Tuesday, March 27, 2012



As Jesus launches into some of His first public teachings, He 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? These are possibly the most revolutionary teachings ever!

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.

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 for today.
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. Let's look at the first of these snapshots: 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."

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!

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!

Pride is an insidious cancer that skews your thinking, distances you from enjoying your relationships, and sets you up for a fall in whatever you do. Being "poor in spirit" is coming to grips with your humanity! It's the realization that 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.

So, SECRET #7 is: The follower of Jesus has a right evaluation of himself before God. You know that without God 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. Those who are poor in spirit are the ones who will receive the kingdom of heaven. 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. The follower of Jesus has a right evaluation of himself before God. He is God and you? You are not!



For several years we have been urging followers of Jesus to practice three habits: FIRST-Practice walking with Jesus every day. SECOND-Practice walking with others. THIRD-Practice waiting on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities. It's the 3rd habit that speaks to secret #6. SECRET #6 is: The follower of Jesus views Jesus as his Master.
To come to the conclusion that you are going to wait on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities is to view Jesus as your Master. Viewing Jesus as your Master is something you do. It is not waiting in the sense of sitting back, but it's doing something. In order to make Jesus your Master you must be active and attentive.

I see 4 responsibilities here. FIRST-Your responsibility is not to be in charge, but to be ready for Jesus, the King, to take charge.

SECOND-Your responsibility is to continue relating within your support team-to one another-doing life together rather than spending your energy to keep on explaining your life.

THIRD-Your responsibility is to be anxious for nothing, but to rest in your relationship with Jesus and with others. He may have no direct orders for you today. Don't be in a hurry. You are not called into stress, but rest. Jesus calls His followers into His rest-a confident, peaceful and everything-is-going-to-be-OK kind of rest.

FOURTH-Your responsibility is to be ready to hear His voice. You must be ready to listen for your Master's voice. Don't keep telling Jesus what you want; stop and listen to Him. You might hear something important!

When you view Jesus as your Master, you are not waiting on Jesus to do what you can do. You can do what you know Jesus would do as best you can. You can relate to Him and to other followers of Jesus. You can be responsible to Jesus and to one another.

If Jesus is your Master, you're waiting for Jesus to do certain things: 1. To show up in your life as you gather in Jesus' name. 2. To give you an answer to your questions and heart's desires through an impression, a sense of peace, a desire or a thought. 3. To bring people into your life who are in need of being restored.

4. To bring people into your life who need you to walk with them-for fellowship and/or support.

When it comes to waiting on Jesus to lead out, I have had to acknowledge my sense of impatience, my struggle to remain focused and my tendency to promote people, places and things to get things done in my time. I have had to ask for God's wisdom to give me what's next. I pray for each of you that you might be encouraged and empowered by Jesus today to wait and by waiting make Him your Master.

Isaiah 40 comes to mind regarding waiting on Him: He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, 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. Isaiah 40:1-31

I was also directed in my mind to Acts 1 where it says that Jesus gave orders to wait in Jerusalem for next steps! When Jesus caught up with His disciples in Jerusalem after the resurrection, He spent 40 days with them to prove Himself to them and to teach them about the Kingdom. What Jesus said to His disciples still speaks loudly to me today: "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.'" (Acts 1:7-8).

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. If you are going to be a follower of Jesus, you must first learn to wait on Him to lead out. Then, it's much easier to follow. SECRET #6 is: The follower of Jesus views Jesus as his Master. Do you want to be a follower of Jesus? Then, wait for Him!



As you can plainly see there is an unmistakable, common thread at the core of all of the 75 SECRETS. Followers of Jesus are known to be lovers-grateful recipients of God's unconditional love, lovers of God, lovers of neighbors, lovers of others as family and now the pinnacle of it all-to be a lover of your enemies. SECRET #5 is: The follower of Jesus loves his enemies.
It was one thing for Jesus to announce to His early disciples the new commandment: "I want you to love one another just as I have loved you." That was a powerful foundation Jesus laid for them. I mean, here was quite a group of men from a variety of backgrounds. There were fishermen.

Within that group there was Peter who seemingly had no unexpressed thought. There was a cynic by the name of Thomas who was never quite sure about whatever it was that everyone else seemed to have embraced as a truth. Then there was Matthew, a hated tax collector, sort of a traitor to the Jews who worked for the Romans. Simon, the Zealot, had to have been an interesting one. He was a political activist, from a party of radicals against the Romans.

Can't you feel the initial tension in the room, when Jesus announced to them that He expected them to not only get along, but to love one another? I can hear the thoughts of some of them, thinking: "Jesus, I signed on to follow you, but not to hang out too closely with this motley crew."

Jesus had already given them a personal illustration of what He meant by loving one another, when He washed the disciples' feet. Loving one another was all about serving one another-lifting one another up higher than himself. This was a tough call, for sure!

But in order for the lover motif to be complete Jesus taught an even more radical thought for His followers to practice-to love your enemy. Let's listen in on how Jesus taught this.

Matthew records in the 5th chapter of his Gospel: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Luke records the same teaching in the 6th chapter of his Gospel: "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful."

Now get this straight. Love your enemies? This is the most radical principle ever taught and is graphically illustrated by what Jesus did by dying on the cross. The symbol of the cross was a Roman symbol of death, power and domination. It was a frightening symbol. Jesus turned the Roman symbol of fear and domination upside down and inside out. He transformed it into a symbol of love and forgiveness. He took the punishment of the dominating world power and used its symbol as the radical symbol of sacrificial love.

The power of the Jesus movement is the dynamic of sacrificial love toward everyone, but especially your enemies. There is nothing more revolutionary ever taught or lived out in this world. SECRET #5 is: The follower of Jesus loves his enemies. Do you have any enemies? You can eliminate them all right now. Love them!

Monday, March 26, 2012



Since God is love, it only makes sense that the visible expression of God through Jesus would express this same dynamic. Jesus is all about love, but not love as a subject to be discussed or a belief system. To Jesus, love is a verb! Jesus would not say, "What the world needs now is love." No, Jesus would say, "What the world needs now is not more love, but more lovers."
The follower of Jesus loves God with all his heart, loves his neighbor as himself, knowing God's unconditional love for him and now we come to the 4th secret. SECRET #4 is: The follower of Jesus loves others as family-brothers and sisters.

Jesus clearly illustrated this personally with his own family and friends. Listen to this: While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:46-50)

Here Jesus makes it clear that his family is not limited to His blood mother and brothers. His family includes His friends who are walking with Him. Then He specifies what is true about His extended family members. They consist of whoever does the will of the Father. In other words, all who are family members are those who are walking in the same direction, following Jesus by doing the will of the Father.

We are committed to a mentoring strategy in the many cultures of the world. The first mentoring house I visited blew my mind! My good friend and I flew into a prominent city in Asia and took a six hour taxi drive to visit the mentoring house. The young men who live in the house have been the lost youth of this particular culture. They were addicted to drugs and alcohol and basically adrift-some living on the streets. The mentoring house is set up as a family in a healthy context of relationships and it's transformational.

In packing for the trip I stuffed four copies of one of my books, Anyone Anonymous. This is a book using the 12 Steps to identify and handle anyone's problem. I could just see my book translated into their language; I was so excited to reveal my book with these young men. When we first visited, we went out to dinner at a local restaurant and had lots of time to discuss their lives. We asked them to each share his story since entering the mentoring house. They all told amazing stories about their addictions and difficulties prior to entering the house, but now are doing so well as they have learned to follow Jesus. When I asked them about the 12 Steps, they all had blank looks on their faces. They had never heard anything about these steps.

Well, there went my latest publishing dream! These young men have become clean and sober-even productive in their society-without any assistance from any recovery program. Their "program" consisted of being welcomed into a family setting-a group of brothers who love one another. They found healing in this context of family, all centered around the teachings and principles of Jesus.
We have recently been gathering together with three other couples. We are learning to be friends and love one another. Because we are all committed to doing life together, the bonds as men, women and as couples are proving to be deeper and richer week by week.

Just tonight we took dinner over to a couple of our dear friends. They are facing cancer as we are and we are all convinced that the only way through this is together as family. We love each other as brothers and sisters; we're family in the best of senses and we will get through our difficulties TOGETHER!

This concept of coming together as family is not enough. There is a dynamic
that must be present in order for this family to experience the healing and peace that are available. That dynamic-that empowerment-can only be found in Jesus. When each family member is following Jesus, you are free to be a spiritual family with one another. You see, the dynamic comes down to this phrase: "In the name of Jesus."

With a family like this, you have a safe place. Without a family, you are all on your own. With a family like this, you are loved and empowered. Without a family like this, you face a dark, lonely trail of disaster after disaster. SECRET #4 is: The follower of Jesus loves others as family-brothers and sisters. Do you belong to a family-the family of Jesus? If not, find out where there are family members gathering and get there as soon as possible!

Sunday, March 25, 2012



After setting up SECRETS #1 and #2 as the foundational two secrets-the secrets all the other principles build upon, I threw you a bit of a curve yesterday. I pointed out a third direction of love-God's love for you-that serves as the real underpinning of your love for God and your love for your neighbor.
Since God is love, it only makes sense that the visible expression of God through Jesus would express this same dynamic. Jesus is all about love within a relationship with Him and seeks a relationship with anyone who wants it. Whoever receives this message of God's love possesses the most revolutionary reality a person could ever experience-peace, acceptance, no guilt, the abiding presence of God, and the greatest empowerment ever imagined!

So SECRET #3 is: The follower of Jesus comes to know and accept God's unconditional love for him. I have delineated this secret into seven parts: 1. God loves you unconditionally. There is nothing you can do to earn the love of God. He loves you just as you are and there is nothing you can do to stop Him.

2. God made you to be special with a special mission. You are so unique with a DNA address that identifies and separates you from everyone else in the world.

3. God searches you out like being in a courtship. He is courting you as a lover. All He is looking for is some sort of response to His love. Do you reciprocate this love back to Him or are you ignoring or snubbing His gestures toward you?

4. God is relentless until He finds you to help you back on track. This is what Jesus was teaching, when He taught of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost or Prodigal son. God knows your heart is restless, until you find your rest in Him. He created you to be in relationship with Him-to be dependent upon Him as your Creator. If you ignore this purpose of the Creator, you will find yourself in a dependent mode on something or someone else. Then, you will be serving other gods and not the God.

5. God does not threaten you-not dangling you over the threat of hell. Most have been urged at one time or another to turn to God and avoid going to hell. Turn or burn has been the theme! God does not want you to live with this sort of threat and fear. This is why Jesus spent His time seeking out the lost, the down-and-out, the broken and the sinners. And Jesus did so with the greatest expressions of love. He only threatened the religious leadership and the haughty do-gooders. God wants a personal relationship with you through Jesus forever and forever can begin right now!

6. God set up all of the laws of the universe for your benefit. They are set up to help you live life to the fullest-to bring a more abundant life. You break those laws of the universe, you didn't just break God's laws; violation of those laws will break you.

7. God relates to people through Jesus. Jesus is the Good News that you can have a relationship with the Creator-God of the universe. In a very real sense, Jesus is the love-letter God sent to you to connect you up with God's love! It's your own personal relationship with your Creator through Jesus. This is why Jesus announced that He didn't come to condemn the world; He came to convince the world of the truth about God and the possible relationship with Him. Unfortunately, Christians seem to take on the primary job of condemning everyone else, contrary to the intent and heart of God through Jesus.

We get some insight into what Jesus believed about God's love for you in His prayer to the Father. He says: "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. "O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:22-26)

Then I think it's interesting to note what Paul's conclusion was about the love of God for those who are followers of Jesus. He says: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

SECRET #3 is the most basic and overriding secret of all: The follower of Jesus comes to know and accept God's unconditional love for him. Well, how's it going? Are you beginning to get the picture that God loves you no matter what? Think it over and then think it over again!

Friday, March 23, 2012



รจWhat does Jesus say is most important to enter the Kingdom?

Matthew 5:20: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Focus your heart on a personal relationship with Jesus and make it your business to follow after Him. Don't allow yourself to be caught up in the religiosity of following a list or system of do's and don'ts, thinking that you are impressing God while you are impressing others. Jesus makes it clear here that He is not impressed with this kind of thing, so don't you be!

Matthew 7:21: Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

The context is fascinating! In the next paragraph it's clear what's going on. 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!'

In the next paragraph Jesus illustrates exactly what He means by "doing the will of My Father", when He says: “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.”

In Matthew 18:3: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Then, again in Mark 10:15 Jesus says: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 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."

Then, in the Gospel of John, in a very familiar interaction with Nicodemus, Jesus uses a little different metaphor to say the same thing. 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."

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments." "Which ones?" he inquired. Jesus replied, " 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" (NOTE that Jesus equates eternal life with entering life and then later in this passage he speaks of entering the Kingdom of God.)

The young man shockingly states: "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." By "perfect" Jesus means to be complete and whole in your search for life.

Then, Jesus makes the following observation recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke: In Matthew 19:23-24:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Then, in Mark 10:24-25:
 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Then, again in Luke 18:24-25: Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Matthew 21:32: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."

The second dimension is in Matthew 23:13: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."
1. Those who don't have it together will enter the Kingdom first.
2. Those who think they have it together through what they know/believe and what they do may not enter the Kingdom at all.
3. And these religious "know-it-alls" tend to shut others out of the Kingdom, too.

Thursday, March 22, 2012



In SECRET #1 we saw that when Jesus was asked to choose the greatest commandment, He couldn't choose just one. He chose to set forth two inseparable commands-love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the second secret: The follower of Jesus loves his neighbor.
The way Jesus positions these two directions for your love requires that they must be viewed as inseparable-undividable! You can't have one without the other. I've always visualized this couplet as a right angle-the perpendicular vertical direction is love toward God and the horizontal direction is love toward others. It's like a big L, which stands for LOVE.

There is an interesting self-checkup within this love connection. If you feel a bit estranged or distanced from God, check out your love for others. By loving others you will find love for God. If you are feeling detached from others, check out your love for God. You will find your love for others in the heart of God. Think of the right angle L-shaped visual and do your best to practice them together.

So, who is your neighbor? Jesus was asked this and seemed to say that your neighbor is anyone you come upon who is in need. To be a neighbor you must not walk past or avoid the person in need, if you have the wherewithal to be helpful. Jesus also makes it clear that you are not to help someone, expecting anything in return.

NOTE Jesus says to "love your neighbor as you love your self." What's this all about? I think it's clear that the quality and care you take to love your neighbor ought to be equal to how much and well you love your self. Now here's the problem. If you don't love your self, then your neighbor is in a heap of trouble!

We live in a world where self-love and acceptance is rare. This may seem strange with all of the selfishness that permeates our cultures. Self-love and acceptance are not based upon your performance; they're not based upon anyone else's approval of you, although this is precisely where we naturally go for approval-to others. You won't find any sense of satisfaction in seeking approval from others. You don't want others' approval; you might want and need their affirmation of you, but not their approval. If you give the "others" in your world enough power to give you approval, you also give them the power to destroy you. Only your Maker can place the stamp of approval on you. (God has also given the right to parents to give His stamp of approval on their children, whether they do it or not.)

So, there are two directions of this love stated by Jesus-love God and love others. BUT there is one other direction of love that is the bottom-line here-the foundation of all love. The third direction of love is God's love for you and me. We love because He first loved us. Because of God's unconditional love and relentless search to have a relationship with you, you now have the ability and freedom to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.

SECRET #1 is: The follower of Jesus loves God with all his heart. SECRET #2 is: The follower of Jesus loves his neighbor. Who are the neighbors in need who have been brought your way? To follow Jesus do your best to love them and you will make a major difference in their lives as well as your own!

These first two secrets are foundational to all of the rest we are going to examine-to love God and to love your neighbors. In fact, if you ever get overwhelmed with all of the teachings and principles of following Jesus, always default back to these first two secrets. If you practice these two as a lifestyle, you will be practicing the Kingdom purely and powerfully. If you embrace these two, you will learn how to really live life to its fullest! So, why not go for it, starting today?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012



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!

SECRET #1 of following Jesus is: The follower of Jesus loves God with all his heart. Just as Jesus lived His life in a loving relationship with the Creator God He called His Father, so are you as a follower of Jesus to do the same. This first part of the greatest commandment-to love God with all your heart-was not even listed as one of the 10 commandments. It's because this is way more important than even God's big 10.

This is so similar to the first of the 10 commandments: You shall have no other gods before Me. There are three specific meanings here. FIRST-You shall have no other gods instead of Me! God wants to be your God without any substitute. SECOND-You shall have no other gods in front of Me! God takes offense at even seeing any other god placed in front of Him. THIRD-You shall have no other gods in addition to Me! God is against any sort of add-ons. The God of gods wants to be just that to you-the God of gods!

Why? What motivates the follower of Jesus to love God with all his heart? I've come up with, at least, four motivating factors-four things the follower of Jesus knows. 1. He knows God is the God of gods. There is no doubt; God is God and you are not. 2. He knows God is the source of life, goodness and wholeness. Therefore he focuses on God with all of his heart. He loves Him. 3. He knows God is there and cares. God is not distant, but very present and God is love. 4. He knows God knows him the best and loves him the most. Think of it! God knows every little weakness and flaw and yet still loves you unconditionally.

This is why the follower of Jesus loves God with all his heart. So, how about you? Do you love God with all your heart or just enough to get by? Think it over!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012



I know the term "secrets" may sound a bit strong or too promising of something not already known, but that's not my intent. I am using the term quoting Jesus, when He said to His early disciples: "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables so that, 'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'"
Another concept goes along with this term "secret" and that is "mystery." Paul used the term almost exclusively. When he wrote to Timothy he said: Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great. What was this mystery of godliness? He described the person of Jesus who appeared in space-time history by saying, He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (I Timothy 3:16)

Paul and Timothy's letter to the fellowship in Colossae Paul references his mission: that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Who is this mystery? It's Jesus the Christ. Listen to this: We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in the Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. (Colossians 1:25-29)

Jesus is the mystery and He is the one who revealed the secrets of the Kingdom to His early disciples. If you listen in on His teachings and watch what He did with an open heart, leaning in toward God, you, too, can have the secrets of the Kingdom revealed to you. I think it's best to view these secrets as more and more revelation of Jesus and His teachings. Therefore, if you seek after Jesus to follow Him the best you can, you are learning more and more about the secrets of the Kingdom. And, as you learn more about the secrets of the Kingdom, you will find the Kingdom principles boil down to being a follower of Jesus.

Several months ago I was asked if I could condense the teachings and principles of Jesus down to about a list of 20 or so. I took the challenge, but was unable to keep it down to 20 as I had hoped. So, I examined a few of the key passages of Jesus' teachings and have settled on 75. To say I've settled on 75 doesn't mean these are in concrete, but to date these are the ones I've listed out. It's really a work in progress!

So over the next few weeks (nearly 4 months) I am going to walk through each of these 75 secrets of following Jesus. And who knows? Maybe by the time we get to 75, we might find a few more in the process. Hopefully, you will find this excursion through these principles extremely practical and helpful in your daily walk.

In fact, this would be a good time to introduce others to the ACTS 29 DAILY experience. Each of these secrets will be short and to the point, easy to listen to or read. So, invite your friends and family to come along and subscribe for themselves on the website at www.embersfellowship.com.

Remember as we move through these secrets that it is all about following Jesus and hearing His voice. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice." Possibly the greatest problem you will ever face in your journey of following Jesus is taking the time to hear the voice of your Master, Jesus. Each day get in the habit of asking Jesus to speak to you personally about the secret of the day. Ask Jesus to give you the strength and courage to embrace each secret for yourself.

Before the Verizon Wireless phone commercial, I'm convinced one of Jesus' most famous questions to His followers is: CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Seek to answer this question every day. Ask Jesus to give you ears to hear and eyes to see. In my experience, anyone who comes to Jesus and sincerely seeks Him, will find Him. Anyone who genuinely seeks an encounter with Jesus will never be the same.

Monday, March 19, 2012



In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus shifts gears in His teaching style. He begins teaching by the use of short stories with a point. They are called parables.
He made this shift after the major rejection of Him and His message by the religious leadership. Jesus was riding high for a while. Those who were following Him believed their "candidate" for King and His Kingdom were going to win out. Now, they were hoping His Kingdom was going to put an end to the Roman domination. With this massive rejection of Jesus, His followers were concerned about the momentum of the Jesus movement being stifled. So, they were asking the question, "What will happen to the Kingdom now, with this rejection?"

By the use of 8 parables Jesus answers this question and gives them some sense of what the Kingdom is going to look like from now on. The heart of these parables that describe the Kingdom are the sower and the soils, the mustard seed and the leaven.

The sower and the soils demonstrate the primary activity of the Kingdom and that is the sowing of the seed. Jesus defines four different soil samples and gives a great visual to how the seed either becomes fruitful or not.

With the mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, Jesus expresses how a small seed is able to grow into a large and strong bush. This will be the nature of the Kingdom's incredible, almost invisible growth. He explains how a woman can introduce a little bit of yeast or leaven into a large lump of dough and the entire lump is permeated. With this visual Jesus is showing how irreversible the growth of the Kingdom is.

Out of all 8 of the parables in this teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom, there really is only one activity. That activity is the sowing of the seed. So, what is the seed and who is doing the sowing?

In the 8th chapter of the Gospel of Luke Jesus says, "The seed is the word of God." In the Matthew 13 passage Jesus says, "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When people hear the message about the Kingdom." So far, Jesus is saying that the seed is the word of God and that word is equal to the message about the Kingdom.

In the 4th chapter of the Gospel of Mark Jesus speaks about the sowing of the seed on the four soil samples: "The word is sown beside the road. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown." This passage reinforces the sowing of the word of God as the seed.

Now check out later in Matthew 13: Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom." Now note what Jesus does here. Jesus, the Son of Man, is the sower of the seed. AND, the seed stands for the people of the Kingdom-those who are the Kingdom kids-the followers of the King-the followers of Jesus!

Here's what I want to stress! The four ways of being and making disciples we have articulated over the last two sessions is all part of the sowing of the seed in the world. Jesus is the sower and the word of God-the message of the Kingdom-the people of the Kingdom-represent the seed that He is sowing into the world.
So, embracing the Jesus lifestyle, loving one another, meeting the needs of the needy and disenfranchised, and loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself all are part of the sowing activity in the Kingdom today.

The takeaway for me is this: DON'T SHARE OR EXPLAIN THE GOSPEL. JESUS IS THE GOSPEL! Jesus says that you are the salt of the earth-the light of the world! And now Jesus is saying that you are the Good News He is sowing into this world. This is all part of the plan of you being in Jesus and Jesus being in you. So, as you go and make disciples of all nations, be the Gospel wherever you go! Be Jesus as you touch the world around you! Can you think of anything more thrilling or meaningful than to be united with Jesus, the best Good News there is in such a bad news world?             

Sunday, March 18, 2012



To continue our thoughts contrasting and comparing evangelism and discipleship, I want to remind you that Jesus is not pushing for us to evangelize or proselytize anyone. Jesus makes it very clear that He only wants us to make disciples or make the people of all nations to become followers of Him.
Jesus gives us how to best be a disciple-maker. Jesus first wants you to be a disciple-a follower of Him. Then, your lifestyle of being a follower can be observed and shared most credibly. Within the teachings of Jesus there are four specific ways He shares for all of His followers to do so. These four ways not only grow those who have committed to following Jesus; they also most effectively show Jesus off to the nations of the world.

Let me summarize the first three we examined last session. First, Jesus wants you to embrace His lifestyle for yourself by developing the habit of walking with Jesus every day. Second, Jesus wants you to love one another-primarily other disciples-by developing the habit of walking with a few others who are following Jesus every day. And third, Jesus wants you to follow Him and pay special attention to where the heart of Jesus is-the needy and the disenfranchised-by developing the habit of waiting on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities. Remember, this is not evangelism as we have come to define it or proselyting in any way. This is discipleship the Jesus way!

The fourth foundational teaching of Jesus on how to be a disciple and make disciples may be the most important of the four I'm sharing with you. I've shared it before and you've certainly heard it before. My prayer is that this time around you might see it as a lifestyle you can embrace more diligently than ever!

Here's the problem. This teaching can't just be taught; it must be caught!
Jesus repeatedly taught what He had come to believe was the greatest commandment of all. Even when He was asked the question, "What is the greatest commandment?", Jesus answered this question very uniquely. He couldn't give just one commandment, but felt the need to share two-a kind of two in one!

On three occasions Jesus shared this same "greatest" commandment. Let's take a look at each one.

The first is in the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Mark: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. 'There is no commandment greater than these." "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

The second is in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Luke: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

The third is in the 22nd chapter of Matthew: Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Here's how I see this teaching. Anyone anywhere can do this! I was haunted throughout my youth whether I could ever please God and do His will. If these teachings of Jesus had been reframed for me so that I could embrace them as a lifestyle, I think I would have bought into them. The will of God was always a mystery to me. In fact, as I began to work and speak at youth conferences, the most frequent question thrown at me was, "How can I know the will of God for my life?"

Jesus makes it so simple. Love God and love your neighbor and you'll be doing the will of God with great assurance!

In John's first letter, he wrote something very profound. He said, "God is love." Now, if God is love then when you love, you are acting like God-you are acting God out!

Do you want to show Jesus off? Do you want the God of gods to shine through your life? Make it your ultimate and daily purpose to practice two things: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself! A disciple of Jesus doesn't just talk about love. Jesus' disciples are lovers!

Thursday, March 15, 2012



It was in graduate seminary that I had the privilege of working out so many Biblical issues. It wasn't in the classroom, but in the coffee shop that the real gems emerged. There was a group of 5 or 6 men who gathered nearly every day at the IHOP about two blocks away from school. Sometimes our discussions became so heated and interesting that we skipped chapel to continue "changing the world."
One of the early and frequent topics was to compare and contrast evangelism and discipleship. We viewed evangelism as the open door of converting a person and discipleship was the follow-up work after a person was converted. From time to time we swerved into the sub-topics of social evangelism versus friendship or aggressive evangelism. Social evangelism was basically doing good works for people-meeting their social needs, yet not expressly bringing Jesus into the interaction. We all were pretty much opposed to social evangelism. What we settled on was either aggressive evangelism-initiating a straight up conversation about salvation-or friendship evangelism, which meant building a relationship with the person first and then sharing the Gospel with him.

I spent much of my spiritual life grappling with the issue of evangelism. For quite some time, I was filled with guilt over not sharing the Gospel enough or not having many results to my evangelistic efforts.

It was not until many years later that I discovered that Jesus never commanded His disciples to evangelize anyone. The two primary commands of Jesus that are relevant here are "make disciples of all nations" and "bear witness of me" or "you shall be witnesses of me" in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the remotest part of the world.

Because we have misunderstood this, we have come to embrace evangelism as a prominent teaching and practice that is expected of all followers of Jesus. And, the misunderstanding of evangelism goes further into wrong thinking.

Evangelism has come to mean to proselytize, which means to convert a person to another faith or religion. Jesus taught none of this! We are not to proselytize or attempt to convert anyone away from their culture or religious persuasion and into our culture or religious persuasion. Not only did Jesus NOT teach this; there is no way any one of us has the ability and power to truly convert a person's heart to follow after God.

When Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples (Jesus followers) of all nations, He meant exactly what He said-nothing less, nothing more. When Jesus commanded His disciples to "bear witness of Him" to the world (John 15) and to "be witnesses of Him", starting with Jerusalem and proceed to do this throughout the entire world (Acts 1), He was not urging any kind of conversion tactics. Instead, Jesus was urging them to introduce and encourage people from all nations to become followers of Jesus. You see, when a person is introduced to Jesus, then that person has the opportunity to be converted in his heart by the Spirit of Jesus-the only one in the conversion business!

So, if Jesus is not pushing for us to evangelize or proselytize, but only to make disciples or make followers of Jesus in all nations, how does this get done? Within the teachings of Jesus there are four specific ways He shares for all of His followers to do. We'll check out three of them today and then the fourth one we'll examine in our next session together.

The first is to be found in Jesus' early teaching in Matthew 5:13-16. He says: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

Here Jesus says by embracing the lifestyle of Jesus-talking, walking, thinking and loving like Jesus, you will naturally attract the attention of the watching world and turn them toward a positive response to God. Your Jesus lifestyle will show up in a big and effective way!

The second way Jesus teaches that you can show Jesus off is found in John 13:34-35, where Jesus says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Here Jesus is saying that your love for one another will make it crystal clear that you know and are being energized by Jesus.

The third way Jesus teaches that you can show Jesus off is found in Matthew 25:31-46. He says, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.'"

Jesus makes it clear here that when you meet the needs of people around you, you are actually ministering and connecting with Jesus personally! Now that is powerful!

Jesus wants you to be a disciple-a follower of Him. More than anything else Jesus wants you to embrace His lifestyle for yourself, love others who are following Him and pay special attention to where the heart of Jesus is-the needy and the disenfranchised. By the way, this amounts to practicing the 3 habits we talk about so much: Walk with Jesus. Walk with others. Wait on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities. That's not evangelism; that's discipleship the Jesus way!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jesus' disciple has two primary roles!

Matthew 5:13-16

Now that Jesus has described what it means to be a happy, blessed and fulfilled follower, He uses two dynamic terms to position us in this world-salt and light. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

NOTE Jesus says, "You ARE the salt of the earth!" It's not that you might be or you could be, but you ARE. Salt was used as a preservative to counteract the decay in meat. In order for the salt to be effective it must be out of the salt-shaker and applied to the meat. Salt is the invisible presence of God. It must be sensed! You're the salt in the world around you-the invisible presence of God among those you touch. Just by your presence there ought to be a preserving of purity, honesty and fairness.

NOTE that salt represents the inner quality-the being of the equation. Therefore, salt is the best tag to place on the first four beatitudes-poor in spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. These snapshots are all about being, not doing. They describe your relationship with the Lord.

A saltless disciple is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. Jesus uses the term tasteless. The original Greek word is MORAINO, which means to be foolish, to play the fool, insipid, dull, flat or deficient-literally to be a MORON.

In Rabbinic literature salt is associated with wisdom-a foolish disciple has no impact on his world. In a sense salt is a warning against being good for nothing. Also, salt adds flavor to things. Jesus is to life what salt is to food. Jesus and the Kingdom lend flavor to life to be a difference-maker. The world is changed by flavoring it with your salt-like presence. It's like a thermostat; you set the temperature.

It was Saint Francis who said, "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words." This is precisely what it means to be salt. You are the salt of the earth.

Now for the second image-light. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

NOTE again Jesus says, "You ARE the light of the world!" Salt has a powerful invisible nature to it; light has more of the visible presence of God. Salt must be sensed-light must be seen! Light counteracts the darkness.

The visible presence of God consists of the energy of salt and the expression of light-IT MUST BE ATTRACTIVE AND AUTHENTIC! The core of this light can be found in loving your neighbor as yourself.

We are beyond the point where mere talk-no matter how sound-can make an impression. Demonstration is required. We must live what we talk, even in places where we cannot talk what we live. We stand again at Mt. Carmel (I K 18:20-40). THE TEST IS REALITY-AUTHENTICITY-THE GENUINE!

Whereas salt was a warning against being good for nothing, light is used to show us how to be good for something. It is the outer or doing side of these two images used by Jesus. Light is the best tag to be placed on the second four snapshots-merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker and rejoicing in persecution.

You ARE the salt of the earth and the light of the world; you are the invisible and visible presence of God on planet earth. Don't become tasteless as salt and don't dim out or cover up your light! Allow Jesus to be sensed and seen in you.
More than twenty years ago E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist writer and missionary to India, was asked to name the number-one problem in the church. His quick reply was `Irrelevance.' Not that the church was inherently irrelevant, but that followers of Jesus were failing to show in concrete ways and to tell in cogent understandable terms how the Jesus is relevant to all of life in the twentieth century.

So, how can this be done? Salt and Light.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A disciple of Jesus is to be like Jesus!


A disciple-a learner and follower of Jesus-must make it his or her single-minded focus to be like Jesus as best he can. Simply put, see and hear what Jesus does and do it! In order to be a true follower or disciple of Jesus-to be like Jesus, it's important to understand the leadership style of Jesus. Once you understand this, you can follow Him more effectively.
There are three basic dimensions to the leadership style of Jesus that are vital to embrace. FIRST-It's personal and powerful! Jesus was God in the flesh-the incarnational dimension of His leadership style. In the same way Jesus fleshed out the invisible God we are to flesh out or incarnate Jesus. We are essentially to be Jesus in all that we do. We do this by seeking to know Him better in all we do-including Jesus in every decision, every meeting and every relationship. We do this by practicing the presence of Jesus every day-walking, talking, thinking, loving and bleeding like Jesus. We miss the power in knowing Jesus, when we ignore His presence and avoid His pain. Remember Paul's words: "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings."

SECOND-The leadership style of Jesus is relational and relevant! Jesus made it clear that there is no genuine relationship with Him without being in relationship with others. This is the leadership dimension of interdependence, connection and compassion. He demonstrated this relational dimension when He chose the first three disciples to be with Him-just to be with Him in relationship-in community. When you isolate yourself, you short-change yourself and others in the family of Jesus. When you embrace interdependence with Jesus and others, you exchange your life to know the power of God. You can actually experience His power in this community.

THIRD-The leadership style of Jesus is also underground and invisible! This is the secret dimension of Jesus' leadership style you are to follow that will generate real impact, accomplishment and creativity in the world around you. His ways are just not the normal ways of man. His own disciples in much of what He tried to do opposed him. They tried to push aside the woman who had a bleeding problem. They resisted the team of men who were lowering the lame man through the roof. They wanted to send the 5000 away for them to fend for themselves rather than feed them. They viewed the man born blind with a certain disregard. They had given up on any possibility of Jesus doing anything helpful for His friend Lazarus.

We resist Jesus as well, mostly by ignoring Him. We tend toward creating and producing the visible things; Jesus was and is totally into the invisible, under the radar, approach to serving others. This is real impact-really making a difference in the world around you.

To walk, talk, think, love and bleed like Jesus is the focus and goal of the disciple. Living your life in this way means that you will be a radical. "Radical" means getting to the root or operating from the basic fundamentals of life; it's following the principles that make life work best.

The key to being a disciple is learning and practicing how to be Jesus in everything you do and wherever you are. You see, Jesus doesn't want you to demonstrate for Him (that's the easy thing to do); He wants you to demonstrate Him as you walk like He walked, talk like He talked, think as He thought, love as He loved and even give yourself to sacrificially bleed as Jesus bled for the world. That is being a disciple of Jesus-doing the toughest thing you'll ever do in your life-to follow the teachings and principles of the irresistible and attractive Jesus.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What does it mean to be a disciple?


Jesus made it clear what He expected His early followers to do. At the very end of Matthew's Gospel Jesus says: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
Whatever else can be taught from this passage, it is important that you see what was on Jesus' heart in these last words for His followers. Jesus presents one command here; it's not an option. Jesus is making it clear that He wants His followers to make disciples of all nations. Make disciples of all nations!

A disciple is literally a learner-one who listens and follows a teacher and his teachings. Jesus commands His disciples to go make disciples of all nations. "Nations" is best understood as cultures. We're realizing that no matter what culture is introduced to Jesus, the response is amazingly positive and transformational. And just as Jesus gave this command to His first disciples, it's clear that Jesus wants all of His disciples everywhere to continue to multiply more disciples.

Now, the term "disciple" is only used in the Gospels; it cannot be found in the rest of the New Testament. It's like the Gospels are filled with urging all to become disciples and the letters to the many fellowships of Jesus in the New Testament are filled with practicing what it means to be a disciple.

To me, a disciple is simply a follower of Jesus-one who hears His teachings and seeks to practice them. We are doing our best to be faithful disciples of Jesus and to obey Jesus by making disciples of Jesus everywhere we go. We see ourselves as followers of Jesus, not Christians or believers or Church members. We say it this way among our friends: "We're trying to do the most difficult thing we have ever done in our lives. We're trying to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus." This is discipleship-to know Jesus and to make Him known.

Over the next few weeks I want to open up what discipleship is all about. In order to get us started I want to make 8 observations on the elements of being a disciple. FIRST-Being a disciple is to have a teachable spirit and a heart for God. If you are a disciple, you will work hard on being a learner. You don't already have it all figured out. You are coming to Jesus as a little child.

SECOND-Being a disciple is to be holy-set apart unto God for His mission. When you are set apart in this way, you will be going against the grain-a contrarian, but you will be walking hand in hand with Jesus and that's the only way to get through the piles of life anyway.

THIRD-Being a disciple means to enhance your self-esteem. Knowing whose you are will determine who you are. When you understand clearly how centering and empowering it is to follow Jesus, He becomes the key to your self-esteem.

FOURTH-Being a disciple means to confirm your calling-your purpose in life. When you follow Jesus, you will know the reason why you are here on planet earth and have a great opportunity to act it out.

FIFTH-Being a disciple means to manage your conflicts. When following Jesus, your conflicts become opportunities for making a difference and learning more about yourself.

SIXTH-Being a disciple means to be able to express your personal faith. One of the great problems believers have is to be able to share their faith. All kinds of training materials and methodologies have been produced over the years, but there is nothing more effective in communicating your faith than being a follower of Jesus plus nothing. It's contagious!

SEVENTH-Being a disciple means to make disciples. If you are a disciple, then you will multiply yourself. You will make other disciples of Jesus as you live your life. You won't be able to stop it! Jesus will shine through!

EIGHTH-Being a disciple means to know Jesus better. Being a disciple is all about knowing Jesus. In fact, I'm convinced that this may be the only real goal for anything we ever do-in your home, in your vocation, on your vacation, as you parent your children and when you come together as a group of people in the name of Jesus.

Paul, who was apprehended by Jesus on the road to Damascus, expresses how important knowing Jesus better really is: "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)

How can I know Jesus better? That's what I want to know! In the days ahead I want to encourage you to know Jesus better. Begin by being His disciple.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

MYTH #32-Jesus taught when He is coming back!


There are two areas within the world of biblical teachings that can get people so fired up that they become distracted away from the heart of the matter. One is the subject of demons or evil spirits. The other is the area of prophecy. There are so many varied teachings on the 2nd coming of Jesus.
What's most interesting is that each position held is taught in such a way so as to make you think this is THE WAY to understand it. "Our way is right and yours is wrong." And the division continues to widen between well-meaning followers of Jesus. Divisiveness is the first area of damage in embracing this myth. When you think Jesus has clearly taught when He will return and you are the one who knows when that time will be, you will prove to be divisive.

Each prophecy teacher dogmatically stands on his teachings and against the teachings of others. There is certainly nothing wrong with disagreeing over when Jesus is coming back, but to reject or separate yourself from other followers of Jesus because of your disagreement is sick and wrong.

Over the years I have made fun of the differing positions regarding when Jesus will show up again-specifically in the rapture-the time that believers will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. Some believe in the pre-tribulation rapture theory that Jesus will show up before the final seven-year tribulation period.

Some believe in the mid-tribulation rapture theory that Jesus will show up in the middle of the seven-year tribulation-three and one-half years into the final tribulation period. Then others believe in the post-tribulation rapture theory that Jesus will show up at the end of the tribulation period.

Many years ago I came to an unshakable position on this. I am pre-trib until the tribulation starts. And if Jesus hasn't shown up by then, I will move quickly to a mid-trib position. And if Jesus doesn't show up by mid-night, three and one-half years into the tribulation, then I will swiftly move into a post-tribulation rapture theory position. And, I will not be shaken from this position. I call it the pan-trib position, meaning everything is going to pan out in the end anyway, no matter your position on the subject.

Distraction away from the primary message of the Good News of Jesus is the second area of damage in embracing this myth. When you think Jesus has clearly taught when He will return and you know when that time is, it is easy to become distracted away from cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus.
If you believe Jesus taught WHEN He is coming back and you think you know when that will be, you will be divisive and will add to the distractions away from the person of Jesus.

Jesus does speak a lot about coming back, but you will be hard-pressed to nail down the WHEN. Oh, I know most of the prophetic teaching positions that are popular today. I've even been a major proponent of prophetic teachings over the years. As I look back on that period of my life, I was so distracted away from my walk with Jesus and others, because of my focus on the latest and greatest fulfilled prophecies.

Now, since Jesus apprehended my life a few years ago, I have been less focused on WHEN Jesus is to return and am spending lots of my time and energy in getting to know WHO Jesus is. I began to be haunted by the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25. Let's check a few of these out. Jesus says: "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be." He also says: "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." And again Jesus says: "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will."

What haunts me are the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:36: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." Now, if Jesus means what He says here, then maybe the WHEN is not the important thing. If Jesus doesn't know the WHEN, then what makes any bible teacher think that he or she could possibly know it?

Don't get caught up in prophecy in such a way that you are divided from other brothers and sisters and are distracted away from learning to walk with and trust Jesus in your life right here right now. Don't focus on the WHEN. Jesus didn't teach it and you can't know it. Focus on the WHO-ON JESUS HIMSELF. That's how you can be on the alert or be ready. Nothing else really matters in comparison!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

MYTH #31-Missing the message of Jesus began in the organized Church!


This is a common myth among those of us who are so fed up with the damages of organized Christianity. It's so easy to identify the culprit in leading us away from Jesus' message as the artificial Christianization of Emperor Constantine, the atrocious Crusades, the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church or the divisiveness of the more than 35,000 sects within Christianity since the Protestant Reformation. However, to think that missing the message of Jesus began with these organizational travesties is to buy into a major myth and miss the point of what it is that goes wrong when the message of Jesus is ignored.
No, the organized Church is not where missing the message of Jesus began. It began from the very beginning with the early disciples of Jesus. There seems to be a natural tendency, no matter how much we have seen and heard, to become distracted away from the simplicity of Jesus plus nothing.

I want to walk you through one of my favorite passages that illustrates this truth unmistakably and you will also see yourself as we take a quick glimpse of what happened to the disciples. In the 9th chapter of Luke Jesus does a most unusual thing. He sends His disciples out, empowered to drive out demons, to cure diseases, to proclaim the message of the Kingdom and to heal the sick.

What makes this most incredible is that Jesus sends out these disciples who aren't really believers yet nor do they yet believe Jesus is the Son of God. So they went out into many villages and performed their mission as prescribed by Jesus. Think of it! They are brand new followers of Jesus and they have already been sent on a mission to perform incredible miracles among the people! What an experience this must have been!

Next Jesus took them with Him to a nearby fishing village in Galilee where great crowds followed them. After speaking to the crowds about the Kingdom of God and healing many of them, Jesus knew they needed to eat something so He fed over 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus performed this spectacular miracle by using the disciples to distribute the food to the masses of people. What a thrill that must have been for these disciples!

About eight days after telling His disciples that His Messianic mission included the necessity of dying, Jesus then takes Peter, John and James with Him up on a mountain to pray. While praying Jesus revealed His glory and brilliance as the visible presence of God right in front of them-the Shekinah glory. Moses and Elijah supernaturally appear with them and then the voice of God pronounces Jesus as the Son of God. Again, this must have been an amazing experience for these three disciples.

When they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met them. A man was concerned for his son who was afflicted with seizures and convulsions and complained to Jesus that the other nine disciples were unable to heal him. Jesus moves into gear and heals this man's son right away. Everyone, including the disciples was amazed at this sight!

These disciples have just been sent out to perform miracles in the villages, participated in the feeding of the 5000, three of them saw Jesus in all His glory, and they all saw Jesus heal this desperate little boy. What a ride! What a miraculous adventure watching Jesus do His thing and actually working alongside Him.

NOW, note what happens in the next three scenes with the disciples. They royally miss the preeminence of Jesus and His message. FIRST-An argument breaks out among the disciples: An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For whoever is least among you all is the greatest." What's this all about? After all of this demonstration that Jesus is the preeminent One, they have already missed the point. Jesus is the point, not them and their comparative greatness!

SECOND-The disciples become jealous over seeing another person doing things in the name of Jesus: "Master," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." Now, the disciples are caught up in comparison again. This time the problem is that there is a person doing things in the name of Jesus. Now note this! John says the problem with this person is that he is not one of us. Do you get it? This guy who is doing terrific things in the name of Jesus just doesn't match up, because he is not a member of their little group. Ever heard or seen that attitude? Again, they are missing the preeminence of Jesus. Their little group has become more important than Jesus, Himself.

THIRD-There is a problem with the response of the Samaritans: As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Now, it's getting worse! The disciples are now so miffed at the Samaritan's response that they are actually suggesting that they must be destroyed. Note, it's more serious than this. They aren't asking Jesus to call down fire from heaven; they are thinking that they might have the power in themselves to call the fire down to destroy the Samaritans-"Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" Are you kidding me? These guys have not only missed the preeminence of Jesus; they are taking on a little personal preeminence for themselves.

Missing the message of Jesus did not begin in the organized Church; that's a myth. It began with the earliest disciples of Jesus; even before the Jesus movement was officially launched! They missed it within a period of a few days in which they experienced the most miraculous adventure anyone could have ever imagined.

Who's the greatest? This guy is not one of us! Let's destroy these Samaritans who aren't receptive to our message! None of these responses by the disciples is on-message with what they have experienced in their walk with Jesus. They completely missed the point. JESUS IS THE POINT OF IT ALL! Do you see it that way or are you missing the point in your life?