Monday, April 30, 2012



Jesus declares the third prerequisite to be one of His disciples-the requirement of possessions. Note the progression of the three requirements Jesus is looking for. You must make Jesus your highest priority, then you must continue to make Him your priority no matter what-perseverance, and then all you have must be given up to Jesus for His use. With these three requirements in place Jesus says you are now eligible to be His disciple.
This final requirement Jesus presents to the crowd may be the toughest of all. Before He actually presents it, Jesus offers two illustrations that strongly urge you to count the cost of what it means to follow Jesus. The first has to do with the building of a tower: "If any of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn't he first sit down and work out the cost of it to see if he can afford to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and found himself unable to complete the building, everyone who sees it will begin to jeer at him, saying, 'This is the man who started to build a tower but couldn't finish it!'" (Luke 14:28-30)

Sunday, April 29, 2012



The first requirement to be a disciple or follower of Jesus was to make Him your highest priority of life. Jesus now declares the second prerequisite to be one of His disciples-the requirement of perseverance. The requirement of perseverance is to continue to follow Jesus no matter what happens to you. Your relationship with Jesus is your highest priority and you will not be deterred in following Him and shaping your life after Him by anything. You will hang in there no matter what.
Here's how Jesus states this requirement: "The man who will not carry his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27) Jesus' disciple must carry the cross just as Jesus did-following in the footsteps of Jesus. If you are unwilling to do this, then you cannot be His disciple. SECRET #28: The follower of Jesus continues to follow the Master no matter what.

So, what does it mean to carry the cross? The cross of Jesus was the greatest expression of sacrificial love ever. Here is God's Messiah-the Son of the living God and the most powerful person ever born-and his ultimate act was a demonstration of love, not power. The Roman Empire's symbol was the cross-an emblem of domination and power, because of their method of discipline-crucifixion. Jesus literally turned the cross upside down and inside out to turn this scary symbol of domination and power into the ultimate symbol of sacrificial love.

The disciples were looking for God's Messiah to overthrow the Roman domination and power. They believed that would be the appropriate game plan for the Messiah, so they were expecting some powerful moves by Jesus on their behalf against the Romans. This is why they just didn't hear it or didn't want to believe it, when Jesus announced His Messianic plan. His plan was to demonstrate the love of God to the world by allowing Himself to die on that Roman cross-transforming the terrifying symbol of the cross into a symbol of hope, peace and grace. Now that's the greatest example of sacrificial love ever and triggered the Jesus movement that has transformed more lives and cultures than any other movement in all of history.

So, what does it mean FOR YOU to carry the cross? I think it has to do with identifying your mission in life so much with Jesus that you actually incarnate Him-or flesh Him out. Carrying the cross is to be a sacrificial lover-to be Jesus in all you say and do.

Normally, when Jesus talks about the cross and discipleship, He uses the word to "take up" the cross. Luke uses a different word here. He uses the word that means to carry or bear the cross as opposed to take up or pick up your cross. The term Luke uses is not something you carry, but something that is attached to you. It's the same term Luke uses when he talks about Paul's mission was to bear the name of Jesus to the Gentiles, their kings and to the house of Israel. Note that Jesus says here: "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16) When you bear the name of Jesus, you will also suffer the shame of the cross.

Paul also used this term when he wrote to the followers of Jesus in Galatia, when he says: "From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body." Paul was so identified with Jesus by the scars and marks he had received while following Him. He carried this identification with him wherever he went. He didn't have to pick it up; he was already attached to Him.

When you carry the cross, you are actually so identified with Jesus that you are to be Jesus to the world around you. It's to be proactive with the love of Jesus rather than reactive against whatever or whoever assaults you.

There is a cost factor in carrying your cross. Following Jesus as your highest priority and fleshing Him out in your life will stir up lots of controversy for you. When you take the path of Jesus versus the normal ways of religious living, you will suffer the consequences. One of these consequences is that you will be excommunicated from your religious society and community. Being like Jesus, choosing the sacrificial love approach will most certainly separate you from most religious people, because you are like Jesus, a contrarian-going against the grain.

Note as the Church of Jesus became organized, the cross took on that same idea of domination and power within the Church itself. The organized Church of Christendom took on the power of being the only channel for salvation and communication with God. From the Roman Empire to Jesus to organized Christianity, the symbol of the cross went full circle. To carry the cross of Jesus in His footsteps is to resist this domination and power motif and to reverse the momentum back to Jesus. You will find great resistance as you take this on as a lifestyle.

Another consequence of carrying your cross is that you must endure everything that is thrown at you-trials, troubles, stresses, injustices and all kinds of things that will require you to give of yourself in a sacrificial way. When you think you can't take it any longer, you still hang on. It's the requirement of perseverance-hanging in there with Jesus no matter what! SECRET #28: The follower of Jesus continues to follow the Master no matter what.

Thursday, April 26, 2012



Most of the time we have in our minds that the disciples of Jesus were only the Twelve He chose. But as you examine the life and teachings of Jesus, you will come across several references to a much larger group of disciples or followers of Jesus.
Jesus was followed by crowds of people as He moved from village to village. Naturally, many of these were just looky-loos, but there were also quite a few who were taking Jesus seriously and desiring to get in line and follow Jesus. I'm sure you would have had a variety of definitions in Jesus' time as to what it meant to be a disciple. It's still a very relevant question requiring repeated and fresh examination today.

As we make our way through some thoughts on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, it's important to take Him at His word on the subject before making things up on our own. At one point in His ministry, Jesus turned to the many who were following Him and challenged them to be His true disciples. He presented three very tough requirements in order to be a disciple who claims to be a follower of Him.

In the 14th chapter of Luke's Gospel, he records all three of these requirements during one dramatic scene where crowds were following Jesus everywhere He went. We will see here that there are lots of others mentioned as disciples who followed after Jesus. Here in this passage there are crowds of people who were following alongside Jesus for a variety of reasons and Jesus makes it perfectly clear what it takes to be His disciple.

Luke writes: Now as Jesus proceeded on his journey, great crowds accompanied him and he turned and spoke to them, "If anyone comes to me without setting aside his relationship with his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine." (Luke 14:25-26)

Jesus declares the first prerequisite to be one of His disciples-the requirement of priority. There are many reasons people might follow Jesus, but if you want to in fact be a disciple of Jesus, it is necessary to make Jesus your number one, above all others, priority. He makes it tougher than just saying that He wants to be your best friend after your family members. He requires that you set aside your family members-father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters-to reduce in importance your family members in comparison with your relationship with Jesus. He is to be above them in priority. You go to Him first. So, SECRET #27 is: The follower of Jesus sets aside all relationships to make Jesus his greatest priority.

He makes it even more personal, when He says to set aside "even your own life". Jesus wants you to place Him above all of your own self-interests. This is the area where we create many of our own little gods that we come to worship and put ahead of or equal to Jesus. You cannot be full of yourself and be acting as a disciple-a follower of Jesus. There is not enough room in your heart for that balancing act. In most translations Jesus is quoted as saying that He is requiring you to hate your family and to hate yourself. We covered this recently in one of the myths about Jesus and His teachings. Jesus spoke in Aramaic and in that language the wording is clearly not "hate", but to "set aside" all others to put Jesus in first place or in the very center of your life.

Then, note that Jesus doesn't equivocate at all here. He says unless you put Him up as the highest priority in your life-the highest position of authority, you cannot be my disciple. It's not you cannot be a good disciple or one of the better disciples or a better than average disciple; it's that you cannot be a disciple of Jesus at all. There is no wiggle room here.

So, do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? Then, you must make Jesus your number one, above all others, person you go to-the one you consult first and the one you imitate most. Jesus wants you to walk with Him so closely that you don't start your day, enter into a meeting, begin a conversation, respond to a crisis, react to an enemy or end your day without talking with Him first. The requirement of priority! SECRET #27: The follower of Jesus sets aside all relationships to make Jesus his greatest priority. Will you take this challenge from Jesus and make Him your priority, starting today?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012



SECRET #26: The follower of Jesus has a private focus when fasting. Here's how Jesus said it: "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:16-18)

Fasting is the 3rd illustration of the abuse of practicing righteous acts that were meant to be before God only and practicing these acts to be noticed by others. We have seen giving, praying and now FASTING. He is saying that "when you fast", don't mope around with a long face, looking disheveled in order to show off the fact that you are fasting before the Lord.

FASTING is not simply nor necessarily to abstain from food, but from anything that hinders your communion with God. Fasting is the ultimate in practicing the principle of private focus. It's a discipline of removing all things that take your attention away from the Lord. We tend to spend most of our time talking to God in prayer and not listening. Fasting is a great way to force your self to be quiet enough and focused enough to really listen to what the Lord wants to communicate to you at the deepest levels.


#2-REMEMBER THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE! Faithfulness means successfulness, living life long-term.

#3-RECRUIT GOD AS YOUR TEAM-MEMBER! It is said that if you want to win the high jump, you want to find one person who can jump 7 feet not 7 people who can jump 1 foot. When you practice private focus, these three righteous acts (giving-praying-fasting) must be done in secret. Then God will reward you openly.

#4-RESERVE TIME ALONE-JUST YOU AND GOD! Taking the time to focus on God and your heart before Him-read, pray, contemplate-take the time for fasting. We are urged, "Be still and know that I am God."

God wants to enlighten, empower, encompass, & encounter you! He will do these things as you meet Him through fasting.

You must practice the presence of God! And when you practice the presence of God, you'll know where He is at all times. And when you know where God is, then you'll know where you stand.

Throughout Jesus' teaching He is encouraging you and me to get our support from God and relate to Him in a quiet, personal way. You see, in most cases believers operate in such a way that they have NO INVISIBLE MEANS OF SUPPORT. God wants to be that invisible means of support-invisible, yet very real and empowering.

SECRETS #24, #25 and #26 are all about private focus. The follower of Jesus has a private focus when he gives, prays and fasts.

See what happens when you practice the principle of private focus by your giving, your praying and your fasting. There is no better way to cultivate your personal relationship with God through Jesus.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012



The second act of righteousness Jesus lists is praying. This naturally falls into place as SECRET #25: The follower of Jesus has a private focus when praying.
Here's how Jesus puts it: "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." (Matthew 6:5-8)

Giving was the first righteousness and now the 2nd righteous act is PRAYING. Praying, just as giving, is a righteous act meant to be between you and God. The Pharisees loved to make a show out of it.

NOTE what they did. FIRST-They love to stand and pray in the synagogues. This is interesting. Isn't it OK to stand and pray in the synagogue (church)? Not when it is a SHOW for someone else. Several years ago, I had to ask one of our pastors not to pray inside the church facility, because it became such a spectacle. Can you imagine asking a pastor to please refrain from praying in church? I even have difficulty with public prayers. It's so easy to drift off into preaching to the people and not really talking to the God of gods.

SECOND-They love to stand and pray on the street corners so that they may be seen. To me, this is even more offensive! And note that those who pray in this way have already received their reward in full and its not from God. Some believe that if you pray out in the streets or other public arenas that it becomes a wonderful testimony to the non-believers. Jesus is against this kind of prayer that is prayed as a public testimony. Prayer is a righteous act before God. It's the principle of private focus!

THIRD-They love to pray using meaningless repetition and many words, believing that they will be heard better by God. Literally, Jesus says don't get into repeating meaningless phrases. Don't say "bata bata bata bata" over and over thinking this will be pleasing to God. Do you know anyone who prays in one or more of these three forbidden ways? Jesus is not impressed!

Jesus teaches, when you pray. Go into your inner room. Find a spot where you heard from God before, privately and away from all people and distractions, and close the door, talking only to your Father who is in secret.

Instead of using many meaningless words, try spending half of your time set aside for listening. Why? Because your Father knows what you need before you even ask.

The righteous act of praying is to be: 1-Only to your Father. 2-Without showing off in front of others. 3-In a private place. 4-Listening as well as talking to your Father.

At your next time of prayer try speaking only half the time and listening the other half. I'm learning (slowly, but surely) that Jesus wants me to shut up and resign from working for Him in an advisory capacity and listen to what He has for me. This has proven to be revolutionary for us.

SECRET #25 is: The follower of Jesus has a private focus when praying. Essentially this principle, as the one before and the one after it, has its focus on what your audience is. You see, the principle of private focus is revolutionary, because you begin to live your life before an audience alright-an audience of one-the Lord Himself.

Monday, April 23, 2012



As we examine what it takes to be a follower of Jesus, there are several recurring themes that will emerge. These themes may be counter-intuitive. They will challenge your natural way of thinking. They will be revolutionary. Jesus turns to one of these themes that counters the teachers and the teachings of the first Century. Back then as well as today there is a tendency to go public with your spiritual walk-to show it off a bit or, at least, to compare it to the way others do their walk.
Jesus makes it very clear that this public way of living your life is not the best way to live. There are some things that are necessarily public, yet most of your lifestyle has a private focus to it.

Jesus opens this section of His teaching with: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 6:1)

Earlier Jesus says that you are to let your light shine in such a way so that the world may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven. But here Jesus warns of practicing your righteousnesses before men to be noticed by them. So, what is the difference between "good works" and "practicing righteousness?" "Good works" seem to be your lifestyle-allowing your light to be seen. "Practicing righteousness" seems to be actions that are only to be between you and God. He illustrates these righteous acts with giving, praying and fasting.

NOTE that if your motive is to practice these acts in order to be seen, then you will not receive any reward from your Father. We'll see this more specifically set forth in each of the acts.
"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:2-4)

The scribes and Pharisees practiced their giving in order to be noticed by men. When they went to the Temple, they gave their coins into receptacles called "trumpets". You can imagine how much noise they could make with the coins to "trumpet" attention to themselves for others to see how holy they were in their giving. Also, they made a show of it as they gave to those in need in the streets. It was a show to seek honor from men. Jesus points out that when you give in this manner, the applause and honor you stir up from those who are impressed by your giving will be the only reward you will get for that act of giving. So, maybe you should have taped it, because that's all there is!

Jesus then offers His advice on giving: 1-As much as is possible do your giving in secret. 2-Your secret giving will be noticed by the only One that matters-God, Himself. 3-Giving in secret will bring about a special reward from God. SECRET #24 is: The follower of Jesus has a private focus when giving.

Have you ever given money, a pledge, a gift in kind or some measure of your time that you really wanted others to notice? I've been there-done that, and is it empty! Then, I became the recipient of someone's giving to me when I really needed it and had no idea where it came from. Wow! It was as if God, Himself, knew exactly what my needs were and supplied the answer to those needs through an anonymous, secret giver. Now, I can say that the most important giving I have ever done or do today is when it is a secret between the Lord and me. By the way, this will enhance your special relationship with Jesus, too. Listen to the spirit of Jesus nudging at your heart. What are you hearing regarding your giving? Where can you give in secret in a special partnership with God? Now, give and hush up!

Sunday, April 22, 2012



We come now to the final illustration Jesus uses to compare His teachings with the traditional teachings of the day. This one continues the theme of the ultimate expression of God's love. The last one was about retaliation. In this one Jesus pushes the envelope a little further to the point of loving your enemies. SECRET #23 is: The follower of Jesus eliminates all enemies by loving them.
Here's how Jesus put it: "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)

To "love your neighbor" was understood in their teaching. Loving your neighbor in the way neighbor was defined in their teachings was incomplete. Jesus enhances this teaching by taking it another level deeper. His point is that to love your enemies and even pray for those who persecute you is to act as a child of God, the Father. To be a son of God is to take on His character.

The last line of Jesus' teaching is that "you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" may be one of the most misquoted and misunderstood teachings of Jesus. He is not saying that we are to be into perfection. That just isn't going to work. There is no way! What Jesus is saying is to be full and complete in your love.

God causes the sun to rise on evil and good. God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Loving a person who loves you isn't anything special. Even the tax collectors do that. Greeting only your brothers isn't anything special. Even the non-believer Gentiles do that.

So, be full and complete in your act of loving as your Father fully and completely loves everyone-evil and good, righteous and unrighteous. Love everyone, everywhere you go, in every encounter. Demonstrate the full and complete love of Jesus. This is the Gospel-the Good News. This is Jesus, so be Jesus to everyone!

We have here the blueprint for solving the problem of alienation in our world-the ultimate solution for world peace. This is the most effective peace plan ever. Religious wars are in abundance and always have been between the various religious cultures of the world. Every religious system has had its ugly moments in history. Muslims believe all non-Muslims are going to hell.

Christians believe all non-Christians are going to hell, etc. There are ugly differences even within the major religious communities. I grew up Baptist and we believed we were the only Baptists that were going to heaven.

There are three methods of bringing these disparate movements into some form of cooperation and unity. FIRST-There is the inter-faith approach. This is usually a benign, friendly meeting with no significant results. SECOND-There is what is called a multi-faith approach. This is very similar to the first one, yet seems to include a greater respect for one another. This breeds more of a sense of cooperation, yet it falls short of what Jesus is teaching.

The THIRD approach is what Jesus is teaching here. He is teaching how to eliminate all of your enemies altogether. Simply love them! If you love your enemies, you have no enemies. This is the essence of SECRET #23: The follower of Jesus eliminates all enemies by loving them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012



Now Jesus comes to the last two illustrations comparing His teachings to what had already been taught. Both of these have to do with the ultimate expression of God's love. The first is about the issue of retaliation and brings us to SECRET #22: The follower of Jesus is not into retaliation, but sacrificial love.
Jesus says: "You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:38-42)

WOW! Now this is a tough one! Jesus now turns to His way of dealing with RETALIATION. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in Judaism. Ask most people and they will say that this has something to do with "retaliation in the Old Testament" versus "love and forgiveness in the New Testament." This isn't true. Judaism never interpreted it in this way. An "eye for an eye" had to do with providing for limited liability in matters of legal compensation. Jesus is teaching to go beyond the minimum required of you when you are wronged!

They were laws for civil courts to apply, but the scribes and Pharisees interpreted these statements to justify personal retribution and retaliation against their enemies. They used them to take matters into their own hands-REVENGE. However, the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ both teach that vengeance was to be left up to God.

Jesus taught two things here: 1. Do not resist an evil person. Not only should you not take vengeance into your own hands, but don't even oppose the evil person when the evil is being done.

2. Respond to evil by doing good. Turn the other cheek. Give more to the person suing you than what was asked. Respond to government oppression by offering to do more than what is demanded. Respond to those who ask for help by giving them what they ask.

NOTE in each case the principle is the same. We are not to resist the person who would mistreat us or who would try to deprive us of our possessions. Instead, respond in a positive manner to demonstrate the love of Jesus toward them by freely giving them more than they were hoping to gain by force, oppression or manipulation.

Joseph did this in forgiving his brothers and helping them later in life. David spared the life of Saul, who was out to kill him. Jesus, Himself is the primary example. Stephen while he was being stoned. Early believers who gladly received martyrdom and the plundering of their goods. Paul teaches that we are to scoot over and leave room for the wrath of God on those who are doing us evil, to overcome evil with good.

A modern day illustration of this expression of sacrificial love could certainly be Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi took this teaching of Jesus and did something very unique; He actually lived it out to its ultimate. By doing this Gandhi not only changed a nation, but made a lasting impact upon the world. He is still viewed as one who was most like Jesus ever.

I see this principle that is so contrary to "human nature" as one of the ultimate ways to fully trust Jesus to come through on our behalf. Maybe if we had the courage to actually have this kind of response, then Jesus might demonstrate Himself among us in a mighty and supernatural way. The next time you are mistreated in some way, take the challenge and look for ways to overcome evil with good. Then your "righteousness" will exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.

It's like Jesus is saying, when a person attacks you externally, go deeper and respond to him from the heart with love (internally). If a person slaps you on the cheek, you know that this person must really be in a world of hurt to do that to you. The inner aching in his heart is much worse than a bruise on the cheek. So, hit me again if you must. But I'm going to show you the love of Jesus that you so greatly lack by my response to you!

Talk about spiritual revolution! Take on SECRET #22: The follower of Jesus is not into retaliation, but sacrificial love.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012



In the first two teaching illustrations of Jesus here He taught that whether it's murder or adultery, it's a heart issue. Now He deals with two more illustrations-divorce and vows. These illustrate SECRET #21: The follower of Jesus does not take his vows lightly; he is a man of his word.
Here's what Jesus taught: "It was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil." (Matthew 5:31-37)

With respect to divorce Jesus' listeners were used to "Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce." Divorce was allowed by Moses in the Law as an accommodation to the failure of a marriage. The reasons were as loose as they are today-even for being obnoxious! The religious of the day were basically concerned about doing their paperwork and then they could move ahead with divorce.

Your marriage is a serious commitment and therefore divorce is a serious offense. God hates divorce. He hates it, because it brings destruction and distortion to the individuals and to His image.

With respect to vows we find another misapplication of their religious teachings and practices-making oaths or vows they did not intend to keep. They made many vows (promises), but found ways to get around them. This was not in legal situations, but in ordinary conversation.

Jesus is referring to: 1-Swearing that something is true when one knows it is false. 2-Failing to do what one has promised under oath. In the Old Testament, if you would swear something and bring God's name into it, it better be the truth and you better do what you said-fulfill your vow. The Pharisaical practice was to trick people (usually the outsiders) by swearing to do something or that something was true "by heaven" or "by God's creation (earth)" or "by Jerusalem." The trick might be to swear "by the Holy Temple" that you will do this or that. But, among the Pharisees they knew that you had to swear "by the gold in the Holy Temple", then it was binding. They were caught up in getting around doing what they said they would do by the technical use of terms. They also felt that God, Himself, was not involved in these transactions and therefore they were not binding. Jesus had 4 things to counter this action: FIRST-God cannot be separated from life's transactions. Heaven is God's throne, earth is God's footstool and Jerusalem is the Messiah's Capitol.

SECOND-Don't make vows you don't intend to keep.

THIRD-Don't make vows that depend upon your control as if you are in control. God is still in ultimate control-"if God wills".

FOURTH-Fulfill your vows to the Lord by being clear with your words-yes means yes and no means no. Here are some practical applications: 1. Always speak the truth and you won't need to hedge with some sort of oath. I think it's funny when a person prefaces a statement with "I'm going to tell you the truth!" What was he saying prior to this? Lies? 2. When you make an oath, keep it. 3. Do not make someone else responsible for your statements or your actions.

Your vows of marriage are far more important than getting your paperwork done and giving your word on something is a sacred trust.

God is still on His throne-still very much in charge-talk like it, act like it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012



In the same way that an angry heart is murdering someone, so is lusting after someone in your heart adultery. So, SECRET #20 is: The follower of Jesus knows his heart of lust is equal to adultery.
Here's how Jesus articulates this teaching: "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell." (Matthew 5:27-30)

Jesus' revolutionary teaching continues to turn the Pharisaical teachings inside out and upside down. Although the teachings they had heard were strong, they pertained to the external aspect a relationship only. As He did with respect to the issue of murder and took it straight to the heart of a person, Jesus does the same thing with the external act of adultery.

Jesus makes it clear that lust in your heart for another is committing adultery. According to Jesus, if you have ever lusted after another, then you are an adulterer. Note that this has nothing to do with a physical or emotional affair. This is a matter of the heart! We tend to draw the line as good Pharisaical believers at "having sex" with another. But Jesus erases all lines and calls the lust in your heart adultery. So, are you an adulterer? Sadly, I am. I don't know of anyone with a pulse who isn't!

NOTE Jesus repeats again the end result. If you are a person filled with anger in your heart, you are as guilty as a murderer. The end result is that you are worthy of being thrown into "hell". I think it's important to understand the use of the term "hell" here. The word here is "gehenna" and refers to the cursed garbage pit just outside the walls of Jerusalem. It was cursed because babies were sacrificed to the god of Mollech. Gehenna or the Valley of Hinnom was thought of as the worst place to be. Jesus uses the same warning with respect to adultery. You who have a lustful heart are worthy of being thrown into gehenna.

This is the first time Jesus ever uses the term and unfortunately it has been translated "hell" right from the beginning. The Jews hearing Jesus refer to gehenna in this way were not thinking of a future place of torment and torture; they were thinking in terms of their local, horrendous, cursed, fiery garbage pit. He was saying that a person who is filled with lust in his heart is worthless enough to be thrown into this pit.

When Jesus mentions that it would be better to remove a body part than to have your whole body thrown into gehenna, Jesus is using hyperbole. He is saying: "Do whatever you have to do to keep from stumbling." This is like a doctor cutting off a limb to save a person's life. This is not to be applied literally. However, it points to the seriousness of violating the principles of God.

Jesus is pushing very hard at this point. There is literally no way out of being convicted of this sin. You see, Jesus is setting it all up. God requires perfection. Plan A says that you must be perfect. But since no one is able to rise to this perfection, you must move toward the perfection of Jesus, the Messiah. That's Plan B!

So Jesus starts by calling you a murderer and now an adulterer. I mean to tell you, there's no way out, EXCEPT through Jesus. SECRET #20 is: The follower of Jesus knows his heart of lust is equal to adultery. You are guilty at the core of your being-your heart-and only Jesus can get you out of this planet alive! Remember His words: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, even though he dies, shall live." You may be worthy of that pit, but Jesus is able to set all things right!

Monday, April 16, 2012



In this early presentation of Jesus we come now to where Jesus actually moves through 6 specific teachings taught by the scribes and Pharisees and then gives His teaching on each one. Each teaching is from the Law that Jesus says He will not abolish, but will fulfill. Each time he prefaces the teaching with something like "You have heard it said, but I say to you." The difference is very clear and deeply convicting.
Beginning with the 21st verse in chapter 5 is the teaching on murder: "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever, commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent."

This refers to a debtor's prison. Handle your conflicts to the best of your ability to avoid hurtful circumstances. I don't think anyone would be against this teaching that a murderer ought to be sent to court for some accountability. Jesus takes the entire matter deeper. He is saying that murder is not committed simply on the social level between people (externally), but murder goes deeper into the heart (internally).

Jesus says: 1st Degree Murder is anyone who is angry at another brother. The root of murder is in the heart-anger! Now, you will have anger, but don't hang on to it and allow it to fester. That will prove to be as destructive as the social act of murder.

2nd Degree Murder is anyone who calls his brother "good-for-nothing". The word, Raca, has to do with attacking one's head, calling him stupid!

3rd Degree Murder is anyone who calls another a "fool", this term has to do with contempt for a person's heart and character. Jesus covers the entire spectrum of anger!

Jesus then drives His point home by using an extreme illustration. Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you; in other words, Jesus says that even the high act of worshipping God must not take precedence over your relationships with others. This is a powerful point! He will reiterate this dynamic later in this speech. You must understand that your relationships with one another are at the heart of God! Jesus sets forth the procedure to follow. Leave your offering there-stop your worship or attention toward the Lord.

Go to your brother-seek out this offended one. Be reconciled to him-as far as it depends upon you. You may not accomplish full reconciliation in return. Then come and present your offering-now you are ready to face the God of gods.
Be careful not to act like a Pharisee and wrangle over words, like saying, "Well, I haven't really had 'anger' in my heart, maybe 'dislike' but not anger or called anyone 'stupid' or 'fool', therefore I have not done any of these things that are at the heart of murder.

GET OVER IT! You may not have murdered someone in society (an outward act), but you are guilty of murder through one or more of the degrees of murder (an inward act). NOW ACT UPON IT. THE JESUS WAY! Embrace SECRET #19: The follower of Jesus knows his heart of hate is equal to murder. To Jesus everything originates in the heart, so guard your heart by wrapping it around Jesus and His teachings. You'll never go wrong with that!



SECRET #18 is The follower of Jesus lives his life inside out. Jesus teaches this principle on many occasions, but the first time is in Matthew 5:20. He says: "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."
As I pointed out in the last secret, Jesus is not saying here to be more showy than the scribes and Pharisees were. He is actually saying that He is looking for you to go beyond or deeper than that external religious show and get back to the heart of the matter-internally.

In the Old Testament and quoted again in the New Testament God says: "I want compassion and not sacrifice." God, Himself set up a most extensive and pervasive sacrificial system, yet wants your heart of compassion. There is a natural tendency toward external religious motions. It's to show to others how religious you really are.

What God wants is a heart relationship and not an external religiosity. The external consists of man-made traditions and commandments. These are usually add-ons that either smother or nullify the essence of what God wants.

There is a theme throughout the teachings of Jesus. It's being before doing. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks upon and evaluates the heart. This is what it means to live your life inside out. You are living your life before an audience of one-your Creator. Whatever is on the inside (being) will flow out into your actions (doing).

There is also the theme of salt (inner character) and light (external lifestyle). Your inner character of salt is required before your outer expression of light. This, too, is all about living life inside out. Lived out this way your life will be more credible, attractive and effective.

When you live your inside out-salt before light and being before doing, your life will become more and more like a fountain. People love to be around a fountain and enjoy it. People come to the fountain; the fountain is not taken to the people. This is the way you want to live your life-so attractive that people want to see and know more about where the center of your life really is. What makes you tick? What makes you so attractive?

I have often expressed that believers tend to move into a stance that has very little effect in changing their world. Believers tend to talk to themselves about the world or talk to the world about themselves. The favorite pastime of the church is to confess the sins of those outside the church. My favorite line is, "We are judging the world and talking to ourselves, when we ought to be judging ourselves and talking to the world!"

It's so much easier to busy ourselves with causes, but these 'good' causes get in the way of the 'best'-changing our world for good and forever! Bob Briner's book, SEVEN NOBLE CAUSES THAT KEEP CHRISTIANS FROM CHANGING THE WORLD, is right on target here! Check out the external, noble causes he lists: 1.    Squabbling over prayer in public schools! 2.    Making Jesus a right winger! 3.    Thwarting the homosexual agenda! 4.    Fighting other Christians over doctrinal purity! 5.    Shutting down the abortion clinics! 6.    Cleaning up television! 7.    Fighting for family values!

These external causes are nothing more than deadly detours away from matters of the heart. It's all about external demonstrations for Jesus, but has little to do with demonstrating Jesus to the world.

We take deadly detours because they make us feel active and engaged. Why? Because it is so difficult to live your life from the inside out. It's so much easier to do something external and not really own it in your heart. To talk the walk is easy; to walk the walk is living like Jesus and that's tough. This is why I often say: "I'm trying to do the toughest thing I've ever tried to do in my life. I'm trying to following the teachings and principles of Jesus." This is why SECRET #18 is key: The follower of Jesus lives his life inside out.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


After painting a portrait of blessed believers, Jesus begins more specifically answering the question in everyone's mind: "How does your teaching differ from what we've been taught?" He positions His teachings with the Mosaic Law. Jesus makes it clear that He does not nullify the Law in any way, but has come to fulfill it. To fulfill literally means to fill it full. Imagine an empty glass as the Law and filling up the glass with Jesus. The Law was the form and Jesus is the substance! The Law of Moses spoke and illustrated Jesus throughout, then Jesus shows up to fill up the form set forth by that Law.
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever, then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever, keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20)

NOTE that Jesus in no way excludes the Jewish people and their Law of Moses, but only has difficulty with their application of it. In fact, Jesus isn't like the Christian exclusivists. He is always inclusive. Jesus unites. Everything and everyone else tends toward dividing. I don't know many people like this Jesus.
NOTE that Jesus gives the requirement for entering the kingdom of heaven. Your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. Wow! Is Jesus saying that we are to be more religious than these Jewish leaders? Not at all-just the opposite!

The scribes and Pharisees were some of the most religious people ever. Their religiosity was all about external matters-separation from sin and sinners and cleansing oneself. The Pharisees were known for: 1. Professing righteousness without possession of it! 2. Being hyper-critical-not hypocrites in the normal sense, but hair-splitters, nit-pickers, feather-pluckers! 3. Emphasizing the letter over the spirit of the Law-all truth and little grace! 4. Making absolutes out of non-absolutes-listing as many rules and regulations as possible! 5. Drawing the condemnation of men on righteous acts before God-such as praying, fasting, giving.

Jesus was not saying to outdo these super-religious people. He was saying that your righteousness must surpass their righteousness. I believe He is saying that your righteousness must go deeper-from the externals into the internals. Remember, God looks on the heart (internals) while man looks on the outward appearance (externals). Righteousness as Jesus teaches it is a matter of the heart.

I think the most important aspect of this section of the teachings of Jesus is how Jesus came to fill up the Jewish container shaped by their laws, traditions, dreams and desires. The more I study other religions, their laws, traditions, dreams and desires, the more I understand that Jesus came to fill full all of the religious containers of the world. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of everyone's heart. No matter the cultural or religious background of those you meet, Jesus will prove to be the ultimate fulfillment for them. All I want to do is introduce Jesus to them so that they recognize Him, whom they have sought after all their lives.

SECRET #17 is: The follower of Jesus respects all laws & religious structures, knowing his Master will fill it full of meaning and fulfillment. In the same way Jesus fills up the Jewish container I understand that this is the same thing Jesus does with every religious and cultural container in the world. Jesus is the only one in the world who can bring the world together in unity. I see it every day: Jesus unites and most everything else divides!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012



Salt and light! Salt is the invisible presence of God that must be sensed by the world. Salt is the inner dimension of your faith walk that is most important. Light is the external dimension of your faith walk. Unless your act of following Jesus works from the inside out-salt first, then light, you will find yourself without the invisible presence of God. Without the saltiness of the invisible presence of God, you'll tend to end up just faking it.
SECRET #16 is founded in Jesus' teachings about the light. He says: "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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16) SECRET #16 is: The follower of Jesus is the light of the world for all to see.

Whereas the dimension of salt must be sensed and not seen, the dimension of light must seen in order to be effective. Salt has more to do with your character; light has to do with your lifestyle. The implication here is that there is a watching world around you. They are watching how you live your life in the good times and in bad.

Jesus taught that He was the light of the world and here He teaches His disciples that they are to function as the light of the world, too. It seems that Jesus wants His disciples to walk closely in His steps, so that His disciples are actually carrying out His teachings. I've come to see that the followers of Jesus are called upon to be Jesus as they come in contact with others. This is essential to understanding what it means to be the light of the world.

To be the light of the world also means to love one another. Jesus makes it clear that loving one another will let the world know more clearly about Him and His message.

To be the light of the world means to bless others, even when you are insulted. To do this will stir up a curiosity in others to ask you for the reason for the hope that is in you. Why do you act so differently? Instead of getting even, you try to make things right. This shines the true light of Jesus in a world full of darkness.

To be the light of the world means to have as your life question toward others: What can I do to help? (And, really mean it!) To shine as light in darkness is to meet the needs of those you encounter as you are able-to be a good neighbor, even to your worst enemy.

To be the light of the world means to be willing and ready to share your personal story when the opportunity arises. This does not require you to preach, teach or set anyone straight. You don't want to be a bright spot light, but a helpful light that eliminates the darkness in people's minds and lives.

Jesus said: "You ARE the salt of the earth." Just like the dimension of salt, Jesus says: "You ARE the light of the world." People are attracted to the light. You don't have to do anything spectacular; just live your life from the inside out-from salt to light! Be very aware that who you are matters and can make a significant difference in your world. In a sense, with salt and light you are more like a thermostat that sets the temperature rather than a thermometer that reports what the temperature is. With salt and light, you can be proactive and not just reactive!

SECRET #16? The follower of Jesus is the light of the world for all to see. When they see you, may they see Jesus, simply Jesus.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012



Now that Jesus has described what it means to be a happy, blessed and fulfilled follower, He uses two dynamic terms to position you for the mission He has for you in this world-salt and light. The first is salt and sets us up for SECRET #15: The follower of Jesus is the invisible salt of the earth-the very presence of God.  
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."

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 saltshaker and applied to the meat.

Salt is a vivid image of what Jesus wants from us. Salt has always been a highly valued commodity. It was even used for money. Roman soldiers were often paid in salt for their salary.

Salt is healing and soothing. The Hebrew word "salt" not only means to be soft, smooth and soothing, it was believed to possess healing properties. Salt was rubbed over newborn babies as a sign of cleansing and healing. Along with this idea, salt is a symbol of peace. We are not only called to bring peace, but to bring soothing and comfort to those who are in pain.

To be a saltless or tasteless disciple you are good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. Tasteless is the word for foolish, dull, flat or deficient-to be a moron. To be the salt of the earth is to be full of wisdom. The foolish disciple has no impact on his world.

Salt adds flavor to things. Think of it this way. Jesus is to life what salt is to food. Jesus lends flavor to life and is therefore a difference-maker. It means that you as salt have the power to change the world-to flavor it.

In order to be salt it's important to understand the principle of invisibility. I view salt as the preserving, invisible presence of God. It's not what is seen; salt 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 effect of purity, honesty, fairness and wholeness

ONE MORE OBERSERVATION: Salt was added to each sacrifice offered. In fact, salt was necessary to make the sacrifice complete. There had to be the offering or sacrifice and the salt. Think of it this way. Jesus is the sacrifice. You are the salt applied to it. In other words, you as the salt of the earth are necessary to complete the ultimate, sacrificial love demonstration ever. In a real sense, you are the salt of the earth and your saltiness completes the message of love Jesus came to give.

SECRET #15? The follower of Jesus is the invisible salt of the earth-the very presence of God. You ARE the salt of the earth. How's it going?

Monday, April 09, 2012



As we unpack the 14th secret of following Jesus, we come to the last snapshot or beatitude: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
SECRET #14 is: The follower of Jesus rejoices and celebrates when persecuted for being a follower of Jesus alone. To rejoice in persecution is to develop the big picture on all troubles-especially the stresses that others bring upon you. Life is full of stress and distress. Many of life's stresses are circumstantial. I recently read: "You know it's a bad day when the sun comes up in the West, when you jump out of bed and miss the floor or when the bird singing outside your window is a buzzard or when you put both contact lenses in the same eye or when your pet rock snaps at you. When the blind date turns out to be your ex-wife or when your income tax refund check bounces." Those are circumstances that spell trouble.

NOTE the reason for persecution here. It's that same word we saw earlier-righteousness. As you hunger and thirst for righteousness-being like Jesus (allowing Him to live His life through you)-you will make people uncomfortable and they will pick away at you.

ALSO note the kinds of persecution mentioned here. It's insults, falsely saying all kinds of evil against you because of the Jesus and Kingdom lifestyle you are embracing. And when you note who it is who is doing the persecuting in the New Testament against the early followers of Jesus, you will quickly find that this kind of persecution comes from other religious people who are jealous and threatened.

When Jesus, the Righteous One, came to explain the love of God to mankind, His simple message was to present Himself and the gospel of the Kingdom. It didn't contain a system of do's and don'ts that normal religious groups do, so this made the religious people of the day uncomfortable enough to persecute Him terribly to the point of putting Him to death-to silence this simple one. If you are simply walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Jesus to lead out in your life, you will face the same kind of criticism and backlash. Your simple faith will make others very uncomfortable-especially those who believe they have it all together, bolstered by their many theological and religious props. However, for those who are discontent, hurting, burdened down by all of the religiosities in the world, you will be a welcome sight-a bright light of hope.

The pre-requisite necessary for you to rejoice in persecution is to refocus your heart. Your passion for filling up the hole in your soul with simply Jesus-for genuine satisfaction and fulfillment in Him-can set you up as a primary target for an onslaught of verbal persecution. When you begin to experience a sense of inner satisfaction and some level of fulfillment, you will find the jealousy and envy of others waiting to cut you down to their size-or lower!

Rejoice in persecution is the attitude that is necessary to stand up against this verbal barrage. The attitude is to take a bigger view of it all. Those who are verbally attacking you are hurting deeply within themselves. What is most encouraging is that they have noticed something about you. You are growing up. You are beginning to find a personal satisfaction that sets you apart. Your response must be to redouble your efforts in refocusing your heart even more.

You'll need it to truly rejoice in the midst of this kind of persecution. Keep on hungering and thirsting for that inner, spiritual satisfaction for your soul by walking with Jesus and walking with others. Then rejoice in persecution. This will drive your detractors nuts. Enjoy it.

NOTE what is promised for those who rejoice in persecution. Jesus says, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." We saw that at the very beginning with Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The first snapshot and the last-poor in spirit and being persecuted for being like Jesus. It's like all 8 beatitudes are wrapped up in a package-all describing what a citizen of the Kingdom looks like. What a picture it is!

All of the 75 secrets of following Jesus describe a very different lifestyle-the Kingdom lifestyle, all unveiled by the King-Jesus. In a very real sense, these last 8 snapshots or secrets make up a collage of Jesus Himself. So, to embrace these for yourself is to embrace Jesus and His Kingdom personally. Don't hesitate on this. There are many treasures and secrets of the Kingdom that will enable you to make the rest of your life, the best of your life. So, embrace SECRET #14: The follower of Jesus rejoices and celebrates when persecuted for being a follower of Jesus alone.

Sunday, April 08, 2012



We are continuing through the 8 snapshots Jesus offers concerning what a Kingdom dweller looks like. We have come to the seventh snapshot or beatitude. It is: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
This is all about restoring peace. To restore peace is to develop peace within your sphere of influence wherever possible. To be a peacemaker requires that you make peace where there is no peace. Search for trouble, distress, brokenness and those who are living in pieces. You don't have to look too far. Listen to those around you. There is a great void out there-a great need to be understood. In fact, you probably won't have to search, just listen and be aware. This is a strategic discipline that carries with it the dynamic message of the Gospel (Good News). This is Jesus-peace where there is no peace.

In order to restore peace you must see the other person's strengths. This proves that you are listening and truly understand. Seek answers for what's best for this person. Do what you can do to promote peace making-love, trust, and forgiveness. The world around you is in such desperate need of experiencing inner peace. When I even casually mention forgiveness in a seminar session, I notice the light bulbs switching on throughout the audience. People are in great need for healing-for knowing inner peace.

The story is told in Spain of a father and his teenage son who had a relationship that had become strained. So the son ran away from home. His father, however, began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last ditch effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read: "Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father."

The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office over 800 "Pacos" showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. Believe me, there are massive amounts of Pacos out there looking for peace!

NOTE that being a peacemaker emerges out of the beatitude of meekness. So, how can you best restore peace in the world around you? The pre-requisite is to renew your confidence-develop the attitude of meekness. Remember that meekness is a quiet, controlled inner strength. You don't have a chance to be a peacemaker without that quiet, controlled inner strength. You see, without that attitude of meekness you have the tendency to be a reactor to people and things rather than be proactive, which is what restoring peace requires.

Meekness is the inner strength that allows you to be a peacemaker. Restore peace and make people whole or remove yourself from this responsibility and leave the people around you in pieces. So, choose to restore peace.

ALSO NOTE the peacemaker will be called a son of God. This is what God does. He brings peace to the world at great cost to Himself. When you are a peacemaker, you are like your Father in heaven.

I like the simple prayer that says: "Dear Lord, as in the world I toil and through this world I flit. I pray make me a drop of oil and not a piece of grit!" "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." So, SECRET #13 is: The follower of Jesus seeks to make peace where there is no peace.

Friday, April 06, 2012



The first 4 snapshots are about your heart before God: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." The second 4 snapshots are about your heart relationship before God as you relate to others. The first one of these is: "Blessed are the merciful and they will be shown mercy." Remember, being merciful emerges out of being poor in spirit.
Now today we come to the sixth snapshot or beatitude. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." On the surface being "pure in heart" doesn't appear to have much to do with others. But when you check it out as this term is used throughout the Scriptures, it's clear that "pure in heart" is about being loyal, honest and trustworthy as a friend. In the Proverbs it says "the king's friend is pure in heart." Pure in heart is one who can be counted on at all times-a safe person to have on your team.

To be pure in heart is basically relating as a loyal friend. To relate as a friend is to develop relationships where there is trust and love! Where there is trust and love, there is affirmation. Don't relate to others as friends for their approval. You don't want to give anyone that much power. You only seek approval from your Creator-your Higher Power. With friends, you must seek affirmation.

The discipline here is to determine not to be a Lone Ranger in living your life. You need friends around you and you must be the one who has this discipline as an initiative for your own life. You must be first in relating to another, not waiting for others to befriend you. But note how it must emerge out of your mourning over that which keeps you from God. Friendship begins in your heart! So, SECRET #12 is The follower of Jesus is a loyal, honest friend.

The pre-requisite for relating as a friend is to reframe your weaknesses! In other words, if you are going to be a safe friend, you will be helped by being sensitive to that which keeps you from God-by mourning. If you want to be more effective relating as a friend, you must check out how well you reframe your weaknesses. How is the mourning process going? You can't be a good friend unless you have a lifestyle of being sensitive to your own weaknesses.

There are two critical cautions at this point: First, don't relate to another who is not into some sort of mourning. If you try to be a friend to a person who isn't sensitive to his weaknesses and therefore in denial, you may be in big trouble. Solomon warned that if you relate to a fool, you will end up living as a fool, too. When a person hasn't reckoned with his/her weaknesses, he tends to want to point out yours in a condemnatory fashion.

Second, don't relate to another person without reframing your weaknesses. I have played the part of a fool on too many occasions. I've allowed people to use me to gain credibility that they lacked, allowed people to use me to pay for their own guilt by pointing out my failures, allowed wreckage to remain at the side of life's road, and allowed my naiveté to bring condemnation down upon me.
Without proper mourning you waste your sorrows and troubles, because without proper mourning there is no comfort and joy-satisfaction. And, without that satisfaction, you will find it very difficult to relate as a friend.

Everyone is in desperate need of the dynamic of friendship. Without a friendship you die. Life flows through it and death reigns without it. How are you doing in developing this discipline? Make sure to live your life with trusted and loving friends. A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you've forgotten the words. But there's one more dynamic I'd like to suggest. Turn your friends into "walking partners" as you walk your walk with Jesus. Learn to discuss and do things in the name of Jesus and in the spirit of His Kingdom in that relationship. This will deepen any friendship into a life partnership as you learn to do life together.

ONE MORE THING: The pure in heart are given a special reward for taking care of the heart. They will see God. Whatever else that means, it's clear that God puts a high premium on your heart. Want to see God, then allow Him to own your heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." SECRET #12 is: The follower of Jesus is a loyal, honest friend.             

Wednesday, April 04, 2012



The first 4 snapshots or beatitudes are about your relationship before God. They are quite personal-poor in spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. The second 4 are internal qualities also before God regarding our relationship with others. Each one extends out of another. Here is a visual of how this relationship works. If you make two lists side by side with the first four on the left and the second four on the right, you will observe some fascinating things about the interrelationships within all eight snapshots.
NOTE the left side of the chart has to do with the first four and each is expressing what it means to be into BEING. The list on the right has to do with the second four and each of these is expressing what it means to be into DOING.

NOTE one more thing. Each of the being snapshots is the basis for the doing snapshots. In other words each of the DOING snapshots emerge out of the BEING ones. In order to understand merciful, it is helpful to define its source in poor in spirit. This is the same for each of the DOING snapshots that we are about to discuss.

Now, let's move on to the fifth snapshot or beatitude. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." The action step here is to reach out with compassion. So, SECRET #11 is The follower of Jesus is filled with compassion toward others. To reach out with compassion is to treat everyone with grace and mercy. This means to identify with other's needs or plight in life in a compassionate way. Insert yourself into their shoes as best you can. Search for how you might best assist them. Initiate a positive effect toward the people in the world around you. Remember, whatever energy you give out, you receive it back at that very moment. It's a reciprocal principle of life. When you give out something to another person, you receive it by the very act of giving it away. So, when you show mercy to someone, you feel this same mercy coming over you.

Reaching out with compassion is a source of healing for those you touch and for yourself, so that everyone gets better. Don't forget, this is not just an action toward another person; it's an attitude that is most natural and present within the Kingdom lifestyle.

There is no way you will be able to reach out with compassion or be merciful without the dimension of being poor in spirit where you reaffirm your spiritual bankruptcy without God. Poor in spirit is a pre-requisite for being merciful to others.

Therefore, in order for you to be able to reach out with compassion you will do well to reaffirm your poverty. In other words, if you want to check out how you can reach out with compassion more effectively, start with reaffirming your poverty. Start with checking whether or not you are poor in spirit. This makes so much sense when you think about it. It's very difficult to show compassion to another person, when you are filled with pride and haughtiness. On the other hand, when you are a person who has a right evaluation of your self, God and others, you are freed up to be able to show genuine compassion to others. When you have received grace from God, it's much easier to give out mercy.

Is it difficult for you to show mercy to other people? Then check out being "poor in spirit." If you are understanding of your wickedness and wonder-your poverty before God-a right evaluation of yourself before God, then you are able to offer mercy to another. If you are so caught up in yourself, then you won't find it easy to extend mercy to another person at most any level.

So, beginning with a sincere acknowledgment of your desperate need for God, reach out to all those around you with sincere compassion. And, you will receive it right back in the process. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." This is better than Karma. This is immediate!

SECRET #11? The follower of Jesus is filled with compassion toward others.

Monday, April 02, 2012



As we make our way through the beatitudes, which are really snapshots of what a Kingdom dweller looks like, we come now to the 4th. So far we have discussed: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This means to reaffirm your poverty-your need for God--to have a right evaluation of yourself before God-both the wickedness and the wonder parts. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." This means to reframe your weaknesses; it's mourning over whatever it is that keeps you from Jesus and the Kingdom lifestyle. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." This snapshot means renew your confidence-to develop a quiet, controlled strength that is not compelled to be reactionary.
What's interesting to me is that each of these first three snapshots speak of where you lack. After practicing these three disciplines, you are pretty much filleted. You are ready for anything that will fill you up. This is precisely what the 4th snapshot will do. Check it out. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." This brings us to SECRET #10: The follower of Jesus hungers and thirsts to walk the walk of the Master.

NOTE the strong terms here-hunger and thirst, not simply desiring something or making it a high priority. This is desperation-the kind of desperation that has a full understanding of its need for God, a desperate kind of mourning and an attitude of meekness. At this point of desperation you are ready for hungering and thirsting for righteousness-for anything that is right and pure and good.
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is a refocusing of your heart. To refocus your heart is to develop a passion for filling up the hole in your soul. Everybody is passionately seeking inner satisfaction. This fourth attitude or discipline is a kind of hungering and thirsting for what you want in your innermost being.

"Righteousness" is right living. It's walking consistently with God's standard. Jesus was the Righteous One Who walked most consistently with God's standard. In a very real sense, there is no other standard in the world. God's standard for living life is the only one you were created to follow. All other standards are not standards at all, but scattered attempts to live life without God. Many of these attempts are couched in what we know as RELIGION-religious systems of do's and don'ts to attain some level of approval by God-to reach some heavenly state and to avoid going to hell. Unfortunately, man's best attempts are like going to heaven on a six foot ladder. The problem with this method is that the ladder can only go up six feet.

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness has nothing to do with a religious system, whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish or even Christian. All of these religious persuasions are cultural in nature and each one can find its meaning and highest desires in the person of Jesus. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness rests in a personal relationship with the Righteous One-Jesus, Himself. This sort of relationship is not a plan for avoiding hell, but it says "I've been to hell and don't want to return." It's a relationship with Jesus-walking with Jesus every day-JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

NOTE what happens if you hunger and thirst this way-"for they who hunger and thirst for the Righteous One will be satisfied." The term "satisfied" is used to describe the fattening up of cattle-to fill them up so that they have no more wants. Do you want to find satisfaction in your soul? Then you must practice hungering and thirsting for Jesus everyday! It's the only possible way to this kind of serenity and satisfaction. This is what I mean by refocusing your heart!

It's only when sensing your emptiness revealed within the first three snapshots that you have access to spiritual fullness. These are the quiet cravings-the hungering and thirsting-for spiritual things, for the inner satisfaction of your soul! When you hunger and thirst for something, then you want it and will do most anything to satisfy these desires. Hungering and thirsting is not simply making it a higher priority or something you feel you really ought to do, but to hunger and thirst as if this is a life-sustenance issue!

Refocus your heart! On every flight you are instructed to put on your oxygen mask before helping those children alongside you. Part of the refocusing of your heart is just that-putting on your oxygen mask every day-talking to Jesus, listening to Him and seeking to please Him with your life throughout the day. Maybe you need to ask the simple question: "Jesus, what do you have for me to do today?" Believe me, that simple question will refocus your heart. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." The follower of Jesus hungers and thirsts to walk the walk of the Master.