated and become fact, until another person offers a different thought on the subject. I am reminded of the man who came to the conclusion about all native American Indians. He said, "All Indians walk single file, at least, the one I saw did." It's a partial perspective!

Myths also tend to be developed with a prejudiced perspective. Whereas a partial perspective is when you don't have all of the facts, the prejudiced perspective is when you don't want the facts. The facts might mess up what you already believe!

A man sat in front of his doctor, claiming that he knew that he was dead. The doctor assured him that he wasn't dead-depressed, maybe, but very much alive. Nothing would change the patient's mind on the issue. So, the doctor sent him on a research project to the medical library. The research would conclusively prove that "dead men don't bleed."

When the patient finished his research, he returned to see his doctor. The doctor asked, "What did the research say?" "Well," said the patient, "it is clear that the medical literature says that dead men don't bleed."

"Perfect!" replied the doctor. The doctor immediately went over to the patient, stuck a needle in his arm, and the man began to bleed. Without any hesitation the patient jumped up and proclaimed, "Dead men do bleed!" Now, that's a prejudiced perspective! Don't confuse me with the facts. My mind is already made up! Especially is this common within religious circles!

There is one other perspective that breeds myths. It's what I call a passive perspective. A passive perspective is when you have the facts, but don't act upon them. You are committed, but not involved in the behavior that the commitment requires. This is, by far, an epidemic in our society! Committed, but not involved! You know what to do in your marriage, but don't do it. You know what to do with your children, but don't do it. You know what to do in the midst of a conflict, but don't do it. You know what to do with your priorities, but you don't do it. It's like the kamikaze pilot who made 33 missions. He was committed, but not involved!

As we examine the person and teachings of Jesus we want to know as much as we can from Jesus, Himself. We want to examine Jesus and His teachings as objectively as possible. And, we want to examine Jesus and His teachings actively and not passively. This last approach can make the most difference. I don't want this examination of Jesus and His teachings to be just another intellectual exercise. It's one thing to know Jesus and His teachings and quite another thing altogether to do your best to follow Jesus: Follow Jesus because of His impeccable character and life. As you continue to follow Jesus, you will find His teachings to be most meaningful and fulfilling. And, if you embrace following Jesus as your lifestyle, you may discover how to relate to your Creator in a personal way.

Monday, January 23, 2012


There is a universal truth in the marketplace: "Only 5% think, 15% think they think and 80% would rather die than think." We live and move in herds. We go along and rarely question what we hear. This is especially true after hearing things over and over throughout our lives. The tendency is to accept without question whatever we hear that is attached to a Scriptural verse and delivered by a pastor, teacher, guru, priest, imam, or monk we trust. I call these blind beliefs "myths" that are passed on so frequently that they become THE truth and a vital doctrine in our religious beliefs.

Once we have embraced a given myth, we tend to use it to establish that we are more right than another. There is something in our humanity that works overtime to be right, which makes those who disagree with us wrong.

I have been caught up in a series of myths my entire life. After growing up in a Christian home, attending a Christian liberal arts college and a four year graduate seminary, I went along with many of the myths without questioning what I read or was taught. The result? My eyes gradually glazed over and I became hard of hearing.

I've spent most of my life seeking to understand how to relate to the non-churched, non-Christian world. My books and speaking platforms have all had a crossover flavor to them and I finally ended up at the peak of professional speaking opportunities on the largest platforms in addition to pastoring one of the early mega-churches.

During that season of my life I came to the conclusion that only Jesus could transform our lives. 1. NOT Churchianity 2. NOT Christianity 3. NOT conversion methods 4. ONLY JESUS

I came to the conclusion that in order to reach the non-churched world I would have to separate myself from mainstream churches and Christianity. So, I did that to a certain degree, but I still had to take up offerings to keep the church and its staff alive.

In the second season of my life Jesus apprehended my heart in a fresh way and poised me toward taking this same "Jesus plus nothing" message beyond the "secular", non-churched world into the 7 major cultures of the world.

So, now my focus and perpendicular learning curve have taken me to a simple understanding of Jesus and the Kingdom. I've spent so much time and energy unlearning a lot of my theological premises I received at graduate seminary while a student and professor. It's been a fresh look at Jesus and His message of the good news of the Kingdom. His message was not the church, but all about the Kingdom. He only mentions "church" on two occasions.

In this journey now we are working with the 7 primary cultures of the world-Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, Jewish, Animist, Christian and Atheist/Agnostic. We don't present Christianity to them, but Jesus. We teach them to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus as the early disciples did. The results are amazing. Instead of further dividing the world into more warring factions, we are experiencing a new and supernatural unity in the name of Jesus. You see, Jesus unites and all else divides! I am now convinced that Christianity isn't the way; Jesus is!

One of the repeated themes and challenges within the teachings of Jesus is to have ears to hear and eyes to see. Jesus knows our human tendency to drift away, get off-message, become distracted, and to divide up and take sides. So, He warns us to be careful that we listen and see clearly.

We are going to make our way through 32 myths. These aren't the only myths, but seem to be some of the most common ones. It is not my purpose to shake up your faith in any way other than to strengthen it and refocus it on Jesus. As you read through each of the myths, remove your religious blinders, think and evaluate what you believe Jesus' teaching really is. Don't be afraid to go with His teachings, when they counter things you have believed all your life. It may be a little shocking at first, but when the light bulb clicks on in your head and heart, you'll know what is true.

Jesus without religious baggage is awesome, attractive and even irresistible! The only thing Jesus requires of you and me is to be interested-to have ears to hear and eyes to see.

If you are Muslim, know that your holy Qur'an teaches the uniqueness of Jesus and reveres Him most highly. If you are Buddhist, know that His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, loves the teachings of Jesus and encourages people to study them and follow Him. If you are Hindu, know that there are millions within your culture who have come to love and follow Jesus as did Ghandi. If you are Jewish, do as your many scholars are doing and study this Jewish Rabbi for yourself. If you are agnostic, you may be better able to check this out for yourself, who this Jesus without religious baggage really is.

If you are Christian, you may have the toughest time examining these myths. It's because you think you already know Jesus. What I have found to be true is that many Christians seem to know a lot about Jesus, but don't really know Him and follow Him.

Whether Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, agnostic or Christian, Jesus will never ask you to leave your culture. Jesus supersedes all culture. As a Buddhist friend said to me: "Jesus trumps everything!" If you myth out on Jesus, you will find that you are missing out on life at its fullest!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Jesus got my attention-to pay attention to Jesus and his teachings primarily. I came to the realization that I didn't really know Jesus as personally as I would like. I knew a lot about him from his birth to his death. I had written about him, built a Church around him, developed self-help principles from his teachings and I pretty well thought I knew when the widespread and popular 2nd coming of Jesus might take place.

I came to the decision that I was just tired of running a Church, going to a Church, and talking, talking, talking about it. I had this deep desire to practice the church-to be the church and to find out experientially for myself if this Church thing-this Jesus lifestyle I'd articulated for so long, could be lived. More than that, I wanted to know for sure that I could live this lifestyle-really live it out.

I knew that this meant moving away from my frantic speaking, writing and counseling schedule. Somehow all of that needed to be set aside to provide enough space to learn what it means to trust Jesus with my life-moment by moment. This was something I only talked about and rarely experienced. This meant facing several lifestyle adjustments. Fortunately, Diana was willing to make this shift in our lifestyle, too.

We gathered a few friends to ask them if they would walk with us as we followed our new found aspirations. We gathered three couples, spent the day with them and shared our thoughts and feelings. When we asked them if they would be willing to walk with us through this journey to get to know Jesus and live out the Jesus lifestyle, they unanimously agreed to walk with us and we all became enthusiastic about what we might discover about Jesus and ourselves together.

We began with a 45 day prayer covenant that we would agree to pray together. We prayed for wisdom on how to walk with Jesus, for those who are hurting-the abused, addicted, and damaged-to come to us. We prayed that we might learn together how to mentor others to follow this Jesus with us, yet we were determined we would not promote what we were doing. We committed to one another to wait on Jesus to bring people to us with ears to hear and eyes to see. And that's exactly what Jesus did! You know the drill. You pray for God to come through and show Himself in tangible ways, then when He does, you are shocked!

Together we drew up a covenant that held us to our agreements together. As we listed our agreements, they fell into place into what we've come to know as the EMBERS COVENANT. There were six agreements: 1. Embrace the teachings of Jesus as a lifestyle. 2. Mentor others to do the same. 3. Believe God for raising up leaders. 4. Empower the youth. 5. Restore the broken-the addicted, abused and the poor. 6. Serve everyone who is brought our way. This covenant took on the form of a question: What can I do to help?

People were definitely brought our way and we gathered with them to meet Jesus as he showed up among us. What a ride! What a thrill! And it's still continuing today!

This is when I determined to speak on what we were learning-to share with others what we were seeing and experiencing. So, I began with "The Jesus Factor" that turned into a 6 part series of messages. Five additional series emerged with 6 messages each-we call it the "Jesus Journey" and that early articulation was rough, but powerfully effective to help those who were interested to get to know Jesus.

At the end of this 42 week series of messages, it was clear to me that in order to really experience what it means to walk with Jesus, walk with others and wait for Jesus to lead out, something drastic had to happen. So, we decided that we must dismantle our organized Church and begin meeting in homes. This was a tough move, because long-time traditions are hard to break. In fact, I think it's more difficult to dismantle a Church than to start one!

This is when I felt it necessary to discipline myself to write something on Jesus on a daily basis. We first called it 'ACTS 29 Daily', then it emerged into the 'JESUS PLUS NOTHING Daily.' Now, this daily study has been going for nearly seven years.

The Daily podcast/blog subscriber list has continued to grow and many forward it on to family, friends and colleagues, when they deem it appropriate to pass it on. Of all of the studies, the most popular was a series of 32 myths. I called it "Mything Out On Jesus and His Teachings" and published it in a booklet format, straight from the blogs. A steady flow of these booklets are acquired through Amazon.com and several small groups are using this tool as a text for study.

Whereas "Mything Out On Jesus and His Teachings", was sort of an in your face challenge to all those who still wear traditional blinders about Jesus, JESUS PLUS NOTHING is different. JESUS PLUS NOTHING is a gentler, kinder, inductive telling of my personal journey with Jesus, then sharing a more full teaching of the pre-eminence of Jesus, the presence of the Kingdom and the power of the few. JESUS PLUS NOTHING is an invitation to come and see Jesus for yourself. It's also a challenge to not just be a believer in Jesus, but learn to be a follower of him. Begin your Jesus journey today!

Tomorrow, we'll begin revisiting the 32 myths.

Thursday, January 19, 2012



The fifth top takeaway out of the book, JESUS PLUS NOTHING has to do with Jesus' revolutionary strategy for changing the world. There are three essentials for changing the world.

FIRST ESSENTIAL-The pre-eminence of Jesus-making the main thing the main thing! Life isn't about religion or a religious experience, but a relationship with Jesus. Life doesn't revolve around a set of propositions or a performance system, but a person. His name is Jesus.

Jesus came to restore what man has lost. The loss is like a hole in the soul, filled with a gnawing ache of loneliness. So, at the core of most everything man tries to do is this inner drive to fill the hole in the soul. Every religion, philosophy, and political ideology is an attempt to fill that hole. We were created to be dependent upon God. And if you choose not to be dependent upon God, you will inevitably find yourself dependent upon something or someone else. This sets in motion a perpetual cycle of dissatisfaction. That's the bad news! Jesus, simply Jesus, is the only one who can fill that hole in man's soul. Now, that's the Good News! Jesus is the Good News-the Gospel.

Jesus came to give you what you can't get on your own. What is it that Jesus can give you that you can't get on your own? This may sound a bit strange, but Jesus came as a revolutionary. The revolution is all about restoration and transformation.

Transformation is what is needed at the core level-an inner change of heart. Since I've been following Jesus I have found four experiences that have become amazingly real to me. On the negative side of the emotional ledger we humans are continually struggling with fear, anger, guilt and shame.

Jesus offers a positive counter experience to each of these toxic emotions and makes these offers for anyone who is willing to follow after Him.
* Jesus offers peace that counteracts the fear!
* Jesus offers love that counteracts the anger!
* Jesus offers joy that counteracts the guilt!
* Jesus offers grace that counteracts the shame!

What is really needed is a genuine change of heart-to see your life, predicaments, and people differently. Several years ago, we set out to study only the five Gospels for three years-Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. We did this in order to get to know this Jesus. This focus proved to be life changing! It was through this Jesus journey that we discovered what only Jesus could do for us that we cannot do for ourselves. I have no capability to change a person's heart. I can't give people peace. I can't give people joy. I can't give them love. I can't, but I've come to realize that Jesus can!

Again, I am not speaking of the religious Jesus. I am referring to the most prominent and powerful person ever! And, in the most pragmatic way, this Jesus seems to be able to affect these internal changes in people.
There's something about Jesus without religious baggage-his words, his actions, his loving ways, his bent toward the disenfranchised and especially His name-that brings healing and wholeness to the heart and mind. Jesus is truly the most effective person you can embrace for yourself.

SECOND ESSENTIAL-The presence of the Kingdom-embracing the principles of Jesus as a lifestyle! Most of Jesus' teachings are about the Kingdom, not the Church. Jesus only mentions the church on two occasions. Jesus as the King came to introduce a lifestyle on a different level-the Kingdom level. The Kingdom lifestyle is simply living out the principles of the King's teachings. The Kingdom lifestyle is learning to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus.

Jesus' constant message was the presence of the Kingdom right here right now. He said the Kingdom is here, it's near and it's among you all as you gather in the name of Jesus, the King.

THIRD ESSENTIAL-The power of the few. The first two essentials are most effectively activated in the power of the few. This may be the most counterintuitive dimension within the Jesus movement. "The power of the few" contains the same core idea as the seed. Just as the seed is small and seemingly insignificant, proving to become large, irreversible in its growth and powerful enough to accomplish inner transformation, so it is with the power of the few.

Jesus modeled the power of the few by inviting only three to come and be with Him. He spoke to thousands of people from time to time, but Jesus spent most of His time with a few-from three to twelve.

Jesus was the model and the disciples of Jesus learned to follow the model that was set. They always traveled and ministered in teams of two or more. They practiced the power of the few very effectively. They even authored several of the books of the New Testament, often in tandem with others. For instance, the first letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians) is attributed to Paul. But Paul didn't write the letter to the community of believers in Corinth, alone. Right up front within the letter it says Paul and Sosthenes were the authors. This may be the same Sosthenes who was the leader of the synagogue in Corinth. Paul had help writing the second letter to the Corinthians, too. Paul and Timothy wrote that letter. Timothy also co-authored Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon with him. The letter to the gathering of Jesus' followers in Galatia is said to be written by Paul and "all the brothers and sisters with me." Then, in the book of I John, John says that "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life." Note that this letter was composed by a group of people that John called "we."

Read the book of I Thessalonians and you will discover that even though Paul is again listed as the author, yet this isn't exactly true. According to the first verse there were three authors-Paul, Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy. Now get this! These three men following Jesus and walking together in Jesus' name made such an impression with the Thessalonians that their message spread or echoed forth throughout Asia Minor. It's the power of the few!

My entire life has been preparing to speak to the masses, but I walked alone. Today, I walk with a few and am stronger than ever. Jesus is the pre-eminent one in my life. I'm doing the toughest thing I've ever tried to do as I try my best to follow Jesus' Kingdom teachings. And, I am convinced that there is no chance of keeping Jesus pre-eminent in my life and following His Kingdom principles daily WITHOUT walking in the power of a few others who are walking with me. These three essentials are clearly the only possible way to unleash the power of Jesus in changing the world. And by the way, when you unleash the power of Jesus on the world, you allow Him to first change you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012



The fourth top takeaway from JESUS PLUS NOTHING stirs up so much emotional response. In other words, there is more heat than light at first. It's tough enough to separate Jesus from Christian ownership. Now, this insight sounds even more foreign and out of bounds from what we've been taught.

No matter how much evidence is offered or how many people are produced from non-Christian cultures who are followers of Jesus, it's still stifling to the brain. A little over a year ago about 60 of us participated in the Montana Awakening. We were spread all over the state, sharing the message of Jesus.

I was teamed up with a Muslim friend of mine who loves Jesus and has been faithfully following Jesus for years. My friend is more articulate and genuine in his relationship with Jesus than most Christians I've known for years. On our first night in Montana, we were scheduled to speak along with a couple of others from Germany. I began, setting the stage for my Muslim friend's testimony of how he had come to follow Jesus. Then he would speak and I closed out our session.

Well-meaning Christians bombarded us afterward, vehemently and angrily arguing with my friend and me that it is impossible for a Muslim to be a true follower of Jesus. It was just unthinkable! The same attitude is found among the early disciples in Luke 9, where John says to Jesus, "Master, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." You see how it works? It's unthinkable that anyone who is not one of us-one of our group-could possibly have a right connection with Jesus.

In John 10 Jesus tries to instruct His disciples that He has other disciples who do not belong to His disciples' same denomination. He says, "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd." Whoever Jesus is talking about, these other sheep are not from the same religious and cultural persuasion as His disciples.

In the final book of the New Testament-Revelation-there is reference to "A great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne" of Jesus. (Revelation 7)

NOTE the common theme of these passages. There is no reference to any certain religious group, but it's clear that God is calling people from every nation, every tribe and every language group.

So, how is it possible for a non-Christian-a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew or agnostic-to come to the point of being a follower of Jesus and have a genuine saving relationship with Jesus?

I've observed it in three stages. First-a person is drawn to Jesus because of His miracles, His teachings. At this stage a person is fascinated with the most amazing man, Jesus. He's a great teacher and a great example.

Second-after following Jesus for a period of time, a person begins to embrace Jesus' principles and teachings. The principles begin to make more and more sense, so the person who has merely been fascinated with Jesus now begins to take Jesus seriously.

Third-after continuing to follow Jesus and embrace His teachings and principles, this is when Jesus begins to transform a person's life. If an internal change or conversion is going to take place, then it will happen at this level of progression.

This progression is perfectly illustrated in Jesus' encounter with Peter at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answers by saying, "You are God's Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus strokes Peter for giving such a good answer, but says, "Flesh and blood didn't reveal that to you." Only the Father could reveal this kind of thing to Peter. Only God can change a person's heart. No amount of teachings or belief systems can do this.

Here's the way I see it. You don't have to believe Jesus is the Son of God to begin to follow Jesus. The disciples didn't! In fact, they weren't even genuine "believers", until later. It took them over three years of following Jesus daily for God, the Father, to change their hearts and minds of faith.

When a person begins to follow Jesus, he is set up perfectly to have his heart totally converted-transformed by God Himself. We've seen this happen in every major culture of the world. They first are attracted to Jesus as a great teacher or example and later Jesus apprehends their hearts.

One more thing. You don't have to be a Christian to be a follower of Jesus either. Here's the point! Anyone anywhere can begin to follow Jesus.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012



In my opinion, the third top takeaway from the book, JESUS PLUS NOTHING, is that Jesus alone matters. What Jesus says. What Jesus does. What Jesus commands matters more than anything else in your spiritual life.

Here's how I frequently illustrate this pre-eminence of Jesus. Think of it this way. If Jesus says one thing and your pastor or favorite spiritual guru seems to be saying something else, who are you going to go with? I'd go with Jesus.
If Jesus says one thing and you realize you believe something different from Jesus' teachings, who will you go with? Jesus's thinking versus my thinking? I'm going to follow Jesus' thinking here. If Jesus says something and what you've been taught all of your life in your religious experience says something else, who are you going with? My advice? Stick with Jesus! How about if Jesus says one thing and Paul seems to be teaching something different-maybe an emphasis or focus that differs, who will you side with? Jesus is not confused or foggy in His thinking. He teaches without flaws or opinions. Always, always go with Jesus, because Jesus alone matters!

What Jesus says is the primary word on a matter, no matter what the subject. We have discussed on several occasions Jesus' conversation with the religious leaders in John 5. Jesus says, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." Jesus makes it clear here that it's important to realize that seeking Jesus Himself is a higher priority than searching the Scriptures. Jesus alone matters!

If you want to dive into a very productive study, just do a search of what Jesus teaches on a given subject. For instance, according to Jesus who is it that will enter the Kingdom of Heaven and who will not? I'll give you a hint. Jesus makes it clear that not all who call themselves believers will enter.

What Jesus does is the primary example of how we ought to live. Jesus' actions and strategies are counter-intuitive and even counter-cultural to the religious ways of thinking on many occasions. Jesus' approach was to primarily see and interact with individuals. He spoke before thousands a few times, but most encounters were individual and personal.

Jesus also gives us great insight into how we might relate to the many cultures of the world. He never concerned Himself with criticizing or changing a person's religious beliefs from his or her background and culture. Jesus always made it personal-always about the individual and that person's heart of faith and trust. More than that, Jesus always concerned Himself with the personal relationship He had with that person and the person's response back to Him.

What Jesus commands is the primary focus we ought to observe. Jesus never commanded us to convert anyone to our religious ways. He never commanded us to condemn anyone. He never commanded anyone to go, build and organize Churches. The primary emphasis in Jesus' commands was to go and make disciples-Jesus learners and followers-of every culture in the world.

Why is this true that Jesus alone matters and is so pre-eminent? It's because of who Jesus is. Jesus has a name that is above all names. Not Christ, but Jesus. His name is very important-just as important as the personal name of God revealed in the Old Testament. It was Yahweh! Jesus means "Yahweh saves." Jesus. There is something about that name!

At the name of Jesus every knee will bow someday. It's in the name of Jesus that people have been and can be healed. It's in the name of Jesus that people can be transformed inside out. It's in the name of Jesus that people are touched with His love, joy, peace and grace and are never the same again!

NOTE it is not in the name of Christ, but in the name of Jesus. You might say it's a matter of semantics, but it's not! It's personal! His name is Jesus!

The great Dr. Albert Schweitzer of Africa said something that stopped me in my tracks with its powerful truth. He said, "Jesus comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side. He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: "Follow me!" and sets us to the tasks, which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple. He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings, which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is."

There is a part of Jesus we can't know by reading books about Him, can't know by listening to sermons on Him. There is a part of Him we can't know by going to church, to Bible college, to seminary. There is a part of Him we can only know by following Him. This is our prayer that through JESUS PLUS NOTHING you will learn to know Jesus by following Him.

Monday, January 16, 2012



In my opinion, the second most important takeaway from the JESUS PLUS NOTHING book is that Christianity does not own Jesus. Christians don't have a proprietary hold on Jesus. No matter where I go in the world, most people believe Jesus was a Christian and the founder of the religion of Christianity. Once that link is broken, then there is freedom for an entirely new conversation about Jesus. This is a vital separation.

American Christians complain that Christians are disparaged and caricaturized in the media, in the movies, in politics and during the holidays. There is a stigma to being a Christian in America and it's not always a good stigma. A mega-Church pastor shared with me that Christians are fast becoming less and less impactful in our society. If you think it's got a negative stigma in the US, travel outside the US and you'll discover it's more prevalent there.
Now don't get nervous about this. There is nothing wrong with being a Christian or belonging to Christianity. I want to help you consider a very basic understanding that causes lots of misunderstanding both in this country and in nations around the world.

Christian is not a common biblical term. In fact, only two writers of the Bible ever mentioned it-Luke, twice, and Peter, once. Jesus, Matthew, Mark, John, Paul, James, and Jude never mentioned it. Most people assert that Jesus was a Christian. Most would agree that Jesus would be comfortable being called a Christian and identifying himself exclusively with Christianity. But I believe this is a myth. And the collateral damage from this myth has been devastating.

Many Christians believe they have a corner on the market with respect to Jesus. The by-product of believing Jesus is owned by Christianity is an ugly, religious pride. Jesus came to call people from every culture of the world-the whole world. Jesus didn't come for Christians or to make the world Christian.

Most non-Christians believe Jesus is exclusively related to Christians, and therefore they have no possible relationship with him, even though Jesus is so attractive, irresistible, and relevant to them.

Most non-Christians identify Jesus with the disastrous and horrendous actions of the Christian past and present-the Crusades against the Muslims and the persecution and killings of the Jews-all in the name of Christianity. The collateral damage is that Jesus becomes guilty by association.

Most non-Christians identify Christianity with the West, and as they develop hate for the West, they develop hate for Christianity (and vice versa). When Christians attempt to convert people who are not Christians, they stir up such anger and hate-especially in the non-Christian cultures. This aggressive approach was never the way of Jesus.

Not only is the term "Christian" rarely mentioned, we know it is a man-made term. At first, Christian was used as one of the many tags placed on the followers of Jesus. It was never intended as a serious organizational label. "People of the Way" and "Nazarenes" were also popular identifications.

Jesus had a better term. Many love to use the ID, "believer" or "born again." What's interesting is that with a couple of exceptions "believer," "believe" and "born again" are used only by John in his Gospel. John and all of the other Gospel writers-Matthew, Mark, and Luke-do use the same and most prominent terminology as they quote Jesus. All four Gospels are in agreement about the terms "follower" or "follow." This is Jesus' designation of those who are in relationship with him-followers.

There is nothing wrong with being a Christian or even a Western Christian, if that's your cultural background. But there is something far better, and that is to be a follower of Jesus. The largest spiritual movements in the world are happening among Animists in Africa, Buddhists and Hindus in Asia, Muslims and Jews in the Middle East and around the world, atheists and agnostics in China and even Christians in the United States. This movement numbers in the millions. Other than those within the Western Christian cultural context, this movement consists of those who do not identify themselves with Christianity or Western Christianity, but all sincerely and enthusiastically call themselves followers of Jesus.

All have come to love and even worship Jesus! How can this be? Because Jesus is more preeminent than we have let him be. Jesus doesn't fit into any religious box. Jesus outside of the religious box is the most attractive, the most irresistible, and the most relevant person ever!

A few years ago I wrote an article entitled, "Christianity Isn't The Way; Jesus Is". As long as we keep Jesus in a religious, Western Christian box, we limit Jesus and keep Him away from the people He came to reach. He came to reach to entire world!

Sunday, January 15, 2012



This week I want to share with you what I believe to be the top 5 takeaways from the new book, JESUS PLUS NOTHING.

I grew up in a very narrow, Baptist tradition. We weren't just Baptist in general. We were a certain kind of Baptist. In fact, out of the more than 220 Baptist denominations in the world, we believed we were the only one that was going to get into heaven! We knew the Southern Baptists weren't going to make it in and the American Baptists were just as liberal and loose. In our little corner of the world, if you didn't belong to one of our kind of Baptist Churches, you were lost and needed salvation. I love what my friend, Tony Campolo, says, "I'm not saying you have to be a Baptist to go to heaven. But why take a chance?"

I share this about my background, because I want you to know that I KNOW NARROW when I see it. Our denomination of Baptists was narrow and exclusive, our beliefs were narrow and exclusive, our requirements to be a member of our Church were narrow and exclusive and our message of how to get into heaven was also very narrow and exclusive. Therefore, we made Jesus fit into our narrow and exclusive box. We made Jesus narrow and exclusive!

Whenever anyone widens the door of salvation beyond what one's tradition and upbringing has taught, that person who is attempting to widen the door is deemed a heretic. There is something in human nature that will do most anything to be right or on the right side. If anyone threatens to uncover some "truth" that demonstrates that a person's "rightness" is wrong, that person who is threatening must be destroyed by labeling him as a heretic or as one who is not in tune with God.

This is what happened when Jesus spoke in the Synagogue in Nazareth. The villagers from Jesus' hometown were amazed at his speaking at first. THEN, Jesus made two remarks about how God had widened the blessing of salvation by healing a Gentile (non-Jew) leper and how out of all of the Jewish widows, God turned to a Gentile widow to be helpful to Elijah. When Jesus shared with them that God's salvation extended beyond the holy huddle of Jewish believers, the Jews went crazy and tried to kill him.

When Stephen spoke in Jerusalem (recorded in Acts 6), he was actually stoned to death for saying some threatening, outside the Jewish hierarchical box kinds of things. He said, "However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?'"

Stephen was saying that God cannot be confined, even to the great and holy Temple that was built by Solomon. This, along with challenging them to live out what they profess, was just too much of a threat to them. So, Stephen, the voice of the threat must be destroyed!

Paul, was given harsh treatment, when he spoke in Pisidian Antioch: On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. (Acts 13)

Later in Lystra and Zerbe, Paul was stoned and left for dead by these same holy huddle-minded Jews who were threatened by Paul's message of salvation not being narrow and exclusive, but wide and all-inclusive: Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. (Acts 14)

Even the much loved and respected, Billy Graham, said in an interview: "What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they've been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light they have." That interview placed Billy Graham on some of the most popular heretic lists. People have so much trouble believing that God could be calling people from every culture to Himself.

In our book, JESUS PLUS NOTHING, we demonstrate Jesus' teachings on this very thing. In fact, you will discover several illustrations where Jesus encountered people from other cultures and openly and freely gave them salvation. He didn't require them to become a Jew or a Christian, because to Jesus it's all about a personal relationship with him.

I believe and teach more powerfully than ever Jesus' words, "I am the way, the truth and the life." I'm seeing how Jesus is the way for everyone, everywhere! Jesus is not narrow and exclusive so he can fit into anyone's box. Jesus all-inclusive and will work with anyone!

Go to www.jesusplusnothing.org and get JESUS PLUS NOTHING. Check Jesus out for yourself. Get to know Jesus without religious baggage!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


NOW before I begin, let me make it clear again: I am NOT against the organized Church. In our consumer-oriented world, the organized Church is the vehicle that can be a solution to the many community needs-to grow up as a family, to assist parents in strengthening the family, to provide a place of worship and prayer, to address the real needs of the community-hunger, clothing, housing and counseling.

Embracing Jesus' emphasis and intention with respect to the movement He was launching continually makes it seem that He was against the Synagogue (the modern-day organized Church). But this is not true. Jesus respected the Synagogue (the organized Church). However, Jesus came to launch a dynamic movement-a few here and a few over there, gathering together in His name. This is where He promised to show up-where two or three are gathered together.

And when Jesus shows up among the gathering of the few, He changes lives dramatically. This is a very critical thing. The church of Jesus is all about transformation. My friend, Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago, has probably trained more pastors and church leaders than any other. Within the last two years Bill and his staff came to the conclusion that all they had done building their church was sorely missing the mark. They found that their ministry had been emphasizing the wrong things-asking the wrong question, which was "How many people were in attendance?" The bottom-line is that the people were not experiencing transformation! They are now reworking their approach to ministry, identifying where each person is on his or her spiritual journey and ministering to their needs specifically. This was quite an admission, to say the least, and rocked the Christian world as the news spread.

My friend, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, California, shares a similar frustration. He shared with me his consternation over the glaring fact that the big C Church is just not changing the culture. Rick has been diligently training pastors as Hybels over the years and sees the reality that the big C Church is not having the Jesus movement impact on our society. Even though the mega Churches are more visible than ever, there are still 60-70 smaller churches closing each week. The net impact on our population is not increasing. It's like the big C Church in many ways has become a holy huddle in the midst of a troubled and lost world. But we cannot settle for this.

For the most part the leadership of the big C Churches sees the vital need to make the Church experience more intimate, so they break down the larger assembly into smaller contexts. One level of the smaller context is found through affinity groups-like couples with children or singles. Another level of the smaller context is an educational approach through offering a variety of classes. Then there are the smaller groups that meet in homes during the week to study a given topic. A final smaller context is more short-term, but proves to be quite effective and transformational-mission trips or retreats.

Any attempt to get smaller is better and creates an atmosphere that invites participation. But just because you are meeting in a smaller context doesn't mean you are practicing the Jesus movement. Most small groups never reach the level of intimacy and unity for which Jesus prayed. They usually drift into gentle friendships, which are good, but are not the revolutionary fellowship movement Jesus envisioned.

There are 3 dynamic, Greek words with a message of encouragement that can help you to stay on track with Jesus and to participate in A REVOLUTIONARY FELLOWSHIP THAT TRANSFORMS THE WORLD!

FIRST-parakoloutheo-Keep on recommitting yourself to follow closely after one another! It means "to follow close up, or side by side", "to accompany, to conform to", or "following" teaching so that you practice it. There is a sense of following so closely that you can more fully know a person or persons. Check this out in Mark 16:17; Luke 1:3; I Timothy 4:6 and especially pay attention to II Timothy 3:10.

SECOND-katartizo-Keep on restoring one another! In I Corinthians 1:10, Paul writes: "I appeal to you that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." The words "perfectly united" are a translation of the Greek work, katartizo. It is used in several ways in the New Testament: to restore, to perfect, to fit, to prepare, etc. Possibly the most interesting use of the word is "to mend" a net. Fishermen around the world spend as much of their time mending nets as they do fishing. The maintenance of close relationships requires our attention to mending as well. It's even used for a physician to reset broken bones.

So, this word has 3 basic meanings: (1) To mend or repair the nets-Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19. (2) To complete, furnish completely, to equip or to prepare-Luke 6:40. (3) To prepare and perfect ethically and spiritually-I Thessalonians 3:10; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:12; II Timothy 3:17: I Peter 1:10.

THIRD-haplotes-Keep on reminding one another of the simplicity of Jesus! "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). This is a fascinating word that has more to it than simply simple. This simplicity carries with it a sincerity, a single-mindedness, an unaffectedness. There is also a notion of generosity and bountifulness in this simplicity. In other words, the simplicity of devotion to Jesus has a single-minded abundance to it-an overflowing fullness and liberality about it.

As you can plainly see the church or gathering that Jesus intended has to do with experiencing a revolutionary fellowship with Jesus and those who are also following Him. Although this isn't the primary purpose of a week-end big C Church service due to the nature of its size, you can experience a revolutionary fellowship within the big C Church.

So, what does Jesus want us to do with the organized big C Church? Reading through the 5 gospels (Matthew-Mark-Luke-John-Acts) it is clear what Jesus and the disciples did with the "organized Church". Let's view the synagogue as the organized Church. There are four observations that seem most relevant to us: 1. You don't find Jesus or the disciples bashing the Synagogue (Church). 2. You find Jesus constantly correcting the leadership of the organized Synagogue (Church), teaching and practicing living in the Kingdom. 3. You don't find Jesus or the disciples starting new Synagogues (Churches), because of inadequate teaching or worship. 4. You find Jesus and the disciples using the Synagogues (Churches) and then orbiting around them.

Several years ago I read a book, ORBITING THE GIANT HAIRBALL--A Corporate Fool's Guide To Surviving With Grace by Gordon MacKenzie. MacKenzie worked at Hallmark Greeting Cards for 30 years in the creative department. He found that he was unable to be very creative, if he had to spend his time in corporate meetings. So he learned to orbit around the corporate bureaucracy and not be entangled in it, freeing him to create. He also makes it clear that the hairball was absolutely necessary. Without it there was nothing to power the orbit and the hairball paid the bills. This is exactly what the early fellowships of Jesus did. They participated in the Synagogue, yet they were in orbit around their Synagogue, their communities and around the marketplace. They went to Synagogue (Church) every Sabbath, yet they were there for a higher purpose. They were there to introduce more and more people to the revolutionary fellowship and person of Jesus.

There are two clear action steps here: FIRST-participate in the revolutionary fellowship movement of Jesus inside or outside the big C Church. SECOND-orbit around the big C Church, looking for those who are interested in Jesus and His movement. Once someone leans in with interest, invite them into the revolutionary fellowship of Jesus with you.